Early Pioneers

I was talking to one of my sons recently about how our support-raising was going, and I said it was coming along slowly but surely. It is humbling, I said, when I think of all the folks who are generously giving to help us to minister in Cameroon and Nigeria, and he asked me whether I felt any pressure to do well there.

I said, no, not really. We really do want to do very well in the work there because of all the people who are giving towards the work, but I do not feel pressure, only a great deal of uplifting support. It is the prayers of the people, and the power of God’s Spirit, which will enable great things to happen, and will give mundane events eternal significance.weber

One cool thing I have been doing here is reading a book by a fellow named Charles William Weber, a history professor at Wheaton, who wrote a book called International Influences and Baptist Mission in West Cameroon : German-American Missionary Endeavor Under International Mandate and British Colonialism.

The very neat thing about this book is it highlights the lives and work of Carl Bender , Paul Gebauer, and George Dunger. These three men and their wives were early NAB missionaries in Cameroon and Nigeria, and in my previous work on the history of missions on the Mambilla Plateau I have heard of all of these men.

What made them special in those early days was the very “modern” outlook they shared concerning the stance the missionary ought to have with respect to the peoples being evangelized. They had all attended our denominational school in Rochester, and probably imbibed a good part of their thinking from there.

In a nutshell, we can say they agreed with Jesus – that if you try to pour new wine into old wineskins it will burst them apart. So they did not try to make the tribal peoples they ministered to into good Europeans or Americans, but sought to plant the gospel on native soil. This perspective no doubt contributed to their success, and to the future success of the Cameroon Baptist Convention.

I am glad to say the Fulbe work is travelling along the same lines. The Fulbe are a wonderful people, and the Christians among them are committed to remaining who they are as God has made them, but now in the kingdom of light.

(P.S. About the book –  the price is prohibitive at $158. Happily, our Taylor Seminary Library has a copy, which is where my wife got it for her class.)

Yawwa

Yawwa! We are in language training!jamila-jeff-fadima-aminu-at-majidu-farewell

My forays into language learning have been mixed at best. I remember taking High School French in Grade 8. I got a good grade, but did not know the language at all, so I switched into German to see if I would improve much. I took German to the end of Grade 11, and actually learned a little bit.

In my first year of university I started learning biblical Greek, and did well enough in that to keep it up as much as I have been able in the years since.

Now Sonya and I have been trying to learn Fulfulde, the language of the Fulbe people. We are learning it from a book I ‘stole’ from Gembu when we lived there in 2009 (this was when we figured we would be the last missionaries there) (I guess if anyone wants to be reimbursed they can talk to me about that . . .:-{0 ). Learning a language from a book is not the best way to do it, but it is the best we can do right now.

I am hoping that getting this bookish background will help us when we finally get on the field and are immersed in the culture there. Sonya is at a bit of a disadvantage here, since I have already lived in the villages and have been able to hear the cadences, learn the greetings, and have even picked up some of the vocabulary.

I already knew, for instance, that “Yawwa” is an expression of approval and joy, and have used it lots in daily conversation with my friends.

Now we are waiting for the day when it will be all caps: that we’ll say YAWWA! on our arrival in Cameroon. Thanks for supporting and praying along with us on this journey.

Black Day Update

After a week has passed, the dust has settled a bit on the Plateau, where our friends had had to flee from their village after their homes had been burnt by a large gang of young men.

They made their way safely to the city of Gembu, where they have been housed at the Why Worried Hotel. This is where I stayed in 2010; it is owned by a Mambilla Christian brother who has offered it to these refugees free of charge.

Meanwhile, the local government has given aid in the form of food and clothing, and food and other supplies has also been coming in from other Fulbe Christian communities. Our own church, Wiesenthal Baptist, has raised just over $1600, which will also be used for food and medical supplies.

My friend Aminu reports that the people do not appear to be overly traumatized, but in as good as shape as can be hoped. Their immediate needs have been taken care of, so it is their long term disposition that is the question now.

One concern they have regards the justice system there. They fear that the young men responsible may somehow go unpunished, which would encourage more of the same to take place, thus making the Plateau even more unstable.

So, while we are thankful that our friends are safe, and thus far well cared for, we pray that justice would be done there. Thanks for your payers.

Black Day on the Plateau

img_5274I am very glad to report that our Red Letter Day was a great success. With the help of Dan Gibbs of GECHAAN, and the miracle of the internet, our friend Pastor Aminu was able to “show up” at our Friends of the Fulbe Society meeting and give us a very full and good report of what was happening there among our brothers and sisters in Nigeria.

I hope to pass along some of that report in the coming days, but there is an urgent need I need to talk about right away.

Pastor Aminu told us right away, at the beginning of our meeting, that right at that moment on the Plateau (it was 9 pm in Nigeria when we began the meeting), friends of ours from a small village had been attacked by a gang of young men; their houses had been burned, along with many of their belongings, and about 10-15 families had fled from their homes into the bush, and were making their way to Gembu to seek refuge there.16230003_1159555660764828_1139448356_o

These Christians had been attacked not for any ostensible religious reason, but because they had been working on making a better lives for themselves through the planting of eucalyptus trees. The youths wanted the benefits of that for themselves, and so conspired to take it away from them.

I confess to being a bit confused about it all. Over here in Canada and the US we do not often hear about people attacking a whole village, so how something like would come about is a bit of a mystery to us.16244741_1159557590764635_159148927_o

What is clear is that there are now about one hundred of our Christian brothers and sisters who have made their way to Gembu with little more than the clothes on their backs. There are enough Fulbe Christians within the town of Gembu to house all of them, so the most urgent issue will be feeding these folks. Food costs have risen steadily the past while, and the economy has not been great overall.

Wiesenthal Baptist Church has responded already by sending $500 as an emergency fund with which to purchase food for them, but my guess is that more will be needed. For the long term we will have to wait to hear the reports we receive. This is the second time this little village has been attacked in this way (the first time was in 2002), and it is unlikely now that these folks will go back there; they will no doubt find other places to resettle and begin their lives over again.

Thanks so much for your prayers for our brethren there. If you would like to help with some of the material costs you may contact me and I will let you know the best way to do that.

Pastor Aminu to “Visit”

When the Northern Alberta Missions Committee (NAMC) was transformed into the Alberta Baptist Association’s Global Operations Team (ABA GO Team) in 2015, it was decided that we needed to do something else to continue supporting our work among the Fulbe. The NAMC had supported many good mission ministries over the decades, but whereas most of the other ones would continue to be supported through other ministries after the NAMC dissolved, the Fulbe has no other champions among the NAB conference.

So the Friends of the Fulbe Society was born. The Society is actually a sub-committee of Wiesenthal Baptist Church, but it has representation from a whole host of churches, with members from all four Canadian western provinces, the USA, Germany, Cameroon, and Nigeria.

Our executive committee meets about six times a year in the ABA Board Room in Edmonton, Alberta, though we Skype in some members from other places. This is the group that meets to receive reports and updates from the field, hear how our Fulbe brothers and sisters are doing, deliberate on new ministry priorities, and decide on funding directives. (Wow – that sounds like an advertising blurb right there!)

Anyway . . . this coming Thursday is going to be a bit of a Red Letter Day for us, as – Lord willing – we will also have Pastor Aminu joining through the miracle of the Internet, and the generous hospitality of Dan and Tina Gibbs – the Directors of GECHAAN, in Gembu, Nigeria. pastor-aminu-mosoba

Internet access is a luxury in Nigeria, not always reliable or even available, so we are very fortunate to have the opportunity afforded us by the Gibbs. There are a few on our committee who have never met Pastor Aminu (or any other Fulbe person, for that matter), so this is an exciting occasion for us. We hope to hear first-hand how things are going with our Christian brothers and sisters, to discover some of the challenges of the ministry there, and to enter into some of the grief and joy of their lives.

Please pray with us that our connection will be good and strong, and that we will be able to receive a good, full report from our brother, Pastor Aminu. Thanks so much!

Cynical Christmas (?)

Things have been pretty busy here lately, so I have not posted for a while. Here, however, is an article I wrote for our local weekly newspaper, The Pipestone Flyer. Hope you enjoy it.

It is easy to be cynical about Christmas, and I totally get it. When we look at the origins of all the Christmas traditions that we hold so near and dear, one can get rather suspicious of it all. Today of course it is an easy matter to ‘google’ “Christmas Traditions,” with perhaps the addition of the word “origins,” and whole masses of information will come oozing out of the computer screen.

When we do explore the origins we begin to learn about the Saturnalia, the winter solstice, Druids, Scandinavian paganism, fertility rites, and all manner of mythological paraphernalia that seem to have precious little to do with the birth of the Lord Jesus in the town of Bethlehem. The next step is to go on to the absorbing study of how these things became associated with Christmas, and how the ritual of, say, the Christmas tree came to be recognized as a Christian symbol. All very fascinating and interesting, but – as I said – it can easily lead to cynicism about the central event itself.

Cynicism is not a good attitude with which to look at the world, however, because it tends to blind us to some needed realities. Christmas actually serves as a great narrative arc for millions of such realities. Let me take my own story as ‘Exhibit A.’

Prior to becoming a Christian at age twenty-one, I was engaged in a life of pride, greed, lust, hatred, anger, lies, and God only knows what else. I had done some pretty bad stuff, and inwardly was filled with even worse. Then I heard the good news that I did not have to live with all that stuff anymore – that God could free me from my sinfulness through Jesus. I not only heard it, but I believed it was true and chose to become a Christian. When that happened I became a “new creation;” those sins were forgiven, and I had the spirit of Christ put in me. I did not try to clean myself up somehow – that would be impossible – but the Spirit of Jesus cleaned me up from the inside out.

All of the things I did prior to then are still a part of my story. If you talk to my mother or any of my siblings I am sure they can tell you lots of bad stories about me. No matter. Today I am a Christian man and I am doing my best to live the way Jesus wants me to live – God helping me.

Christmas is a picture of that for all of us. All those pagan symbols are part of our lives before Jesus came along. But they have now all been re-created and given new meaning and significance in Christ; they have been ‘Christianized,’ and are now used when we celebrate the birth of Jesus. This is no different from any individual who becomes a Christian. All that old stuff is still in our lives – you can fact-check our origins if you wish. But when Jesus comes into a person’s life it all fades into the background; we are made new. No one denies that we lived that old life, and that we did all those bad things. But they are just part of the story; they are what has been forgiven and forgotten by God.

This is the reality that Jesus came to give us; that despite our past we can be made new by the babe who was born in the town of David.

Language Issues

In Cameroon right now a strike is going on which has already resulted in the shooting deaths of at least two persons in the city of Bamenda. This is where several of our NAB missionaries live, including Elsie Lewandowski, Walter and Florence Grob, Craig and Maureen Moody, and Cal and Susie Hohn when they are in the country. So this is a matter for urgent prayer for the country, and for the welfare of those who are there to share the Good News about Jesus.bamenda

The strike centers around the language issue (something Canadians will be familiar with). Like Canada, Cameroon has both French and English as official languages, and – also like Canada – it has had its share of animosity surrounding the language debate. Right now the Anglophones are striking against what they feel are the unfair practises of the federal government with the respect to their language rights.

It is not clear to me where the CBC stands in all of this, but from social media I have seen that some Cameroon Christians have become politicized over the whole thing, such that their Christian witness may be compromised. It is not easy being citizens of two dominions at the same time (i.e. Cameroon and the Kingdom of Heaven), but it is our calling to be bridges between the two.

Please pray that our brothers and sisters on both sides of the Pond will better learn how to walk as Christians in the land of the living.

Missions? Still?

In the messages I delivered this past month for the ABA GO Team, the theme was “Missions? Still?”

We chose this theme because there seems to be a widespread feeling in North American churches that the work of international missions is done; that is time is past, and that we should now simply concentrate on winning those around us.peter-preaching

In one meeting of local pastors we talked a little bit about this idea, and those around my table expressed the thought that since people from all over the world are coming here, then we can safely satisfy the demands of the gospel by ministering only to them. That way the whole church can be involved, and you do not have to spend lots of money going somewhere else.

There is a lot of force behind this argument, especially when one sees the great job some of our churches are doing in reaching international students, refugees, and others for Jesus. However, the argument ceases to be compelling when we look again at scripture.

In Acts 1.8 Jesus tells the disciples to begin at Jerusalem, and work their way outward from Judea and Samaria, to the ends of the earth, being witnesses in the power of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 2 we find that the Holy Spirit has indeed come, and that – lo and behold – “Jews from every nation under heaven” were there listening to Peter preach the good news. Verses 9-11 show a kaleidoscope of peoples who hear Peter’s proclamation that day – and 3000 are saved!

Praise God! Internationals had come to Jerusalem and heard the good news proclaimed there. Did that mean that the Church was finished its task? That it need not go out into the ends of the earth – since the ends of the earth had come to it? By no means. The Church still needed to go out – whether through the force of persecution (Acts 8.1) or the prompting of the Holy Spirit (Acts 13.1-3). And we still need to go today.

Looking Back at Oct

It has been a busy month of October for the both of us. One of the things I have been doing is delivering the keynote address at several missions’ events that our ABA GO Team (Alberta Baptist Association’s Global Operations Team) has participated in at three different locations around the province.

This past week Steele Heights hosted the GEM (Greater Edmonton Missions) event, and it was a wonderful time of connecting and promoting international mission.

Last week we were at a similar event at Brentview Baptist Church in Calgary. While there I gave the keynote address in the form of a sermon (three times!) to the host church. You can find it by clicking here and scrolling down till you get to the October 23rd sermon given by Jeff Kilmartin (me).

The first week we were at Park Meadows Baptist Church in Lethbridge, for our inaugural missions’ event in the province. It was a smaller affair, but full of quality workshops and people! I truly thank God for them all – especially our gracious hosts in both Lethbridge and Calgary.

Going to Winnipeg….again.

Any of you remember the Fountain Tire commercial where the spokesperson is wearing his best Hawaiian shirt (you know – the tall balding guy) and using his Airmiles earned at fountain tire to go on a vacation to Hawaii? He finds himself beside a couple of suits working on their laptops and realizes he got on the wrong plane. And he says, in memorable fashion- “Going to Winnipeg….”

I looked it up and realized the commercial is 11 years old!!! Feel free to check it out for a giggle- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mdvr-4nYs5s
Seeing as I fly a fair amount, and our daughter works for Air Canada, I am well aware that he would never get through all those check points and get on the wrong plane without the proper boarding pass and ID, but it still makes me laugh.  So when I am planning another trip to Manitoba, I usually post on facebook- ‘Going to Winnipeg’.  Some people get the joke.
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Unlike our hero from the commercial. I actually WANT to go to Winnipeg.  We have many friends from a great 13 years living in Manitoba, and, with the Griz Den there, I usually have at least one
son to visit. I just got back from there a couple of days ago, and also unlike the commercial, this time I drove. Fixed up and drove Daniel’s car out to him daniel-with-red-truck(l like to call it the Rumble-mobile because of the souped-up muffler) there, and drove back with our red truck that he has been using for the past couple of years.

This trip was planned to coincide with the Manitoba Baptist Association’s annual meetings, where they graciously allowed me to present our mission to pastors and representatives of all their churches. I want to thank the MBA for allowing me to present, and I particularly enjoyed seeing so many pastors and wives that I know, and making the acquaintance of a few new ones.
But it was a highly unusual weekend, marred by the extremely shocking death of the area minister Gordon Stork, who was slated for major involvement in the weekend’s events.
But the executive members did their best to steady the ship and turn our eyes to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, and to honor Gord by seeing through many of the things he had helped plan for the weekend.  While much formal business was tabled, the informal business of ‘associating’, especially in this time of grief, was very much attended to over the two days.

The item that blessed me the most was on Saturday afternoon. After our various reports, five of us were asked to move to a different part of the sanctuary, and people were invited to gather round and pray for us. This was such a moving time for me. To have my Manitoba brothers and sisters, some of whom I personally know and many of whom I don’t, come around me and hold me up in prayer was a moving reminder of why we are called the family of God, and I will treasure that time. Don’t ever underestimate the power of praying – out loud and on the spot – for people you have said you will pray for.

This theme of our NAB family association was also evident through the rest of my trip. I had arranged to visit a couple of rural Manitoba churches on the Sundays bookending the trip, and stopped in a number of Saskatchewan churches on my trip there and back to introduce myself to pastors and some parishioners.   I was able to put places and more names (which I fear I will forget) to many people I have seen around Manitoba through Camp Nutimik, women’s retreats, and of course association meetings and Ministry Wives retreat, as well as meet and talk with so many other interesting people.  I regularly felt like cueing the ‘Small World” music as I realized connections between people that I had not been aware of before.
I also recognize that many of our NAB churches have MANY people (like myself) in them who have not ‘grown up NAB’ (especially in newer churches)  and that we may have to work a bit harder sometimes to encourage meaningful association.  Supporting conference missionaries is one way we can do that- pulling together with a common goal to support people on the mission field- and we are honored to be listed among them, especially with fellow Canadian NAB missionaries like Cal Hohn, Yuri Nakano, and Walter Grob.

Hebrews 10:23-25: Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

(http://www.nabconference.org/news/grieving-loss-dr-gordon-stork)