African outfits

African outfits
Our crazy family

Saturday, February 18, 2012

An Encouraging Day

We're down to the last month of our journey and are trying to be very purposeful in documenting everything and experiencing as much as possible. I asked the kids what they miss most about Minnesota: They ALL answered "The People". I then asked them what they think they will miss most about Cameroon when we go home: They ALL answered "The People". I really liked those answers. Today we headed north of Ndu, walking for about 2 hours just to see what was around each new bend in the road. It seemed like we hiked UP the whole way but once we turned around we found ourselves walking UP some more. The day was very cloudy so I'm hoping we can go back on a clear day, what we could make out was quite beautiful. It's interesting to see how the people react to us. People here are so friendly - all afternoon we were greeted with "Good Afternoon". Many people would stop and come to shake all of our hands and thank us for taking time to say "Hello" to them. We had our friend Matthew Lee with us - he is teaching a computer class on how to use translation software. Matthew is working with SIL/Wycliffe and is originally from Virginia. We have forced him into our "group home" and have enjoyed having his company. It ends up he likes exploring as much as we do so it was quite a day. I was so humbled when we stopped to rest for a bit and a man with one leg and maybe 2 teeth hoped up the bank to greet us. He wanted to invite us into his home but we were already pushing it on time. Who does that in America? This man really had VERY LITTLE but wanted to share with 6 total strangers. Later we met a woman who went out of her way to greet us each with a hearty handshake. She was on her way home from choir practice at First Baptist Church in Ndu (Wow - she walks along way). She knew Ancela, who had been our cook when our team was here. This woman gave us some kind of nuts just because she wanted to bless us. Another man had a fruit stand and I asked for bananas. He only had 3 left (which costs about 10 cents) and he wanted to just give them to me so that he could bless me. I accepted and then "dashed" him a bit to bless him back. It's really crazy how generous people are. I'm completely inspired to change and be the generous stranger to people I meet back in Minnesota.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Eyes Wide Open

We have been here for 6 weeks now and I'm starting to notice, even more, that the needs here are far beyond anything we can even make a difference in. There are so many students whom we have met that are here at this seminary because they have a calling from God. These students have a heart to share God's Word with people in their tribal language and to live a life of service to their King. It seems for many of them, the pursuit of this dream is a constant struggle. The seminary is in DEEP financial difficulties, and it shows in the deteriorating buildings. The staff here is operating on very minimal salaries. The current President is trying very hard to build the school back up and to be a good steward with the money that is available. It's discouraging to see hard workers with very little to eat because the money is just not there. It just so happens that the time we are here is corresponding with the end of the dry season (also known as the hunger season). Many of the staff and students have farm land that they work to produce food for their families, so once the rain comes these plants will grow. Please pray for the future of CBTS. We have met so many amazing people here, all of them with their stories of how God brought them here. One gal I talked to yesterday is pursuing a counseling degree so that she can help others heal from trauma in their lives. She shared some of her story with me: Her father died when she was just 14 years old. In Africa, it is expected that if your father dies then your father's brother would care for you. There were 2 uncles and both refused care of these children and their mother. They said that at 14 she should be able to care for herself. My daughter is 14 this year and as capable as she is, I could not imagine sending her off on her own to make her way. This woman seemed so ashamed when she shared how she would beg just so she would have food. I thought it was amazing that she is still pursuing school even when everything was against her. To me she is a strong person that found a way to cope through a very difficult situation. She is married now and a few years ago, she woke to find that her healthy 2 month old child had died during his sleep (probably SIDS). The heartbreak she has gone through I cannot even begin to imagine. I think this woman will make an amazing counselor as she leads others through their pain to the ONE who can give comfort. I try to hire anyone who needs work to help in anyway possible. I have also offered food to anyone who comes through the door, because I realize that many of these friends I have made would never tell me that they are hungry. We are here only one more month and need to be careful of giving the impression that all white people have excess. The missionaries who are here full time are also living on less. They have given up much to answer the call that God has put on their life. Today was our last day with our cook Irene, even her life is one of being a missionary of sorts. She has made our transition into this home so enjoyable. Irene has cooked for a missionary lady from Canada for 8 years and was so good to us this past month. We had American food prepared and she showed us how to shop at the market too. During the past 2 weeks she has helped train another gal who is just starting out as a cook. What a blessing it has been to rub shoulders with all these students and cooks that have come through our door. Pray that we will be wise and discerning as we reach out to those in need and encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Alyssa's Thoughts On The Missions Trip To Cameroon

My half of the Evergreen team went to Ndu in the northwest province of Cameroon, a solid 2-day drive away from the capital, Yaounde. It was the dry season when we were there, so the roads were dusty and bumpy from the SmartCar-sized potholes in the road. We actually thought that made the trip very entertaining and there is some shaky video footage to testify!
We had 8 full days in Ndu, which Kaley and I lamented from the moment we arrived. The Petersen family, Kaley, Kim Poulsom and I made up our little Ndu family, and as such, we stayed in a house together in the Baptist seminary while we were there. Drew Petersen worked on a cement project which was the entire reason the group went to Ndu in the first place. And while Kim helped the backlogged seminary librarian and Marie acted as “house mama” for the team, Kaley, Ellie and I were assigned to help with the Day Care center…to liven it up and give the staff more ideas for working with children. We were pretty attached at the hip, Kaley, Ellie and I. We had so much fun getting to know each other, getting to know Cameroonians and appreciating Cameroonian culture, and especially appreciating Cameroonian food! Since I lived in Cameroon for two years at another point in my life, I was so excited to eat the street food, and get Kaley excited about it…which resulted in one of us getting a verrrryy ill…no more “feeding the tapeworm” as we referred to our excessive interest in the food!
The three of us ladies got to meet one very special person during our short stay in Ndu. His name was Felix, a Missions student in his final semester of seminary. He came to us the first day at the center, timidly with a trembling lower lip to ask if he could help us with any work in the Day Care center, which we knew meant he was looking for some paid work which is hard to come by for students. We wanted to bless the day care center ladies by painting their white walls and furniture with bright primary colors, and Felix had some experience with the oil-based, super potent, industrial strength paint, so he worked alongside us with the painting, but taught us so much about trusting the Lord and perseverance that it felt like we were hardly the missionaries at all, but the ones receiving the blessing of his kind friendship. He invited us to meet his wife and 1 month old baby, Prince Lee, and the emotions we all felt leaving their home are hard to articulate, but suffice it to say we were all teary from their encouragement and kindness in offering to host us when they had no money, no bathroom, hardly anything material to call their own. We couldn’t even accept their generous invitation to join them for a meal because of our newfound fear of food contamination, so they went and purchased soda and American cookies for us so they could still treat us to some hospitality in their home. My heart was warmed by the entire experience of going there to serve and bless this center with our hard work and small donation of paint and labor, but the work for us ended up being just the means to building relationships and finding out how our friends could show us a fresh perspective…
As sweet as it was to watch God cultivating mission-minded Cameroonians, I watched two younger women grow in their perspective in such a sweet humble way too. Watching Kaley and Ellie accept every opportunity to meet people and learn about Cameroon was the most heart-warming experience of them all really. I watched them pick spiderwebs off furniture, learn the local Limbum language, boldly order and taste the spicy meat from a street vender (it was safe), and seek out the Lord daily through regular quiet times…this was the part of the trip I treasured the most! I didn’t think that a trip back to a country I’d grown to love so much would end up being even better for the Americans I traveled with, but as Cameroonians always refer to loved ones as a member of your family in some way, these two lovely sisters in Christ became like family to me in every sense of the word.
I don’t know how to sum up my thoughts about our time in Ndu, and I won’t even try. I had a conversation with a full-time missionary there in which I told him that I believed this visit to Cameroon was about “tying up the loose ends from my last time there”, and he responded saying, “so you want it to be a neat packaged deal, huh?” I can’t give much of a neat, packaged account of visiting Ndu, but I know we all loved the people, culture and growing in our walks with the Lord together while we were there, and I’d like to thank everyone who sent us there from the bottom of my heart! Who knows, you might have the chance to be a part of the next team to Cameroon.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentines Day to all my friends and family. I believe we are at the halfway mark of our trip. We said good-bye to our dear friends the Schroths today. They have been so fun to have right down the steps from us. We were able to experience so many new things together and since neither family knew what we were doing we also learned together. I love the family of God - we have met so many fellow believers over the years that we feel an instant connection with, including these new friends. So today their family piled into a Toyota van - one that we would call 7 passenger but the sticker on the back of this van said 15 passenger. Their luggage was all strapped on top and they actually had quite a bit of room for the 6 of them. It was a teary good-bye but we know we will see them again someday - hopefully on this side of heaven. Later in the afternoon we heard the bells clanging and students and faculty were pouring out of the buildings. A Pastor who graduated from CBTS a few years ago was passing through and everyone was coming to see. This time too he came in a similar Toyota van as the one that the Schroths' had just left in. The people surrounding the van were also there to say their good-byes as the Pastor had died and his casket was strapped to the top of the van. The van was making it's way with the deceased from the coast up to the final burial place, stopping along the route where ever the Pastor had been known, his wife there to accept condolences. Good- byes are hard, but so much harder for those who have no hope. Valentines Day is a great day to remember the one who loved us so much, he was willing to die - so that we may have hope.
John 13:34-35 "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sunday thoughts

This morning we went to another church about a half hour walk from here. We were invited to attend because Martha (our team's cook) and her niece Courage attend this church. Once again we had to stand up and be greeted - we are getting pretty good at that. Church "officially" starts at 9am but we didn't even leave our house until 915am. I'm really thankful we have printed bulletins back home. For over an hour the service was announcements. During the announcements they announced how good it was that the missionaries sat in the grand stand during the National Youth Day event. To be honest, we avoided sitting in the grand stand because we didn't want to get stuck in there for hours. The grand stand was full of "important" people and the only thing that makes us "important" is that we stand out because we are white. We had 4 different people come up to us and ask us to sit in the grand stand - we told them we wanted to be able to take pictures and they did not force it. Finally when the parade was over and the performances were about to begin a man escorted Andrea and I through the crowd to the grand stand. Drew and the kids thought it was over so they went back to our house. So in church this morning, when they announced how good it was that we sat in the grand stand, I realized we came very close to insulting these dear Cameroonian people. Live and learn. Next month there is another big event, similar to the National Youth Day, called Women's Day. The women march and all wear matching dresses, there are speeches and performances. After church, all the visitors were invited for a lunch (we tried to leave but they pursued us). There were 3 women at the lunch who I recognized from the grand stand the day before, so I went over and introduced myself. The one woman had a strong resemblance to Oprah W. from the side so I asked if she knew of her. She didn't at first but then knew who I was talking about and said "thank you, that must mean I am beautiful". Actually, she was very beautiful and held herself with confidence, like she is someone important. Somehow in our conversation, they asked me to speak at the women's day event on my experiences keeping a home and caring for my family. I tried telling them that in my country it is much easier, I don't have to carry water on my head or have a permanently curved spine from working so hard in my field. Life in America is easy compared to the hard life African woman have. They insisted that what I have to share would be worthwhile. I told them I would pray about it because I have nothing on my own to say, but if God gives me something to share I will do it. They took that as a Yes, because God is faithful and will give me the words to say. So once again, I can use prayer... help me, I'm not sure how to get out of this.

PS> On a lighter note: I went to use the potty behind the church and it was an outhouse with a small (4inch across) hole in the floor...I'm sure they could tell which stall the American woman went in because it's really hard to aim... Just saying.