Faith That Climbs Mountains

On Tuesday we received the difficult news regarding Keturah’s condition, which led to the decision that we will now be taking her to the US to seek medical help there.

That was a difficult night, I won’t say it wasn’t. There was one point in the night when I was crying out to the Lord (quite literally!) and just asking him to come with us and be very near and clear in directing our steps, and right then, as I was praying, I felt a clearing in the fog of my mind and God’s gave me such a beautiful and comforting vision. 

In the vision, I was standing in front of a very tall mountain. Then, I heard God say to me, “You are asking me to move the mountain, but this is a mountain needs to be climbed”.

Then, I saw Jesus appear beside me, and Sammy and the kids were there as well.

Then, Jesus touched me and gave me a renewed sense of peace and courage. And after that, he picked up Keturah in his arms and then took my hand, and all of us, together, hand-in-hand, started to climb the mountain.

As we climbed, I noticed that Jesus was hardly even looking at the path ahead. He was so familiar with this path that he didn’t need to pay much attention to where we were going; mostly he was looking back at us, reaching out his hand to help us over the difficult places.

That was the vision I saw on Tuesday, which came with such clear pictures in my mind that have been staying with me ever since.

Then, yesterday, was another difficult day, when we discovered that Keturah’s hemoglobin levels had dropped 2 points since the transfusion on Tuesday.

When she was transfused the first time, her levels were dropping at a speed of about 2 points in 1 week, so to now have them drop 2 points in less than 2 days was rather frightening.

We have been very fortunate, though, and have been really seeing God’s hand at work in mighty ways here!

The hospital where Keturah is at right now has been amazing! And the pediatrician who was overseeing Keturah’s case brought in another pediatrician who has actually worked with patients who have had similar symptoms and equally critical conditions as Keturah, so she has been the one calling the shots now and bringing in some really highly qualified specialists to help.

Yesterday they were able to do another blood transfusion, but this time they did the extra work of switching her over from the O+ blood she had been receiving to now using A+ blood in the transfusion since that is her actual blood type and they have high hopes that a closer blood match might help her body not to fight the same way.

Also yesterday, a highly reputable pathologist came to the hospital and performed a bone marrow biopsy, specifically looking for leukemia, but also looking for very specific bacterial, viral, or fungal infections that are known to cause these types of issues.

In order to be very thorough (and also hoping to get results as soon as possible), Keturah’s bone marrow samples were sent to two different laboratories. One of the laboratories is actually owned by the husband of the pediatrician, who, knowing about Keturah’s case at a more personal level, poured over her samples himself, putting in a lot of hours and working over-time to try and get us some answers as soon as possible.

Yesterday evening, while washing dishes, I saw another encouraging vision from the Lord. It was a continuation of the last vision. This time, I saw us all standing at the very top of the mountain and looking down at valley below. And in the vision, Keturah turned to me and said, “Mommy, look! You can see everything from up here! It’s all so clear!”

In that moment I just found myself thinking and praying: “Wow God! That climb was shorter than I expected. Does this mean the technician has found something? Does this mean we finally have a diagnosis and can know what is happening to our little girl? I know we still have a long, difficult road ahead of us as we still have to climb down the other side of this mountain, and I know full well that the valley can be a really dark and difficult place to be as well, but thank you! Thank you that you have just been so near and so evident, and helping us along, each and every step of the way. Please continue to go with us – before and behind – just leading the way for us!”

Well, today, we were presented with a diagnosis — Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL)

Also today, we were able to get our Covid tests in preparation to travel.

We have our tickets for traveling tomorrow (Saturday) night. My parents are prepared to pick us up at the airport when we arrive late Sunday night. Our final destination is the Sanford Children’s Hospital in Sioux Falls, SD. Keturah has already been assigned a private pediatrician there, and Keturah’s health records and lab results have already been sent on ahead so that they are ready to receive us when we arrive.

Yesterday, when we found out that Keturah’s hemoglobin levels were falling very rapidly it was difficult for us to know whether or not she would even be able to make the trip. But the doctor’s were able to successfully switch her over to A+ blood, and the blood transfusion she got yesterday has really done a lot to improve her condition. Today when they tested her hemoglobin levels, they were way up at 12.3 g/dl (finally actually in the “normal” range for her age again, instead of always being low). Tomorrow morning they will test her hemoglobin levels again so that we can know at what rate her numbers are falling, and that will help us know whether or not she will need another transfusion yet before we travel, as well as giving us an idea of how long we can expect her to go (and how far we can expect to travel with her) before she would get to the point of possibly needing another transfusion.

Please, PLEASE pray that her levels will only be having a very slow, gradual decline! If her numbers could be more stable and gradual it would definitely give us more confidence in traveling with her.

As for how Keturah is doing over all, she has actually been doing far better than any of us could ever hope or imagine, especially considering all that is going on inside her little body.

Everyone who sees her is just amazed! When you enter her hospital room she is there sitting up in bed, greeting everyone with a smile, writing letters and drawing pictures to her brothers or other friends and people who have been helping her. Or sitting there watching TV or playing with toys. Her levels of pain have been very low, which we are thankful for, and while she is feels the need to tell everyone each and every location where she has been poked with needles the past few days, she has even been able to talk about that experience with a smile and an amazing degree of courage and optimism.

She’s certainly a trooper!

And God has really been amazing! He has really been close to us and just going ahead of us and opening doors and bringing just the right people into our lives at just the right times. He has seen to it that every need we have has been met — and often times even before we ask or realize the need.

I wish I had time to go into all of those details, because what God has been doing for us through the body of Christ, His church, has been absolutely amazing! And most of you who are reading this have been a huge part of that!

So thank you!

I probably won’t get another chance to write until we are back on US soil and have Keturah set up in the Children’s Hospital, but I know that you will be praying for us as we make this trip, and continuing to pray for God’s protection and healing over Keturah and the rest of our family as well.

We trust that God has been leading and directing and watching over each of us, and that He will continue to do so in such amazing ways that when we finally make it down this mountain and through whatever valley lies ahead for us, we will come out of this journey with great testimonies of God’s faithfulness and almighty power. And that is what we want more than anything — for God to use this situation to glorify and magnify His name!

To God be the glory!

God — a very present help in trouble!

God never promised that life would be easy. (Quite the contrary, really!). But He HAS promised to be with us – a “very present help in trouble”!

Our family has been reminded of this at a very deep and personal level this past month, especially with the recent health struggles we have been facing with our 6-year-old daughter, Keturah.

It has really been just a little over one month since I first noticed that Keturah’s skin color had become extremely pale and anemic, and exactly 3 weeks now (to the day!) since Keturah had her first frightening attack of head pain and a very rapidly spreading ascending paralysis.

Those of you who have been receiving our email updates already know that on April 27 we rushed Keturah to the hospital because she was experiencing very severe pain in her forehead and an almost complete loss of muscle control that started in her legs and very quickly spread to almost every part of her body.

When tests were run, the lab results showed that her hemoglobin levels had dropped to 3 g/dl. She was given an emergency blood transfusion and we praise God that shortly after the transfusion Keturah regained all of her muscle control and made an incredible comeback.

The next morning she had pretty normal energy levels again and was sitting up, talking lots, and even wanting to play, draw pictures, and get out of bed to walk around the hospital room. And yet, none of the tests that were conducted gave any indication of what could have caused such a sudden and severe drop in her hemoglobin levels or such a sudden and severe loss of muscle control.

Her second day in hospital did not reveal any new information, but she was a lot more tired again that day, and had obvious decline in her health again.

It was right at the time when we were discussing the options of medevacking Keturah, when we received word that the SIL bush plane would be arriving in Banyo to drop off passengers and would then be continuing on to Yaounde, the capital city.

It is not very often that a plane comes to Banyo at all, and the fact that it was coming on the very day we were needing just felt like more than coincidence; we really saw this as a provision from God and a clear sign that we needed to reserve places on that flight and take Keturah to Yaounde.

There would not be enough seats on the plane to carry the entire family, so it was decided that I (Kelsey), along with baby Steven, would accompany Keturah on the flight to Yaounde and that Sammy, Caleb, and Timothy, would follow in a couple days, making the trip by road.

That night, Keturah had another sudden attack of head pain and the beginnings of the paralysis. The hospital there in Banyo does not have a blood bank, but we had a couple volunteers on standby who were willing and waiting to donate blood for her, so they were called and began the screening process in preparation for a blood transfusion.

Not knowing how long it would take before the transfusion was ready, but knowing that a lack of hemoglobin was the problem, I gave Keturah the only things I knew to give her – some chlorophyll (which can immitate the functions of hemoglobin) and some guava juice (which has a story of it’s own of how God had us stumble on this as an amazing remedy for Keturah’s head pain).

The screening process took a lot longer than expected, and in the end both of the volunteers ended up failing the screening process and were unable to donate blood for her. But, as it turned out, Keturah ended up not needing the blood transfusion, because she responded really well to the chlorophyll and guava juice (better than we could ever have imagined!); her pain went away and she regained full muscle control and even had normal levels of energy again (in fact, it was really hard to get her to go to sleep that night because she was so energetic and talk-a-tive).

The next day (Friday, April 30), the bush plane arrived and carried Keturah, Steven, and I to Yaounde.

A friend of ours was there to meet us when we arrived in Yaounde, and she accompanied us to the hospital and stayed with us, day and night, helping us out.

When we arrived at the hospital, however, we had a very difficult time getting anyone to believe us that Keturah was sick. She didn’t look or act sick beyond the fact that she was tired. But then, it was late at night, and we had just traveled a great distance, so even her tired state didn’t seem unusual in the least.

The doctor who received us in the emergency room did a thorough consultation and examination and ordered a bunch of blood tests. We literally had 6 long hours of testing and consulting, but when all the tests came back negative, we were basically shown to a private room and were pretty much forgotten for that entire weekend. For all of Saturday and Sunday no one came to see Keturah or check on her except for an occasional nurse coming to ask me if I’d noticed Keturah having a fever at all.

Even to get her IV changed out when it was empty was a challenge because the hospital was short staffed that weekend and we had to be the ones to go out and track down someone who could replace her IV fluids.

Plus, the doctor that was there over the weekend was just a “volunteer” doctor who was not being paid anything to be there, so she didn’t even bother to come and see Keturah or check on her at all.

Needless to say, it was a very frustrating and anxious weekend, and it certainly didn’t help that my purse ended up getting stolen out of our hospital room as well. But even in spite of it all, the entire weekend long (even amidst all the frustrations and anxieties) I just felt like God was right there beside us, assuring us that it was HIM who had sent us to this exact location, at this exact time, and that we needed to only wait and trust Him.

“Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and see the salvation of the Lord” (Exodus 14:13)

So we did!

And while we were there, passing time in our hospital room, God was at work. I’m sure He was working in even more ways than I could see, but in hindsight I can really see that the long weekend of waiting was actually really good for us.

Keturah had been through so much when we first arrived that she had been close to being traumatized and really benefited from having a couple days without anyone poking or prodding her. And having some time on my hands gave me the opportunity to really step back and re-evaluate the situation and do an extensive amount of research on the subject, in addition to being able to send out frequent prayer updates to our amazing support base and even connect with some incredible doctors and specialists who looked over all her lab tests and doctors’ reports and were able to consult and brainstorm with us over the phone and internet.

Also that weekend, there were some interesting “developments” to Keturah’s case when on Saturday (May 1) Caleb had a sudden attack of extreme exhaustion, sudden and severe forehead pain, and ascending paralysis – but no anemia.

Not having any chlorophyll on hand there in Banyo, but knowing that guava juice had been the only other thing that had worked to revive Keturah, Sammy gave Caleb some guava juice and rushed him to the hospital. They weren’t at the hospital very long before Caleb recovered; he came back from an almost “passed out” state, regained control of his muscles, and was so energetic again that he was even entertaining the staff with jokes and dance moves.

Later that same night, Timothy (2 years old) complained of severe forehead pain as well. Fortunately, he never developed any paralysis like the other two, but knowing that the forehead pain was always the one thing that came before the paralysis, Sammy gave him the guava juice preventative, and sure enough, very soon after, the pain subsided.

The whole perspective of Keturah’s illness changed after the discovery that other family members were having similar symptoms. And when I heard that the guava juice had worked for the boys as well, I was suddenly reminded that just 1 month before all of this drama with Keturah I had been severely anemic, tired, weak, and having a lot of unexplained health issues. I had tried altering my diet and taking so many different supplements but (for whatever reason!) the only thing that made any difference at all was when I would drink guava juice. So we had actually purchased a whole case of guava juice to have on hand, and I was literally drinking a bottle a day, and if I happened to skip it one day I found I could hardly even function at all.

This is actually how we first discovered that guava juice worked for Keturah because I had been drinking my daily dose of guava juice when she casually asked if she could have a sip as well. All of that day she had been extremely weak and fatigued and really not interested in doing anything but just wanted to lay down and sleep most of the time, but moments after drinking the guava juice she perked up (much the way I did when I would have my “daily dose”) and to my surprise she went outside to play with her friends, ran around with her brothers, even chatted on the phone a long time with her grandmother. It was such a surprise to see her all of a sudden acting normal again and literally playing for 2 hours straight without tiring.

So, that’s our little “story” behind the discovery of guava juice as our mystery “still-don’t-know-why-it works-but-it-does” remedy.

But, to make a long story short, Sammy and the boys traveled and arrived safely in Yaounde. And by the time they arrived the long weekend was over and we were (finally) able to see the full-time doctor on staff at the hospital to consult with him and start conducting another series of tests.

I also continued to give Keturah regular rounds of chlorophyll and guava juice any time she complained of head pain, and by the time Sammy came to see us at the hospital on Tuesday (May 4) Keturah was doing a lot better and had gone a full 24 hours without needing an IV.

We finished one last test on Tuesday, and at that point the doctor basically said there wasn’t much else that could be done for her until test results came back, and since she wasn’t even needing an IV anymore at that point, he agreed to discharge her.

Since then, our family has been all together again, staying in a small apartment in a really nice mission compound. We have taken Keturah to see another doctor (as an out-patient) in order to get a second opinion, and we continue to consult with other doctors long-distance. We are also continuing to get various tests done in an effort to figure out what is going on with her, but, so far, all the tests we’ve done have all come back as being “normal” and “negative” with the occasional “inconclusive”.

Just today we received back more results from blood work and it showed that at the time of testing (which was last Wednesday) Keturah’s hemoglobin levels were back down to a 4.3 g/dl.

Granted, we had stopped giving her the chlorophyll for several hours leading up to the test because we wanted the test results to be as accurate as possible, and based on her symptoms and the defining “forehead pain” we’re certain her hemoglobin levels are higher than that now, but just seeing that on her test result (and seeing just how quickly her hemoglobin levels dropped when we took her off of the chlorophyll) really confirmed to us that whatever is ailing her is still attacking her hemoglobin quite seriously.

We still do not know what exactly is the cause of her symptoms, and I’ll admit, it’s really hard at times not to be anxious and worried about her. But God has really been with us and has given us incredible peace and has even allowed us to sense His constant presence and clear direction.

And we really do have so much to be thankful for and so much to praise God for! Even just the simple fact that Keturah has not had any need to be hospitalized at all for the last week and a half has been a huge blessing! She hasn’t been needing any IV’s or intensive care. She hasn’t experienced any further paralysis. And she has actually gone for 5 full days now without having any attacks of severe forehead pain, which is really quite amazing compared to how frequently she had been having it before.

For all of this we are just praising and thanking God!

In fact, for the most part, if you didn’t know anything about her story or her condition, you probably wouldn’t even know that she is sick. She’s up and about with normal levels of energy and going about her every day activities, playing outside with friends, only napping once a day, and just living life like a normal, healthy (though, very pale) child.

I don’t really know how to describe her current condition to anyone who isn’t able to physically see her for themselves. So far the different ways I’ve thought of to try and describe it either sound like we’re not taking her condition seriously enough or they sound like we’re being overly dramatic and paranoid in expecting the worst, but it really lands somewhere in the middle of these two extremes.

Quite honestly, the way that I see her, is that I see a girl who is incredibly blessed and being supported and upheld by God in answer to the countless, earnest prayers that are being lifted up on her behalf.

I am convinced that if it were not for prayer and the mighty hand of God, that she would be a completely different picture right now. I am convinced that apart from God, she would be in the hospital in critical condition and very likely needing frequent blood transfusions. But, as it is, she is up and about, laughing and playing and enjoying life. She still needs to go in from time to time to conduction various tests, but all of them being as an “out-patient” who gets to come back home again when the testing is through.

So, yes, we are very blessed!

And yet, there are times when I look at her and can’t help but feel like we are holding a “ticking time bomb”. She is still obviously anemic and has very specific points of pain in her chest and abdomen. And although the pain in her forehead seems to be growing less frequent, the chest and abdomen pain seem to be starting to bother her more frequently than before.

Then, last night we had a bit of a scare when she started having pain in her leg and then later in her arm. She was also extra fatigued (which she hasn’t been in a long time) and the frightening part was that she didn’t respond to the chlorophyll and guava juice as quickly has she has in the past.

Fortunately, just that morning we had received a DHL box in the mail that contained various supplements and herbal remedies that were able to address these issue, and she recovered quite quickly after that. But just the fact that she was displaying different symptoms than usual and that she didn’t respond to the chlorophyll and guava juice the way she used to, was really concerning. If these new supplements had not done anything to help just then we would have, most likely, ended up in the hospital again tonight. But as it is, God (our very present help in trouble!) arranged for the package to arrive on the very day that we needed it, with just the right supplements to address this current issue. And really, the supplement that ended up helping her last night (lactoferrin) was really only included in this package in the first place because of God’s very clear and miraculous leading at the time when we were trying to determine what items to have sent out . . . . (but that will have to be a story for another time!).

Later this afternoon (Ha! I’m writing this at 3am, so it feels strange talking about “today” when it feels like it should read “tomorrow”) . . . . but, later today, we should receive the results of her MRI and (hopefully!) be able to pick up more blood test results. We’re also going to see if we can get an ultrasound of her chest done today in the hopes of finding out what is causing the pain in her chest area, especially since her recent chest x-ray came back as “inconclusive”.

Other blood samples were sent to Europe for testing, so we won’t be getting those results back until next week. But, depending on what shows up (or doesn’t show up) on the test results today, I anticipate that we are going to be needing to schedule a follow up appointment with her doctor and will likely have some more decisions to make regarding what steps to take next.

With this in mind, we would really appreciate your continued prayers, for wisdom, and guidance, and clear direction from the Lord.

And, if something could show up in any of the tests to help us know better what we are dealing with, we would really appreciate it! Or if the natural remedies and supplements that we just started giving her could really work, that would be amazing as well.

In whatever way God decides to lead, and whatever methods He decides to use for her healing, we give that all into His hands, praying that ultimately He would be glorified through it all.

Thank you so much for your continued prayer and support. I really wish we could respond to each and every one of you who has written us emails, and to thank each one of you, individually, who have reached out and helped us in so many different ways. God has been using you all to encourage us and to see that all of our needs have been met. God is so faithful! And we are so grateful, to Him, and to all of you who are helping us through this difficult time. Thank you!

May God richly bless you!

A Good Year Called 2020

The title to this post is probably the opposite of what you would expect. As the year finally reaches an end there is a lot of talk about how “different” of a year it’s been and how difficult, lonely, crazy . . . . and even terrible . . . . this year has been.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, especially in light of the verse: “Give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:18). As I reflect back on this past year I just find myself asking the question: Can I truly be thankful to God for the year 2020? Can I really close this year in thanksgiving – genuinely praising God for the year 2020?

As I’ve been asking myself these questions there was one singular thought that kept coming to mind, the phrase: “2020 was a GOOD year!” and when I think “good year” the imagery that comes to mind is what a wine connoisseur would say about an excellent vintage wine.

Then the verse came to mind: “I (Jesus) am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.” (John 15:1)

Now I’m not much of a wine connoisseur myself, in fact, I really don’t know much about wine or vine dressing at all, but in considering these things I had so many burning questions on my mind that I immediately took to Google to try and find a few answer, primarily the answer to the question of “what MAKES it a ‘good year’ for wine?” – and I have to say, the more I looked into it the more excited I became!

I really wish I had the time to go into detail and share all the different things I’ve discovered in the study, but I don’t really have the time to do it justice, so hopefully I can at least share a few observations that can be ‘seed for thought’ and hopefully an encouragement as well.

What makes it a “good vintage year” for wine?

I would say that there are three things that especially stood out to me in the research I did on the topic:

1) Struggle. This is the word that stood out the most to me. Struggle. It’s not a pleasant reality, but it’s true – the struggling vines produce the better wines.

For a vine to produce grapes that will create a truly excellent wine, struggle is necessary. Without struggle, the vine will become too “comfortable” with stretching out its branches in every direction and will put all its energy into putting out new leaves that it doesn’t really bother to produce much fruit. And what little fruit it does produce would be very tart and make for a very acidic, thin, and very poor wine.

Struggle is the key to a good vintage year, and a good vinedresser knows this. By restricting the supply of water (and even allowing it to experience periods of drought), making nutrients scarce, hard pruning and limiting how far it can spread out, a good vinedresser will see that the vine gets JUST THE RIGHT AMOUNT of struggle (not too much, not too little – and a variety of struggles, too!). Struggle helps the vine to focus less on spreading out and pursuing its own personal “comfort” and encourages it to focus instead on putting down stronger roots and actually producing quality fruit.

James 1:2-4 — “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must also finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

A trial should be considered ‘pure joy’? This is a difficult concept to grasp. But just like there is a bigger picture for the vines to produce an excellent wine, God sees a bigger picture for each and every one of us as well!

2) Personalized struggle. I thought it was very interesting to learn that a good vinedresser knows each of his individual vines really well! For each individual vine he knows exactly how much stress it needs to endure, and the kinds of stress it needs at which time. Much like a shepherd who KNOWS his sheep, the vinedresser is attentive to the individual needs of each of his vines and gives each one it’s own delicate and customized care.

And that means you! God isn’t just throwing random trials your way or trying to make life difficult for you. Instead, He is very strategically personalizing what trials He sends your way so that they are just exactly what you need at the exact moments you need them – and only God knows why you need to go through what trials he sends your way, because only God knows what amazing fruit He is wanting to produce as a result!

3) Time. A good vintage wine takes time to really become excellent! You don’t get to the end of the year, harvest the grapes, and immediately indulge. There’s a reason why good vintage wines often sit in dark, dusty cellars for years and years . . . time! You can’t rush the aging process. It takes time before you will really know the quality of the wine and be able to enjoy the fruit of that year.

And so it is with us as well. It may be several years down the road before you’ll be able to look back and really see how the trials of this year were exactly what you needed in your life. It may not even be until Heaven that we see the purpose behind it. But we have a good vinedresser that we can trust. It may be years before we see what He is doing – but we can have hope in knowing that whatever it is, it will not only be good for us, but will ultimately be what is best.

Yes, it really HAS been a good year! And I hope we will have the faith to grow in our ability to see the good that was produced in our lives, and our world, this past year — and to be truly grateful, even for the struggles.

Happy New Year!!

Stepping Out in Faith

Tomorrow is the day!!! . . . . (hopefully) . . . . There’s still a lot that needs to line up for us, but if everything goes well we should be able to board the plane tomorrow and finally start our journey back to Africa!

We would certainly appreciate your prayers!! Here are some specific ways you can be praying for us . . . .

* COVID TESTS . . . . We’re going today to get Covid tests done. We need SIX negative test results (no false positives, PLEASE!!). We also need the test results to processed quickly, as in, we need PRINTED results in hand before 10:00am tomorrow morning. We’re paying a decent amount to “ensure” 24 hour results, but even with the 24 hour service it’s cutting it pretty close for us. We will literally be getting the results printed ON THE WAY to the airport! So if there’s even 1 positive test result it’s going to be a very short trip. Or if the test results don’t come in time we won’t be able to make the flight either. So lots of prayers needed here!

* PASSPORTS/VISAS TO ARRIVE . . . . We were told last week that the visas have all been granted, but we’re still waiting anxiously for the packet from the Cameroon embassy to arrive in the mail. It is supposed to be mailed out today and shipped over-night to us in order to arrive tomorrow. The problem is, the mail here often doesn’t arrive until 10:00 or 11:00 am . . . and we’re needing to leave by 10:00am at the latest to head to the airport. So again, lots of prayers needed that there would be no delays with the delivery service so that they can arrive in time for us to head to the airport.

* LAST MINUTE PREPARATIONS . . . . Today is a busy day for us with last minute errands and final packing. So prayers for us to be able to get everything done that needs to be done.

* GOD’S WILL TO BE DONE . . . . This past week we have been reminded of the story in the book of Joshua where God instructs the priests to carry the Ark of the Covenant into the Jordan river. They had to take those steps in faith and trust God to do a mighty work. And He did! The water from the Jordan river stopped flowing and they were all able to cross over on dry ground . . . but the water’s didn’t stop until AFTER the priest took that first step into the water.

That’s where we feel we are at right now. Whenever we ask for God’s guidance and direction we continue to feel Him urging us to step forward. A lot of things still feel impossible, and there’s certainly a lot of things that could still go wrong to prevent us from going to Cameroon. But we also know that whether or not we go tomorrow has NOTHING to do with circumstances and EVERYTHING to do with God’s will and purpose for us. So we’re stepping out in faith and trusting Him for a miracle!

“And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the LORD – the Lord of all the earth – set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.” (Joshua 3: 13)

Waiting for Our “Move”

When I was growing up in Sierra Leone our family had an African chess board that was hand carved out of wood, with playing pieces that were made to reflect African culture, complete with African huts and traditional chiefs for the chess kings.

While I never became very skilled at playing the game, I DID develop an appreciation for the game at a young age and a fascination for those people who could play the game well.

I have always enjoyed watching a well played game of chess and always find myself amazed as I watch the “masters” and observe the strategic precision with which they play. Those who are really good at chess always seem to know exactly which pieces need to line up in which ways in order to not only achieve their goal of winning the game but to also do it in a way that would confuse their opponent, keep them on their toes, and prevent them from being able to predict what the next move would be.

When learning to play the game of chess, it doesn’t take long for a new player to realize that the very first moves of the game (the ones that seem at first glance to be inconsequential and not really count as much) are actually the most vital moves of the entire game. The way you set up the pieces at the very beginning of the game needs to be done carefully because the strategic placing of those early pieces literally dictate the rest of the game and whether or not the outcome will be in your favor.

For the last several weeks, and even the last few months, the game of chess has been constantly on the back of mind, especially in how it relates to every day life.

I can’t tell you how many times in the last few months I have felt like our family is a piece on a chess board just sitting there waiting . . . . waiting for it to finally be our “move”.

Our family has been trying since mid-July to get back to our home in Cameroon, but it has just felt to us like every step in the process has been a struggle, and pretty much everything that could go “wrong” has.

After months of dealing with delays and complications of every kind, it is difficult to not grow discouraged or fall into despair.

With every complication we face, the question surfaces in our minds: If it’s God’s will for us to go to Cameroon then WHY is He making it so hard?

With every closed door comes the confusion: We thought we would be overseas by now . . . . What are we supposed to do? And where are we supposed to be during the waiting time?

Then the doubts begin to set in: Are we even going to be making it to Cameroon this year? Are we really hearing God correctly?

There has been the temptation to be anxious and worried: What if there’s another wave of COVID and all the borders close again making it impossible for us to travel?

There are the uncertainties: With the weather getting colder now, do we need to go out and get warmer clothes and prepare for the winter? Or are we going to be out of here before it gets much colder?

There has also been a lot of frustration and thoughts of: There’s no reason why this should be as difficult and complicated as it is!!

Yesterday would be a prime example of all these thoughts and emotions playing out . . . .

Yesterday morning we were informed that our visas were going to be denied (yet again!) and they wanted to know from us if we wanted our applications to be put on hold for 30 days and then try again or if we wanted them to just send the applications and all our documents back to us?

“Is there a third option?” I asked, “Because A and B don’t sound very satisfactory for us!”

It took several phone calls and email correspondences throughout the day before it was agreed that our application would get one more chance to be considered.

The difficulty (as they explained it to us) is that the Cameroonian embassy has the policy right now that they are only allowing residents and citizens of Cameroon to enter the country. They explained to us that granting a visa for our three oldest children shouldn’t be an issue because Keturah, Caleb, and Timothy all have expired residence permits that prove that they had been official residents in the country for a period of time. But the real issue is with baby Steven because he was born here in the US and has never been a resident of Cameroon before. According to their policy they have to deny Steven’s visa application, and since his application was submitted alongside the other children then, by default, they all get denied their visas.

What’s more, Mattie (a young lady from our church who was planning to come to Cameroon with us) has also never been a resident of Cameroon, so unless there is a change in policy within the next couple of days it is not very likely that she will get a visa either.

Of course, being in a “COVID year” restrictions and policies are constantly changing, so it’s impossible to know what the regulations are from day to day.

This was also a member of the third-party service that was explaining all this to us and not an actual official from the Cameroon embassy, so it’s impossible to know how the applications will actually be viewed by the officials at the embassy. But, considering we have already been denied the visas once before, it doesn’t look very good for us.

Yesterday was rather stressful with a plethora of phone calls, texts, and email correspondences, not only to try and get the applications moving forward but also scrambling to try and get further documentation submitted in an attempt to give the applications every possible advantage and to try and present a strong enough case for why we think the visas should be granted.

Yesterday also found us on our knees quite a lot as we realized that at this point it would literally take a miracle – a mighty act of God – to get our visas granted.

Fortunately for us, we serve a God of miracles! So it really isn’t a question of policy or whether or not the embassy is favorable to us. And it really has nothing to do with whether or not we’ve been able to present a “good enough” argument or sufficient documentation for approval. At the end of the day we have done everything we possibly can . . . . but ultimately it is up to God!

And here is where that image of a chess game comes back to mind . . . .

In all the events of past several months, and all the difficulties and delays we have faced along the way, I just keep coming back to the imagery and just keep feeling like that little chess piece in the game of life . . . . waiting. Waiting for God to masterfully and strategically line up all of the other pieces on the board before it can be our turn to move.

I don’t know what His strategy is. I don’t know what those other pieces are or how they are needing to line up. I don’t know why it is taking so long or why it has to be so difficult.

All I know is that at every “dead end” we may feel like we’ve hit a stalemate in our game but I know that God still has some unpredictable tricks up His sleeve. He has some moves ahead of us that we can’t foresee. And we still have the hope and joyous anticipation knowing that the Master Player is taking His time and strategically lining everything up for a dramatic checkmate.

Whatever the next move for our family (or however long the wait until the next move happens) one thing we know for sure is that it is not merely going to be GOOD movie, it is going to be what is ultimately BEST in every way!

Please join us in praying for God’s best will to be accomplished in our lives, and for our us to learn to feast on God’s presence, even in these times of uncertainty.

The Count Down Begins!

I think everyone could chime in and agree with me that this year, 2020, has just not gone the way we expected it would. 

When we came back to the US last year we had only planned on being here for 8 or 9 months at most. Well . . . a year and a half later we’re still trying to get back to Cameroon. 

We had originally planned on returning in January, but an unexpected pregnancy led us to delay (though Sammy did make a short trip to Cameroon then just to check on things and connect with people there in person).

We then planned to return to Cameroon in July . . . but then Covid hit and all of a sudden international travel became so much more complicated. 

BUT . . . (finally) . . . after a long wait, we have finally received Steven’s passport in the mail and plan to get the visa applications in the mail early next week.

Also . . . (finally) . . . we have tickets purchased and an actual departure date set!

Wednesday, October 21, 2020 . . .  If nothing else happens to hinder out travel plans we will be departing on that day and finally boarding a plane to begin the long journey back to our home in Africa.

It has been a long wait with a lot of unexpected delays and a lot of factors that have made this trip more challenging than usual, but as a family we are pretty relieved to finally have an actual departure date and to finally see “the end in sight”.

Getting Steven’s passport and purchasing our plane tickets is only a small part of what is needed for our family to travel. There is still a lot that needs to be done and fall into place before we can actually go, so we would certainly appreciate all the prayers we can get!

Please pray for . . .

* A quick processing of our visas. We would normally expect the visas to take about 10-14 days to be processed (though we did give ourselves more time than that before our departure date — just in case). Please pray that there would be nothing to hinder the processing of our visa applications so that we can have our visas in plenty of time.

* A favorable acceptance of our visa applications. Officially the Cameroon border is still considered closed on account of COVID. However, Cameroon has been granting visas to a selection of the applicants and allowing certain individuals (especially humanitarian workers) to enter the country. We personally know of a few other missionaries (including another family with young children) who have successfully returned to Cameroon since its borders were closed, so we are hopeful. It is also to our advantage that Sammy and I still have our Cameroonian residence permits, which gives us a better chance at acquiring visas for our kids. So we are hopeful, but also still aware of the fact that the Cameroon embassy is not obligated to grant our request, and that the decision of whether or not we are granted the visas is entirely to the discretion of the officer looking over our application. So please pray that just the right person would handle our paperwork and applications, and that they would be favorable in granting our application.

* Pray for Mattie’s visa application as well! Some of you are already aware that Mattie (a friend from our home church) is planning to come to Cameroon along with us. She has never been to Cameroon before so there is a slight chance that the Cameroon government would deny her a visa if they were to think of her as being a tourist. We are hoping that sending her application in along with our own will help to increase her chances of having her visa application approved, but once again it is entirely at the discretion of the official processing the applications — so prayers that they would be favorable to her application as well as our own.

* Rapid Covid tests. This is probably the most stressful and most complicated part about traveling right now . . . . in order to board the flight we have to show proof of a negative Covid test that was taken within 72 hours of the time when we will be arriving in Cameroon. That leaves us a very short window for when we need to get the tests done, which also means that any delays in the test results could really complicate things at several different levels for us. It would also complicate things if anyone in our party of 7 (Sammy and I, our 4 kids, and Mattie) were to have their test come back positive. Aside from that, it is also a very unpleasant test to have done so we are kind of dreading having to put our kids through it, so please pray that the testing would go well and that the kids would cooperate and be real troopers with the testing process. Pray that the timing of the tests would be perfect and that the results would indeed be very rapid so that we can have them in time for traveling. And just pray that everything about this would go smoothly without any complications so that our travels would not be delayed further or made to be any more difficult than they already are.

So, yes . . . with passports and tickets in hand the count-down can finally begin!

The Things Children Say . . .

I wish I was better at writing down the cute little things our kids say. Sometimes their statements are so random that it’s funny. Other times their statements are way too mature for their age that it’s funny. But most of the time the things they say reflect their unique personalities, their unique perspective on life, and the interesting observations they make about the world around them.

This last month has been especially interesting with all the things they have been observing and commenting on. We just arrived back in the US early May, and after 2-1/2 years of living in Cameroon their perspective on things here in the US has been really interesting to observe. I have to admit that I have very much enjoyed seeing the world through their eyes. They have such an appreciation for the things around them, and such a wonder and excitement about every little new thing they see.

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Keturah: “Mommy! We have a swimming pool in the house!! Can I go swimming in it, PLEASE!?!”

It took me a moment, but I soon realized that she was talking about the bathtub. Since we don’t have a bathtub in our house in Cameroon it made sense that she would mistake it to be a swimming pool. Compared to the bucket baths she used to take sitting in a basin of water in comparison to that it’s no surprise that to a little girl the spacious bathtub would feel a lot like a swimming pool.

 

Caleb: “It opened by itself!!”

The sliding doors on our mini-van or the automatic doors at shopping centers. Yes, they’re automatic and open all by themselves. For a 2-year-old who is VERY interested in all things technical these “magical opening doors” have been really amazing! And it seems like no matter how many times he sees it happen each and every time he reacts as if seeing it for the first time. It never seems to get old for him. And he just HAS to exclaim “it opened by itself!!” EVERY SINGLE TIME!!

 

Keturah: “I don’t know how to speak English very good!”

This was not a very accurate statement by any means (Keturah is actually VERY good at speaking English), but it did go to show her level of insecurity when we first arrived in the US. The English that is spoken here has a very different accent from what is spoken in Cameroon, and very often in her young mind she has a hard time telling the difference between what is a different language (French, Fulfulde, Pidgin, Kwanja, Yamba — the language spoken in the neighborhood where we live in Cameroon) and what is a difference in accent (Cameroonian English vs. American English). It was a little intimidating for her to speak with different people here at first, but it didn’t take her long to realize that even though the accent is very different she actually CAN speak American English really well.

 

Keturah: “Mommy, LOOK!! They’re going up into the ceiling!!!”

This one is perhaps my favorite! You’ll never guess in a million years what she was referring to when she said this, and I’ll admit that it took me a bit to figure it out as well. A two story house! She had never seen (at least not that she would have been able to remember) a two story house before! We were visiting at a friend’s house and the first time she saw the other kids running up the flight of stairs she got SO excited and hardly knew what to think of it. You see, in all the other houses we’ve been in they’ve all just been single story. Sometimes in our house in Cameroon there were times when daddy needed to go up into the crawlspace of the ceiling to access things in the attic. But KIDS never go up there! So to see her friends running upstairs and “into the ceiling” was quite the surprise. At first I just couldn’t help but laugh. What fun it was to explain to her how it wasn’t actually the ceiling but just more rooms in the house. And when asked if she wanted to go up there and see it for herself she was just the happiest girl in the world!! She marched bravely up the stairs and checked it out for herself and then came marching down again (quite a long time later) to tell me all about it!

 

Caleb: “There’s a police motorcycle!!! . . . There’s an excavator!!! . . . There’s a firetruck!!! . . . There’s a dump truck!!! . . . There’s a backhoe!!! . . . There’s a cement truck!!! . . . There’s a firetruck!!! . . . There’s a garbage truck!!!”

Caleb loves vehicles of every kind, but a lot of vehicle types were ones he had only heard about and had never actually seen for himself. So now, here we were in America, and all the different vehicles he had only seen in movies were showing up in random places all around him. And oh the joy and excitement for our little guy. It was like his movies and vivid imagination were coming to life! And every time he saw another vehicle it was like a dream come true for him!

 

Caleb: “What’s that sound?”

This question has come up quite a lot as he is getting used to all the new sounds around him. Everything here in the US is so different from Cameroon, and sometimes it’s hard for him to put his finger on exactly what is making the different sounds. He’s really eager to find out, though, so he just keeps asking and we try to help him identify all the strange and new sounds as best we can.

 

Caleb: “That’s eating the house!! That not nice!”

Oh my goodness! This one took a bit of figuring out but it was SO funny when I finally realized what he was talking about. I had been in the kitchen preparing some food and Caleb had come in and asked me is usual question of “what’s that sound” — this time it was the furnace turning on. Well, Caleb just stood there a while staring at the furnace and after what seemed like a really long time (especially in 2-year-old attention spans) he finally spoke up with his comment of “That’s eating the house!! That not nice!!”. . . What?!?

It took a little clarification before I finally realized what he was talking about. Apparently he had heard us comment several times about the furnace “heating” the house and he must have mistaken that word for “eating”. And yes, in his little 2-year-old mind if that big loud machine was somehow eating our house then yeah, that’s certainly not very nice of it!

 

Keturah AND Caleb: “You’re driving mommy?!!”

The fact that mommy can drive was quite the novel idea to the kids. When we are in Cameroon we don’t have a private vehicle but just take public transportation whenever we go anywhere, so the kids were very surprised to learn that I can actually drive. They’ve seen daddy drive his motorcycle in Cameroon, but they’d never seen mommy drive before. Keturah was especially inspired by this idea and at one point asked the question, “You mean girls can drive too!?!”. I hadn’t realized it before this, but apparently I was the first female driver she had ever seen before, and it was like a whole new world of opportunity had just opened up in her mind.

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Keturah AND Caleb: “Green light means GO!!!”

Coming from the remote parts of Cameroon the kids aren’t used to having traffic lights. And while the traffic lights are quite a novelty for them it can be a little much having 2 and 4 year-olds constantly telling you what the traffic light says. Especially the green light! “Why aren’t you going mommy? . . . The light is green you’re supposed to go now!”

Ha! And when we explained that sometimes even when it’s green you have to wait until the cars in front of you start moving, well, Keturah’s conclusion to that was to turn to Caleb and explain, “Sometimes when the light is green you can’t really go, and sometimes when the light is red you can’t really stop.” — Well, not exactly, but you’re only 4-years-old, there’s still time to figure it out before you take the wheel!

 

Keturah AND Caleb: “Mommy, you’re going the wrong way!!!”

We have some serious backseat drivers in our van! I sometimes joke with Sammy that, “How did I ever manage to arrive at my destinations before I had kids to help me know how to drive and which way to go?!”.

They call out every time there’s a red light. They very loudly urge me to “GO!” when the lights turn green. They get nervous when we take a new route that they don’t recognize, and are so insistent sometimes with their comments of, “Mommy, you’re going the wrong way! . . . I don’t think this is the way to our house! . . . No mommy, this road goes to the playground, not the library . . . We need to turn around! . . . I don’t think this is right! . . . We’re going to get lost!!”

(Sigh)

Of course, then there are the follow-up comments of, “Oh! I guess you WERE right mommy! . . . Yay! We didn’t get lost! . . . You found it, mommy!”  — Yep, mommy DOES actually know where she’s going (most of the time).

 

Keturah: “Can I talk to the policeman? I need to tell him that I can sit really nice without a car seat!”

One of the biggest adjustments for the kids since getting back to the US has been the fact that they have to sit in car seats when we’re driving around. They don’t use car seats when we’re in Cameroon so it took them a bit to adjust to the idea of needing to sit in the car seats when driving. Timothy protested pretty strongly the first few times. Which, when you consider the fact that he’s used to sitting on mommy and daddy’s laps when driving it’s understandable that he would be opposed to having to sit in a car seat. Caleb was probably the one who has the easiest time adjusting to the car seats. For him, he was just so excited to be driving in a vehicle that he really didn’t mind how he had to sit in it. In fact, I think he kind of enjoyed the idea of having his own seat! As for Keturah, she had a lot of questions about why she had to sit in a car seat here and for the first while she seemed to be under the impression that if she could just talk to a policeman he might make an exception for her, and she just couldn’t understand why mommy and daddy wouldn’t let her talk to the police about her little “problem”.

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Keturah: “I think I like America! You can buy anything you want!”

We are pretty limited in what is available in our area of Cameroon, so going shopping here has been such a wonder. You can pretty much find anything you’re looking for, and if one store doesn’t have it another store does!

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Caleb: “Can I ride my bicycle? . . . Daddy, you need to buy tools to fix my bicycle!”

That boy and his bicycle! He’s just not happy without a bike to ride. It took a bit of doing to track down a bike that he could use and a bit of doing to tune it up and get it working well for him, but now that he has his bicycle to ride he is the happiest boy ever!

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Keturah AND Caleb: “Can we go to the playground?!!”

I wish I could have captured the awe and amazement that was in their eyes the very first time I took them to a playground here. We don’t have anything in the way of playgrounds where we live in Cameroon, and only very basic playground equipment when we visit the capital city there. So for them to go to a REAL playground here was just incredible!

There was no hiding their surprise and excitement when we arrived at the playground. And after getting some rather strange and curious looks from another mom that was there I finally had to explain that it was their first time ever going to play at a “big” playground (and boy did that take some explaining! I mean, seriously, what deprived children have never been to a playground before?!). Of course, the mom had to point out that this wasn’t really a “big” playground, and she was right — (we’ve been to even bigger ones since) — but for kids who are coming from Africa it was HUGE!!

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Keturah: “The sun doesn’t think it’s bedtime yet!”

Since living in Cameroon has us positions very near the equator the sun is very consistent in the hours that it rises and sets, and our kids are used to judging when it’s time to wake up or when it’s time to go to sleep based on the fact that the sun comes up when it’s morning and goes down when it’s night. Well, the hours of daylight are different here, and that has definitely taken some getting used to. We eventually had to get blackout curtains in the kids’ room because they just couldn’t adjust to the idea of going to bed while the sun was still up. Keturah, especially, would protest bedtime based on the fact that it wasn’t dark outside yet.

 

Keturah: “When the sun is up here then it is night in Cameroon. That’s just how it works!”

We were having a very pleasant Skype call with a friend from Africa (making the call from outside since it was such a pleasant afternoon). At one point in the conversation our friend mentioned that she needed to be getting to bed now, and that was rather confusing to Keturah. It took a bit of explaining, but she eventually figured it out. The sun has to “take turns” who it shines on, so if the sun is shining on us here in America than it’s nighttime for all our friends in Cameroon.

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Keturah: “Where are we on the map? Where is Grandma Konrad? Where is Africa?”

Keturah took a very sudden interest in maps when we first arrived in the US. She wanted to see where we are in the world and she wanted to know where everyone she cares about is also located. We were able to get her a mini globe and even found some great books at the library to help her figure things out and that seemed to help her a lot in the adjustment process.

 

As you can see, a lot of the comments the kids have been making have been really funny and just plain cute! But there have been some other comments as well of a more serious nature that have also been a huge part of the transition and adjustment period.

 

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Timothy: “bac-bac”

At 7-months Timothy wasn’t officially talking yet, but the one word he did know was “back-pack” (“bac-bac” — referring to the baby carrier backpack). He actually associates the word “back-pack” with taking walks outside. So when we were on our second flight back to the US (the first flight being 7+ hours and the second flight being 11+ hours), Timothy reached his limit of how much he could take being cooped up in the plane and his way of telling us that he just really wanted to get off was to just keep repeating this word over and over again . . . “bac-bac . . . bac-bac . . . bac-bac”. I never wanted to “that mom” who had the screaming kid disrupting everyone on the flight, but Timothy did not like the airplanes at all, and certainly made sure everyone knew he was unhappy. How do you explain things to a 7-month-old, though? Yes, he was doing a really excellent job of communicating what he wanted (he wanted to go in the baby backpack and go outside!) but it just wasn’t an option at the time.

 

Keturah: “Mommy, you were wrong, big planes aren’t good for me either!”

Poor Keturah, she gets SO sick when traveling. Her degree of motion sickness, regardless of the mode of transportation, is really bad, but traveling by airplane is definitely the worst for her. We already knew that she got airsick really bad on the small bush plane that we had occasionally taken in Cameroon, but even people who aren’t prone to motion sickness can experience problems on those tiny planes. So when getting ready to board the bigger airplane we tried to assure her that this experience would be different and that the bigger airplanes don’t make people feel as sick as the smaller airplanes do. Well, that assurance didn’t last long. She was pretty miserable, and in the end she concluded that big airplanes are just as bad. In fact, her way of coping with the situation was to actually turn to me and give me the comfort and consoling that she was needing, “Sorry, mommy” she said, “sorry we had to go on the airplanes”. At least she was old enough to understand why we had to go on an airplane. In that way it was a little better than trying console Timothy.

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Keturah: “Dear God, please help us to be happy and to hide our sadness”

This was a portion of her prayer just a few days after we arrived in Cameroon. I am quickly learning that our bubbly and happy little girl often carries some very heavy burdens under the surface and often times I don’t get a glimpse into those burdens except through the things she says in prayer. When I asked her later what “sadness” she is hiding she shared about how sometimes people have to leave their homes and go to new homes and that makes them very sad. She speaks of her struggles in the third-person as a way to detach from them, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that she’s been feeling homesick.

 

Keturah: “Dear God, please tell my Grandma and Grandpa Weber that I really miss them and that I’ll love them forever and ever!”

We had the joy and privilege of getting to spend time with Sammy’s parents for a few weeks leading up to our departure from Cameroon. It was such a blessing, for the kids especially, to have so much quality time with their grandparents. But it was also hard for them (Keturah especially) to say goodbye.

 

Caleb: “Oh no, I lost my house!!! . . . I can’t find it! . . . Where did my house go?!”

This has been the hardest of the comments to respond to. Of all the kids, Caleb has had the hardest time adjusting and transitioning, and especially when it comes to bed-times and nap-times he has been known to cry about having “lost” his house. We try our best to comfort him and to assure him that it isn’t lost and that we will go back to his house again later. But the reality is that he just needs to be free to process the emotions, to grieve his loss and to adjust to his “new normal”. We do our best to keep his bedtime routine’s familiar and consistent, we even travel with his blanket and other bedtime comfort items. But as much as they help they just can’t replace the fact that he is going to sleep in a strange bed, in a strange room, in a place that isn’t “his house”, and that’s been really hard for him.

On a positive note . . . this past week Caleb has seemed to really start liking our new house here. Now, when we’re driving up our street, he looks at each of the houses and asks, “Is that Caleb’s house? No-o-o. Is that Caleb’s house? No-o-o. Is that Caleb’s house? YES!!!”  —  so glad to see him finally getting excited about our new house here.

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Caleb: “Mommy, can I come with you to the doctor? I’m broken too! The doctor needs to fix my back too, it has lots and lots of owies all over it! . . . . Are you broken mommy? Doctor needs to fix you?”

Caleb knows that I have been going to the chiropractor (“doctor”) several times now and really wanted to accompany me. No, he doesn’t have any “owies” on his back at all, but he knows that my back has been hurting me a lot and he has been very empathetic and very curious about what why I need to see a “doctor”. When I finally took him along with me on one of my chiropractor visits he was very relieved to find out that I didn’t need any “pokies” (aka: finger pricks for blood tests) and after seeing what it was like “going to the doctor” he was able to conclude in the end that what the doctor was doing to “fix me” was okay and “not too bad” of a procedure.

 

Keturah: “I’m sorry we have to be sick. Sorry mommy.”

In hindsight it probably wasn’t the best idea to take the kids to a McDonald’s play-place so soon after arriving in country. And we probably won’t be taking them to that particular one again as we have since heard from other parents saying that their kids always seem to get sick when they go to that particular McDonald’s. Two weeks later the kids each got hit with various different illnesses (each kid contracting something different). That’s when I realized that while our kids may be accustomed to a lot of the germs they’re exposed to in Cameroon, the Africa germs are different than germs here in America, so we had a bit of a rough transition as they were accustomed to the new germs and a few of the American illnesses we aren’t used to dealing with in Cameroon.

 

Caleb: “Can I go to Abel’s house to get sand?”

Abel, our neighbor in Cameroon, always had piles of sand in his yard for various construction projects he would be working on. The kids were very used to going over to his house to play in the sand with their “outside toys”. Well, the other day Caleb found some sand toys and right away asked if he could go to Abel’s house. It took a bit of explaining to help him realize that Abel’s house is just too far away right now. We WERE able to find him some sand at a playground that he could play in, but he was pretty sad about not being able to go to Abel’s house anymore.

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Keturah: “I think Christi is sad to go to my house and find that I’m gone.”

I think Keturah was under the impression that Christi would be surprised to go to our house and find that we weren’t there anymore, but I assured her that Christi’s mommy knew we were going to America, and that she would explain to Christi why we aren’t there right now. Christi was Keturah’s best friend and she has moments when she really misses her. Unfortunately Keturah is very strongly introverted and really not used to interacting with a lot of other kids, so she’s having a really hard time really connecting or building friendships with other girls here, though she has connected well with a couple babysitters we’ve had over, so that’s something at least.

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As for Timothy, he isn’t really talking yet, apart from a couple very basic words, but even without talking he is able to communicate really well! He has been really happy over-all. He loves going to the playgrounds. He loves getting to swing on the swings. And whenever we go to new places he has this look of awe and wonder as he’s looking around.

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Timothy’s mode of “coping” with all the new, though, is to be extra clingy to mommy, and he is always the happiest when he’s tied on mommy’s back — African style!

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Well, overall it has been quite the month of adjustments. Lots of new sights, new sounds, new places to see, new things to get used to. Lot of just “processing” and wrapping our minds around the “new normal”.

Life here in America is just so different to what we are used to in Cameroon and it has certainly been different seeing these differences from the perspective of our children. They certainly have a unique perspective on things, and it has been really neat to see this transition period from their unique point of view.

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<<For more pictures (and even some fun video footage) check us out on MeWe!>>

 

 

 

The Gift of Baby Clothes . . .

Where do you go when you are expecting a baby and you need to buy baby clothes? Walmart? Target? Goodwill? Garage Sales? Amazon? Ebay? Cragslist?

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In America there is an abundance of merchandise and countless places where you can go shopping to find exactly what you are looking for. New or used, you can buy it or put it on a registry for your baby shower. So many colors and styles to choose from, and if you find an outfit that you particularly love you can even purchase it in multiple sizes so you can continue to enjoy its cuteness even as your baby quickly grows out of one size and into another.

But that isn’t the case here in our little corner of Africa. Where we live there are 2 days a week where merchants will come bringing a new supply of goods. Clothes are brought in as huge bundles of mixed items in random sizes. Early in the morning the bundles are opened up and the contents are spilled out in large pile on the ground. There, at the side of the road, crowds of people gather and sift through these piles. They search specifically for clothing that is close enough to the size they need, and they consider it a real bonus if the item that fits them also happens to be a color or style that they like.

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In order to find something very specific in the way of clothes a person would need to go to the market extra early to be one of the first people in line. If you can tell the merchant exactly what you’re looking for BEFORE they open the bundle you have a better chance of laying claim to the item if there happens to be one of what you’re looking for in the pile. But even so, you need to look quickly and grab it fast before someone else snatches it up. You can also expect to pay a lot more for the item if it is an article of clothing that is in high demand.

This is the case with certain baby clothes!

There are so many babies born in this area and certain types of baby clothes are very rare and hard to find; among these are infant pajamas, onsies, bunnysuits, and blanket sleepers.

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For mothers in the US these particular clothing items are considered the “bare basics”, the key essentials to stock up in the nursery or to pack in the hospital bag in preparation to receive the new baby. But here in this part of Africa these items are considered luxuries – they are like gold to an expectant mother!

Just a few days ago a lady in our community had a baby (a little girl!), so we went to pay her a visit. Before going, I pulled out a suitcase from our storage unit where we keep a supply of baby clothes just especially for distribution in the community. This time, Keturah wanted to be the one to pick out the different articles of clothing that we could take as a gift for the new baby.

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When we presented the gift of clothing to the mother she was SO thankful – almost to the point of tears! She told us about the her struggle with trying to find clothes for her baby. She shared about how both she and her mom had been searching all over in different market places trying to find these basic clothing items. They had gone extra early to the market to try and be the first in-line, and had done this week after week, but in spite of all their efforts they were only able to find ONE onsie and NOTHING in the way of pajamas or one-piece outfits. Needless to say, our gift was very well received and a real answer to prayer for this family.

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Earlier this year another lady in the community also had a baby. She is actually our neighbor and a close friend of mine. In her case the problem wasn’t so much being able to find the items but was more a problem of not having the money to purchase them. They are a very low income family with several kids that they are trying to put through school. Through farming and hiring out to do various odd jobs they still just barely make it from month to month and if someone in the family gets sick (which happens frequently) it puts them in a very tight spot financially. So when their baby was born they were really struggling to find the money to put towards baby clothes and it turned out to be a real blessing to gift them with a few outfits for their baby.

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Since we just recently had a baby of our own, I can certainly relate to the struggle of trying to get the right supplies to outfit a baby. Many of the clothes that our little Timothy is wearing now are ones that my sister sent us in a care package, or clothes that we had leftover from when Caleb was little.

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But even apart from baby clothes, just trying to get decent maternity dresses is a real challenge here! I was fortunate that Sammy was in the US when I found out I was pregnant, so he was able to bring back some maternity clothes for me from the US.

Now that we have had the baby and I am no longer using the maternity clothes, I am passing them along to our neighbor lady who is pregnant and due to have her baby in January. This lady is very new to our community and even new to Cameroon. She is from Nigeria and just moved here earlier this year. She got married to a friend of ours and moved here shortly after the wedding. She got pregnant after only a couple months and has been having a rather hard time adjusting to married life and now pregnancy in addition to adjusting to a new place and even a new country. What’s more, a tragedy in the family has also left them as the guardians of a small boy who now looks to them as his new mother and father. It is certainly a lot for a new bride to go through and the simple gift of maternity clothes has been a real blessing to her – a luxury that she would not otherwise have been able to afford.

It is a small thing, but being able to bring certain clothing items from the US and handing them out to needy families in our community has really created an open door for me to be able to connect with other women in the community and a way in which we can show God’s love to the people around us. It is also a way to teach our children about the gift of giving, and to encourage them to be generous in reaching out to help others in need.

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Matthew 25:40 — “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

Travel Adventures . . .

This last week has certainly been an unexpected adventure! With baby #3 soon on the way we had long ago made plans to travel to the capital city for the expected delivery.

Last Tuesday we moved out of our house and into a nearby guesthouse so that Sammy could work with our neighbor to break up the floor of our kitchen and re-cement it, since it had lots of cracks and holes in it from the ground settling. Our house has also had a lot of problems with termites, so they treated all the door frames and window frames with chemicals to try and get rid of the termite problems.

We figured this was the best time to do the repairs and termite treatments since we plan to be gone for at least a full month which will give the cement plenty of time to dry and the house enough time to air out so that (hopefully) all the chemical fumes will be gone by the time we get back.

The trip to Yaounde is a very long and taxing drive by road, and being in the final month of pregnancy with the dirt roads being in the worst of condition right now because of the heavy rains, we were advised to not make this long trip by road.

We were scheduled to depart by helicopter on Friday, but Wednesday evening we got a call saying that the helicopter would need to have 2 pilots on this trip, and a crew of 2 meant there would only be enough room for 3 passengers and not all 4 of us!

Right away when we got the news, Sammy started scrambling to get everything done so that he could travel really early the next morning with the intent of taking the long (18 – 20 hour) trip by public transport and arrive in plenty of time to receive us on the other end.

So very early Thursday morning (3am) Sammy left to catch a vehicle to start the long journey by road.

On Friday morning I packed up some last minute things and got the kids ready to travel. The helicopter was scheduled to arrive around 11:45am and Sammy was already in the capital city by this time and planned to meet us at the airfield when we arrived.

Well, come 11:45am we went outside to watch for the helicopter to arrive. We waited, and waited, and waited . . . and nothing!

 

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(Keturah waiting and watching for the helicopter)

 

Finally, we got a call that informed us that the weather was hindering them from being able to depart (they hadn’t even left yet!). They gave us an estimate of a new time when they might be able to arrive, but it would be much later in the day.

By this time it was already after noon, and storm clouds were rolling in. Since we had planned to travel and arrive in the capital city in time for lunch we didn’t have anything in the way of food. What’s more, with the rain coming it really hard just then I couldn’t even send anyone to town to pick up groceries for us.

 

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(Caleb walking around with “auntie” while waiting for the helicopter to arrive)

 

Fortunately another missionary couple stepped in and offered us lunch. They raided their fridge for leftovers and were able to put together enough of a meal to satisfy everyone.

During lunch we got word about the helicopter again, this time saying that because of the weather it just wouldn’t be possible to make the trip today, so they would need to post-pone until the following day.

Supper was another scramble trying to find food for the kids. I managed to find some very basic groceries at a nearby shop, but the meal was very meager, not very tasty, and not very nutritious, but it was at least enough to fill our tummies.

It rained off and on all night long, and by 5:30 Saturday morning we began to worry that the rain wasn’t going to let up and the helicopter would be delayed yet again.

We sent out prayer requests and just started praying really hard that God would give us a nice sunny day and favorable weather for the helicopter ride.

Well, the prayers were answered! The sun finally came out around 9am and at last it looked hopeful that we would be able to travel at last.

But then, more bad news!

The weather was perfect, but apparently when the pilot took the helicopter up for a test run he discovered mechanical issues. What’s more, the issues would require them to import parts from the US, meaning it could be WEEKS before it could be repaired.

That was rather hard news to receive, and poor Keturah took it really hard. For the last month she has been counting down the days until we would go on the helicopter, so she was really disappointed to hear that was broken and wouldn’t be coming.

 

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(Keturah comforting and consoling her doll as a way of processing her own disappointment)

 

What’s more, the kids were starting to get really restless, running out of things to do in the guesthouse, missing their daddy, and just struggling with this in-between stage of transition and waiting.

When we found out that the helicopter would no longer be an option we had to completely change our plans and reassess our options.

It didn’t make sense to have Sammy travel all the way back again to come and get us, but it also would not be a good idea for me to travel alone with the kids.

Then it dawned on us that Sammy’s parents were traveling that same day to head to the capital city and while they were planning to take a different route and not pass through our area on their way we thought it was at least worth asking if it wasn’t too late yet for them to change their plans to include us in their travels.

Well, we called them and explained the situation. At the time in which we called them they were JUST approaching the fork in the road where they would need to make the decision of which route to take – whether to pass through our part of the country or take the shorter (easier) route around us. So when they heard that were stranded they changed their plans and redirected their route in order to come and pick us up.

That afternoon we were struggling again for food. I had at least been able to find us some bread and eggs, some boiled peanuts, and a few snacks to hold us over for lunch, but there was nothing in the way of an actual meal.

Since the weather was agreeable I sent someone to town to pick up some roasted meat and plantains for us so that we could have a “real meal” for supper. They went to town for me, but instead of bringing meat and plantains for us they brought me some bananas – not at ALL what I asked for!

That was rather frustrating and left us in a tight spot. With no other ideas for what to do about food I just had to pray and surrender that need to the Lord. He is faithful. He always provides!

And sure enough. Not long after this I got a call from Sammy’s parents saying that they were about 3 hours away and that they had some food in their cooler if we wanted to share their supper with them.

Thank you Lord!!

Sammy’s parents pulled up in their Land Cruiser right around 6pm. Keturah was SOO excited to see them, and I have to admit that I had a feeling of “Phew! Finally help has arrived!”

The kids ran out to meet them and when they came back in Keturah gave me a BIG hug and said, “Grandma and Grandpa are here – I don’t have to be sad anymore! – They’re going to take us in their truck since the helicopter is broken. Now we can go and see daddy!”

It was too late to travel that evening, so we enjoyed a really nice (nutritious!) supper of chicken soup and just spent some fun relaxing time with grandparents.

The next morning we got up early to have some breakfast, load up the truck, clean up the apartment, and head out to start our 2-day journey by road!

 

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(Sitting and playing with Grandma during the long drive)

 

It is possible to make the trip to the capital city in a single day, but with the roads as bad as they are right now, with me being so far along in the pregnancy, and with the added challenge of traveling with two kids who easily get car sick, we decided to take it really slow.

 

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(Caleb and Keturah in “Grandpa’s Truck”)

 

As it turned out, all the prayers for a sunny day worked out to our advantage! Even though the conditions of the road were still very rough we all just kept marveling over the fact that the roads really were as good as they COULD be. The sun had dried the roads just enough that we didn’t have to worry about slipping and sliding too much, or worry about getting stuck in the mud (even though we passed a few trucks that were stuck). The road was dry enough to make the trip safe, even if it wasn’t smooth, but it was still wet enough that there wasn’t too much dust to worry about, which was also an added blessing.

 

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(One of the worst sections of the road where trucks were getting stuck in the thick mud)

 

On Sunday we drove a total of 9 hours over the worst section of the roads. We were all very tired by the time we made it to a hotel half-way, but it was a great relief to at least know that the worst of the trip was behind us.

We stayed at a hotel that night and were greatly refreshed by warm baths and a good nights sleep.

 

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(Our very happy, ambitious little guy, getting some breakfast before starting out on the road again)

 

Monday morning we got an early start again enjoyed the fact that most of the roads on our second day of travel were paved and much smoother than the day before.

 

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(At the hotel, ready to set off on day-two of our journey)

 

It was still a very long day, though, especially for the kids. Keturah and Caleb were both really excellent travelers, and were both real troopers in spite of getting car sick and spending such a long time in cramped quarters.

When we finally arrived in the capital city we celebrated by stopping for some ice cream!! We don’t get to have ice cream where we live, so it really was a special treat indeed! But even that could not compare with the joy and delight of being reunited with daddy again when we finally reached the end of our long journey!

 

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(Celebrating our arrival with ice cream!!!)

 

As for our expectant baby – in spite of the harsh road conditions and the taxing trip, there was nothing in the way of problems or complications with the pregnancy. Baby seems to be content to wait until the opportune time to be born, and I am sure that is largely thanks to the many prayers of friends and family these last few days.

While traveling by road was certainly not our preference this time around, we just trust that God has His reasons, and we praise Him for how well the trip went, and for His traveling mercies along the way. It is nice to have a faithful God we can depend on to always provide for our needs and to always work everything out for our good – even when we don’t always see the reasoning behind what He is doing.

If you have been among those who have been praying for us the last few days, THANK YOU!!

We praise God for His answered prayers and give Him the glory for safe travels and a blessed arrival!

 

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Also, a special thanks to Grandma and Grandpa Weber for coming to our rescue and “saving the day”!!

Ministry in Homemaking . . .

The other day I had this brief moment of thinking to myself, “What am I doing here in Africa? What exactly is my role in ministry?”

So many times as missionaries we feel the pressure of this unspoken expectation that since many people are supporting us and making personal sacrifices that enable us to engage in overseas missions then every moment of our day should be taking advantage of the opportunities to make a difference and have an impact for the Kingdom of God.

With this notion always at the back of our minds it can be a mind battle at times when I find myself spending much of my day attending to the superficial needs of the family – cooking, cleaning, laundry, dishes, watching our children and striving to raise them up in the way of the Lord.

There are certainly activities that I do which are directly related to ministry work – writing quarterly reports for our sending agency, keeping in touch with donors and supporting church, sending in expense reports, developing ministry materials, etc. But these more specific ministry activities are more of the “occasional focus” for me, while the majority of my time is literally spent doing exactly the same thing I would be doing if we were living in the US – fulfilling my role as wife, mother, and homemaker.

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Of course, being a homemaker in Africa can look a lot different than being a homemaker in the US, especially without running water, without a refrigerator or oven, and without so many of the modern conveniences of machines that can wash your dishes, wash your clothes, dry the laundry, or mow your lawn.

At first glance it would seem like everyday life where we are in Africa is so much harder and the daily chores so much more time-consuming and energy-taxing. But then I think about the fact that instead of recruiting machines to help me with day-to-day activities I often call upon friends and neighbors to pitch in and help, and that right there really makes any activity less of a chore and more of a joy as we share in fellowship, companionship, and helping to carry each other’s loads.

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Another difference in homemaking in Africa instead of the US is the added challenge of there not being much availability or variety in the groceries we can buy or the household supplies that we can get here. I usually have to plan 3 months in advance and keep track of inventories of household supplies we have on hand just in case we need to have anything brought from the big cities (6-18 hours from where we live) or even sent over from the US.

There are also health factors that we deal with on a daily basis here that wouldn’t even be a concern in the US. The constant precautions needed to prevent malaria, the extra steps in food preparation to prevent typhoid, cholera, amoebas, and so many other likely health threats. And there’s the frequent trips my husband has to make, to travel at least 6 hours or more just to reach an ATM where he will spend 3 days trying to withdraw all the funds we will need to manage personal and ministry expenses for the next month before he has to make the trip again.

Yes, there are a lot of things that would just be so much easier in the US.

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Take meal planning, for example. I cannot just plan our meals based on what we would like to eat, more often than not our meal plans revolve around what groceries are available and what we were able to find in market that day. And when it comes to meal preparations not only is everything made completely from scratch, but cooking also requires a degree of flexibility and creativity – especially when recipes require some improvising to make up for ingredients we just don’t have.

It may be hard to believe, but we don’t even have any restaurant in town where we would be able to eat without having to worry about getting sick from the food. The nearest “safe” restaurant would be a 6 hour drive from where we live, so we don’t even have an option for getting take out or deciding not to cook one day.

In fact, there are very few “quick and easy” food options at all — even with regards to snack foods. And this is part of where my “mind battle” surfaced the other day as I came to the realization that being pregnant would be SO much easier in the US, if for no other reason than the fact that I could easily make a quick run to town and purchase whatever foods I happen to be craving at the time, or even just to have a stash of snack foods on hand and available for whenever I’m needing a quick bite to eat.

The missionary, Ella Spees, once listed one of her secrets for contentment to be in never allowing yourself to “wish this or that had been otherwise”. Another of her contentment secrets included: “never picture yourself in any other circumstance or some place else”. So, even amidst crazy pregnancy cravings I have been striving to only think about food options from the selection of foods we have on hand, or the limited selection of groceries I know we can find in market. But there are days (like yesterday) when this can be really hard.

Yesterday I just stood in the kitchen for the longest time taking stock of all the groceries we had on hand and going through a mental list of all the food options that I could make to eat. Any pregnant woman can relate to the feeling of being very hungry but not having any food options sound appealing in the moment, but actually, in that moment I could think of lots of different food options that sounded appealing, but not one of them was something we could even get here in our part of Africa.

I went and cried in my room for a while and then made myself a cup of tea to cheer myself up. It was while sipping the cup of tea that I began thinking along the lines of, “So why am I here again? If the majority of what I do is stuff that I would be doing in the US anyway, and so many things would just be that much easier in the US, then what’s the purpose of my being here in Africa right now?!”

Well, the answer wasn’t long in coming. All I had to do was look over and see my husband and I immediately knew the answer to my question.

You see, the majority of what I do here in Africa would be the same and even easier if I were in the US, but so much of what my husband does here in another matter all together! And the nationals we have trained and continue to encourage in their own ministry work is a part of the fruit that we bear together, even amidst the mundane of everyday chores.

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During the last spiritual retreat that we held for the “Harvesters” we trained, we told the women in the group not to underestimate the vital role they have in ministry, even if it seems like merely a “support role”. Not only are they making it possible for their husbands to engage in ministry, but their interactions with the other people in their communities can be used by God in great ways, and their willingness to endure a harsher lifestyle is also a witness to the people around them, and who knows whether or not they are raising up the future missionaries and leaders of the next generation right there in their home.

So I had to give myself the same little “pep-talk” yesterday and bring things back into perspective again. The truth is, there is no such thing as being “JUST” a wife, or “JUST” a mom, or “JUST” a homemaker. If you live your life in obedience to God it really doesn’t matter what role He calls you to fill, He blesses it and uses it in amazing and incredible ways that we wouldn’t even be able to imagine!

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