Thoughts on the state of things . . .

Yes, the violence we have seen from Radical Islam is terrible. Yes, the attacks in Paris and elsewhere around the world are absolutely tragic. Something needs to be done. There is no doubt about it, and in no way am I trying to lessen the tremendous losses that many have experienced. However, just as the days and weeks following the 9/11 attacks on the US in 2001, we seem to be in dire need of stepping back, taking a deep breath, looking at the big picture, and reconsidering how we want to define ourselves.

I have seen so much anger and hatred in the past week that my heart is breaking . Are we/they justified in being angry? Most certainly! Would it be ‘just’ to hate? Maybe. However, as Christians, and even simply as members of humanity, we MUST resist that urge! Hate will destroy us from the inside out. We can hate the evil things that have been done and the many heartbreaking situations surrounding those events, but it is NOT ok to hate individuals because of their country of origin or the religion they profess. Disagree with them? Yes! Condemn such horrible acts? Yes! Take action against them? Quite possibly. Now, I am NOT trying to get into the argument of whether Islam is inherently violent or if it is a peaceful religion that has been hijacked by extremists That is beside the point. My point is that when our response is hatred and violence, we are guilty of exactly what we are criticizing in their religion.

Should we bomb Syria? Maybe. I am not dismissing the idea that this might be part of the solution (and I am quite happy to defer to those with the training to assess that side of the situation). However, if we are completely honest with ourselves, we know that the issue is much bigger than that. In fact, we also need to consider how our actions also have the potential to make matters worse in the process.

Will closing our borders to refugees stop ISIS? Nope, sorry. They will find a way to get in whether or not we restrict immigration. Will it at least help to protect us? Maybe to some small degree, but it is problematic on so many levels at the same time. Punishing the very people who are fleeing these same oppressive regimes simply doesn’t make sense. I understand that the fear here relates to the terrorists who might slip over the border in their midst, but how can we possibly justify punishing so many who are in such dire circumstances because of that chance? Aren’t there better ways to ensure security than fear? I’m not saying we should just throw the borders open without regard for who is coming in. Even without security concerns there economic considerations, but a nation of our size and with our resources could handle that influx much better than many others. Do we need a process to screen those seeking entry? Of course, but even that should not be dictated by fear and hatred. The issue is much deeper than stopping immigration, and this will NOT solve it.

To my American friends – We are a nation of immigrants, so many of whom came in flight from various forms of religious and political persecution. What does the inscription on the Statue of Liberty say? “Give me your tired, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, the tempest-tossed to me” Isn’t the freedom, the chance to start a new life, the hope that so many of these men and women seek exactly what men and women in uniform have been giving their lives to protect for generations now? What are we teaching our children? I’m not claiming to have the answer, but it must be an answer that includes compassion.

To my Christian friends – Yes, I know the balance we must walk in this world is tough, especially when we are angry, and even more-so when the anger is just. But we can’t forget, we can’t let go of, and we can’t lose sight of Grace. Love MUST overcome hate, and light MUST overcome darkness, or where are we?

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August Newsletter

I haven’t posted much in a REALLY long time, but here is my latest newsletter. If you are on my mailing list it should be coming soon. My internet and email have been SO slow and problematic lately that I have asked my Dad to send it out again.
August 2015-TenClay

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As is American tradition on Thanksgiving Day, it is fun to sit back and reflect on the many things for which I am thankful. Obviously some of the first things that come to mind include my awesome family, the many church families who graciously claim me, my wonderful upstairs neighbors, and the opportunity to work at such a great school with great kids (yes, even the ones who drive me crazy some days!).

But as I was walking up to campus this morning, it occurred to me that you probably don’t know about some of the ways we have been blessed here in the past year, so here are a few of the things that we are thankful for here at RFIS that are tangible ways we are blessed by supporters around the world and members of our local national and missionary community.

I am thankful for our BEAUTIFUL campus, but it is a little too far away from where most of our teachers and students live to be convenient at times. The school was able to purchase a used van a couple of years ago to carry teachers back and forth. A group of parents have set up a van/carpool schedule to get kids here and back for school and athletic practices, and those who have vehicles work together to make sure others get out here. I am so thankful for how people have worked together to make transport possible. (And quite honestly, I am even more thankful that I live out here now and don’t have to get carsick on the way to and from school every day!)

Parent van, dropping off their crew this morning and visiting with some other parents and drivers before heading back into town.

A weight room – in the past few years our PE teacher set out to raise funds to pave and cover this area and purchase some weight equipment. This is used daily by various members of our student body and/or staff members – even on the weekends!

These kids were out using the weightroom when I got to school this morning – I asked them to pose for a quick picture.

I am thankful for Evert, our new secretary/receptionist. She is GREAT! I always know she is going to go the extra mile to make sure things get done and take the initiative to ask what she can help with if she has extra time. When I was in the US we used to joke that the schools would cease to function without the secretaries and custodians, and she would fit in well there!

Mrs. Bafon – our wonderful Secretary

Even though we all know sports are NOT something I generally enjoy, I am thankful for the athletic facilities we have at RFIS and the many opportunities they create for our students and community. Our soccer field is one of the best 2 or 3 in the country (quite honestly that doesn’t take much other than it being covered in grass and mowed regularly) which brought the women’s national team out to visit and allows us to host many athletic games and tournaments. Our current courts (used for basketball, volleyball, pickleball, etc) is great – as long as it isn’t raining and the sun isn’t too intense . . . . hmmmmm…. We live in a tropical rainforest – good luck with that one! I am so thankful that we will hopefully be breaking ground on a covered athletic facility within the next year. Sure, it won’t be much more than a cement pad and roof initially, but it will be such an amazing improvement!

This is looking from up beside the prayer chapel down towards the current basketball courts.

This is where the covered BBall courts and what will eventually develop into a sports complex is supposed to go. If you look closely, you can see the stakes marking one of the ideas (though we have already decided to change it)

I am thankful for the background I have in theatre. Our ‘auditorium’ is really just a big room with folding chairs, and our ‘stage lighting’ is a bit of a joke, but I am thankful of the progress we are making in this department! We have some actual stage lighting fixtures coming on the SIL container that could be here any day, and we are trying to start designing a possible auditorium. Building it is still a ways off, but if we can figure out how to design something practical for this climate and our situation, we might be able to tackle the rehearsal space part of it in a couple of years.

This is what we are trying to call theatre lights at the moment . . . I’m so excited to be able to replace them with something a bit more ‘theatre’

This is our ‘light board’ at the moment – it works (to some degree), but I’m excited to get my hands on the new stuff we have coming that will give us SO many more options!

This is the area where the auditorium/theatre/performing arts center (whatever you want to call it) will eventually go.

The list could go on and on, but I should probably get back to the work I HAVE to get done . . . Happy Thanksgiving

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Mama Pauline’s Story

I was going to write a blog about our experience this Wednesday in Chapel at RFIS. However, a friend of mine just posted this, and she says exactly what I wanted to say, so just take a look at her blog. It is a GREAT story!

Click here to visit Janet Ziegelbaur’s Blog about Mama Pauline

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Wow! How cool is this?!

Many of you may have heard me say we have a REALLY nice soccer field at RFIS. In fact, I have been told multiple times that it is the second best in the COUNTRY. Generally this isn’t something that concerns me, (or quite honestly something I care much about,) but evidently it has some perks. The other day a bus pulled up on campus and out piled a whole bunch of Cameroonian women in yellow sports clothes. It seemed strange, but our athletic director was out there greeting them, so I didn’t think much of it. However, it was the Cameroon Women’s national soccer team! Seriously!

And that isn’t even the biggest news. Our Athletic director set up for them to scrimmage with our high school boys’ soccer team at the beginning of the next week! How cool of an opportunity is that?! They played a GREAT game on Monday afternoon!. I am not surprised to admit that they beat our boys, but it was so much fun to watch (even for someone like me who has somewhere in the vicinity of NO interest in sports)! And, quite honestly, our boys held their own. For example, if I understand correctly, our goalie blocked a penalty shot from the only member of their team to have scored in the OLYMPICS. We lost 3-7, but can you imagine the stories the three boys who scored will be able to tell someday about the day they scored a goal against the Cameroonian (women’s) national team?! I took a ridiculous number of pictures and thought I would share a few with you.

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August Newsletter and new video

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 Smilie: :) (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.)

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Dogs . . .

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.

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Security Issues (12 Aug)

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.

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Apartment Progress! (Written 27 July)

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! 

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Summer Visitors

Road to the village - narrow, but MUCH nicer than the road out to school

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)

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)

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