Voices from the Field Jeff & Sonya Kilmartin Get to know Jeff & Sonya

Catching Up on Life and Ministry

Published on May 14, 2024

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Today is May 1. In Cameroon, this is their Labor Day. A fair amount of people are participating in some celebrations, and the rest of us are, well, continuing with our labor.

The last quarter has been rather hectic, and a fair amount of more suitcase time. We left our daughter in Scotland in early February, spent nearly a week in Yaoundé (unfortuately) getting a Nigeria visa, and made it back to Banyo in mid-February. The girl who had been keeping our house in order hadn’t been there for a few weeks, and even with her presence there, there was a lot of work to do after nearly seven months away. We greeted many people in our ministry, the school, the hospital, etc., and shared gifts with as many as we were able to bring.

Cockroaches like silicon, it seems.

I have been waging a regular war on the cockroaches, with skirmishes with lizards and spiders and the occasional scorpion (the latter only outside in the yard). Unpacked things we had packed away. Did mountains of laundry – like, all curtains and mosquito nets.

With our house somewhat habitable . . . we left it again!

It has been a LONG time since we had been in Nigeria, so this was a priority for this quarter. Jeff and I went together, by motorcycle again. This is always a beautiful trip, but also always an adventure. This time, my driver’s bike kept stalling going up the biggest, dustiest hill after the river, and I ended up hiking up a good part of it. Jeff was waiting with his driver at an intersection later, wondering why we were so far behind. When we got to Gembu, he went to immigration, and I took a nap!!

Jeff’s focus for his few weeks was to visit some communities and ‘big men,’ at the request of our partners, and it was timed so that we also connected there with Jim Black, which is always great. They went ALL over the place in a very short time (not without a few minor automotive woes), and managed to meet with three ‘kings’ – one ‘Lamiido first class,’ and two ‘third class.’ All very positive meetings overall, but when that happends, there is often some social media backlash for our Nigerian partners created by those opposed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

One of those ‘kings’ also invited me (Sonya) to come to his compound and spend a couple days with his wives/family, but since it was Ramadan and we also had a few other events pending, we have postponed that for now. Jeff headed back to Cameroon after a few weeks and took a trip to a few villages, where he has been doing a lot of teaching on the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Except for one trip to Gembu, I (Sonya) stayed in our main village until just before Easter. The foci for this trip were to help in the primary school in a couple of key areas and to get my Least-Reached People Group language rolling again. Many of the young people in those communities speak English, but the adult women do not, so I spent most mornings at the school, took a rest after lunch, and visited a few compounds each afternoon. The evenings we had no guests, most of them, and at other times, I chipped away at making, repairing, or improving teaching aids with local materials – often improvised – to share with the local teachers.

I was thrilled to familiarize two nursery school teachers and one helper with the ‘centers’ style teaching we had started a few years ago (and lost with staff transistions), with the children divided by age (3/4/5) for part of each morning.

I also brainstormed a whole lot with one of them about the need to continue to use their mother tongue in nursery school and only introduce English gradually, and later.

The fairly small amount of money I was able to spend went a long way there to get some mats for the nursery school, fix a number of items, and help with a few priority items the headmaster identified. Rampant inflation has been hitting people very hard on ALL basic items. Also, a number of building projects that have been estimated or started have been completely sideswiped by constantly escalating prices. It’s a crazy experience if you are just visiting, but for those living and working in it, it is nearly impossible to navigate.

I have also been working with a couple of teachers who have some ‘Jolly Phonics’ training (that’s a big thing there in this area) and addressing some problem areas. Since school in Nigeria takes a month-long break at the start of the farming season – they continue into July – I hope to return before school ends for the year.

A landmark addition to my itinerary was to take some of these things I have been trying and tweaking with those teachers and presenting it in a workshop in the central primary school in the neighboring large town. We had about 20 teachers and headmasters from about seven other schools, and it was a new thing – our partners want the local people to know that we are not just helping their community and people – we want to bless all.

We had new feline additions to our compound just before I returned from Nigeria, so I have bombarded my family with cute kitten photos. We plan to keep the one little disabled one (we’ve decided on ‘Stumpy’ as a name for now) and give away the mother. I trust that my next taaniraabe (grandchildren) will be of the human variety.

April saw Jeff immersed for two weeks in teaching an online church history course for the seminary’s distance learning program. Then he was able to return to his rhythm of meeting with our local partners and planning for some further teaching/training for our Least-Reached People Group, as well as do some writing, reading, and teaching on request in the local church.

For me, general life stuff takes a lot more time and energy than in Canada. Even with some hired help, going to market, cooking, cleaning, and a little bit of canning took up large chunks of time – when I wasn’t at the CBC school. I’m limiting myself there this short time to work with class one and some help with PE and few small projects for them.

For the rest, I have been up to our eyeballs this month with the accumulated maintenance projects. Water, electrical, window replacements, fencing, gardening – some are for just our house, and some are bigger, like the water tank, which is a perk for our whole compound that is also tied into the hospital system. After arranging with the hospital experts to scrape, rust treat, and patch, I chose to paint it myself and have thoughts of making it into a mural with the help of some locals or children . . . eventually.

As we prepare to travel to Canada for Daniel’s wedding, we will detour to spend a few days in one of the villages for some teaching and visiting. We trust that after our short trip to Canada, we will be able to settle more quickly back into life and ministry.

Thank you for your continued support of us and the Least-Reached People Group special project. God bless you as you pray for us and our partners as they reach their own people for Christ.

Jeff & Sonya Kilmartin