It’s Saturday, a week and 2 days since my arrival in Yaoundé. I went through my (short) orientation, and worked Wed-Fri afternoons at the office. I start work full-time Monday. I won’t speak much about the other missionaries in this post, so I’ll have to cover that later.
Work is challenging, as I expected, but incredibly interesting. There are so many standards, with French and English equivalents, that we aim to follow. The best-practices that we define are the starting point for many translation teams, so consistency is key. In addition to all the specialized linguistic programs we are all in the process of migrating from Microsoft Office to OpenOffice, so new and old users need training, and we need to determine workflows and solutions that will work in OpenOffice. Linguistic work pushes the limits of these programs. (How do you build a multi-hundred page dictionary with images and captions, so that you can easily replace the text with the neighboring language (that’s being typed for the first time this year) and not lose all your formatting? Is it possible to do the same thing in Microsoft and OpenOffice?) I’m already learning a lot, and I’ve been able to offer other help, though it’ll be quite a while before I’m anywhere near my partner’s level. I’m currently working on translating some training materials into French so that we can use them in the extreme north in August.
Everything takes time here…but thankfully the hours saunter by slowly.
- Most of the food comes from the market, so fruits and veggies have to be bleached.
- If you want warm (filtered) water for cooking, that requires the stove, a match, and a saucepan.
- I wrote in my last post that I had hot water, but then the heater was broken for a week.
After some pretty in-depth repairs, I had my first good hot shower this morning.
- Traveling across town requires a taxi (up to 5 passengers in a tiny car) and taxi change is a challenge to reliably find.
- No Dryers, so Laundry’s a multi-day process in this humid climate.
- It’s a never-ending battle against the ants and mosquitos.
Most of you know my family’s habit of eating out most of our meals. In Switzerland, all of my meals were prepared by my host mother before I got home from school. So, cooking is more foreign to me than Africa. I’ve never had to plan out meals in advance, and meats, dairy, and processed foods are quite expensive, so this has been a challenge. Thankfully, fresh foods are cheap, and yes, that could include live chickens (if I were so inclined).
As I said, things take longer here. Grocery shopping could be an all-day affair, and it gets dark at 6. Single life is even harder, as you have no one to share the burdens with. Working singles and often families have house help. It’s well looked-upon, inexpensive, and gives jobs. I currently have a Cameroonian girl named Rebecca who comes 3 times a week, to cook a meal, do some market shopping, and clean or do laundry. Once I’m working full-time (this Monday), this will take some of the stress off as I don’t always have to be on guard whether I have enough food or enough time for basic needs. More about Rebecca later.
Please pray for my energy level. I am not sick, actually my digestive system is handling the transition quite well. I’m just weaker than I should be.
Backstory: in 2004, I went on a week’s backpacking trip with my college Bible study. I tended to eat a lot before, but otherwise, was the picture of health. Over that week’s time, I ate up my portion, and as much of the leftovers as possible, and just kept getting weaker and weaker. On Thursday of this trip, we stopped hiking to fast and pray overnight. By the morning, I was deathly pale and nearly too weak to get up. Any nutrients left in my body after these tough days had been washed out through drinking lots of water. They fed me, and I trudged through the last part of the trip….but I’ve never felt the same since. Coming back from the trip, I passed out in the college dining hall one morning out of sheer exhaustion. I got some blood tests, wondering if I was hypoglycemic, but they said I was just too thin and didn’t have enough reserves (so my goal over the last 5 years, has to gain back the 5 pounds of reserve I lost in Missouri.) No matter what I eat, or how much of it, I can’t gain any more weight. Back at college, I ate what I craved, a lot of chicken and peanut-butter crackers. I burned the candle at both ends with my late nights, requiring more food and putting more stress on my body, but in general, I felt fine.
I found in Switzerland that even when eating a well-balanced diet (thanks Nicole), I needed more protein than most Europeans, and I found a supplement that gave me just the energy boost I needed. I suppose my body got used to lots of chicken and peanut butter in the States, and wants it now. I brought that supplement with me, but I know that even here, I shouldn’t HAVE to need it if I eat right. I know that God can and will heal me, so please pray with me for my health, so that I can be most effective and leave that supplement behind.
Outside these gates, there is the endless hustle and bustle of the 2nd largest city of Cameroon. Taxis by the dozens pass by crammed full of people. Often there are 4-5 lanes of traffic where there are only two marked on the road, while pedestrians and motorcycles weave their way through the mayhem. The market is a constant barrage of calls in French, English, or their languages, to buy this or that, to help port your bags, or to argue a price. Few things can be settled with a simple “oui” or “non”, it’s a social culture. Stores, while there are some, are quiet, generally vacant, and don’t offer the excitement of discussion that roars outside.
The Cameroonian people are often poor, but they have much to rejoice about. Cameroon is one of the most stable African countries with a lot of natural resources. Cameroon produces a wide variety of food, if you can pay for it, nd fresh fruit and veggies are abundant and cheap. They have desert, rainforest, and savannah. They don’t have to fear the soldiers that walk the streets, (unless they’re doing something wrong).
A couple of days after arrival, I attended a Cameroonian church with Mandi and Rachel. The bilingual (French/English) service was full of passion and truth, on a scale seldom seen stateside. The women played skits and gave testimonies to show how God works in their lives. Praise songs and hymns were sung and danced, and the pastor gave a moving sermon on what it is to be a son of God, and not just a worker. A worker may often do the things of God, but often get wrapped up in his own goals. As sons and daughters of God, or friends of God, we are moved by the spirit to action, and our hearts ache for what God wants. We are welcome into the family, and part of the family business, as it were. Passive faith is useless here. To get through the days, Cameroonians need an active God, a conqueror. If they only thought about God every Sunday, as some Christians back home do, they wouldn’t make it through the days. As one missionary said, it is not part of the culture to plan ahead. The believers here trust God to clothe them and fed them each day and trust that hard times will pass. Matthew 6:26. I was told to find a local pastor, because western pastors don’t always know how to pray for the spiritual warfare that takes place out in the open here.
Encouragement and a Miracle:
Here’s something I’m excited to share, but is hard to explain.
Last Tuesday, I was having a very rough day. Orientation was already over, I was dealing with a personal situation, and fear and exhaustion hit me as all my emotions went haywire. I was so high-strung that I couldn’t sleep Tuesday night, so I spent 12 sleepless hours praying for peace and comfort. In the morning, all the fears of long-term life here that I’d pushed back came back to haunt me. I prayed to hear the audible word of God…let me rephrase that, I begged to hear the audible word of God. Having spent nearly 20 hours by myself, I decided to start work earlier than I had to, and went in to the office for the afternoon. I hung out with a friend after work, watched a funny movie, and headed home to bed. I slept well, and Thursday morning came. At 8am, Rebecca arrived (see Adjustments). She started preparing a meal, and I worked on doing some final unpacking. I showed her photos of my family, talked about the protein (See Health) and in about a sentence, mentioned how emotionally down I’d been the last couple of days. I asked a little about her life, whether she’d been able to find a phone, and went back to my room for a bit.
A little while later, she was finishing up, and she told me she wanted to show me something. She had her Bible open to Numbers and she asked me if I spoke in tongues. Being Presbyterian, I was wary, but what followed was amazing. The spirit spoke through Rebecca for nearly an hour. She prayed for my heart and spirit, for boldness and courage, prayed for her country to benefit from my presence. She rebuked my timidity, my weakness, my fear, my weariness, trusting in my own understanding, and even my dependance on the protein. She spoke of David, Joshua, Samuel, Hannah, Moses, Aaron, Daniel, Nathan, Jeremiah, Matthew, and Paul. She referenced salt and light, conquerors, mustard seeds, flowers, responsibility, effectiveness, seeking, voices in the night, dreams, purity, prophecy, milk, and solid food, each in their Biblical context. She reminded me that if Christ is Lord of lords and King of kings, that makes us kings and lords of his kingdom, with the power to move mountains and cast out demons in his name. The power of prayer. We were both shaking, and the Spirit moved her lips in between intelligible phrases, overflowing from a heart of worship. This was an astonishing and humbling role-reversal from the outside. Employee-to-employer, female-to-male, national-to-missioanary. She was bold, speaking as a sister in Christ to a brother in Christ. I’ve never heard prayer like that in my life, much less directed at me. She was speaking far beyond her 5 years of Christian wisdom, verses just rolled from her lips, targeted directly at my heart. She didn’t know the whole situation, my past, or how I would react. The Spirit directed her to move, to speak, and she did. Though not at all what I expected, I heard the word of God, audibly, from her lips. My prayer was answered. (You can click below on “View Full Article” to see some of the passages I dug out later from this conversation.)
It’s bedtime for me.