Several years ago, a missionary from Burkina Faso came to Eastern Cameroon to tell people about Jesus. He lived in a city called Bertoua and while he was there he met a young lady named Audrey. He shared the Gospel with her and she believed. However, when Audrey shared the Gospel with her mother, Carine, she rejected it. She didn’t believe that Jesus was enough, but instead believed that it was her good works that would make her acceptable before God. Through many prayers and conversations, Audrey won her mother to the Lord. Audrey and Carine then began to worship with the pastor, Roger, and their small church. They found riches in Christ and yet they were facing financial hardship on earth.
As is the custom in our region in Cameroon, when a woman is widowed, the family of her deceased husband comes to reclaim all of “his” possessions. The custom is that all that the husband owned was his, and the wife shared no ownership of his possessions. Therefore, the family has the right to take everything from the wife. Carine had lost her husband and so the family came and took all that she owned, even her clothes, leaving her, her daughter Audrey, and her granddaughter almost destitute.
So the man that led them to Christ hired Carine to do odd jobs around his house. She was incredibly grateful, but then this pastor felt called to go serve in another part of Africa.
Around this time, we showed up in Cameroon and ended up renting a home from Roger. We felt instant community and like-mindedness with him both in our common faith in Christ and in our desire to see Eastern Cameroon come to worship Jesus. He recommended to us that we hire Carine to come help us in our home with meal preparation and cleaning, and so we did. We built her a house in our village and she worked in our home for about two years. It was a good two years for her and a good two years for us.
Carine, you could tell, felt a little uncomfortable coming to work for “les blancs” (white people) but soon Dave’s teasing reassured her that it was HER that we cared about, not the cleanliness of our home. Anytime she dropped something or broke something, Dave would come into the kitchen and teasingly tell her that when she was angry she could come talk to him and didn’t need to throw things on the floor. “Monsieur David!” she would scold him while giggling.
We also teased with her because she would ask me how to do things in our kitchen and after I said, “I don’t know, let me go ask Dave” a few hundred times, she would just roll her eyes and throw up her hands. One time she said, “Madame Amélie (my name over in Africa), if you were married to an African man, he would have the right to divorce you for how you cook!” Then she would throw her head back and laugh.
Not only would she throw up her hands at my domestic incompetence, but she simply could not understand why I would fill up my house with “meat” from the bush and give this “meat” names (the concept of a “pet” is somewhat foreign over there). We had a pet western tree hyrax at one time that would hide behind whatever she was cleaning and scare her to death when she saw him. She would scream out “Madame Amélie!!” He also liked to stand on her feet when she would least expect it. She had to work around my pet bunny and at one time 10 cats. We always joked with her that the pets would drive her to quit. And she would just smile and shake her head and say, “No, no, no.”
To our kids she was auntie as she would pat them on the backs when they threw up in the toilet and whisper prayers under her breath throughout the day when they were in bed sick. She would tell me when my skirts were too short and chase away the neighborhood kids when they were interrupting mine and Dave’s studies.
Although she was 10-15 years older than me, when we hired her, I became a type of adopted mother to her. She would bring me her bleeding granddaughter to bandage and bring over the same granddaughter when she was misbehaving and needed to “have a talking to” from “Monsieur David.” She looked to us to care for her and her family like a daughter would look to her mother.
An unexpected loss
When we left Cameroon, we left Carine in charge of our home and called her every few months to check in with her. The last time we talked, she said she wasn’t feeling well, but we had no idea that would be the last time we would speak to her. I am not sure how she died, but the past few months she had been losing weight and been getting sicker and sicker. Then this morning, we received word that she had passed away. We are in shock.
Losing Carine is like losing a live-in aunt, and yet, we trust that this was her God-ordained time to go home. We grieve with her daughter and granddaughter and grieve that we won’t get to see her again in this life and yet we rejoice that she is with Jesus. I praise God for the missionary that came from Burkina Faso to tell her about Jesus Christ and I praise God that she was in our lives for a time and like our son Kaden said, “We’ll see her again in Heaven.” I praise God that Carine is far far away from the disease, the poverty, the suffering, and the death that was all too common in her life. I praise God that malaria and suffering will be but a faint memory for her and that she is safe and blessed in the arms of Jesus.
And in August, when we return to Cameroon, there will be a big gaping hole without Carine there and yet we pray that there will be many many more in Eastern Cameroon who Christ will claim as his own in the days to come.
Please pray for her daughter Audrey and granddaughter Estrella that she left behind - that the suffering they are walking through would refine Audrey's faith and cause her to yearn for the pleasures of being with God in Heaven more and more.