A letter from Leisa Wagstaff on home assignment from Cameroon
Dear Partners in Mission,
As I go through yet another drill of language acquisition skills in the Hindi language, I think of both the beauty and complexity of languages. Then I remember two facts: I do not learn languages easily and the language I need for my reassignment to South Sudan is not Hindi but a form of Arabic spoken there! I rest assured, though, that I will not be put asunder, because God is faithful to those who put their hope in Him. Through the classroom window I am reminded of who is in control as I catch a glimpse of the snowcapped peaks of Colorado: a vision of grandeur that only God could have sculpted and decorated. Likewise, God created the mellifluous sounds of almost 7,000 languages and has given us the capacity to use these as tools of community building. I look forward to the time when I will be able to speak Sudanese Arabic and share more fully with our—yours and mine—additional partners in South Sudan.
I say “our” partnership with the Southern Sudanese people because you have been a “great cloud of witnesses” surrounding and upholding me in prayer and other supportive ways down through the years. This is evidenced again and again as you invite me into your midst to share the global mission vision of our denomination and to learn more about the specific areas of ministry I am involved in. Your desire to see, behold and support this vision is exactly what it means to be a Christian. Wanting to know at a deeper level everything that touches the lives of our faraway brothers and sisters who speak “foreign” tongues confirms the connectedness of all. Even the youngest ones in every congregation I have visited seek to know how they can share their teachings of the faith with other boys and girls around the world. Thank you.
Recently, during such a visit, I met a young man who was overjoyed to “finally meet a ‘missionary.’” As we talked, he shared that he had worshipped within several denominations where missionaries were spoken of. However, he had never been part of a congregation that went beyond just talking about this group of servants. He emphasized that the main reason he joined a Presbyterian congregation is because of its commitment to actually and enthusiastically support missionaries. I assured him that without a devotion of this degree, the privilege of serving is impossible and that every PC(USA) member is invited to be a partner in mission to accompany us on the journey.
Henri Nouwen sees ministry as an opportunity to “receive God’s blessing from those to whom we minister.” The blessing, according to this renowned author, is a “glimpse of the face of God.” Sharing in various African communities, I have learned much about the true meaning of community, hospitality and celebrating one’s faith. In other words, I have caught glimpses of the face of God through these people groups and tried to share these blessings with you. The members of several supporting congregations and I recently witnessed this together firsthand. In one, we were meaningfully and powerfully led in worship by a 9-year-old girl of Cameroonian origin. In another, the cross carried in the procession was a gift to the congregation from the student teachers I teach, while the Communion table in yet another congregation was covered with a piece of material that celebrates a significant growth in the life and witness of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon (PCC). Also experienced was an after-service sharing of delicious traditional dishes served and eaten exactly as they are done in close-knit African villages: from a few common bowls and with the fingers. Many wept as they described how strongly they felt the humanity of those around them. Others spoke of their heightened awareness of how God wants us to respond to one another. Let us continue to share (give and receive) the good news, in all of its forms.
Please join me in prayer for the following:
- That I may remember all the ways the Lord has guided me (Deuteronomy 8:3) as I return to Cameroon in late January 2013 to help prepare my student teachers for their certification work and transition to South Sudan and Nuer Arabic language study.
- That I may grow in patience and strength as I continue to assist in the care of elderly family members while in the U.S.A.
- That my daughter may not stray far from the teachings of her youth.
- For the work of the Cameroon Mission Network, Sudan Mission Network and our mission advocates.
- For those who have served long-term as mission workers and continue to burn with passion for the people groups they became one with.
In Service Together,
Leisa TonieAnn Wagstaff
c/o P.O. Box 85
Leasburg, North Carolina 27291
firstname.lastname@example.org (or use the link below)
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 88