Cameroon 2017

I’ve never tried anything like this before, but there was such an amazing response and so many questions about our trip to Africa that I decided to share  my journal entries and correlating pictures from our trip in May 2017. Our presentation at first Baptist Redwater was  limited by time, so this is for all of you who wanted more details. I have deleted some of the more personal  details, but what remains is enough for you to get a picture of our experience.

May 6, 2017

Once again, Father, today I give you my mind, and I ask you to… Hi-jack me! Cause me to think what I need to think. I pray this for the whole team, That you will cause us to think on the things you want us to think on, and as we commit our way to you, You will lead us by your spirit into everything you intend, for the sake of your name in the days ahead. Instruct us, teach us in the way that we should go, and guide us with your eye. Psalm 32:8

We are currently sitting on the Brussels Airlines plane crossing the Sahara desert about 2 1/2 flight hours north of Douala Cameroon. Kollin Markham and Corey Calicott are both asleep in the seat beside me.

 Johnny and Daneen Robbins are seated in a different section of the plane. The Lord’s provision for this trip has been amazing. As we prepared to leave, just after the morning service at FBC RW on April 30, I was approached by a newcomer to our fellowship. She apologetically handed me seven dollars saying it was all the cash she had but she wanted me to take it to use on the trip and stated that God would show me what to use it for specifically. Considering the cost of this trip, seven dollars didn’t seem so significant. But, the day before we left Ernest called me and asked if I could possibly stop somewhere and get some watermelon seeds to bring. I had a little time so I ran in to the Kmart and got all the  seed packets they had, which was only six or seven. They were marked at $1.59 each and as I stood in line I remembered the seven dollars and thought I would add some to that and use the money to buy the seed which would multiply in value. Somehow when the cashier rang it up, it came to seven dollars exactly. When I told her that did not make sense, the packages were $1.59 a piece, she said sir all I can tell you is my register says you owe me seven dollars even. I can’t wait to tell this lady about that!

I’ve had some concerns about this trip for quite some time, dealing with my own experience in Brazil with an anxiety/claustrophobia, but stated plainly, just forms of fear. So, I woke up Thursday morning May 4, 2017 the day before we were to leave, at 4 AM with a pretty good case of anxiety, worse than I have had in years, but it was short lived.  As my wife Debbie and I prayed together over it, Something powerful happened, something more than I knew at that time.  As we prayed, I ignored my ringing phone, and later when I listened to the voicemail, Brad Sullivan had been prompted to call and simply sing “great is our God.”  So refreshing, along with all the other calls, messages, etc. that began to flood my phone. It was as if suddenly You, Lord, chose to speak through 100 different familiar faces and voices to amplify your presence. Even now after over 24 hours of constant travel, and as the in-flight monitor in front of me says we are flying over Niger, the peace I have has done nothing but increase with each leg of this journey, as well as our ability to sense the power of anointing that is settling on us all.

 Our team met at our house yesterday on May 5, 2017 at 6:30 to drive to DFW for our first flight to Dulles in Washington DC. That flight departed around noon. Our second flight left Dulles at 4:50 for Brussels Belgium.

  It was very much daylight when we left Dulles international and we literally flew through the darkness, and into the light. We flew all the way through the night at about 550 mph, causing it to fast forward. When we arrived at Brussels it was a little after midnight back home but Brussels time was seven hours into the next day. On that flight I sat next to a guy from Florida named Mikey who is 27 years old and works at a craft brewery. He’s meeting a friend in Brussels for a little vacation time and some drinking he said. Super nice guy. Just before the flight was over he asked me what the nature of our trip was. When I told him we had one team going to share Christ with the Baka Pygmy tribe and one was working with autistic Cameroonians, he was a little overwhelmed. LOL. He said, “wow, you guys are really doing something!” Wasn’t trying to make him feel bad, but I think some conviction got on him! Praying now that he hears that over and over on his trip.

IT IS ON! And I’m feeling ready! Give it the gas Jehovah Shalom. Psalm 36:7-9.

After arriving safely in Yaoundé, we bunked up in the “guest house” of Bread for Life. We had a great meal and met several pastors; Pastor Anthony, and his wife, Pastor Alvin and wife Agnes, Pastor Godswill and wife Barry. As well as our helpers/drivers Fon and Polycarpe, Jochebed and others.


 Lord, give me annointing and words to say tomorrow. And thank you, thank you for relationships.

April 7, 2017 thank you Jehovah Shammah,  for such a wonderful day. It is been a full day but fairly relaxed. We went to sleep around one this morning and got up at seven. After breakfast of eggs, beignets, bread with chocolate spread, instant coffee, and fresh pineapples,

 we “showered” in the bathroom which has a floor drain. Using a bucket of cold water, I wrapped a bar of soap with a body towelette, dipped it in a coffee cup filled with cold water and lathered up. Then rinsed the soap off with coffee cups of water. It was quite refreshing. We wouldn’t see running water for another week.

 Next, it was off to Grace Baptist Church in Yaoundé. We arrived a little late so as soon as we got there they took me to the stage to sit with the pastor and his men. Within a few minutes they called me up to preach. The young man they chose to interpret for me was not prepared for my Texas English and my speed. So, he bowed out at the first sentence, to the tune of much laughter, and passed the baton to Pastor Edjanga Jean Jacques (John James) who had a little fun with me as well.  The text I used was first John 1:1-5 and Revelation 14:6, every nation tribe and tongue.

Just before I stepped up to the pulpit one of the pastors told me that there were 5 language groups present that day.  As I stepped down I found myself so thankful that the One who speaks the language of the heart speaks that language fluently.  It was a good experience and we found the people to be extremely warm and friendly. There were less than 200 in attendance among whom were visitors from Canada, and several neighboring cities, as well as missionaries from Illinois, and Virginia, And one who lived in Texas.

 One of those was a couple named Matthew and Theresa Lee who were Wycliffe translators missionaries. Matthew informed us that there were 280 languages in Cameroon and 80 of them still do not have complete Bibles in their language, but over 70 of those are being worked on presently. After the service we were privileged to observe the Lord supper with them and enjoy their festive music and dancing right up in the church house!

  
(This was a picture taken right behind the church house, just after the service)

We came back to the guesthouse, changed, then went to the only pizza place in the city of almost 5,000,000 people. Then we drove around and took in some sites.

Somewhere along the way our vehicles got separated so when Kollin, Ernest and I arrived back at the locked guest house early, we visited next-door in the home of Dr. Daniel and Elizabeth Shu where we shared an entire bottle of nonalcoholic celebration wine! (Dr. Shu said that most christians from America freak out when he pops that cork!)The rest of them missed out! The Shu’s were a lot like Ernest personality-wise and were extremely hospitable. It was a joy to visit with them. Dr. Daniel helped to pioneer Bread for Life in Cameroon to develop it into what it is today. Ernest considers him to be one of his closest personal colleagues.

  
(this was Dr Shu’s front door, I just thought it was cool looking! )

Corey and I found a well in the backyard and I drew up a bucket of muddy water. We also found an empty wine bottle and snuck it into the sleeping Ernest Ehabe’s bed for some blackmail photography! He woke up just in time but we still got a great picture.

Corey and I also visited about the potential vision for the future of our relationship at FBC RW with Bread For Life. Master, I am trusting that you will show us all that we need to know about that in Your time and some of it in the rest of this trip.

Probably the coolest thing today though was being able to facetime and talk with Debbie, Johnathan, and James via the portable wireless router Ernest brought. Andrew also got in on the action and sent me several messages on messenger. I was also excited to hear that Jonathan and James were working on building homemade fidgets without me! Only wish I could’ve talked to Peter today to make the circle complete.

May 8, 2017 each morning Ernest wakes us up singing “arise shine for thy light is come”. Sitting around this morning he started singing old hymns and choruses. “I stand, I stand in awe of you!” Reminding me of you Ephesians 5:19 “singing to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. ”

“You must inspect what you expect and expect what you inspect.”  EE

On Monday day we left Yaoundé before lunch and traveled four or five hours down some pretty impressive highway.

 We stopped along the way and bought some pastries and bananas for lunch. We went first to the farm, “Beulah land Farms” where it was our joy to have perfect timing as the “bore hole” project Ernest had dreamed of for four years finally found fruition.

 They had just cranked up the generator and begun to pump water from the submergible pump. The family living nearest the farm had already discovered it when Ernest arrived so that his excitement about seeing clean cold water flowing on the farm was eclipsed only by the sight of the woman at the well filling her waterpots.

Corey was blown away. He said it’s like being in the Bible and living out that story all over again. As a matter of fact most of the people around us had biblical names.

 

We then put on the green rubber boots that Ernest bought for us and headed down to Loussou for the first time.

 We all climbed in the truck (Toyota Tacoma donated by a farmer from Oklahoma) for the rough 4 km ride to the village. We packed in there each time. On many occasions through the week we have more than 12 people in that thing, and on the last day we had 15 people, firewood, a big basket full of produce and one chicken in it!

 When we arrived at the village that evening we were greeted with chants from the children crying “LeBlanc LeBlanc” (the white or white man). They were very welcoming and most were excited. The men, or at least most of them, seemed to keep their distance though. They took us to their newly constructed pole-framed tabernacle with bamboo across the top of it.  On the way we passed the only old-style traditional hut made of sticks and leaves and whatever they could use.

 It was just outside the “church” area.

 

   That night introductions were made, and the ladies began to sing to us. It was beautiful.

 The excitement was started for us all and as darkness set in and we left the village the possibilities of the next few days stirred us all.

We then went back to the farm, changed shoes, and headed back to Dimako, about 7 km where we stayed at the Adam hotel. We actually each had our own room. Electricity by the generator in the evenings and three rooms had fans in them but not mine! At the last minute they said that they would have power for a little while that night and two rooms actually had “air-conditioners” LOL. They were in my room and Cory’s room. They actually work a little bit.

 (The blue thing hanging from the ceiling is a mosquito net)

Actually, three out of the four nights we had real electricity starting out at about 10 PM. You could only use the AC when the power was on. We were so spoiled. LOL. What was crazy was, each morning the Cameroonians on our team were wearing long sleeve’s, sweaters, scarves, jackets! They’re crazy! Temps in the mornings were upper 60s.

Before we went to bed Monday night, after a late dinner on the front porch we each shared what the day meant to us.  We did that each day in the spirit of Psalm 92:2 “to declare your loving kindness in the morning, and your faithfulness every night.

“May 9, 2017 “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love him” 1 Corinthians 2:9
“If you want to go fast – go alone. If you want to go far, go with others. God has called us to go far” Ernest Ehabe
“The trip is as important as the destination.” Ernest Ehabe

On Tuesday after breakfast on the porch Kollin brought a great devotion from Joshua 1:8, first Corinthians 16:13-14, and another passage. When he was finished I was very impressed with the content of his devotion. But we were all very moved by the words of Pastor Silas as he spoke/ministered encouragement to Kollin about the power at work in his life. One of the things he said to Kollin, “you came to Africa as a white man, but you will go home as a green man. You will never be the same.” Silas told about the son of a famous American surgeon named Steve West. He compared the difference between Kollin and Mr. West son. It was quite encouraging. He told Kollin “God has used you today to lift me up, because he’s lifting you up. And as he raises one of us, he raises all of us” it was such a powerful moment and something in my spirit just knew that Kollin would never be the same, or at least said he would never forget it.IMG_2263(Pastor Silas acting goofy!)

 

 

“He who is of a merry heart has a continual feast.” Proverbs 15:15   Surely this passage is fitting for Jochebed.

After loading up we headed once again toward Loussou.  Upon arriving we went first to the “church” and then we split up and Collin, Jochebed and I walked through the village just saying bonjour to everyone we could.

   We ended up at the house of the chief, Basile, who is also brother to the pastor Joichim. I’m not sure how to spell his name but it sounds like Brazil without the R. Basile was drunk. We had already heard that he was an alcoholic.

  Looking at the ground all through the villages started noticing little plastic packets/wrappers that look like popsicle wrappers.

 I picked one up to notice that it was a small packet of vodka. It was everywhere they doing the village. I picked up a packet and asked Basile if it was good. Jochebed interpreted. He said no. The homemade stuff is the good stuff. We told him God had something better, don’t be drunk with wine but be filled with the spirit. Alcohol is a counterfeit for the holy spirit. But he said that alcohol was his friend, they have been friends for too long, and he can’t get away. It was heartbreakingly sad. So I told Jochabed not to interpret my prayer, Then I prayed for him, went to war against the demonic control and addiction. Even now Lord, we war with those spirits and with his flesh in Jesus mighty name and pray that you will call his words dead and create a life in Basile’s heart whatever it takes! That was the first time I got to see Jochabed in action. As soon as she saw the chance, she took it. She knew she could use me to get something started, So she asked if I wanted to try to witness to him. In reality she used me for an excuse to lay into him with the Gospel. She said way more than I did! It was Beautiful to behold. Continue now, Lord, to use those moments, those words, whoever and whatever to lay hold on Basile and set him free. And thank you father, that even though I mentioned going to war, and even though I think of that whole Cameroonian team You surrounded us with as warriors, it is You who wars over us. It is you who fights our battles. It is You to whom all the glory, all the honor, and all the credit goes. You are the one who keeps us and protects us, who guides us and delivers us. It is you, Father, and you do all things well. Thank you!

After leaving the Chiefs house we went to the school, met the teachers and students, then gave away all the animal graham crackers I had brought from the kitchen crew at Redwater.  There were close to 100 students probably but whatever the number was, it was the exact same number as the number of bags of cookies we had! Once again, just like the seven dollars for watermelon seeds. That afternoon it rained for a little bit and we sheltered under the cover of the bamboo “church” along with the pastors wife Jeanette and her children, Silvanu (Silvanus) as well as Natasha and Grace. Silvanu demonstrated his skill with a slingshot, and also made and shot a homemade mini-bow and arrow.  He said that his dad is a hunter, and he wants to be a hunter too!

We had our first service in the village that evening.

  I shared with them some very basic stuff, that God has revealed who He is to us, that the Bible is the written record of that. They however do not yet have the Bible translated into their language, but Wycliffe is working on it! Most of him however can understand French and one of them, Pierre, has his own French Bible. There was an older woman who came to the service drunk that night and she either passed out or just fell asleep and fell onto the muddy ground where she laid until we picked her up after the service.

That night when we get back to the Adam hotel, during or evening debriefing a bug fell from the light above the door as Ernest was walking under it. It landed on the back of his neck and he said something stung him and it burned very bad. We thought he was exaggerating (city slicker) but within the next few days a doctor in Douala confirmed that it was a bug that is apparently rare but defends itself by urinating an extremely acidic urine on it’s assailant. The skin eventually peeled off of Ernest’s neck kind of like a sunburn.

Wednesday morning started with the devotional by Corey on the porch. He brought a great word from Psalm 92. When he got to verse 12 I just had to take a picture of him.  “The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.” He had no idea that just behind him was a magnificent fan palm tree fanning out over him.  From my angle it almost looked like it was coming out of his head.

 LeRoussel Tomboko is the name of one of the young man at the “motel” Who helps to serve us. I believe his dad owns this motel. This morning he joined us for our devotional and traded bracelets with me. Actually he just gave me his as a gift so I made it a trade and told him about Shelli and gave him my blue “team Shelli” bracelet. I committed to remember and pray for him, he committed to remember and pray for Shelli.

When we arrived in Loussou that day Cory teamed up with a young man Ernest hired to make cinderblocks from sand and cement. His name was Mbelle, nicknamed Sako but we called him Billy and he was a machine!

 Together they made over 160 cinderblocks in just a few hours.

 At the same time Kollin, Charles Goris, Ebenezar, Jochebed and I delivered five soccer balls and jerseys, shorts, and socks, to all the students at the school, and to a large portion of the village.

 They were thrilled. Once again Jochebed took the opportunity to share the gospel with them as the formal presentation concluded.

  Also she enlisted Kollin to give a five minute speech to the students and villagers about the importance of education.

 After taking a break and going back to the farm to eat lunch, A pig which the pastor and his wife had graciously and sacrificially given to us as a gift the day before.

 We returned for the worship service in the evening.  Again Corey assisted Charles Goris (fu-fu. Man!) in leading the music, which was festive and lively.

 Those joyous sounds rang throughout the entire village and surrounding jungle which (they called forest) and truly served as a “call to worship” as more of the curious community came to join in, or at least observe. That night I preached from  2Kings 6 about the floating axe head. The axe head is man, weighted down in his sin.  The water is the wrath of God, and we were all sinking, going down.  The only hope we could have of coming back up is a miracle from God.  The stick, the piece of wood represents Jesus, our miracle from God.  He came to take away the weight of our sin and pick us up so that we would be delivered from the wrath of God. They clearly had not heard that story and shouted in victory and great excitement when the axe head floated to the top. They understood the desperation of not being able to replace a borrowed axe. It was quite moving.  Because of the spiritual activity and claims of many false gods in their culture, they are excited by a God who really has power.IMG_2713

Thursday and Friday were my two favorite days of the trip. On Thursday morning it was my turn to do the devotion. After sharing from 1Corinthians 15:59, we headed for Loussou.  When we arrived in the village that day Pastor Charles stayed with us but Ebenezer and Jochebed had to go into the city to get water and supplies. They were somehow detained and did not make it back to us with lunch and water until 4 PM. They were overly apologetic and had us eat in Pastor Joichim’s house so we would not be eating in front of the villagers.

  We ate very well the whole trip and enjoyed lots of cabbage-based foods as well as some kind of roast and potatoes, served on a bed of spicy rice. Three times we ate Fried chicken (along with the head and feet fried too!)  The chicken was very tough but that didn’t stop most of us. Foo-foo was the nastiest thing we were served and it was eaten by grabbing a handful then dipping it into slimy boiled okra before shoving it in your mouth and all over your hands and face!  I can still see it dripping off of the chin of the smiling Pastor Charles Gorse who loved it and could eat it all three meals a day. I will not soon forget the face of Kollin as Charles sat beside him eating foo-foo while Kollin looked away and did his best not to gag!

  The day before we actually ate a pig that Pastor Joichim and his wife killed and dressed and presented to us as a gift which, was a very meaningful sacrifice by them.

During the day on Thursday we chose our own projects to work on and I ended up “helping” the amazing chainsaw wielding pygme Gaston.  His helper’s name was also Gaston.

 He was the proud owner of the biggest chainsaw I had ever seen, an 80s model stihl that must’ve had a 30 inch bar on it. IMG_2233 The size of one of the trees he had already cut before we came was simply amazing. But on Thursday he cut a tree down in the jungle that was probably well over 80 feet tall if not 100 feet. It was extremely straight and was really only about 30 inches in diameter. But Gaston displayed his skills that day as he free handedly made stacks of two by tens and 2 x 12’s out of that tree within a couple of hours, IMG_2397IMG_2399IMG_2421which we then carried to the bamboo church arbor and used for pews after fastening them to the tops of short pieces of log. We could not speak each other’s language verbally, but that day we earned each others admiration. I will forever have a place in my heart for Gaston. That evening he brought his sick infant daughter to me. She looked to be maybe a year old and was very sick with fever. He asked us to put our hands on her and pray for her which we gladly did then he smiled peacefully and thankfully and took her back home. In my estimation Gaston was the manliest guy in the village.

Sometime that afternoon while taking a break and waiting for the team to bring us water, we looked up and noticed Jochebed at it again!  She was clearly sharing the Gospel with Gaston #2 and withing a few minutes we were all gathered around witnessing Gaston crying out to God for forgiveness and giving his life to Jesus.  Glorious moments.IMG_2443

In the service that evening Gaston sat right next to Pierre, and older Baka who wore glasses and proudly carried his French Bible which was the only Bible I ever saw in Loussou. Each night I found the passage from which I would preach for him and he gladly followed along. That night I preached from John 11, the resurrection of Lazarus. When I finished preaching I turned it over to Pastor Charles and I’m not sure what all he said, and to this day I’m not exactly sure what happened, but as he wound up his impassioned plea they began one by one to come to the front area of the tabernacle and drop to their knees until almost everyone there was wadded up together on their knees with some of them raising their hands up in the air.IMG_2721 I’m not sure what, but they were asking God for something and Pastor Charles had us lay hands on each of them and pray for them. So Corey, Festus, Joichim, and I made our way around and through the crowd laying hands on everyone there as  we prayed over them.

It was a moving moment and there is no telling what God was doing in some of them and us as they just believed for a touch from God.

After the service was over I pulled out some glow-in-the-dark whistles and bracelets I had bought at the just-a-dollar store before leaving on the trip, and distributed them to some amazed and excited kids. The glow-in-the-dark snap sticks only lasted for that night but the whistles became a part of their worship band the next day as the kids began to blow them along with each song on the march to the baptisms. When we arrived back at Adam hotel we had an encouraging evening of debriefing on what The Lord had done that day.

May 12, 2017 “the great commission is his last command, and our first concern.” Jochabed Ambe. 2 Cor 5:18-20   On Friday morning before heading to the village Jochebed brought a devotion from second Corinthians 5:18–20. Her main point was that we are not only authorized but mandated and empowered to share the gospel. “Go – we are backed by heaven”!

On that morning we met up with the church at the bamboo arbor to get ready to baptize 12 believers who had come to Christ prior to our arrival. What followed was the most amazing picture of what baptism is supposed to look like. It was a procession much like a parade that began at the little bamboo “church” with festive joy and singing which is obviously the only kind of singing the Baka pygmies know!

IMG_2808We passed through the village with the pastors out front followed about 100 yards behind by the group of those being baptized, and again about 20 yards behind them was the rest of the young church at Loussou. The singing and celebrating continued through the village to the road, turning right on a road that went into the Forest/jungle. Not sure how far we went but it seemed like maybe a kilometer or so.  The forest was filled with the sounds of singing. Festus translated one of the songs for me and the words said “Holy Ghost, do it again. Do it again in my life. Open my eyes, to see Jesus seated upon the throne.” They sang it’s over and over arousing the curiosity of the villagers. We arrived at a small pool of water in a stream where a woman was washing her clothes. Pastor Charles Goriss asked her to move aside while we baptized. We baptized at 12 Bakas,IMG_2889 the first of which was Gaston, the chainsaw man. What a thrill it was. I remember thinking I wish my wife could be here and see this. So many times, especially during the Music and worship I wished for the whole family to be with us. As we left the baptism the singing and celebrating only got louder as the church, now in one group, made their way back to the bamboo Harbor. There many of the people, including some of the men of the village who had not joined us in worship before, finally joined the meeting mainly from curiosity of what was going on and Charles took the opportunity to preach to them.IMG_2883 Before leaving the pool of water earlier, the woman who was washing clothes asked Charles all kinds of questions which he was all too happy to answer. After about an hour of singing and celebrating at the bamboo church, we took a picture with the church and said our goodbyes to the Baka people. IMG_2885I left both of my knives with the two chainsaw operating Gaston’s and left a “be the church” T-shirt and flashlights with Pastor Joichim and Jeanette. I also left two pairs of shoes at the guesthouse back in Yaoundé in hopes that one of the guys at the village could wear them. That day on the way out of Loussou we carried three Bakas, four Americans, eight Cameroonians, some firewood, a chainsaw, a large basket filled with produce and a chicken all in that little white Toyota Tacoma!

 

When we got to where we had Wi-Fi I sent a Facebook message to the man from Oklahoma Who donated the truck and got quite a few replies from around the country.

We packed up, loaded up and drove from Dimako back to Yaounde. It Took about 5 1/2 to 6 hours for us but we got separated from the BFL team in the Toyota pickup which Charles Goris was driving. He had Jochebed, Gideon, Ebenezer and someone else with him. Polycarpe drove our car. Somewhere along the way not only did the brakes go out on the white truck but they also had a “tire puncture” and one of the headlights was already out! They intended to make Yaounde before dark but made it at midnight, had to park the truck at the BFL office and sent for a driver to come get them and bring them to the guesthouse.

May 13, 2017 oh thank you father, Jehovah Shama the Lord is there.  You have prepared a table before me in the presence of my enemies, and you have given your beloved rest! Thank you that you have shown me again what you can do! I am so full.

Saturday morning at breakfast the whole team gathered around including Ernest who was waiting on us at the guest house when we arrived Friday night.IMG_2501 We had the most amazing discussion and once again I was blown away by all these amazing people until I realized that, as much as I was receiving from them, admire them, had begun to look up to them, suddenly God showed me that it really wasn’t them. It was him! He had hi-jacked their bodies, their minds, their tongues,… And ours! Father, you are amazing. In that moment, as though it were brand new, I realized that we had all been feasting at your table. You have been living, giving yourself away through each of us, to each of us all along the way. It is simply amazing. We have seen Jesus. And you, oh Lord, have 1000 faces, and as many voices that you choose to live in, to speak through, to reveal yourself through, in spite of their humanness and weaknesses. John 14:12 and 16:7 happening all around us over and over and over. You are amazing and your plans are perfect. We certainly are “backed by heaven”.  And not just backed but pushed, empowered, used,…hi-jacked! Thank you Jesus.

“We are not here to compete with the church but to complement the church” EE

That morning we also gathered round Corey at Jochebed’s request and prayed for Shelli (Corey’s wife, at home undergoing cancer treatments)  IMG_2504Johnny Robbins brought a devotion from Matthew 13:37-43 but mainly 1Corinthians 3:6–9 “I have planted, Apollo’s watered, but God gave the increase.” It was a great word that took me back 10 years to that street in front of the motel in Anima, Amazonus, Brazil with Eli Mafra, And Pastor Josius. It truly is God who gives the increase. Thank you Father for the increase.

That evening after a 5 hour drive we arrived at Douala where Ernest actually lives and where Daneen had been since Wednesday working with the special needs students and their teachers and families at the Ray of Hope school. Ray of Hope is the only school in the entire country for autistic children, ans was started last year by BFL. That night we stayed in the apartment rented by BFL to reduce motel expenses for mission teams. Sleeping arrangements were a little warm but I slept on the couch and, for the first time since our arrival in Africa I had a fan blowing directly on me and slept quite well!  On Sunday morning we got up early to leave for a service in the far western portion of the country. We drove 2–3 hours, part of the way passing through a huge Del Monte banana plantation, as well as a pretty large rubber farm with row after row of rubber trees.IMG_2572 We drove through one of the most beautiful areas we had seen around an area called Lembe, near Mount Cameroon, where a volcano erupted 20 years ago sending a massive blob of lava flying 40 km through the air to land on the highway not far from Edenau. The road we traveled detoured around the now lava  rock.

IMG_2598(It’s hard to tell but this was the highway until the lava landed here and blocked it.  We were told that it was so hot even after the surface cooled and hardened, that the locals cooked on it for a year!) IMG_2590

As we entered the fishing village of Edenau, we crossed the bridge and due to bad road conditions were forced to leave the Toyota Camry and two of us climbed on motorcycles to make to trip into Rechtfluss and Benda Baptist Church.

 

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(The motorcycle approaching us was carrying a huge trunk!  It is amazing what these guys can carry on a bike!)

This was the last Sunday we were there, and it happened to be Mother’s Day.  This far western region of Cameroon was settled by the English so this was the only service we were in the entire trip where everyone spoke English.  They were excited, prayerful, passionate, and ENERGETIC!  They nearly wore us out dancing and they were serious about it.  Corey preached that morning from 2Tim 1 and God poured him out.  It was powerful.

After the service the Pastor Roger Njiti Ngwa and his wife Marquise and family hosted us for a meal in their home, complete with real Sprite and “American Cola”.  When Ernest learned that they were insisting on feeding us he knew that they would spend their entire month’s salary ($50) to do so.  So, Bread for life sent money ahead for them to purchase enough food to cook for us and for the whole church.

While in their home we had some great conversation concerning their needs and the potential for a future relationship between their church and ours. Everyone wanted a picture before we left.

A couple of us rode back to Edenau on motorcycles while the rest rode in Ernest’s car.  The road was so rough that the strut and shock broke THROUGH THE FLOOR OF THE CAR!  They act like this is an everyday thing.  After some roadside modifications we began the journey back to Douala stopping briefly by the beautiful “black beaches” near Lembe.

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Due to the crazy traffic in the big city it took the majority of the rest of the day to get back to Douala.  we got in late that evening.

IMG_2648The next morning began the last day there for Kollin, Corey, and I.  John and Daneen would spend an additional five days there finishing their work at Ray of Hope school, and Johnny helping with vehicle repairs and maintenance.  We started the day by eating out at the local equivalent of McDonalds.  Breakfast was puff puffs, spicy beans, and a bowl of “pap” which is like a semi-sweet thin vanilla pudding.

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After breakfast we split up and Ernest, Corey, and I hopped on some “motorcycle taxis” and met the rest of the crew at a flea market to pick up some souvenirs before heading back to load up our stuff for the flight home.  In this pic Corey and I got on the back of this guys bike while Ernest rode another.  He dropped his phone while laughing at us and trying to take a picture while we were driving down the road!

We made it back to Ernest’s, packed our things, and began saying our goodbyes to;

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IMG_2684Pastor Charles Goris

IMG_2686And Ernest and his kids.  Then Ernest took us to the airport and snuck in again to help us get to where we needed to be to start our 35&1/2hr trip back home.

There is so so much more we could say, so many stories to tell, more than I can begin to relate in a blog post.  But this story is not over, in some ways it has really just begun.  The spiritual takeaways from our time with the Bread for Life team, the Baka people, the Ray of Hope family, and the churches in Western and Eastern regions of Cameroon are too numerous to count because they are still unfolding, and they area affecting our vision for how God wants us to live and lead here at home.  Everywhere we went we saw Him.  We saw His compassion through a people who serve and sacrifice until it costs them, just for a chance to share the gospel with their own countrymen.  We saw His faithfulness in the lives of believers we met everywhere we were, pouring their lives out for the sake of his name in their own backyards.  He showed us that as impressive and passionate as the people we met are, it really isn’t them, it’s Him giving Himself away through people who live to be hi-jacked by their Savior.  If you have read this post from beginning to end, let me say to you that as good as it is to be encouraged by stories of people around you, God intends much more for you than to live vicariously through someone else’s experience.  The Acts 1:8 promise is intended for every believer.  “And you shall receive power after the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be my witnesses……..to the uttermost parts of the earth.”  You don’t have fly hours away from home to get in on what God is doing, but you do have to go.  I pray He inspires you to do just that!  Carry the torch!

“Success without succession is no success at all.”  EE

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Looking Up

“While we look not to the things we can see, but to the things that we cannot see. For the things we can see are temporary, but the things we cannot see are eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4:18 Do you ever get overwhelmed with the craziness of the world we live in? It seems to get crazier every day. And if we are not looking to the right source, this crazy messed up world could get downright depressing! Every day the newscasts show us scenes of warfare and terrorism somewhere on the globe. Even in our own country now, we see unprecedented scenes of violence, racial tension and disregard for authority on a daily basis. Our nation that once shined as a beacon of hope to the entire world is now often the source of international news with shameful scenes of rioting and looting, not to mention, in my opinion, what is the most embarrassing political race for the White House in the history of our nation. Truth be known, we are no different than the rest of the world, and the world now sees that too. We’re a mess! And we need help. We are in need of a strong leader who can turn everything around, a Leader who can put our messes in the past, illumine us today and inspire us with vision and hope for bright tomorrows! That need is not limited to our times or to our hemisphere. It is an ongoing global need. As much as I love this nation and still believe her to be the greatest nation on earth, our nation is not the answer to all the world’s problems! For that matter, with the election looming just in front of us, it would be nice to think that one of these candidates when elected will “lead our nation back to greatness” again. But if we are depending on the one who sits in the White House to make us “great again”, we have put our hope in the wrong place. A new President is not the answer to the issues of our day. Sometimes our biggest problem is that we actually think we can help ourselves so we try to put temporal band-aids on an eternal problem! The root of the real problem our world faces is mans’ own sinfulness, individually. It has affected every life, on every continent, in every society throughout history. It is THE eternal problem we each face. Eternal problems require eternal answers and there is only One in all of history who is eternally qualified to fix a people who cannot fix themselves and the good news is He does it one life at a time! Why is that such good news? Because even though you, as one person, cannot change the world, Jesus can change YOUR world in an instant. And not only will He change you in this world, He will change the way you look at this world. He will change the way you look at tragedies and disasters, at hunger and war, at love and loss. He will change the way you live your life and even the way you view death. Even the greatest of nations will eventually fade away but He never will and the life He brings, one heart at a time, is NOT a temporal band-aid. He is the Eternal Answer for anyone who will call on His name. That includes you. If you are discouraged, disgusted, depressed, overwhelmed, without hope, filled with anxiety, aimless, tired or longing for peace, stop staring at the world and look to the right source! Jesus said “Come unto me, all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28) “Cast your cares on Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) “Whoever believes in Him will not perish but will have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) Jesus told us that this life is temporary, even referring to this body as a tent. One day these tents will be folded and those who have answered the call of Christ will follow our Eternal Leader home! But until then, set your eyes on Him, live your life to the fullest and join the Psalmist in boldly declaring “…I will offer IN THIS TENT sacrifices with shouts of joy!”(Psalm 27:6). “This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith!” (1 John 5:4) So set your eyes on Christ, give Him your life, your undivided attention and watch Him change your perspective on your world and your life right before your eyes! Live!

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Moving Targets-How “good people” fall. 

Throughout my life I can remember hearing the news of the “fall” of many people who stood in places of spiritual leadership, even some who were highly respected and well thought of. Pastors, teachers, and leaders who, in my eyes, had never been anything but exemplary. I remember my shock, and thinking “how could they do that”? Were they phonies? Were they just not real? I felt like I had been deceived, and betrayed, and at times felt very disillusioned. I was also concerned for others who might become disillusioned. These sorry guys were dragging the name of “my Jesus” through the mud after claiming to be a Christ-follower. How could they stoop so low? Then one day in the early 2000’s a guest evangelist was preaching in the church we were pastoring and I heard him say that every time God begins to use a man, every time someone began to take a stand for Christ and eyes begin to fall on him in larger numbers, that man becomes a bigger target for the enemy. As he spoke I had a visual of a literal target being placed on his head and on his heart. It’s not a physical target, but a spiritual one. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers,…….. against spiritual wickedness in heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:12) Then one day while preaching through the book of Romans I stumbled across this text; “What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true, and every man a liar….” (Romans 3:3-4) Simply put, sometimes we put too much stock in people. Sometimes we put people on a pedestal as if they were untouchable, and we forget that people in leadership are still just people, susceptible to the same weaknesses and temptations that have plagued the human race since the fall. On top of that, our enemy knows that if he can take down a person of influence, he can affect a great number of people, so that is exactly who he sets his sights on. Men and women of God who are taking an effective stand for Christ, shakers and movers in the Kingdom of God, become high priority moving targets. What am I trying to say? Are some people more prone to stronger spiritual attacks than others? It is absolutely possible! The intensity of temptations that come upon a man or woman of God who is in leadership, or who is becoming increasingly more effective in reaching more and more people, may far exceed what any of us would expect. These temptations, I believe, often come through the most unexpected sources and in the midst of great “successes” when one’s guard is often down, and confidence is running high. So, before you pass judgement on a leader who has had a moral failure, or even one who merely stands accused of such, remember how Christ has instructed us to respond through the Apostle Paul. “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourselves, lest you too be tempted.” (Gal. 6:1) God would not have given us instruction in His Word on how to respond to these situations if He did not know that they would be a regular occurrence in a fallen world. This in no way excuses sinful actions, or lessens the necessity of consequences that result from sinful choices. But I would hope it would serve as a reminder to PRAY FOR YOUR LEADERS, especially those in spiritual leadership. And if you are one of those whom God has chosen to place in such a position, keep your guard up. Never assume that you are beyond moral failure. Know that the enemy is a trickster, and a liar. The greatest of failures often start with the smallest compromise. Thank God for the promise that we are NO LONGER SLAVES TO SIN! So don’t buy the lie that says you’ve got to have it, or that it’s okay. I am not suggesting that anyone who is in Christ should ever live in fear of moral failure, because the Spirit of Christ in you is much more victorious than that! I am merely reminded of what we learn in 1Cor 10:12, “let anyone who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall.” . Now, more than ever before, I am keenly aware of the fact that anyone on this planet, even the most respected pastor you may know, is capable of anything, and so are you. When those “falls” happen, help, don’t hinder. Do not attack, but pray for the fallen to be restored, for the kingdom to be advanced, for the necessity the Gospel to be magnified, and for God to receive glory.  

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Day 3! SURPRISE! SURPRISE!

Third thought, The element of SURPRISE! HA! They were surprised by something BRAND NEW. Look at these words as Mary hears for the first time in her life, “the Holy Spirit will come upon you….” WHAT!?! That doesn’t happen to just anybody, only the prophets of God and then it’s only temporarily right!? But never just an ordinary person, never just little old me! This must be what Mary thought.   Then when Mary went to visit Elizabeth, as Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary “the baby leaped in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed….”. Again when John the Baptist is born, and the tongue of his father Zechariah was loosed so that he could speak again, Zechariah was “filled with the Holy Spirit and he prophesied”! Gabriel had also told Zechariah that John would be “filled with the Holy Spirit “ from his mother’s womb. All this was so brand new to them and can you imagine the surprise when the Spirit hit them and suddenly He took over! What a precious gift and a WONDERFUL picture of this thing God was about do. He had already told his people through the prophet Joel “in the last days I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh….”. Do not take for granted the unspeakable gift we have of the promise of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit of God Almighty. He is the Spirit of Holiness, the Spirit of the Resurrection, and the Spirit of Life! You can do nothing without Him and when he comes, He comes to take over! And when He takes over, He changes everything. John the Baptist declared “the One who comes after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire”! He is still doing just that today. No longer do we have to struggle to act like believers, putting on the external form of some religious faith, because now HE HAS COME to write His law on our hearts, changing from the inside out those who surrender to Him. YOU CAN’T DO IT! No one ever could. So Jesus came to do it for us, and now HIS SPIRIT works in us to do it every day! Do not quench the Spirit. Have no faith in yourself BUT BELIVE WITH EVERYTHING YOU ARE in HIS ability to BE HIMSELF in you. Submit to him, over and over, every day! And hang on for the ride, because every day is CHRISTmas when He’s in charge!

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Nuggets from the Narratives day 2

As you reflect on the Christmas narratives this year, notice how personal God is in revealing Himself. Over and over again he sends an “angel (messenger) of the Lord” on a personal call to bring a message one on one. Gabriel confronts Zechariah in the temple (Luke 1:11), An angel visits Joseph in a dream (Matt 1:20). It is Gabriel again who appears to Mary (Luke 1:26), Three other times an angel delivers messages to Joseph through dreams mainly (Matthew 2:13,19,22), and also brings a warning to the wise men the same way. Finallly we see a host of angels appearing to the shepherds in Luke 2. This was not second hand information for Joseph and Mary, Zechariah, and the shepherds. They heard God’s message, from God, God’s way. God is still His own P.R. man, because public relations is His specialty. He does His own advertising and outreach, because in truth, He is a self-revealing God. The only way to have a relationship with God……is to have a relationship with God. That requires some personal interaction which, according to what God has shown us in the Bible, is initiated by God. And thank God it is! Those messages from God through the angels included comfort, information, instruction, or warning. What this means for us is that God knows what you need to know, and he knows when and how you need to come to know it. If someone can talk you into something, then someone else can talk you out of it, but if God does in you what He did in me, no one on the planet will ever be able to talk you out of it. It’s got to be personal, and God is just as able to communicate as He has ever been. Jesus said “no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him….” (John 6:44). That sounds pretty personal. Don’t panic about the people in your life that are running from God. Pray that the One who alone can totally light up the sky, will surprise them personally and make it real. It can happen no other way. And don’t be tempted to be an amateur providence, or to help God out. Simply listen to the One who gave the gift to you and do whatever He says, even if it is nothing. Trust Him, believe Him, wait for Him, and be ready to go to Bethlehem when he says go!

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Nuggets from the Narratives

When I read through Luke’s account of the Christmas Narratives several very encouraging truths jump out at me. I’m going to try to share one each day this week, as we celebrate the advent of Jesus!

First, God does the most extraordinary things in the lives of ordinary people who are being faithful to do what He has given them to do. Consider Zechariah. He was just being faithful to his duties in the temple when he was surprised by a visit from Gabriel (Luke 1:11). The shepherds were just out in the field doing the ordinary things they do everyday, watching sheep. They were just being faithful to do what God had given them to do when suddenly God chose them to be the ones He surprised with a word that changed everything. (Luke 2:8-20) We could say the same about Joseph (Matthew 1) and Mary (Luke 1), and many others in this story and throughout history. They weren’t trying to become some spiritual superheroes, or trying to make history, but by His choice God suddenly surprised each of them by pulling them into HIStory, and each of them in a moment when all they were doing was the same old sometimes mundane task of daily, faithfully doing what God had given them to do.

What has God given you to do? Are you a Pastor? Convenience store worker? A Mother? A serviceman? Are you a servant? An encourager? A card writer? An intercessor? Are you a student? A mechanic, a homemaker, or a peace officer? If you are uncertain what God has given you to do, ask him, look, and listen. But whatever He has given you to do, do it! Do it with excellence, do it when its boring, do it when its challenging, and even if it’s not, just do it and do it faithfully. Just like Moses tending his father-in-law’s flocks on the backside of the wilderness, (He probably wasn’t even praying for a burning bush that day!) be faithful to do what God has given you to do and you will be amazed how God uses that to put you at the right place at the right time. God does extraordinary things in the lives of ordinary people when they are simply faithful to do what He has already given them to do. We get surprised, He gets the glory, and the world gets changed one life at a time.

Go be faithful,………and smile while you’re t it.  Everyday is Christmas when you live like this!

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Hunger

This is my Wife’s thought for the day…………..now you know who really writes all the good sermons!

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HUNGER

“There is more hunger in the world for love and appreciation than for bread” Mother Teresa

The very word to many Americans often brings the image of children’s sad faces with bloated bellies, guilt or avoidance at the atrocity, or a distaste of advertisers constantly begging for money. Do we as Americans really understand TRUE hunger?  I know that in America there are people, often next door, who go days without food, shelter, and the daily needs that many of us take for granted. Yet still, even though we have poor and homeless, we are considered to be one of the  wealthiest of nations. However,is food the real issue?

The world is starving, but not merely for food. We are starving for something greater, and that is the presence of what we were created for. We were born lacking the sustenance needed to satisfy our very soul, the sustaining Presence and Righteousness of a Holy Creator.

While listening to a popular radio…

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