Cameroon Task Force

Reflections

We have had several groups go on our Cameroon mission trips over the years, and each have incredible stories. We’ve created a special area for them to share their experiences with the world… and here they are!

Travellors:  Pastor JoAnn, Dr. Robin Grendahl, Paula Johnson, Laura Knapp, Kelly Keeter, Christi Meyn, Jeri McAllister, Jody Clingenpeel, and Isaac Hermanson.

Our Stories

(9 travellors: 2007-2017)

Dr. Robin Grendahl

Trip – 2017:  Cathie Clements and Jay Hermanson each served in the Peace Corp in Africa. After they married, they served four years as humanitarian workers in Benin, West Africa. St. John UMC has been their home church since the 1980’s and where they continue to attend with their two sons.

Paula Johnson

Trips – 2015 & 2017:   “The most cherished memories of my trips to Cameroon will always be the people and the music from singing grace at Pauline’s house (our host). Although I didn’t understand the words I did understand the power and community of many people coming together as one. Also, the excitement of women learning new skills and people being able to see better with their new glasses.

Pastor JoAnn

Trips – 2010 &2012:   In my typical random fashion, I wanted to share some of my most memorable Cameroon highlights for which I hope to never forget. Hopefully, these will service as good conversation starters as you share pictures and stories with our twenty-two missionaries.

 

  • Hugs and words of thanks from Pauline and Cathie at the Doula airport – we had done exceptionally well
  • People crawling onto PETs and sitting up straight with new-found pride and gratitude.
  • 150 kids and one teacher per class
  • Preaching with Phil
  • Worshipping for THREE HOURS (I wasn’t preaching this time)
  • Josephina advocating for her grandson Joel who she discovered could and would learn
  • Five good days of painting, building, sweating
  • People waiting for days for eye examinations and glasses
  • The lame can move down the road – really fast

Laura Knapp

Trips – 2010, 2012, 2015, & 2017:   “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” – Chinese proverb

Never in my wildest dreams would I believe that I could teach three weeks of Microsoft computer skills in English and French to a class of 12 disadvantaged African women hungry to learn every bit of knowledge I could pass along. Some had only seen other people use a computer before they entered our classroom. I was overwhelmed when I saw their faces as they touched the keyboards for the first time. I could feel their joy as they mastered lesson after lesson.

They started learning Word documents using an English language laptop hooked to a French language keyboard. They moved back and forth from English to French in our lessons moving on to Excel spreadsheets and Power Point. The women demonstrated unbelievable determination and focus. Classes ran from 8am-4pm, 6 days a week. We had to urge them to take breaks and they came back to work on lessons after dinner. This was a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity for them to learn real job skills that could bring their families a brighter future.

In the beginning, the women in my class felt like life had left them behind. But in our class, they felt valued. I saw their self-confidence build. In our friendly, supportive learning environment they soaked up everything we taught. Although my time was short, it was truly an honor sharing my love of computers with them. I loved making my students feel worthwhile through a subject that I deeply enjoy teaching. I am excited to see where their journeys take them.

Kelly Keeter

Trips – 2007, 2010, 2012, & 2015:   How special it was to have my own mother accompany our group to Cameroun this time, her first time ever since I was a Peace Corps volunteer there 21 years ago. Over the past two decades, I’ve loved and communed with my extended family in Cameroun, and shared my stories of Cameroun with my own family here in the states. But this time, FINALLY, my “worlds” met each other! I knew my mom would be fine with the difficulties of traveling in a developing country and enjoy the experience and all of that; what I didn’t expect was that she GOT it, she really understood why I love and admire these people, this place, and she embraced them as her own.

I always knew how easy it is to love them – their open, kind, and joy-filled outlook on life in spite of the considerable challenges they face to make it through this life – but she saw that, too. And they embraced her, too, not only as a respected elder (they rolled out the proverbial red carpet for her!!), but as the wonderful human being that she is. I think much credit is due on both sides, “two sides” that have now become one. I feel so fortunate to share “my Camerounians” with each new person on our trips! (I’m crying now!).

Isaac Hermanson

Trips – all mission trips:   I have been lucky to travel to Cameroon many times with my family, I have just gotten used to it, like it’s a habit. Normal families would go to Disneyland or Hawaii for a vacation, but not the Hermanson family. But I have never stopped realizing how amazing it is there. One thing I have noticed in Cameroon is the kindness of the people. Some people would think that people from Africa are strange, like they are totally different than people from the U.S. But they are some of the most kind and loving people I have ever met. If you come to Cameroon, they will give you their hospitality and love. Making you feel like you are part of their family. And it’s true, we are one big family.

Jeri McAllister

Trips – 2007 & 2015:   I was touched by reuniting with two Cameroonians I hadn’t seen in five years. Nazel,who was our interpreter on my last trip in 2007, is now only three years from reaching his dream of becoming a doctor and returning to serve his people in Cameroon. He traveled a long ways in a hot bus from Northern Cameroon to spend time with us in Kribi. And then there was my sweet Manau, who I bonded with in 2007 and shared the joy of her baptism this trip. Developing relationships with the people is one the things I’ve enjoyed the most.

Christi Meyn

Trip – 2012:   “A highlight of the trip for me was the singing, and how it had the ability to completely transform my mood. I remember one day we were all piling into a hot, smelly, sticky bus, and my stomachache and headache were only getting worse as people crammed closer together.

Everyone was excited for the day’s travels (I think we were going to see the Pygmy village) and I couldn’t help thinking how detached I felt from the group – I was not in the slightest excited mood. All of a sudden, CouCou starts blowing on a whistle, like she’s the coach of a track team. Three shrill blows of the whistle later, the whole bus erupts in vibrant singing.

Two seconds later, and I was smiling from ear to ear because the mood was simply contagious and I couldn’t help but feel like laughing and crying at the same time for being so privileged to experience something as pure, rich, and beautiful as those ten days in Cameroon. For the rest of the bus ride, I was singing and dancing along with everyone else, and felt like a new person.

Jody Clingenpeel

Trips – 2010 & 2012:   We met a gentleman at the home the of the “president” who had milky white eyes, using a forearm crutch for walking in one arm and the other arm was contracted. He was in need and wanting eye glasses. He was told to come to the Wellness Center and the following day, around mid morning and in the midst of much chaos and hustle and bustle, he walked in with the young man who had given him the ride.

He was wearing a nice blue dress shirt and Bonnie and I immediately recognized him. We were able to find a very strong prescription and when he tried on the glasses his entire face smiled and we got the thumbs up! It was a God moment. Building relationships with others and then going back to see and rekindle the relationships with our Cameroonian friends was a joy and a blessing.

There is a cohesion and a sense of connectiveness when we are all together and what we are able to accomplish together far surpasses what any of us can do alone~ and not just in a physical and material manner. The Holy Spirit is at work and in our midst and the positive energy abounds.

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