Our church supports the Scott Family through our Missions Giving as they serve as missionaries in Bekondo, Cameroon. Mike and Becky lead up a team that translates the Bible into the Oroko language. Each week we receive an update written by Becky. Becky has just returned to Cameroon after several months in Canada sorting out her citizenship. I will try to post her weekly updates which are very descriptive of life in a small village in Cameroon.
I’m finally back in Bekondo (3 months later)!! It’s good to be back in our
“other” home, yet there are still some of the old things to deal with – heat
(helped by fans), noisy kids on our porch, getting woken up early by goats
on the planks outside our bedroom window (and then by a rooster crowing
right outside the window), cockroaches in the kitchen at night, a leak or
two when it rains, etc. But there are friends to greet, delicious bananas
waiting for us, avocados from the tree in our back yard, etc.
Our travels last week went relatively well. Mike was successful in helping
Dave Hare with his electrical system, we all had a quick visit to the Baka
area (Conrods & Jenn Jessee/Annabella), and got back to Yaounde on Thursday
afternoon. Unfortunately there was a mix-up on our room, so we ended up
moving from one area of housing to another and then waiting outside for a
couple hours before we got into an apartment. Through the process, we were
able to meet an African man who was attending a seminar – he came all the
way from Burundi! Then on Friday morning we spent 8 hours traveling – a
traffic-ridden detour in Douala, and 4 or 5 stops by either gendarmes or
safety people (everyone’s ID was checked 3 times; one gendarmes was really
out to prove something, insisting he was going to give Mike a “convocation”
because he said Mary in the back seat [which we’ve been told doesn’t
actually require seatbelts] didn’t have her seatbelt on. Well, she DID have
her seatbelt latched, and had just put the shoulder belt behind her. He was
just out to get us on something, but eventually we waited long enough and he
let us go, saying that we were liars. Sigh!). We kept the vehicle running
all the time because that seems to be the only way the air conditioning will
work – start it in the morning, and don’t shut it off until your trip is
done; so at least we were cool for the whole trip :). As you can imagine,
we were very happy to reach Bekondo after 4pm!
china steel rebar factory: http://www.sumametal.com/
The next morning (Saturday), Mike and teammate Dan headed out to Mundemba
(2+ hr. drive) with some of the translators to attend the Oroko Language
Development Committee’s “General Session”, which is open to all Oroko people
and is only held once every 5 years. Unfortunately, the turnout was very
small, so another meeting is planned for May. However, the Oroko Proverbs
booklet (not the Scriptural book of Proverbs, but “wise sayings” from the
Oroko culture) was “launched”, with the few printed copies being auctioned
off as a fund-raiser. The guys got back after dark.
Sunday was International Women’s Day – it’s often a very big deal, but this
year the event was very poorly attended and disorganized here in the
village. A group of young ladies (in their early 20’s?) came by before
church to borrow markers etc. to make a sign for their group. Then in the
afternoon, Mary was a good sport and went with me (everyone else stayed
home) – we left the house about 2pm, were quickly ushered to seats of the
“elite” when we arrived at the grounds at the other end of the village, and
watched the disorganized program unfold, including speeches and a “march
past” by the various groups. Along with the other elites, we were fed a
“light snack” of popcorn and peanuts, then invited inside a classroom to
have a meal of plantains and fish in a spicy sauce (Mary and I shared a
plate, and we still only ate half of it as it was very spicy and neither of
us really enjoy fish). We left right afterward (the program was still going
with traditional dancing, then sporting events including a “football match”
were scheduled), and we were glad we left when we did – dark clouds soon
brought heavy rain, and we ran the last 2 blocks home. I’m very impressed
with how well Mary has adapted, and with her willingness to get involved
even though it still stretches her comfort zone; her Pidgin English is
pretty good too :).
And today is the beginning of a translation week. The translators are
working mostly independently or with Dan/Lisa on various projects, so we can
continue with our other work. Which is good, because next week we’ll be
back in Yaounde! But Gideon, Kenneth’s friend from Kumba (Lutheran
Americans) will be spending most of the week here, starting tomorrow
evening, so they’ll get to have fun times together in the afternoons after
each of their schoolwork is done for the day!
It’s been nice to have reliable (though slow) internet again here, so we’ve
been able to touch base briefly with Jenny on Friday and Saturday and then
have a nice long Skype call with Christy yesterday evening! Jenny was on
tour with the chorale again this weekend, but had helped plan a surprise
birthday party for Christy which happened Saturday morning.
You’ve probably been seeing some news from our part of the world again; B.
Haram is active, but it also seems like the cooperating forces have made
some progress against them this weekend – see
4&id=95d57b6470&e=3b060d4515 . Of course, we rejoice that Ebola seems to be
a “non-news” item these days!
So… continue to pray for wisdom for the forces fighting terrorism here in
W. Africa. Praise for a good Skype call with Christy 🙂 . Pray for the
Friesens and the translators during this busy week. Praise for “good”
travels and for this week in the village. And pray for Kenneth and Laura as
they are working hard to finish up their remaining schoolwork in the next
Tom Pilkington reports:
The team arrived throughout Friday afternoon at the hotel. The whole team of Lupita, Santiago and Fletch from La Puente UMC, along with Tom R, Tom P, Meg, Al, Adeline, and Betsy from Murrieta, met up with Pastor Miguel and Pastor Joel at 5:30 and had dinner at a Mexican Restaurant walking distance from the hotel. At the dinner, we finalized plans for the next day. Here is a photo of the team at the hotel (actually taken as we were preparing to leave).
After breakfast at the hotel, we left for the Colonia…arriving at about 8:15. We set to work immediately as follows:
Roof Repair:As reported earlier, the roof of the Community Center had developed serious leaks. We brought down roof patching materials which had been donated. Two of the local men in the Colonia volunteered to work on the roof to repair the leaks. The procedure was to clean the roof by sweeping and then washing. The patching material was then applied, followed by a fabric, and another layer of patch material.
Apprentice Program: While the roof patch project was going on, the apprentice program was discussed. The idea of this project is to put teens, either HS graduates or drop outs into an apprentice program to teach them a trade. Jobs are hard to find, especially for kids who are easy prey for the Cartels. The employer would agree to bring the teen on as an unpaid apprentice for one or two months and train him. If the relationship works out for both parties, the employer would agree to bring the teen on as an employee…perhaps at a reduced pay rate for a second period and then full rate. The young person would agree to work for that period without pay, be to work on time, work diligently, and strive to be a good employee.
Tom P. and Pastor Joel visited three potential employers in the Colonia. One was a carpenter shop that seemed to be making cabinets. We visited with the owner where we explained the idea, and he agreed to work with us. We then visited an auto repair shop where we visited with the manager who understood the program and said he would talk to the owner. A third potential employer that we visited with, a tire shop, said no. So one potential employer for sure, one possible and one NO…isn’t a bad start. The goal is to get two employers working with us…find one teen per employer, and try it out, starting the project during the April/May time period. Tom P. will work with Jim Naylor in developing a contract form that both employee and employer would sign. The plan is to get the employers to sign contracts by the April trip, and then recruit potential teen employees putting them together at the May trip.
Children’s program: Meg, Betsy, and Adeline were busy preparing for the kids. The previous evening, after dinner, we walked to a market and purchased bread, peanut butter, jelly, ham, cheese, and mayonnaise for sandwiches. They had also brought down games and crafts that the kids participated in. We are trying to organize other Mexicali churches to participate with us in providing the lunch and activities on a weekly basis so that we can provide it when we come, but they can provide it the rest of the time.
Other children’s programs that used to be available were music and mentoring. The mentoring program has restarted and will be more effective with the computer lab. The music program has a piano, but needs a guitar or two and some willing instructors. Maybe someone from the school can be recruited.
Dental Clinic…where all the water leaked…was inspected by a local dentist from Mexicali. Anna reviewed the supplies and gave a visual inspection of the dental chair. Anna is planning on bringing in three other licensed dentists and teams of students to volunteer at the Colonia every week on a rotating basis to provide dental services to the community.
Medical Clinic…The existing facility contains a medical clinic with an examination table, and supply cabinet. Our intention on this trip was to visit the University Medical School and discuss getting doctors and medical students to come and offer a similar schedule as the dental clinic. The meeting could not be set up on the Saturday, so our next visit will be extended one day, arriving on Thursday and leaving on Sunday to accommodate the school. Meg Matthews is also working with students at Cal-Baptist University to send Nurse Practitioners to help. Meg is also planning on getting a list of supplies that are needed in such a clinic and working with vendors in Mexico and the US to provide them without cost.
Electricity, water and sewer to the Community Center was interrupted when air conditioners and copper wire was stolen. We have contracted with electrical and plumbing contractors to reconnect the Community Center. The estimated cost is about $300…of which $100 has already been advanced.
Refrigerators are needed in both the dental and medical clinics to keep medicines preserved. Several medicines were spoiled because they were not stored properly. We are looking for small units without freezers…these should be purchased in Mexico. They cost about $125 each.
Restroom Repair: We started the renovation of a restroom that is located outside the community center. There were several holes in the walls that were patched with wallboard and patching material. A new toilet was installed to replace one that was broken. We purchased paint, but were unable to paint the walls because the patching material was still wet. There is a second restroom outside that needs similar attention on the next trip.
Outdoor Theater: We brought a desktop computer and a new Epson projector that will be used to show movies outside in the patio area. These movies will attract members of the community and can be used as evangelism opportunities.
Learning Center: The computer will do double duty as it will also be used as a resource in a learning center for school children. Already, adults started tutoring the kids in the community center after school. The Murrieta Missions team has committed $200 per month to pay for electricity, water, and internet connection. The computer will give resources on line for the kids to do research for their homework. More computers are needed…especially laptops.
Air Conditioning…The air conditioning equipment was stolen leaving the structure very hot in the summertime. Rather than install a refrigeration unit which is expensive to run , it has been suggested that we install a washed air or “swamp cooler” on the roof that could be connected to the existing ducting system on the building roof, and then raise it to the new roof once it is built. Doing it in two steps would allow the building to be useful during the very hot (~120o F in June/July/August) summer. The swamp cooler should be effective because the weather is dry.
Projects for the next trip include preparing to install an air conditioner unit mentioned above, cleaning the Community Center, replacing the floor in the inside bathroom, repairing and painting the second outside restroom, providing some training for Sunday school teachers, installing a shower in one of the bathrooms, doing some outside landscaping, cleaning the windows and repainting the iron gratings on the windows, begin working to set up food pantry, work on getting physicians and medical students to begin working on a medical schedule at the clinic.
Shade Structure: In October, we hope to build a shade structure over the existing community center and the patio area. This will provide a permanent protection from leaking, shade for the poorly insulated community center (air gap will provide a circulating air space to keep building cool). In the future, the community center might possibly be removed and the shade structure could be enclosed to make a slightly larger building with better construction.
For financing this structure, the bill of materials costs out to about $15,000…of that amount, the Joint Commission has about $8,000 available in cash now. We will need to raise an additional $7,000 to do the work. Detailed plans are available.
Guatemala Project 2015
As many know, I was blessed to get the opportunity to travel to Guatemala on a mission trip with Guatemala Mission Project – guatemalaproject.org . I am very thankful for all of the support and prayers that you all have provided me with on this journey! It was one of the most beautiful experiences that I have ever been through. The culture, the people, and the richness that was found, in ways other than money, made this mission trip quite different.
We traveled to a few different areas in Guatemala and were able to see how they lived and how their culture showed through. Most lived extremely humbly. While we were installing the stoves it would be in a small adobe brick room with dirt floors and natural light that was coming from the door. We would see all of the corn hanging from the ceiling or stacked up from just being harvested. The culture was humble, but beautiful, and they were making the best out of whatever the situation they were placed in. We also visited and supplied clinics that were overflowing with need and schools with wonderful children loving the opportunity to learn and loving, even more, the new school supplies.
Saying that Guatemalans are hard workers is a huge understatement. On the streets of wherever you were in Guatemala you will see men, and even young boys, hauling loads of wood or boxes that could easily snap their backs. They walk up mountains to support their families and their work is very demanding. Women and children were eager to learn and to even help when it came to installing the stoves. They craved a new thing that came with more independence, like the stoves. The stoves heat up quite fast, use less wood, and the people are no longer being affected by the danger of the smoke.
Richness in life isn’t measured by money, being in Guatemala that is very apparent. These people have gone through more than most of us have dealt with but they do it with such grace and humility. They have smiles on their faces and take care of each other. They were grateful for a stove that took less than an hour to install, but in that time it was one less thing for them to worry about in their families. The richness in the Guatemalan people is an eye opening experience for everyone. I would highly encourage anyone that is able to go on the next trip, or support this wonderful ministry. Please also visit our Facebook page for photos from our trip and further information- www.facebook.com/guatemalamissionprojectIAI