Meta visit February 2018

This is just a brief report on my visit to the Meta people. I flew to Yaoundé on Tuesday 6 February, stayed overnight at CABTAL’s Chapman Centre, took a coach to Bamenda the following day and was met by Ebenezer and Florence Fokam, who hosted me in Mbengwi until my departure on Tuesday 13 February for Douala. On Thursday 9th I was introduced to the pastor of the main Presbyterian church in Mbengwi, Rev Shu Lawrence, reported to the local police commissioner and attended a small men’s fellowship meeting.

My main meetings were on Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoon. On Friday, we went to Bessi-Fomukong with Mercy Nduku, who now represents the Bible Society in North-West Province. She is a very good speaker and addressed the gathering of about 20 people at the pioneer Literacy Centre in Meta that was established by Janice Spreda under Pauline Eyire’s leadership many years ago. She speaks Meta and encouraged the dozen or so children as well as the adults to read the Meta New Testament; Ebenezer interpreted for me and I soon recognized the story of Mary Jones and her walk to Bala to buy a Bible! A young lad of 12 then read quite a long passage from the Meta New Testament; he read well and fluently. I complimented him and suggested that he had practised well, which he agreed. I then gave them all instruction on how to prepare for the public reading of Scripture, emphasizing that good fluent public reading encourages people to feel that they too could read the New Testament for themselves, whereas poor public reading encourages people to think it would be just too much of a struggle for them. The Fon (chief) of Bessi-Fomukong welcomed Mercy, Ebenezer and me with a gracious word of welcome and thanks, but mistook me for a German. When Ebenezer pointed the mistake out, the Fon said he would adjust the written version of his address and let me have a typed copy – unfortunately, it hadn’t reached the Fokams’ house before I left. Afterwards, quite a number of the people told me with great joy how much they had appreciated the work done by Klaus and Janice. It was a very positive and encouraging visit.

On Saturday, we went to Mbemi, for a meeting with the 60+ leaders of the Meta Christian Women’s Fellowship. I was asked to speak and said again how important it is to prepare for the public reading of Scripture. I was assured that 75% of those present had a Meta NT and read it regularly. Again, a very positive and encouraging meeting.

Later that day, I was introduced to the Fon of Bessi-Tibatoh at Rev John Fokwa’s new house. A Iively discussion took place about the next steps for literacy training and the translation of the Old Testament. This resulted in Ebenezer agreeing to arrange a meeting of Fons and other significant people among the Meta. They want to press on with the translation of the Old Testament into Meta and establish new literacy classes.

On Sunday afternoon, I met 15 members of the Mbengwi Presbyterian Church who read or wish to read the Meta New Testament in the services of worship. I complimented the lady who had read the Scriptures that morning, because it was good and fluent. We discussed the problems that people had experienced; most of them could be resolved in literacy classes. Where there were different dialect words, they could ‘gloss’ appropriately. I emphasized again the need to prepare oneself thoroughly for the task and we practised with the passage for the following Sunday, in both English and Meta. Practice and prayer help to overcome fears, and experience helps to overcome lack of confidence. Ebenezer himself gave a couple of examples of how reading the Meta NT had helped him to understand a few things better; others added more examples, but the general impression was that they all had a clearer understanding of what the Bible actually says.

That Sunday was a special day for celebrating the youth of the nation. It is usually a public holiday, but the holiday was kept on Monday. Mondays are ‘ghost days’ in the NW and SW Provinces as a low key day of civil disobedience, in protest against the perceived discrimination against the English-speaking people of the country. People shut up shop and don’t go about their usual daily business. They feel that the (majority French-speaking) Government has turned a deaf ear to their complaints about the increasing number of teachers and lawyers being appointed in their provinces who cannot speak English satisfactorily. They feel that it is all part of a plan to overwhelm the Anglophones and make the whole country Francophone. There have been sporadic outbursts of anger, resulting in the loss of life. The Government has reacted in often heavy handed ways with the military. They also orchestrate displays of normality by bussing in students and prisoners dressed up for work in offices. There is a spirit of quiet resentment, which could easily be ignited into something more dangerous. On my journey from Bamenda to Douala on Tuesday through the two Anglophone provinces, the coach was stopped no less than 8 times by the police and the army to check IDs or, in my case, my passport. The passengers seemed resigned to this, but it is likely to harden feelings against the Government. (On my journey from Yaoundé through a Francophone province, we were not stopped once until we reached the border of the Anglophone province.) An independent radio station in Douala provides news that the Government-controlled media do not report. The churches pray for peace, but also for the Government to listen to people’s grievances.

It felt like a very valuable visit. People in the villages were very welcoming to their first European visitor for many years taking an interest in their language and their new New Testament.

PT 19 2 18 Cardiff