Mission Stories: Cameroon

A bumpy road made smooth

Karen S. Kroll

While traveling on the road, my son observed that driving in Cameroon “isn’t so much driving as it is fighting with cars.” It’s true—driving in Cameroon is a unique experience. One hears a symphony of sounds: a constant hooting of car horns; taxis revving their engines; and the occasional “spirited” conversation between drivers, each of whom believes he has been cut off. It seems that the person who pushes the hardest, hoots the most, or speaks the loudest wins.

This is especially obvious in what is referred to as the “third lane.” When driving on a two-lane highway, the aggressive driver pulls out to pass with the expectation that the other cars will go onto the shoulder to accommodate him.

The temper of drivers in Cameroon sometimes seems to run as hot as the weather or the “pepe” (Scotch Bonnet Peppers, found in most of the food here). A friendly conversation can sound like a heated argument; pushing, posturing, and promoting oneself is championed; and showing weakness or humility only opens the door for others to take advantage.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12).

Maybe it’s this stark contrast that makes Sabina stick out of the crowd. Sabina is the wife of Pastor Ewang Njumbe Joseph, the current president of the Lutheran Church of Cameroon. Sabina is a humble woman with a servant’s heart. She follows well the Lord’s example from the night he was betrayed—a real foot washer. She is that go-to person who will always come through when no other volunteers can be found to cook a meal for a meeting or who will welcome someone to her wide open home, whether from a different town, tribe, or nation.

She doesn’t complain or get frustrated about what others aren’t doing . . . she just works to serve the Lord. She may be sick or have heard bad news, but after she utters the traditional “Ashia” (“Sorry to hear . . .”) with her ready smile, she pauses and giggles and, with a wave of her hand, moves on with her tasks.

Like most Christian attributes, they spring up from the gentle rain of the gospel and grow in response to affliction. As God reminded the children of Israel “I have tested you in the furnace of affliction” (Isaiah 48:10). So it was with Sabina. When she and Pastor Joseph wanted to marry, there was a problem: Pastor Joseph’s father had recently died, and there were no other relatives to ask for assistance to pay the “knock door” (bride price). And so Sabina waited until Joseph could raise funds to pay the amount owed to her family in accordance with Bakossi custom.

Marriage and children are “wealth” in African culture so when Sabina and Joseph could not conceive, it was another problem. In Africa, the question isn’t what caused this but rather who caused this, and almost always, witchcraft is involved. These are the times when relatives whisper and begin placing blame, a time when there is talk of annulling the marriage and finding a more suitable partner. These are the times when African Christians have to put their trust in the Lord, knowing that he knows what’s best. This often involves standing up to tradition and family—serving God rather than man. And so they patiently waited and trusted in the Lord. God heard Joseph and Sabina’s prayers, and after four long years he gave them a son and then another and then another.

In the meantime Joseph had graduated from the seminary and had been assigned to serve at Nyandong congregation. Things finally seemed to be going well, until one day their firstborn son collapsed when walking to school and began shaking. It was determined that their son had epilepsy. The “village diagnosis” was that witchcraft was involved and that Joseph and Sabina should leave Nyandong. But they didn’t. They waited and patiently served the Lord, knowing he was in control.

Are you getting the picture? With challenge after challenge the Lord himself produced a quiet, humble, servant for himself. Sabina’s quiet demeanor exemplifies what Peter’s first letter calls “the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” (3:4). I’ve never heard her suggest that she didn’t deserve these difficulties or brag about how much time she spends serving the Lord. She sees beyond those in front of her to know whom she truly serves and the reason why.

I sometimes wish I could be more like Sabina. Instead I often live my Christian life in the same way people drive in Cameroon. Sometimes I push when I should be thinking of others first. When wronged, I become angry and indignant and loudly proclaim the injustices against me. I too often and too easily look at others with proud thoughts of how much better I am than them and how they should be serving the Lord like I am.

Do you also struggle with quietness and humility? Do you become impatient with those with whom you work and worship? Do you sometimes feel that others should be working as hard as you do in the church? Do you need to be thanked for everything you do at church and feel “put out” when you are not? Do you feel pride when your service in mentioned in a newsletter or bulletin? Do you feel you’ve served “enough years” on a certain committee and others should jump in and serve as faithfully as you have?

Whether we’re pushing ahead while driving in Cameroon or putting ourselves ahead of others in America, the problem is sin. Sin causes us to puff up, promote, and posture. Especially now, during the Lenten season, we appreciate Jesus’ willingness to do the opposite. Since he “did not come to be served, but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28), we can celebrate that such sins are forgiven in Jesus. Because of his death and resurrection, we have a different view on life. We still struggle with our sins, but knowing that they have no power to condemn us helps us to relax and leave matters in the hands of our almighty Savior.

If somebody were to write Sabina’s life story, it would not be as exciting as a heroine in a novel nor as spirited as a driver making a third lane. Outside of those reading this article, Sabina will never be famous. But I do thank God for not only coming into the world to save us from our sins but also for this wonderful example of a faithful fellow believer named Sabina.

Karen Kroll, wife of Missionary Daniel Kroll, lives in Kumba, Cameroon.


 

Lutheran Church of Cameroon

Baptized national members: 640
Number of congregations: 32
Preaching stations: 1
National pastors: 10
Preseminary students: 13
Certified assistants: 14
Missionaries: 1

Unique fact: Due to the remote locations of some of the congregations, it is not uncommon for the pastors to trek one to four hours to get to church. “I recently did a study . . . where a woman trekked four hours to get to the Bible study and then turned around and trekked four hours back,” says Karen.

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Author: Karen S. Kroll
Volume 103, Number 3
Issue: March 2016

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