No Flash Photography

The day was a rich culmination of simple experiences with no photos. I do not take photos often because I am not a tourist. Do you have a special black and white snap of your older, late relatives? I have one of Grandma Elizabeth and Grandpa Knox McCalla on their wedding day. That picture taken in the front yard of the house I and my dad grew up in means more than a thousand color photos of them. I desperately have to cling to the details of it to recall the image. The flowering bush behind them is white and not because the photo is black and white. Common around Iowa. Fragrant, like honeysuckle with simple little white flowers in clusters. I used them to make crowns when I played pretend princess. I did not realize how tall my grandmother was until I saw that photo, or how much dad looks exactly like grandpa whom I never had the pleasure to know. They look content with the world. They were modest, lovely and had just laughed at something.

In special moments here, I want to put them in a bottle to share with everyone at home. A photo would be an injustice. Words are the best I can do without you coming to see for yourself (which you should)!

At church they announced the official engagement of Brother Godlove who diligently cares for our church in Bamenda by living on the compound. A fantastic guy who found a sidekick who loves him! They are later in life with children. Not sure of the story but I wanted to join the ornately dressed church women as they danced behind his fiance to the front of the church for the announcement. They danced, shouted, sang and hailed her as a queen and everyone joined in. Happy people are good medicine. Especially in Cameroon.

After church we took the Children’s Home kids to see progress on the new land. Since ground was moved we can clearly imagine where structures will go; their future home. The sun was hot and it was a bit dusty as we edge the beginning of dry season but the day was perfect. A year ago last week the team from First Baptist Church and Harvest Fellowship in Clarinda (and abroad) who came to Bamenda trekked the potential land in Bambui to pray over it. Today we own it and are building. God has provided abundantly despite serious obstacles! Over 40 HHCH kids, staff, Schilinskis and friends held hands to pray and thank God for what he has given us! Then we explored…

I begged the older girls to go down to the mountain stream at the bottom of the land. Once we fought our way through tall grass and steep, slippery banks we got to the water’s edge. It was too deep to enter safely and I was unsure if a waterfall was near- a force to be reckoned with. We moved upstream to shallow water. I wore a dress and Keens which became amphibious attire. I tried to stay dry by tying up my skirt but conceded by sitting in the creek to give swimming lessons. (Sidenote: few Cameroonians know how to swim. Either they hold beliefs water should be revered, left unhindered or simply are not near “swim-able” water to learn.) The girls squealed at me for standing in the water. Then curiosity overtook them and they joined. Soon we were up to our knees! Some of the small boys came upon our oasis and watched until they joined! One of the youngest asked from the dry bank “Auntie may I take my clothes off and come in?” I said “do you have pants (underwear) on?” He smiled his ornery, toothy 7-year old grin and started shedding. Suddenly I was surrounded by many more non-swimming children splashing around in their undies. I got to sit while they held on to my arms to practice kicking against the current. It was strong so I held tight to their ice-cold hands. Despite teeth-chattering there was no getting them out of the water until the bus threatened to leave.

At a point of reprieve from impromptu swimming lessons I took a mental picture never to forget. I was sitting in the creek as the current pulled my dress like a kite in a strong wind. Securely wedged into an underwater, stone chair I would not get swept away. I looked toward the direction of the creek path and saw a massive mountainside. Thick tropical foliage boasted a giant wall to where I imagined the creek to run, above horizon level: thick vines, palm trees, giant-leafed plants, boulders and no ground to be seen. It felt like an Indiana Jones movie. The snapshot was interrupted as I got dog-piled by the kids now impatient waiting for more swimming lessons. We continued enjoying the cold, clear, rushing water somewhere in a mountain stream on a piece of land God gave us in Africa. While my future and purpose in Cameroon are unclear, I thank God for the here and now. These moments make the uncertainty totally worth it.

Psalm 37:4-5

How appropriate when I searched the name of this plant the name is "Bridalwreath"!

How appropriate when I searched the name of this plant, the name is “Bridalwreath”?!

Weightlifting, Not Exactly London

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!

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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!

Women from the Faith Builders gym!

Women from the Faith Builders gym!

So exciting to lift weights again!

So exciting to lift weights again!

Got a little pickup basketball in at University of Buea!

Got a little pickup basketball in at University of Buea!

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.

Ss

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Beautiful tea plantation between Buea and Limbe, a coastal town a few miles away.

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!

Psalm 139:1-11

Necessity is the Best Teacher

I am a lousy excuse for a substitute Sunday School teacher. I have to confess when I was a kid I did not enjoy Sunday School and for no particular reason. Maybe because I was hyper and hard to manage (fine, still am). Regardless, I am reaping wild oats sown disrupting class tenfold as a teacher here. Picture a 15 foot by 10 foot room, 20 Cameroonian children age five and under, me teaching for the duration of an African sermon. We came out the gates strong, having fun acting out Numbers 21:4-9 about the Israelites and fiery serpents God punished them with for whining. Kids were attentive, participating, even understanding me! I felt confident until I realized only 15 minutes had passed with 45 to go. Panic. Beautiful brown eyes looking at me intently with multi-colored bands tying braids on their heads in arrangements twice their body size. Miniature African gowns of all prints and colors. Stunning. Waiting for me to stimulate their minds. I had to keep them occupied or all… children would break loose. I was in a full sweat dancing, singing, playing games and teaching them to pray. We survived. I happened to catch Jordan telling Jake about the lesson “the people were bad so God sent snakes that made them sick then made them better”.

The looming reality of the chaos was this “simple” task is one of the most underrated responsibilities in our churches. We were blessed to have Pastor Philip Malcom from Assemblies of God World Missions speak to area children’s workers on effective ministry strategies. Some statistics he shared struck me. I have not checked or properly cited from him so forgive me.

1. Children begin to develop a concept of God around age four.

2. Children are establishing beliefs of right and wrong around age eight.

3. What children believe at age 14 is most likely what they will believe the rest of their lives.

THE REST OF THEIR LIVES. If we are effective with children we raise and build lifelong soldiers in Christ rather than rescue people from behind enemy lines to take on the task of turning their perception of God, perception of right and wrong and perception of how they fit into those beliefs upside down! While the challenge is saving ALL why not take the children seriously before they have deeply rooted false foundations?

I love kids but patience is a virtue I struggle with. After the training a switch flipped in my mind when addressing children. Before I thought of my agreement or not with their statements, if I did not agree I would dismiss it and say nothing. Now, when I address a child for any reason I think “am I encouraging them to be Christ-like by being Christ-like?” or “Would Jesus tell me to put a millstone around my neck for that answer or behavior?” (Matt 18:6) Pastor Phil challenged me to prepare well for teaching, pray for teachers and consequently to have respect for those who take children’s ministry seriously.

I am a terrible evangelist because the love I have for Christ and how he changed me is the only thing I cannot begin to describe in words coherently. BUT if I can dance and sing like a fool knowing children are learning the word of God that will guide and protect their lives, sign me up. With 32 children at Helping Hands I already did because monkey see, monkey do. They watch every reaction, response and initiative I take and weighing it to what they have been taught to be truth… then following suit. People hear and see us but are the messages consistent? Are eyes watching us that desire to be like us? Are ears hearing us that want to sound like us? Are you the only example of dealing with anger, adversity or altruism that a child sees? If so, will you feel comfortable answering to God for your influence? I am asking myself these questions. Maybe you identify.

Learning how to do a fun, simple, fair game with a point in children's ministry.

Learning how to do a fun, simple, fair game with a point in children’s ministry.

Sunday School closed with a beautifully mumbled prayer from a sweet girl named Dora. I could not help but think God was smiling at the sound of her voice and those little hands folded firmly, pressing against her consternation-filled face. She prayed “for all the children here [in class] and [their] parents”. It was so pure, so precious. They left me with lots of hugs soothing anxieties about how class went.

I am preparing Helping Hands kids for a Christmas Concert to bless the community on December 20th. We will do a variety of skits, songs, solos, etc. We will also share our songs with area orphanages! Hard to believe that is a quick 12 weeks away! Lots of work to do and looking forward to it!

For some reason they put Willie in a dress and it was too cute to resist!

For some reason they put Willie in a dress and it was too cute to resist a photo!

 

Mama Said There Would Be Days

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!

Madame Maestro

Before this trip to Cameroon I made a request of God: a personal musical renaissance. Music was a huge part of my life from sixth grade to college. Trumpet, French Horn, singing, jazz, concert, marching band, competitions and auditions were paramount. I was one of the highest incoming music scholarship recipients at University of Northern Iowa and I was a complete head case. My lip would tremble, I got cotton mouth or froze up playing or singing for audiences. After five days as a music major, I dropped it altogether. I feared resenting music if I remained in the major.

Arriving at Faith Bible College (FBC) Pastor Bennett Chah, Coordinator at FBC, was eager to find a way to get me involved with courses. Needless to say I am not qualified to teach anything, especially theology. When he mentioned music I hesitantly offered to think about it. I knew enough music performance and theory to be dangerous but having forgotten my request of God I planned to politely decline. After praying about it, an undeniable green light to proceed gripped me. I wanted to cry thinking about the first class of “Introduction to Music” drawing near. I was out of my league preparing curriculum! Where do you begin?! Teaching church leaders and other adults in another country how to read basic music is like trying to drink the ocean through a straw without getting wet.

By no other means than divine intervention, the outline came together, syllabus and finally day one. I was terrified. The language barrier was fresh. Everyone speaks English but differently than Americans. Simple conversation has different rhythm, word selection and cultural context. I got lots of blank stares and questions but after 13 weeks we were in unison. The funniest example of the barrier was grading a quiz; the word “measure” and “major” had been learned interchangeably because they did not hear a difference when I spoke the two! (Nor did I when they spoke them.) They knew the meaning of both but I had to regrade a lot of quizzes and explain myself. We had a good laugh!

We spent half of class doing book work and half of class rehearsing. I wrangled help from Hannah Ritchey when they visited! She plays piano  much better than I! Thanks Hannah!

We spent half of class studying and half singing. I enlisted Hannah Ritchey when she visited. She plays piano well – thanks Hannah! We had to change venue to Calvary Chapel since there were too many enrolled to fit in the college!

In Cameroon, teachers are addressed as “Madame-” or “Professor-“. Since I did not know what to expect never having been a teacher, I was shocked by the first quiz – they were learning! Then I recalled my request, a personal musical renaissance. Do you make requests of God with an expectation of how it should go? I did. And this was NOT it. But boy did God deliver. It was so rewarding to watch them progress! Forty adult students eager to learn, and I was their fearless (clueless) leader.

Necessity is the best teacher. It warms my heart to recall God’s answer because it was not what I expected. I strained my brain three hours every Saturday for 13 weeks in a foreign country on a subject I retired from nearly a decade prior. Additionally, I transposed music (rusty), played piano (rustier), developed them as worship leaders, as individual musicians, as a choir AND sang in front of them (stage fright). I was in over my head so deep it was undeniable Christ alone was guiding my unqualified wind pipes every step of the way. I never choked up or blanked on an answer. I learned to pray a LOT. God qualifies the called; he does not only call the qualified. This was no exception. His grace was sufficient for me. His strength was made perfect in my weakness as a teacher!

Aside from learning to read music, our purpose was to glorify God by developing our worship-leading abilities for students’ respective churches. Reading music is not required to praise God! There were no music lessons for Psalmists beside the divine inspiration of God! Their hearts simply had to be sincere to receive God’s word, not be trained in music.

Our final project was to sing Psalm 121 C and 100 A. I modified 100 A to sing in a traditional African worship rhythm. Psalm 121 C was done true to its prose. The music is from the Reformed Presbyterian Psalter (book of Psalms put to music) a capella (no instrumental accompaniment), in mixed (male and female), four-part (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) harmony. And that we did.

Follow this link to hear our song!

Note matching apparel custom-made for each member with the same material. Standard procedure for all Cameroonian groups – matching dress!

I suppose I should mention this whole build-up was for the graduation of four students completing the three year intensive Bible school at FBC. The college is under Win Our Nations ministry which the Children’s Home is also under.

Dr. Malcolm Blowes Director of Win Our Nations, Jake Schilinski Director of Win Our Nations Cameroon, Pastor Bennett Chah Coordinator of FBC, 2014 graduates and students.

Dr. Malcolm Blowes Director of Win Our Nations, Jake Schilinski Director of Win Our Nations Cameroon, 2014 graduates and students.

This is a long story for a long day but NOT the best part! Each graduate had a reception afterward. In Cameroon, each expects you to eat a full meal. The first was a music students’, Matthias. His reception at his church, the size of a three car garage, was packed with his friends and family. In the center, a large dining table boasting so many tasty Cameroonian dishes you could not see the tablecloth. Jake and I were ushered to the front of the church to sit on the platform as honored guests. I felt awkward but certainly honored! Of course then we had to eat first. The pastor teased us we would pay a fine for not eating a full meal since they needed repairs on their church! We follow orders.

Matthias’ graduation reception at his church!

Next we went to a fellow church member’s reception at his family home. His wife is a phenomenal cook so round two of a hearty meal (greens, fufu corn, plantains, fried bread, soda). I got seconds.

Third we simply stopped to pick up another graduate to take her with us to the last stop on the outskirts out of town but in good Cameroonian fashion, she fed us. Fresh shredded chicken basking in tomato sauce emblazoned with hot pepper or “pepe” on rice. Homemade banana muffins for dessert soothed our scorched mouths!

We intended to add one but added three passengers to our final soirée. This one was in a “home group” outreach focused on a somewhat rural part of town, if you will. We entered the dirt floor, mud block, zinc roof structure for the celebration. In Cameroon, where two or more are gathered…it becomes a church service in a hurry. I got to hear an entire message in Pidgin from the front row with a plate of achu (like mashed potato bowl filled with a cold, curry spice soup) in my lap. You eat with your fingers, one finger if you are a pro. Yes I am a pro at eating in Cameroon, just ask the buttons on my trousers.

“Yu di go fa heaven o yu di go fa hell. Na yu choose. Yu wan go fa heaven? Den yu di ask fa Jesus to com fa ya heart. He di save yu from de hell faiya an give yu life o plenty. Na time dis fo to be free from de devil. Praise Jeesus!”

Read it out loud. Pretend you are a spunky, middle-aged, Holy Spirit-led, Cameroonian woman bursting at the seams with joy of the gospel. That is as close as I can get to bringing you with me. It was enchanting. Pidgin is viewed as a “primitive” language in many settings like schools, office buildings or some churches. Pidgin, like music, when not hindered by expectations, is pure and satisfying to the ears.

Unfortunately did not get photo with the entire group, especially the gal who shared a word in Pidgin. You can see some of the church/home group location. It was up in the mountain so it was nice and cool there!

I had a photo with the entire group, especially the gal who shared a word in Pidgin. You can see some of the pulpit and food prep area. We were up the mountain a bit so it was actually comfortably cool in the room!

The day left me with a full stomach and full heart. It was my favorite day in Cameroon so far and will be one of the most cherished memories of my life. This story is for you to hear but mostly to serve as a catalyst in my memory. I never want it to fade!

Justine is a 2013 graduate from FBC – she was with Jake and I for all the receptions. She christened all of them with her Grenadine soda! Well not the last one, Jake took care of that. Thank goodness for dirt floors! We laughed non-stop! She is dynamite – thoroughly enjoyed her company and completion of the music class!

I am so proud of God for being so cool, proud of my class, proud of the graduates, and honored to have been a part of the celebration that day! Praise God from whom all blessings flow – especially ones with lots of food, friends and music!

Lets Go to the Beach

The view at the bottom of the steps from our guest house!

The view at the bottom of the steps from our guest house!

Sure I am not on vacation but being with amazing people in an amazing country such as Cameroon, I feel like I am cheating the system! It gets even better when you take a vacation while on vacation! Our destination was Kribi, Cameroon. Creation reflects it’s creator. So when I foolishly think I have seen enough amazing places on this planet to think I have an understanding of how incredible our Creator is, God takes me somewhere new and laughs at me.

Kribi is stunning. Barely touched by the deadly kiss of commercial tourism. There is enough economy to eat well but not enough that drowns out the moonlight over the water after the sun goes down. It was a great time of year to go. It was quiet, comfortably warm to stay in a swimsuit the entire time but cool enough to sleep at night. We enjoyed the holiday with four missionary families in addition to ours. It was amazing when we had our own church service on a patio overlooking the ocean on a cool Sunday morning. Granted we had 28 in attendance so it was not a small gathering! Great reminder that although church fellowship is important, God is not bound by physical or proximity limitations (2 Timothy 2:9). How astounding is it to think if we could even invent one novel creation as simple as a seashell, we would have monuments erected in our honor. Yet, God having created it ALL, is hard-pressed to receive due credit. Fortunately, the creation speaks for itself by its complexity, of whom it was made (Romans 1:18-21).

We enjoyed boogie-boarding, climbing and swimming in waterfalls, kayaking down a river that leads to the ocean, napping, quiet devotional time to the sound of the waves, tending sunburns, incessant de-sanding and eating (a lot). I kayaked down a river away from the ocean and it was eerie in a spectacular and silent way. There was nobody around, not a wrinkle in the water and all you could see were the giant cage-like roots of African trees heavily protecting the border of the water from the dense foliage behind them. You could hear so many different animals and birds yet I never saw them. It is deafening and silent at the same time when you are aware none of the sounds are from people…the ones who would save you from a giant snake or hole in the kayak. I may have an unhealthy amusement with danger because the thought of something going awry made me want to keep going more. Besides, Holly had already done it so it must be safe, right?

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Our friend roasting a hot dog to perfection. There is a traditional fishing boat in the background coming to shore.

We had a bonfire on the beach one evening. We enjoyed s’mores and hot dogs. If you think hot dogs are sketchy in America, have one in Africa. Good news is, they taste the same (good when burnt)!

My friend Melissa and I spent the day being bums & catching up at this cafe just down the beach! Great day!

My friend Melissa and I spent the day being bums & catching up at this cafe just down the beach! Great day!

My favorite part of the trip was being surrounded by kind, loving people brought together by various paths to rest and edify each other in the Lord on holiday from their work in Cameroon. We have different missions but work for the same Name. This trip, I brought everything I needed to come back to the States to be with my parents at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota since Kribi is near the airport in Douala. At that moment we were unsure if my father’s ongoing weeks of illness were attributed to cancer or something else. Either way, I recommend sitting around a fire next to the ocean with fellow believers to cope with anxiety while waiting for impending news. They were comforting in their presence alone. Praise God we found out it was not cancer on the drive home! My return home may still be prior to December. Thank you to everyone for prayers and support and continuing on as well! Mom and Dad are troopers.

The great news came about 30 minutes before home of our 12 hour journey. We had kid and dog puke both directions but arrived safely having a great ride overall! At home, I take for granted the likelihood of arriving at destinations safely via any means of transportation. On the way down we waited in line behind a bus accident. We saw bodies stacked on the back of a truck with straps securing them because there were too many to take back at once. Allegedly, five of 30 survived but we failed to see how even that many could have lived. The wreckage looked like a scrap yard. The bus was completely torn open from colliding with another truck. That made the other wreck sites we saw pale in comparison but boy do you praise God when you set your feet on solid ground at home. We are not guaranteed another day, another trip or even another breath. First Thessalonians 5:16 “Rejoice always.” We have so much to be thankful for no matter what is going on!

Free Indeed

Celebrating Independence Day in Cameroon was fantastic! My favorite Redcoat, Holly, made amazing red, white and blue cupcakes with homemade frosting. My favorite Texan, Jake, grilled amazing meat purchased from our own meat market: burgers, bratwursts and ribs! Around 60 of our American, Canadian, British, German, and Cameroonian friends shared mounds of delicious food and fellowship.

Being here challenges me to recognize my identity as an American and as a Christian. As an American, I came to appreciate standard protocol for obtaining documents. Officials in Yaounde told us it was “too difficult” and “not possible” to extend my visa. They also told me I need to leave the country and return before they renew it. Our rebuttal was a lot like theirs but we left with a two month extension.

The other purpose for visiting Yaounde was to visit a potential child at HHCH. Miss Ornella is 13. She has cerebral palsy. Cameroon is not a disability-friendly country. We did not know her condition or true need so we met with her and others helping her seek refuge. Ornella has a smile that lights up a room! You would never know the brutality she faced by looking at her. Despite her physical scars, she has a vibrant spirit God has a purpose for. Since many were involved in her adoption, she spent the last two weeks with a neighborhood family. They have a daughter Ornella’s age – Blanche. Since Ornella’s speech is slightly impaired from CP, Blanche translated until we became accustomed to hearing her. Blanche and her were a precious pair of pals!

Watching the girls say goodbye before we returned to Bamenda was gut-wrenching. As we left, Ornella was strong choking down emotions, masking them with a smile. Minutes later, she burst into tears. Can you imagine what she was feeling? She had been passed from one place to the next enduring neglect, abuse and extreme circumstances. Now she’s in a car with two white people headed to a new part of the country to live with 31 brothers and sisters: fear, anxiety, relief, sadness, the list goes on! I got into the back seat and held her. We talked through her concern briefly and simply told her it is okay to be afraid but if she could trust us, things were going to be better from here on out! I asked her if she knew Jesus and she said yes. We prayed for a safe trip home with no delays which is exactly what we got. By Bamenda we had stuffed her full of coconut, peanuts, chicken, cookies (I am my mother’s daughter), carrots, soda and roasted corn. We had a great time and somehow no car-sickness befell us! It was topped off by a warm welcome from her new family at HHCH!

As Christians we have freedom in trials, not from trials. We have a blessed assurance of freedom in Christ! In trials I have a choice to live in despair and anger at God for allowing things to happen to me or to live in joy and peace in the knowledge and understanding of Him. Every trial we face is custom-made for us. God has identified an opportunity for improvement while Satan has identified an opportunity for attack in an effective way. When God allows Satan to attack us with various trials He knows our limitations and the desired outcome, 1 Peter 4:12 and 1 Cor 10:13. We can conclude Ornella is a strong child of God whose steps have been numbered by Him because of that which she has endured and is now free from in our family! Second Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” That is great news for all of us, not just Ornella. I am not who I was yesterday or a year ago. Praise God! Nobody has to remain the same!

In John 8:32 Jesus is talking to Jews who believe Him. He tells them “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” In John 8:36 “…if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” The freedom I am speaking of as an American and as a Christian have this in common – neither were free and neither are deserved. By the grace of God I was born in the United States of America giving me the opportunity to exercise freedom and protection by my great nation. By the grace of God I was offered the free gift of eternal life beginning the moment I believed Jesus offered himself as a payment for my sins, establishing reconciliation with God, rescuing me from a just punishment of Hell and granting me eternity in Heaven! The past week or so have really made me grateful for the sacrifice of our U.S. Armed Forces and Jesus Christ. I am so proud to be an American and a child of God.

I am free indeed.

Enjoying a Fanta while we learned Ornella's story.

Blanche and Ornella enjoying a Fanta while we learned Ornella’s story.

Ornella

[Left to Right] Blanche, our friend Duncan who helped arrange Ornella’s move to HHCH, Ornella, Jake, and me!

For more about Ornella see:
http://us5.campaign-archive1.com/?u=561c1f17dec0ae5877d34d4bd&id=d92200a7e9