This past year has been a whirlwind. We arrived in Cameroon with 16 suitcases and four children and that was pretty much all we had. We were a bit lost, uncertain about where we would serve, and at times wondering what we were doing moving our family across the world. Now, a year later, we have a house, are well established in our people group, we have a language committee, language partner, public school for the children, home school teacher for the children, those whom we call friends, a weekly routine (thank God), a local church and even a dog and two cats. So much has happened within this past year and we cannot help but to pause and thank the Lord for his faithfulness to us. Specifically I am…
Thankful for my Family“Dave, hand me le couteau o teole ko” Is there anyone in the world who understood that sentence? Probably not unless you speak French, English and Bakoum. And who is the only person in the world who speaks these languages? My husband. Who then is the only person in the world who understands me? That’s right, my husband. There are few greater joys then to work side-by-side with Dave. We pull our hair out together over linguistic issues, we pray for our people group together, and we laugh and laugh at the awkward things we end up saying and doing. Further, I married a city boy who grew up in the suburbs and little did I know that he would turn into a serpent killing, fix-anything-with-a-couple-of-sticks, lizard-eating jungle warrior.
And then there are the children who spend hours playing in the dirt, riding around in the wheel barrow, and cuddling the cats. They go out with me to people’s houses and listen to me struggle through Bakoum so I will not be alone.
I imagine that nothing draws a family closer then traversing a foreign culture together.
Thankful for National Partners
What does a white middle class American have in common with a poor Cameroonian who grew up in a polygamous household, cooks over a fire and catches his food in the bush? Answer: Everything when the two are in Christ.
It is true that the Christians are few and far between here, but the handful of Christians that we have found is our new family. Jesus said that there is no one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands; for his sake and for the gospel who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time and in the age to come (Matthew 10:29-30). This has absolutely proved true. With our friend Jean Yves we strategize together as to how to best engage the community in the cause of literacy and Bible translation. He also exhorts our children to follow Christ and listen to their parents. When our kids throw up in church, our neighbor takes them out and comforts them. Our boys have recently started tucking in their shirts because that is what our pastor and their hero Boris does. We have already received a hundredfold in this life, in a very short time.
Thankful that the Promises of God have Proved True
Strategies of dealing with stress and culture shock may have their place but they do not hold a candle the joy there is in believing and seeing the promises of God proved true in one’s life. Specifically,
God has been there
There is nothing more isolating then not sharing a common language with people. You are totally alone, having thoughts and things you want to say, but you remain silent and frustrated for at least a year. It is equally as isolating to be in the midst of a culture that is totally foreign and has a value system that you do not share. One day I saw a picture of president Obama (who I did not vote for) and could not help but to smile because he was the only thing familiar that I had seen in some time. But even in the midst of all that, the Lord has been there. His hand has lead us, his right hand has held us. This passage has constantly reminded me of this truth:
Psalm 139:7-10 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.
The Lord has Given Wisdom
We have read many missions methodology books which talk about what standard of living we should/should not live at. We have read about how we should always give to people in need vs being careful not to create dependency. We have read about if we should approach church planting like Jesus or like the apostle Paul. These are all helpful issues to think through and yet I think trying to iron out a perfect missions methodology can cloud out a child-like dependence on God where we ask him for wisdom in a given situation. A passage that has brought a world of comfort this year has been:
Proverbs 2:6-11 For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you,
This promise has proved true. Yes we have made mistakes but all-in-all we have seen the Lord faithful to give us wisdom.
God’s Grace has proved Sufficient
Many a missionary has gone out not knowing what the future would hold, but believing that the Lord would give grace for whatever they faced in their ministries. 2 Corinthians 9:8 says “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”
We are so very aware of our weaknesses, struggles over sin, and finiteness but then the Lord has assured us that he would give us grace to do what he has called us to do. We know it has only been a year but the Lord’s Word has proved true, he has given us much grace to stay up late studying, be faithful in parenting, and endure in prayer. We continue our ministry believing that there is more grace ready to be given in the days to come. So come what may.
So to conclude, the words up Paul sum up perfectly our reflections on the past year: “I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord” - 1 Timothy 1:12