We love Thanksgiving, and that our country has the tradition of beginning the important mid-winter festivities with a time of drawing near to our dearest and giving thanks for the blessings of the year past before we start naming our wishes for the year ahead. We greet the season with bittersweet feelings as we’re so far from the home we love, but though we left behind (and look forward to seeing in the future!) family and friends, we’re so blessed to be surrounded by dear friends made over the last year and a half. We have many things we are thankful for this year, and good friends here in Cameroon are just the start!
We’re grateful for the thoughts and prayers, e-mails and IMs and texts, letters and packages and visitors we’ve had from home this year!* We definitely have dealt with our share of what’s been termed “culture fatigue” (which we think is a more apt description of our experience than the more commonly used “culture shock” – no stunned surprise here, but we do get awfully tired of being foreigners sometimes!), and every little bit of home has made the other side of the world feel so much less far away for us. We’re grateful for the people who have kept us close in spite of the distance, those who supported us as we began this journey even as they count down with us the days till we come back.
We’re grateful for technology! Our cellphones and internet key have been invaluable to us for keeping in touch and up to date. Movies, music and podcasts have all helped us pass time enjoyably and feel connected to our culture.
We’re grateful for the babies, newly born or on the way this year, who we can’t wait to meet!
We’re grateful for the little comforts we’re able to find here in Bamenda (lots of tea!) and the bounty supplied of things we mentioned missing (we have enough coffee to last us almost through the end of our service)!
We’re grateful for the time to discover great books as we wait for travel or meetings or officials, and for the opportunity(!) to be forced to slow down a bit.
We’re grateful for the colleagues we’ve met and worked with over the year, who’ve shared their visions of what they’d like their little corner of Cameroon to look like one day, and allowed us to help in our small ways to build it.
We’re grateful for the things that didn’t work, and the lessons learned there about giving all we can and letting go of the outcome - which is really out of our hands anyway!
We’re grateful for the time together that’s brought us closer than ever (eight years married now! - so much for the dire warnings of pending divorce we got last year). We’ve been afforded such great freedom to enjoy each other’s company and pursue opportunities to work and serve alongside each other, and to share in the fun, victories, struggles and frustrations of each other’s work in a whole new way.
We’re grateful to have had the opportunity to see more of the country, especially our region this year, and to have revisited some favorite spots (we got to the beach four times this year)! And we’re grateful for the safety we had through all the back and forth.
We’re grateful for the reelection of our president, and the direction, development and opportunity we believe that represents for our country, and to be citizens of a place where free and fair elections are assured even without international oversight committees and organizations.
We’re grateful that July’s accident was so relatively minor. Every year volunteers worldwide die in vehicle and traffic accidents, and things could so easily have gone so much worse.
We’re grateful that we’re two-thirds through our service and are in the home stretch! Maybe we can’t quite say yet that we’ve made it, but we’ve made it this far!
We’re grateful for this challenging, stretching, growing period that we couldn’t have found anywhere else, for the opportunity to explore our faith anew and lean into God’s sustaining and sufficient grace, and to remember the wonder again that even here, on the other side of the world, where everything is different, God is still God.
*If anything has gone unanswered, please let us know! Mail is reasonably reliable, but things have occasionally been misplaced for months until we knew to ask around for them.