Thursday, July 12, 2018

Immediate Need: Homeschool Teacher for 2019-2020 School Year

by Stacey

We are looking for a woman to come to Cameroon to homeschool our children for the 2019-2020 school year. They would all be in 4th grade during this year. Please help spread the word because we would like to speak with anyone interested before we head back to Cameroon on August 20th. We will be in Louisville July 13th - August 11th, and then in Colorado Springs August 11th-20th. We would love to sit down with anyone interested to talk about the possibility.

The Mutually-Beneficial Opportunity:
Coming to Cameroon to be a homeschool teacher is beneficial both to Dave and I as Bible translators and it would also be beneficial to you as the homeschool teacher. It is beneficial to us because we will be starting full time Bible translation (= lots of work) in August of 2019 and really need to spend our time pulling our hair out over translation issues. Our work is very intensive and very technical and it requires hours of silent concentration. We have found that juggling multiple languages and Bible exegesis, along with 4th grade math makes it so that we do not go a good job in either role. We really need someone who can devote their time to being our kids' full-time educator. 

Also, it would be beneficial to you because you would get to see the missionary life up close. You would live in our guest house, eat your meals with our family, pray with us for the Bakoum people, and hear all that we are learning about the language and the culture. You would be living in a village in Africa and you would see a part of the world that would be completely foreign to anything you have experienced living in the States. For you, this wouldn't only be a year of travel, but it would likely be a year of long days, possible sickness, and loneliness. If you come, you will understand, in many ways, what life on the field as a missionary is like. It won't be a picnic, but it will be rewarding.


Where we Live: 
We life in a small town in Eastern Cameroon which is next to a tropical rain forest. 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 (9), Makyra (9), Elias (8) and Zoey (8). Although they are a year apart, we are currently keeping them all in the same grade (starting in August 2019 they will be entering 4th grade). They come with lots and lots and lots of energy and zeal for everything, including learning. We are looking someone assertive and firm who will be able to control the classroom and channel their energy well (this is no small task).

This year we will be joining FES (Field Education System of SIL in Cameroon). You will be working with this program in order to receive curriculum and we will also be attending their joint learning sessions where they kids will have an in-classroom experience. You will need to do lesson planning, but there is curriculum to help you navigate through teaching the kids. 
Our House

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 serves as the lodging for our home-school teacher. Meals will be eaten with our family. We most often have electricity and (hot or cold) water. 

Job Description:
  • Homeschool the kids, including working one-on-one with them outside of class in areas where they struggle. 
  • Prepare daily individual lesson plans from the suggested lesson plans available. This can be work intensive. 
  • 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).
  • A strong walk with the Lord and a life committed to the practice the personal spiritual disciplines. Our work is very much pioneer work and therefore you would not reap the benefits of a good church and small group. You would need to mainly feed yourself through your own personal study of the Word (bring sermons!)
  • A teachable spirit. We are looking for someone to come as a learner of the culture, our family, ministry, and so on. 
  • A robust knowledge of the Bible (as our children are known for asking lots of hard Bible questions!)
  • 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 (although that would be a welcomed bonus) but we ask that you come with a willingness to learn and to work hard to ensure they receive a good education. 
  • Must come willing to love and pray for our children. 
  • 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.

You would be responsible to raise approximately $300 USD/month 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 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. We would like to start having these conversations before we leave to go back to Cameroon on August 20th. 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.

If you would like to talk to one of our kids' former homeschool teachers, you can contact them at: (Bonnie) or (Megan).

World Team requires an initial application, phone dialog, and references. If everything is approved, you will be invited to come to the main office for their orientation / application week November 3-5. Please visit the website at to fill out the initial application. 

The initial application, with references, needs to be submitted by October 1.

From the Mouths of Previous Homeschool Teachers:

From Bonnie (2015-2016):
"I am so thankful to have had this opportunity with the Hares because I was able to participate in authentic, everyday life with missionaries on the field. I loved being a part of the real joys and struggles that missionary families experience and I believe it has helped me become more faithful in prayer, compassion, and endurance.

One joy of being a homeschool teacher was simply to watch the kids learn and to see things anew from their perspective. The Hare kids get excited to discover new things! Teaching is definitely hard work and requires lots of patience and perseverance, but spending the time to get to know and understand the kids was totally worth it. I grew in my walk with the Lord, especially in prayer, as a result of the constant realization of how inadequate I was for the task set before me. But God was faithful!
Bonnie in the backseat with all the kids

The Hare kids absolutely love learning! It was such a joy to hear them chatting after school was over about a history book we read or discussing the solar system or even reciting their addition facts. They are each unique in the way they express themselves and relate to others. They have their own strengths and weaknesses, which were both difficult and a pleasure for me to discover. Some days they would try my patience like nobody’s business, and others they would persevere with difficult math problems or spelling words and encourage each other towards obedience and joy. It was a year well spent as the Hare’s homeschool tutor!"

From Megan (2016-2017):
"I am extremely thankful God granted me the opportunity to teach for the Hare family. The children are sweet, energetic kids who absolutely love learning. Together, we had a wonderful time singing our way through the curriculum, writing creative stories, and discovering fascinating animals and plants in science. Of course, there were times in which the children had difficulty controlling their tongues and energetic bodies, but overall the experience teaching them was wonderful. I really treasured seeing the missionary life in Cameroon firsthand and the role these children played in their parents’ journey to translate the Bakoum Bible. I will definitely miss seeing their smiling faces each morning, hearing their infectious laughter, and watching their countenance light up as they understood new concepts. Teaching the Hare children was a real joy."

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Whiteman Magic and Deceptive Europeans

by Dave

Just before we left for home assignment, I had an interesting conversation with one of our most trusted language helpers, we will call him Pierre (not his name). Pierre is very well educated and one of the only Bakoum people I know that enjoys reading (in French). I was driving him back to his village and recounting a story that I found to be humorous. I told him that fairly often people will come to my door and we will have this conversation:
Them: “I have some chameleon eggs for you to buy.”
Me: “Oh yeah, and why would I want to buy them.”
Them: “You know…”
Me: “Honestly I don’t. What would I use chameleon eggs for?”
Them: “Well…we don’t know what you use them for. We just know that whitemen use them in their magic…”
I told Pierre that I thought this was funny, but he did not see the humor. He went on to explain that the reason that all whitemen are successful in life (apparently a common perspective in Cameroon) is because the magic of whitemen is more powerful than the magic of the Africans. To this I replied that there were very few “whitemen” (he is referring to non-Africans) in America that practice magic. Pierre responded: “But what about airplanes?!”

We talked for a while and I assured him that there was no magic involved in airplanes (and I think he believed me). But I walked away wondering why there is such a common misconception that Westerners also practice magic. You have to understand that nearly every Cameroonian I have met believes that one can talk to and manipulate spirits. They believe that there are certain spells, potions, incantations, dances, drumbeats, and even sacrifices that can enable the performer to succeed in life, find a lover, or kill someone else. The Bakoum have a ritual performed at funerals in which they seek to figure out who used magic to kill the deceased. I even observed this ritual at a funeral of a man that was driving his motorcycle drunk and then crashed. Magic is a big part of their lives and is usually dark and used for evil means. I have been told that the difference between a Christian Bakoum man and a non-Christian is not that the Christian refrains from practicing magic, but that he does not use magic to harm.

So, I concluded that the reason that Pierre believes that whitemen have magic is because he is Bakoum, and the Bakoum see magic in everything. And I still believe that there is truth to that.

However, just yesterday I was reading a book called King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild, which describes the horrendous and violent reign of King Leopold II of Belgium over a large part of Africa (much of which is now the Democratic Republic of Congo). Shockingly, while hundreds of Europeans and Americans visited “the Congo” at the time, none of them did much to report Leopold’s abuses.

Believing Leopold’s work to be humanitarian, in 1890, an African American named George Washington Williams went to the Congo with a desire to see if other African Americans could participate in what was going on there. However, he was immediately devastated by the rampant abuse at the hands of Leopold’s men, led by Henry Morton Stanley. He thus wrote an open letter to the king, revealing what was really going on. Among his accusations, he claimed that the white men tricked the Africans into turning over their land and resources. Hochschild summarizes this complaint here (with the quotes coming directly from Williams’s Open Letter):
Stanley and his white assistants had used a variety of tricks, such as fooling Africans into thinking that whites had supernatural powers, to get Congo chiefs to sign their land over to Leopold. For example: “A number of electric batteries had been purchased in London, and when attached to the arm under the coat, communicated with a band of ribbon which passed over the palm of the white brother’s hand, and when he gave the black brother a cordial grasp of the hand the black brother was greatly surprised to find his white brother so strong, that he nearly knocked him off his feet…When the native inquired about the disparity of strength between himself and his white brother, he was told that the white man could pull up trees and perform the most prodigious feats of strength.” Another trick was to use a magnifying glass to light a cigar, after which “the white man explained his intimate relation to the sun, and declared that if he were to request him to burn up his black brother’s village it would be done.” In another ruse, a white man would ostentatiously load a gun but covertly slip the bullet up his sleeve. He would then hand the gun to a black chief, step off a distance, and ask the chief to take aim and shoot; the white man, unharmed, would bend over and retrieve the bullet from his shoe. “By such means . . . and a few boxes of gin, whole villages have been signed away to your Majesty.” (Hochschild 1999: 109-110)
Though Leopold never had any claim in Cameroon, the Germans, French, and British did. I have seen how these colonial governments have taken much from Cameroon (and some still do!). And I have come to the conclusion that, while the spiritual beliefs of the Bakoum play a role in the way that they view Stacey and me, it seems likely that we are also dealing with the consequences of deception of white men in the past.

When we first arrived in Cameroon, I found that the attitude of many was: “What are you here to take from us?” More and more I am coming to understand what they meant by that. Hochschild (1999: 125) quotes a Swedish missionary who said: “It is strange that people who claim to be civilized think they can treat their fellow man – even though he is of a different color – any which way.” It breaks my heart to realize that when some people look at me in Cameroon, they see my skin, and they think of men like Henry Morton Stanley. They see someone who may claim to be working for Christ, but they assume is working only for his own benefit. And when children run away from me in fear, it may be that they have heard that historically white men have brought deceit and violence.

And I have to be honest with you, when I think about trying to overcome such a terrible history, I am tempted to despair. Is it not enough that we have to overcome the spiritual bondage, economic oppression, and our own weakness? The task already seemed impossible! Of course, I am then reminded of what Jesus taught about the impossible in Matthew 19. Having just had an encounter with the rich young ruler, who turned from Christ rather than give up his wealth, Jesus said to his disciples,
"Truly I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God." When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matt 19:23-26)
In reality, the God that we worship is the God of the impossible. He delights in doing what seems impossible. Talking with his disciples, Jesus claims that it is harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to be saved! That caused his disciples to despair. But then, Jesus saved me. And if Christ has overcome my sins, my weaknesses, my love of comfort and wealth, and saved me, then I believe that he can and will do the same for the Bakoum.

In fact, I think that it is a good thing that we are seeing salvation as impossible. I believe that was the point of Jesus' conversation with his disciples. He wanted them to see that salvation was not a work of man at all. I am sure the rich young ruler seemed like a good candidate for salvation: he was young, he knew much about the law, he seemed willing, and he was influential. But Jesus knew that none of those advantages would lead to God. Instead, this ruler needed to be fully dependent upon Christ. And what I see in Scripture is a God who loves to have the odds stacked against him so that when he accomplishes the impossible, there will be no doubt whom we should praise.

I am just seeing more and more how much we need Christ. For every Bakoum man, woman, or child the obstacles are enormous: cultural pressures, religious baggage, personal sins, and on top of all of that the historical sins of colonialism. But I know that in Christ, all things are possible. So, my most recent revelation, about the deceptions of Europeans and whiteman's magic, should not lead me to hopelessness. It ought to lead me to greater thankfulness for my salvation and a greater dependence upon the only One who is able to change anyone's heart. And then, when he does save Bakoum men and women, everyone will know that the glory belongs to him alone.

Hochschild, Adam. 1999. King Leopold's ghost: A story of greed, terror, and heroism in colonial Africa. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
*Image is from Getty Images.

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Bible for the Least of These: Engaging Children in Translation

by Stacey

In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. - Luke 10:21

As John Piper points out in his article What Makes Jesus Rejoice, the verse above is only one of two places where Jesus is described as rejoicing. The reason for his joy was because when the seventy-two disciples returned from their preaching tour, they told him that the Gospel message was hidden from the wise and revealed to little children. 

John Piper says, “The point of this is not that there are only certain classes of people who are chosen by God. The point is that God is free to choose the least likely candidates for his grace.” Children, who have no academic accomplishments to boast in nor do they have the physical strength for serious hunting in the rain forest, are the ones to whom the Father reveals himself. “God contradicts what human merit might dictate. He hides from the self-sufficient wise and reveals to the most helpless and unaccomplished.” If then the Lord takes joy in hiding himself from the accomplished and revealing himself to the weak, could there be implications for Bible translation?

Through verses like the above and years of teaching the Word to children inside and outside of our home, Dave and I believe that it would be both pleasing to God and strategic to involve children from the very beginning of the Bakoum translation project. Ideally (and after talking to the Bakoum community), we would like to translate both a children’s Bible for ages 5-10 (similar to the NIrV) and a Bible designed for mature readers and mature believers (similar to the ESV).

The Why
There are several reasons why we are praying about launching a parallel translation project.

Strategy. Dave’s dad works for Compassion International, an organization whose goal is to “release children from poverty in Jesus’ name.” In talking to Dave’s dad, we’ve heard story after story of children who have not just been released from poverty, but who have then grown up to become doctors, lawyers, and political leaders in their nations. Children do not stay children, but instead grow up to become leaders of churches, families, and even nations. Our prayer is to reach the children and in doing so, reach the Bakoum.

Theology. In translating with and for little boys and girls, we would communicate to the culture children are valuable and that Jesus is for people of all ages and for each gender. Jesus is for rich and poor, male and female, young and old.

Literacy. Most English-speaking parents do not expect their children to jump from their ABCs straight into the King James version of the Bible. Instead, there are years of Dr. Seuss books and children’s Bibles with colorful illustrations before the children can read and understand the Bible of their parents. A children’s Bible is a helpful intermediate step between the ABCs and are more “literal” translation (for both young and old!)

Translation. Dave Brunn, in his book One Bible, Many Versions, says that ideally every translation project would have both a more “literal” translation and a more accessible translation for those who are new to the faith or to reading in general. Translators generally agree with this, but due to limited resources and the urgent need this idea is placed on the wouldn’t-it-be-nice pile. A parallel translation project (one translation for children, one for mature readers/believers) would take this idea from the worldn’t-it-be-nice pile and put it in the let's-do-this-thing pile.

Discipleship. Translating a Bible for children would require day-in and day-out work with children. This would mean that I would teach a small group of children everything I know about the Bible: the big events of the Bible, Genesis to Revelation, the meaning of words like “propitiation,” the significance of the sacrificial system, and the parables of Jesus. These children would receive the benefit of education, knowledge of Scripture, and more-or-less a seminary education. My prayer is that I would be teaching and raising up my future pastor(s) among the Bakoum.

The How
At this point, we are imagining that Dave and I would work with a team of adult Bakoum translators. We will sit side-by-side and do exegesis together, using French commentaries and resources. This is the group that will decide on key theological terms (like “baptism” or “pastor”). This team would then go through all the steps in the translation process, producing a final draft of each passage. Taking this final draft and the completed exegetical work, I would then work orally with children until they understand and are able to internalize the meaning of the passage and can say it back in their own words. 

We were able to see what this might look like just this last year. One of our classmates here in TX used our kids as “mother tongue translators” for a translation class at GIAL. Her goal was to produce a translation of the Bible in "second grade English." Through this process they were taught the meaning of “centurion” and then asked how they would explain this word to someone in their class at school. The passage they worked on has been burned into their minds and they can explain it in their own words. It proved to be an extremely effective and memorable way to teach them the Bible.

The “But what about…”
We have been told that doing a parallel project like the one described above has never been done. Therefore, as we prayerfully pursue this avenue, we know that we are wading through uncharted waters. There are many question marks and issues to consider. The work-load of one project is heavy, let alone two. We imagine that this endeavor could be like committing to adopt one set of twins and then going back to adopt another set - as if the first set wasn't hard enough (so we hear…).

Aside from the work-load, it is possible that the two versions of the Bible would end up being so close to one another that a second version would prove unnecessary. Certainly a parallel project would make the entire project take longer. But the question of time is not a concern to us. We are church planters first and foremost among the Bakoum and we see the hours spent investing in national translators, young and old, as a means to the end of a strong, national-led church.

Since a this type of parallel translation project has never been attempted, if we do it and succeed, other translators could follow. It would be a great joy to see all projects set up to reach children from the very beginning. And if we fail, others can learn what NOT to do. We do pray that this idea would materialize, but whether it be through their own translation or not, we pray the Lord would use us to reach Bakoum children with the Gospel.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

[Newsletter] Heading back to Cameroon

Where we have been.

We arrived in the US in March 2017, and you may be thinking we have just been vacationing. Au contraire my friends, we have been quite busy. Let me tell you what we have been up to.

STUDY. The majority of our time has been spent in Dallas, TX where we have been studying at the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics. The reason we were here is because we knew that we needed more training before we began translating the Bible. At GIAL took the following classes:
  • Advanced Grammar
  • Advanced Phonology
  • Cross-cultural Teaching Seminar
  • Discourse Analysis
  • Semantics and Pragmatics
  • Theory and Practice of Translation
Read the rest HERE.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Orality and Bible Translation: A Whole New World

by Stacey

We always knew that Bible translation was a life’s work and that fruit from it would likely not be enjoyed for many years. We have contented ourselves in the fact that ensuring that the Word of God was translated faithfully and understandably was worth the time investment. Some things are too sacred to be rushed. Further, we know that not one of God’s elect will be lost.

However, since we have been in the States, three of our friends in our village have died. We know that in the 20-ish years that it’ll take to translate the Word of God, there will be many, many more who will pass away. Further, we have been told that in similar projects, only around 10% of the population ever learned to read. If that statistic holds true for the Bakoum, we could be leaving behind up to 90% of the people.

Compassion necessitates that special revelation fall into their hands as soon, and as effectively as possible. And yet a reverence for the Word of God demands unhurried, careful translation.

Is Oral Bible Translation the Answer? 
While we are committed to a written translation of the Bible, we are wondering if a parallel translation project using an oral method of translation could be what we have been looking for.

This past week I took a class called “Oral Drafting in Bible Translation” where I learned about the process of translating the Bible orally. Dave and I are considering taking a 2-month long class on the subject in July (via “Zoom,” which is like Skype). In this workshop I learned that when the Bible is translated orally, it is more readily available to the speech community.

How Does it Work?

I will describe how the process of oral translation could work in our project among the Bakoum, although this description is not indicative of every oral translation project being done.

The idea is to have a “Translation Advisor” which would likely be me in our context. The role of this advisor is to do the exegesis (AKA “study the passage well”). I would do the exegesis with Dave and with our small team of literate (in French and Bakoum) speakers. We would spend possibly 20 hours seeking to understand a passage of Scripture, looking at the original languages, consulting commentaries, translation helps, and exegetical aids. We would seek to understand the passage within its immediate context, within the context of the book, and within the context of the Bible as a whole. This “literate” team would then go on to do a written translation using a combination of oral and written methods.

I would then split from this team and work with four “Mother-tongue translators” (MTTs). This would be Bakoum people (possibly children…see next week's blog) who are illiterate in both French and in Bakoum. Using the exegesis as the foundation, I would teach this team all that I know about the passage being translated. I would explain to them the meaning of the passage and the sequence of events. We would discuss the characters, the setting, “key terms” (like baptism), and even the geography of Israel, where applicable. We would also use this time to talk about what the passage teaches us about the character of God, man, and how we could apply it to our lives. As our teacher said in our workshop, this would be a time of discipleship and my role would be that of a shepherd.

Then comes the stage of “Internalization.” This is when the MTTs, with a good understanding of the passage, seek to take ownership of the passage to the point that they would be able to speak it themselves. They can act it out, draw pictures, use props to help them think through the sequence, or other types of mnemonic devises in order to get them to that place.

Once they are comfortable, this team of four world divide into two groups. Each group would recount the passage and it would be recorded. Once there are two recordings, each group would listen to one another’s recordings and offer suggestions. This would be the first draft. This process is different than “Oral Bible Storying” in that every concept present in the Greek or Hebrew would need to be present in the draft. In the same way, there would be no room for artistic license to insert ideas that are not present in the Greek or Hebrew.

Once there is an agreed-upon draft, then this draft would be played for members of the community and checked for biblical accuracy, understandability, connotations of various key terms, etc. When the draft has been tested two-three times (and edited accordingly), then the draft would be tested by an outside consultant. Once approved by the consultant, then the draft would be rerecorded to produce a final draft. This final recording could be immediately distributed, or the translation team could wait to distribute it once the entire book is completed. In the mean-time, Dave’s “written” team would be working to the end of a written translation and could draw upon work done in the oral translation (and vise-versa).

What I have outlined above is simply a working idea of how the process could work. We still would need to grow in our understanding of the process and propose this idea to the Bakoum community.

Advantages of Oral Bible Translation
I love this method of translation for two reasons:

(i) God’s Word for everyone, literate or illiterate. Educators and home-school parents know that teaching children to read is not for the faint of heart. Learning to read can take years and, unlike in America where it is illegal to not attend school, in Cameroon learning to read is optional. Among minority language groups, literacy will likely only take-off among a percentage of the population. Ideally, this percentage will read the Bible and teach the Bible to the others. But if the ideal doesn’t materialize, the Word of God can touch the remainder of the population through an oral Bible.

(ii) God’s Word is accessible sooner. Generally, organizations like Faith Comes by Hearing do a recording once the New Testament is completed in a written form. As I mentioned above, I simply do not want to wait that long for my neighbors to have access to the Scriptures.

This is a new method and so I welcome feedback from seasoned Bible translators. More than anything, we welcome prayer that the Bakoum would be people who tremble at the Word of God. We welcome prayer that the Lord guide us in wisdom as we seek to bring them the Word through the best methodology possible. And of all, pray that the Spirit of God use his Word among this people resulting in worship of Jesus. 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

D.O.N.E. Writing System in Hand and a (Tired) Smile on my Face

by Stacey

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” – Nelson Mandela

By God’s grace through much coffee, loud dance music, many late nights, hundreds of neglected emails, and a year’s worth of dreams about tone, we now have a writing system in the Bakoum language!

If I was not convinced that revisions will be necessary, I’d consider getting a tattoo of the Bakoum alphabet - just as an expression of my joy.

Not only do we have a system of writing (with tone markings, I might add), but through Dave’s work we have a solid understanding of how the Bakoum use certain tense markers when telling their stories. This is crucial in translating the Bible.

And not only do we have a system of writing, an understanding of tense in discourse, but we have two COMPLETED theses that can no longer rule over every moment of our lives.

The past five years have been characterized by language learning: first French and then Bakoum. While it is true that we will be learners forever, developing a writing system is our first crucial step in introducing the Bible as an authoritative teacher to this people. All those long sweaty days writing down Bakoum folk-tales while getting bitten by ants have served their purpose. Those days seemed eternal; creating a writing-system seemed impossible, is done (and ready for years of revisions....). The toil, the preparations, the frustrations, all the “why are we doing this?” thoughts are shamed in the face of this great accomplishment. I am hopeful that the worst is behind us and many years of fruitful ministry are to come.

The past five years (4 years on the field, 1 year developing a writing system in the States) have been characterized by battling voices that say that say all the sacrifice and toil is not worth it. Every day has been the constant pull to live for myself, my comfort, my ease, my fun. Every day it has been a battle to say no – I am going to live in faith that it is worth it to continue plodding along in ministry.

And then, as I wrote one of the final chapters of my thesis detailing the writing system, my faith became sight. Twenty-one simple letters, 7 multi-letter combinations, and four tone markings flaunted themselves in front of the silenced voices who were always telling me to quit. How could they dare say, at that moment, that it would’ve been better to have pursued an easier life? What’s funny is that the joy of going back to the Bakoum people with a writing system is such a greater joy than the years I could’ve spent pursuing my own comfort.

It is true that this system of writing needs to be tested, revised, and standardized. I know that there are decades of work and toil awaiting me. And yet, with this impossible task behind me, the other challenges seem less impossible. I choose to look at this milestone and trust that it will energize me to face the taunts of the other impossibilities to come. Instead of waiting for the dedication of the Bible to be excited, I choose to rejoice at every stage.


Our theses!

Do you have a hard time falling asleep at night? No need to for sleep aids when you can read look at diagrams of the tonal behavior of the Kwakum language! Or perhaps you have wondered about how one should mark a rising tone in the Kwakum language? This gnawing question can finally be answered in chapter 8 of my thesis. Maybe you are wondering about the history of French and German colonization among the Bakoum people? Check out chapter 1!


“I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord” 
1 Timothy 1:12

Saturday, June 9, 2018

[VIDEO] Letters Behind Your Name, Without Love, Mean Nothing

by Stacey

Dave and I graduated from The Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics both with Masters in Bible translation. We are thrilled to be done and tremendously grateful for this institution that has equipped us well for the task of Bible translation.

And yet in this season of accomplishment and relief, the Lord through his Word reminds us that his calling is higher than just letters behind our names. Paul says that even IF we speak multiple languages, if we speak them with loveless hearts, we are simply obnoxious. "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal" (1 Cor. 13:1). IF our courage leads us to give away earthy possessions and even die for the sake of the Gospel, but we do it out of duty rather than love, we have accomplished nothing. "I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing" (1 Cor. 13:3). 

Dave gave an 8 minute speech to his fellow graduates at graduation reminding us that we do not want to be found before King Jesus credentialed, educated, but without love in our hearts.


Here is a transcript of his speech:

I am honored to be able to speak with you all today. I am excited to arrive here, and to be at the end of a long degree program. And I realize that for many of us, though his is an end, it is also a very big beginning. A beginning of a brand new life for some of us, and for others a new role in life, whether that is here in America, Africa, Asia and all over the world. When we first left GIAL to go to the field in 2013, we learned that there is a big shift that happens when you leave the season of school to enter the season of real life. When you are in school your schoolwork is under the scrutiny of your professors. But when step out into the world, your whole life is under scrutiny from the whole world. So you have churches from America that are looking on, and you have nationals in another country that are looking onto your life, and you have governments that have an opinion about what you do. They are looking at your methodology, your theology, your family, and your faith. It all gets questioned and sometimes it gets criticized.

Thinking about this, earlier this year I came across an encouraging quote from former President of the US, Teddy Roosevelt. He said,
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Teddy Roosevelt
I like this quote for us as the graduating class of 2018 for a number of reasons. I like it because I know that I am looking into the faces of the men and the women in the area, marred by dust and sweat and blood. I like it because the truth is, we make mistakes, and we fall short, and we sin against people. But Roosevelt’s words give us an answer back to those criticisms that we hear throughout the years and spurs us to keep going in spite of them.

But I think there is something missing from what Roosevelt said as well. His response at the end of the day to the critic is, “Well, at least I dared.” Which is great and needs to be said. But for you, graduates of GIAL, I am not at all afraid that you will find yourselves among the cold and timid souls. I don’t think that there is a danger that you will ever be anything but courageous.

And it is not surprising that graduates of GIAL would be courageous. We hardly have any other choice. I mean, what other school can you go to where the librarians have killed pythons and endured attacks by gorillas. And as I look at you, and consider your futures, I see lives full of courage. You here are some of the most courageous people I have ever met. And I am not afraid that you will not dare to do great things.

I am also not concerned that you will go out into the world and be anything but academically rigorous. We have trained here under some of the best minds of this generation. And they have taught us to work as hard and as faithfully as they do. I know that I am looking into the eyes of people that have not only braved terrorist attacks, but also passed Advanced Grammar. And you still want to work in Bible translation.

I am not afraid that we will be cowards, nor that we will be fail academically. But I also do not think that it is enough to respond to our critics that we have dared. Or that we have proven ourselves academically.

Paul warns us of a greater danger. He actually tells us that even in daring greatly, we can fail. He said, speaking to the church in Corinth:
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”
You see as we go out, most of us will give up a lot. And we will struggle to learn new languages. We will write linguistic papers, help document languages of underrepresented people. Many of us will feed the poor, fix broken bodies, and translate God’s Word. And we will know loss, the death of friends and colleagues. And some us will even die for the name of Christ. And to do these things will require of us great courage and skill. But if Paul was here with us today, I think he would remind us that we can do all of those amazing things, but if it is done without love, we have gained nothing. And a claim to have dared greatly will ring empty.

Just so that we do not mistake courage, or excellence for love, Paul helps define love for us in that same passage. He says,
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”
It almost seems silly, doesn’t it? As though we are children that need to be reminded to play nicely. And yet, we do need to hear it, don’t we? Some of us are going into places where people really do not want us to go. We will have battles without, and we will have battles within. I have heard that the number one reason that missionaries come home is conflict with other missionaries. And so, I think we would do well to listen to Paul.

I think that the early church listened to Paul. There was an early Christian author named Tertullian who wrote about the church in those years after Christ’s death. He said that when the Romans talked about the Christians they said, “Look how they love one another and are ready to die for each other.”

Of all of my hopes and dreams for us, the 2018 graduating class of GIAL, the greatest of these dreams is that when the Americans, Cameroonians, or Afghans that we work with remember us, that they will say “Look how they love one another and are ready to die for each other.”

Roosevelt said that the man in the arena, “at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and…at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” I think that if we add loving greatly to our daring greatly, we will find that we cannot fail.

Monday, April 30, 2018

The Double-Edged Sword: Theology and Linguistics

by Stacey

I believe that at times Satan tries to convince us that the best way to honor God is to fight with one another. We criticise one another and sometimes pit two doctrines, or two pastors, or two methodologies against each other unnecessarily. In this vein, we have sometimes heard in the missions community a criticism of linguistics/linguistic education OR on the other side, a criticism of theology/theological education. If you know Dave and I at all, you probably know that we have pursued both theology and linguistics. And in doing so, we have discovered that training in linguistics and theology as both advantageous, and even essential, for those pursuing Bible translation. 

The importance of linguistic education
For example, in the language we work in, the sole way to differentiate between the sentence “Jesus rose again” and “Jesus did not rise again” is through the pitch of one’s voice (tone). All the consonants and vowels are the same, but depending on the pitch of one’s voice, the stumbling missionary (me) will either communicate something true or something completely false. 

It's funny because all through Bible college and all through seminary, I was taught how to do faithful exegesis, how to use excellent commentaries, and how to teach the Word in an understandable way. And yet, no one ever taught me how tone can affect meaning in many of the world's languages. I received no counsel to keep the pitch of my voice a bit lower when talking about the resurrection or else spread heresy.

The reason? It’s because the goal of seminary was to teach me to learn Greek and Hebrew, translate it into my mother tongue and then teach it in my mother tongue. Understanding the role of tone in an African language was outside the scope of what the seminary could offer. And that's OK.

The importance of theological education
On the other side of the coin, in Cameroon, I found myself at times teaching three Bible studies in three different languages on the same day. One Bible study was in French with a woman in our village from a different people group. At another study, I would read a children’s Bible in French then translate it in Bakoum for the neighborhood kids. Lastly was the study of the book of Mark with my son who has been known to ask why we would pray for people to be saved if God chooses people to be saved beforehand (thankfully that study was in English).

It was days like these that I would thank the Lord for all the papers that I was asked to write in seminary about this theological position or that. With the French speaker, I could go to the verses that talked about the sufficiency of Scripture and explain why the Bible was so important. With the village children, I could explain to the that we could trust God as a fair judge who doesn’t take bribes. With my son I could draw from all those papers that I wrote on God’s sovereignty in the ends as well as in the means. With all the headache of living overseas and pulling my hair out with other languages, I was thankful for the knowledge of the Scriptures that I had received in seminary.

Can’t have one without the other
Asking a Bible translator to choose between linguistics or theological education is like asking him to choose between his toothpaste and toothbrush. Linguistics education and a solid theological foundation work hand-in-hand to help the translator do his job well. Tone in African languages is outside the realm of theology and the various views of the end times is outside the realm of linguistics. And that’s OK. A person shouldn’t have to choose between their toothbrush and their toothpaste and the missionary shouldn’t have to choose between theological education and knowledge of how non-English/non-Greek and Hebrew languages work.

Schools that get it
Fortunately, there are schools that understand the necessity of equipping the translator in both of these domains:

The Master’s Seminary
This seminary is based out of Los Angeles, California has as its mission “to advance the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping godly men to be pastors and/or trainers of pastors for excellence in Christian ministry.” They have recently broadened their scope to include training men to be pastor-translators. Their director, Dr. Aaron Shryock, writes of the importance of both linguistics and theological training: “Instead of pitting one tradition against another, we should recognize the contribution of both and bring them together at the start of the translator's training. That's what we seek to do at the Tyndale Center.” For more information about this program, you can visit their website here. As a Master’s University alumnus, I am thrilled to see the burden for the Bibleless on this campus.

Southern Seminary and the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics 
Two other schools that have greatly prepared us for our work in Bible translation have been The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville, KY) and the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics (Dallas, TX). These two schools work together to ensure that their students have both a solid theological and linguistics foundation. In fact, they have a dual degree program in missions and Bible translation that results in students receiving both an MDiv from Southern and an MA in linguistics from GIAL. Their website explains that this program is “designed to produce graduates qualified to serve in specialist cross-cultural roles in Bible translation, ethnology, descriptive linguistics, or in other cross-cultural service.”

Another way the Devil likes to sow discord among missionaries and church leaders is to blind us to the beauty of the body of Christ working together. He replaces an awe for this beauty by trying to tie our allegiance to one good thing at the expense of the other. There is no need to roll our eyes at the importance of linguistic study from the pulpit, nor to scowl at theology from the jungle. I appreciate these schools because they see their need for both disciplines. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

How Not to Succeed in the Wrong Things in Missions

by Dave

My fear for you is not that you will fail, but that you will succeed in doing the wrong things.
Dr. Howard Hendricks (to his students)

As we approach missions there are so many different options. Just in Cameroon we know missionaries that work as: doctors, nurses, church planters, educators, agricultural specialists, librarians, linguists, and even a couple that are starting gyms. If you read this blog, you know that Stacey and I are working as Bible translators and most of our time so far has been invested in learning and analyzing the Kwakum language. In all that we do, I know that we, as missionaries, desire to be faithful. But, like Dr. Hendricks says in the quote above, I fear at times that we are succeeding in the wrong things.

When Christ gave us the Great Commission he said that our task was to: "make disciples of of all nations" and then told us how to do that: "baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that" he commanded us (Matthew 28:19-20).  Conspicuously absent from this command is medical, agricultural, educational, and other types of aid. So, we must ask ourselves: how should we obey these commands? And further, do "mercy ministries" have a role in this process?

Here are a few thoughts that play a role in how we seek to obey the Great Commission:

1. The primary way that the disciples obeyed the Great Commission was through planting churches.
When the disciples went out to obey Christ, it quickly becomes clear that the Church was going to play a big role in this obedience. Immediately after receiving the Holy Spirit the Lord quickly inspired Peter to preach the Gospel to thousands of people. And immediately after that, thousands were saved. And immediately after that?
"And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers." (Acts 2:42). 
What happened after the first great evangelism campaign was the first great example of the church. The disciples obeyed Christ by gathering the new believers together, by teaching them, having communion, and praying. In short, they planted a church.

Paul Seger (the director of Biblical Ministries Worldwide) says, “There is no question that the primary aim of missions is to produce followers of Jesus Christ. There is also no question that the vehicle for doing that is the local church” (Seger 2015: 105). This seems to accord with what we see in the New Testament. As Paul went out he evangelized, taught, and then left missionaries to teach and lead these churches (i.e. Timothy - 1 Timothy 1:3 and Titus - Titus 1:5).

One of the clearest passages describing Paul's methodology is Acts 14:21-23:
“When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed."
What we see Paul and the other apostles doing was evangelizing, teaching, and appointing elders in every church. This is the work of a church planter. 

2. Planting churches was not the only way the disciples obeyed the Great Commission.
After describing the great evangelism campaign, and the beginning of the first church, the very next thing that we see the disciples in the book of Acts doing is healing a lame beggar (Acts 3:1-10). This great act of healing led to another great time of evangelism (Acts 3:11-26), which led to a tribunal (Acts 4:1-22), which led to the church gathering to pray and to share (Acts 4:23-37). This led to more evangelism, more arrests, more healing, more prayer. They served widows (Acts 6:1-7), participated in street witnessing and casting out demons (Acts 8:4-8), raised people from the dead (Acts 9:36-43), and all along continued to preach in Christ's name, and suffer for it.

My point is that the ministry of the disciples was not single-faceted. It is not as though they only went out and planted churches. Instead, they participated in mercy ministry: they fed the poor, healed, cast out demons. This is not surprising, being that Christ commanded his disciples to teach new converts to obey all that he had commanded them. These young churches were doing what Christ did.

As missionaries go out, seeking to follow the example of the first missionaries, we should be going out and doing more than just church planting. We should be healing, praying, and feeding. And as we plant churches, we should be encouraging them and equipping the national Christians to do the same.

However, to expect that every single missionary that goes out is a generalist, able to plant a church, translate the Word, care for the medical needs of the community, all the while teaching the new church to do the same is unreasonable. And such an expectation is no doubt the reason that many of our missionary heroes died young. Instead, it makes sense to send out specialists together: send a church planter/discipler, with a translator, with a doctor, etc. You will note, however, that I say to send them out together. In order to this, we must have a point of unity. And I believe that point is the local church:

3. The local church must be central.
If you read through the Book of Acts, you will notice all the activities that I mentioned in the previous section (and probably even more). But you will also notice interspersed all throughout mentions of the church. For instance, it is not just Christians caring for widows in Acts 6, but men who have been set aside by the church. When Paul and Barnabas are sent out from Antioch, they are sent out by the church after this local church fasted and prayed (Acts 13:1-3). In fact, in this passage you will notice that the Holy Spirit told the leaders of that church to send out Paul and Barnabas. What I see in the Book of Acts is a great missionary effort, with many facets, working to care for many different needs of people. But what I see is that it is centered at, organized by, funded by, prayed for by, and staffed by the local church.

Now, our minds probably go to the local church in America when I say that. But do not miss what I am saying here: it is PLANTED churches that are doing all of this. New churches, grown at the hands of the apostles, are central in the efforts in their own neighborhoods and even abroad. Paul did not go out and start Stephen's Memorial Hospital and run it separately. Instead, he worked in and through the newly planted local church. As we send out variously-gifted missionaries, to do various ministries, we must not forget the local church. Without connecting our ministry to the local church (either existing churches or newly planted churches) the effects of our ministry will be ephemeral at best.

I offer one example of how this can work well, from our field in Cameroon. There is a team of people working with the Baka people, not far from where we live. World Team has been sending missionaries to the Baka for over 20 years. Among them have been: doctors, nurses, agriculture specialists, and those who are focused on church planting and discipleship. But it would be wrong to say that only those in the final category are church planters. The reason is because everyone of them has been integral in the planting of the Baka church. Those who minister to medical needs pray with their patients, lead Bible studies, and have spent years forming relationships. Those who taught the Baka to farm did so in teaching them God's Word and accompanying them to church.

And the result has been amazing. The Baka church not far from our house is led by a godly Christian Baka elder. He has proved himself to be discerning, steadfast, sober, wise, and hardworking. And where did he learn that? From the church planters of course. Those that labored to teach him the Bible through stories in his own language. Those that showed him how to teach and explained difficult passages. Those that sat beside him as his wife was dying, ministering to her physical needs and helping him to have the strength to remain faithful. Those that taught him how to farm on his own, not needing to rely on work from other people groups.

The Baka church is still small and they don't yet have God's Word in their language. Yet I have great hope for them, in part because of the years of faithful effort on the part of my co-workers, all of them. And in this ministry I see the results of a team of specialists working together for the cause of seeing the Baka become disciples, in and with the local church. And I pray that God would allow us not only to succeed, but to succeed in the right things.

Seger, Paul. 2015. Senders: How your church can identify, train & deploy missionaries.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Squabbling over Kingdoms of Straw: War and Faithlessness

by Stacey

I’ve been heavy-hearted recently. Heavy hearted for the political unrest occurring in “our” region of the world: Cameroon, Africa. And heavy hearted for the “unrest” among my four second-graders. There are likely grave injustices in Cameroon that have gone unaddressed for years and now the alleged oppressed are lashing out towards the alleged oppressor: the government. Some are expressing concerns peaceably and others are taking this opportunity to burn villages and murder the innocent. Thankfully we do not have any burning or anything of the sort among our children, nor do we have (physical) murder. And yet, there is nonetheless no peace.

As people all over the world deal with the squabbling children and grieve deeply in the face of war, Scripture speaks and answers the question, “Why war?”

Why War?
Selfish ambition.
James 3:16 says, “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” I think this verse is a sober call to civil rulers to think long and hard before they redirect tax money into their own bank accounts. I think it should open the eyes of presidents all the way down to beat cops that extortion, favors, and white lies will open Pandora's box to unmanageable people. Where there is selfish ambition mixed with power, there will be a disorderly country.

In the same way, where members of a society are out to “get theirs,” the society will fall apart. Children fighting over a teddy bear will lead to ripping off arms and legs and a teddy bear that neither of them end up wanting. A child rushing to eat the cookie before his brother gets to it means that he won’t even taste it as he smugly gulps it down. Where rulers, where children, where parents, where citizens are looking out for “number one,” God assures them that there will be disorder and a reign of evil. And yet this warning is not heeded, because is it not believed.

The offended and the offender alike want “the good life” and yet the Bible says that the way to a full life is not through seeking what is good for oneself, but instead it is by speaking the truth, it is by turning from evil, doing good, and seeking peace (1 Peter 3:10-11). I wonder if this counsel was given and heeded in cabinet meetings across the world how revolutionary it would be. I wonder how different the world would be if there were more political leaders that put aside their selfish ambitions and made it their goal to say what is true, reject evil, and spend their lives pursuing good and peace. I understand that it is almost laughable to say that if we spend our lives not seeking our own good, that we will find the good that we always wanted. And that is why God calls us to take this promise by faith.

God also calls the world to seek a better kingdom. I believe there are reasons to go to war. I believe there are occasions where such an evil may hold back even greater evil. And yet, war should never be to replace the Kingdom that can only be found in Heaven, where God is the perfect ruler. Jesus reminded people to not accumulate houses, cars, and jewels on earth because none of it would last. Instead, he called people to send it all ahead to Heaven where there are no more thieves, no more tax collectors, no more lovers of violence (Matt 6:19-20). He also made the promise that those who live for their own benefit, he will humiliate, but those who humble themselves will be the exalted ones in his Kingdom.

How many wars could be avoided with a fresh vision of the streets of gold promised to those who worship Christ as king? How much deeper would contentment under an unjust government run with an understanding that King Jesus will judge the oppressor? Without this vision, we are left to squabble over houses of straw because that is all we think there is. In the words of CS Lewis:
We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. – The Weight of Glory, 26
We are too easily pleased when we settle for being rulers of the little kingdoms we set up for ourselves on earth. They are all temporary and will always disappoint. The little girl who cuts in line because she insists on putting herself first while everyone behind her is despising her is missing out on the nail-scared hands who would’ve taken her from the end of the line and made her first for all to see as they smile in admiration. She is far too easily pleased. And those who kill to either get power or maintain it are forgetting that all power belongs to God and his Son is coming back soon to take what has always been rightfully his.

There is a true and lasting justice coming to those who accept him now as their King. There are riches. There is honor. May this vision lead many to put down their weapons.