Thursday, July 25, 2013

La Casa De Sinclair | Part 1

Have you ever wondered what a missionary home looks like?  Of course missionary homes across the world are quite different, but how about a home located in the interior of Cameroon? I know that when people think of homes in Africa, they often think of grass-roofed mud huts. And while you will find grass-roofed homes in certain areas of Cameroon, we are surrounded by homes with tin roofs that are constructed of either cement, or mud blocks ...with the latter being most popular due to the low cost.

The search for our home began very shortly after we moved here. We were living with the Needhams and Tom was taking Ben and Matt around the Bamenda area looking for housing.  We had about exhausted all of the possibilities in Bamenda, when one day Tom suggested that they check out the "old Crawford house." What is very interesting (and I might have already told this story...skim past if you've already heard it) is that Ben and I stayed in this very house when we visited Cameroon during our college days and before we were even married.  Former GFA missionary Dale Crawford and his family lived and served here until health problems required them to return to the states. We spent a weekend with the Crawford family to get a glimpse of their ministry. The day that Tom suggested they stop by this house nobody was around. They peeked in the windows and weren't able to actually see anything, so Tom suggested calling the landlady, Susan Tebong.  She informed them that a tenant had recently moved out and she was in the process of fixing up the house to rent it out again!  They arranged a day to view the home with her and on that day Ben made an offer. Evidently she'd already received an offer from some Catholic nuns looking to rent the home, but Ben's offer happened to be higher, so she accepted!

Even though our landlady had painted and cleaned, the house was still in rough shape. I actually came down and cleaned and scrubbed some more before we moved all of our things in over Thanksgiving weekend.   The last tenant had raised pigs and chickens in the house, so you can imagine all of the filth!  It took me a very long time to feel like I was living in my own dirt, and not somebody else's, if you know what I mean! Slowly but surely we worked on the house and it eventually came to feel like home.

It honestly is a continual work in progress.  We are constantly painting and working on home improvement projects. The most recent was to add new doors and screen to the house.  But, I thought it would be a fun blog series to give you a tour of our absolutely gorgeous home. So, today I'm going to start with a diagram of the layout of our house!

I will explain a few things about this (very bright!) diagram. As you can see our house is in a "U" shape.  The courtyard portion is outside. All of the black lines signify the location of doors that enter the interior of the house.  The big black line at the front of our courtyard is actually a large iron gate that we slide open and shut for an extra measure of security. Half of the courtyard (the front half) is covered by a roof.  We have a table, grill, containers for water, etc... all stored out there. The back half of the courtyard that is butting up to the house is mostly open. There is a little garden in that section.  In a future post I will share photos and it will give you a better idea of what I'm talking about.

The "outside laundry/store room"  is the only room that is not connected to the inside portion of the house.  It is kind of like our garage, but without the car! Ben keeps all of his tools in there, and my washer and dryer are in there as well.  I have to go outside the house to do my laundry, but I'm always under a roof, and the gate is locked, so I'm completely safe.  

We have four doors that actually enter the inside of our home.  The kitchen door is the door we primarily use.  The two doors at the back of the courtyard have just been redone.  We added metal doors there and changed the wood doors that were there into screen doors. This is SO nice because I can open up the metal doors during the day and the screen doors allow a breeze to flow through the parlor!  The metal doors are also added security. The door at the front of the parlor is a big double wooden door on the inside. and then a big iron door on the outside.  We recently added screen to the iron door as well, so during the day we open up the big wooden doors. I really love it!

You can't really tell from the diagram, but our house is big.  It is HUGE actually.  I will never forget the first time my mom and the Whitely's visited.  It was time for bed and Kathy asked, "What time does the shuttle leave for the bedrooms."  We still laugh about that. :) Our home is almost 2,400 square feet (not including the courtyard, but including the outside laundry room), with all of that being on one level.  Another thing that makes our home appear so big are the high ceilings. As you can see from the diagram, the parlor is the biggest room. The portion of the parlor that butts up to the office is where we have our big dining room table. One gorgeous feature of the parlor is the (almost) floor to ceiling windows that run down both sides of the outside facing walls.  Our view is breathtaking! During the rainy season you can see a big waterfall flowing down the mountainside from the front picture windows. The side picture windows give you a view over the whole village of Bambili. 

The house was built back in 1976 by the late husband of our landlady, but sadly he died before they were ever able to live in the house. Our landlady has a very unique heritage. Her birth parents are British. However, she was adopted as an infant, and her adoptive mother was British and her adoptive father Argentinian. She spent much of her childhood years in a German boarding school in the country of Argentina. She went to university in the U.S. which is where she met her husband...a Cameroonian.  Susan's many European influences can be seen in the building of this house.  The fact that this house has an inside kitchen with cabinets is one influence as most African homes have outside kitchens.  All of the bedrooms have floor to ceiling built-in closets, which is another feature you don't often see in homes here.

I'm so thankful how God orchestrated events and led us to this home. We are so blessed and I'd love to share this blessing with you. So, please stay tuned, because I'm planning to do a post each week, with pictures, about all of the different rooms in our house, so you can actually "see" where we live.  This will have a couple benefits. One, you will get to see our beautiful home. And two, it will give me a reason to deep clean each room and make it presentable for viewing! :)  

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Summer Busyness!

Whew, the last several weeks have been very busy ones. I feel like I can finally sit and relax. Here are all the things we have been up to!

Emma celebrated her birthday near the end of June (the 23rd).  When Ben visited the states in February, I had him bring back some gifts for my girl's birthday.  Missionaries have to really plan ahead like that.  Emma is a horse lover!  So, I planned all things horsey for her birthday. :)  The big, wow gift was the American girl size horse that my mom got her!  She was over-the-moon!

She also got some other horse gifts.  Her birthday fell on a Sunday, so we celebrated after church as a family.  I worked all day Saturday so that we would be ready to just come home and have a party. It actually made that day very relaxing for me since I'd already completed the work!

After Emma's birthday, Faith Ann began the countdown for hers, knowing that it was just a few weeks away. We made a paper chain for her to keep track of how many days she had left until the big day.

While counting down, we managed to keep her busy by hosting our summer Vacation Bible School...referred to as Holiday Bible School here in Cameroon.

The first week we held our HBS in Bamenda. The school where we hosted it last year wasn't an option this year. The big field we used to play all of our games is now occupied by an "up-story" building - as it is referred to here. We didn't plan enough in advance to find another location, so we held it at our church and just played games in the small church yard. The kids didn't seem to mind at all. We had a high of 72 kids on one day. The other days averaged slightly smaller.  It was a great week though.
We rounded it up with a parent's program, but that was a bust unfortunately.  It was raining cats and dogs and while the kids managed to make it out, the parent's didn't want to brave the rain. We had only four parents come. While no parents made any salvation decisions on that night, we did have several kids trust Christ through our program during the week!

During that week of HBS, the Needham family (missionaries that live near us) had a church group of 22 people visiting. After hosting a large group last year, I knew how much work cooking for a group that size actually is, so I offered to prepare a couple of meals for Barb. On Monday of that week, I brought up a huge taco-inspired meal, with a taco casserole, homemade chips, and a huge bowl of cookies. Barb prepared some carrot sticks.  Then on Thursday of that same week, I invited the group down here on the fourth of July and prepared pizza on the grill! Whew - with the visiting group, our family and the Needham family I fed around 35 people.  I was SO tired.  I actually missed our HBS on this day since so much work went into preparing the meal. We had sausage pizza, a salad bar, and brownies and ice cream! Yummy!

One more interesting thing happened this particular week (to add to the already crazy stuff taking place!). Our neighbor, Bless, who is about Drew's age, came up to our gate with a friend. I came out and greeted him and asked him if I could help him with anything. He showed me a bucket that he had in his hands and he told me that he brought me something. I looked down in that bucket and squealed. I quickly ran inside the house and told Drew, "You've got to come outside and see this!"  He was pretty pumped to find the bucket crawling with 6 little, bright-green chameleons!

As of right now, we have 5 of those little chameleons in a cage that we had built.  One escaped out of the bucket and we never did find him. The rest are thriving. We have the neighbor kids help us hunt for grasshoppers to feed them! 

So, after that fun filled week we hosted our next HBS here in Bambili. This was a bit more relaxed as we live in walking distance from our church. We had a good group of kids, with just over 50 being our high on the last day. We also hosted a parent's program again.  Ben and I had already discussed that if this parent's program was a bust again, we just wouldn't do them in the future.  I expected that no parents would attend. O me of little faith!! We had 7 parents come, and it was the first time for 6 of them to enter the doors of our church. Ben presented the gospel at the end of the program, and three people raised their hands. He explained to them right before we dismissed, that if they were serious about accepting Christ they should come and talk to him or me and we could show them from the Bible how to know for sure that heaven is their home. Honestly, I wasn't expecting anyone to speak to us. However, one lady approached me immediately and said, "I was one that raised my hand. I want to know how I can have eternal life."  I sat down with Carine, and showed her from the Bible how she could be saved. She put her faith and trust in Christ alone that night, as did the man Ben was able to meet with.  I walked away from that meeting on cloud nine. I was so sure that nobody would show up...and it was so wonderful to see God prove me wrong!  We decided that from now on, we are doing parent's programs. If only one person hears and understands the gospel, it will be worth it. 

HBS ended on Friday, and on Saturday I spent much of my day preparing for Sunday, because we had another birthday in the family. Faith Ann turned 7 on Sun. the 14th of July. Like Emma's special day, Faith's birthday landed on a Sunday and in order to be prepared I needed to work ahead. I made her cake and made up the pizza dough (she requested Pizza for her birthday). The cake took longer than I'd anticipated, so I didn't get as much accomplished as I would have liked to.  It all worked out in the end. Sunday we came home and I worked on the pizza, while the kids cleaned up the parlor.  We ate our lunch and afterwards we brought out the presents and cake.  

A former Cameroon missionary posted on my facebook post regarding Faith Ann's picture, saying that in Cameroon we don't always have access to a lot of gifts for birthdays, and the cake is part of the gift.  It really is. I have always tried to make my kid's birthdays very special. One of the big parts of our birthday is the cake reveal. They can't wait to see what theme I've picked and what it will look like. Pinterest has given me a lot of great ideas, but for this year fellow missionary and friend, Rachel Barilla, helped out by letting me borrow some of her Wilton cake pans! :) I thought this would definitely streamline the cake making, but honestly these pans are very time consuming!  The form and shape are very helpful in decorating, but all those frosting stars! Whew!

So, that pretty much brings us to the present.  With HBS behind me and the summer beginning to dwindle down, my thoughts are now focusing on school.  I'm anxious to get organized and plan out my school year.  The kids...not so much! haha!

Our next countdown is for our visit with Mimi. She has plans to visit us with the Whitely's some time in October. We can't wait! She is going to be a world traveler this year. My brother and his family are in Costa Rica for language training in preparation to move to Venezuela for full-time missions.  Mom and Dad are visiting them in August.  I doubt I'll ever get my dad out here to see us, though I wish I could. But, after conquering her fears on her first trip here, my Mom makes plans to visit us every term.  If she doesn't come soon, Drew might be taller than her the next time she sees him!

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