Category Archives: Missiology

Indeterminate Culture Shock

Back in the land of cheap, yummy avocados.…

I’ve written before about triviality, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about its application to our current times. That is, for missionaries and others working cross-culturally, there is always an element of adjusting to a new environment and culture. This includes how to find your bedroom light switch in the dark (if you’re moving house), but also how to not insult someone on the road, and how to not be insulted by someone else on the road —i.e., knowing when someones behavior should be offensive, and when it is just normal for your new environment.

But the kicker in all the above (and many other things to adjust to) is that knowing the new reality is only the first layer of adjustment. Being able to point to your light switch after thinking for ten seconds is not the same as being able to reach it intuitively —in the dark, and while still mostly asleep, when your brain is not really working yet. This is where the concept of triviality is helpful (to me, anyway!). Normal life has lots of trivial items in it: how to shop, how to make food, how to greet, how to get around town. There is some adjustment when these things change, but the goal is normally to move these things to a place were we just do them, without having to think through them each time/day.

So the twist that hit me this morning, is that whether we’re talking about culture shock, or reverse culture shock (or reverse reverse culture shock…), the transition is normally from one more or less stable environment to another more or less stable environment. The problem is that one house isn’t laid out the same as another house —but they’re both houses, and neither changes much over time. Similarly, moving from one culture/city to another requires adjusting from one status quo to another, but there is a status quo in each place, which doesn’t change much over time. But this is not what we find in 2020.

Rather, this year we have political and medical facts which seem to change on a regular basis. Then the recommendations, orders/laws, and rulings, which change in response to those facts (or not), then the implementation of those recommendations, orders/laws, and rulings on various levels, which must respond to all of the above. So the question “should I wear a mask right now?”, for instance, has been a non-trivial question for months, for many people. Are the CDC and WHO recommending masks right now, or not? What kind of masks, in what situations? What are the relevant recommendations, orders/laws, and rulings of our federal/national government? And of our state? Of our County? Of our City? And perhaps most frustrating of all, how do we respond when the neighboring nation/state/county/city says something different than ours? Or when the state says something that contradicts what the county says? Most of us are simply not accustomed to thinking through all these issues on any kind of regular basis, much less each time it might be appropriate to put on or take off a mask. And masks or not is not the only question (e.g., distancing, quarantine/isolation, and contact reporting), nor are on and off the only answers to that one question (e.g., public/online shaming, rebellion, political advocacy, and non-/violent public protests)

Now, if there were one set of rules imposed (for better or worse), this might just be a matter of adjusting to them, however much time, energy, and libery that takes. But when the info we’re basing a decision on changes every couple days (on some level), we have to re-evaluate, and the decision never has a chance to become trivial –so we continue to spend energy we shouldn’t on menial, daily tasks.

There is, of course one condition where this problem doesn’t apply. Namely, if your allegiance to a particular body medical/political/whatever is significantly strong to trump all others, then you make your decision once, and only change it when that one body changes advice —and hopefully that’s not often. But I have a hard time distinguishing that from bigotry, especially in the current political climate in the US. That is, if your response to the mask question is really just a badge of political affiliation (as I’ve heard from MANY people), then can you still say you’re wearing a mask (or not) because it is the right response to the pandemic?

I read twitter enough to know that for many people, there is only one correct answer to the mask question. But there seems to be a strong correlation between those people and the many who feel there is only one correct answer to the “which party should be in power” question, on both sides. And I, for one, have never felt fully comfortable voting for either party, as neither seems to represent me particularly well. So for me, my conscience dictates that I continue to reevaluate both questions, as new data comes in.

And I know there are many people out there that feel (at least a bit) the same. I’ve heard from many the difficulty of adjusting to constantly changing goal posts. And I think that this idea of having a culture shock (or lack of triviality) that has no real end in sight, is a large part of it. Even in this context, I feel obliged to continue to insist on my right and responsibility, as a human and as a Christian, to think, to use and develop my conscience, and to pray for the Holy Spirit to give guidance, and to follow that guidance even in the face of direction to do otherwise from lesser authorities:

But Peter and John answered [their rulers and elders and scribes, in council], “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”

Acts 4:19-20 (ESV)

So where do we go from there? I think the bigotry answer, as flawed as it is, has something to it. That is, in the midst of a storm, hold one to one thing that doesn’t move. But I think we want to be careful to not make our one thing a human or human institution, which will all fail us, sooner or later. Rather, Jesus tells us

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.

Matthew 7:24-25 (ESV)

So let us continue to read what Jesus had to say, and try to put it into practice, and let the storm flow around us as it will. Not that I think this will be easy, but I think it’s the only answer that doesn’t result in our eventual destruction.

Opportunities lost, opportunities gained

Downtown Lolodorf, on my exploratory visit in December

Friday I had officially given up on the idea that I would run a workshop in February. I wrote the committee involved the Friday before, a week after they said they would get back to me with dates. I’m not ruling out working with them in the future (in fact I hope I do!), but it won’t be this month. Because this was the time I had set aside for them, it probably won’t be this fiscal year.

After speaking with the Center of the Christian Life church

Which is sad given the time and energy I put into visiting local churches, and preparing for this work. But I think it is best to move forward on the right footing, so we will wait for now, and trust that God will provide for this work at the right time.

Perhaps ironically, The same day I also had another opportunity fall into my lap. I have been having pain in my lower back, so I’ve been icing it a lot, and wearing a brace if I’m going to do a lot of sitting (as often happens in an office :-)). Often, that means I wear one of my newer shirts that we made since we got here. It is large and long enough to cover the brace comfortably, so it is a good choice, even if a bit more dressy than I would normally go to work. Anyway, today at a group meeting our director scanned the crowd for someone more dressed up to go on a visit to the ministry of primary education, and she asked me.… Definitely the first time in my life I could be said to have won anything like a “best dressed” award.…

Me Dressed Up

This isn’t my first time on an official visit like this;  a few months ago I joined her on a visit to an Indigenous Peoples Day event, and I actually enjoyed several interactions that would not have been possible had I not been there, as a linguist. These events may be more about politics and public relations, but given the amount of linguistics we do, I think it is good to have a linguist around as well, which is why my being there made sense.

This time there was a lot less interaction between myself and the other people at the conference, though I did get to hang out with Cameroonians who work with us.

me, the crowd, and the banner

One reason for this is that this event was put on by a government ministry, so the power distance between me and the guy at the center of the front table (the minister of primary education, a cabinet level position in Cameroon) was much greater. And there were other Cameroon government officials, e.g., SG MINEDUB on the right here:

Which didn’t mean there was no interaction; I got to take pictures like everyone else, and got a selfie with the minister (blue suit):

my selfie with the big wigs

And later, I got to see him visit our table, and get a short spiel about our work and some brochures:

The Minister of Primary Education, flanked by our director and two other Cameroon ministers

Anyway, the theme of the day (mother languages) is important to me, so I think it was a good investment to hang around and see how Cameroon does it.

Writing Systems

One of the side benefits of the consultant conference I attended in September was that it was in Thailand, where some of our colleagues are based. Specifically, those who work on WeSay, a program I have put to good use in DRCongo, and hope to continue using in Cameroon. The same group also works on non-roman scripts (Writing Systems Technology). Anyway, I got to greet them face to face for the first time, having corresponded with some of them for more than a decade.

One of the highlights of that visit was seeing different font and printing issues they had faced. As I work in writing systems development, this was particularly interesting to me. They work on a different end of the puzzle, though: I work on figuring out what are the consonants, vowels, and tones in a language, and how to represent them well in writing (#FluentReadingMakesPowerfulBibles). This team works on how to take a developed writing system and represent it well in a (unicode!) font for printing.

They have examples of printed Bibles with roman scripts (like our letters, though with additional signs for additional vowels, tone, or other important language features):

Even though this script is based on the same alphabet as English, you can see that there are some potential problems for typesetting it. For instance, in many places there are two distinct marks (diacritics) above a vowel, what we call “stacked diacritics”. For instance, in John 13:26 (the first verse on the page) Jesus’ second word “tônuô̌” has two different marks on the final vowel. I assume the one marks a vowel difference (i.e., “o” and “ô” are not the same vowel —like English “bet” and “bit” aren’t the same vowel), and the other marks a difference of tone (i.e., “o” is not the same tone as “ǒ” —like English “convict” (n) and “convict” (v) don’t have the same stress).

When you put these two together, and you have a potential conflict. In my browser anyway (and maybe in yours) the word “tônuô̌” has two diacritics (from ô and the ǒ) typed more or less on top of each other, rather than the diacritic on ǒ being placed above that on the ô, as it should be (and as in the printed Bible). If you scan through that page, you can see lots of variations of these stacked diacritics, meaning its is important to get this correct for printing.

But they also work with non-roman scripts:

These scripts have their own issues, though I haven’t gotten into them myself, since most African languages I have worked with use roman scripts.

One interesting issue they had to deal with was multiple scripts for the same language. In this example, there was a script of high cultural value, which was not really understood by much of the population. So they wanted to print the valuable script in parallel with the script that people could actually understand:

On some occasions, they have dealt with two (or three) scripts for the same language because it is spoken in multiple countries, and each country as it’s own mandated writing system. Converting checked scripture between these poses its own set of problems.

Here is yet another script:

I don’t remember the details of this one, though the tabs a the top of the page each indicate a problem that needed to be fixed in terms of the printing of the writing system. How one writes is typically very important, both to individuals and people groups, so we want to be able to move past making mistakes if possible —though imagine checking the typesetting on this Bible!

Often the two books that help clarify and preserve a writing system are the Bible and a dictionary, which is why we want to get the work done on the writing system early, before we do a lot of printing of scripture portions. And it is again why I pair my dictionary work with writing system development, so people can see lots of words in writing, and give us feedback on problems with the writing system, whether they are technical or aesthetic.

This hard, technical work in advance is worth it because we want the scriptures to be used, and to speak with power into the hearts of the people who read and hear them read. For this to happen, the writing system needs to be acceptable and valued so people will use it, but also accurately reflect the language, so people can use it fluently. #FluentReadingMakesPowerfulBibles

Established

We’ve neglected blogging this first month of our arrival in Cameroon. There was so much to be done! Our first two weeks, Kent was frequently in planning meetings before his supervisor left for a year of furlough. Then for about 2 weeks our attention turned to housing. We were initially in a company-owned apartment with rented furniture, dishes, etc. The challenge here was that we have some big eaters in our family and the tiny oven could bake about 6 muffins at a time. The pots they gave us could fit about 2 servings. One meal, I boiled up 4 different things in rotation with the same little pot! The advantages to this apartment were that the kids have friends very nearby and access 24/7 to a playground and soccer field.

We had still preferred to live with a bit more space out in the neighborhood nearby, closer to Cameroonian neighbors. Kent went on several long hikes up and down the hills looking at available homes and apartments with a realtor he met at a local church. The end result was that anything big enough and ready enough for us to live in would be in a high-rise apartment building. We were disappointed because we had really hoped for a garden and yard of our own. In our third week, we learned that this company-owned apartment could be ours long-term. We also had the first few coconuts drop on us, and found that the backyard is already fitted with a raised bed for vegetables. During a recent water shortage, we also discovered that this apartment has some of the best water in the area! It wasn’t exactly what we had dreamed of, but it seems God has chosen this apartment for us – at least at this time.

So we began to discuss what it would take to make this current apartment our home, and began to work toward that. Most of our belongings are still on a boat in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and we hope to be ready to receive them in October. We taxied 30 minutes downtown to locate the appliance-row of Indian-owned shops piled high with stoves, fridges and washing machines from Turkey, Italy, China, etc. and began to bargain. After 5 hours of bargaining, the prices were not coming down and we decided to leave. It took another day or two of bargaining before we had prices we could stomach (so expensive!) and Kent brought home a nice big stove we can actually use and a new LG washing machine! We have never owned a washing machine in Africa. I think in Kenya we borrowed one for a while.

Bit by bit we had needed items for cooking and cleaning. Bit by bit we could establish routines our kids are familiar with (like homemade pizzas and movies Friday night and coconut chocolate chip muffins Sunday mornings). A friend heard we had no tea pot and found one she didn’t need that we could use. A colleague heard we were looking for a cast iron pan and she happened to have one. Our HR Director spotted a stainless steel stock pot in the storage unit and grabbed it for us. Kent was given a furnished office and even has an official sign on the door! Pieces.

We have yet to conquer the ordering of furniture. We decided our bed would have to be first because it is super small. I am 5’8″ and my feet stick over the end. You can imagine Kent’s legs sticking off the end! Last week I mustered up the strength and went with a Cameroonian colleague to bargain for the making of a bed. There were about 5 kinds of wood they mentioned that are unfamiliar to me. After about 3 hours we had finally agreed on the type of wood and the simple design and the price. They were shocked over and over that I wanted it to sit higher off the floor. We’ll see in 2 weeks what we end up with. I asked to do the finish on it myself at home because often dust and dirt gets in the layers of finish at the workshop.

I have a pretty long list of all the furniture we need made, so we can give the rented items back to our office, and I was overwhelmed at it all yesterday. Kent and I had both had spiritual attack dreams. Mine was being chased and bitten over and over by a huge, long albino serpent trying to save my daughter. In my morning grogginess, I looked around the bedroom and envisioned how many pieces of furniture I had yet to bargain for, haul home, upholster and finish myself – just for one room! In Congo, it had taken me over a year to get it all done. And I half-prayed in hopelessness, “Lord, will we never be established here?”

I heard a message pop up on my phone.
I picked it up.
The verse-of-the-day on YouVersion popped up before I even put in my password:

“But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.” 2 Thessalonians 3:3

I almost didn’t believe my eyes. God had heard my despair, and He had answered immediately. He will establish us. It’s not on me alone. He sees all the language and culture changes we are dealing with, and He will establish us. When my energy is low after 10 days of mysterious fever. He will establish us. When our colleague’s little baby is struggling to breathe in the hospital and we need to help. He will establish us. When the ants are taking over the kitchen. When the drizzle deeps coming and the laundry won’t dry. He will establish us.

He reminds me why we are here. Kent has work that he loves. People groups get Bibles they can actually read and use. Our kids get a quality education. All of those things are happening. He will establish us and protect us. In retrospect, I can see Him working in the teapot that just shows up, the stock pot, the cast iron. He has been establishing us all this time. How quickly I doubt!

Financial Partnership Instructions

How do you become a financial partner in our Wycliffe ministry? Click the “Give” link.  But what does that mean? How does it work? In this post we will walk through step by step how to contribute to our financial needs online. The side bar of our website includes a “Give” link to our Wycliffe personal missionary page, (where you can also send us a note in case you lose our address). This page looks like this: Continue reading Financial Partnership Instructions

90%!

We just hit 90% of our Wycliffe budget! This is particularly encouraging, because for some time now I’ve had difficulty answering our most frequently asked question: “When are you leaving?”

I usually mumble something unintelligible (you might have noticed this), then try to say something about it depending in part on how quickly our finances get together. And the school year constraints: after this school year ends (June 1-ish) and before the RFIS school year starts (Aug 1). But as we get closer and closer to a full team of monthly financial partners, we feel more comfortable making more specific plans, trusting that God is moving in people to partner with us, and that the remaining 10% of our budget will be there soon.

CAVEAT: Wycliffe’s (good) rule that we cannot leave for our assignment without 100% of our budget covered still applies. We’re making these plans because we see God working and bringing people into partnership with us, and as an act of faith in His provision for this work. We believe it is strategic to move forward with more specific plans now, though if our Wycliffe budget is not fully covered in this time frame, we will have to delay our departure.

So our current plans are to vacate our house and hand it over to a property management company by June 15 —in order to have it rented out by July 1. To make that happen, we hope to empty our house by June 1, so we can spend the first couple weeks of June cleaning and painting more or less full-time. And after that, we’d like to take time to celebrate Father’s day and our 20th anniversary, before flying out in the second half of June (exact dates will depend on ticket availability and pricing).

If you are in North Texas and want to help us pack, clean, paint or run a garage sale, please do let us know! We hope to pack and clean as we can from now until June 1. 🙂

The Partnership Process

One cold, foggy February morning I rolled out of bed asking God how to pray. He told me to ask not for one, but TWO new financial partners to join our team today.
I’m stubborn. I refused. It was too much to ask.

The flu had knocked our family flat for over 2 weeks, and I was feeling like I hadn’t accomplished any “real work” in several days. There was no way two new families would start giving when I hadn’t written letters, had coffee dates or blogged anything new in more than a week!

Oh how gently our God teaches us! I knew the still small voice that replied to my stubborn refusal and feelings of unworthiness…

“Is building your team about your work?? Or is it about my work?”

I bit my tongue. He was right, of course. This whole raising-missionary-support thing was not about me, and what I could do. I reluctantly prayed God would add two new families to our team that day, in spite of our illness and inactivity – in spite of the fact that not one new household had joined our team in 3 weeks. I wish I could say all doubt was gone…

God seems to delight in showing his power in “impossible” situations. And despite my weak faith & stubborn doubts, through the fog of flu, we got not one, but two Email notices stating that a new gift had been made to our account! In both cases, they had given in the past week, but the Emails posted that same day.

Oh me of little faith.

I haven’t met an American who likes to talk about money, and we have met several young people with desire to serve overseas, who cannot stomach developing a partnership base for their expenses. Kent’s first assignment overseas was a volunteer position with all expenses paid. He was relieved not to bother with funding. Unfortunately, on his return to the US he was grieved that many friends had forgotten where he was & the work he was doing. Many of the friends who said they would be praying, had forgotten. This was not partnership, and it showed. Paul says, “Did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached God’s gospel to you free of charge?” 2 Cor 11:7

It is an obedience filled with faith in God that has us once again building our team to move overseas. It is equally an obedience filled with faith in God that has our partners investing in this work. It is almost a helpless feeling to give up control and throw your entire financial future on the mercy of God. (I grant that none of us actually have control over our financial futures, and all of us depend on the mercy of God. Maybe it is the illusion of control over money “we earned” that we are giving up.)

I learn so slowly! It is a lesson I have learned & relearned & relearned. Patiently, God is teaching us week by week to trust in HIM. He is our Provider. This is his work, his people, his plan, his timing, and for years to come we will be able to look back to this season of partnership development with a confidence that God is the One sending us out. Our own work could never accomplish it.

When our Wycliffe financial statement comes, I am always humbled and in awe of the amazing team of partners who give sacrificially, so we can go. We could never repay their generosity, and it isn’t really ours to repay anyway as it is given to God. Instead we pray for our partners’ families, for their churches, for their jobs, for their health. It is a strong connection. We long to catch up and visit in person whenever possible. We grieve when they grieve. We rejoice when they rejoice. This is partnership.

And I feel like I take all our partners with us to Africa. Their prayers, their gifts are traveling on the back of a motorcycle into the rainforest with Kent to develop an alphabet where people don’t have one. These prayers, these gifts give out that first alphabet chart that makes one of the poorest men on the planet light up saying, “My language is a REAL language?

These prayers, these gifts carry me into cross-cultural small group ministry where we invest in the local church – whatever weak state it may be in (who can wonder at that without access to God’s Word in a language that speaks clearly?) These prayers & gifts have been with me in times of great danger, in malaria, in rabies, in many many moves, and dark days; and equally in the victories and celebrations as God’s Truth gets translated and then published and then used to transform & heal the broken-hearted.

These are not my successes. They are made possible by a collaborative act of faith, of worship for a Mighty God.
These are his successes.  This is partnership.

Why I attend national conferences

One of the purposes of going to Cameroon this march is to attend the second “National Symposium on Cameroonian Languages”, at the University of Dschang, in Dschang, Cameroon. I assume it may not be obvious to you why this is a good thing, so I’ll lay out some of my thoughts on linguistics conferences here.

First of all, recall that I am a missionary linguist. That is, I am a missionary and a linguist, something like a missionary pilot is a missionary and a pilot, or like a missionary doctor is a missionary and a doctor. And I challenge people to see that I am not less of a missionary because I am a linguist, and I am not less a linguist because I am a missionary. One might even argue that these two vocations encourage and better each other —that I am a better linguist because I am a missionary, and that I am a better missionary (at least in some ways) because I am a linguist. I love that I get to analyze languages, serve minority (and therefore disadvantaged) peoples, and glorify God, all in one job. The work I do today helps people to read better, which helps their lives today. But it also gives them more powerful access to the scriptures, which provides “value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (1Tim 4:8b ESV)

So how does my work as a missionary linguist apply at linguistic conferences? I have been tempted in the past to look at conferences as a massive information dump, and I think some people do look at them that way. But one obvious (yet astounding) observation I’ve made about conferences is that they are full of people. And they’re run by people. People presenting, people listening, people asking and answering questions. So whatever else is true of linguistics conferences (local, national, or international), they are an occasion for lots of people with similar interests to get together.

Which doesn’t mean that I man a booth at the side of the food court reading “come to know Jesus through linguistics”. Rather, I get to practice what Jesus teaches me about getting along with people, among perhaps the most secular crowd of people I ever interact with. There are people who are ornry and disagreeable. There are people that don’t know yet how little they know about something. There are people who know more than I ever will about something, and who have no interest in relating to mere mortals as myself —though most people I meet at these conferences could be described as “people”, without stretching the imagination much. :-)

I was at a conference a few years ago, where I had a particular opportunity to show compassion to another person there. It was an international conference, but hosted at a particular university in an African country, so lots of people from that area were able to come. This means that there were people who came from other African countries (like me), people who came from America or Europe, and people who came to the conference without using a passport, all at the same event. At one talk, the speaker used some words in a way that was initially at least confusing, if not just plain wrong (about a fairly basic concept that most people at the conference would be expected to know). I was not alone in this opinion; others asked questions afterward, trying to get the guy to clarify what he meant. They went around a couple times, but eventually they gave up on him, with a response that might be translated “he’s nuts.” Time for questions was up, and we were on to the next speaker, and people cut their losses.

But other missionary linguists and I caught up with him later, and asked him to explain himself more privately. It turned out that he was using a particular theory of a particular linguist that had been published, but that almost no one had heard of. And apparently he was using those words correctly within that theory, but that wasn’t enough to help us understand him without this much longer conversation. In the end, we were able to explain to him that the theory he was using wasn’t known or used many others, so he should either use more standard terminology, or else explain very clearly that he was using these words differently.

But the more important message, to me, was that we cared enough about him as a person (and as a linguist) to follow up with him, and help him get his thinking straight. It cost more time and energy than writing him off when his presentation didn’t make sense (even after questions), but it was worth better understanding him, and helping him be better understood. This idea is part of a core goal of my work: mentorship. That is, I want to have alphabets and writing systems done, so people can read (see above!), but if I can do that, and at the same time train up others to do this work, then I multiply myself, and the work gets on better and faster.

So while an introvert like me is certainly tempted to take every 15 minute brake I get for myself, those breaks are often taken up by processing things with people I know, and getting to know others that I don’t. And often all that rubbing shoulders yields unexpected results.

At the last conference I went to (in the US), there was a team of linguists from Ghana (IIRC), who were trying to analyze a tonal language (what I do), but without any particular training or orientation. I was able to point out Tone Analysis for Field Linguists, by Keith L Snider (full disclosure: he was on my committee),  probably the most helpful and practical approach to doing tone analysis. And I was able to sit and do some actual acoustic analysis with them. That is, they got out their computers, and showed how they were looking at the speech stream in their recordings (as I described for consonants here). Because all those lines and differently shaded areas require interpretation, and because good interpretation requires experience, I was able to give them some pointers to help them see their data in a more helpful way. It took maybe an hour altogether, but it was time well spent to help someone get along better in this work, and to show friendship and solidarity as well, and that in Jesus’ name.

Anyway, because of the prejudice against Christian missionaries common in most linguistic circles I’ve been in, any time I can show people compassion, care, and honest friendship is a win, even if just a PR win (people know who I work for; it’s on my name tag). But it isn’t just people thinking better of Christian missionaries, or of the church generally. I also get to mix friendliness and compassion with excellent academics (well, I try anyway :-)). So every chance I have to help someone think more clearly, or present his ideas more clearly, or understand someone else’s ideas more clearly, is a chance for people at the conference to see that Christians worship the Truth (John 14:6).  Not that everyone receives this, of course: “But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.” (1Peter 4:15-16 ESV)

So regarding this upcoming conference, there are two kids of relationship to build. One is with my expatriate colleagues, other missionary linguists like myself. I know some of them a bit, but most not at all. So it will be good to interact with them through the conference, to enable better collaboration down the road. The other kind of relationship to build is with national linguists, whether they are involved in Bible translation movement or not. I anticipate my work in Cameroon including relationship with government and university entities; this work can only be helped by knowing and being known by Cameroonian linguists. And for those that are still in training, there is a great opportunity to come alongside them, and encourage them in ways that will facilitate more mentorship down the road.

Anyway, I look forward to this opportunity to glorify God by seeking truth and loving people in a way that I am particularly enabled to do, and in a way that will amplify our effectiveness in facilitating local Bible Translation movements throughout the central African basin.

Security Update

The following is a security update on Cameroon, from our colleagues there:

The situation in the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon remains tense and unpredictable. We continue to pray for our staff serving in these areas, those with family members there, and for staff that have had to relocate to other areas of the country.

Please pray for:

  • Those in positions of power in the government and military, especially President Paul Biya. Pray that they would govern with wisdom and righteousness.
  • Those living in the affected areas whose lives continue to be disrupted by the political situation. Pray that they will know the Lord as their “refuge and strength, and an ever-present help in time of trouble.”
  • Those who have had to leave their homes, that they will know the Lord’s concern for them and that he will provide for their physical needs.
  • Those who are grieving the loss of family and friends- that they will not be given over to anger or a desire for vengeance.
  • Christians in the country- pray that they will be a faithful witness, a comforting presence, and a shining light. Pray that the Lord will give them the right words to speak at the right time, and that they will be equipped by the Holy Spirit to minister to others around them.

We continue to pray for peace and justice to reign in Cameroon.

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)

On Message

As I talk with people about our Wycliffe ministry, I feel like I’m repeating myself a lot, which makes me feel something like a politician. So to make my speech more clearly above board (for my conscience, but also for anyone else who might ask), I thought it good to lay out my “message” here. As I consider this, I see that I have three basic things to say these days, to three different audiences:

To the World

Sin, death, and hell are real, as are righteousness, repentance, forgiveness, and heaven. Trust Jesus to get you from the first to the second. I’m astounded how much these things need to be said, but in this age of increasingly divisive politics, I think it helps to remind ourselves of what is truly important for all humanity, and to focus on that.

To the Church

God’s plan for us is that we would work through local churches to build and grow the universal Church, which is composed of everyone united by the blood of Jesus: all ethnic groups, languages, tribes. Spiritual maturity includes (at least) the desire to work together with all types of Christians to accomplish this mission, which is given to us by God. I’m amazed how often I hear a christian disparage either the local or universal church. If we care about the local fellowship of believers, we should be committed to it (tithe and all). And if we care about the fellowship in Christ, then whether someone is in Christ should be more important to us than all the many other things that divide people these days (e.g., socioeconomics, ethnicity, nationality, race), and we should take joy in finding Christian brothers and sisters unlike us in these other ways, and we should mourn with them when they mourn (e.g., watch/read international news, pray for churches in other places).

To our Friends

We believe our part of God’s mission is to help African people groups develop writing systems for their languages, such that they may have powerful Bible translations which will transform their cultures and churches into the likeness of Christ. While this has been our mission for some time, some of our friends are only recently hearing more about it, and it is as true now as ever. But more specifically:

We hope to take the next step in this mission by moving to Cameron in June, after a short reconnaissance trip in March. To do this, we need your help; we need your partnership in our Wycliffe ministry, through prayer, personal assistance and encouragement, and finances.

Maybe you’ve heard this from us already, face to face. If not, or if you’d like more information about this agenda, please just let us know. :-)