With all these parting events I have come to appreciate the value of a formal greeting and farewell. This is revolutionary because I had mastered a maneuver called the “Greasy French Fry” where one quietly slips out the back unnoticed from social gatherings. The term originated in Shenandoah, Iowa and friends passed it on to me as it was a perfect title for my lack of explanation for my departure. Think of the lone greasy French fry in the bottom of the bag that somehow slipped out when you were busy with the rest of the meal. [Pause for McDonald’s daydream…] I’m not sure what I was always in a hurry to leave for but I may be retiring the habit upon returning home.
As I planned a sly disappearing act for leaving Cameroon I was sternly advised against doing so by a good friend. The Cameroonian culture dictates formal introduction, recognition and farewells for guests in any setting. Accolades and grandiose recognition directed at me makes me want to hide in a closet. There was no hope of avoiding it though. Nobody is letting me leave without honoring the time we had together. Now, I am grateful for it.
After enduring several moments of the spotlight and incredibly kind words, I started to see the value in it all. It is terribly uncomfortable but it gives value to the conversations and experiences shared with people I assumed were only special to me. To know people esteem me and appreciate our time together as much I did is validating. I like to be behind the scenes. I do not want people to know what I’m up to but when someone recognizes my effort I feel like a million bucks!
Every time you walk into a room here, you greet everyone present with a handshake or gesture of acknowledgement. At first this bugged me out because I frankly do not enjoy people touching me. Now I feel invisible if someone passes me by. Something we lack or excuse too quickly in American culture is the scurry of showing up late and leaving early. Let people know you appreciate their presence or invitation! When I leave events I will no longer pull the Greasy French Fry. I will simply tell the host I appreciate their effort and ask they excuse my leaving but I am aware old habits die hard.
The reality of it all is back to my friend refusing I should go without saying goodbye for now. If I had left, people culturally would have been insulted and I would be a thief. To come, receive so much in experiences, conversations and gifts without leaving my comfort zone to thank and be thanked would have simply been theft; leaving without paying. The time I have remaining is the time I came here for the first visit – only days. Yet in a few days the experiences were indescribable. Multiply that times about 30 and you can imagine how much more difficult it is for me to explain what I now appreciate about Cameroon. All I can say is this, every prayer of concern I had about being here God answered. God blessed me with experiences and lessons I needed then and in the future. The Schilinski family, my church family here and at home, the Children’s Home and other ministry businesses, missionaries in Cameroon and people I met along the way have been instrumental in the refining process I walked into unknowingly. I knew God had a purpose for me here but I see that it was more to be trained to return home a more fruitful believer.
Another good friend was afraid I would change after coming here. I thought he was silly to think I was that impressionable but he was right. I have changed but from my perspective, the one of what goes on in my head, a LOT needed to change. God has made me more thankful, more loving, wiser, more considerate of others, more generous, more patient and more relaxed. He also showed me some truths about who I am that will not change because I am fearfully and wonderfully made: I am a fighter, I cannot accept mediocrity, I like doing my hair, makeup and tall shoes, I talk a lot and do not know a stranger. Those things at some point gave me guilt or desire for change but God gave me freedom in accepting that he made me this way for His specific reasons.
1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.
There is so much I cannot wait to share with those who want to know more but of course so much I could never describe well enough to be worth telling. Thank you for following me along this journey God brought me on. I hope you have been blessed. Many of you have blessed me with feedback, support and prayers. Thank you so much! If you have considered a mission trip or visit to see another culture I recommend the capable hospitality of Jake and Holly Schilinski here in Bamenda, Cameroon. Visit their website http://www.winournations.com or contact me for more information.
Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, the time we celebrate a second chance at life abundantly. Be blessed and see you Stateside soon!