I distinctly remember saying that I was willing to be a Bible translator but I was unwilling to translate the Bible for a tonal language, because that would be just too hard.
But after support raising, French school, culture shock, all with four young children, a tonal language did not seem so bad. Every stage of our missionary journey has seemed impossible, so why not add learning and analyzing a tonal language to the list?
We have sought not to focus on the life task of translating the Bible, but instead have tried to just conquer what is just ahead of us. And, for me, that means it is time to conquer the tonal aspect of this language. I have been pulling my hair out over it for years and I mentioned my frustration to a friend who is a linguistic consultant when she offered to come out and help.
After spending two weeks with her, her assistant, and 7 Bakoum speakers, I am now beginning to see that analyzing tone is doable. My knowledge of how the tone functions in the language and my ability to hear it has improved exponentially.
Dave shared a 30 minute devotional every morning and the participants at the workshop drank it up like water. In fact, at one point, they were convicted by something Dave said and started going around the table confessing their sin. Dave also covered topics such as the Prosperity Gospel, the relationship between works and faith, and preached the Gospel throughout. I feel like since we have showed up here a few years ago we have just sat here in darkness, observing what has gone on around us, but unable to challenge it with the Word of God in any way. We now see that things are beginning to change.
Another highlight is how well the participants worked together. There was much potential for heated debate, but, by God’s grace they laughed, were kind to us and to one another, and worked really hard. They also bring me gifts like roses, turtles, fruit and plants for my bunny to eat, which is so, so sweet.
BIG ANNOUNCEMENT: We now have a provisional alphabet! I plan to start teaching it to our village kids this week!
The enthusiasm of the participants was incredible. They were elated to be able to understand their language better and want to start writing with it immediately. One lady who came, whom I had I met in the market about a year ago, said that out of all the ladies that God could have sent me to, God sent me to her. Because of that she can now leave the darkness of illiteracy.
|Hard at work trying to group verbs according to their tonal melodies|
So, for those of you who are dying to know, what we have discovered is that Bakoum is most likely a 2-tone system with a high and a low tone and we found four main tonal melodies on their verbs. So, now when I memorize the verbs, I will memorize them in categories according to their tonal melodies. Now, when these verbs change tense, their tonal melodies typically change dramatically. Tonal Melody Group 1 for instance, will act accordingly depending on what tense suffix is put onto the verb. Thus, I hope to memorize these tonal melodies in the various tenses so that I know how Tonal Melody Group 1 will act when it is in past tense, recent past tense, more recent past tense, and so on. I hope to write a thesis on this on our home assignment, so if you want to know more, I will send you a copy in about a year and a half. Exciting stuff!
The Kingdom of God is Here
To a common observer, what happened these past two weeks is less than impressive: 11 people were sitting in a church made of leaves, getting bitten by ants and whistling tones all day. Big deal. But what they cannot see is that these little steps towards teaching the Bakoum the Word of God is like a little leaven being introduced into a group of people and this leaven will not be content to rest stagnant. These little workshops may be small and quiet but, by God’s grace, they will not stay small and quiet. The leaven of the Kingdom of God will expand, it will grow, and it will influence everything it touches.
God is a Giver of Knowledge
And, for me personally, it was yet another poignant reminder that God does not command us to do something and then not give us the grace to do it. I am just going to say it – I am not smart enough to speak multiple languages and translate God’s Word. And yet, I am convinced that the Lord will continue to give me the knowledge that I need to do my job well at every step of the way. I read this promise everyday: “The Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding (Prov 2:6). It is He who made tonal languages and it is He who governs my intellectual capacities. He is a giver of knowledge and understanding and thus I can proceed assuming that he will come through, giving me what I need at every step of the way as we seek to conquer one impossible task after another.
I think I will take the liberty to add that the same grace that has proved true for me is also available to those who maybe have an inkling to pursue the mission field but are bound by fear or a sense of inadequacy. I encourage you to step out in faith, banking on God’s promise to give you knowledge and understanding when you ask for it. He is able and willing to give you all the grace you will have need of so that “You may abound in every good work” (2 Cor. 9:8).
Thank you to those of you who so faithfully pray for the Lord to work among the Bakoum people.