A letter from Leisa Wagstaff in Cameroon
Dear Church Family,
God is faithful!
Over the years of mission engagement in Africa, I have truly witnessed the many wonders of God’s love, understanding and peace. Even in the midst of sickness, war, drought, uncertainty and the “newness” of another country, God has continually manifested a faithfulness that, even if all the waters of the earth were ink, it still wouldn’t be sufficient to write of this faithfulness.
God has protected us and given us days of joy, celebration, fellowship and challenge as we have lived among and with our Basotho (Lesotho), Zimbabwean, Burkinabé (Burkina Faso), Congolese (D.R.C.) and now, Cameroonian brothers and sisters. In fact, just the opportunity to be part of God’s larger community in so many contexts pales any moments or lingering memories of sadness I have felt or tears I have shed. Yes, God is faithful!
As my colleagues in mission, you too have been faithful. Repeatedly you have lived out your belief — not only as individuals but also as members of the PC(USA)—by reaching out to others spiritually, morally, politically and financially and being a great witness in a world where there is more distrust than trust, hatred than love and feelings of alienation than kinship. I often marvel at the way in which this corporate body does not draw back from intense issues or is willing to take risks to hear the gospel afresh and from afar. And you have uplifted me in so many ways without ceasing. Yes, you have been a faithful people of God.
Scheduled to celebrate its ruby jubilee later this year, the present Presbyterian Teacher Training College (PTTC) is an outgrowth of the concern by the Presbyterian Church of Cameroon (PCC) for training and providing teachers to teach in its primary schools. PTTC’s roots, however, are embedded deep in the 1950s. As one of the first and most recognized teacher training colleges in English-speaking Cameroon, other church-related and government schools as well as NGOs and governmental agencies aggressively recruit PTTC graduates. The coursework consists of content, methodology and applied courses, numerous practice teaching experiences and a thesis paper in addition to active participation in the spiritual and social life of the community. It is even tougher academically when one takes into consideration the manual workload of the students: preparing meals on the weekend for the entire student body, cutting grass by hand, digging furrows on the school farm with short handled hoes and bathing in cold water during the often-chilly mornings. Many are parents with children also in the different levels of the educational system.
One of the eight subjects I teach is computer sciences to the final year students, and it is a joy seeing them grow and develop in their computer savvy! The majority had never even been in the same room as a computer, not to mention having touched one! As far as we know, PTTC is the first teacher training college in the country to institute such a program as part of its teacher-training curriculum. What a challenge! (When you upgrade your computers, we would be more than happy to put your oldie to good use.)
In 2005, the PCC decided to strengthen PTTC financially while providing a much-requested secondary school in this area. Seemingly, the campus transformed overnight from a quiet studious setting to one of high energy, noise, and constant movement as the first batch of secondary scholars was admitted. These 11- to 13-year-olds are all over the place and into everything and they love calling my name, sharing their problems and eating American sweets and playing American games! I am exhausted just thinking about it! But it is challenging and many times, it feels overwhelming. During the latter, I struggle to be faithful, for much has been given to me to share and much is there to receive from others.
One would think that with two different generations on a small campus sharing the same facilities, faculty and “personal space,” there would be chaos. As indicative of the sense of community in African culture, the senior students took the junior ones under their wing as sons and daughters or younger siblings, and the youngsters call all of the older students “auntie” and “uncle.”
Brooks ‘Mabotle, now 16, falls into this group as well. Having spent one year on campus fully interacting in the life of the campus, she was both happy for the new challenge of boarding school and sad to be leaving home. Happily, her venture out overlapped by a few hours with PTTC/PSS’ opening day. She shared hugs with the “aunties” and “uncles,” basked when they admonished her to be good and received treats from their various cultures. She took on the role of a big sister by welcoming the pioneer batch of students, giving study tips and warning them that I am pretty strict. They all keep each other in thought and prayer, surely what mutuality and respect is all about.
Let us, too, continue to uplift one another in thought and prayer and to be faithful to whatever it is that God is calling us to do or to be.
Leisa Wagstaff and Brooks
The 2006 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 315