A letter from Leisa Wagstaff in Cameroon
June 30, 2011
Presbyterian Teacher Training College (PTTC)/
Presbyterian Secondary School (PSS) Mbengwi
Box 36, Mbengwi, Northwest Region
Dear Partners in Mission,
Greetings from Cameroon.
As I scrutinized the examination hall for testing irregularities while students from the three local teacher training colleges began the first in a series of end-of-course examinations, I had to remind myself that less than eight hours earlier, one of the candidates present had safely “put to birth” a baby with complications. In deep concentration as she hovered over the essay questions, I could only imagine the new mother’s pain and discomfort while struggling to put aside anxiety over the well-being of her daughter left so many miles away. I knew, also, that at the end of the day’s testing she would have to make the 90-plus-minute arduous journey over a rutted road hanging at the back of a motorbike (village transport) in the cold and probable downpour to attend to her infant—just as she had done in the wee hours of that morning in order to sit for the exam.
As the exams progressed, Elizabeth—the new mother—made this round-trip thrice before her child was released from the Acha Tugi Hospital, one of three Presbyterian Church in Cameroon (PCC)-operated and PC(USA)-sponsored medical facilities serving the Cameroonian citizens.
I witnessed this strength, determination, faith and ability to persevere again and again during the weeklong examination exercise. On the third day, while invigilating a different group of exam takers, one student teacher wrote the day’s last exam in 45 minutes and calmly walked out of the room. Before the end of the two-hour exam period, we were rejoicing that she had safely delivered a baby girl nearby. The next morning this new mother joined her 287 student colleagues to continue the written part of their quest to become primary school teachers. A third candidate who had sat through a day of exams on very hard benches also birthed a healthy daughter only hours after the exam period was officially closed. Invigilators, candidates and administrators alike encouraged the new moms to name their daughters “Success” as it was felt that these girl babies were showers of blessings to all.
If there is one thing that has challenged and strengthened me during my decades of living and working in different parts of God’s global community, it is witnessing people’s ability to traverse the seemingly mundane activities and concerns of day-to-day living without the ease or technical, infrastructural and financial support we expect and rely on. For Elizabeth and her birthing sisters, the ability to endure sprang forth from a desire to bring honor and joy to their community as well as an appreciation for the sacrifices made by an extended family and a deep belief that God is present in all moments of life.
Despite the demands of operating two boarding schools by the same staff, we consider the school year a triumph. Our students remained healthy and studied diligently, staff members were able to receive their salaries regularly, the schools’ first magazine was published (with Yours Truly as the Editor-in-Chief), and many students confirmed their baptism or reconnected with the Church. In addition, my junior and senior gymnastics teams competed gracefully in three national competitions with individual rankings in the top ten and team rankings of fourth and fifth. Thrilled with how they have grown in skills, community and self-confidence, I am encouraged to form and coach a coed wrestling team during the next academic year. (Surely my wrestling fanaticism as a youngster will count for something!) Your prayers are coveted for all of our endeavors in education.
My gorgeous daughter, Brooks ’Mabotle, is a rising college senior theatre performance major/voice minor. Healthy and excited about the future, she is growing in her Christian faith as well as commitment to making the world a happier and friendlier place. For this, I am thankful.
I am also thankful to each of you for continuing to walk with me and our Christian brothers and sisters in Cameroon. As a very hospitable community, they invite you to come for an extended stay and daily intercede in prayer on your behalf. May God continue to bless each of you.
Leisa TonieAnn Wagstaff
The 2011 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 50