A letter from Leisa Wagstaff in Cameroon
August 28, 2011
Dear Partners in Missions,
Greetings once again from Cameroon.
In this letter I would like to introduce you to one of my neighbors and colleagues. Pa (Father) Nchang, as he is widely, lovingly and respectfully called, has been a fixture at Presbyterian Teacher Training College (PTTC)/Presbyterian Secondary School (PSS) Mbengwi for quite some time. In fact, he has been a teacher for almost five decades and served the teacher training college for half of this time. These statistics, however, are not what has influenced and nurtured my life and work in this community.
From the first day of my arrival in 2004, Pa Nchang’s three-bedroom house with outdoor kitchen and bathing facilities has always been filled beyond capacity with his elderly mother-in-law, children and youth. On one occasion I recall counting upwards of 15 people in addition to him and his wife living peacefully and amicably in the simple dwelling next door. One would think that with so many personalities and generations as well as limited personal and physical space, chaos would abound. However, on more than a few occasions, I have found myself envying the largesse of the family as continuous strands of laughter and good-hearted shouting drifted from the backyard where family members—both male and female, young and old—worked in communion on family tasks, be it sitting on a short wall making chin-chin (fried shortbread cookie strips) at Christmas, “scratching” (stick beating) ears of dried corn to detach the kernels, washing tons of laundry by hand, or stirring big black cooking pots with a long-handled wooden pestle over a “three-stone fireside.”
Because Pa Nchang and his wife do not show favoritism toward their birth children, it is difficult for onlookers to identify which of their 30-plus children were born to them and which were gifted. Somehow, on their meager teachers’ salaries and farming, they have been able to provide for and educate them all, some to the master’s level. More important, each of their children has professed a belief in Jesus Christ and seeks a closer relationship through daily family prayer and Bible study.
Pa Nchang has taken seriously his vocational calling as a teacher. Not one to rest on knowledge already possessed, this seasoned pedagogue continuously reads to update his class notes and listens to news to stay abreast of global concerns. (He often informs me of what is happening in America!) For many years he has diligently and successfully helped to prepare our final-year student teachers in their external certificate exams, always charging them to teach with passion, shy away from pedagogic offenses, and be “aware of the dignity and nobility God granted [work] in creation.”
Perhaps Pa Nchang’s fervor for his faith, family, community and daily work and his compassion for young people stem from his humble beginnings. Orphaned at 5 years old, he has had to fend for himself through hard work and take advantage of every snippet of learning opportunity. When I examine the way this man lives his life, I understand better what Paul wrote on spiritual maturity in Ephesians 4. In Pa Nchang I see the “high quality of the attributes” produced by Our Lord and Savior.
Thank you for your continuous support for the PC(USA)’s commitment to mission. The spiritual maturity of her members is being felt all over the globe.
Leisa TonieAnn Wagstaff
P.S. Only eight of the children were born to Pa and Ma Nchang.