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Dear Family and Friends,
Greetings from Banyo, where the returning clouds are telling us rainy season is just around the bend (about a month or so away now, depending on who you talk to). Sonya and I are still IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons), but much more ‘at home’ now that we have been here three months and counting. Since our November newsletter, we have still done a fair amount of traveling. I, (Sonya) in particular have lived out of a suitcase for over half of the last quarter (for most of the last 9 months, I think). I caught a quick ride up to Yaoundé with an SIL missionary to get a Nigerian visa (which still took about 5 days). Just before Christmas we took a 5-day trip to Bamenda. We had some quality time with Cal Hohn and Elsie Lewandowski, and God graciously created unexpected opportunities for consultation with Dr. Julie Stone and Nurse Jackie Griffith, regarding plans for the F*lbe medical ministry in Nigeria. We also picked up White Cross boxes (sent May 2018) that have been in country for some time, but not within our reach. It really was like Christmas opening them up – it was December 23!! It was great fun to get some personal items friends had helped to include, especially since so many of our own ‘comfort items’ are out of reach in our house in Ndu. (Apparently the October ones have arrived there recently as well!!)
Christmas day we had worship at Suudu Do’are (House of Prayer), then a potluck dinner, and gifts for the sponsored school children; plus, lots of school bags that were in the White Cross boxes from my friend Marilyn! December 27 we went up to one of the communities to deliver more gifts, arrange for some reports and photo updates, and, most interestingly, to do a workshop on money management. It was most interesting and challenging to modify what and how I usually coach people, in order to match the context, the financial realities, and the almost non-existent literacy of the people. But it was well received, and I pray that it will help people in the community.
Thereafter Jeff and Sulyemanu continued on to a few other communities, and I returned to Banyo to prepare for my trip to Nigeria, from January 3–February 2. I took the slightly shorter (5-hour) motorcycle route in this time, and dry season roads were a lot less daunting than the ones we took in September!
There has been a major shift in plans for launching the medical ministry, and I had the huge responsibility and great fun (?!) of consulting with some of the medical personnel and then designing, launching, and co-advising the initial renovations to an old house/compound to make it useable as a clinic. I was so overwhelmed at the enormity of the concept, but I keep seeing God at work and trust that we have made a good decision on this.
Although they have little experience with some of the aspects of the renovations, we gradually drew members of the community into the parts of the work that they could help with. I know some of you were really praying for me during this time, and it was noticeable. Please continue to pray!! We are close to having the 4 rooms in the front ready to use as an outpatient clinic within the next couple of months and have plans to renovate the rest of it to make it into an inpatient clinic (AKA – TINY hospital) as funds are available, and the work can be arranged. (If you would like to learn more about this project and how to support it, please contact us at email@example.com). It was a CRAZY busy 4 weeks but God blessed me with the help of our friend ‘Engineer Robert’ Ngalam, without whom I was completely out of my depth.
I was much healthier on this trip, and so I managed to get up at 5:30 for morning devotions most days, where I often shared for 5-10 minutes (including translation). I was also to visit and help for about 8-10 mornings with the new nursery school we started last October. The children love “Auntie” Adama, and they will be very sad if she is able to enter post-secondary education next year. There has been some changes in the people helping, but I think the concept of learning thru play for this age group is starting to take hold, and hopefully will bear fruit with the helpers who will have to step up if she leaves. I have not got a single photo of that this time as I was far too busy teaching and training when I was there to take any.
I really learned a lot of useful F*lbe terms for use with 3-5 year olds and got to repeat them often, so I hope they stick in my brain. One has to be very creative in one’s teaching techniques if you lack the language skills to explain things!! However, I did not get nearly as much other Fulfulde language practice as might have been expected, since most of the technical and financial discussions for the building project had to be in English, for obvious reasons. I think Jeff has jumped out ahead of me in this area this year, and I hope he can drag me along to catch up, now that I am back.
I (Jeff) did manage to arrange to get my motorcycle up to us from Ndu recently; a friend took it two hours north, while Suleymanu and I drove 6 hours south to meet it, and we brought it home from there with relatively few issues. Our friends in Ndu managed to pack it with some clothing and personal items requested by Sonya, and a few electronics (portable hard-drives, my new cell phone, and so on). The big reason to get the motorcycle up to Banyo is because it will allow us to visit some places where a truck cannot (or should not) go, and where it is difficult to hire moto taxis to go. Our first visit was to a Muslim man who might be said to be “on the fence” between his allegiance to Islam and his understanding of Christ. At one point he asked us if we were praying about the socio-political crisis going on in the country. I replied that whether I prayed about it or not depended on whether I believed it was God’s will that it should be happening in the first place (Muslims will typically attribute everything that happens to the will of God as a matter of course). Well, he thought that was terribly funny and laughed for a good long while over it. He had never thought about it before, but now agreed that if he thought something was going on in accord with God’s will, then there was no use praying that it would cease.
Suleymanu is away for the week, but I visited our friend again this week and followed up on our conversation. My Fulfulde is not that great, but I am able to tell stories I have prepared and read from scripture pretty well. (I actually preached my first full sermon [a very short one] in Fulfulde a few Sundays ago). For the rest, we can muddle through together.
Things down in Ndu are settled down somewhat, though there are still gun battles every so often between the military and the separatists. As well, the F*lbe are being targeted by the separatists (for a variety of reasons), and one son of my friend, the Ardo, was shot and killed by them, while another is recovering from his wounds.
The big problem of returning home to Ndu, for us, is the roads have been destroyed at various points, so it is impossible to drive our truck back there. Since vehicles cannot travel there, there is very little to buy in the shops, and a lot of things are quite scarce. The seminary is still functioning, though, and I am itching to get back there to teach . . . but that will simply have to wait.
There is never a lack of things to do in ministry up here if one keeps one’s eyes open. I have started working with the chaplain’s department in the CBC hospital here in Banyo. Officially, I come to chapel and visit patients in the wards twice a week, though I am here much more often than that (the hospital is just a short walk up the hill from where we live). Most of the patients are F*lbe, so I am able to minister and practise my language skills at the same time. Lately I have been sharing short stories in the wards about little things that have happened in my life – now that is fun.
Prison ministry is continuing as well. In fact, we will have the privilege of seeing a few of the prisoners be baptized this coming week in one of the local churches here. A local pastor has taken an interest in the ministry and is making the arrangements on the church end of things. Some of the prisoners have been released since we have come, and they come to see my partner, Hajji, and I when they get out. We are able to encourage them and help them get in touch with local congregations wherever they are headed off to.
We have limited ideas about what the next 3 months will hold. We will do what lies before us, continue to work on our language skills, and think about when and how to visit Nigeria again as well as the other believing F*lbe communities in Cameroon. Pray for peace in Cameroon—every so often things seem to be settling down, but then they flare up again. This crisis could drag on for a very long time yet. We are in a good and safe place, but many are not, so please consider giving to the NAB’s fund for refugee relief: https://nabconference.org/give/cameroon-crisis-relief/.
Jeff & Sonya
PS—If you want to be added to our email update list to pray more effectively for us, please email Jeff and ask.