CWN - YAOUNDÉ, CAMEROON -- As she has done for several years, Mathilde Talla, wife of prominent Cameroon pastor Andre Talla, again organized a Christmas party for the poor in the capital city of Yaoundé, which is a growing tradition with churches in Cameroon.
This party is for people on the streets who never get invited to a party, and have nothing to celebrate. They are the widows and orphans of AIDS victims, some of them suffering from the disease themselves.
The believers try to serve them as if they were serving Jesus himself.
"We treat them like royalty for the day," explains Mathilde, "cook for them, wait upon them, sing to them, and tell them all about the reason for Christmas, the coming of Jesus the Savior, before sending them home with a gift and an invitation to come to church next Sunday. We do not ever want to forget what Jesus says in Luke 14.13 and Matthew 25, 35-40. That keeps the Christmas party in focus."
Everybody gets a gift of a litter of palm oil for cooking, and two bars of soap for bathing and washing.
This party idea originated with the Tallas. Mathilde was one of seven sisters, all of whom married and had children. Then AIDS entered; the husbands of five of the sisters were infected. Four of the fathers died, and all five of the wives of the affected men, leaving a total of eighteen orphans.
This is a common occurrence in Africa. Mathilde's latest party had a total of 68 widows and 34 orphans, drawn from the neighborhood of just two churches, whose pastors identified and helped bring in those attending.
Mathilde reports, "We sang Christmas songs and had a little play of a woman receiving the news from an angel that she would have a child without knowing a man and eventually that child was born. After the party, 23 gave their life to Christ and we are still following up on the rest."
Dr. Talla makes the point: "Remember, we are blessing and thanking Jesus who we cannot see by blessing the poor who we can see and among whom Jesus is deeply present. It is not to be an occasion for endless preaching; it is a day to pour out the love of God on the poor in a way that they will never forget. Talk to them, pray for them, tell them why Jesus came, and let them know that there is a place in heaven prepared for them, and a place to serve and to be loved while they live. Their lives can yet count for good and for God in the earth."
Note: Yaoundé was founded in 1888 by German traders as a base for the ivory trade and an agricultural research station. It was occupied by Belgian troops during World War I. After Germany's defeat, France became the colonial power in eastern Cameroon, and Yaoundé became the capital of French Cameroon. It has continued as the capital of the Republic of Cameroon until the present day.