As we have been saying goodbye to friends and family, people have been asking us how we feel about going back to Cameroon. In the midst of trying to see how much we can shove into suitcases and eating as much ice-cream as we can, there are three main feelings that keep coming to the surface: Dread, Trust, and Resolve.
We know that we are soldiers going back into war. Our war is not one involving guns or tanks but instead we battle and against the spiritual forces of evil that have held the Bakoum people for generations. We know whose turf we are on (but we also know who owns the turf). We know that lies and animism have their claws deep in this people and that they will not be released without resistance. We are very aware of this reality.
Years ago, we helped start a pro-life ministry, Speak for the Unborn, which has since taken off under the great leadership of their current director. During those early days of casting a vision for the ministry, determining its core values, and creating a website, I was often clouded with these same feelings of dread. I sat down to create the website and the moment I put my fingers to my keyboard, I am convinced that I was surrounded by demonic forces trying to dissuade me to do anything in the world but the task at hand. Getting stuff done is not something I struggle with, but starting this ministry was much more than crossing off a to-do list – it was picking a fight with the Devil. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t type. I couldn’t articulate my thoughts. And I believe that was all spiritual.
In the same way, we know that Bible translation is declaring war on a force that is so much more powerful than we are. We feel that now. We feel as if we are throwing pebbles demonic forces, calling them to look out way. And yet, greater than the feeling of dread of going back, we feel a deep trust in the Lord…
With the Psalmist, we cry, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me" (Psalm 23:4). We know that we are going back to a dark place, filled with death, both physical and spiritual - and yet, we are simply not afraid. Why? Because the Lord of Heaven and earth is on our side! We don’t know what this next term holds for us. We don’t know what sickness awaits, or even if we will live through our next term. We don’t know if our house in Cameroon is still standing, or if Cameroon will be in a state of civil war when we arrive. We are not certain that the writing system will work, or if people will learn to read. There are so many unknowns, and yet what we DO know is simply enough: We know God is on our side. We know that the Lord will work everything out for our good and whether weeping or rejoicing, he will never leave us. We know that we serve the God of David who took out Goliath with but a few stones. And even though feel like we are leaving everything, we know that the Lord is not quarantined to the pews of American churches. The Lord is with his children wherever they are; and he is enough.
Finally, I feel tremendous resolve. I feel the resistance – I know it is there and yet, the greater the resistance, the greater the resolve. Going back again to the genesis of Speak for the Unborn, the more people slandered my husband and me, and the more they called the cops for this reason or that, the more, by God’s grace, we dug our heels in and ended up starting a secondary pro-life ministry that same year on a college campus. If discouragement is what the enemy is looking for, by God’s grace, what he will get is more versions of the Bible in Bakoum. If fear is the agenda of the great Slanderer, what he will get is Bakoum children singing Scripture songs in their own language. I know who’s on my side, and all the sickness, dread, questions, rejection, and loneliness cannot undo the promise of God to sustain me. The gates of Hell will not prevail against the building of the Church of Jesus Christ. We leave tomorrow to go back to Cameroon cognizant of our weakness, but as convinced as ever that we are on the winning team.
I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand,
I shall not be shaken. - Psalm 16:8