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.

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.

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.

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.

  • 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).

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 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:

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 to fill out the initial application.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

2 Week Dialect Survey Starting Monday

By Stacey

A couple months ago, a group of riotous, drunken village leaders threatened us, “If you do not choose our dialect for your Bible translation, then we will not read your Bible.”

We had heard about such threats in linguistics school, but now here we are on the brink of having to make a decision about which dialect to make “the standard” as we can only choose one to write down. So which one do we choose?

So, for the next two weeks we are going to gather as much linguistic data as we can in order to make an informed recommendation to the language committee as to which dialect we believe would be the best choice.

What we have done is put together a collage of 200 different images and when we go into a village we will point to picture and say “What is this?” or “What is he doing in this picture?” in Bakoum. We have an excel document which has the names of 24 villages on it. Once we collect this list of 200 words from every village we will then compare the words and look for different pronunciations. Fun! Fun! We also plan to reiterate our vision for this project…in Bakoum! We want to show the different village leaders that we have been hard at work to study their language.

So, we write this just to update our friends and family and also to ask for prayer. It may sound easy to go to a village and collect 200 words but in fact it is not. Often times we have the whole village come out, with goats, chickens and all to come see the “white people.” This is good for promoting the project but very bad for trying to collect words. We often ask ONE person the Bakoum word for something and have the entire village respond and start yelling at one another about who is right or who is wrong. We have close to 5,000 words that we need to collect and thus want to stay on task. So please pray that we would get the data that we need, that the people would have renewed excitement about the project, and that we would communicate well in the little Bakoum that we do know. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

7 Reasons Why I Love being a Missionary

by Stacey

While it is true that there are various aspects of missionary life that prove to be difficult, there are also so many reasons why I just love my “job.” Let me share a couple of my favorites:

1. Conversations are never boring when you are having them in your 3rd language.
If you are trying to have a conversation in your third language, the mental gymnastics that you are doing prevents you from ever getting bored regardless of who you are talking to. Plus, you never know what is going to come out of your own mouth, which keeps things interesting. Dave the other day told the chief of our village that he was on his way to his cat’s house (meant to say his friend’s house).

2. Baby Hyraxes. 
Data entry is a part of my job as I enter the vocabulary that I learn into a computer
program. So yes, that can be a bit tedious at times. But, I have a pet baby hyrax (named Biscuit) to keep me company. Who else gets to do data entry with a baby hyrax in their cubicle with them? This job is awesome.

3. The Simple Joys of Living in an Internetless Society.
Could you imagine pulling into the suburbs in the US and seeing all the neighbors in the street watching two dogs chase each other? Or maybe you could imagine doing grocery shopping and then pulling into your driveway only to have your whole neighborhood come curiously watch you take everything out of your truck whispering to one another about your purchases. Imagine thunderstorms where all the kids in your neighborhood strip off their clothes and come dance in your front yard, rolling in the mud and laughing hysterically. This is the normal for us here. Why? Because these are our sources of entertainment. There are no computers here, no Twitter, no Facebook, just rainstorms and the village dog chasing the village pig. It is amazing how easily amused you become living in a village. I love it.

4. Spending Time with my Kids. 
There are no soccer leagues, no church Sunday school programs, no swimming lessons, no slumber parties. Thus, we are almost always with our children. While it can be difficult at times to try to speak in your third language, while mentally translating it into French, while telling your kids to put the machete down in English, they get to see every aspect of our lives. They get to see mom and dad struggle with “school.” They get to see mom and dad pray and wait and keep praying even when God does not respond right away. They come with us to Bible studies that we teach, they see the dead bodies lying in the beds of their loved ones before they are buried. They see violent fights in the village, they see those who are sick, those who are impoverished. They see it all. They see how their parents deal with being the minority in a culture and they get to see how we react when we are mistreated. They listen to our every language session, and since we do not have ceilings in our house, they hear us repeating the same vocabulary words over and over during the night. This is living life-on-life with our children. In the day to day it is not easy, it is nevertheless something I would not trade for the world.  

5. Being in God’s Creation. 
In Piper’s books When I don’t Desire God he said one of the ways to encourage one’s soul to be in awe of God is to spend more time in creation. This is my daily experience. When I worked in a beige cubicle in a call center, a part of me died every day. Now I enjoy thunder storms that are so loud I cannot hear the person standing next to me yelling. I see lightning that is so bright and striking that I have actually screamed before.  I go on a jog each morning on a trail which borders Jurassic Park (I seriously would not be surprised to see dinosaurs one day). There are palm trees, exotic flowers, hyraxes that scream at night, a nearby lake with what seems like hundreds, maybe thousands of toads croaking. This environment inspires worship of God and I love it, love it, love it.

6. Fields Ripe for Harvest. 
It is rare to visit a church and not be asked to give a little message or encouraging word. In our area, people seem eager to hear the message that we crossed the ocean to tell them. We often find ourselves having to turn down opportunities to teach in order to devote time to language learning. And the very simple truths that we tell people are earth-shattering to them. We really emphasize that man is made in the image of God and thus we ought to treat one another with dignity and not resort to violence and hateful speech. This idea is revolutionary here. There are always children in our front yard that will stop to listen to whatever we teach them. They are learning catechisms and loving it. It is exciting how many opportunities there are right outside our window.

7. No Temptation to Love the Praise of Man. 
There is no danger of doing what we are doing for the applause of men. Why? Because we are never applauded. We are regularly mocked for our inability to speak the language, we are often misunderstood, and are sometimes just glared at. We have lost our sense of identity as people just refer to us as “the whites” and have no idea what country we are from. We have also been asked if we work with terrorists or if we are spies here to steal the secrets of Cameroon. Just the other day one of our neighbors came to our house to tell us that we knows we are not really here to study the Bakoum language. There is only one reason why we are here: love for God and our neighbor. There can be no other explanation. There is no danger of ulterior motives in our positions.

Some people have said to us that we have given up so much to come here and do what we are doing and in a sense, they are right. There is a lot in America that is very obviously not here and there are trials here that we would not experience in the States. Yet the Lord has given us so many joys that we would not have had if we stayed in the US. His common grace is not limited to the borders of the United States nor is the day in and day out joy of his presence. When I have read 1 Cor 2:9 “what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him," I always assumed the fulfillment of that verse would be exclusively in the next life. But now, I do not necessarily think that is true. I have joys here that I could have never imagined when I committed my life to the mission field years ago. It is true that the Lord takes his children through discipline and trials but he also has prepared joys that they have never even asked for.

I think I will take this opportunity to put forth a plug for more people to consider missions. Sometimes when we consider serving cross culturally, all we see are the scary unknowns, the bugs, and the potential hostility of the people. I do not think that is fair to our God who loves to gives good gifts to his children. Instead I think we should pursue the field, yes with sobriety, but also with anticipation of what joys the Lord could have for us in unknown lands. Crossing the ocean is not a sentence of a joyless life but instead is a trade-off: we leave some joys behind for others that await us. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Confessions of a Former Grammar Nazi

by Dave

“Thank you for calling Merchant Services, my name is Dave, WITH WHOM do I have the pleasure of speaking?” I could, and probably do, chant this introduction in my sleep. For 2+ years I answered hundreds and thousands of tech support calls in the windowless Louisville call center for Bank of America Merchant Services. In my final six months I spent little time taking calls and a LOT of time listening to calls, as I became a part of the Quality Assurance Team. I awarded and deducted points from my co-workers’ scores based on their tone, technical prowess and adherence to the guidelines. One thing that I was not allowed to consider when scoring a call was grammar. But, oh did I want to. Every time I heard, “who do I have the pleasure of speaking with” or worse yet, “WITH WHOM do I have the pleasure of speaking WITH” a little part of my brain died. That is right, I am a recovering grammar nazi.

You see the form of the word “who” is in the subjective case, that is, to be used as a subject. For the objective case (including the object of prepositions) we would use “whom.” Also, we are never to use a preposition at the end of a sentence. Thus, “with whom” should come at the beginning of the BAMS introduction phrase. At least that is what they say. Who are they you may be wondering? You guessed it! Other grammar nazis. 

So what has brought about my change of heart? Was it perhaps a fear of online bullying? All of the Facebook posts decrying armchair copy editors? No, though I admit that does scare me a bit. What has changed me is that I am quickly approaching the date where I will be called upon to write a grammar for a language called Kwakum. So, right now I have to do a lot of research. I will hear a word in one place, then check it against a speaker in another village. And I am often told that there are two Kwakums: 1)the Kwakum spoken in everyday life (Kwakum leger) and 2) the REAL Kwakum. Many of the older people want to teach me the “real” Kwakum and I will walk away with vocabulary to try on my neighbors. And guess what happens? They have no idea what I am saying. In other words, these older speakers are actually Kwakum grammar nazis.

What is a Grammar Nazi? 
A grammar nazi is someone who chooses a “proper” form of their language and then seeks to impose this form on the rest of the world, usually in ways that make others look stupid. You know them, you hate them. They correct your Facebook posts, declaring your ideas invalid because of a misplaced comma or split infinitive. Some are English teachers, but most were just the teacher’s pet (like me). There is actually a Commission Générale de Terminologie et de Néologisme (“Grammar Nazi Police” - loose translation) in France that was created to safeguard the integrity of the French language. One of their recent decisions was to forbid the use of the word “hashtag” to favor “mot-dièse” because they want to avoid borrowed words. The English language’s “police force” is much more informal, and we call them grammar nazis. The idea is that there is one proper way of speaking English (or French/Kwakum/etc.) and therefore when people violate the rules of Proper English, they need to be corrected. 

What is the Problem?
Put simply, there is no Proper English. There is not “one correct way” to speak or write English. I am sure that people in England are amused when Americans demand that “proper English” be spoken/written. When people ask “What is your favorite color?” should we correct them “colour”? Of course not, Americans spell it and say it “color.” There is no reason to try to force them to use their own language in a way that they have never used it. Ought we really demand that people restart the old practice of using the present tense of the verb “to wend” ? After all, we do use its past tense form when we say we “went” somewhere. The answer is “no.” Cameroonian English is different from British English which is different from American English. And within these sub-categories there accents and dialects and personal idiosyncrasies. An English speaker has to adapt or be misunderstood. When I told a man on the anglophone side of Cameroon that I liked his “pants,” I rightfully got a puzzled look. “Pants” means underwear here.

What I have discovered is that grammar is by nature descriptive, not prescriptive. We write grammar rules based on how people actually speak the language. It would be silly for us to write our grammar based on the way that people USED to speak Kwakum. That information is vital for the study of the language, but when we get to the translation phase of our ministry, we are not going to translate the Bible into “real Kwakum.” Why? Because we want people to understand it. There is a reason that we have updated the language from the KJV. One could learn the “thees” and “thous”, but they would have nothing to do with the way we speak English today. It is the right thing to do because language evolves, it changes. And the point of language is to be understood. So, if your “proper English” is so proper no one understands you, you are failing language.

What Should We Do?
As much as we believers in objective truth do not like it, language is very subjective. This does not mean, however, that we can just go willy-nilly and do whatever we want. If the purpose of language is understanding, we must speak in a way so as to be understood. This means that in English we almost always place our subject before the verb (Dave went to school).* We do this not because it is “proper” English, but because “Went Dave to school” does not make sense. This means that there are rules to the language. However, these rules do change and differ depending on where you are geographically. In modern English “whom” is going the way of “wending.” And I call all of the grammar nazis reading this to embrace this change. There is nothing wrong with wanting “to boldly go where no one has gone before.” Further, “I have some things to think about” sounds much better than “I have things about which to think.” We say phrases like this, we are understood, and no one got hurt. 

So, for my fellow grammar nazis I am offering the following flowchart for conversations online/offline. This should be a good guide as to whether or not to indulge in your grammar nazi tendencies.

*I did use an exception to this rule once in this post. Can you find it?

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Hare Family Update

by Stacey

We figured that we would write a blog on some of the funny / quirky things that go on in our home that seem normal to us but really may not be quite all that normal…

Kaden is an extremely normal and wonderful child. We are able to reason with him, explain our reasons for the decisions that we make as parents, and even talk to him almost like a peer. He is always asking about how we are doing and has also assumed the big brother role with all of his heart. He is often reminding the others to say “Yes mom” and to not hurt the baby chicks running through our yard. 

He is also very tenderhearted. One day he was talking in an unkind tone to his sister, telling her to get out of his room. I told him to come into my room and talked to him in the same kind of tone that he used when talking to his sister (as a teaching lesson). That boy sat on my lap crying for like 5 minutes because I raised my voice at him. He also cries every time he goes to school (once a week) because he is afraid of the big kids who will take his snack and because he does not want to leave his “mommy.” However, he never complains and always comes home happy. He also loves playing soccer and playing in the rain with the neighborhood kids and makes friends easily.

The Lord has given Elias an extremely sharp mind. He is definitely an “intellectual” as opposed to someone who likes to play soccer with the neighborhood kids. He talks without ceasing, and is always extremely excited about what he is learning. He is extremely forgiving and never holds grudges.

He can be, however, very difficult and we would appreciate your prayers. Discipline and correction seem to do little for him and he often challenges authority. At school, his teachers even told him that if he (continued?) to write on the walls, they would send in the Nigerian terrorist group in to kidnap him. We reassured him that they were lying but did tell him to stop coloring on the walls.

Speaking of excitement, Zoey continues to be our firecracker of energy. She gets “detention” (where she has to write out over and over the verse Proverbs 13:3 “Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin“) almost every day because she will not stop talking during homeschool. She excitedly tells me about the little girl friends that she is making at school and is often found picking up cute little animals and loving them. She is very cute and brings much joy to our home.

This is our one calm child (and our one child that we need to try to “draw out” and teach how to communicate well). She is very imaginative and LOVES to draw and write for hours. She often colors me beautiful pictures and is starting to imagine and write out her own stories. She will “study” her Bible for hours which means she writes out the words that she sees on the page. She is a sweetheart but often has a hard time being aware of what’s going on in her heart and how to express her feelings.

I would say that an overall “feel” in our home is one of energy. We are CONSTANTLY on the kids about not interrupting because each of them is so filled with sheer excitement about…well everything. We are really really thankful that they are so happy here and so excited about life. Our prayer, however, is that they will consider what others have to say as more important than what they have to say.

As I mentioned above, they are all attending a local public school once a week. We put them in school so they could work on their French and be as much a part of this culture as possible. Overall we have been a bit impressed with this (new) school – the teachers seem to teach them. But then there are still the reminders that we are not in America: the teachers often hit students for their misbehavior…on the head. And all the kids go to the bathroom all together in a field behind the school.  The kids are also having to get used to bullies, which is good for them. This stuff is becoming normal and the kids are happy there.

Dave and Stacey
Thanks to Bonnie Marcum, the gal living with us to help us with our kids, Dave and I got to go out on a « date » a couple nights ago. We went and bought fish from a woman on the side of the road and sat down to eat. We were reminiscing about how 5 years ago, when we came to Cameroon for a vision trip, we ate at a restaurant and found it to be so so foreign. Quite to the contrary, the other night, we were not surprised at all when we were not offered silverware, but instead were expected to eat with our hands. Nor was I surprised when the electricity went out and we were eating in the pitch darkness with something coughing by my feet (turns out it was just a cat coughing up a hair ball). It was also very normal to have the “fish mama” as we like to call her throw her dirty water on the (dirt) floor right by my feet, getting me wet. All of that is our new normal, without it, things would seem strange. And we like it.

For the last couple years, Dave and I will ask one another if we are learning anything / how we are doing in our walks with the Lord. And the consistent answer is “I am learning to endure.” I think this sums up well where we are at. We are not having any “mountain top” experiences during this season in our lives, but instead are just seeking to be faithful in the day in and day out minutia of language learning and in discipline and instruction of four 5/6 year olds. I don’t know if endurance can be learned in any other way than just by putting one foot in front of the other in the face of challenges. We trust that the loneliness and frustration with language and culture learning is shaping our character and helping us learn how to be content no matter the circumstances.  

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."  - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Sunday, September 20, 2015

When You Have to End Support

by Dave

One reality of the missionary life is that missionaries will lose supporters. According to Ask A Missionary, most missionaries lose 5-15% of their support during their first two years on the field. It is very likely, then, that some of our readers will have to discontinue support at sometime. There are various reasons that you might want to stop supporting a missionary: financial problems, loss of a job, or a realization that you do not want to support their ministry any longer maybe due to theological or methodological convictions. Whatever the reason, I thought that I would offer some suggestions for if and when that day comes... 

1. Pray
I probably do not have to say this, but when considering discontinuing support for a missionary, please pray. Pray that God would give you wisdom if this is the area that you need to cut. Pray that God would give you wisdom on what to say to the missionary (see #3). If it is due to a financial problem, pray that God would give you more money so that you do not have to stop. If there is something in the ministry that you no longer want to support, pray that the missionaries would change. Removing support from a missionary is not a small thing. It is not the same as unsubscribing from Netflix to save some money each month. Losing supporters means doing less on the field, making a smaller salary, or even going home. Pray for this decision the same way you would pray if your boss told you he might have to dock your pay. 

2. Consider Supporting Less
It seems that we tend to think of supporting missionaries as an “all or nothing” ordeal. So we either want to give $200 per month or nothing at all. But there is a middle ground! We have people that support us $5 per month and we could not be here without them. 

3. Contact the Missionary
Yep, this is the awkward one. The one you really do not want to do. But in reality, you really need to contact them. It is hard, and talking about money is always awkward. But it is necessary. Why? Because missionaries need to know. Yes, if you just stop giving they will figure it out. But that would force them to have to spend time looking through financial reports and seeing who has stopped giving. Then, if you do not contact them, they would have to contact you anyway to make sure it is not because your credit card expired or something like that. So, if it is going to be awkward either way, go for preemptive awkwardness and save your missionary buddies some time.

4. Contact the agency
Finally, it is necessary to contact the agency. This is for two purposes: 1) to stop the money from coming out of your account if it is on automatic debit, 2) to keep the records of the agency up to date. If there is something that you are wanting to communicate in ending your support, this is where you can express it. If you say nothing, we learn nothing. 

This is a hard subject to tackle, but I feel like it is worth thinking about. Throughout the years we have lost a number of supporters: individuals and churches. But by God’s grace we have always been taken care of. We have added nearly as many supporters as we have lost and we do not feel at all limited in our ministry. Because of God’s grace and your support we are able to do our ministry and help people here in Cameroon. And for that we are so thankful. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

How Can We Best Love the Poor?

by Stacey

I have been asking myself the question how we can best love the poor since moving here to Cameroon. It was much easier to consider this while living in the States where there were no people living in houses made of mud and sticks right next door to me. There, “the poor” were more of a category as opposed to actual people that had faces and names. So let me begin by introducing one such man so that you too might begin to see their faces:

Introducing Simon

Simon is an old widower that wears a white silky “Lancôme Paris” shirt when he goes “to town” completed by a black beret. He has few teeth left and what looks like some sort of growth or tumor on the side of his neck. I attempt to talk to him every morning when I go out for a jog, but he hardly speaks any French, just Bakoum and even his Bakoum is hard to understand (due to the lack of teeth). Since we moved in, he has been digging a latrine in his backyard and he is getting close to being done. I went over to see it the other day and he was giddy. He had hauled wood from his field all the way to his house and used actual nails and screws to put it together. I complimented his work and he was beaming. He went on to explain that it was necessary to build a wood framed latrine instead of the typical branches because (of course) the branches could not withstand the wind.

It was nice to see Simon so happy because he is generally just sitting expressionless in front of his house. He washes his clothes in a bucket of water and hangs them to dry by his small house. His meals usually consist of a few bananas or plantains when he can find them. When I ask him how he is doing, I always get the same response: “Dah.” We could translate it as something like “surviving.” I never see people hanging out at his house, he seems to have few friends and literally seems to just be surviving.

A couple weeks ago, Simon opened up his home for a prayer meeting. I had never been in his house and I do not know why I reacted the way that I did. Walking inside and the dark hut I remarked that dirt floor was grey with ash where there had been a fire. The walls were made of wood and sticks with an occasional empty sack stuffed between the holes to keep out the bugs and weather. In his house there were benches all around the four walls and that was it. I may have seen a shovel and a machete. I tried not to lean against the wall knowing that generally that is where the biting ants congregate. I sat there in the dark on the verge of tears as I was so struck by the fact that this man possessed nothing. No running water. No electricity. No family near him. No Bible in his language. Few friends. I noticed afresh how thin and frail he was and I wondered how much longer he would live. I wondered if how many people would notice if he were to die.

Then my brain went into problem solving mode: maybe we can give him our oil lamps so he could have some more light in his house, maybe our kids could bring him water each day, maybe we could...

I was stopped by the realization that I was aiming too low. I wanted more for him than that. Specifically, I want to…

Give Him Streets of Gold

There are so many problems here: illiteracy, disease, very limited access to medical care and clean water, violence and so on. Honestly, I want to try to fix them all. Although we can attempt to solve these problems, we want so much more for these people then just clean water. Jesus said himself that everyone who drinks physical water will be thirsty again but whoever drinks of the water that he gives “will never be thirsty forever” (John 4:13-14). If this is what Jesus supplies, then is this not a long-term solution to Simon’s water problem? In the same way, even as we are ready to help Simon pay for a surgery, what we really want for him is to get a whole new body that will never pain him again. Every day he walks very far away on a dirt path to his field, and although it would be nice to have a smooth paved road, what we really desire for him is to parade through the clean, gold-laden streets of Heaven forever.

So, our first priority is not to meet physical needs or even provide education, but instead our first priority is to introduce people to the One who is capable to working all things (even hunger and disease) out for their good. I am not saying these two are at odds, but instead that one should have priority. What Simon needs is not to seek a higher standard of living but instead he needs to seek first God’s Kingdom. What he needs is not to have more opportunities so he can look after his needs but instead he needs a Heavenly Father who will look after him. What Simon needs is a Savior, and a new Heaven and a New Earth. And Simon is not the only one who is in need…

Learn to Be Content (With and For Him)

Our children are currently being schooled in English and French and have a world of opportunities in front of them. So while they are learning about space exploration, their friends, often dressed in rags, are hauling water from the well or planting peanuts in their garden so they can have food eat. That is what they do all day every day and that is what they will likely continue to do until they die. Dave and I just look at each other and pull our hair out wanting these kids to have the same opportunities that our children do. But then I am faced with this verse:

“If we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” 1 Timothy 6:8

Is that it? Food and clothing? What about access to medical care? What about the ability to read? What about knowledge of the solar system or how the body works? What about a knowledge of history? Don’t my neighbors have a right to these same gifts that I have been given? Am I really to call them to be content with just food and clothing? Until I find a verse that says “If we have food, clothing, ipads, knowledge of history, space, etc…with these we will be content” I think both my neighbors and I myself will have to be content with them just having food and clothing.  

Then there is this verse:
“The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.” - Psalm 34:10  

So, in response to this I ask myself: Say there is a Bakoum person who comes to Christ and continues to live at the same standard of living, is he really not lacking any good thing? Is not water a good thing? Or education? Technology? Electricity?

To this the Lord responds: wait. Their time will come when they rule and reign with Christ, when they are able to study the planets that he has created, when they will actually inherit the earth and never be hungry nor thirsty again. For now, there will be trials, but soon the trials for them will be a faint memory.

To conclude, there is a deep desire in me to raise my neighbors’ standard of living and to make it so that we are at the same economic level. But where does this desire come from? Is it an American value? Or a Christian value? Is it compassion? Or guilt? I am not exactly sure, but the biblical call is definitely to prioritize calling people to seek first God’s Kingdom, be content with food and clothing, trust that they do not lack any good thing, and wait for the streets of gold.

So when you pray for Simon, pray big. Pray that he will be able to have every needed surgery, but do not forget to pray that he will get a whole new body. Pray that the Lord will provide his daily water, but remember to pray that he will follow Christ and never be thirsty again. Do not just pray that he will have a nicer house but pray that he will live in a mansion made for him by Jesus. Pray he will not spend his days worrying about what he is going to eat, but pray that he will seek God and ask God to “worry about” providing for him. Let us not just give our neighbors an America here in Africa, let us aim to give them the very Kingdom of God. 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Would You Buy a Microwave Bible?

by Dave

I try to read about translation methodology and principles as I am able. So, when I saw an article called “Microwave Bible?” I could not resist the draw. This particular article was about new methods being used to speed up Bible translation, a goal that I (theoretically) love. Here is a basic summary of the article:

Wycliffe Associates (a sister organization to Wycliffe Bible Translators) has a program for rapid Bible translation called MAST (Mobilized Assistance Supporting Translation). They seek out very small people groups that are unlikely to be targeted for a Bible translation project by any other organization. They work with a group of mother-tongue speakers who simultaneously translate multiple texts of the Bible. What prompted this article was the announcement that WA had translated almost half of the New Testament in two weeks with one of these people groups. WA president, Bruce Smith, said that theoretically using this method a group could translate the Bible in two months. This is a stark contrast to the traditional method which usually takes 15-20 years to translate the New Testament.

There are around 1,900 languages that still do not have a single word of the Bible and not enough translators to do the job. I am eager to think through solutions to this problem, but in reading the article, I could not help but ask a few questions.

1. Can We Be Faithful to the Bible?
I was talking to a translator here in Cameroon that spent decades working with one people group. He said that one issue he is still wrestling with the people over is the word that they are using for sorcery. Magic is a big part of life here and according to many Cameroonians, it can be used for both good and bad. So, his people group has resisted using the generic word for “sorcery” in their language, not wanting to condemn the practice as a whole. What is the problem with this? The Bible condemns sorcery, not just “bad” sorcery. Saul went to see a witch for the “good” purpose of wanting to get advice from already-dead Samuel. And what was God’s response? Judgement. God hates sorcery and does not want his people using it, ever. 

This story illustrates the fact that translation is difficult, and native speakers are not always the best in choosing how to translate, especially when they are not Christians! The Bible is a book that confronts culture. A book whose main hero was murdered while confronting culture. In many situations where the Bible is not translated, the people are not saved. Unsaved people do not want their culture confronted. And, I fear, leaving the translation process in the hands of unsaved men (or even immature Christians) would result in a neutered Bible. 

This really only leaves two options: learn the language and guide the translation project, or learn the language and disciple people to maturity. The former is what we are doing, the latter is very difficult without having the Bible. Both take a very long time. 

2. Would You Buy a Microwave Bible?
I see many comments on Facebook regarding Bible translations. We are blessed as English speakers to have an enormous wealth of options in this regard. Most pastors that I know use multiple translations to prepare their sermons. And, of course, this at time leads to arguments over which translation(s) is the best. But imagine a new translation came out, we will call it the RQT (Really Quick Translation). The name sticks out and you decide to research it. On the RQT website you find a listing of the Bible translators and their methodology. You find out that of the 13 translators: 10 were farmers, 2 were businessmen, 1 was a teacher, 0 had any Bible training. In fact, none of the translators were Christians at the time of translation. Also, none of the translators were literate in English, though all spoke it fluently. The translation was done over the course of two months and then checked by several other illiterate English speakers and a German Bible translator (after the Bible had been retranslated into German by one of the translators that was bilingual). Would you buy this Bible? My guess, you are saying “no.” That is what I say too. How about this, would you give it as a gift to an unbelieving friend? If the answer is no, should we be producing this kind of translation for minority people groups?

3. Is it “Better than Nothing”?
These translations are being done for people groups that are VERY small. So small, that they are not “on anybody’s priority list.” You might think that is funny, but in reality there are people groups in the world that do not have any of the Bible that are over a million people strong. Our people group (the Bakoum) are considered small in the Bible translation community and they number around 10,000. All that to say, if these small people groups (one I looked at was under 200) ever get the Bible, many will have died waiting. And in talking to someone who worked on a MAST project, I was told “it is better than nothing.” Is that true? I have been told that in one country in Asia a translation was completed after many years that had a minor mistake that left heresy in the church in that country. It took decades to weed that heresy from the church. With all of the time and effort that we put into English translations, there was one translation that said “Thou shalt commit adultery.” If mistakes are made with YEARS of training, learning and checking, think about what could go wrong in a rapid translation. 

Another helpful illustration: a translator told us that in the translation process he had pastors teaching the Bible as the various books were translated. One pastor had conversations with a young man in his church about sex before marriage. He went to the newly translated Bible to talk about sexual immorality to find that the translators had chosen the word meaning “adultery” every time the Bible condemned “sexual immorality.” This pastor told the translator that he could provide this young man with no reason to stay pure before marriage because the Bible only condemned sex outside of marriage for an already married man. Fortunately they were able to correct this before the whole Bible was printed and were thus able to confront sexual immorality in their culture as the Bible would have them. These are the kinds of translation issues that are only caught over time. 

4. Is There Another Way?
I have come to the conclusion that translating the Bible is like baking a cake. For certain types of cakes it takes a long time to prepare and bake them. You could turn up the temperature or alter the ingredients to speed up the process, but the end result would be different. And that is the one thing that we as Bible translators do not want: something different. The salvation of the people in our culture depends on the Gospel we are translating being the same that it was thousands of years ago. I believe that we have to resolve ourselves to taking time when translating it in order to be faithful. But is there not ANY way to speed up the process?
I believe that there are two ways that we can make things go faster:
  1. We can learn from MAST projects and seek to involve a greater number of translators. When you read about the lives of our predecessors (Adoniram Judson, William Carey, etc.) the idea was that the missionary was the main translator that worked mainly with one mother-tongue speaker. I know of several projects that have moved to a model of having multiple mother-tongue translators who do most of the actual translation work. The missionary in this situation acts more as a consultant, but one that is very involved in the process and must actually speak the language well. This can be a prayer for your Bible translation missionaries. It is much harder to get people to sign up for a translation project that takes years than one that takes weeks. 
  2. I believe that translation must be tied in with discipleship, when possible. The more biblically trained men and women in the culture, the more people who can take the burden of the work from the missionary. This means that the missionary needs to be trained and needs to seek to train others. This is one reason we are very happy to be a part of Together for the Bible. This is a group that is dedicated to sending out missionaries that are theologically trained that are dedicated not only to Bible translation, but also to church planting and training up leaders. The goal here is to raise up a church, not just to translate the Bible. 

We are always open to considering other methods of Bible translation and hope that we can have the greatest impact possible. However, even taking in consideration the above principles, we are planning on being here for a long time. And, at the end of the day, we are doing it because we believe that fidelity to the Bible requires time. I am hopeful that things can move more quickly with our project, but a lot of that is out of our hands. We ask that you would pray not primarily that we would do the job quickly, but that we would do it well.