A letter from Leisa Wagstaff in Cameroon
Dear Partners in Mission,
Seasons greetings from Cameroon!
The three girl babies born during the rigorous examination period for student teachers and written about in my June 2011 letter are truly growing by leaps and bounds. Throughout this school term each basked in the intimate contour of her mom’s back as the mother went about the many tasks of teaching in the primary school. Tied comfortably and securely, the girls spent their waking hours listening to mom’s mellifluous teaching voice and pupils’ shrieks of excitement at learning. During breaks, they suckled until contented and were passed from hand to hand as their mothers’ students competed for a smile or gurgle. Soon they too will sing the letters of the alphabet, play the jumping games with ropes braided out of grass, and speak a multitude of languages: at least English, French, one or two mother tongues, and pidgin.
Babies here, as in most parts of Africa, accompany their mothers everywhere—to the farm to till the soil with a short-handled hoe, the forest to collect firewood, the fireside kitchen to pound tubers for supper, or the roadside to buy or sell vegetables. Even at a tender age the young participate in every aspect of life as they begin to learn of their connectedness to the community and the land.
Like many born during the past 12 months, all three will probably be baptized on Christmas Day, for it is believed that a special blessing is bestowed on those baptized during the celebration of the birth of the Christ child. In Zimbabwe, Lesotho, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and other places, I witnessed more than once the baptism of over 100 infants on Christmas Day. Cameroon is no different.
A Cameroonian Christmas is a grand affair—minus the lights, trees, tons of toys and gaily-wrapped presents, and snow! Children are wild with excitement over the one or two articles of new clothing their parents have purchased for them (all have seen the new things, sometimes weeks in advance, and have talked nonstop to their friends about their “nice” color and style), and they eagerly await to say their long Bible verses during service.
Everyone in the community attends church services and welcomes one another with greetings of peace and joy. Upon returning home, the feasting begins. Dishes rarely seen are plentiful and all eat beyond satisfaction before visiting and receiving neighbors and friends. At each stop one must partake heartily of the host’s table. (It is very impolite to refuse or complain of being too full!) The children, still in their new clothes, promenade throughout the community eating popcorn, “parched” groundnuts, chin-chin (fried thin shortbread) and jallof rice (rice with carrots, green beans, tomatoes, green spices, and sometimes beef and/or fish), and playing with a balloon that they are hoping will not burst until forever. At the day’s end, all feel contented and look forward to a greater faith in God and God’s people.
I am hoping and praying that your holiday season will be a satisfying experience and that you, too, will look forward to a greater faith in God and God’s people.
In Service, Your Mission Co-worker,
Leisa TonieAnn Wagstaff
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 88