Category Archives: Congo + Culture

Senior Year Abroad

It doesn’t make sense on paper to uproot a teenager for the final year of school. But we were questioned about taking him to France as an infant, or to Congo as a kid; much about our life looks like foolishness to some people.

But there are a number of reasons why it makes sense for us to go to Cameroon at the end of this school year, including the fact that Anna will be starting junior high, and Joel will be starting high school.

But James will be a senior next year, and the school in Cameroon has a policy of not admitting students for their senior year only. We believe this is a good and reasonable policy. However, we also think is a good and reasonable thing to ask for an exception to this policy for James. In this post, I’ll discuss some of the reasons their policy makes sense, and why we think James will do OK.

The policy makes sense

Teenage years are tumultuous enough already, without adding a change of school (not to speak of country and language). I know; I moved high schools after my sophomore year. The transition to a new school wasn’t easy, with new classes, new class requirements and prerequisites. I made the best of it, but I wasn’t changing languages or countries (unless you count California to Oregon as an international move.… :-)).

Added to the above are the transitions particular to life in a cross-cultural context. The school is in Cameroon, which has its own cultures, languages and politics. Language might be the easiest to deal with, since French is a national language in Cameroon (in addition to English). But needing to use French to take a taxi, or to buy or sell in a marketplace, is a different kind of stress than having to take a language class.

Politics in Cameroon is its own thing, perhaps especially right now. I hear (from Cameroonians) the president has been in power for a long time, and many people hope for change. There is talk of succession from the provinces that use English, to the point that at least some expatriates are not living there now. When we were there in 2004 (just after Joel was born), I recall the particular irony of not seeing any campaigning for the presidential election until after the election took place.

Encountering other cultures is one of the mixed blessings of any cross-cultural context. We get to rub shoulders with other brothers and sisters in Christ before we meet them at the throne of God (Rev 7:9̈-10). That said, other cultures have other foods, customs, and expectations of life, and these can take some getting used to. My personal top two “I hope I never have to eat that again” foods (tadpole soup, and fermented manioc) were first encountered in Cameroon, though we also saw fermented manioc in D.R. Congo. These adjustments are not insurmountable, but they do take time and work to deal with.

So when you add changes in language, culture and politics to changes of school and hormones, we get that this is not a small task, and we understand why many students would isolate themselves, come to hate themselves or their new context (or their parents, or God), and ultimately do very badly in a single senior year abroad.

James will do OK

That said, we believe that James will do OK, by God’s grace.

As I have talked to people who survived having missionaries as parents, and as I talk to people who work with missionary kid issues, it seems like one of the biggest indicators of how a missionary kid turns out is how much a part of the mission the child personally feels. Because of this, we have for some time talked our kids through transitions from the perspective that this is something our family is doing together for one purpose —not that dad has a job change and everyone else has to go along.

Another key element in weathering transition well, I find, is talking through transition, before, during, and afterward, to make sure everyone is processing it emotionally. This was a particular issue as we struggled with the more difficult years of Asperger’s, but we got used to talking each of our kids through what we would do when and why, so when we did it, there were fewer surprises for them. As soon as we would have an itinerary, we would talk about which planes we would take where (including which would have bathrooms, and which would have movies). I’m not saying this is something we have perfect, but we as a family have lots of experience weathering transition —enough to feel when things are going well, and when we need to take more time to work through things.

The above has two caveats. First, our kids have mostly been in Texas the last five years. So while James remembers Africa, I’m sure he will be surprised more than he thinks. Second, all of this (as in all things) has been done by God’s grace. When I say “experience” above, what I really mean is having some information in advance, but still screwing things up, and depending on God to make things right. Then spending time processing what happened and how to do better. Which means we have more information for the next time, but we still screw things up, and still need God to work all things to good (Romans 8:28). So ultimately what I mean by saying “James will be OK” is that God has given us a history both of weathering transition, and of depending on him, and we trust that he will show himself to be good in this case, as well.

What does this look like practically, right now? We are nine months out from a potential move to Cameroon at the end of this school year. We have already had a number of conversations, both as a family and individually, about the cost and the value of this transition. I have asked each of us to spend some time considering what the cost and value are for us personally, and we’ve had a number of very productive conversations since then. My goal is that each of us would have bought in to this transition without reservation —well in advance of any family move.

So far, I’ve talked more about our family process than about James. There are also a number of reasons why I think James will handle this transition well —beyond the fact that we have experience processing these things as a family. Basically, James is doing well in school, better than we imagined he would five years go. He takes tests very well, and he has developed friendships with classmates that he wants to see outside of school (something I never did much of in high school ;–)). But despite learning to be social, he is excelling at honors and college prep classes in almost every subject, including AP English; he is taking calculus now, as a Junior. James is in his fourth year of French now, and seems eager to be able to use it. Despite wanting to study math in college, he is also working on an endorsement in engineering. And until recently he insisted on taking (and enjoying, and doing well in) art —something I never managed to do myself.

Outside of school, James has showed a commitment to piano, both in practice and lessons (currently working on Sonata in G Major), and in leading worship at church. He is a very emotive pianist, and has said that playing the piano helps him express feelings that don’t come out in words. His commitment can be seen in that he wakes up at 5:45am to practice before school each day.

I’ll let James himself speak to his own motivation to go to Africa for his senior year (post coming soon), but I am grateful for the growth, maturity and responsibility he’s had to date. I am more grateful to see the man God is making him – especially given where he’s been.

Africa Night!

Have you ever wondered how people make their first alphabet?

Starting this summer, we are giving people a taste of Bible Translation work in Africa, through small group meetings designed to be interactive and engaging. We introduce people to the language work we do with Wycliffe Bible Translators, in three parts (total 90 minutes):

  1. An interactive exercise for anyone who can read short English words. See what it’s like to discover your vowels for the first time!
  2. African foods typical to many of the places we have worked
  3. Testimonies, videos, slides and information from Wycliffe Bible Translators and our own experience. Q&A as time allows.

We have worked so far with groups of 6-25 people; we’d like to keep them small enough to allow everyone to participate. If you have a small group or Sunday school class that would be interested, or if you would like to join or host a group, please let us know, and we’ll get you on our calendar.

That said, if you have any questions about Africa, Wycliffe Bible Translators or our work, please don’t be shy; we’d love to discuss it over coffee, too. 😉 🙂

“Urgent Appeal” by African Leaders for DRC Peace

When looking up the latest on DRC elections forcast, I found the following post from yesterday on the Kofi Annan foundation’s website:

This is in the context where questions of the possibility of an election are being raised on the basis of both violence and funding:

And early last week we learned that “quickly” doesn’t necessarily mean “in the next twelve months”:

So please pray for Congo. Pray that they would have a just peace. Please pray specifically for an election soon. Pray against financial and insecurity issues, and against the objections of politicians. Pray for something that would give people some confidence that they live an a democracy, in which they are better off than if they were to fall back into war. And if it must be war, please pray that God would be merciful and that the church would grow, even in the midst of that horror.

Making and Maintaining Connections

Photo op with Simon (left) and the Ndaka chief (center)
Photo op with Simon (left) and the Ndaka chief (center)

I have found myself saying a number of times over the years, “I didn’t get into missions to do ___.” Fill in the blank with supervising other people, managing money, raising money, helping people get along with one another, keep my family in working electricity and water; there are so many things this can apply to.

One thing that is more necessary than you might think in Congo is paying respect to authorities. The first time I remember doing this, I was completely at the mercy of students of mine, who were taking me to their home area to present work we had done together on their language. I was surprised at this last minute stop along the road, then surprised that it was NOT optional (we were late, but they were clear that we had no option to just pass by). But then when the guy we were supposed to see wasn’t there, and after we had done due diligence in waiting for him (in the presence of his office staff, who could tell him how long we had waited), we finally moved on. Pardon me if I admit that the whole scenario sounded like just a bunch of posturing to me.  But someone once said to me, that if you only have one thing you do, and someone takes that away, what do you have left? So the guy who puts a particular stamp on a particular form has to put his stamp on your form, or you’re denying his value (and his livelihood, where money is involved).

Fast forward to more recent times, and I’m much more comfortable schmoozing with bureaucrats. Partly because I know they really do have a lot of power, even if its different than the kinds of power I’d been used to. But also because I want to confirm and establish the legitimacy of what we’re doing, and this is not only the simplest and most straightforward way to do that, but also the right one (anthropologically speaking). And it’s also very validating to simply show them what we’re doing, and let them see the value of it.

The Ndaka chief pictured above was hard to get ahold of; I think this was our second or third visit to his office this trip. But all he had to do was see the vowel booklet that we’d done the time before, and he was smiling (but obviously not in the photo; never smile in a photo). Yes, he has lots of power, and spends lots of time traveling with other Congolese bureaucrats (at least based on how hard it was to see him). But show him an alphabet chart and vowel booklet in his language, perhaps the first printed materials he’s ever seen in his language, and he immediately gets the value of what we’re doing. I frankly doubt that he gets the eternal significance of our work. But it is clear that he got that there were people visiting him from another country, that were willing to come and work because they cared about him and his people. And that care communicated gave us an open door to do this work in his community.

A bit aside, I was curious to see that he had an office worker that I had met some seven years before, while doing alphabet work for that worker’s language. So in addition to the printed work in Ndaka for the chief, I also had a Nyali-Kilo man (and his employee) telling how I had been a part of this same work being done in his language. Given my reticence to put too much time and energy into hobnobbing, it’s great to see how God went before us, preparing our path to clearly communicating our good work in the community, based on our care for the community, so the leader of that community would give us the go ahead to keep it up. But then again, I’m not sure why I should be surprised by that, given the word on authorities:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.
(Rom 13:1 ESV)



Numbers Lie

I was thinking this morning about the proverb “numbers don’t lie”, and how taken for granted it is, when I realized that there are at least two problems with it. First, it reflects our own individualism and efficiency driven culture, and second, there are times where the numbers themselves may not lie, but where a lie is certainly helped by a few numbers.

Regarding our efficiency driven and individualist culture, I think this proverb is essentially glorifies logical positivism, perhaps best summarized in “show me the money”, or perhaps “show me the data”. If I see data proving the point, I’m sold; if not, I’m not. There are lots of kinds of arguments out there, an lots of different kinds of authorities. Data is only one. In some places, a logical argument (as much as I love them!) is not as trustworthy as a person who says such is true. Think about it, if you didn’t trust your own ability to make logical leaps, but you had a very close-knit social/family network, it wouldn’t make sense to trust the argument over the person. Which makes sense of why many Americans don’t trust others so much as data we can see ourselves.

Or do we? It seems that generation Facebook (I think that’s the one after generation Y) is trusting people over data much more than I am personally comfortable with. I mean this in two senses: first, likes are cited as some kind of evidence that things are true. When did that begin to be true? I thought  “40 million Americans can’t be wrong” was always said tongue in cheek, but that seems precisely what is being said these days: more likes = more likely true.

The other way I mean that people are trusting people over data is closely akin to tribalism, or perhaps we should just call it zenophobia. The election last year exploded our concept of news, undercutting the credibility of the established news outlets (who were unable to predict the outcome of the election, nor cope with it once the writing was on the wall), but also bringing out lots of fringe media elements. Blogs have always been there (since they were there, anyway), but they didn’t always compete with major news outlets. Now they do. Why? it seems like we are moving from likes establish truth to my kind of likes establish truth. How many times have you seen “If you voted for X, just unfriend me now!” Why would we do this? It is as if the message is “if you don’t agree with me on this one issue, then I don’t care what you think on any issue.” From this follows the principle that for many people, my facebook feed has more people that I trust on it than the established media do. From which follows trust in a facebook feed (full of people who agree with me) over established media (full of people who I don’t agree with).

Anyway, that bit aside, I think we as a culture look to numbers an data to adjudicate issues more than to other kids of arguments or authorities. In fact, even as we look at likes, we have things ranked by the number of likes, not just “somebody liked this”, without saying how many.

But the second way in which numbers lie is more personally interesting to me, since noticing it brings to light more lies we don’t necessarily notice. And bringing to light issues of truth and falsehood is always a good thing (however hard and painful at times). I’m not sure what to call this yet, but I’m thinking of numbers that don’t necessarily mean what we might think at first glance, and or which are used to mean things they don’t mean. Perhaps I should call it statistics, in the sense of “lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Don’t get me wrong, I think stats are cool, and good when used well, but I think they are often not used well. This might be because they are taken to be very persuasive, according to the cultural bias I mentioned above.

Perhaps one of the clearest ways of seeing this is by looking at couple cultural icons: watches and scales. When I was in college, someone posed the question “would Jesus wear a digital or analog watch?” Some might need to google “analog watch” at this point; that’s OK, this will still be here when you get back. But the point was that how we look at time has an impact on how we live, and what kind of watch we wear at least indicates (if not impacts, as well) how we think about time. When you look at an analog watch, you might be late in 1-3 minutes, but on a digital watch you know exactly how many.  You might also know how many seconds are left. Have you ever found yourself working on something with another appointment or meeting coming up, and you look at the time and say, “I can keep working on this for another couple minutes”? Why do we do that? Why do we need to squeeze every ounce of time out of whatever we’re doing, whether it’s work, play, or relaxation? Why cannot we allow ourselves a few minutes unspoken-for, wherein we might relax and reflect between activities?

Our analytic view of time has broader than personal implications. I noticed as a child, that you could tell time based on the television. Shows change on the hour, and each hour goes from a lower commercials to content ratio, to a greater commercials to content ratio. Sometimes I can feel the last fifteen minutes of an hour approach by the unceasing and increasing barrage of commercials, as I wait for that one news segment I wanted to see, or to find out whodunit. I’m sure there are economic pressures that make this happen, including organization of time (see above, again), but why is it that we can’t make a TV program (for news or entertainment) take the amount of time it needs to do it’s job, then end? If it only needs 50 minutes, why does it take a full hour? Alternatively, if another ten minutes really would have done the subject more justice, why is material cut to make it fit?

I think the same applies to speakers, even when not on the air. I know that sermons don’t have determined and absolute endpoints, but they are remarkably consistent for a given venue. And in many churches, there’s a clock running to let the person speaking know how much time he’s taken (and often what’s up next, etc). Now I’m in favor of people not blabbing on, but I think it’s interesting that we have numbers telling us we’re over time, even when we really should keep talking to finish well, and we have numbers telling us we still have more time, even when we really should just sit down and shut up (doing a good chunk of public speaking myself, I’ve done my share of both).

But to show that this isn’t just about time, let’s look at another American icon: scales. If you think about it, why do we step on a scale? Is it to find out if we’re healthy or happy? Or to get a number that we can compare with others or some ideal? I loved what a nurse said to us just before James was born: “I go to the doctor and he says I’m overweight. No duh!” I think when we weigh too much, we know; we don’t need those numbers making those judgments. “You’re fat.” “You’re undisciplined.” “You’re unhealthy.” “No one likes you.” Or are you saying your scale doesn’t say those things? I’m not saying that those things are never true of anyone, but the numbers seem to add an extra force weighing down on us, when we already feel the condemnation and shame that comes with knowing we weigh more than we should.

On the other hand, I wonder where anorexia would be without scales. I know it’s often an image thing, either in a mirror or in the head, but I can’t help but imagine some people’s scales say “wow, you’re healthy!”, “wow, you’re disciplined!”, and “hey there, beautiful”, when maybe they shouldn’t.

Anyway, as with many subtle lies, the more we know, the freer we can become. As our Lord and master said, the truth will set us free (John 8:32). I know that I’m fat, and that I’m often late, and I know that both of those have roots in my own self-discipline. But none of that makes me a horrible person, nor takes away the image of God in me. None of it separates me from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 8:38-39). None of that allows condemnation to remain on me (Rom 8:1).  But all that only works if we see that we trust numbers more than people (or other things that might reflect the truth better), and perhaps in some critical ways that we shouldn’t.



Lifecycle of a Democracy

As the democratic process in Congo seems to be winding down, it’s weird to think that we saw its beginnings.

When we first arrived in Africa, we spend three months in the village house-sitting for a colleague, and learning language and culture. It was during those three months that the election enrollment came through that area. This was the process that established the electorate which voted on the constitutional referendum, giving D. R. Congo its first democratic constitution in 2005.

It was interesting to witness this, since like many Americans voting was old news to me. I understood the apathy in America that leads many people to simply not vote. But this was not so in Congo. As various people we knew enrolled, they proudly showed off their iodine-dipped pinkies and their voter ID cards, like this one:

Dilo with his voter ID card

These cards are the first and only ID owned by many of the Congolese we know, so it was a serious moment of pride. And these cards are still used as basic identification.

In December 2006, I made a two week trip into DRC (We were still living in Nairobi at the time, due to general insecurity in the DRC) to collect extensive wordlists in four languages. One of those turned out to be two separate languages, so we had data from five languages in the end. These are the same languages we eventually did alphabet charts with, and whose tone systems I’m now analyzing for my dissertation. On this, my first trip to Nya-nya, I stayed with the pastor of one of our local church partners, who had decorated his house with ballot receipts (from the election voting in Joseph Kabila as president for the first time):

Ballot receipts as decoration

On the way out of the country, I stopped back in Bunia, and got to see the inauguration on this TV, in this living room:

Watching TV at the rector's house

The elections in 2011 seemed to come and go with little fanfare; I recall reports of small protests, and some claims of voter fraud, including a report by the Carter Center, which didn’t (seem to, IMHO) go so far as to say that the election was illegitimate, while identifying a number of issues that caused concern.

Since then, we returned to the US and started a doctoral program. I returned to Nya-nya in 2014, then again this year, to collect data specifically for my dissertation, and to help the people on their path toward literacy. In 2014, we took the data that we collected together in 2006, did basic phonological analyses and created alphabet charts. This year we looked at how verb conjugation affects tone melodies, since tone is important in these languages, so they will likely need some solution for writing it. They seem to be on good footing toward managing their own literacy and Bible translation programs, which we want to continue to support and encourage however we can.

And now, as I’m hoping to make one more trip next year, and wrap up this doctorate in the next couple years, we see news that that process started with a new constitution back in 2005 seems to be failing.  The Elections commission has not updated the electoral rolls, due (at least) to funding and disorganization. They didn’t want to hold elections on time, but with five year old election rolls (in which time lots of people die and/or become 18+). The president and the main opposition have not been talking for some time, and the President seems committed to remain in power until elections are held (end of 2018, two years late). This has been described as a coup d’état, but minimally the constitution is not being followed.

But in the mean time, work on minority Congolese languages continues. Just last week, I made a great advance in my analysis of a rather complex aspect of the Ndaka verb tone system. I hope that this will help understand Ndaka’s neighbors, so that steps toward a Bible that is used will be multiplied in a number of local communities. And our colleagues working locally continue to work with these groups to help them take more ownership of the Bible translation movement for their language.

So I take comfort in the fact that despite the political chaos, God is at work. As He said to Daniel:

Many shall purify themselves and make themselves white and be refined, but the wicked shall act wickedly. And none of the wicked shall understand, but those who are wise shall understand. (Daniel 12:10 ESV)

And sometimes he works in, through, and/or despite larger turmoil:

You said, ‘Woe is me! For the LORD has added sorrow to my pain. I am weary with my groaning, and I find no rest.’ Thus shall you say to him, Thus says the LORD: Behold, what I have built I am breaking down, and what I have planted I am plucking up—that is, the whole land. And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not, for behold, I am bringing disaster upon all flesh, declares the LORD. But I will give you your life as a prize of war in all places to which you may go. (Jeremiah 45:3-5 ESV)

So I will continue to pray that whatever chaos the Congolese people have to go through in the next months and years, that God would have His way, and that He would be glorified. That Christ’s Church would be built up in numbers and maturity, and that it would stand out as a beacon of hope and sanctuary in Congolese society. Because despite whatever political failures there may be, our ministry vision remains valid:

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9-10 ESV)

Please join us in prayer, that this vision would be accomplished, even in the DRC.



For our second weekend in the rainforest, it seemed right to visit Simon’s father’s church, which was just 25 km north of Nya-nya — in fact, while it has another name, it is typically referred to as “25km”. Simon’s father traveled down to work with us a lot in 2014, and some this year, too, and I figured it was about time to visit him. But I had no idea how far away 25 km (15.6miles) was.

First of all, let us be clear that Joel had a blast. Four hours on a motorbike (yes, that’s less than 4mph!) through the brush and mud, with butterflies flying in his face –he enjoyed himself thoroughly. And that was being squished between Simon and their driver, who wore Joel’s backpack on his stomach (above).

Along the road, we ran in to a traffic jam:


With trucks stuck on the mud on both sides of the road, trucks could not get through. And this is the major road south of Isiro, where a number of the Bible translation projects we support work. Since there were therefore lots of trucks trying to get through, there was a line on each side of the jam (I think I counted about 14 trucks on each side):


When we got to the jam itself,  the trucks were truly stuck:


Which is just another reason we travel by motorbike, as we were able to get through 🙂 :


When we got there, we of course got a “welcome visitors” song and dance:


img_8334 img_8335

and we ended up with confetti on our hats:


and on the ground:

img_8339What most impressed me about this was finding that they had made the confetti by meticulously cutting up shiny snack packages…

I’d like to say that the road was clear on our way back, but it wasn’t. So I asked when they expected it to clear.  Apparently they’d been there some three weeks, and it would be a couple more. ;-( On the brighter side, the governor had a grand opening ceremony a few days later for construction on that road (which had already started), and it sounded like they were sending some vehicles up to clear that blockage. Nowhere else have I seen such a strong juxtaposition of struggle and joy.

Missionary Linguist


It hasn’t always been easy describing what I do to a broad audience, but for some time now on immigration forms requiring a short answer, I indicate my profession as “Missionary Linguist”. I heard a chapel talk at the first SIL summer training I went to, in Eugene, OR, on doing good social science as a Christian. Tom Payne talked about how academics often look down on missionaries, and vice versa. But the dichotomy isn’t valid, he said. And since then, as I think about what I do from time to time, I consider that one of my greater joys is to do both serious academic work and serious mission work — and that these are not exclusive. In fact, I think they can be very much in support of one another.

This is strikingly clear in D.R.Congo, where it could be said that most of the functioning social bodies are religious. If you are unwilling or unable to work with a church, you will be hard pressed to find people to work with, and you will be on your own in terms of your daily life logistics, like how you will eat, sleep, and get around. But we have the joy of working with a number of church partners, and of working in a way that is clearly for their good, all while doing good academic work.

The above picture is from the covered area where we did most of our work this summer. We started out each day with a meditation on a portion of scripture.  I did this in 2014, too, but I wasn’t sure how much they actually liked it, and how much they were just putting on a good face.  So this time I asked directly,  and they said they like it, for a couple reasons: first, it makes it clear to everyone that this is church work, and that it is worthy of their support; second, it provides spiritual food for the workshop participants. Wow. I hadn’t anticipated that a minimal (30 mins) daily commitment to share with them from the Bible would impact them so much.

So I committed to not sell them short, and we walked through the first half of Romans during our three weeks together, ending in the closing ceremonies with Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. I knew that there were a couple Muslims in the group, and they didn’t always show up for this part, which was OK with me. Because I got to talk through some really good stuff, and I could see that those that came got it. For instance, having talked through the pervasiveness of sin in chapters 1-3, we talked about 3:21-22 – But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe – and the theological earthquake these verses caused in the protestant reformation. I continued to feel the freedom to simply read and explain the scripture, and enjoyed again seeing the logic of Romans unfold – They sin, we sin, we all sin, we all need Christ… Then some time later I noticed that a large chunk of my audience was Roman Catholic. 🙂 But that was not a source of division.  We want our work to benefit the whole community, including everyone who identifies as Christian. We want everyone involved to be transformed by the Word of God in their language.

But the fact that we’re serious about getting the Bible to the grassroots of the church, and in a way that can reach even those outside of the church, doesn’t mean we aren’t also doing good academic work — which we are. Whenever I start working with people who are used to manual labor, I explain that our work doesn’t use a hoe, but it is work nonetheless. And there always comes a time where people are grabbing their heads and saying “wow, this hurts!”  We had plenty of those moments this time around, as people grappled with the implications of what we were discovering about their language – but more about that (including the octuplets) in another post, I think.

One other point relevant to this topic is the need to make community development truly community based, and my work as a missionary linguist facilitates that. Because I depend on the church to do my academic work, and because my academic work is for the benefit of the church, the church has a strong share in finding out what we’re doing. They have a right to accountability, which goes hand in hand with the fact that we want to share what we’ve learned.

I made some posters from the pages of the vowel booklet we made in 2014, which we then modified to add tone marks to. These became a medium for us to share our insights. Here is Simon sharing from these posters, after service at the church we attended our second Sunday in the area:


This is another great aspect of combining my various responsibilities – most people agree that we should be training and mentoring future leaders, but we don’t necessarily make it happen, if we’re able to do our work without it. I could have done this presentation myself, but it just made so much more sense in this context to have Simon do it. His father is pastor at this church, and him presenting gave them a chance to have a few back-and-forths in Ndaka, which would (obviously) have been beyond me.

Not only did we get the word out, but we also got to practice doing it.  The next Sunday, we were at another church, after which we gave a presentation to them:


And then a few days later, in our closing ceremony, we gave yet another presentation, this time in the church that was hosting the workshop:


So the bottom line here, for me, is that we got to build up the church through teaching, mentorship, and grassroots showing that we care about their language (which is a bigger deal than you might think) –while at the same time we had unparalleled access to speakers of the language, that were ready and willing to bust a few brain cells figuring out how tone works in their verbs. So I’m proud to say that I’m a missionary linguist — doing what God made me for, to His glory.

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.