Saturday, September 6, 2014

Life as a Minority

By Stacey

Some days I wish I could change my skin color.
To those on the streets of Cameroon I am referred to as “la blanche” or “white person.” Sometimes little children excitedly point and run to tell their friends when I approach as if I was some sort of exotic animal. I know they do not mean anything by it, and yet I feel like I am like the village attraction (actually, I think I am the village attraction). Adults in the market try to get my attention essentially by calling out “hey white person, we have great white people stuff here, come buy from me!” Can you imagine if in the States cell phone vendors called out to the people passing by, “Hey, you black person, I’ve got the perfect phone for you”? Or “Hey yellow man, come in here the products are made in Asia”? There would be law suits and maybe riots!

Since arriving in country, I have actually been told by a Cameroonian brother that it would more-or-less be better for me to not participate in a certain kind of ministry here because I am white. Now, I am not saying that there is not wisdom in what he is saying, but, from my American perspective, I cannot help but to think that this is simple discrimination. I should not do something not because of lack of qualifications or character flaws but because of…my skin color? The American side of me cannot help but to hate this.
I feel like when people see me, they do not see me, but instead only see my skin color and/or country of origin. I feel like they judge me based on the other handful of Americans they have known, or on what they have seen in the movies. A perfect example of this was when I was in France and guy heard me talking to Dave in English and approached us quoting a vulgar English rap song. He assumed that since we are from the same country as this particular rap artist, we must have the same moral code. Why would he assume this? Was it because I somehow communicated that I accept immorality…or was instead because he labeled me before he even spoke to me? It seems to me that, right or wrong, it is within human nature, no matter the culture, to judge based on appearance. And to the person being judged, it just stinks.

I have never been the minority before. All throughout my life people have generally treated me with respect, as if I was “one of them,” and even would hear me out if I wanted to share my convictions. Now, on the other hand, I feel as if my convictions and individuality seems to be lost behind this white skin. I know that I have to get used to this and honestly I do not fault Cameroonians at all for simply commenting on the obvious (whereas in America we notice the obvious but just do not comment on it), and yet being labeled is not something easy to accept.
To top this off, it seems like being white is often a positive thing in Cameroon. I cannot imagine going to a country where people assumed negative things as soon as they saw me.
I write this blog post because I think a lot of us simply do not know what it feels like to be the outsider unless we leave our country of origin and I want to call us to be more compassionate to those who are different then us. Specifically:

Try to Feel What They Feel
To those of you who have lived overseas, you know that there is a lot of stress involved. You have to learn new rules of the road which sometimes feel like no rules at all. You consider it a victory to go to the store/market and leave with food to feed your family for the evening. You are often wondering if people will accept you and if you will ever have a true friend.

When we in the States see refugees walking down the streets, have we for a second thought about the amount of stress and difficulty in their lives in coming to America? Have we considered that they may not think that the US is the best nation in the world and that they might actually prefer the way things are done in their own countries? I put forth the challenge to consider that every aspect of their lives is new for them and they are simply very overwhelmed. I imagine that if they are like me, they would be delighted to receive a warm smile or a helping hand.

See People as Image Bearers of God FIRST
I am not saying to deny the obvious. It does not offend us when people notice that we are white nor if they presume that our children are adopted. However, when you look at someone who is of a different race then you, do not mentally label them as “that Arab” or “that black-guy” but instead think of them as “that image-bearer of God who has his own convictions, preferences, personality quirks, struggles, joys, and who also (perhaps) happens to originate from a different country.” I am in no way supporting the American ideal of not acknowledging racial or gender differences, but I am instead asking that we hear people out and treat them as individuals before we slap labels on them.

Be Patient with Those Who Do Not Speak Your Language
Dave saw a bumper sticker that read, “Welcome to America. Now learn English.” I do agree that when we enter as a guest into a country, we absolutely should adopt that culture’s language and customs, and yet I wonder if the maker of this bumper sticker has ever tried to learn another language. Let me just tell you, it is H.A.R.D. What’s more, Dave and I do not have to find a separate job in Cameroon to pay for our monthly expenses, but can instead study French/Bakoum full time. I cannot imagine entering into a new country, having to support my family while also having to learn a new language. I almost think it is impossible. So, when you hear people speaking other languages in the mall, give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are doing the best they can with what they have got. 
To conclude, I must say that I am glad to now be a minority. I am happy to have my eyes opened to how minorities in my home country may feel and to maybe one day be able to relate to my children if/when they experience forms of discrimination. And I pray that my experiences may serve to help you too extend the warmth of Christ to those who are different then you.

“Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”  Romans 15:7

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Where We Have Been and Where We are Headed

by Stacey

What We Have Been Up To

Living in an Airport
It has been a little over a month since we arrived in country and I think it would be safe to compare this last month to living in an airport terminal: we have been carrying our luggage around everywhere we go, checking often to make sure we have our passports for when we get stopped by the authorities, while all the while counting our children to make sure we did not lose any of them. We are in closer proximity to other people than we are used to. In fact, it seems like our whole environment is one big commune where everyone shares space with people they barely know. And no one seems bothered by it. There is always something going on, always noise around us, and always something new and fascinating to look at. When we are well rested we love all the adventures but when we are tired we consider all the stimulation a bit overwhelming. All in all we would not choose to be anywhere else.

Lots of Traveling
Two weeks ago we traveled to a city called Bamenda where we received some more intensive orientation. We discussed how to draft a contingency plan, how to respectfully deal with the police when stopped at checkpoints on the road, what to do in a medical emergency, and how to live life in the village. We have been so encouraged by the "down-to-earth" nature of our fellow missionaries and all the wisdom that the Lord has worked in them through their ministries here. We have so much to learn from them and feel as if we are surrounded by giants.


Also in Bamenda, we were introduced to our new homeschool program. When I met Dave he said that he would never homeschool his kids and now you can see him with all four of his kids, a globe and flashlight carefully explaining how the Earth revolves around the sun. So far, we have really enjoyed spending this quality time with the kids and they are enthralled by what they are learning. We have seen the fruit of being consistent with discipline the last 4 years as all four of the kids more-or-less attentively sit for hours and do homeschooling without complaint. That has been a wonderful blessing.

Big Decisions

Another wonderful blessing is that we have "officially" decided that we will be working with the Kwakum people. That has been our plan for a while, but when we arrived we were faced with other groups that were in need of a translation. For instance, there is one people group called "the Baka" where a church has finally been planted (after 20+ years of unresponsiveness) and this church only has a handful of Bible stories that they reteach each Sunday. We have seen first hand that the church simply cannot grow without the Word. Seeing the need for the Bible here has lead us to go back to the drawing board and seriously consider working with a different people group. We have talked to several seasoned Wycliffe missionaries who work in our region, we have spent time in prayer, talked to national church leaders and have decided to stick to our original plan and work with the Kwakum people, although this decision has not been an easy one. We stuck to our original plan to go to this people group for the following reasons:

  • We want to pioneer a new people group. There are few things that make us more excited then to enter into a new people group and to start a translation project from the ground up.
  • There is a definite need. One pastor preaches in French and said that he would be really happy if people understood half of what he was saying. Further, we have been told that this people group is not receptive to the Gospel and is hard-hearted to the Lord. They need more Christian witness and they need the Word in a language they can understand.
  • It is linguistically strategic. There is a neighboring linguistically similar language (Kako) which has the New Testament. We dream of doing an adaptation of their NT into Kwakum, then translating the Old Testament into Kwakum only to then do an adaptation into Kako (why not?). All that to say, the Kwakum language seems linguistically strategic as we hope to use it as a point of departure to maybe do other translations.

What's Next?

Moving in with a Cameroonian Family

A week from today we plan to share a house with a believing Cameroonian family for a few months until we get a house built/liveable among our people group. This family comes from a different part of Cameroon and is French speaking. All 9 of us will be sharing a bathroom but will have our "own" kitchen and bedrooms. Being the Americans that we are, we know that the lack of privacy will take some getting used to and it will be rather tight have just two rooms for our family. However, it is safe to say that Dave and I are really grateful for this opportunity. We are so excited to be "immersed" into a French-speaking family and hope to really grow in our French and also learn Cameroonian culture from them. We are also prayerful that we would develop a lasting Christ-centered friendship with them.

Survey Work and Building or Renovating a House

Within the next few months our goals are:
  • To learn how to live here in Cameroon. Navigating the markets, learning to cook with ingredients that we did not know existed, and scrubbing our clothes with a bar of soap are things that we are simply not good at. 
  • To read books which discuss African Traditional Religion, universal characteristics of Bantu languages, and missions methodology. We also hope to brush up on what we learned in linguistics school as far as how to write down sounds/tones that we hear. 
  • Build or renovate a house. 
  • Conduct a linguistic and church survey among our people group. We hope to go to our people group and ask lots of questions to determine exactly how many villages are made up of Bakoum speakers, how French is used, if there has been any literacy work done, and what is the spiritual condition of the churches. 
  • We would be delighted to move into our people group in November and start formal language/culture study then. I am very excited to learn and analyze another language. 

I have read this verse over and over again: "My power is made perfect in weakness" (1 Cor 12.9) and have been stunned that the Lord's power is perfected not when everything on my to-do list is crossed off, or when my children are calm and clean, or when I know how to act in a given social context, or when I conjugate my French verbs correctly. No, God's power is most pronounced as we realize day in and day out that we are so weak. We have no status, little ability to control what we do on a day-to-day basis, no experience in this culture, and are more-or-less 30 year old children learning to feed ourselves, talk, and keep ourselves clean. I have never been so humbled in my life. And even though the world and my flesh tell me that this is a position of unwelcomed weakness, the Lord tells me that this is instead a position of power. I am thankful for this season of my life and cannot remember feeling more joy in the Lord then I do now.

To our Praying Friends...
  • We would love prayer that we would secure/build permanent housing as soon as possible. We are eager to start what we came here to do and that is simply not possible until we can move into our people group. 
  • Please pray that we would love well the Cameroonian family we will be sharing a house with. 
  • Please pray for Elias. Compared to where he was at a year ago, he does about 80% less screaming (praise the Lord!) and yet he is a daily challenge in pretty much every way. Pray he would learn self control, diligence, submission to authority and would have a thankful heart. 
  • Please pray that we would be good learners both of "Cameroonian" French, culture, and the way of life here. 

Here are some Cameroon pics, just for fun:

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Welcome to Cameroon and Welcome to Culture Shock

By Stacey

Imagine delving into a science fiction novel where the author takes great strides to imagine an alternate universe. He creates “sing-songy” languages between his characters that are outside of his readers’ imagination. Then he describes the narrator’s response to these languages: a mixture between bewilderment, intrigue, and a general uneasiness. This main character also thinks back to his life on Earth where venders would sell their merchandise from a structured network of individual stores in an air-conditioned mall. In his new world, a multitude of products seem to be piled up on top of people’s heads as they walk up and down streets looking for buyers. There are also new animals that are not found in any children’s encyclopedia back on his home planet. No, these are animals that make other-worldly sounds in the jungles at night. Sounds that are impossible to describe and sounds that leave the narrator wondering if he just heard a rare species of monkey, or some type of frog, or even some type of three headed, multi-eyed creature out of the book of Revelation. On this new planet there are all sorts of insects, some that are invisible and only can be detected by the red bumps they leave all over people’s skin. Others seem more familiar, such as clouds of 12 different kinds of exotically colored butterflies that swarm over the mud-puddles in the middle of the dirt roads. The governing power is the vegetation and the humans are guests within their dense, foresty habitat. The characters in this novel live in tiny clearings in the midst of a world of vines, oddly shaped trees, unearthly types of fruits and plants, some of which even produce bubbles that fascinate young children. It is a land where bananas taste like potatoes and through some type of magic the leaves of indigenous plants are cooked in such a way that even toddlers willingly eat them. Deep in the heart of this leafy wilderness there is an ongoing war between the humans and the swarming insect population as to who are the rightful owners of what the humans call “home.”
The writer then propels his main character out of his shocked-observer-mode and into the hustle-bustle of the surrounding society that has fixed rules that the he must learn in order to survive. This fearful explorer looks around at everyone buying and selling, laughing and dancing, and conversing with ease and he finally realizes that he is the alien on this new planet. Having once thought that the accepted norms on his planet were universal, he is slowly becoming aware of the fact that these customs are just one of many very different ways to live. He feels in many ways like a child discovering everything for the first time and who cannot help but to ask “why?” several hundred times a day. His daily questioning leaves him both fascinated with his new world and wondering if he is just too different to ever be a part of it…
Intrigued? Welcome to our lives!
When we crossed the Atlantic in our move from America to France, we entered into a different country. When we flew over the Mediterranean in our journey from France to Cameroon, we actually flew into a different world. I do not even know how to begin describing the differences between Cameroon and America because there are just so few commonalities between the two countries. 
Fortunately, the same God who created our former universe called “America” also sits enthroned above the new world of Cameroon. This God has taken care of Dave and I as we travel around Cameroon and learn this new culture. I do not know how many times a day I say “Wow, this place is not like France at all” or “Wow, that’s different” but all in all things are going very well.
And, oddly enough, our kids who are also guests in this foreign place are doing just fine! Today at church Makyra had to use the restroom, so she went behind a thatch-wall-type-thing, squatted over a hole that was surrounded by you-know-what, went to the bathroom and talked about how fun that was and how she wanted to do it again. The kids (who are always the most energetic children in whatever country we live in) greet people in villages, chase chickens through trash heaps, and pick up machetes with excitement and awe (only to be told to put them down). They practice carrying stuff on their heads and once we settle down in the village that we are going to live in, I can see them really developing lots of close relationships with the village kids. They are, as always, a lot of work, but also bring so much joy as they seem to accept the changes without question.
We have officially left Planet France and now find ourselves surrounded by a wonderfully noisy world that we will one day (Lord willing) call home. Thank you for your prayers and please continue!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Leaving today for Cameroon!

by Stacey

Today we will be driving to Geneva, Switzerland with our four kids and 12 pieces of luggage to board a plane headed to Cameroon, Africa. Although our minds are currently filled with the details of our trip, in the seldom quite moments, we are reminded and encouraged that there is no "foreign land" that is out of the reach of our Lord's presence in our lives...

  1. "Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?  
  2. If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! 
  3. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 
  4. even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me." 
  5. Psalm 139:7-10

We are ready for whatever joys, trials, challenges, disappointments, and adventures that the Lord has planned for us only because we know that he will be with us and that he will give us grace for every season that he walks us through. 

For the month of August, we will be with another missionary family and will be doing a lot of traveling, learning to cook, going to markets, learning to drive, and learning whatever else they think is important. Starting in September, we do not exactly know where we will be living and it is very likely that we will be "roughing it" until our container (Lord willing) arrives around November. Dave and I joke that he and the boys are going to go into the jungle with a saw and try to make a house for us. We are hoping it won't be quite "that bad." All this to say, we would love prayers during this time of transition: that we would be gracious to one another in the midst of craziness, and that we could find a house quickly to then be able to start language learning. We do not know when we will have access to the Internet, so do not be surprised if we do not post anything for quite some time.

"Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!"  
- Psalm 67:3 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Day of Prayer #14: Pray for the Lord to be Glorified

“Missions is not the ultimate goal of the Church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever.” 
John Piper

  • Pray that the Lord would be glorified by giving two weak, culturally awkward people wisdom in knowing how to love well in a new culture. 
  • Pray God would be glorified in being our strength when we want to give up. 
  • Pray God would be glorified in us as we seek to extend patience and grace to our children even when they resist us.
  • Pray God would be glorified in ex-pat Christians and national Christians working together for the advancement of the Kingdom. 
  • Pray God would be glorified by saving sinners. 
  • Pray God would be glorified in seeing that his Revealed Word would be translated among the peoples of Cameroon. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Day of Prayer #13: Pray for our Children Individually

Pray for the Lord to save all four of them and...

Pray for Elias that he would be characterized by self-control, thankfulness, and perseverance to work hard. Please pray that he would stop screaming, and that he would be diligent to use the restroom. 

Pray for Kaden that he would be characterized as a servant and seek to serve instead of be served. Pray that he would be like Ezra the scribe who reads God’s word, does it and teaches it.

Pray for Makyra that she would love the truth and seek to govern her emotions and perceptions by the Word and not by how she feels. Pray that she would have a passion for the truth of God’s word and a passion to speak the truth in love.

Pray for Zoey that she would be wise of heart and receive commandments and that she would not be a babbling fool that will come to ruin. Pray that she would learn to obey her parents specifically in the area of laying quietly in her bed and in her eating. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Day of Prayer # 12: Pray for us as Parents

"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, 
and it will be given him." 
James 1:5

  • Pray that we would know how to help our kids navigate through a new culture even as will be learning it ourselves.
  • Pray that we would truly be channels of wisdom to our children and that we would represent the character of God to them in how we live. 
  • Pray that we would be patient and gentle towards our children even during stressful times.
  • Pray for God to give us grace in home-schooling and that we would know how to best integrate French into their education.
  • Pray that we would both practice and teach biblical conflict resolution. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Day of Prayer #11: Pray for Logistics

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you."  
1 Peter 5:6-7

  • Pray that all of our luggage would arrive at the airport. 
  • Pray that we would learn to drive in Cameroon. 
  • Pray that we would learn to navigate through the markets and walk away with food for dinner. 
  • Pray that we would “get the swing of things” in Africa. 
  • Pray that we would find housing sooner rather than later. 
  • Pray that our children would remember not to drink the water and sleep well under their mosquito nets. 
  • Pray that container that is being shipped from America would arrive SOON. 
  • Pray that we would have internet access. 
  • Pray that we would adjust to the heat. 
  • Pray that our children would not mind too much wearing long sleeves and long pants all the time. 
  • Pray that we would learn and remember the appropriate cultural greetings. 
  • Pray that our French would improve.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Day of Prayer #10: Pray for Personal Holiness

"'Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.'  Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable.  Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.  So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart." 
2 Timothy 2:19-22

  • Pray that we would be in the habit of continual confession, repentance and restoration in our home.
  • Pray that Dave and I would take every thought captive to Christ. 
  • Pray that we would flee from iniquity. 
  • Pray that we would continually cleanse ourselves from what is dishonorable so that we will be set apart as holy and useful to the Lord, ready for every good work. 
  • Pray that we would pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Day of Prayer #9: Pray for the Lord’s Protection

 "I will say to the LORD, 'My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'  For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence.  He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.  You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday." 
Psalm 91:2-6 

  • Pray that the Lord would protect us while driving in Cameroon.
  • Pray that the Lord would protect us from malaria, falaria, dengue fever and other diseases carried by biting insects. 
  • Pray that our kids would not break any bones, need stitches, etc. 
  • Pray that the Lord would protect us from thieves. 
  • Pray that the Lord would allow us to remain healthy so that we can do the work of Bible translation.