Houseless

One of the things that recently caught my mind was the fact that since we sold our house in Michigan we’ve never really known where we were going to live. We’ve never been homeless. But at times we’ve felt houseless.

Soon after that we were leaving for France to study and learn language skills. We had a rough idea of where we were living — but then a week before we departed we found out there was an off-campus apartment that had become available. It was less expensive and might be a good fit for our family.

That’s all we knew. We said yes.

When we were ready to arrive in Cameroon, we were told we would be living in #3. I didn’t realize immediately, but we ended up in #22. #22 was another family’s place — so whenever they returned we would have to move.

Their return was always “soon”. So we expected to have to leave at any time. We waited, but they continued to be delayed.

Now we’re heading back to Michigan and don’t have an idea of where we’ll be living long term.

God has been faithful so far and we will find a place.

Once we return to Cameroon, we don’t have a place.

Yet.

But we will.

It’s been hard to never get a chance to settle, or feel that sure about what’s to come.

But I think that’s the lesson here.

We aren’t at home here. We are aliens.

Someday we will find a lasting home.

Maps and Directions

Sometimes it is hard to find what I’m looking for, even when I have a map. But it is especially hard for me when it is someplace new and there is no address to enter into Google. When we first arrived in Yaounde, we wondered how anyone knew where they were, as there were no visible streets signs. But it turns out those street signs, though shiny and clearly visible now, are not how we get around. Mostly, it seems navigation is by neighborhood or intersection and common landmarks. It may be that the common landmark is no longer in the place it once was and that can be tricky for newcomers. But, not to worry, people are happy to help point you in the general direction.

New street sign

I came across an article recently which resonated with me as this practice of drawing your address is typical in Cameroon as well. Drawing a simple map is also very common on death/funeral announcements, except that those maps generally cover huge areas and specify only one intersection in the village and the direction of the major city. It seems like the best practice is to ask for directions, in which case, the answer will surely be a helpful hand pointing “It’s just right over there.”

I’m coming. On est en route…

I’m on my way. This is what we hear often from those who are expected to be somewhere but are not there yet. They are certainly coming and are on their way. They may have already left and might actually be on the road very close. Or, they might still be at their previous location, thinking about heading out soon, but not really planning to arrive for a while. Either way, they are coming and will make it to the destination eventually. There is no need to worry, but just to be ready and be patient.

Sometimes things take a little longer than expected, even when you are “en route”!

I was recently reminded that I could see the return of Jesus with this same mentality. Jesus is certainly coming and will eventually arrive, but only God knows when. We should be ready for His arrival at any time, but not be too put off it if is taking longer than we expect.

Under Construction

One of the things that we see a lot in the developing world is development. Someone explained that if they have money, they will be obliged to spend it on their family and friends to provide for their needs and wants and all the money will get used up, but if they spend all their cash on building, they can honestly say that they don’t have any money. So, we see a lot of houses and buildings at various stages of construction. When someone has money to build a wall or two, they do it. And then the project will sit and wait until the funds for the next part are available, which can take years.

Cathedral at Mt Febe, under construction
Cathedral at Mt Febe, under construction

Shannon was recently able to take a weekend by herself to go to a monastery and one of the places that she went to pray during that weekend, was next to the partially constructed cathedral. During the many hours spent in that location, she was really struck by the “under construction” nature of people as well. We are all in various stages of being built and while some of us are looking pretty good from the outside, but there is still a lot of work to do inside. But for all of us, God is not finished with us yet.

It Takes a Village to Bake a Cake

It turns out for us, this is true. Last month, Shannon wanted to bake a cake for a party for a friend and she eventually found out the preference was for German Chocolate Cake. No problem.

German Chocolate Cake (with three layers)

Except that we didn’t have cake pans to make a round cake. No problem there either. When you can only bring what you can fit in a few suitcases — you often are missing certain household items: especially those things you don’t use every day. As is customary, Shannon posted a WhatsApp question to find out which of our neighbors had cake pans.

Well, in this case, no family had more than one cake pan of the same size so the cake was baked using pans from three separate households.

Together, we all have a complete kitchen.

Together, we get by each day.

This experience reminds of the Cameroonian proverb: “One hand cannot tie a bundle”. Or another one: Si tu manges seul, tu bagarre seul. “If you eat alone, you struggle alone.”

Sometimes I miss having cake pans, or a pasta maker, or other items I left behind in a basement back in Michigan. But I think what I’ve found here in the community around us is pretty good.

Everyone knows it’s hard enough just to get by on your own. They know that going back to the store after you just spent hours driving through town because you forgot something is too much. So you ask, and people understand.

What you see depends on what you’re looking at

I enjoy running, especially in the neighborhood. Other people don’t enjoy running out on the roads for various reasons, one of which is that there could be things, like trash or mud, in the way. But for me, running on the road (even by the dumpster or passing the roadside dump) is a regular reminder that when I look at my feet and focus on what is ugly or stinky or in the way, I might be missing out. When I look up, I see amazing clouds and beautiful flowers, and I am reassured that this world is more than just what my feet and hands touch, so much more. The bigger perspective is a gift that I get each time I step outside and look up at God rather than down at this broken world.

Your Language Matters

Yesterday, the 21st of February, was International Mother Language Day. 2019 has also been declared the Year of Indigenous Languages by the United Nations.

In Cameroon, we are part of a Wycliffe partner organization, SIL International, which works to develop indigenous languages all over the world. They have put together a small web site talking about International Mother Language Day

Included in this site is a short video that include many people saying in their mother language “My Language Matters”. Please watch it.

As a mother-tongue speaker of a language of wide communication, English, it’s difficult to understand how it feels to speak a lesser-known language as your mother tongue. One thing that has been clear to me, however, after arriving in Cameroon is that people react to their mother tongue: visibly and emotionally.

Just the other day I was at a celebration, and I witnessed a man come across a small booklet in his mother tongue, a Cameroonian language. The excitement was clear on his face as he began reading it. His connection with the words of his own language could be felt. His joy was pouring out in his words.

His language matters.

Your language matters.

We all matter to God.

Mit mond az?

Title is “What does that say?” in Hungarian.

A few weeks ago a colleague brought his computer in for assistance. This itself is normal. I’m on help desk Tuesday morning, and even outside of that people often come into the office looking for assistance. It’s always nice to keep get someone back working again, if they’re having trouble.

However, after he left I quickly figured out that this computer was in Hungarian. I usually only see computers in English or French. Hmm. This job turned out to be a little more difficult than usual. Luckily, I didn’t have to do too much, and the location of options on Windows is pretty standard. And Google Translate allowed me to know (approximately) what word I was looking for a times.

This was another challenge I never thought I’d run into (I feel like I’ve said that more than once).

Pray without ceasing

Starting out 2019, we took a day to pray with other members of the Bible Translation work here in Yaounde and I was struck by the importance of praying all the time and for all kinds of things.  One of the things that we did during the day was write down big ideas that we are asking God to do this year.  I had a long list of really big things that I want to see God do this year and I know He will do even more than I can imagine!

The Finish Line is a prayer guide book from Wycliffe Bible Translators that might be useful to you in praying for the various people groups around the world.  This booklet focuses on praying for the projects that are close to the end, where the wait is almost over for these peoples to have God’s Word in their heart language.

You might also like to check out a new devotional called “At His Table” where you’ll see how you’ve been invited to participate in the kingdom of heaven here on earth.  You can download it free of charge.

 

i-DELTA AC3 2018

It might seem that i-DELTA has been mentioned a lot lately (in our newsletters and on Facebook), but that is only because it has been. This training program is sort of all consuming for its two-month duration.  The students and staff work long days, eating meals together and even taking breaks together, for volleyball or canoeing, but mostly learning together.

The daily routine starts with a time of prayer and Bible study together, usually with song. Then, all of the students take a 2-hour class together, while teachers of other courses prepare lessons, grade or collaborate.  At 10:30am, there is a short coffee break before the next 2-hour class, when they break into 3 separate courses according to their track.  There is a lunch break, but classes resume in the afternoon and finish at 4:30pm.  By this time, everyone is ready to get up and move, so there is usually a friendly volleyball game.  The students will have at least 3-4 hours of homework each night, so after dinner, they will get back to studying.

This year was Shannon’s first year serving as the course registrar, which includes handling all of the logistics for the course, but also helping keep the students on track and content.  With so many different cultures represented, it is not always a straightforward task. The 22 students who have survived this far come from 8 different countries and represent 17 different language groups.  Despite the many differences, we all become one big i-DELTA family after 8 weeks together.

This Academic Cycle (AC3) is the third and final year in the three year course which awards students the equivalent of a first year university degree in Translation, Literacy or Scripture Engagement.  They are mostly already involved in various community Scripture projects, so what they learn is immediately able to be applied to their work, and for many of them, they will also be training others and passing on the knowledge that they have acquired through i-DELTA as well.