Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Coming Together

There's a lot going on right now and it's good to see this whole thing coming together.  For the past couple of years, it's been a lot of steps always leading to something rather far off.  And now we're about to see the biggest of steps and it's pretty near.  In our last newsletter,  we asked for prayer over lots of things that needed to happen and in the last month, lots of things have.  Here's a summary of our recent victories:

We finished our exams and we're done with French language school.  Exams at our school are by far the most stressful thing we've dealt with in many years.  Monday, June 30, we had our closing ceremony and received our diplomas followed by a small party at our school.

Chris, with his French professors, Cécile and Anne-Marie

Lori, with her French professors, Anne and Catherine
We have started selling off some items.  My bike was the first thing to be sold.  We have two other bikes spoken for already, so that's a huge load off of us.

We have already received our Cameroonian visas.  The paperwork and fees were sent a couple of weeks ago on a Wednesday and we received them back three days later!  We were blown away by the promptness and seamless service from the Cameroonian consulate here in France that handled our visas.

We finalized (read: paid for) our plane tickets.  We got a pretty decent deal and the flight times are as ideal as one can get for flying into Yaoundé.  We'll be leaving from Geneva on the 29th of July and flying through Brussels on our way to Yaoundé.

Some faithful friends from Lynchburg delivered our items for shipment to Cameroon to the JAARS facility in North Carolina about ten days ago.  This was weighing on our minds, worrying about how we would engineer the delivery from afar, but we are so thankful for those that took care of this for us, as well as for a fellow missionary at the JAARS center who met them and helped get it all taken care of.  We had all of this stuff stored in Lori's mom's basement in Virginia during this past year.  It will be included in a container to be sent to Cameroon in late July.  We hope to see our things in about two months after that.  In the shipment are several kitchen items, some school materials for the kids, my tools, some audio recording gear and some of the kids special items (lego, stuffed animals, etc.).  And going above and beyond, the faithful delivery drivers also added some mosquito nets to our shipment.  Amazing!

Some of our things headed for Cameroon.
Thanks Kelly!

We sold our car, "The Silver Bullet."  It was a bit of a process, having to get it inspected (required here before a sale can happen), having some work done on it, dealing with government paperwork (this part reminds us that language learning will never end…).  We had a ton of fun with that car, but it's nice to have the sale wrapped up before we leave.  The Silver Bullet will spend the next year in the Paris area with one of my colleagues, a fellow missionary who will be interning at a church of African expatriates while taking some theology classes in French before heading to Ivory Coast in a year.

Our faithful friend that climbed
 many a mountain this year.
Some other faithful friends arranged for us to have some things shipped to Cameroon.  One family facilitated the shipment of a crockpot and a clildren's Sunday School class from Grace 210 EPC of Hampstead, NC is going to send some school supplies for our kids.  Also amazing!

I've arranged the closing of our bank account, internet/phone account, and mobile phones.  This is hard because of having to do this over the phone (talking on the telephone and understanding jokes are the two hardest things in your second language).  But we're getting through it.

What remains is to arrange our transportation to the airport for the 29th of July, sell a few more things, and pack.  But in the meantime, we're grateful for answered prayer in seeing many things checked off of our list before parting.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

T is for Translation

Again it has been way too long since our last post…this whole life in language school thing is difficult. Nonetheless, I want to share with you all the concept of Translation, which is at the heart of what Wycliffe does.

I wish it was possible to sum up in a simple blog post the extent of what I have learned in the past few years of being with Wycliffe, especially about the process of translation.  But that's not possible, so understand that, like a picture of the Grand Canyon, this post or the links at the end WILL NOT do justice to the complexity of the process.

One might think translation is pretty easy - substitute this word for that and voila - it's done.  But anyone that has become fluent in more than one language will tell you that it's not that simple.  I understood this and believed it intellectually before French study, but now, it's so much more real.  Some things simply don't translate easily and require a circuitous explanation.

Additionally, language is not just a different set of words.  It also encompasses a logic set/progression and contains within itself a different mode of thought - even in languages that are relatively closely related…like French and English.  My teacher is constantly reminding us, "Don't try to use English logic to form this phrase.  You have to think in French," or something like that.  Or in frustrating moments, there's the reminder that, "There's not really a word or phrase to express that in French."  Or even more frustratingly, there are things in French that don't exist in English…and one must absorb the nuance of meaning through time and experience.  Now imagine negotiating the relationship between two languages of totally different cultures.

Translators have a tough road of training that certainly includes a lot of linguistic study.  When Lori and I were at the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics in Dallas, we were amazed at the difficulty of the courses for the linguists.  They study phonetics (sounds of a language), grammar (how grammar systems function and the possibilities therein), semantics (discovering the different levels of meaning in language), research methods and so much more.

But know that their job is not just mechanical.  To know a language and to understand the nuance well, it is essential to involve oneself in the culture.  This facilitates understanding the logic contained in a language.

We were also amazed at how smart the linguistic community at GIAL was.  Absolutely brilliant, these people.  To do what they do, with so many variables to consider in how languages might operate, demands creativity, patience, and frankly, a truly gifted intellect.  I can assure you that people out in the field doing Bible translation are very, very smart and do a job with so many facets that most of us would become frustrated before we started.

In conclusion, as I re-read this, it so doesn't capture the depth of what I'd like to express.  I knew it wouldn't, but it's still frustrating.  As such, I'm putting links to two videos that Wycliffe has put together.  One of them gets at the complexities of translation itself.  The other tries to develop the whole process from initial contact with a language to final product and all of the other activities that accompany Bible translation in order to make it more effective for a community.  Enjoy.

Translating for Understanding:

The Road to Transformation:

Friday, September 6, 2013 for Scripture Use

Way back when...before life got a bit complicated...we were doing the ABCs of Wycliffe to relay information about the work that our organization does.  With the events of getting moved overseas and beginning language school, that got put on hold.  Well today, we will resume where we left off: at the letter S.

Scripture use is one of the three main components of what Wycliffe does in a language community.  The other components are translation and literacy.  Those two are pretty self-explanatory.  Scripture use is not too tough of a concept either.  The main idea of scripture use is to get the translated word used and in people's hands.  It's an impeccable monument of achievement to have a Bible translated into each language.  But that product becoming just another book on a shelf or a museum piece would represent failure.  It needs to be used.  How that happens is where the fun begins - and where we get involved.

After myriads of language research has been done and some scripture has been translated, the ideal situation is for scripture use teams to start moving.  One of the primary methods used is to establish Bible studies in a language community.  And in languages where literacy is not widespread, this has to be done creatively.  One of the coolest things being done is to establish listening groups.  Working with ministries such as Faith Comes by Hearing, the newly translated scripture can be recorded with native speakers reading and the recorded material placed onto digital devices called Proclaimers.  Proclaimers are pretty neat devices that can be solar powered, so that those in the most remote areas can use them easily.  Leaders in the villages will establish meeting times for groups in the community to listen together and discuss what they've heard - not so different from Bible studies that you may be used to, but done with oral delivery.

A listening group in Malawi gathered around the Proclaimer
Another manifestation of Scripture use is in the publication of educational materials for a language community.  There is a nice five minute news byte on this web-page about a scripture use project in Bundibugyo, Uganda that is getting AIDS education materials into the hands of those in need in western Uganda.  After the linguistic research has been done and translation of scripture can be done, there's no reason to stop at translating the Bible.  Other materials that address community needs can be translated as well.  And scripture use staff can facilitate the understanding of the information and help get it distributed.

Congalese musicians recording newly composed scripture songs this summer at a workshop led by some of our colleagues
Our work in EthnoArts will largely come under the umbrella of scripture use as well.  What we will attempt to do is facilitate the nexus of scripture with the expressive forms (music, dance, drama, etc.) of a culture.  It may come through workshops to spur the creation of new materials infused with scripture, or by finding local artists and asking them to create music or art and hopefully begin a trend of creativity.  The end result is that people will be able to use scripture in the most personal of ways - through the trappings of their culture.  And they will also be able to express their worship of God in the most personal way they know.  That's our goal and it's a significant part of the scripture use puzzle.

For further perusal, visit this page with some videos that answer FAQs about scripture use.

Friday, August 9, 2013

We're in France!

I must sincerely apologize for the time between posts on this blog.  The perfectionist part of me (Chris) took charge for awhile and it prevented me from posting.  How, you ask?  So much has happened in the last few months.  And every few days, it seemed, was another step.  I kept thinking, "After x happens I'll do another blog post."  And the next day it was x+1 and so on until the backlog was overwhelming.

So, I'll encapsulate the last couple of months.  And I'll try to be less of a perfectionist in the future...but no guaranties!

Since our last post...we got our visa situation sorted out.  We were a confusing case for the French government - and that's no slight on the French.  Why in the world would a married couple in their 40's with five college degrees between them and 3 children aged 7, 9 & 11 request student visas?  It turned out that our case was forwarded from the embassy in Washington to Paris for a decision.  In the end, we were steered from student visas and issued Long Stay visas - good for one year of residence in France that is extendable.  It cost less up front, but more in the long-run.  Anyway, the bottom line is that it all was sorted out and we arrived two and a half weeks before our language study began in July.  God certainly was providing for us in the process and any speed bumps that showed up were smoothed out quickly and without much stress.

We got to meet Teri Centner, a sorority sister of Lori's, in Washington, DC for dinner after our appointment at the
French Embassy.
Our last couple of weeks in Virginia were very busy.  The kids had some swim meets and we visited with a lot of folks for "one last time" before we left.  We missed some folks when we ran out of time and that was a bummer.  There was also one last hurrah hosted by the Hintons and Crowes with loads of food and fun.  Good times!

Our travel to France...was great.  We got a great deal on tickets complete with extra baggage allowance.  We flew from Washington, DC to London to Geneva, Switzerland on June 18/19.  We were met in Geneva by a very kind van driver that drove us across the border into France and on to Albertville.  We stayed for two and a half weeks in a temporary apartment until our regular apartment was ready.  In that time we were able to arrange our banking, utilities, and cover some school requirements for the kids (immunization records, etc.) as well as getting acquainted with the town.

With our heap of luggage outside Dulles Airport in Washington, DC
We moved into our regular residence on July 6th.  We have a 3 bedroom flat above a Kabob shop.  The shop has been closed since a couple days after we moved in.  We're not sure if he closed for Ramadan or for the month of August (a large percentage of businesses and such close for most of August while much of the country vacations) or both or if he went out of business.  We'll find out in September!

The outside of our building.  We're on the third floor.
We did our first language school session in July.  The intensive session was focused mostly on oral aspects of the language.  The regular school sessions focus a bit more on grammar and written work.  We were happy with our teacher and had a good start to our language learning.

Noah, Kristin, and Ben in front of the Olympic torch in Albertville.  Albertville hosted the 1992 Winter Olympics.  The Olympic park is about a half mile from our home.
We've adjusted pretty well to living in Albertville.  It is a nice little town with lots of beauty, but more charm - kind of like our hometown of Lynchburg.  We've had a blast taking in local culture by exploring a bit into some small villages around Savoie.

Visiting the medieval city of Conflans, which is located on a hill overlooking Albertville.
Savoie is the "department" that we live in.  Departments in France are more or less the size of a larger than average county in the US.  And Savoie, coupled with the department to the north, Haute Savoie, has an interesting history.  This link provides a good synopsis of the history of Savoie in English, although the website is pretty old.  Wikipedia also has a good history as well as an entry with details of the local economy, demographics and such.  Savoie was a sovereign nation until the French came along and tried to integrate it into their sphere of influence during the 1500's.  It then was tossed about between Italy and France for a time before finally becoming French territory in the 1860's.  The culture here has a very independent flair to it that reminds me of the type of identity assertion that Texas has within the US.  It's been fun to explore the cultural nuance of this area while also absorbing French culture in general.
The 19th stage of the Tour de France passed right in front of our apartment on July 19th.  We had our entire class over that afternoon to have lunch and watch the cyclists pass by.
This is from our visit to the town of Beaufort, which is up in the mountains just east of Albertville.
We are currently on break from school until September 3rd.  During this time, we are doing a lot of independent study, meeting with our language helpers, taking some time to explore on the weekends, taking a week-long family vacation, having some placement testing for the kids schooling, and helping the new students arriving over the next couple of weeks to get settled.

Until next time...Soli Deo Gloria.

This was the view from Noah and Ben's room at dusk one evening in July.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Chapter Next

I’ve always loved those little milestones in life: crossing another state line on a long road trip; chapters in a book; progressing years in school.  They always seem to carry a confirmation of progress but with a fresh start on something new.  We’ve hit such a milestone in the last few weeks and it’s great to be moving to the next phase.

The milestone is that we have essentially completed our partnership phase.  We have reached our goal of monthly financial backing and can now proceed with our move overseas.  We do still have a small amount of outgoing costs to cover, but knowing how the Lord has provided thus far, we have no doubts or fears of swift completion in that area as well.

Doing the work of financial partnership has been interesting to say the least.  It has taught us a lot about our reliance on God for our very breath among all other provision.  It has taught us a lot about commitment and faithfulness.  The stories that we’d love to share about this are many. 

I can’t say that we’ve seen “everything” there is to see, but it’s been an eye-opening experience, to say the least.  We’ve visited churches that have a long and rich history of missionary affiliation.  We’ve visited some to whom our endeavor is new.  We’ve enjoyed showing the possibilities of engaging the artistic and cultural life of a community to be a carrier of the gospel message.  We’ve enjoyed encouraging people to see worship as a global endeavor and arousing curiosity of what brothers and sisters in Christ do to express their worship half-a-world away.

Many times, our methods and results didn’t line up as we expected.  We enjoyed our most prosperous times while speaking mostly to grade school kids about African arts or geography.  We saw the words of some dedicated advocates pay greater dividends than our own polished presentations.  I can say it was fun most of the time and always interesting.

The next things on our plate include obtaining visas and selling a few things that we didn’t get rid of before our move to Dallas.  After we have the visas in hand, travel plans will be made and the countdown will be on.  Looking forward to it!

Passports are for the visas.

I need those red areas at the top of my application to become green!  When they are all green, we can schedule our interview at the consulate in Washington, DC.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter 2013

40 Days is over  ~  Easter is HERE!  He is Risen!

Nothing about our 40 day push turned out as we thought it would, but everything is right!

We planned on blogging often during the 40 days.
We planned on being busy.
We planned on traveling and speaking in a lot of churches and small groups.

We did not plan on stomach bugs, food poisoning, a kidney stone, our planned language school closing, or my Dad passing on to glory on March 3rd.

We did not plan on taking a few weeks to stop, wait, and listen, to receive guests and sympathy, and to pour over paperwork.  And then we resumed at full-speed even though we were exhausted from receiving guests and from grief.

We did not plan for those things, but God did.
He knew everything.

And it's the little things that get me.
The moment when my dad died was the only time my brother, sister, mom and I were in the room alone with Daddy.
I held his hand.
His last food was a pepermint patty.  Remember taste the sensation?  And we could laugh.  We needed that.
And then there was the friend who just happened to be close by that weekend, who could come for the funeral; the cousin who was able to come from far away; the scarf from a Texas friend to keep giving me hugs.

Even through the ups and downs during the 40 days, and without being able to work as hard as we planned, God provided new partners and supplied our needs.
We have now made it to 94% of our monthly support.  We're so close!
We have a new language school destination in Albertville, France.  We are applying for visas and plan to depart as soon as possible.
The coming weeks are full of appointments and sharing about our EthnoArts work in Cameroon.  It's coming together after all.

Thank you for praying and keeping us busy.  Keep praying!

Enjoy these photos from "Talents Unmasked," an event held last week at our church as a fundraiser for the Grant family and us.

Sisters Heidi & Melissa perform a piano duet

Dave shredding out a solo

Kristin, with Andrea, her piano teacher

Ben performing a solo

The fabulous Garber sisters

Peter performing a blues rendition of Blessed Assurance

Noah sliding an oreo from his forehead to his mouth.  He was victorious!

Sunset over the Peaks of Otter this week

Friday, March 1, 2013

Day 17: What a weird couple of weeks...and finally back in the saddle

Well, this 40 days thing was supposed to be a time of being very busy and blogging a lot about what we were doing every couple of days.  Then craziness broke loose on our family!  It's been quite a ride for the past two weeks, but finally we're getting back in rhythm.

I (Chris) have no intention of fishing for sympathy, but I thought it best to relay the events of the last couple of weeks to show how we can rely on God's faithfulness through all kinds of things.

When last we checked in, we were at the JAARS center in Waxhaw, NC.  On Friday morning, Feb. 15th, Lori and I were privileged to take a class in off-road driving.  We had about an hour and a half in the classroom discussing some techniques as well as equipment choices.  Then we got in a well-equipped Isuzu Trooper and hit the course.  We had to traverse some steep hill-climbs, some big mudpuddles, lots of deep-rutted trails, narrow passages between trees, and even a staircase of boulders. We had a blast!  Lori especially loved moments such as when she asked the instructor about "that fallen tree across the trail."  "Just go right over it," was the instructor's advice.  She was quite wary, but enjoyed the adrenaline rush after going over it!  You can view a very shaky video that we shot during our driving here.

With our instructor after dirtying up the Trooper a bit.
Later that afternoon, things went bad.  We went up to Charlotte to visit some cousins of mine, and illness set in for myself.  That evening we ended up back at our room in Waxhaw with me running a fever and having stomach-flu symptoms.  After a night's sleep, I felt better and we proceeded with our plans to travel to Cross Hill, SC (our hosts had already been through the flu, so they welcomed us just the same!).

In Cross Hill, I was set to preach the Sunday (Feb. 17th) morning service at Liberty Springs Presbyterian Church.  We had a great time visiting with Lori's distant cousin and her family while we were there.  Sunday morning went well sharing with this small but enthusiastic congregation.  Immediately after lunch, we bolted for the coast and our evening engagement with Grace EPC in Hampstead, NC.  It was a long drive, the kids were very cooperative, and we made it thirty minutes before we were to begin presenting!  That evening went well as Lori shared with an adult small-group and Chris presented to the youth group.

The next morning (Monday, the 18th), as we were finishing breakfast and getting set to head to Newport News, VA, Noah came down with the stomach bug.  So, we changed our plans and decided to head straight home to Lynchburg.  We did stop at the beach and played for a short while before lunch (Noah claimed to feel well and enjoyed the beach too).

The kids playing in the sand at North Topsail Beach, NC
When we arrived home, I was feeling sick again, and this time we suspect something amiss with the lunch we ate.  It took a couple of days before I was ready to eat much, and by Wednesday (the 20th) I was feeling better.  Then that afternoon...the kidney stone.  All I have to say is it was very, very painful.  It was a roller coaster ride of pain medication and constant drinking of water, gatorade and apple juice for three solid days.  Finally, on Sunday morning, when I had gone by the hospital to get a refill of pain medication from the ER doctor, I passed the kidney stone!  It took a couple of days to feel back to normal, but we're good to go now.

For the sake of perspective, we staged two of the kids' lego mini-figures fighting over the kidney stone.  It's amazing how something so small can cause so much pain!
Last night (the 28th), we had our first presentation since all of the sickness and such.  It felt good to be back doing what we're supposed to do.  I know the sickness all had a purpose.  It quite likely was God's way of showing me that I can become too task oriented and forget about the most important things along the way.  The roadblocks were a reminder to keep important things where they belong.

So we're down to just over 20 days left in our 40 day push.  It's hard not to think that the last couple of weeks was time lost.  But I have to remind myself that it was time used to get/keep my head and heart right.