African outfits

African outfits
Our crazy family

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday of our first week in Ndu

Here it is Friday already, we haven’t had much internet – I only have it when I use Peg’s internet port but she needs it for her work.  The electricity goes out most days at least once.  I have a load of laundry in the small washing machine waiting to have electricity again so that it can finish running.  I will have to wait until tomorrow to hang them out to dry.  Our cooks have made another amazing meal for our team – it has cabbage and meat baked inside a pocket of bread dough.  The house smells so wonderful; they baked bread for us today also.  Hopefully Alyssa will be able to enjoy it, she ate koki from a vendor and was throwing up all night.  We are calling this the “Koki Lesson”.  The town of Ndu has market day every 8 days, the cooks brought back some wonderful fruit for us to try.  The kids have been so good about trying new things.  Kyle needed a pair of jeans so he bought some used from the market.  They fit well and we asked him where he tried them on.  He said that he just put them around his neck (?).  Turns out if you button your pants and put the waist around your neck, and it doesn’t choke you, they should fit.  All of us girls bought fabric at the market to have made into skirts.  We called a tailor to come measure us for outfits; hopefully she’ll have them finished in time.  We asked her to join us for dinner and it was obvious she was uncomfortable.  We also had our neighbor Dan for dinner; he and his family are here until the end of February.  His family is at a conference but he had to remain on campus to teach a class.  His house was too quiet so he came and hung out with us for the evening.  It’s much like the “group home” atmosphere we have at home – lots of laughter and fun.  The sunset from our front door is so incredible.  We have a tree with purple flowers and the ski turns a beautiful purple color with a haze from all the dust – it is breath taking.

It’s been interesting for me today as I’ve observed the different people on our team.  All of us are in the process of being changed and the time is going by way too fast.  There is this sense of urgency to get the projects done that have been started.  Relationships are being built and we have this desire to help these people that we have started to care about.  There are so many needs around us and it feels somewhat overwhelming, we wonder if we are even making a dent.  Drew is working with men doing heavy labor and they do not have money for lunch so they get slow in the afternoon.  Right now we have cooks that make way too much food for all of us so Drew has brought them back some of the leftovers.  I wonder if this is a good idea to set this precedence from the beginning of our 2 month stay.  We will not have a cook feeding us after the team leaves and wil the number of people requesting lunch gets to be too many?.  Levi invited a couple of boys he had met into our house to show them what our football looks like, a short time later I opened the door to about 15 little boys trying to push their way into our house.  It’s almost impossible just to do something for one or two people.  I don’t have any answers but I am praying that we will have wisdom.

Kaley, Alyssa and Ellie have been working in the child care center; the kids are not there yet since the students are still on their semester break.  Today they bought bright colors and painted the doors, windows and cabinets of the center – it looks great!  They have asked Emma (the child care director) for a list of needs that we can maybe help them with.  She was teary as she said that she has been praying for some kind of miracle like this.  Many times she has requested from the school to make changes for the children but there is just no extra income and she ends up feeling like a beggar.  It would be wonderful if the playground equipment could be fixed so that it is safe again.  I took my Norwex window cloths down and we cleaned all the windows – the child care ladies were amazed.  We used the Enviro cloths to clean the doors too .  There is very little access to water so they loved the fact that the cloths cleaned so much without needing more water – I just would fold it over to a fresh side.  Ellie is hoping to help with the children when they arrive on Monday.  Kaley and Alyssa are both wishing they could stay longer.  I am wishing they were staying longer too.  This place is going to be very different without the whole team here.  We are working on getting our house ready that we are moving in to, it’s not as nice as the one we are in currently 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


We have been in Ndu for 2 days now and are feeling settled (somewhat).  Right now our whole team is living in a house that is usually used by visiting teachers to the seminary.  We have 2 beautiful women cooking for us: Ancella and Martha.  They have made the most amazing meals for us, although too much for our small group.  Today we ate beans and rice and I had to fight the urge not to eat until I burst – so good!  The house that our family will live in once the team leaves is just up the hill a ways.  Alyssa, Kaley and Ellie cleaned the floors and the kitchen yesterday so it’s starting to look better.  I had Drew rearrange the bedroom furniture but we are still waiting for the mattresses to arrive.  We were told maybe today but the day is almost over and they have not come yet.  There are a couple of baby goats that like to hang out outside our door of our home, they get a little crazy at times and it sounds like someone is trying to break in.  As I was walking away from our little yellow house towards the team house, I heard someone shout.  I didn’t think it could be for me but I looked to see what the shouting was for.  There were two men walking towards me with a refrigerator on their heads, this was for our home, so they were shouting for me.  I would have loved a picture of it but my camera battery had just died so it didn’t happen.  We have seen lots of interesting things carried on people’s heads and on motorcycles.  We did get a picture of a man on a motorcycle carrying another motorcycle.  It reminded me of some of the photos Tom Butz has “You know you’re a redneck when…” only we will call it “You know you’re in Africa when…”
This morning Alyssa, Kaley, Ellie and I walked to some of the local stores to get some supplies.  Ellie had her first marriage proposal.  I think it creeped her out a little, especially because he was a Muslim man much older than her.  He asked how old she was and said at 15 she should be getting married, since she is 14 he thought she should be preparing for that day.  Different world.
Drew started working on the main entry stairs into the teaching area of the seminary.  He brought   a few of his fellow workers home for lunch – nice men.  They have already done quite a bit of work for the first day.  The kids were cleaning off shelves and books in the library.  The seminary boasts one of the largest libraries in Northern Africa but it is very unorganized.  There is only one man running the whole library and it is very overwhelming.  So if you know a librarian who would like to come to Ndu to help Henry, he would love the help.  The dust that is everywhere is not good for the books either.  The   kids are so dirty   after cleaning books all day.  Tomorrow Alyssa and Kaley will be meeting with the woman in charge of the Child Care Center to see what their project will be.  Kaley is going to school to be a preschool teacher so this is right up her alley.
We are having so much fun, the time is flying by.  Last night we got the giggles so bad over stupid things – it feels like being at home.  It will be so hard when the team leaves.  It looks like I will have a part time cook once we are on our own in our little yellow house.  The people here are so nice though, I’m sure we will be well taken care of.  It’s still hard for me to grasp that my family still has 2 months to go in this amazing, but dirty, place.  We have had water so that is good.  I guess they can go weeks without enough water.  I’m still trying to figure out what my role is here.  My first priority is getting our home ready for us to live in. 
Pray for our team and the people we are working alongside.  Pray that we will be productive and that the seminary will be satisfied with the work that we do.  Pray for our family as we adjust after the team leaves (which is still one week away but I am already feeling melancholy over it).  We all feel so privileged and thankful to be here.  Thank you all for helping to make this possible and for your continued prayers.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Road to Ndu

The road to Ndu is hard to describe but I will try.  It started out tar and not bad but quickly we were on a dirt road that was extremely dusty.  The ruts were deep and the path straight up (or so it seemed).  It's a 5 hour drive but seems much longer - especially if you have a full bladder.  We had 2 vehicles, Peg hired Fy Eric to drive her truck.  The boys rode with Eric since he had a very strong body odor, and they didn't seem to mind.  The girls all rode with Peg.  We passed many villages and children going to school in their colorful uniforms.  The dust flies everywhere and everything is coated in red dust.  Our luggage was covered with dust and so were we.  We made one potty stop along the road but Kaley couldn't handle the "au naturale" so she instead endured the pain of the bumps.  There was a "no smoking" sign in the ravine right next to the forest where we took our potty break, apparently we weren't the first to have to stop there.

At one point the truck was having a hard time getting up the hill - which meant the Toyota Land Cruiser the girls were in had to back down to try again (and again).  Finally, Peg switched driving with Eric, it was her truck and she knew how to drive it.  She made it up the hill and Eric followed with the Toyota.  We all had to hang on for most of the drive.  The good news was no one got car sick!  Kyle thought the ride was amazing.  It was both terrifying and extremely beautiful with the sheer drop off at the edge of the road.

Now here is the guys description:  Drew has never driven on a public road where low range in 4 wheel drive was necessary.  This road required being in 1st gear much of the way with 4 wheel drive in low range!

I wanted to send pictures but the internet is really slow and other people want to use the internet plug thing.

Monday, January 9, 2012

La Verna Spiritual Center

La Verna Spiritual Center                                                                              January 9, 2012 *early
I’m sitting here in the dark listening to dogs bark all around this building.  It is a full moon so maybe that has something to do with it.  The roosters have been crowing for hours but it’s not really time to get up yet… they probably can’t sleep either with all the dogs barking.  After a lovely dinner, we were all given our room assignments by the nuns.  Drew and I are the only married couple traveling to Ndu so we were given a double bed with our own bathroom.  Our first thought was how “romantic” it was, we have barely had time alone since our departure last Thursday.  We laughed when we sat down on the very creaky bed in this quiet retreat center run by nuns.  Not that it mattered, we were both so exhausted that sleep came before I remember my head hitting the pillow.  Drew is still enjoying his sleep, but with all the noise and the full moon coming through the window, I’m not sure how he’s doing it.
My kids are all sleeping in rooms upstairs and down the hall, I know they are fine but they seem very far away.  Ellie is in a room with Kaley, Alyssa and Kym and the boys are in a room down the hall from them.  Levi’s head hurt from all the riding, which sometimes makes him sick, hopefully he is sleeping if off. My mind is busy and just wanting to get on with our day…. Coffee would be nice too
Finally started drifting off to sleep after typing this… then the nuns started chanting.  I laughed so hard at all the strange noises.  Once I got over my giggles, I heard the nuns singing and worshipping and I closed my eyes listening to the beautiful voices.  Bummer that it was time to get up because I’m sure I could have slept in peace at that point. 


Attended church in yaounde at the Hilton Hotel.  The church is an international church attended by many missionaries from all different church backgrounds.  It’s not a typical African church, which is probably one of the reasons we attended today, in that it runs on a schedule much like we would find here in America.  Drew and I were both struck during the message, which was on living outside your comfort zone, how different that would have been heard back in Minnesota.  Here we were surrounded by people who have left their comfort of family, homes, jobs and are living in a foreign country.  In my opionion, these people are living far outside their comfort zone and yet they still needed to hear that message.  In discussing this with Drew, it seems that our comfort is more a “spiritual” place rather than just the physical needs we think of.  Anytime we are in a place where we do not need to rely on God’s help but rather our own efforts, we are living in a place of comfort.  I know that before the day was over I would experience just a little of being completely dependent on God, but I will save that for another blog.
A fun thing that happened at church today just showed me how God really does care about us as individuals and He loves to indulge us in the things we take delight in.  Our niece Kaley is a student at St. Kate’s University and lives with our family.  She is part of this mission team and will be staying with us in Ndu for 2 weeks.  This trip is far outside Kaley’s comfort zone, she had never even been in an airport before leaving last Thursday.  At times leading up to this trip I wondered if this was even a good fit for Kaley for a few different reasons.  One reason I questioned whether Africa was a good fit is that Kaley hates hot weather – but now that we are heading to Ndu she will no longer have to endure the heat and humidity.  The other thing that made me wonder if this was a good fit is that Kaley is completely obsesses with Asian culture – specifically Korean.  She has been teaching herself Korean and when her studies allow, she spends hours watching Korean variety shows and reality Tv on her computer.  Kaley would love to go to Korea someday and maybe even teach there when she is finished with school. Needless to say, I wasn’t sure how Africa was part of God’s plan for Kaley but I have been so excited to see her step out in faith and join us.  Imagine my delight (and Kaley’s), when we walked into this little fellowship of believers and the worship leader was a young Korean man.  I almost laughed out loud when he shared between the songs about not being “freaked out” but completely trusting God wherever He takes you.  If you know Kaley even a little, you know she uses the term “freaked out” quite frequently – probably because many things freak her out, like bugs, heat, people she doesn’t know touching her or invading her personal space (all the things you find in Africa).  It made me smile when I envisioned God going to such care to speak directly to the heart of my niece.  It blows my mind how much God loves us and wants to bless us.  

The Road to Bamenda

                                                                    January 8, 2012

Our Toyota was loaded up sky high and ready to leave for Bamenda as soon as lunch was over after church.  We ate at a lovely Asian restaurant owned by a Vietnamese American.  Our whole team was there with the exception of Kym and Alyssa who had gone on public transportation ahead of us to Bamenda.  Once lunch was over we piled into our VERY full vehicle – all 7 of us in what we would consider a 5 passenger vehicle since that is how many seatbelts there are, heading north for what should be about a 6 hour drive.  I got the giggles when Kyle, Drew, Levi and I all had to turn sideways just to get the back doors shut.  Once the doors were shut we settled down, completely squished from door to door, I can’t tell you how glad I was that I insisted Kyle put deodorant on before we left.  Ellie and Kaley were in the front with Ellie straddling the stick shift.  I think Peg was the only one with a full seat to herself, which was good because she was the one driving us.  Thankfully for Drew, Peg has short legs, which allowed him some leg room and some space for the extra bags that didn’t fit on the roof rack or in the back. 
The ride seemed to go fast at first as we were taking in all the sights.  There are so many people going in all different directions, the driving conditions are a bit crazy.  The further we traveled from Yaounde, the worse the road conditions became, although for the most part the road is in fairly good condition, tarred and everything.  As you get to open market areas there are speed bumps along the way – some are marked better than others and with our full load on top there were times we wondered if it would all stay in place.  The majority of the trip is just one road north but as you enter cities there are these turn a bouts that can get very confusing since all the roads look alike.  In the town of Bafousma (?), we got on a wrong road, which became obvious when there was no longer tar but these deep dirt pits, people were everywhere and pointing at us (but probably because they thought we were going to lose our load on top).  Peg found a place to turn around and we headed back the way we came, she had things under control but if was getting dark and we still had at least an hour to go.  Needless to say, there were some tense moments in the car and I’m sure we were all praying silently for both protection and direction.  I kept thinking how greatful I was that we had so many of our friends praying for us, even if they had no idea what kind of a situation we were in.
We did got back on the road to Bamenda  but it was slower going in the dark, it’s harder to see the pot holes or the speed bumps.  Arriving in Bamenda, we again got turned around for a bit but soon Peg recognized where she  was again.  About this time, Peg started noticing that our brakes were not working well – I was very thankful we had a stick shift which would give us a little more control.  We turned onto our last dirt road taking us to our place of rest for the night and it was steep and windy.  Knowing our brakes were not working made that another tense moment or two but God was gracious 
We arrived at the La Verna Spiritual Retreat, which is a retreat center run by these beautiful Cameroonian nuns.  They had a lovely meal set out for us and Kym and Alyssa were waiting for us too.  We were all exhausted but thankful to be in such a lovely place.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sunday Morning

It's Sunday morning here and we're all starting to get moving.  Jon and Levi were out bird watching early this morning, it's their last morning together.  After church, my family will be heading in a very over-loaded vehicle to Bamenda.  The vehicle we are taking only seats 7 (?) so Kym and Alyssa are taking public transportation up to Bamenda... I'm sure they will have some stories to tell.  I guess the bus they are on is suppose to just have one person per seat - at least in theory.  Alyssa lived in Cameroon with the Peace Corp for 2 years and is VERY excited to go on this little excursion.  I'm excited to get to cooler weather for sleeping.  It actually cools down fairly nicely here but it's humid.

At our orientation time we learned the "rules":
1.  It's ALL good.
2.  It's all part of the experience.
3.  Flexibility is our middle name.
Here is our whole team the last night before we split into two groups.

Pray for us as we travel today and tomorrow.