The Many Layers of Ministry

My husband, Brandon, and I are coming to see that ministry here in Cameroon is like an onion with many layers. The outer layer consists of Brandon’s official ministry title as a pilot-mechanic. Brandon flies Wycliffe missionaries and their supplies between their ministry locations and the mission headquarters in the capital where we live. He also transports Christian medical teams and patients to and from hospitals. He even flew liters of blood, newly arrived from London, to a remote hospital where a critical surgery was taking place. Brandon feels privileged to serve in these ways.

Beneath this outer layer lies the complex and rewarding layer of relationships. Brandon’s work puts him in contact with a large variety of people—souls I should say. A good example is the airport official who thanked Brandon so sincerely after receiving a digital copy of the New Testament and the JESUS film in his mother tongue. We recently heard that this man took the JESUS film with him on a trip to his village. When he started to show it to some people on his phone, they said, “No, you must show this on our TV!” Soon they stopped him again and said, “Wait, we must bring in our friends and neighbors.” In the end about 30 people crowded together in complete silence as they listened to Jesus speak their heart language!

On his way to work Brandon enjoys giving rides to pedestrians and soldiers from the military base that houses our hangar. His favorite question is always, “What is your mother tongue?” I wish you could see the way people’s faces light up when they talk about their mother tongue! As I write this, the backpack at my side holds 37 copies of the JESUS film in nine different Cameroonian languages for Brandon to give to people he meets. We pray that each gift will be as well-received as the one Brandon gave to his airport official friend.

This layer of relationships is so vast—from the friends who are often in our home, to government officials at work, to those who accept rides, and even to the motorcycle driver who ran into our friend’s car. We need the Lord’s wisdom and grace in each of them. We need to stay connected to the Vine, allowing him to bear the fruit in due season.

I suppose the deepest layer of our ministry “onion” would be the transformation the Lord is bringing about in our own hearts. We can’t exactly say how, but we know it changes us to meet a Nigerian Christian whose wife was killed 18 months ago for her faith. Now all his efforts go into ministering to other Christians in Nigeria who have fled persecution. His life has been so hard, yet his heart remains amazingly kind.

My perspective on what is necessary for a full life changes when my closest Cameroonian friend teaches me about choosing joy in the Lord though her home for two is smaller than my bedroom and has no windows or running water. When I see her chopping up coconuts from a friend’s tree so she can make the oil she needs for cooking—somehow, it changes me.

On Sunday, when we feel new rhythms in our tapping toes, when dancing surrounds us and voices are raised joyfully in worship—even if they’ve gone a bit off-key—it changes the way we imagine the Church, Christ’s bride, one day standing before the throne joined in a unified song of worship to our King.

The Christians we meet here are no longer just people we read about in black and white, they are personalities we share life with in living color. We pray that these encounters transform us into more Christ-like ministers of the Gospel, so that—whether through our technical service or through our relationships—others will come to know that wonderful Good News that brought us here.

Rachel Penkoff

Rachel, with her husband, Brandon, and twin daughters, completed French studies in 2012 and now serves in Cameroon, Africa.