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.
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.
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.
- 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.