How Do You Create an Alphabet?

It’s more than just picking out letters.

The Swo community in Cameroon is located not too far away from Yaoundé, about 3-4 hours east of the capital where we are based. Half of the trip is on the national highway, and then the rest of the journey is on poor roads, which are sometimes not passable in the rainy season.

Shannon first started working with this language community back in 2018 on her first field visit. Since then, she visited four of the approximately thirty villages where this language is primarily spoken. She assisted in leading workshops aimed at helping the community understand the sounds and structures of their language and how those are different from French (or other languages). She used the information from the workshops and from meetings with community members in Yaoundé to analyze the sounds and recently presented an orthography guide to the language community with recommendations for an alphabet and rules for writing words and sentences in Swo. While there is still much work to be done, getting to this point is the culmination of a lot of work over many years and a significant milestone in the language development journey of the Swo community.

While Shannon was in Yaoundé in January, she was able to meet with several members of the community to discuss this proposed alphabet. They are still working through understanding some of the recommendations and making sure that the everyone is able to read and write consistently. There will be lots of testing still to come in each of the villages and with different sectors of society.

For now, there are a few community members working with literacy specialists to make a transitional workbook for those who can already read and write in French. The next steps for this year include testing, training teachers, creating lots of reading materials (including a writer’s workshop), and then a first textbook (primer) for teaching reading and writing in Swo, which will, of course, be followed up with more testing. Shannon’s main work with this community is completed, and the literacy specialists will be the primary support for the next year or two.

Last week, Swo elites as well as various members of the Swo community worked together to understand the needs and options related to preserving and developing their language and culture. One of the main questions was if they would like to move forward with an oral or a written New Testament or both. Some Swo speakers recently learned a few Bible stories and have been sharing them at local gatherings. This is an exciting time in the Swo community! Please pray for wisdom and unity among the leaders and for all the Swo people to know and worship God.

The black dot represents the Swo community.

God is on the move

There are lots of ways that God is working around the world, and looking at the 2022 annual report from Wycliffe USA highlights some of them. We hope that you will enjoy the video overview or reading through the stories of ways that God did above and beyond in the last year. It makes us excited to think about what He is doing this year as well!


The motto of much of our work in Cameroon is “Nous sommes ensemble” which means We are together. This is true in the everyday moments and our work, but also in the big celebrations and difficult struggles of life. Last year, we attended several weddings for our friends and colleagues and it is a big deal. It is important to celebrate together. Even more important is visiting a friend or their family member in the hospital or grieving with them in the loss of a loved one. Funerals can last several days and include many nights of sitting with the family members. We can show that we are together by simply being with others. Being present is a powerful gift – in times of rejoicing and mourning.

Fall tree

This fall, I am reminded of the beauty and difficulty of change and loss. Our family recently went through a group lamenting session to process some of the changes and losses we have experienced. Looking at the Psalms, we see that God welcomes all of our emotions and questions. We also see that we can come to Him always. We don’t know how much time it will take to process all of our feelings and we are all at different places, but we can trust God to be with us no matter what. We are very thankful that we are not alone on our journey, even with ups and downs. We choose to believe that this isn’t the end of the story. With God, there is always hope, new life. Spring will come.

From a distance

As most people around the world have experienced over the past few years, working remotely has some distinct pros and cons. We are really thankful that we are able to continue our work from a distance, but there are a few challenges as well.

The family in Detroit, MI.

One of the main advantages of working from the USA is the difference in internet capabilities and consistency. We have ben able to do some tasks ten times as quickly which allows us to spend more time on other tasks that are needing attention. Another big plus is the quiet, at least for me (Shannon). I work really well in a quiet environment and while I love the varied noises that come with living in an urban rainforest and actually miss them, the relative quiet of a suburban home is conducive to a productive work day. Also, there are many conveniences available to make non-working life more productive which means that we have more time to devote to working.

Remote office

On the other hand, maintaining a healthy work-life balance is a real struggle when working remotely. And while some tasks are done more efficiently, meetings with colleagues and collecting language data can take a lot more time from a distance. We definitely miss being able to chat at coffee break or pop in to ask a quick question before lunch.

When you have two homes, the hardest part of being at a distance is always being away from some of your loved ones. The flip side of that is that even from a distance, we are able to connect with family and friends, but it is makes the enjoyment of being together in person even greaterǃ

Highlights of iDELTA AC2

It is hard to capture the joy of seeing eager workers grow in their knowledge, understanding and skills. I think one of the best parts of my work in Cameroon is the francophone iDELTA training course. This course is a three-year cycle that provides practical education and mentoring for workers in Bible translation, literacy, Scripture engagement and media. These workers come from all over West and Central Africa to participate in the intensive 8-week sessions. They are dedicated and motivated. They are not always happy with the way things go and one of my jobs is to handle their complaints. That is not the part I enjoy. Rather, I love teaching and seeing them understand the concepts and apply them to their language group, to their situation. It is even more amazing to hear their stories of returning home and using what they have learned to help their communities and pass it on to others.

Here are a few photos of the work and the play that happened in the first session together in this cycle, but the second year.

We are already planning for the third session and looking forward to seeing these eager students againǃ

Summer Fun

The first half of 2022 was one of the hardest yet for our family, but we are now into the second half and it is off to a great start. One of the best parts of this summer is that we are all together again after various trips and travels that led to us being apart more than we were together. We were able to all make it to a family wedding in Michigan at the end of June, which was followed by a family reunion over the Independence Day weekend and another family reunion the following weekend. Lots of family traveled to visit us as well and we greatly benefitted from others’ previously planned trips. It was an unexpected gift to see so many of our family and friends this summer.

We have also started on the adventure of exploring colleges and universities for our teenagers. Even though we can hardly believe it, Eila is a senior and will probably attend a school in the USA while the rest of us are living on the other side of the world. Trying to figure out what she wants to do with the rest of her life is a daunting challenge, one that she has been ardently avoiding until this summer.

While there is little that can compete with the fun of seeing friends and family after a long absence, the teenagers in our family have been enjoying eating as much food as they can. They are also looking forward to lots of sports to wrap up the summer fun.

Trying new things

In December, we went to Douala. The financial capital, the port city, the largest city in Cameroon. We were eager to try the many restaurants and shops that were often advertized to us on social media, but that we a little farther away than we hoped for a night out… (about a 6 hour drive!)

We enjoyed lots of ice cream and fine dining.

We saw a movie and went to an indoor shopping mall, complete with an escalator, the first of its type in this country. And directly across from this giant, modern building, we saw cows grazing.

Of course, we spent some time just relaxing as well.

We also watched the port and have been tracking the giant ships that were docked while we were there.

Soccer in the Village

(This was originally written just a few weeks after the trip, but was never published.) Recently, as in about four years ago, I (Eila) went on a sports evangelism trip with my soccer team. This was not an everyday opportunity considering that middle-schoolers don’t usually end up on the higher level team that gets to go and it only happens with the girls’ team every other year. To say the least, I was very excited to have this chance. I saw it as a way to improve spiritually and also in my communication skills.

The plan was to arrive at a village not far off from the town where we’d be staying and immediately get out of the van and play a soccer game. After being cooped up for at least four hours, none of us were really in the best shape, but we managed to beat the other girls 3-0. It was a fun game played on a field surrounded by a gorgeous bamboo forest. After that game, we drove into the town of Lolodorf and situated ourselves at the small house we were staying at.

The next day was devoted to hosting a tournament for the legion of girls at the Lolodorf soccer club. We set up activities to help them warm up and learn important soccer skills. The 13 of us there were split into groups of 3 or 4 to govern the activities and coach one of 4 teams of girls. we coached and advised our team as best as we could, with some groups only have limited French, to compete in a tournament against the other teams. In the ridiculous heat and sunshine, the day seemed much longer than it really was, but everyone had a ton of fun. In the end the team I was coaching scored zero goals and won zero games, but had some of the best passes and teamwork I’d seen from any of the others. They were worn out and beat up by the end but still enjoyed the celebration of the winning team.

The drama evangelism team was supposed to join us and perform a few skits for the competitors but arrived too late to do so. At the end of the tournament, the MVP was chosen from the winning team.

Welcome home hugs!