Thursday, June 19, 2014

We Are (Watching) Together

I arrived at the radio station tonight, intending to broadcast live. I host a weekly show called "What the Pope Says," with a fairly obvious topic. I'm working through Evangelii Gaudium bit by bit. We're right now getting to some interesting and challenging things that Francis writes about economics, society, and the Christian's duties to the marginalized.

However, upon arriving, I discovered that the station was not broadcasting, even though there was current  (meaning the power was on.) The reason? Football. Cameroon was playing Germany in what I was told was the World Cup, but that hasn't started yet. It was just a friendly exhibition match. Well, the Radio Evangelium station house is located right at Junction, and I had noticed that the place was particularly hopping for a Sunday night. Many people enjoying drinks in bars, laughing and joking with friends, and all were gathered to watch the match. Many people don't have televisions, so the bars become sports bars during football matches, with dozens of people crowding around one 17 inch screen with fuzzy reception.

In the radio house, I managed to get a couple of shows recorded while the tech guy for the radio was watching the match with his friends in the next room. I made my way back home in the dark of the night, enjoying the moonlight and the stars. With all the ambient light in the USA, it is not often that I get to enjoy pure starlight in the states.  But here, where there aren't streetlights to speak of, I can enjoy the deep surprising beauty of the stars any and every night I choose to. SAC is located on the top of a hill, and when the corn is not high, you can see most of the town down in the valley below. There are always far fewer lights than one would expect given Kumbo's population, and the whole place is eerily dark when there is no current. But that was not the case tonight! With the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon playing a match, even an exhibition match, the current was there, and didn't go out until after the game ended. We take soccer seriously here.

I was almost home when a most amazing thing happened: I knew, without listening to the radio or watching television, that Cameroon had scored a goal. The entire Kumbo valley let out a celebratory roar. I felt a little like the Grinch listening to the whos down in Whoville. It was almost 9 pm, when most people are at home and asleep because light costs money, and money is scarce. But tonight, the whole town was up and watching. You can believe the whole country was up and watching: watching an exhibition game, with no real consequences for a win or a loss, and cheering so loud at a goal that it could be heard miles up the hill. That sound just filled the whole valley, coming from every house with a light on inside. It kind of gives a different spin to the oft heard "we are together."

If this is what happens for an exhibition match, it will certainly be interesting to see what happens for the World Cup matches, set to begin in a few short weeks.

FYI, the match ended in a draw, 2-2.


Friday, June 13, 2014


Our Father:

A child of Nso' would never say "my father," but always "our father." Even if one is an only child, one speaks of "our father," as the father is a father to all. I think about that often as we pray the Our Father at Mass. This has even led to some trouble with Bible Translation, as Jesus speaks of "My Father." There is no easy way to translate "my father" into Lamnso', there are no words for it. Well, I suppose there are words, but they make no sense to Nso' ears. They use an awkward workaround in translation.

Of course, my idea of fatherhood and this culture's idea of fatherhood are undoubtedly different. Both are probably different from fatherhood in Jesus' day and age. Every day and age is Christ's, but you know what I mean.

But there is a universality to fatherhood as well, rooted in our universal Father. Our Father. The Father.

(Pictured: Our Father, Shufai Ndzendzev. He's the second biggest traditional ruler in town, second to the the Fon)

Monday, June 9, 2014

Weeding My Spiritual Garden

We have planted a garden with the help of a local man named Tatah Edwin. We also have a few small fields of corn. It is not much, and it will not sustain our family by itself, but it helps. For most people in the States, gardening/farming is a hobby: it is nice to have your own fresh vegetables in season, but you still go to the supermarket every week. For most people here in Kumbo, your farm is your lifeline: you grow most of your food, and supplement with a few small things you buy in the market with your meager wages. 

Well, the hubbub of the end of school paired with a bout of procrastination and low motivation has resulted with our garden becoming neglected. We did not water the days that it did not rain, we did not pull weeds.  Today we went out there to try to salvage what we could.

(NB: I freely admit to being totally clueless regarding gardening. I just do what I'm told. But I'm learning...)

Some weeding is easy: the difference between lettuce and grass is clear. Other weeding is difficult: is this a weed, or the peppers coming up? And just what, exactly, do radishes look like above the ground? Is that an edible coco yam plant, or the coco yam that is a weed? Some of the weeds I pulled today had grown large and well-rooted, and were difficult to pull. Some came off at the stem, and the roots remain to sap away water and nutrients from the good stuff. It is difficult and tedious to get these big weeds out, whereas the small, little weeds are easily dealt with: a small tug and they are uprooted.

As I went about the garden pulling what I hope and pray were weeds and not peppers and radishes, I thought about my spiritual life, which is sometimes as neglected as our garden. The desire is there, for sure.  I want to grow and flourish and bear fruit, but sometimes I am just "too busy" to work the fields and fertilize and water and plant and weed in my spiritual farm. What a shame! My spiritual garden will not flourish, and what good is there will be small and good, but not abundant.

Retreats and holy days certainly go a long way to getting me going again in my spiritual life, just like this half-day blitz in the garden went a way to getting us back on track horticulturally. However, it is much better to give your soul the care and feeding, as well as watering and weeding, that it needs. Sin is a weed, and if you don't pluck it up early, it gets thick and rooted in habit. Really, it is God who does the "weeding" of sin, but God can only weed while I am open and willing to let myself be worked on. I need to spend time in prayer, God's best weeding time, and I need to let Grace water my soul, especially the Grace of the sacraments.

I will always have weeds in my garden, they are a fact of life. My choice is whether to allow them out of sloth and indifference, or to get busy on my knees. 


Max Gardening
Max planting seedlings for nursery

Pumpkin leaf and cabbage

Our garden - corn in background