Friday, March 6, 2009

Visit to Cameroon

I am in Cameroon. I have come to visit the community of St. Michael, a community-in-formation. The brothers live in Kumbo, in the English speaking part of Cameroon in the northwest region of the country. It is the tail end of the dry season, and the dust is killing. Also the roads in the English speaking part are atrocious: political payback by the French speaking head of government, I understand.

But these are not important.

I arrived in Douala and immediately lost $30.00 to a couple of shysters who said it was necessary to get through customs. Okay,I wasn't born yesterday, but I fell for this one. Because it is too dangerous to drive long distances at night (highwaymen prey on lonely vehicles)Br. Martin had arranged for us and his blood brother (and brother in religion) Paul, to stay in a Roman Catholic guest house. We were joined by Br. Emmanuel of another anglican Franciscan Comunity, but he didn't speak a work of English and my French was too rusty to overcome the handicap of jetlag. The next day we worshiped at the Cathedral and greeted Bishop Dibo of the Anglican Diocese of Cameroon. then we set off on the two day trek to Kumbo.

We stayed in a house in his family's compound. There were problems with electricity and water, but we managed to say our prayers and bathe. The climate there is very cool, so I needed a blanket at night and a sweater in the mornings.

The community's founder, Br. Martin, has got a piece of land about 200 acres in total. He had started the foundation of his monastery by selling cattle and getting donations from friends. The local king (Fon) is very supportive, giving Martin half the land as a gift.

We spent a whole day traipsing around the property, hearing Martin's stories abut the purchase or donation of every parcel, is vision for the house, the cattle raising, sheep ranching, fish ponds, windmills and guest house. The amazing view embraces deep valleys and high mountains. I had no idea what to expect, but it wasn't this!

Wednesday, we went to visit the Fon (the King). His Royal Highness Mbinglo I of the Fondom of Banso received us on a makeshift throne at his farm. A collapsible chair was covered with a blanket and a page in farm clothes came in to announce the King. We stood. I stood on the right side of what appeared to be a garage, the others on the left. Clapping twice and holding our clasped hands over our lips we bowed and greeted the Fon. Nobody sat til he looked at us and waved impatiently. Br Martin scuttled over to me to whisper directions, then I gave a little speech thanking His Highness for his hospitality, his support for the Brothers of St. Michael and briefed him on the Society of St. Francis. I explained I was on a mission of friendship. The community of St. Michael is not part of the Society of St. Francis. But having met Br.Martinin New York and knowing how important it is to nurture friendships in the small world of Anglican religious life, I very much want to befriend the brothers.

There were photos and a visit to the farm where about 200 people were cultivating the fon's fields--a once a season community effort to show their gratitude. Later we had cold drinks back in the farm house garage and i was given a pail of potatoes in reciprocation for the chicken we'd presented a page on our arrival.

back in Kumbo we visited the royal Palace, and i learned that many of the borhters have relatives among the nobility, and we met Sheiks and Princes who were fathers, uncles of the brothers. we wandered into the second courtyard and found half a dozen men sitting on sement platforms. They were sitting and drinking beer, but they were sitting on THEIR platforms, and I was introduced to them one by one: "This is the second most important man in the Fondom..." (He was sitting on the second platform...). One of the Fon's major preoccupations is building proper housing for his predecessors' wives. We looked down into their compound, and it was indeed a shambles of adobe bricks and dust.

Yesterday we met various roman Catholic sisters. They run hospitals and schools, and are very friendsly and welcoming of Br. Martin.

Today I am sitting in Dschan, at Br. Martin's eldest brother's house. the power\ just went out so I am going to post. Photos next time!

1 comment:

Herbmonk said...

Dear Br. Clark,
just not to forget to mention that both Br.Martin and Fr. Immanuel are under the Order of Port Royal an Anglican -Old Catholic (Church of Utrecht) Cistercian Community under the Rule of St.Benedict.
I am the Abbot General, we also have a Priory in the US.
Yours Sincerly

Dom Klaus Schlapps OPR