Helping orphans, reaching the lost and needy

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Praise Report; Believe Big!

When we first came to Cameroon in 2004 and started working with various orphanages, one thing that overshadowed our visits was that they never felt like a real home. They were more like large institutions that housed anywhere from 40 to a 100 plus kids in tight living quarters, often 3 or 4 children to each bed. Some orphanages we visited were only able to provide the children with plain rice once a day; soup was available if someone from the community blessed them with veggies or fish. We saw that these places were just sort of a holding place for the kids till they were old enough to fend for themselves. We remember one teenage girl in particular who had got in trouble at school. The "father' of the home announced he was going to tie her down to beat her. She ran away and they never saw or heard from her again (and they didn't look very hard either). We have heard of other orphanages that use the same method of discipline, leaving kids a bloody mess. These orphanages, often "Christian" in name, lacked a main ingredient; LOVE. Underprivileged or neglected orphans need a place to feel loved and secure just like everyone else.

It is easy to fill up an orphanage in Cameroon, Helping Hands Children's Home could have 200 kids by the end of this month if it really wanted. So many children have lost a parent, or are living with grandparents struggling to provide for them. It is not uncommon for parents to send their children away, young or old, to live with a family member in the city to attend school or work in the house. Often they won't see their parents again for years. One lady in our church was "given" a girl at a crusade from a mother who said she couldn't care for her daughter anymore. Our friend took her in; the mother has made  no contact whatsoever since that time. There is a place in ministry for this, but we sense that is not our calling. Win Our Nations wants to reach out to those children that have no one to care for them, no hope of education, those that have been neglected because of disabilities or disease. HHCH has had to turn down numerous cases where families have asked us to take in an orphaned niece or nephew. We refuse when we see that the family is capable of caring for the child. Even mothers have come to the gate trying to give HHCH their children. Free housing,  nutritious meals, and quality education can be very appealing.

More than anything we wanted to provide a home for destitute orphans; a place where they can feel love, peace, and safety  A place where they know they will always have a bed for themselves, 3 meals a day, medical care, and that their possessions will not be taken and sold. Above all, we desire that these children be raised in the knowledge and love of Jesus and live their lives for Him.

As many of you know, this year the ground was broke for the first Home out at the new WON property. Our vision is to eventually have six Homes (three duplexes) that will house 20 orphans a piece. Each house will have a Pa and Ma plus and an aunty and uncle on the girl and boy's side respectively. We want HHCH to expand and rescue more orphans in need but keep it "small." There are plans to build a big dinning hall (with a kitchen attached) where all the children can eat and do evening devotions together. Attached to this large building will be offices, and rooms for a library, sewing room, weight room, nursery, etc.

At the start of the year, Jake and I started praying and seeking God about how to develop the land. We took a step of faith when we wrote in our newsletter that we were believing to have the kids moved out to the new property by the end of 2015. At that point less than $5000 of the needed $20,000 for the first Home that would only house 20 of the 31 kids. But we felt that was what God told us and we wanted to be obedient. We prayed and shared the need. Praise God that in a few months enough was donated to get the foundation underway. It was exciting to get the builders out there!

A couple of weeks ago, Jake and I were praying and discussing that another large chunk of money was needed so that the builders wouldn't have to leave once they finished the foundation. We were hoping for maybe another $5,000 or something.

Then we got an email from someone asking if they could Skype us as they had some questions about the land. We set up a time, Jake and I were excited, thinking that maybe this was how the Lord was going to provide the next "chunk." The phone conversation included lots of questions; they wanted to know about the Homes and the kitchen/dinning room building. At that point they told us they wanted to donate $20,000 towards the two Homes that are being built. Jake and I stared at each other in utter amazement, dumbfounded. But wait, there was more. Next they went on to tell us that they wanted to donate $40,000 for the kitchen and dinning room. In fact, when they had asked us about it, Jake hadn't even got a budget ready for it yet. That's how underprepared we were. It was so utterly incredible! We had been trusting God, we knew He would provide, but once again He totally went overboard, more that we thought or imagined! So now there is enough to get the first Home completly finished and get the second one well underway. We still need about $11,000 to finish it but once again, we know God will provide. Moving out to the new property by 2016 is now a reality. Christmas is going to be quite the celebration!!

I tell you what, we serve a personal, loving God. He always is faithful, even when we are not. When Helping Hand Children's Home was founded six years ago, we were just renting a house for a few orphans. Then we got an "itch" to buy land, and then it turned into a vision for massive facility. All I can say is dream big, pray big, believe big! Our God is capable of so much more that we realize. I believe He is waiting for us to ask Him to show Himself faithful, but we have to take that first leap of faith. Whatever it maybe, your family, your job, your finances, your health, wherever you need a breakthrough in your life, talk to God about it and start to move in the direction you know He wants you to move.  He will prove Himself faithful to his Word and promises. 

One more testimony of God's faithfulness and His interest in the little details of our lives: last week I was out in the garden and I realized I had lost my clippers. I'd looked high and low for them to no avail. You can't buy good ones here so I was wondering how I could get another pair soon (with rainy season everything is growing like crazy). And then this week a friend sent us a care package and guess what was inside... yep, clippers! They had mailed these out before I had even needed them, God had already provided for them before I asked. Things like this just remind me home much my Daddy loves me.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

March Marriages

I had never been to a court wedding before but this month I had the privilege of attending two. In Cameroon, most people actually have three weddings. The first is in the bride's village. The nervous fiancĂ© meets all the family to whom he must pay the "bride price". The amount depends on the tribe, the age of the girl, the family position, etc. I would say the average amount paid is somewhere around $600 with it easily going up to $3,000. For a country where the average person makes about $2 a day that is a massive amount! It is a lot of stress on these young couples who usually start their married life penniless or in debt. But once they pay the money, the family blesses them. They all drink some palm wine and they officially give the women to the man. 

Marriage number two is the court wedding which is the only one recognized by the government. Unfortunately some people skip out on this. Down the road many widows find themselves being evicted and their personal property being taken away by their husband's family (even their children can be taken away!) as they have no legal rights. To have a court wedding, the couple both have to have blood tests. But more about the ceremony in a second.

The third wedding would be done at a church, where the pastor prays and blesses the couple. Most church have some form of marriage counseling before the big day. Generally most Christians wouldn't live together until after this final wedding. This is often an expenisve ordeal as big reception are held after with mountains of food. People spend so much money on funerals and weddings in this country !

For those of you that have ever visited us, you will know our Joy. Joy started working for us just a few months after we arrived in Cameroon. Since any housework, shopping, paying bills etc. takes massive amounts of time in developing countries, most people have a house help. Even poor families have a girl from  the village come and live with them to help out. Our first year here it was a shock to see 13 year-old girls doing most of the house work in so many places (washing nappies plus all the household clothes, cooking, washing dishes, keeping the house clean, and looking after baby). But generally when the baby gets a little older the family will pay for her to go to school so it is win win for everyone. Joy started working for us in her late teens. She has always been a wonderful help and blessing. Our children love her, she is so great with them. She keeps our house clean, and is always ready to babysit when needed. She also stays in our house while we return to the States for 6 months at a time. Joy is really like a daughter to us. When we moved up to Bamenda 7 years ago, she moved up with us. Because of her I don't have to spend hours ironing clothes (to kill all the mango worms), cleaning the never ending amount of dust, or line up for hours to pay the electric or water bill. I can focus on homeschooling in the morning, and ministry in the afternoon.  So we were thrilled when she told us she had met somebody at church and they were going to get married. 

Here's how the court wedding went down:
We all entered a small office at the city council where everyone was presented to the secretary. She made sure everyone was present and tells the couple what to expect. We then headed to the hall where marriages are officiated by the mayor. When Joy and Obed were called forward, Joy was first asked if this is a monogamous or polygamous marriage (both are legal here). When Joy answered monogamous, the Mayor asked her why she is so selfish (he got a few laughs). He then turned to Obed and told him to make sure that he always listens to his wife's ideas, they may be little, but listen anyway. He told Joy that her responsibility is to keep the house clean and cook for the husband, and asked her if she was wiling to do this. He instructed her that she must never refuse her husband sex, and then he instructed Obed that he must never refuse to eat food that his wife cooks (the importance of food in this culture never ceases to amaze me!). After that they exchanged vows and rings, were pronounced man and wife, and kissed. It all took about 10 minutes. Then we headed outside for photos with the mayor. 

In front of the mayor

Signing of licence


The happy couple, how cute are they!!

Then last week our main cook at Helping Hands Children's Home also had her court wedding. She had had her village wedding last year. Since her fiancé will be traveling to Dubai next month for up to two years, they decided to get their court wedding before he left. It was pretty much the same with another big meal at the end. So happy for each of these special couples!

Charlotte and Valentine

Charlotte is someone I do Bible studies with and I've taught to drive. She's a good friend. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Women's Day in Cameroon

Today is International Women's Day and in Cameroon it's kinda a big deal. Women all over the country unite and march in each town to show their significance in the society. Special "Women's Day" fabric is made every year and then organizations and business purchases it for all their female employees. As seamstressery is a thriving business in Africa, everyone gets to choose the design of their own dress . When the day approaches, the women pull out all the stops and are decked out to the max. As I lined up with thousands of Bamenda women today, I was awed by the beauty of all the dresses, hairstyles, and smiling faces. It was truly a tapestry of colors where ever I looked. On the downside, we did stand in a very slow line (I use that term loosely) for about three hours in the hot sun with no shade. It was so crowded that at some points I could not have even turned around if I had wanted to. But thankfully Win Our Nations' time finally came and we marched in front of the bandstand filled with all the city's officials. 

At our house with the HHCH ladies before we headed downtown

Posing in front of the Bandstand before it got too busy

A policewoman also in her Women's Day outfit. 

Getting ready to start

Starting to line up

Our youngest marcher

Good stuff!

As we headed towards the marching point it was a struggle to all stay together but we managed

When it was all finished we went to the Helping Hands Meat Market to share a meal together (and take photos)

My Joy and Comfort (quite literally). They are an unmeasurable help to me in our house which enables me to homeschool better and be more involved in ministry. 

All the HHCH ladies

All the Car Wash Managers

Fransica sharing some encouraging words with the women

Mami enjoying her chicken, njama njama and fried plantain.


Heading home with lots of smiles!

I'm so very grateful for the women that the Lord has placed in my life. It is a pleasure and privilege to serve along side them in this ministry.

Some of the creative fashions of the day: 

Colourful hairstyles too!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

An Educational and Fun Fortnight (and LOTS, and I mean LOTS, of photos)

Last night we finished up our missionary homeschooling session with the graduation of the 8th graders. It was a memorable night as each graduate and their Dad gave a speech. Josh did a great job even though he was nervous. Jake's  speak/challenge was awesome. As my husband reflected back over the last 13 years, he was brought to tears (which brought me to tears); it was truly a heartfelt talk. I really couldn't ask for a better dad for our four kiddos, Jake does a fantastic job of always being there for them, disciplining them, encouraging them, making them laugh, and showing them by example how to follow Christ. I am incredibly blessed, I sure know how to pick 'em! Below are some photos of the last two weeks. It is alway a lot of fun but I'll be happy to be back to normal schedule again on Monday. Only 10 weeks of school left! 

The main topic for this session was Cameroon; history, art, and graduation were all on this theme. 

Kenneth, Josh, Nandry and Ysabelle

The kids had the opportunity to make sculptures from brass. Uncle Basil was a great teacher, showing them how to form their creations out of bee's wax first. 

Jude making a little cat

Ready to be covered in clay...

At Basil's house watching him take the items out of the kiln

Cracking open the clay to see the beautiful brass work inside

Filing off any sharp edges...

The finished product! 

FIELD TRIP : Bafut Palace
The traditional way to communicate in the village; a large drum

This pillar was placed in the ground when the Fon (king) took over from his father in 1968. This kingdom has been reigning since the 1500's with 11 different kings. 

The tour was a good insight into the tribal beliefs of the NorthWest. These limbs are placed in the ground and then animals are sacrificed on them to appease the ancestors. Before colonization by the German, a child of each sex was sacrificed here annually. 

A great spot for a group photo in front of the museum. No photos were allowed to be taken inside but it was full or carvings, elephant tusks, leopard skins, etc. There were even toby mugs that had been given to the Fons in exchange for slaves (many slaves came from this area). 

These are the houses of the Fon's wives. The former king had over 40 wives, the current one has cut back quite a bit with just a meager eight.

A stone where the princesses grind the red camwood into powder to cover their bodies. This rock has been used for hundreds of years for this purpose.

Doesn't get much sweeter than this

The central shrine in which only the Fon and his nobles are allowed to enter. They believe their ancestors talk to them in there. This whole area was destroyed by the Germans when they were battling for power in the 1900's. They later helped to rebuild it all when the Fon finally submitted to their authority. 



Cameroon class with Miss Elsie

Trying to recognize the local legumes and grains

Uncle Pete's storytime

Music class

 Math class

Fun and games

Time for playing in the rain too

Each child had to give some sort of presentation to the whole group. This is one reason I feel like the session is so important. Usually my kids don't have a chance to do "show & tell" or such, so these are great confidence boosters

So proud of Jude as he recited Psalm 1

Seth recited 1 Corinthians 13 with a smile on his face the whole time

And Josh recited the entire second inaugural address of Abraham Lincoln (yeah, you read it right). Amazing!

We had beautiful weather this session which is a real praise, as some times we get rained out. 

Jude tried really hard and is getting much more confident in the water

Jordan loved joining in the fun on the last day

Bucket races

Watermelon football

Josh trying his pike dive

Going for the back dive

Uncle Nathan drilling the kids


Dinner was amazing!

So pretty!

Josh giving his speach

Jake sharing

All the grads and Simon in the middle (our "fourth son" and Josh's best friend)

The Skiclan decked out in their African wear. I'm so blessed to have such an amazing family!