Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Amazed and Proud

Today, we finished our mission project and bid Au Revoir to Cameroon and our new friends. I leave here with great amazement and pride.

First, I want to echo the words in prior posts about how fantastic and fun our entire team has been. Each person has worked tirelessly without one single complaint. I would gladly do mission work with any of these wonderful people again.

What amazed me on the trip was:
  • What we accomplished! When we arrived the house was a bit dirty and neglected. In our nine days o work we transformed it into a safe and inviting Center for 20+ girls. I can't wait for the opening.
  • How nice and appreciative the people we met were.
  • How hard working our new Cameroon friends were. There were many, but special call outs for Sophie, Felix, Roland, and Gerard are well earned.
What gave me great pride was:
  • How hard our team worked, and how strong our team became. An outsider would think we've done mission work together for a long time.
  • How wonderful the new Center came out. The building is completely refurbished and the appliances, beds, and other amenities will make it very safe and homey for the girls.
  • What a wonderful woman Caroline has become with the support of our congregation. She is an excellent choice to establish and manage the Center (with our continued support).
  • And, on a personal note, I am very proud of my son Max. He did great work on this trip and it was an awesome adventure for he and I to do together. I will always cherish this trip and time together.

Bedroom 1 is the first room off the main entrance and common area. It holds three bunk beds and even has an en-suit bathroom.

Bedroom 2 was tricky to fit the two bunk beds but the team got them in and even made space for the storage cubbies.

Bedroom 3 also holds two bunk beds and is a bit more spacious for moving around.

Bedroom 4 was the newly constructed room. Which cozily holds three bunk beds and two storage units. Below is a bunk bed set up with some of the sheets we purchase. It looks fit for some princesses.

Storage room
Finished play set

The kitchen with beautiful appliances, above and right.


The hallway and back porch

Jake's son Max playing with the neighbourhood kids
Lastly, I want to thank everyone that supported us before and during the trip. The prayers and words of encouragement gave us great energy. And the strong financial support from our congregations and friends made the dream a reality.

Some of the best pictures from the trip!

Today's post comes from our main man Jake!

Monday, August 14, 2017

One more day

Our time here is quickly coming to an end. We have one more morning of work ahead of us. The group has accomplished some incredible feats these past few days. Before I get all soppy about my fellow worker bees let me go over what we did today.

The day started with the usual painting of various surfaces. Today they tackled the last of the trim around the house and various touch ups. It's amazing what a fresh coat of paint can do to a place. The oil and water based paint, along with the paint thinner, has probably taken a few years off our lives with it's potency. Alas what's health compared to beauty after all, and I must say the house looks stunning.

The wall has been completed! It has been raised, holes filled, and security added on top. Don and Felix and probably every single person in our group has helped complete that formidable barrier. I think we all gave a sigh of relief when the last wood mold was removed.

The swing set next to the water tower was completed. As well as a nifty clothes line set up by Stefan and Tim. It wasn't long before the neighborhood kids came around and started playing on it. I have a feeling it will get a lot of love from the kids.

After making some rough plans, on a piece of card board, for a cabinet to hold the gas canisters; Mike, Sophie, Gerard, and I left for the lumber yard. We negotiated for the perfect cuts of wood to be shaved and delivered. During the shaving process we made tried to make a quick stop at a hardware store around the corner for some extra parts. Nothing is quick here nor straight forward. For instance, when we had selected the largest door hinge the store had, and asked for the screws to accompany it we were presented with some very small screws. After asking for bigger screws about four times with each presentation less and less satisfying we finally received something we were okay with.

We had everything needed to build some hefty cabinets. Mike, Don, Ezekial (Pastor Frouisou's son), and myself assembled the unit. Lots of cutting, measuring, some jig saw fixes, and many screws later we finally had a cabinet. Ezekiel immediately went to work painting the cabinets for us. He was great to have for the day.

There are doors and it's painted, I promise
The storage unit in the room next to the kitchen was also reassembled after a good layer of paint had been applied the previous day. It was mostly dry when we put it in, but it still looks perfect!

During the course of our construction, painting, furniture moving, and dirt tracking we've left just a little mess on the tiles floors. Luckily we have some very amazing people (Connie, Sheila, Claire, Sophie, Caroline, Mary, Abby) who diligently scrubbed away all of the imperfections we left. They are some truly special people, without them the house wouldn't look half as good.

Stefan, Jake, Mike and Max worked on some plumbing issues. Notably the washer has been affixed and is fully functioning, we even tested a few loads with the dirty rags. They came out beautifully white by the way. The toilet's all now flush and function properly, hallelujah.

Last but not least, we got beds today! They finally arrived at 17:00 and were swiftly assembled. They look magnificent in the bedrooms and really pull the rooms together. Tomorrow we will get some mattresses and sheets to really make the rooms look homey.

Our last morning here will be spent cleaning up the rest of the house and making it as spotless as possible. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here, putting in long construction hours and building new relationships. The culture is infectiously vibrant and alive with spirit, I'll be sad to leave tomorrow night.

After many days of coaxing others into writing blog posts, tonight I couldn't quite manage it. The day has been very long, accomplishing all of our tasks. We want to thank everyone for their prayers, support, and encouragement. Since there is a photo of everyone else at the end it's only fair I have one too.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Treasures of a Lifetime

Today we were blessed with the opportunity to attend a couple of very special church services.  One could not spend a week here and not appreciate the passion of faith and trust in the Lord that the Cameroonian's possess.

Catholic service that the Mezieres attended
Pastor Luther blessing the children
Paster Frisue and Luther

After our services Jake, Max, Stefan, and Mike all returned to the house to put in a few more hours of work. The rest of the group went out to do some shopping. Which was quite the haggling experience. It was a very basic market with several small shops that all had basically the same trinkets.

Our return trip is 48 hours away and we are looking at what has been accomplished and loose ends that need to be to be wrapped up. Relationships that will be treasured for a lifetime have been built between everyone we have meet. The work crew (who are all amazingly generous with there time, treasure and talents), hotel staff (who certainly must wonder how we get so dirty each day), taxi drivers (who willingly help with labor, finding supplies, and sharing jokes, and stories), neighborhood kids (whose smiles will absolutely make your day), supply store staff (that have been very patient as we ask for things that just don't exists in Cameroon).

Unfortunately all things are not all smiles here as  Gerard, our main taxi driver, got some very sad news late yesterday.  His 6 month old daughter was in the hospital with malaria and in need of an immediate blood transfusion. Early this morning we got news that she was in stable condition, please keep this family in your prayers. Also, Sophie who is tirelessly assisting in so many ways visited her new born nephew in the hospital and he is not doing well please also keep him in your prayers.

It is becoming more and more clear that the many blessings we are so fortunate to be showered with daily, are far greater than we are aware.

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all you need, you will abound in every good work.  2 Corinthians 9:8

Today's post comes from our fearless builder Mike and his son Donald.

Mike is to the right and his son Donald is left

The View From the Top

I had been rather hoping my daughter wouldn't ask me to do a blog entry, so naturally she did. I've spent my week adding first height to the perimeter wall, then rebar spikes on top of that.  It is a formidable barrier.  There was a significant learning curve to manage, though I have built many block walls before.  For one thing, the blocks are extremely flimsy with many breaking apart simply by lifting them.  Also, the cells are not open, making vertical reinforcement challenging. As I have discovered, they do their rebar reinforcement horizontally every few rows rather than running rebar down every few cells. Another strange custom is how they put forms on the walls, they simply break holes right through the blocks and insert cross pieces of wood!

We have many holes to fill now
Fortunately I got some local help.  Felix, who lives in the house with his wife, has apparently done a lot of masonry work and showed me how to do many of the things we simply don't have to do with our more substantial cinder blocks.  In fact, he is putting in more time on the wall than I am. Though he has tried to defer to me, the fact is he has become the master and me the assistant as we progress with securing the perimeter.

Spending my time looking down from the wall, I've had the fortune to observe the crew at work. The word I have to use is incredible.  I have taken groups overseas, including Tanzania in Africa and we have done service project work, but nothing as amazing as what this crew is accomplishing. I am used to the kids on my crews goofing off and needing a strong prod to get to work, but not this crew! These kids may need more downtime than the adults, but they are willingly pitching in when given a clear task.

Mike Miziere is one of the most amazing men I've had the pleasure to meet.  I had previously worked with him on the Mexico house builds but the unbelievably thorough planning and execution he is giving to this project is a testament to his incredible planning ability.  Given all that, he pitches in more than anyone else and is almost always the last to call it a day.  Every problem that comes up, he quickly has a solution applied and when his plans don't work he finds alternatives that work just as well.

Jake Johnson also deserves special mention.  He has the unfortunate role of being in charge and the stresses must be incredible.  I know how stressful it can be taking a group of young people overseas and being in charge, making sure all tasks are complete and no one gets lost or hurt.  To also be working long days doing physical labor makes Jake our superman of the group.

Their leadership has inspired the rest of the group to awesome feats I'm sure none thought they were capable of.  My daughter, Rachel, has been taking on one task after another without batting an eye.  Mike's wife Sheila is non-stop and their kids not far behind.  Jake can be proud of all that his son, Max, is doing.  Sophie and Caroline are right there with us making it happen every day. Claire, despite her torn ACL has never once shown that she's hurt in any way. Last but most important is Stefan.  There is no task he won't do and no end to his energy. He also is the natural cheer leader of our group.

I am beyond humbled by what I see from our group. I've felt somewhat inadequate because I simply haven't been able to keep up with the pace everyone is keeping.  40 years of sitting behind a desk, way too many pounds and too many years has left me unable to keep going like they do and I cannot say enough about everyone I work with.

The people here are also incredible.  Everyone I have met has been friendly, kind and helpful.  The kids walk by as I work on the wall and always have a cheerful word.  The littlest ones are so cute, they keep wanting to come shake my hand and greet me. It is difficult to be in any way negative about this project and the amount of things that have been accomplished.  The folks at home can be very proud of this group and ready to support this mission that is only in its infancy.  I just have to get over the terror of riding in the cabs in this traffic....

Today's post comes from Don

A kid came to say hi to Don
Don smiles, but I (his daughter) has to be with him