Saturday, November 26, 2011

At harvest time, the churches in Cameroon hold "Harvest Thanksgiving." In many churches it lasts for four weeks. The first week is led by "the youths", the second by the men, the third by the women and the fourth by no one in particular. This week was the men's week. When we arrived, we saw a white sheet wrapped around something tall and bulky near the front of the church. At the end of the service, all of the men went out, then danced back in and put their special offerings into a basket. Then they asked one of the most respected men in the congregation to come to the front to unveil the item.
He removed the sheet to reveal a "tree" concocted of palm and other branches, onto which all kinds of fruits and fake flowers (made from toilet paper) had been wired. Then they announced that the men should come and "harvest" for their wives, meaning that they should give a donation in order to pick a fruit or flower. When Paul went up, he said that he wanted two pick two fruits: one for his wife and one for his "daughter," paying about $20 for a grapefruit for me and a bunch of bananas for Conelia, who beamed. There were still quite a few things on the tree when men stopped coming forward, and the leaders kind of stood around, not knowing what to do next. So Conelia took matters in hand. She danced to the front, picked an orange from the tree and said, "I harvest this for everyone in this church, because I love everyone. But when I buy you this fruit, I have to give my taxi money, so I'm hoping someone will give me a lift home." Everyone laughed, then she took the basket away from the man holding it and continued, "Now I want everyone to come and put something in the basket until the harvest is done." The choir started singing, and Conelia started dancing in the front, holding the basket in front of her, and people started streaming forward to put their small change into the basket in exchange for a fruit or flower.

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