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

Divide and Conquer

Published on August 21, 2019

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Greetings from…Gomona, Cameroon, and Gembu, Nigeria, simultaneously. Jeff and I have temporarily adopted a ‘divide and conquer’ approach to ministry, so we are actually in different countries at the moment. We also decided, after some discussion with Cal Hohn, that we just accept that we would not return to Northwest Cameroon till at least the end of the year and reassess when we get closer. Wondering every couple of months if we might be able to go back to Ndu was making it impossible for us to make any commitments or goals longer than maybe 8 weeks into the future, so we appreciate the wise counsel on this, even though it was disappointing.

After returning from Nigeria in May, we settled into life in Banyo, doing mostly language learning and just life, which can be challenging in itself. Shortly after, Jeff accepted an invitation to return to Nigeria, teaching with the new Global Baptist group there, so he plunged into planning, all new course for him. He was very excited to get back into this part of his ministry and was happy as a pig in a poke when he was able to get some of his books. I took on a tutoring group of 6 children in Banyo during their school break, field-testing some more use of, and modifications to, the English program Elsie and I had been wanting to promote. Suleymanu and I have almost finished editing the Fulf*lde version of TEE book “Christian Family Living” (Ngeendam Saare Tokkiɓe Yeesu) and they are actively using it (or – at least the parts we have completed) in two communities so far. Pray for our SIL friends, the Jacksons, who are helping teach the Ful*e to READ in their language, which is a critical link in all this. Pray that people are able to discipline themselves to do these studies properly and meet regularly, for maximum benefit, and that the discussions yield real fruit in their lives.

We were able, in July, to get a 6-month Nigerian multi-entry visa, which is a huge improvement for us over the single entry ones good only for 3 months. If he needs to come back to Cameroon for some reason before the end of the semester, this will enable him to go out and come back, and he could even go back briefly in the new year if we so desire. Of course this meant another crazy long drive to Yaoundé, complete with me forgetting my Cameroon ID and having to stop partway and arrange for it to be sent to catch up to us. But we met one of Jeff’s former students at the CBC church we visited, they were able to put us up for the night, and we could take him along to Yaoundé as well, which was a blessing for him.

We diverted on the way back, to Bamenda again briefly, so our CBC mechanic could baby our truck back to optimal health, to meet with Walter and Florence Grob, back from home assignment, and to (sort of) help Elsie Lewandowski with some of her packing up for her move to Yaoundé. A colleague in Ndu was able to arrange a car full of Suleymanu’s things left in Ndu (since he will not be returning if and when we do). We met Peter on the way back to Banyo (it rained for exactly the half hour we were meeting and unloading!!) and there was room for a couple more boxes of our stuff. Important things, like the books Jeff needed, special things like my (mom’s) guitar and some Canadian raspberry jam, a few additional clothes, and a few weird things that they didn’t quite get right from our request list. I’ve been out of that house for over a year now, so I no longer remember where things are well enough to describe it accurately in text messages. Probably 70% of our belongings are still in that house.

At time of this writing, Jeff was finishing a pastor’s conference in Kusuku, and then, starting around August 19, he is teaching at their seminary for the whole semester. Pray for him to be an effective teacher and for him to be able to plant seeds of reconciliation, as the Global Baptist is a result of a split in the MBCN after years of irreconcilable differences with in the organization. Some of the tensions and issues between the two groups are definitely not helping in advancing the Kingdom. Praise for Jeff’s safe arrival in Gembu, pray for his back and for fruitful meetings with these Muslim Ful*e he is meeting with in Gembu.

I (Sonya) am still not really able to plan very far ahead, however. I think this is one of the things God is schooling me in, as I have the larger issue with flexibility. I wrapped up my summer tutoring rather quickly when an opportunity came for me to come out to Gomona for a week to immerse more fully in the language. I also want to do a little work with a local carpenter and builder to move forward with the completion of this building was able to partway carry along one family who is moving as well. Suleymanu went on with them for the rest of his trip, so I’m going to really have to work on this language thing. I’m on day 3 and appreciating being able to write this in English (while I still have battery power on my computer). The conversation I had with Bello on the way back from Ngoundal the first day was an interesting mishmash of Ful*ulde, French, and English, with us really trying to avoid the latter. Of course I’ve got kids all around the house, but I brought a few simple things for them to do, and after I need some peace and quiet, I send them away for a couple of hours. I’m also close to the lake again, but rainy season is not a great time for swimming. The kids here have asked about going, but it’s cold and muddy there. But I brought my swimsuit just in case…

Other than a possible trip to and from Yaoundé with a variety of missionaries, my (Sonya’s) life for the next quarter depends on a bunch more external things I have no control over. The only two definite things about my life right now are that 1) I need to keep working on my language acquisition and 2) nothing else is very definite. Pray for wisdom and flexibility for me for the next few months and the ability to find a rhythm for physical and spiritual life amidst the constant transitions.

I was supposed to return to Nigeria when the container arrived, but it hasn’t been able to leave Canada yet. The duty waiver for it has moved one more step since our last newsletter, but it has been sitting on someone’s desk now for nearly another month. Please pray that this piece of bureaucratic insanity comes to positive resolution IMMEDIATELY. This is completely delaying further work on the clinic. We have construction materials necessary before we can finish some walls and most ceilings and have equipment needed to launch the laboratory. We don’t have a detailed enough list to know what else we will still need, so we need to hold funds for future purchases. We can only trust that God will work this delay for good. One good thing that we can anticipate is that if it sent now, it will not arrive until close to the end of the rainy season, which would make it offloading and positioning a whole lot easier.  Meanwhile there is good progress being made on the water project that will eventually supply the clinic, although the funds are not up to the total needed yet.

There is other administrative work for me to do there, so one way or another I may go to Nigeria, before or after our October NAB retreat. We were anticipating a meeting of the main Ful*e leaders near Banyo in July, but it had to be delayed, possibly till October. We have started developing a leadership mentorship/discipleship model that we discussed in Nigeria last trip. Pray that Jeff can discuss, with the Nigerian leaders, the curriculum that was chosen and brought to Madina, and that we can work together to develop a good method to multiply leadership, as many of the Christian communities do not have any trained pastors/leaders.

Hopefully our next newsletter will have more stories, and not read like a travel itinerary. Thank you for your continued financial and prayer support. We could really not do any of this without you. Feel free to drop us an email.

Jeff & Sonya Kilmartin