Sunday, August 21, 2016

Are You REALLY a Missionary?

by Dave

I once heard a presentation arguing that the only New Testament method of missions is church planting. The missionary explained that, biblically speaking, the Great Commission is best fulfilled by Christians working to create not just disciples, but churches. This thinking has lead to the Church Planting Movement (CPM) which has sent (and is sending) many missionaries with the purpose of planting churches. One consequence of this movement is that it has led some missions agencies to only send out pastors/teachers/disciplers. The idea is that the only real missions is church planting, so the only real missionaries are church planters. In fact, we were turned away from one organization because we told them that we wanted to do Bible translation, and they told us that they did not send out Bible translators, only church planters.

So, this poses a question. Are you REALLY a missionary if you are not a church planter? To answer this I want to consider first what church planting is:

What is Church Planting?
When Jesus called his disciples to “go make disciples” he explained what that meant:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
We are called to: baptize and teach all that Jesus commanded. We see this played out in the New Testament in a very specific way: church. Discipleship was not confined only to Sunday morning, but these early believers “devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). The command is to make disciples and the way that we see it played out is in churches. As missionaries, we are seeking to fulfill the Great Commission and we want to do it in a biblical way.

What is the Church?
So, missionaries go out to all of the nations and we work to plant churches. The goal being, a group of believers meeting together, devoting themselves to biblical teaching, fellowship, prayers and in doing so fulfilling the Great Commission. But Paul tells us something very important about churches in 1 Corinthians 12:27-31:
“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.”
The church is a unified body with many members. God has ordained that there should not be just one type of church member. So, he gifted all of his children differently and told them to work together, giving them all the Great Commission.

What is a Church Planter?
If God created his church as a body of different people gifted differently, and then sent them out to plant other churches that operate in the same way, what kind of Christians should we consider as “sent out?” Would it just be the pastor/discipler type? I do not think that the logic follows. It seems rather that he would send out people with various gifts. I believe that this is what we see in the New Testament as well. Paul was an evangelist and discipler. Was he involved in church planting? Of course. But he never stayed anywhere very long. Timothy was a native of Lystra who was evangelized by his mother and grandmother. Paul helped disciple him and Timothy traveled with Paul in his missionary journeys, but then stayed on to work as a pastor in Ephesus. At that point his ministry looked different than Paul’s but both were involved in church planting. Aquila and Priscilla were tent makers that traveled some with Paul and discipled men like Apollos. We do not hear of Aquila’s preaching or itenerate ministry, but it seems that they were just Christians seeking to work and build the church as they lived their lives. Each of these people was a missionary, but they all played different roles.

We Are REALLY All Church Planters
Stacey and I are Bible translators. Can you imagine evangelizing and discipling without the Bible? How about missionaries that are doctors? It is really hard to evangelize and disciple dead people. But here in Cameroon I know several medical missionaries that save lives and disciple souls. They use their trade (medicine) as a means for helping people and disciple and minister to spiritual needs as well. For those that do become Christians and want to seek a deeper education in the Bible, where are they going to get that training? We could, of course, send people like this off to the US to attend Bible colleges and seminaries, but there are so many problems with that. Instead, missionaries work here to do theological training and have actually done such a good job that there are now several Cameroonian seminary professors. These professors are training pastors, evangelists, and future professors. All of us are seeking to build the church in Cameroon. Therefore, we are all church planters, even though we play different roles.

The goal of missions is disciples, and I agree that the best way to make disciples is in churches. But churches have many components. And when one is going to plant a church, especially in an unreached place, there are many roles in the church that will need to be filled. I am all for encouraging church planting, even saying that church planting is what real missions should be. But we must understand that church planting is not only done by pastor/teacher/disciplers. Instead, we need pastors, seminary profs, Bible translators, doctors, IT professionals, administrators, auto mechanics, and school teachers all working together to this end. Let us not claim one of these is more important or more real. Let us instead seek unity in recognizing our various gifts and roles in the task.

Monday, July 18, 2016

A Funny and Not-So-Funny Hare Family Update…

by Stacey

The funny and not-so-funny are all mixed into a normal day for us, so we thought we would share them all together…


Zoey gets in trouble every day for her mouth: for talking when she is not supposed to, for interrupting, for her tone, for lying, and for saying unkind things. And so, one day, she comes to me, sits down, and says, “Mom, there is only one thing for us to do. We have to tape my mouth shut. That is the only way.” We tried it, but it did not work (turns out the heart is the cause of the problem…) 

Zoey (6) also confided in Dave the other day that she thought she was “developing” (breasts). Dave said that it would still be a while.

She also is going through a “Mom, can we keep him….pleeeaaaase?!” phase. Now you would think she would be begging to keep cute kittens and puppies, but no, she wants to keep creepy-crawly type things. She keeps sneaking worms into her pockets and the other day she tried to take a half-eaten lizard out of the cat’s mouth, probably to sneak it into her pocket (why?). 


We were memorizing a verse with the kids that talked about “sexual immorality.” The kids asked what that was and I told them that it often had to do with sleeping with someone that you were not married to. Kaden sheepishly raised his hand and said, “Mom, can I sleep with my stuffed moose?” I reassured him that was very OK.

In our last update on Kaden, we asked for prayer because he was showing signs of dyslexia. After we posted that update (and that is when I assume people started praying…) these symptoms started to disappear. We have been working with Kaden daily on reading and he has show remarkable progress. 


Elias just turned six and had a happy birthday. He is also going through a “How can I help mom?!” phase where he asks me this question all day. It is very cute. This week, he and about 20 of the other neighborhood kids helped our pastor Boris harvest peanuts, which was fun.
And yet, the happy moments are few with our dear son because of his rebellious heart. Please pray for Elias, that the Lord would cause him to be born again to a life characterized by love for God and neighbor.


Makyra is just really sweet and really normal. She does not always have to be heard and is very content to quietly clear the table while her brothers and sisters are all talking over one another. She is also a lover of animals. In church, a neighborhood dog came in so that Makyra could pet him. She was petting him while the “animal bouncers” at church were throwing rocks at him and telling him to get out. Then, when his owner came over to get him, the dog pushed his way into the aisle with our kids while they all petted him and loved him. It was actually a kind of awkward situation.


Dave was studying at his desk the other day but he had to move because there was a lizard sitting above him that was eating a bug and it kept dropping bug parts on his papers.

Yesterday, Dave cut his finger with his machete and today when we went to a remote village for church, everyone asked what happened. When he explained that he cut himself with a machete, people erupted in laughter. Rolling on the ground, have to go tell grandma, laughter. We do not really understand why it was so funny. It seemed like they were saying “Who let you use a machete?!”

In this same village, someone came up to Dave and wiped off the back of his pants. Apparently he had gotten a bit dirty. 


Each day, we pretty much go to bed with our heads about to explode. One example was Thursday oflast week, I spent time with Kaden studying 1st John (in English), then a friend was supposed to come over to study the Bible (in French), then I taught the village kids a Bible story (in Bakoum). And that all happened within a period of a few hours. I love it all, but it is tiring. Come Saturday, all I want to do is cut grass in my back yard with a machete and think about nothing.

Amidst all the intensity, however, the Lord brings little joys, or just weird situations just to lighten things up. For instance, I was sitting with a group of women, talking in Bakoum about if they have any customs for when a woman gives birth when all of the sudden I hear the “countdown” music of the TV series 24 and Jack Bauer speaking in French. It was like my two worlds collided in that instant and the familiarity of the program was oddly comforting.

I find peoples’ reactions here a bit overwhelming, but also entertaining. The other day, I was telling this same group of women about how many languages there are in the world and they all started hooting 
and hollering when they heard that it was close to 7,000. When I proceeded to tell them about how God created all the languages in a single second at Babel, the “no ways!” could barely be heard over all the screeches and yelps. Yelling, clapping, and all talking excitedly at the same time is a typical reaction when I tell people things. It does make language acquisition challenging.

And then there is my “on the side” mission that I have to try to save the lives of baby animals that are being tortured by the village children. Yesterday, I convinced a child to give me a baby bird he was torturing in exchange for a piece of chalk. And then the bird died this morning. Sigh.

And my family is the greatest joy of my life. All my kids are going through a I-want-to-go-jogging-with-mom stage so I have lots of jogging buddies these days, which is pretty hilarious.

Monday, July 11, 2016

You Are Not That Special

by Dave

I did a Google search for “things you should never say” and there were over 36 million results. Here are some of my favorites:
  • 10 Things You Should Never Say to a Nun 
  • 10 Things You Should Never Say to a Canadian 
  • 300 Things You Should Never Say to a Woman (300!) 
  • 16 Things You Should Never Say to a Great Dane’s Face (can I say it to their tail?) 
The blogs that I usually read are the ones that apply to my life like: “10 Things Never to Say to Families with Adopted Children.” They are usually humorous and true. They reveal different ways that we offend people without knowing it. And I think, when done well, they can help people to empathize with their neighbors. However, I think that there is a danger with these types of messages: it can make us believe that we are special. These blogs can encourage the belief that we are so different that no one else can even imagine what it is like to be us.
Solomon revealed a helpful truth to keep in mind when reading these blogs:
“What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
As a missionary and adoptive parent, I can find myself believing that other people will never understand me. No doubt my friends that daily struggle with raising an autistic child (and the glares and under-the-breath comments from passersby) believe that I will never understand them. Every individual experiences life differently, with unique challenges, and unique temptations. And yet, it is in that very fact that we have unity. Why? Because none of it is really new.

You (probably) do not know what it is like to be white, raising four black kids, in Cameroon. But you kind of do. Whether it is because of a handicapped child, an unfortunately placed birthmark, or even just having all girls and no boys, you know what it is like to be looked at as weird. You know what it is like to be misunderstood by others, even if they speak your mother tongue. And you know what it is like when people say stupid things to you that indicate that they just do not get it. No matter how I feel, my struggles are not uncommon. These are the same things people have been struggling with since Genesis 3. My temptation to respond in anger and frustration with these encounters is not new either. It is normal.

I believe that these types of blogs can tempt us to be distracted from the actual purpose for our trials. Paul writes in II Corinthians 1:3-4:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
Paul says that the reason that he was afflicted was not so that he could set himself apart from other Christians, but so that he could relate to them. He was afflicted and comforted by God, so that he could comfort others who are in affliction. And I do not believe that this means that he was there to comfort those with the exact same afflictions as Paul. Was anyone afflicted in exactly the same way as Paul? Was anyone else shipwrecked, stoned, and abandoned by all of their co-workers and friends? Probably not. But he could comfort someone who was persecuted, or abandoned, because he went through that, even if the circumstances were different.

The truth is, we are all different, but that difference makes us all the same. If you were to search through all of the 36 million blog results on Google, you would find many that apply to you. This is because, in our different ways, we all experience the same things. There is nothing new under the sun. And though we are tempted to believe that our unique sufferings and frustrations make us indecipherable to others, it is those sufferings that makes us so easy to understand. But if we allow our trials to direct our gaze inward, we miss the point. Our trials are divinely designed as a tool to serve others.

I am writing this blog at a time when it seems like American differences are growing more and more irreconcilable. We are told that, because of racism, whites can never understand the black experience. We are told that this division is too profound for unity. I reject this. Racism exists, and it hurts, and it is frustrating. But God is still sovereign. And I believe with my whole heart that God allows racism for the purpose of unity. That is not the only purpose, I am sure. But have you ever considered that when you faced the trial of racism, it was so that you could comfort other Christians? And not just black Christians.

As a white man living in Africa, I know what it is like to never be anonymous. I know what it is like to wish that people would get to know me before they judged my character. I know what it is like to ALWAYS be stopped by the police because of the color of my skin. Are these experiences exactly the same as my black American brothers? No, of course not. But God has given me these experiences so that I can better relate to, and comfort my black American brothers. I have a black friend whose son was stopped by the police while walking through his own suburban neighborhood because he looked “suspicious.” This happened, in part, so that he could help me know how to talk to my boys about the assumptions they will face when we are back in the States. And so, when the day comes that something like this happens to us, he can comfort us with the comfort that he received. The very sin that the world wants to use to divide us, brings us closer. But it will only bring us closer if we stop making it about us, and start seeking the good of others.

Let us not allow funny internet memes or angry protests to convince us that we are too special to relate to others. Let us instead seek God’s comfort in affliction so that we too can comfort those that struggle so very much like we do.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Four Irrelevant Questions When Considering Foreign Missions

by Stacey

There are a lot of really thoughtful, important questions to ask when considering if one should or should not spend their lives in a foreign culture as a missionary. And yet, there are some questions that are more-or-less irrelevant because the Bible already has answers for them. For instance:

1. Will I Hate my Life?

Yes. I think it is safe to say that if you become a missionary, you will hate your life. While there are joys, there is also added stress that would not be experienced if one stays in their home culture. But, I do not think this is a good question to ask for two reasons. First, Jesus says that if anyone does not hate even his own life, he cannot be his disciple. Coming to Jesus, whether one stays in their home culture or not, is already a call to hate one’s life, so why wonder if you’ll hate your life on the mission field? Just assume the answer is yes and go into missions. Second, seeking first the Kingdom of God is not about us or our feelings. True, we may hate our lives for 30 years but, without hearing about and receiving Jesus, the nations will hate their eternities in Hell forever. Let us put their feelings above our own.

2. What About My Children?

Bring them with you. There is nothing better we can do for our kids than to seek first God’s Kingdom in word and in deed inside and outside of the home. I think there is a great temptation to let Facebook define what makes a good or a bad parent rather than the Word of God. According to the Bible, we are called to teach our kids the Bible, to disciple them, to love them as we would love ourselves and all these things we can do in a foreign culture. It is Facebook that says “If you do not do X,Y, and Z you are a bad parents and you will wreck your children for life.” These are simply the opinions of people and if we meditate on these opinions day and night then sooner or later missions will become unthinkable. Instead we should be meditating on Christ’s call for us to reach the nations and let the parenting tips we find online take a backseat.

Obeying one command of Jesus will never lead us to breaking another one of his commands. If his command for us to reach the nations for his name meant that we would thus not be able to love and train up our children in the Lord, than he would not have commanded it. He cannot contradict himself. Thus, when the Lord calls for people to leave their home cultures to take his Gospel to another culture, we do not have to worry about if we would be compromising in our role as parents.

3. Is It Going to Be Safe?

No. Your life will not be safe, but following Jesus is not supposed to be safe no matter where one lives. As Christians, we follow a man who was so hated that he was crucified and he gave us fair warning that if we want to follow him, we need to be willing to die like he died. There is nothing safe about being a Christian on this earth. Further, Jesus does not teach us to “seek first your safety” but instead “seek first his Kingdom.”

I also think the recent terrorist attacks in the western world serve as a great reminder that peace and safety are not guaranteed anywhere. Total peace and security are reserved for the next life.

And since we are all going to die, and perfect safety is not guaranteed in this life, we might as well spend our lives seeking after the advancement of God’s Kingdom.

4. Will I Be Able to Do It?

Yes. If you call out for wisdom, without doubting, God will give it to you. And this wisdom will be useful in any culture, any language group, or any crazy market. The Lord loves to pour out wisdom on those who seek it and believe he will give it. Further, his grace is sufficient for us so that we can know that we will have all that we need in any culture to abound in any and every good work. God also promises to work out all those grueling hours in language learning and all those times that we are made fun of for our good. And after we have passed on and our missions methodologies are picked apart by seminary students, we can know that Jesus died for all the ways we did things wrong on the field. We really cannot lose.

So, talk to the missions agencies, talk to your small group, seek out wisdom for if you would be a better fit for ministry at home or abroad. But let us walk into those conversations with these presuppositions in mind. Yes, we will hate our lives, no, it will not be safe on the mission field, yes, we can take our kids on the field in good conscience, and yes, God’s grace will be sufficient for whatever trials await us on the field. I pray that once these issues are addressed, the “Should I be a missionary?”question will be easier to answer.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

I Never Thought to be Thankful for Ambulances

by Dave

You always hear people saying that you never know what you have until it is gone. This is the real reason why our moms all told us about the starving children in Africa when we are refusing to eat something she prepared. The idea is that, if you were living in a place where you did not have enough food, you would even be thankful for split-pea soup. It is a principle that I have learned is true since moving to rural Cameroon. There are the little things that you miss, and wish you had previously been thankful for, like movie theaters, easily accessible cheese, and microwaves. And then there are ambulances. Have you ever thought to be thankful for ambulances?

The other day my neighbor Patrice came to the house looking concerned. He said that he had just received the news that his brother, Julian, had been in a motorcycle accident. He believed that he had been taken to the hospital in Doumé, a town about 30 minutes away, and wanted to know if I could give him a ride. Around mid-way there we saw the motorcycle, smashed on the side of the road. We stopped to throw it up on top of my vehicle and were told that they actually took him to our town. So, we turned around and headed for the Catholic clinic that is only a 2-minute drive from our house.

When we arrived, things were frantic. People were running around yelling, apparently unable to stop the bleeding. It is a small clinic, and they were not equipped to deal with his injuries. Before I knew it, an unconscious and tattered man was in the back seat of my car, with Patrice trying to keep his younger brother’s head still as we bounced up the road to the nearest hospital. We drove for 45 minutes in near silence, all listening to Julian’s rough breathing. We passed quickly through the police stop as I explained the urgency, and into the bustling world of Bertoua. There was no neck brace, no IV, no paddles in case his heart stopped. He could not even be laying down.

We got to the hospital around 8pm and they put him on a stretcher. I have never been in a hospital here during an emergency situation, and I am not sure that they are all the same, but it was nuts. Before they could even take him to the operating room, I had to go with Patrice to buy sutures, IV fluid bags, and latex gloves. We ran to the pharmacy on the other side of the hospital, we rushed back to find the medical staff just standing and waiting for us. When they finally got him into the OR, we were told that we had to find some sheets to cover him because they had to cut off his clothes. We were far from home, and all the stores were closed, I had no idea what to do. Patrice ended up calling a brother from the Bertoua church and we drove to his house to borrow some sheets.

Arriving back at the hospital we were told they needed more things from the hospital pharmacy so we ran over and bought them. After about two hours, and two more trips to the pharmacy, we were informed that Julian was finally “out of the danger zone.” This led to a brief calm in the storm, which gave me a moment to notice the families of the other patients lying on mats outside the hospital. For those like us that came from the village, they sleep on the sidewalk outside the hospital rooms. I heard at least woman weeping loudly, at what, I can only imagine. In talking with his family during this time, I learned a bit more about Julian’s situation. Turns out that he was actually returning from the hospital in Doumé where he was visiting his mother-in-law, when he skidded after taking a corner too fast. Julian’s wife received a phone call during this conversation, learning that her mother had died.

The doctor came out and said he needed a few more things to complete the surgery. The hospital pharmacy was out of some of the items so we had to drive to another pharmacy in town to get them. Sleepy and flustered, Patrice returned to the hospital and I went home at about 11pm.

Overall, I felt like my debut as an ambulance driver went pretty well and was happy to have been able to help this man. Until the next day, when I got the call that Julian had died. Patrice asked me to return to the hospital so that I could drive his body back to Dimako. A herse is apparently something else I have taken for granted. It did not work out and they ended up sending the body back on a motorcycle. But overall, it has been a tough couple of days. And I wonder, if they did have ambulances that could come down to our town, would he have survived? Should I have tried to stop the bleeding before we drove to Bertoua? I wondered if real ambulance drivers struggle with these feelings when someone dies, too.

So, the last few days have been filled with funeral rituals for Julian. The family sleeps on the ground next to the grave for six nights after he is buried, and spends the daytime talking, or singing and dancing. Our pastor, Boris, went on Friday and shared the Gospel with the 80-100 people, warning them that life is short. Julian leaves behind his wife and six children. He was 31 years old. Just days before his death Boris told me that he talked with Julian about the need to be reconciled with God, but there is no reason to believe he was.

Looking back, I so wish that there had been an ambulance, and trained EMTs. I wish he had been wearing a helmet, and driving more safely. It makes me remember all the times I had to go to the ER as a child, the broken arms gently placed in casts, and the stitches. I am so thankful for the graces I had. I am grateful for this reminder.

But it also makes me realize that you do not have to wait for something to be gone to thank God for it. And so, tonight, I thank God for my brother, Jon, who for now, I can text and tell him I love him. Perhaps you too can take a moment and ask God to open your eyes to see what you may be taking for granted. And thank him, knowing that we worship a God whose blessings are so abundant that we sometimes miss them.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Reign of Death and Dying

by Stacey
On Monday of this week, I walked into a mud hut where the body of a young woman lay. She had an unknown medical problem that had plagued her for some time. I had intended to go visit her that very day to pray for her healing, but apparently I was too late. I walked into the cool, dark room and saw many women sitting around its edges, all looking at the body, weeping. Some were sitting on benches close to the ground, others on sacks, and some on the dirt floor. The deceased’s mother was kneeling by the side of her bed looking hopeless. The young woman was beautifully dressed and lying in a large bed freshly made with colorful sheets. She looked peaceful and beautiful. I noticed she was holding what looked like a staff with bright green leaves coming out of the top of it. When I asked a friend what it was, she said it was used to stop the rain so that the family could all grieve together, sleeping around the grave for a week.

When I arrived, someone was filling cups up with some type of clear alcoholic substance and about 30 minutes later, a different lady started handing out little baggies of alcohol. I saw the mother of the deceased wash down some prescription medication in between gulps of vodka and other ladies started snorting a powdery substance. This entire week, there has been a deep grief that has hung over our village. People smeared themselves with dirt and wailed. The family got together to try to decide what to do with the four kids that she left behind.

I realized this week that funerals are such a big deal here because it is a time to express not just the sorrow over one life lost but also to wail over how many lives are lost here every day. They are a time to cry out that this world is not as it should be. Poverty should not be. Children with bloated bellies should not be. Orphans should not be. Malaria should not be. Death should not be. Grieving rituals seem to be an appropriate outcry against the reign of death and dying that has plagued the world since Adam and Eve first sinned. And for a society that knows so little of Christ, their response is quite appropriate. Weeping, wailing and numbing their sleepless nights with drugs and alcohol are fitting for those that see life as a short painful experience before a certain death. It is no wonder that there is no easy way to communicate the idea of “hope” in the Bakoum language.

One day, I hope to communicate to my neighbors that the grieving does not have to go on forever. Yes, there is deep grief and many insurmountable problems in the world, and yet, one day King Jesus will return and make it all right. He is not a Lord who is aloof to suffering but instead identified so intimately with the problems of humanity that he was labeled a “man of sorrows” and someone who was “acquainted with grief.” He died and rose again, defeating death so that it no longer carries with it a sharp sting for those who believe.

Come Lord Jesus.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

My Neighbors Ate My Dog, and I am Sad

by Dave

I am not a very sentimental person. And to be honest I have felt a little perplexed when I have seen people mourn the loss of a pet. I have had many pets throughout my 33 years of existence. I have given many of them away, some have run away, and a few have died. Just since we have been here in Cameroon we have lost 3 adult cats, 3 kittens, a Western Tree Hyrax, and most recently a tortoise named Jack. I was sad to see them go, especially the ones that died. Sad because I knew that this was the effect of sin in our world. Sad because I knew that my wife would miss them. But at the end of the day, it did not affect my life very much.

But then Friday a Bakoum man came to my door. I did not know him and I was not expecting visitors. He only spoke Bakoum to me, which was hard because I had no idea what topic he has approaching and my Bakoum is still on the “developing” end of things. I understood that he was talking about a dog, and describing where he lived. I already have a dog, I explained. But after a few minutes I understood what he was meaning to say, a dog was hit by a car in front of his house, and he thought it was mine. My first reaction was to deny that it could have been my dog. There are tons of dogs around here and they are often in the road. But he said this one had a brown collar. No dogs have collars here, except mine.

We drove over to his house in my car and there lying under a tarp was my dog, Rachat. Rachat whom I purchased from an abusive owner. Rachat whom I had nursed back to health. Rachat who followed me when I went everywhere. Rachat whom I defended from my neighbors who threatened him with machetes. He was a good dog. He lay there intact, thankfully, but very dead. I figured I would mourn him later and grabbed two paws, asking the man that found me to grab the other two to put him in my car. That was when the yelling began. “What are you going to do with him?” “You are not going to bury him are you?” “You know we eat dogs here, right?” “We came and got you, you should leave him with us.” “At least give us a thigh.” “Don’t you understand Bakoum?” Why are you not responding?”

I did understand and I was ignoring them, though the Finder would not let me go until I assured him he would get his share of the meat if I decided not to bury him. As a disclaimer, not everyone in Cameroon eats dogs. It seems to me that it is mainly a village thing, and it could just be in my region. I do not expect that this represents all of Cameroon, let alone all of Africa. The idea is probably shocking to many of us, but it is normal here. My neighbors think of dogs like farmers think of chickens. They keep them around, care for them, feed them, until it is time to eat them. Did you know they eat horses in France? And they think it is funny that we consider horses to be different from cows. I consider eating dogs to be one of those “not good, not bad, just different” things about Cameroon.

I returned to my neighborhood with Rachat and told the news to my family (sad) and neighbors (much more sympathetic). We weighed our options and decided to give his body to one of our neighbors in exchange for a puppy. Yep, Rachat went from being my beloved friend to dinner in the matter of a few hours. “How could you do that?” some of you are no doubt asking. Not without tears. But there are many factors here. One is that my neighbors do not get enough protein and as a result most of the kids here are suffering from malnutrition. And they do eat dogs, and need the meat. For me to bury Rachat would be a statement that I do not care about them and that I am so rich I can bury valuable necessities. Also, I have heard on more than one occasion that when Westerners have buried their dogs they were dug up at night. Somehow that seemed worse.

But I did not consider this a light matter. And I have been reflecting as to why this has hit me so hard (I literally am taking this six times harder than my kids). I think one reason is that Rachat’s history was very personal. You can read about it HERE. His death is significant to us because the very reason we bought him was to save his life. But I think that the main reason his death hit me is because we are living in Africa. And living here means that we are daily faced with hard realities and hard people. To be honest, I never really feel at ease here. I am always surrounded by a different culture that I do not really understand completely. I am always having to communicate in not-my-heart-language (i.e. French or Bakoum). And it has been so nice to have Rachat at my side. He has been someone who is always happy to see me, that I can speak to in English (he ignores my commands regardless of the language I am speaking), and is just fun. In the midst of an overall difficult life, he has been a little refuge of joy. And, I just miss him.

I write this as a tribute to the life of a good dog. And as a way of saying thank you to a God who blesses us in ways we do not understand until they are gone.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

If Faith Comes by Hearing, How Do We Pray for Bible-less Peoples?

by Stacey

Am I the only one who starts to pray for a Bible-less people group but gets a little stuck?

I start my prayer like this: "May they put their faith in Christ"....but then I realize they do not have a good understanding of who he is. So I try a different approach: Oh God, please change this people…but then I am reminded that without the power of the Spirit, we all remain slaves to sin. It is only those who repent and believe in Christ who receive the Holy Spirit. And then that brings me back to prayer attempt #1: that the people do not have a biblical understand of who Christ is. But how can they have a biblical understanding without the Bible?

So, if you get stuck like I do, here are some concrete ways we can pray for people groups who do not have the Bible.

Pray They Will Respond to the Little Revelation They Have

When God brought Abraham out to look at the stars and then promised him that his offspring would be just as numerous as the stars he saw, Abraham believed and that belief was counted to him as righteousness.

The Bible-less peoples do not have that specific promise from God, however, they do have the same stars. And these stars are God speaking to them. He reveals through his creation that he is there and that he is glorious.

In the words of King David, “There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.” (Psalm 19:3). There are no language groups that are beyond the language of God’s creation. Through the stars, through the lightening bugs, through the exotic monkeys, God is calling out in every language “I am here and I am glorious.”

So let us pray that the Bible-less peoples of the world would be like Abraham and look at the stars and believe that there is an amazing God behind them.

But however great this wordless language of God’s creation may be, we do know that the Bible-less people groups of the world need to hear about Christ to be reconciled to their Creator.

Pray for More Pentecosts

In Acts 2, there were people of many nations present in Jerusalem, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, when the disciples started preaching, everyone could understand what they were saying in his own language. After the crowd listened to a powerful sermon about Christ, there were 3,000 people who repented of their sins and believed in Christ.

It was a miraculous incident and yet, I do not believe, it has to be an isolated event. The same problem of not being able to understand the Gospel exists today, but fortunately the same Holy Spirit is still at work in the world. Why then would we not pray that God would grant people the ability to understand the preacher who is speaking in the trade language as if he were speaking their mother tongue? Let us pray for the Lord to miraculously intervene so that the Gospel could be heard and accepted.

Pray for Literacy in the Language of Wider Communication

While it is true that God is a God of miracles, he is also a God who usually works through ordinary means: such as children going to school to learn to read so that they can read the Bible. Unfortunately there are many problems here that hinder children from learning French, the language of wider communication in our region. There are schools that teach French, but the classrooms are overcrowded (i.e. 100 kids in one classroom), the teachers often do not show up to teach, and many kids need to work in the fields in order to have food to eat. The result is that the number of Bakoum who can read French is minimal and most of the women that I have met speak very little French.

Thus, we can pray for the Bible-less people groups who may have a Bible available in a trade language, that the Lord would make a way for them to learn to understand and read that language.

Pray for More Laborers

There are still over 100 languages in Cameroon alone that do not yet have a Bible. Thus, it goes without saying that we need to faithfully pray that God would send out more Bible translators. I recently received an email from a girl who girl who said that she had been praying for the Bakoum for over 10 years. She received their name from Wycliffe’s Bible-less Peoples Prayer Project and has been faithfully praying they would receive a Bible. Oddly enough, the year that she started praying for them was the year that we signed on with our mission agency World Team. Let us follow her example and check out Wycliffe’s Bible-less people’s prayer project and pray for God to send out laborers to specific people groups.

Pray for Current Laborers

And finally, we can pray for those on the field who are currently pulling their hair out with linguistics and Bible translation issues. Pray that the Lord would grant translator/linguists incredible intellectual capacity to understand the target language, the culture and the Word of God so that it would be translated accurately.

To conclude, the problems that confront the church in the Western world are extremely different than the problems that most missionaries face on the field. And thus, we need to customize our prayers accordingly. I pray that this blog was a good place to start for how we can pray for the Bible-less peoples of the world.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

[Videos] Can We Come to VBS 2016?

by Dave

Like last year, we made some videos for VBS. We made them for a specific church, but I am putting them here on the blog with the hopes that several churches will introduce our ministry to their kids this VBS. There are five videos, one for each day of the week. Check them out!

Video #1: Our Friends

Video #2: What We Do for Fun

Video #3: Church

Video #4: School

Video #5: Our Work

Thanks for including us in your VBS program. This time next year, we will be back in the States for our first home assignment!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Black Sunday: Saying Goodbye to Bonnie

by Stacey

I am calling today “Black Sunday” because tomorrow our home school teacher, sister in Christ, and friend Bonnie Marcum will be flying out to go back home to the US. We are happy for all the opportunities and relationships that await her there, but we are all sad to see her go. Let me share a little bit about the impact that she has made on us this past year…

When Bonnie arrived here, we were all more-or-less dribbling, slobbering babies. Dave and I were barely able to put a sentence together in Bakoum and, on good days, were talking like little children. “I am walking!” “You are sitting!” “He is working!” “I am touching my nose!” “He is touching his tummy!” “Yay!” We had hoped to be further along, but having to home school our children took a lot out of our study time.

And then there were the children. We would hand them a lined sheet of paper and they would just start writing their “letters” everywhere, as if there were no lines at all on the paper. They were learning their letter sounds but their “reading” was nothing impressive. We could not let Elias look at books because he would just tear the pages out of them. And to imagine this group of children being able to work on their own one day would have been absurd. They needed supervision all the time.
And today, I think it is safe to say that all of us have grown up a little bit. While Dave and I still have a long way to go in our language learning, we have made considerable progress to the point that Bakoum is mainly the language I speak and I rarely have to switch to French. This has led to closer relationships between me and the women in the village and I think is helping us win the hearts of the Bakoum little by little.

And the children! The children are reading. Elias, who once just destroyed the books we gave him now sits in his room and reads for hours. Had you asked me if I thought this was possible a year ago, I would have responded, “Not on your life.” But it happened. I have also heard the children read to one another and the other day Kaden sat down started reading the book  of 1 John on the couch…just because. Not only that, but conversations in our home are now about storms on Jupiter and how much 9 + 8 makes. I feel like overnight this group of hyperactive, drooling, kindergartners has turned into serious students with a thirst for knowledge.

And to whom do we attribute these successes? To God. And to Bonnie. Without her, this year would have been Dave and I spinning our wheels working on home school and Bakoum and excelling in neither. We would have been spread way too thin to produce quality work on either front.

And so, it is with great sadness, but mostly great thankfulness, that we accept that this chapter of our lives is coming to a close. The Lord has answered our every prayer for our ministry and for our children in sending Bonnie to us this year.

Thank you Lord and thank you Bonnie.