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Teen Missions(TMI)-West Central Africa -- Cameroon (Northwest province in the village of Nsongwa)

Our Life at TMI Cameroon

July 2005 we arrived at the Teen Missions base along with our 11 year old daughter Sue and a team of teenagers. We were worn out from our time at boot camp, but very happy to arrive at our new home. Our beginnings were with the team (to see more about this team see 2005 Backpacking team), but we were soon immersed in the everyday life at a TMI foreign base. Although every base has it's own character there are many things that almost all of them have in common. Our students began their day (as did we Mon-Fri) with chapel.

The praise was much more lively than we were used to and there were always Cameroonian drums accompanying it (which got loud but helped to wake us up when we needed it). The message was always encouraging and challenging. Next was meal, 3 classes, another meal, work time around the base or EV nearby, then a meal, study time and bed. Somewhere in there was laundry and cleaning and fun. Busy, busy days. Tim handled most of the activities with the students, while Sara homeschooled Sue. We both taught classes and endeavored to adapt to our new life in life in the village. We leaned heavily on the Cameroonian staff to teach us the local customs and translate for us. There was so much to learn: never reach for anything with your left hand, women must wear dresses or skirts in the village, you don't shake the hand of the Fon (village chief), it is a common site to see men urinating (and occasionally women too), men hold hands with close friends, there is no difference in Western clothing (except dresses and skirts) in mens/womens clothes (men really like those frilly shirts too!), when someone comes to visit you give them something to eat and drink (and the visits are frequent), a noon wedding will actually start at around 3 (African time), etc.... Haha...some of these are funny, some serious (as you could really offend people by what you did or didnt do), some frustrating.

There is so much to learn in a new culture and so much of our own that we bring with us without our even knowing it. There were many adjustments that needed to be made: we didn't have running water when we first arrived (that was Tim''s first project), it was 1 year before we had electricity (we had a generator for lights and for charging things...our laptop, phone) that we ran for 2 hours each night, we had to filter our drinking water, we did our laundry by hand (our second big purchase was a washing machine our first was a refrigerator), mosquitos carry malaria (not all but many do), cooking was done entirely from scratch (Sara always cooked from a box in the U.S. as she commuted a long distance to a full time job). Communication was often a challenge. Not only was there a language barrier but often we would say..."Are you getting me?" (do you understand) and they would say yes, then go and do the task they way they thought you said. So we learned patience and to have people repeat what they thought we said. That helped a lot. Earlier in the year we would set up the summer teams and share in churches about the Bible school and summer program. One of our first obstacles we had to overcome was getting pastors and churches in general to understand that we weren't there to steal their church members for our own church.

We only wanted to help train them up so that they would be better church members when they returned. Churches are very possessive of their members. During the summer time the base transformed from a Bible school to a summer camp. So the Bible school shut down and a summer program (much like the one run in Merritt Island Fl) would go into full swing. A TMI Cameroon team would consist of 4 leaders (2 men, 2 women) and 20 team members. We would have between 6-10 teams. They would start out in our own version of boot camp. Running the obstacle course in the morning, having breakfast, classes (in the Bible, evangelism, drama, music, puppets, construction etc...),lunch, team time, rest, bathing, laundry, dinner and an evening rally (the highlight of everyones day). In Cameroon the boot camp runs for 10 days...then off the teams go for 5 weeks to the different villages to do projects and share the love of Jesus through all of the various methods they learned at boot camp. Finally, tired but filled with amazing stories they would return to the Nsongwa base for a 3 day debrief. Fun, games, testimonies, classes and an evening rally every day. After all of the teams were gone we would pack up from the summer camp and start preparing for the next Bible School term. Busy but good times!

After our first year of Bible school we were told that Cameroon would be starting up the Aids Orphan Rescue Unit projects. We were so excited! So added to our activities was scouting out possible sites for units. A lot goes into this: many visits to the site, coordinating with local pastors and meetings with the Fon and Quarterheads and any other government officials that were in the areas. In 2007 we brought back a team of American teenagers to build our first unit in the village of Impalim. Here is where we started to see that some of the children who were being ministered to through these units needed to be rescued (taken out of the home where they were). Later in 2007, we helped start a second unit in the village of NGie. At the end of 2007 our 3 year (although we were with TMI for almost 4 years-March 2004 - Dec 2007) commitment was up and we moved to another ministry where we helped open an orphanage and another Bible school. The children in our orphanage, who are old enough, attend the TMI Cameroon summer program. It is one of the highlights of their year. Some of our children came to us through our contacts at the TMI rescue units. We are so blessed to continue to partner with Teen Missions in this way.

the view to the laundry area in front of our living quarters

our 4x6 kitchen, small, but functional (and the new washer!)

Cats and Sara helping Sue with school work

our Cameroon summer teams leaving for the villages

team presentation during debrief

view of the base from the soccer field

laundry time (by hand for the 1st year)

Attending cultural events

Our living room - 2 walls were containers...safer, but different

The students outdoor kitchen

Checking how construction on new building is going

base was often used for community events

one of the Aids Orphan Rescue Units

our sign on a nearby road

showing the Jesus film at nearby schools


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