Bon appetit

by Sister Hannah

Most meals in our experience in Cameroon are a large portion of starch with a sauce or gravy. These are traditional inherited combinations. Also, we are wished ‘bon appetit’ at the beginning of meals, another tradition.

The other day we were out of vegetables. So the postulants mentioned picking pumpkin leaves from the garden. Should we try them? Why not?

From their bag full of dewy tender leaves I took out four for the two of us. This might work as a green sauce on spaghetti.

Cooked in a little oil and water with onion, garlic and salt it didn’t look like a sauce at all! But we stirred it into the cooked spaghetti and felt like pioneers in the gourmet field — not a bad combination. God’s resources continue to bless us. We marvel at His care for us time after time.

Courage Brothers!

by Sister Victoria

Two weeks of intense music lessons for the postulants in Kuvlu, Cameroon has proven both fun and fruitful. They have practiced hard and last Sunday we sang “Courage Brothers” in Church, accompanied by one of the girls. Just a few weeks ago some of them had never before set eyes on a piano, let alone imagined playing one. They were thrilled! These girls are very bright and the joy they feel learning something so unusual in Cameroon is giving them the impetus to learn!

Kuvlu is actually known to be a place steeped in dark arts and religious practices and it seems evident to us that God has specifically chosen this place for the new Convent to flourish and bring light to this village. Already we sense that God is at work through music and especially in the chanting of the Psalms.

Birthday cake in Cameroon

by Sister Hannah

Can you make a cake? Sister Jane asked, and I said we could try. I had made bread in a make-shift double boiler here so the same might work for a cake. This was to celebrate Ben’s 13th birthday. Ben and God’s Plan are two boys from the orphanage who have been helping cook and do chores here at the convent for a couple of months.

We gathered ingredients (no recipe) buttered the pot and launched in. No mixing bowl, no beater — a fork works — and no measuring cups or spoons, but a lot of trust in the Lord.

All dry ingredients stirred together.  Now a lesson on separating eggs, three whites to whip and fold in last, so Bee started beating with a fork. We added  oil, eggs, water, orange juice and grated rind and mixed it all. The whites soon formed beautiful peaks and got folded in.

The batter looked great and the girls said it tasted good. We took it to the outside kitchen and lowered the cake into the larger pot of boiling water over an open wood fire. Sometime later I tested for doneness, on the concrete floor — done!

Eager to celebrate, we didn’t wait til the cake was cool. We quickly adorned it with a little marmalade and lots of toasted coconut. Yum! We sang, clapped and prayed for this special young man. Ben was the first baby to come to the orphanage and has grown up with Sister Jane as Mama Jane.

He Who Sings, Prays Twice -St. Augustine

by Sister Victoria

Yesterday was a special and blessed day for our postulants of the Benedictine Sisters of Bethany here in the village of Kuvlu. These beautiful girls have taken the step from aspirants to postulants and with that step have received their new habits.

For the past couple of months, Sr Hannah and I have been busy putting together a new psalter with antiphons so that this new Community can begin singing the psalms.
Also, this past week began a rather intense two-week “music camp”. The girls have had beginning piano lessons with a visiting instructor, and I have been teaching them to chant the psalms. Meanwhile Sr Hannah has worked on alterations to their new habits, giving them their final pressing with a charcoal iron!

At church I sat behind them and admit, my eyes welled up a little thinking of the privilege and joy it is to be a part of their lives; young women wishing to serve God.

A small gift

by Sister Hannah

At the Convent of the Emmanuel Sisterhood, when we have stayed there, I took a short walk almost every day.

I had a glimpse of God’s delight in His creation along the path, the red earth adorned with small and various rocks.

Along the way I looked up at some of the trees as I walked, laden with mangoes and guava, and then went past a short row of stately cedars. Here I discovered something very exciting. In the last cedar, I saw what was possibly a small orchid, and stepped off the path and looked more closely. Yes, it was an orchid, and then I found many other trees had them. Orchids are slow growing, and I hope during future visits to see many of them in bloom. The plants are less than half the size of those sold in supermarkets and florist shops, so, to me, all the more exquisite.

God planted them (or allowed them to take up residence on these trees) for His own enjoyment and to bless those who have time to see as they pass by. This humble little flower provided such a blessing: a reminder to all of us to take time to stop and smell the flowers — whatever might be growing near you!

Here I Am, Lord

by Sister Victoria

Just recently we made the long journey from Kuvlu to Bafut to attend the consecration service for three of the Emmanuel sisters. What an event that was! It was a whole day affair, beginning with the service at 9:30 in the morning followed by a meal for all and then drumming, singing and dancing well into the night.

It is an event for all the families, who were distinguished by wearing outfits of the same flamboyant fabric, many neighboring villagers and friends, other religious including 20 clergy, and no doubt some walk-ups. All in all, there had to be no fewer than about 500 guests.

We were blessed to experience another slice of African life in this event, very much like a large wedding where the families “gave” their daughters away to be brides of Christ.

 

O Lord, Open My Lips!

by Sister Victoria

Now that I have left the Cistercian Monastery after participating for three weeks in their daily offices of prayer, we are back in the remote village of Kuvlu and music classes are well underway! In our classes we are learning the different chant modes and starting to use them with the Psalms in English. At times it can be a challenge to convey what I am trying to teach and yet rewarding when they catch on to a concept.

It is such a joy to see the delight on their faces when they realize that they are learning music, a very rare experience in Cameroon.

Bend My Heart

by Sister Victoria

For the past couple of weeks, I have been at Our Lady of Bamenda Monastery studying how they sing their daily office. I will then begin the task to teach it to the aspirants of a beginning Community, the Sisters of Bethany, who are currently in our care here in Cameroon.

Although a cloistered Cistercian Community of about 30 monks, I have had the rare privilege of being invited to join them in the choir for their offices. As I sit among these men, there is something that stirs me. While listening to their rough voices, I think what I sense is their humility. Why do we avoid humility in ourselves yet can be blessed by and even admire the humility in others? That is something I am asking myself.

I believe it is no accident that this week I have come across several times the verse in Psalm 119, “Bend my heart to your will and not to love of gain”. Bending is an act of humility and that is becoming my “go to” prayer, that it may someday become real in my life.

 

Giving Thanks

by Sister Victoria

Yesterday I spent most of the day travelling on a rather stifling bus from Bamenda to Yaounde, Cameroon’s capitol. After a good nine hours, I arrived around 5:30 pm, the dirt and dust having settled visibly on me.

I was greeted at the bus stop by the niece of my Pastor friend with whom I would be staying, telling me, “We’re going to Church.” What?! Really?! I say to myself, glancing down at my disheveled habit. What I thought I needed was supper, washing up, and an early night.

The service was well underway by the time we arrived, complete with a lively band and choir. It was a great time of praising God and I didn’t even check my watch!

What I needed and what I got, was a great chance to give back to God my thanks for the ways I have seen Him personally watch out for me. I felt less tired than when we began.

Sr. Victoria from the Community of Jesus tells about a service of prayer and praise in Cameroon

No Gift Too Small

By Sister Victoria

This past Sunday morning I went to the sisters chapel early for some time before the Eucharist service. While I was sitting there, a young man walked in and headed straight for the altar. With a bag in hand, he knelt there to pray silently. After a time, he got up and left, leaving behind his bag in front of the altar which I could then see held a bewildered looking hen, clucking at her strange environment. The only words spoken were between him and God.

I thought about it for quite some time, thinking that for this young man, this was certainly a sacrifice and perhaps all he could give.

A gift given from the heart is not too small for God.

Certainly that young man went away blessed.

A gift placed at the altar in Cameroon, told by Sister Victoria of the Community of Jesus