Missions Launch

Helping those who help the world

Lessons Learned from Christians in Cameroon

by Melissa Chang |

Africa, Cameroon, Jesus Film, Stories from the Field

jesus film in africaDear Melissa,

I can’t explain why – maybe it’s because it’s Africa and there are no spare parts and no Best Buys around the corner, but every film showing comes extremely close to never happening. I remember this from when I spent 3 months in Kenya doing this also.

So tonight, our group lost an adapter so that the generator was African voltage and the projector was American voltage – so they didn’t connect. Finally, one of the Cameroon team members cut the chord in half, stripped it and rewired it. Someone forgot the stakes to stake the screen into the ground so we found some government building to show the film on. Then, there was no audio chord to the speakers, so we had to take turns holding the mic next to the computer audio for the whole movie. Then they realized they had forgotten the gas for the generator, so a kindly African volunteer hopped on his moped to go find some. His motorcycle broke down on the way, so some other volunteer took over from there while he got help.

Eventually, and miraculously, with lots of prayer, it almost always seems to work out. Really I think it is because these Cameroon Christians just never give up no matter how long it takes. They believe there is a solution and they don’t quit until they find it. Also, it shows how important this film showing is to them.

When we asked our Cameroon leader what we were going to do after he had cut and stripped that chord in case we needed that chord tomorrow, he said “But we need to deal with today.” Then he quoted us this scripture “Don’t worry about tomorrow for today has enough troubles of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)

I have a lot to learn from these guys.

Stories from the Field: I’m Here!

by Melissa Chang |

Cameroon, Stories from the Field

cameroon arrival
Dear Melissa,

Since I don’t journal, I thought that I might try to write you a letter or 2. That way, I can keep you informed.

1st of all – the plane ride and jet lag almost killed me. I thought I might not be able to wake up in time for the trip. I prayed and prayed, and thank God today is Friday, and I finally woke up feeling more myself. I really, really WANTED to be here because I WANT to be here and be at the top of my game.

So, day 4 and we are still traveling. Travel the Road was a very good name for a missionary reality show because that is like a huge part of missions – getting there. Then you are so depleted and are at your worst, but you have to suck it up and find it within you to be your best again because now you have to go and enter the culture.

So, this kind of will tell you how I feel. We got off the plane, got our luggage, took a van through the city to our hotel. Bam! We entered the culture. Mopeds everywhere, shacks and storefronts jammed together and on top of each other with not one inch of space. Trash in the streets, vendors selling bananas, homemade furniture, mangos, roasted corn, clothing, women dressed in full African colored fabric from head to toe and young boys in tattered clothes selling 100’s of bags of peanuts which they carry on their heads.

The smell was the 1st thing that hit me. It is the unique smell of Africa; smoke from burning coal and trash, people who are very hot, and various meats being grilled over open fires – even in the city. I breathed it in and smiled. I looked around at all of the sights and honking mopeds swerving in & out of traffic, and I thought to myself “you know if this doesn’t kill me, it’s going to be awesome.”

Since then, we have just been having orientation and trying to get enough to eat, which has been difficult. Sweat is literally dripping off of us at all times. Tonight, a 4 hour van ride to our last and final destination far into the northern villages. And then, tonight it begins! We are showing the 1st film show in Gizega tonight!

Photo by Elin B

Film Show – Murdoch, Cameroon

by Melissa Chang |

Cameroon, Jesus Film, Missions Organizations, Short-Term Missions, Stories from the Field

This is a video taken at a Jesus film showing in Murdoch, Cameroon.  It was the premiere in Murdoch of the film in the Gizega language.  If you want to find out more information on Jesus Film Mission Trips, visit www.JesusFilm.org.  Trips are usually 2 weeks long and are available in a wide variety of countries.

Stories from the Field-Jesus Film Team

by Melissa Chang |

Africa, Cameroon, Jesus Film, Stories from the Field

Jesus Film ShowingHow can I even describe a film showing? I mean, we have only done the film showings for 2 nights to about 7,000 people & over 850 people have come forward publically to follow Jesus. On the other hand instead of being elated, we are all beaten down & struggling to survive physically. Our team members are dropping like flies. First 1 person, then another, then 3 more, then 5 more. Severe vomiting & dehydration. ½ the team got to stay back & rest today while the other ½ went to preach at church. mostly we are all a little scared & trying to just get back our energy so we can do this. But in the meantime, amazing things are happening.

Our 1st night, we all piled into the van with our Cameroon partners. We piled the bus high with 10 mm reels of film, generators, speakers, projectors, gasoline & wiring. The Cameroon partners have planned everything ahead of time & know exactly where we are going – but we never know what is going to happen next. We drove for awhile on dust roads, past shrubs, rocks & boulders, & heads of cattle, goats & pigs – and many, many thatched roof huts. A few times the road was covered in deep mud holes & I imagined we would all be out pushing, but we managed to navigate through. At times we would see a lone child in the distance who would wave as we passed.

Kids at Cameroon Jesus FilmFinally we drove into a clearing & there ahead of us we saw the people. Hundreds of people. Drums were playing. People were singing. As they caught sight of the van, they let out a shout of excitement & began letting out their shrill tongue trilling of celebration.

As we piled out, and began unloading, the crowd got more excited. Several men with bows and arrows jumped out from the crowd signing and acting out shooting the weapons. Then several rows of women in matching fabric came forth singing and changing in procession. On their heads they carried handmade bowls full with sand, representing a bountiful harvest. The head drummer stepped up on a stool to reach the top of his very large drum & began beating out a rhythm for the singers. It was quite a welcome & display of celebration knowing that their home language would now be memorialized forever.

They provide school benches for the whole team and had seated everyone in the audience in a very organized manner, children on the side, teenagers next to them, then the women, then the men. Behind us & the projector, in several seats of honor, sat about 5 rows of village leaders, Muslim leaders & government officials.

Everyone was ready & waiting. Now we just had to get the thing to work.

Cameroon: Etiquette, Customs, Facts and Vital Information

by Melissa Chang |

Africa, Cameroon, Cultural Sensitivity, Facts and Stats

Cameroon Hut
Photo by Elin B

CAMEROON: FACTS & STATSLocation: Western Africa. It is bordered on the East by the Central African Republic, on the West by Nigeria, on the northeast by Chad, and on the South by the Republic of Congo. Capital: YaoundéClimate: Extremely hot and humid with plenty of rainfall. Cameroon MapPopulation: 18,060,000 as of July 2007 estimates. Though much better off than its other African counterparts due to thriving agriculture, forestry, petroleum industry, and trade, Cameroon is cursed by corruption and inefficient bureaucracy. According to 2006 estimates, GDP was $42.48, and is predicted to grow by 5.8% in 2008.  Ethnic Make-up: Highlanders 31%, Equatorial Bantu 19%, Kirdi 11%, Fulani 10%, North-western Bantu 8%, Nigritic 7%, Others 14%.  Religions: Indigenous faith 40%, Christian 40%, Muslim 20%. The constitution of this secular state guarantees freedom of religion. About 60 agencies from 27 countries do missionary work in Cameroon. Language: French, English, 24 African languages. 

Government: Republic, headed by President Paul Biya. 

African Lady Carrying BananasTravel Issues: Travel to Cameroon requires a valid passport, visa, and proof of current immunizations including yellow fever vaccination. Your visa application should be send in duplicate to the Cameroon embassy in your country along with two passport sized photos, visa fees, a letter of invitation to visit, a copy of your return ticket, a copy of your current bank statement, and a pre-paid, self-addressed, special delivery envelope without which they may not return your passport to you. You may need to track the progress of your application, as they may not contact you if there is a problem.  

Health & Safety: Yellow fever shots are mandatory for all travellers over a year old. Other immunizations required are Diphtheria, Hepatitis A, Malaria, Tetanus, and Typhoid. Rabies shots maybe required depending on season and region of visit. HIV/AIDS is prevalent.

Visitors would do well to not venture outside city limits after dark. This is to minimize dangers arising from factors such as ill-lit streets, unfit vehicles, and armed robbers that make attacks and accidents common.  

Yaounde
Photo by Elin B

SOCIETY & CULTURE

The People: About 200 ethnic groups each speaking their own language and having distinct cultural differences make up the ethnic tapestry. The prominent ones are the Bantu, the Sudanic, the Kanuri, the Bamoun, the Kirdi, the Tikar, and the Fulani. About half the population live in the cities, while the other half consist of pastoral communities living in rural areas. 

African Women SingingThe Religion: Roughly 40% of the people follow traditional beliefs if any at all, while another 40% come under various Christian denominations. About 20% are Muslims and they belong to the Fulani tribe. Witchcraft is practised by some as part of traditional beliefs though it is deemed a criminal offense to do so. 

Role of Family: Traditionally, the family imparted a sense of identity and belonging to the individual. All who descended from a common ancestor including brothers and their wives and children belonged together as one unit with the oldest member considered a leader of sorts. Some communities do not have words to signify niece, nephew, uncle, or aunt; all were sons and daughters, fathers and mothers. Modernity has however given rise to a sense of individuality. 

Ancestors: Ancestors are counted among the living and continue as part of the family. As new members arrive, the family grows larger, but death does not reduce the number.  Recreational

Activities: Children in rural areas enjoy a good deal of physical sport in the form of running, jumping, and a kind of hurdle race. In the cities all modern forms of recreation ranging from computer games to organized art and craft work take up their free time. Traditional forms of recreation such as mankala still have aficionados but are few and far between. Football, aka soccer, is of course, a national passion. The Cameroon team places very highly in international competition and is widely esteemed by all Cameroonians.

Anything else important for this culture: Polygyny is widely practised mainly due to the considerable importance accorded to fertility. Fear of divine retribution, the power of occultists, and ostracism from the community are strong governing forces.  

 Cameroon Mountains
Photo by treesftf

ETIQUETTE & CUSTOMS 

Meetings & Greetings: Greet people by name and a handshake. Wait to be seated as there is strict protocol depending on age, status, and hierarchy. If elders are present, speak when you are spoken to. When in the presence of a chief or tribal leader, it is considered impudent to hold their gaze, touch, or appear overly friendly.

Cameroon KidsCourtesy: Do not cross your legs while seated. Always wait for the elder to initiate conversation. Do not take photos of people unless you first ask.

Gift Giving: It is customary to carry a gift when visiting for the first time. Gifts of cooked and uncooked food are highly valued. It is a symbol of kinship and bonding. Fruits, nuts, chocolates, and candies are perfect when visiting families with kids. 

Dress Code: Women wearing trousers invite unwarranted attention and may be considered promiscuous. Long skirts are ideal, and a head scarf is recommended when interacting in Muslim communities. Keep shoulders, arms, and legs covered. Men wear suits or at least long pants. Shorts are frowned upon regardless of the hot weather. Dining

Etiquette: Dining is often a communal affair, seated on the floor and eating off common utensils. In many communities, women and children eat only after the men and guests have eaten. Hands are thoroughly washed before and after meals. Food is eaten with the right hand and never with the left. In the city areas, you may get to use cutlery. 

Cameroon SchoolkidsVisiting a home: Cameroonians are known for their hospitality. They are always ready to welcome visitors; even the ones that drop in unexpectedly. Remember to carry a small gift, especially if there are children in the home. You should not decline the food and drink offered as this may hurt their sentiments.  

Communication Style: A genial handshake and greeting by name is the common method of greeting for both genders. Close relationships warrant a kiss on each cheek. In conversation, adopt an indirect style of communicating rather than overtly stating exactly what you have in mind. Directness in communicating can come across as effrontery. It is wise to keep at least arm’s length between you and others while conversing with unfamiliar people.

Certain gestures might befuddle folks who are not familiar with the lingo. A double click with the tongue is used to convey disbelief. If someone waves their forefinger in a back and forth motion, it means no. To beckon someone closer, you face your palm downwards and motion with the fingers.  Never beckon someone with the palm up.

Cameroon Market
Photo by Elin B

Shopping Tips: Be prepared to bargain when you are out shopping at the markets. If someone offers to show you around and you accept the offer, a small tip is expected. Go with small change instead of large denominations when shopping at small outlets.

Do not flash your money in public. Try to blend in rather than stand out as a foreigner by your way of dressing and behaviour. Backpacks are often targeted by thieves and should never be left unattended. Make copies of all your travel documents including visa and yellow fever immunization and keep separate.

Dos and Don’ts: Avoid travelling alone as much as possible. It is not considered safe for women to be out by themselves after 9 p.m. They are advised against catching a cab at this hour. Try not to get involved in heated discussions on politics, games, and other contentious topics with strangers who appear friendly. Keep away from large crowds, rallies, and gatherings even if your sympathies are with their cause. Avoid photographing military installations and government buildings including airports and post offices.

All photos by Elin B unless otherwise noted

Videos from a Missions Trip to Cameroon

by Melissa Chang |

Africa, Cameroon, Evangelism, Short-Term Missions

Musician Cara Austin recently returned from a 2-week missions trip to Cameroon with the Jesus Film Project. She took a number of videos, and wrote letters to document the trip, and they are pretty amazing. You can check out Cara’s entire blog here, or check out the individual videos at the following links:

Arrival – Write up and video

Description of a film show – Write up and video

Lamado (Muslim Leader) – Write up

Cara in a Cameroon hospital – video

Film Trouble – write up

Welcome to the village – video

Description of Cameroon – write up

Cameroon dancing and singing – video

Children of Cameroon – write up and video

This is my favorite of the videos

If you or someone you know is going on a missions trip, and they would like to submit a video for inclusion on Missions Launch, please let us know via the contact page.

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