Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Wimp No More!

I keep thinking to myself, "When will I be a real missionary?" Well, I think I am getting closer. This last week, I spent 8 days in the village. That is what people say here when they go back to where they were raised.

Most of you know that I have been raising money to have a particular Sunday School program in every one of our churches in Cameroon. This curriculum originated here in Cameroon through a "community" of sisters in a little village called Makak. These sisters are Protestant and from Germany but have lived here over 30 years. There is only one left now and her name is Sister Gisela Buhler. She oversees all the production, training and distribution of these materials, and she is my new hero. I am amazed at how well-run her program is. She has ladies in the village that make the packets of Sunday School materials, and when it's time for training, she has ladies that volunteer their time to help teach the participants and cook all the meals.

I will tell you more about the program in another blog, but today I want to tell you about why I am a wimp no more! When we arrived in Makak Saturday evening, we had a lovely meal and orientation afterwards. Ginger and I had been to our cabin at the back of the compound in what can truly be called the rainforest! The sights and sounds of the rainforest are incredible. The birds and insects and animals are so loud, it's deafening (in a good way, of course!) It's humid and warm just as you would expect and a packet of Saltines goes completely soft in a matter of hours. The beds are made of cane poles with a 2-3 inches foam mattress on top. That hurt! We felt priviledged to have mosquito nets over our beds and a shower in the bathroom, except...the water didn't work.

Do you know what a bucket bath is? I bet my mom knows because she grew up in the country (a few years back). Well, it's exactly what it sounds like. I would go outside my little cabin where a barrel of water stood and filled up my bucket and went inside to my little concrete bathroom and took a bucket bath. Did you ask me if the water was warm? Hmmmm, not very warm water at my cabin! So five days of cold bucket baths until the water started to run again, and then I upgraded to cold showers. At least, it was faster!! The toilet is a concrete hole. There is no flushing apparatus except, again, the good old bucket! So we always needed to be sure that the toilet bucket was full of water. Ginger had actually thought to bring toilet seat covers but after a couple of days, those ran out!

Part of our orientation was to divide up into work teams. I was on the green work team. Little did I know, that would mean carrying water in, yes, buckets straight up a wet hill to the compound at 6:00 in the morning. There's another aspect to this whole work team thing. What I didn't expect was how my team members would react to a "rich, white woman" doing manual labor. I literally had to insist that I would do my jobs just like everyone else. It was ..... really quite incredible. It made me sad to think how I was viewed by the people in our churches. They didn't mean to make me sad. They were just trying to help me and when I told them that I washed dishes and cleaned my own home in America, they truly didn't believe me.

One lady on my team that was at least 20-25 years older than me, would follow behind me if I had a tub of dirty dish water to throw out to make sure I didn't hurt myself. Her name is Mama Francisca and I fell in love with her. She is a hard-working woman that just wants to do God's will in her life every single day.

This village of Makak is in the Baasa tribal area. Although they all speak French, their first language is Baasa. I love listening to Cameroonians speak their maternal language. When we went to church on Sunday morning to see the Sunday School program in action, it was taught in Baasa. They feel that since the children learn in French at school, this is a wonderful way for them to practice Baasa and see it written down. Along with listening to the Baasa language, we ate Baasa food ALL WEEK LONG. Most of the time, it was delicious. If you like fish and things that look and mostly taste like potatoes, you are in good shape. But because the program is on a VERY tight budget, meat was a luxury. So by the time I had worked all week and eaten very little protein, then I had to drive in the jungle to and from Makak (because I got lost going both ways), I WAS EXHAUSTED!

For me it was a time of real self-reflection. How could I be so spoiled? Why couldn't I spend more time with God like Sister Gisela (prayers in a chapel 4 times a day)? How could I work such that the people in the UMC in Cameroon could see I don't think I am the missionary queen? It was good for me, and I am not anymore afraid to go to the village like I have been for a year and a half. In fact, I prefer the village and wish that my whole family could live like that. It was beautiful, serene, calming and full of God!

I will share a few pictures with you!