We were blessed to be able to be physically present for the wedding of Kim’s brother John Oct 21, 2022. We took a thousand pictures and videos, and obviously can’t fit them all here. We want to share a dozen or so for those who didn’t get to attend with us.
God has written a beautiful story of redemption with their lives, and the message of the day centered on the Old Testament book of Ruth and Boaz, the kinsman-redeemer. Jen was widowed with two young kids and God brought them together to be a family. <3 Jen is the perfect answer to prayers for a wife for John! In spite of a drizzly Seattle day, we had a beautiful farmhouse wedding and party! The unlimited coffee cart and photo booth were so much fun!
What started as a normal PE class on the morning of September 20, ended as a significant event in the life of our second son Joel. Every few weeks the class learns about and plays a different sport. This was their second day learning about the sport called rugby. Joel caught the ball, saw an opening and sprinted toward the goal line. Snap!
Out of the blue, he felt someone had thrown a 2×4 log of wood at his left calf. He fell into the endzone and scored, looking back for who had tackled him or thrown the wood. No one was there. He got up only to realize he could not put weight on his left leg. He was laid out on a picnic table and the school nurse couldn’t find any injury. They found him some crutches. The tallest they go was 5’11” and Joel is at least 6’4″, so that was less than ideal. After 2 days on crutches, he tried walking again. Within hours his foot turned a swollen blue and toes went numb. We had a prayer partner in the US write on Sept 24 with a burden to pray for our spiritual protection, and within 48 hours we were told to prepare for evacuation. The next week was spent sitting in hospital waiting rooms to see an orthopedic specialist, run tests, etc. By Oct 1 we were told he would need to evacuate ASAP for surgery for a torn Achilles.
(You can see obviously that his crutches were too short here. And sadly with the humidity here, the silicone stoppers at the bottom busted open within a few days. He ended up getting tennis ball donations to keep walking on them, which worked, but not so well in mud/rocks – like our driveway…Crackle…)
So, as the Mom, I began a crash course in medical evacuation insurance! We have always paid for it, but thankfully never needed it. Until now. The surgery that was initially recommended was not available in this country. A therapy walking boot or physical therapy was also unavailable. We began extensive paperwork to quickly leave the country. One complication was that we already HAD tickets to leave Oct 12 to Seattle for Kim’s brother John’s wedding… If they evacuated us to the nearest facility (likely Paris, Nairobi or Johannesburg), then we would surely miss the wedding. It was God-ordained that Turkish Airlines would cancel our flight!
When we talked to our mission travel agent, we learned that Turkish Airlines had canceled our flights, so we got a FREE change of itinerary up to 1 week difference. Thank you Jesus! We moved our flights up 4 days to allow Joel time to see specialists in Seattle where family was already waiting for us and where friends had already found XL crutches! 🙂 Our evacuation insurance paid for Joel and Kent to travel First Class all the way over with wheelchair services!
Traveling internationally with wheelchair services was a learning experience. On the first leg, Joel still couldn’t extend his leg all the way and by the time we landed in Europe, his foot was purple/blue again… Twice I tried to bring him extra aspirin in First Class, but they didn’t want Coach passengers invading First Class space… We were at the mercy of the wheelchair services team. In Istanbul they were 30 minutes late and the crew of the airplane had left before the wheelchair team arrived, and they weren’t willing to take him by a restaurant, so he was left sitting alone at the gate for 90 minutes while we tried to get him some food.
We made it to Seattle! We saw the foot/ankle orthopedic surgeon and got an MRI same day. The ultimate diagnosis was a torn calf muscle underneath the Achilles that did NOT require surgery! They just happened to have an XL sized therapeutic boot and Joel was back on his feet in no time! The black color even matched his suit for the wedding! God was so good to us. We were given a few extra days to help Kim’s parents get moved into their new house before the wedding festivities began.
The end result of our Snap-Crackle-Boot experiences were a greater compassion for anyone with mobility issues and a greater faith in the power of prayer. Joel was very humbled to constantly need help. He is usually the Helper, and now had to ask for help everyday with basic movement. It was a good discipleship experience! Lastly, we ended up with our first (and last) time in First Class and had 4 extra days with family to serve the Sages and get to know our new sister-in-law, niece and nephew! We can thank God for all our muscles and how they work and how they heal!
We took this photo at the end of the day today, to celebrate our first tone rule, resulting in our first rule about how to write tone in this language!
It took us awhile to get there together, but I think it was worth it. We found eight different tone melodies in nouns of form CVCVC (where C is a consonant and V is a vowel). In isolation, each of the melodies falls in the second syllable. The same thing happens when you put a high tone or a low tone before the word.
But when you put either a high or low tone after the word, none of them fall anymore. This happens if you’re adding one or two syllables.
The short version is that the last syllable of the phrase falls. So it looks like the words have a falling tone in isolation, but that’s just because they end the phrase. The same thing with the possessive pronouns (high and low after the noun); they fall because they end the phrase, not (necessarily) because something in those words makes them fall.
So people will certainly be tempted to write this fall, as it is easy to hear. But as it is clearly attached to the phrase (rather than any of these words), it shouldn’t need to be written, except perhaps with a period.
For this interested in what “phrase” means here, so am I.😅 This may be an utterance, a phonological phrase, or a syntactic unit. We’ll need to investigate some longer utterances to find out.
As we think about Bible translation, and how to facilitate the impact of the scriptures in the worldwide church, it’s interesting to consider the impact of recent technology. Many Americans show up to church on Sunday morning without a printed Bible (I have observed). Whatever you think of that, it constitutes a change of culture and practice, which is driven (at least) my the fact that you can store a whole, searchable Bible in no more space or weight than you already carry with your phone.
How does this impact the worldwide church? Others noted at least a decade ago that in Africa, cellular technology leapfrogged over land line telephones. That is, while I grew up learning to use a phone that was permanently attached to a wall in our house, many Africans (that I know) have cell phones, never having seen a land line telephone. I have seen cell towers in the rainforest in DR Congo, where no one would ever consider laying down wires for telephones.
In a similar way, I know people here with access to the scriptures on an Android app (as in the above picture, from church this morning), but this week I saw my first print new testament in this language –in my third workshop with this group! They are working on the old testament, having had the new testament since 1988 (if I have my facts correct; this at least sounds right).
So are people printing Bibles? And are they buying and selling them? Why would they, when installing an app on the phone they already have costs so much less in money, volume and weight? I’m not saying this is the best for the long term health of the church, but it is certainly a reality that we must consider –people may be leapfrogging over the printed scriptures, to access them digitally without ever having used them in print.
The pic above is obscure, because it was taken inside the church. For those interested in seeing more of my friend Paul, here’s another picture taken outside:
If you’re wondering why I’m working in a language that already has a new testament, this is one of a number of languages which was found to have problems with the writing system. Tone studies have come a long way since this work was done (50+yrs ago), as have writing system development studies.
So people are hoping we can come up with a way to write tone which will work better for these guys and enable more fluent reading, giving more powerful and effective scriptures.
Which brings us back full circle: how can you think of making changes to the writing system after printing your scriptures? That would be very cost prohibitive –in print. But electronically, you just put in the changes and update the app, and move on…
I personally think there should always be a place for written, printed scriptures, if only to archive them in a format that doesn’t die with electricity –or time. But for many use cases, Android makes a lot of sense, at least in the eyes of many here. So I think it’s wise to consider how to make the most of it.
POSTLOG: after reading the above, Paul informed me that his phone battery died just after I took the above picture –a risk not present in printed Bibles.
This is a post for my engineer friends. I took a shower this morning for the first time in days, because couldn’t figure this thing out.
This is my second stay in this compound; before I stayed in a flat that had a nice hot water system, I think from a tank on the roof, which was basically just heated by the sun. So my expectations (from here and elsewhere) led me to think that the left knob was hot.
This was further reinforced by the fact that it has special plumbing, going straight up. The right knob connects to the toilet and sink, and to another spiget off to the left –classic cold water plumbing.
Turning on the left knob, you get low pressure –still not uncommon for local hot water. But turning in the right at the same time (to mix hot and cold), the pressure guess funky, weird noises clank, and very soon there are sounds of spraying outside, like there’s a leak somewhere. Turn off the right knob, and it stops –so I did.
But the left knob by itself is just enough pressure to be disappointed, not really to shower. So I gave up, and got to work on other things, like analysing tone.
Later I noticed that there was no plumbing to a tank on the roof, as I had expected, so the left knob was coming from the attic, not a solar tank on the roof. If that was the case, then the hose spilling water in the ground should be the overflow for that tank.
So…. <drumroll\> if the right knob was causing overflow of the attic tank, then it should be that the left knob wasn’t hot, but rather attic water, and the right knob was city water.
This kind of system is important where water is scarce, and where city water cuts off a lot. That is, use the right (city water) knob most of the time, and when it doen’t work, turn it off and use the left (attic water) knob. Then when city water comes back on, open both knobs and fill the tank in the attic (just until you hear the overflow spilling out the window).
So once I figured out that normal usage was just using the right knob, I got decent pressure. Heat would have been nice, but it’s hot enough here that cold water wasn’t really a problem. And it was nice to finally figure out how to shower. 🤪
It has obviously been too long since we have blogged (8 months of silence here is likely a record for us). So what has gone unrecorded in 2022?
In January, James navigated passports, visas and international airports on his own for the first time to spend a month at Christmas with us.
In February, we all helped our Cameroonian church throw a huge wedding celebration for good friends Yvan and Chella. Then Kim got her third round of COVID and following viruses that felt much like long-COVID. We would not learn for another 6 months that faulty thyroid medication was part of the chronic sickness that happened for months on end.
In March, Kent flew off to Kenya to present his orthography methods at a worldwide conference, and stay another 3 weeks to help 3 langauges from 3 other African countries specifically with their tone studies. He was back in the same neighborhood where we lived as newlyweds in 1999-2000. It was fun to see how much had changed in that time! He also enjoyed worship and fellowship with our two best Kenyan friends, who are still like family to us. We also got news that Kim's brother got engaged!
In April & May, Kim was balancing subbing, occasional Literacy work, and homeschooling Anna as she finished her first year of high school and Joel finished his first 'college-level' course online. Kent completed the next stage of development on AZT software adding functions to sort vowels and consonants, as well as tone!
In June, we helped several colleagues pack up to leave or move back to the US/Canada. Then we treated ourselves to a week in Istanbul - the most international city any of us have ever visited! Istanbul was a wonderful halfway point between Anna studying World Geography and Ancient History, and we all enjoyed ourselves.
In July, we landed back in Texas one hour before the Fireworks shows began on the 4th. James picked us up at the airport for a change, and God orchestrated so beautifully a donated home for us to stay all together, and cars to drive for a few weeks. We got to catch up with what He is doing in our home church there, visit with many partners, eat lots of ice cream, berries and Chic-Fil-A. We managed to fit in doctors, dentist, orthodontist, 2 driver's permits, a week with Kim's parents and a week of violin camp too. James showed us his life in Austin, and we left him there to spend a week of ministry to freshman college guys at UT.
And now August is wrapping up! We flew back August 3rd. God managed to line up our two airplanes next to each other, the incoming flight from the US and the outgoing flight to Cameroon were next door to each other! We landed 2 hours late, walked off one gangway, turned around and walked right on the last boarding call! We had our feet on airport tiles for about 5 minutes! That has never happened to us in hundreds of flights! God knew we had a deadline and needed to get home to Cameroon before Kim's paperwork expired the next day. He's so good!
We've got our house up and running for the year, Kent is back in his office, and Joel has started his senior year back at RFIS, where Kim serves on the school board. This week we celebrated a second church wedding with our local church family, and our front yard flowers have become the hot place to get photos taken. Anna is loving her Advanced Chemistry class the best so far, and Kent is traveling out to a workshop soon. I'll save that for the September news!
I’m not sure if missionary construction is more or less well known than missionary linguistics, but they are likely both a bit of a mashup for most people. I took this picture on my way home last week (stuck in holiday traffic, plenty of time to get the shot…) as one of a series of vehicular graveyards I’ve seen across the decades almost everywhere I go in Africa. Typically, it makes me think of how things fall apart here, and how little people probably expected this outcome to whatever they started out doing.
But today I’m reading one of my favorite missionary biographies, “To the Golden Shore”, by Courtney Anderson, on Adoniram Judson. I identify with him in a number of ways. The call to pioneer. Depression. Fruit and very painful circumstances almost constantly mixed. Bible translation.
It was this last that struck me today. This was the passage, presumably from one of his letters:
I sometimes feel alarmed [he reported] like a person who sees a mighty engine beginning to move, over which he knows he has no control. Our house is frequently crowded with company; but I am obliged to leave them to Moung En, one of the best of assistants, in order to get time for the translation. Is this right? Happy is the missionary who goes to a country where the Bible is translated to his hand. (pp398-9)
Perhaps the most important sentence in this section is “Is this right?” How can a missionary set aside talking to potential converts, to work on a book maybe no one will ever read? This must strike the conscience, and it must be dealt with.
The correct answer, I think, has to do with the relationships between longer term and shorter term strategic priorities. What can I do today that will make tomorrow better in some way? To just push off people is unconscionable, but so is continuing to labor day to day with no effort to get the scriptures to those who are (or even may be) converted. So Adoniram made the tough (and I think open to criticism) choice of delegating daily evangelism for the sake of the future growth and health of the church.
For me, there are two problems with this. First of all, I’m working another step removed. I’m not working so that a single people group will have the scriptures some day. I’m working on systems, and training and raising up workers, so that all of central Africa will have scriptures that speak with power. So it’s an even longer term investment than daily translation for a single people group.
But the other problem is the message of the vehicular graveyards. Who ever built (or bought, shipped, maintained, etc) a car so it would decorate some corner of the forest as it decomposed? I even saw a rusting carcass of a printing press once. Certainly that was bought and shipped there with the idea that it would help the missionary enterprise, not that it would just take oxygen out of the air.
So what will become of my work? I know nothing lasts in this world, but as I consider longer term strategic priorities, I must consider the possibility that I shoot so far out, that nothing comes of it before it starts decomposing. My time in DRCongo felt a bit like this; I planned for ten years, and prepared and built tools with that horizon in mind, but they weren’t used very much when we left only four years later.
So I try to constantly mix planning horizons. I feel the pull Adoniram described, to work for future missionaries, so I must set aside time for that. Added to this is the repeated realization that I know no one with the vision or capability to do what I’m doing now (not bragging, just reality; this is a niche work).
But Kim and I also sing in the church choir most weeks, and I lead several of the men of the church in Bible study most Saturdays. These are each a different horizon (making worship happen this week and growing up future leaders), but they both address the question of the people right here in front of me.
Then there’s the team that’s actively translating the scriptures, without understanding the tone writing system developed for them some fifty years ago. Has the language’s tone system changed? Probably. Has tone and writing system theory changed in that time? Definitely. Can I help them get back on track? I hope so.
Then there are A→Z+T users, present and future. I’ve been doing a lot of prep work for a tone workshop in the spring, which involves getting people up to speed with A→Z+T and evaluating their trained for the workshop. During this time, I’ve gotten to interact (face to face, by email, and through zoom) with people at different levels of competence and preparation, so I’ve gotten a broader vision for what A→Z+T’s user base will most likely look like.
Sometimes the user question is addressing specific issues, other times it’s fixing things in a more principled way, to avoid future issues. But I’m also working on a workshop presentation and book chapter to help potential users get a vision for what is now possible.
So it feels like running a sprint, a 5k, and a marathon, all at the same time (not that I’ve ever run a marathon, but I imagine…)
But it gives me courage that I’m not the first one to confront these questions, even if some of the details are new. Adoniram didn’t have Python, Autosegmental theory, or object oriented programming (though he did have snakes, elephants and tigers), but he did know the difficult task of prioritizing the needs in front of him today, and what most be done (today) to prepare for tomorrow.
And when I think of Adoniram’s first ten years of missionary service, including a death prison, the loss of his first wife and several children, along with any hope that his translation work would be preserved through the Anglo-Burman war, I’m encouraged to know that God did preserve that translation work, though a series of improbable coincidences. And he ultimately built his church in Myanmar on it, with generations of Christians using that translation to great effect.
So apparently (he comes to realize, again) God does know what he’s doing, even if His planning horizons are even longer and more complex than we can imagine. So please join me in prayer, that the One worshipped by the magi would lend me some of His wisdom in these days, as I sort through what to do when, and prioritize appropriately long term strategies that will produce fruit that will last.
After far too much drama and work on everyone’s part, James made it home for Christmas! Thanks so much for your prayers. For now, we’re busy working and resting, but wanted to tease our Christmas card, and wish you a merry Christmas!