Tuesday, January 13, 2015


After 36 hours of travel, we finally made it home to Saint Augustine's College in Kumbo. It was a grueling end to a wonderful and strange trip home to America. (I guess that's the funny thing about moving around the world: you start to accumulate more and more places you call “home.”) It has been a while since we posted anything on the blog, so let's catch up a bit.

In October, baby Gabriel was born. Logan was amazing during the birth, and Gabriel is just about the cutest ever. What a sweet blessing he is! Even when he is fussy and keeping me from sleep, I look at his face and just think of what a wonderful blessing the gift of life is. The kids all love him and dote on him. Sally alternates between fawning and jealousy, having been displaced as the youngest, and de facto cutest.

In November, we travelled to Yaounde to visit the United States Embassy, so that we could establish Gabriel's citizenship and obtain a passport. We travelled so soon because we had an upcoming visit to America for my sister's wedding, and it takes some time to get the passport as everything is done in the States. Our friends and co-missionaries Pete and Joy Newburn generously offered to care for our five older children while we went down, so we turned the trip into a little bit of a vacation. Everything went smoothly regarding travel and the application process, so we can thank God for that! And thank God for the Newburns, who constantly teach me about generosity and hospitality.

In December, the first term wrapped up at school, and we got all our marks in before the hullabaloo of recording the marks onto report cards. It was markedly easier this year (pun intended) because we made the transition from recording and calculating by hand, to using computers to keep track of everything. There were a few kinks to work out, but all in all I was very happy I didn't have to manually record and calculate all the marks for 45 kids for their 14 subjects.

Finally, it was all over and it was time to go home for a three week holiday. It was nice to be present in the United States again after an 18 month absence. We have heard stories of other missionaries having culture shock upon returning to their home country. There were some surprises as to what exactly affected us... for instance, we were afraid that after not driving for 18 months, being thrown into the gauntlet of DC area traffic would be a terrifying proposition. Instead, we found that driving in and around DC is a cakewalk compared with riding as a passenger in Cameroon. (An observation that I can confirm after again riding as a passenger in Cameroon.)

Highlights of our trip include Gabriel's baptism on Christmas day, my sister's wedding two days later, too-brief but very joyous reunions with family and friends, a trip to the museums in DC, cousins, cousins, and more cousins, cheeseburgers, snow!, and meat. I can't believe how much meat we eat in America! It was delicious, all of it. 

Just to make the trip a little strange, our kids all got the chicken pox the first day after we arrived in Virginia. You can't really have a family vacation without someone getting sick, right? We will always remember this Christmas/Wedding/Vacation as the Chicken Pox Christmas.
We are grateful for all the love and hospitality people showed us, especially letting these equatorial African residents borrow winter clothes!

After three too-short weeks, I said goodbye to the land of wifi and boarded a plane with the five older kids. Logan is spending three more weeks with family, along with the baby. So, now I get to play the single dad with five kids in Africa! (I joked with our neighbor here in Kumbo that I got to play the role of bachelor for three weeks... she corrected me, and told me I was playing the role of Mother Hen. Well, Cluck cluck cluck, I guess!)

The journey home was loooooong, taking about 36 hours to get from Dulles airport to Kumbo, Cameroon. By the time we pulled up in front of our house, I was ready for bed. A few surprises awaited us at home: Our cat had run away!!! :(  There has apparently been no trace of Theseus since the third day we were gone. Also, it turns out that of the nine chicks we raised that have finally matured, about five or six of them are roosters. We were hoping for the opposite ratio, to have more eggs and fewer chicken dinners.

We are here, we are safe, and we are recovering. Now it is back to work; we are entering the second half of our three year mission. It was good to be back in the US for a short time, and I feel refreshed and ready to get to it again. Our friend Ellen Dailor, who serves off and on at the Shisong Cardiac Center through Mission Doctors, sent me the best advice to consider as I re-enter the mission field: spend time with Jesus in prayer. 

We were so sad to be leaving home, (and so sad we couldn't make it out to our home in NM) but are so glad to be home in Kumbo. These homes are all just stops on our way to our real, true home in Heaven.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Faces In The Neighborhood

I remember being friendly with the workers in the grocery store in Los Alamos. There was even one man who worked in the produce section that was a member of our church, and with whom I would talk theology and philosophy and poetry while looking for ripe avocados. Well, we're friendly with the various store clerks here, and while I haven't really talked about poetry with anybody, the subject of God comes up often!

Here are some of the people we buy from in Junction:

These are the men from the "Muslim store." They are devout Muslims, and close down on Friday afternoons. We buy certain things from them if we don't have to go all the way into town, where there is a better supermarket. Tanimu loves to greet our children, and always calls me Pa James.
Now, if we want to buy wine in Junction, you have to go across the street to Aristide's. He's Catholic, and we see him in Church if we go to the local parish on Sunday.  He also raises chickens for their eggs, and his eggs are usually better than the others you can buy in town. Not as good as the eggs from our own chickens, though.

Once we have worked up an appetite shopping, we buy a few sticks of soya from Idrisu. He is another Muslim, and he only speaks Pidgin or Lamnso' to us. I don't always understand what he says, but it's a good way to learn! He wants us to name the new baby a Lamnso' name, "Nyuydze." He says, "Nyuydze: e mean, God dey." (Nyuydze, it means: God is.)
While community looks different in different cultures, we are blessed to know all these people and live in community with them. We are together, as they say here.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Hard Work

If you've ever wondered what the Cameroonian way of doing something, just imagine the most difficult, back-breaking, time-consuming, and most importantly CHEAP way, and you're probably on the right track. I am not trying to be disparaging, the simple truth is that where people here lack in monetary capital, they make up for it with their own labor. The easy way is avoided for the cheap or free way.

How do you make gravel? You sit down on a pile of big rocks and hit them with a hammer until you are sitting on a pile of much smaller rocks. How do you till your field? With a bent, backwards shovel. What's for dinner? Njamma njamma, a green that you spend two and a half hours harvesting and picking through before you even get to the point of cooking. And how do you save your corn once you have harvested it? By scraping off every kernel with your hands.

Because we harvested corn this year, and because we can't possibly eat it all, we also have to scrape off all the corn. It's a family affair. We don't even have that much, because we don't have to grow all we eat. We're "rich" enough to be able to buy the food we need.

Our garden has been helping our diet. It's wonderful knowing where your food comes from. The carrots don't have an "organic" label when we pull them out of the ground, but they are delicious. We've recently been transitioning our garden for the dry season: planting where there is sun (because most of our rainy season garden is mostly in the shade now), planting close to the tap so we can water the plants, planting crops that can deal with the drought, etc.

We've planted cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, some melons and pumpkins and cucumber, more cilantro and radishes beets and carrots and leeks and even a few eggplants. And garlic! And onions, and green beans, and tomatoes... and don't forget the wheat! I hope the goats don't eat it all before we can get a fence up. We have a fence around our main garden now, but the goats are already into the wheat field.

We're trying to grow some fruit trees and vines, for us and for the future occupants of this house. We're also working on the flowers around our house and in our courtyard, taking cuttings and sticking them in the ground... they just grow! There's so much rain, plants can really take off without much help. The soil isn't always great, and is often depleted and needs a lot of manure to help it take off, but you can't argue with the climate.