If you are trying to have a conversation in your third language, the mental gymnastics that you are doing prevents you from ever getting bored regardless of who you are talking to. Plus, you never know what is going to come out of your own mouth, which keeps things interesting. Dave the other day told the chief of our village that he was on his way to his cat’s house (meant to say his friend’s house).
Data entry is a part of my job as I enter the vocabulary that I learn into a computer program. So yes, that can be a bit tedious at times. But, I have a pet baby hyrax (named Biscuit) to keep me company. Who else gets to do data entry with a baby hyrax in their cubicle with them? This job is awesome.
Could you imagine pulling into the suburbs in the US and seeing all the neighbors in the street watching two dogs chase each other? Or maybe you could imagine doing grocery shopping and then pulling into your driveway only to have your whole neighborhood come curiously watch you take everything out of your truck whispering to one another about your purchases. Imagine thunderstorms where all the kids in your neighborhood strip off their clothes and come dance in your front yard, rolling in the mud and laughing hysterically. This is the normal for us here. Why? Because these are our sources of entertainment. There are no computers here, no Twitter, no Facebook, just rainstorms and the village dog chasing the village pig. It is amazing how easily amused you become living in a village. I love it.
4. Spending Time with my Kids.
There are no soccer leagues, no church Sunday school programs, no swimming lessons, no slumber parties. Thus, we are almost always with our children. While it can be difficult at times to try to speak in your third language, while mentally translating it into French, while telling your kids to put the machete down in English, they get to see every aspect of our lives. They get to see mom and dad struggle with “school.” They get to see mom and dad pray and wait and keep praying even when God does not respond right away. They come with us to Bible studies that we teach, they see the dead bodies lying in the beds of their loved ones before they are buried. They see violent fights in the village, they see those who are sick, those who are impoverished. They see it all. They see how their parents deal with being the minority in a culture and they get to see how we react when we are mistreated. They listen to our every language session, and since we do not have ceilings in our house, they hear us repeating the same vocabulary words over and over during the night. This is living life-on-life with our children. In the day to day it is not easy, it is nevertheless something I would not trade for the world.
In Piper’s books When I don’t Desire God he said one of the ways to encourage one’s soul to be in awe of God is to spend more time in creation. This is my daily experience. When I worked in a beige cubicle in a call center, a part of me died every day. Now I enjoy thunder storms that are so loud I cannot hear the person standing next to me yelling. I see lightning that is so bright and striking that I have actually screamed before. I go on a jog each morning on a trail which borders Jurassic Park (I seriously would not be surprised to see dinosaurs one day). There are palm trees, exotic flowers, hyraxes that scream at night, a nearby lake with what seems like hundreds, maybe thousands of toads croaking. This environment inspires worship of God and I love it, love it, love it.
It is rare to visit a church and not be asked to give a little message or encouraging word. In our area, people seem eager to hear the message that we crossed the ocean to tell them. We often find ourselves having to turn down opportunities to teach in order to devote time to language learning. And the very simple truths that we tell people are earth-shattering to them. We really emphasize that man is made in the image of God and thus we ought to treat one another with dignity and not resort to violence and hateful speech. This idea is revolutionary here. There are always children in our front yard that will stop to listen to whatever we teach them. They are learning catechisms and loving it. It is exciting how many opportunities there are right outside our window.
There is no danger of doing what we are doing for the applause of men. Why? Because we are never applauded. We are regularly mocked for our inability to speak the language, we are often misunderstood, and are sometimes just glared at. We have lost our sense of identity as people just refer to us as “the whites” and have no idea what country we are from. We have also been asked if we work with terrorists or if we are spies here to steal the secrets of Cameroon. Just the other day one of our neighbors came to our house to tell us that we knows we are not really here to study the Bakoum language. There is only one reason why we are here: love for God and our neighbor. There can be no other explanation. There is no danger of ulterior motives in our positions.