Sunday, February 7, 2016

Zoey Drama: What All Went Down

By Stacey

Today our super-bubbly, 5 year old daughter Zoey is running around gleefully shouting, “I can run! I can run!” whereas a couple days ago she was lying on our floor bleeding profusely and writhing in pain. Needless to say it has been an eventful few days between then and now so we thought we’d fill everyone in with the details…

What Happened?

On Wednesday night, Zoey and her brothers and sisters went to church next door to our house. After church, Zoey comes running home crying saying that she fell. After a few tears, a pack of cookies and a hug she was up running around in our yard with the neighborhood kids and dancing around with one of our new kittens muttering something about how “cute, cute, cute” it was.
When it was time for her to take a shower, she took off her clothes and showed me that her underwear were wet with blood. “Hey mom, what’s this?” she asked matter-of-factly. Me, being the not-so-great-with-blood parent called for Dave. He laid her down on the ground and started looking for a cut, but could not find one. Turns out the blood was coming from inside her vaginal area.
We tried to apply pressure, but could not get the bleeding to stop. And there was a lot of blood. After about 20 minutes we were feeling a bit panicky and decided to take her to a missionary doctor friend who lived with a neighboring people group. It was then that I started to wonder what we would do if the bleeding did not stop. Was she going to bleed to death?
Dave left while I stayed home with Bonnie (home-school teacher and friend) and the rest of the kids. Dave could not get cell reception so Bonnie and I more-or-less sat there wondering what was happening.
In the meantime we started interviewing the rest of our kids about what had happened. All three of them explained that Zoey was sliding down a hill of sand by the church, legs spread, when she slid into a rock. Apparently this rock made a small tear just on the inside of her vagina.
The question of sexual abuse entered our minds so we asked the kids if Zoey had left during church or was seen with any adults. They all said that she was there the whole time and never left their sight.
So, while these types of questions were being asked at home, Dave carried bleeding Zoey into the house of our missionary doctor friend who put a tarp down and laid Zoey on her own bed. The next hour was very traumatizing for all parties as they could not get the bleeding to stop. However, the doctor did reassure us that while it looked like a lot of blood, for that part of the body, it was not. She told us that Zoey would not bleed to death. What a relief.
Dave was obligated to hold Zoey down while the doctor, Reda, examined Zoey unable to find the wound. She was forced to try to put cotton where she thought the wound might be and apply pressure. For a little 5 year old girl, the pain was intense and she broke her Daddy’s heart by crying out, “Daddy, make it stop!” “I wish this wasn’t happening!” “Please Daddy make it stop.”
Fortunately the bleeding finally slowed down and tired Zoey returned home with her Dad around 9PM.
When she returned home she sat down on my lap and ate a bagel sandwich I had made for her and told me all about her “vagina.” She was perky and we breathed a sigh of relief that this was behind us. We also examined the pants that she had been wearing and found a whole where the rock/stick must have pierced through. We were grateful for that because it more-or-less confirmed the other kids’ stories and eliminated the possibility of sexual abuse.
But when she got off my lap, my dress was wet with her blood and we realized that this mini-crisis was not yet behind us.
We laid her down in the living room and this time I held her down while Dave tried to apply pressure to get the bleeding to stop. After about 30 minutes there was blood everywhere and tired Zoey was writhing in pain. I was trying not to cry so I could comfort her. Dave was feeling helpless not knowing what to do.
So at about 11PM he went back to Reda’s house and decided to stay the night there. She was able to apply lots of pressure to the bleeding area and after an hour of intense pain for Zoey, the bleeding slowed and Zoey fell asleep.
We were all sure that when Zoey woke up the next day, the bleeding would have stopped, but we were wrong. We were tremendously thankful that it has slowed down, but still she was a good amount of blood, especially when upright.
A doctor in a hospital on the other side of the country, Mbingo, said that the wound should heal on its own. So we waited a day. But the next day there was still blood. Because there was a pediatric surgeon visiting at the hospital in Mbingo until today, Sunday, we decided to drive there to have him take a look.
So after a two-day drive, we reached Mbingo last night and had Zoey looked at. They put her under so they could open her up to see exactly what had happened. They found that there was a tear that would not have healed on its own so they put two stitches in and a couple minutes later, rolled sleeping Zoey out to us. They said that there were no fragments of rock or a stick and we were very thankful.
Today Zoey is up playing and giggling and we can kind of pick up the pieces, thank God for this outcome and start thinking about the phonology of the Bakoum language again.

Where Does this Leave Us?

Thankful

When Jesus said that he would be with us to the ends of the earth, he meant it. He was there the entire time and how he showed us he was there was mainly through his Church. We had three different parties offer to connect us to pilots to come pick Zoey up and fly her to the hospital. I had friends that I called in the middle of the night. I had family members pray with me over the phone. I called our local pastor and told him that Zoey was hurt when the call suddenly dropped. By the time I called him back he was on a motor-cycle in the dead of night on his way to our house. My neighbor, Carol, practically wept with me and her husband came over to pray for us. Our entire local church came over. And Facebook exploded with concern for Zoey. Sometimes the enemy wants to tell us that we are alone out here, and this flys in the face of that lie. We are not alone.
And the Lord answers prayer. He hears his children and he answers. It is true that we do not exactly have a local ER out here, but our faith is in Jesus who, although he uses medicine, is not bound to it. We are thankful that Zoey did not bleed to death, we are thankful that he heard us.

Sad

And yet, I know that living right next door to me is a mother who has lost at least 3 children. This same mother has a girl living with her who has polio and is bent over with her face close to the ground, never to stand up straight, barring a miracle, in this life. On the other side of us there are three babies who are just now crawling. And so they crawl around in the dirt putting trash they find on the ground in their mouths. One of them is often sick. Their mothers hate it but what can they do?
And where do these mothers turn? Often to local healers that mix herbal medicines with traditional religious practices. Or to the local clinic that tells them they need to buy medicine that may or may not be what they need but is definitely outside of what they can afford. There are no helicopters coming for their children and they often just die.

It is staggering having been born into a country of such privilege and wealth to now live in a country of such poverty and despair. I did nothing to merit my citizenship as an American. I did not deserve loving parents, good schools, accesses to good medical care and faithful friends and yet I have been given all that and more. And now I live among people who have never seen running water, who go without food, and whose children die. I do not know exactly what to do with this except thank the Lord for his grace on my life and pray that he might use me to be a small instrument of grace in theirs.

Is it Worth It?

In many ways, ministering here is filled with joys that I would not have experienced if I had stayed in the States. But there are also instances like this where I feel the weight of what we have left behind. I am thankful for the outcome in this situation but it is a stark reminder that we have left access to good medical care which may at some point be very costly.
So is being here worth it?
A couple days ago I was grappling with this question when I ran across this verse:
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. - Matthew 10:37  
There is much that could be said about the sovereignty of God, the promise that God has every persons days numbered, the reality that America is not Heaven and so on. And yet, this verse was Jesus reminding me that our decision to come here honors him. So in a word, it’s not the people here that make it worth it or even the possibility of a translated Bible changing an entire people group. Instead it’s the joy of walking with and following Jesus that makes it all worth it, even in the face of potential great loss. Following Jesus has always been costly but He never leaves his children lacking.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

3 Reasons Not to Dress Up for Church, and Why I Still Do

by Dave

It is interesting the things you notice when you jump into a different culture. We live in a small village next to a small town. On most days people are dressed in tattered clothing that is filthy from the field. Diapers are uncommon, so most toddlers just wander around without pants. The majority of houses in our village have dirt floors, and even with our cement floor it is impossible to keep our kids clean. But Sunday, that is a different story. On Sunday families wear matching outfits, clothes bleached to an incomprehensible white (seriously, I have no idea how they get their clothes that white). And cufflinks! I naturally assumed moving to Africa that I would never see cufflinks again. I think the shock is what started me thinking about the “why?”. Why do we dress up when we go to church? This is a particularly pertinent question when we find that something that we do is causing a problem. And there is definitely a problem.

A rather common response that I receive when I ask people in our neighborhood if they will be going to church is that they do not have nice clothes, or their clothes are not clean enough. My pastor told me, just the other day, he had been talking to our neighbor and friend Simon who had not been at church the previous Sunday. Simon said that he had not cleaned his nice clothes in time to be ready for church. The idea that cleanliness and godliness are tied is a common theme here. Stacey has been to women’s meetings where the application of the devotion was that “the devil is in the dirt” and that they need to keep their homes, clothes and children clean. And spending any time in a church here, you notice that people almost always wear their nicest clothes, which are always as clean as possible.

If the Bible says that we should dress up for church, we should, regardless of our life situation. However, I have searched the Scriptures and I have yet to find a single passage to indicate such a command. In fact, when the Bible addresses clothing, it is usually warning against wearing nice clothes. We should heed these warnings, so I have listed some of them here:

1. Partiality
James identified a problem in the church in his day:
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? (James 2:2-6)
The problem James saw in the church was that they were showing partiality, prioritizing the rich. He mentions that the rich man is “wearing a gold ring and fine clothing,” identifying him through his clothing. I believe that this is a trap that we can fall into in wearing “church clothes.” In our village, because of their limitations, you will see people in church without their kids and other times, like with Simon, they just do not come at all. However, this is not a problem with the wealthier members of our congregation. They have more clothing and more nice clothing. Therefore wearing special clothes for church is easier for the rich, and at times, impossible for the poor. If we expect it, I believe we are falling into the same sin as the church in James’ day and showing partiality to the rich.

2. Impropriety
Another danger of church clothes is that in wearing them, we begin to think that they are proper. Speaking to the women of his day, Paul wrote:
likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works (I Timothy 2:9).
Paul implies here that wearing “costly attire” is actually improper for women. What is “proper” for these women is not about what they are wearing, but good works. Most of the people in our neighborhood work their fields for food, sell some of it in the market, and use what they make to buy other necessities that they cannot grow. This means that they rarely ever have much actual money. Clothes are one of the things that you do need money to buy. The average manual worker, when they can find work in a field or construction site, makes around $3 per day. A nice “Sunday dress” for a little girl could cost as much as  $16. That means that buying such a dress is a week’s salary investment. $16 does not seem like a lot to an American, but there is no doubt that this would be considered “costly attire” here. Paul tells women to not put their energies into braiding their hair or “looking the part” for church, but instead encourages them to spend their time working on their hearts. A Sunday dress code ignores Paul’s warnings causing women to adorn themselves with clothes and not with godliness.

3. Misplaced Priority
 When we require dress clothes I believe that we are thinking like Samuel. When he was called to find a new king to replace Saul from the sons of Jesse, Samuel immediately thought about the eldest.
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (I Samuel 16:7).
God revealed to Samuel that outward appearance can be misleading and to place it in priority is to think like a man and not like God. Saul, the previous king, had a more royal appearance and was a desperate failure. What makes a good king is not one’s height or his fashion sense, it is a heart that loves God. The conversation between our pastor and Simon ended with Boris telling him that in the future he should try to do his laundry sooner. What a missed opportunity! It would have been a perfect time to remind him that man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. I do not believe that God cares if we are wearing nice/clean clothes on Sunday. I certainly cannot find a verse that says so. So, for us to require it directs people’s attention to appearances rather than heart issues. I have heard of pastors here that wear a nice suit complete with cufflinks to church every Sunday, but are living in sexual immorality. This is backwards! And if we continue to require expensive clothing for church, we are affirming this backwards truth. Instead, we can use these conversations to teach about God. God is not like us: we look for beauty in people’s faces and clothes, but God looks at the heart.


Why I Usually Dress Up
With all of this said, the truth is that I usually dress up when I go to church (well, I put on my clean jeans). Is it because we ought to give our best to the Lord on Sunday? No, I believe we ought to give our best to the Lord everyday. And the "best" that God is looking for has nothing to do with my clothes. I dress up for Sundays because I believe that one of the principles in these passages above is that our lives are not supposed to draw attention to ourselves, but to God. In our church, the people are used to seeing people dressed up and I think if I dressed in my everyday clothes people would focus on me, instead of the Lord. When I preached in certain churches in the States I wore a full suit because I wanted people to listen to what I was saying and not be distracted by what I was (or wasn’t) wearing. This is how I work out Romans 14,
One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God (5-6).
Rather than “quarreling over opinions,” as Paul says earlier in this chapter, I try to defer to the convictions of others when at church.


But please do not leave this blog believing my current clothing choices negate the warnings in Scripture. The truth is, Africa has fallen into these traps in part because of us. Cameroonians did not wear ties before they were colonized by “Christian” nations. With their faith, my missionary predecessors brought part of their culture: church clothes. This focus on appearance coincided with a culture that at times cares more about what others think than reality, and the result is a lot of churches that are nothing more than whitewashed sepulchers. Our actions have consequences and when we blindly accept our own cultural values, assuming they are biblical, we communicate that God expects something that he does not. These warnings might not change what we wear to church (although they certainly could), but they ought make us question our hearts. Do you find yourself judging others because of what they wear? When you think of how prepared you are to worship God, are your examinations only skin deep? Have we become judges with evil thoughts? Let this be a warning to us. Let us seek to look to the heart and not the outward appearance. And let us make sure that we are only expecting of others what God is expecting of us.


Sunday, January 3, 2016

Urgent Financial Need for a Co-Worker Among the Baka

by Dave

If you have followed our ministry for a while, you know that we have spent a good amount of time with the Baka people. We visited them during our field visit, we lived among them for a few months while waiting for our house to be built, and we work right next to them here in Dimako. If you were to come and visit the Baka, one of the first things that you would notice how desperate their physical plight is.

The Baka have for known history been hunter/gatherers and therefore lived as nomads, never settling in one place. However, with the growth of the non-Baka population, deforestation, and other hunting, the Baka are starting to have to change their way of life. This has been extremely difficult, leaving many of them near starving and in terrible physical health. There has just recently been at least one death in our area of a Baka baby because of measles.

On top of all of their physical problems, the Baka are a people lost in their transgressions. They fear spirits and often live in drunkenness and violence. They have many great needs.

To help meet their needs, the Lord has led a woman named Jenn Jessee to come to Cameroon as a nurse and care for their physical needs, while working alongside other World Team missionaries to also meet their spiritual needs. Her care and concern for the Baka people has even led her to adopt a Baka baby, who was in rough shape after the death of her birth-mother. Annabella and Jenn are now in the States nearing the end of their 6-month furlough.

I am writing this to point out that in order for them to return to Cameroon to help the Baka, they currently need more monthly support. In her November newsletter (read it here) Jenn says that they were still in need of $1000 per month. I would ask that you consider your current financial situation and see if there is not room to help this godly woman as she does some of the hardest and most needed work in Cameroon.

Please check out her blog: http://jennjessee.blogspot.com

You can support connect to her support network by going to: http://us.worldteam.org/give/index or by mailing in a SUPPORT CARD.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

A Very Sober Christmas

by Stacey

It is interesting that while we are far away from all things “Christmas-y,” (cold weather, carols, crowded malls, and parties with family and friends), I have never had another Christmas that has been more focused on Christ. The reason for this is because this holiday season has been filled with new-founded sorrows that only Jesus can remedy.

To Those Under Life’s Crushing Load…
Oftentimes I will go on a walk in the evenings and I pass many women who are on their way back from their fields. They are carrying baskets on their backs that are filled with wood they will use to build their evening fire and the crops that will soon become their dinners. These baskets are so heavy that on one occasion, I tried to pick one up and I could barely lift it off the ground. And these women walk with these baskets for miles each day, in rags, in flip flops, many of whom are suffering from hernias or other diseases.

I could not help but to think of these neighbors when our family sang the popular Christmas Carol “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” the other evening. I would dare say that in a mysterious way, this song must have been written for the frail women who I see day in and day out walking “beneath life’s crushing load.”

So, to those whose bodies are bent down due to lives of labor, my prayer that they could one day rest beside the weary roads and hear the angels sing that that the Savior has come. And that he will one day come again and make a new world where there will be no more slow painful steps, no more bodies bent over, no more laboring to survive. This famous carol expresses perfectly my wishes for those I live among:
All ye, beneath life’s crushing load,Whose forms are bending low,Who toil along the climbing wayWith painful steps and slow,Look now! For glad and golden hoursCome swiftly on the wing:O rest beside the weary road,And hear the angels sing!

To a People Filled with Envy, Strife, and Quarrels…

God has called us to a divisive people, a people who are quick to anger. All too often there is violence in the streets and people aggressively screaming at one another. The other day, Dave even saw a woman walking down the road belligerently yelling at…a bird.

So to those who do not smile, whose mothers had few kind words to give, who defenses are always up, who do not yet know Christian love and warmth, who have never known a true friend, whose lives are filled with arguing and division, may Jesus come into your lives. May he silence all the strivings and quarrels and fill the whole people group, the whole world, with heaven’s peace.
O come, Desire of nations, bindAll peoples in one heart and mind;Bid envy, strife, and quarrels cease;
Fill the whole world with heaven’s peace.

To Those Steeped in the Darkness of Animism…

Our pastor mentioned the other day that as the end of the year approaches, usually there is an increase in witchcraft and animism in our region. Often accusations fly with each death, “My child is dead because so-and-so put a curse on her through sorcery.” Whether or not there was a visit to a sorcerer, suspicions are high and trust is absent.

And so, once again, a familiar Christmas carol expresses perfectly my prayer for this people: that Jesus would come and disperse the darkness that surrounds us.
Oh come, though Day-spring, come and cheerOur spirits by thine advent here;Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

And so, this not-super-festive Christmas season has been a blessing in so many ways. It has been a reminder to me that it is Jesus Christ is the one who has come to carry our sorrows, heal our diseases, put us in right relationship with his father and with our fellow man. And he is the one who will come again and put everything as it should be. Come quickly Lord Jesus.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Removing the Power of the Cross by Minimizing our Children’s Sin

by Stacey

There is a story that the Bakoum people recount to their children. The story is of two fragile deer, a mother deer and a baby deer. These deer were frolicking through a lush green valley when one day the mother stops and looks seriously into the eyes of her offspring. Her tone takes on an air of seriousness when she explains that there are hunters who set traps in the valley to kill deer. She explains to her fawn that she must be very careful or else she could be entangled in a trap. The daughter deer laughs at her mother and calls her old fashioned saying that this is a progressive new world and things are like that no longer happen.
The next day the mother awakens and looks around, immediately noticing that her baby deer was not where she laid down last night. Suddenly the mother hears the voice of her fawn calling out to her from afar. The mother darts up and starts to run towards her voice.
She finally finds her, and out of breath, asks what the problem is. While the question is half-way out of her mouth, she looks down and sees that her daughter’s leg is mangled in a trap. The mother begins to cry and tells her daughter that there is nothing she can do to help her. She then hears the sound of the hunter coming to claim his pray. The mother hides herself only to watch the hunter mercilessly slaughter her fawn with a machete.
And what is the moral of this downer of a story? That children need to listen to the warnings of their parents. And if they do not, they will wander into serious evils that would have eternal repercussions. It may not be a feel-good story, but it is motivated from a heart of love and a desire to protect one’s child.
In the same way, I am convinced that our job as parents is to also warn our children of the wrath of God and the promise of eternal hell if they do not repent. This is not a feel-good message, but it is a message given out of a heart of love.
Living in France for a year, and now Cameroon, I have been able to look at American parenting through a different set of lenses and I think that in some circles we can be guilty of the following:

Making Excuses for our Children’s Sin

How many times have we said to ourselves or to others that our child’s misbehavior is due to the fact that they were tired/under a lot of stress/had a rough first year in an orphanage/etc.? I am not saying that the difficulties that we experience do not affect us as people, I am just wondering if we are serving the victim well if we ignore the fact that he too is a victimizer in need or repentance.
When we look at the Bible, we see the Lord justly repaying each sinner for the wrong that they had committed, regardless of their background or delicate physical state. For example, the Israelites were SLAVES who were beaten and whose little boys were in danger of being killed by their oppressors. But when they failed to believe in God’s power to help them defeat their enemies in their conquest of the promise land, God punished them by making them wander in the desert for 40 years. We do not see the Lord excusing this behavior due to their rough past in Egypt, but he instead gave consequences that were in appropriate measure to the offense.
Are we as parents doing the same? Or are we excusing certain behaviors for this reason or for that?

Mislabeling Their Sin

I also think we tend to mislabel our children’s issues. When they hit others, the Bible calls that violence whereas we may call it not handling conflict well. When they look us in the eye and say a half truth we might call it a little fib whereas the Bible calls it a lie. When they are consumed with themselves and cannot bear it when their brother or sister is praised, we just say that they feel a little left out whereas the Bible calls it jealously and selfishness. When they give us dirty looks and sulk when they are corrected, we may say that they are just overly sensitive when the Bible says that those who despise discipline are fools. When our kids consistently refuse to do their chores, we might say that they are just easily distracted whereas the Bible calls them lazy.
Maybe we avoid those condemning biblical terms in order to keep things positive around the house, but if we do that will our children see their need for a Savior? We do not need to be saved from feeling left out, but we do need to repent of jealously. In the same way we do not need to repent of being easily distracted but we do need to repent of laziness. I think that trying to keep things positive by not using biblical terminology for sin is actually harming to our children.

How Excusing and Mislabeling Sin Harms our Children

Vague, Powerless Prayers

Maybe the reason why our children are not repenting of specific sin in their lives is because we are not praying that they repent of specific sin and we are not confronting them in their sins. Jesus says in Luke 11:10For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” He gives us this promise to entice us to ask him for great things. If we are not being honest about where our children are at before the Lord, then we are not going to be praying for neither their salvation nor their repentance of specific sins. If we are just wishing them into Heaven, we are missing out on the great and effective tool of prayer that God uses to save sinners.

Blind to the Need for a Savior

Jesus said in Matthew 9:13 that he came not to call the righteous, but sinners. Do our children know they are sinners? Do we tell them? Or do we tell our children that Jesus loves them just the way they are? Are we leaving out the fact that God hates our sin so much he actually killed a man for it (or will punish the sinner in Hell forever because of it)? It is not the people with a healthy self-image who come to Christ, but instead it is those who know that they are bad and hopeless without a Savior.
Take, for example, the tax collector in Luke 18:13-14?
The tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified…For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.
This tax collector had an acute awareness of his sin and humbled himself before the Lord. And his reward was that the Lord promised to exalt him. If we want our children to be exalted and righteous before the Lord, the only way to that is through the cross. And the only thing that would drive them to the cross is the conviction that they too are lost in sin. And without knowledge of God’s law, there is little knowledge of sin. Are we as parents doing our job in holding the law up to their consciences?
To conclude, if I were the Devil, which I am not, and I knew of the power of prayer and of the Gospel preached to sinners, I would do everything in my power to ensure that Christian parents avoid both. I would convince them to focus on the peripheral issues that their children face, to the neglect of their greatest need of being reconciled to God. So, fellow parents, let us be like the deer at the beginning of this post who did her part to warn her offspring. Let us look them in the eye and warn them of the coming wrath if they do not repent and let us pray for their repentance.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Education Will Not Save Africa


by Dave

often find myself daydreaming about how I could really make a difference here in Cameroon. When I look around me I see people trapped in their traditions and who literally cannot imagine any other way of life. I see poverty so extreme that some have no source of water other than a dirty river, and they are always sick. Their children die from measles, and improper sanitation, and lack of access to medical care. I see people that deal with conflict the only way they have ever seen yelling in the streets and threatening each other with machetes. And I sit in my house and teach my kids about how America is sending people to live on Mars while looking at my neighbors cooking mice right out my window. Kids look in wonder at our kitchen faucet because they have never seen anything like it. I long for something more for them. I know that these people could have so much more. So, my daydreams these days come in the form of solutions to these problems.

Education is the Future for Africa

An article I read recently has sparked some new ideas when my mind drifts. In this article an author named Neil Gaiman makes the case that one of the greatest ways that we can encourage future generations is to make sure they are literate, reading, and daydreaming. This quote was especially interesting to me:

I was in China in 2007, at the first party-approved science fiction and fantasy convention in Chinese history. And at one point I took a top official aside and asked him Why? SF had been disapproved of for a long time. What had changed?

It's simple, he told me. The Chinese were brilliant at making things if other people brought them the plans. But they did not innovate and they did not invent. They did not imagine. So they sent a delegation to the US, to Apple, to Microsoft, to Google, and they asked the people there who were inventing the future about themselves. And they found that all of them had read science fiction when they were boys or girls.

His description of China rang true to Cameroon as well. And so this has kindled a new daydream for me: my dad is adopted (true story) and we do not know who his parents were. So, one day we find out that his birth father is Bill Gates (or someone as rich) and he decides to make up for lost time, he is going to give each of his grandchildren $1B. So, here I am, in Cameroon with a billion dollars. What could I do to make a difference? Start building libraries.

The illiteracy rate in the villages around us is astronomical and I only know of a handful of Cameroonians that read for fun. So, to start, I build a library here in Dimako. And I hire someone to liaison with the local schools and kids start taking field trips to the library and are read to and taught from an early age how to read and how to write. We encourage them to think of new planets and machines that make food out of thin air and genetically-modified-malaria-resistant mosquitoes. Then we start printing their stories and reading them to other Cameroonian kids that think up more stories. I believe that a project like this would dramatically change Cameroon if done well. Cameroon is replete with resources and I do not doubt that with the right changes it could eventually be a financially independent country. And I genuinely believe that education is their future.

Education Will Not Save Africa

But I want to tell you the story of an educated man. He was born to the family of a billionaire, not unlike my imaginary grandfather. His father was a hard worker and a frugal man that liked to take his family on trips and picnics. His father tragically died when he was 10, but left him an inheritance of around $25 million. He grew up going to the best schools available and was a good student eventually studying economics and business administration at a university. He apparently was involved in charitable work while he was at school and enjoyed writing poetry, reading, and playing soccer. At this point his life begins to get blurry. Some say that he finished a degree either in civil engineering or public administration. But some say he decided to drop out of college without finishing.

We do not know exactly where he began to develop extreme views, but after he left college he began to use his money and influence to help jihadists that were fighting in Afghanistan. And by the age of 31 he was beginning to form his own organization committed to jihad elsewhere, after the Soviets had left this war-torn country. This organization expanded and grew over time and in 1990 FBI agents raided the New Jersey house of one of his associates and found evidence of copious plots against the United States. This educated millionaire was involved in numerous bombings and mass killings including an attack on the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001 that killed over 2,000 people.

If you have not figured it out, this highly educated terrorist was Osama Bin Laden. He is one of many well-rounded men that have terrorized our world. In fact, some of the men that we have grown to hate the most (Hitler, Stalin, greedy CEOs) were born and raised in countries with high literacy rates and well educated themselves. This leads me to conclude that education will not save Africa. Education changes people, drives innovation, motivates response against corruption, and has potential to reshape the economy of Cameroon, but it does not solve the biggest problem. Education can never change the heart.

Africa Needs Jesus

The Bible tells us that “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9). The problem with having a sick heart is that you do not know that it is sick. You think the problem is money, or education, or your neighbor, or Wall Street, or Western civilization. That is why Jeremiah says it is “deceitful.” Having a sick heart is a self-blindness under the effects of which you can learn a great deal of things, and recognize all of the issues with others in the world, but your deepest problem is nowhere to be found. And what makes that predicament so bad is not that we are yelling at others or dying in medical ignorance. It is so bad because it separates us from the Creator, the God who made us. The prophet Isaiah tells us, “but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear” (59:2).

And in fact, it is a problem that we as humans cannot solve on our own. You see, we cannot change our own hearts. We cannot even understand on our own that our heart is the problem. And even if we knew the problem and knew to seek after God, he would not listen to us because he has hidden his face because of our sin. Neither money nor education can change that. Yet another prophet, Ezekiel gives us an idea of what we need:

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (36.26).

In order to be right with God we need a new heart. Our sick-stone-heart can never please God no matter how well-informed it may be. This is evident in the lives of the men that I have mentioned above. And it is evident in my life and in the lives of my neighbors. We need more radical change than education has to offer. Education cannot save Africa. Only Jesus can save Africa. Paul clues us into this in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold the new has come.” It is only through Christ that we can become new. We cannot change ourselves, we need Jesus.


I have not abandoned education (or my library idea). There is a reason that where Christianity has spread around the world so has literacy. We are a people of the Book, and though it is not a requirement, literacy helps greatly. But in the end, I know that education by itself will save no one. Education does so many wonderful things, but it also makes smarter thieves, harder to catch murders, and brilliant despots. There is no doubt in my mind that the future for Africa is in education, but the salvation of Africa rests in Jesus alone.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Yesterday I Crushed a Log in the Latrine with a Rock

by Stacey

Check out this sentence! To us it sounds like just one, maybe two, words but to speakers of the language it actually has means:  “Yesterday, I crushed a log in the latrine with a rock.”






Each “ko ko” had a different tone and thus this, in the mind of a Bakoum speaker, is not just one word repeated over and over but instead is 5 different words. Whew! I suppose that this can serve as a reminder to pray for you missionary friends learning tonal languages.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Singles, Love Your Roommates as Christ Loved the Church

by Dave

I had a great idea my second to last year of college: move out of the dorms, move in with some friends, and save a ton of money. So I moved to an apartment, not far from campus and began to live the liberating off-campus life. I should have suspected that there would be trouble the first day I moved in, what with having to spend hours cleaning the kitchen and all. Three hours to be precise. And it was a small kitchen. 

It was the first time that I had to deal with messy roommates, and it was painful. I was the only one who did dishes, straightened up the living room, and flushed the toilet. No really. I would like to say that I did so with a servant heart, but that was rarely the case. And the extensive nature of the filth gave me plenty of time to reflect on the injustice of it all. Who did these guys think they were? If ever I expressed my frustration with them, I was usually told that no one cared if it was clean or not. Thus, after all of my efforts, I was not even appreciated, adding to the frustration.

One time I resolved to make them feel it, to see how much they cared if I just left it. So, for an extended period of time I did my own dishes and no one else’s. That will show them. But it turns out that they were right: I really was the only one who cared. So, when I could not take it any longer (and we had no more dishes) I went to work once again in the kitchen. I remember feeling quite a bit of self-righteousness after cleaning the maggots from the two week old pot of spaghetti noodles, finally emptying out the sink. But then I turned around and realized I had forgotten the pots and pans that were on the stove. Hell hath no fury like…a roommate…that has to clean maggots…or however that line goes. 

I have listened to my single friends’ frustration with their roommates throughout the years and realized that I am definitely not the only one. However, after 12 years of married life, I have discovered that there is another demographic that relates well to these feelings: parents. Literally, as I am writing this, I am smelling what can only be an unflushed toilet. Children are the ultimate unthankful messy roommate. 

For those less experienced, allow me to give you some examples. When my kids were babies, on numerous occasions, they would scream while I changed their diapers, at 3am. As though I was selfishly keeping them awake by not wiping their bottoms fast enough. They live as though there will always be someone to come by and clean after them even in they spread poop from their diaper on the wall, or spill an entire gallon of milk on the carpet. One of Stacey's birthdays was overall ruined as the kids fought the entire day and complained that we were not doing enough of what THEY wanted to do. If you need more help, check out Honest Toddler and you will get the idea.

Some people live with this same struggle with their spouse. I am forever thankful to say that I do not have this frustration. But what I have come to understand is that messy roommates are the training ground for family life. The verse that comes to my mind is Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” God calls husbands to love their wives as sacrificially as the foot washing, patient teaching, life sacrificing Savior, Jesus Christ. Take note: the image that God has chosen for how a husband is to love his family is that of a single man. A man who poured his own life out for people who demanded miracles just because they were hungry, denied him, and left him to die on the cross alone for their sins.  

The one thing that I cannot do is change how I reacted to by messy roommates. But if I could, I would go back and practice patience and self-sacrifice with them. I would seek to love them while washing away maggots and flushing fetid toilets. Of the sins that I struggle with today, the one that I so regularly repent of is a lack of patience with my children. I know without a doubt that, had I taken the time to learn this lesson better in my single years, I would be a better father. 

If you are single, and hoping/planning to one day be married, I am calling you to practice this now. In fact, I would even call you to seek out a messy roommate. Crazy idea? I am reading a book on parenting by Gary Thomas where he tells an interesting story:
An ancient story tells of a monastery with a very difficult monk - a contentious, obnoxious, arrogant, and divisive man. If an argument erupted, odds were very good that he was somehow involved. Any group of murmuring brothers almost certainly had his name on their lips. This monk had no friends but many enemies, and finally even he grew tired of the animosity and left the order. While the brothers rejoiced, the abbot quickly realized his loss. He pursued the contentious monk and tried to persuade him to return. When the monk asked why he should come back to a place where clearly he wasn’t wanted, the abbot offered to pay him a salary if he would just rejoin the monastery. Imagine the other monks’ consternation when they say this hapless fellow walk back into the compound! When they discovered he would receive a salary to live their, they grew furious. One marched over to the abbot’s office to ask for an explanation. The wise abbot responded, “This brother, as troublesome as he may be, nevertheless teaches you patience, kindness, and compassion; that is why we need him here. No one else can teach you the lessons he teaches” (Sacred Parenting, chapter 9).
Though I have to say I do not really like the idea, I think this abbot was onto something. When we are single we are able to do a pretty fair job of choosing who we spend time with. Some would read my experiences here and say they are going to be even more careful in vetting a future roommate, or even chose to live alone. But I think if you do that, you miss out on an opportunity to serve like Jesus. Marriage for some, and parenting for all, forces us to serve those that are hard to serve. While you are still single, you can miss these lessons. If you instead seek to love the unlovely, serve the ungrateful, and do it with a heart of service, you will be more prepared for family life. And more importantly, you will be more like Jesus. 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Dialect Survey Recap

by Stacey

We did surveys in 24 villages in two weeks and all-in-all we are very pleased with how things went. It is also safe to say that we have a much better understanding of the dialect situation among the Bakoum. Here are a couple highlights:

Reasons Why I Love my Job
Dave and I had a great time working together. We would call the chief of the village ahead of time and ask him to designate someone whose mother and father were Bakoum (and who had all their teeth) that we could meet with upon our arrival. Generally this person was waiting for us when we got there, we asked them thee 200 words, gave them an update on the project and then concluded by recording a traditional story they told in Bakoum. We also tried to do a lot of our introductions in Bakoum, and they were very pleased with that.

In one dark, mud hut that we were sitting in, I looked up and saw an enormous dead (?) spider hanging over Dave’s head. We just ignored it and continued with our survey. When we got for the word for “spider” and pointed to a picture of it, the owner of the house looked at the spider hanging over Dave’s head and more-or-less said “Well would you look at that! We’ve got a real one right here!” On a separate occasion, we had chickens that kept coming into the house we were working in and making so much noise that the lady of the house had to chase them out.

And my ultimate favorite animal story from the survey is when we arrived in one village, we were greeted by a group of rowdy people carrying a baby civet (our neighbors call it a chat-tigre). So, I held this little tiger-like creature that I’ve never even seen before (even in books) on my lap during the survey.

All this to say, the survey was not at all dull.

A Variety of Experiences
A common thought process that Dave and I had as we drove away from each village was “wow, these people need the Lord.” In several Bakoum villages the people are tremendously contentious and the streets are filled with hostile arguments. When Dave initially visited one village, he did the survey with one group of people only to have an angry mob waiting for him at his car saying that he was on “that village’s side” and not on their side (there are “sides”?) Dave said that they became so violent that he was afraid they were going to tip over his car or something else quite extreme. At the recommendation of a Cameroonian who was with him, he quickly drove away. This was the village right next to the other one called “the calabash of sorcery.”

Drunkenness is also incredibly prevalent. In one village, I was doing the survey with a gentlemen who kept getting up, filling up shot glasses with some type of alcoholic beverage and drinking it. It was 9 in the morning and the survey only lasts about 40 minutes. Oddly enough, this is the village that also asked us for money at the end.

On another occasion a different group of drunk people became so rowdy that we could not do the survey. I asked a couple women to come inside a house with me while Dave stayed at the door and served as the bouncer forbidding people to come in until we were done.

And then, on the flip side, we did a survey with an elderly crippled gentleman, who thanked us very sincerely for coming here to help him and his people. The approval of God is enough for us, but it was incredibly rewarding to hear appreciation from a Bakoum person. It encouraged us to keep pressing on.

Initial Linguistic Conclusions
We have not yet carefully analyzed the words that we collected, but there are a couple things that are striking: First, Bakoum is an extremely “vital” language and does not seem to be in danger of disappearing. Very rarely do they need to borrow French words (aside from modern things like computers and the like) and people speak it in the villages. Also, the people in the villages did not want to talk to us in French (even if that meant they had to suffer through our extremely limited Bakoum). Secondly, there is definitely a majority dialect that is spoken in about 19 of the 25 villages. This will likely mean that the majority dialect will be the one that will be chosen for the Bible translation.

To conclude, this trip was very encouraging because it reinforced in our minds how much the Bakoum need a Bible translation. The people as a whole cannot read in French and thus cannot read the Bible at all, thereby being left in a state of spiritual darkness. This was just the motivation we needed to endure in our studies of the language.  


Homeschool Teacher Needed


For those of you who did not see our post about this on Facebook, we are looking for a godly young lady to come live with us to homeschool our kids (4 2nd graders) for the 2016-2017 school year. Here are some details for anyone who might be interested:

The Opportunity
See the missionary life up close! You will live with our family and be an essential part of our ministry. It will challenge your worldview and help you understand the “real” missionary life first hand.

You will also have the opportunity to greatly help us as we set out to learn and analyze the Bakoum language. Our ultimate goal is to translate the Bible for this people group and in order to reach this objective we need to intensely study the language. Having a homeschool teacher would greatly free us up to concentrate on our work.

Details
Our Town:
We life in a small town next to a tropical rain forest in the beautiful country of Cameroon, Africa. The people speak a local language called Bakoum although French is used as a trade language.

Our Kids:
We have four children, all adopted from Ethiopia: Kaden (6), Makyra (6), Elias (5) and Zoey (5). Although they are a year apart, we are currently keeping them all in the same grade (starting in August 2015 they will be entering 2nd grade). They all really enjoy learning and homeschool.

Curriculum:
We use Sonlight Curriculum and are part of “Sonlight Christian Academy” here in Cameroon. Twice a year, all members of the program meet for two weeks in order to give the children a classroom experience. There is also a homeschool coordinator named Elsie who will visit us in our home two weeks out of the year in order to school the children and make sure that they are progressing as they should be.

Housing:
We live in a good-sized house outside of town which includes a school room where the children are homeschooled. We also have a separate “guest house” in our back yard, complete with a bathroom, which would serve as the lodging for our home school teacher. Meals would be eaten with our family.

Qualifications
  • A strong walk with the Lord and a life committed to the practice the personal spiritual disciplines.
  • A strong recommendation from your local church.
  • A love for and experience working with kids of this age.
  • You do NOT have to have any experience as a teacher but we ask that you come with a willingness to learn and to work hard to ensure they receive a good education.
  • Must be at least 18 years old.
  • Must apply through our mission agency, World Team, and be willing to raise funds to support yourself for your 9 month stay.

Job Description
  • Homeschool the kids (generally this is 4 days a week, 5-6 hours a day), be willing to work one on one with them in areas where they struggle.
  • Prepare daily individual lesson plans from the suggested lesson plans available.
  • Volunteer for activities during the group homeschool session.
  • Assign and encourage students to give a presentation during the spring group session of something that they have studied throughout the year.
  • Be responsible for checking out all curriculum materials, taking care of them and checking them in at the appropriate time.
  • Be willing to watch the Hare kids when Dave and Stacey both need to attend language / Bible translation committee meetings (this happens rarely).

Cost
You would be responsible to raise approximately $300 USD/mo plus one-time costs (airfare, immunizations, visa and passport fees, a trip to World Team’s Support Center for an interview / introduction to the agency ($100), etc). Personal expenses (buying gifts, souvenirs, etc) are not included in this figure.

The Process
Please contact me, Stacey, at stacey.hare@worldteam.org so we can begin initial conversation, answer any questions you may have and give you an idea of what it is like to live with our family. If you seem to be a good fit for our family and if we seem to be a good fit for you, you would then begin the application process with our mission agency, World Team.

We also currently have a young lady living with us to homeschool our children who would be willing to tell you what it’s like to live with us. You can contact her at: bonnie.marcum2@gmail.com.


World team would require an initial application, phone dialog, references, and so on. If everything is approved, you will be invited to come to the main office for their orientation / application week. Please visit the website at http://us.worldteam.org/content/getting_acquainted to fill out the initial application.