Tag Archives: Africa

James, class of 2020

Next month our eldest son James will graduate from Newman International Academy (a faith-based charter high school in Texas), which will include credits earned this senior year abroad at Rain Forest International School in Yaounde, Cameroon. He has accepted a full-tuition award at UT (the University of Texas at Austin) to begin his studies in higher mathematics – a passion of his for several years now. We are your typical bursting-with-pride parents of the Class of 2020.

The token ‘mask’ Senior Picture taken in quarantine in Yaounde, Cameroon

And yet, there is nothing typical about this. Given COVID-19, we may never sit in the stands to celebrate the diploma itself, but if we have the opportunity, I will be the bawling one in the back hiding behind sunglasses. James’ arrival in this world is a story of redemption and restoration (for another post), so it is fitting that his journey continued the theme. I will be the one to cry for my own loss of sharing daily life with him, but more than that I will cry tears of joy and gratitude for all that God has done to raise James over 18 moves in 5 countries.

James, at 9mos, playing on the porch in Chambery, France

Through the years of blogging, many of you have read along with our health journey taking care of James. I count it an immense, unspeakable privilege to be James’ Mom, but to say it was simple, easy or straightforward would be lying. I’m sure most parents feel in hindsight that parenting was more challenging and rewarding than they expected. With the added complexities of parenting through special needs, giftedness and traveling on mission across cultures and languages, it was different than most. The hardest, best task I’ve ever attempted.

Any parent of a smarty-pants kid understands the pressure and strain to help them run free with their gifts balanced with slowing them down long enough to bring all the tools they need into adulthood. Developing a strong work ethic in a kid who doesn’t have to work hard in school can be a challenge. Somewhere in the middle it occurred to us that all the eternal things we wanted to instill in our son were not found in academics. What mattered most to us was the character of the man we were raising. With fear and trembling, step by step, the Lord has walked this road with us and developed an amazing godly young man in James.

James, almost 3, feeding the pigs in Ibambi, DRCongo

He was inquisitive, bright and friendly early on, loving his little friends in our Cameroonian village. He spoke in 2-3 different languages at different points. He was adding and subtracting numbers about the time he began speaking. He wanted to give away his shoes at age 6 to a Kenyan boy who was barefoot at church. And for several years after the above picture was taken, we lost him to regression. He was struggling behind a foggy veil of illness. He had a long list of labels, each one leading us to new doctors and therapists. God took us back to our home in Congo, a place without any specialists or therapists, one of the most sickly places on earth (ebola? malaria?) and there He healed James. An unlikely restoration. On the GAPS healing protocol for 18 months, our inquisitive, friendly son re-emerged.

And his healing continued over the next couple years. The kid who once was told he could not catch a ball with two hands, was playing on the high school baseball team and catching fly balls. The kid who once was told he may not live independently, went off to summer camp and a college internship. The kid who refused to be touched, asked for hugs. The kid who had no relationship with his siblings developed a strong leadership and care for them (not everyday!). The kid with the photographic memory of Old Testament books, began to seek a personal relationship with God and found peace he desperately needed.

It is no coincidence that 22 is my favorite number, that James was born in 2002, that he graduates in 2020 as a person who loves numbers. So celebrate with us, all you friends and family far and wide! James graduates high school a year early with a 4.2 GPA, 7 AP classes and 1 college class under his belt, National Merit Commended Scholar, a Duke TiP Scholar, with a 35 ACT score, a perfect 800 on his SAT Math II, Top 5% of his class, after winning Chess Championships and many math/science competitions, with a full-tuition award to an amazing university…

But weep tears of gratitude with us too, in worship that God has worked redemption and restoration in James’ heart, soul and body, preparing him for good works to come!
God still moves mountains.
God still accomplishes the impossible.
He still sets the captives free.

“If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast.” -Psalm 139:9-10 NIV

Ships, Patience, and Long Longing

Several of our dear Texas friends helped us catalog our shipment to move here to Cameroon, carefully tucking and packing things knowing the great journey they would travel. That was in late May and early June. Several asked, “When will this arrive in Africa?” I would reply, “Hopefully by Christmas.” Their shock was evident. We don’t have a culture that breeds patience. It is foreign.

When we arrived in Yaoundé July 8, our boxes had already been trucked across Texas up to North Carolina, where the JAARS office was packing them into wooden crates to be loaded into a sea freight container. When we sat in Orientation classes July 24, we were excited to hear the shipment had left NC and was due into port on this side of the Atlantic as early as September 12! That sounded too good to be true, so I mentally added a month. If it could arrive before our birthdays at the end of October, THAT would be a great birthday! They added a comment that it’s important to get shipping containers through customs well before the holiday rush.

In September, we began to really start longing in earnest for our belongings. Joel needs his own scientific calculator for math class. It’s coming on the shipment. Anna needs a longer skirt for Chapel day. We have one on the shipment. We need a board game other than a deck of cards to play when the power goes out! I need my cooking pots & pans, the sewing machine, the piano, the mixer, etc… Multiple times per day I think of something I have – but don’t have here – and don’t want to buy again for 1 month’s use (IF I could find it in a store!) I always thought of myself as a friend to the simple life, fond of minimalism, but feeding and caring for 3 teenagers for months on end is not so simple out of a few suitcases.

In October, we learned that the shipment had been delayed 3-4 weeks, but was almost to Cameroon. And in November, we learned of it’s safe arrival in port! But it can take 2 weeks to process customs paperwork. Then last week we learned that initial paperwork was rejected. No idea when it will actually make it here…

Why is it so hard not to have a sewing machine? A Halloween costume? Wrapping paper? These are American things that our African brothers and sisters live without. I find myself longing. I have been longing now for a very long time. Even when it may be broken or ruined when it all arrives! I have been pitiful enough to read those packing lists for fun…

The longing in my heart grows so strong for these physical things. And I know the Scriptures say, “Do not store up for yourselves earthly treasure, where moths and rust destroy or thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasure in heaven… for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

Have I put hope & joy and comfort on earthly things that perish, spoil and fade?

This morning in my study of the apostle Peter I read the phrase: “…when God waited patiently for Noah to build the ark.” I ever thought about God waiting patiently. How long was that? No one knows exactly, but Biblical scholars all estimate somewhere between 40-100 years. Years! God’s patience is beyond my imagination. I’m having a hard time waiting for even 6 months…

As I marveled at his patience, and my lack of it, He spoke,

“Do you long for Me, like you long for this shipment?”


Do I long for Jesus’ arrival like I long for my ship’s arrival?

Do I long for heaven as my true Home like I long for these cement walls to feel like home?

Transition is hard.

It is rootless wandering.

Challenging me to build on the Rock of Ages.

The joy of every longing heart. ?

– – – – – – – – – –

What are you longing for? Is it eternal? Or can it perish, spoil or fade?

Let us set our “minds on things above, not on earthly things.”
Colossians 3:2


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!

Francophone Africa

African countries with French as a national or dominant language

As you can see, there are actually lots of countries in Africa which have French as an official language as one sort or another —together they are called francophone Africa. When we started working in DR Congo (DRC), we had to first spend time learning French, because French is the language of government and higher education in the DRC.

Francophone Africa reaches from the DRC in central Africa, to a large chunk of West Africa, as can be seen in the map above. But it isn’t just the geography of this area that is impressive; francophone Africa also includes about half of the remaining Bible translation needs in Africa (details at wycliffe.net).

While English speaking Nigeria has an astounding 344 languages with no scripture whatsoever, every other non-francophone language has less than 50. On the other hand, the needs are much larger in francophone countries for a variety of reasons: Cameroon has 139, DR Congo has 115, Chad has 74, and CAR has 53 (stats as of Oct 1, 2017).

In terms of the availability of workers, another reality of life in francophone Africa is that one cannot simply go there and work in English (unlike in countries like Kenya or Uganda, where English is an official language). This means more training, preparation and finances, resulting in fewer people ready to do the work. It also means French-speaking translators and linguists have fewer resource and reference materials accessible to the local community.

As we have been thinking and praying about our next assignment with Wycliffe, we have decided to continue to focus on work in francophone Africa. We have the training in French, and we have experience working with Africans under a francophone government. Given that we are ready to meet what remains a real need, we’ll keep at the work in francophone Africa.

So as you think about francophone Africa, pray that the people who live there would have the resources (economically, personally, spiritually, culturally, linguistically) to initiate and sustain local Bible Translation movements, and that we and others like us could do our part to support them.