Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Thoughts on the people
I've been giving some thought to the people here in Cameroon. The people here are as complex as you will find anywhere I guess. Since we are on a Christian campus, most of the people we have met and interacted with are believers trying to live according to the Bible and it's teachings. As with anyone, our belief is tainted by our upbringing and our experiences leading up to accepting Christ as our Savior. For example, if you have a harsh father or maybe an absent father, your view of God and his love for you may be hard to believe or truly accept. You may be stuck believing that God is a harsh taskmaster and that you can never meet His approval or be worthy of His love. On the other hand, if you have had a father who loves and adores you, it is not that hard to realize the love your heavenly Father has for you. So even though this is a Christian campus, it is made up of several different tribal groups, many of them rivals. Over the years this has been a huge hurdle to overcome,and effects who they believe they are in Christ. In the past few years, there was even one Baptist pastor who killed another Baptist pastor from the same conference. The code of revenge that many of these tribes have lived under for centuries is hard to break. As students come to this seminary, the natural thing for them to do is stay with people of their own tribes and not interact with those that they view as "beneath them". From what I understand, this is something that the current President of CBTS is trying hard to address. He has been teaching and preaching against division and encouraging the students and staff to live as brothers and sisters in Christ. With this teaching there is a cost - the President has received death threats because of the stance he has taken. Many of the different tribal beliefs also get mixed in with the beliefs of the Bible, much like some of the "new age" teachings where you pick and choose what you like best. Some of the challenges are strictly cultural differences. Men in this culture generally do not do much of the labor that is required to live from day to day: women and children collect water, cook, clean etc. Our friend Pastor Dan was teaching a class on Ephesians and there is much in Ephesians that is "new" teaching to this culture: Be angry and do not sin, love your wife etc. The Christians in his class could barely grasp the concept of serving their wives or how to love them. When Dan and Drew went with Andrea and I to the market, they were like our pack mules carrying all our finds. Here in Cameroon, you will see women with a baby strapped to their back, a bucket on their head and both hands full... and if the man were with them, the mans arms would be empty. What Jesus taught was against the culture even then - he saw value in women and children in a land that did not value them. In many ways Africa is still stuck in the mindset that women and children do not have value. The Bible tells us as women to respect our husbands, and husbands to love their wife. The women here struggle to respect their husbands and let them lead their families because many times the women are more educated and knowledgeable then the men. The schools in Ndu have lots of children in one room and a teacher in the front. People all learn in different ways but the schools here really only teach to one way of learning, unfortunately it is mostly the girls that are focused enough to be learning to get to the next level of school. The men that Drew works with work hard for not a lot of money, most of them do not even know how to read. One boy that works with them is 14 years old (but the size of Levi who is 12), he makes 50 cfa an hour (10 cents). A few of these men have wives that are in the Seminary program, it's hard for these men to grasp the concept of being leaders in their families when they feel so far behind in their knowledge. To them, it is only Pastors or teachers who "lead" their family and pursue a relationship with Christ. Drew is trying hard to show them, by going to chapel before work and leading them by example, that all men can lead their families if they choose. Drew is trying to show them that even though he makes a living working with his hands, he still loves the Lord and loves his wife. I asked Drew if he thought the men here were as hard of workers as men in MN. He said they definitely work at a slower pace then he would be willing to deal with at home, but on the other hand they only make $3 - $5 a day so how hard would anyone work for that amount of pay. I've noticed too that there is definitely a hierarchy in the what you do. People who clean or work with their hands are not as "worthy" and don't even look in the eyes of people of higher status. I have hired students to help clean and do our laundry (most of the students need work). I enjoy telling the girls while they are cleaning that Ellie and I cleaned houses to raise money to come to Africa. They look at me in disbelief, because they think white people are rich and would never clean for someone else (or for themselves). It's fun to change their perception. These are just some of my thoughts, and this is just of the Christians we have met on campus. It would be a whole different blog of what we see outside these walls. Pray for these dear Christians as they strive to understand the Bible and live for the Lord Jesus. Pray that they will break down the walls of tribalism and seek to live as one body of Christ.