Dear Friends and Family,
Greetings from Cameroon! We arrived in the middle of January with strenuous COVID-19 restrictions en route, a rapid COVID test on arrival, and mixed messages on quarantining thereafter. We have somewhat self-isolated in Bamenda since arriving here. It was tough having to leave our kids, but we do not regret saying goodbye to the cold front that moved into Canada just after we left.
Our time in Canada was blessed in many ways, beginning with the house that became our home base there for eight months. Our landlords, Walter and Elaine, are members of Steele Heights Baptist – one of our NAB churches – and treated us very well the whole time we were there. Our move out was assisted by our daughter Cari and son John and went as well as those things do. Family times on both sides of the family this last quarter were a mix of in-person and virtual connections, including some larger scale Zoom meetings, with a large percentage of both our extended families, as well as our kids, with our cyber savviness peaking with our ability to play Jack-box games over the internet with our kids on Boxing Day and again just before we left.
This being our first real furlough, we don’t have a reference point for normal, but it certainly was different than anything we have experienced. One thing, though – we were extremely blessed in the timing of our church visits. Just when we were ready to begin visiting churches, restrictions eased up to allow us to do that, and we were able to fellowship in person with many of our supporters (with all the accompanying safety precautions, of course). It was a great joy to share, both in person and via internet, about the people and the work we are involved with here. As we were unable to visit our American supporting churches, we spent November and December trying to fill any remaining communication gaps with Zoom meetings and the sending out of a video we had made.
During our time in Canada, we stayed in pretty close contact with our friends in Cameroon (by phone and WhatsApp), and are very much looking forward to seeing them all again. We’ll be meeting with many of them in a couple of weeks, as we discuss the possibility of their NGO partnering with the NAB.
One report I received concerned our partners’ major conference last month. They met in a House of Prayer and held meetings and teachings for a whole week. They do not have housing to host all the people who came (an average of seventy per day), so most of them slept on the floor in the House of Prayer, which is just a large, round building. (We are eagerly awaiting the large tents in the latest White Cross load!)
God turned even this into a blessing, however, since as they were sleeping in groups of two or three they were able to visit, talk, and ask questions far into the evening. I have yet to read the full written account of the meeting, but one thing that came out of it was a resolve to form groups of serious-minded people who were fervent about living as Christ-followers, and in sharing Christ with their neighbours and the communities around. I trust all our partners in Canada and the U.S. will be praying for them in this good work and will be motivated to take note of their example.
Our time in Bamenda has been a productive mix of semi-quarantine, jet lag recovery, acclimatization, and a fair amount of consultation with Calvin Hohn, our field director. We discussed what this next two-and-a-half-year term will look like in terms of where we will be based, our priorities in our ministry and language learning, how Jeff be involved in the seminary education without returning to Ndu, how Sonya might engage in some of her teaching/teacher-training aspirations, and a host of other smaller decisions.
We widened our circle of contacts in the waning days of our limited quarantine. Sonya tried to keep up with Walter Grob, Roxy, and Rusty once or twice a day a while her lungs struggle to adapt to the 1,000 metre change in elevation. We also helped Walter celebrate a milestone birthday!
We met (masked and/or distanced, for the most part) with the seminary provost and the director of extension learning for the CBC.
We talked about how they would like us to join them in teaching in different stations around the country. While the details are all yet to be sketched out, we have agreed that we’ll make a start by having Jeff lecture in three different places starting in mid-March. He will be teaching on the Old Testament and is very much looking forward to it.
Sonya also met with the principal of the relocated teacher college, the director of the CBC Women’s Ministry, and spent a bit of time each day sifting through a number of bookshelves of books and materials from the old Education Resource Center that need to be downsized, but which Elsie thought she might be interested in(!).
We adjusted to the frequent sounds of gunfire in Bamenda, usually at night and usually fairly distant, but as I (Sonya) am finishing this newsletter, there was distinctly more ‘popcorn’ than I had heard all week and nearer than I had noticed before. The definition of ‘normal’ here in the northwest is a far cry from what it was when we arrived here three and a half years ago.
As this newsletter deadline approaches, we are getting ready to head outside of the conflict zone, which we anticipate will be our home base for most of this next term. Sonya is excited that we will be moving into a more permanent ‘home’ there, but that will not happen till March, and there will be travel for the seminary teaching close to that, so we will not be settled for quite some time yet. Our suitcases and bags rarely had a break of more than a couple of months last term, and that may continue in this term. However, it is unlikely we will be able to return for quite some time with the COVID border closures, so we covet your prayers for wisdom on how best to stay connected to the work there.
God bless you all, and thank you for your prayers and support. If you wish to receive the more frequent updates from us, please email Jeff and ask to be added to our email update list as well.
- For the sadness of separation from family.
- For travel associated with the upcoming meetings, and for productive discussions on the partnership issues.
- That the White Cross shipment be released, sorted, and delivered in a timely fashion.
- For resolution of the Cameroon crisis, and grace and peace for the nationals and missionaries living this crisis and
- For a safe return to Cameroon amidst the COVID craziness.
- For family, friends, and supporters who helped us with arrival, travel, and departure.
- For good reports from the conferences.
- For increased stability in some regions of English Cameroon.
- For minimal COVID cases here in Cameroon.
We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 1:2–3 (NIV)
Jeff and Sonya Kilmartin