Some days in life are victorious and some are not. There is ultimate victory for Believers of Christ but days go by when we can’t seem to win. It is difficult to claim a victory in a foreign culture so when you do, you tell everyone!
I stayed home as the Schilinskis traveled to east Cameroon. That left me 10 days home alone which is like a vacation until you realize there is no food in the house. This left a looming reality – I had to buy food from the market solo. Gasp! Every time a white person tries to buy something here the price doubles. If you do not know a baseline, you get taken. I asked Auntie Comfort and Auntie Joy, the house help, what they would pay for papaya, mango and other items so I would go prepared.
Saturday morning I went to music class and had a great rehearsal! They read, sing music and sound dynamite! I stayed after class to rehearse with the church choir. I agreed to offer feedback but also joined them. We practice by singing, writing down the words and winging it – no sheet music. Turned out great!
After choir I asked Sister Laura if I could go with her to the market. We set off to buy essentials in the ministry’s new Hilux truck. We parked in front of an open-front hardware shop near the market. The store owners told us we could not park there. There was a car parked in front and behind me so I knew it was simply because they did not want us to block their shop. I told them we would be quick and they conceded. After 15 minutes and purchasing 6 mangoes, 3 giant papaya, 1 coconut, a bag (20 cups) of peanuts, and 12 passion fruit for approximately $7, I return to see an unofficial, likely personal-use, chain on my tire. Thus begins ploy to get money from the white lady.
Since WON ministry pays only legitimate fees I knew I had a long discussion or big payment ahead of me. I told the store owners (whom I assumed to be the culprit) to remove the chain or I’d pay a cab to go home to get bolt cutters and remove it myself before I paid them to remove it. They denied involvement and referred me to a “parking official” or individual with a chain who charges people to take it off. Kind of a genius ploy since people readily pay to be left alone. In Pidgin, he told Laura he did not want to bother me and to pay a 2000 CFA ($4) bribe. I told him to stop talking to her and talk to me since it was not her vehicle. She piped in “Yes! She understands Pidgin!” Um…? I told him the ministry’s policy on requiring official documents to report fines. Determined, he lead us down the street to a police officer who told me to beg forgiveness, laughed and walked away. He detected I was not giving in easily. I asked the man again to remove the chain as I would never park in there again! He was still determined to get money so we continued on to an office full of people and a lady at a desk behind a barred window. She told me she does not discuss, only collects and expected 25,000 CFA ($50). I explained to her there was no signage for the parking restriction and I had parked between two vehicles who did not get chained. She asked the man trying to get me to pay him if this was true. Meanwhile I dread having to take a cab home to get money to pay this ridiculous fee!
Sidenote: I do not understand Pidgin but can guess what people are saying since English words are used. The whole discussion was in Pidgin! You can respond in plain English and be understood. I’ve learned a few phrases. One, “na lie” means “now you are lying”. We use it in jest all the time at the Children’s home! It’s like saying “no way!” or “get outta here”. Typically, it is a highly abrupt phrase if you did not know your audience. Like an office full of parking officials.
After she asks him, he tells her there was someone in the car in front of me so it was not really parked and I had blatantly violated rules! That was not true at all! Now I’m really committed to seeing this thing through without paying. I turn sharply, point at him and shout “NA LIE!” My abrupt defense surprised me! It just came out! All spectators, including Laura nearly died laughing! Well, everyone except the man who put the chain on my tire. He walked out the door silently. He removed the chain. I paid nothing. I told him thank you and God bless! He smiled and everyone walked away happy. The best part is I can face Jake and Holly knowing I didn’t pay a bribe for not paying attention to things they warned me of. Not only am I learning to be somewhat street savvy here, I’m learning how to remain a positive ambassador of WON and Christ.
It took four months to buy $7 of groceries on my own. Humbling concept. Is this similar to how we spread the Gospel? The Gospel is the very power of God (1 Cor 1:17-18) but with great power comes great responsibility. A Cameroonian colloquialism in Pidgin is “small, small catch mon – key” meaning you do not walk up and grab a monkey when you see it. Little by little you approach it, patiently waiting for the right opportunity to get a hold of it! Do not to sit idly by because you are unprepared to minister. It is to be open to learning and implementing what you know to reach others and to overcome difficulties. You may get in over your head but the Spirit prepares us for all things and never leads us to insurmountable odds. Somewhere between overzealous and inactive lies the field white for harvest (John 4:35)! Fortunately, we have a book for teaching us how to share and live this message, the Bible.
I hope you were as amused by this as I was! Reality check for how short I sell myself on experiencing victory. The power that raised Christ from the dead and to the right hand of God is in all His believers! We have to consciously commit to using that power to claim victory in the smallest of battles even when we cannot imagine how it is possible. (Phil 4:13) Good thing God is not limited by our imaginations. In the words of Holly relating to a broad scope of situations we’ve been in together:
[British accent] “I will NOT be defeated!”