Bayam Sellam

There’s a Cameroonian at the place where I work who used to work in the Computer Department. We grab lunch with every now and then. It’s nice to have someone else to connect with and he teaches me about Cameroonian culture and I get some additional French practice.

A few weeks ago, he asked me to help him improve his English — so we’ve been working through a little English learning book. In this book is a story about a market. We talked about the story and he would ask me what certain words meant. One that was confusing to him was  “hawker”.

“What’s a hawker?” he asked (we had this conversation in French)

“Someone who sells in a market and calls out to you ‘Come! I have things here’.”

“Oh! Like a buy-em sell-em”.

Then I had to stop him and ask him about these “Buy-em Sell-ems”.

He said, “They are the ladies who sit by the site of the road and lay out a mat with their goods. A buy-em sell-em”.

It turns out the French word here in Cameroon is “les Bayam-Sellam”.

A couple days later Shannon was reading a news site and found that word “les Bayam-Sellam”. She didn’t understand what it was referring to until she read it phonetically.

Verbs and Death

Verb Workshop

Shannon recently returned from another trip to the village where she helped with a verb workshop.  In Bantu languages, generally, verbs are known to be able to add suffixes or prefixes or even infixes for different tenses as well as for many other uses.  So, this verb workshop was an attempt to start the process of learning how verbs act and how they can change in this language.  We were able to learn a lot through the participatory workshop and the participants seemed to really grasp the richness and diversity of their language.  It was a productive workshop that also had to be very efficient, as it was cut short by one day due to the funeral of one of the main leaders of the community.  This sad situation was also an occasion for learning, as Shannon attended the wake and burial service.

Final preparations underway, the display and reception area are set up.

Grieving is  often a deeply personal experience in American culture, but in Cameroon, the entire community wails and weeps together.  They stay up throughout the night together; sitting, talking, and even dancing and music are prominent among the activities.  Of course, there is a lot of food too.

Singing and weeping and comforting each other

Laid to rest

I was really struck by the normalcy and injustice of death throughout this trip.  Death is both so wrong, especially when it takes a young person and so normal, in that everyone experiences it.  I appreciated the expressions of grief and the community striving together to make sense of what doesn’t make sense.  And even more, I’m grateful for the eternal life and hope that belong to all who believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and the chance to share that hope with others.

I Corinthians 15:50-57 NIV

50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 

One Year

We arrived in Cameroon just over one year ago.  In this time, we have learned so much and yet understand so little about our new home.

We welcomed a new family, arriving from French language study in Albertville, on their first day in Yaoundé and our one year anniversary.  What a gift to be able to see the difference that a year can make! The overwhelming sense of “how do I…?” especially with regard to feeding our family is gone, but a desire for deep(er) connections lingers.

New schools and new friends

Mixing new and old – studying or watching videos??

Potluck, Cameroonian style, with baton de manioc, chicken, fish, salads, and plantains

Seeing some of the natural beauty and learning from others about it

Joining the expat/missions community and playing lots of sports

Singing and dancing with our Cameroonian family

Re-learning old skills in a new context takes time… Driving in Yaounde is not for the timid.

My mom always said that you need two years for really getting to know someone, and I would argue that is likely true for a place as well.  In our first year, we have just scratched the surface.  In this coming year, maybe we will learn about some of the hidden treasures and see a bit more of what we couldn’t see before.

Teachers Needed!

Calling all educators! Wycliffe Bible Translators is in need of 200 teachers and administrators in the next one to two years so that the work of Bible translation can move forward in many countries. These overseas missionaries will need a team of​ ​prayer and financial partners​ ​as they fulfill t​​​heir Wycliffe role.
If you’d like to learn more about the work and needs, please join us for our Explore Wycliffe: Live webinar on Sunday, July 22, from 7-8 p.m. ET.  Ask us for the Zoom URL to join the meeting.
To learn more about the event, contact ​Daysi Russell, associate director of recruitment leads, at daysi_russell at wycliffe dot org. Please invite other educators!

Family Fun

We just got back to Cameroon after a wonderful (and exhausting) couple of weeks visiting family and friends in North America.  We had such an amazing trip and wish we could’ve seen more of our family and friends and enjoyed even more time together.  Though saying goodbye again was difficult, we are glad to be back to our other home in Yaounde and to the work that brought us all this way.

Shannon’s grandma, mom, sister, niece, and Eila enjoyed their pedicures.

Playing with cousins and their new puppy, Luna

Serious game playing with cousins, aunt, uncles, grandma and great-grandma on the Yee side

Janes family fun on Lake Huron

So much food, so good.

The boys enjoyed their buddies

Brian’s mom beat us all in putt putt

Brian’s sister and family welcomed us with open arms.

Eila was thrilled to spend time with two lifelong friends.

Branch News

Sometimes, we might talk about the branch or how things are at our branch, which basically is what we call our local expression of our missions organization.  We are so glad to be part of the Cameroon branch, which is one of the largest (local branches) in the world.  The great international schools that the kids attend is just one of the many perks.

Missiological Reflection

Brian led worship several times during the branch gatherings.

Every year, there is also Branch Conference.  Some of the highlights included times of prayer following reports about work going on throughout the Central African Region and the sharing from one of our ministry partners, Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ Cameroon).  It was so encouraging to hear about the collaboration of these two organizations as well as local churches and the impact that together we are having.  For example, each visitor to the  Prime Minister’s office is questioned about their mother tongue and then offered a download of either the Jesus Film or the Bible in that language, if available, and because they are with this high government official, they accept and use it (whether want it or not.) This is the influence of reaching those in positions of power and of the body of Christ working together.

The bigger your headdress, the more important you are. Shannon is with the new General Director and the out-going branch governing board chairperson; both are good friends.

It was a packed room for the formal ceremony with lots of media coverage.

This year the week-long Branch Conference concluded with the installation of a new General Director.  For the first time ever, our branch director is a woman.  Somehow, I (Shannon) ended up on the organizing committee for the big public relations event for the transition of the directorship.  That means that we planned and pulled off the official ceremony with all the government, university and ministry representatives and partners here in Cameroon along with the party that followed.  I learned so much about protocol and culture from the planning and from the event itself, and praise God, it was a huge success.  The best part was seeing so many people work together to pull this off and to see God answer so many prayers so specifically and clearly.  Just one of those answered prayers related to the weather, where a torrential storm passed by and not a drop of rain or gust of wind blew where we were despite flooding and damage all around us.

These two amazing ladies welcomed me to the team and taught me so much in the process.

Greentech

Over the past few months, I’ve had the privilege of being able to teach computers to the 3/4 and 5/6 grades at our boys’ school. We used the curriculum from “Hour of Code” (code.org) where the kids have to solve a series of puzzles by putting “blocks” that represent computer instructions in the correct order to make shapes, instruct a farmer how to harvest crops, or even navigate around in Minecraft.

It’s a fun program and the kids seemed to enjoy it a lot.  At the end of the class they were able to design a little project that they worked on over the course of a few sessions and then demonstrated their work to the other groups.

Here’s one photo of the kids in action:

International Fun

Cinco de mayo was no time for siesta, but time to fiesta.  We planned a fun little party to celebrate the defeat of the French forces in Pueblo and also to eat lots of good Mexican food with a wide variety of international families (but unfortunately not even one hispanic person in the mix.)  The boys made signs to let folks know about the fun to come.  Eila made a piñata. We all worked to make food and some decorations.  There was lots of music and dancing, and, of course, football (soccer).

Eila and the middle schoolers, especially her friend, Kate, helped to make decorations and activities for the party.

La Macarena, anyone?

 

 

Josiah tested out some of the props he worked on.

We had a little help at the photo booth.

Breaking open the cactus piñata, made by Eila and friends

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then, on the occasion of the royal wedding (Prince Harry and Meghan Markle), our British neighbor and friend, hosted a lovely garden party.  It was a royal afternoon tea party to which the ladies wore hats and the gents sported bowties.  Again, of course, there was music and food and even a little badminton.  This was also the date we celebrated Brian’s birth and so it was extra special.

From the Eye of Thaddeus

Thaddeus has once said he wanted to be a ‘tophographer’. That was many years ago, but recently he has enjoyed taking the camera around our compound, or on a walk in the neighborhood, and taking pictures.

Recently we took a walk around the neighborhood (quartier) and Thaddeus brought along the camera.  Here are pictures of the walk as he saw them:

And why are there two pictures of chickens?  Well, there are a lot of chickens. I mean a lot. So if there were going to be two pictures of something, it would be chickens.

Chinese Face

It’s interesting to me that I get noticed as being Chinese much more in Yaoundé than in the US. Well, maybe it’s really just that people here in Cameroon will point out the observation while in the US people won’t say anything. I will from time to time hear someone yell “Nihao” or “Chinois!” (Chinese person!) out of a car window, or as I walk by.

(As an aside, I suppose it’s no different than hearing “Les Blanc” (white person) on the street.)

I had a funny encounter the the other day, as I was buying a sandwich in a little shop by the side of the road. Two Cameroonians walked in while I was waiting and one said (the conversation was originally in French), “Oh, Nihao”. I said, “Well, I am American”. This didn’t compute initially so the friend said, “He said he’s American”. Then the first person said, “Oh, well you have a Chinese face”.

I guess I have a Chinese face.