Q Who is someone that influenced you in your decision to serve as a missionary in a cross cultural setting?
Calvin: My grandmother, who always wanted to be a missionary but whose life’s circumstances never allowed it. Ken Priebe, the missionary who first invited me to serve with him in Cameroon.
Susanne: I sensed God’s call for me into missions soon after I gave my life to Him my second year of university.
Q How long have you been serving as a missionary? As a NAB missionary?
25 years as both a missionary and NAB missionary.
Q How would you describe your first year on the mission field?
Calvin: A fun and huge learning experience – learned a lot about myself – my strengths and weaknesses, and learned a lot about the nationals I served and served with.
Susanne: Humbled (and overwhelmed) by learning! The first 5 months we spent in a large city studying the French language: learning language, learning a new culture, learning where to find food, learning what could be made for food, learning how to hire people to help in the house, and learning how to move around in public taxis.
Q What surprised you the most once you began your work? What did you wish you knew beforehand?
Calvin: Difficult to say – that was a long time ago! I wish I had known the French language much better before arriving in country, even though I lived and primarily served on the English side.
Susanne: It was absolutely exhausting. And I should have brought more items that meant “home” to me. I thought I could give it all up. But in reality I needed something familiar when things were overwhelmingly foreign to me in all directions of my life.
Q What has been the most rewarding part of your work?
Calvin: Seeing someone’s life blessed or transformed by some small influence or in-put on my part.
Susanne: In over 15 years I have no great stories of leading people to Christ, seeing them grow in their faith or any other great “missionary” story. I have learned to be content; and I try and find joy in living each day of the general mundane life of running a household and doing some administrative & financial work as a ministry; I find I must be faithful in all that I do knowing that it needs to be done to the glory of God.
Q What are some of the ways you have been affirmed in following God’s leading?
Calvin: Affirmation from national and missionary colleagues that my presence in Cameroon makes a positive difference in people’s lives.
Susanne: I can be a quiet influence behind the scenes without being the focus of attention.
Q What changes have you seen in yourself (what ways have you grown) since you have been serving overseas?
Calvin: I hope I’ve become wiser. I’ve learned to extend grace more easily to people regardless of who they are and what their need is.
Susanne: I am a different person than when I began mission work 15 years ago. But the greater influences in my life are not the fact that I am missionary. It is more that I was married only a year before coming to the field – so learning more about relationship through marriage. I am now a mother and teacher to my children – so learning about grace and joy in the midst; and my husband’s work has changed from church planting to administrative work – and learning that my giftings, too, really are more in hospitality and administration rather than evangelistic or discipleship work.
Q What is something that would surprise others about mission work or the people you are called to serve?
Calvin: Missionaries are not saints that sit up on pedestals. We’re as human as anyone else. You will probably be blessed far more by the people you serve than you will be able to bless them.
Susanne: You will always be an outsider. No matter how much you learn, or how effective you can communicate, you will always be viewed as different. Even in the midst of this, God can create a bond and understanding between people and cultures that expresses His love and grace. We don’t have all the answers. There is so much to learn from the simple faith of an illiterate HIV+ woman who trusts God with all her heart. Even in her dying breaths, she calls praise upon His goodness in her life.
Q What advice would you give to those considering overseas missions?
Calvin: If you’re serious about surrendering all to God, and He opens a door of opportunity for you to go overseas for a while, go for it. You will discover soon enough if it’s His long-term calling on your life or not.
Q How can people pray for you?
Calvin: Wisdom to discern which ministry opportunities to get involved with of the plethora we are confronted with daily.
Susanne: That the girls and I would continue to find God’s purpose (and not our own) in the midst of living in Cameroon. If it was up to the 3 of us, we would choose the comforts and efficiencies of North American life. With Ysabelle entering the teen years, and coming back from a very positive year in Canada, she really struggled with some very dark emotions. With her transitioning away from home to boarding high school next year, the house parents could be a key to whether she fairs well or not with the experience. So in general, we have seen many missionary families leave the field because the wife and kids cannot connect to the culture and the people (lack meaningful relationships) around them. Please pray for these connections and relationships.