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.

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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.

The Lights of a Packrat

OK, so I know that I’ve always been a bit of a packrack (My children are rolling their eyes as they read this and saying, “A bit?!?!?”)  But as I packed up for moving to Cameroon, I had to limit what we brought, what we put into our limited storage, and REALLY tried not to foist a bunch of junk onto my kids.  And I thought that living in Africa might continue promote a more minimalistic lifestyle.  HAHAHAHA! Well, it does in its own way, I guess. But in what I consider emergency preparedness, I can’t seem to help myself.

lights

So here is just the light collection saga.  When I was camping and out-tripping in Canada, for numerous weeks per year, I had one Petzel headlamp (second from the left). It served me for about 10 years of trips, plus roadside car repairs and at-home power outtages, with about 2 sets of good batteries for that whole time.  It DID occur to me to go to Cameroon with just that, but I decided….NOT!!  Frequent use walking the house and campus in Ndu seems to have strained it and on this last trip, I thought it had died. New batteries worked briefly (after a three week search for AAA’s that lasted more than 20 minutes), but then it failed again.  But I couldn’t very well throw it out, so I dragged it all around Nigeria (not working) in the bottom of my bag, and it made it back to Banyo with me.  Frustrated to not have a hands-free light for over a month, I tackled it this morning with the help of some internet advice. I cleaned the contacts with VINEGAR! And it works!! Still a bit touchy to operate, so I haven’t solved the problem completely, but I am optimistic.  Test use tonight has proved it so far – packrats score again!

Before leaving Canada I was advised to buy a good rechargeable LED lamp. Well, technology has changed, and the new power source in North America is USB /power banks, so I got a few things. I bought a Nite Ize lamp (second from the right). It lasts quite a long time, and charges with a mini USB input. It also has an output port, so in a pinch, I can charge my phone from it too.  Disadvantage- it is REALLY bright, even at the lowest setting, and is most comfortably used when you can hang it up so the light shines in a way that doesn’t blind everyone. Because of that, it lives in its little bag for long period of time when we travel, unless there is a convenient nail, hook or twig to hang it from near the ceiling.   At home in Ndu it lives on top of the cabinet in the dining room, where it cast the best light when the power (frequently) goes out.
I also engaged in an impulse buy at MEC in Canada and bought this super-cool lid for my Nalgene (far right) that has a light, solar panel and glow-in-the-dark silicone ring around the lid.  I haven’t needed a night light with much frequency between my children’s graduations from kindergarten and my move to Cameroon, but this is now my defacto water bottle, night light and bedside lamp, as well as a great conversation piece in the villages where they love anything solar powered. Being normally used in Canadian summers where it is light til 10 or 11 pm, its one minor downside is that it doesn’t shine very well as room lighting from 6-10 pm here. That minor problem is overshadowed (pun intended) by the much worse fact that the lid doesn’t seal very well. So it’s good in my room but not great in my truck, or backpack, or knocked over on the bedroom floor. And although I still have the original Nalgene Seal with me, it’s a pain to carry around to change, so I rarely do.  But I still use the bottle-with-lid-light a ton, and live with its various disadvantages, because of its day-to-day convenience, the ‘cool’ factor and the way it saves my shins and Jeff’s sleep during my nocturnal sojourning.

I have a couple of USB power banks, two of which are gifts, that get used for charging phones, some ofthese lights, and a host of other little things I never anticipated. The third power bank is a massive 4.5 pound thing I bought for my laptop computer, and I save it for charging computers when off the power grid for a long time. ‘Cause ‘off the grid’ here doesn’t usually mean no cell network- just no electricity in the houses. So we are still expected to use phone, text, email, Messenger, Facebook, What’sApp, etc., and have phones and SIMs for multiple networks to facilitate this in multiple scenariors.  An additional power bank that was gifted to me last year with one of the others, was passed on to an evangelist friend of ours. He really wants my solar charger panel with the USB ports, since the ones here are of questionable quality, but I am drawing the line there.

Coming back thru more populated parts of Cameroon this week, I was at a Total fuel station, and my eye fell on one of the D-lights they sell across the country, and which are really quite impressive and actually come with a warranty. (Although I haven’t found anyone that’s tested that warranty.) I used one of Lisa’s in the village last month, and thought I should own at least one good solar powered lamp.  I decided against the bigger one which has a few other features I didn’t need (USB port, I think). So this one (far left), at $16 Cdn equivalent, looks a bit like my Nalgene but you CANNOT put water in it. THAT much is specific in the instructions. (What else you would want to put in the screw open top container, I have no idea! It’s low power and heat so I don’t think I can try drying anything inside- but you never know….)
Note to you all, if you’re coming to Cameroon or other African countries, see what they have  readily available before buying anything solar in North America. Some things here are really very good and reasonably priced

Oh yes, as a camp leader in Canada I spurged once and bought a miniMaglite. That one seems to be missing at the moment, but it’s probably in Ndu on the shelf by the front door.   And my smart phone (obviously) also has a flashlight app- which I’ve used 70% of the time that my Petzel wasn’t working.

Jeff has one little LED light flashlight he’s used all year so far…….I think he might be due for new batteries soon.  I just hope they are not AAAs.

 

A Dry Story

So, . . . the last time I was in Nigeria, back in June/July, I went around with some of the Water Committee members from our village to inspect the water projects that have been installed in the area in the past few years. Most of the places where we went the water projects were doing very well – the water is flowing fine, it is clean, and the people are very happy with it.

I have a whole slew of pictures of my young friend Ya’u standing beside all these taps, with water with very high pressure – the sign of a good spring, and no leaks along the way. I have a video of a Muslim woman praising God, and thanking him for the donors back in Canada who gave funds so these people could have access to clean water. She blessed them and their families, down to their grandchildren, for the great gift they had given for her own family.IMG_6217

These water catchments are really important because, as the Ardo (one of the headmen) of Nguroje told us, they not only relieve the women and girls of a lot of work, since the water is now much closer to them. They also reduce the illnesses in the communities where they have them, because so many of the sicknesses here (typhoid is a big one) are due to dirty water, and the malarial mosquitoes who breed in them.

When we met with the Ardo it was to tell him that one of his wells had developed a problem through vandalism, and we were coming to ask him to fix the problem. He was very good about it, and promised to look into it and get it fixed as soon as he could. When we came to that same well this time, it had indeed been fixed, and was working fine. The Ardo, meanwhile, had been promoted to Laamiido of Nguroje, which is akin to being a traditional king. I wrote him a letter of congratulations, and told him how pleased I was to see a ruler who was making his “Yes” “Yes,” as Jesus told us to do.IMG_6211 (2)

Closer to home – right behind the village we were staying at, in fact – I had inspected another well, which had its pipe broken by motorcycles, so the women and girls in that place were back to fetching water from a dirty puddle-like place in a little stream. When we went to see them back in July the men confessed that they had been lazy, and not fixed the pipe. But they promised that they would get it fixed as soon as possible.

On this, our latest, trip, Sonya and I went to that little community and saw that the water pipes still had not been fixed. While Sonya spoke to the women, I trekked up to the source and saw where the problems were. When we came back to the village we met with the men and they gave us their apologies once again. They did not admit to being lazy this time, but said they had big plans to form a committee to look at the problem, and to actually expand things to include another catchment closer to home. They even asked the Wakili to join with them on their committee because, since he was well-respected there, things would go better.

Well – I may have been born in the morning, but it was not yesterday morning. I told these men that they sound to me like a lot of politicians, promising all the right things – and maybe even meaning what they say too – but in the end, failing to deliver when the crisis (e.g. election time) was over. I told them since they were our neighbours, I loved them, and so I would share with them in the most loving way I could.

The problem with them (I said) was not the spring catchment, or the broken pipes, or laziness, or anything like that. Their problem was simply a lack of love. They didn’t love their wives, or their daughters, or the people who would now get sick in their community. This lack of love was a deep heart problem, and they were helpless to change the state of their hearts.

But the desire of God (I went on) is to bless us with good lives – including clean, healthy water, and lives where love and joy are evident. This He is able to provide for us through His Son, Jesus Christ. These men needed to hear again the good news about Jesus – how His death allows for forgiveness of sins, and how His resurrection can bring new life to those who put their trust in Him – and get on board with God’s plan for them and their families.

This was plain talk such as these fellows do not usually hear. It is not culturally appropriate for my friends to talk to them like this, but since I am from North America I can ‘get away with’ things that they cannot. When we first saw the trouble with the pipes, back in July, the Wakili was worried that folks back in Canada would be discouraged because the funding they had provided was being abused by these men.

I told him not to worry. Canadians (and Americans too) know that not everything works perfectly, and that people are all-too-human, and one little set-back would not discourage them from continuing a truly good work. Besides which, I reminded him that God was bigger than all this, and He would be able to work some good out of it somehow.

I see this opportunity to preach the gospel to these men as the good that God is doing, though of course this dry story is not finished yet. We pray – and I invite you to do the same – that the story will yet have a wet ending!

Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them. John 7.37-38

“Little Bit Good, Little Bit Bad”

I saw it when it first came out, with my kids I think. Guardians of the Galaxy was tons of fun back then, and it is still tons of fun today. Vol. 2 of the series was about as much fun as the first one, which means together they are just great. Sonya brought them back for me on DVD, so now I have just recently re-watched both of them, and today – as I was driving over muddy, washed-out, paths that call themselves roads, driving over muddy, washed out ledges that called themselves bridges, and digging my way out of a hung-up car (not my fault – honest!), I was thinking of what I had seen.

[I actually wrote this about 7 weeks ago, but am just now putting it out there.]

GuardiansThe “Guardians” are all misfits, in that they no longer fit into their original families, if they had them in the first place. Their families are gone, and they are all orphaned waifs, floating along in the universe (or, better, the galaxy). They find each other and through force of circumstances become family. This never fails to remind me of my favorite verse in the OT, Psalm 68.6: “God sets the lonely in families.”

After they come together in Vol. 1, the question is asked, at the end of the film (paraphrasing here), “Well, what shall we do now? Something good, something bad, or a little bit of both?” “We’ll follow your lead,” comes the reply. “A little bit of both, it is then,” smiles the final answer.

Thus spake the most human character of the bunch, Peter Quill. Of course, he is not fully human, for, as we discover in Vol. 2, his biological father is a celestial being (a “god with a little ‘g,’” we are told). I used to tease my children, any time we were watching a movie together and something even remotely spiritual was said (or even something not very remote), by saying, “See, everything is spiritual.” I was teasing, but I knew there is always a grain of truth in that, no matter what the film might be.

Human beings are a little bit good, and a little bit bad. This is our nature here on Terra Firma. We have been made in the Imago Dei, the image of God, and as such we are, each and every one of us, of immense worth, just for being around. At the same time, we are rank sinners, again, each and every one of us, and so we also have a badness in us that cannot be shaken.

In Vol. 2 when Peter, the film’s main protagonist, finally finds his father, he discovers that he is only half-human, with the other half a celestial being. This accounts for some of his extraordinary powers. We discover his father is not a very nice god, but is, in fact, seeking to destroy the galaxy in order to remake it in his own, evil, image (which figures, since the jerk’s name is “Ego”). Peter now has to decide whether he will align himself with his father, wipe out the galaxy, and live forever as his reward, or whether he will save the galaxy at his own cost. With the help of his friends, he chooses the latter course – and I like to think, of all the possible interpretive options available to us, that he is doing something like resisting the temptation offered to Eve in the Garden, and again to Jesus in the wilderness. But that’s just me.

Aside from all this, the movies are flat-out fun (at least I think so). Maybe its the sound track – some great Pop songs from the 70s and 80s, which is, more or less, my own era of growing up in. They are not the best music made from that time, but put together the way they are, they are feel-good, happy songs.

The comedy is character driven and wonderful. The start of the second film shows Gomora, the female lead, sporting a gun, with a typical back-and-forth between her and Peter, since, as he says (again, paraphrasing), “I thought the sword was your thing, and guns were my thing. I guess now we’re both doing the gun thing.” As Homer (the cartoon guy, not the famous writer) would say, “Its funny ‘cause its true.” (Though, truth be told, that might be one of those times when, “You had to be there.”)

All of this points, for me, to another deep spiritual truth: human beings are fun. They are the apex of God’s creation, and He did a marvelous job of them. They like to do fun things, and they are fun to be with – even if, like me, you are an introvert and love to just be alone sometimes. They enjoy joy.

The film also has the great themes of friendship, loyalty, altruism, compassion, and adventure going for it, but those are for other blogs. I will leave with this thought then, profound or otherwise – enjoy the day, whatever it brings. Take joy in the people around you, and, even when things are going terribly wrong (as they did for us today, but that is another, very long, story), take joy in the salvation provided for us through the Lord Jesus Christ.

A Morning in the Life

The past month or so, Sonya and I have been living in a little hamlet/village on the Plateau in Nigeria. Life in the village changes every day of the week, and many things tend to pop out of nowhere, but there is a certain rhythm to living there, and I will try to give the barebones structure of a typical morning.

First thing I would listen for my friend Aminu (he and his family were our hosts) to get up and open the gate outside; this would happen around 4:30 a.m. Then he would come back inside to get ready for morning devotions. I would get up a few minutes before 5, get dressed in the dark, and wait outside for him. Then we would walk together up the road to the Suudu Do’aare (House of Prayer). This is done by the moon or starlight, since the sun is not up until about 6.

We are usually among the first ones there; before we arrive, the doors are unlocked and the caretaker wipes down all the chairs inside. There are 40 chairs (donated by one of our NAB churches 10 years ago) around the outside of the round room; if they need more seating they will lay down mats. There is a small “torch” (i.e. light) in one of the windows, but it only allows light to see where you are walking. Everything in Suudu Do’aare in the morning in the done in the semi-darkness.

When we get there they (usually just two or three people ahead of us) are singing already, and as each individual comes in they join in the singing. They have some powerful women song leaders, and when they are in full throat it is marvelous to hear. Singing and corporate prayers go until about 5:40 a.m., when I begin teaching. I usually teach for about 20-30 minutes, after which someone will either emphasize what I had been talking about, or they will talk about upcoming events the people need to be ready for. We are done by about 6:15 or so, and home again by 6:30, after greeting everyone.

Back at the guesthouse where we stay (the nicest building in the village, btw) Aminu’s wife is already busy cleaning, while breakfast is on the fire, so we chat and watch the kids, or I might lie down again, while we wait. Sonya would make breakfast for us (Semolina – like Cream of Wheat) while the family would eat rice or nyeeri (corn fu-fu), which they like better.

After breakfast (c. 7:30) things happen depending on the day, but if we stayed home, and it was sunny, I would get out my books and a chair and take them out by the road, and sit by the bench there. I would read my Bible, study my language stuff, read, and greet whoever might come along. This would serve as my main devotional time, though I would go find somewhere more private to pray. I wrote a journal while I was there, and have about 30 pages of notes from that.

The Primary school children would traipse by for school from 8-8:30 or so (late little ones scurrying down the path on flip-flops), and that was always fun. I am beginning to know names, and of course everyone knows my name (“JEEEFF!!” my little friend Jibrilla, likes to call out). Some mornings Sonya would go to the school to help teach; other days we might head to the library, which has a decent table to use for a desk (one of two in the whole place), if we had lots of writing to do.

Visitation would often take a good portion of our time. Sonya and I would go together to one side of the community and simply go to each compound, calling out “Salaam aleykum” and wait for the response, and then go in to greet people. This much we can do pretty well in Fulfulde; for the rest we struggle, but are making progress. If I think about something I’d like to share, I can get people to understand me in what I am sure is “Pidgin” Fulfulde. I would also take my Fulfulde Bible and read a portion of it before we prayed together to round out the visit.

We also travelled to smaller communities around, and on Wednesdays would have our formal worship time (Sunday being market day). Or we would schedule times to meet with different leaders and talk about specific issues. This happened a lot as the community is planning to launch a Medical Mission Team in the new year, so there were a lot of preparations to be made for that.

Then lunch would roll around, c. 12:30 – 1:30 or so, but that is another blog.

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.

IMGP1484

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.

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-

20180915_105251

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.

tasko

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.

pussi

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).

sembidina

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.

wo'ina

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.