This questions, “Why did you choose this house?” has come up over and over again both from expatriate friends and Nigerians. I have had a lot of reasons for staying in this home, and I wanted to share a few as I prepare my mind for this transition.
The first family I worked with when I moved to Cameroon as an itinerant teacher was the Jacksons. Their home was open to everyone, they were accessible and their home was a place of refuge. I met peace core workers, refugees, Muslims, previously abused children, handicapped children, and many fantastic Cameroonian and expatriate Christians who regularly visited their home. Mrs. Jackson (Mommy Karissa) has since gone to be with Jesus, and Mr. Jackson (Papa Karissa) recently remarried, but what they created in the beautiful home God gave them was the example I wanted to follow as I established a ministry in West Africa.
Our current home (until Saturday) is accessible because it is in a Nigerian neighborhood with no guard at the compound gate. All of our neighbors are Nigerian. We can walk to church, even in high heels! We live rather simply, with no running water, no battery back up system for when the power is out (at least 12 out of every 24 hours), a mini fridge and small chest freezer. Our furnishings are simple, and we have a big dining room table that can always fit one more. We have cement floors, with a plastic carpet for decoration in the living room area. Our Nigerian friends have come to realize that they can indeed stop in for a visit, though they were dubious at first because they have heard that expatriates don’t generally prefer unexpected visitors. Children are free to come to our home and read the many books or play the games we have acquired with them in mind. Mariama loves children and will often squeal with delight as they remove their shoes at the front door, flapping her arms in a joyful wave of welcome. If visitors are here during evening meal or devotion time, they are invited to join us.
When I married Zach, our family culture grew in this living space, and I would choose this home again and again to begin our family if I had the choice. What we longed for has happened here. We love the shopkeepers just outside the gate, access to the main road, the 10 minute walk to the office, our neighborhood, and the bouganvillia that are finally growing in our front yard!
Our new compound is very large, gated, and has 4 guards on duty all the time. It is on the main road. Everyone living there is expatriate. There are a lot of trees, grass, flowers, and children living all around. It is very quiet. The house is tiled and there is running water. There is even a water heater so we can have warm water on demand.