My ten-year-old son Josiah once told me there were two things he wished he could change about our lives in Cameroon. First, he wished that we had dark skin like the Cameroonians because he thought it would help us to fit in better. Second, he told me he wished that his mother were hardier. Sigh.
It is funny to me that he chose the adjective “hardy” to describe what he saw lacking in me. When we were first introduced to the Bible translation needs in the extreme northern region of Cameroon almost ten years ago, we were told that it would take a “hardy” couple to make it there because of the isolation and extreme heat. I thought to myself, “That won’t be us then!” I grew up leading a rather sheltered life as a doctor’s child, enjoying plenty of air conditioning, and only going camping once. Well, guess where we ended up. You got it—an isolated village in the semi-desert of northern Cameroon.
My older sons Josiah and Nate are learning to be hardy as a result of my lack of the trait. This past year my husband was out of town for a few days at a linguistics conference in France, leaving me alone in the village with our three boys. The night before his return, eight-year-old Nate was soaking in a plastic basin of water in the bathroom. I heard him calmly call to his big brother, “Josiah, could you come here?” I suspected trouble right away, as Nate normally calls Josiah “Joe.” I heard some quiet but excited voices behind closed doors, and then Josiah came out announcing that he was on his way outside to find a big stick. He assured me that I need not get upset, but that there was a mouse in the corner of the bathroom close to Nate’s basin, and that he was going to take care of it. My heart started racing, but I tried to stay calm as I still had eleven-month-old baby Drew to care for. A few minutes later Josiah returned to the bathroom with the big stick, and as he examined the creature more closely, he discovered that it was not a mouse, but a BAT! I could hear Josiah’s stick smacking the floor, and then Nate yelling that bat guts had flown onto his leg. That was too much for me! I started screaming in the living room, which sent the baby into a crying fit. Josiah came out and told me I was embarrassing him, and that I should really calm down; he then returned to clean up the mess in the bathroom. I am so glad God has blessed me with boys, and hardy ones at that!
In thinking about my lack of hardiness and my many other weaknesses, there is a Puritan prayer that encourages me. “Thou dost show Thy power by my frailty, so that the more feeble I am, the more fit to be used, for Thou dost pitch a tent of grace in my weakness. Help me to rejoice in my infirmities and give Thee praise, to acknowledge my deficiencies before others and not be discouraged by them, that they may see Thy glory more clearly. Teach me that I must act by a power supernatural, whereby I can attempt things above my strength…”
Daily life in our village provides countless opportunities to prove to me that I am weak. How thankful I am that the words I sing to little Drew before he goes to sleep at night are true for me too…”Little ones to Him belong. They are weak but He is strong!”