Author: Wilfried Decoo

Fridays in Congo

I was still single when I was sent to Central Africa as an international aid worker, to work as a teacher in a slum suburb of Kinshasa, capital of Congo. I got a room in a frail school building, part of a convent of Catholic nuns. The space had a bed, a table, a toilet, and a sink.


This time Nathalie wears a miniskirt. On Sunday, in Church. In spite of last week’s interview. In spite of the one the month before. And other months. For quite some time the matter had been about her bare midriff. Now the miniskirt.

Maria’s treasure

Maria, a seventy-five-year-old widow, member of our tiny Mormon branch, had asked me to meet her at a Notary’s office. She wanted me to be the executor of her will. I reluctantly agreed, remembering the council of a friend to avoid that kind of responsibility. But since I was the branch president…

The why and when of baptism

How prepared should a person be before being baptized? How long should this preparation take? Recently the permabloggers had a brief e-mail exchange on this topic. The participants found it interesting to submit it to our broader forum.

Earth Day and the Church

Today is Earth Day. A number of denominations have given their support to environmental issues, encouraging their members to be sensitive to the protection of the environment. This not only pertains to the major (and controversial) topic of climate change and global warming, but to all the small things people can do daily to save energy, sort waste, recycle, be attentive to what we purchase…

The organ

It was a historic day for our tiny Flemish branch when we replaced the old harmonium with a new electric organ. Nothing could better symbolize our progress, lift the morale of our handful of members, and prepare the way to convert the whole city.

How quick we are to condemn

In Notes from all over a link was added to a news item claiming that the latest Dutch spelling reform requested that the name “Christ” be written with a lower-case “c”. That information was spread on various American news channels and blogs. Flurries of comments ensued.

Martha’s Sacrament

Martha was one of the older sisters in our branch. We counted a scant dozen of them, singles and widows, making more than half of the congregation and being its very backbone. When I got to know her, Martha was in her sixties. Huge by nature and strong from her lifelong labors as a market woman, she lived in a modest but sunny apartment, four flights high. Rent and utilities took most of her tiny pension, but she managed. Every Sunday the happy woman rode to church on her big black bicycle, rain or shine. She entered our old rowhouse as if it were a palace, beaming faith and friendship. In the living room, meaning our chapel, she gave talks and testimonies with a stentorian voice, developed during her years on the market place, praising Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon like she had exalted her Jonagolds and luscious tomatoes grown in the summer sun. Each time, at the…

Free speech versus respect for religion

The Islamic world is reacting angrily to the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad in a Danish newspaper. Demonstrations, threats, flag burning, forcible closure of Western offices — we know the scary pictures. In defense of free speech and to show support for the Danish editors, newspapers in France, Italy, Spain and Germany have also published the cartoons, exacerbating the wrath of Muslims.

The right to believe

An Italian atheist, Luigi Cascioli, has started a lawsuit against a Catholic priest, claiming that the priest violates Italian law, which does not allow the abuse of popular belief. Such as when people are fraudulently deceived in believing falsehoods, namely, according to Cascioli, the historical existence of Jesus Christ. The lawsuit is drawing international attention.

I can’t, he said

I have on my desk a primitive pen holder in ceramic, about four inches high. The figurine, crudely shaped, shiny in its warm terra cotta coat, represents a little man holding a tiny bucket in which a few pens and pencils can be stacked. Many years ago, an eleven-year-old girl kneaded and baked the clay in the children’s activity room of a hospital, during her long convalescence. She made the figurine for me.

Tax control

The letter we received from the Tax Control Department was preprinted. Handwritten had been added a date, a number and the addressee: Kerk van Jezus Christus van de Heiligen der Laatste Dagen.

Two coalminers

Their story would have made an agreeable Ensign article were it not for that later development that ruined its beauty. Oh, believe me, I was tempted to censor the second part. But it would feel like cheating. Besides, the aftermath carries the morale of the story.

They govern themselves

A busy downtown intersection. No traffic lights, no road markings, no speed limits, no sidewalks, no pedestrian crossings. Cars, cyclists, pedestrians, all move on the same street level, side by side, carefully merging.

The dog

It happened in the back of the former living room we called our chapel. The church itself was an insignificant Flemish rowhouse. Thirty-six chairs crammed the room. Six rows of six. When half of them got filled, we boasted on the Church’s growth in our city.