I’ve been going to the protestant church in Bangou. I really like the singing and the fact that thousands of miles away from my home, we are worshiping the same God.


2 days before Christmas I was ‘installed’ as an Advisor to the church along with about 30 others. What this means I’m not totally sure, but it meant there was a big reception at the church where lots of important people came and the pastor formally introduced us.


They introduced us one at a time, so they would say for example ‘Papa YsopYnoyep Jean Pierre, Douala’. Everyone was either Mama or Papa something because they were all notables, except for me, and even though they were all from Bangou, they would call out the village they were currently working at. When it came to me, ‘Monsieur Angel Velarde, Etats Unis’ the crowd applauded louder than for anyone else. It was really cool and made me feel pretty good. I heard a couple of ‘le blanc!’ from some of the petits, but the applause and hoots were mostly from people I knew.


Afterwards we went to the chefferie (palace) to eat and drink as is custom. The chief’s wives were also installed as advisors so we were all celebrating together.


So what advice to I have for the church here in Bangou? I will probably focus on 3 things which I see as the biggest problems with the church. First, quit instigating problems amongst the Protestants and Catholics. There is a long history of rivalism between the two denominations because it was mostly the British, German and Americans who brought the protestant denomination here, and the French, Italians and others who brought the catholic denomination. They of course were competing to win as many converts as possible and preached exclusion and flamed rivalism.


The second thing would be for the church to start projects to help the community. They are very concerned with helping each other, building a new church building (which you could argue they need), but they are not active in helping the community come out of its poverty. Along with building the faith, that should be job number one.


The third thing is something that is a problem in every church. When we were being installed as advisors, they asked people to come take communion, but polygamists, who include the chief as well as many notables, were not allowed to partake.


Now, I’m not for polygamy, but who are we to exclude anyone from taking part in communion with God? The chief and I spoke to the pastors separately, and I think they understand our viewpoint. The church should be a place where everyone is welcome, no matter what orientation or how many wives you have. It is up to God to change us and help us see our sin, with the help of the church. But we should not be excluding anyone from coming and feeling welcome at church.