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The past three months seem to have disappeared into the fog of early rainy season here. We have been kept busy with various work, and lots of visitors, but not too busy to relax a bit down in Limbe. Let me start our report in April there, down by the beach.
Limbe is an 8-hour drive south of Bamenda, situated on the Atlantic Ocean, having black sand beaches (from the volcanic rock), body-surf-able waves (high humidity!), good food, fairly consistent electricity and internet, and good hotel service. We were down there for our NAB Missions retreat for a few days in April. It turned out to be a great time of fellowship with our fellow NAB missionaries, and it truly was a treat to get to know these people of God better. I had the added benefit of leading the Bible Studies while we were there, and as anyone knows who has done that, when you are the one teaching you are learning the most. So it was a good break in the midst of a busy time. (Plus, I was successful in my quest to get a visa for Nigeria!)
Backtracking to March, we made good use of our mid-semester break from CBTS. Sonya spent some time in Bamenda with Elsie Lewandowski, whom many of you will know. They have been working on contextualizing English reading and spelling teaching methods for use in West African schools. Sonya has been field testing their efforts here in Ndu, and they brainstormed some adjustments to the program and other knotty teaching problems. (When later, on the way to Limbe they talked ‘shop,’ more than a few of us were grateful to have learned English as children!!)
During that same time period, I was able to take a very fruitful, lightning-quick trip up to a few of the F*lbe communities, this time accompanied by Dr. Bryan Cairns, who, with his wife Mary, are both GP’s and psychiatrists serving at BBH in Kumbo. You can read about the highlights of this trip on our blog, kilmartinblog.wordpress.com.
Just before our Limbe retreat, we hosted Pastor Larry Byrd from Calvary Baptist in Pennsylvania. At the same time we were very excited to receive our F*lbe friends from Nigeria and northern Cameroon for about a week. These three men and two women are all leaders in the larger F*lbe Christian community, and we had asked them to come so we could greet, talk, and strategize together how to best maximize our time among them. We were delighted to give Pastor Byrd an opportunity to interact with us, and to hear first-hand (well…with translation!) about the ministry among the F*lbe. The plan we have developed involves us visiting about twelve small communities in order to assess their spiritual and community strength. This will take place mostly during our summer break from seminary, which will begin just a few weeks from now.
Meanwhile, our Fulfulde language learning with Suleymanu goes on apace. We are trying to spend at least a couple of hours in formal language training per day, though the workload here makes it so that we do not always reach our goal. We have been aided in the past couple of weeks in an unexpected way. One of our women F*lbe leaders went to the hospital with her friends and during a routine check-up, it was discovered that she had several potato-sized cysts which needed to be surgically removed. Her home community raised the funds for the operation a couple of weeks ago, and now she is recovering in our home, since the motorcycle ride home to Nigeria would be too difficult for her to handle until she is fully recovered. So, we have been blessed to have Goggo (Auntie) Salma stay with us, helping with our language study, being a good company for Suleymanu, and learning some English herself. (She is also his wife’s sister!!)
Suleymanu and I have FINALLY been able to meet one of the Ardos in the area. An Ardo is a traditional F*lbe leader, and if you wish to minister among them, you will first need to have the Ardo’s approval and blessing. Our meeting with Ardo D— went very well; he was a very gracious host to us, feeding us, introducing us to some of his family members, and inviting us back. When we come back he wants to introduce me to his mallam, an Isl*mic teacher, so we can learn more about Isl*m, and thus be able to walk more closely with them. Jeff told him he would be very glad to learn anything the mallam wishes to teach him, since he would love to be better able to talk about it intelligibly.
Speaking of which, one thing Suleymanu and Jeff were able to do in March was teach a seminar on M*slim ministries in one of the Association meetings about two hours north of Ndu. The half-day seminar went very well, with good participation from the many pastors and laypeople that were there. When, at the end of the day, the field pastor suggested that they do something very practical to help in the specific area of F*lbe ministry, they committed to gathering maize and other food stuff for us to distribute among the F*lbe widows up north. This will be a huge help and blessing to those very poor communities who are struggling to help the impoverished among them.
We are just about at the end of the seminary school year, so we are concentrating on finishing our classes as well as we can. We are looking forward to our travel schedule after that, involving visiting many F*lbe communities. Sonya will also be heading for a summer leave of absence, so she can visit her parents, who have some substantial health struggles at this time. Her parents happen to live in to Edmonton, where our NAB Triennial will be held this year; she will be in Alberta and in attendance there as well. (Plus a brief Manitoba stop). Lord willing, she will be able to connect with some of you there!
Grateful for the opportunity to serve, here and now ……..Jeff and Sonya Kilmartin