One of the things that still amazes me about our time on the Mambilla Plateau (and all my time there since) is the miracle of grace that God performed on my own psyche (if you can call it that). Let me explain.
I grew up on Vancouver Island, and we still have lots of family there. In fact, most of my family is on the other side of the Rocky Mountains. This is not a real problem except for one thing – I am afraid of heights, and travelling over the mountains gives me the heebie jeebies (not sure how you spell that, but you get the idea).
However you understand those passages about us not been given a spirit of fear, and so on, somehow does not occur to me when we are driving along a steep mountainside with nothing but vertigo-inducing slopes all round. The last time we crossed over I did not drive; while the rest of the family enjoyed the natural grandeur of God’s great creation, I stayed in the backseat with a sheet over my head and watched a video.
When we planned our trip to Nigeria it did not occur to me that this might be an issue. We were headed for a plateau, and, as everyone knows, plateaus – while higher than the ground around them – are relatively level plains. Right? Well, no, not really.
Turns out the Mambilla Plateau has more mountainous terrain than I have ever encountered in my life. Plus more hair-pin turns around the sides of mountains; narrow, rocky paths heading straight down into river valleys; tight turns heading straight up the sides; and on and on it goes. When we first approached the Plateau it was during the night and although I knew we were heading uphill, I had no idea of how winding and treacherous the road really was.
It was not until we saw everything in the light of day and started touring around that I realized what I had gotten myself into. Mountains and hills everywhere, with nary a straight, level spot in sight. This could have put a sudden stop to any thought of ministry for me except for one thing – the mighty grace of God.
For you see, not once in all my time there did I have any fear of heights. I remember riding on the back of a motorcycle, gazing over the edge of a high, steep cliff marvelling at God’s goodness to me, that my fear had been taken away. I am still somewhat in awe of it today, after having ridden a bike on my own through countless peaks and valleys.
A friend of mine who is not a believer suggested that when I faced my fear (by going to the Plateau where I was forced to go up and down everywhere), it would just naturally cease to exist. That sounds good in theory except that back in Canada when I thought I was over this fear for good, I still am afraid of heights. That part I can’t explain. I can only explain not being afraid in Africa, and that because of the miracle of grace God performed in me.