In Cameroon, we long to see all people flourish using their languages in community. This video summarizes why we do what we do.
Wycliffe USA recently made a new YouTube video, “Reaching for the Stars: Expediting Bible Translation Through Starlink Satellite Internet,” that shares the hope of how SpaceX’s Starlink satellite can help to remove the biggest roadblock to Bible translation: lack of internet access.
This struggle is real for our work in Cameroon and we have tried many different ideas and are hopeful that Starlink will connect Cameroon to reliable and affordable internet soon. Please continue to pray for Brian and his team to have creative ideas to help the internet situation here and now.
During the “summer” vacation from school, we spent a little time at the beach and loved it even though it is the coldest and cloudiest time of year for us. We planned to do nothing for a few days – just sit and relax. In reality, we were busy and active but with a different rhythm. Swimming, running, volleyball, fishing, crab-hunting, and building in the sand were just a few of the beach activities. There were also lots of board games, conversations, shared meals, and long walks. The tropical rain forest also provided plenty of bird-watching and monkey-watching and the boys saw a sloth when they went a little inland. Despite some bad jellyfish stings, we all enjoyed the time in nature and away from the city. A change of pace and scenery provided a necessary refreshment and renewal.
Some of our friends recently departed Cameroon for a time of home assignment. I volunteered to drive them to the airport, so I knew that they wanted to leave at 5:30pm to head for the airport. I was also told that someone would be bringing an important delivery to my office some time today and I should bring it back to them. This was their passports.
I ended up delivering their passports to them at 4:30pm, one hour ahead of their departure for an international flight that evening.
I realized I would have not been able to handle the pressure of that tight timing.
When I handed him the package, I made a comment about how calm they were despite the late arrival of their passports, he said “We have giant faith, of course. Or, maybe, just no choice but to wait.”
And isn’t that what we really need?
We have no choice but to wait for what God has in store for us.
We have no choice but to wait for what is beyond our control.
You might know that I really like languages and studying the structures and sounds that make them unique. You might also be aware that I love the way that cultures and language intersect. So, sociolinguistics is one of my favorite topics to talk about and study. In iDELTA this year, I am also so glad that I was able to teach, as part of a great team, in the introductory course of sociolinguistics. Some of the lessons that I taught focused on language and how it interacts with identity and culture.
For homework, the students shared about their own languages and communities. Reading about the taboos and euphemismes from over 40 different language groups and how they view and name colors in different ways is super interesting. Many indigineous languages in Africa only have a few colors that they actually name: white, black, and red, for instance. Other colors are comparisons, like “the color of the sky”, or “the color of the grass”, or “the color of mangos”.
The different ways of naming things can have an impact on Bible translation and especially on understanding of the Word of God by a community. This is one of the reasons why it is so special to be part of iDELTA and helping train those who are working in Bible translation and engaging their communities.
We have all heard and experienced the challenges of learning new things, especially when we are already established in old ways. In the last year or so, we have all been learning lots of new ways to work and function and it has not all been easy or fun. But, I really think that some of it has been a real gift, to open new doors and reach more people with the Good News!
Being part of iDELTA francophone, an undergraduate-level training program (in French) for Bible translation, literacy, Scripture engagment, media and language program management workers in West and Central Africa, is a highlight for me each year. Normally, we would have eight weeks together in Yaounde to learn and grow together in this holistic formation. Having delayed the training last year, we couldn’t delay anymore and so we went online. I especially found that the first online session has been an amazing way to grow and reach more people, who can go out and pass on their learning to even more people.
We started with three days of orientation so that everyone would be able to use the learning platform, Moodle, as well as Zoom, and also work out any issues with connectivity. Then, we jumped into an intensive three weeks of a full-time synchronous online Sociolinguistics course. For this first session, there were over 50 of us online from 15 countries! All in all, it was a huge success. There were definitely some electricity and internet struggles and lots of muddling through Moodle, but everyone grew in many ways and learned a lot, including the staff!
A few of the students in the DRC traveled for the first time to a big city, Kinshasa, where they used a computer for the first time. It is hard to put into words all that they accomplished and learned in less than a month, but they presented a final research project about language use in their community using Powerpoint on Zoom!
Singing, dancing, exercicing, praying, and sharing together, even at a distance, makes iDELTA really special. Each of the students has an amazing story of God’s care for them and being able to learn and grow together is a gift to me. As the registrar for the course, I get to handle the logistics as well as interact with the students and their supervisors throughout the three years of training. I love the mutual learning that happens as we share parts of our lives and invite others in. It is a privilege and joy to be able to invest in others, but even more so to be able to learn new things from them and their life experiences.
The past year or so has been nothing like what anyone expected. Of course, this includes my plans for graduate school. I had originally planned to do the first year of MA studies in Linguistics at Wayne State in 2019-2020 and then I would defer the second year until 2024, when we might be back in the USA for a longer period of time again. The first surprise was moving online. Another very welcome surprise was that I was able to continue my studies for this entire year despite being on the other side of the world. So, it has been a wonderful surpise that I was able to complete all of the coursework for my graduate studies in two years, while being able to continue doing other work as well. I have also been pleasantly surprised by how much I have enjoyed going back to school. The relationships that I have developped with other students and with my professors have been an extra special treat.
It has also been surprising how well received the work of SIL has been in the very secular and public academic world. I have been humbled and surprised as I have been deepening my knowledge and skills at the way that the work I have the privilege to be part of in Cameroon has been highlighted. One example is found in this article at the Wayne State Linguistics Program :
Several of the students from the previous cycle of i-DELTA, a training for literacy, translation, and moblization specialists across West and Central Africa, have become the teachers for others. Three of the students who graduated from the program in 2018 will be teaching in i-DELTA this year as we meet online, starting in May.
Many others have been working productively and training others where they are. One of these individuals, Elie, was featured in a blog post by Wycliffe UK recently. Since receiving his training, Elie has been passing on what he learned to others, teaching literacy courses and training more literacy teachers in various minority language groups, even in the face of many obstacles and dangers. You can read more here: https://www.wycliffe.org.uk/stories/we-fled/.
When we go grocery shopping here in town, I’m always struck by what seems to be food from all parts of the world. It’s true that most of the packaged food here comes from France, and there are also locally made products on the shelves. However, it does appear to me that, in some way, Cameroon is kind of like an outlet store for the rest of the world’s food.
I’ve found pasta written mostly in Greek, oatmeal from the UAE, breakfast cereal from Germany, Pringles intended for sale in the Middle East (ironically made in the USA). Many of these products are dual labeled in English and Arabic, or another combination of languages.
I don’t know if my assumptions are true, but I do know that finding “Alexandrian Liver” flavored Kellogg’s instant noodles from Egypt, which I’ve never seen before in this same store — and may never see again, makes me wonder how they ended up here.
One of the nice things about living overseas is the deep connection that happens with others. We are grateful for the friendships that we have with other fellow “expats” who understand a lot of the struggles and joys that we experience without explanation. We are also grateful for the friendships that we have with “nationals” who share with us the struggles and joys that we experience despite the need for lots of explanation.
Our children attend school with our colleagues’ children. We live next to those that we work with. The church we attend is in the neighborhood and so many of the same people are also part of our local church family. Spending so much time with the people means that we truly live in community. This can be a very good thing and during times of pandemic, it can be a bit of a liability.
One member of the community has tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, we are in a period of two weeks of lockdown and our two schools will be entirely online.
Please pray with us:
– For our community, that the spread of the virus will not go any farther
– For the person who is ill and recovering in isolation
– For our neighborhood, churches, and friends, that they will not be affected by this
– For good communication with health officials and doctors
– That we will make wise decisions
We are trusting the Lord, who is our protector and healer.