Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Ode to Ginger

When we get on the plane to America tomorrow, Ginger Cooper will be boarding with us. But she won’t be coming back with us at the end of the summer.

It will be a bittersweet moment for us, because this is the end of Ginger’s two-year stay in Cameroon as an Individual Volunteer in Mission. The first year, she lived in the boarding school of the American School of Yaounde; but the second year, she has been living in our house, and has become extremely close to the whole family. You might even say that she has become a part of the family – a big sister to the children, a colleague for Leah and myself.

I can’t express in words how vital and important her role has been in the Mission over the last two years. She’s done literally everything we asked her to do. I will admit that her job description was a bit vague from the beginning. When she arrived, she simply let it be known that she’d do whatever we asked.

And so we’ve asked … a lot! She’s been a vital member of the HIV/AIDS/Malaria Prevention Team, served as our Partner Church liaison, helped coordinate and prepare visits from overseas friends, typed and designed letters and brochures, stapled, punched holes, babysat, made phone calls, and given her shoulder to cry upon many times.

More than that, she’s endured my fluctuating moods, stress-induced rants, ill-timed comments, and bad jokes. I have teased her mercilessly about everything from her taste in music (which isn’t bad, except for that Willie Nelson album), her accent (south Texas), and her alma mater (Texas A&M). I’m sure it got pretty old, but she laughed gracefully everytime. But we also had some great theological conversations and meaningful spiritual dialogue. She asks great questions, even if I don’t have very good answers.

I know I’m trying to camouflage our age difference, but having Ginger around was like having my younger sister around. And I dread coming back to the Mission without her.

But Ginger has an incredibly exciting future ahead of her. This fall, she begins her Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Counseling at Fuller Seminary. She wants to specialize in the psychological needs and care of missionary families (I know, I know, here come the jokes. All we ask, Ginger, is that we have a share of the royalties of that first book about the “unnamed” missionary family somewhere in West Africa …) We are confident that she’ll excel at Fuller, and are even more excited about the groundbreaking – and badly-needed – work that she will be doing one day.

To Ginger – thanks for your hard work and self-giving sacrifice. You truly know what “mission” is all about. You are a wonderful friend, and we pray God’s blessings upon your life’s work and call.