Monday, June 13, 2011
Believe it or not these updates will come to an end. However, the adventure of taking the Gospel to the Fulbe, the largest nomadic unreached Muslim people group in the world continues on for the glory of our Glorious God and the eternal joy of those Fulbe people who will hear this divinely ordained and empowered Gospel and embrace Jesus Christ as their only Lord and Savior. And what a joy it is to realize that in just a few weeks my family and I will be in Cameroon at work learning how to better minister this God-glorifying, Christ-exalting, Spirit-empowered, life-changing Gospel to this people group who are still unreached and in many cases have yet to be engaged by the Gospel.
The days are indeed going by faster than we anticipated. They are consumed right now with sorting, packing, and more sorting and repacking. We will only take what we can put in the back of our Dodge pickup and a U-haul pull trailer. So, have you ever tried to reduce 25 years of marriage, 7 children, and all that comes with living here in the U.S. down to the back end of a truck and a U-haul trailer? Its challenging but not impossible. In fact, Nancy and I are reminded of Hebrews 12:1 with every piece of furniture, box of nick-knacks, pile of clothes, and trunk of books and toys we leave behind to be given away. None of these things are in and of themselves sinful but they could and would easily become very sinful if we were unwilling to lay them aside in order to move to Cameroon to pursue God's will for us and the Fulbe. Thus, with the words of Hebrews 12:1 ringing in our ears and fueling our passion to make Christ known among the Fulbe people we keep spending our days sorting, packing, and repacking until we compress our version of the American Dream into something far less encumbering and impeding when it comes to really running the race God has set before us.
Well, let's get back to the update shall we?! After enjoying many opportunities to share the Gospel of Christ with Fulbe chiefs, villages, Imams, soldiers, police officers, boys and girls, and anyone else who would listen we left Maroua in the Far North and headed back by truck to our home base in Ngaoundere. The ride was long and truthfully--uncomfortable. Americans and Africans differ in many ways but one of the biggest differences has to do with that of our anatomy. You see, the plain and simple of it is that we Americans just have bigger butts (pardon my French) than our African counterparts. And this becomes painfully and uncomfortably apparent when trying to squeeze two African adults and two full-size Americans into the back seat of a Japanese engineered truck that was meant to carry three small people. Add to that combination six plus hours of bone jarring travel on Cameroonian roads and you can see why I'm not leaving our full-size American made truck behind.
Once back in Ngaoundere, we enjoyed wonderful fellowship with the church there on Sunday. I preached Sunday morning out of Matthew 11 and was thankful that the message was still clear and able to be understood after having been translated from English to French and then to Fulfulde. Later in the afternoon Mark Daniel, John, myself and our guide Clifford boarded the train for Yaounde where we rested, resupplied,and made preparations for the trip to the Grace Tait Orphanage outside of Bamenda. We bought tickets on a public bus that was supposed to leave Yaounde by 10 am for the six hour trip to Bamenda. Being Americans who wanted to get to the station early to make sure we were situated in our seats with plenty of time to spare before departure we arrived at 9 and made our way to our seats. Noticing that the vast majority of the seats were empty we thought we were going to have plenty of room to spread out during this bus ride. When the 10 am departure time came and went with no sign of the seats filling up including the driver's seat we began to wonder if we were on the right bus. Being assured that we were on the right bus we waited and waited and waited until finally somewhere around noon the bus filled up and the driver showed up and the bus slowly lumbered out of the parking lot only to get stuck in a traffic jam for at least another 45 minutes and then stop at the driver's home for him to take care of personal business for what seemed to me to be an hour but in reality was probably only about 20 minutes.
It was about this time that the "ugly American" in me began to emerge as I mumbled under my breath so that anyone within 10 feet of me could hear me complaining about the inconsideration and down right incompetency of Cameroon's public transportation system that makes paying customers wait for well over two hours in a sweltering hot bus before finally departing. Of course, what I didn't know was that in their minds it would be far more inconsiderate to leave the bus station without all the passengers who were running on Cameroon time and therefore late. Thus, once again I was confronted with the fact that there is a reason you don't see many Cameroonians wearing watches. Time simply doesn't matter in Cameroon the way it does in the U.S. So again, I learned that we process things differently and in their way of processing things, to leave the station without all the passengers, just because they were running late, would be considered rude and well--inconsiderate. As I thought about it, I could see the wisdom in this especially when say, trying to make a connecting flight in Newark when your flight from Brussels was delayed. There is definitely a sense of comfort in knowing they would wait for you if you're running late.
With the bus finally on the road and making good time my next opportunity to deal with my sinful flesh came when the African passengers on the bus all began closing their windows due to a very light rain shower that was more mist than it was shower. Now, you need to understand that these buses are not equipped with A.C. so the 90 degree heat with 90% humidity inside an over crowded bus with all the windows closed was really not something we thought we would enjoy. Thus, when the man in the seat in front of us reached over to close Mark Daniel's and my window we protested in our best French. With our french not seeming to get through or make sense to him we tried English which had similar results. Finally, my old police instincts began to arise and, using tactics I can't reveal for obvious reasons, I kept him from closing our window. But after seeing his discomfort when the mist turned to a light rain and after realizing we were here in Cameroon to serve not be served I apologetically motioned for him to close his window. He looked back at us and noticing our discomfort in the heat, humidity, and ripe body odor all around us closed his window but just part way allowing us about 4 inches of fresh air. Well, God was faithful and I didn't melt. I did however find my heart melting as God convicted me of my selfishness in being so willing to stand up for my own comfort.
We finally made it to Bamenda where we were picked up by Julius, one of the staff members from the orphanage. After hearty greetings, we stuffed three large suitcases, a backpack, ministry materials, and 24 large bottles of water as well as the five of us into an unusually small late model,built for Africa, 2-door Toyota sedan for the long bumpy ride to the orphanage--oh, but you have heard this story before.
This will sum it up for today. Tomorrow I will give you the rundown on the orphanage.
For His Praise and Our Humility,
Saturday, June 11, 2011
First of all, thank you for all your prayers on Mark Daniel's, John Horn's, and my behalf as we ministered the Gospel in Cameroon. I also appreciate very much all the encouraging comments you offered to Nancy regarding our trip while we were away. I want to briefly bring you up to date on our activities while in Cameroon and what our needs are as we head down the final 3 month stretch before moving the whole family to Cameroon. Because there is simply too much to say in one email I will break these updates up over the next few days so you can get the whole enchilada so to speak in bite size pieces.
Whereas, we preached and ministered in several churches during our 20 day stay in Cameroon the highlight of the trip was our trip to the "Far North" to share the Gospel with the Fulbe. God graciously provided us with opportunity after opportunity to do this beginning with a 15 hour train ride from Yaounde to Ngaoundere. While on the train Mark Daniel and John Horn, both Army vets, took the opportunity to engage Cameroonian Army personnel, who were also traveling, with the Gospel. They shared their own personal experiences in Iraq as well as handed out Gospel tracts and Mark's book "Jesus' Deployment To Save Sinners". All of the soldiers were happy to talk with Mark and John and receive these Gospel materials. Then later on during the journey we took the opportunity to play the New Testament in Fulfulde using one of the Gospel Proclaimers that was donated to us by a ministry in Albuquerque, NM. The response was overwhelming. As the people in our car began to hear the New Testament being read in their own language the crowd around the Proclaimer grew with people wanting to hear what most had never heard before--the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We also went through the train car handing out tracts as well as the Jesus Dvd in Fulfulde to those who had the means to play it. Before we reached Ngaoundere we had given away many of our tracts and Jesus Dvds. Not a single person refused to take a tract or Dvd and as word spread throughout the train of what was going on in our car several people came to us asking for Gospel materials.
Once in Ngaoundere, preparations were made for the ca. 400 mile trip to Maroua in the "Far North". We rented a Toyota truck with a front and back seat as well as hired a driver and then proceeded to pack our things which, besides personal effects, also included 50 CDs of the New Testament in Fulfulde, 100 Jesus Dvds in Fulfulde, and over a hundred Gospel booklets. Then we packed a seven man crew into a five seat truck and headed North. The seven men included, besides Mark Daniel, John, and I, our driver--John, our Fulfulde translator--Watchman, our guide--Clifford, and Fidele--our contact whose home is in Maroua. The only road to the Far North is considered by the Cameroon government to be very dangerous for travelers, especially Westerners, due to bandits. God graciously provided us with protection and we had no trouble at all. The other issue of concern when traveling into the northern part of Cameroon is the Cholera epidemic which is now continuing into its second year. There are of course many other risks involved with taking the Gospel into an unreached Muslim people group but that is one of the things God uses to reveal His greatness and infinite value to these unreached people. As they wonder why three Americans would leave their families, travel over 6000 miles, and risk being robbed or killed by bandits, as well as becoming the victims of such diseases as Malaria, Cholera, and a half dozen other serious maladies just to come and tell them about Isa (Jesus) they get the idea that this Isa must be very important.
Arriving in Maroua in the late afternoon, we were blessed with rain which cooled the high temperatures coming off the Sahara Desert considerably. We met Fidele's family and enjoyed a Cameroonian feast prepared by his mother Christine. We also were able to go to his church and meet the elders whom we were able to share our vision with. We provided the church with many theologically solid books written by John Piper, C.J. Mahaney, and Wayne Grudem that Southern Hills Baptist Church in Copperas Cove, Texas provided for us to give out to pastors and churches. I also met up with an old friend from my last trip back in September of 2010 who we quickly recruited to pursue the work of following up on all the solid contacts we would make in the next few days. My friend Alexis who is a Cameroonian preparing to go to China next year as a post-graduate student readily agreed to do this for us. Finally, the next day we left for a large Fulbe town outside of Maroua. Once in the town of Bogo, we prayed asking God to direct us to the right part of town to begin sharing the Gospel. We headed for the market, parked the truck, got out and fanned out. Clifford and Watchman took the Proclaimer and began playing the New Testament in Fulfulde while the rest of us began engaging other people along the street with the Gospel literature and the Jesus Film Dvds. All were interested in what we were handing out and what we had to say. Surprisingly, we met some who spoke enough English for us to talk with and of course many knew French.
The highlight of this day in the market was meeting the chief of a Fulbe village whose village was located outside of town. He immediately wanted us to come to his village to talk with his elders and the Imam who lived there. Wow! This was just too good to be true. As everyone loaded back into the truck I asked the chief if I could ride with him on the back of his little 125 cc Chinese motorcycle to his village--Waro Mango. He motioned for me to hop on and away we went down a road that quickly turned into a trail just barely wide enough for the truck to follow. Finally, after about twenty-five minutes of dodging trees, other motorcycles, and people heading back and forth to Bogo for market we made it to Waro Mango. He motioned for us to enter a small thatched roof hut made of sun-dried mud bricks and sit down. So we took off our shoes, went inside, sat down, and waited as the chief returned with many men including the local Imam from the Mosque. Once everyone was seated the chief pointed to a small wooden chair and one of the men placed it in the middle of the hut and then motioned for me to sit in it. Once in the seat I noticed that all eyes were on me. Thus, with a nod to Watchman our Fulfulde translator I began pulling out some solar powered light bulbs and explaining how to use them in their village which of course has no electricity. After giving them to the chief along with a beef stick, I asked them if they would like to hear the words of Isa in the New Testament. They all nodded in agreement so John and Clifford fired up the Proclaimer and began playing the Gospel of John chapter four about Jesus meeting the Samaritan women at the well. While the Proclaimer played the men all listened attentively and outside the hut women and children were gathering around to hear it as well. But then the Proclaimer which, is solar powered ran out of juice and in the dark hut we could not keep it going.
Unable to restart the Proclaimer I began to tell them the story of Isa beginning with Creation and moving through redemptive history all the way to final judgment and the eternal state. As I shared the Gospel with these people I struggled trying to think of how to teach them so as to make the Gospel clear. Simultaneously and silently praying as I spoke God provided the words and much to my surprise even the Imam from the Mosque was attentively listening and did not offer any challenge when I stepped on pretty much every so called Muslim time bomb there is in explaining for instance that Isa is the Son of God who came and died for the sins of sinners. Apparently, these Muslims haven't read all the books written by scholars explaining why missionaries shouldn't do this. When I finished the men in then hut asked us to come back again to talk more of this Isa. Before leaving John and Mark Daniel handed out candy to the children as well as tracts to those who could read them. We also "snapped" a few pictures of the chief and his wives and kids before leaving. Sadly, because we did not have any Christian women with us we were not able to engage the women and children with the Gospel. Next time this will be a priority and Nancy as well as our daughters Bethany, Rachael, Esther, and Peter can't wait to go to Waro Mango.
Well, this is enough for today. I will send out more updates over the next few days. I welcome your responses and especially your prayers for Alexis as he follows up with the chief and the village of Waro Mango.
Well, once we left the Fulbe village of Waro Mango we headed down a road in the African Bush that we thought would lead us to Waza National Park as we were hoping to see some African animals in the wild. After a few hours and several miles of traveling it finally became obvious that the road we were on wasn't the road we needed to be on to get to the park. Keep in mind that Cameroon unlike the U.S. feels no compulsion to help travelers figure out how to get from one place to another by posting directional signs. The Cameroon government is quite content to just let people "figure it out". So, realizing we needed to turn back or spend the night in the Bush we decided to turn back and try again the next day. Little did we know that God had His reasons for not allowing us to make it to Waza that day and His reasons had to do with a special appointment He had for us the next day.
After getting a good night's rest, we awoke the next day ready to make the long trip from Maroua to Waza National Park. Wanting to be prepared for whatever or whoever God had for us we also loaded up the Proclaimer and our Gospel tracts with our personal gear. We arrived in Waza about mid-morning, paid the entrance fees, hired a guide, and off we went into the Bush looking for wild animals. God graciously allowed us to come upon giraffes, gazelles, monkeys, ibex, various kinds of birds, and lots of elephant tracks. We even ran into a group of "Forest Guards" camped under a large tree. These men spend days out in the Bush hunting for poachers. They were glad to see us and readily accepted our Gospel tracts and some snacks. It was now mid-afternoon and time to head back so as to be off the road before it got too dark.
The trip back was for the most part uneventful. We passed several police checkpoints with no problem and after a few hours we finally came to the last police checkpoint just outside Maroua. When we were stopped and ordered to park the truck we were surprised but didn't think too much of it when the police wanted to see our passports and the I.D.s of our Cameroonian friends. What we didn't know was that one of the young men traveling with us from Maroua had forgotten his I.D. So, now the police took this young man and his brother to their little shack alongside the road and ordered us to stay put. Essentially, they were going to keep us out there until we paid them a bribe to let the young man as well as the rest of us go. So the standoff began. Not willing to pay a bribe, we decided to make the most of our circumstances by pulling out the Proclaimer and sharing the Gospel with all who would listen. So while the police were interrogating our friends on one side of the road we were sharing the Gospel on the other side of the road. As the New Testament in Fulfulde was being played on the Proclaimer a crowd of people gathered around to hear it. Since many of the people gathering in the crowd also spoke French Mark Daniel and John began handing out several French Tracts. Then one Muslim young man who was working with the police this afternoon approached Mark Daniel speaking very good English. He also wanted to receive a tract not knowing what it was. Unfortunately, we had not planned on meeting English speakers in this area and so had not purposely packed any in our bags. But then John thought he might have one English tract stuck away in his camera bag. He looked and lo and behold he had one English tract. So he gave him the tract and when the young man read the title he became very agitated and approached Mark aggressively telling him adamantly that he was a follower of Mohammad. By God's grace Mark responded gracefully to this young man telling him that we were followers of God who loved Isa (Jesus) and that we were hear to tell him and others about Isa. The young man began to calm down and then told Mark that his name, interestingly enough, was also Isa. He also told Mark that he had already come to the realization that Isa was the Son of God. With that Mark began to proclaim the Gospel to him. The young man listened intently to Mark as he explained the Gospel. Once Mark finished sharing the Gospel with this Muslim young man the police ordered us to leave the area immediately. Young Isa wanted to talk more but knew we had to leave so Mark got his contact info and told him that we would send Alexis to meet with him.
This was God's appointment for us to make this day. This is why we couldn't find our way to Waza the day before. This was the reason John had only one English tract in his camera bag. This was the reason why our Cameroonian friend had forgotten his I.D. so that we were detained by the police and this was the reason why this young English speaking Muslim was working with the police on this particular checkpoint on this particular afternoon at just the time we arrived. God is indeed sovereign over all things and this includes the saving of the lost. We left the police checkpoint with great rejoicing and hopes that with all God did to make this "appointment" happen we may see our new friend Isa in Heaven one day.
I think this should do it for today. The next update will feature our trip to the orphanage with all its joys, challenges, and needs as well as the opportunities God is granting us to make much of Him there.
By-the-way, some of you have asked about the cost of the Proclaimer. They run $100 each. They are solar-powered, essentially indestructible, and very effective. We only had one on this trip and used it everywhere we went where Fulfulde is spoken. We left it with the church in Ngaoundere to use in their evangelism efforts among the Fulbe people. When we go back to Cameroon this September I would love to be able to take several Proclaimers with me to use among the Fulbe as well as to give to churches in the North who are willing to reach out to the Fulbe as well. The Proclaimer also plays the New Testament in Pigeon English which, is one of the trade languages of the South. We hope to give several of these tools away for churches to use in the South as well. If you'd like to help us purchase these great tools please let us know or simply send your check to Southern Hills Baptist Church P.O. Box 638 Copperas Cove, TX. 76522. Please make out your check to the church and write "Cameroon Proclaimers" on the notation line. You will receive a receipt for tax purposes from the church. We are packing our container in August so we will make this order by July 18. Thank you so much!
And if you are interested in supporting us financially we would greatly appreciate it. We are still in need of about $13,000 for our outgoing expenses this September. These are expenses having to do with purchasing supplies, tools, ministry materials, shipping, customs fees, and travel expenses in getting to Cameroon. If you would like to help with these expenses please send your check to Southern Hills Baptist Church at the address above and include "Outgoing Expenses" on the notation line. Again, you will receive a receipt for tax purposes.