Book and archive: Pastor Essoka holds up a mirror to us

"Like a basket on a steel cable". A photo from Rev. Essoka Diso's trip in 1951. Photo from Diso: Adventures in Switzerland, Victoria 1952, p. 10

"Adventures in Switzerland" is the title of a thin booklet published in Cameroon in 1952. The person who had experienced such adventures was Pastor Peter Essoka Diso, who had traveled through Europe a year earlier as president of the Basel Mission Synod in Cameroon. Like an ethnologist, he described a world and its behavior that must have seemed very strange to him. 
When Pastor Essoka arrived in Basel in June 1951, he was immediately startled by the immense size of the mission house. In the months that followed, he visited more than 50 church congregations in Switzerland and Germany, as well as the Kirchentag in Berlin. What impressed him most in Switzerland was the general cleanliness: "The floors are as clean and shiny as a mirror, and you have to be careful not to slip and fall to the floor." He was also taken with the friendliness in the hotels and stores. The employees are helpful, no matter who the customer is.

People as part of a machine
Pastor Essoka devotes a chapter to the importance of time in Europe: "The fact that almost everyone wears a watch on their wrist shows that people are part of a big machine that only runs well when all the wheels are working smoothly within the framework of the community's great goal. Transportation, starting and finishing daily work, schools, and even family life follow a strict routine. People know what they have to do and don't wait to be told."

Pastor Essoka was also in the mountains: He described gondolas as train cabins hanging like baskets on a steel cable. He was amazed at the zoological gardens, where wild animals would be kept in huge cages. He also came into contact with snow and tried to describe it to his readers in Cameroon: "It is a white, shiny, soft substance and almost makes your hand freeze, it is so cold. But if you hold it in your hand, it slowly melts into a little drop of pure water."
In October 1951, Pastor Essoka left Switzerland and wrote down his memories: He wanted not only to tell about his experiences, but "to show the greatness of God's works throughout the world." Even 70 years after its publication, it is worthwhile to take a look at his booklet and see what mirror Pastor Essoka holds up to us.

  • Rev. Peter Essoka Diso: Adventures in Switzerland, Basel, Mission Treasury, Victoria Southern Cameroons, 1952.

Text: Patrick Moser, Mission 21


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