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 Yaoundé. 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.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Wild and the Weird

by Dave
We thought it was high time for a blog demonstrating the crazy things we encounter here in Cameroon. Hope you enjoy!
Because we are staying in the forest, we often get hunters coming through our camp. This guy was quite proud of his most recent hunt where he bagged two blue faced monkeys. On a side note, I have not slept since taking this photo.

 I am not really sure what they were getting at, but this is not what I want to see on my laundry detergent. 

You may have already seen on Facebook, but we had our first green mamba at our new house. We killed it. By "we" I mean that I handed a 2x4 to a Cameroonian and he bludgeoned it to death and then took it home to eat it.

 This is called Jack Fruit. Each fruit is about the size of my head. 

 I do not remember what this fruit is called, but Kaden was really excited about it. When you cut it open on the inside you find something that has both the consistency and taste of vanilla pudding.

 I already knew that pineapples did not grow on trees, but I had no idea they could be red!

Cool moving plants!

This is a line of ants that were (fortunately) not walking towards our house. These ones bite and have taken over the homes of many people in our camp for a time. I am told it is just best to leave them to it and when they are gone the floor is completely swept free of any debris.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

A Translator’s Angst

By Stacey

With over a hundred languages without a Bible translation here in Cameroon, you can imagine that choosing ONE people group was a hard decision. But the decision has been made, we are going to, by God’s grace, translate for the Bakoum people.
And in the meantime, we are living among a neighboring tribe called the Baka….who also happen to be without a translation of the Bible. It is hard to step out my front door in the morning and not be faced with the reality that these people need the Word. Let me share with you two simple stories…

Missionaries are Not Enough
The other day one of our Baka friends here notified us that a woman in a neighboring village had passed away. This led to a conversation about where her soul might be. I briefly shared what the Bible said, that there are only two options of where we spend eternity: in Heaven or in Hell and our only hope for being righteous enough to go to Heaven is to be found in Christ. He listened and then had to go. I was sure that he did not “get it”(it does not help that French is neither his nor my mother tongue). I had a French Gospel of John with me and I wanted to give it to him, but quickly remembered that most of the Baka were illiterate. Alas.
Granted there are a handful of missionaries along with a handful of national believers here, but the people group contains about 50,000 people. Is this group of a dozen or so people enough of a Christian witness? Do believers themselves contain all that is necessary for the life and godliness of their neighbors? I do not think so. Only the Word of God holds that place.
Spiritual Disciplines…without the Bible?
In talking to a missionary friend the other day, I asked about the state of the Baka church and if she thought that it was mature enough to stand on its own without the presence of missionaries. She more-or-less said no. I asked her, “Why not? Can they not feed themselves spiritually?” To which she replied, “How can they feed themselves spiritually without the Bible?” How could I have taken for granted something so obvious and so basic? Of course people cannot grow nor govern a church without the Word of God.
So, all that to say, I am frustrated and I feel like the Baka ministry has run into a roadblock. Yes, there is a small church planted, which is great. But now what? How will the church grow numerically and in maturity? Can the missionaries who planted the church move on or do they need to stay with the church in order to disciple them…indefinitely? What happens when the missionaries die or have to go home to the States? Can a church really be sustained and grow without the Word of God?
Do I feel guilty for not translating for this group of people? No. We could only choose one group, which would automatically exclude all the rest. But I think I am little by little beginning to feel the frustration of my fellow missionaries in trying to build the church without the God-ordained tools.
So Now What?
I do not know what the Lord might do through this blog post, but all I know is that he tells us to “open our mouths for the mute” (Prov 31:8) and that is what I am attempting to do. I think a good start might be if we all would take a minute to place ourselves in the shoes of the believers here and imagine seeking to live a Christian life without a copy of the Scriptures we can really understand. Or maybe imagine what a handicapped state your home church would be in if they only had the Bible in French. And I trust that in these moments, the Lord will put it on your heart, as he has mine, to pray that he would send out more Bible-translating laborers into the harvest.

Send out your light and your truth - Psalm 43:3

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Is This Really Happening?

by Dave

It has been an intense couple of weeks here in Cameroon. We have visited a total of 19 villages and talked to innumerable chiefs and villagers. This has been an…interesting window into the culture as we struggle to not make fools of ourselves and also to understand what is going on around us. Here is a taste of some of the more wild adventures:

1. Drunk Man with a Megaphone

In one village I spoke with the chief and several notable members of the community. Several of the men there were drunk and one of them had a megaphone. He did not speak into it, but used it to make strange noises (including an electronic beep version of “When the Saints Go Marching In”). At one point he was angry because he did not feel like others were listening to him so he laid his megaphone at the feet of the chief (after removing the batteries). At the end of the meeting he told me he was not happy and that they had not heard the last of him. Also in this meeting I was accused of being a spy here to steal the secrets of the Bakoum people.

2. Artist Oops

I returned to a village the other day for a meeting and was invited into the home of a chief. In his living room someone painted things all over the walls. They were simple things like palm trees and the like. I asked the chief (using the formal French ‘vous’) if he was the artist. He looked at me in astonishment and said “It was the children!” Oops! I tried to make a face that seemed to indicate that I was impressed that children could paint such beautiful works of art.

3. Falling

We have often been reminded that we need to show our authorities respect here in Cameroon. So we are careful to dress up for important meetings, make sure to use respectful language, and not cross our legs (a sign of disrespect). After an important meeting with a government official Stacey walked out of Town Hall and fell to the ground like a child and started bleeding. Fortunately she was at that point surrounded by actual children that all took to laughing at her hysterically. It seems that God has once again chosen the weak things of the world to spread his message.

4. WITH!

A man followed me to my car after one village meeting shouting over and over again “AVEC!” (it means “with” in French). I turned to him and he started talking barely coherently about wanting to go with me (like to my home?). The man that I was with honked the horn from inside the car and encouraged me to just get in. He said that the man had already had a bit too much to drink (it was around lunch time). He unsuccessfully tried to get into the car as I was pulling away, but made it back to the village safely.


With all of our mistakes and missteps, God has blessed us with encouragement during this time as well. Here are a few encouraging examples (if the language committee details confuse you, check out Stacey’s most recent blog: Change of Vision):

1. Sub-committees
We have been asking each village to form a sub-committee (a small committee in the village that in the end will send members to a larger language committee). This is the first really tangible step that the villages can take towards the goal of developing the language. And without a developed language we cannot translate the Bible. Just the other day I received a sealed and signed document that says that one village has already formed their sub-committee and assigned specific roles to each member! And then Sunday I received another. And that only a week after we brought the idea to them!

Prayer Request: Pray that the other villages would follow suit. We cannot move ahead without having first formed the language committee.

2. Point People
There are two regions that we are working with: Dimako and Doumé. I have asked the mayors in these two cities to give us the name of a person that could act as the point person. We now have two men, one for each region, that have committed to help us. One of them told me the other day that he is really passionate for this project and he would be willing to give it all of the time he is able. The other acted as a mediator in a really hard meeting and seems to really be a peacemaker. Praise the Lord!

Prayer Request: Pray that these two men (Simon and Onésime) would be faithful and hard working. Pray that the community would unite around them.

3. The Pol

The other day we attended a meeting that was a mixed audience of Bakoum people and Pol people. We addressed the Bakoum people to try to get them excited about the project. At the end of our presentation I mentioned to the Pol people (who also do not have a Bible translation) that they could start forming a language committee too. To be honest I did not expect much. But just the other day a Pol man that was at the meeting approached me and said that they had already started forming their sub-committees. He asked what would be their next step. This is particularly exciting because there is potential that we could get the Pol people on the right track towards a translation while we are here too.

Prayer Request: Pray for the Pol people. Pray that they would organize, develop their language, and translate the Bible. Pray that God would provide the resources they would need for this, as Stacey and I are going to be occupied with the Bakoum.

With the craziness and the encouragements we find ourselves often asking "Is this really happening?" And the answer is: Yes! God is working even through our weakness. Pray that he would continue.

Another Prayer Request: As a more serious reflection on the comic events, please pray for the affect of alcohol here in Cameroon. These are only two of many experiences we have had with drunk people. I think this will be a major hurdle for us in our ministry.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Change of Vision Calls for a Change of Methodology

Us and our friend Jean Yves who helped us talk to village leaders this week
By Stacey

Before our arrival in Cameroon, if you would have asked us why we wanted to spend our lives in Africa, we would have responded, “We want to translate the Bible.” As of today, this would no longer be our response. Let me explain why…
A Previous Goal and Previous Methodology
The Bible translators who preceded us in ages past came to the field with the same goal that Dave and I had: to translate the Bible. And, as can be expected their methodology flowed out of this goal. Therefore missionaries sought to quickly find a language partner and diligently learn the language. Some of whom were so diligent that they were known to speak the language better then the Cameroonians themselves. These missionaries then took their knowledge of the language and their training in biblical exegesis and set out to translate the Bible into the target language. After a few decades, they presented their life’s work to the community with the expectation that the church leaders would preach from it and that Christians would evangelize using it. After all, their role is fulfilled in accurately translating the Word of God and the job of the church planter / pastor is to take it to the streets, right?

What we have been told is that often times the Bible is not received by the community when this methodology is used. When people told me this before, I assumed that it was not received because the message of the Bible is offensive to unbelievers. However, what if this rejection had nothing to do with the content of the Bible? What if it was due to socio-linguistic reasons?  Or political reasons? And what if these types “stumbling blocks” could have been prevented?  Let me illustrate:
Socio-Linguistic Considerations

As far as socio-linguistic mistakes, the Bible can be rejected because the “wrong” dialect (accent) was selected. Imagine that you moved to Africa and went to church one Sunday. While in the service you were frustrated because you could not understand the language the pastor was preaching in. Then you realize that he was speaking…English (true story). Yes, it is true that Americans speak English and so do some Cameroonians, but I assure you that we have extraordinarily different ways of speaking it.
And what if English Bible translators chose to pattern their translation after the Cameroonian dialect? Imagine that you open your English Bible and read “Jesus is the wata (instead of water) of life.” Would you think that the translators were incompetent? I would argue that one would be more offended by the word “wata” then by Jesus claiming to be God.
And this scenario happens. In every village we go to, Bakoum speakers say that they speak the real Bakoum and the others speak something else that is inferior. We have even had one village say that if we do not translate into their dialect, they will never read the Bible. So, which form of the real Bakoum do we translate into?
At the end of the day, a language dialect needs to be selected, but would it not be better to get the people to agree on which dialect to use before the Bible is translated? Why not educate the people on how to chose a dialect and then let them have their knock-down, drag-out arguments and at the end present us with the dialect that they would all accept? Then, if someone complains about the way it is written, we can point them to the fact that it was a decision made by the community.
Theological Considerations
Now imagine that you are a Baptist preacher. One day you pick up a new translation of the Bible and are horrified to see that they translated the Greek word “baptidzo” to mean “sprinkled.” What a scandal! There is no question that you would refuse to preach from this translation and likely write it off as a whole.
This is exactly what happens with church leaders. They are not necessarily rejecting the Bible because they are not orthodox Christians, but rather because the key theological terms that were selected cuts against their theology. Would a Baptist pastor really encourage his people to read a Bible that tells them to go and be “sprinkled?” Never.
So, would it not be prudent to raise these potential “problem words” with pastors before the Bible goes to print? Would it not be wise to explain exegetically why this term should be chosen above another before entire denominations reject the Bible in Bakoum? Would it not serve the Kingdom of God well if all the pastors in a community would come together, receive training in exegesis and then come up with a theological term from their language together? I imagine that this could also correct erroneous teaching in the churches even before the Bible is translated.
If pastors can be “won” to the integrity of the Bible before it is printed, then the odds of them promoting it to their church members is a hundred times higher. Would it not be prudent to do this on the front end?
A Different Goal
In light of these issues, we have a new goal. Our goal is no longer to translate the Bible, but instead to translate a Bible that the community will read.
Now when we say this, we are not saying that we want to make the message of the Bible more palatable but instead we are simply trying to eliminate all stumbling blocks except the cross of Christ. If someone rejects the Bible because they do not consider themselves to be a sinner, so be it. But if someone rejects the Bible because we, in our ignorance, chose a script that resembles that of a rival tribe, what a grievous error. In the same way, if someone rejects the Bible because they cannot tolerate the exclusivity of the Gospel, that is up to the Lord to soften their hearts. However, if they reject the Bible because we forgot to get the authorization from the mayor for our project, what a tragedy.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:32-33 that he tried to “please everyone” in everything he did so that many would be saved. I think that this concept really expresses our deepest desires as Bible translators. We want to, for example, please the most powerful governors so that they will give us their blessing for this project. In turn, the people will not look at us with suspicion wondering if we are spies, thereby rejecting our work. We see the necessity of raising controversial issues such as which dialect to use and which theological key term to insert so that we can reach a consensus before the Bible is printed. And because of this shift in our vision, our methodology needs to change.
A Different Methodology
When we landed, we thought we would be working with a couple Cameroonians to help us learn their language for the next 3 years. Now, instead, we are spending our time going from village to village asking the people to form a “language committee” that we can work with. We are asking people to select the people who have the best mastery of the language from each village. Then, once the language committee is formed, we will ask them to furnish us with a language partner. This way we can be sure that the way that this person speaks is already agreed upon by the community as being the “standard.” We will then continue to work with the language committee to help them come to a consensus about the alphabet, type of script and so on. Theoretically, with this approach we would be systematically weeding out stumbling blocks before they are “canonized.” We assume that our meetings will be quite heated but we would rather do the messy work on the front end rather than when it is too late.
Thus, for the next several months, we plan to work to develop a language committee. After that we will spend a couple years working with them to analyze and develop the language. Once the language has been analyzed, and a system of literacy is in place we plan to then shift of our emphasis towards the churches and create a similar committee with the church leaders in the area.
This methodology is very different for us because it requires us to dialogue and persuade even before one verse of the Bible is translated. But, we are convinced that this is what it looks like to “please everyone” so that when the Bible is published, they may have no other reason to reject the Bible except for the message alone.
So as you pray for us during these initial stages, pray that we would we as “wise as serpents and as innocent as doves.” Pray that we would be persuasive in the face of leaders who could make or break this project. Pray that we would be persistent to go back to the villages that are skeptical of our commitment to see their language developed. Pray that the Lord would give us favor in the eyes of influential people so that they could mobilize the entire community to work together to develop their language. And pray that God would give us grace to weed out stumbling blocks before they come between the covers of his Word. 

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 10:32

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Survey Trip Planned for this Week

By Stacey

Starting tomorrow, Dave and I will be traveling to do a week-long survey among the Bakoum people. Our three two motivations for doing this are:

1. To gather more information about the people group. On the linguistic side of things, we hope to ask them things like if there is more than one dialect of the language or if they can understand the other languages groups which surround them. And then, on the more general side of things, we hope to map out exactly where all the Bakoum villages are located, how many chiefs there are, and who are the “key people” who would be interested in participating in the project.

2. To create awareness of the need for literacy and translation. We hope to help the Bakoum peoples see their need for the development of their language and for a translation of the Bible. As we have been told by numerous missionaries, if the people do not invest in literacy and Bible translation at the beginning, they will not read the Bible at the end. Thus it is crucial to get people on-board from the beginning so that as books of Scripture are published, people will be able and eager to read them.

In order to aid in accomplishing this goal, we have asked a Cameroonian brother who lives in the capital to join us during the week (Jean Yves). He is experienced in mobilizing communities to see their need for the Word and thereby take ownership of literacy and translation projects. He will also be beside us to help us not miss cultural cues and to communicate our purposes clearly in French. We are very thankful for the opportunity to work with him.

Please remember us in your prayers this week. Specifically you could pray that:
  • All the meetings would happen.
  • That we would communicate clearly (in French) our vision for literacy and Bible translation.
  • That we will represent Christ well and glorify him in what we say and do.
  • That the Lord would open people’s eyes to their need for His Word and that they would invest in the project.

Thank you for thinking of us and for your prayers. We look forward to writing about our experiences soon!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Family Update: Light and Not-So-Light Things

by Stacey


In celebrating Thanksgiving this week, I sat down and asked myself what I was thankful for here in Cameroon. Although there are many things to praise God for, I think one thing that I most appreciate about my life is that everything is new and very different. We thought we would share a couple such experiences…
On the lighter side of things…
Snakes. When you think of Africa, you think of snakes right? Well, if not, you should. We are currently living in the middle of a rain forest and have seen a green mamba, yellow mamba and even a had-to-have-been 6 foot cobra (with a hood and everything). Fortunately, we were driving when we saw each of these snakes slithering across the path. Unfortunately, they slithered away before we could hit them. And you may think that the “natives” here are just used to this kind of thing, but in reality they hate them as much as we do. In fact, they even hate chameleons. A couple of our neighbors brought us chameleon hanging at the end of a stick the other day and when we picked it up they started screaming, running around in circles, and gasping for air. I thought we were the ones who were supposed to have this type of reaction. Another interesting fact is that we often have people trying to sell us snake skin, chameleon eggs, or other critters. I am not sure what about being an American communicates that we want to buy killer reptiles.
If life was not exciting enough...we always have Zoey!
The white-man incompetence. The other day, all the parents of our kids’ school were asked to come to the school to pull weeds. Me, being a parent, showed up and did my share of the work. After raking weeds for about 30 minutes, the director took the rake from me and said that I had worked too hard. I then left the school only to be chased down by another mother who went on-and-on about how white people are incapable of “working” and how she could not believe that I helped clear the field. I explained to her that our work in the US is different (i.e. we usually go to the office as opposed to work in the field) but that we are capable of learning their way of life as they are capable of learning ours. She could not stop laughing. As we were walking down the road, I saw some of my friends passing by and I shouted to them that this woman said that white people cannot learn how to work in the field. They begin to roar with laughter (because they apparently thought the same thing). I still cannot figure out what people thought was so funny.
Kyra blowing bubbles for the village kids
Bad French used for good. Like we mentioned in our last blog post, we witnessed a man violently beating his dog a few weeks ago. We asked him to stop and then bought the dog from him. I saw this same man the other day and I intended to ask him why he does not go to the church that our missionary friends planted among his people group. He responded “yes.” I accepted the fact that either my bad French or his bad French was getting in the way of what I was trying to say. Later in the week, I realized that he thought I was inviting him to our church (which is in a different people group) and that he had accepted my “invitation.” So, today, he showed up at our car at 9am all dressed up and brought his whole family to our church. I did not mean to invite him, but the Lord used our bad French for the good of this man. Please pray for him, his name is Pajero and although he has lived across the street from our missionary friends for years, he rejects the Gospel.
The not-so-light side of things…
Sickness and Death. Another thing you may think of when you think of Africa is diseases and dying. It is with great sorrow that I admit that this is the reality here. Among the people group we are currently staying with (until our house is finished), there is a 50% infant mortality rate. Often I see the kids here chewing on trash and playing with knives.
And this week an extremely ill woman was brought to our camp to see the missionary nurse. My nurse friend said she thought the woman was dying, probably of AIDS. I took this woman and her adult daughter back to their village and I was extremely burdened by the sorrow that weighed heavily in the air during our drive. The daughter told me that her father had already died and she was silent with worry about her mother, choking back the tears. I was struck by the fact that I was in the presence of an individual who would be locked into their eternal state in possibly a matter of minutes. I tried to talk to the daughter about what her and her mother believed, but due to my limited French and due to the fact that she did not want to talk much we did not get very far. When I arrived at their village, men came and carried the mother out of the car and a few days later I heard that she had died. It is too late for this woman to be saved now. Maybe she did know Christ, maybe she did not. Maybe she heard the Gospel, maybe she did not. Had anyone ever prayed for this woman’s soul? Had anyone explained to her how to be saved? These were the questions I was asking myself on my drive home. I realized afresh that life is short and even shorter here and that there is urgency to the message of Christ.
Sharing the Gospel. A few weeks back I was a bit discouraged because, although I wanted to share the Gospel with people, I felt like there was too much of a language barrier to do so. So I prayed about it and a missionary college of mine just encouraged me to dive in and share the Gospel in bad French. Since that time, the Lord has given a few opportunities to share his Word with others. One thing that I do is play the audio Bible in French in my car. Being that we have one of the 3 cars in the village, we are giving  people rides all the time. One man was listening to the temptation of Jesus and gasped in response to what he heard. It is both amazing, staggering, and tragic to be around people who do not know simple Bible stories that were taught to me before I could even talk.
The Sad State of the Church. Dave and I are trying to go all the churches in the area so that we can get the leaders “on board” with the translation project we will be starting. All that to say, we are experiencing a lot. At one church in particular, we witnessed 3 hours worth of chanting, people having what looked like seizures on the floor in front of their scared weeping children, and one woman even “died” only to be “resurrected” by the church leaders. There was no sermon, no Scripture, only chaos. We had a communal “vomiting” time to vomit up any food that we ate that week that was not eaten “in faith.” We also witnessed the leaders calling out for the “Holy Spirit to come down and burn their genitals.” Women were aggressively rubbing other women’s stomachs to increase fertility. Elias was to the point of tears saying “this is not good, this is bad” and Zoey asked if people were bowing down to idols. The overall message of the church was “What can I get from God?” There did not seem to be love or adoration of the Lord, just chants shouted out in order to manipulate him to give them good health and fertility. To top that off, they asked Dave to come up to the front in order to join the group of shouting people who were casting out demons. He politely declined.
What is our response to this? Our prayer is reform. Our prayer is the very pastors of churches like this will join the translation project that we hope to start and will be transformed by the Word of God and will in turn teach it in their churches.
Dave adjusting to Africa (we didn't have ice, so that is a sack of frozen flour).
Growing in Patience. So our house is still not finished and it is sad to say that the workers are actually breaking the things that they already did as they construct new things…and I don’t get the impression that they are going to fix them. Nonetheless, progress is slowly being made and we think that one day we will actually move in. We were praying for November 11th, but now we are just praying that we could move in one day. However, we trust that the Lord has us in this holding pattern for a reason…and we are guessing it is to teach us patience. As one of my friends told me, “you and Dave are doing well during this time of waiting, seeing that you are not exactly given to patience.” I think she was trying to be encouraging, but I walked away realizing that this was an area that I need to grow in. Perhaps that is God’s good intention behind all the delays. May he teach us what he wants us to learn through whatever he means he chooses.

So, in sum, our days seem to be a mixture of “is this really happening?” moments, grief over lostness and death, prayers asking God to make us useful in this place, and building shelving for our house. And yet, as always, the Lord has been our rock and our hope during this time of extreme change.
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. - Romans 12:12