Saturday…The morning after Cameroon commissioning, we work up early and got our bags packed and brought down to the bottom of the hill before breakfast. Then we worked together to pack up the kitchen & put all the kitchen gear into the back of the TMI truck. The bus that would be transporting the team & our personal duffels was schedule to arrive at 8:00 am. At 11:30, it finally showed up. However, we enjoyed our unexpected free time by saying goodbye & taking pictures with all of our new Cameroonian friends from boot camp. Eventually we got everything loaded on the bus and took off. After about two hours on pot-hole littered paved roads (more than one of us commented on how poorly maintained the roads were) we came to the end of the paved roads & had to stop and switch from the bus to a bush truck.
The bush truck was a Toyota 4×4 with large knobby tires, lofty clearance, and a short bed. By the time we loaded all 16 duffles into the truck (and some on the roof of the cab), there was only a small space left in the bed between the cab & the pile of duffles stacked against the tailgate. By American standards, there might have been space for two, maybe three, people to climb into the remaining space in the truck bed. But, we’re in Africa. So, we squeezed twelve people into the truck bed. It was standing room only and VERY cozy. Those standing closest to the cab of the truck could hold on to the luggage rack on the top of the cab. But, those standing further back had only their teammates to hold on to. We weren’t sure how this would work out, but we had no other alternative. So, away we went.
It quickly became obvious why we needed the bush truck. All the recent rain has turned the “road” (more like a rough trail) into a continuous series of unbelievable mud pits, 3’ deep gullies and seemingly unappeasable boulders and sucking red clay. Around every corner we faced another stretch of road that we were sure was impassable. But, unbelievably the bush truck made it through. It slipped and slid and fishtailed it’s way over the most unbelievable obstacles and the driver never broke a sweat. No one was hurt or tossed out of the truck bed despite multiple occasions where the truck was at a 45º angle. And all the while, the team members in the back of the truck were cheering & singing and waving hello to all the locals walking along the edges of the road. We brought more than a few smiles to people’s faces that day!
Finally, after many unbelievable moments, we made it to the Shilo rescue unit outside Bafman, Cameroon. The unit is nestled in seemingly endless corn fields dotted with small houses and huts with a few banana trees clustered around each. We arrived around 5:00 pm and quickly set up our tents & kitchen. The girl’s tents were on the porch and the guys tents were in the yard under a large tarp cleverly stretched from the edge of the roof out over the yard. After a hot meal & a rousing evening devos (full of more than a few testimonies of how we saw God at work that day), we fell into our beds, exhausted.
Sunday…We woke up bright and early, eager to start our first day of ministry at the rescue units. While the lady leaders prepared breakfast, Vitalis led the team on a prayer walk through the surrounding area. After breakfast & personal devos, the team began preparing their VBS-style bible stories, songs & games in anticipation of the arrival of the children around mid-day. We were swarmed with kids by 9:00 am. They just kept coming and coming and coming. And then it started to pour rain. Everyone crammed onto the very small porch to get out of the rain and Mikhaela, Judah & kelly started singing songs to keep everyone entertained. Meanwhile, the rest of the team worked to save the boys tents from the torrential downpour. Our clever rain tarp quickly tore a large hole and dumped a huge amount of water right onto the tents. The poles that were holding it up kept falling down, causing the tarp to dump more water each time. Additionally, rivers of water were flowing down the hill, around the sides of the unit & right under the boys tents, flooding the area. The rain was pouring off the tarp so fast that we could barely dump one bucket away from the tents before the next one was full. Vitals & Caleb & JonMichael worked to stabilize the poles holding up the tent while Anthony, AnnaKate & Luke B. hauled buckets of run-off water to dump into the top of the high-capacity rainwater tank at the corner of the porch roof. However, it didn’t take long before even the massive rain tank was full and overflowing, adding to the rivers of water flowing through the guys tent area. Eventually we got the tarp to work a bit better, but the winds also blew the rains onto the girls tents on the porch and even into the kitchen.
After nearly 2 hours of pouring rain, we gave up. Miss Anna had prepared hot green tea with honey to help warm everyone up and the team did their best to change into dry clothes although most people had very little that survived the downpour.
The Godliness Award that day went to Anna M. who dove in, without hesitation, to help save the boys tents even though she didn’t have a poncho or rain jacket. She worked tirelessly through the storm diverting water, helping with the tarp, and hauling buckets. Then, once the tarp was adequately secured, she continued helping by taking advantage of the rain to clean all the mud from the sides & tires of the TMI truck – all while soaked completely through. She never once complained or let the smile slip from her face. Many team members for went that day, but her selflessness outshone them all.
Eventually the rain stopped and the sun came out. So, the team went out onto the grass to do a presentation for the crowd of people who continued to gather and stall all day at the unit. They did puppets, drama & songs. AnnaKate presented the gospel by using the wordless books while Vitalis translated. They passed out wordless bracelets to everyone that wanted one. As it started to get dark, the crowd began to disperse and the team gathered in the warm kitchen for dinner and evening devos. Again, there were more than a few testimonies of how the team had seen God at work that day. Even though we had only been at the unit for one day, everyone agreed that this was one of the best days of the whole summer so far.
Monday dawned bright and clear. So, we took advantage of the nice weather to paint the exterior walls of the unit with the paint we had brought with us from Bamenda. Vitals led the effort, diving the team up so that each person had a specific job. We painted all the exterior walls and two interior walls in the room we were using as a kitchen. The color was a bright tropical blue. Anna M. & Madeline headed up the detail team, using brushes to paint the trim & accents with a deep plum purple color. It took all morning and into the afternoon to get the job done, but the unit certainly looked much brighter and cheerier when we were finished. Then, in the afternoon, we headed out to play soccer at the local school. The weather had been beautiful all day, but as soon as we arrived at the school (about a 20 minute walk from the unit), the skies broke and the rain began to fall again. Not to be discouraged by a little rain, the team decided to play anyway. As they arrived back at the unit, drenched & exhausted, they poured out story after story of how encouraged they were by the response of the African children they played with. Once again, evening devos was full of God stories from every member of the team.
Tuesday (the following report was written by Luke C.) “We woke up to find the sun shining with a cool breeze blowing through the unit. This was a blessing because we and our clothes were still soaked from the soccer match the day before. The entire team did devos in the grassy field warming up in the sun and sipping on hot chocolate. We then had bath/laundry time before piling into the truck to head to the market. It was market day so the place was packed with people. Vitals split the team into 3 groups and we walked off into the market to tell people that we had a presentation prepared and that it was about to begin by the entrance to the hospital. We had songs, dramas, and puppet songs prepared with the ultimate goal of showing the gospel with he people who were watching us preform. A small crowd gathered and we began to sing. Initially, things did not go well. The crowd was giggling and pointing fingers and was not taking our words seriously. There was one muslim man in particular who ran out in front of us and was mocking our singing and hand motions. It was clear the man was mentally ill and at first he was a major distraction. I continued to pray in my head that any attacks of the enemy would be extinguished and we could communicate our message effectively. As we continued to sing and ace out our puppets and dramas, the mood of the crowd, and the one man, shifted. No matter what distractions came up, the team kept presenting with no fear. The crowd became interested and began listening and encouraging others to do the same. We had reached the end of our presentation, but a huge crowd had gathered and I quickly told everyone we should keep going. Caleb presented the wordless books while we scrambled to throw some more songs together. Then I felt led to share my testimony with the crowd. So after two more songs, I stepped forward and introduced myself and told how I accepted Jesus. I explained the Gospel and what it meant. After my mini speech, Vitalis stepped up to the front and gave the invitation for anyone who wanted to accept Jesus. At first, no one raised a hand. But then, one man raised both of this hands. Seeing one man step out in faith encouraged the others to not be afraid and to raise their hands. Hands popped up and we counted a total of 23 people who wanted to accept Jesus! I noticed one lady standing off behind us. I saw that her hand was raised slightly and I walked over to her. I asked if she understood what she was about to do. I walked he through the Gospel and she said she wanted to follow the Lord. So, she repeated after me and accepted Jesus right then and there in the market. After we prayed, I asked if she knew what a Bible was. She didn’t, but was interested in reading one. I frantically asked the team if anyone had a Bible. Caleb ran to the truck to see what he could find. I continued to talk to the lady. I learned her name was Amanda. caleb sprinted back to us with his Bible. I asked him multiple times if he was sure that we wanted to give up his Bible. With a huge smile, he nodded and we gave Amanda her first ever Bible. Caleb and I gave her some scripture to read and encouraged her saying that being a Christian isn’t easy, but that the word of God always has answers. We prayed for Amanda once more and then said our goodbye to her and everyone at the market. Back at the bast we had a little free time before dinner and then had GG class. The facilitators of the rescue unit shared their testimonies with us at group devos. Everyone shared their perspectives from the market and it was amazing to see all that God did in our time there. I know personally I have been praying that I would have the chance to lead at least one person to Christ this simmer. That prayer sure was answered. It was a great day and I can’t wait to see what else God has in store for us!”
Wednesday…Despite our prayers for no rain so that the roads would dry out and our return trip would be uneventful, we woke Wednesday morning to pouring rain. The bush truck was scheduled to arrive at 8:00 am so we were forced to pack up our tents even though they were wet. We packed up the kitchen and all our duffles as well as the TMI truck. Then we waited. And waited. Around 9:30 the bush truck arrived. He had to take an alternative road because the main road was impassable due to the heavy rains. So, we loaded up and headed out. Even though we took an alternative route, there were several spots where both trucks got stuck in the mud and we had to hop out and push. A bunch of locals ran to help as well – children throwing rocks into the road for traction and men shouting advice to the drivers as they tried to maneuver the trucks through the thick mud. Eventually, with a lot of prayer and spinning tires, we made it through the worst parts. From then, it was relatively smooth traveling. We switched back to a regular bus once we got to the paved roads and made it back to the TMI base near Bamenda around 4:00 pm. The team was tired and more than a little happy to back in a familiar place. The team did library reading & Bible marking while the lady leaders prepared a hot meal for dinner. Then Luke B. shared his testimony during evening devos.
Tomorrow we plan to go shopping for food & supplies for our trip to the next unit. Then, in the afternoon, our team will go to visit the Fon (the local government leader/village chief). Then, we pack up again and head for the Lynn Harnage rescue unit on Friday. Another unit, another bush truck!