Cameroon Impressions

If you can’t walk, even with crutches, and you don’t have a wheelchair, will you stay home? Or will you find some way—any way—to get to the market and to church? How will you move without a chair?

In Cameroon, when our short-term team saw people arriving at our work sites to receive a wheelchair in the name of Jesus, we had a glimpse of what people are willing to endure in order to be mobile. Some—even adults—were carried by family members or friends. Some crawled on hands and knees. Some sat on the ground with legs pretzel-folded and used their arms as crutches. Some lay straight on the ground and dragged themselves forward in a sort of army crawl. Some moved with hands and feet on the ground, bent into a steep triangle.

Imagine what it’s like on pot-holed pavement or on dusty or muddy ground. Imagine the callouses and cuts on your palms and knees. Imagine the state of your clothes. You can never be clean. You can’t speak to anyone face to face. Maybe you can’t even get your head at the correct angle to see where you’re going.

And realize that everyone is looking down on you literally, and many are looking down on you socially and wondering what you did to deserve this.

But to these Cameroonians—and to so many more in so many places—it is more important to get out and around than to avoid humiliation. Dignity takes a backseat to mobility.

It came to my mind that almost every person I know in America who uses a wheelchair would be in this position if no chair were available. I will not downplay the immensity of the challenges my chair-using friends face every day. But at least they are upright and facing the world.

I came home from Cameroon filled with thanks for many things, and the list keeps growing—that 100 more people in Cameroon are not crawling now, for example, and that my friends here don’t have to crawl.

In my life I am thankful that God has used the humility of these Cameroonian acquaintances to remind me that some things are far more important than avoiding humiliation. My highest priority should be spreading a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ, even if I have to crawl to do it, even if I get dirty and hurt, even if I’m looked down on for it.


Noël Piper (@noelpiper) is wife of John Piper, mother of five, and grandmother of twelve. She is author of Treasuring God in Our Traditions.