Thursday, April 03, 2008

Cameroon, Mike Slaughter, and Scaling Summits!

I have neglected to mention a very important event coming up ... the Mission Initiatives Summit, which will feature up-close and specific information on the fifteen initiatives of GBGM, including Cameroon!

The Summit will be held at St. Andrew UMC in Plano, Texas, from April 17-19. Mike Slaughter, pastor of Ginghamsburg UMC, will be speaking at the event, as well as UMCOR director, Dr. Sam Dixon.

For more information on the event, go to this GBGM site. I highly recommend this weekend, and hope to see you there!

Monday, March 31, 2008

Cameroon FAQs

I’ve been back in the States for a couple of weeks now, reunited with family, and praying about our future. In the meantime, I’ve received a bunch of questions about what’s going on from friends all over the country – in emails, phone calls, and through the grapevine. So let me use this post to answer those “frequently asked questions”:

Q: What is the status of the United Methodist Mission in Cameroon?

A: The Mission will continue to be one of the high-priority Mission Initiatives of the United Methodist Church. The General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) will be sending missionaries to Cameroon to continue the work, though these appointments have not yet been announced. But the work will continue, and the Mission needs your support – financial and spiritual – to go forward!

Q: Have things returned to normal in Cameroon, following the riots and unrest last month?

A: Yes, as far as I know. In an attempt to quell the unrest, the President had announced a rise in salary levels for civil servants and a decrease in basic foodstuffs. These changes are due to take effect on April 1st, 2008. Hopefully, the government will keep its promises and things will continue to improve.

Q: What will happen to the pastors of the Cameroon Mission while they wait for a new Mission Director to arrive?

A: Again, things will continue as normal. Pastors will receive their monthly salary support, rents will be paid, and the various ministries and programs will continue. And financial gifts to the Mission may continue to be made through The Advance, as before.

Q: What will happen to the Magruder family?

A: We have settled down in Plano, Texas. We’re currently living with Leah’s parents, but are looking for more permanent lodging! The girls are enrolled in Plano schools, and adjusting very well to American life again. Rachel made the drill team, Chloe is active in a dance group, and Mallory attends an after-school Science Club. Leah is looking for a job, while keeping track of the girls’ busy schedules. I have received an appointment to be the associate pastor at FUMC Rowlett, where I will be working with my friend, Rev. Katherine Lyle. My job starts tomorrow – on April 1st, and I’m excited about this new phase of ministry.

Q: Our congregation supported your family as our church’s missionaries. What shall we do now that you’re no longer on the field?

A: Through the General Board of Global Ministries, you have multiple opportunities to continue to support the mission work of the United Methodist Church. You may choose to shift your support to another missionary, working in another place. The Advance office of GBGM would be happy to suggest names and locations of missionaries on the field who need support. You may also choose to continue to support the work in Cameroon, by sponsoring the next missionaries appointed there. Or you can choose to support any number of Advance mission projects, including work in Cameroon, or other West African countries. Again, this information can be obtained by contacting The Advance.

Q: How are you doing? No, seriously … how do you feel?

A: The time at home has been healing and refreshing. Most of all, Leah and I have been absolutely blown away by the support of our friends in the North Texas Conference. I have received numerous phone calls expressing love, support, and encouragement from clergy colleagues, as well as supporters, former VIM team participants, and administrators. Everyone has embraced us warmly, and welcomed us with open arms back into the North Texas church family. At times like these, we are so grateful for the Methodist connection!

Q: What will happen to this blog?

A: After much consideration, I have decided to bring this blog to an end. I will not be deleting it from cyberspace – I’ll leave it here for posterity’s sake. But it has run its course – time to move on to something new. I am going to take a break from the blogosphere for now, but am sure that I will be returning again shortly. When I do, I’ll put a link here. Thank you for being faithful and curious readers … see ya again soon!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Back to Normal?

After four days of tension, Friday was a better day in Yaounde. Everyone woke up with a weary eye to the streets, where only a few taxis were running at first. By midday, however, the streets were beginning to fill.

In the afternoon, I even got in the Mission car and drove downtown, where I ran into the usual traffic jams caused by rude taxi drivers! People were walking the streets, shops and markets were open. There was even a greatly reduced presence of police and gendarmes.

In short, I think things have returned to normal, though there are still reports of isolated problems in the countryside.

After it got dark, I heard rumbling in the distance, which made me worry for a second, until I realized it was only thunder! We then had a good old-fashioned thunderstorm, punctuated with lightning flashes and a good amount of rain late into the night. That's unusual for this time of year in Cameroon, but greatly welcomed.

As I wake up on this Saturday morning, the air smells fresh and clean. Like a new start.

I'm grateful for the calm. And I'm looking forward to Sunday, March 9th ... my departure date.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Quiet Streets, Anxious Moods

Yaounde is extremely quiet this morning ... maybe too quiet. No shops, schools, or offices are open. The streets are completely empty of cars, taxis, motorbikes, trucks.

The school located next door to our house is closed, though a few students showed up early this morning. They've all been sent home.

I am happy to report that when I awoke, we had electricity and water. Rumors were circulating last night that those services would be cut off at midnight. I'm taking precautions in case that happens. But everyone is still wondering about the long-term implications of President Biya's hard-line approach to the rebellion.

I am so relieved that our last VIM team of the season got on a plane Saturday night, before the troubles started. Other short-term missioners in Cameroon have not been so lucky: see this story.

I am not in any danger; I'm just sticking close to home, and waiting for a sense of normalcy to return to the streets. Thanks again for all your prayers!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Tense Times in Yaounde

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks packing and preparing to move back to Dallas.

But things have taken an odd turn here in Cameroon.

On Monday, taxi drivers throughout the country staged a strike to protest a recent hike in fuel. But the strike has turned violent and deadly in several cities, especially Douala. Though the labor action was officially called off by labor unions and government officials on Tuesday night, the rioters have kept up the pressure. And the violence spread to Yaounde today.

Throughout the city, protesters have blocked and barricaded streets, threatened stores and businesses to close, and tried to keep all forms of transportation at a standstill. In response, police and gendarme have engaged in a low-level form of warfare, including tear-gas and riot gear.

I have been receiving a series of warnings from the Embassy, cautioning American citizens to stay indoors. I’ve kept the advice, while making calls to friends around the city to compare notes and hear the gossip.

The riots represent something far more than just displeasure with the cost of gasoline – President Biya has publicly announced his intentions to change the constitution to allow him to serve as president indefinitely, for one, an immensely unpopular decision. Add to that the rise in costs of all sorts of items, the closure of a private TV station in Douala because of its reporting on opposition activity, and general unhappiness with the government, and you’ve got a situation ripe for trouble!

President Biya appeared on television tonight, appealing for peace and calm, as well as reasserting his role as leader of the nation. I’ll have to wait until tomorrow morning to see how it played in the countryside, but the people I’ve talked to tonight were unsatisfied by his comments.

For more information on what’s happening, here are some news reports.

I am scheduled to get on a plane and rejoin my family on March 9. I’m asking for your prayers to make sure that I make this flight – if not earlier! And pray that the violence comes to a quick end.

The people of Cameroon have long prided themselves on remaining a peaceful country, unlike their neighbors. Please pray with me that they do not succumb to the fate of so many other African countries in the last few decades. And remember especially the pastors and people of the United Methodist Church in Cameroon.