Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sprinting The Final Lap To Glory

I am finding that the longer I live the more respect I have for old guys. I mean, I never used to give a thought to jumping into my running shorts, throwing on a pair of running shoes and taking off down the road for a 5 or, if I was especially energetic, 8 mile run. Activities like playing catch with my boys never used to require two extra strength Tylenol and I actually stayed awake while watching a two hour movie after dinner. But, as hard as it is to admit, things have changed a bit since passing 50 almost two years ago. I am now wearing tri-focals and have a feeling that my struggle to hear what people are saying the first time they say it is not a figment of my imagination. I'm not alone in recognizing this new phase of life as even my doctor is trying to get me to be much more intentional about getting an under the hood checkup for such parts as my prostrate and colon. It appears that I have now entered a "higher risk" category for problems stemming from such things. And lo and behold, when I was in Africa where age is respected much more than it is here--they wouldn't let me carry my own bags or sit in the backseat of the car as that would be demeaning for an "older man". This is their version of McDonald's "senior coffee".

All this to say, I am coming to see that age is not as much a figment of my imagination as I once thought it would be. I really am seeing changes in my body that tell me I really am the guy the AARP thinks I am. Now, many of you reading this who know me will say that this has been as obvious as my growing bald spot has been over the last few years. So, as hard as it is for a guy who never thought he'd have to start thinking about the possibility of what comes after tri-focals--I must admit my body is getting older and appears to be headed in the general direction for the same graveyard that contains the bones of my ancestors.

But, having said all this--I also have to tell you that I don't feel old. I mean, whereas I am getting older and my body feels older--I don't feel old. I still feel as young and as strong and as vigorous as I did back when I was in my prime. I still enjoy challenges, risks, and yes, even change. I still want to run another ultra-marathon, climb some more mountains, do some more backpacking, hunt a few more elk, keep playing ball, and continue wrestling with my three boys even though the only one I can whup now is Peter and that is because he is only four and I outweigh him by about 200 lbs. You see, I'm not interested in slowing down even though I realize I am slower than I used to be. I'm not interested in taking it easy or finding some relaxing patch of green pasture to spend the rest of my days. Rather, what I am thinking about these days is taking on the challenge of my life--the challenge for which all the others were training--the challenge of pursuing God hard in the last lap of my life as a missionary in a remote orphanage in a remote village in Northwest Cameroon using this ministry as a platform by which to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a Muslim people group who are as of yet still unreached and whose language I do not know--yet.

Now, where would I get such a hair-brained scheme like this? Actually, I found it in the Bible in the Book of Joshua chapter 14 and verse 12. In this verse, Caleb, an 85 year old man who because of his faithfulness to the Lord was in line to receive some land in the Land of Canaan. When it came time to receive his allotment he had one request. At 85, you could easily imagine that he'd be wanting land already developed and easy for the taking. Perhaps something with a beautiful view of the mountains within easy access to his doctors, a Canaanite golf course, and of course a full-compliment of Philistine restaurants nearby would be nice. But believe it or not, this was not what Caleb had in mind. He wanted the hill country--the land yet to be fought for and more significantly the land still possessed by a strange, powerful, ferocious, and ungodly people known as the Anakim. Not only was this Caleb's desire--he was willing to fight for it as well.

At 85 years old Caleb wasn't ready for greener pastures--he was preparing for bigger battles and greater risks. He wasn't presumptuous either. This is why he makes the point that "perhaps the LORD will be with me and I will drive them out as the LORD has spoken". This is the kind of man I want to be--the kind who instead of slowing down to rest as the finish line is approaching kicks it into high gear even if it appears to be 4WD Low to those looking on and runs for all he's worth to the finish line. I want to tackle bigger challenges, far more dangerous spiritual foes, and climb higher mountains as I get closer to Heaven for once I am there the day for fighting sin, challenging the spiritual status quo, making much of Jesus before unbelievers, and giving my mortal life for the glory of God in seeing unbelievers drawn to Christ through the proclamation of the Gospel will be over.

As I approach those years some call "golden" which, qualify you for a discounted cup of coffee and cheap food, I, like Caleb, would rather have the hill country where the Anakim live. Perhaps, God will find this more pleasing and more glorifying to Himself than resting in greener pastures and thus will be with me so as to give me the adventure of a lifetime.

And if you have read this far--why not skip down a couple more lines in the blog and check out our videos highlighting our call to head to Cameroon.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

You'll Never Guess What Happened On Our Way To CTEN

** Last Monday my wife Nancy and I left Edgewood on a road trip in the direction of Kerrville, Texas, the home of Commission To Every Nation (CTEN). We were eagerly looking forward to our three-day orientation with CTEN which, was to begin on Tuesday. But, on our way about 350 miles from Edgewood and with another 300 miles to go to get to CTEN, our 1992 Jeep Cherokee with almost 270,000 miles gave up the ghost. Actually, it blew a head gasket leaving us stranded at McDonalds in Ft. Stockton, Texas. As we sat in the parking lot wondering who we knew in Ft. Stockton it dawned on us that we might have a bit of a challenge or an adventure on our hands as we had never even heard of Ft. Stockton until making our treks down to I-10 about a year ago.
**So, with no one to call in Ft. Stockton for help we called our son Mark who is stationed at Ft. Hood in Killeen, Texas. The Army graciously agreed to give him the day off to come and rescue us but not until the next day when we were supposed to be in Kerrville at CTEN's orientation. To make a long story a bit more manageable, since we knew we would not make it to CTEN, we decided to take Mark up on his generous offer to catch a ride with him to his apartment outside Ft. Hood in a town called Copperas Cove and stay there through the next Sunday when he could drive us back to Ft. Stockton to meet my brother who was going to meet us and help us get the Jeep back home. Mark made the six hour drive from Ft. Hood to Ft. Stockton the next day and after stripping the Jeep of all our essentials we headed back to his home in Copperas Cove. It was there in that little town that is nowhere near a body of water resembling a cove that God began revealing to us why He chose to break our jeep in the middle of nowhere (my apologies to Ft. Stockton).
** It all started with a retired couple named Gary and Barbara who belong to Southern Hills Baptist Church who prepared us dinner after our long drive to Copperas Cove. While visiting with them we discovered that one of Barbara's passions is quilting. I mentioned that the orphanage in Cameroon needed quilts and she asked me how many. She didn't even bat an eye when I told her we needed 37 quilts. And by the time we left Copperas Cove Barbara and Gary had put together 27 quilts and promised the remaining 10 by the time Mark comes back home in October. But, not only did they provide for our quilt needs, they also brought us 40 pairs of flip-flops for the kids in Cameroon. What a wonderful, godly, and still energetic for the Lord couple!
** While in Copperas Cove we were contacted by several couples and families who were interested in our future work in Cameroon. What a joy it was to sit down whether in a park, at a lake, or in their church and have the opportunity to share our passion for missions and in particular our passion for the Fulbe people with these brothers and sisters in Christ. Besides being overjoyed we were simply amazed at the interest this small church of about 100 people was showing in our ministry especially since we had never contacted it previous to coming to Copperas Cove on this unscheduled trip. We also enjoyed a wonderful lunch with Pastor Preston, his wife Karna, and one of their four precious children. They too, wanted to know what we were up to and how they could help. Finally, Sunday came and I was invited to share for a few minutes during Sunday School about how God is leading us in regard to Cameroon and the response from the church was overwhelming to us.
** Before we left to return to Ft. Stockton, we were asked by many of the members of Southern Hills Baptist Church how much personal support we lacked and what our other financial and material needs are in getting to Cameroon. When I, in an off-handed manner, mentioned that we will need to purchase a 125cc motorcycle trail bike once we get there I was asked how much that would cost and lo and behold Barbara told me it was covered and then asked what else we needed. I promised to send them a list.
** Nancy and I cannot remember in recent years a church with such a heart for missions and missionaries that was so willing to take us in and treat us as royalty. Like our home church they are a church that loves the doctrines of grace and has a deep-seated passion to see the Gospel preached to all the nations for the glory of God and the eternal joy of those He has called to Himself. They are also a church that knows how to love missionaries. What a blessing they were to us--so much so--that when we are on our way to CTEN again--it will be via Southern Hills Baptist Church and Copperas Cove which, truly was a "cove" for us.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

An Initial Report Re: Our Recent Trip To Cameroon

My nephew Aaron Waite and I (Mark) just returned Sunday evening from an exciting 18 day scouting trip to Cameroon where we traveled hundreds of miles via slow moving vehicles, on motorcycle taxis, and by train in order to minister the Gospel and gather the necessary information to select the place where my family and I will move to next September (2011). We traveled, visited, and lived exclusively with Africans on this trip in order to get a first hand indigenous perspective of what the needs really are and how to best meet them in a way that honors the Word of God, makes much of our Great Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and best benefits the people we are going to serve in Cameroon.

Our trip was successful in many ways as God revealed opportunities of service and avenues by which to engage the Fulbe people. We were able to get into the North which the churches in Cameroon call "the regions beyond" due to the scarcity of Gospel witness and the overwhelming Muslim population. We were able to stay with a small church in Ngaoundere and experience as close as I think I have ever come to seeing the NT lived out in a culture hostile to the Gospel. To be in a church where as many of the people as possible gather between 5 and 6 am to gather strength from the Scriptures, prayer, and singing hymns before they go out into a Muslim city where mosques outnumber churches probably 25 to 1 is impressive. To encounter college age believers who besides going to class from 8am to 8pm (yes--there system of education is quite a bit more strenuous than ours) are also reading through there Bibles--some at a rate of 14 times per year is almost unbelievable. We also met believers who had converted from Islam as well as some who were demon-possessed and serving evil spirits before being rescued by Christ. The demonic world is very much evident as well as alive and well in Cameroon.

From Ngaoundere, we hired a truck and a driver who took us further North to the town of Tignere (pop. 20,000) which is west of Ngaoundere and closer to Nigeria. We saw hundreds of Fulbe camps and in talking to a pastor in the town heard of hundreds more in the bush--all of which are without a Gospel witness. We tried to reach the town of Kontcha but couldn't due to the road being completely washed out. To get there we would have had to go through Nigeria which would have been impossible without visas. The appealing thing about Kontcha is that according to the church in Tignere (like the church in Ngaoundere--surrounded by Muslims) Kontcha has not even been engaged with the Gospel. On the way back to Ngaoundere (a 7 hour drive to cover about 70 miles) we had two flat tires and ended up stranded on the road for about 5 hrs. after dark which is not a good situation for Americans on roads that are patrolled by bandits rather than police. God protected us and we eventually got back to our home base in Ngoundere. On another day our vehicle was hit by a small bus and again God protected us and our vehicle so we could get back to Ngoundere.

We spent a couple days and nights at an orphanage near the village of Bossa (30 miles west of Bamenda) and saw much potential for ministry there as well as using it for a means of taking the Gospel to the Fulbe. Known as the Grace Tait Children's Shelter, this orphanage is home to 37 children ranging in age from 4 months to 16. It was started four years ago by Grace Tait a retired Chicago school teacher. Grace is now 82 years old and no longer able to provide leadership to the home. Her teacher's pension is the shelter's sole means of support. We have committed to going to the orphanage next September/October and beginning the work there of providing leadership and working to help it become self-sustaining. We will also be coming alongside the current small staff of five Cameroonian adults to help them in caring for and nurturing the children. The big challenge is to not Americanize the kids as we minister to them and help provide for their needs. In essence, the orphanage is in need of continued visionary leadership that will move it to being a true self-sustaining and safe home for orphaned children which will provide them with a Bible-centered, God-prizing, Christ-magnifying, spiritually vibrant and loving place to grow up and be developed into the adults God will use to positively affect their culture for the glory of God.

Another major challenge we have this year is raising more funds to help pay for some of the projects that need to be started once we get there as well as to replace Grandma Grace's pension as the sole support of the orphanage. We hope to visit more churches and interested individuals this year even as we try finishing the task of raising our own personal support.

As it stands now, our plan is to finish raising our support this year (ca. about $1000 more per month is needed) and then ship our things including a vehicle to Cameroon in mid to late summer. We will then hop on a plane in early September if God permits and begin our work in the orphanage soon thereafter. While at the orphanage we will also begin the work of establishing relationships with some of the Fulbe camps nearby so as to learn Fulfulde, better understand their culture, and ultimately to share the Gospel with them. We will also take trips into the North in order to establish a beachhead to work from in the future as our desire is to ultimately move into the North (the regions beyond) to share the Gospel with those Fulbe people who have never been engaged with the Gospel.

I had the opportunity to do a great deal of preaching while in Cameroon and finished the last week preaching twice a day. God blessed with many professions of faith in the town of Buea and Ngoundere. Over 200 committed their lives to a deeper and more intentional walk with the Lord in one place and in Ngoundere many believers committed their lives to missions and reaching many of the unreached people groups around the world and in their own country. For two days I counseled with people (mostly college students and young working people) from morning until late in the evening who were seeking God's will in regard to future missionary service. I was also asked if I would consider becoming an adjunct professor at a Bible college in Bamenda about 30 miles away from the orphanage to teach expository preaching and other subjects relating to biblical studies.

Aaron was a huge help and encouragement on this trip. He took over 3000 pictures and much video footage. He was also able to encourage many young people as they saw him devoting his time to serve and minister to them.

Well, there is more--much more to tell but this gives you a sense of what we did and are looking to do in the future.