On March 15th, I headed to Cameroon, Africa with five other incredible women. We went to Africa with open and expectant hearts, not realizing that we would come back more full than when we left.
A solid 20 hours of travel made us eager to step foot on African ground. After a long and tiring luggage claim experience, we exited the airport and were greeted by four smiling, cheerful Cameroonians. Before they took our luggage to the van, they embraced us with firm hugs. To this day, I can still feel that “welcome to Africa” hug! After the van was packed, we all squeezed in and headed to Buea. The four that greeted us were leaders and staff members who worked for the school and church that we would be working with. They were some of the most genuine people I’ve ever met, and my experiences with them and the other leaders were a highlight to my trip.
A few more highlights from my trip:
1. Some of our team visited the hospital and prayed for patients in the women’s ward. By the time we left, an elderly woman we prayed for was able to successfully swallow without choking, another woman who had trouble breathing had regulated breathing by the time we left, and a young lady was healed of malaria! I wanted to see everyone healed. I wanted so much for them to get up and walk out of that drab, stale room. But I realized that just because I didn’t see healing right away, didn't mean that it wasn't going to happen. We walk by faith and not by sight.
2. The Cameroon team and American team had a full day of pouring into each other. It felt like being at a spa and getting pampered, but verbally. I received words that blew me away. I was empowered and felt known. There was a point in the day when our American team washed the feet of each Cameroon team member. We wanted to honor them as our brothers and sisters, and to bless them. After we washed feet, we ate lunch together and had a dance party! The Cameroonians taught us African dances (which I had been looking forward to learn for weeks!) We had some hip shaking, foot stomping, back popping fun! There was so much laughter and joy in that room.
The Cameroon culture places high value in community and in having one-on-one human interaction. Before this trip, quality time was not one of my top love languages but I found myself wanting to spend more and more time with my Cameroonian friends. Spending time with people that you love, makes your heart come alive in a special way. People add value to your life!
3. On our fun day, we went to a black sand beach in Limbe, Cameroon. After we were good and tired of beaching, we headed up the road to a local restaurant. There we ate fish and plantain. The fish still had it’s eyes – and it was delicious.
4. My most impactful memory was the “Camerican Arts Workshop”. This was a creative workshop designed to inspire, activate and coach artists in 7 areas of the arts: creative writing, creative movement/flagging, acting, culinary arts, music and painting. The whole community was invited and encouraged to participate in one track of their choice. I led the creative movement/dance track. I had 12 girls, all with dynamically different personalities. Some were shy and reserved, others were sassy and outspoken - all of them were eager and ready to create! We collaborated and created choreography together. This made me realize how much we need each other. Collaboration inspires unity, and when people are unified, they are unstoppable!
As I watched the girls move, I was struck by an overwhelming realization. These girls had different backgrounds and came from different tribes, there were so many differences, but they all told the same story as they danced together. The story they told was one that all of us can identify with. The story was of an anxious heart learning how to trust. It was a story of maintaining hope in the midst of uncertainty.
This reminded me of how powerful art is. What you can’t say with words, you can communicate through art. All art tells a story; whether it is a story of triumph, failure, pain, overcoming, breakthrough, love or hope, it is communicating a message. When the girls danced, it was communicating a message to me. A message that would take weeks to fully understand.
When I returned back to the U.S., my heart ached and I longed to be back in Cameroon. Something happened to me there that I couldn’t put into words, and honestly, I still can’t. I know that my assignment in Cameroon is not finished. I know that there are more things to be accomplished. I believe that a big part of it is to help activate artists and creatives in the community, and to help them integrate identity and truth into their creative expression. To help them tell stories of hope through art and creativity. I want to help them find their voice and give them a platform to use it!
And God willing, I will.