So I'm a little late with the Thanksgiving thing. Never-the-less, I still want to share what happened to us for our first Cameroonian Thanksgiving. Wednesday night, Thanksgiving Eve, we were hosting a dinner party with the other Westerners here at Mbingo. In attendance was Dr Rick and Debbie Bardin, Dr Christine Manning, Dr Danny Pike, and of course our family of 7. We had just finished a dinner of ham, scalloped potatoes, fresh salad, corn pudding, green been casserole, dried cranberries, and a vegetable medley, when the intercom phone rang. Dasen answered it, and as I passed to the kitchen to clear the dinner table for dessert, I heard Dasen say,"Is this for real?" Then he hung up and said he had to go, but would be back in 5 minutes. As a surgeon's wife, I had heard this before, but something in his demeanor made me suspicious that this wasn't a routine hospital call. I was disappointed thinking it must be an interpersonal problem with the residents and why couldn't this wait?
About 5 or 10 minutes later, the large wooden back door swung open with force and 2 tall people in dark clothes, sunglasses (at night) and hats, barged into our family and dining room. For a moment, I thought we had burglers. It took me a while to focus and realize that I actually knew these people, and for all the compartmentalizing our brains do in instanteous moments, I realized these people aren't part of my African mindset. What's going on here? There before us stood Rob and Heidi Clippard, our dear friends from Cincinnati. As Hadiah said later, "Mom, I almost cried when I realized it was them." It took me quite a while to get over my shock. I actually think it was the greatest surprise of my life. We exchanged hugs and tried to recount how this all came to be.
Rob and Heidi were on a business trip in Europe in Nov, and added on a trip to see us in Cameroon. The great thing though, is that they didn't tell us. The bad thing for them is that they had no help with transportation. Once they flew into Douala they somehow by God's grace made contact with a stranger who turned out to be a national football (soccer) hero who gave them a ride in town and set them in the right direction. After spending the night in Douala in a shady hotel, they took an overcrowded bus for about 7 or 8 hours north, this was after waiting a couple hours for the bus to fill- in the heat. Then they took a public van filled with 17 people another hour or so, until dark, when they reached our little community. They met security, and had them intercom us. That's when Dasen picked them up and they barged into our Thanksgiving meal.
What a joy!! How great to get to share some of these crazy nuainces of African life with dear friends from childhood. I've actually known Rob, by accident he says, for about 23 years. On the "mission field" kids often call adults in close fellowship "aunt and uncle." So Rob and Heidi inherited 4 nieces in their short time here. Heidi, Rob, Miriam and myself hiked about 4 or 5 hours to a gorgeous waterfall the next day. They helped me get ready for a big trip to the beach we had already planned, and we watched stars that night without all the North American light polution.
The following day we drove off with 10 of us in an SUV for 12 hours, with a broken window, tropical heat, a few snacks, pit stops in the bushes, and some crazy sights- like a couple large pigs tied on the back of a motorcycle, a school class with machetes all out cutting grass, and cockroaches found in the car. It was a great drive across part of Africa though as we were all in high spirits, albeit a bit crammed.
There's much more to stay about our trip, but Dasen already wrote about that. All in all, we had a great visit with friends and we're sure that God was smiling on us all. They are the most unconventional missionaries I've met, and I loved how God sent them here to meet our needs and show us and others His love. God used them to work out some major prayer requests, the largest of which was accompanying my mom home to Cincinnati.
Mom is doing fairly well now after getting over the initial fatigue of 36 hours of intercontinental travel. She is staying with my sister, Laura, until we get home. She went home for several reasons... she's been sick with her irritable bowel and in her memory loss I think she kept drinking water from the tap which led to traveler's diarrhea. Also, we had previously changed her ticket to fly straight home Dec 27th when we leave here. Originally we were all scheduled for a 3 week lay-over in Europe. My mom was not able to walk long distances, had her irritable bowel sypmtoms and hates the cold, so via our travel agent her ticket was changed with the idea that the next step was to get "an accompaniment" add-on. After the ticket was changed, we found there was no"accompaniment" ticket possible, and we knew mom couldn't travel and go through customs by herself. After trying all our options, Rob and Heidi came, and graciously took her home. Thank you Rob and Heidi and Thank you God for working out these crazy details of our lives.
Now we have 2 weeks remaining here. So much to do .... so little time. I love being here. I love serving God here. I love sharing His good news with girls over Christmas carols in the Children's Ward, or with the residents' wives as the Holy Spirit moved in us this past week, or with the nurse screener students before I give a lecture, or with a village woman in the local compound through which I pass. God has given us so many opportunities to plant seeds which belong to Him. We are sure God will continue His work here long after we are gone.
After we dropped Rob, Heidi, and my mom off at the Douala airpot we stayed in a mission rest house in town with a thatched veranda and a pool. It was such a quiet, idyllic place after all the busyness of the past few months. I had a wonderful quiet time with God, looking back on my life, over many years, and seeing how often I had been at difficult crossroads, fearing what would come, and even fearing what others would think. Yet at every unknown turn, He had led me. I am slowly learning how very good and yet how unpredictable He is at working out His plans in our lives. After my time with God, smiling on me, and me learning to trust Him yet again, I celebrated by jumping in the pool with my clothes on, to enjoy the refreshing freedom that comes from being His girl and being free to live by His definitions of what's right.
This next stage of our lives will be a tricky one. Dasen is job hunting and we're waiting to see how we will fare as we leave Africa, spend 3 weeks in England and France, and move back into our house in Middletown, OH, only to move somewhere else at an unknown time and place.
"Taste and see that the Lord is good." This is our ongoing prayer and enjoyment of Him.