Friday, August 14, 2009

Thanksgiving Arrives Early in Africa

Greetings from Cameroon and the Central African Republic!


Many folks look forward to celebrating Thanksgiving in November, but here in central Africa we have already been celebrating Thanksgiving for the entire month of October!  It is harvest time here, and it is also the time of the "Don de Récolte" when Christians bring a special offering to further the work of the local church.  Each Sunday for the past month, church members have come forward singing and dancing to present their offerings.  Most people bring their gift in an envelope, as we would, and place it in the basket set in front of the altar, but some bring produce from their fields, such as a big bag of ignamés (a large root vegetable, which tastes a bit like potato).  One Sunday a man brought up a live chicken, which the pastor had to corral!  On Youth Sunday the young people lowered their offering from the ceiling in a basket of flowers.  (They had rigged up a rope ahead of time, and at the right moment, they let it down till it rested in front of the altar.)  Everyone applauds at the end of the service when the amount of the offering is announced.  The people here get really excited about their giving! 


Even though most of us who live in more developed nations have far more material goods than our brothers and sisters in Africa, I can't help but think we can learn something from them.  They are happy to give what they are able.  Even though they have very little, by Western standards, they give joyfully, and make the offering a time of celebration.  How many of us would come singing and dancing down the aisle to bring our offering to God?  Perhaps they know something we in wealthier countries do not:  one does not have to have material wealth to be rich in spirit.   


For those of you who would like to know a bit about what we have been doing:  This past summer we had a relaxing visit with friends and family in Puerto Rico, Illinois, and Missouri.  At the end of July we left for Africa.  While spending the weekend en route in Paris, we coincidentally were able to see the end of the Tour de France.  (We hadn't realized it was that weekend, so we quickly changed our plans from visiting museums to watching the bicycle race.)


Once in Cameroon, Christa and Deborah stayed in the capital city of Yaoundé for Christa to begin her school year.  The SIL mission agency (Wycliffe Bible Translators) graciously allowed us to register her in their home-school program for missionary children.  Students in the program meet three times a year in Yaoundé for two to three weeks of instruction with qualified teachers from the U.S., Canada, and Great Britain.  They are tutored the rest of the year by their parents.  While Christa got started in 5th grade, Joe went on ahead to visit his work site in CAR, and to meet his new colleagues.


On September 7, we all moved into our new home in Garoua-Boulaï, Cameroon, on the border with CAR, just 30 miles over a dirt road from Joe's office in Baboua, CAR.  However, due to road conditions and border formalities, the trip takes about an hour and a half, so he spends most of the week in Baboua, and returns home on weekends.   His official title is "Technical Advisor" to the PASE program (Projet d'Áménagement de Sources d'Éau, or for those of you who do not read French, "Project for Management of Water Resources").  The past two months have been spent in orientation, visiting villages, helping with the accounting system, and preparing the program's 3rd quarter report.  His work has also included repairing a spring box (concrete and pipe built around a natural spring, to protect water quality for drinking); completing a slow-sand water filter, for purifying stream water for the village of Koundé; and developing plans to drill two wells, to be completed before the end of the year, if all goes as planned. 


Deborah and Christa have continued with home schooling, and have had time for reading and baking, two of their favorite hobbies.  We are all enjoying playing with our new part-Labrador puppy, Lady, who entertains us and helps us get our exercise by walking her.  


Deborah, an ordained minister, has also been called upon to assist in serving communion and reading the scriptures for the French language church service here in Garoua-Boulaï.   She has enjoyed attending activities of the local "Femmes pour Christ" (Women for Christ) organization, as well. 


We wish all our friends, family and supporters a happy Thanksgiving.  Thank you for your support and prayers for us as we live out our mission here in Africa.  We would love to hear from you – just please don't send long files, such as graphics or photos, since we receive our email by satellite, and large files are quite expensive (about $8 per megabyte).  May God grant you grace to live out your mission, wherever you may be.  Blessings to you all!


Joe, Deborah, and Christa Troester

Garoua Boulaï, Cameroon

November 2007


Specific prayer requests include


1. Finding a good teacher for Christa*

2. Our continued health and safety

3. The safety of all who live and work in the CAR, due to the insecurity there


*This year, Christa is in the fifth grade. Since there is no English language school here, we are home schooling her. However, the ELCA Global Missions are still looking for a teacher for Christa.  This will free Deborah to assist with other mission needs.  If you know anyone who has an elementary teaching certificate and wants to live in Africa for a couple of years, tell them they can apply on-line at  This position offers a stipend, housing, travel expenses, and health insurance, plus two years re-payment of student loans, if applicable. 


In addition, for those who might be interested, the ELCA is advertising for a water-resources specialist in Liberia. Please check their webpage [] for more information.


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