Elder Palmer (back row, 6th from left) is serving in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kinshasa mission for
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Eric returned home on August 27th, 2011!!!!!

He was transferred to Yaounde, Cameroon on August 13th, 2010.

Links listed on the left are from the senior couples and Mission President!

Comments in italics are clarifications from Mom.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Eric's email of October 28th, 2010

So I'm going to write again my highlights of the week and then respond to your questions in your emails.

First thing from the week is that last p-day in the evening, me and Elders Kesler, Lamb, and Hancock went to play basketball at the USA embassy.  Elder Hancock said someone told him that we could get in with our US Passports.  Well, that turned out to not be true.  We went around 4:30, and the guy behind the window said we could come in at 5.  We sat on a bench until 5, went back, the guy called someone, and told us we couldn't come in today, but that there would be a Halloween party on the 30th that we could come to.  The funny thing, is that we got kept out of our own embassy by a Cameroonian.  Ironic.  Today we are going to try to play basketball again, at the American School.  I hope it works this time.

Also on Tuesday I went on a split with Elder Kesler, our district leader so he could do a baptismal interview for us.  But we did have one notable lesson, with an ami named Dennis.  Acorda and I found him about 3 weeks ago.  He came to church his first Sunday but hadn't been back since.  Dennis' thing is, that he doesn't really get why he needs to know that the Book of Mormon is true.  So Kesler and I spent at least 20 minutes talking about Moroni 10:3-5 and the last 2 paragraphs of the Introduction.  He didn't get the difference between "je pense que..." and "je sais que...".  And so, to show him the consequences (if I can call it that) of knowing that the Book of Mormon is true, we read 3 Nephi 27:19-21, and I invited him to be baptized.  He accepted easily, but I know he does not understand yet the importance of 1 true church, because he still goes to his other church during the week.  But technically, he has a baptismal date for the 20th of November.  But something cool happened, because he walked with us after the lesson, and no one talked.  It might have been a little awkward, but right after that awkward silence, he said, "Le Livre de Mormon est la parole de l'Eternel".  So maybe something miraculous happened, we'll see.

At the end of that day Kesler did his interview with Douglas, who should now be a go for the 6th of November.  His step-dad, who found the church 20-ish years ago in DC will baptize him.  Douglas is blessed because he has some family members that are already strong in the church.  But during the interview, I got to talk to his grandpa, also named Douglas.  Mostly he talked to me again about how he believes in the Plan of Salvation more than his own church's doctrine.

This weekend we will also be watching all of General Conference on Saturday and Sunday!  And in our building they should be showing it in French and English, for our anglophones.  I hope I'll get to watch in English, because its better than listening to a translator.

I also started running again this week!  I convinced Elder Kesler to go with me, and we run to this place called Round Point Bastos, take a short walk to breathe, and then run back.  I think it takes about 30 minutes.  Its not as far as I was running in Congo, but I'm just glad I finally got someone to run with me again.  Elder Kesler said he would only do it if we could still get back in the morning for apartement prayer at 6:35, so we wake up early Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.  We've only done it 2 times so far, but I think the 2nd time is always the hardest.  I feel a lot less sore than I did after Tuesday.

Also Elder Acorda and I had a really good lesson last Friday or Saturday with la Soeur Hélene Tchobang.  She is really involved with her current church, and also thinks that a lot of the people in the world today are involved in cults and sects and such, and always complains to us how "la peau blanche" brought Freemasonry to Cameroon.  Anyways, we can also tell that she is someone really looking for the truth, and during our second rendezvous while talking about the apostasy or something, she told us that the Bible doesn't have everything.  That surprised me a lot.  I don't know if I have heard even 5 people say that before.  So, she was very interested when we talked about the Book of Mormon.  She plans on coming to watch General Conference this Saturday.  And she also speaks Douala!  So I can use a few of the words from what I learned when I lived in Bonabéri.

I hope everyone enjoys Halloween this weekend, and I want to hear what everyone is going to dress as.  Just so you know, the picture in the family calendar of Jacob and Dad as Luigi and Mario is one of my favorite Halloween pictures ever.  Especially because Dad is making the face when Mario dies in a Super Mario World.

Je vous aime,
- Eric

Hey Mom,

(See pictures on October 21st post )So when Kesler and I put on those shirts, we realized why so many people in Africa look jacked.  Turns out they are just wearing tiny shirts, and unfortunetly there are no Ding Dongs and such...(I made a comment about no Ding Dongs, no obesity problem....)

(You should work to get back to just Mormon-time-10 minutes late.)  So that you can get an understanding of how late people are here, this weekend we will be watching Conference, and the branches announced that it would start at 9 AM.  But then the Thompsons, the senior couple, told us it will really start at 10 AM.  So african time is worse than Mormon time.

(When is the next transfer?)  So actually this time next week, we should have transfer news.  It should take place on the 8th of November, but they usually will tell us before the last pday, so that we don't buy a bunch of food that we can't take with us.

Well, I just saw that I started everyone on of those paragraphs with "so", donc (so) I'm not going to do it this time.  (Why are you the bad missionary in "good missionary/bad missionary?)  But I'm not going to be literally a "bad" missionary, but I'm just not going to let people get away with it if they don't keep there commitments.  And Elder Acorda is way too nice to be the bad missionary, so we had no choice.

(What hymn is "Souviens-Toi?)  So "Souviens-Toi" is a hymn that is only in the French hymn book on page 179.  Every French missionary learns that one and sings it a billion times in the MTC.  And the story behind it is pretty cool.  Briefly, when the french members were making their hymn book, one lady on the commitee had a dream, and in this dream she received the lyrics to this hymn, and woke up and wrote them down.  Then they put it to some tune written by Antonin Dvorak, and they got the ok to put it in the french hymn book.  Thats about all the info I can give you, though.

(Are there any pending elections in Cameroon?  I have heard of some in other African missions and the missionaries are transferred to the mission home until after the elections.)  Elder Acorda told me that sometime early next year, 2011, there should be an election, he thinks.  I don't know what will happen.

Je t'aime,
- Eric

(Dad's email:)

Ah, first of thanks for the blog post, but I doubt I'll have time to read it right now, so I'll answer your questions first and look later, sorry.  ( Vai Sikahema's blog of mission experiences.)

(Are the cent-cent buses city/government buses or are these just private people making a living by driving people around? How big are these vehicles?)  So the cent-cents, I don't think they are really city sanctioned or anything.  For taxis you are supposed to have some kind of license, almost all the legal taxis, which are yellow, have those.  I don't know about buses, and there are some people who just get a car and start taxiing people.  And here there is one BIG bus, that you only have to pay normally 150, rather than the normal 200, that gets packed like a can of sardines.  But I don't really know how many are legit and aren't.  I try to not take illegal taxis, though.

If you are going to send me a recipe, send one for...I can't think of anything, and I'm panicking because I'm running out of time.

(What did you do for Elder Acorda in return for the shoe shine?)  Gosh, I don't know if I've done anything for Acorda yet for the shoe shine.  Why are you guilt tripping me into doing things?

(So when you ran out of time on the computer last week was that a money issue or did you need to run to some other P-Day activity or have you just made a choice that you need to spend less time on emails so as to maintain your focus on missionary work? In either case, for the many emails you send, you might want to try writing one generic email that you can cut-and-paste and send to multiple people, perhaps with a few individual tweaks to make them personal. (Or maybe you already do that.))
  So we reduced or email time for 2 reasons that you said, to stay more focused on p-day, and to have more time to do other stuff.

(Are there any stories about the Willis’ or other senior couples that would be good for me to share in my High Councilor talk? Inspirational or even humorous anecdotes?)
  So, what kind of stories are you looking for exactly for you talks?  I can't really think of any right now.

Je t'aime,
- Eric

ps, Scott is grounded again!  no email!  (Scott has been sending emails to the wrong address.)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Eric's email of October 21st, 2010

Three separate e-mails this week.  The"farming" pictures he sent today have been added to last week's email.

(Last week Eric got a sunburn when he didn't wear a hat while working outside.)  So first thing Mom, as soon as I got to the field last week, I knew I should have taken my hat.  I'll wear it more often now.

(What is the soil like in Yaounde?)  So the ground here in Yaounde is not sandy at all actually.  That seems to be the case in cities next to the ocean, like Douala and Pointe-Noire (especially Pointe Noire...), but here the ground is red.  There are green plants everywhere and red dirt everywhere.  When I first got to Yaounde, it was like when I flew home for Christmas break after my first college semester, because I was shocked how green it was.  (In Virginia)

I wished Andrea a happy birthday last week, but Ill do it again anyways.  (11 yesterday.)

Oh yeah, and the reason why I remembered to wish Andrea a happy birthday was because of the calendar of the family that Aunt LeeAnn sent, so I hope to get another one of those for 2011, just so you know.

(Were you being hassled on the bus last week?)  On that bus last week, we weren't getting hassled, or I'm just used to getting hassled and I don't care anymore.  Probably the latter.  I don't think anyone in the world could ever make me upset anymore by verbally abusing me after all that I have heard in the past year.

(Would you like a Tab choir Christmas CD for an activity?)  So yeah, a Christmas CD would be nice.  I don't really have anything specific to ask for right now, though.

Je t'aime,
- Eric
Dear Civilian Dad, (He was released as bishop last Sunday)

Yes, cent-cent means 100 francs each person. (Cent-cent is what they call the bus)
gosh dang it, i dont got enough time to respond to all your questions.  Sorry, send them again next week and I'll do my best to reply.

Je t'aime,
- Eric

ps Scott is grounded for not writing this week.

Ok, well we have decided to do less internet time from now on, so that our p-days will be better, and so right now I am going to write down my highlights of the week and also send some photos.

So Elder Acorda and I just came from an aims house where we just spent 4 hours.  That may sound like a lot, and well, it was.  We got there at 9 AM to help him wash his clothes.  At our zone conference we just had yesterday, Elder Thompson said President Headlee wants us to do service 4 hours a week, like our handbook says.  Or we can do a full day every 2 weeks.  But anyways, I learned how to wash clothes by hand,  and now my hands hurt, mostly from squeezing the soap and water out of the clothes afterwards.  I might have a blister on my right hand.  Oh, our amis name is Dako, btw.  He works a lot, and goes on voyages 3 or 4 days a week, then comes back and has a lot to do at the house.  We thought we would help him out.  Then we had a lesson, where we watched the Restoration video.  We wanted to set a baptismal date in November, but he says he was already thinking about December or January because his work schedule will allow him to do so then.  So, we'll go for December.  And after our lesson and service, he made us wait because his aunt, Anne-Marie who is a member of the Church from Douala, was making us food.  So we watched the Restoration again while waiting, and then watched half of it in Tagalog.

So like I said, we had zone conference yesterday.  It wasn't very long, from 9 at 12.  But all of us missionaries have gotten on African time, so it started almost an hour late.  President Headlee now only comes about every 3 months, so our zone leader Elder Coburn gave us a lesson on the Holy Ghost, we played scripture jeopardy (my team won, I think it was the first time ever that I have won some kind of scripture knowledge game), and I gave a 5 minutes lesson on diligence, (see Moroni 9:6, D&C 127:4).

We also got to watch the Priesthood session chez Les Thompsons Sunday evening.  I really like Elder Nelson's talk, probably because it was targeted to missionaries.  Especially when he talked about the time he gave his Book of Mormon to his friends, they didn't really read it, he got a little bit upset if I may say so, then they actually read it and realized the importance of it.  So, I've tried to do that ever since.  Elder Acorda and I are going to start doing something like "good cop, bad cop", except as missionaries.  I will be the bad one.
Saturday we also held our activity on the Plan du Salut.  (Plan of Salvation)  We started at 4 PM by watching "To This End Was I Born" about the Atonement.  Then we had two returned missionaries, Frere Olinga and Soeur Gwet, present the plan and such, answer a few questions.  We had a slide show that Elder Acorda and I had made.  At the end President Balla of Bastos 2, who presided over the activity, bore his testimony on the eternal family and such, and the missionaries closed by singing "Souviens-Toi", pg 179 in the French hymn book (I played the piano to get out of singing).  It was good.

Also, Acorda and I finally set a baptismal date.  And I think I will do a lot better after what I learned at the priesthood session  Seriously, Elder Nelson's talk was awesome and made for me.  We set Douglas for November 6th.  Douglas has been going to church for nearly 2 months now.  His new step dad, Brother Ben, has been a member for a bit over 20 years.  He found the church when he lived in Washington D.C.  He said he helped organize the francophone branch in D.C. and was a bishop.  But he recently got remarried and such, and his step son Douglas, who is 19, started coming to church.  Recently he has had some problems at school, and I don't know if he is back at school yet.  But he is lucky because his dad is there, and also his step sister Zaline, who really helped us Monday when she explained how the Gift of the Holy Ghost has blessed her.  Zaline was taught and baptized when Elder Lee was in Yaounde.  But anyways, he is having some little problems at school and at home, but I believe if he works towards this goal, that will help him.

Je vous aime,
 - Elder Palmer
 Me and Elder Kesler in the shirts we bought in Congo.
"Now we know why people here look so ripped,
its because the shirts are just so small.
The tags say they are adult large."

Friday, October 15, 2010

Eric's email of October 14th, 2010

Alright, I gots lots of questions to answer, I can see.

(How is your ami Adam?  Would you like a Book of Mormon in Arabic for him?)  So first, Adam is doing better I think, because we haven't seen him since Sunday.  We were supposed to see him again on Monday, but he wasn't there and he doesn't have a phone anymore.  Also stopped by on Tuesday and Wednesday, but no luck.  So, I guess that means hopefully that he is somewhere doing something.  But, I just discussed with Elder Acorda, and if you could send an Arabic Book of Mormon, that would be nice.  And pretty cool just to see, at least.  That language is ridiculous looking.

(Are there a lot of satellite dishes in Yaounde?) As for the satellite dishes, it seems like the houses that are nice enough, that have a gate around and such, usually have a satellite.  And a lot of the houses with gates also have a guardien that is almost always there.  I don't know how often they get stolen, or what someone would do with a stolen antennae here.

(How many floors are in your apartment building?)  I think in our apartement building there are 4 or 5 floors, but we live only on the 2nd.  And that building across the way, (in a recent picture) I don't know if they are still working on it or not.  There are a good number of buildings that seem to begin being built, and then half way through they realized they don't have enough money or something to finish it.  And construction just takes a darn long time here.  And actually the background of me studying is the same as the other picture.  I'll check.

(Why is your companion polishing your shoes?)  Well, I think I "can" polish my shoes, but I just choose not too.  I'll wipe off the mud and stuff if its ridiculous, but they just get so darn dirty after a couple days, I don't see why I should spend so much time polishing them.

(How many emails do you get each week?)  This week I had 19 emails, but a few where ones from last week that I didn't look at.

Alright, I'm jumping over to Dad's.

So unfortunately there are actually a lot of kids who live in a home with only one parent, and kids that just live with other family members.  I don't know a good number to give you, but I say that you would be fortunate to live in a home with both your parents.

I don't think too many families have pets here.  There are dogs here though, but I think they don't really have an owner.

If I had to guess how many people come to our branch on Sunday, I would say 60-ish?  But there is something like 150 or more on the branch records, so that's why we want to focus so much on reactivation.  And there's not that many youth aged kids.  They do have seminary once a week.  Maybe a dozen in my branch.  And the primary has about 20 kids each Sunday.

(Mark has a shoe shining story-he had two pair of shoes on his mission: one for church that were always clean and one for the rest of the week that he NEVER shined.)  And since I can't remember about your shoe shining story, you can tell me about it next week.  But I do not like shining shoes.  I can think of a hundred better things to do with my time at the apartement.

And just so you know, I'm getting conflicting reports on the Redskins last week.  I think it was Scott who said that they lost to the Texans, but you told me they won.  And I don't know who to trust.  (Redskins beat the Packers 16-13 in OT.)

So the first highlight from last we is that nous sommes allés au champ.  That means we went to the field, or the farm, something like that.  On Saturday morning Elder Acorda, Elder Kesler, Elder Lamb and I went with Maman Natalie and her family, to go to their field to plant stuff.  We planted stuff like manioc, or cassava, and other stuff that I don't know the name of.  It was hot.  And, I had just gotten a haircut.  I put on sunscreen on my face, but I still got a little bit burned.  It burned away my collar tan line, though.  (He told Jacob that he was burned, but not to tell Mom about it.)  But we got to her house at 8 AM, than we sang hymns for about 30 minutes waiting for their cousin Etienne, also a member, and then we walked there.  It took about 30 to 40 minutes to get there, and we were carrying bags of stuff to plant and tools and machetés and such.  I spent most of my time tilling the ground (I don't know if that's the right word, but we were stabbing the ground in a repeated manner with some kind of shovel-y tool making the dirt plantable).  Then we left around 12.  I got a few pictures that I will send next week when we go to the good internet café.

 4 of us working to till the ground with Maman Natalie
 Maman Natalie, Elder Acorda, and Elder Kesler workin'
 Eric burning under the sun "I got a haircut just the night before, 
probably wasn't the best idea"

The missionaries gave talks last week in Sacrament meeting.  People told me I took too long, sorry if I had to give my talk in 2 languages and it started late.  I talked about fortification.  I also have another fully-loaded branch mission plan that I can email to you, unfortunately only in French again.

Yesterday we took a 100 franc bus home from Massassi, which is basically the village.  And everyone was freaking out because the whites where trying to take a cent-cent.  (We don't understand this right now-we will clarify next week.)  We also got stuck in the back, and the lady next to me said that I have to pay 2 place, which is 400 francs.  And the guy on my right asked, "tu sais danser?", (do you know how to dance?) and I said "pas vraiment" (not really).  And then he said I should learn to dance like the Cameroonians, because if he went to chez moi, (where I'm from) he would learn to dance.

I'm struggling to think of things that I can tell you about...  Before I forget, you can thank Sister Warnick, Sister Bertonneau, and Jisu for me, because I got letters from them last week. (Thanks)  They were sent to Kinshasa, and the Thompsons just had a 1 week couples' conference there, and they brought back mail.  I don't know how long ago they were written.

Well, like Paul said, combattez le bon combat, gardez la foi, (fight the good fight, keep the faith) and something else I forgot.  I hope you guys are all doing well, for me now I can't believe each time its p-day again, its weird.

Je vous aime,
- Eric

Friday, October 8, 2010

Eric's email of Octover 7th, 2010

So, earlier today Elder Acorda and I were doing internet, but then the connection died after I finished reading all the family emails, so thats why this one is being sent so much later.  We had to go to one thats a little bit more expensive, but the connection is better and it will read my card thing so that I can send pictures.
I had already typed this once but I'll do it again.  Dad asked a bunch of questions about families here.  So here someones brother or sister is not just limited to his immediate family, neither his mom or dad even.  Any kind of cousin or even just close friend can be a brother or sister.  Its called an Africa family, because here a family does not just mean mom dad and siblings, but extended family and friends.  But in lots of households, both parents are not there, which is probably due to the marriage system.
Here there is the traditional marriage and the civil marriage.  The traditional marriage consists of a dowry, which is some kind of payement you have to make according to what your fiancée's family says.  There are also presentation things that require wine and food that you have to pay for.  So lots of people don't get married because its too darn expensive, but they still live with their "spouse", which causes other problems.  And if you get civilly married before traditionally, the family gets quite upset and people don't want to be "cursed" or anything.
So I don't know what age people normally marry at, because lots don't even get married, but still live together.
Divorce also does happen, and also people leave their spouse because they aren't even really married, but I've also met people who were legitimately married and then got divorced unfortunetly.
Kids per family, I honestly cannot give a good estimate, but I can easily say its a higher average than in the USA.  And then when people come from polygamist families, that just complicates it.  And there plenty that do.
Ok, now you if you are talking about a home, there are plenty of houses that people of different family members from all over living together.  So there are plenty of houses with cousins and 2nd uncles and friends and stuff like that.
I think the biggest difference I see in LDS families is how they treat their kids.  Lots of parents here just don't seem to have any patience, and don't treat their children very nice.    But I guess when the parents really understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ and how it will bless their family, they don't hit them and such things.
So last week actually we didn't eat any crocadile or cat, he was "pullin' our leg".  We ate chicken and fish and spaghetti with sauce with lots of pima in it.  Pima is a pepper than everyone eats here in almost everything.
I forgot how long it takes to get the conference Liahonas, I'll let you know when they get here.  But lots of the members have trouble getting the other Liahonas, I don't know why, but I know one family hasn't gotten the Liahona for over a year, and they have subscribed since forever.
So I sent the branch mission plan in another email, Dad can translate it.  And if there is weird French don't blame me, because it wasn't me that typed it up.  But this Sunday we, the missionaries will be giving the talks to present it and explain how we are going to do these things.  And then we plan on visiting each member in order to give them their own copy, answer any questions they have and put it into motion.
So our amis are doing pretty good.  Franklin, who is the closest to baptism, has traveled to Douala for work.  He doesn't know yet if he will be staying there for a long time, but the missionaries down there came to the shop he is working at soon after he got there.  And when the couples (Senior Couple) get back from Kinshasa this week we should be able do to his interview, whether he stays in Douala or comes back to Yaoundé.
We also went to the funeral, or "le deuil" for Christine's mom, it went well, and hopefully this week she will get back into the flow of coming to church and stuff.  We also went to her house on Friday to help set up, and we got a new person to teach from that service project.  It was weird to wear normal clothes over there, though.
We also have Adam, I don't know if I've talked about him, he is from Sudan.  He has been at church for 4 weeks in a row now.  He's from a Muslim family and such, but he found the church from a friend, and kept coming and we have been teaching him.  He speaks English, kind of difficult to understand, but his main language is Arabic.  (Is the Book of Mormon in Arabic?)  But he reads his Book of Mormon really really well, marks it up and writes the words in Arabic he doesn't understand, so he is progressing very well.  We have to go very slowly, right now we are at the Plan of Salvation, but he's getting it.  Our main thing right now is to get him to pray.  He says he practices at home, but yesterday he said he wasn't ready yet to pray in front of us.  But he is a really nice and sincere person.
But right now Adam is about to face a lot of trials.  He already has one which is communicationg with people.  Most of the people speak French, and I don't think there are very many anglophones in his quartier.  And now, his quartier is supposed to get destroyed by the government for some reason.  Adam came to Cameroon and lived with a friend, his friend traveled about 2 weeks ago, so he has stayed there himself.  But when he told his friend on the phone that they are going to knock down his house, it doesn't sound like his friend is giving him much help.  And Adam has also been looking for a job ever since he got here.  So, like I've asked everyone so far, if you could put him in your prayers that would be great.  We even heard today from Elder Wilkins that today they started chasing people out of the marché with fire houses, so it looks like it'll happen sooner rather than later.
So after this we will be heading over to the church to do a practice run through of our missionary activity we will be doing next weekend.  We have now an overprogrammed schedule, and are having to decide who to see and who not to.  Its a blessing and a burden.
I hope you are enjoying the fall weather in Virginia, and that school is bearable for everyone.  Thanks for everything, and Mom, I don't get tired of seeing your mom-things-to-say at the end of your emails.  They have reminded me more than once to take my malaria medicine.
Je vous aime,
- Eric