“They do not analyze the worthiness of people or the cause of their poverty – they simply (reach out) as quickly as possible to the best of their ability. To the missionaries, poverty is first a spiritual problem and only secondarily a political one. (Teresa of Calcutta) said, “I won’t mix in politics. War is the fruit of politics and so, I don’t involve myself, that’s all. If I get stuck in politics I will stop loving. Because I will have to stand by one, not by all. That is the difference.” – p. 50, “Finding Calcutta” by Dr. Mary Poplin
“One result of (the missionaries’ first-hand knowledge of poverty is that they do not treat poor parents as the enemies of poor children. They value and seek to serve the whole family.” – p. 57, “Finding Calcutta” by Dr. Mary Poplin
I don’t know, it’s just super meaningful to me! I can totally understand how it wouldn’t have any real meaning to a non-believer, and I respect that. But I think that for Christians it’s the greatest and most joyful and most holy festival of the entire year. The concept of Easter gives me hope. It gives me hope for the vulnerable, needy, love-and care-starved children here that God’s called me to stand alongside of. It gives me hope for myself as I continue to recover, strengthen, consolidate the very last one or two percent of the gains and healings from severe illness that came before. Easter gives me SO MUCH HOPE AND JOY. Of course, really, it’s not Easter that’s giving me these things. It’s my real and living Lord and Savior and Friend, Jesus.
This, in the photo, is my “Aunt” Marabelle Taylor. A very close family friend and colleague of my parents in Cameroun, when I was 19 I bumped in her truck down interminable red dust roads by her side, spending part of a summer learning from her in the context of a small internship for one of my university classes.
Aunt Marabelle was a cross-cultural worker with a huge God-given, life-long love for and commitment to underprivileged children and teenagers and their relatives. She saved hundreds, maybe thousands of orphans from the Babimbi Hills region of French Cameroun during the Basa terrorist uprisings of 1960 – 1965 and their long and horrible-for-children aftermath. Originally from the U.S., she was a nurse and invented high-protein baby and child “physical salvation” formulas out of local, easily-available ingredients like canned sardines and powdered milk and pulverized Australian spinach, to bring the war-starved orphans back from the brink of death. She became well-known in the nation in the sixties decade for being able to work her benificent “magic”, bringing a fragile infant back to health when nobody else could, and Camerounians in the aftermath of that war brought her orphan babies from all over the region and beyond. She spent 40 or 50 years serving in Cameroun, eventually retired and returned to America, lived to an extremely ripe old age and is now “graduated” to Jesus’ presence, joyful and problem-free for eternity with Him. What I remember most about my Aunt Marabelle is her love for me and her love for Jesus.
The other thing that most impresses me about her is the way she always seemed “charmed” and safe, no matter what happened to her and in spite of what many might term an overly adventurous and spartan life. I will never forget waking up each morning before the crack of dawn, from a hard borrowed bed, in one of her friends’ little flea and mosquito-ridden mud huts with a thatched roof, to the scrape of her placing the water kettle over the gas burner to make us each a hot cup of stale Nescafe! Meals seemed to consist mostly of canned sardines and crackers bought by the side of the road. She went through her days cheery and singing, traveling a tremendous amount, helping care for each of the beloved orphan babies, their extended families, small kids and “adopted” Camerounian high-school-aged “daughters”. Never choosing to marry, Aunt Marabelle had the biggest and most loving (to her!) extended family – from what I could see at the time it seemed to consist of the majority of the population of southern French-speaking Cameroun – of anyone I have ever known. One time, when I was 19, her Camerounian driver, Ibogo dozed off at the wheel and wrecked her vehicle – that’s what the photo shows. Aside from scrapes and bruises, both of them escaped unharmed. Thank God.
My Aunt Marabelle quietly, unassumingly, unsentimentally pointed every person she came in contact with to Jesus, trusting only Jesus hourly, daily, weekly, monthly and yearly to take CARE of her AND HER WORK, in His love plan for all the peoples of the world. This mindset allowed her to live with peace and joy.
She did talk of Jesus, softly, a lot. And she was silent sometimes too…….
Yesterday was a fun day at the project. Many of the 57 children were missing since it is still only two days past Carnaval Week and lots of the children’s moms remain out on drunken binges or are recovering from same. We all worked on school homework for the first hour, then I taught a flannelgraph Bible lesson with object lessons on seeds and plants, music and other supplementary activities. We broke out my new Crayolas from the States for them too.
Later, a sturdy littlegirl from the intermediate group, above the littlest ones where I’d been yesterday, poked her head in the doorway, black eyes just DANCING with excitement.
“Tía N., your…..uh…ohhh……ummm (she seemed to be searching for a word).
She pounced on the word with relief. “Yes! Your HUSBAND. He’s HERE. He’s out at the street, in an AUTO!”
As I asked her if she had another minute free, to return to the street and ask my HUSBAND if he wanted to come in, and she accepted and ran off with alacrity to do so, another tiny girl, R., from next to me in the youngest children’s group, grabbed my hand and looked up with wide eyes, full of wonder, into my face.
“Tía N., you have a HUSBAND (UN ESPOSO)?? I thought you didn’t!”
P. then appeared in the doorway to the room, already with about 12 little kids hanging on to him. The kids chorused a respectful greeting to him, then S. and most of the children escorted him all around the place to show him EVERYTHING, while I finished gathering things up and straightening the room in order to leave.
Out at the car (I was amazed to see P. had dared to leave the car, even for a few minutes, in THAT street) the children piled around the car. P. opened the hatchback in order to put in the carry-bag and the bulky flannelgraph board. Immediately 8 kids melted into the wayback of the vehicle together with the flannelgraph board! But when P. gently asked them to please get out, they all did!
R. said to me, big eyes shining, “It’s a LUXURY AUTO!!”
Inwardly, I was just dying because our vehicle is a 27-year-old Mitsubishi short-wheelbase “jeep” model!
When I gravely told R. and the other children that the “auto” was 27 years old, E., a gentle boy 10 or 11 years old, marveled, “But, it looks like NEW.”
It’s amazing and humbling to me to see these children’s perspectives on things – to glimpse the world through their eyes. Our vehicle has scratches and dents and faded paint, but yesterday it was not in its normal state of being heavily coated with dust inside and out, since we had sprung for a washing, over last weekend.
When we said goodbye to the children and carefully started the engine to drive away, I turned peering out the back window to make SURE no more children were still clinging to the back and sides of the vehicle to “catch a ride”. I saw that one young obviously drunken and hung-over mom had strolled out behind the car from the ale-house across the narrow road, and was glaring suspiciously at all that was going on. She was puffy-faced and bleary-eyed. A waif of a slim braid-headed girl child from our project, ran over and put her arm out to her – “Hi Mom!”.
Those of ’round-about my generation or older, remember passing notes in highschool?
In my highschool, The American School of Kinshasa, Kinshasa, Congo we passed A LOT of notes!
Here’s a note, that got passed to me there in my school, by one of my girlfriends, R., who was my age, in my grade, and who was also, like me, the daughter of crosscultural workers, only HER parents lived and worked in the middle of the jungle in Congo, while my family was up the Continent a hop, skip and a jump, by plane. A couple of countries up, in GIGANTIC AFRICA, in Cameroun.
We were both sixteen, and Easter Vacation was coming up. Cameroun was too far away and too expensive on the planes and all, in the seventies for my folks to be able to bring me home for the long Easter Vacation, so I didn’t really have anyplace to go, from my boarding hostel (MPH), and I was feeling sad at the prospect of spending all those lonely days all by myself in my empty hostel while all my friends went home for the holidays!
My girlfriend rescued me! She invited me home with her, to inland Congo, to spend the Easter Holidays with her and her family! It was for ten days or two weeks.
Only, she and I waited with bated breath (or, at least, I waited with bated breath) because there was a potential problem. I might not be able to go! They said I might be too fat and heavy to be able to go on the plane!
That’s because there was no road to the place in the jungle where they lived and, the only way for us to GET there was by Piper Cub Cessna Six-seater (I’m pretty sure that was the kind of a plane. Something like that. I know it was very small and light, a six-seater.) There might not be room for me. The crosscultural worker families who lived out there needed to use most of the tiny plane’s carefully calculated luggage and weight allowances for food, medicines and supplies they needed, and the potential flight was already almost full.
Then, on the morning of March 24th, in the middle of First Period English Class , R. slipped me this note!
Dear Niña de Sus Ojos,
MAF has squeezed you onto the flight that I’m going up to V. on! If you had been any bigger or fatter you wouldn’t have made it! Doesn’t that make you glad that you’re the size you are? (Note: I had had to send in my WEIGHT notification, a couple of days earlier, to see if I would be able to get onto the flight or not!)
We’ll be leaving Thursday morning, probably around 11:00 or 12:00 for the airport. Tell your hostel parents everything is clear. Your way back on the boat is all arranged. Praise the Lord!!!
It may be that it would be better if you spent the night here Wed. since I don’t think we’d be going to school that day. I’m not sure about that yet, we may have to go for half a day.
Anyhow, you can set your mind at rest now. The Lord is good.
P.S. Your entire trip will probably cost somewhere in between 28-30 zaires. (Note: I’m trying to remember the exchange rate from then…..I think that was maybe around 50 dollars…)
__________________ ________________ ____________________
I only just found this old note, handwritten, slipped into an old journal notebook of mine from way back. A couple of years ago, through letter writing, emailing, and Facebook, my highschool girlfriend and I renewed contact and correspondence with each other and are presently benefitting from each other’s communications and friendship even though we live on opposite sides of the world both in very remote locations. Hopefully, she and I can be a mutual encouragement one to another, even after all these years.
Today, I thank God for my highschool girlfriend, I thank God for that wonderful trip with her, so many years ago now, and I thank God for the relationships with HIM that my girlfriend and I had, even way back then when each of us were barely older than children, and also to this day, and continuing. And I thank God for kindred spirit friendships.
I think that notes and letters, cards and emails, Facebook messages, Skypes with vidiocams, texts and phone calls, all variations on the NOTE, can be powerful tools for sharing God’s love and encouragement with others and for seeking to deepen our relationships one with another, whether these “others” be our own children, our grandchildren as they get older, our parents or grandparents, friends or acquaintances. We all know how important the thankyou note is. How would short Scripture verse-headed notes or emails be, as an encouragement to a Christian friend or loved one?
I think of younger local friends, a married couple who are intentionally raising their three gradeschool-aged youngsters without a television set in the house. I’ve noticed the three kids spend tons of time writing and drawing notes, little signs, and “funnies strips”, “cartoon strips”, with black and white line drawings that they create themselves. Not to mention that half the time one meets up with these children they seem to have their nose in a book! They often gift us with some of these creations, and we always LOVE getting them, and proudly display them on our refrigerator or around our house. Our friends seem to be raising their kids to write and give and share NOTES.
People like us tend to have a lot of transitions in their lives, a lot of airplane trips, a lot of road trips, maybe a lot of moves. Come to think of it, almost everyone tends to have a lot of transition, on one level or another these days! More and more all the time! I’ve one longtime friend who often gives tiny handwritten notes of exhortation and encouragement, with one small Bible verse that applies handwritten in there also, sealed up in a small envelope. Before her friend leaves on a plane, she gives it, and says “Don’t open this yet! Open it when you get on the plane!” It’s so fun, and helpful.
My mom has a longtime cherished personal tradition by now of sometimes, for very special ocassions, giving books as family gifts, and she sometimes writes a short note, signed, in a front page of the gift book, all in her old-fashioned, beautiful, perfect “elementary schoolteacher 3rd Grade Palmer Method teaching hand”. My grown children now have treasured little kid books, with her notes in the front of them, that they can now begin sharing with their own babies!
I know the concept of notes and letters is old-fashioned now, but does not that make the creating, the giving, and the recieving of one more special and valuable than ever?
I say, “Long live the NOTE, for God’s Glory!”