Not Your Ordinary Fishing Trip

Overnights—nights spent away from home—are one reality of my work as a pilot.

Since we are not permitted to fly at night, an unplanned overnight can occur if a day’s program is prolonged until it’s unlikely or impossible to make it back home to Yaoundé by sunset. Any time I’ve had an unplanned overnight I’ve always been somewhere familiar and can generally be comfortable and at ease. Unlike other pilots, I haven’t yet had to spend the night in a place where the airplane is my best choice for lodging.

By contrast, most of my overnights are planned well in advance. During these times, I often find myself shadowing a missionary. I always enjoy the times when I can tag along and see their work. In December, I flew Dr. Michel Kenmogne and his team to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to lead a five-day workshop for a struggling Bible translation organization. Dr. Kenmogne, a distinguished Cameroonian linguist, is the new executive director of SIL International, the first non-Western leader to hold this position.

While the team were in meetings each day, I had some freedom to explore. My guide for adventure was a local wood carver who offered to take me to the nearest fishing hole. Thankfully, I had packed my fishing pole! After a five-kilometer hike, we reached our destination. Surprise, surprise—my much anticipated fishing hole was also the communal bathing spot and laundry facility. Fishing amongst 15 nude boys was a new experience for me, so I gave much thought to what might be the culturally appropriate way to greet, or not greet, someone in his birthday suit. Eventually our conversation was jovial and free-flowing, mainly because of their curiosity about what they referred to as “the machine”—my fishing pole. With each and every skillful cast, I hooked something unusual: first a pair of pants, then a shirt, then more pants … I couldn’t resist teasing the kids by asking if they ate those kinds of fish. And when I peppered them with questions about what God is like and what he thinks of them, I was very encouraged to hear how much they knew about God and Christianity. It is evident that there is a local church in the area that is preaching the gospel.

I want to remember those valuable lessons I learned during that trip. Sometimes here in Cameroon we struggle with issues like inefficiencies, lack of maintenance, decisions with money and corruption. But I saw that Africans also struggle in frustration with these facets of their society. Yet they press on, wanting to see the Word of God spread to those who have not yet heard. And, of course, I will never forget my short-lived and outrageously awkward fishing trip adventure.

Brandon Penkoff

Brandon, his wife, Rachel, and their three daughters live and serve in Cameroon, Africa.