We were scheduled to fly to Douala on Monday, Feb. 25th, but our flight arrives right around midnight. Usually the Coles come and pick up us, but for their safety, it wouldn't have been wise for them to be out on the streets at that hour in a time of tension. The airport is only about 5 kilometers from their apartment, but it had been cut off during the day and there was no knowing what the situation would have been. We could have stayed at the airport and slept on a bench overnight, and hoped for better conditions on Tuesday so someone could come pick us up, but the Spirit guided us not to go. As it turned out that was the inspired decision, as there were several days of significant unrest before things settled down.
Thanks to the Coles and their great relationship with the American consular general in Douala, the embassy sent an armored Suburban to pick up the missionaries on Tuesday morning. They had ventured out on Monday morning but immediately sensed the difficulties, and had been hunkered down in their apartment for the rest of Monday, listening to some small arms fire on their street. Sister Coles was magnificent to take in the 4 elders, feed them, etc. until things settled down and they went back to their apartment on Friday. The Hanks did a wonderfully similar job up in Yaounde, where although there wasn't as much physical damage, the concerns over the missionaries was the same. We counseled daily with Church Security in Salt Lake, the two couples in Cameroon, and the Area Presidency in Johannesburg.
A modern car dealership near the airport was totally ransacked and destroyed. Across the street, a gas distribution center had six big tank trucks all burned out. Nearly all the gas stations in the area immediately east of Douala were destroyed. On the west side, the damage was less, but here is a Texaco station where everything was broken, looted and the pumps pushed over.
As we drove through the streets of Douala, you could see the melted pavement where either cars or piles of tires were set on fire. Thanks to the missionaries and the Coles and Hanks for their faith, courage and to all the parents for their prayers.
The damage from this disturbance in Cameroon was relatively minor, compared to the damage that you see in the Republic of Congo and the DRC from the civil wars in these countries. The major conflict in the DRC has taken place on the eastern side of the country, and the toll is not in physical damage, but in roughly 4 - 5 million lives that have been lost through either the conflict or its terrible consequences on the civilian population.Brazzaville and the Republic of Congo, across the river from the DRC, had several terrible civil wars 10 - 12 years ago. The remnants and reminders of this conflict are everywhere. Here in a residential neighborhood of very humble circumstances sits a rusty veteran. We looked at a prospective missionary apartment for sister missionaries about two blocks from here.