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.
Eila has started to really enjoy baking and is making all kinds of treats for any and every occasion. With both of the ladies in our home having birthdays within two weeks of each other, we often enjoy lots of good eating at the start of the year. This year has been even better than normal. Here are just two of the recent delicious goodies that have been enjoyed:
With tomorrow being Youth Day in Cameroon, Eila has decided to make fried chicken on her day off of school. Can’t wait!
As we look ahead at the coming year, we are wondering what God will do to advance His Kingdom around the world. Maybe you are too. This month, our teens had final exams and started the second semester of the school year. In August, all three of our children plan to attend the same school, Rain Forest International School. RFIS provides a quality 7th-12th grade education that aims to prepare students for the next stage of life, for many that includes attending universities in America, Canada, or Europe. The school serves missionary families as well as Cameroonian students.
Brian is the current chairperson of the RFIS Board, and it has become increasingly clear that the situation at the school is dire. Due to retirements and other factors, approximately 75% of the current teaching staff will be gone in three years. RFIS desperately needs new teachers and staff to join now. It takes time to apply to a sending agency, to build a team of prayer and financial partners, and to prepare for life in Cameroon. We need people to begin this journey now or in the very near future.
This is why we need you. RFIS is looking for people with a passion to transform lives who possess specific skills and abilities. Secondary teachers in every discipline (including math, science, English, history, art, music, drama, computers, etc.), a finance manager, a librarian, an IT network specialist, a student counselor, an academic counselor, learning support and ELL specialists, and a director of facilities and technical services are all desperately needed. Do you have any of these skills? Please ask God if he wants you to join His work at RFIS. Do you know someone who has one of these skills? Please talk to them about RFIS or share this post with them. And, if you know of elementary teachers or librarians who would like to serve missionary families in Cameroon, please let us know. There are also needs at the Greenhouse for first and second grade, music, art, and PE teachers. Comment for more info or visit rfis.org.
We are trusting God to provide for our children’s educational needs and help us continue to provide IT support for Bible translation and linguistics training and research for minority language groups in Cameroon. Interestingly, God’s plans have always involved God’s people joining him in His work.
What are you trusting God for in 2021? How will you join in God’s work this year?