20190531_100800I was prepared for some uncertainties when we left for Cameroon 20 months ago. I knew that missions in Africa is not like life in Canada. I knew Cameroon was in a political crisis- which is now described in some circles as a civil war. I knew my mom’s cancer was back and probably terminal.  I knew that the seminary work was only part of what we would be doing and there were a lot of unclear things about what the Fulbe ministry portion of our work would look like. We thought we had some idea of how it would shake out. Boy, were we way off.

I did not imagine that I would be living with maybe a couple of suitcases and boxes worth of our belongings, in a completely different part of Cameroon. Or that we’d find ourselves unable return to our house in Ndu for the better part of a year, with no particular end of the uncertainty in sight. I did not envision the repeated pull of the desire/need to be in Canada due to my mom’s illness.   I did not envision 3 trips to Nigeria in 7 months, but, being unable to get a multiple entry visa, that we would also make multiple trips to Yaounde.  I have packed up, for travel somewhere or other, approximately every 3-6 weeks since May of 2018.

I don’t really have a clear idea what I will be doing 6 weeks from now, never mind 6 months from now.  The unexpected time to work on our Fulfulde language learning has been a blessing, but life has lacked any kind of rhythm or routine that lasts more than 4 weeks because of the frequent travel.  I’ve declined taking on any larger projects here in Banyo in order to maintain our language learning focus, as well as because of the uncertainty of our time here.  Jeff thought he was going to do some extension teaching this summer for the seminary, but that is ‘hanging’. I thought I finally had a plan in the next few months to work with Elsie on some things we’ve been wanting to get to, but that too has recently gone into the ‘ probably not’ pile.

We have done a ton of really amazing ministry things since we left Ndu in September, and I am grateful for that, as many our colleagues have been in a greater state of suspended service that we have.  But as a bit of an obsessive planner/organizer person, this feeling of being a bit adrift has seriously upset my sense of equilibrium and direction, and I am struggling with it all.

A few months back, someone in my mission community posted or shared a link that included a reflection on the thoughts contained in this poem, which helped me then and still encourages me daily. And I have been reading and reflecting on Romans 8 as well, which together have made for an interesting meditation this week (which was maybe a bit multi-faceted, so pardon if there is not just one clear message here).

  “DOE THE NEXTE THYNGE.” (Do the Next Thing)

From an old English parsonage down by the sea
There came in the twilight a message for me;
Its quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven,
Hath, as it seems to me, teaching from Heaven.
And on through the hours the quiet words ring,
Like a low inspiration: “DOE THE NEXTE THYNGE.”

Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment let down from Heaven,
Time, opportunity, guidance, are given.
Fear not tomorrows, Child of the King,
Trust them with Jesus. “DOE THE NEXTE THYNGE.”

Do it immediately; do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand
Who placed it before thee with earnest command,
Stayed on Omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing,
Leave all resultings. “DOE THE NEXTE THYNGE.”

Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
(Working or suffering) be thy demeanor.
In His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
The light of His countenance be thy psalm.
Strong in His faithfulness, praise and sing!
Then, as He beckons thee, “DOE THE NEXTE THYNGE.”

Eleanor Amerman Sutphen

This admonition to just ‘do the next thing’ is not a nod to my ADHD tendency to ricochet from project to project. (Don’t ask me how ADHD and obsessive planner go together- it’s a mystery to me too) It is, among other things, an admonition to stop worrying about whether this or that is God’s will, but to simply see what is in front of you, and IN FAITH, do whatever your hand finds to do.

This seriously flies in the face of what we often hear from the pulpit and in popular Christian books about searching out and knowing the will of God for your life. We feel a need to ‘pray about’ all kind of decisions and wait to ‘hear from God’ whether He wants us to do this or that.  The Biblical pattern is much more mundane than that.  Other than the great commission and the arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and maybe Paul’s dramatic conversion, most of the early church accounts of the apostles’ decision making process- of what to do or where to go- are simple and  practical (and occasionally even a tiny bit selfish). At best, you will see, as the poem suggests, “Time, opportunity, guidance are given” but only very occasionally will you read about any specific directives from God.  I will ‘do it reliantly, do it with prayer’….but I will DO IT!

God’s overall will for my life has not changed in the 47 years since I became a Christian- it is for me to be ‘conformed to the image of His Son’ and for the fruits of the Spirit to be more abundant in my life. It is for me to serve him with the gifts I have in the place in which I am. According to I Thess 5, it is God’s will that I be joyful, thankful, and prayerful. (All other italicized sections are quotes from Romans 8 NIV)

So I am not currently struggling to find God’s will- I am struggling with aspects of my human nature that are resisting the nature of circumstances I am in. When I ‘put to death the deeds of the flesh’ – in my case, at the moment, these would be complaining, ungratefulness, being controlling, anger – it becomes possible for God to work for the good in my life all of the yucky things I am experiencing. Otherwise, I can quite possibly just be a very grumpy self-centered woman with the spiritual-sounding job description of ‘missionary’ who is NOT exhibiting the fruits of the spirit, and is NOT becoming any more like Jesus at all, and is possibly quite limited in her usefulness for God’s purposes.

So, I am thankfully not struggling under the burden of figuring out “What is God’s will for me to do while here in Banyo?” It is still for me to become more like Christ. I know that I can be more than (a) conqueror in spite of the hardships, and that nothing will be able to separate (me) from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Realizing that the Spirit helps us in our weaknesss…  I pray that I can grasp that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

20190531_091853And while I still need WISDOM to decide where to spend my time, energy and resources, and I can seek out COUNSEL from the Word of God and from those above and around me, with wisdom graciously given as promised by God, and in faith, I will simply DOE THE NEXTE THYNGE.


Infinite Infinitives

Being missionaries, learning the Fulfulde words for prayer was a fairly early acquistion for us. So we’ve known for a long that “waɗa do’a” means pray, and “En gaɗa do’a means ‘let us pray’ or ‘we are in prayer’. (Actually it means to ‘make prayer’, but we’ll leave out that detail for now). But a number of months back, when I started to actually try to make a sentences in prayer, I realized that I needed the word to ask- which is not really the same word you use to ask a question, but to ask for, or plead. So the infinitive form of that – to ask, to plead, (even maybe beg) is toraago. SO…. when I want to say ‘Mi don torro a walla ɓe ekktin wolde ma’ (I am asking that You help them to learn Your word) I have to change the infinitive toraago to don toro, in the continuous tense.  So this means I just have to learn to recognize the root forms of these verbs as they show up and I am on my way.

Simple, right?


Because, (and I think this is what is among the hardest things for me) you have to be able to say and hear the difference between toraago
and torraago (with 2 r’s) which means ‘to suffer’,
AND you need to know how the reflexive -aago verbs conjugate differently from the active ones, because
torrugo means ‘to make someone suffer’.
So AAGGHHH…. I need to careful to say in my prayers:  Mi torete jonta…(I ask you now…)
Or Mi don toro ma jonta… ( I am asking you now)
Mi don torro jonta!! (I’m suffering now!!)
Mi torrete jonta!! (I will make you suffer now!….Cue evil laugh… Mbwahahaha….)

Some of the way the language connects noun and verbs IS somewhat helpful and fairly logical. If you combine the verb in particular ways with the ending ɓe, then it becomes the people that do that verb (kind of like teachers teach, runners run, workers work, etc, in English). So….
Torotoɓe are people who pray or plead,
and then torrotobe are people who are suffering,
BUT for some reason, you say torroɓe yimbe for people who are making others suffer.
Kay! Mi ɗon torro fahin!! (Aaah! I am suffering again!!)
OR Mbolle ‘de don torrami!! (These words are making me suffer!)

And then while you are trying to wrap your head and ears around that, you realize that the active –ugo verb, taarugo, means ‘to wrap yourself in something’ (like a scarf or shawl)
whereas the related reflexive aago– verb- taaraago -means to gather around, or to make the rounds (like a doctor).

So as that starts to make some sense, you read some more in the book of Psalms and add some more vocabulary words – which sound unfortunately similar.
Turugo means to bend something down,
while turaago means to bend yourself down,
and turnaago means to bow down to someone.  But there’s some relief, because the last one is not actually a different verb, it simply has an ‘infix’ mean to do it to or for someone. (Like an English prefix at the beginning of a word, or a suffix at the end, infixes are in the middle.)
So then turnugo would be used when we to MAKE someone bow down- like when Nebuchadnezzar tried to do that to Shadrach Meshach and Adednego.
But when people bow down to each other, it’s:
Mi don turanomo, o don toranoyam (I bow down to him and he bows down to me)
( I thought it should have been turindirgo,  but apparently they don’t used that infix form with that particular verb. NO idea why not, but that’s the way it is.)
This bowing happens a lot around the laamido’s palace when all the ‘big’ men gather. I saw lots of that yesterday when I went to watch the horses race and parade in front of the palace.

And when one of those big men is rewarded for some achievement, then he might be ‘turbanned’ by the lamido, or have some other head covering granted, so we would say:
O ɗon taaranmo meetalol.

But if you prefer and you’re all confused with all the turo/toora/torra, you cann just use a totally different verb- meetingo.
O ɗon meetamo meetalol.  
I’ll probably go with that one, since I can remember a meetalol easier.


Isn’t language learning fun?

Now I think that I have to get back to language study with Jeff…

Min torrindiri… (We are making each other suffer)


Surrounded by Polyglots

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in the spare room doing some sewing. I had the door open for ventilation, and it opens in front of the house, into the compound we share with some other families.

Sonya with Murjanatu


I hear the women talking mostly in Fulfulde, but when J comes, who is from Northern Cameroon, and speaks mostly French, they greet her in Fulfulde and gradually switch into a mostly French conversation. But she is reasonably conversant in Fulfulde as well, so when the children ask a question in Fulfulde, she answers it pretty well. Then E, the neighbor’s house help, comes thru the yard on the way to work, and they greet her in Pidgin English.  A short amount of greeting and conversation goes on before E continues on to work, and J goes inside and then the rest go in Fulfulde. Jeff comes by to greet in Fuflfulde and a mixture of regular English and Fulfulde can be heard for a while.  The kids are playing games, chatting and shouting at each other in Fulfulde, but while playing Hide and seek, the countdown is in English.

At my neighbor’s house, I hear a mixture of English, French, German and Fulfulde, as the husband is German and the wife is an American raised in the French and Fulbe parts of Cameroon, and E, their house help, is speaking English, Pidgin, and Fulfulde. 

Language acquisition is a funny thing.  In North America, we are so impressed by people that can speak three languages or more languages, and view them as having remarkable intelligence. The reality is that learning multiple languages DOES activate certain parts of your brain, and the earlier you are exposed to additional languages, the easier they are to learn.   (In a nod to Disney contribution to langugae development….my colleague Lisa, posted on Facebook that she was listening to the kids outside her house, playing and chattering in Fulfulde and Pidgin, untill all of a sudden she heard…”Hakuna Matata…it means no worries!!’ and then a host of giggles and laughs…and a return to Pidgin and Fulfulde.)

So, here I am, in Africa, at the age of almost 56, trying to learn another language- Fulfulde.  And having a durn hard time of it, I must admit. Sometimes, a light goes on, and I suddenly understand something about Fulfulde that was totally escaping me before. Other days, I go over and over the same things wondering why I can’t remember them, and why it is so hard for me to string a sentence together. And then, although I did have a partially bilingual experience at home, sometimes I just get jealous of the people around me who have grown up learning multiple language as a totally normal thing.

Our language Helper, Suleymanu, grew up in a traditional Fulfulde home, and speaks Fulfulde and Hausa fluently. He was sent to Islamic school as a child, where he learned to read the Koran in Arabic (Ajamiya script). He learned to speak English after he became a Christian, mostly making up his mind to learn from hanging around people who spoke English. His English reading and writing are not fantastic, but he worked on them a bit while living with us in Ndu. He is far and away better than us in Fulfulde, that is for sure. He lives in the French part of Cameroon, so is able to converse as needed with the multiple officials at the innumerable checkpoints (immigration, police, Gendarme, customs, vehicle inspections, and who knows what else) asking who you are , where you are going and do you have papers for everything.  The sudden switches in languages are impressive.

Yesterday, I was trying to buy some honey from my friend’s co-op. When no one was there, I called the number he had given me, and got G on the phone. I told her in English who I was, and she told me in Pdigin that she was on the way coming. This can mean anything from she is literally almost there, or simply getting out of her house to start on the way, so I asked her when she thought she might arrive. She then had run out of English, so she started in French, asking me where I was. When I tried to tell her I was at the shop, I was working on “Je suis a la maison de Sammy maintenant” except I think I said ‘suudu’ (Fulfulde for house) instead of ‘maison’, and ‘jonta’ (Fulfulde for now) instead of ‘maintenant’.  Somehow, (in one language or another) I was able to tell her that I would just wait for her, which I did. When she arrived, I was able to tell her in Fulfulde that I wanted one litre of honey, but also asked her why a 5 litre container of honey was more expensive than 5×1 litres. Amazingly, she understood that and explained the price, and I was able to show her that was not what her sign said. She laughed and said it was a mistake. Then I was exhausted and went home and tried to replay the conversation in my head to figure out which language I was actually speaking.

But sometimes I see glimmers of hope.

This past summer, when I returned to Canada, I stopped in Holland for a visit with relatives. Dutch is language of my parents, to which I had a relative amount of exposure, but never had need to master it. But it’s sort of buried in parts of my brain. (except don’t ask me to read or write it)  Although my relatives all speak English (and most of them muktiple other European languages), I work on communicating in Dutch when I am there. Apparently all of this language work in Africa has flipped some switch in my brain, because when I went to church with my cousins, I actually understood enough of the sermon to (sort of) follow what he was preaching on, and I have never understood a Dutch sermon in my life.  That was actually amazing to me.

A couple of days ago, I went to a meeting for our compound. One of the women really doesn’t speak English and and they were trying to decide in which language to conduct the meeting. Suleymanu told them to do it in Fulfulde, as it was good practise for me (Trust your teacher to throw you in the pool) so off they went.   I was not up to asking my questions in Fulfulde, but I am proud to say that I was actually able to follow some of the discussion – enough to only need a few brief English explanations.

I still have a terrible time speaking Fulfulde, but ‘Mi ɗon haɓda. Mi ɗon wolwi seɗɗa seɗɗa”.   I find myself wondering why I didn’t try harder to start on it when we were in Nigeria ten years ago and my brain was ten years younger. But it was confusing for us at first to figure out which language was actually more useful for us to learn in Gembu.   And I had no idea I would be coming back, and would need Fulfulde, but honestly, I should have tried, and encouraged the kids to try more. 

Hindsight is 20/20.

So, suggestion to all of you in North America…..expose your children to other languages. Try to learn another language yourself.  There are multiple ways to learn languages- find something that works for you- but one piece of advice- start talking sooner, rather than later.  You never know where you will find youself at a later stage in life, and learning any other language will help you with any others you want to learn later.

I am beginning to be of the opinion that growing up English speaking, thinking that the world will communicate in our tongue, and that learning another language is ‘unnecessary’, has actually robbed us of a large part of our brain development. It also makes us more than a bit arrogant, and makes our world smaller.   Multiple languages might not have been part of the world when God created it, but we are living with the results of Babel – good and bad- even now.  People appreciate it when we make the attempt to learn their language. I have no idea how far I will ever get in Fulfulde before I retire, but I am richer, and more humble, for having made the effort so far, and trust that God will give me the grace to continue and the discipline to keep working on it.

Sannu. Sey yeeso.

The (Attempted) Making of a (Sort-of) Morning Person

IMG_6443It’s 10 am on a Wednesday morning. So far, I have …..
-cooked breakfast (shaking it out of a box is not an option here)
-baked gingersnaps, roasted ground nuts, made a pan of granola and baked some left over tortillas into corn chips
– did laundry- a batch of clothes, and much more difficult, our comforter
-swept and washed most of the bedroom floor (wasn’t up to the whole move-the-furniture routine this morning)
-swept and washed the screen porch floors and the outside veranda -using the water from my laundry
-turned my compost pile (more correctly- added to it, and cleaned up the mess the chickens had made of the top layers)
-watered my flower beds with left over kitchen water
-searched for some different recipes for my white beans that soaked over night.
-am working on this blog

If this does not seem impressive to you, you either…

  1. Are a horribly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed morning person
  2. Don’t know me at all
  3. Have small children at home who have you up at the crack of dawn all the time

Generally, for my whole adult life, I have not been a morning person. I managed thru university, but arranged some strange schedules to minimize the 8 am classes. I have never developed a taste for coffee, so rarely looked to caffeine for assistance. In my first two years teaching, I was very glad that I did not drive often for our car pool arrangement, because the early hours of our departure combined with the late arrival of the sun during Alberta winters made it questionable whether I would have the cognative abilities to make the split second decisions required behind the wheel on Hwy 2. I could function by the time I got to school 45 minutes later.

During my child-bearing years, my late-night energy cycle meant I was able to get a lot of housework done that was impossible with small children underfoot, and then stumbled around comatose during the wee hour baby feedings. (I was pretty much sleep-deprived for the 8 years that I was pregnant or had children under 2 years of age, so I don’t think being a morning person would have made a difference anyhow.)   I managed to get my four children dressed and off to school on time for 16 years, but if you showed up at my house around then (or even an hour or two later), you would almost certainly meet me in my bathrobe.

Occasionally I have tried to force myself into the proverbial world of the “early to bed, early to rise”, usually without long-term success.  Instead, when jobs required early mornings, I learned to function with less sleep. And, since I am now past menopause, it has, in fact, become worse.  (Anyone who tries to tell a menopausal woman that she just needs to ‘stick to a schedule’ in order to change her sleep schedule, is tempting fate, especially if that same women has not slept well for the last 2 weeks)

Moving to Cameroon, I was determined to try it again. SInce the sun goes down at 6 and comes up at 6 for pretty much the whole year, and we didn’t have power at night for much of the first 4 months, I was convinced my circadian rhythm would adjust and I could move seamlessly into the cycle of those all around me, including my husband.

Anecdotally speaking, I think I must have been doing better, because I was able to be at class in Ndu at 7:30am, actually awake and ready to teach. But, while I love the skylight in our bedroom there, especially during the gloomier rainy season, if I have not been able to sleep til 1 or 2 am, having the sun streaming into my face from overhead at 5:45 does not launch me out of bed in a merry mood.

However, while I was in Nigeria recently, with no power in the house, and limited life to my solar powered lamp, I successfully went to bed before 9 pm, woke up usually only briefly once or twice, and got up regularly at 5:30 am for devotions. I think another factor in this achievement was the high level of physical activity I was doing, since I was walking back and forth across the village sometimes 4-5 times in a day, and working with the contractor at the renovation site, and physical exhaustion is a great sleep aid.

Since they say you can create a new habit if you do something for 29 days, or something like that, I was optimistic on my return to Banyo that this cycle could continue. Alas, it was not to be. And although I have experimented with melatonin, physical activity and exercise, camomile tea and less screen time before bed, I am rarely able to sleep before 10 pm again (or 11 or 12 or 1am) , or, I wake up after a couple of hours and stay awake for 3 or more hours.

So, I am just grateful right now that I don’t have a schedule that requires me to stick to a routine. Instead, I try to make a list (physical or mental) of what I need to do in the morning. If I have to go to market, the list is ready, the shopping bags are in place, etc.  If I have a good sleep, I attack the morning with vigor. If I have almost no sleep, such as a couple of days ago, I do the bare minimum and stumble around in a fog for a day. If I have had a half decent sleep, such as this morning, then the list means I don’t have to think about what needs to be done. I just get up and get started, remembering that doing all these things early is WAY better than during the 31 degree heat of the afternoon.

So, after finishing this blog, which was interrupted by numerous visits, trips to the kitchen for another ginger snap, and a short meeting with my language helper, I am going to check if my laundry outside is dry, make lunch, and work on my language learning stuff until I get tired. Oh – and decide on how to cook the beans and get them started  And then…..I plan to take a nap -when it’s 30 degrees outside and too hot to do anything inside.   And I continue to be glad that I don’t have a 9-5 job.

Lessons from the back of a motorbike.

Recently, while returning from Nigeria to Cameroon by motorcycle, I had 5 or so hours to contemplate a whole host of things. Some of them were serious, or spiritual. Some of them involved rehashing the renovation process for the clinic and the modifications we need to make to the plans before continuing.
And of course, many were just a bit silly.  Understandable, I guess when one is jostled around for that long.

So, after 2 trips in and out of Nigeria and multiple two-hour trips from Madina to Gembu by motorcycle (aka ‘machine’) here are some of my observations:
Things I have learned to do as a motorcycle passenger on a good road….

  • Add credit to my phone; buy a data plan
  • Check my facebook messages and emails.
  • Text and write short messages. Or long ones, if I am patient and wait for the smooth sections of road.

Things I can do on a long haul backroad trip

  • Take selfies, landscape photos and shoot bits of video.
  • Eat a sandwich without removing my full visor helmet.
    Also drink from a water bottle.
  • Stretch my cramped knees 3 different ways that do not concern the driver.    (I now usually now warn them before starting out that I am likely to do this)
  • Readjust my position without bothering the driver by timing it for when we hit a bump so I can come down where I want to.

Other things I have learned about motorcycle travel here:

  • Dressing for long dry season trips is like dressing for a Canadian fall day. You start out with jacket, gloves, sweater, scarf to fend off the cold and the wind in the morning, but you’re stripping layers as the day warms up.
  • A full visor helmet really makes a difference for dust inhalation.
  • I prefer the dust hassles of dry season to the mud hazards of rainy season.img_20180706_093313
  • Keep your toes tucked in close to the bike when on narrow trails. Bad knees or not!
  • A newer Honda 350 has better suspension and more power than most of the older ‘achaba’ bikes on the road.  But the seats are narrower and harder to stay centrered on.  I am apparently now built for comfort, not for speed,
  • 20180919_161618
  • My softsided suitcase/backpack will accommodate my pillow in the back where the straps are hidden. Properly packed behind me, this sometimes becomes a passable backrest – until everything shifts after a couple of hours.
  • You will more frequently encounter a “troubled bridge over water’ here than ‘a bridge over troubled water’.
  • A ‘cattle gate’ up in this area consists of a 2×6 plank over a ditch wherever there is a break in the fence for the bike path. If you’re lucky, there are 2 or more planks.  If you’re not lucky, it’s roughly a 2×4, and the drivers barely slow down to negotiate these. (Hence, no photos)
  • The driver doesn’t get to admire the scenery- but boy, it can be spectacular!

And a few general travel observations:

  • Customs guys are genuinely surprised when you don’t argue about opening your bags to show them your stuff. I could have avoided it with a small bribe, but since he’s getting paid to do the job, why should I pay him to NOT do it? Besides, it gets me off the bike for 15 minutes!!
  • Since I’m one of only a handful of white people in the area, my driver expects me to remember him when I randomly encounter him along a subsequent trip. Same for motor taxi drivers. (Some of the latter ARE quite unforgettable.)
  • Scorched earth policy has a totally different meaning here than in other parts of the world
  • I can never upload pictures to my blog when I want to…..Maybe I’ll be able to add some from this most recent trip later.

Most importantly, I think, when I have a good driver, that I  actually somewhat prefer the motorbike trip to getting bumped around in the truck for twice as long to get somewhere. EXCEPT that then you have no presonal vehicle on the other end, so you get to keep taking motorcycles and other ‘public transport’ for the duration of your visit

And so the experiences continue.

A Motorcycle Miracle

One of the things we were taught at our Mission Training Institute (MTI, in Colorado) was when we are learning a language, to develop a monologue which we can then tell to people we come in contact with. This enables us to practise speaking, plus it allows us to relate to people a little bit in their own language. With the help of my friend Suleymanu, then, I developed the following short monologue to share with people here in Banyo. I have put it down in interlinear fashion for you.img_20180706_093313

Haa mi wi’uma habaruwol dammungol gongawol.

Let me tell you a     story               short     true.

Nyande feere mi don laanya moto am les hooseere,

One day I was driving motorcycle my down a hill,

bibbe rewbe tato be don mba’ito              haa laawol           dow hooseere.

young women three, they were climbing on the same path up the hill.

Gooto mabbe yahiri heedi am,                   wakati mi habdi luutugomo

One of them went on the side of me,           when I tried to avoid her

moto am            yaniri     haa mi tammaakino.

motorcycle of me fell in a way I did not expect.

Wakati mi donno numa dow majjum mi don de’iti, ammaa mi don tabitini mi yanan,

When I was thinking about that        I was very calm,    but    I was sure     I was going to fall,

nden mi numi, “Do kam mi nawnoto.”

and I thought, “This is going to hurt me.”

Hideko mi yana     moto am lorti,                  diga don           mi tokkitini laanyugo.

Before I fell, my motorcycle righted itself, and from there I continued driving.

Mi andaa noy dum latoori,           ammaa baawo balde sedda esiraawo                am windaniyam

I did not know what happened; but a few days after that my mother-in-law         wrote me

o wi’i o donno wada do’a ngam am, ammaa o andaa ngam dume.

to say she had been praying for me, but did not know what for.

Wakati min daari min tawi dum wakatiman o donno wada do’a ngam am.

When we compared the times [we knew] she had been praying for me.

Nden min fuu min teddini Allah ngam kayeefi maako dum o wadaniyam.

Then we both honoured God for        miracle   his [which]       he did for me.

This is my first monologue, and I have tried it out with the family next door, with good results. I plan to use it at the hospital, and other places where I run into people. Having the need for motorcycle miracles is certainly not great, but knowing our God is able to carry us through whatever is a good feeling.

In the Middle of Money Matters

A few weeks ago while discussing some of the economic realities of our Fu*be friends, our language helper suggested that perhaps we ought to offer some help and teaching on managing money and businesses to the commnity we were planning to visit, as this generation in transition has not seen how to do this in their parents. As cattle owners, the Fulbe essentially had a live savings account, and when substantial needs arose they would simply sell a cow. Business among the herdng Fulbe was simple- men bought, sold and looked after cattle; women sold the milk.  Budgeting, capital, stock, inventory, saving, investing….all were foreign concepts they had no interest in or need for.  The proceeds of a sale of a good sized cow would generate something like $600-$800, a sum which is now just about equal to the value of the entire corn harvest of  their children and grandchilren, who are now depending on subsistence farming to support themselves.

We accepted the challenge, and once the community took us up on our offer,  I began to wrestle with how to adapt my usual teaching on budgeting etc for a subsistence farming, largely illiterate crowd.  We travelled out to the community a couple of days after Christmas and Jeff and I shared about 8 hours of teaching of a godly view of money and giving, basic budgeting, a few simple business principles, and a long discussion on how they might improve their farming.  We did have a lot of fun with it and God was gracious to give us a few inspirations that allowed the material to connect with the people. I had a lot of fun drawing pictures of my budget envelope categories on the chalkboard rather than writing very much, and our audience had fun figuring my poor artwork out.  Questions and discussions indicate that although we couldn’t cover everything, and have more work to do on this, people understood how these principles could make a difference for them.  But I couldn’t shake the feeling that even if they applied the budgetting principles extremely diligently, the contents of their budget ‘envelopes’ was woefully inadequate for many of the basics of life.20181229_165021

In the middle of this, we had a head-on confrontation with the reality of one of the budget ‘envelope’ categories- medical expenses and emergencies.  Suleymanu got a request around 4 am Saturday morning to come see and pray for a little girl. She had been taken to the hospital earlier that day, diagnosed with fairly serious malaria, (for toddlers it can get serious pretty quickly) and medications dispensed. However around 4 am she started seizing and shaking.  Suleymanu prayed for her and told the family that although he was no doctor, he was pretty sure that they really needed to take her back to the hospital.  We found out around noon, when we broke from the morning session, that they had not done so. So we went to see her, and I modified their technique for cooling her body, managed to get a dose of fever medication (liquid Paracitemol) into this semi-conscious child, Jeff prayed for her again, and he and Suley prepared to take the family back to the hospital.   We were pretty sure at that point in time that the reason that they had not taken her back in the morning was that they simply had no more money.  So Jeff dipped into our benevolent fund, and gave the father 20,000 cfa (about $50 Cdn) for fees when he left them there.  After returning and resting a bit, we finished our 3 pm afternoon teaching sessions, happy for their understanding but wishing that I could do more.

Early on Sunday morning we heard singing and wailing, and by breakfast time we heard that the little girl had died in the middle of the night, and the family had brought her body back and were preparing her for burial.  We were extremely saddened, although not terribly shocked, given the child’s condition when she was taken back to hospital.  But as I packed and prepared for a low key departure, to get into my nice Hilux truck and go back to my fairly comfortable temporary ‘home’ in Banyo, I felt a familiar twinge of guilt. I took a few minutes to read my Bible on my phone and decided to check Facebook as well. I found this post shared by Susie Hohn,  Meet Me in the Middle which does an excellent job of articulating this tug of guilt and joy while serving in the ‘two thirds world’ and how debilitating it can be if we don’t learn to manage it. I have saved her post in my facebook because I think I might have to read this a few more times. And as friends and supporters, I suggest you read this post as well.

As I sit here writing this, I am eating some corn chips made by Elsie’s househelp that I splurged on while in Bamenda.  I felt similar conflicted feelings whether to enjoy it or cringe. I am simuntaneously proud of being able to whip up 3 jars of homemade salsa for the grand total of $2, feeling cranky about not being able to get good sour cream, frustrated that I couldn’t make proper guacamole because I couldn’t figure out how to ask for limes in the market, and cringing because the $4 cost of this yummy bag of chips would have paid for a pound of beef, vegetables and corn enough for a fairly deluxe large family meal for many of our friends here.   I turn up the music on my (very nice) computer so that I can drown out the sound of the mice/rats scurrying around in my attic and contemplate her words…
So, I don’t have this battle won, but I think the answer is learning to live well within the “middle” rather than fighting it. Those of us who live in the “middle” aren’t comfortable on either side anymore, but that is exactly where God has placed us.  So, we continue to feel the discomfort, the pain, help the hurting, cry with and sacrifice for those in need, fight for contentment in our own need.  When we are there on that side of our “middle ground”, in those moments, we need to be all there and not looking to the other side.  Let’s not compare or justify or defend or run or allow guilt to overrun.  Enter into pain and allow ourselves to hurt with those who are hurting, weep with those who are weeping and find contentment in loss and in need or in abundance.”

Meanwhile, I’ve finished my quota of chips, and am preparing to go early tomorrow on another extended trip to a village, and I pray that I can take this tug-of-war to my heavenly Father and be ‘all there’ where I am going.

Kinda like a REALLY big shoe box…

Well, November is past, so this marks the second year I have not packeocc-logo-120x101d an Operation Christmas Child shoe box. I had been doing it ever since the first year they started it in Canada, doing it with my family, as a church, and in the community. It has been a  wonderful sharing tradition, and while it has its detractors, I believe God has used the generosity of many to reach many children and their parents with the Gospel. I loved the fun of finding good deals and cool items that would be appropriate for kids of various cultures, or organizing the most efficient way to pack a whole bunch of boxes. I loved praying for the boxes as we sent them off, knowing that receiving an unexpected gift from an unknown donor can open a heart to the unexpected, undeserved love of God.

image001The same holds true for humanitarian aid in the medical field, and I have been proud to be involved in White Cross for as long as I have been involved with the North American Baptists. White Cross is a Christian humanitarian organization that provides medical supplies and relief goods to hospitals, health centres and rest houses in West Recipients-Central_PharmacyAfrica, with a primary focus on Cameroon. After moving back to Alberta where the Canadian headquarters are, I got more involved with this arm of the NAB medical ministry, and it seems that I have just changed the size of the boxes I want to fill!! These supplies are an important facet of CBC hospitals, health centres and ministry where we now serve in Cameroon, and I am proud to be a part of it. (You can click the link above for more info).


This year wFriendsoftheFulbeSociety1e have a very special packing project on our radar screens. We are helping launch a Fulbe medical team in Nigeria. We’ve been involved, through FFS (Friends of the F*lbe) in helping train a doctor, nurse, and practical nurse over the last number of years and are excited to be on the cusp of launching them into medical ministry. Since NAB is unable to ship White Cross to Nigeria at this time, FFS is partnering with GECHAAN, another Baptist mission agency in Nigeria, to facilitate shipping a container of medical and other humanitarian items thru Lagos and up to the plateau. It is our goal to ship this container of supplies in January, and we could use your help. If you live in Alberta or have a way to get items to Edmonton by early or mid January, (like online ordering?)here is what we would like to add to our REALLY BIG (SHOE) BOX!  If you have something to bring, please reach out to Bernie or Bert, whose numbers are included on the lists.

  • We have a list of medical items we have not been able to source affordably. Alberta has changed the way it deals with its surplus medical items, and it has been more difficult than we hoped. If you have connections to the medical field, perhaps you could click on this medical list and see if you see any items you can help us locate.
  • There are a large number of practical non-medical items we would like to add to the container such as lockable totes, small whiteboards/bulletin boards, lockHD toteers, etc. that would be helpful for either the mobile clinic or for the inpatient facility being planned. If you can look over the non-medical wishlist, you might have some quality used items to donate, or perhaps you would like to purchase some of these things new for us to send. There’s a few education related things on that list, too, if you wonder at some of the items…
  • pliersWe are sponsoring some apprentices in things like carpentry, masonry and sewing, and nd quality tools are hard to get. A basic hardware store hammer, hand saw, or pliers are often better than anything they can get here. A half-decent multi-tool is a lifesaver, and very few tradespeople has a suitable bag or box for their tools. Decent sewing scissors are hard to find, and seam rippers, pins and extra bobbins are a luxury for the starting tailor or seamstress. Start up packages for an apprentice would be fun mini-boxes to include in the container.
  • (If we get too many for our own use, GECHAAN, our mission partner can use them for their AIDS orphan apprentices.) We’ve included some details on that same non-medical list.
  •  If you are aren’t close enough to donate items, and/or are interested in supporting this ministry with a cash donation, please see the medical ministry brochure for details as to how you can give.Thanks for reading this and for considering helping out with our REALLY BIG SHOE BOX!!  I know you are all inundated with end of the year appeals, so I apologize for adding to the list. But this container is a one-time shipment, and January is coming up quick so I had to at least ask.
    Whatever you do, have a very Merry Christmas, and enjoy sharing all your boxes, whatever size they may be.

The Value of Visitation

A week or so ago we had the pleasure of helping host several young people who were on something they called a “Vision Trip.” To call it a “Vision” trip is a foolish thing, of course, because they were advised not to expect any great vision, but we’ll let that go for now. The young people themselves are the main thing.

Turns out, one of them, Zac, is a engineer of sorts, having training in all kinds of mechanical things. We had been problems with our water heater (which is a nice way of saying, we could not get the water to work at all), so I suggested to Sonya she ask this young man if he might try his hand at it. So, he came over one afternoon and peered and poked at it, taking things apart, turning knobs, twisting all around to figure out its inner workings (why do they never put these things in convenient angles?). I helped by holding the torch (i.e. flashlight).

Long story short – Zac got it working, which is a real help to us in a lot of ways.

Then I suggested to Sonya she see if he can also fix the stove (can you see a pattern here?). So, once more, he came over on an afternoon and peered and poked, and this time it took him very little time at all to get it going. Can anyone say “Christmas cookies”? 😊

Finally, we remembered that the horn on the truck was not working (a very big problem in Africa, trust me), so Sonya suggested – yes, you guessed it. So, Zac peered and poked, and eventually got the horn going again also. This young man is going to go places – hopefully Cameroon!

But all those things were not the best thing. During their time here I drove three of them, along with Suleymanu, to a friend’s home out in the bush, so they could experience ‘real’ ministry among the F*lbe. Thirty minutes out of town, we came to U’s compound, where his extended family lived. He and his wife are the only believers there; they have been ostracized by the rest of the surrounding community, including their own family. So it is hard for them, as you can imagine.Umaru and Suleymanu

While we were there we trekked over to U’s father’s compound to greet and say hello. This Alhaji had heard that U had been reading the Bible to his children, and had called them all to himself to warn them against listening to such a dangerous thing. He is, however, a very charming and likeable man; an inveterate M*slim, to be sure, but a real sweetheart, you might say.

While we were in his suudu (single room house) he was busy finishing his prayers. When he came in I told him I was glad to see that he put such a high value upon prayer, because that was then something we both had in common. He was very happy to hear this (one thing about M*slims – because they never see Christians pray, they often have the idea that we never pray, and do not value it).

Then he asked why these young people had come to visit him, and this gave me the opportunity to share the love of God with him in a very good way. I explained what the nature of their mission was, how God had sent His Son to save us from our sins, and now these young people were committed to spreading that message to others. I was not preaching, so much as just answering his question.

This, in turn, was an answer to a request of my own, stemming from Col 4.3, that God would open a door for our message. At the end of it all, I had many reasons to thank God for the value of visitation.

The 700 Club!

My friend Suleymanu came back from Nigeria yesterday, and I was anxious to hear the news about the conference he attended, which many of you were praying for. It was a gathering of F*lbe up in a northern state, most of whom were Christian believers (at least nominally), but not all. I asked him how many people were there, and he estimated at least 700! Wow! That is one big conference for one small little place.

The people mostly slept outside. They had gotten a huge tent from the local government, and I can just picture all these little coloured hillocks lying in the grey dawn, under a big billow of white canvas. Feeding them was a challenge (the conference lasted several days), but they had help from some unexpected quarters. One relative gave them a cow to slaughter. A M*slim man from the town gave them 30,000 Naira (a goodly sum for these people), saying that he was very glad they were gathering in this place. If all people were like this, he said, all of Nigeria would be peaceful. Our friends from down south also brought big bags of corn flour up with them. All together they managed, and the hosts were very pleased with how it all went over.

What was the big message, the main content of the preaching? was my question for my friend (that is what I always want to know). He said the big thing they talked about was the person and work of Jesus Christ. Many people there only believed that Jesus was a good teacher, a big leader, or perhaps even a prophet. The preaching and teaching, however, emphasized the fact that Jesus is all of those things, and more: he is the Son of God, the Saviour, the One God sent down to the world because He loved us.

Suleymanu said when the people heard this, many believed and were very glad. Many of the people had been living in an in-between world for the last 15 years. They were no longer living as M*slims (not praying the prescribed 5x a day; not going to the mosque), but they did not really understand what it meant to walk as a follower of Christ either. Now they have committed themselves to returning to their various villages (they came from far and wide) and walking with Christ when they return.

For me this is wonderful news – the very best, because I know that if once a person understands who and what Jesus is, and puts their trust in him, then everything else (and there is a lot of everything else!)can follow from there. They had other good stuff happening at the conference, but this was the main, the most important, thing.

As I look on from the outside, I see our F*lbe brothers and sisters making this huge transition from one whole way of life to another. It is as though they are climbing up a steep, slippery hill, and they have managed to take a big step up this past little while. I hope to be part of the support team and the process that enables them to keep the progress they have made. Lord willing, you may be a part of that, as well, as you continue to partner with us.

As you pray, pray that the Word of God will continue to go forth with boldness and power, and take good hold in the lives of these precious people. Thanks so much.