Friday, April 28, 2017

Culture Shock

Gut Aftanun!  Ha fo yu?  A de fayn. Dem pikin dem de fayn.  Chris de go fo wok plenti. I de fayn. 
Above is in Pidgin.  Good afternoon!  How are you?  I am fine.  The kids are fine.  Chris works a lot.  He is fine. 

It has become clearer and clearer that we are not in Kansas anymore the longer we are here. In the past month, we have found that culture shock is a very real thing.  That when you put yourself in a foreign land that there really are many things that just do not make sense to you because you are not of this culture.  We have had misunderstandings with others, frustrations that things are not going as we would think they should go, and homesickness. I found that I was missing my family, friends and things of America more and more.  So, let’s get real and let me tell you about what this last month as been like.  I think that too often the only thing that is told is how wonderful it is, and that there are challenges but it is wonderful when you are a missionary. The fact is…Life is hard in on the mission field and there are times that it is anything but wonderful.

In the middle of March we went to SCA which is a homeschooling gathering for the missionary kids here and then on a small retreat to the beach as a family.  The 3 weeks that we were gone were good for us. Our children found other kids our children’s ages that have been here for varying lengths of time, and showed them that they were not alone. We also enjoyed the beach in Kribi. 
Fist major rain after dry season.

Kids on the beach in Kribi.

We returned to Mbingo and culture shock took a firm hold.  We had just been in a the French part of Cameroon and there were challenges there because we were not able to fully communicate due to the language barrier.  But we were back home in our scenic village and things should have been great.  However, for me I was now isolated from the friends we had just made, and several people that had been here in Mbingo that had left. It really affected me.  I spent several days just laying in bed watching shows on my computer.  I didn’t talk to anyone unless I absolutely had too.  Chris was struggling with difficulties at work.  A lot of them were due to cultural differences or just simply because on misinformation.  He would come home and be upset.  It seemed as if things were becoming harder and harder.

I became upset that when I spoke a language that I have known all my life it would not make sense to the people around me speaking the same language.  Here is an example. I needed packing tape.  I go to market and ask.  “Do you have tape?”  Confused look from the other person.  “Do you have tape?”  Again, confused look.  “Uhhh, clear plastic that is sticky?  Like I can put two things together and it holds them that way?”  Long pause.  “Yu mean silo tape mum?”  “Maybe?  Can I see it.”  She holds it up and it is what I am looking for.  I buy it.  I don’t care to barter anymore I am just exhausted because this is the eighth time I had to describe what I am looking for and haggled over the price for today. Another example is that I have had to change the way I talk in my home to describe what I mean to our house help. I am getting better at it, but if I do not read the body language of my house help correctly they will tell me yes then not do it. Such as asking our cook for Spanish rice.  Two different times I asked for it to be made.  First time it was not there at all.  Second time it was not Spanish rice it was white rice.  I was so mad! The next day however I was calm and said, “Last night I go to de fridge to get de rice.  I was searching and searching.  I no de find de rice. I wonder.  Have you made dis rice before?”  “No, mum.”  “Would you like me to help you make dis rice fo next time?”  “Yes mum.”  I found that this really upset me because we were both speaking English and she said yes.  But, what I didn’t remember is this is a shame based culture and they are not allowed to ask questions for fear of the shame that will be given.  Really the list of things could go on and on, but I am quite certain you will stop reading this post before they are finished. So, let's move on. 

After being home one week Chris could really tell that something was really wrong with me and that I was spiraling.  He wanted to talk and I just stood at the sink washing dishes and saying, “Please just leave me alone.  Please…..Please leave me alone.”  I then broke down into sobbing tears.  For those of you that know me well I am not a crier.  If I am crying then I am NOT OKAY. I broke down asking why are we here? What is the point?  I missed my family. I miss my church. I missed driving.  I missed feeling safe on the road.  I missed having food I liked all around me.  I missed people understanding me and not filtering myself constantly.  I missed not be sold things at a higher price because I was white and being to that to my face. I missed PEPSI! When it was all done I just asked to be left alone. 

That evening we had some short-term volunteers over for dinner.  We sat and ate pizza together.  They listened to some of the struggles that we were having with work and life in another place.  They encouraged us and just listened.  I felt a small amount of relief.  The next day I finally spoke to family since our return to Mbingo.  I had been avoiding the conversation because I did not want them to worry and feel bad. We spoke and I felt even better.  However, as I hung up the phone I wished they could just hold me and say it is okay.  You are doing good.  My heart just hurt.

It has been 2 more weeks since then and I am doing better every day.  I have traveled to Bamenda and visited with some of the families we spent time with at SCA.  Some have also come here to visit. On the first trip to Bamenda I was shown a shop that had actual conditioner for my hair and body spray from Bath and Body Works!  On my second trip, I went to a shop that I go to every time and found PEPSI!  I literally yelled out in the shop, “OMG PEPSI!!!”  I bought the 3 they had there and did not care what I was paying for them.  Later I was told that no one else has ever found it here in all the years they have been living here.

Chris has taken the week off to reflect and regroup.  I am praying that next week things will feel like they are back on track completely.

I want you to know that overall, we are okay.  We are not suffering and we are safe.  Life is just hard sometimes. We have made it to being here 5 months as of 4/21/17.  The internet has been reinstated in the NW and SW region.  Things are really looking up.

Sorry that this blog has been a long time coming.  I actually wrote a blog and forgot to post it. Then Chris wrote a post and it did not save.  So here is round three.    

1.       Please pray that Chris will have peace and assurance while working.

2.       Please pray that we flourish and that this dry season has ended.

We thank you for all the love, support, and prayers that you have given us.  You really helped us to keep going.  You will never know what it means to us. 


“The Will of God will not take you where the Grace of God cannot protect you.”

Monday, February 13, 2017


Greetings to all of you!  We want to apologize for the lack of communication over the past month.  There have been some challenges with internet availability that could not be avoided.  I assure you we here have felt as if we are disconnected and are missing out on the events that are happening in your lives.  The wonderful thing is that we are now able to email and have SOME limited access to the internet and are very grateful for this much communication.  Please feel free to email us!  We would really love to hear from you.  Even if it is just 2 lines to tell us you are doing the laundry and taking the kids to school every day.

So, let me give you some updates on us!  Chris spent 2 weeks near Douala in Muteghene for a training course called ALSO, which stands for Advanced Life Support in Obstetrics.  He took the instructor portion first and then taught the course to 30 medical students and midwives the following week.  He was also able to attend church while there and was blessed to be able to do so.  The kids and I missed him while he was gone, but he made it back safely and we are happy to have him here.

One of our missionary friends returned to the U.S. last week and gifted her cat to us.  The kitty is super sweet and Micah and Micaja spend much of the time that the cat is home fighting over who will hold her and sleep with her.  Her name is Princess Buttercup, but we have gotten into the habit of calling her Kitty Mow Mow.  She spends the majority of her day outside visiting people and catching mice that she likes to bring home as gifts.  I do not like these gifts and that I do not enjoy removing mice bodies from my hallway.  I have asked her to take them back outside each time I find one.  She has obeyed me only once.

Our new kitty

Kitty getting fixed and her Rabies Vaccine.
Caja and I watched the whole thing and use nursing skills!

But seriously though.  We are doing well and are safe.  We have some things that we would love for you to pray for.

1.Please pray for Cameroon.  There is some unrest here that has made things challenging for the people of this country.  Overall there has not been violence which is a good thing.  But they do really need to find peace.

2. Pray that we as a family have courage and strength.  There are days that we have each struggled with the fact that we are so far from everyone and everything that we hold dear and are familiar with. 

3. Please pray for Chris. He has had some rough days with the things that he has seen and experienced these last 2 weeks since being home.  He really needs God to bless him with understanding and strength.

4. Pray for all the doctors here.  I know that there are days that they do not know if they are making a difference or helping anyone.  They are simply doing the best that they can with what they have.  They really see and treat things that are challenging and far more complex than what they would be asked to address if they were practicing in the U.S.

We pray that you all are well and that you are safe and healthy.  We are also praying for the U.S.  and all the turmoil that we read about.


“The Will of God will not take you where the Grace of God cannot protect you.”

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Grace tells us of God's Providence

A young girl of 13 years becomes very sick in her grandmother’s home.  She is running a high fever and is having fatigue to the point that she is unable to get out of the bed.  Her parents and grandmother collect her from bed and decide it is time to take her to the hospital to be evaluated.  They leave in a van which is public transport to go down the mountain from their village. The young girl is checked into Mbingo Baptist Hospital and is found to have a hemoglobin that is very low.  She is in need of a blood transfusion quickly.  The girl receives 2 units of blood and spends some days in the hospital treating some other infection that she has made her very sick.  After a short time the girl becomes well and is released from the hospital.

The family returns to the house of the grandmother to find that very shortly after they had left for the hospital the roof directly above where the young girl had been resting had collapsed and everything in the room is destroyed.  The home is not able to be lived in any longer.  Many people in America would be devastated at how things were going in their life.  They would complain and say, “Why God?  Could you just give us a break?  It is almost Christmas.” However, instead of great sorrow this family rejoices for the providence of God to save their daughter from what would have most likely killed her.  They praise Him for the gift of the healthcare that she received due to the hospital being close enough to their village to travel to quickly and the medical staff there that provided her with care. 

This is the story Grace, the cook in our home, told me this week. Her daughter was this young girl that was ill and was saved not once but twice by God due to his providence.  Her daughter’s name is Lovette and is now 14 years old. This happened one year ago, her family spent this last weekend celebrating the amazing gift of God of sparing her life. I sat and listened to her story and she was praising God and telling how great He is.  I looked at her and said, “Did you mother get her home repaired and is able to live there again?”  She said, “No mum. She now stays in my home.  It is fine!” I was so encouraged by her! I told her that it was so wonderful and such an amazing thing to celebrate.  I asked if I could share her story and she then gave me permission.

Left:  Kids and Gardner Leonard.  Right: Kids and Cook Grace

I find that I am learning more about the love of family and community by the people of Cameroon. They desire to know how we are.  They want to shake our hand and welcome us everywhere we go. When they see us they stop to see if our family is well.  Even if they just saw us yesterday.  They celebrate with their family and friends when a special time has come such as a retirement, anniversaries, etc. They do this by going to the event then to the persons’ home to eat and visit.  This is not just 1 or 2 people.  This is 50-100 on that day!

We are quickly learning that the people here are showing a better way of loving the body of Christ, and what it is to invest in someone, not financially but emotionally. This is also not just some of the people here.  It is all the people!  How refreshing to be shown such love!  Chris and I are finding that they are showing us so much about how to love God passionately and fervently as well through their witness and actions. 
Retirement for 7 Workers at Mbingo

I thought that with Christmas being here I want everyone to know that we are blessed to be at Mbingo, and are thankful for the opportunity to serve in a place that needs us.  Mbingo has shown us astounding love and care.  We are thankful that our Savior came to earth to redeem us from Hell and the grave in the form of a baby being wholly man and wholly God.  We pray that you have a wonderful weekend with family, friends, and those that love you.  Have a blessed Nativity.

Kids decorate Christmas Tree

Caja makes bread from Scratch

In Christ,


“The Will of God will NOT take you where the Grace of God cannot protect you.”

Monday, December 19, 2016

A Few Lessons Learned Since Arrival in Cameroon

      We have been here almost a month and have been so blessed by the community around us at Mbingo.  The other missionaries are truly full of wonderful and extremely helpful information. The local people of Mbingo are also helpful, kind, and patient with us when we say things in a way that does not make any since to them.

I thought I would write a short post about some things that we have learned here since arriving.

1. You must hit the shower curtain before getting in the shower. 
a.       Micah had a terrible fright by a HUGE, I am mean HUGE, spider that decided to join him for a shower.  Which resulted in him running to his room stark naked and dripping water across the hall making me laugh. I then screamed when I saw just how big the spider was that I had to kill. (I did kill it!! But left it for Chris to clean out of the bottom of the shower.)

      2.You should check the toilet for spiders as well by looking in the bowl and lifting the seat.
a.       Caja had a similar story when a spider was in the bowl of the toilet when she went to flush the toilet.  This spider was fast however and took us 1 week to dispose of.

      3.  Lizards are not mean, for the most part, and can stay in the house per Chris.
a.       Some of you saw that we had a small lizard in the kitchen that was allowed to stay the night. I was   pleased to see that it was gone in the morning. 
b.       We had another one in the house on Sunday. It was caught by Micah by placing a bowl over it and sliding   it out of the house. Thank goodness for boys!


      4 .  Cleaning your own eggs is not fun and can lead to disappointment or great joy.
a.       My first time purchasing eggs was quite different than purchasing them in the U.S. I had to walk to the hospital shop to purchase then walk home.  I then had to scrub them clean to remove chicken poop, and other things I did not recognize.  While doing this I broke 1 egg.  Chagrined I very carefully wiped each egg off and placed them in a holder to go into the fridge.  I went to put them in the fridge and as I placed them on the shelf it fell to the floor breaking 5 of my remaining 11 eggs.  I literally threw the towel on the counter and cried.  However, Chris helped me clean the mess up while a pouted on the couch.  After 15 minutes I got up and prepared the eggs that remained for breakfast. I could truly enjoy the fruit of my labor.

      I am sure there are plenty of other lessons that I have learned, but I should save some for another post.  We are adjusting well and have not experienced culture shock to much yet.  I am sure that our time is coming, but we would be blessed beyond compare if God would see fit to spare us from this.

      Please pray for the people of Cameroon.  They are having strikes in the school systems and also in the court systems.  This is causing all the schools in the English-speaking areas of Cameroon to be closed. They have now been closed for 4 weeks. There have been some riots in Bamenda which have resulted in violence. This has not reached us here in Mbingo and we are safe, but it is affecting the people we are serving greatly. Chis is working in the hospital as the primary maternal care provider. Pray that he will make good decisions for his patients. Also, that he will have a positive relationship the staff that he works with where they can mutually gain skills and knowledge making the Maternity Ward a wonderful place to receive care and work. Please pray for our family as we continue to adjust to life at a different pace and in a new community. Please pray that I am able to teach the children during homeschooling all the material that they need to know in order to stay up to speed with other kids at their level.

                                                    We pray you all have a blessed Nativity.

In Christ,

“The Will of God will not take you where the Grace of God cannot protect you.” 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Cameroon At Last

Birds are chirping bringing in the new day.  In the distance I can hear the music from the chapel playing for morning meeting. I look out my window and tropical plants are all around me.  There are palm trees and a hedge of Lantana perfectly framing my yard with a mountain backdrop.  It truly is prettier than any place I have stayed since Hawaii. We have been at Mbingo in Cameroon for 6 days now and there have been so many positive things and to be perfectly honest some negative things since our arrival. 

I had so much fear and anxiety about us arriving in Douala and the process of going through customs, getting our bags, then getting to the vehicle that would be transporting us to Mbingo before we arrived.  But this process like the entire journey here was smooth and without stress.  We were greeted by George in the baggage claim and he helped us load our 21 pieces of luggage onto carts to be taken out to the van.  George spoke with a gentleman that was there and who was in charge of customs.  This allowed us to pass freely when there was a very long line that was having every bag opened and gone through.  We then loaded into the van and were taken to eat pizza at a Greek restaurant before arriving at the guest house.

We traveled all the next day to Mbingo and when we arrived we were in awe of the beauty and the welcome provided by all those who were there.  We carried in our luggage and the kids quickly claimed their rooms and began asking if they could begin unpacking right then.  We were fed well and then visited with Dr. Palmer and his wife Nancy.

Since that day we have been warmly welcomed by everyone here.  Dinners and visits have filled our evenings.  Then we took an intense trip to the city of Bamenda to shop for household items, new phone service, and went on a quest for a printer.  We succeeded in the purchase of the printer only to attempt to load the disk on our laptop computer and it completely crashed the hard drive.   Thankfully there is a brilliant IT guy here named Josh that was able to salvage a couple of the important files we need but the “drive is finished.”  Downside is that we are now going to have to purchase a new computer.  The positive side is that we have been graciously loaned a computer in the meantime. 
It has been like that the whole time.  We have something that would completely undo us in the U.S. to have it salvaged in another way.  It may not be the way we would choose or how we wanted it, but the alternative still gets us to a place where we can function.

The kids are doing really well.  They have found more ways to entertain themselves without electronics since we arrived. I have not heard them complain once when I say, “Well, go outside and play.” If your children are like mine this would have followed with grumbles and moans. Here though they simply go outside and find something to do.  I never imagined that they would be adjusting this well. Micah and Micaja have made friends with some local kids and have played both yesterday and today for 2 hours each time. They take a ball or paper with colored pencils and they all play, play, play.

We are truly thankful to be here and be in the space that we knew God was leading us to.  We still have more things to learn than I can even count, but we have already learned some things that we did not know before.  Please keep us in your prayers when we come to your mind.  Pray that Chris will find his place in the hospital that is beneficial to the people at Mbingo and also for him. Please pray that the kids continue to do well and flourish in their new environment. Pray that I figure out how to keep moving forward and taking in everything that is coming my way with a peaceful heart.  My next post will simply be things we have learned that are vastly different to the U.S.   I will also post pictures at that time, but as I said above with the computer going down we have been having some challenges. 

In Christ, 
" The Will of God will not take you where the Grace of God cannot protect you."

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Longest 30 days

Our journey since 8/12/2016 in calculated terms for the last 30 day period.
1 job left
59.25 hours spent behind the windshield of a Chrysler Town and Country
5000 miles driven
14 states seen at varying miles per hour
4 churches/organizations visited to discuss our mission work in Cameroon
15 homeschool lessons from a hotel room, back seat of the van, or a picnic table
1 house sold
1 son that turned 11
1 van repair done
Innumerable amount of memories shared with family and friends.

I look at this list and realize why I feel as though our world, is not completely upside down, but definitely at a sideways slant. We have slept on beds with varying degrees of comfort.  Had our ups and downs emotionally. We have spent hours in the company of those we love so much and have missed spending time with.  We have met new people, and have been encouraged by them that we are on the right path to serve God to our fullest.  We have shed tears saying goodbye to those we hold dear with hearts breaking. Then step back with heavy hearts and realize that this is only the beginning of the goodbyes to come in the next 3 months.

The first part of our journey led us to a place we call our spiritual home Warren, OH. We spent time with our church family there and were able to present our mission work to them at St John the Baptist. We were delighted to hear all about the lives of those we have missed so much and to be able to reconnect with them.

We left OH and drove to St Augustine,FL. Upon arriving we were amazed to learn that the beginging of our nations history was there to be seen after just learning about it in the previous 2 weeks of homeschooling. It was a real life touching, seeing, and smelling history lesson! We were also able to meet with OCMC regarding the mission works they are doing around the world and were able to share some of our vision with them as well regarding our calling as a family for the future.

We then drove to Sarasota and were able to spend 2 days with my brother and his family.  We attended church with them and heard a message from Roberts Liardon about leaving everything and following Christ just as Abraham did.  What an amazing message and encouragement it was for us! That evening my brother and wife shared about their lives and the things God is doing for them.  I was thankful that again I was shown that if you are willing to serve, God will use you to do his work.  Before we left they prayed for us and my oldest niece Carmen prayed for us as well.  It was truly the most beautiful prayer I have ever heard.

We then climbed back into the van to travel back to Kansas City to close on the sell of our home.  We arrived safely and exhausted. Once there we had cleaning, papers to sign, tears to shed, and goodbyes to say.  This part of the past 30 days was probably the hardest.  My children both said goodbye to their best friends and cried and grieved for the past memories and future time that has been lost in their minds.  How was I to truly explain that the call to missions is one for the entire family and that they will be changed forever by this life in ways they could never imagine? The answer I am finding is that I cannot.  I can only love them and support them and allow that sadness and grief for a time.   I then try to show them Christ any way I can by reading scripture and discussing it, praying with them, or just holding them when they need held.

As soon as the house sale was over we were off to Branson to play on the water and spend time with Chris's parents.  We went to Tablerock Lake and were enjoying the day until we pulled into a cove where Chris, Micah, and Caja went out to some small cliffs to jump off into the water. While they were swimming over to the cliffs we heard a bump......bump..........bump.  My mother-in-law and I looked off the side of the boat and saw that there was a large tree limb or stump in the water hitting the boat.  My father-in-law started the engine and began moving the boat to get away from the tree, but found that the anchor was stuck. Let me tell you one thing..... We were going nowhere fast! He shifted to the the left and to the the right and then tried again and again. We were stuck.  He then tried to pull the anchor up, and it stayed unmoving in the same place. Meanwhile the kids and Chris had a blast leaping into the water.  They completed their cliff jumping and swam back to the boat and climbed aboard.  I took the kids below deck to make sandwiches and to get them out from underfoot.  My father-in-law worked and worked.  At this time it had been about 30 minutes and as I was below deck I could hear creaking and popping sounds that were concerning to say the least.  I said, "God,  we really need this boat to be freed from this tree. We need to keep the anchor and not have any damage to this boat.  Please Lord help us. Amen."  There was a course agreement of "Amen" from Micah and Caja.  Within the next 15 sec we heard a "clunk" and the boat began moving freely!  God  set the boat free with the anchor attached and no damage to the boat!  How amazing is that? It may seem like a small thing, but this was a real life example of God's power at work for my children to see first hand. Awe---some!!! We then left that cove in a rush and did not return there to play anymore.

After a couple of days our extended family went back home and we stayed in the Ozark's to have a couple of days together.  We relaxed, canoed, swam, and did some homeschooling also.  Sunday we drove to Springfield and attended church there at St Thomas. We saw some familiar faces and were also able to meet some new people.  We then drove to Kansas City to grab the last of our things from our friends garage, and then made it finally to our resting place for the next 2 months in Wichita, KS with our family.

Overall we are doing well and have learned a lot about ourselves, others, American History, and about the nature of Christ.  Please keep us in your prayers as we continue on this journey to Cameroon.  A few things you can pray for us about
-Our visa applications go through without any issues.
-Our faith and trust in Christ will continue to be unwavering.
-That Micah and Micaja will thrive in their homeschooling.
-That I will have the patience and ability to teach them.
-That Chris will be safe in this travels for work as he is still working in MO.

As always we would love to hear from you and would love to pray for you about anything we can.

In Christ,
The Gifford Family

"The Will of God will not Take you where the Grace of God cannot Protect you."

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Where's the strength I should have?

Have you ever picked up items in your home and are instantly transported to a place and time in your past?  Such as a little blanket that is no longer in use because your child has grown too large to use it. As you brush your fingers over the stitching you remember the smell of your baby after they got out of the bath.  The smell of baby lotion fills your memory.  They would stretch out that little arm as far as it would go and yawn as big as they could.  The sound of the wind exiting their lungs fills your ears and just as their arm would drop down to the blanket they would fall asleep.  A little coo warms  the heart.  Then you nuzzle your nose on the top of their soft head and your lips remember the feather soft fuzz tickling them.
These flashes happened in rapid succession for me over the past week with the numerous items in my home until my mind was in a state of being stress paralyzed.  Thankfully my mother-in-law Della, father-in-law Daniel, and brother and sister-in-law Matthew and Amber came to KC this last weekend to help us get everything either out to the garage, into a moving truck, or to Goodwill.  Words can never completely express my gratitude for them during this time.  I do not know how I would have ever been able to get it even halfway done if they had not been there. I woke with a terrible cold and feeling like I had been in a car wreck my body ached so much.  The kids and I rested on Sunday while Chris worked a 48 hour shift at the ER in the hospital.  Monday the work week started and I was still sick, but being the last week of work I could not justify missing any days. Tuesday on the drive to work I was still not improved and really struggling with all the things still left to do at the house and working full time.  I was listening to the local Christian radio station and the verse of the day was Psalms 73:26- My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart: He is mine forever.  Immediately I was encouraged and thought about how this is so true.  I thanked God for putting that out there for me to hear and know that once again He is my strength and portion. 

I want you to encourage you saying the same thing. Christ is with you! Even if you are selling/getting rid of the majority of your things to follow Him.  Or if your health is failing you to the point of exhaustion and irritability is abounding.  Christ is your strength and HIS strength is unending and in abundance!

As always please continue to pray for us.  We thank you for all of your thoughts and prayers as we continue on this journey to Cameroon.   Please feel free to email us at if there is anything we can pray for you about or if you just want to say, “Hey”. 

Ashley and Family

“The Will of God will NOT take you, where the Grace of God cannot protect you.”