A Typical Vision

Here is a story (in abbreviated form) that is quite typical of what is going on right now in the Muslim world.

For security reasons I cannot show a picture of him, but I have a friend named Linus who lives on the Mambilla Plateau. Linus was the son of a village elder in a large village on the Plateau, “living the good life” (his words). The village was mostly Muslim when he lived there, and his family was also Muslim.

There were a few Christians there, though, and they wanted to have a pastor come and minister among them. So the pastor came one day, and my friend Linus was sitting on a rough bench in the village square plotting together how to kill the new pastor because he was converting Muslims to Christianity.

As they were plotting together Linus was suddenly thrown to the ground and went unconscious. His friends had no idea what had happened to him, so they took him to the hospital. The doctors did not know what had happened to him either, so they wrapped him in white sheets and declared there was nothing they could for him.

While Linus was lying there he had a vision of an angel, which he thought was an evil angel, so he tried to cast it away. The angel told him, however, that he was the angel of the Lord and that he should listen to the gospel of Jesus.

So he believed the gospel right then and became instantly well. The angel said he would return to his people to be an evangelist, so he resolved to do just that, regardless of the cost. He has indeed been beaten and dragged on the ground, but this has not deterred him, and his testimony is a riveting story for these people.

I went with Linus to visit some new Christians one time, way out in the bush, and we came across a Muslim man who wished to know what we were doing out there in the middle of nowhere. As we talked Linus began to share his testimony with him, and at the end the man declared that before then he had been speaking in ignorance, but now he had come to know the truth, so he also wanted to become a Christian.

According to the word of God: “. . . young men shall see visions . . .”

The Packing Process!

Through the blessing of White Cross , we have begun the Packing Process! (I know this because I am sweating and tired already!!)img_5675

Mr. Bert Harsch, who seems to be the major domo of the White Cross here in Edmonton (under the direction of Dr. Keir Hammer), called us up last month to let us know a shipment was going out to Cameroon in mid-October and we could tag onto that if we chose. Naturally there is a cost for White Cross shipments, since ships do not transport big sea containers for free, but Bert has also generously donated the cost of our boxes.

I decided to start with a bottom row of books, since that is the easiest thing to start with, and I have a few of them to go. (The opposite of St. Paul; he had his books come after him, while I will send mine ahead.) Being a pastor working in small towns and rural settings, I knew I would not be close to good theological libraries – and of course I started out before everything could be found on-line over the internet – I have been collecting (?? not sure if that is the right term) books for about two decades.img_5676

Not all of them will go with us of course. While I like the feel of a book in my hands, and can use them much better than looking at a computer screen, they are too heavy to transport them all, and I expect that a lot of what I will need will be found in the library at the seminary in Mbu.

When we lived in Nigeria and I taught at the seminary in Ndu, Rev. Dave and Mary June Burgess had already been there for ten years. They were retiring back to the United States the summer of 2009 (our older boys travelled with them when they came home). Dave had made the seminary in Mbu the best one on the Mambilla Plateau, and probably the best one in Taraba State. Prior to that he had been working at the same library I’ll be at in Ndu, Cameroon for (I think) 29 years. They have named the library after him, so I am positive that library will also be in extremely good shape.

So the packing has begun. Because I am still working full-time as a pastor here at Wiesenthal, I do not really get overly excited about our mission. This process, however, makes the whole venture seem much more real and . . . well, yes – exciting!img_5678

Thanks again to Bert and White Cross. This is a wonderful blessing.

Praising God for Minnie Kuhn

When we lived in Nigeria in 2008 all of us got malaria at least once (except for our oldest, Robert, who somehow managed to stay out of the way of the mosquitoes).

I remember contracting it on a Tuesday night when I got a chill and a fever, and I knew already what it was. The next morning I walked up the hill to go to our devotional and described my symptoms to a friend across the fence. He said, “You’ve got malaria,” and I said, “Yup, I know it.”

Later that morning I went with our son Daniel to the clinic across the street (very handy for us) to get checked out by a Dr. Daniel. The doctor checked me over and sent me for blood work, after Daniel. Dan had tonsillitis, having already had malaria the week previous.

Meanwhile I was given a bucket of drugs (13 a day – Kai!) to take, and told to get lots of bed rest and “good feeding.” This last part sounds good but is not as easy as it sounds. When someone in Nigeria gets sick it is the duty of their friends to come and visit them. So I still had many visitors.

At one point the doctor told me his name, saying that he had been delivered and named by the missionary Minnie Kuhn, who will be known to many of our NAB people here in North America – and by literally thousands of people in Nigeria. I praise God that her work is now being carried on through men and women like this.

img_4355Pictured here is Dr. Wim and Marlene Munting – the wonderful missionary doctors who were serving in the hospital while we were living in Gembu. This was their farewell celebration in 2009.

“Things Just Come”

Sonya likes to say that “things just come” to her, and it is true. She is never at a lack for things to do, and is very good at seeing needs and trying to fill them. This week I am batching it at home in Alberta, while Sonya is filling a need in the province of Manitoba.

When we lived in Manitoba she was very involved with the camping program at our Lake Nutimik Baptist Camp, in the Whiteshell Provincial Park. She even served as the program director for a summer or two before we moved. Since she has been gone, she has kept in close touch with the new program director there, and has helped out most summers at the camp in one way or another.Mom's pix 057

This summer she has been helping out at Nutimik in various ways – this week she is out on a chain of lakes in the Park, canoeing with a group of high school girls. Sonya is a canoe instructor here in Alberta and loves to be on or in the water, whether it is a lake, river, or her favorite: white-water.

When we travel to Cameroon we know a few things that are going to happen, mostly with my position. I’ll be teaching, travelling, and continuing the evangelism ministry I have been doing the past seven years.444

Sonya’s position will be a little more ambiguous. While she will be travelling a lot more with me, and working more closely with the women in the Fulbe villages, she’ll also be working on “the things that just come to her.” And I am confident that, God helping her, she’ll do a great job.

Peculiar Humour

I find that people in Nigeria and Cameroon have a great sense of humour for the most part, and happily it sometimes matches my own penchant for sometimes strange comedy.

I remember visiting our partner village with Sonya one day when we lived there in 2009. Just as we were getting ready to leave a woman there walked by and said that she loves me and would like to my second wife!IMG_3339

This was a broad joke for the people there, and they were wondering how I would react to such a request. Well, I laughed along with everyone else, and then told her I was sorry, but I did not think I could afford a second wife. This brought more laughs – and then I went a bit too far and asked her if she thought she could make enough money to support all of us.

I was saved by Sonya poking her head around the truck, even though she had not really caught any of this. This is what happens in a culture where having more than one wife is quite alright.

The Bigger Picture

Our church subscribes to the Church Around the World newsletter, which gives relevant news stories about what is going on in the world with respect to the Church (sort of like the title says . . . ).

In the August, 2016 edition there is an article there about attacks on Christian villages in northern Nigeria by “Fulani tribal fighters.” In their attacks they have “burned Christian residents alive, torched animals and houses, and destroyed farms.”

Apparently Fulani terrorism is on the rise in northern Nigeria but it has been overshadowed by the Boko Haram terrorists – also operating in the north – who are now affiliated with ISIS. The story goes on to note that the president of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, is a Fulani man and the hope was that he would help to quell the violence. Instead it has only increased.

When we speak about the Fulbe we are speaking about the Fulani – the two words mean the same thing. Fulani is the anglicized version of Fulbe (which comes from the Fulfulde language).

I want to stress the fact that where Sonya and I will be ministering, we will not be in any direct danger – though we will still want you to pray along the lines of 2 Thessalonians 3.1-2: “And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith.”

On the other hand, our Fulbe friends are in various degrees connected to some of the Muslim Fulbe in the north, and it is our fervent hope that their witness will serve to draw their fellow Fulbe to Jesus Christ.

Inflation Alert

I was talking to a friend of mine in Nigeria yesterday and he was explaining to me the price situation there. Most people will know that worldwide there has been a rise in oil prices from Nigeria and OPEC recently.

What might not be so well-known is the effect this has had on fuel prices in Nigeria, with the subsequent adjustment in food prices. IMG_2509

The Nigerian President Muhammad Buhari made the decision to take the federal subsidy off the fuel prices earlier this year, and that resulted in a drastic rise in local food prices which has seriously affected the poor people that I know about.

My friend tells me that a bag of maize in Gembu that used to cost N8,500 now cost N16,000 (CAD c.$34 and $65). You can imagine the hardship this has caused among the poorer people in the region. My friend says that there are many now who are going to the hospital, suffering from malnutrition.

IMG_2518I fear mostly for our brothers and sisters in the Needy Church in Gembu. My son Daniel and I used to go there to help distribute rice and other foodstuffs that had been donated by generous donors from Canada. We also loved to be in church and worship with them when we got the chance (which was not too often).

Please pray for our poorer brothers and sisters there, not only among the Fulbe, but all of the tribes on the Plateau Mambilla who are suffering right now.

A Watchnight Education

Though some things are the same, it truly is a different world in Nigeria.

Our house, like most homes there, had a high mudbrick fence and a gate around it, and at night it was protected by a “watchnight” (as all the night watchmen call themselves). The watchnight has his own little hut by the gate, with a bed and a fire to roast corn on, and keep himself warm.

Our watchnight’s name was John. He was a serious fellow who was carrying two spears the first time I met him. He’d had occasion to use them too; one of them still had blood on it from the last fellow he had hit, trying to climb over the wall. Another day he had a bow and arrows, and he warned me about the arrows, as they were tipped with poison.

The church’s watchnight was named Agabus. One day he was telling me how to get to his village, which is a fair distance away (on the way to Warwar). So then I told him how to get to our home in Manitoba by plane, through Abuja and London. Then I had a thought, and I brought out the little plastic globe I had in my office and showed him that. Well, that was a real revelation to him, as he had never seen one before. He was most fascinated by the Pacific Ocean, which he felt was a very great river, and he wondered if canoes could traverse it.IMG_3035

At one point he asked if there were other countries above us, pointing up to the sky. So then I explained (as best I could) how the earth is round, and that from where we are the people in some other countries would actually be under us. We both found the whole exercise very enjoyable and a lot of fun. We talked about the different vegetation in Canada from Nigeria, and how the one is further from the equator and so is much colder. I don’t know how well I explained it all, or really how much Agabus understood, but it was eye-opening for us both.

Education in Nigeria is improving all the time, but it has a long, long (long!) way to go. It is one of the three priorities that we have in our partnership (along with evangelism and community development). It will help Agabus and John only indirectly, but we believe in time it will serve to lift the whole community up.

A Day in the Life

One of the neat people I met on the Plateau was a Mambilla man named Pastor Timothy Shadgem. He was the director in charge of the Gospel Evangelism Team, and we got to be good friends. Timothy has a great heart for spreading the good news about Jesus and he led me on more adventures than just about anyone else. One Saturday in October was fairly typical.013 Timothy and Martina Shadjem

I was not riding my own machine (motorcycle) yet, so I waited for Timothy to show up at my house. He was due at 6 am, but finally arrived at 7:30. Something to do with his wife needing help. After buying some “foil” (i.e. fuel) we headed off down the mountain and wound up in a little village where he had arranged for me to preach.

There were not too many people there, as an old man had passed away and most of the people were off attending his funeral. Seven men sat on a board bench, while Timothy and I were given little stools to sit on. A background of young boys sitting against the wall of the building completed that side of the picture. Out in the road dogs, goats, girls, and women would occasionally walk by. Timothy said to preach the gospel, so off I started and the men listened attentively as I shared about the God who made everything and who loves us, so much so that even when we did bad things he sent his son to pay for our punishment.

When I was done I asked for questions or comments, and they thanked me very much for coming. They said they knew the message must be true because otherwise a white man from Canada would not come to them to tell it.

After the preaching I said I had two more gifts. One was the gift of prayer, so two of the men asked for prayer for healing in their backs. Then we gave them a soccer ball, to the joy of all. Presenting soccer ball in Wah 3After that they sent a young boy to ask if an older man wished for prayer, and he came back and said yes, so Timothy and I went to pray for him. This was a recent convert to Christ, who wished for baptism one day. After that we said goodbye to that village and went on our way.

We drove back towards Gembu, up the hill, and then turned off to the village of Wah. The Jauro of all the surrounding villages of Gembu lived there, I was told. This is a very important man, one of the traditional rulers. We drove to his compound, where a group of men were sitting, important in their own right. We greeted them all and then went into the house, where we waited in a room lighted only by the sun coming in the doorway. The Jauro was next door, getting up from bed. He came into the room, a very tall man, well-built, but quite old – maybe in his 80s – and stooped over now. He sat on his chair, while we were on a mat at his feet. We exchanged greetings and I told him next time I would have a small gift to bring him (I need to get him some footballs), and that I would pray for him if he wished. So I anointed him with oil and prayed. He then told me that he was having trouble with his eyes, so when I came back to bring him some medicine for them.

Then we headed back to Gembu once again, and as we passed my house Timothy asked if I needed to get anything, and was it still time enough to get to Warwar? Neither of us had a watch, but it still seemed early, so I said, nope, let’s keep going.

Warwar is across the Donga river, over some pretty big, steep mountain trails. On the way there it was not too slippery, since it had been dry, but we got stuck in a little stream that flows across the trail. Timothy couldn’t get the bike out of it, so I asked if I should get off and walk. No, he said, he can get us out. So he hits the gas, and lets out the clutch too fast, and the bike jumps up and I fall backwards off the end, and land with my butt end in the stream. It happened pretty fast, but I was not hurt too badly. After I got up I was laughing, but poor Timothy was pretty shook up that he had dumped the Field Director in the stream.

Down in Warwar we attended the ordination council for one of the field pastors. We got there an hour and a half late, which was great for us because it meant we missed most of the preliminaries. The ordination council is a whole story in itself; suffice to say the poor candidate scraped through with a 59% pass-rate after being raked over the coals by his colleagues.

After that the pastors and wives got together for a meal, and it rained while we were in there, so we drove back in the rain. That was interesting, and bit tricky, but we had no mishaps, though this time I was asked to please get off and walk a few times – which I appreciated.

Lovely Feet

Speaking of bugs (chiggers last time) reminds me of the last place I visited while our family was still living in Nigeria in 2009. I spent most weekends that year travelling in our Helix Toyota, or on my own motorcycle, or the back of someone else’s bike, going to different village squares, churches, Jauro’s palaces (a Jauro is one of the traditional rulers), or simple courtyards in individual compounds. There I would bring some word of greeting from my home church (at that time, Elim Baptist in Beausejour, MB), and preach and teach a little bit.IMG_2306

On the last such enterprise I travelled with my friend Pastor Aminu and some others in my Helix until we reached a creek-bed which it could not traverse. Then we switched to chabbas – taxi motorcycles – to take us the rest of the way to the village.

Meanwhile, as we rode in the truck, the Evangelism Team from the Baptist Seminary was trekking to the same destination – and I can only imagine what a long, hot, rough walk that would be. Men and women from the Seminary made the journey, taking about eight hours to climb up and down the hills.

While the truck reached there at mid-afternoon, the Evangelism Team did not arrive until close to sunset, so we had several hours to wait. We spent part of it in a church just outside the village, praying and worshipping. The rest we invested in a short walk to the top of an overlooking hill where we could survey the beautiful countryside.IMG_0193

Finally we were all together, and after more prayer we headed into the village. It was dark by then, but a generator had been brought and Christmas lights lit up the village square. My business that evening was to share my testimony, so in my white Fulani robe I stood in the middle of the square with my friend Aminu beside me, translating to the crowd.

Now, you should know: Fulbe people are normally very stoical – they do not like to show too much emotion to outsiders, and never any sign of pain or discomfort. Wouldn’t you know – towards the end of my testimony a bug began to seriously bite me just at my right shoulder, and I was trying to get at him without being too noticeable. My friend Aminu noticed, and he asked me under his breath what I was doing. When I told him he replied back that “A pullo [a single Fulbe] does not concern himself with such things.” Doh! Sufficiently chided, I left off with the bug and finished my testimony.

Aminu and I left early the next morning, as we had to be home for another engagement, but the Evangelism Team stayed behind. They went door to door, asking these Muslim people if they could share some more about Jesus. Later that afternoon they gathered those they had talked to and fielded any questions they had concerning Jesus and the Good News.

I later asked Pastor Aminu how the event had ended up. He responded by telling me that thirteen former Muslims from that village were preparing for water baptism! Suffering a little bug is one thing. Personally, I am in awe of those saints with the lovely feet trekking over the mountains.

NB. The second picture is of my son Robert and me with the Evangelism Team in Mbu.