The high incidence of money talk here is surprising to me, given the scarcity of either hard cash or savings accounts. Not that no one has money here, but living a basically subsistence existence off a jungle farm with only one major crash crop a year means you never have a whole lot of cash -- either on paper or in hand. We're currently entering the season of money here in Bekondo, when the cocoa crop is mostly harvested, dried and sold to buyers. Christmas is party time, not because of Christ but because of cash. It's a lively time for parties, running a generator to power lights and music, trucking in drinks to flow with goodwill. It's the time when schools put their foot down and demand tuition fees be paid or students leave. It's a time of increased crime because people are travelling to visit family and money is around. Taxis double and triple in price -- because they can -- until December 25th, after which the frenzy abruptly stops and prices return to normal (so I'm told).

If you thought endless elaborate fundraising campaigns are a North American plague, as I did, and think a preoccupation with money results from having too much of it, I offer this evidence to the contrary. I think every sermon I heard in my first few months in Cameroon was on giving. Even the theme of the Mini Bible Conference in Bekondo in October was "Financing Missions." Note, not merely "Missions," but "Financing Missions."

Baptist church members are issued cards in which they are to fill out their giving each Sunday. A plethora of financial appeals also follow, some of them quite creative, like paying to take the lid off a food pot at a church supper. (No more silly than paying to shave someone's beard or throw a pie in their face, I suppose.) Produce can be brought to church to be auctioned off after taking the offering.

Ostentatious giving is the financial surprise in church (after the auctions). Well, maybe conspicuous giving is more accurate. I have realized how private I am about giving -- must be my Mennonite upbringing. (In general, I hate to be up in front of a crowd unless I'm singing a solo, giving a reading, or playing a role.) The offering plate is never merely passed and the financial gifts expected at all events are nearly always done with fanfare. You have to go up to give, you have to make it obvious that you're giving something. I approach every offering time, every financial appeal, with dread; despairing for the moment I'll have to join the dancing line slowly filing past the plate or the person being blessed. It's partly the publicity of it; it's partly the awkward place I'm in as a Westerner with more money than some of these people will see in a lifetime. I don't know how to reconcile these concerns so I suppose part of my dread of public displays of giving is that it brings that issue back in my face.

Sorry, I'm not very coherent on this subject and this entry is a result of a couple of months of pecking away at it but I'm just going to post this as-is, revealing faults and all, out of the assumption that you, my readers, are interested in the financial angst of an insignificant Canadian kid in Cameroon.


Popular Posts