That morning in June 2009 was like a bad dream. It was the national meet to prove I was a contender for London 2012 in Olympic weightlifting. The shuffling, chaos, last minute change of plans and then standing on a scale in a room full of my coaches and officials nearly naked as I weighed in. This was not strange since I was no longer human, I was a machine being tuned for competition. One pound over. Disqualified.
The devastation of working hard and failing almost permanently altered the course of my life. I no longer wanted to try if it only resulted in failure. I wanted to make my family proud, especially my dad since he could not be in Chicago that day to watch me compete but I had let everyone down. One pound that bore the weight of the world on my shoulders. I was officially a nobody going nowhere. Whatever credit I had allowed God in my life I quickly pitched out the taxi window as I binge-ate lemon bars on the way home since it didn’t matter anymore. God did not care about me because a good God does not allow bad things to happen to us. Right?
I aimlessly wandered the next few years until God opened my eyes to living. He did not orchestrate failure in my life. I had given no heed to his desire for my life and failure was the result. Fortunately he uses all things to his glory for those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). Little did I know God would use my weightlifting skills in Buea (‘boy-ah’), Cameroon to help missionary friends who run a gym years later. Sound strange? Does to me too but I loved the thought and jumped at the chance to spend time with the Hostetters: Jeremiah, Brittany, Hannah, Jonathan and Carys. It was also a great excuse to hit the gym for a week!
I battle my self-image and struggle with aging replacing muscle with… fat. I look like a normal late 20s female but I hate normal. It is not as easy as home to stay fit unless you like to run and I do not. I try to give everything to God in prayer so I gave him my body image issues. He answered with these:
- 1 Timothy 4:8 – “…bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things…”
- 2 Corinthians 4:16 “…our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.”
- 1 Corinthians 6:19-21 “…your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit…glorify God in your body and in your spirit…”
- Matthew 4:4 “…’Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”
- Philippians 3:20-21 “…[Christ] will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body…”
- Psalm 139:14 “…I am fearfully and wonderfully made…”
Every time I asked God to help me appreciate good health despite not looking like a fitness model, I opened the Bible to these passages. How cool is that?! I love being in Cameroon doing all the things I get to do with our kids at HHCH, the Schilinski family and everyone I meet but when you are uncomfortable in your own skin life loses a bit of luster. God is constantly reminding me this body is temporary and flawed but what I gain in knowledge and understanding in Christ remains for eternity. He helped get my mind on what he brought me here to do and that is a lot of random, awesome things. Better yet, I got to share insight on these struggles with dozens of females from Faith Builders gym in Buea. I also taught them technique for Olympic lifts and other exercises. It was invigorating! I got to lift (clean and jerk) 135lbs. That is piddly compared to five years ago but since I lifted maybe half a dozen times since 2009, I felt good! The ladies were convinced they would look like men if they started lifting seriously. I hope I was able to bunk that theory. The cultural differences are amusing in the gym: American women want to be solid, Cameroonian women want to be soft! Makes writing a workout a bit challenging!
The Hostetters are fantastic hosts and friends! They took me to see area attractions and involved me in their ministry outreach in their school and area church children’s ministry. Made me really miss our kids at HHCH. (Sidenote: I love getting a hero’s welcome returning from traveling at HHCH!) Buea is a fantastic town boasting orderly traffic, beautiful views and cool weather at the foot of Mount Cameroon.
Aside from travel within Cameroon I enjoy helping at the Meat Market brainstorming ideas to increase business and running errands. Spending time with other missionary families revealed mission work is based on flexibility. Instead of majoring in the minors you take day by day, focus on Christ and how to reflect him. The rest falls into place if you are willing to work hard for impromptu tasks. Strangely, it feels more stable and fulfilling than when I worked 60 hours a week with a specific purpose. When God leads you fulfillment follows.
A few things going on here: I got my temporary Cameroonian Residence Card so I can travel to Cameroon easily. If it gets processed successfully it will be current for 10 years! Secondly, we are breaking ground for the new orphanage on our property outside of Bamenda! Progress is happening! Third, please pray about a potential business endeavor to open a sandwich shop next to our Meat Market. It would certainly be profitable for the ministry but will take a lot of work!
I am yet to share in depth about my time in the village but the words have not come yet since it was such a profound experience. Hard to believe I will be home on American soil in less than two months! And for the record, Ebola is not in Cameroon. Prayers for safety are still much appreciated though!