A letter from Leisa Wagstaff in Cameroon
August 31, 2009
Dear Partners in mission,
Greetings from Cameroon!
The rainy season is upon us, having begun in late March after five months of heat and dust and then more heat and dust. This season of wetness, however, is a bit different from the last few years: The rain falls torrentially all of the time, filling every aspect of one’s life with cold, dampness and mildew.
Having called Africa “home” for many years, I thought I was totally in synch with the two seasons, rainy and dry, which mark the passing of time on much of the continent. I was wrong! It has been more of a challenge to stay dry and warm as we all struggle to harvest and dry this season’s crops of maize and groundnuts.
The rains, this time, have been so severe that many areas of the country continue to experience flooding, landslides and the destruction of roads and bridges. The only road connecting the NWR (where I live) with other parts of the country (including Yaoundé and Douala, the administrative and commercial capitals) gave way after prolonged heavy showers. This left a crater in the roadway measuring 12 feet wide and 30 feet deep. Since no vehicles can cross this chasm, passengers have to abandon their vehicles and walk the three miles down and back up the steep slopes of the hillside. Foodstuffs, fuel, coffins carrying the deceased, spare parts, furniture — you name it — all have to be carried across on heads or in two-wheeled, low-handled push carts. The owners have to either carry their goods themselves or pay the boys and young men who are availing themselves for hire.
It was an unbelievably amazing experience as I joined people in business suits, mothers with babies tied on their backs, farmers, children, the elderly, the just-married, pastors, nuns in full regalia and people from all walks of life in the undertaking of placing one foot in front of the other as the mud fought to suck off our shoes and the quick downpours to blind us.
Having just returned from a very short visit to the United States, I was loaded down with loot from “home-home”: gifts for my neighbors and colleagues, supplies for the local schools, “pick-me-up” goodies when times are tough or I am feeling a touch of homesickness, provisions for a big neighborhood kids’ party in celebration of my newest godchild’s first birthday and much more. I contracted two youths to carry my two biggest bags while I struggled with my carry-on and handbag.
In spite of the hardship of getting from one place to another, there was a feeling of a common humanity, a common familiarity. We complained about the situation when our breathing would allow it and clucked our tongue when it wouldn’t, and continuously thanked our Lord that we were not making the crossing at night. As we neared the end of our trek, it was a bit difficult to move on. So we took a few minutes to exchange names with each new friend, comment how out of disaster a new enterprise for the multitude of unemployed boys and young men had been generated, pass an unspoken but powerful feeling that we had each started out as an individual but had accomplished our task as a body and bid prayerful farewells.
I know that the rains will stop, and all too soon. Perhaps the dampness and cold are not that bad; after all, the warmth of people is everywhere!
Thanking you — as always — for your commitment to sharing the gospel in every nation.
God’s richest blessings upon each of you.
Leisa Tonie Wagstaff
The 2009 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 30