Springs for Life

This month while in Nigeria, I have had a chance to get a look at some of the water spring catchment projects (Springs For Life) that have been constructed around the Mambilla Plateau with funds raised by Friends of the Fulbe Society.  Over the last few years, our Fulbe partners (officially recognized in Nigeria as the NGO Nyalande Hesre New Dawn Initiative, or NHNDI)  have helped us determine where we should build such a project, as a doorway to opening hearts to the hear the news of the Living Water, Jesus Christ.

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Some of the criterion include the current condition of the community’s drinking water supply, the proximity to a suitable spring, the community’s willingness to contribute sweat equity into the project, and, harder to assess- the likelihood that they will take care of it, (If you would like to see an bit of explanation about how most of these projects are done, follow this link to a brochure we created. Water is Life This list of communities is kept by both Bernie Lemke, our technical advisor, and NHNDI, and if and when we are able to raise funds, the next highest priority project is commissioned, which is constructed and supervised by our Nigerian ‘engineer; Robert Ngalam.

Although every systems has its challenges, these gravity-feed systems are quite reasonably priced, (usually cheaper than wells), can be directed to multiple small communities if the flow allows, can accomodate multiple tap locations within a community, are generally manageable to maintain,  and are providing good quality spring water to thousands of peoples, of all faiths and walks of life, on the Mambilla Plateau.

The first thing I was able to observe is how these waterlines suffer, especially during the rainy season. Pipes are not dug extremely deep, as the ground is rocky and the work is done by hand, and the months of rain often cut channels right down to the pipeline. Where these lines cross a small road (ie motorcycle and foot path) they are at risk of breakage. Or, since the lines often cross streams on their way to the community, the force of the water in times of high water flow sometimes ruptures the joints on one or both sides of the stream/river. The former was the case in Medina a couple of weeks ago, and all the men on the water committee were out of town that day. Fortunately, one of the young men who has been spending time with them was able to trek up the line and find when the pipe had been ruptured by a motorcycle. Some digging, a couple of PVC pieces and joints and PVC glue and the line was repaired within the day.   It took a few hours for the dirt in the pipes to flush out of the line, but before evening, clean water was flowing again.

Such prompt repair is not always the case. This summer while here on the Plateau, Jeff went to visit a number of projects.  Two of them were completely inoperable, and appear to have been that way for quite some time. At the first one, the line from the catchment area to tank was broken, the main (cement) cover for the reservoir was found thrown a few metres away, and the tank had no water at all in it, but a whole lot of sticks.  And nothing had been done to do the fairly simple repairs (which members of each community are trained to do).

The second one apparently has a problem somewhere in the line between the reservoir and the community, and theyhad did not taken the time or effort to fix the problem, which continued to deteriorate.IMG_6288

So while Jeff and the team was visiting there, both communities were (gently) berated for failing to do their part and admonished them to get the work done.  We are happy to report that the first community contacted Aminu and told them we could come anytime we wanted- they had done the work.

So we stopped in this week and are happy to see things in fairly good working order again, although the concrete cover is as little worse for the wear.   IMGP1482  Someone’s cows were on their way to be watered, so we beat a hasty retreat after our observations were completed. IMGP1489
We went this week to visit the second community, to see if we could prod them to action, and they had not yet done anything to fix the problem (three months later). I suspect the rebuke from Wakhili was a little more pointed this time, and some of the men were clearly embarrassed. I heard from the women here how they had suffered thru the last dry season, since they have to go all the way to the river to get water- probably at least an hour return trip, and it is uphill with full loads.  There is a small stream for a spring pooling near their ‘road’, which is used for washing etc, but it will dry up early in the dry season, and is also used by the cattle to drink, so is not healthy for drinking.

After this visit, the leaders have agreed to launch their committee into action to see the work done and have requested some help from Madina. We are hopeful that this problem will be taken care of before the dry season- which is not so far away.  Please pray that the leaders of the community and those responsible for the maintenance take seriously their responsibility to ensure improved health and quality of life in their communites. It is frustrating for me to see, as the mostly male leaders in some of the traditional villages often disregard the quantity of work done by women and children to obtain water every day, never mind the obvious repercussions of not having clean water.  I encouraged the women and older girls in school to get involved in the committee and learn how to do some of the simpler repairs as well, so they are not stuck if a problem occurs when the men are away.  To that end, I have put that on my own list of things to learn when the opportunity presents, so I can model that this is something a woman can do.

I think I’ll save my report on tank maintenance for another blog   I should add, that although there are a variety of problems with these gravity-feed systems, they are quite economically feasible, (usually cheaper than wells), can be directed to multiple small communities if the flow allows,  allow for multiple tap locations along the route, are generally manageable to maintain,  and are providing good quality spring water to thousands of peoples, of all faiths and walks of life, in the Mambilla Plateau.

PS…..Of course I need to make a plug for supporting this:  If you are interested in contributing to one of the water projects waiting for funds, please contact Bernie Lemke at 780-987-2024 or by email- bllemke1938@gmail.com (note that this is a new email address, and may be different from what is on the old brochures) Or you can donate thru their financial partners- FOR WE CARE – online at http://www.forwecare.org/Donations.aspx or by cheque, to For We Care Outreach Network Society, PO Box 44091, RPO Southcentre, Calgary, AB, T2J 7C5
(For We Care is a member of Canada Helps. If you are in the US you can donate by cheque or online, as above, but they cannot issue you a charitable receipt- sorry!!)

You can also donate to other related Fulbe ministries at Special Projects on the NAB website. https://nabconference.org/give/special-projects/    Scroll down to the Cameroon projects and look for Friends of the Fulbe. Charitable receipts are available for donors from both America and Canada here, but you cannot donate to the water projects here.

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MUD…or…Why We Don’t Usually Plan Long Trips During the Rainy Season

20180915_103748Given the current socio-political situation in the English parts of Cameroon, we deemed it wise to leave Ndu for more stable areas during this period leading up to and including the presidential election.  So, we are on a road trip.

I must admit that living out of a suitcase has lost some of its appeal, although I was happy to trade the clothes I used for two months in Holland/Manitoba/Alberta for a different batch. This time around travelling in the villages, I am determined to master the art of the headtie, and am proud to say that the one I put on this morning before we went to Suude Do’are is still firmly in place at 3 pm.

Anyhow. I digress.  We are on a road trip.

Saturday we drove from home to B****.  It is impossible to drive any distance, particularly for an extended trip,  without consulting with all of our colleagues, and of course, we can’t possbly be allowed to travel with a partially empty vehicle, so the truck is FULL. We have the privilege to taking two of our sponsored F**** students back from the hospital, their place of work and study for the past 3 years, and are looking forward to returning them to their friends and family in Nigeria. And all their clothes and some household goods. And the things we had collected to planned to deliver to various points. And stuff for another missionary living in transition who’s along our route.  I think you get the picture. We did have to leave a few things behind, since taking anything piled on the roof…
a) is subject to frequent dousings in the rain
b) Makes us look like the Klampetts in Africa and
c) raises extra questions along the route as to whether we are actually using our private vehicle for commerical purposes, and should we be paying taxes or fees, etc. Unnecessary complications under the current travel situations.

So with everything was somewhat safely stowed inside the canopy of our faithful Hilux, we set off at 7:30 am. This being the tail end of the rainy season, it is not a great time for extended trips. On a very good day in dry season, this particular trip can be done in 7 hours- or so I am told, since I have never yet been so fortunate. This was definitely NOT the day that would happen either.

Our first checkpoint is only about 15-20 minutes away from home, and took 20-30 minutes to clear. Early on in the ‘discussions, a payment of 10,000 cfa ($20 US) was suggested to prevent them from having to bring the Brigade officer out to sort out the irreuglarities in our passengers’ paperwork, but eventually we produced enough police station documents, explanations and a mission order to allow our friends to continue with us without said ‘payment’. And we were finally on our way again.

We were delighted that the first of the epic ‘mud flats’ that Jeff had encountered in July had been filled in, and so full of optimism, we bumped our way along. (Interestingly enough, my Fitbit cannot seem to distinguish between me walking/ jumping and me being bounced around in a truck. So I have some good stats for a day of mostly sitting the truck!!) But there were plenty of other mud holes to negotiate, and eventually we three passengers got in the habit of climbing out and walking, to reduce the vehicle weight while Jeff negotiated the messes.  One is particular- at the entrance to the village of A***, had, like those in many other villages, its own cheering sections and peanut gallery to make useful suggestions, and sometimes to help push. This particular mudbowl derailed our travel schedule.

20180915_104135Two thirds of the way thru Jeff slid sideways into a mess and could not go forward or sidewise. Still able to back up, eventually he headed the direction suggested by the penut gallery (counter-intuitive, since it was the deepest water and huge mudbanks) and with a minimal of rocking and pushing we were thru-

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but – as a helpful bystander pointed out, we had a flat tire. Apparently the pressure of the drops, bumps and turning the tires in the heavy mud actually made the tire loose from its rim, and we lost most of our air

We were very glad this particularly mud hole WAS on the edge of a town, as we were able to limp to a mechanic a hundred meters down the road or so. We had to bucket the mud off the tires to even get to the tire nuts, and it took a few goes by Jeff and the mechanic to get the truck up and the tire off. Sure enough, there was no puncture and after an extensive time of taking it off the rim, checking, cleaning and reinflating (all an interesting procedure to see on the side of the road with minimal tools and a super skethcy air compressor) we happily negotiated an overpayment to our very helpful mechanic and his assistants, and got underway.

20180915_112255All in all, I think we spent an hour and half on this part of the adventure. We were not thrilled to see another truck stuck in a mud hole just around the corner on the way out of town, but Jeff managed to get around him, and we were on our way to our next planned stop, to deliver stuff to Ginny, about 20 minutes down the road.  There we also discovered that in one of the heavy lurches to the right, some of the goods inside had shifted hard and popped our newly replaced canopy window partway out of its housing. Very glad for the the new roll of Gorilla tape I brought from home and placed in the dash.  We’ll see how long that holds. I should take some pictures and if it’s still there by the time we are back in Ndu, I should take photos and ask them if they give free product in exchange for endorsements of use under epic conditions.

All in all we took over 11 hours to arrive at our destination and only had to push our own vehicle once or twice, thanks to Jeff’s good driving, some advance scouting, (reminded me of running rapids!!) and great 4 wheel drive.   Wonderfully enough, we encountered NO further hypervigilant officers at checkpoints or customs, else we would have had an even longer day. We were all delighted to see our friends, but all went to bed about 8:30 pm.  To get a sense of the physical activity inside and outside the truck, my Fitbit logged my activity at about 12,400 steps for the day! And I was not arguing- it really felt like it! Glad we have a few days here before the next leg of the journey.

20180915_110255We may or may not have much internet where we head out next.  I have spent a couple of attempts over the last couple of days of leaving the guesthouse and going to a high point to get any internet at all to post this, so we’ll see if I can get a good enough connection to attach the photos. If not, you’ll have to use your imagination for the time being. Apparently I have to have a better WordPress subscription to post video, but I think you get the idea.
Love to all and pray for a less eventful next leg of our travels.

“Touch Me!”

Wow – it has been a long time since I have written here. So sorry to all those who have been checking, and finding nothing new in the cupboards. I got out of the habit when I spent my six weeks on the road, and as you all know, when you come back from anything, you are always struggling to catch up with other stuff.

Okay. ‘Nuf with the excuses.

One thing I have been trying to work on, on my own, is my language skills. Speaking, hearing, and reading Fulfulde (not writing too much in it yet, but that will also come in time). It is harder with no one else around to talk to, but I am managing.

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Sonya tasko (i.e. Sonya packing/preparing)

One thing that helps me is my flash cards. Most folks who have learned a new language will tell you that flash cards can be really helpful. I remember learning Greek in university. My best friend was in the same class with me, and we used to drill a bit together, and we both had flash cards. In the mornings we would walk around the trail at our campus (Trinity Western, in Langley, BC – beautiful setting), then line up for the café for breakfast. In the line up, when conversation was limited, I would check out my flash cards.

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O pussi (he broke the window in pieces)

Today I have my own, home-made, flash cards. I am no artist, but it has been fun doing them, and I can see my drawing skills improve (if only ever so slightly).

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Cari sembidina (Cari being strengthened)

I should tell you the funnest thing I had learning. I was in the village, and it occurred to me one day that I did not know any curse words.

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Mi wo’ina (I fix)

Usually, when learning a new language, some wise guy will tell you all his favorite swear words, just for kicks. But I did not know any.

So, I jokingly asked my friends about this, and they laughed at me. The closest I got to learning a curse word, is the word Irr (you have to roll your ‘r’s when you say it). It means, “Touch me!” The idea is that when you are having a rather heated argument, the other person touching you will be the last straw, and when they do then you will really give it to them. So, you dare them with Irr! Mostly, the men told me, it is a word used by women. Kayye!

sumpto

Mi sumpto

My favorite word is sumptuugo – this word means to think of something while eating. I just thought it was cool to have a special word like that. Anyway . . . munch, munch – I am eating ground nuts while I am writing this . . . oops, mi don sumpto (I am having a thought while I am munching away), so I had better get going here.

Travelling Cameroon

Visiting six communities in about 10 days, our trip cross Cameroon had us make a slim loop, going east from Banyo to Ngaoundere (Ng’dere) by one road, and back west by another. It seems to me that we have been “prayed through” all along, since the police/soldiers/gendarmes at the various check-stops have hardly been an issue with us – a truly remarkable thing on a trip this long. The terrain changes substantially west to east, with the vegetation changing along with it. This means if you want mangoes (for instance) you’ll need to buy them near G’dere because you can’t get them in the west.

As well, as you get further from the major centers, life becomes more primitive. I measure these things by the latrines: in a little community north of G’dere the latrine is a lean-to on the side of the small guesthouse; it has a ceiling about 5’ high, so you cannot really stand up straight in it. It does, however, have a cement floor. Three hours west of that, the latrine has no ceiling, so you can stand up, but the floor is dirt. Three hours west again, the latrine is actually like an  ensuite, being in the house, and having a nice floor and so on.

Some of the villages we saw were along the main road, or fairly close, while others required a drive through 3-5 km of rough paths (to call them ‘roads’ would be to give them too high a status). Two of communities were new to us, but at the rest we were visiting friends we have met before. In every case, the hospitality was very gracious and generous.

Sonya and I had been tasked by the F*lbe leaders with making assessments of twelve F*lbe communities, both in Cameroon and in Nigeria (as I write this, we are in the middle of the trip, with Nigeria yet to come). The assessment is to cover things like each community’s capacity for education, vocational development, fellowship, visitor accommodation, medical outreach, and whatever else we think might be relevant. In other words, we want to know if the children are going to school, if people are learning (or open to learning) new trades, if there is room when guests come, and so on.

Some of the people we met have been settled in their areas for several years (ten being about the longest), but many are quite new. In various places we saw evidence of the United Nations at work, since many of the people are refugees coming from the Central African Republic, which has been ravaged by civil war and rampant banditry.

A very basic, and common, need is for technical knowledge, especially as it relates to farming. F*lbe are traditionally nomadic cattle herders, and the transition to settled farming is a huge paradigm shift for all of them. (We have been working on a  short video about “People in Transition,” so if you are on our Prayer Update list you may get a copy of that sent to you – internet connection permitting.) One community in Nigeria has successfully made the transition, so we know it can be done, but their situation is unique (they have been living among farming peoples for about thirty years now), and their brothers and sisters in Cameroon are on the steep learning curve of the hill.

One great temptation that all missionaries and visitors face is to try to “help” by solving every problem or situation that we encounter. This is a good, compassionate, impulse, but most often it must be resisted. Most issues that people face here are interconnected – meaning that to make a change in area “A” will cause unexpected consequences down in area “F.” The best people to effect successful change are the F*lbe themselves. There is much that westerners can contribute – and we trust that many of our readers will be willing to be part of the solutions that arise – but the leaders of the process must be the F*lbe themselves.

My own evaluation tells me that successful change will come with wise, dedicated, godly leadership. Not all leaders are created equal. On our trip east and back, we have met some extremely capable leaders. These men and women are building up those around them; they are humble enough to receive help and advice; they are committed to making their communities better in every way they can; they understand that spiritual health is the key to every other kind of progress.

On the other hand, we have also seen traditional leaders – men (traditional leaders generally do not allow women power to effect change) – who do not have the best interests of the community in mind; men who are out for their own short-term gain; men who know that giving Lordship to Christ will diminish their own corrupted power base. It would be wonderful to say there are no such leaders among the believing communities, but sadly we have met some in one community. They have been recognized by the government, and the believers are virtually powerless to evict them from their position.

So, they work through/around/in spite of them as best they can. The women in that village have been meeting weekly, praying together, sharing needs, and collecting funds. The Jauro (village leader) asked them to lend him the money. When they refused (because they knew he would not pay it back), he told them they could no longer meet in the House of Worship, and that any time they did meet he was to be notified and invited. And so it goes. Our part in this little melee was to encourage the women in their faith, and in their determination to continue seeking to bless their community in face of this opposition.

Still, the picture is overall an encouraging one. Jesus Christ has come into these people’s lives, and He is the difference maker. This work among the F*lbe is a pioneer work, and walking among them is akin to walking through the Book of Acts, and the letters of St Paul. Many hardships, much persecution, significant challenges; but at the same time, faith, hope, and love working through the people. They do need help to come from the larger body of Christ, but they are showing that they have resources of their own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joseph and Musa

I don’t want to give the wrong impression here, but let us say that if you are driving from here to Banyo – 230 km away – you will encounter 5 or 6 checkpoints with either soldiers, police, or gendarmes. Of those 5 or 6 you usually can count on one or more giving you some kind of trouble.

I remember the trip I made up there in mid-January with my friend Joan; mostly we did fine but we got to one checkpoint and the surly soldier there hardly looked at our documents – he just said, “Settle, settle,” which means, of course, “Give us some money so we can let you go.” As usual I played dumb, and pestered him about what it meant to “Settle.” Joan finally gave him a tract and he unhappily let us pass.

He was not the only one who was unhappy though. It usually takes a lot to get me angry, but these guys – maybe 10 or 20 percent of the guys we run into – manage to do it without raising a sweat. So, after the trip with Joan I devised a strategy to deal with them.

I decided that the next time I met with a checkpoint Charlie who gave me problems that way, I would tell them that I would pay to pray with them, and then – as my daughter Cari might say – I would “Go all John the Baptist on them” – i.e. telling them to repent, and so on.

I got my opportunity on the way from the seminar we offered on Ministry F*lbe M*slims on Easter Saturday. The first checkpoint we came to, the young soldier stared at my I.D. long and intently, but could not find anything wrong with it. Finally, he gave it back to me and said, “Yes, but we have no water,” which, again, is code for, “We want you to give us some money.”

By this time, though, I had calmed down from my time with Joan and had rethought my strategy. I no longer had a desire to be John the Baptist; I thought I should instead be more like Jesus – and truly, as I looked at this young man, I knew Jesus loved him.

So I told him, truthfully, that I had no water in the truck to give him (which is a real mistake on my part, I should say. I meant to put some in the truck, and simply forgot that morning. Never travel here without water people!), but that I might have something else for him. He looked at me quizzically. I told him if he let me park on the other side of the gate, I would get out and talk with him about it. He seemed a little unsure, but he waved them to open the gate for me.

I parked up past the gate, and got out. He had called over another soldier who spoke better English (his second language seemed to be French), and I asked them their names. They were Joseph and Musa. “Ok, Joseph and Musa,” I told them, “I am a missionary, and I am here to minister to people. Now I know that ministry always costs money, so what I would like to do is to pray for you, and I will pay for the privilege.”

Musa stared at me for a bit, and then translated to his friend. Then Joseph stared at me also. “So, what do you say? Can I pay for you both?” Musa said, “Yes.” They took me into their office (complete with bottle of water in the corner), and asked me to sit down. There was another soldier there who made way for us. It seems Joseph was the leader of this little troop.

I began to pray. Joseph sat and closed his eyes, while Musa stood with his hands raised, open to God, with his eyes open. Musa is a M*slim, while Joseph must have some kind of Christian background, but is clearly not walking with Jesus now.

So, I thanked God for these three guys – including the third soldier who was also sitting, staring at the floor – that God had brought them to this place to be agents of peace, and a blessing to the people. And I thanked God for the gift of his son Jesus, who is for us the water of life, given free of charge, who, when we receive him, makes it so we will never thirst again (having Isaiah 55 and John 4 in my mind as I prayed).

These days (and for many years) I usually pray with my eyes open, so I was looking at all of them as I prayed, with Musa staring back at me. And I was inwardly thanking God that I was able to share a little bit of the good news with this M*slim and these two other fellows. Honestly, after a really good time speaking at this seminar for four hours, this short time of prayer was what really made my day.

All for less than the price of a bad cup of coffee – 6 or 700 francs, which is about a buck and a half. Money well spent that day.

(Just a small caveat here. I would not try this with every corrupt soldier or policeman I meet; some of them you really do not want to mess with [though with all of them, you do want to try to create a relationship if possible], and one needs discernment to see who might be open to such an offer. Joseph and Musa turned out to be open.)

Hawa’u’s Story: A Case of Mental Health

Sonya and I met Hawa’u (you say it pretty much like Hawaii, only with a ‘u’ at the end) when we made our tour of F*lbe communities back in December, 2017. We were getting a general picture of the communities and trying to assess basic needs. We saw several people who were ill in one way or another, and most we were able to help with very basic medicines (Sonya is a Mom, after all) or to provide the means for them to get to the nearest hospital, about an hour away.

Hawa’u, however, was a different case altogether. She was not ill in a physical senseof the term. Physically she was functioning, but her behaviour for the past year or so, we were told, had been very strange. When we saw her, her hair was not plaited (very odd for any Fulbe woman over here), her face was dark and dirty, her clothes were slightly dishevelled, and she had a wild-eyed look on her face, that went with a wicked-looking and scary kind of smile.

While we were visiting with her family she was relatively calm, and seemed to like the attention she was receiving, but when we went to leave she decided she would follow us out the door, and she was soon running out of control. At the end of that episode she was rolling in the dust and dirt, trying to escape her would-be captors. It was heart-breaking, and the image stayed with me.

All the rest of that month, and into January, I was praying/thinking about Hawa’u, saying something like, “O Lord, what in the world are we going to do? How can we help this girl?” I really had no idea what was wrong or how to help, but I kept on praying that an answer would come.

Finally, in January we were to go on a ‘mandatory retreat’ in Bamenda to meet with other missionaries there. (I put it in quotations like that because at the time I was chafing at the bit – being made to go on a ‘retreat’ when we had only just arrived!). Down in Bamenda we met lots of great folks, but Hawa’u would not leave my mind, and I kept pestering God about her. Then one afternoon, during one of the sessions, one young woman named Mary stood up and let the rest of us know that she and her husband were both doctors specializing in mental health and BOOM – I knew I had my answer.

Later that afternoon I introduced myself to her husband, Dr. Bryan, and explained the situation to him. He was interested and compassionate, but the timing of my next trip up north was a little too quick for him to accompany us (I was leaving the next week). He did say he might be able to diagnose the girl over the phone, if we were able to talk to the family there, so I latched onto that.

Our friend Suleymanu and I drove the two-day, 15-hour journey to Hawa’u’s village the next week, and we met with Hawa’u and her family once again. This time she was morose and mostly unresponsive, and the family looked almost as depressed! With her mother and father, we reached Dr. Bryan on the phone, and he began asking them questions about their daughter’s behaviour: he would ask me, I would ask Suleymanu, Suleymanu would ask them, and then back up the train again.

Given that this was way out in the bush, where Hawa’u would not be receiving any other medical attention, this was excellent treatment for her, and we got a good, comprehensive picture of her condition. From the information gathered, Dr. Bryan was able to give a diagnosis and (after ascertaining that the family could afford and sustain them) prescribe medication for her.

So far so good, but getting mental health medicine turned out to be not the easiest thing. They were not available at the nearest government hospital, nor at the pharmacies where it was. Back in Banyo, however, our CBC hospital proved to have what was needed, so Suleymanu and I, with the help of the mission doctor there, managed to buy the meds and send them off with a taxi driver (7 hours drive away at this point). Then we prayed and waited.

The drugs would take about two months to show a difference, we had been told, so the next couple of months were really a case of “Be still and know that I am Lord” trusting that God knew what he was doing when he put us in contact with Drs. Bryan and Mary.

I am not the most patient type, so after a while I would pester Suleymanu to call up and see how Hawa’u was doing, and eventually we were told that she was talking to people, she was happy and peaceful, and doing the things she and they wanted her to do (it used to be, for instance, that in the morning they would send her to fetch water, and she would spend the whole of day down by the river).

I could hardly believe it, and was counting the days until we could go up and see her again. This time, though, we wanted to go one better and actually take Dr. Bryan with us. He also was wanting to go, since he was anxious to see his patient in person, and see how she was doing.

So – to make a long story a little bit shorter – we arranged to travel north during our semester break. Dr. Bryan’s hospital allowed him to take the time off (not an easy thing), and we made a very quick trip (3 days’ travel, with 1 full day in the village) up.

The doctor was making his rounds with Suleymanu, seeing a lot of people with what might be called general health issues (saving one man’s life in the process, but that is another story). At one point I lost them, and decided to go to Hawa’u’s compound and wait for them there. I was welcomed in and sat chatting with four women there (my Fulfulde is not real great, but it is enough to do that so far). While I was sitting there I took a closer look at the young woman sitting near the door – she looked familiar, but I wasn’t sure.

“Are you Hawa’u?” I asked her. She smiled and nodded. I could hardly believe my eyes. Her hair was plaited and covered, her face was clean and shiny, she was well-dressed, had a nice (not scary) big smile on her face, and just looked like a bright, happy 15-year old. The change was truly incredible, and I praised God for the difference.

Given the culture and context, I am told that a very specific diagnosis is not easy to come by, but Hawa’u’ condition places her on the schizophrenia spectrum. When the doctor came he began to talk with her, and she responded shyly but fully rationally. As far as I could tell, the change was complete.

But the story is not quite over . . .

Later that afternoon we saw another young woman, 23 years old this time, who was in much the same condition Hawa’u had been in. Two years before Salamatu had begun shouting at the things and people around, and one year after that she stopped talking altogether. She had been mute all that time and now we were sitting before her. This time Dr. Bryan could cut out one of the middle-men (me), and ask his questions to the family personally. They did not think Salamatu would take oral drugs, so he injected her with a medication (please know that though I am not reporting it here, he gave advice concerning possible side effects, and all the other things a responsible doctor will do), telling them it would take three days to see any change in her.

The three days were hardest on me, as we had to travel down south the next day, and I was on pins and needles waiting. I will not delay you now though – the folks up there tell us she is now talking, taking care of her children and herself, doing all the things she might normally do, and is very happy with the changes she is experiencing. They are calling it a miracle, and, knowing the various ways that God is able to work, I agree with them.

Since then I have talked to friends in Nigeria who tell me there are more cases like Hawa’u’s and Salamatu’s over there, so I am hopeful we will be able to do some good there as well as time permits and God wills. Dr. Bryan was not able to immediately help everyone he saw, but he certainly helped these two young women – blessing them, their families, and their communities, and I am praying he and his wife will be able and willing to continue the work. Please join me.

Dear Mr. Prime Minister

Greetings to you and your family from one of your citizens now living in Cameroon, West Africa. Given the potential dangers of international travel these days, I trust you will be safely back in Canada by the time you read this.

I have been following your progress just a little since you have been touring India, and an internet news clip from your time there caught my eye. Trudeau family in IndiaI applaud your motivation in wearing the designer clothes (i.e. to raise the status of women internationally), and your attempt to reach out to many peoples while there . . . but if I may be so bold, I would like to give you some caution on those fronts as well, and perhaps an invitation of sorts.

Canada, as we all know, is a pluralist, secular nation, where the separation between religion and state is an accepted axiom. (Speaking as a Christian of the Baptist persuasion, I write this with some sense of pride, since many of my Baptist forebears were persecuted for the way they believed they should practise their religion, and they were in the forefront of advocating for the division which we now enjoy.) What this means is that Canadian prime ministers do not usually need to discuss their personal religious beliefs in public. This has both positive and negative implications, but it does tend to ensure that no one religious group may feel entitled over against any other.

On your recent trip, however – and indeed throughout your political career – you seem to be seeking for a sense of acceptance based on your ability to join together with peoples of all religious beliefs. While this is perhaps laudable, you need to know that for people who sincerely and deeply hold the beliefs that you are wearing on your sleeve (as it were), you do not always represent yourself or our country in the best possible light. A Muslim and a Christian both know (for instance) that you cannot legitimately “pray” in a mosque one Friday, and the next Sunday “pray” in a church. If you do, you look like a spiritual dilettante, who does not know very much about either. (To be sure, some folks may be happy that you have ‘identified’ with them in the short run, but over time you will appear disingenuous and opportunistic.)

My caution is that your mixing of politics and religion will send the wrong signals to very many state leaders who lead religious nations, and who happen to be truly religious themselves (not to mention, many of your own Canadian citizens).

My advice, and invitation, on the other hand, is if you wish to genuinely follow a religious path, and if you are seeking to know which path is the ‘true’ one, then you should seriously pursue that journey (though, probably not when you are in the public eye). I would recommend beginning with the claims of Jesus Christ (admittedly, I am biased); I am sure there are some good, discrete followers of Jesus there in Ottawa who would be happy to instruct you in “the Way,” and allow you to weigh his claim to be “the way, the truth, and the life” for yourself.

Meanwhile, as I am instructed to do, I will continue to pray for you, and for the peace of our nation. Thanks for serving. God bless.

Efficiency, ADHD and Crutches in the Kitchen

It seems criminal sometimes to write a blog about the mundane things in my life here in Cameroon, especially when we find ourselves immersed in prayer for our friends in Nigeria whose lives  and homes are at risk as I write. But, nonetheless, my everyday life does go on, and if I can’t find humor in my life, I am indeed in trouble. So I hope you will enjoy this, AND pray for our friends.
For those of you over 40, if you have never watched this Youtube video called “Age Activated ADHD” you really ought to follow this link and get a laugh. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oHBG3ABUJU  Those of you under 40 who have, or suspect you have ADHD, or know an adult who does, you will probably also enjoy this video.
As a self-diagnosed person with ADHD, I find great relief in watching other people who walk through life, as I do, constantly distracted by the next thing that needs to be done, and additionally trying to very efficient about the time I spend in the kitchen. So let me tell you about my Saturday morning.
I got up late-IMG_8173around 9 am, after reading my Bible in bed, and checking email and facebook on my phone, (since the internet IS working in my house today) as I was NOT looking forward to stumping around the house on my crutches.  Having forgotten to ask Irene, my househelp, to make some kind of quick bread loaf on Friday, to serve my company today, I decided that this was a good day to try my poppyseed loaf recipe, having recently rediscovered the bag of poppyseed that I brought from Canada. Knowing it takes almost an hour to bake and I need it by 4 pm, I decide this is a morning activity, so I start at about 10 am

I need a teaspoon of lemon juice for the loaf recipe, so I began by locating the lemons I had in the fridge. Examining them I decided they ALL should be used up today, since they look like the might dry up.  Not content to just squeeze the juice, I recall that I have also run out of dried lemon zest, which I have been using with ginger, in tea, which is good for coughs and colds.  So I grate all three lemons, then squeeze the juice. Can’t decide what to do with the extra, so   I set aside a couple of teaspoons of juice, and leave the rest in the citrus juicer thingamabob.  I realize when putting lemons in the compost that I haven’t fed my chicken, so I stump out to her cage with some feed mixture.
On my return,  I consult my recipe to see what else I need and suddenly I realize that I have no eggs. I usually get those myself, but running up to the market outside the gate on crutches in not an option. So I consult with Jeff and Suleymanu on their morning plans, and Suleymanu agrees to do that.  I suggest he finish his laundry first so that it can dry- since it looks like it might rain this afternoon.   I make the unusual decision to wash the dishes at this point and also to bleach the cutting boards, since they are looking a bit nasty. While I have the bleach out, I decide to also clean the kitchen sinks.
Since Suleymanu is still doing his laundry, I decide I might as well continue with the lemon ginger concoction.  I retrieve some ginger from the food locker, wash, peel and slice it, and put it in a thermos container with hot water. I look for the Tupperware container I usually use for this mixture, but realize it is in the fridge with a bit of that lemon ginger mixture left in it. Undeterred in my commitment to use up everything from my three lemons, I decide freeze the older mixture in ice cube form for individual servings, and then I can reuse the container.   I combine the new ginger water and lemon juice and put it in the fridge. Then I look at the lemon zest etc on the counter and stump out on my crutches to put it in the sun to dry.

Still unable to continue without the eggs, I turn my attention to my email for a while. Shortly thereafter, (around 12 noon)  Suleymanu leaves to get my eggs (and a few other grocery things that have come to my mind) and I start on the first step of the loaf, because the poppyseed has to soak in milk for 30 minutes.  Of course, I have to mix some powdered milk for this since there is NO WAY I am going to use any of our expensive fresh milk that we have for baking. SInce my can of milk power is empty and I have to hop around the kitchen to find where I keep the larger bag, so all that takes another 10 minutes.
Deciding I need a sit-down task for a while, I go to the spare room where I keep my sewing things, and set to fixing the cast boot that I made on Thursday. It has a design flaw and keeps sliding forward.  Jeff makes an appearance, and I tell him that lunch is leftover stew. He says he will wait for Suleymanu to return.

 

 

 

 

Suleymanyu comes back as I finish my sewing task, and I stump over to the kitchen to begin. But since my work area is right around the microwave, (which we CAN use today, since the power is on) I decide I should heat the  stew for them, so they are not trying to do that while I am working there. Given the low wattage of my microwave, this takes about 5-10 minutes.  There’s not enough room on the island for everything I want to do, so I decide to peel the papaya and serve it for lunch too. The peel goes in bowl to give to my chicken later. Jeff and Suleymanu sit down to lunch and I begin in earnest to make my poppyseed loaf.

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Turning on the oven, I remember that I have some leftover cookie dough in the fridge, and since I don’t like to use the gas to heat the oven for just one thing, I pull it out of the fridge.20 minutes later or so, the cookie dough is on the sheets, the poppyseed batter is divided between a large and small pan (and a few mini muffins, and it all goes into the oven.  I turn it down a bit since it has gotten up to 400, and I want it at 350. But there is no thermostat in these ovens. So you have to watch it yourself.

Since I am known to forget about items in the oven, I decide I should remain in the kitchen till at least the cookies and mini muffins are done. I eat the last few Whole wheat crackers that my neighbor Amy made for us, so I text her to ask for the recipe.  I decide I should find out about adding bran to flour so that I too can have whole wheat flour (which can’t be purchased here in Ndu)  Internet is still working, and Google helps me find that answer to that, so I go to mix a little bran and white flour together.

Looking in the bag of bran, I realize that I have NOT sifted all the bran I do have (I get very rough bran from the feed supply store and have to sift it to something I can use in baking)IMG_8176. Out comes my sifter/colander thingy that we have determined works well for that, and I start sifting. As tons of bran ends up all over the island, I remember that I usually put a pizza pan under it to catch all the mess. I manage to remember to remove the cookies and mini muffins, and turn the oven up a bit since it is getting too cool.  Suleymanu, bless his heart, comes in to wash the lunch dishes, as well as my baking ones.  I finish sifting the bran bump around the kitchen to find a better container for it, and rescue the small and large loaf which are threatening to burn on the bottom because heating the oven while there is baking in it is not a good idea. But it’s unavoidable in this setup.  Oven goes off.  The bran tailings get added to the chicken’s feed.

I sort of clean up the bran, decide to forget about making a whole wheat mixture til I get Amy’s recipe, and take the baked loaves out the pans.  Having asked Jeff if he would sweep the kitchen later, I leave everything else in the kitchen and go lie down. It is 2:15 pm.   I think I did better than the lady in the video. I have lemon ginger tea additive in the fridge, lemon zest drying in the sun, cookies and poppyseed loaf on the counter. My email is answered, and I fixed the cover for my cast.  But I am pooped, and there is lemon zest, bran and poppyseed all over my kitchen floor.

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Update since Saturday  …my company didn’t end up coming, so we get to eat the poppyseed loaf and share the cookies at our prayer gathering on Sunday evening. In my opinion, the recipe needs more lemon juice…and zest…and is a bit dry, so I need to be more careful about the oven temperature, if I decide I want to try this adventure again. 

 

 

 

 

Min Fiji

Some things in language come easier than others, just because of the recognition factor. Fiji, in F*lfulde, is the past tense for “play,” so min fiji means, “we have played.” This is relatively easy for us to recall, because Fiji, the place, is where people go to play (more or less).

So, we have been playing around a bit here. Last semester I joined the Masters Football (i.e. soccer) Team. At first I thought it was “Masters” as in “old guys,” but I was mistaken. There are a couple of us old guys on the team, but it is actually the Masters’ level students here at the seminary.IMG_8144

We had a practise on Monday to shake the dust off from our holiday break. We (that is, those of us who were on time) began at 4 pm with a run around the trapezoid-shaped field. For me this was good, because it allowed me to get used to the field again, remembering to watch out for the little hillocks here and there. It rained a week or so ago, giving us some respite from the dust, so the field was not too bad that way. This little practise field actually has tufts of grass all around it – it makes it harder to run, or pass, or kick, or do anything creative with the ball, but it does help keep the dust down.

We had more guys out than we needed, enough for two teams and to spare, in fact, with guys on the sidelines clambering to play, but our captain/coach was strict – our team was here to practise, and the rest would have to work around that.

The practise turned out to be one long scrimmage, with all the kinks getting out swiftly. Mostly the game is kick and chase, since passing plays are very difficult to execute, and when they do happen everyone is pretty impressed. At the practise game we got toasted, 5-1, but we did not have our regular goal-keeper, so we were not too worried.IMG_8151

Wednesday night was game night, and – wouldn’t you know it – I was late! (Had to wait for another missionary who was coming to get some bread!) So, I sat off the first half and sort of watched my team get out to a one-goal lead. I say “sort of” because, while the regular playing field has some advantages over the practise field, lack of dust is not one of them. The dust there is an inch deep in places, and just walking raises a Pig-Pen-like cloud. When the ball got into a crowd of players, from the sidelines you could see nothing from the waist down.

Finally, I got into the game at half time, but five minutes later received a yellow card from the ref for an illegal substitution. He stalked over, stuck out hi chest, and waved the yellow card in my face – just like you see in the FIFA games on TV.  Then he did the same thing to three others from my team  – we had all forgot to tell him we were subbing on. I thought four yellows was a tad excessive, but then discovered that each yellow card carried with it a CFA 500 fine (about $1); naturally it all made sense :-/

There was another stoppage in play about ten minutes later when a huge white bull with a mind of his own strolled onto the field, followed by some poor guy on a rope. The bull just wanted to join his fellow cows on the far corner, so we all scattered while he made his dignified way there.IMG_8141

I played okay for the half – avoiding potholes, scuffles, getting mouthfuls of dirt, and so on – but was glad I did not play the whole game, because Monday’s practise just about did me in for the week. I made several good heading plays, being careful not to get concussed, and just tried to keep close to my mark. During practise they were careful with how they treated the old white guy, but on game day all bets are off, but I can still usually give as good as I get. Sadly, we all just kissed our sisters that game, winding up with a 1-1 draw.

Later that night we were hard at it with language learning once more, but still min fiji. This time the game was charades, trying to say in F*lfulde what we figured the other person was doing. Now THAT was funny. Ah well – all in a day’s fiji.

Death by Papercuts

Sometimes in life a major crisis can push you right to the limits of your endurance….or over it. But just as often, (and I suspect it is MORE often) it is the accumulation of many little problems, irritations or mini-crises that can be what overwhelms you.

In spite of various curfews and general political unrest, the CBTS campus has remained very quiet, so we are fortunate enough. But here’s sampling of the last 4 days of little stuff, that sort of made me think of the children’s book…” Alexander and the Terrible, HorribleNo Good, Very Bad Day”- only it has been going on for the greater part of the week. My neighboring missionary, Amy Moline, she described it as ‘death by papercuts’, and it seems an apt description.

For the last few weeks, I have had an ongoing issue with both inflamed Achilles tendons. Again. For the last 10 days. I have had an extremely tender ankle that most often woke me at about 3 am.
As of last Monday, my typing class finally has enough working computers with the correct program, installed  for all the women, but class has been cancelled all three days this week as there was not power on campus.
My rooster keeps finding a way out of his pen. When he is back in there, he and the hen are starting to break some of the 14 eggs she has laid. I think it is time for him to become soup.
Wednesday night Jeff was lethargic during and after his soccer game, and I was too tired to shower, so sponged off and went to bed.
Thursday the power went off again around 1 pm while meeting with Cal Hohn, and I wasn’mt paying attention and ran my computer down to 0%. It absolutely poured rain, and some hail, and the as-of-yet unrepaired roof panels meant that I had a lake in my ‘parlor’, and another leak issue on the veranda meant I had a river in my kitchen.
In the kerfuffle, I forgot to turn off the data and mobile tether on my phone all day, and I ran my cell phone data bill right up through the ceiling.  We did manage to cover all the items we needed to discuss, so Jeff goes to bed feeling a bit sick, and Cal retreats to the Molines, as he is also coming down with something.

Friday late afternoon Jeff figures that maybe he DOES have Malaria, so we decide to start him on a course of treatment.  With my generally scattered frame of mind, I was not up to trying my very first  malaria test in the dark. He is running a temperature if about 100.3 fahrenheit, so nothing staggering, just miserable.
All my extra ice reserves to keep my freezer cold are melted.   Meat and veggies starting to defrost.
My company,  joining us for a shared dinner, show up 90 minutes later than agreed, albeit for perfectly reasonable reasons. The student electrician arrives at the same time as my company, so I divide my time between hostessing, supervising, and discovering that there is something majorly wrong with my generator.   Water pressure is low, and the water remaining in the tank is stone cold. So no shower, and washing dishes in cold water, with a little water heated on the stove for rinsing.

Saturday the power comes on at 7 am, but for some reason, not in my house. Freezer contents about 70 percent thawed. A period of texts and phone calls bring Tim Moline over to help- he shows me a different exterior trip switch, which no one has every chosen to do. This problem is rectified, and I have power. This has taken me til after 9 am.  Shortly before this, I had to go to my room, pick up my Bible, read and pray a while, as I can feel my stress level rising. I also took some B vitamins (stress ones)

Jeff goes to the health centre, where the malaria test comes back negative, but since I had him on Coartem for about 12 hours, it may have masked the malaria, so that hasn’t been helpful. The doctor suggests he take vitamin c and Tylenol for the mild fever, and we decide on consultation with a few others that he will finish the malaria medication anyhow.  A half course of the medication is useless to us after anyhow.

By 11:30 am there is water for a shower- which I desperately need after almost 4 days. Low pressure, but I am clean.

Saturday after lunch we take a trip to Banso without Jeff ( the trip is getting longer again – about an hour plus now for vehicles, as are some of the roads are affected by the rain!!)  to visit Ibrahim and Bilkisu- and to pick up some materials for the repair of my living room (aka parlor) skylight. I contacted Doctors Brian and Mary Cairn, and they invited me up to discuss the ankle problem. Suleymanu spent time with our friends Ibrahim and BIlkisu.  About 3 hours later I have had an a xray, (which after being examined by 4 people results in a diagnosis of a stress fracture) and have a pair of crutches, and a cast.  Very glad I got the shower before this, as I am not sure how that is going to work for the 3 weeks in this cast.

Suleymanu and I find each other back eventually, and we head back to Ndu. We spent an extra 20+ minutes waiting for heavy equipment working on the road.
‘Yay duck; here is that the road work is continuing all along the way to Ndu- the plan is to pave in all the semi large towns along the way.  (Not in between the towns, mind you, but since there’s an election next year, and there are more votes to be had in town and the money is limited, that’s where they pave)
Another Yay Duck- Cairns blessed us and sent me home with some delicious left-over quiche, so there was no need to cook. Also, Molines brought me over a bag of scrap fabric which I have numerous plan for.  I found a cut off denim pant leg and quickly sewed in some elastic to put it over my cast to protect it somewhat from dirt. Very necessary, as the floors are never actually clean for more than 30 minutes after they are washed. Better cast cover designs to follow.  Also very glad I took the shower before I went to the hospital….

Student electrician has spent 3 hours on my generator while I was out, and it is still not working.
I went to bed to the sound of thunder, and put all the buckets out in the living room.
No rain, so Sunday morning did not include mopping up the parlor. Phew.
Church was out of the question, so I had some personal worship and song on the piano, and then Suleymanu and I read from the book of Mark (me in Fulfulde, and he in English) and did some language practise.  Jeff is finally up and dressed around 11:30 am- we’ll see how long that lasts.

2 pm Sunday- things seemed to have levelled off, and although Jeff is not yet showing many signs of getting better, he has been up for over 2 hours.  I am finding out how many things I cannot do on crutches. So glad that Suleymanu is around to help out, and looking forward to my house help Irene coming on Monday.    I’m going to have to cancel some classes, as there is no way I can do the up and down between the academic block to the primary school on crutches.

Very grateful for all of you who are praying for us.  Hope we don’t have another week like this anytime soon. I am trying to engage in the spiritual warfare of “giving no opportunity to the devil”- like trying not to  run my mouth off when I feel the irritations related to all of this piling up and making me short tempered.

Update as of Thursday, March 1.  Jeff seems to have recovered from what we are assuming was malaria, and now fighting a cough and cold. I have resigned myself to only getting to about half of my classes that I usually teach, and am making some arrangements for some work to go on in my absence.  We got roof panels, and the roof is repaired, and today we had power for the better part of 24 hours, which is better than the last 10+ days. Although it is off again now that I want to post a blog….ouch…another paper cut!!