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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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).
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.
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.
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.
I (Shannon) just returned from my second village trip to work with the same community on nouns. Just as French, Italian and Spanish have some similarities as they are related languages, this language also has similarities with related languages. This is extremely helpful in having an idea of how the grammar of the language might work. However, even closely related languages are not the same and sometimes there are interesting surprises and variations in the way each language is structured and used.
During this workshop, the community make big steps forward in understanding and using their new orthography (alphabet). They are helping and correcting each other in their writing and seem to fully understand why and how to use the various letters, which are very different from the French system that they have been used to. They also made a preliminary decision on the marking of tones. This language uses tones to distinguish meaning and also for various grammatical functions (ex. a mark of association, like a tree in the forest is denoted only by a high tone), so it is an important part of the language and of the writing system. Our data at this point shows a fairly even distribution of the high vs low tone across all parts of the language and the community seemed to favor marking the low tone. Up to this point, we’ve been marking all tones and this step of marking only one tone will help to simplify the writing and reading for the future.
In addition, the noun phrase system was explored and much data gathered for further analysis. At the end of the week, the participants made charts summarizing all of the information that was gathered about their noun system and the way in which nouns work in their language. It was good review for everyone and they corrected a few errors which shows that they are really understanding it now.
After finalizing the alphabet chart, groups worked on making sentences for each letter which can be made into a primer for literacy classes in the future. We were also able to collect a few fairytales and many proverbs from the older men in the community. They were eager to share and this information is extremely helpful in making sure that future translation works are clear, natural, and accurate.
With the arrival of the new R66 helicopter here in Cameroon, there have been reasons to celebrate. And over Easter weekend, there was a celebration at the aviation hangar with a BBQ, a presentation and dedication of the helicopter, and of course, helicopter rides.
Brian, Eila, Josiah, and Thaddeus went on the ride. Shannon stayed on the ground, like she prefers.
The helicopter ride gave us a chance to see Yaoundé from the air. It’s a big, sprawling city. Unfortunately the air was very hazy while we were flying, so visibility was poor, but we could see much of the city right below us.
Brian also assisted with the BBQ portion of the event, which involved an entire pig and an entire sheep. They were slowly roasted overnight underground wrapped in banana leaves and foil. Another one of the dads here orchestrated the whole pig roast. It was fun to be able to help out.
It was a memorable day.
We hope you had a happy Easter celebration.
We just want to send a very quick update and give thanks to you for your prayers and to God for His great power!
Shannon has been pain free for almost two weeks now. She experienced immediate relief and full healing as a small group prayed over her. Praise God.
Schedules returned to normal this week after spring break. Also, Shannon is away this week at the village to continue with the next linguistics workshop with the same language community.
Please pray for Shannon’s workshop in the village this week to go well and also for continued good health for the whole family.
It has been a little while since our last update, and maybe you are wondering how Shannon’s village trip went. The short answer is: wonderfully! You can read more details and see a few pictures here.
One of the downsides to life in a tropical climate is the large insect population, mosquitos especially. While Shannon was in the village, she got quite a few bug bites, one of which likely resulted in a virus called chikungunya (similar to dengue fever or the zika virus). Shortly after returning from her travels, she got a high fever, itchy rash, headache, etc. that lasted about a week. Then, the second stage of the virus set in with severe arthritis pain in her joints. She is doing better each day and is easing back into resuming her regular workload, but still from home.
Brian continues to work on the final details of the new payroll system, as well as preparing a new website for the Cameroon branch. The computer services department is very busy, and Brian is glad to have great colleagues. He and the kids have been playing soccer in their free time as well as doing some extra cooking and cleaning.
We really want to thank you for partnering with us in this work; we are so encouraged when we think about the people that are participating with us in Bible translation here in Cameroon!
Please thank God for:
- protecting and caring for us each day,
- deepening friendships (Shannon’s sickness has opened the door for others to come alongside and love on us.)
- safety in travel and the productive noun workshop in February.
Thank you for praying. We would appreciate your prayers for:
- good health: in addition to Shannon’s virus, stomach troubles and bug bites are a common problem for all of us, and Eila has been having some bad headaches lately;
- continued development of friendships and adjustments to cultural differences.