Monthly Archives: June 2016

On Hold

We heard this afternoon from a friend who was able to visit the Embassy in Washington D.C., to ask in person what was happening with our visa application. Apparently the embassy workers are waiting on approval from D.R.Congo, and there is no indication of when or if that may come. So there is nothing they can do about it for now.

So this looks more like a larger diplomatic issue than a problem with our specific application. Still, let’s be praying for God’s timing and Glory to be evident, as we wait on the outcome of this application.

In the mean time, I have other work to do (including processing data left over from my last trip), so the time is not lost, just not as I had planned and hoped.


Trip Cancellation … for now

So we called for prayer for last Friday, and decided to wait until after mail on Saturday, just in case something weird happened. We believe that God is at work in this situation, though we don’t know what He’s doing… We waited until the very last minute, even until Sunday (yesterday) afternoon, before canceling our flights for this morning.

I talked to the airline agent about the possibility of just canceling the first half of the flight, so we could rebook just that much in the next few days, in case our passports come in that time. But by airline logic, that would actually have been more expensive… So we have a voucher with the cost of that ticket that we can put forward to another ticket, so long as we book it before May 2017. Which is nice, because that gives us time to try to get a visa again, if this one eventually comes back refused. But we’ll need to consider that carefully, since DRC-US relations don’t seem too positive right now, and there aren’t many signs of them improving until after the DRC elections, scheduled for this November.

Once the ticket to Uganda was canceled, we also had to cancel our  guest house and taxis in Uganda, our flight from Uganda to DRC, and our arrangements to stay the first few days in the DRC.  Not to mention the workshop and all the logistics surrounding it. 🙁

We continue to believe that God is orchestrating what from here looks to be chaos into something that will eventually be clearly Good, but it’s hard to see what value there is in this delay at this point, especially if the delay extends so long that the trip will simply not be possible.

Please continue to pray for us, that we would be diligent to do whatever we can to move this process forward, that we would continue to trust God and wait in faith, and that we would have the peace to be productive in other ways in the mean time.

Diplomatically Speaking…

Apparently a UN embargo on arms entering the DRC (except for purchases by the government) was renewed this week. But it didn’t limit itself to arms; it also includes two paragraphs on elections ((“Stressing the crucial importance of a peaceful and credible electoral cycle, in accordance with the Constitution, for stabilization and consolidation of constitutional democracy in the DRC, expressing deep concern at increased restrictions of the political space in the DRC, in particular recent arrests and detention of members of the political opposition and of civil society, as well as restrictions of fundamental freedoms, such as the freedom of expression and opinion, and recalling the need for an open, inclusive and peaceful political dialogue among all stakeholders focused on the holding of elections, while ensuring the protection of fundamental freedoms and human rights, paving the way for peaceful, credible, inclusive, transparent and timely elections in the DRC, particularly presidential and legislative elections by November 2016, in accordance with the Constitution, while respecting the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance,“20.))((Urges the Government of the DRC, as well as all relevant parties to ensure an environment conducive to a free, fair, credible, inclusive, transparent, peaceful and timely electoral process, in accordance with the Congolese Constitution, and recalls paragraphs 7, 8, 9 and 10 of resolution 2277 (2016);)).

About the same time, we have this site telling us “After issuing a warning in May that it would impose sanctions against the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the US has acted.” This is a specific sanction against the police chief of the capital city, such that “all assets belonging to [him] are frozen and Americans are barred from doing any business with him.” I have not been able to find the text of the sanction, but it is confirmed here, with nearly identical wording (so one is probably the source of the other).

If there is any question that the DRC is taking this as a serious criticism of the country leadership as a whole, the ambassador made an official statement to that effect.

Anyway, maybe that’s why I haven’t gotten my visa…


WASHINGTON—JUNE 23, 2016—The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) today released the following statement regarding the recently announced sanctions imposed by the United States.

“The DRC condemns the action taken today by the U.S. Government. It is an infringement on our sovereignty and will undermine bilateral relations. It will also embolden those who seek to divide our nation and impede our democratic processes,” said Ambassador Barnabé Kikaya Bin Karubi, Diplomatic Advisor to President Joseph Kabila.

“As the DRC confronts important political, economic and security challenges, we welcome the support of international partners. Our efforts to organize elections in particular will benefit from encouragement by those interested in a free, fair, transparent and peaceful process, as we have seen from certain international organizations to date.

“Despite this decision by the Obama Administration, our efforts to engage and work with foreign partners continues. Ambassador Barnabé Kikaya Bin Karubi is in Washington, DC this week to consult with U.S. policy makers regarding the actions by our government to advance both a national dialogue and the electoral process.

“We continue to pursue consensus through dialogue, but also have taken actions that have enabled the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) to continue to prepare for elections, including the allocation of funds to facilitate the identification and registration of Congolese voters for upcoming elections.”

For more information, please contact:

Last Day –Please Pray

So the Congolese Embassy in Washington DC, which has had our passports for the past six (6) weeks, has just closed for the day, and there is  no indication on that they used my reply mail envelope to send our passports back to us (with or without visas inside of them).

While unlikely, it remains plausible that they will process our visas and send back our passports tomorrow, in which case we would get them Saturday, two days before we hope to travel. Given that the Embassy is closed on Saturday and Sunday, we are not expecting that they will process or mail our passports between the close of work tomorrow and the departure of our flight at 7:30am Monday morning.

So please pray for three things:

  1. That the Embassy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in Washington DC would process our passports tomorrow, Friday June 23, 2016, and then mail them back to us in our Priority Mail Express return envelope, which would then return to us on Saturday.
  2. Wisdom in knowing when and if to cancel or reschedule our flights (costing maybe $4,600+ to keep a similar itinerary).
  3. That in all this, God’s glory would be evident in the DRC through, despite, and/or without our intervention.

Crunch Time

There are now three more mail deliveries before our trip should begin on Monday morning, and we still have no sight of our passports. The Embassy is not answering their phone, nor responding to Emails.  To develop our next alternate plan, I called the travel agent (which we are required to use by one of our funders), and found that there is a $300 charge to make any changes to these tickets, PER PERSON, in addition to any difference in ticket price. So if our passports do not arrive in the next couple days, we will be out at least $600.

Needless to say, your prayers would be appreciated. We know the One who has this in His hands, and we’re searching for His glory in this, but it’s a bit hard to see at this point. ;-(

Much in need of Grace,



I just finished drafting the line “good progress on dictionaries for each of the languages” for the newsletter we’re hoping to put out in the next couple days, and I realized I’m not sure that it is clear to all why that is a good thing.  So here’s a bit of a rationale.

From what I understand of the history of dictionaries in English, one of the main reasons people do them is to help standardize the writing system.  Have you ever asked how to spell a word, and been told to look it up in a dictionary?  Perhaps that doesn’t happen so much anymore, but in any case, dictionaries can be an authoritative source for spelling information. I have even understood that one of Webster’s goals was not only the standardization of American English spelling, but also the creation of a distinctly American English. Have you used the words colour, litre, practise, paralyse or programme? If so, you’re probably British (or learned your spelling from a Brit). Nothing against the Brits; it’s just that spelling is one way of saying “this is who we are”. While I’m hoping that the communities we work with in the DRC won’t spend much time distinguishing one dialect of their language from another, I do hope they will spend time clarifying their identity in their writing system.

I want this for two reasons.  First of all, a lot of Bible Translation is about identity.  If we are going to help someone translate what will be seen as a foreigners’ Bible, then we might as well stop today, since these people already have second and third language Bibles. Additionally, this is not the promise of the scriptures. Rather, it promises “…a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages… crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God…'” (Rev 7:9-10 ESV). I don’t see this promise as just lots of different Christians, but people from each of the 6,000+ languages of the world seeing God as their own God, and worshiping Him as such. We don’t want to just translate and print books; we want to see the impact in individuals and communities of the Holy Spirit working through the written Word of God. This impact is hampered if you’re reading a Bible that continues to tell you that God is talking to someone else, not you.

The second reason I’m in favor of standardization has to do with fluency.  I’ve seen a lot of non-fluent reading of the scriptures, and I personally find it painful. And I imagine it must be difficult to have the kind of impact I mention above if the reader stumbles often in the reading, and/or has to read something multiple times to get the meaning. As a result, one major motivation for my work is to see people reading fluently. I want them to read without stumbling, and to get the sense the first time they read. I want pastors to be able to read the scriptures in the middle of a sermon without creating a major break in the thought flow. And I want to do everything I can to remove any barriers to fluency which arise as a result of the writing system. That normally starts with getting the consonants, vowels and tone correct, but it also includes people knowing how words are spelled, and identifying the correct word and its pronunciation quickly as they read.

There are two other arguments for dictionaries as part of language development, one of which is sociological, the other linguistic. Related to the identity question above, many peoples I’ve interacted with don’t see their language as valuable, and this opinion is often shared by outsiders. I once heard a “real language” as “you know, one with books”. I think I know what that person meant, but if it takes a book to give a language respect, then I want to be a part of giving them their first book. And people get this. Seeing someone look at the first booklet in their language (as little as 15 pages, with lots of pictures!) is an amazing sight. They immediately get that someone does finally care about them.

The linguistic argument is that in order to do good dictionary work, you need to do a lot of other things which you already should be doing anyway: collecting and analyzing texts, checking pronunciations, helping the community decide how words should be spelled, including diacritics, spacing, and punctuation. All of this analysis helps build not only the dictionary, but our understanding of the language more generally, perhaps more particularly how the sound and writing systems will interact. I hope it is clear why one would want to do this before publishing much in the language; anything you publish without really understanding how the writing system will work may need substantial revision, and anything you publish creates a precedent that you will have to fight against in making later changes (and if you don’t see how precedent can trump sound reasoning for spelling changes, just look at English).

So our ultimate goal is life transformation through the Bible, but to get there, we want to see that the community is well placed to have and use a Bible that is theirs, that can and will be read fluently and with power, and dictionary work helps further all of those goals.





Our passports arrived in Washington DC on May 12, some five weeks ago today, and they’re still not back yet. They’re supposed to take ten days, and we’re supposed to leave in less than two weeks.  We have cut it closer than this in the past and been OK (not by choice!), but I imagine you can understand my concern. So please pray that we’d get our passports back in a timely manner, with the correct visas inside. 😉

15 Years

I was walking in the door of our little university apartment after a long day teaching boisterous third graders. Kent was soon to graduate with his MA in Linguistics, but his university schedule varied. He was already home, sitting on our couch with a grin. He made me listen to the answering machine message right away. (And stood behind me with a camera, ready to capture my face on film. Yes, film.)

The message announced that we were voted in as new members of Wycliffe Bible Translators. June 6, 2001. I knew I would always remember the date. For six months we had been filling out essay questions, getting physicals, taking Bible tests, etc. Everything that could have gone wrong – did. I’ll save those details for another post.

The Committee was to vote at 9:30am in Florida on membership. We’d been told that our file could not be considered because it was incomplete. Kim’s Medical Document had been MIA in the postal world for quite some time. We had sent it from Oregon in plenty of time. No one knew where it was. Our Member Application Guy (he had a much cooler title I can’t remember) walked to the meeting discouraged & decided to stop in the mailroom one last time “just in case”. Everyone knows the mail doesn’t come at 8:30am… The form was there! Our file complete by miraculous means. And we were voted in, against the odds.

So began a journey for Kent & I to learn more & more to trust God and wait for his perfect timing. And what a journey…

15 years
3 kids
17 moves
3 languages learned
French Alps
Cameroonian hillside
Kenyan family
Congolese home
Becoming Sr. Members
Kent – a Linguistics Consultant
Countless flights & frights
The sheer delight on the faces of those reading their own language in print for the first time.

Looking forward to the next 15!

Boys cabin


Joel poses with a couple of his cabin mates. They all started out best friends, as nine of the ten of them were in the same cabin last year. But this afternoon, one wanted to stay in bed because others were being mean. So we took a break from our activity (rock wall), to share and reconcile. We read 1 John 4:20, and finished off by memorizing palms 133:1 – “How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity.”
So it was good to see them get through that, and we trust that they’re growing together through it, both as a group and as individual young men.