Wednesday, April 18, 2018

There And Back Again...

A Missionary's Tale

Hello again - long time no chat.

I know it has been some time since my last post but a lot has happened and I have been processing the experiences and the implications.  On a positive note, I took a trip to East Africa and my friend Catherine came out to meet me.  We met in Nairobi with plans to go on a small safari and then to climb Mt Kilimanjaro.

Since Nairobi is a large city (and apparently known for its crime and challenges to visitors) neither of us really wanted to spend too much time there.  As a result after only a couple days in the city, we made our way to Arusha in Tanzania, where we quickly found (or they found us ;) an organization that would take us on safari.

We opted for a one-day trip into the Tarangire National Park and had a very blessed visit that included seeing a lot of animals such as elephants, zebras, giraffes, monkeys, gazelles, etc. etc.  Interestingly enough and much to our amusement (but not the driver's) we had two flat tires within the span of a couple hours.  

Our next adventure, and the main reason for meeting up, was to have a look at the African continent from on top of Mt Kilimanjaro.  Catherine and I had done some research and we had found a company called Gladys Adventure that we hired to be our guides up this lovely mountain.  (Incidentally if you are considering hiking Mt K we highly recommend this outfit.)

As luck would have it we had perfect weather for the week that we were on the mountain albeit a few cold nights.  Our crew was great and I could not believe the quality of the food we were having on our hike; especially given that all of the food had to be packed in and the water fetched from sources on the mountain that were often not adjacent to the campsites.  We were quite spoiled :)
Speaking of being spoiled, our crew sang to us as a welcome and Catherine was able to capture the song on video.

On the day we summitted, the sky was as blue as could be and despite the long, steep and exhausting morning we were rewarded with spectacular views of the glacier and the mountain.  

All in all our trip was such a great experience! But as Catherine got ready to return to the US I unfortunately was not allowed to return to Cameroon to continue my missionary work.  Since the political situation in Cameroon had deteriorated, the directors of my organization had made the decision to pull all the missionaries from country.  Since I was not in country I was not able to say good bye to my friends and co-workers, and also left most of my belongings back there. This has been hard for me to adjust to and I have struggled with finding myself back home without the chance of returning to Cameroon.  It has taken me some time and the support of several to process this loss and mourn the premature end of my work in Cameroon.

But as with many challenges and changes in life there is a silver-lining.  I have been given the opportunity to continue my missionary work and have chosen to do this in Ecuador!  For those who don't know, my parents are both from South America so this will give me a chance to live and work on the continent that my parents were born on, and certainly understand my roots better.  And since I have adventurous friends, we have already begun to discuss the possibility of climbing Mt Aconcagua :)

I am looking forward to the experience I have ahead of me but I am also looking backwards to all those who became my family while I was in Cameroon, and who I miss terribly!  Please continue to pray for the end of the unjust treatment that so many face in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon.

In Christ,

New Blog:

Monday, August 21, 2017

A Day In The Life

6:30 AM
Wake up.
Thank God for last night’s sleep and ask him for the grace to faithfully live by my Christian values this day.

6:45 AM
Morning meditation.

7:15 AM
Breakfast of banana, papaya and mango. Since I am not a coffee drinker, I found a fruit company that makes a good pineapple juice.  I enjoy some wheat bread from a local bakery with peanut butter (bought from some other missionaries in country) and honey produced by the Cistercian monastery!

9:00 AM
Today I was scheduled to offer “Beginning Excel for Accountants” in the youth office at 9 am, but I have learned nothing starts on time here. We had about 10 attendants. I spent a couple hours sharing the basics of Excel. I assigned some homework so they could practice making a simple spreadsheet that included a personal budget.  Although the initial course was only scheduled for two days, it is clear that some people would like the classes to continue and learn more of the advanced functionality of excel. 

11:45 AM
Headed to Mass at noon.

1:00 PM
Went home for lunch and a short rest.
I am filling in for Fr. Godlove, who is away on vacation, so I prepared for the catechism classes he has been offering to the youths since they have not had school for over six months.  I spend some time organizing my thoughts and preparing my notes.  I also borrowed a copy of the catechism from my neighbor (mine is back in storage in California). 

3:00 PM
Headed to the cathedral.
Internally, I was concerned about relating to the youths and presenting in a way that would be engaging and helpful for their formation. Those in attendant spanned from about 7 years old to high school age, and I found it difficult to keep their attention. Despite the challenges, it was a good experience because it stretched me and helped me to learn how to minister to the youth over here.  In all honesty, I am much more comfortable addressing and speaking to young adults but that was not my audience.

4:00 PM
Left for French Class. I ended the catechism class early because for the last two months I have been taking French classes at a nearby institution.  The class is a two hours, and is offered three times a week at Franco Alliance. Our instructor is a lively and entertaining Cameroonian Frenchman. 

6:30 PM 
I had dinner with a Cameroonian neighbor, Brenda, and her family. She introduced me to her nephew who was visiting from Yaoundé.  The young guy’s name was Bright and we talked about his ambitions to study in the U.S. at one of the Ivy League schools.  We then sat down and enjoyed the meal Brenda had cooked during the day.
8:00 PM
I headed home and did my evening mediation. Then I checked emails, responded to texts and relaxed a bit. 

10:00 PM
Get ready for bed. I end my day by doing an Ignatian-style Examen and thank God for the blessings.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Change of Plans

Ok, since we are still in the strike that began back in November and has affected the education system nationwide, including my role as Campus Minister of CATUC, I have been reassigned to work with the Youth Ministry team.  This is a good alternative and will certainly keep me more engaged with the youth and young adults of the Archdiocese of Bamenda.

When discussing my alternatives with Archbishop Esua, I had been informed that working in Youth Ministry would involve going out to bush parishes and the need to “rough it.”  Given my appreciation for camping and for the outdoors this was much more of an enticement than a hindrance. 

Fortunately for me I did not have to wait long before one of these visits was scheduled for our team.  Just over a week ago we all packed up in our 4x4 and headed out for Menka Quasi-Parish in the middle of some beautiful hills.  The drive there was an exciting adventure and required us to get out and push the vehicle a few times. 

Below is a video of one these episodes.

The parish itself was a surprisingly large church that was serving the surrounding area and was preparing more than 200 youths to receive their sacraments.  Our purpose over this weekend was to hold a youth rally and let the youths know that we, back in Bamenda had not forgotten about them simply because they were way out in the bush. 

We held several talks over the weekend; we sang, dance, ate and prayed!  It was a blessed event and a great experience for me personally.  Because I may have been the first white man to visit in a long time, I was engaged to take many pictures with several of the youths, and was a much curious figure for the littlest ones; who weren’t sure whether to come close or run away! All of it makes me smile as I think back over the weekend and picture the faces of the kids and youths.

Here are a few pictures of our adventure in Menka!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Observations, Appreciations and Challenges III

Part 3:  Challenges

Apologies for the long delay in writing the third part of this series but we are in the middle of an ongoing strike which has resulted in closed schools and blocked access to the internet.  Nonetheless daily life has continued, albeit differently than was originally expected.

Despite these new challenges to living in Cameroon I would not alter what I consider the more difficult aspects of residing in sub-Sahara Africa.  There have been many adjustments, all of which have understandably come with the territory.  For instance, most of the food that I have tried I have enjoyed experiencing especially the roasted fish and fried plantains.  That said, I have not and don’t believe I will acquire a taste for “palm oil,” which is often used in preparing several of the dishes here like cooked vegetables and black beans. On a more superficial level, as a result of being a chocoholic finding good dark chocolate has proved to be cumbersome at best and relatively expensive. 

It has also been an adjustment to learn to do my laundry on a regular basis by hand in my bathroom sink.  Washing machines are quite rare and dryers are non-existent to my knowledge (which is actually not a bad thing because we therefore use clotheslines and in a small way benefit the environment).  
 All of these challenges have been fairly standard and to be expected.  But what I have found to be the most frustrating is the lack of consistent running water.  We can go weeks at a time with no running water and as a result learning to “fetch” water has been a new skill acquired.  If we knew the water was not going to be available based on a schedule it would be easier to manage but at times I have been in the shower, all soaped up and the water has disappeared for some time.  When we are lucky the water may trickle back enough to finish quickly, but if not then hopefully you have some water stored on the side.  If indeed running water is not available for weeks then this makes showering a most appreciated luxury. 
Often times we have not had running water inside but outside the rains are coming down hard.  It should come as no surprise then that when this has been the case I have wondered if it would be culturally unacceptable for a naked white man to go outside and soap up under the natural flowing waters from the sky.  My guess is that this would not go over too well: Janice and Chad you don’t need to worry about unexpected phone calls from the bishop’s house.  Haha!  

I had basically figured out an acceptable solution to this problem when my friend Catherine was going to bring me a camp shower to string up in my bathroom but she has had to postpone her trip due to the socio-political unrest in this country.  I did however find all the necessary components to make a hand-washing station but since I did not have all the necessary tools I had to enlist the assistance of the carpenters on grounds and paid them in the currency of Guinness!
All in all the challenges have been eye opening and have helped me appreciate the things I take for granted, and also to realize the daily struggles that my Cameroonian brothers and sisters face even for the most basic needs.  Walking in solidarity with them, even in small ways will, I pray, help me to grow in awareness and compassion for the millions of people who live with so little in comparison to my accustomed western lifestyle.

Yours truly,