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So 16 days ago, I left Yaoundé to go to Bamenda in northwest Cameroon. No pull ups for me there. And one week ago on Sunday I was still in Bamenda, and while we were hiking outside a Fulani village, I slipped on the bed of a steam in the rain and gauged my right palm. I returned from Bamenda on Monday. Since Friday (four days ago) I've been out sick with a stomach bug and haven't eaten very much. I've felt my muscles and my gut slowly fade away with a nice view of my scrawny bones taking their place.
So, I'm laying here on the couch with an uncomfortable stomach ailment, with little that I'm able to do but think, and I realize that I've written you next to nothing in the past to months. And I don't just mean on this blog; I mean in e-mails, prayer requests and cute little videos, too.
(Un)fortunately, it's not just because I'm lazy or busy, but because I have this newfound fear of sounding self-important (which I'm likely violating just by writing about it). I first noticed it during my first summer back home after I'd been in college. After spending nine months speaking in pompous, collegiate accents regarding only the most prodigious of matters, I came home, and people just couldn't understand me. My older brother first told me off for my big vocabulary, but I thought nothing of it (that's what older brothers are for). But then, a couple days later, I was talking to some ten-year-old, and he told me that I talked funny, that he couldn't understand me.
It's really haunted me since then. And it's sad. And now that I'm working for Wycliffe here in Cameroon, I want to share with everyone what's going on in my life. But, well, Christians can tend to put missionaries up on pedestals to start with; that last thing I need is to put myself up there by talking fancy. I was trying to write my first prayer letter like two months ago, and the big thing that came through when my friend Abar reviewed it for me was that I was talking (and by that I mean writing) oddly and unnaturally.
That's what I'm trying to cure myself of. Hopefully, but wasting a post and five minutes of your time to vent, I have cured myself of my fears and of my language problems, and I can now write about stuff like I really want to.
Who knows, maybe next time my writing style shifts to what I'd use for a college essay, folks will just wave it off because they realize that I have "issues" and they've come to terms with that.
There. It's done.
"Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,whose sin is covered" —Psalm 32:1 ESV
I just got back from evening worship at SIL a couple hours ago. There, the speaker for the day talked to us about repentance. It can be a big shortcoming for missionaries and their families, that they lack in a regular spirit of repentance. The church community at home puts long-term missionaries up on a spiritual pedestal because they've supposedly given up their lives in some special way, to some further level than their fellow believers. They're seen as a little more right with God than the other saints. And because there's a half-truth to that, that the missionary demographic tends to be more spiritually engaged than the laity of the church, missionaries internalize others' view that they've spiritually ahead.
And when you think of yourself as a spiritual success, it's really hard to recognize and confess your spiritual failures. It's not spiritually healthy. David writes about confessing,
"For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer" —Psalm 32:3–4 ESV
But, though it is initially painful to recognize our sin and turn from it, when "I acknowledged my sin to [God], ... [He] forgave the iniquity of my sin." God lifted his heavy hand from me, and I rejoiced.
How great is our God.
I thought I was going to be teaching english to kids at the Rain Forest International School, but the school just moved from the campus I'm on to about 8 km away. So instead, I'm going in computer services and computer training. In computer services is practically the IT department. We set up and take care of all the computers and all the networking equipment. My place is at the Help Desk and as the Mac Guy. The Help Desk is open office hours for computer help. People come to us with problems, lot's of problems, mostly with their personal computers, and we try to fix them. And let me emphasize try. In the past four days, I just bricked my boss's boss's computer. "Bricked" as in, when I got it, it was worth something. It was a bit slow, but it worked. And when I gave it back, it was worth as much as a brick.
I can hear my dad whispering into my ear right now, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Oh, it makes me want to crawl into a hole. But then I also hear Hans-Peter speaking knowingly to me, "Alex, is God not sovereign? 'Trust in the Lord. Delight yourself in Him, and He will give you the desires of your heart." Oh, they're so right.
So that's the Help Desk. I was also informed just yesterday that I'm also the "Mac Guy". Apparently, Computing Services has lacked anyone with a lot of Mac expertise, and rumors are now going around to other Mac users that their technological savior is here. And so it is that, yesterday, a linguist from Bamenda, a town six hours from Yaoundé, came at my office to express how relieved he was that I had finally arrived. Yeesh. Eventually, I'll also be teaching OpenOffice to people, too. We used to use Microsoft Office, and most people here still do, but Microsoft just changed its policy on non-profit and academic licensing, so it's become too expensive for us. OpenOffice has what we need, and some of the linguistic programmers have even contributed to it, so we're adopting it now. Trouble is, no one knows how to use it, so I'll be going around training people in it soon. (Trouble with that is, I don't know how to use it either, so I need to learn it myself between now and then. X) )
We haven't even left the ground yet, and I already can't understand what's being said around me. It's not that announcements and signs aren't in English—they are. I'm just so used to being able to jump into any conversation I overhear. Alas, my eavesdropping skills are overcome. Plus, it disappoints me to make others conform to my way of speech. Oh, to speak in their mother tongue.
There is such a great journey ahead of me. I see a sliver of the road before me, the tiny blocks I know from New England to New York, and past that are things of which I've only heard in stories, seen in movies or haven't the gloomiest are even there.
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
How grand is God's creation, and what wonderful things are in it.