The Statement-Question the President of The SAKERETTES TRANSGLOBAL ALLIANCE posted on the Sorority's WhatsApp Chat Group within a couple of hours following the passing of Ma Bee Westerman, was this:
"Na Big Die dis for SAKERETTES oh! Na we FOUNDER don die so.
HOW WE WAN CRY DIS DIE EH?"
HUNDREDS of posts later, it was decided:
- That A WREATH be made;
- That AN OFFICIAL CONDOLENCE MESSAGE be aired/broadcast on Social Media in the United States and via TV, RADIO and NEWSPAPER in Cameroon;
- That A EULOGY be written; and
- That 3 MEMBERS, (The President herself, the Public Relations Officer and the Secretary) go REPRESENT the group in SIOUX FALLS.
So it is then, that when Friday, June 7th 2019 dawned, the President and I flew into Minneapolis, MINNESOTA, (from Wisconsin and North Carolina respectively), and joined the the Secretary, (who resides in Minnesota), for the just under 4 hour drive to SIOUX FALLS, SOUTH DAKOTA.
We got there in just enough time to check into our hotel and head back out to HILLCREST CHURCH for the Visitation and, true, ours were the only CAMEROONIAN/BLACK faces in the premises ... BUT then, as soon as we walked into the hall where the Visitation was taking place, our ears were instantly saluted with:
"Mashi si yeni dunshi si nyorr ni nyu o!
Bishio yu le yeni a gin fa-a Nyu;
Gi tur le retuka;
Mashi si yeni dunshi si nyor ni nyu oo!"
Hopefully, you recognize the above phrases, (the many inaccuracies notwithstanding), as the lyrics of that upbeat GRASS FIELDS melody straight out of the CAMEROON COLLEGE SINGERS 1969 Music Album. The song accompanied a SLIDESHOW with images from the HEART of West Cameroon in the early 60s when MA WESTIE first got to CAMEROON. (Posted below).
After the very breath had practically been HUGGED out of us by several FLUENT PIDGIN-SPEAKING, erstwhile MISSIONARIES to CAMEROON, our eyes were drawn to this table on the right with "artifacts" that told THE STORY OF MA WESTERMAN's LIFE: Here's some of what we saw:
- A HUGE CARVED-OUT-OF-WOOD MAP OF CAMEROON at the very CENTER of the table, surrounded by 4 OTHER VERY IMPRESSIVE CAMEROONIAN WOODEN CARVINGS;
- ANOTHER SLIDESHOW CHRONICLING MA BEE'S LIFE which, given the fact that she spent 40 of her MOST PRODUCTIVE YEARS serving all over (WEST) CAMEROON, was full of images of the areas where she had worked - NDU, MBEM, BAMENDA, BELO, KUMBA, SOPPO, VICTORIA ...
- A copy of the THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 8 1949 edition of "THE LENNOX INDEPENDENT" NEWSPAPER which featured a picture of a Young & Pretty "Miss Berneice Westerman, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. HARM WESTERMAN of Lennox" stating that she had been "appointed missionary to the Cameroons in British West Africa during the 29th Triennial Conference of North American Baptists recently held in Sioux Falls". (Her actual Commission Date was August 28th 1949)
- An array of PLAQUES and AWARDS recognizing her SELFLESS, MERITORIOUS SERVICE in CAMEROON. There was one from the CAMEROON BAPTIST CONVENTION, (signed by Drs. WANKI and TANGWA) given to her in November 2004; Another from the NORTH AMERICAN BAPTIST CONFERENCE awarded in 1976, and yet another from the "BROTHERS AND SISTERS AT HOME" bestowed in 1989, to mention just these 3.
- MA WESTERMAN HERSELF lying in state ever so peacefully, CLAD IN HER FAVORITE OLIVE GREEN, EMBROIDERED, CAMEROON "BOUBOU" (caftan); the very same one she had worn on April 7th 2019 for her 95th Birthday, and even back in 1990 when she was presented with a retirement Plaque and Watch by Mr. Ron SALZMAN!!
And then, we were invited by the EVER SO WELCOMING, WARM and ENDEARING retired Cameroon Missionaries to go "CHOP FOWL"!
Oh, the REMINISCING that occurred between the time we sat at that Restaurant Table and the moment we got up to leave a good hour and a half later after they had each declared: "WE DON BELLEH-FULL! WE DON CHOP FI-I-INE"!!!
In that space of time, we got to LEARN from these AMERICAN BAPTIST MISSIONARIES such stuff as ...
- What days of the week LORRIES plied the "road" between BAMENDA and MAMFE or between MAMFE and KUMBA, going only ONE WAY on certain days and THE REVERSE ROUTE on another set of days! and that, sometimes,
- The items that made up a DOCTOR's "First Aid Box", were barely more than IODINE, GAUZE, "PLASTER" and Scissors ...
B the way, a good number of these stories were narrated by precious, BORN-IN-CAMEROON-TO-HER-MISSIONARY DOCTOR DAD and MOM, Miss Daphne !! The very same one who shared the fact that they, (Cameroon Missionaries), had another funeral to attend the following Monday, and that they had been asked to present THE 23rd PSALM ... in PIDGIN ENGLISH! I googled and my cell phone produced a version with expressions like "Kampe" and "Nyafu-nyafu"; she instantly "dismissed" it with: "NA NAIJA PIDGIN DAT"!! We offered, from the recesses of our own CAMEROONIAN brains: "PAPA GOD NA MY SHEPHERD" and the look of "shock" on her face was PRICELESS as she quipped back with: "SHEPHERD????!!! No be "GANAKOH" dem dey call'am??"
The experience could not have been more HEARTWARMING and just TOUCHING and I would be (criminally) remiss, if I did not seize the opportunity, right here and now, to THANK THEM - The MINERTS, the BLACKS, Miss DAPHNE and all other SELFLESS, DEDICATED and SKILLED Missionaries like them who, in addition to fulfilling "THE GREAT COMMISSION" given to us all as Christians, actually SERVED PRODUCTIVELY in non-religious capacities: TEACHING IN COLLEGES, BUILDING EDIFICES, DELIVERING BABIES, PERFORMING LIFE-SAVING SURGERIES (BY BUSH/KEROSENE LAMP!!), etc. , in parts of Cameroon that not many Cameroonians themselves are keen on visiting (let's not mention LIVING in) TODAY, talk much less of in the 50s and 60s!!!!
I'm going to just take this opportunity to let them know that their "WONA WAKA FINE OOO", wishes as we drove off, heading back to Minnesota after the funeral were granted!!!
Just one more "anecdote" before you run off to go VIEW and LISTEN to what's been posted. Something I did not know about about MISS BERNEICE VIOLA WESTERMAN - and her MOM, which just blew me away:
Miss Westerman was born "A BLUE BABY". In case you're not sure what that means and you're not the googling type, here's the layman's DICTIONARY definition of the term:
"A baby with a blue complexion from lack of oxygen in the blood due to a congenital defect of the heart or major blood vessels"
In addition to that, she suffered from DIPHTHERIA (now kept in check by immunization, but certainly no joke back in 1924 when she was born!)
Her mother PRAYED a very HANNAH, Mother of SAMUEL THE PROPHET-like PRAYER, asking GOD to please heal her daughter, and promising Him that if He did heal her, she would not sand in her way if she grew up and made the decision to SERVE HIM!!!
So it is that when, at age 25, young Miss B.V. WESTERMAN said she wanted to go off to this unheard of place across the oceans and her siblings and family were anything BUT enchanted by the prospect, Mrs. WESTERMAN had to remind them all of the PROMISE she had made to GOD regarding this daughter of hers!! And so our Miss Westerman set sail for AFRICA aboard THE BANANA BOAT in December of 1949, docking at CAMEROON'S shores only in 1950, given that the journey lasted 2 GOOD MONTHS!!!!!
NINI! NAH! NDIA! IYA! MBAMBA!
Your mortal remains now rest peacefully next to your DAD, your MOM and your SISTER out there in that HILLS OF REST cemetery but we know your SOUL is in the SAFEKEEPING of THE ONE you served so FAITHFULLY and SACRIFICIALLY. We will always be indebted to you and may God grant us - your daughters and sons, the GRACE to LIVE UP TO THE STANDARDS you set for us.
SEE YOU IN THE MORNING!
Egbe Mbiwan Monjimbo/Ma SakerPride