Lassin 2011

A calling to serve the Lord by helping a village to rebuild their church building and minister to the children.

Monday, June 6, 2011

"Won't you be My Love"

For most of my childhood, I lacked a father figure.  For one brief period, my aunt and uncle visited.  Together, our families drove across the country.  I remember wanting to please my uncle.  He was a smoker (back when it was normal to smoke in the car).  I chose to sit in front so I could pull out the ashtray as soon as he started searching for his pack.  At that young age, it felt terribly important to do something that would please him.

Perhaps that desire to please is ingrained in us...or at least in me.  Our Lassin adventure was all about pleasing our heavenly Father.  I can't think of any greater satisfaction than knowing that God is pleased with my actions.  I take that back.

Each night, as the kids head to bed, we share a song.  Tonight's song was from MercyMe.  Imagine the Creator of the universe who is all powerful allowing us to participate in bringing grace to His creation...asking us:
Won't you be My voice calling
Won't you be My hands healing
Won't you be My feet walking into a broken world
Won't you be My chain-breaker
Won't you be My peacemaker
Won't you be My hope and joy
Won't you be My Love

Monday, May 23, 2011

Called to Service

Peg and I have spent a lot of time figuring out "What next?"  As Peg put it, she doesn't want Cameroon to be a "once in a lifetime experience."  Rather, we want it to be the start of a pattern of service.  We don't know whether we'll be called for longer term mission work, but in the meantime, we're looking forward to shorter trips with our children.  Through some research, we've found some great organizations that help to match volunteers with needs throughout the world.  We pray that we will take one of these trips as a family at least once a year.  Our two main objectives are to serve and glorify God and to teach our children to have selfless, servant's hearts.
Anyone interested in joining us?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Expression of Love: Obey

We start early in life trying to express our love.  It may be a hug and a kiss or a bouquet or a poem.  Entire industries have been built on helping people to express love.

As kids, we already had it figured out: Jesus said, "If you love me, you will obey what I command." (John 14:15)  This isn't strict legal test where if you don't obey then you must not love.  Rather, it's a truth known deep in our hearts.  If we love someone, don't we wish to please him/her?

What I miss most about the trip was knowing every minute of every day that I was expressing that love.  I woke up in a foreign bed expressing that love.  I ate strange (to me) foods expressing that love. 

Back in this world, actions and thoughts with the purest intentions still leave room for doubt.  How I miss the simplicity of those days...

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Who's wealthy?

The typical Cameroonian has little material wealth.  Most farm and depend on the little income they get at market from their farmed goods for subsistence. 

Judged by their homes and outward appearances, Cameroonians appear impoverished.  But spiritually, riches abound.  They take great pride in their labors and farms.  What they have was eagerly shared with us.  Our lunches came straight from their fields.  After a day of farming, they came to sing and dance with us to lift OUR spirits.  On the last day we were in Lassin, to express their thanks, they gave us more food than we could carry on our car and van. We were outfitted with shirts and dresses out of fine cloth.  These are the same people who may not have EVER purchased anything beyond food and material required for the farm.
Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything-all she had to live on."  (Mark 12:43-44) 
Lest you think I came back and gave away all of our possession and took to wearing sackcloth and eating locusts and honey....  Don't worry.  My appetite is still plenty healthy for much more.  What I did bring back, however, is a more acute sense of what's important.  Like any gift from God, riches can be a blessing.  We're not called to be poor, but we are warned to not cling to material wealth.  
  • Matt 6:19-21: Store treasures in heaven
  • Matt 13:22: Parable of the Seeds, "fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it"
  • 1 Tim 6:9-10: "love of money is the root of all kinds of evil" is well known

Monday, May 2, 2011

Africa: 2 Weeks Later

We've now been back for weeks, which is just enough time for some of the feelings to sink in and for words to form but not so long that memory has faded.

When people have asked, "How was it?" my simple, yet honest, response has been, "AWESOME!"  I don't mean that it was 'cool' or fine.  I mean we got to serve God.  It wasn't just a theoretical experience.  The Creator of the universe knocked and we answered.  How else can I describe that but AWESOME!

And in case I had any lingering doubts whether He called me there, He answered prayers as often as I prayed.  At 2 AM on a warm night with no electricity and slat digging in your back, there's not much else to do but pray.  After our first day of work, arms, face and neck were bright red from the sun (and my foolishness for failing to put on suncreen and wear a hat).  I prayed.  Though the sunburn was evident, I felt no pain that night or any other time.  In Cameroon, my regular aches and pains disappeared.  Now, after two weeks back on a memory-foam bed, the aches are back.

Cameroonians are joyful.  Smiles come easily and are often unprovoked. When you greet someone, there's no doubt that it will be reciprocated.  (It was a hard habit to shed at the airport.  But a couple of cold stares were quick 'cures'.)

One week, we worshipped outdoors because the church was roofless and filled with scaffolding.  The next Sunday, we worshipped under a roof, which hadn't happened at that church for 3 years.  So we rejoiced (which, in that part of the world, meant a lot of singing and dancing!).

I miss the simplicity of having heeding God's assignment for us.  Hammer some nails and bring joy and hope to the nationals (and anyone we came across).  Back home, it's just not clear.  How firm should I be with my son (Prov 22:6 vs. Eph 6:4)?  Every major decision seems to be either a calling or a test... 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

"Road" to Lassin

3/31: 6 PM Local Time

It took us about 7 uncomfortable hours to travel 70 miles from Bamenda to Lassin.  To call it a road would be generous.  For the most part, it's unpaved and cratered with holes.  Though wide enough to accommodate two cars, the craters forced the drivers to weave left-and-right to avoid getting stuck or damage to their cars.  Some stretched involved steep grades which can be tricky when you have a fully-loaded 15 passenger van  and no asphalt.  We had to climb out of the van twice and meet the driver at the top of the hill.  To challenge the driver further, we often had to share the road with various animals.

Seats with little padding, covered in red dust, bumping along left-right/up-down/front-back, and with no air conditioning, the ride was say the least.  Just as I was about to voice my complaints, I saw, on the road in front of a us, a boy pushing a 'truck' filled with about 500 lbs of concrete blocks.  Up and down that truck went through the holes in the road.  I was humbled into silence.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Rest Houses

3/30: 8 PM Local Time

From the airport last night, we drove about 5 minutes to a rest house managed by a European Baptist organization.  

We left that rest house and drove to the Cameroon Baptist Convention offices in Bamenda and stayed at the rest house.  Along the way, we were stopped several times (speed bumps and/or police checkpoints).  At most of those stops, vendors aggressively shoved their wares/food into our open windows.

For missionaries weary of travel, these facilities certain live up to their names.  Though nothing fancy, comfortable beds, electric lights, and plumbing are welcomed respites.

Douala International Airport: Introduction to "Motivation"

3/29: 7 PM Local Time

Our plane landed at about 7 PM local time.  Humidity was immediately apparently in the terminal, which was not fully enclosed.  Ongoing construction meant the walls opened to the outdoors, hallways were dimly lit (if lit at all), and the floor was untiled with long stretches of uneven concrete.

We had to be careful to stay together as we made it through the immigration lines.  Chaos grew with each checkpoint.  At the baggage carousel, many "helpful" men insisted on helping with our luggage and pushing our baggage carts.  As we went outside, the number of porters grew as each wanted a share of the expected tip.  We had to firmly refuse several. Apparently, it's not uncommon for fights to break out as these porters vie for Western groups such as ours.  At any time, there may be over 100 of these young men around the airport trying to earn some money.

Tragically, Cameroon is renowned for corruption (Google "Cameroon corruption" if you don't believe me.).  As we were leaving the airport, the officials insisted that we open one of our boxes.  From past experience, Darrell and others knew that this was the start of an attempt to collect 'duty'.  The amount would depend largely on the value of the items in the box.  They happened to choose the box with "Creation booklets" made by a group from FBCEG so we made it out the airport relatively unscathed.  However, as our luggage was being loaded onto our bus, an official looking gentleman walked up and secured one of the tires with a boot.  He demanded "motivation money" before allowing us to leave.  "Welcome to Cameroon," I thought.

As we drove out of the airport, the grass field around the parking lot was dotted with many young men.

"What're they doing there," I asked.

Darrell replied, "They're probably university students here to study.  This is one of the few public places with lights."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Monday, April 18, 2011

Home at last. Rest of the team should be driving from SFO to Sacramento/Elk Grove. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Joy and Sue are both fine. Visited Mbingo Baptist Hospital and New Hope Leper Settlement tonight. Now relaxing with some live worship music.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Our guide, Joy, cut her infected. She was admitted into the Hospital. One other team member, Sue, may have infected toe. Please pray for both.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Today is the 1/2 way point. Putting up the last truss right now. Pray that we can worship indoors this Sunday which will be the first time in ~3 years here.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Childrens ministry with more than 300 attending. Praise God!  Church in the background. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

In the evening it's 60s but humid. Most of us sleep with only a sheet and still feel warm. We've had several storms which wash away haze making the heat worse.
During the day it's sunny with a high of 75. In the shade with a breeze it's quite comfortable. But in direct sun it's quite intense where we're quickly burned.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Week has started well. Coordinator running to town tmrw for materials. Women's ministry also tmrw. Pls pray for both.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

1/2 day of work. Storm last night washed away haze so sun was intense. 

Friday, April 1, 2011

Day 1 of work. Electricity: mostly no. Plumbing: no. Cell: yes!!
If anyone on the team needs to be reached for emergency, text Rick 916-601-1209.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tomorrow we head to Lassin.Because of the treacherous roads we'll be taking smaller cars. Our water supply will be limited to limit weight of cars.Please pray.

Relaxing at Bamenda, Cameroon Baptist Convention HQ. Arrived after 8 hr drive. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Safely at the residence in Douala with all our bags. Praise God!
Paris: Here for two hours. Then off to Douala, Cameroon. Spirits are good but a bit tired after 10 hr flight. Next flight is about 5-6 hours.

Monday, March 28, 2011

On plane in salt lake. Hoping our luggage will also make the transfer.

The Adventure Has Begun

Met the team yesterday. What a great bunch of joy-filled believers. Ever notice how anxiety begets anxiety? The same is true with joy.

Added a link to the team blog. Please check there for updates.

Our original flight to Paris via Atlanta was cancelled. We'll now go via Salt Lake with only 55 min between flights. Pray that the team's 18 suitcases make the transfer. The adventure has begun.
"These pains and troubles here are like the type that printers set. When we look at them, we see them backwards, and they seem to make no sense and have no meaning. But up there, when the Lord God prints out our life to come, we will find they make splendid reading." --Martin Luther

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sending via text. If this works, I may be able to send updates from Cameroon.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Travel Time (6 Days to go)

We got the flight itinerary from Darrell, our group leader, yesterday.  We leave from Sacramento at about 11 AM on Monday, 3/28, and arrive in Douala, Cameroon at about 7 PM Local Time on Tuesday, 3/29.  Since Cameroon is 8 hours ahead, the means total travel time is just about 24 hours (19 hours in the air).  I'll be well prepared with good companionship and good books.  In addition, Peg and I twice survived 16+ hour trips back from China with kids in tow. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

God Doesn't Need Me (7 Days)

"The vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. ...In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself.  Unless you know God as that -- and, therefore, know yourself as nothing in comparison -- you do not know God at all. ...A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you."  (Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis)

I struggle with pride.  It seems a paradox to me that the very talents that God gives us could tempt us to becoming overly proud.  The cure for pride is humility.  By that, I don't mean superficially redirecting compliments.  True humility can only exist when we believe that we're not good enough.  Believe a stereotypically, 'pragmatic' man who wants to fix every problem, it's a hard pill to swallow.

I read a story told by L.B. Cowman today.  She tells of helping a moth escape its coccoon by cutting the narrow opening.  What she failed to realize was that the pressure exerted on a moth's wings when escaping from the narrow opening pushes blood to the wings, thereby helping the wings develop.  "I thought I was wiser and more compassionate than its Maker, so I resolved to give it a helping hand.  ("Streams in the Desert") 

This trip is a stark reminder that God doesn't need me.  I have no special talents for this trip.  Any evidence of my construction skills can be seen in the crooked treehouse at our old house.  I don't speak the language and have no special talents to connect with kids.  On this trip, I go because He called.  I follow where He and the team lead me.  There can be no doubt that credit for any good that comes of this trip go to Him.

Lassin (actually Kumbo) Weather

It's near enough now that I can find out the forecasted weather for when we arrive in Lassin.  Below is the URL for the weather in Kumbo, which is 10-15 miles from Lassin.  It looks like a high of 68 and clear...

We'll be driving from Douala to Lassin.  Based on the significant rain between now and when we arrive, the roads may be a bit "adventurous".

Sunday, March 20, 2011

"New" Church

On the same day Gary called us with the invitation to Cameroon, we attended Valley Christian for the first time.  That church and particularly the lead pastor has welcomed us with open arms.  He has not only prayed with us as I struggled with the decision but has been encouraging every step of the way.  Many at Valley Christian are well familiar with mission trips to Africa as the church maintains an active ministry in Kenya.  Today, we attended the last service before I leave.  Pastor Mike invited us to the front so the entire church could bless and pray over us.  It's no coincidence that we found our new church home the same day this journey began.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Suffering (9 Days to go)

As the day approaches, the reality is dawning on the whole family.  The hardest part of this adventure is being apart from my family for three weeks.  I realize that the trip will be uncomfortable, to say the least, but thoughts of that suffering doesn't deter me.  If this was meant to be a pleasant experience, then it wouldn't be much of a sacrifice and it wouldn't show much faith to obey.  No, the greater the discomfort, the greater the opportunity to demonstrate my conviction.

"For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him." (Phil 1:29)

"We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.  But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did." (1 John 2:3-6)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Countdown Begins (10 Days)

Ten days from now, we'll be boarding the plane for Cameroon (via Paris).  We're pretty close to ready with the packing.  Everything has been laid out.  We need to apply some mosquito repellent before the final packing.  Through the love and generosity shown by everyone, all of the funds have been covered.

Peg and I have been reading a Bible Study for short-term missions.  One of subtexts, "The easy part is packing your bag.  The challenge is to prepare your heart."

Today's reading was on humility. 

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  (Phil 2:3-4)

Even in service to others, we act with haughtiness and exude superiority.  I pray for true humility in actions and thought.  May all glory be to God, whom I serve.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Packing Dry Run

We did our first packing dry-run over the weekend.  The suitcase with everything except clothes and towels came in at 43 lbs.  In case you're wondering what else I could possibly be taking if not clothes and towels: Tools, Snacks, Soccer Balls, Blanket, Medicine, More Medicine, Clothes Drying Line, Electrical Adapter, Mosquito Net/Tent, More Snacks, Yet More Snacks....

We'll probably need to cut out a few things to come in under 50 lbs.  Guess I'll have to cut out some beef jerky.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Personal Testimony

In preparation for the upcoming trip, we're asked to write out our Personal Testimony describing our walk with Christ.  Your faith isn't quite crystallized in your mind until you're forced to articulate it on paper.  Here's what I wrote:

I was brought up as a Buddhist.  Like many Chinese, our practice included traces of Taoism and ancestor worship.  I know this because, in college, I sought to better understand what I truly believed.  Through self-study, I read what I could on various forms of Buddhism along with other religions.  The more I read, the more I hungered.  I never felt quite content with what I’d learned.  But teachings on shunning this material world always appealed to me.

Many years later, at my first full-time job, I met the woman whom I’d marry.  She carried herself with grace and kindness.  More than all of her beauty, what attracted me most was her peace.  Over time, I learned that the source her strength and comfort was her faith – knowing Jesus and knowing that He’s always there to sustain her.  I listened with an open mind and even attended church services with her.  By then, she knew that I had to find my own way without any external pressures.

One day, while vacationing, I was introduced to C.S. Lewis.  While better known for his Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis had chronicled through many books and essays his journey to and as a Christian.  For many years, he’d been agnostic.  For years, he’d resisted and questioned only to find that the truths taught by Jesus were undeniable.  However, like a teenager coming of age, I wouldn’t take his word for it.  I searched on my own.  I found others who’d gone through similar journeys.  Josh McDowell was an agnostic in college and planned to write a paper challenging the historical authenticity of Christianity.  By the end of the term, he’d become a Christian himself.  Lee Strobel had been an atheist legal journalist.  In his book, “The Case for Christ,” he documents his interviews of scholars eventually arriving at the conclusion that, “it would require more faith for [him] to maintain [his] atheism than to embrace Jesus as being God's unique Son!”  Through these writings and through my wife’s example, I came to accept that Jesus is God’s son, that He came to die for our sins, and that by accepting Him I would come to find joy and peace.

I still search.  Whereas before, my search had no destination in mind, I now search with my heart and mind pointed to God.  When you love someone, you want to spend more time with them and know everything about them.  With Jesus, it’s no different.  When you love someone, you want to do everything you can to please him.  With Jesus, it’s no different.  When you love someone, you want everyone around you to know.  With Jesus, it’s no different.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

God's Calling (Revisited)

Earlier, I'd noted how Christians talk about following God's will and how God, through the Holy Spirit, "speaks" to us.  Let me give you an example.  When I made the decision, I knew with certainty that I'm meant to make this trip.  I knew the reason but have struggled to articulate it.  In my readings, it became clear,
"This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!" (2 Cor 9:12-15)

I obey out of love.  May any good that I do be credited to Him whom I love.

Food in Cameroon

I don't like rodents.  One of the questions I've saved for our maker is, "Surely, rodents became corrupted after You made them, right?"  Thinking about those bitty red eyes, fangs and claws gives me the willies.  So, I'm reading up on Cameroon and guess what I find about the cuisine, "bush meat (e.g. ...various rodents) is widely consumed."  And, of course, a common missionary's prayer goes, "Where you lead me, I will follow; what you feed me, I will swallow!"  Gary's advice for us is we're served soup/stew, which is likely, don't dip the ladle to the bottom.  Sounds like good advice to me.

Part of this experience is learning to appreciate God's work by seeing the world through His eyes and the eyes of His creation.  In the U.S., people have sued for "emotional damage" when inadvertently served with rodents.  But in Cameroon (and I'm sure elsewhere), 'bush meat' is a necessary part of the diet.  Not only must I accept the food, but I must do so joyfully and thankfully (1 Thess 5:16-18)