Monday, April 27, 2009

Covered with Prayer

I don't know that I've ever been in a setting where so much praying is going on all day.

We started each morning with team devotions and prayer. Then at the work site, we'd gather in a large circle with all the staff and volunteers to pray together.

Soon I'd see a small huddle of therapists and mechanics praying before their first patients came to them.

Then as each new person came, the therapist would pray aloud that God would lead to the right chair for this particular set of needs. And at the end, when God had answered that prayer, there was another prayer of thanks. After that each person had time with a pastor or other church leader for hearing the gospel and praying together.

A day and a place filled with prayer -- a good place to be.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

You Asked for It

Okay. Here by popular demand is the video of Americans trying to dance like Cameroonians--and doing a pretty good job of it. 

At the end of a couple of workdays, the pastors and other volunteers broke into spontaneous singing and dancing and praising the Lord. 

No instruments? No problem. Here's an empty plastic bottle, a 5-gallon jerry can, and a wooden table.

You're right, I'm not in this video. Well, somebody had to hold the camera.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Two-way Thanks

Our team could not have been in Cameroon or ministered as we did without our coworkers there. There is no adequate way to express our gratitude. But we said thank you often--to them and to God. And as a tangible token, each received books that had been donated by
Desiring God's International Outreach Department

In a place like Cameroon, where income is low and life is often a struggle, the books were received with eagerness. And so the thanks we directed toward our fellow-workers was turned back by them toward us and Desiring God.

And don't miss the video of children receiving Most of All, Jesus Loves You -- also a gift of International Outreach. 

Friday, April 24, 2009

Gospel Bracelets

Last summer at Joni and Friends Family Retreat in Minnesota, the teens made Gospel bracelets to be used during the wheelchair distribution in Cameroon.

The color of each bead represents a Biblical truth in salvation and the Christian life. So a bracelet is a tangible reminder of the Gospel that a person has heard.

Thank you, Minnesota teens, for your ministry in Cameroon!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Clapping and Crying and Praising God

Several times each work day in Cameroon, there were responses that reminded me of the lame man in Acts 3:

Peter said,  “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you.  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And  leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 

God did not grant us the gift of healing for anyone. But he allowed us to raise up almost 200 people into wheelchairs. And there was rejoicing among them and the ones who love them. We saw people clapping and crying and waving and dancing and praising God.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Most Memorable Greeting

One of our indispensable coworkers in Bamenda was Nungu Noel, the brother of Nungu Magdalene

He and Dan Eriksen provided the safety training and demonstration to each person who received a wheelchair--using the wheel locks, going up and down steps and over bumps, etc. 

(Apparently Noel is mainly a man's name in Cameroon, because often when I introduced myself to people, they turned Noel into Noella.)

Nungu Noel served in this same training capacity during the previous wheelchair mission in 2007, so this time we shook hands warmly and greeted each other as friends:

Me: Hello, Noel. I'm so glad to see you again.

Nungu Noel: Hello, Noel. You're fatter this time.

Me: Uh, yeah, I guess so.

It took only a split second to remember that's a Cameroonian compliment. Fat represents beauty, health, prosperity, and being well cared for. That's always been true, and probably even more now that AIDS is so rampant. In much of Africa, AIDS wears the ominous nickname of "Slim."

Sunday, April 19, 2009

God's Circle of Giving

The Cameroon Harvest Project team took the apostle Paul's words to heart:

"In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"

But since God is God, we never were just giving. We were also receiving. One of the ways God gave himself to us was through the songs of people who came to receive a chair. As Perpetua, Maurice, Constance, Sandreen, and Bartholomew waited to receive a chair, they ministered to us God's Spirit and strength and joy.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Lifted Up

A wheel chair lifts up a person who otherwise has been lying or crawling. Now  
Rose, Michel, Issa, Mary, and Michael, for example, can look you in the eye, instead of being looked down upon.

It is a good thing to be lifted up in that way. But that is not enough. We pray that the people we met in Cameroon will trust in Jesus, our Savior and the son of God who "sets on high those who are lowly, and those who mourn are lifted to safety" (Job 5:11).

Friday, April 17, 2009

Hilda Bih

In 2007, Hilda Bih met the first Harvest Project team at the airport with her 1000-watt smile. This time, she came to our distribution site to receive a wheelchair.

Hilda's voice is well-known in Cameroon because she is the host of the radio afternoon show of CRTV, the national broadcasting service. In that capacity, she is a voice on behalf of the disabled of her nation.

At times, she has played recordings of Joni Eareckson Tada's programs. And for the French speakers, she transcribes Joni's words and reads them herself in French.

May God give to the people of Cameroon ears to hear that ALL people are created in his image--including those with disabilities.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Who we were

Here are pics of all of us on the 2009 Cameroon Harvest Project team. 

Don't miss the bus that took us from Yaounde to Bamenda. I called it the Pepto-Bismol bus. Others thought it was a full-sized Barbie bus.

Friday, April 10, 2009


I'm home now and the rest of the Minneapolis contingent should be arriving very soon this evening. 

I'll be posting photos and more stories over the next few days, so you can continue to thank God for his work in Cameroon.

The one above was taken at the end of our visit with former Prime Minister Achete Achu.

And here is Francis, who had been injured in an accident that left him with one arm and a spinal cord injury. The perfect chair was waiting for him, not through OUR planning, but through God's.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Planned by God

Yesterday morning and then again today, as we began work, Gordon, one of our therapists, noticed a very unusual chair. It was designed to be used by a person with the use of only one arm--the left arm. If you turn just one wheel on a normal wheelchair, you go in circles. But this one has a long lever mechanism that is pumped by the one arm to move the chair forward.

About mid-morning, Francis arrived and was assigned to Gordon. Francis was injured in a work accident. His legs are permanently damaged and one arm is missing. You guessed it--the right arm.

Some time in the past, probably before we even thought of going to Cameroon with wheelchairs, this chair was manufactured for use by a person we don't know. After a while, that person was finished with the chair, we don't know why. It was donated to Joni and Friends and renovated in a prison workshop.

When a container was being filled with chairs for this mission, we had no idea which people we would see or what kind of chairs they would need. So the assortment of chairs is totally random--by human standards.

But nothing is random with our sovereign God. God knows Francis and the chair he needed. God was preparing a chair for Francis long before today.

Monday, April 6, 2009

French, heat, and dancing

It's the end of another long and good day. I asked the people in my van what I should report tonight. Here are a couple of things.

It's more challenging working in Yaounde, because French is the trade language here. But we had excellent translators in several studed former students from Rain Forest International School. The school is run by several missions organizations in Yaounde. Many of the students are missionary kids, and there are also national students.

Another challenge here is the heat and the travel stomachs that a few have developed. We're all coping pretty well though. So THANKS for praying.

Some chairs are fitted quickly, others take hours. Children's chairs are particularly challenging. A therapist could explain that more precisely. But from a layman's viewpoint, I'd say it's largely because most of the children are there with birth defects or very early illnesses that have more over-all physical effect than for many of the adults. Still, no matter how long the wait is, each mother and child wait with amazing patience.

As the second--and last--vanful of people waited for the last chair to be done, the pastors and other counselors began singing and dancing and using empty water bottles against their hands for percussion. One by one, several of the American team members joined in to praise the Lord in ways that most had not done before.

I hope to post a video when I get home and have faster internet. I'm sorry I haven't been able to post any pictures, but that's the problem. There'll be lots to see later.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

If it's Sunday, this must be Yaounde

This morning most of us went to a 7:00 am church service in Bamenda, where Dan Eriksen gave his testimony and the church rocked with the music and dancing.

After we packed ourselves and all our stuff into a bus, we started toward Yaounde. About 1/2 hour outside Bamenda, we stopped for lunch at the home of Achete Achu, the former prime minister of Cameroon. He is a benefactor of CEFED, Magdalene's ministry. His wife, Esther is on the CEFED board. We were honored to be their guests.

Speaking of honor, Saturday night we were guests at Magdalene's home for dinner to celebrate the end of our ministry in Bamenda. She presented each team member with a shirt or dress made of traditional-patterned material. With each, she spoke a few words of thanks and blessing.

Now we have ridden 8 hours in the bus and are back in Yaounde. Tomorrow, our ministry begins at Monique Bessomo's center.

These work days are long and hot with lots of heavy lifting. Please pray for God's strength and refreshment and that we would be protected from injuries.

We love you all and miss you. And we have lots of stories to tell when we see you again.

Friday, April 3, 2009

How much did you pay for this chair?

We are working in a large multipurpose hall. Adjacent is a recording studio. Yesterday a man from the studio spoke to one of our team members. He said:

One of my coworkers told me Americans are here giving away wheelchairs to Cameroonians who need them. I said, "Never! I don't believe you. No one gives away wheelchairs." Then I came in to watch. That confirmed my suspicions. You can scarcely find such equipment in Cameroon. People are desperate for something like that. I knew you must be getting a high price for each one.

So I went outside and waited for people who had received a chair. I asked several, "How much did you pay?" Every one of them said, "Nothing. It is a gift from people who follow Jesus."

Now I know it is true. I am so thankful for my people. I can do nothing to help, but I want you to know I am praying for you.

Our team member said, "Don't say it is nothing! The best thing you can give us is prayer for us."

And we say that to you too. Thank you for praying for us. God is great and he answers your prayers.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Internet! Finally!

We are here--all of us--and working hard. And all but 2 of our bags have arrived.

Jennifer, Bryan says to tell you he tried to call, but none of the phones seem to work for international calls. The same message goes to all of you who love us and are wondering where and how we are. All are healthy.

Yesterday we worked hard for a couple of hours, unwrapping and sorting chairs by size and setting up work stations. Then 25 people were fitted with chairs, mostly children.

One Muslim family had a little girl who screamed with terror--probably about so many white people surrounding her. Silas, one of our Cameroonian team members, wheedled her attention with toys and silliness. She became somewhat calmer so that a chair could be provided for her.

As her family left, they intended bypassing the pastors' counseling area. But Silas led them in and since they knew him now, he was the one who presented them with the gospel. They listened more and more intently and then were willing to accept a Bible. Silas offered for a pastor to pray with them, but only if they wanted it. They did.

Over the course of the conversation, their demeanor transformed from hesitant and resistant to leaning forward eagerly to hear more. At the end, they said they wanted Jesus and were glad for Pastor Alfred to follow up with them.

That is why we are here. Chairs are good, but temporary. Eternitywith Jesus is real and forever.

P.S. to Laurence's boss. She wants you to know she is working hard. I tried to upload some photo, but the internet is too slow this morning.