Actually, my father said [life] is not always peaches and cream. I take wise advice with a grain of salt and foolish advice to heart. The trial and error never fails to set me straight, particularly in Cameroon. I thought missionaries were impervious to error. I knew they suffer persecution and cultural challenges but never thought missionaries would lose their temper, fail to acknowledge a good opportunity to speak up or a good opportunity to remain silent. First, to clarify I am not a missionary. I am like an apprentice getting a hands-on taste for missionary life. But I can confidently say, missionaries are human.
People tell me they are proud of me for this “selfless” cause and “sacrificing”. Truth is, I came to receive, not give. I came in search of change and had family who would take me. Okay, it is not that simple but God certainly brought me here. When in doubt He laid another step’s worth of pavement at my feet. When obstacles lure me home, they are eliminated by His grace as if to say, “Oh no you don’t, I am not through with you yet.” Fortunately, amid my search for change and offer to help there has been plenty for me to do with school about to begin.
Last week I went to register three of our HHCH children for Government Technical High School/ College (GTC), an equivalent to vo-tech training. What should be simple application turned into a goose chase. Norbert, a house parent at the Children’s Home and I met with the headmistress of GTC then left to obtain required documents across town. After a confusing shuffle between the test result office and a printing shop across the street we finally had what we needed to submit kids’ school applications. We got in the truck in a mud parking area surrounded by eateries and shacks of various vendors. As I backed out I asked Norbert if I had plenty of room. He said yes. “[crunch]”. That was the last time I trust a copilot. I smashed a 5 liter plastic bucket. In typical Cameroon fashion, a random man witness to the mishap springs into action to bring the bucket and inform me of my newly acquired debt. As he stood in the passenger door holding the broken blue bucket, he demanded payment. I said “well, it looks like I just bought a new bucket”. Norbert laughed at me and the man did not receive either of our amusement. He reviled Norbert for not respecting his elders and me to give money or he would call the police. By this point there are men surrounding the truck shouting their input. You can imagine what a real accident scene looks like – chaos. I paid 2000 CFA, we apologized and headed out. It was ridiculous!
Ridiculous until I got home and told Holly. I was frustrated because it should have been simple but that man was rude! As I explained my indignation to Holly she said “but you broke the bucket”. I defended myself. She repeated herself. I defended myself. She quoted Proverbs 15:1 “A gentle answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger”. I was befuddled. I left the house to finish registration before the GTC office closed. I was in the car alone so I could sulk in peace. As I drove to the school in a rainy season downpour I weighed feeling sorry for myself or accepting the lesson. Still indignant at the man being rude after I tried to lighten the situation, it occurred to me that not only do I need to learn to apologize, I need to learn where my understanding of a culture stops. Dear friends and family, do not laugh that it took me 27 years to become aware I struggle with humility. I registered the kids, came home and we left for a church women’s meeting.
The incident was small but the internal deconstruction was massive. There is comfort knowing God saw fit to teach me something. One basketball practice, Vaughn Hiaring told me if he ever stopped yelling at me I could know he gave up. He never stopped yelling and I never stopped trying. I am honored God saw fit to spend one iota of His power to show me where I could improve. Did that lesson require coming to Cameroon? No, but with the vices of familiarity and comfortable it may have been easy to write off. I have a revived desire to see more God desires to teach me.
I nearly returned home for reasons not on this continent. My return ticket is December unless God directs otherwise. Meanwhile, after the dust settled of uncertainty I faced, I know if I leave now I will not be empty-handed on change. Obstacles here have grown me and reshaped my future. God is asserting His sovereignty in my life. I am thankful He cares to do so. I would be lying if I said I did not miss conveniences of home like sidewalks, familiar voices and fountain sodas, but would be devastated to hinder God pruning me.
Sorry I did not save the bucket for a photo. It crossed my mind but getting the heck out of there trumped the thought. More school registration this week! Pray for us please!