Sunday, December 20, 2015

How to be a friend to a Missionary

Today I want to open my heart a bit and share some of my struggles. My prayer is that this post will be read by many. Honestly, not for my own benefit, but for the benefit of missionary ladies all over the world. 

God designed within each of us the desire for friendship. The human connection is literally necessary for our survival. There is a reason that solitary confinement is a punishment used on criminals. The lack of human interaction can cause a person to go mentally insane. Now, obviously I'm not trying to imply that I'm suffering from a lack of human interaction here in Cameroon. I'm simply trying to emphasize the importance of friendship. 

Over this past year and a half I have struggled with a feeling of loss - the loss of connected friendships. While on furlough I discovered that I wasn't a part anymore. Sure, my friends and I were able to do some things together, but I was an outsider. I wasn't privy to their inside jokes. They had newer and closer friends. Understandably because my life was totally different from theirs now. They were successful and were building families and buying homes. It was difficult to relate to one another. I have tried to put myself in their shoes and I really can understand their point of view. Our lives have gone down two completely different paths.

I shared some of my disappointment with a women's missionary group that I'm a member of on facebook. This group is private and has been a wonderful place to share burdens that other missionary ladies will understand.  The ladies in this group are amazing and my post sparked an online conversation on the topic of friendship. Within that conversation I learned that I am not alone in this. Many of these missionary ladies shared their own sorrow over losing close friends. Some are faithfully praying for one female friend that they can have. This isn't something that we go around advertising - our struggle over friendships. It would sound like we are complaining. Let me assure you that the tone of our conversation was always directed back toward Jesus...He is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. However, I felt that it would be beneficial to all these missionary ladies to bring this need of a "bosom friend" (in the words of Anne of Green Gables) to the eyes of the American church.

Don't let your very different lives cause you to distance yourself from your missionary friend. Sure, you both have new friends now. That is the path of meet new people and make new friends. It doesn't have to make your long-distance friend less important, however. Determine to continue to nurture that relationship.

One missionary was warned by a veteran,
"Be prepared to lose friends."
She confided that she thought, "No way! Not OUR friendship!" but in her own words, "Distance can put a strain on the best of friendships."

Another missionary told me,
"The longer you are on the field, the more people will drop out of your life. Life goes on and everyone's life is busy."
And yet another missionary shared,
"I thought I was the only one that felt like this. We've been on the field for 27 months and yes I have been forgotten too."
Might I challenge you to make a decision not to let your different choices and your distance put a strain on your friendship at all?  Decide right now not to "drop out" of the life of your missionary friend. Marriages, friendships, any relationship at all really, take work. Choose to invest the work necessary to maintain friendships.

Stay in touch when they are on the field.  We would be thrilled with a genuine heart-felt note ... even if it is via facebook or email. It doesn't necessarily have to come through the post office. 

One of the missionaries with whom I corresponded on this topic said, 
"I thought things would be different with technology the way it is. So easy to reach us now, but to no avail..."
Another said, 
"I have literally prayed that friends would remember to write me. I guess what it has taught me is to be more sensitive. I want to be that friend that remembers birthdays and to write and call."
I get it...out of sight, out of mind. It is going to take an effort on your part to stay in touch. One of the missionary ladies in my Facebook group shared her hurt over the lack of communication. She said,
"Yup. It can really hurt. I was surprised by my closest friends not keeping up..."
Take the time to remember your missionary friend. Mark your friend's birthdate on your calendar and consciously remember to send a note. Remember to wish them a Merry Christmas and maybe even a Happy Anniversary. Send them a note for no special reason at all....just letting them know you are thinking of them.

We are ordinary people like you. We just have a different address. Some of the missionary ladies said that they'd lost friends because their friends felt guilty. They weren't in full time ministry so they felt uncomfortable being around them. Please let me assure you...we are not on a different plane than you. We have the same battles of the flesh that you do. I fail on a regular basis. I yell at my kids. I get angry and frustrated when the power goes out every night at 6:30 pm. I want to scream sometimes when my internet goes out and I can't talk to my mom. Trust me...we are all made out of the same flesh. We just live in two very different places. Don't let uncomfortable feelings of guilt cause you to distance yourself from your missionary friend. They need you now more than ever!

Go out of your way to include them when they are home in the states.  I think being on furlough was probably the biggest struggle for me. I was in the midst of people I knew and loved and I felt so very distant. Please, strive to include a missionary when they are on a visit to the US. They are totally out of the loop. Help them out. Invite them to extra activities. Remember those new friends you've made while they've been gone? Introduce them and give them the opportunity to make new friends as well. It will be a challenge to do this as missionaries often have busy schedules due to travel. Call them, invite them, seek them out and be prepared for a no. They might have a meeting scheduled during your pampered chef party, but ask them anyway. The thought of being remembered is so, so important. 

One of the missionary ladies expressed to me that she understood the difficulty of returning stateside,
"The exact same thing happened to me on furlough...I have no real advice just a (HUG). It was one thing that blind sided me when we got to the states..."
Patiently invest in your missionary friend knowing that communication can be hard on our end.  Here I am asking you to write, email, send a note on facebook, but I have to be honest. We might not be able to respond in a timely manner. Internet connections can go out, power is often unreliable, ministry is busy. Please be patient when waiting for correspondence. What we missionaries want you to know is that we crave your letters and notes. Even if we can't respond right away we are SO grateful to hear from you. I guarantee you, silence on our end is not because of lack of interest. It most likely has to do with an unplanned interruption of some kind.

You might be asking, "Why are you missionaries so needy?" Well, here is a simple explanation. We are surrounded by people of a different culture, and while we do create new friendships on our field of service, they aren't the same as friendships among people of our own culture. There will always be a barrier there that isn't there among Americans. Many of us are also in a position of Pastor's wife and having one close friend is a challenge. We can't show partiality as we seek to minister to all of the ladies equally. Oh how we miss the friendships and fellowship with ladies in our own culture.

As I bared my soul on Facebook the other day my fellow missionary friends were an encouragement to me. They came alongside me with words of understanding and challenge,
"The struggle is real and so is the hurt, but God has often reminded me that it isn't the end of the world. We cry. We whine. We get frustrated, but at the end of the day our God is always the same and is ALWAYS enough. People will often let us down. It's the nature of this life, but when we stop waiting for others and start focusing on waiting ONLY on God, peace flows much more freely."
As I mentioned before, missionaries are far from perfect. I know I could have done better to continue to foster friendships with those across the ocean. I'm not absolved of all guilt of failing my own friends. Prayerfully I would like those reading this post to see the struggle of missionary ladies across the world. Many have lost friends, have been praying for a close girlfriend, and desire the fellowship of someone of their own culture. Might you take the challenge? Reach out to your missionary friend. Mark their special event on your calendar and write them. Send an E-card. Set up a Skype call if the internet and time allow it.

My mom's favorite verse, Psalms 62:5, has been an encouragement to me. "My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him."

May all of us, on both sides of the ocean, continue to keep our expectations from God as He is the only one that will not disappoint us. 

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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Blog Hop: 10 Things You Should Know about our Mission Field

All scary missionary stories come out of Africa, right? I’ve heard people say through the years, “I want to surrender to God’s will, but I’m afraid He will call me to Africa!” 


Perish the thought!! Please, not Africa!

Well, I’m here to encourage you that…Africa isn’t so bad! In fact, what I really want is people to come out and bring me suitcases full of goodies visit me here. I want you to know that it isn’t scary. It is, in fact, fun! It is beautiful! And most of all…the continent on which we serve is wide open to the gospel, so I guarantee your visit would also be very rewarding!

This week I’m taking part in a missionary blog hop that discusses the topic of 10 things I wish people knew about my field. Hopefully these 10 things will be an incentive for my friends, family and supporters to visit me here in Cameroon. At the end of my post will be a link taking you to the next blog. we go. 10 things about my field that are in no particular order:

  1. We speak English!  Yep. When you come to visit us in Cameroon you won’t have to worry about communicating and sharing the gospel through a translator; you can speak English. Now, we don’t speak “American” here :P , so you might have to ask people to repeat themselves and vice versa, but being able to freely speak with the national people will make your visit so much more enjoyable!
    Pidgin is a trade language spoken here in Cameroon. 
  2. Snakes, Spiders and other dangerous, wild animals do not abound here in our corner of Cameroon. Yes, we have on occasion posted photos of large spiders (they were non-poisonous), and only two times during our 11 years here did we post photos of snakes. These are not the norm. Have we seen a snake or two? Yes, we have. But what we mostly see are goats, pigs, chickens, dogs, and cats. Pastor Jim and Myra Wright, Baptist World Mission furlough replacement missionaries, filled in for us while we were on furlough for 7 months. Myra suffers from Ophidiophobia (you're welcome for the vocabulary word of the day). She didn't see one snake during her entire time here. So, please don't let a fear of critters keep you from visiting our field! 
    We love to keep chameleons as pets!
  3. Bambili, Cameroon isn't hot. I know from experience that when people think of Africa they think of how hot it is. And yes, there are some pretty hot places on this gigantic continent, and even hot places within this country, but thankfully Bambili, Cameroon (where we live) isn't one of them. The temperature is in the 80s nearly year round. July through September are our coldest months (usually between 70-80), so should you choose to visit us during your summer break...that would be a wonderful time of year. 
    Our front yard view!
  4. There are no fast food or franchise restaurants in Cameroon. This might seem like a no-brainer to some, but you would be very surprised at how many people don't realize this. We only have small, locally owned places. We eat out every Monday for our family day and have had to wait for our food for hours at some places. Thankfully our most current favorite restaurant is pretty speedy, and we hope it will be around for a long time.  When someone living in the U.S. doesn't want to cook...Pizza Hut comes to the rescue. It doesn't work that way here in Cameroon. Cooking here means a lot of time and dirty dishes. So, you'll understand why Little Caesars is our staple meal on furlough :) 
    Our current favorite family restaurant: PresCafe
  5. Cameroon is sometimes referred to as the armpit of Africa. And aptly named, too. When you enter Cameroon, that is the first scent that will assault you...smelly armpits. The smells of Cameroon will overwhelm you at first. Americans are just accustomed to the over-sanitzed scents of the US. The organic odors here, while pungent, are probably more healthy than the synthetic smells of body sprays and candles! I promise that after some time, you won't even notice the smells. FYI...we still wear deodorant in our home, so don't forget to pack yours.  
    No caption necessary...
  6. Off-roading is a fun past time in the states, but here in Cameroon, even when we are on-roading...we are off-roading! Our roads are quite an adventure here. The driveway to our house is a big hill that, during the rainy season especially, makes for a very fun ride. Our motto is, "We will slip and we will slide, but we will make it to the other side." Thankfully we don't have any death-defying drops near our road. The worst that could happen is that we would slide into the ditch. 
    A muddy road on the way to Benakuma
  7. We have access to internet!! Obviously, right? You are, of course, reading a blog post that was published here in Cameroon. We are actually very blessed to have a very decent internet connection here in Bambili. If and when you come to visit, you don't have to worry about the digital separation that are of the days of old. 11 years has brought a lot of changes in this area. When we first moved here I remember driving to a little internet cafe, scared to death to be behind the wheel of my car on our famous (or infamous!) roads. It took me nearly an hour to get online and order flowers for my mom for mother's day. Now, we have computers, iPhones and kindles all connected to our wireless router. Keeping in touch has never been easier!
    I FaceTime with my mom daily
  8. We have a saying among the missionaries here in Cameroon...TIA. This is Africa. While we almost always have internet, and usually have power and water...This is Africa after all and we are frequently thrown curve balls. Power can suddenly go out for days on end. An appliance can blow up and it take days, if not weeks, to replace. The water could dry up and the internet could go out. Nothing is for sure here. If anything, one learns flexibility by being a missionary.
  9.  The people of Cameroon are friendly, love visitors and are very open to the gospel. Of course there will always be a few exceptions, but we rarely have people refuse gospel literature. The Cameroonians love to chat. Greetings and questions about how one is doing, and how their family is doing are required before a normal conversation begins. I once entered a store to ask if they had a public toilet. I was harshly rebuked for not greeting first. Lesson learned...the hard way of course.  You don't just wave at your neighbor as you drive stop, roll down your window and ask how they are doing and how their family is doing. You always stop and greet. Any visitor to Cameroon will enjoy the many opportunities to get to know the people and more importantly the many opportunities to share the gospel with them. 
  10. The final thing you should know about our field, and perhaps the most important of all, is that we need more laborers. We are swamped in the work. We have people from other villages begging us to come out and preach the gospel. The harvest truly is ripe in Cameroon, but the laborers are most definitely few. Would you pray the Lord of the harvest that He would send YOU into the harvest field of Cameroon?
Hopefully these interesting things about our field of service will give you a burden to pray. We would also love for this post to give you a desire to visit us! A missions trip will change your life. It changed mine. When you travel across the ocean and see the need first hand, the experience will forever change you. 

Our field director, Steve Anderson, says that you may leave Africa...but Africa will never leave you. It will forever be imbedded into your heart.

To hear more interesting things about other fields of service, follow this link to Lou Ann's blog to read more about her field of Sain.
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Friday, May 8, 2015

On Family and Pizza

Family and Pizza...these are a few of my favorite things. :)

I'll get to the pizza in a minute, but first a quick update. Life has been rather busy lately! Whew!  I had the privilege recently to speak in a Pastor's wives conference. There was a group of about 15 pastor's wives that came and we had a wonderful time of fellowship around the Word of God. I enjoyed getting to know some of the ladies better. Public speaking isn't my thing, but the Lord gave grace and wisdom and I'm so thankful for that.

I have enjoyed discipleship opportunities. Freda comes up each Tuesday after to school to go through our discipleship course, The Spiritual Growth Series.

My husband wrote this course several years ago and it has been such a helpful resource. Freda is really growing and she has a real burden for the salvation of her entire family. Pray along with us that we can see her family come to Christ. I am also meeting with Anita each Thursday evening after our midweek Bible study here in Bambili. Anita came to me a few Sundays ago expressing concern about her salvation. After some council she expressed to me that she'd already made a decision for Christ and so we went over some scripture about her security in Christ. I encouraged her to go through the Spiritual growth series as well and so we have started. I'm excited to see the Word of God change Anita.

Our annual missionary family camp is over and we had a wonderful week of fellowship with likeminded missionaries here in Sabga, Cameroon. Pastor Don Barth came from the states to speak to us. My responsibility each year for camp is the organization of the meals. Each missionary lady takes charge of one meal, and I don't do a lot, but I do create a schedule and try to make sure it runs smoothly. We also do a lot of the shopping for the food supplies for the week.

I always schedule my meal for the first night at camp...Monday supper. About three years ago we bought a gas grill off of a missionary family that was leaving Cameroon. I somehow stumbled onto a Pizza recipe created for the grill and our family fell in love. I was adventurous one year and made these grilled, personal pizzas for family camp and since then I've been doing it every year. This was year three. I take my grill up there and start cooking about two hours before meal time and everyone gets their own little pizza.

Since this recipe is such a hit in our family I thought I would share it with you! I have had a lot of people ask me how to cook pizza on the grill. The blog I found had pictures and all of the information, but I still was a bit nervous. I thought I would add some video clips so you can see exactly how I do it. If a picture is worth a thousand words, than a video is worth a million. :) Hopefully it will be helpful.

First thing I do is make my dough. I do this in my bread machine and here is my recipe:
2 c. water
1 TB olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
5 c. flour
1 TB yeast
Put all of your ingredients in the pan in that order, set it to dough cycle and let it work its magic. :)

This recipe makes 8 personal pizzas for our family.  While the machine is working I make my own sauce. I take two packets of tomato paste, which is about the equivalent to two small cans. I add water until it is pizza sauce consistency and season with garlic salt and italian seasoning. Very simple, but we love it. I shred my cheese and cut up my veggies. When my dough is done, I take it out and divide it into 8 evenish pieces and roll them out into personal pan size.

I take all my goodies to the grill. Before placing the dough on the grill I brush one side with olive oil and sprinkle some garlic salt on it (we love garlic salt!).

Make sure your grill is nice and hot, and flip your dough, oil side down onto the grill. Here is a quick little video clip so that you can see it in action.

Once you get your dough on there (excuse the dirty grill...I do live in Africa), close that lid and patiently let it cook for a couple minutes. My grill runs hot, so the timing probably depends on the grill, but once you notice your dough puff up and look dry and cooked, not wet and raw, it is time to brush the top with oil and flip the dough. This is what it should look like.

Here is a little clip of me flipping the dough again (You can't say I didn't explain this process very clearly!) :)

Once you have brushed that side with oil and flipped it, now it is time to top your personal pizza. Let your creativity soar with the possibilities. Our standard toppings are sausage, pepperoni, onions, tomatoes, green peppers and green olives. Another favorite is chicken alfredo pizza. I would love to get some frank's hot sauce out here and try some buffalo chicken pizza. The options are almost endless. Close the lid and let your topped pizzas cook a couple more minutes so the dough can finish cooking and all the cheese can melt.

The finished product is a tender, flavorful crust with ooey, gooey cheese and yummy toppings. It will be like a flavor explosion in your mouth! So much better than pizza in the me!

What can I say...we are a pizza loving family. Some people have Taco Tuesday, we have Pizza Friday. it is just our family tradition. We rarely stray from cooking our pizza on the grill, but occasionally we do something different. For family day two weeks ago we didn't have a gas bottle hooked up to the grill so we made our own personal pizzas and baked them in the oven. The kids had fun creating a unique pizza...some with faces, others in shapes.

It was a fun thing to do, but our favorite pizza method is definitely the grill. Try it - I guarantee you won't want Pizza Hut ever again!
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Monday, April 13, 2015

Pinterest...for the win!

I have had my share of pinterest fails. I don't post them. Goodness knows I don't need to advertise more of my glaring failures. haha! However, I saw this pin on pinterest and loved the idea of beautiful scripture art hanging around my home. I thought, "I can do this!" So, I set out to give it a try. Here is the original pin that I saw.

I went into my storeroom and found the perfect scrap of wood and decided to use the same verse and create something that matches my own bedroom decor. I wanted it kinda shabby chic, so I sanded the edges a bit, but it still wasn't perfect and that was ok. I painted a base color of gray. I still had a ton on hand from my recent stenciling project and it was the exact color I needed. After I painted the base coat gray and let it dry, I then painted some streaks of yellow using acrylic craft paint. On top of that, even before the yellow was completely dry, I brushed some white all over the top of the wood. This gave it a rustic painted effect. 

I then went into my photoshop program and played around with different fonts to come up with the verse word art to place on my piece of wood. I ended up using two free fonts to create the scripture, Gardenia and KG Somebody that I used to Know.  I printed my final draft and then taped it to the wood exactly where I wanted the words to be traced.

Pinterest to the rescue again. I didn't know how to get beautiful wording onto wood until I came across this pin, which gave me all the instruction I needed.  The skinny of it is you put your paper on your wood and use a ball point pen to trace the script. By putting pressure you will create an indention in the wood that you can then paint in. 

I pressed pretty hard so I would be able to see it. My hand was tired from squeezing the pen when I was done! It worked pretty well, and I could see the details I needed to. I was afraid of painting with the faint lines that I had, so I decided to outline with a gray sharpie first. 

I felt a lot better about painting the wood with the stronger guidelines and of course the gray sharpie would be covered up with the gray paint. So, I went ahead with a very small brush and outlined and filled in all the letters. I ended up going over everything twice to give it good paint coverage.

I can still see some minor mistakes, but again...I'm going for shabby chic here. It still had plenty of shabby to it. The next step was to add some flowers. I didn't take any pictures of this part, but I found a very useful youtube tutorial on how to make the fabric rosettes. It is a very simple process. I had the perfect fabric to coordinate it with my room. I had a bit of leftover curtain fabric that I used for one rosette, and then I used a fabric that matched my bedding for the second rosette. My ikea bedding actually came in a drawstring bag. It was the exact fabric of my bedding and I knew that I would never use that bag again so I cut it apart. Perfecto! I added a little gem in the center of the gray flower that I had in my craft supplies.  You could adorn the flowers with anything...fancy buttons or old earrings. The final flower was created with felt. I didn't really use a tutorial for this, but I found a pin that basically matches what I did. I hot glued the flowers and the felt leaves onto the wood and the finished product is an adorable scripture art placque to hang in my room!

While the finished product isn't quite as polished as the original pin, I created it myself and that makes it pretty cool. I might just have to do some more. If you want to give it a try, here is the word art file I created to trace. Just click the image and you can download it to your computer.  I'd love to see your work if you end up creating something! Be sure to leave me a comment and share!

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Friday, March 27, 2015

Deep Dish Pizza

Date Night is something I look forward to every week. We have to be creative here in Cameroon. We can't go out after dark here and there is no such thing as "fine dining" in Bamenda. However, there IS fine dining at Chez Sinclair's every Wednesday night.

Each Wednesday I prepare a favorite meal for Ben and I. We have family devotions, put the kids to bed and then Ben and I enjoy a meal together and watch a movie or something to spend some time together. One of my favorite meals to make is Deep Dish Pizza. My mouth is watering as I type! :) This dish is so easy and Oh so yummy!

Here are some instructions on how to make this sure-to-please dish:

First thing you will want is a pizza dough. You can buy a pre-made dough if you prefer, you can make it by hand or you can use one of my favorite appliances...a bread machine.  Here are the steps for the bread machine method:
1. Put 2/3 c. of water in bottom of bread machine pan
2. Add 1/4 c. of olive oil
3. Add 1 tsp. each of dried oregano, basil, and marjoram
4. Add 1/2 tsp. garlic salt and onion salt
5. Add 2 c. of flour
6. On top of your flour add 1 pkg. (.25 oz) of yeast or I add 2 tsp. from a bulk package.

Once you have your ingredients in your pan and machine, set your machine to dough and start 'er up! This is the actual recipe from my recipe book. It makes the perfect amount of dough for this recipe. I have absolutely no idea where this recipe originated from, so I can't give any credit, however it might have been from Taste of Home magazine.

I'm actually a little lazy when I make this. I add the proper amount of water and olive oil. I then throw in a TB of Italian seasoning and shake in a bunch of garlic salt, add the proper amount of flour, the 2 tsp. of yeast and I'm done! You need to be specific about some things, but you learn over time what you can adjust.

While your dough is rising you can prepare the yummy filling. For the filling you will need:
1 lb. ground beef
1 tsp. ground sage
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. fennel
peeled, diced, and seeded tomatoes
1-2 green peppers diced
1-2 garlic cloves, pressed
shredded mozzarella
about 40 slices of pepperoni

As you can see some of my measurements are general. I cook everything to taste with this recipe. I don't do a lot of measuring.

The original recipe called for sausage. A friend of mine, Becky Branch, gave me a cook book that she had created a long time ago and it included a lot of substitutions. A recipe for sausage was one of them and it used 1 lb. ground beef, 1 tsp. of sage and 1 tsp. of salt. I have used this recipe for years with all sorts of sausage recipes, one of our favorites being sausage gravy and biscuits. It is a wonderful substitute and, depending on how lean your meat is, can be a lot lower in fat. So, I substituted this sausage recipe to be used in this pizza. I also added the fennel because that just gives the ground beef an extra sausage kick. If you are a big sausage lover, by all means...use the sausage instead.

Cook your ground beef, onions, garlic and green peppers in a skillet. Add your sage, salt, and fennel and combine very well. The more onions, peppers and tomatoes you use, the fuller your pie filling will be.  Add your tomatoes and cook the mixture down. This is purely preference here, but I hand peel and dice my fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes. I can't handle tomato skins sticking to the roof of my mouth. If that doesn't bother you, just skip the peeling part, OR buy some diced canned tomatoes (be sure to drain them). The seeding part is important, but if you forget, like I did the other night, no worries. Just be sure to cook your mixture longer to cook off all of the extra liquid. You don't want your filling to be runny. Again, I can't give you an exact amount because I don't measure my tomatoes, onions or peppers. I just throw a lot in there. You can use your judgement here.

Once your meat mixture is done you will roll your pizza dough into a large circle and place in the bottom of a 12-inch cast iron skillet that has been buttered or oiled well. Let the dough hang over the sides until the pie is filled. Place some shredded mozzarella on the bottom, add meat mixture, cheese and slices of pepperoni.

Repeat the layer again: Meat mixture, cheese and pepperoni. Fold the dough under to form a crust. It will want to sag worries. It will still look pretty when it goes into the oven.

And it will look even prettier coming out of the oven!

This dish is SO good it will rival any Chicago pizzeria! Give it a try - you won't be disappointed! When mine came out of the oven I made an herb butter to brush over the crust. I just melted some butter, stirred in some parmesan cheese, garlic salt and Italian seasoning. Mmmmm! So tasty!

People often ask me what are some of the things that I like to bring back to Cameroon and I always answer by saying pepperoni is at the top of my list. This dish is why! We are a pizza loving family and for me, if it doesn't have pepperoni on makes me sad. We have run out of pepperoni many times while being on the field. Pizza night isn't quite as exciting for me, but our best substitute is using the above sausage recipe to top a traditional pizza. The kids now prefer it to regular sausage.

Let me know if you give this a try and how it turned out!
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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Super Room for a Super Kid

Leaving the States can be hard on missionary kids. They miss out on a lot of things. Aside from the fact that we go years without Chick-fil-a nuggets and fries, the goodbyes to family are difficult to say the least. (Family and waffle fries are in a tight run for first place, though.) My husband continually keeps before the kids and me the incredible calling that God has placed on our family. During our family devotions a short time before our return to Cameroon, he shared many of the advantages of being a missionary. One of them that was a huge blessing to me was the fact that as missionaries, we don't have many earthly ties. We don't own land or houses. We don't really even have a solid place to call our home. We bounce back and forth between two cultures and we don't fit into either of them perfectly anymore. I don't say any of this to make you feel sorry for us. In reality, we have an advantage because our eyes can be more fully on our permanent home...heaven! Our focus has an advantage of being on the eternal without all of the earthly distractions. I don't want anyone to think we are super christians...I merely said we have an upper hand. This doesn't mean we have mastered it by any stretch of the imagination.

I say all of this as a preface to this post. I don't want anyone to think that I have to promise my kids material things to get them to return to our mission field of Cameroon. They all love living here. This has become very much home to them. To keep it exciting, however, I gave them something to look forward to upon our return. I wanted to add to the anticipation of going back home to Cameroon.

A couple of months before our furlough I told the kids that when we came back from the States we could redecorate their rooms. We had all of furlough to keep our eyes open while get ideas off of the internet and choose how they wanted to style their room. The kids and I had a lot of fun browsing through pinterest boards and walking through the aisles of Hobby Lobby taking tons of pictures for ideas on what to do in their rooms. We came back bursting with ideas and we lost no time into putting those ideas into action.

Pastor Eugene is a member of Faith Baptist Church and an incredible artist. We sold many of his paintings while we traveled on furlough. He was the perfect person to reinvent Drew's boring room. Here is a before picture of Drew's room:

Ben's mom made Drew a John Deere quilt when he was small, so that was his original theme. I stenciled tractors on the border of his room and that was pretty much the extent of my decorating abilities. You can see hints of Drew's ideas in the before photos though...superheroes. He wanted a grown-up looking super hero room. Pinterest was my best friend and if any of my blog readers follow my Pinterest board, you saw my pins from the last couple of months, and you probably already have an idea of what his room is going to look like. I printed the photos that I found on pinterest, explained in detail to Pastor Eugene what we wanted and let him loose. I trusted his artistic judgement and knew he would do an amazing job piecemealing my ideas into an amazing work of art.

The idea was a faux brick wall. I brought back a mop sponge from the states, and he used this as the basis for the bricks. He brushed paint onto the sponge and then basically stenciled it on the wall. He painted the two accent walls with a gray base paint to resemble the mortar/cement for the bricks and then he got to work adding the brick. The base brick was done in an orangey color reminiscent of Georgia clay. He left open spaces for other brick colors at first. He began to fill those spots in with a red brick color. At that point I wasn't really happy with the orange. When I think of brick, I think of red. This is where culture comes in. The bricks in Cameroon are made of mud and most of the houses are the orangey color. So, when he thinks "brick" the color that comes into his mind is orange, and when I think "brick," I see red. So, after I explained this and showed him some more photos online he adjusted things, and the result was amazing and so very realistic!  He wasn't finished there, however. He told me he was going to add some black since often you will see bricks that are burned. I thought that was an amazing idea and it really added some depth and dimension to the look!

Here you can see the finished brick work. The piece de resistance, however, is the amazing mural that Pastor Eugene painted on the wall. Originally we were going to have him paint one brick wall, and then on the wall you see above, have a very cartoon looking blocked cityscape. Kind of like this:

Drew had a different idea, however. Late one night as I was walking into my bedroom and Drew should have been fast asleep, I heard a whisper out of his room, "Mom!" He proceeded to share his super cool idea of having a realistic cityscape, but he wanted it to appear like you could view it out of a broken brick wall. So, we explained the idea to Pastor Eugene and he did an amazing job of bringing Drew's idea to life!

Here is a collage of all angles of the finished product. 

The other two walls are white and we have commissioned Pastor Eugene to do some very cool Super Hero artwork on canvas. I can't wait to show you those when he is done! We are so thrilled with the finished product. Drew couldn't be happier. Each day that Eugene would come to paint, we would sneak in there and watch the progress. Here are a few more photos. In addition to the ones above, this will give you a better idea of the progression of his work.

So there you have it. A super room for a very special and super kid. Today the final coats of oil paint went on the trim in the room. Drew has to wait a couple more days for all of that to dry and then he can move back in! He is pretty excited ... and also pretty tired of sleeping on the floor! :) haha!

Here is a little sneak peek into something I'm doing to freshen up my own bedroom. I'll be sure to blog about it when I'm done with my little project as well.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Home Again...Home Again...

One of the things that just blessed my little heart (<--- it's a southern thing...) while on furlough was the many comments that I received, traveling from church to church, about my blog. So many of you expressed your appreciation for it and I was so thrilled to learn that many of you read my blog. It made me SO happy! Because of your sweet encouragement I determined to be a faithful blogger once I returned back to the Cameroon. I am. I'm back and I'm excited to keep up with this little blog and continue to give you a glimpse of life on the mission field.

There is no way I could summarize all of the amazing details of our furlough. God provided us with an amazing house to live in. It was so beautiful and in a quiet, secluded location. We saw more wildlife driving up our driveway than we ever see here in Cameroon (goats and chickens don't count, by the way!). We saw deer very frequently, bunnies, foxes, owls, woodpeckers, chipmunks and raccoons. It was like living in an enchanted forest!

We were also very privileged to make some wonderful memories with our families. My kids were so blessed to get to know their cousins better on this furlough.

We got to do a lot of fun things with them and our goodbyes were very difficult ones. Probably the most difficult, in fact. Jay and Sarah left for the mission field of Venezuela less than a week after we left for Cameroon. We are praying about how we can coordinate future furloughs, but the thought of possibly not seeing one another until little Ellie is 8 years old is just too much to think about right now. We are so thankful for modern technology that will allow us to keep in touch! Please pray for both our families as we seek to be faithful servants in the countries that God has called us to.

We were able to enjoy a special trip to Maine with Ben's parents, Pat and Jerry.  We caravanned up to Bangor, ME and stayed with Pat's family. A big family reunion was held and it was the first time that I was able to meet much of the extended family. We also stayed on the coast of Maine in Ogunquit and enjoyed the ocean. It was beautiful!

We got to take a special trip with my parents to Disney World. Two of my brother's kids, Sam and Luke, also came along and the kids had a blast sharing the trip with their cousins. My dad, who isn't a big lover of crowds or schedules, was a trooper and so very patient with us. We made so many special memories that week!

We also got to see many of our supporters. We traveled from the coast of Maine to the coast of Florida...even to the Pacific Northwest! We stayed in so many homes and enjoyed many hours of fellowship. Our heartfelt thanks to all who hosted us. We enjoyed our time with each one of you!

Most of our last couple of months were spent with friends and family. We enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving with Ben's family and a wonderful Christmas with mine. At the beginning of January I accomplished a goal worth mentioning...I ran my first race - a 10k. It was a huge accomplishment for me and I really enjoyed doing it! Two of my dear friends, Beth and Sherry, and I went to Florida to run in the runDisney marathon weekend. I love my gigantic medal!

January was squeezing in all the final moments with our friends and family. Ben's parents came down to spend a week with us and we really enjoyed our time with them. We had several family get-togethers to celebrate holidays and birthdays. Each moment with each loved one was so special and I'm so thankful for all of the wonderful memories that the Lord allowed us to make while we were home.

We spent the first week of February celebrating my mom's 60th birthday and packing up our house to leave. I think the lack of sleep during that week of packing made me especially emotional. Saying goodbye is SO very hard. Honestly, what makes it so hard for me is watching my kids struggle with goodbyes. Their broken hearts just rip mine into shreds! is SO hard saying goodbye over and over from one side of the ocean to the other.

On Feb. 11, with our final goodbyes said to my parents at the Atlanta airport, we could finally set our sights on Cameroon. Our feelings of sadness morphed into feelings of anticipation of being back home. Our journey across the Atlantic was long and it wasn't without its struggles, but I saw the Lord work so mercifully on our behalf! Kate was so sick for the first flight. She gets airsick from flying and just vomits and vomits. Her flight was a miserable one and she arrived in Paris exhausted from hours of heaving. She caught bits of sleep on the hard airport floor during our 10 hour layover.

I asked my Facebook friends to pray for her second flight to be smoother, and it was, PTL! I also asked prayer for a smoother second flight. The turbulence was so bad on our flight from Atlanta to Paris. Almost the entire time the plane rocked and bounced. You could feel it swerving and dipping, lifting us out of our seats at times. It was really frightening. I did a lot of praying on that flight, I'll be honest! The second flight was as smooth as silk. No turbulence and some of us actually were able to doze a bit. Overall none of us had gotten any sleep to speak of since Tuesday night. It was now Friday morning in Cameroon and we arrived at the airport, collected all 30 bags (That is also a HUGE answer to prayer!) and loaded into our Land Cruiser and began the 7+ hour journey back to our home in Bambili. I was really thankful to have a collection of Air France barf bags in my backpack because Kate wasn't the only one that got sick from the traveling. The lack of sleep, among other things, finally wore Drew down and he was also purging at the beginning of our trip to Bambili. (He was walking around the baggage claim department with his head hung over one of those bags. We were asking him to be discreet about it since they were doing ebola screenings and I was sure that the white bag would draw lots of attention to us. haha!) Emma was also hanging her head over a bag, but she finally fell asleep and slept a big chunk of the drive home which was a help to her since she suffers from car sickness. Oh the things we do to our kids! Pray for missionary kids. Not just mine...but all of your church mk's! They sure get put through the ringer!

An hour out of Bambili we were playing 20 questions with Ben who could have used toothpicks to keep his eyelids open. Ezekiel was about a half hour behind us in a rented van that was carrying all of our luggage. We ended up arriving home before our luggage did and praise the Lord He kept us safe the whole way. It was now Friday evening and we still had not had any sleep to speak of since Tuesday night. Exhausted can't begin to describe how we felt. We bathed our doggie, Georgia, waited till our bags arrived and loaded them into the parlor, ate a delicious supper of Fufu and Njama Njama, provided by our dear friend, Diane, and went to bed at 9 p.m. We slept 15 hours straight through without waking up!

We have now been here a couple of weeks. We are still trying to get settled. We had to wash everything that was in our closets and drawers. Jim and Myra Wright, who lived in our house and oversaw the ministry while we were away, did an amazing job! Our house was clean when we arrived and everything taken care of. Unfortunately two+ weeks of dry season dust still had to be dealt with and clothes in storage, even while living here, have to be washed after a moldy, wet rainy season. That is just life in Cameroon. We are already jumping back into ministry. Ben is out this morning even, at a military base with the intent of sharing the gospel with some Cameroon soldiers.

To those that pray and support us...Thank you! We couldn't do it without you. I don't know what the next blog installment will be, but I thank you for walking this journey with me. I'll try to keep it interesting. :)  It would also mean a lot to me if you would share my blog and encourage others to read it!
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