Sunday, April 19, 2015

Village Joys

By Stacey

Oh there are so many things that I love about our lives here in Cameroon. One such thing is never knowing quite what to expect when we walk out of our front door each day. As far as our daily routine, each day, Dave and I study the language with a language partner and then in the afternoons we try to go out into the neighborhood and practice what we learned. And we usually learn a lot more then just Bakoum in the process. For instance, the other day, we learned how to pull of the legs and wings of a grasshopper in order to fry them up and eat them with plantains:
The next day I was explaining to one of my friends how we sometimes eat tuna-salad in our house. She looked at me in horrible disgust..." a CAN...and with...PICKLES?!" Noting her reaction, I pointed out that the day before I saw a woman pulling the legs off a grasshopper to eat them for dinner. She responded in saying, "Oh yeah, of course, that's normal...but YOU, look what you eat!" Guess it is all relative, huh?

Greatest joy: Getting to work side-by-side with Dave
Also being out in the village we get to meet the many babies that were recently born and also seem to have a cloud of little kids following us around (not including our own) helping us with our pronunciation. I personally have been really thankful. The months of sitting with ladies in what seemed like painful, awkward silence has become less painful and I dare may say that I may even have made a friend.
From here on out, we would love prayer that those in our village would continue to be willing to sit and listen to us butcher their language. And that they would really open themselves up to us freely as we also ask a lot of questions in order to learn about their culture.
And just for fun, we thought we would share a little video that we took at a local church we visited a couple weeks ago. They had the little kids all dance up front and when they came out in the audience to invite our kids up, all of our kids ran and hid, except for Elias who went up and cried. Our kids just do not know how to dance like this...


Sunday, April 12, 2015

I Could NEVER Do That!

by Dave

So far since we have been in Cameroon I have: killed three poisonous snakes around our house, spent an entire day carrying water from a well, stopped a man from severely beating his daughter, stopped another man from severely beating his dog, had two guys try to jump in my car for unknown malicious purposes, and watched a baby die. Though all of these things are fairly common place here in Africa, they are also experiences I almost certainly would not have had if I stayed in America. And to be honest, while I do not feel like I have a hard life, I am amazed by how many Christians tell me “I could NEVER do that.” I say that I am amazed, but I spoke those same words thirteen years ago when I first met my missions-driven-now-wife. I was pursuing a career in film and there was no way that I would ever go live in the jungle. 

Wrong Assumptions
I have had many years to reflect both on my own heart at that time and on those Christians that say this to me and I think I have recently had a breakthrough. I am reading a book called Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas that sparked the thought. After discussing some of the troubles common in Christian marriages he says:
“Life is so easy for us today that we risk falling asleep, convinced that it should be easy and that it will always be easy. Then, at the smallest difficulty, we are greatly tempted to turn back to our habitual comfort and we risk therefore circumventing great spiritual opportunities.” (I am actually reading the book in French under the title Vous Avez Dit “Oui” √† Quoi? and this is a rough back translation).
Thomas’s point is directed toward marriage: if we start by thinking that marriage should be easy we will try to escape the difficulties that can make it sanctifying. But as I was reading it, I kept thinking about these conversations that I have had with Americans regarding missions. I think maybe we are coming to life with the wrong assumption. As Americans we live in a world where clean water comes out of our tap on demand and an hour power outage during a storm is enraging. It is a world of 24-hour emergency rooms and penicillin and air conditioning. We can even have our groceries delivered to our front door! And I think we get blinded by our Google Glass culture into thinking that life is supposed to be convenient, comfortable, and easy. Even when we think of Africa, we think how horrible it is that people do not have our medicine and conveniences and we try to figure out ways to help because we think that they deserve easy lives. 

To his disciples Jesus said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). First thing that I notice here is that Jesus wants us to have peace. But the peace that he is calling us to is peace in the midst of tribulation. The tribulation is a given. This life is actually not supposed to be easy. The New Testament is full of encouragements and exhortations to those who are suffering because that is what is considered the normative Christian experience. 

The Example of Christ
What’s more, we are called as Christians to follow the example of Christ. And what is the example of Christ? Paul tells us that Jesus,
“Though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-7).
There is a reason that Jesus is called the “suffering servant.” He came to the earth to both suffer and to serve. That is the example that we are called to follow. We are called to suffer and to serve.  

Now I am the first to say that not everyone should be a missionary. In fact, if everyone was a missionary, I could not be one! We need those of you who support us. Nor do I think that the only way to follow Christ’s example is to become a missionary. BUT I do write this as a challenge to those who would say “I could NEVER be a missionary.” Who are you thinking about when you say that? Yourself? Because if you are thinking about yourself, you are right. We are weak creatures that often cannot help but be distracted when we should be worshipping. But I wonder if we might change the way we are thinking if we shifted our focus to Christ. Both Paul and Peter call us to have the same mind as Christ. Here is what Peter says,
“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions, but for the will of God” (I Peter 4:1-2).
If we do arm ourselves with Christ’s thinking I believe we will start with the assumption not that life will be easy, but that we will suffer. I like the wording that Peter uses because we do not arm ourselves for a night on the couch with the wifey. No! We arm ourselves for battle. When we view life as Christ did, we see ourselves going out into a battle of suffering and servitude. And then when we see others suffering we will not think “I could NEVER do that”, but instead:

Make me a servant, 
Humble and meek.
Lord let me lift up,
Those who are weak.
And may the prayer of my life always be,
Make me a servant,
Make me a servant,
Make me a servant, today.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

(Slowly) Learning What it Means to “Please Everyone”

By Stacey

I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. -1 Corinthians 10:33 
I have read this verse of Paul over and over again since our arrival in Cameroon and have asked myself the question, “What does it mean to try to please everybody in this cultural context?”
I think I am slowly learning what this means, and it’s totally different than what I expected. I thought that pleasing everyone meant that I would live exactly like they do, but what I am discovering is that it is actually something much harder.
Welcoming the Unwelcoming as Christ has Welcomed Me
In the past when I thought of Africa, I thought of warm, smiling people dancing through the streets in brightly clothed clothes greeting one another. I thought they would be very boisterous and friendly and welcoming, both towards one another and towards us as visitors in their country.
This has absolutely not been my experience in the region where we are ministering. I am finding it very difficult to develop friendships and often wonder if my relationships will always be “give” with little “take.” I labor to construct a question in French or the tiny bit of Bakoum that I know only to consistently get the one word “yep” as a response. When I am with groups of women, they just talk to one another the whole time and I am just…there. Ever walk into a room when everyone is laughing and you missed the punch line and you are just…there? It is kind of like that. I do not think that they are trying to be unwelcoming; I just think they have no idea what to do with me. It is like I am from another planet. The babies do not even trust me.
Then the other day, we had our pastor and close friend Boris over for lunch and this difficulty came up. He looked us in the eye and said, “You guys have to do all the work because the people are not going to approach you. You need to keep going out and asking questions and it is going to take a long time for the people to warm up to you. It is not going to be easy but you need to do it for the sake of the Gospel.”
I think the Lord used his words to help me see that forcing myself to please everyone means to continue reaching out even when I feel rejected. I am sure this truth can apply to many regardless of the cultural context.  
Appealing to those in Authority
If there is anything that our American culture values, it is that of equality. We believe that all people, regardless of race, family lines, economic status or gender were created equal. All people thus can and should be heard. We also value a lack of formality in dealing with those who are in authority over us. We call our bosses by their first names and pride ourselves in casual Fridays at the office.
And this is not at all the culture that we have entered. This culture values hierarchy which manifests itself in the form of tribal chiefs, administrative officials, village elites, and the necessary protocol in addressing those in charge. When we enter the mud hut of the trial chief we address him as “your majesty.” The other day we had a meeting with the mayor and I looked at the floor for the bulk of the meeting as the “men” did the talking, only able to speak when spoken to. We have to iron our clothes, polish our shoes, use the formal “you” form in French and get counsel regularly from our Cameroonian friends as to how to address those who are influential in our people group.
Can I just say that this cuts against every American value in me?
And yet, I must force myself to please these powerful men to show honor to the God who put them in my life as authorities and for the success of the translation of the Bible. As one of our friends told us, “If you do not have the favor of those in authority, you might as well go back to the States because no one will listen to your message.” So this is just what we have to do for the sake of the Gospel. Overall, our meetings with the “higher-ups” have gone well, but there have been times where I have had to sit there, look at the ground with my mouth shut while absurd accusations were being hurled at me. I must force myself to please them in order for them to give me permission to develop their language and translate the Word. And when it is published, I trust that it will challenge the culture where it needs to be challenged.

For the Sake of the Gospel
From time to time people have commented on how hard it must have been for us to adopt kids (the waiting, paperwork, money, adoption drama, etc). When this happens we chuckle and say that those “challenges” do not compare to the day-in-day-out challenges of being parents.
I think it might be the same way with missions. The decision to become missionaries was not an easy one, but as difficult as it was to leave everything, this does not compare to the day-in-day-out forcing oneself to do what seems so unnatural.
And yet, it is all an act of worship to our Savior who “made himself nothing” for us. And I am sure we will not regret one minute of it when, Lord willing, we are worshipping at the throne of Jesus with Bakoum brothers and sisters around us.
But, until then we are slowly and imperfectly learning what Paul meant when he said that he made himself a servant of all.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Introducing the Bakoum Language Committee

By Stacey

Yesterday was one of the happiest days of my life.
Four years ago, during our visit to Cameroon, we met in a room at city hall and heard a handful of people explain why they wanted the Bible in their language. Yesterday we met in the very same room this time with over a hundred leaders in the community and watched them take concrete steps to that end. They elected leaders, they brainstormed about how to raise money for the project, and miracle upon miracle, they agreed to work together for the good of the project. They dreamed up what they could do once their language was written down: they could finally write down the songs that make up such a huge part of their culture, they could preserve their history as people and they could even write letters to one another. You could feel the excitement.
On all counts, God answered our every prayer. The people who have already proven their commitment to the project (through the giving of their time and finances) were elected into positions of leadership. Mine and Dave’s presentations were understood by the group and they accepted what we had to say. And there were truly peacemakers among the group that keep people’s strong opinions in check (namely our friend Jean Yves). Many people told us that they have been waiting for us to come back and they thanked us over and over again for our willingness to help them.
We truly serve a living God who hears and acts on behalf of his people and his kingdom.  Praise be to God.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Launching of Bakoum Language Development Committee Tomorrow: Please Pray

By Stacey

Well tomorrow is the day. It is the launching of the language development project for which we have been praying and preparing for years. If all goes as planned, we will have this 6 hour meeting at city hall with over a hundred representatives who have been selected from each Bakoum village.  Jean Yves, the Cameroonian brother who is helping us mobilize the community, will be here tonight and will preside over the meeting. I am going to pick up a Cameroonian-style dress I am having made later today. All that to say, this meeting is a big deal.

At the meeting we hope to…
Get them dreaming. I will ask them what their dreams are for their language (whether that be writing pamphlets regarding health or agriculture, sending one another letters, writing down their history, opening a museum, etc). We hope that their dreams will get them through the years of hard work ahead of them.
Present them with a list of the steps it will take to develop their language (ie. determine the best dialect, come up with an alphabet, etc) and a tentative timeline.
Present our criteria for a language partner
Present our first of our monthly linguistic surveys (this one will cover language vitality)
They will elect their delegates: president, secretary, etc.

Potential Difficulties…
Living and working among this people for a couple of months now, we foresee the following challenges:
Not playing well with others. The other day we attended a funeral and observed people fighting and yelling at one another about…EVERYTHING. For instance, how to lower the casket into the ground, what to say/not to say before the body was buried, and so on. People have gotten mad at us because we visited their enemies house in their village. And this is not to mention all the passionate feelings people have that they are the ones who speak the real Bakoum. We expect sitting through a 6 hour meeting filled with arguing and disputing. It is safe to say this is a contentious people (they need the Bible!).
Too much talk and not enough action. Everyone says that they want to contribute to the cause of the development of their language, but there have only been a handful of people who have invested their personal time and money to see make it happen.
Electing the wrong people. Those who are elected will be the people that we will be working with for years and they are also the people who can make or break this project. We fear that the most powerful people will pursue these positions, not in order to do the necessary work but in order to just have another title.

Prayer Requests…
Pray for peacemakers among the Bakoum to intervene at the meeting and create order.
Pray that the people who are elected would be those who are passionate about the development of the language, who will work hard and who will be people of their word.
Pray for us. We will have all four kids with us on stage as we seek to give technical presentations in French for hours. Pray that they will behave appropriately for the setting and that God would guide us as when to speak and when not to, what to say, etc. Pray Dave and I would glorify the Lord.
Momentum. Pray that this launching would create much enthusiasm among the people and pray that this enthusiasm would never die. We are hoping to have them doing surveys for us monthly and hope to create sub-comities which will be charged with literacy among the villages, fund raising, writing and publishing materials, and so on. Pray that this project would be the hot topic of conversation in the fields and around the wells in the villages. Pray this momentum and interest would carry the project all the way until the Bible is read.  


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Life in our New Village

by Stacey
Well it has been almost a month since we moved into our new house and we gradually moving from the “survival / getting set-up” mode to the “language / culture acquisition” mode. I must say that we are ever so happy to see the “just trying to make it” phase fade off into the background and are thrilled to begin to spend our days in concentrated study.

So how is it?

Overall, I would say that we are just really thankful. We are thankful to have a home that is not a source of frustration and stress but instead is a comfortable place where we can study and be together as a family. We are thankful for the beautiful palm trees, the sounds of exotic animals and the women wearing brightly colored clothing carrying what they just bought at the market on their heads. I am thankful for all the neighborhood kids that come over wanting to play soccer with one of their flip-flops on our front porch and run around in the dirt with our kids. We are thankful for the opportunities we have to read to them French story-book Bibles as we pray they are understanding something. There are also few things I enjoy more than sitting with ladies in the village watching them cook and learning some vocabulary words from them. I love to see their eyes light up when I pronounce one of their words correctly. The only thing that rivals that joy is the joy of acquiring and analyzing a new language (Dave says I am a nerd). I am so thankful to get to spend time with my husband debating over which sound we think we heard in our language session and trying to determine what in the world a particular tone could be.
In addition to these joys, Dave and I both have started teaching at our church. The other night I was teaching at a woman’s prayer meeting giving an introduction to the attributes of God when I was interrupted by a loud baby goat wandering through the living room. I can honestly say I have never been interrupted by a baby goat in the States – there are so many things here that just crack me up. All in all we are thankful to be here and delight in many aspects of this life that the Lord has given us.
But only the Beginning
Me and Kyra at a Bakoum church service
However, we just have so much to learn and sometimes it is a bit overwhelming. I had thought that making friends would be easier seeing that this culture is relatively warm and outgoing. I am beginning to wonder our region might be an exception to that. Our pastor recently explained to us that since we are a “higher class” (since we are white…blah) the relational ball is in our court and that it is our responsibility to initiate and pursue relationships. This is just plain hard. It is like expecting a child who does not yet know how to speak or care of themselves to go strike up a conversation with the clerk at the supermarket. It feels like an uphill battle.
Also communication is hard. We are learning Bakoum through our second language, French. So far it has been going fine, thanks to the Lord, but it is nonetheless mentally exhausting. And like I mentioned we are teaching at our church, which is an honor, but it is hard for us to teach in French and we wonder if more than a handful of people in the congregation can understand anything but Bakoum.

How are the Kids?

When we first moved in, I told Makyra to go use the restroom then come to dinner. A few minutes later I found her wandering around NOT doing what I asked her to do. When I asked her why she was not using the restroom, she looked at me baffled and said “Where is it mom?” I do not know if it was more pitiful that she did not know where it was (after being in our house for a couple days) or the fact that she was standing right in front of it. All that to say, the transition to our new neighborhood has not been a super easy one for the kids.
Another concern for us is that we now see a resistance in them to speaking French (except Kaden). This hesitancy seemed to happen overnight and we are praying that this is a phase that will pass as speaking French and/or Bakoum is crucial for their relationships here. As we mentioned before, we had put them into a French preschool only later to pull them out (they were speaking French with no problem then). This last week we decided to try a different school in the community two days a week (in addition to home-schooling them and having a French tutor come over twice a week). So far the kids love the school…that is everyone but Elias…
Kaden and Boris
Elias is staying home with Dave and me as he continues to need a lot of discipline and instruction sometimes it seems on a minute-by-minute basis (which is not what he would get in a class of 60 children, 1 teacher, and a couple stray dogs). Oh we love this child dearly and at the same time are amazed at how little fruit we see in our labors. Please pray for him on every level: rebellion to authority, deliberate acts of hatred and destruction, and oh the screaming. We have great hope in our Lord and yet are sometimes discouraged in the day in day out parenting. I will say however that he LOVES life here which is a blessing (who does not love mud and chickens?)
Makyra and her kitten friends
As for Kaden, he continues to mature day-by-day and even spends hours with our friend Boris working with him in his corn fields (I am praying he will grow up to be like Boris). Kaden has lots of friends in the neighborhood and continues to have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. He also asked me the other day why I did not wear my blue earrings. When I told him I did not have anything that matched them, he said he would go buy me a shirt, but only if he could take the earrings to make sure he got the right shade (who is this kid?).
Makyra is never seen without a kitten in her arms. Djandja and Sprinkles have brought that girl hours upon hours of entertainment and joy. Makyra is truly our only easy-going child. She is cool with going to school. She is cool with staying home. Whatever. However, I often have to encourage her to keep on task during homeschool because she’s so mesmerized by the dust particles in the air (it’s like glitter mom!)
Zoey continues to be at the same time the most intense person on the planet who constantly needs to be told to calm down and a source of happiness and joy. She is our little helper and would rather do dishes and build shelves with us than play with her brothers and sisters. She is a pleasure.

The Project Advances

Our first ever language committee meeting will be held on March 14th. Representatives from every village will be there including many government officials (over 100 invitations were sent out). We will write another post with more information and specific ways to pray soon.  

The end of a 7 hour women's meeting

Me learning body parts in Bakoum


Reading to the neighborhood kids

Cute neighborhood kids playing with blocks

Half the neighborhood showed up to watch Dave do Kyra's hair

Our market


Monday, February 23, 2015

"He is just a bad kid"

By Stacey

I had a church history professor in seminary who said that Pelagius did not believe in original sin because he never had kids. Had he been a father, he would never in a million years say that people were born basically good. I could not agree more.

That’s Just the Way it is…

I think the new air that we are breathing here in Cameroon may have a slight twinge of fatalism in it (although that depends on the people group). For example:
“Can you come pick up so-and-so and take them to their village to die?” (um, how about the hospital?)
“Why keep our kids clean? We are the ‘dirty’ people group.”
“Why really invest in our kids when it is highly likely they will die young anyway?”
 “Your son, he is just a stubborn, difficult child. Period.”
So, when I hear these things my American and (I am pretty sure) my Christian side totally rejects them. All I want to say is “Fight it! Fight death, fight the haunting thoughts of your kids dying and enjoy the days you have with them, have a power encounter with that stubborn three-year-old and win it. And even if you do not see fruit, fight it anyway and die trying.”
And, as it relates specifically to parenting, I think the Scriptures have very concrete reasons why we should not throw in the towel even when we do not see any changes in our children.

If God saved Paul, He can save my child.

When I hear once again what my son has done to provoke the neighbor kids or how many spankings he got at school only to have him say, “I did NOT sin!” I wonder if he will ever change. The truth is, if it were up to him, he would not. He is dead to God, blind to his sin, is a lover of darkness and even premeditates sin on his bed. He is simply enslaved (like all of us start out) and cannot free himself. I can say with confidence, that if it were up to my son, I would have NO hope right now. But I do not hope in him. I hope in the God who took a persecutor of the Church, knocked him down and blinded him, only to save him and use him as a missionary. When I look at my son, I am hopeless, but when I look to God, I know that there is nothing impossible with him.

Christian Parents do Rub off

And even if he is never saved, I know that we can influence him for good. Paul says to spouses married to unbelievers…
For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. - 1 Corinthians 7:14  
A lot could be said about this passage, but one thing we can draw from it is that children of at least one believing parent are considered “holy.” I do not think this is referring to holiness before God on judgment day, but instead an outward conformity to God’s moral law (even if their hearts are not in the right place). So, because I am a Christian, somehow the Lord in me can rub off onto my child and make a positive impact.

Spankings Drive Away the Folly

I do not necessarily understand the connection between spankings and a change from foolish, godless behavior, but there is nonetheless an undeniable link. “The fool says in his heart there is no God” and this is the folly that the rod drives away. According to Proverbs, there is a lot of hope that when we are faithful to discipline, the child will become wise:
Discipline your son, for there is hope - Proverbs 19:18 
Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him. - Proverbs 22:15 

At the End of the Day, I Am Going to Heaven

In just a little while, I am not going to be seeking to convince any stiff-necked child that stealing is wrong. I will no longer be grieving over their sin and pleading with them to listen to the wisdom of their parents. No, I will be done parenting and will be in a place that is filled with the knowledge of the glory God. I will not have to turn to any little person and say “know the Lord” because everyone there will know him and want to serve him. Paul says, “Let…those who mourn [live] as though they were not mourning… For the present form of this world is passing away.” 1 Corinthians 7:29-31. So, for the time being, we pray and plead and grieve but we do it as if we were not mourning because we can practically see the New Jerusalem.  

To conclude, let us not be fatalistic with our children. The Lord purposefully saved Paul when he did so that he could show us that he can save anyone. He also is using us as Christian parents in the lives of our kids to make them holy and further the old-fashioned “rod of correction” is God’s means used to drive out their rebellion. And when all is said and done, we will soon enjoy an eternity of rest from the labors of parenting. What hope there is in being a Christian parent who serves the living God!

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Overemphasis on Balance

by Stacey

Heights by great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upward in the night.
- Longfellow

We are experiencing many new adventures as first-term missionaries and in recounting them we often hear from our loved ones that we need to make sure we are not pushing ourselves too hard. Being the kind people that they are, they do not want to see us burn-out and go back home with remnants of what used to be a marriage, messed-up children, and the Bakoum people left without a Bible. We are thus often reminded that we need to be balanced, make sure we are getting enough rest, guard our personal time, and the like.
Did Paul Work too Hard?
Simultaneous to these conversations, I am reading through 1st and 2nd Corinthians and I wonder if Paul, the great apostle-missionary, would give me the same counsel. Page after page, I see him laying down all of his rights for the benefit of those whom he is serving and he is telling me to “imitate him." Here are some examples:
He was always trying to please the nationals: “Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.” (1 Cor 10:32-33)
He spent himself on the souls of others:” I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls.” (2 Corinthians 12:15)
He labored and suffered and was often near death: “Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one…with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death…” (2 Cor 11:23ff)
He went without sleep and the necessities of life: “In toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.” (2 Cor 11:27)
He daily felt anxiety for those under his care: “And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” (2 Cor 11:27)
Quite honestly, when I compare my life to his, I am struck by my lack of zeal to see souls saved. I consider my life easy as I do not go without rest or the necessities of life. I have food, I have clothes, I even have kittens. I have not had one sleepless night and honestly the state of the church here is not as much a point of anxiety in my life as it should be. I read the life of Paul and I am all at the same time confessing my lack of zeal and totally inspired to push myself harder for the souls of others.
Why then the huge discrepancy between the radical life of Paul and the call to not “push ourselves too hard”?
A Question of Motivation
I think one reason is that people are concerned that our motives could be misguided. For example, if one is caught up in a “if I don’t do X,Y,Z today, then the Kingdom of God will not advance” frenzy, he is not resting in Jesus’ promise that every soul the Father elects will come to him. It is King Jesus who builds his Church and neither the gates of Hell nor the failures of his missionaries will prevail against it. In the same way, if one is going hard in Kingdom work under the guise of humility while fantasizing about his future biographies, it is his own glory he is seeking and not God’s. And finally if one’s identity is so intimately wrapped up in what he does for the Kingdom that when he is in bed with malaria he falls into despair, then this is a tale-tale sign of a misunderstanding of the peace he has with God in Christ. So, yes, there can be internal impurities in a life of external service.  
Love: The Motive that Justifies “Imbalance”
But I must ask the question, “Were these the motivations of the apostle Paul?” Was he laboring and toiling to make a name for himself or to become “more” justified before God? No! Instead his motive was love for the Lord and for others. He refers to people under his care as his children, he claims that he has fellowship with Christ in the midst of his sufferings, and he says that he endures everything for the sake of the elect. How then can we criticize a life like this one when his motives were so pure?
Let Us Spur On One Another
And so, whereas I do think there is wisdom in making sure to get enough rest and the like, I wonder if the church today may emphasize balance too much. After all, Hebrews does not tell us to spur one another on to more rest and plenty of exercise, but rather calls us to encourage one another to love and good works. So, I put forth the following challenges:
·        Do not Overemphasize Counting the Cost. When someone shares with you their dreams in serving the Lord do you emphasize counting the cost to the exclusion of the power of God and the sufficiency of his grace? Do not immediately start listing obstacles and difficulties (that is SO discouraging). Why not instead start listing all the times that God has proved faithful in your life? Or how he split the Red Sea? Or how he sustained Paul in the midst of his suffering? Why not remind them that the Lord has given them the Spirit of power, love and self-control? Do not be the wet blanket, but instead seek to fuel their zeal with the fact that nothing is impossible with God.
·        Correct the Motivations not the Actions. If someone is going hard in service to the Kingdom, go ahead and ask questions about their motivations (being careful of course to not assume impure motives). Do not hesitate to make sure that they are still being faithful to read their Bibles, spend time with their kids, love their spouse, and pray. But unless there is a chapter-and-verse command that you can find, do not call them to slow down in their service to the Lord. Their zeal might be the work of the Spirit.   
·        Adopt More of Paul’s Imperatives and Lose a Couple of Your Mom’s. In counseling our brothers and sisters in Christ, do we counsel more like Paul or like Mom? (I am not saying there is never an overlap). For instance:
Mom’s Imperatives: Be careful, make sure to get enough rest, take care of yourself, be careful, brush your teeth, go have some fun, be careful, make sure to call home, be careful, take your vitamins, be careful…
Paul’s Imperatives: Endure everything for the sake of the elect, set your mind on things above not on earthly things, remember that the sufferings here are only for a moment, how will they hear unless you are sent to them?, remember that Jesus will raise up your tired, scarred, corruptible body for a new one, do everything in love, do not be slothful in zeal, rest is coming, do good works, pray without ceasing, I wish you would remain single for the Kingdom, discipline your body and keep it under control so as to not be disqualified after you preach to others….
Being a mother, I am not saying to neglect the Proverbs or common sense, but being a Christian I cannot help but to encourage others to walk down a path that could be very costly to them for the sake of the Kingdom of God. I think that is what the Bible does.
I am not saying that there is never a time to call a brother and sister to “slow down” but let us be very careful to not stifle something of the Spirit. His ways, his leadings and his people rarely make sense at first glance.  


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

When I Am Not Moved (a Poem)

by Dave

We had an excellent opportunity to go to a city called Bamenda last week and have a short retreat. We had an American pastor, and for the first time in almost 2 years, we experienced corporate worship in English. And an amazing thing happened. I felt nothing! I knew that this should have been a great relief and joy, both emotions I saw on the faces of those other missionaries around me. But I just felt cold and unmoved. I spent the week reflecting on what to do, and did find myself worshipping in the end. And I wanted to write out some of my thoughts and realized that as I constructed my phrases, they rhymed. So, here is the first poem I have written since I had to write them in high school. I pray that it encourages you.

The lights are dimmed with hands raised in the air,
and I must have sinned, 'cause I just don’t care.
I have been moved to tears in other times,
while we were singing these exact same lines.
Torn between distraction and feeling bored,
the commandment remains: “Worship the Lord.”
What should I do when my heart is not moved?
Sing anyway.

My Bible rotation has brought me back,
not to Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John or Acts.
No, it’s Numbers that I should be reading,
when it’s narrative I feel I’m needing.
Even with drooping eyes, and head and hands,
I’m reminded again of God’s commands,
What do I do when I don’t want to read?
Read anyway.

And sometimes I feel so far from our God,
when I want to pray, but I start to nod.
When vigilant watch I should be keeping,
like the disciples, I find I’m sleeping.
But I don’t want to make the same mistake,
Jesus told them they should have stayed awake.
What do I do when I just cannot pray?
Pray anyway.

I am not content to stay where I am,
living as in a barren desert land.
Nor is God content in me being me.
It’s new-creation change he wants to see.
And why not begin with the Lord’s commands,
to read and worship while raising my hands?
I find when the singing and prayers are done,

The change I crave has already begun.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Feeling a Bit Like Moses…How you can Pray

By Stacey
But Moses said to the LORD, "Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue." Then the LORD said to him, "Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak."
Exodus 4:10-12  
We are spending a couple days in the capital in order to get all dressed up and meet with “elites” who have incredible sway over our people group. Being an American who greatly values equality, I have been a bit surprised at how hierarchical the culture is here. For instance, in order to create awareness for our project, we do not go pass out flyers in the streets but instead meet with the most powerful people among the group and ask them to promote what we are doing to the rest of the people. Thus, if we are granted the “OK” from the powers that be, the entire group follows. Conversely, if we make a bad impression, in the words of our Cameroonian co-worker, “we might as well go home.” These meetings, then, make or break our project.
That being said, we find ourselves asking our friends if we can borrow their clothes, learning how to use an iron, and praying that the Lord would help us know when to shake people’s hands and when not to. We have a meeting tomorrow with one official, and if he grants us approval, we will then seek to meet another elite in Yaound√©. We are feeling a bit out of our league and more or less feel like Moses when God called him to speak in front of Pharaoh…and thus we are asking people to pray.
Please pray…
  • That we would not step on any cultural toes (that we would remember to use the formal French “you,” that our appearance and how we conduct ourselves would show respect).
  • That we would communicate our vision well in French.
  • That the Lord would “be with our mouths and teach us what we shall speak.”
  • That the government officials would not be suspicious of our motives but that they would trust us.
  • That we would find favor in their eyes and that they would both promote and fund the project.
  • That we would represent the Lord well and bring him glory.