Monday, August 3, 2015

One Year Since our Arrival in Country: Much to be Thankful For

By Stacey
This past year has been a whirlwind. We arrived in Cameroon with 16 suitcases and four children and that was pretty much all we had. We were a bit lost, uncertain about where we would serve, and at times wondering what we were doing moving our family across the world.  Now, a year later, we have a house, are well established in our people group, we have a language committee, language partner, public school for the children, home school teacher for the children, those whom we call friends, a weekly routine (thank God), a local church and even a dog and two cats. So much has happened within this past year and we cannot help but to pause and thank the Lord for his faithfulness to us. Specifically I am…
Thankful for my Family
“Dave, hand me le couteau o teole ko” Is there anyone in the world who understood that sentence? Probably not unless you speak French, English and Bakoum. And who is the only person in the world who speaks these languages? My husband. Who then is the only person in the world who understands me? That’s right, my husband. There are few greater joys then to work side-by-side with Dave. We pull our hair out together over linguistic issues, we pray for our people group together, and we laugh and laugh at the awkward things we end up saying and doing. Further, I married a city boy who grew up in the suburbs and little did I know that he would turn into a serpent killing, fix-anything-with-a-couple-of-sticks, lizard-eating jungle warrior.

And then there are the children who spend hours playing in the dirt, riding around in the wheel barrow, and cuddling the cats. They go out with me to people’s houses and listen to me struggle through Bakoum so I will not be alone.
I imagine that nothing draws a family closer then traversing a foreign culture together.
Thankful for National Partners
What does a white middle class American have in common with a poor Cameroonian who grew up in a polygamous household, cooks over a fire and catches his food in the bush? Answer: Everything when the two are in Christ.
It is true that the Christians are few and far between here, but the handful of Christians that we have found is our new family. Jesus said that there is no one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands; for his sake and for the gospel who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time and in the age to come (Matthew 10:29-30). This has absolutely proved true. With our friend Jean Yves we strategize together as to how to best engage the community in the cause of literacy and Bible translation. He also exhorts our children to follow Christ and listen to their parents. When our kids throw up in church, our neighbor takes them out and comforts them. Our boys have recently started tucking in their shirts because that is what our pastor and their hero Boris does. We have already received a hundredfold in this life, in a very short time.
Thankful that the Promises of God have Proved True
Strategies of dealing with stress and culture shock may have their place but they do not hold a candle the joy there is in believing and seeing the promises of God proved true in one’s life. Specifically,
God has been there
There is nothing more isolating then not sharing a common language with people. You are totally alone, having thoughts and things you want to say, but you remain silent and frustrated for at least a year. It is equally as isolating to be in the midst of a culture that is totally foreign and has a value system that you do not share. One day I saw a picture of president Obama (who I did not vote for) and could not help but to smile because he was the only thing familiar that I had seen in some time. But even in the midst of all that, the Lord has been there. His hand has lead us, his right hand has held us. This passage has constantly reminded me of this truth:
Psalm 139:7-10  Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!  If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.
The Lord has Given Wisdom
We have read many missions methodology books which talk about what standard of living we should/should not live at. We have read about how we should always give to people in need vs being careful not to create dependency. We have read about if we should approach church planting like Jesus or like the apostle Paul. These are all helpful issues to think through and yet I think trying to iron out a perfect missions methodology can cloud out a child-like dependence on God where we ask him for wisdom in a given situation. A passage that has brought a world of comfort this year has been:
Proverbs 2:6-11   For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;  he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you,
This promise has proved true. Yes we have made mistakes but all-in-all we have seen the Lord faithful to give us wisdom.
God’s Grace has proved Sufficient
Many a missionary has gone out not knowing what the future would hold, but believing that the Lord would give grace for whatever they faced in their ministries. 2 Corinthians 9:8 says “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”
We are so very aware of our weaknesses, struggles over sin, and finiteness but then the Lord has assured us that he would give us grace to do what he has called us to do. We know it has only been a year but the Lord’s Word has proved true, he has given us much grace to stay up late studying, be faithful in parenting, and endure in prayer. We continue our ministry believing that there is more grace ready to be given in the days to come. So come what may.
So to conclude, the words up Paul sum up perfectly our reflections on the past year: “I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord” - 1 Timothy 1:12   



Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Greater Than the Sum of the Parts

by Dave

I was walking alongside a woman and her partner on Market Street a few years back. It was Saturday morning, 6AM, and she was walking toward the abortion clinic, so it really was not hard to guess what was going on. I tried to ask a couple of questions, but they just continued to walk, disregarding me. Knowing I only had seconds, I decided to cut to the chase.

“Did you know that the child you are carrying was created in the image of God who is currently weaving her together in your womb?”

For the first time the woman turned to look at me.

“There is no child inside of me,” she said with a grin on her face.

“What is inside of you?” I responded.

“Just a bunch of parts.”

That was the end of the conversation as they reached the doors to the clinic and went in, without looking back. I had so many questions that I wanted to ask. The main question was, “And what are you? Are you not just a bunch of parts?”

This conversation was ringing through my mind today when I saw the video of Planned Parenthood marketing aborted babies body parts. If we reduce unborn children to “just a bunch of parts” is it really so surprising that we would then sell those parts?

The problem with this thinking is that we already know better. Human beings (adult or baby) cannot be summed up as “just a bunch of parts.” When someone commits a murder, we are not angry that a liver and heart have gone to waste. We are shocked and disgusted that a human life has been taken. linked to an infographic claiming that the human body is worth around $590,000 if we consider the value of the parts separately. But when a child is kidnapped, do parents file a lawsuit to get their $600K and move on? Of course not, they are willing to do anything to get their child back, even PAY a ransom. Why? Because human beings have a worth that is so much greater than the sum of their parts.

As a Christian I find this very easy to explain. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). The Bible explains very clearly that we, as humans, have great worth not because of who we are, but because of whose image we were created in. A materialist cannot explain why a murder is wrong, but a Christian can. Murder is wrong because that life was created in the image of God (Genesis 9:6). That is why we call Dylan Roof a monster and firefighters heroes.

Of course, to say that there is no difference between an unborn child and an adult would be misleading. As a 32-year-old my body parts are fully developed. If you were to attack me and try to take my life, I could call out and fight back. With still developing bodies, unborn children are at a severe disadvantage. And it is so much easier to treat them like “just a bunch of parts” as they have no ability to defend their own humanity.

This is why it is no stretch to apply Proverbs 31:8-9 to our present situation:
“Open your mouth for the mute,
    for the rights of all who are destitute.
Open your mouth, judge righteously,
    defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

Christian, God has called you to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. We live in an age where over one million unborn children are murdered every year in America. And sadly most of us are horrified by these truths but do not allow them to change our daily life.

I admit that for most of my life I have been politically pro-life. I say “politically” because my main action to defend the unborn was to vote. Sure, I had conversations with people and sought to persuade others, but theoretical banter was as far as it would ever go. I remember my first morning out in front of the abortion clinic. It was cold, hard, and sad. But I remember knowing that for the first time I was really doing something. Perhaps you do not know someone who is seeking to have an abortion, or perhaps you feel like there is really nothing you can do. I would like to offer you an option.

Speak for the Unborn is a ministry that was founded in 2009 at Immanuel Baptist Church in Louisville, KY with the expressed goal of calling the local church to actively respond to the injustice of abortion. Every week IBC sends out believers to stand in front of the abortion clinic to talk to women and their companions. It is a hard job, but we have seen fruit. Because of this ministry babies have been saved. For those that are unable to come out, or do not feel like it is a good fit for them, we have teams that focus on praying. Some members have made baskets for women as they come out of the clinic to offer them a small snack and biblical literature. Others have been involved in training churches in the ministry, discussing our roles with the local authorities, and encouraging those who do go out. Without a doubt, there is a role for you in this battle.

My wife, Stacey, spent several weeks counseling a woman adamantly seeking an abortion. And generally, we never know how these stories end up. But this time, months later, this young woman approached my wife with a baby in her arms. With a thankful, almost embarrassed smile on her face, she said, “My baby is alive because of you.” It is at those times that we realize this ministry is worth the cold, the awkwardness, the threats, and the early mornings. Brothers and sisters, there is victory and no matter how hard it is, every life is worth it. The question for you is: will you join us?

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Much to be Thankful For: Recap on Kids' Bible Club

by Stacey
Yesterday our Kids’ Bible club came to a close and although we are exhausted we have much to be thankful for.


Each day we started by playing a game like Red Rover, Leap Frog or Tug-of-War and the kids had a blast. There were even kids lined up in anticipation outside of our house well before we were ready to start the club. After that we taught them catechism songs which they loved. If nothing else, we are so encouraged to hear sung throughout the village “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God almighty who was and who is and who is to come.” Or “Who made me? God made me. In the image of God he created them male and female.” We plan to work with churches in the hopes that these songs will be used regularly in their children’s programs.
After that we had a very basic Bible lesson where we talked about the attributes of God, the incarnation of Christ and the importance of the Bible as the means to know what God is like. The kids were overall were attentive although there were difficult moments: screaming, crying, pushing kids off benches (and that was just our son Elias…). When we concluded the Bible lesson the kids colored pictures and they were just ecstatic. I do not know if they have ever colored pictures before. Their houses are mainly mud brick and dark inside with nothing on the walls. Now they have brightly colored pictures in their homes with Scripture verses on them. I imagine they will keep them for years. We even had teenagers proudly showing us their pictures waiting for us to say, “Wow, that’s beautiful!” We had a handful of markers that the kids had to share and they did. And then after that we gave them cheap 25 cent cookies. Getting them to form a line in order to receive their snack was pretty intense. Lines are something we deeply miss.
  "Every word of God proves true" - Proverbs 30:5
Where does this leave us?
What this people group needs is the Word in their own language and years and years of faithful discipleship. This people group needs parents who know the Word who will be faithful to teach it to their children. But in the meantime, we pray that the Lord would be pleased to save some of the kids that find themselves on our porch. And who knows maybe they will be the ones who will grow up and help promote our dream to have a Bible that people can read in every Bakoum home. 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Kids' 5-Day Club Starting Tomorrow at the Hares

by Stacey
For our first term we are charged with the task of learning Bakoum, analyzing it, and learning the culture. But then there are always bored children on our front porch looking for something to do or for someone to teach them something. We talk to them in Bakoum some, but are nowhere near the place where we can teach them the Bible in this language (need to get it translated first!). But we have more-or-less decided that would rather not wait to teach these kids the Bible and hopefully some of them can understand it in the French (this would be on top of language and culture study...for all my World Team friends reading this ;).  
And so tomorrow we are starting a "5-day club" where we will be teaching them a few basics about the Christian faith. Specifically:
1. Who is God?
2. What is sin?
3. Who is Jesus Christ?
4. What did Jesus Christ do?
5. What is the Bible?
We are also excited to have found some catechisms / Scripture set to music in French that we will be teaching them and are hoping to hear them sung around the neighborhood (ie In what year was God born? None, he always was...)
And so, we would ask our fellow Christians to pray that this would be the generation that would be ready to receive the Word with joy once it is available. Pray that we would hear children singing Scripture around our neighborhood and pray for our children, that they would join us in seeking to engage this village for Christ.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

God Uses "Bad Legs"

by Dave

Can God use you? It is a good question. Some people told Elinor Young that her polio crippled body would prevent her from her dream of becoming a missionary. But she believed that whom the Lord calls, he uses. And that he equips those whom he calls. Watch this amazing woman's journey to becoming a Bible translator that ultimately ended in the Kimyal Bible Translation.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Called Not to be Colonists, but Revolutionaries

by Stacey

Called Not to be Colonists
Like most first-term missionaries, we are thinking through many issues that are suddenly before us (usually “out-loud” on our blog). One such issue is the question of “tolerance” on the mission field. This question is intimately tied to the history of our people group. People in this region had been living in the jungles until the French and German colonists entered the area. It has been said that the Germans violently forced the people to set up new villages along a main road so that they could control them more easily. A few of our friends have told us stories about the French savagely beating nationals who dared to resist their authority. They were made to submit to the whites and unfortunately this dark history is not too far in the past.

And then a generation or two later, we show up. We arrive not with the agenda to conform our friends and neighbors to our ways, but instead we are here hoping to learn theirs. Our prayer is to become their slaves in order to give them the hope of the Gospel in a way that is culturally understandable. Thus, because we want to communicate acceptance of this culture, a mantra in our home is that things here are not “good or bad, but just different.”

But Revolutionaries

But then we have our kids watch DVDs about Amy Carmichael whose ministry rescuing little girls from temple prostitution was integral in making this practice illegal in India. Or of William Carey who openly battled for decades against the practice of burning widows in India. His perseverance eventually led to the government banning this travesty. Their lives changed the laws of foreign  nations. I have to ask myself: What if they had kept their heads down focusing solely on “missionary work”? Would it still be legal in India to drop off one's daughter at the temple to be a sex slave? Or would widows still be burned to death at their husband’s funerals instead of being comforted?

In reflecting upon their open resistance to evil practices in the cultures they worked in, I wonder if perhaps we as missionaries could be responding “It’s not good, not bad just different” just a little too quickly. I wonder if there is a time to say, “God says this is evil and it needs to be stopped.” 

What Does the Bible Say? The Bible calls us first to discernment and then to action.


The Bible says that those who are mature are not those who remain unmoved by the evils in their culture, but instead those who are constantly distinguishing between good and evil (Heb 5:14). The mature are those who are able to say, “That is wrong and let me biblically explain why.” These people are also “wise as to what is good” (Rom 16:19). They know what is wholesome and pleasing to the Lord and they know what moves him to anger. The best missionaries and the best Christians are not those who are just “nice” while remaining silent as widows are burned or children are aborted. Instead they are those who study the Scriptures and can patiently and unwaveringly give biblical reasons as to why a particular practice is wrong. And this ability to discern does not remain intellectual but instead moves them to…


William Carey did not just make a biblical case that widow burning was wrong in his diary. No, his goal was to stop the practice. Why? Because his ability to discern sank down into his emotions to the point where he could follow the call of the Bible “O you who love the LORD, hate evil!” (Psalm 97:10). His emotions would not let him sit back and say, “Oh well, sinners sin!” Instead his hatred of evil led him to intervene.

Not only does the Bible call us to be able to discern good from evil, to emotionally respond to the good and evil that we see, but also to expose it. Paul says, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (Eph 5 11). I heard one sermon where the pastor said that the reaction of a Christian towards evil is to point a big spotlight at it. Is this attitude found in missions methodology books today?

To conclude, I think it is great that we as non-colonizing, non-oppressing Western missionaries come to the field with a ready-to-learn-and-serve attitude, quick to accept aspects of the culture that we find uncomfortable. And yet, I do not believe God wants us to drift towards an overall passivity to the evils around us. We should instead be constantly asking ourselves, “Does this aspect of the culture please God? Why or why not?” And consistently praying, “Lord, help us to love what you love and hate what you hate within myself, my home culture and the culture I am living in currently.” And finally, after discerning good from evil, being moved to love it or hate it, we are to boldly step out in faith to expose the works of darkness that are around us.

And for our friends at home, it seems like the process of discerning good from evil within our own culture is even more difficult. We tend to be blind to what has been the “normal” that we have grown up with. Thus, the above prayers are very applicable to all of us: “Lord, help me to discern what aspects of my culture please you and which aspects do not. Lord, help me to love what you love and hate what you hate about my culture.” Finally, “Lord help me to lovingly and patiently expose the evil that is so readily accepted her.” And of course, “Lord use me to change this nation.”

And I imagine that the Lord will be pleased to answer these prayers. I imagine he will continue to use his children to be salt and light in nations all throughout the world.

And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets-who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Hebrews 11:32-34   

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Can We Come to VBS?

by Dave
We had a request from one of our churches (Grace Church Frisco) to have four short videos for VBS this summer. They are extremely simple and mostly just introduce our kids and our ministry. If you are doing VBS this summer, please feel free to use these videos as a way of introducing missions into your material.

*Disclaimer* I did not have a ton of time to work on these, so they are extremely simple. Hopefully they can still be helpful.

Video #1: Introduction to the Family

Video #2: The Need for Bible Translation

Video #3: The First Steps

Video #4: Prayer Requests

Also, if you would like to download these videos instead of using YouTube, you can download them here:

Sunday, May 31, 2015

"What a Bunch of Savages"

by Stacey

Dave and I have lived for over 30 years in America. For 30 years we lived and breathed American culture. But 2 years ago we were launched out of our comfort zone and into first Europe and now Africa. We have found that in reality, we are somewhere in orbit outside of these cultures, not really belonging to any of them. Within a single week, we hear both the values of those from our home country and the swirling opinions of the people among whom we work. Their differing reactions to the same issues are astonishing:
Concerning Homosexuality:
Western Culture: “How is it even possible that in Cameroon a single homosexual act can get you 5 years in prison!?"
Cameroonian Culture: “Wow, can you believe that homosexuality is LEGAL in the US and that they even have gay pride parades?!”
Concerning Children’s Respect for their Parents:
Western Culture: “Did you know that in Cameroonian culture, disrespectful children are beaten, sometimes publically!?”
Cameroonian Culture: “Can you believe that in the United States children will openly disrespect their parents in public, without any reprocussions?!”
Concerning Immunizations:
Western Culture: “Is it not great that those who live in the remote places in the world do not fill their bodies full of harmful chemicals and immunizations but can just eat organically and live off the land?” 
Cameroonian Culture: “If only I had access to the polio vaccination when my daughter was younger, then she would not have to be bent over with her arms dragging on the ground for the rest of her life.”
Concerning Abortion:
Western Culture: “Can you believe that in Cameroon women do not have the right to an abortion unless it's deemed medically necessary or unless they have been raped?!” 
Cameroonian Culture: “Did you know that it is LEGAL in the United States to kill one’s unborn child for any reason and the government ensures that women can do it easily and comfortably?!”
Concerning Marriage:
Western Culture: “Can you believe that it is legal in Cameroon for one man to marry multiple women?!” 
Cameroonian Culture: “Can you believe that one man can marry another man in the States?!”
The conclusion of both cultures is that the other is crazy at best and savage at worst.

Who is Right? (Or is There Even a Right?)
So, in regards to the above issues, which culture is right? I think the knee-jerk reaction on both sides would be to claim that their perspective is the right one. But can we do that?  For instance,
  • If we say that men should defer or submit to women, what would we say to a society that says that women are to defer to or submit to men?
  • If we are adamant that women should have the right to terminate their pre-birth children, what then would we then say to the culture that allows mothers to beat or even “terminate” their post-birth homosexual sons?
  • If we say that men should have the right to marry another man, what would we say to a society that says that men should have the right to marry as many women as he wants?
  • If we say that women and children should be heard, what would we say to a society who says they should not?
Maybe at the end of the day we are just as affected by the our culture as they are by theirs. Maybe we pity them because they are brainwashed by their society and they look at us and think the same thing. Maybe we look at little girls in some countries and pity them for growing up in a society that has brainwashed them into thinking they are inferior to men. And maybe they look at our society and pity the little boys who have been brainwashed into thinking they are inferior to women.
So Now What?
Admit When Judgmental
If we decide in the end that all of these values are just culturally relative, that is, determined by culture, a call for change would be judgmental and ethnocentric. After all, who are you to say that your culture is better than mine? Can you really tell me not to beat my child when my culture tells me that it is the best way to correct them? In fact, what if my culture tells me I am a bad parent if I do not beat them? Who are you to say you know better then an entire nation of people?

But what if these issues are not relative? What if there is truth that transcends culture?
Embrace the Truth that is Not Contingent
The God of the Bible refers to himself as the beginning and the end. He has always existed and will always exist. Kingdoms, powerful rulers and cultures have risen and fallen, but he will always remain. He is the Creator of the world and what he values remains the same no matter the culture, no matter the era. He does not change and never will. And this God wrote a book that explains his standards which are true for all people of all time in all places.  In the words of Jesus, 
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” Mark 13:31
And the words of Jesus confront the sins found in every culture.

Acknowledge the Sins of our Own Culture

It is true that someone raised in a culture accustomed to violence may not immediately see beating one’s child with a machete as a sin. Or someone else may genuinely believe that men are superior to women. What both of these people need is the Bible to show them the error of their ways. According to the Bible, men and women were created by God as equals and it even refers to Christian men and women as co-heirs of God’s Kingdom. In regards to raising children, the Bible says that parents are to discipline their children out of love for them but not in a way that provokes them to anger. Here it is the Bible correcting erroneous thinking, not just me with my own cultural biases.
It is equally true that someone raised in American culture could grow up believing that taking the life of an unborn child is permissible. Or that one has the right to have a sexual relationship with whomever he pleases. This again is where we need the Bible to reveal our blindspots. We need the Bible to show us that God is our Creator and as our Creator he has the right to speak into our lives. He has the right to tell us what we can and cannot do with the bodies he has given us. He has the right to tell us with whom we can have a sexual relationship and with whom we cannot. The Bible also considers the unborn to be God's image bearers, thus protected and not to be "disposed of."
What is amazing is that being a Christian and recognizing that truth resides outside of culture ultimately frees us. When Paul said that he had "become all things to all people" he was communicating this truth. When he came as a missionary, he could leave his culture behind him. For the sake of the Gospel he could wear Corinthian clothes, eat Galatian food, and admire Ephesian architecture. He could look at Jewish culture and call out their sins, while doing the same of Greek culture. Why? Because he was not comparing the two. Instead he was holding them both to God's standard. Thus, missionaries ought to be the most tolerant world travellers, completely unconcerned with how our host culture measures up to home. But instead examining every new culture in its relation to God's Word.

To conclude, it is far too easy to judge other people’s culture using the rule of our own. There is not one culture that is free from sin nor can be used as the standard. It is only the Word of God that helps us to discern clearly what God values as right and wrong and every culture all over the world needs this book to help them see clearly the sins that they have readily accepted all their lives.

I pose this challenge to our readers: Are you willing to open the Bible and let it point out to you the sins of your culture that you may have accepted without question? If you are not, ask yourself the question, “How am I different than those in other cultures that I might consider to be savage? By what rule can I say that I am in the right and they are in the wrong?” And in the words of the Apostle Paul:
"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." Romans 12:2 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Thigh, Breast or Door? The Joys of Learning a Tonal Language

by Stacey

Hey, can you go close the thigh? Oh, I mean the…breast? Nope…the door...that’s it…the door!
How could we get these words so mixed up? Let us just tell you that they have the exact same consonants and vowels. And if they have the exact same consonants and vowels then they are the same word that has several different meanings…right?

We have now officially entered into the realm of tonal languages where meaning is differentiated not just by different vowels and consonants but also by the pitch of one’s voice. So (we think) “door” is said with a higher pitch where “breast” starts low and then goes to a high pitch on the second syllable. “Thigh” starts low and then the pitch drops off. And these changes in one’s voice determine what the word means.

Here, give it a shot and see if you can tell the difference:

Often our language partner will say (it seems) the exact same words twice and then tell us that they mean different things. We find ourselves doing a lot of smiling and nodding as well as praying that the Lord would help us hear the differences that seem so plain to them.
So we write this post both because we find it interesting (don’t you?) and also to ask our Christian friends to pray for us. Pray that we would HEAR the different tones. Pray that we would WRITE them accurately. Pray that when we SPEAK we would be understood.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

When People Say Stupid Things: An Alternative Response

by Dave

Do you ever get asked stupid questions? Try this one on for size: on a market trip the other day the meat vendor saw Stacey, Elias and myself and asked, “Hey, where is your black woman?” Polygamy is not rare here and he assumed I had another wife, or at least another woman on the side. This type of question is the norm as we walk around here, not the exception. Adoption outside of the extended family is rare in Cameroon, multiple women/wives is common, and seeing us with black kids leads them to certain cultural assumptions. But that does not keep it from being offensive. No matter how often it comes up, I will never like it when people assume that I sleep with someone other than my wife.

I have come to realize that we are not alone and families with adopted kids (or even just more than the average amount of kids) get asked stupid questions all the time. But from what I have observed, I think that we are fostering the wrong reaction to these questions. What reaction? Wit. We are brainstorming witty phrases and comebacks, the goal of which seems to be to make the other person as uncomfortable as we are.

I offer here an alternative, that I think will result in better conversations: try to build up the stupid-question-asker.

How to Build Up Stupid-Question-Askers
I think that there is almost always a way to build up a person that asks this type of question. Here are some ideas:

1. Ask them about themselves.
"Wow, are ALL those kids yours?" 
"You know how that happens, right?" 
"Absolutely. Do you come from a big family?"
Often you can redirect the conversation toward the asker. Talk about their brothers and sisters, their kids, or some of the challenges of child rearing. Bringing the conversation around like this treats them like a person, and not just like a troll. Some of these people do have malicious intentions, many of them are just curious, and all of them are created in the image of God. Show them the curtesy and interest that you wish they would have shown you.

2. Just Explain.
"Are they really your kids?" 
"They are really my kids: we adopted them and they became a part of our family. This is Kaden, Makyra, Elias and Zoey. They have come all the way from Ethiopia! Oh, and by the way, families like ours consider our kids to be really our own, not someone else’s. So, when you talk to adoptive parents you might want to avoid asking if they are “really” our kids."
Like I said before, most people are just curious. The question may be posed poorly, but they are not trying to offend. They want to know more about your family. So, tell them. In my experience the next response is, “That is so cool.” You can explain that their question was rude too. That might do a better job of stopping them from asking some other unsuspecting couple in the future.

 3. Share the Gospel.
"Are there not enough needy kids in America, that you had to steal some from another country?" (Real question, BTW) 
"We are really fortunate to attend a church where people are adopting from our State, our country, AND overseas. We did not feel like we had to choose, because together we are trying to reach all needy children. Did you know that when God decided to adopt people into his family he chose people from every tribe, tongue, and nation?"
There are some really good transitions into the Gospel with stupid questions. Family and adoption are two of the ways that God illustrated his saving grace and so any questions about our kids can lead to the Good News. Transitioning into a Gospel conversation can be so awkward, why not jump on something that naturally flows there? I think if we resort to sarcastic comebacks we are missing out on a great opportunity.

Why Build Up Stupid-Question-Askers?
Just in case you are still thinking up those witty comebacks, I thought I would give you a few reasons to take a different approach.
  • These askers are made in the image of God. They may have just offended you, and not treated you like you would have wanted to be treated, but they were made by God and for his worship. We are called to treat humans with a respect they deserve not because they are kind, but because their Creator is.
  • We are called to always build others up with our words. I have never walked away feeling closer to Jesus when someone intentionally made me feel stupid. I have walked away more like Jesus when someone gently confronted my stupidity. Galatians 6 calls those who are spiritual to restore someone caught in a transgression with gentleness. If we are called to be gentle with those that have actually sinned against us, how much more should we be gentle with those that are accidentally stupid.
  • You say stupid stuff too. James tells us, “if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.” Truth is, we all say stupid things, sometimes intentionally. And sometimes we say something that seems innocent enough without knowing the history and we hurt others. I know I have. And the biggest blessing for me was not sarcastic rebuke, but gentle grace. 

Truth be told, I write this as a reminder for myself. Ever since Jr High comebacks have come to my mind very naturally and I find myself wanting other people to feel stupid when they say something stupid. But I have come to the conclusion that this comes from my flesh and not the Spirit. We can turn offensive situations into an opportunity to build up, especially when we realize that the Gospel is that we have offended God and he chose to reconcile. I have seen blogs dedicated to brainstorming witty comebacks for these situations. I would love to hear how you all have turned stupid questions for the asker's good. Let me know in the comments!