Posted by: macahajo | October 18, 2015

“What church do you go to?”

Will you grab a cup of coffee? I need a loving heart to share with, and an ear that will take a little time to just listen. I don’t need someone to tell me what to do or disown me for not being the missionary that you thought I was or the missionary that I should be! 😉

When I went to Southern Africa for a college Missions trip, we worshipped under the shade of an African tree. I listened with joy to the beautiful African voices of brothers and sisters in Christ. We were warmly greeted with palm branches by the people in the village, and the children ran after us when we left, making us feel so special. Ahh! Such nostalgic memories of church in South Africa and Malawi.

Twenty years later, our family of four moved half way across the world, to Cameroon, and one of our greatest challenges so far has been Church. And we’re not alone. Ever since we arrived in Yaoundé, we noticed that church is a challenge for many expatriate families, for a variety of reasons.

There are beautiful and wonderful things about worshipping with our Cameroonian brothers and sisters. But the Cameroonian Church service is different from what we’re accustomed to in the States.

If I think more about that trip to Southern Africa, the Church services were also very different from what we were accustomed to in the States.There were all-night services. We went to a church meeting where red ants started attacking some of us. Our team greeted the people and we each introduced ourselves; I don’t know what came out of my mouth as I tried to speak Xhosa, a South African language with clicks, but no one on the planet could comprehend what I said!

But, I could handle the challenges and the differences because after six weeks, I was getting on a plane to go back to America.

Now, here we are in Cameroon!

Try to imagine moving to Africa, and if you have children, taking them to a Cameroonian church service… every week. There’s no air-conditioning, it’s 85 degrees outside, and there are few if any fans for air circulation in the crowded church building. It starts to get warmer as the service continues, and one of your kids complains of feeling sick every.single.week. You sit on plastic chairs or wood benches, and the 2+ hour service may or may not be translated into English. So, you sit there, sometimes hardly understanding anything, but working so hard to understand the French message because after all, you’re trying to learn this language! If your children are younger, they may go to the French speaking Sunday school that begins after the singing ends. Your children don’t understand anything. They may be poked at or looked at funny because they are white; they look and feel very different from all of the other children in this mostly all black Cameroonian city. You go home, tired.

But, we’re ready to go to that church again next week because we want to be a part of a Cameroonian church family and encourage them. We are missionaries after-all! We are living and serving in Cameroon!

We should go and be a part of a Cameroonian Christian Church. Shouldn’t we? This is what we signed up for!  😉

When we moved to the city, we would ask people, “What church do you go to?” When people replied that they went to the International Christian Church of Yaounde (ICCY), otherwise known as the white church, there was a certain stigma that went along with that. Sometimes, there was a sense of disappointment or failure. People always felt the need to explain why they were attending ICCY, and why they weren’t attending a Cameroonian Church.

After visiting several Cameroonian Churches, our kids, a pre-teen and a teen-ager, starting asking, “Can we go to ICCY?” They would say, “All of our friends go there.” They don’t all go, but many of them do.

So, the next week, we go to ICCY. It’s comfortable, it’s in English, and it’s… air-conditioned. We don’t stand out as the random white people. The songs are familiar, and the service usually lasts a little over an hour.

So, the question of the week becomes… where do we go next week for church?

This Sunday, will we go to ICCY?

Will we go to the church down the road that we have visited several times? That service is all in French.

We could go to another church about 10 minutes away, but no. That’s the church where leaders talked about how if people give, then God would give them 10 times more. And if people don’t give, then God would condemn them. They were preaching a prosperity gospel, which is very common in Cameroon.

There are other Christian churches in Yaoundé. Will we check out a new one, or one that we’ve visited in the past, though that one is a distance away?

It would be easier to worship at a Cameroonian church if we didn’t have our children to consider. I think we could give up our comforts and our preferences. We could feed ourselves spiritually. But, this leads me to a question that makes me ponder for a while; Is this a lesson in surrender… for me?… For our whole family?

When we went to our ReachGlobal pre-field training with our children, we studied Jesus, and His Word in Philippians 2:5-7:

In your relationships with one another, have the same attitude of mind Christ Jesus had: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather he made himself nothing by taking on the very nature of a servant.

There was a list of “rights” we were asked to consider giving up and entrust to God. (Giving up our rights for example: to a comfortable bed, convenient medical care, being heard and seen, being understood. And entrusting to God for example: our comforts, our dreams, our ability to learn language, and our possessions).

On that chilly day in Minnesota, when our family spent time thinking about surrendering our lives to God as we prepared to serve overseas, we added to that list how we were giving up our right to worship with our church family in our own language, and I’d add now, giving up our right to worship in the way we would prefer.

Usually when I write a blog post, my final words share what God did, or how God worked it out. I love to share what God taught me, or how we overcame the situation.

But, I can’t yet. So, as you finish that cup of coffee 😉 please pray for us as we wrestle through this. Unlike my South Africa trip, after six weeks, we are not getting on a plane to go back to America. We have made our home in Cameroon, until the Lord tells us otherwise. Pray that the Lord would guide us and help us with this challenge, and unify us in it.

Thanks for listening, Cathy Lynn

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Responses

  1. Thanks for sharing. May the Good Lord grant you what you need and your children what He knows they need.

    • Thank you, Eric.

  2. Thanks for sharing from your heart on this very difficult topic. When our kids started dreading Sunday and hated going to church (hot, small town in CAR, never English, only French & Sango languages) — that’s when we decided that for their spiritual growth, we’d not make them go to local church. We let them stay home, and then “did church” when the 2 of us got home. We LOVED being able to attend ICCY when we got to the big city. That’s the main reason we are investing in keeping ICCY alive.

    • Thanks for your words of encouragement, Janet. I understand what a blessing ICCY is to village families, and that’s a really special reason be a part of ICCY, so that others may be blessed like you were. We’re so thankful for your loving investment in missionary families and their children, not only at ICCY, but also at RFIS.

  3. Cathy,

    Already drank my coffee before I read this, but I’m praying for you. Praying you give yourself grace, and know God’s perfect peace in finding the best church for your family in this season.

    Love you,

    Sheryl

    Sheryl Gasser
    EFCA ReachGlobal
    Africa Division
    Field Base: Tanzania
    USA Mobile Phone: 616-426-1522
    International Phone: 616-878-4976
    Email: sheryl.gasser@efca.org
    Ministry website: http://www.goreachglobal.org
    Personal website: http://www.wayneandsherylgasser.com
    [cid:image001.png@01D10A7A.3D0EE810]

    • Thank you for praying for us, Sheryl! We appreciate you guys! And look forward to seeing you after the new year 🙂


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