“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, but…it 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.
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”
Stacey is a servant of Jesus Christ as well as a wife, mom, linguist, and Bible translator. Right now she is working creating literacy materials so the Kwakum people can learn to read and write in their language. She is also working on translating Old Testament stories into Kwakum with her husband and local Kwakum colleagues.
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Dave and Stacey Hare met at The Master’s College (now The Master’s University) in Santa Clarita, CA. They then went on to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY where they each received their MDivs. Also in Louisville, they adopted four kids from Ethiopia. Their first term on the field they spent learning French and Kwakum. For their first home assignment they each received a Master of Arts in Applied Linguistics, Bible Translation from the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics (now Dallas International University). They currently live in Cameroon, Africa where they serve as Linguists/Bible Translators among the Kwakum (aka Bakoum) people.