Here is a link the the newsletter I just sent out. Let me know here or on facebook if you would like to be added to my mailing list to get it via email next time. TenClay 2014 August Newsletter
Also, here is a short introduction video I just made for one of my churches – feel free to use it in yours too (The first link is for the full-sized file, and the second is for a version with a little lower resolution in case your internet is as slow as mine. I couldn’t get them to show up as actual links, so you will probably have to copy and paste whichever you want into your web browser.)
It was a sad weekend here on the CMF property. Taylor, the dog we got shortly after I returned to Cameroon (only a about 7 months ago), passed away Saturday night. He had been fighting some sort of virus for several days, but evidently couldn’t’ fight it hard enough. When we woke up Sunday morning he was ‘sleeping’ on the lawn like usual . . . or so it appeared at first. That makes me believe he probably went peacefully in his sleep, which is comforting.
Quite honestly I don’t even LIKE dogs. I am, by every account, a cat person. However, this summer when nearly everyone else on my compound left, it was just me and the two dogs. They decided that I was not only their only source of attention, but that I was all that was left to guard here too, and they dutifully stood watch outside my apartment door and/or window almost all the time. I will admit they have grown on me. Tozer’s unconditional affection and his endless patience with Taylor’s obnoxious puppy antics has really adopted me as HIS. Taylor never was as affectionate or as loyal, but he was also just a puppy and was too busy playing to get that far. We had actually really been struggling with Taylor for the last few weeks as his “playing” involved nipping at ankles a bit too much. Several ladies on the compound had justifiably begun carrying a stick to keep him away. He was driving me absolutely crazy, as I struggled with how to train a puppy who was never fully trained (and once again, I am neither a dog person nor know much of anything about dogs!), especially when there isn’t anyone here to just spend the time with him and be consistent enough to do that training. A little over a week ago I felt like I was finally making some progress with him . . .
Taylor is the smaller one on the left, and Tozer is the bigger one on the right.
On some level I probably shouldn’t use that title, because at first glance it makes me think of bigger security issues for people I know in other parts of the country or parts of the world where ‘security issues’ relate to kidnappings, armed militants, medical dangers (like ebola) and other such things that freak out the people at home, because it always sounds on the news like ALL of Africa is dealing with ALL of these issues ALL the time. Rest assured, we have NOT had any of that type of issue here in Yaoundé yet, and don’t really anticipate it coming this far south. As standard operating procedure, all the mission organizations here have evacuation plans in place as a precaution should there be unrest or other similar issues, but we don’t anticipate having to use any of them here.
My security issues seem so minor when placed beside what our brothers and sisters in other areas of the country, continent, and world face on a daily basis. However, it is easy to lose track of that perspective and get frustrated with the ‘little things’. We have recently changed security companies on our compound, and have had some issues of the new company not being prepared when they were initially supposed to be here. From the very beginning they have done a great job of having people here overnight (which is probably the biggest concern anyhow), but that first weekend they did NOT have the weekend guard during the day as we has expected. Quite honestly it is more of an inconvenience that anything else, but there are times where it is a legitimate security concern as well. For example, just like in the US, where can we all assume the missionaries will be on Sunday morning? Safe guess it is NOT at home! So, last Sunday I camped out at the gate to let the others in and out played ‘guard’ for the morning. It was actually a beautiful and unexpected blessing. I camped out beside a little fire (which kept the annoying bugs away and was nice and war on a cool morning, the three dogs on our compound camped out in a semi-circle around me, and I spent the morning reading scripture – it was really nice!
As much as I enjoyed that, I was THRILLED to find out that we had hired a young man who has worked as a guard for us before to cover those missing shifts this past weekend so we wouldn’t have the same problem. Plus, I suspect he lost his job when the other security company lost our contract and we all love the guy here – if we had our say, the new company would hire him so we could keep him around . . . but it doesn’t generally work that way I guess.
Anyhow, I have babbled on for long enough today. Just remember, as you read and hear about all the terrible things that international news likes to focus on, especially for Africa, please pray for those people and those areas. However, rest assured that the type of ‘security issues’ I deal with on a day to day basis are pretty minor. Quite honestly I am probably quite a bit safer here than some of the places I have lived in the US if you were to look at statistics.
Though I moved into my apartment in March, there are quite a few things that are not complete. Nothing earth shattering, just cosmetic and/or inconvenient. For example, my kitchen counter is tiled, but the edging and backsplash haven’t been done, my kitchen pantry has no door, and I don’t really have any storage. Obviously such things are not top priority, especially when major stuff goes wrong, such as the water filtration system for our building dying back in June. Anyhow, not much of anything has happened with the apartment since late March/early April. However, in the past week we have made TONS of progress! There is a gutter on the roof edge above my door, which means I don’t have to stand in the run-off from the roof in order to unlock my apartment. I have cement outside my apartment which means I won’t have giant mud puddles outside my apartment, and I hopefully my ankles won’t get eaten by the bugs quite as much. They have started (and will finish next Saturday) the metal grates to cover the gutters outside my apartment and a door into what will someday be my laundry room. I can’t believe how much can actually get done in a week!
The next step involves some carpentry work, some of which I need to get quotes on from local carpenters . . . I wish I would have gotten around to that before everything started up at school, but such is life.
GRRRRRR I have typed this end section three times now! It reminds me why it has taken me so many tries to get this silly blog posted lately.
It has been a bit over two weeks since I actually wrote this blog, and unfortunately we are still at pretty much the same point with both of these projects. I still don’t have quotes on any of the carpentry work (every time I have stopped up to talk to the guy, he has been gone and his workers say they will have him call me, but THAT hasn’t happened. The Cement work still needs a handful of pieces set into place and sand filled in around them all, but neither of those things should take too long. The metal work has had another whole day of work, but is still not done, but Emmanuel comes back full time this week, so I am hopeful. He has already gotten a ton of bits and pieces of other stuff around here done today, and that always reminds me how efficient he can be when he has a specific list to work on. I WILL remain optimistic!
The first week or so after school let out, it was REALLY quiet around here. The dogs just about drove me crazy following me around and begging for attention, because I was the ONLY person they were seeing some days other than our guard. But then came July . . .
Wow, playing host is great, but exhausting! One of my cousins came to Cameroon for a two week visit this summer. What a blessing to both spend time with family and to be able to share my world here first-hand! In the midst of her time here, we had a couple of prospective teachers also visit – THAT was a crazy week! Thanks to the help of one of my Cameroonian friends, we were able to get them out to a village, a chance to play volleyball with a local group, into one of the main markets here in Cameroon, and to a Cameroonian church in only a few days! (Sorry that the order makes no sense . . . I couldn’t get the computer to cooperate and finally just gave up)
Supplies at that ‘hospital’
Road to the village – narrow, but MUCH nicer than the road out to school
We weren’t very sure of our footing on the bridge
Cocoa pods on the cocoa trees
My cousin and Me :)
And we say Iowa is ‘where the tall corn grows’ ????? I think we have a runner-up
hospital in the village
After that couple left, my cousin and I took a quick trip up to Bamenda and Mbingo in the Northwest where we toured Mbingo Baptist Hospital (my cousin Maria is a nursing student), visited the local market (WAY more fun when you can bargain in English!), hiked to a local waterfall (a bit farther and more treacherous than we expected), and enjoyed some down-time visiting with members of my mission family there. It was a great time of refreshing and relaxation in what I consider the most beautiful part of the country. (I will post these pics separately . . . when the computer decides to cooperate)
Some of you know I love to quilt. Well, I like to design and piece together the quilt tops, especially ‘scrap’ quilts. (I am not nearly patient enough to enjoy hand quilting as much as some people do) I love the way beautiful colors and prints that you wouldn’t normally put together can create a masterpiece of far greater beauty than any of the individual fabrics. Quite honestly, I generally find these ‘scrap’ quilts even more beautiful than those created out of a couple carefully selected and coordinated fabrics. I love the surprise and the variety.
This ‘summer’ I haven’t really had much down time, but much of what I have had has been spent at my sewing machine. I wanted to share a few pictures of my current works-in-progress with you, but as I sat down to post these, I started thinking about how quilts could be used as an illustration of so many aspects of our lives. God has carefully planned the final design of the masterpiece that will be our lives, but so often we only see the individual pieces. We try to rearrange them and maybe throw out the colors and prints that we don’t think match the others, but the reality is each piece – with its crazy print or seemingly clashing colors has a place. Likewise, in our lives each seemingly insurmountable problem, each heart-crushing loss, and each seeming failure or success is a part of the masterpiece God is creating day by day, piece by piece. Just like when you look at a couple of random pieces of a quilt, it is often impossible to imagine the final product our limited perspectives keep us from seeing the combined beauty of his plan too.
Our graduates have graduated, closing week activities have ‘closed’ and it is officially summer break (though we try not to call it that, because there really is no such thing as ‘summer’ here). With that comes what many of us have come to call the ‘great white flight’ as a huge part of the missionary community heads to their various corners of the world for a few weeks. I finally sat down and looked at a calendar a couple of weeks ago and realized how little time we really have! Though I technically have about 4 and a half weeks, much of that will be filled with picking up administrative duties, taking over the management of our property here in Yaounde, trying to figure out what I am going to cover in my classes next year, and planning for (and hosting) incoming guests.
In case you haven’t heard, in addition to my teaching duties next year, I will be taking on the duties of Assistant Director at RFIS. Also, due to lack of hostel parents, our hostel will be closed next year. That means I will be the only member of my mission in Yaounde for the year, so the management of our property here falls to me as well. It is going to be a busy year!
This week has been my introduction to all of those duties, and it has been interesting. In theory there really isn’t much I need to do AT the school, though I am the only administrative team member available for nearly 2 weeks, so pray that all goes well and I don’t have to figure out what to do in the face of any major issues! Most of the work I am trying to get done is simply course planning for next year. Sadly much of that needs to be done though internet research, and we have been without internet for most of a week now. GRRRRR! The bright side is a little forced vacation from school work – and I have done a bunch of piecing on the quilt I have been planning for a while now! I have a long ways to go on it, but am SO excited by what I have done so far. I will try to post pictures when I post this blog (I am writing this on the 25th – day 5 without internet. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for me to be able to post it . . . )
The only other major situation in my world at the moment is the need for some dental work. I lost a filling a couple of months ago. Last month a whole piece of that tooth broke off, and now the damage has expanded to the point where it actually hurts. I can’t put it off any longer. My first root canal, and it is in Africa – YIKES! Dental work is difficult for me anywhere, so I am definitely not looking forward to it here, but I don’t have much of a choice. Pray for me!!!!! I go in for the first work on it tomorrow (26th), and it sounds like it will take until at least sometime in August before I get through all the steps. *sigh*
Update 29 June –
Survived the dentist appointment, but 3 days later I am still taking ibuprofen every 4 hours . . . not a great sign. I still don’t have internet up and running, but borrowed a portable hotspot from a friend so I could at least catch up on email and set up my computer to download all my email on the rare occasion I can get email so that I can hopefully get some work done the next time it is down (or next week if it still isn’t fixed). 4 hours later I have email caught up and cleaned out . . . remind me why I allow myself to be so dependent on technology….
About a three hour drive from here is a place called Kribi, where there are a wide variety of hotels, beaches, etc. It is one of the main vacation destinations for missionaries here. In general the hotels aren’t great, but they are pretty cheap by American or European standards (actually within the budget of many missionaries), and some of them would totally qualify as ‘roughing it,’ but the beaches are beautiful! Ok, so, a couple of weeks ago, we had a 4-day weekend from school, and a friend and I decided to take a quick trip to the beach.
Looks pretty nice, doesn’t it? Yes, it was, but there were a few . . . hitches . . . as well.
For example: if you look more closely at the “gardens” between our hotel and the beach, you will notice they are in pretty bad shape (and you had to be careful walking on both the tile and cement because it was broken up in places). The view from our hotel rooms was gorgeous . . . until you look over to the right and notice the swamp beside the hotel and dumping into the ocean at our beach. Oh, and did I mention that the water in our hotel was not working nearly the whole time we were there? Now, I can survive a couple of days without a shower, but not being able to flush the toilet is quite another story. My digestive system was in an uncooperative mood the first night, and they didn’t bring us buckets of water (so we could wash ourselves and flush our toilets) until the next morning . . . fun. Oh yeah, take a look at our bathrooms too. There were no toilet seats and you literally needed to come at the toilet from the side or stand in the shower – neither great options when you are trying to squat since there is no seat. My bathroom light also did not work.
The bright side? We got to hang out at the beach, the air conditioning worked MOST of the time, and the view really IS beautiful if you are willing to focus upwards on those gorgeous views and beautiful sunsets and not be distracted by the problems.
But isn’t that the way it is with life too? As long as we keep our focus upward on He who CREATED the beautiful view, we are less likely to focus and dwell on the problems of the daily grind, the gory details of not being able to flush the toilet or take a real shower, the dead fish on the beach. We can choose to PRAISE God for the beauty instead of POUTING over the problems. We had a GREAT weekend! But I will admit that by the time we got home that Sunday night, I was allowing myself to do a lot more pouting and a lot less praising than I should have.
I tend to post and include lots of pictures in my newsletter, but I thought some of you might want to see how those pictures fit into the general lay of the land on the property where I live and the school property. So . . . here it is!
Let’s start with the school Property –
The red lines mark the RFIS property. It is a wonderful and HUGE space that was originally completely covered with dense rainforest and bush. From what I understand they had quite a job just clearing it enough to begin leveling things before they began construction. Now it is probably one of the most beautiful school campuses in the country. That huge blank area on the top, right-hand side of the picture includes a full, regulation-size field on the right, and a smaller one on the left. They are nothing fancy but even just that much space so nicely leveled and covered with grass that actually gets mowed regularly makes it pretty impressive. (I have been told our soccer field is considered one of the top fields in the country!)
The buildings (D, E, F, G) make up the academic campus itself. F is an auditorium used for chapel, daily assemblies, drama, and choir (and sometimes PE classes when it rains). In theory that will eventually become more classrooms if/when we ever get an actual auditorium built. E is the administration and office area (upstairs) and science classrooms (downstairs). This includes a large ‘teacher work room’ where each teacher has a desk. Instead of each teacher being assigned to a classroom (which is relatively typical in the US), we all move around between various rooms and have our desks in this one big room. As you can imagine, there are advantages and disadvantages to this arrangement! D houses our two middle school classrooms as well as a large domestic arts room. G is by far the largest building, with the library and a large study hall room on the first floor (as well as a handful of offices or small meeting rooms), and the computer lab, 4 classrooms, and textbook storage on the second floor.
C is a big cement pad that serves as volleyball, basketball, and other sports courts. As you can imagine, PE can be a bit of a challenge, as it is typically sunny (and too hot to really be out in the full sun) or raining (in which case you ALSO can’t be outside for PE), so one of the next building projects on our list is a covered area for PE. If I understand correctly, they hope to build that in the area just above it on the photo.
The Yellow lines surround the property where the Hostel is located. As you can tell from my lines, there are actual three different areas of that compound. The far left is belongs to the Full Gospel mission (Assemblies of God). The far two buildings on that section are houses (and there is third now being built in the forested area). The other two buildings are used to construct the pieces for Tabernacle buildings that they haul out to install all over the country.
The center section belongs to CMF (Cameroon Missionary Fellowship, an organization in Cameroon made up of the NAB, Baptist General Conference, and World Team). That large green-roofed building is the hostel! The lighter space just below the hostel is now a small basketball court and a large covered bookarou (no, the work doesn’t actually exist in any dictionary I can find – it is an open covered area – Think pole building without walls). My apartment is underneath the left-hand corner of this building, where the blue line starts.
The far right section belongs to Covenant missions. The smaller of those two buildings is s duplex where two missionary families live, and the larger is the other hostel, known to us as UBAC hostel (named after Ubangi Academy in Zaire, where they evacuated from to join the Cameroon missionary community back in the 90s. Our community has some interesting connections back to that school. A handful of our kids are actually second or third generation missionary kids, and quite a few of those have parents who attended Ubangi Academy. In fact, one of our current teachers was one of the students who was evacuated with that original group and attended RFIS early in its history!)
The blue line shows you my route to school. It is a beautiful walk (as long as you aren’t too paranoid about what might fall out of the trees …). I will take some pictures of that route and get those posted one of these days too.
I hope this gives you an idea of the lay of the land here