Cameroon: One Log of Camwood and its Mystery

Cameroon: One Log of Camwood and its Mystery

Nol Verhoeven mhm

Lectern and MISSION

A few villagers, strong local men, cutlasses and sticks in hand, cleared a track for the Mill Hill gang that followed them into thick forest around Mbinjong, Mamfe: Fr Tiberius Vuni, MHM, Mme Rosaline Arrey, Friend of Mill Hill , Joseph Mbinkar, Mill Hill’s specialist carpenter, John Soweyeba, Mill Hill’s specialist builder, and Fr Arnold Verhoeven, MHM.

First they trekked through farm land and then on and on over seemingly non-existing paths through unchartered territory constantly tricked, trapped and hooked and at last exhausted.

That was forest! But Mme Rosaline Arrey, owner of the bush, knew exactly where she was leading the group. The going was tough but the struggle was finally rewarded with a small hill where over 40 years ago foresters had felled a few cam-wood trees. And there they were, already stripped of their sapwood by time, insects and rodents. Well-seasoned camwood available for the trove-seekers. Soon cross-cuts yielded precious logs. How to handle them and get these super-weights to the road? Brute strength and tenacity and incentives worked it all. Eventually all that camwood reached Mill Hill House, Foncha Street, Bamenda.

The forest is mystery: meaning hovers throughout the forest beyond measure and comprehension. The group breathed it in: the spirits of the village, the spirit of ancestors and of those alive alike, spirits refreshing and strong, threatening and destructive, some holy, some evil, wonders and surprises.

And camwood is a forest product that fully shares in that mystery.

Its spiritual symbolism connects it with blood, with power, with royalty, with life and health, fertility and birth: well-being of the individual and of the community. An impressive traditional ‘sacrament’: giving material expression to mysteries of a spiritual order, indeed realities inexpressible in words.

One log of camwood and its mystery was carried to Prescraft in Bali to make a lectern for the chapel of Mill Hill House, Nkwen. Traditional carvers sent their chisels in, chipping away at some mysterious drawings on the wood that seemed to make sense only once the carving neared its completion: they produced a pillar of traditional design replete with Christian symbolism.

The pillar seems almost alive, flames embracing each other and dancing together; three sticks inextricably intertwined, wholly inseparable, a family-bonded in unity,a TREE-IN-ONE, symbol of the Trinity.he pillar becomes a collapsible and useless contraption if just one stick loses its coordinate position. But the moment all three coordinate their individual firm action as they should, the pillar has the strength to hold and carry a heavy bowl from where a Spirit can blow across the world.

That is the Trinity’s Mission: God’s Spirit breathing over the waters of all creation; the Word without boundaries of time and space; Good News of great joy to be proclaimed and to be shared by all the people.Good News turns into joy the moment that joy is shared by ONE AND ALL and there is never any true joy without that neither before that. Where there is no joy, there is Mission, Good News to be brought.

Arnold Verhoeven mhm

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