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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lessons from the back of a motorbike.

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

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

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

Things I can do on a long haul backroad trip

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

Other things I have learned about motorcycle travel here:

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

And a few general travel observations:

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

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

And so the experiences continue.

A Motorcycle Miracle

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

Haa mi wi’uma habaruwol dammungol gongawol.

Let me tell you a     story               short     true.

Nyande feere mi don laanya moto am les hooseere,

One day I was driving motorcycle my down a hill,

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

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

Gooto mabbe yahiri heedi am,                   wakati mi habdi luutugomo

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

moto am            yaniri     haa mi tammaakino.

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

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

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

nden mi numi, “Do kam mi nawnoto.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the Middle of Money Matters

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kinda like a REALLY big shoe box…

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

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

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

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

The Value of Visitation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 700 Club!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.