“Suffering” for the Lord . . . or not

Food can be one of the struggles for missionaries as they move into different cultures – both what you eat and how you prepare it. It takes longer to find and purchase ingredients, the ingredients you CAN find may not be quite what you were looking for, or you may not be able to find anything remotely like what you want. Plus anything processed or imported is WAY EXPENSIVE! Also, here in Cameroon, we make pretty much everything from scratch. Is the food healthier? Maybe, but not always. We may not have all the preservatives here that processed American food tends to have, but chemicals used in farming are not regulated and many traditional Cameroonian foods are composed of mostly carbohydrates and are often swimming in palm oil. But sometimes the food IS better!

Every week Celestine, a wonderful Cameroonian lady who cooks and does ‘market shopping’ (buys all the fresh stuff) for the hostel upstairs, has agreed to pick up fruits and vegetables for me when she is out shopping for the hostel. Tuesday is that day! Today, like most Tuesdays, I walked back from school after our weekly staff meeting and was greeted with a huge pile of fruits and vegetables – already washed, bleached, and ready to take down to my apartment. Let me give you an idea of what I got this week for the equivalent of about $9 . . .
*Lettuce (barely fits in a gallon Ziploc)
*Tomatoes (8 or 9 Romas)
*Pineapple (average size)
*Oranges (6 – and they are green here, not orange)
*Watermelon (about the size of a volleyball)
*Carrots (fills a gallon Ziploc when trimmed and washed)
*Green Beans (nearly fills a gallon Ziploc)
*Mangoes (6 a bit smaller than the variety you usually see in the US)

REALLY!?! Yep! And I had a totally awesome salad for supper with so many great flavors that I didn’t even put dressing on it! I should have taken a picture, but imagine this . . . a full sized plate covered in lettuce, sprinkled with cabbage and grated carrots. On top of that I added avocado, bacon bits (I actually found bacon a few weeks ago!), tomatoes, some chopped up swiss cheese, and a chopped up mandarin orange.

Yep – that is my ‘suffering’ for the Lord story for the day. Gotta love it!

Oh, and did I mention I ate a guava from right off the tree on the way home from school and that I have fresh bananas grown on our property sitting on my counter too?

Posted in Uncategorized

My Apartment!

I am officially in my apartment, and have been for several weeks now. It is slowly becoming more and more a home. Pretty much all of my things are unpacked (or at least in the apartment), though that does mean it is a bit of a disaster area and will remain so until we get some storage built. All of the essentials are up and running, and though the big stuff that is left (storage divider wall/wardrobes, washing machine and dryer, etc) will probably take a quite a while, many of the small fixes and finishing touches (gutters upstairs so I can leave my windows open in the rain, screens on the last set of windows, exhaust fan for the bathroom, door on the pantry cupboard, etc) will probably be done in the next week or two. It may be a studio apartment, but it has a LOT of space!

I am loving being out here near the school. It is so convenient! It is also much quieter out here and the air seems much cleaner than in the city. I have never really been a city person, so that is a HUGE plus Smilie: :)

Here are some pictures . . . (I couldn’t resist including a couple of my new kitten, Smudgie)

Posted in Uncategorized

Week 2 update

Looking at RFIS from across the Soccer field, morning of 24 Feb

Yikes, I have been back for nearly 2 weeks . . . time is flying! These first few weeks have been a whirlwind. I have taken over the US History course, been helping with whatever I can to help complete the apartment, lending a hand with a lot of miscellaneous stuff at the school, and trying to adjust back to this very different world.
For the moment, I am staying in the UBAC hostel which is on the same compound where I will be living once the apartment is finished. I am so blessed that both hostels have been so welcoming and hospitable! I just show up for supper at one or the other and they set an extra place for me. I definitely can’t complain about the quality of the food  (Though I must admit that eating this well has had some minor consequences for my lower digestive system  ) Cojack, the parrot, lives a couple of yards from my window and greets me each morning with about 30 minutes of whistling, honking (he imitates horn from the hostel van well enough that it can sometimes be a bit confusing), and talking (in many different voices – some recognizable as people I know . . . it’s a bit creepy.). Luckily he doesn’t start his daily stand-up routine until they ring the bell to wake up the kids – at which point I am generally awake. He is really quite entertaining. The first morning when I walked out of the hostel he greeted me with a “hi mom” in a little kid’s voice.

The CMF hostel, under which my apartment will be located, hasn’t changed since I left, but they have done a LOT of work on the grounds including the addition of this Bookaroo out back. Generally when I mention ‘they hostel’ in my newsletters, it is this one I have been referring to.

I can tell already how wonderful it is going to be living this close to the school. So much of my time was spent riding back and forth before (and on someone else’s schedule). Now, I have a short walk to the corner of our compound and up through the back corner of the school’s compound – it is maybe 300 meters. It is also wonderful to be a little outside the city where it is more peaceful. This beautiful picture at the bottom of the page was taken earlier this week. . . it is a really pretty walk. BUT – the day before yesterday a snake fell out of a banana palm as one our boys was walking, and I have barely been able to make myself walk under a tree since then! Especially in the context of one of the hostel moms almost stepping on a huge green snake last week, and them finding a huge empty snake skin the week before….. Have I mentioned recently how much I HATE snakes?!? Sadly we have had what appears to be a snake related casualty too. One of our guard dogs (Puma) went missing last night for several hours. When we discovered her, she was crying and barking as if she were in terrible pain and/or extremely frightened. By the time someone figured out where she was and got to her, she was mostly unresponsive and having convulsions. She made it through the night and has been both eating and drinking today when someone brings it down to her. She still doesn’t appear able to move her lower half, but at this point we are allowing ourselves to be optimistic. Guard dogs serve a real purpose here in securing the compound, but they are also family pets to many on the compound – she would be both a practical and emotional loss for all! Please pray for Puma and our other dog, Tozer, who seems lost without her. Also pray that if she deteriorates and difficult decisions need to be made that all the kids (and adults!) will handle it well.

As I mentioned in my blog just a couple of days ago, I am absolutely shocked by HOW humid it is considering we are at the height of Dry season! It is always pretty humid here, and I have said before that dry season really just means there is no rain, but when I walked across campus one morning last week, you couldn’t even see all the way across campus because the fog was so thick! Though I wish it were a bit less humid, it was a beautiful sight to see and wanted to share the picture 

Progress is being made on my apartment. I have been spending every moment of daylight I can sneak away from the school trying to be useful in that process. Most of what I have been doing is just varnishing and painting, but I am glad to be a part of the process (and that I have the time and freedom to do so!). Sadly both the varnish and paint are oil based which means TERRIBLE to clean up – I have scrubbed my hands down with more acetone and kerosene in the last few days that I care to think about and am still covered with random white speckles and smears. I spent the afternoon today painting the bars that will cover some of my windows. For security, we all have some sort of bars over our windows (which can sometimes make you feel like you are in jail). I am happy with what they designed for mine, but still a bit anxious to see how much they change the atmosphere of the apartment (which feels very open at the moment).

1 March 2014
The next day Puma (the dog I mentioned above) was up and walking around – we could hardly believe it! By all appearance she was doing great, but sadly she took a turn for the worse again Thursday (seizures) and had passed away by Friday afternoon. Her loss will be felt deeply, but everyone who saw here!

It is dry season. By all guesses and tradition, we should be dusty and hot for at least another two weeks, but this week the rains have started! YEA!!!!! We got a massive thunderstorm the other night, and it is pouring again right now. The air is so fresh, and the sound of the rain pounding on the metal roofs is one of the sounds that I think I will always connect to Africa. (and yes, the kids are almost all outside playing in the rain )

. . . I had trouble getting the pictures to upload, so here is a pdf file you can click on to see this blog post WITH the pictures Smilie: :)
Week 2 update

Posted in Uncategorized

Reflections on my first week back in Cameroon . . .

Ok, so I have been back in Cameroon for just over a week, and here are a couple of my observations . . .

1. “Dry” season is NOT dry. There may be no rain, but there is so much moisture in the air that you can hardly see across campus in the morning, the dew dripping off the roofs leaves marks where it hits the ground, and my paper is so soggy I can’t stand it! I know I pointed this out when I visited some of my churches because it was an odd observation for me the first time I lived through dry season, but coming from the sub-zero (Fahrenheit!) temperatures in the US where there was practically NO moisture in the air, the contrast has been absolutely mind-blowing!

2. I love teaching! I have only taken over one subject, and I didn’t get nearly as much covered today as I wanted to, but it is SO GREAT to be back in the classroom!

3. The people who live on this compound are amazing! In some ways being way out here by the school is going to be inconvenient, (because you have to go so far to get to anything else, to buy groceries, etc) but even after only a week here I am excited to be a part of the community as it has expanded out here. There are two hostels, a duplex, my apartment, two other houses, and another being built. The property within our walls is owned by three different mission organizations, and the people living here represent 10 different mission organizations (at least . . . I just counted the ones I can think of) and a huge variety of backgrounds and missional focuses.

4. When traveling to visit missionaries in Africa, if you bring random processed American food (chocolate chips, M&Ms, velveeta, koolaid, mac and cheese, American peanut butter, pepperoni, etc), you will be LOVED forever. Not every item will be a hit with every missionary, but a combination like this is sure to hit just about everyone. It is amazing how excited we get over such simple things. It isn’t like we are going hungry over here – I have been extremely well fed so far (which is saying something because I don’t have a kitchen yet and have basically been hopping back and forth unannounced between the hostels), but those little doses of ‘home’ go a long ways. After being back in the US and/or Europe for the past year and a half, it still seems a bit strange to me, but I have no doubt that 6 months from now I will be jumping for joy when I find that elusive (and probably 2 year old) bag of Doritos at one of the American stores here.

God is good. I am hot and sweaty, everything is dusty, I am in the spare room of a hostel occupied by 14 other people (12 of them teenagers!) but I LOVE IT! My first time here I can’t say I followed any recognizable progression of ‘culture stress’ or ‘transition’ but this has got to be what they consider the honeymoon phase 

Posted in Uncategorized

February 2014 Newsletter

Here is my latest newsletter. If you are interested in getting it directly via email, just let me know by commenting here, emailing me, or messaging me on facebook.
TenClay February 2014 Newsletter

Posted in Uncategorized

November 2013 Newsletter

Here is my latest newsletter. If you want to get it emailed directly to you, just let me know.
TenClay Nov 2013

Posted in Uncategorized

Peace in the Chaos?

French study has been a challenge. I often describe it as a rollercoaster because of the constants ups and downs of learning a language, being away from family and friends but not yet back in Cameroon, being able to visit amazing historical and tourist sites in Europe, dealing with the bureaucracy in France, living in a dormitory where our entire floor shares a kitchen, dealing with insurance company nonsense from half a world away, and meeting tons of new people. The list could probably go on and on, but I think I will stop, because it is easier to list the downs even though I want so desperately to focus my attention on the goods. All that said, I AM making progress and learning more and more French each day.

I spent a couple of hours this evening walking, partially through the “Park de la Tête d’or” here in Lyon. I stopped several times as I made my way around the lake and each time was struck by how peaceful the water seemed. The surface of the water moved just enough to create a constant shimmer and moved just enough along the shore to constantly create a ripple effect around the rocks which broke the surface. I realized that peace is one of the things I am lacking here. Not peace in terms of a lack of noise or peace in terms of being at peace that I am where I am supposed to be, but a peaceful heart, the ability to stop, take a deep breath, and hand over to God each little struggle – week by week, day by day, moment by moment. Why is it that we grip so tightly the stresses of this world at the times when we most need to let go of them?

There will be ups and downs. That is a reality of any life, and even more in the context of learning a new language, but those ups and downs do not need to define me. Please pray for me as I seek to rest in His peace.

Posted in Uncategorized

August 2013 Newsletter

The following link should take you to my latest newsletter. Let me know if you would like to be added to my mailing list to get it directly next time.

TenClay – August 2013

Posted in Uncategorized

A short trip to Cameroon and on to France!

Whew . . .I don’t even know where to start! What a whirlwind couple of weeks (that will keep spinning for at least another week) I was in Cameroon for about three weeks and really enjoyed catching up with friends, having the opportunity to be involved in graduation and closing week, and just enjoying Cameroon. (Though I would NOT suggest trying to visit Daoula, Bamenda, and Yaounde in only a few weeks!) Thank you so much to those who opened their homes to me while I was there! It was strange to be back and yet strangely home as well.
* * * * * * * * * *
I arrived in Lyon, France yesterday afternoon and am already enjoying this beautiful place. For this week (until I can move into the dormitory on 1 July), I am staying with a missionary family here. How I got connected with them is a long story, but God has definitely demonstrated once again that He has all the puzzle pieces well in hand and that his timing is wonderful. The family I am staying with has a beautiful home and have already been so welcoming and helpful. Though their apartment is definitely in the city, they are blessed with a beautiful back yard (HUGE by city standards) surrounded by trees that really make it an oasis – it is hard to believe you are in a city!

This morning we attended a special Mass at the Basilica Notre-Dame de Fourvière where my host’s son was singing with his school’s choir – they were AMAZING! I can’t remember the name of the school/choir, but they are evidently quite well-known and have performed all over the world.

The service and church itself were an interesting glimpse into the religious climate of Lyon. Without saying too much (because I don’t yet know how openly such things are discussed here), it was truly a church of “Notre Dame” (Our Lady). The beautiful murals depicted the history of Mary and her position in the church rather than the scenes from Biblical times that I have come to expect from Catholic churches. Likewise, there was a large statue of Mary at the altar rather than a crucifix. My understanding (though still quite limited) is that such a focus is quite typical here in Lyon . . . Please pray with me for Christ himself to be seen and glorified.

I definitely plan to go back to this church at some point during my time in Lyon look more closely at the elaborate and beautiful craftsmanship. (Baroque style maybe . . . ) It is also up on a hill that overlooks the city – what a beautiful view! I was told that on a clear day the Alps line the horizon.

Pray that the language will come quickly and that I will remember to speak slowly so that my English can be understood until then.

Blessings to you all!

Posted in Uncategorized

Exciting News on Support and French Study!

I am so excited to report that some new support commitments have come in. With current pledges, I am at 69% of what I need to return to Cameroon. I know that this still leaves a long ways to go, but it is amazing to see how God has supplied so far! Will you continue to pray with me that God will raise up the rest of my financial partners quickly?

I have also been approved to make my airline reservations and register for Language school! Though it will probably take me a couple of weeks to iron out the best prices and to finalize scheduling, it is exciting to be moving in a concrete way towards this next step. By the end of March I should be able to give you a definite “leave” date. Please continue to pray that I will develop a love of the French Language and will learn quickly!

My head is spinning as all these puzzle pieces continue to fall into place. God is good!

Posted in Uncategorized