Monthly Archives: March 2019

New ˈLand

The majority of group housing is in a compound with a shared wall and guard, called New Land —presumably because it was once new… But lots of our colleagues live there, and there is a central play ground where Joel got to try out the tire swing:

as did James:

But I think the best thing is that they don’t have to play alone; there are lots of other missionary kids in there:


As we mentioned before we left, one of the main goals of our March trip to Cameroon was attending the second National Symposium on Cameroonian Languages (NASCAL2). It was good that we could schedule the trip to coincide with this conference, as this is part of a significant goal for my work: interacting in national linguistics conferences. Because this conference was held some six hours by road north of Yaoundé, it took some work getting there, which I’ve chronicled here.

This is the view out my hotel balcony:

and one with me in it:

Arriving on time, we had lots of time to stand around waiting for things to begin:

This is what the plenary room looked like for the first couple hours:

This gave me a number of opportunities to meet people, such as Joseph, a professor in the German department in Yaoundé:


Nelson (A PhD student):

and Elijah:

But eventually everyone got there, and the first plenary sessions got going:

I was somewhat surprised to see the style of journalism that I had assumed was unique to DRC, recording the presentations:

and the audience:

Unfortunately, the delay starting wasn’t particularly well accounted for in the schedule, and was complicated by power being cut just as the sun was going down, making light even more necessary:

Since most presenters depended on a projector, the room I was in quit for the day, in consultation with the organizers. But this decision wasn’t coordinated across the conference; at least one other room was still going a couple hours later:

So we got dinner and headed back to the hotel, to prepare for the next day:

The next morning, we were back in the same room, but with power on (and an adjusted schedule):

I got to hear presentations from other missionary colleagues, like Sarah:

And Cam:

As well as from Cameroonians like Adriel (another doctoral student at Yaoundé)

I even got to make my own presentation (on how to evaluate the importance of tone in a given language, which sparked a decent conversation):

There was also more time for side conversations with Joseph Bushman:

and Ayunwe, a professor at the University of Buea (which hosted WOCAL7):

And I got to help out with a group photo for people working with CABTAL (Cameroon Association for Bible Translation and Literacy, a member of the Wycliffe Global Alliance), plus a friend or two:

And I got to speak briefly the with Mathaus, the head of linguistics for CABTAL:

and with Adriel Bebine, who is working on his doctorate at the University of Youndé I (we also got to sit together over the closing meal, so we got to chat some more):

There were lots of corridor conferences with the organizers:

and there were a couple local performers, though I only got a pic of this one:

In the end, we had the obligatory ceremony, wherein I got a certificate confirming my participation (:-)):

After the closing ceremony, and the closing meal (which I guess I didn’t get pictures of!), we headed off to see the local attraction “Museum of Civilizations”:

though on the way I ran into Jeff, a student at the University of Dschang, who gave a loose-fitting shout-out to the Pacific Northwest:

Here is the museum, across the lake in blue:

and my selfie with the lake:

The lake itself is a fairly major feature of the area:

I have lots of pics of the museum itself, but I won’t spoil the surprise, in case you might go there yourself some day (:-)). They were very proud of it, and kept it open late to allow us to see it.

So over all, the conference went well. The organization did not allow as much time for informal interaction as I’m used to having (between presentations, over meals, etc), but I did get to make a number of introductions, which was much of what I was hoping for. On the way home, I texted with one contact I’d made about the possibility of helping with some teaching on tone, which would be a strategic way for me to use my training. So we got some relationships started, with those currently in and out of Bible translation work, and with people in universities and in other institutions. As we make our move to Cameroon this June/July (Lord willing!), we’ll be able to further cultivate these relationships, and see how we can best help the church and Bible translation movement in Cameroon!


Group Date Night

One thing we didn’t expect, when we booked this trip, was that it would coincide with the opening of Captain Marvel in Cameroon. Someone in the community organized tickets, so we went along for the experience. I thought it interesting that the theater parking lot (on a major university campus) bordered on a crazy stand of banana trees:

The bananas went most of the way around the parking lot:

But it was also on a bit of a hill, so on the other side the trees slope down, making buildings visible across the valley:

Then, of course, there is the theater building itself:

Here is a 180º panoramic showing this all together:

Here are the kids, standing in line 🙂

Inside, there were big comfy chairs:

And we each got to sit with someone we liked:

Out of respect for the establishment’s very clear and repeated instructions, I had my phone off during the movie, but there were a couple other points to note. First, though the pictures above don’t show it, the theater completely filled up. And this was the original (English) version of the film, not a dubbed (French) version, so it was interesting to see so many Cameroonians there.

Second, it was interesting to see how much more communal the experience was. Throughout the movie there were audible reactions to what was going on. Not people being obnoxious, just reacting, and lots of people reacting together. Like once, a character said something like “he lied to me!” As this was a conclusion most of the audience had reached earlier, someone responded “Really?!?” in French, and the whole room laughed.

Anyway, it was good to get out on the town (even if we had to sit in traffic to get there), and enjoy a community experience, while also hanging out with a number of other missionaries (and their kids!). We never really had this kind of experience in Kenya, Uganda, or DRCongo, so it is nice to know that this will be possible to do on occasion.

Getting to the Conference

One of the main goals of our March trip to Cameroon was attending the second National Symposium on Cameroonian Languages (NASCAL2), which was held some six hours by road north of Yaoundé. So before detailing the conference itself, I’ll chronicle the trip up and back. Mostly because I saw more of the country than we did in Yaoundé, but also because I had little to do but converse and take pictures. :-)

It took pretty much forever to get out of the city:

But once we did, the roadside view was mostly beautiful:

Though it was also much a work in progress:

There were lots of shops in larger and smaller villages along the way:

And various dead vehicles, as elsewhere in Africa:

As well as construction materials and crews:

And cell towers:

We saw gasoline brands we only see in Africa:

We crossed a major river:

And we eventually stopped for lunch:

We spent a lot of time behind trucks:

But we also got to see countryside houses of the more powerful:

and lots of kinds of trees:

including evergreens!

Along the way, we also saw lots of small shops:

And people going about their lives:

Eventually, we stopped for gas:

As far as I could tell, this truck was filling up, not filling the station tank:

The gas station was across the street from Air Force One:

Some colleagues were trying to send someone money, so we spent some time at the post office:

Unfortunately, things didn’t go smoothly (between internet, phone calls, who was in the office, and who had money, etc), so we spent about an hour looking at the post office, and the road it was on:

But we ultimately got back on the road, and filled up at a station with croissants:

So the summary I take from all this is that there are some things that are just like Kenya and DRCongo (e.g., much of the road, shops, and scenery), and there are somethings that are very much different (croissants, pyramids on houses, evergreen trees). So this trip was helpful in the process of adjusting to Cameroon: setting our expectations for a better and more productive time working there.

Rain Forest International School (RFIS)

One of the great successes of the trip we took to Cameroon in March was the relationship with the school our children will be attending: Rain Forest International School. This is the compound wall and gate on approach:

And the sign just outside the gate:

This is a 360º panoramic from the parking lot, with the parking lot in the center, and the closest building on each edge:

There is a sign inside as wellː

And a bush signː

And a lovely soccer fieldː

On the right are classrooms and administration:

On the left are more classrooms and the library, shown here again:

The buildings have outside walkways:

and lockers:

But perhaps the most important features are peers for James and Joel:

and for Anna:

And, of course, a field for them all to play on:

And of course, where our kids have peers, those kids also have moms, which is good for Kim:

Anyway, there is certainly much more that could be said, and more things to show, but the bottom line is that RFIS has a great campus, lots of other missionary kids, and ours are all looking forward to studying there next year. So that is one of our major goals for this trip accomplished: getting our kids started on their transition to their new school. We were hoping they could be each excited about this move, and RFIS is making that happen!

Sustained in the Beautiful Hard

The first time I heard it was Sept 6, 1999. In the wee hours of the morning through the jet lag as newlyweds who naively landed ourselves on assignment in Kenya, the dawn was alive with the exotic melodies of birds. Their songs heralded the beginning of a fresh new day, bathing it in beautiful anticipation, proclaiming God’s glory to all. Through all our years in Kenya, Uganda and Congo these morning songs were a constant joy.

Landing in Cameroon two weeks ago, I subconsciously expected everything to be similar to our life in Congo. Sure enough, some of our favorite things about our previous home – morning birds, huge juicy mangoes, choirs singing in church in colorful fabrics – were similar. Oh how I missed those morning songs!! Cameroon has the same freshly roasted peanuts, red clay roads, long handshakes and strong hospitality. To focus on all the beautiful things, I am tempted to reflect on our Spring Break trip as a fabulous success.

But that would not be the whole story. It was certainly not my success. And it would skip the testimony of God’s power in our lives this past two weeks to stop there. Let us never skip an opportunity to tell of his mighty works even when it costs us something. So we will share the detailed truth that it may bring God even more glory.
Each day several friends ask, “How was Cameroon?”
The short story is: “It was beautiful. And it was hard.”
Vibrantly beautiful and
terribly hard
at the same time.

Spiritual opposition often feels like all the cards are stacked against you. Nothing went very smoothly, and God intervened over and over and over to keep us moving forward. He sustained us. Our first obstacle was the denial of visas that left uncertainty over our departure like a cloud until God miraculously delivered new visas the exact day we needed them. Secondly, the 24 hours of flights did not always include foods we could all eat, but God brought a flight attendant to bring us special treats from First Class.

Upon arrival in Cameroon, we realized we had left our Yellow Fever vaccination cards in America. They are required for entry into many African countries and some will even vaccinate you in the airport if you don’t have your yellow card! We were stuck at the mercy of the health department officials. They could have refused us entry or forced us into shots then and there. God gave us favor with one of the officials who decided against protocol to accept our photo images of yellow cards on Kent’s laptop. (Later one woman would try to stop us from leaving the country on the same grounds, but pass us because of the work we do.) God’s intervention for the win!

We settled into our guesthouse rooms and crashed. We had not been prepared for the heat and humidity. We knew there would not be air conditioning. What we didn’t know is that March is the hottest month of the year. So 90-degree days don’t sound too hot, until you factor in 95% humidity with a ‘Real Feel’ of 117 degrees! We were sweating through 3-4 sets of clothes each day, which didn’t help us hydrate after the airplanes. We couldn’t drink enough and we had to focus on filtering enough water for the 5 of us to keep up. The heat sapped our energy and melted our brains, putting us in a fog. Sleeping under mosquito nets seemed to make the heat worse. God kept our filter working quickly, gave us a fridge that worked, a fan to sleep by, and sustained us in a way that doesn’t make sense to me even in retrospect.

Within 48 hours, I was not recovering energy or health from jet lag, I was actually getting worse each day knocked down with the flu. Kent left for his conference out of town. While he was away, I was not sleeping much at night. I think I was allergic to the dusty, lumpy mattress. One night, my lungs began to fill to the point where I felt out of breath to walk a few steps. I am familiar with walking pneumonia, and knew I was in trouble. God intervened. One of my friends was taking me shopping the next morning and I asked her to help me buy an inhaler and allergy meds. She just ‘happened’ to have meds and an extra new inhaler sitting in her house that another missionary had given away! Within 2-3 days with the meds and inhaler my lungs cleared and I could breathe again. I haven’t had allergic asthma like that in maybe 10 years, but it hunted me down on this trip.

Kent’s conference was productive and fruitful, but not without difficulty. He was staying in hotel that some days had water and some days not. God got him through and got him home. He returned safely back to us after 4 days and promptly came down with the flu. For a few days we were both down at the same time. I had a horrible stomach ache that wouldn’t go away. God gently reminded me what the enemy was trying to steal, kill and destroy on our trip. He would love us to call it ‘ruined’ and only remember the ‘bad’. We gathered our family to sing and pray. My stomach ache left and never returned. It was a turning point in my full recovery. Kent had enough of the dusty, lumpy mattress and got a ride to bargain for a new one. God granted him favor with the shop and he bought a wonderful new mattress for 70% of the asking price! We started to sleep so much better!

Through the fog of heat and illness, we were trying to tour available houses for our move this summer, but our time and energy reserves were so low. One hour out of the house required two more recovering. This was made only more complicated by the fact that there were no known houses available big enough for our family. The unrest in outlying areas had many displaced colleagues moving into the city in the past years, so there is a housing shortage. We met one Cameroonian colleague who has 25 family members staying with him! We also had no car, the heat was unbearable and we needed to walk everywhere in the muddy clay. Hour by hour, God gave us the strength beyond understanding to get something done.

Our last 2 days in Cameroon were wonderful. We had strength again. And good friends had planned to come and spend time with us. We hadn’t lived in the same country in 14 years. Sweet fellowship. Time to smell flowers, dry laundry on the line, enjoy the first spring mangoes. In the midst of a minefield of obstacles, James, Joel and Anna enjoyed everything! They enjoyed the foods they remembered from their younger years. They enjoyed meeting new friends and attending their new school. Teachers let them jump right in. Joel chased agama lizards and played in the dirt with the little kids. Anna picked her favorite tropical flowers. James immediately clicked with other teenagers who “get him” as a missionary kid. So much glory. So much beauty. The calm before the return storm.

Our last night in Cameroon, I had a horrific nightmare. I can count on one hand the number of times I have been tormented by a dream like that. It had zero connection to reality. It was pure evil. We fought back with prayer and I began to sing praises to Jesus, which our enemy hates. God carried me through. He is victorious!

Our return home was odd in that every single airport was frought with more obstacles. It seemed that we would never make it home. There was a 2-hour delay leaving Cameroon due to trouble with the fuel truck (?!). There was a strike in Brussels for air traffic controllers, so we boarded and sat on the tarmac another 2.5 hours. This meant we missed our connecting flight in Washington DC by 5 minutes and were stranded. All the while, Anna’s health continued to decline. She was sick to her stomach more and more often and hadn’t eaten much in 2-3 days. We were rescheduled, overnighted in Houston and finally made it home (without bags) the next day. The fingerprints of Grace followed us. Airport personnel cleaning up barf for us. A stranger giving us a plastic bag when we needed one. The airport shop having a ‘sale’ on Tshirts and toothbrushes when our kids needed something else to wear. A hotel with free breakfast enough to feed our boys, and free airport shuttles that run at 1am. God’s grace followed us. (Anna has a parasite and is recovering well at home.)

He sustained us. We would not have survived this trip without his help. We not only survived, we accomplished almost all our goals for the two weeks! So how was our trip?

The verse that comes to mind is Paul’s testimony in 2 Corinthians 4:8-
“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed.
We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.
We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God.
We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.
Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus
so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.”

If you read this all the way to the end, I pray you have seen the life of Jesus in this story. I pray this post is like the beautiful birds’ song which proclaims God’s glory to all who will listen. If He can comfort, guide, protect and sustain me when I feel like I can’t breathe in a foreign country with flu and malarial mosquitoes at 117 degrees… He can comfort, guide, protect and sustain you where you are too. He sustains in the beautiful hard.

“But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.
Psalm 3:3


Out and About

We saw lots of things just driving from one place to another in Yaoundé. Perhaps the first most notable thing is the traffic:

Lots of cars going lots of places, with very little space between them. If someone is in your way, you just go around them (especially if you are a motorcycle!):

We saw signs of affluence:

as well as more basic means of getting around:

We saw auto parts and tire stores:

and shoe stores:

and even fancy graves (people are often buried in the family compound; this one just happened to be on the roadside):

We saw lots of construction:

And lots of wires:

and some grand hotels:

And lots of churches:

I think it is safe to say that there is a lot of variety visible even just from the road. While there is certainly more to see, one benefit of this trip was that it started our readjustment back to the realities of life in Cameroon. There will certainly be more to adjust to, but it is nice to get that started, and notice where things have changed since we were there 15 years ago, and what has not — and where Cameroon is similar to DRCongo, and where it is not.

Around the Center

Here is a picture of Kim walking from the center finance office to the building where we stayed on the trip. The cement may look older, but SIL is celebrating its 50th anniversary of working in Cameroon, so that’s understandable. Between the buildings, there are of course lots of living things, moving and planted. Some of the moving things we saw in the first day:

We found this not small beetle hanging out outside of an office we were visiting. This guys was just across the way from our apartment:

and he stuck around for a close-up:

Joel certainly got lots of lizard pics, but we’ll save those for another post.

This view looks back toward the finance office, with many of the linguistics offices in the building below. With lots of bushes and trees, of course. Looking straight down the hill is the kitchen and dining hall:

This is the center library:

Here is Joel showing us a rainwater reclamation system (and two lizards):

And a Jacaranda tree, which graced us with purple snow on our path:

And James graciously posed next to some ripening mangoes:

It was encouraging to stay in a place with so much logistical support already in place, but also to see the beauty of God’s creation at our very doorstep!

Waking Up

We have been very sleepy and short on internet, but we wanted to share a bit of African color. I love that Mangoes just fall from the sky here (though they are not quite in season right now), so mango trees this huge give me joy (compare with baby swing in foreground and Kimberly by the trunk).

James and Joel are at their second youth event right now (a boys’ sleepover). We’re reaquianting ourselves with getting around and buying stuff, working ourselves into the right times to be awake, and fighting Kim’s cold.

I will be traveling on Monday. Please pray for health, safe travels and flexibility for me, and for health, safety and good acclimation for Kim and the children while I am up country. For all of us, please pray that we would be wise and have favor in each of our interactions, both with other expatriates and with Cameroonians.