As I cross the river back and forth twice weekly, I have to go through many barriers or checkpoints. Some are for the CAR side, including police and immigration and customs, with the same on the Cameroon side, but with the addition there of a road safety control booth. Some of these roadblocks consist of cords stretched across the one lane dirt road with pieces of plastic bag trash to help people see that they are coming up on a barrier – these are in place next to the heavy metal bar, to ease the opening and closing all day long.
Some are still the heavy bar which must be carried and swung open, pivoting on its base pole. Seldom will the uniformed officials open the gate; it usually is some young person passing by,
or it might even be me or someone in the vehicle who opens and then closes it after we’ve passed through. All these roadblocks take time and even a bit of emotional energy, because there also is the cultural habit of the driver getting out and shaking hands with the officials sitting in the booths. Almost all the time this interchange is pleasant and one can usually elicit a smile along with the handshake by shooting the breeze, but sometimes the conversation is quite challenging as we strive to help our Fulani friends check in or out of the country.
The other day I encountered a very different roadblock; a huge lumber moving machine had broken down right at the entry to the bridge which spans the river border between CAR and Cameroon. I was on my way home, but I didn’t have to wait too long. One of the immigration police was sitting on the bridge watching the repair and I got permission to take photos, what a boon! Normally it wouldn’t be kosher to even try to take a picture at an official border!
As my buddy and colleague in Fulani ministry, Jan, and I visited with some Fulani merchants’ wives yesterday, I was struck again by the warm welcomes juxtaposed by the tough barrier of Islaxm. We had some lovely conversations and met for the first time some women and children we had only heard about previously. During our visit with S, we got on the subject of mission hospitals, and how they are supported by different Protestant church missions, but that they all were based on sharing the love of God and the salvation of the Messiah. Which led to S’s very serious proclamation of her solid belief in Islaxm, leaving no doubt of her lack of interest and leaving, she said, the information about Jesus in her husband’s domain. This is a barrier that I can’t get through with a handshake and a smile. This is a barrier that is not mine to open. This is a barrier that the Holy Spirit alone can lift and carry to the side so that something can pass through. Please pray for our friends, that they might believe, that they might be saved from sitting, waiting, on the wrong side of the barrier.