Lassin 2011

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

Sunday, February 27, 2011


Peg and I have been on diets for about 3 months now.  Never have I been so hungry.  And yet, never have I felt so sated.  While I may have been full before, my body never felt quite right.

At church today, the sermon was Matthew 5:6, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled."  Jesus understood that it's only when we recognize what we lack that we can begin to seek to be truly fulfilled.  Such is the spiritual hunger I now experience for the first time preparing for this trip.  In seeking to answer His calling, I'm somehow humbled and empowered at the same time.  The strength I gain from growing closer to Jesus only makes me realize how weak I am without Him.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Cherish Our Time

I work from home.  Over the last couple of years, the only times I've had to leave home for work was to attend training in Dallas for a week.  That was a hard week as I missed my family horribly.  Thinking ahead to three weeks with no contact may be the hardest part of this trip.

It's easy enough to imagine missing the sweet moments -- Luke's and Bella's unsolicited expressions of love, Peg's quiet reassurances, dinner with the family.  But I now find myself even missing the harder moments.  Weird as it sounds, I, sometimes, cherish Bella's little tantrums and Luke's resistance to homework.

God is faithful.  Many times, we've experienced firsthand how much God cares for us, especially after we've put our trust in Him.  There have been times when we've stretched our finances to give only to receive an unexpected check.  Faith begets faith.

This is a unique opportunity to plan for 'loss' and cherish the time I have with my loved ones.  Some may find this grim.  It's not meant to be.  I'm not anticipating death, but I do believe we should live each day as if it's our last.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Inconvenience of Shots

I've had about 8 conversations over the last 24 hours with my HMO, not counting the actual visit to the lab and upcoming trips to the pharmacy and to get shots.  In total, I'll need shots/medications to treat/prevent 7 known risks in Cameroon.  Pain in the butt...or wherever the shots may be placed, right?

Now imagine living your life in these conditions without vaccines or treatment.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Technology and Cameroon

I'm a technophile.  So what do I do to prepare for a trip to Lassin, where life has been largely unchanged for hundreds of years?  I wonder if my iPhone will work.  Doubtful about the coverage, I start researching satellite phones.

We're now told that they do, in fact, have cell phone coverage (GSM, meaning AT&T and T-Mobile could work in the region).  Can you imagine how lives have been transformed?  While technology comes with some danger and drawbacks, some of the benefits are undeniable.  If they have coverage, I think I'll film a "Can you hear me now?" spot.  Oh wait...wrong company.

Anyone ever used Google Earth?  I think I found Lassin.  Zoom in, and I even saw some groups of white spots that may be the villages.

Service and Sacrifice of Comfort

God does not call everyone into the mission field and certainly not to Africa.  I don't mean that everyone isn't capable and equipped for it's your calling, God will make sure you're equipped.  Acts 1:8 suggests that we're to be witnesses locally and beyond.

So does that make the calling to go abroad somehow greater than serving locally?  I think our calling is to spread His good news and to love our neighbors, locally and globally.  Each of us has unique gifts from God (1 Cor 7:7), thus each must serve God differently. 

Beyond the best use of our gifts or talents, I believe that different calls serve to form each of us based on individual needs.  For me, earthly comforts has the danger of making me content and stagnant in my faith.  I can easily become the servant of the one buried talent.  This trip, to me, is a wake-up call that will ignite and maintain a passion for lifelong service.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Obeying in Small and Large Matters

Last night, Luke announced that he was going to do whatever I wanted until my trip.  My immediate, thankless thought was, "Only now and only until then?  Why not always?"  Thankfully, I generally don't blurt out my first thoughts.  What a graceless and hurtful reaction that would've been to such a generous gesture?!?

I wonder how our Father in Heaven feels when I'm so eager to obey this calling and yet struggle in my day-to-day observances.  Why do I lack the same passion when studying His word or loving my neighbors and coworkers?

In the Parable of the Talents, Jesus replied to the faithful (and productive) servant, "'Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.'" (Luke 19:17)  It's a clear reminder that we are to be productive and obedient with the gifts He has provided in things large and "very small". 

Father, I pray that this fire you've lit inside me this week will remain with all things that is good and for all time.  Let me strive to be the gracious and loving father with You as the perfect example.

Packing List

Gary shared his extensive packing list.  On it are over 80 items divided into multiple categories.  By far, the largest category are for our medical needs.  As Gary's fond of reminding me, there won't be a drugstore around the corner so we need to be prepared with both Ex-Lax and Immodium.  The airlines limit us to 50 lbs., which includes our personal tools.

I already have most of the items but will need to purchase a few more.  Because malaria is still fairly common in Africa, mosquitoes are a great concern.  Besides repellent, we'll need to bring our own mosquito nets.  Since we'll be working out in the sun at about 4,000 ft. above sea level, we'll need to have sunglasses and a brimmed hat (the challenge is finding out that fits my fat head!).  The good news is that there's now bottled water in the country so we'll be buying several cases while we're in Douala, one of the largest cities in the country where our plane will land.

Yesterday, I got a pair of good work/hiking boots.  We wanted to get it early so I have time to break it in.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Letter to Friends and Family

I thought long and hard on how I would word this letter letting friends and family know of this trip.  It's never easy asking for money and that wasn't the main purpose.  Peg and I have been blessed with the circumstances allowing us to accept this opportunity.  A big part of those circumstances are the friends and family in our lives, who, though they may have the desire, do not have the means to make such a trip.  So, while I'll be the one traveling, any work I do for Him is truly on behalf of friends and family.

Also, I've never voice my faith so openly.  Since making the decision, there are so many thoughts going through my head that an outlet of expression was necessary -- hence this blog.

Dear Family/Friends,

After several days of prayerful consideration, I have accepted the opportunity to serve in Cameroon (west Africa).  Along with seven other believers, we will be ministering to a relatively unreached people group of approximately 7-9 thousand people in this area, high in the Northwest Province.  The village of Lassin is nestled on the northern slope of the Oku Massif where the Oku Stratovolcano rises to 9,879 ft, an active volcano that last erupted in 1984. 

We will travel leave on March 28th and return on April 17th.  Our main objective over the course of those weeks is church-building – physically and spiritually.  A church that had been in the village for many years was downed by a storm a few years back.  The locals have rebuilt the walls.  We will be helping to put a roof on it.  Perhaps more importantly, we will be there to encourage, pray with, and minister to the village.

As you might imagine, this was, by no means, an easy decision.  The trip would require three weeks away from my family and job.  Out of pocket costs may be up to $3,300.  I’m really not physically, spiritually, or intellectually equipped to serve.  I struggled with each of these doubts over the course of three days.  Never have I prayed so hard and delved so much in Scripture.  One by one, the doubts went away.  God had already anticipated each of my questions and provided comfort.  In fact, I am now certain that I’ve been prepared for this moment.  That’s not to say that it will be easy or that our family won’t find it difficult. 

Part of what finally swayed me was realizing how God has blessed us with all of you.  If you’re willing, I hope you’ll consider helping in any or all of the following ways:
  1. Pray: Not only will the team traveling to Cameroon need and depend on your prayers that we remain spiritually and physically uplifted, Peg and the kids will also require constant prayer.
  2. Contact: This will be the longest I’ve been away from Peg and the kids.  More than likely, I will have no communication with them for most of the three weeks.  I’m sure Peg would appreciate any contact whether it’s dropping by, a phone call, or email/text.
  3. Financially: If you’re so led, any donation would be helpful.  Checks can be made to “FBCEG” and sent to us.  All payments made to FBCEG on our behalf are tax deductable, and FBCEG will provide you with the appropriate receipt before the next tax year (If you need it sooner, or have any questions, just contact FBCEG @ 916-685-4821). We would need to receive your monetary support by the end of the second week of March (March 13th, 2011) at the latest.
May God continue to bless you and your family beyond your greatest imagination.

In Christ’s Name,
Rick Lin

P.S. If anyone’s interested in following our journey (before and after, I probably won’t have any access to provide updates during the 3 weeks), I’ve started a blog:

--  Lassin Church and the Noni Tribe We know that this church was planted in 1935 by some German Missionaries (we are trying to find their names).  In faith, the Lassen people built walls of clay, mud and straw bricks for a modest-sized church. They waited for years, worshiping in the unroofed structure, but no one came to help them put a roof on their church.  Over time, the torrential rains eroded the walls and about 3 years ago, a strong storm blew through the valley and blew the remains of the church walls down. Again in faith, the congregation has since rebuilt the church walls, this time making some very strong walls that are now fit and ready for a roof.  One of our goals for this mission is to build a strong roof on this church. Other equally important goals include child and women’s evangelism, and coming alongside the members of this small church’s congregation and bolstering their learning, understanding, faith, hope and charity found in the God that created them and reaffirming His love for them.
Lassen has a small village atmosphere, yet has a small NAB medical clinic some 100 yards from the church… which will be great for us.  If you look at the map of Cameroon, Lassen is located west of Ndu and Kumbo from the east and Nkanbe from the west. Three tribes share this area. They are the Nso, Oku and the Noni.  It is the Noni tribe that is the people group we are ministering to this trip.
There are lots of farms in the area so food should be plentiful; however it is getting near the end of their growing season. The surrounding area is covered with lots of mud houses with grass roofs. Michelle and I are very excited and privileged to work with the Noni Tribe as they will be an incredible people group to communicate with, as we have been told that in working with this tribe, we will have the feel in all we see and do as though we have gone back some 400 years in time. I can only imagine what our living accommodations might be like… Wow, what a challenge that God has laid at our feet this time!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Preparation Begins

Gary and Michelle faxed me some of the documents and preparation required.  The most urgent thing was to get my Visa application (and pictures) in.  They have to be mailed to the Cameroon Embassy in Washington, D.C. so I'm already behind!  I quickly drove the FedEx office to get the pictures and applications off.

In addition, Gary shared his extensive packing list.  More on that later.

Having gone through two adoptions from China, I'm undaunted. More evidence that God prepared me for this adventure.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Decision Time

I called Gary and told him to count me in.  He was happy, though not surprised.  I've spoken with him daily since Sunday.  Each time, he's expressed concern about how this is affecting me.  He warned that over the course of the next few weeks, I will have moments of doubt wondering what I've gotten myself into.

Now for the paperwork!  First off, I need to get pictures taken and the visa applications in.  All of our visa applications will be sent to the Cameroon Embassy together so they're waiting on me.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

God's Calling

I love reading books by Christian authors, both fiction and non.  One of the common themes is the idea that God would call on us, believers, toward certain acts of faith.  The calling can be as "simple" as helping a neighbor or sacrifice everything.  Throughout the Old Testament are multiples of how God called on certain individuals to serve His higher purpose.  Moses resisted and made excuses.  Abraham responded unwaveringly.  Gideon required proof.  I don't dare suggest that my calling compares to theirs.  My point is that we are all mere creations of God Almighty and cannot easily discern His purposes.

So what of this seemingly esoteric concept of a 'calling'?  There was no thundering voice.  There were no bright lights.  As I wrestled with the decision and overcame each of the objections, applicable verses from Scripture came to mind.  As I look back on my recent experiences, I realized that viewed together, they led to this moment.  It seems foreign now that we  volunteered to lead a Small Group, where we met Gary and Michelle.  It was also in the Small Group that my faith grew and my testimony found a voice.  God's blessing led to the decision and possibility of Peggy retiring and having time to be home with the kids.  Without this flexibility, this trip would be much more difficult.  Back in December, after meeting up with our cousins who were in town, we started on a diet that now makes me feel more physically prepared.  Even down to the date -- Peg and I had planned to be in N. CA the weekend before the 28th.  So we'll actually be in town as the group prepares to leave for Cameroon. 

Yes, it may still seem to some that this is all mere coincidence or justification after the fact.  In the end, the calling seemed sure.  As time passed, my prayer evolved from, "Let me know your purpose" to "I'm prepared to answer.  Tell me if this is not what you want from me." 

I spoke with Gary.  I told him I hadn't yet decided but I would need a clear sign from God that this is NOT His will for me to say, "No."

The Comforter: Objections and Answers (Pt 3)

Like many before me who have been called to service, I doubted (and may always doubt) my abilities -- physically, intellectually and spiritually. 

Three weeks in a foreign, less-developed area can be hard on the body.  We don't fully appreciate the comforts of our modern world until forced to live without.  How will by well-massaged back fare without our memory-foam mattress (or any mattress, for that matter)?  How well will I stomach foreign foods?  Will the mosquitoes that love the taste of me here love me any less there?  Will my body hold up well enough to help build a roof in about 1.5 weeks?  I can't know the answers to these questions until we're there.  It does help that since early December, Peg and I have been on a diet and exercise regimen.  It's certainly helped me to feel my age again (despite Wii Fit's contention that I'm a 50 year old).  And, it's trained my body and will to see food more as sustenance and less as pleasure.

Besides the physical service will provide, perhaps the more important part of our mission is to teach, encourage and, perhaps, lead some to Christ.  As a relatively new believer who came to the faith later in life, I still have a lot of growing to do myself.  Fortunately, I will be going with a group of more mature believers.  And, in my weakness, I will strive to grow...both leading up to the trip and beyond, in preparation for the next opportunity.

Last Sunday (not so coincidentally, the day I got the call from Gary), Peg and I attended a new church.  The verse guiding their missions ministry is Acts 1:8, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."  So, in the end, none of these objections withstand the call of the Lord.

The Comforter: Objections and Answers (Pt 2)

But $3,330 and 3 weeks of precious vacation time from work!?!

The Bible is filled with God's assurances that He will provide (Matt 6:31-34, Matt 7:9-11, 2 Cor 9:8-11).  But do those promises really apply to us?  I'm no prophet and certainly no apostle.  And yet, I can think back to numerous instances where God has provided just enough at just the right moments to know that it's no mere coincidence.  When we adopted Luke, in spite of all of our research and the information that our adoption agency had provided, we found ourselves short of funds.  Just as we needed it, we received a check from our mortgage company.  The balance on our escrow account was too high so they were returning a substantial amount.

Peg asked the other night if we'd have to take out a loan.  "No," I answered.  "Remember that email we got from work the other day for our annual bonus?  It'll come just in time for us to pay for the trip."

As for the 3 weeks of vacation, I'm ashamed to even consider that as an objection.  I'm blessed to be able to work from home full-time in beautiful Southern California.  The kids probably think that work is a piece of cake since I sit at a desk staring at a "tv" all day and occasionally talk on the phone.  Compared to many, every day, for me, is a vacation.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Comforter: Objections and Answers (Pt 1)

God promises to comfort us in our times of trouble.  (2 Cor 1:3-4)  As I considered the awesome opportunity to serve Him, my soul was troubled by the sacrifices and challenges I would face. 

First and foremost, what about Peg and the kids?  This was, by far, the hardest challenge.  The Bible teaches us to be willing to leave our earthly family in His service.  We're not actually commanded to leave.  But the point made is that our Lord takes priority.  As I delved further, I realized that this wasn't an either/or choice (luckily!).  In fact, my responsibilities as a father would also lead me to heed the call.  One of our favorite nighttime songs recently is by Philips, Craig, and Dean, "I Want To Be Like You, Because He Wants To Be Like Me."  I pray that Luke and Bella, if they don't now, will understand that I sacrifice not them but for them.

However, any sacrifice I might make cannot compare to what Peggy would face.  Though it will be hard on her to care for Luke and Bella during the three weeks of my absence, that's not where it's hardest.  Harder will be worrying about me without a means of contact (we've never gone a day without at least talking since we've met).  Perhaps hardest will be wondering about her role in His service.  What I've told her and truly believe is that this is OUR opportunity to serve.  Without her, I wouldn't be going.  To all of our dear friends and family, this applies to you as well.  Without your comfort and support, we would not feel empowered to minister to others.

So in the end, family became a reason to go rather than a reason to resist.

P.S. Valentine's passed as I pondered and struggled with this decision.  In my card to Peg, I mentioned how she lifts me up.  When I hung up the phone with Gary, the friend who'd invited me, and told Peggy about the opportunity, I looked at her reaction.  She looked excited.  I wondered, "Could that be right?  Shouldn't she be worried?"  In fact, she said she was surprised that I would even hesitate.  Apparently, she has more faith in my faith than me.  I walk taller because of her love.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Call

On Sunday, 2/13, I received a call from a friend.  We were in a small group together at the church we'd attended in Elk Grove.  He invited me on a short-term mission trip to Cameroon.

My initial reaction was...No Way!  I mean, I've got all kinds of responsibilities.  What about the kids?  What about Peg?  What about the finances?  What if they have rats the size of cats?

I promised to get back to him within a couple of days.