Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Out and About, part 1

It’s been an intense few months for us.  We’ve been traveling a lot in the last couple of months and it has both yielded fruit and taken a toll on us.  The first thing I should say is that we’ve visited a lot of churches and small groups in the last several weeks and it has brought us sooooo close to meeting our financial needs for an on-time return to Cameroon in July.  Pray that the last bits fall in to place soon!

In addition to presenting our ministry and raising funds, there has been some interesting work mixed in.  So allow me a few blog entries over the next few weeks to recount the highlights.

The last entry I made a couple months ago was about my seven weeks in Dallas, which were fabulous for learning but hard on family.  I want to fill you in on a couple of things that happened in the aftermath of my classes in Dallas, both very good.

First, and this actually happened during my classes in Dallas, I was contacted about taking on a new (additional) role in Cameroon with our organization.  I was asked to become the Scripture Engagement Coordinator.  I was a bit surprised and replied initially that I thought a few others were more qualified than myself.  But it was explained to me that they are full up with other responsibilities and can’t take on this role.  So it fell to me.

As I understand it, the job will demand some of my time, but not more than probably one-fourth.  I am still going to be doing my regular work in Ethnoarts in addition to the new role.  The types of things to oversee are the budgeting of a few different programs that are already going on in Cameroon.  These are generally led by very experienced people, so it should be fairly smooth.

The second cool thing I did immediately after my classes finished was to pay a visit to the home base of some of our ministry partners on my way home from Dallas.  I visited the ministry called Faith Comes By Hearing.  I decided to go because in my new role, I will be overseeing some programs that we have been collaborating on with FCBH for several years.

Faith Comes By Hearing has a unique ministry in producing the Bible in audio format.  They have teams that travel around the world to make recordings when a translation is finished, folks at their home office in the US that edit the recordings, and others that produce and ship the finished listening devices.  The ingenious and durable Proclaimer is the most common means by which FCBH has delivered audio Bibles over the years.  Lori and I first saw one of these demonstrated before we joined Wycliffe and were struck by how ingenious, yet simple this device was.  Proclaimers are sturdy black boxes that look like a radio, but have firmware installed of the Bible in audio of a particular language.  The Proclaimer is powered either by plugging into a wall outlet, by an attached solar panel, or a hand crank if being used in remote areas.

Proclaimers being prepared for shipment (above)
Proclaimers also come in smaller sizes (below)

After Proclaimers are shipped by FCBH, the intent is to organize listening groups in villages throughout particular language groups.  That’s where we come in.  We find trustworthy people in the communities to lead these listening groups and subsequent Bible studies.  We have these groups up and running in several language communities throughout Cameroon and intend to add a few more as translations are finished.
I received a thorough demonstration of how the recording is edited, including the addition of sound effects and music.

My colleagues at FCBH are so professional and were wonderful to visit with.  It was great to meet them before assuming the duty of these programs.  The face to face should make our working relationships much better.  I’m so grateful for their hospitality and look forward to extending our partnership as the word spreads further!




Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Retooled

I [Chris] just returned from 7 weeks in Texas.  It was 7 busy weeks of class, 7 weeks of missing my family, but 7 wonderful weeks of being with my arts colleagues.

I was at the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics, where many Wycliffe and other missionaries are trained before heading to the field.  This is the same place that we lived during 2012, before heading overseas.

My purpose this time was to take a couple of classes that will give me more tools to use when we return to Cameroon in July.  The first class was four and a half weeks and was entitled Scripture Engagement Strategies.  I would have liked to have taken this class before going to Cameroon the first time, but we didn’t have the time to fit it in.  I especially enjoyed this class because the lead instructor was the guy who literally wrote the book on the subject – one of them anyway.  Dr. Dye has a ton of experience and has been the leader in this field worldwide for decades.  It was great to learn straight from the horse’s mouth, as they say.

Loved seeing beautiful Texas sunsets over the nearby lake
The second class was a two-week intensive entitled Arts & Trauma Healing.  The course was designed to give us the training for conducting trauma healing seminars that our mission has done for years, but with the twist of using the arts as therapeutic intervention.  It was a lot to do within two weeks and I was glad to finish the class and the accompanying projects.  This course will have application in Africa with the many trauma healing workshops that happen in our area.  I don’t know how soon I’ll start with facilitating trauma healing in our area, but I’m now equipped and ready.

One other retooling that happened while I was in Dallas was completely by accident.  I learned a lot about the practice of Bible storytelling.  Bible teaching through orality is becoming a big deal and I was fortunate to meet a couple of the key people that are masters of this technique within our mission.  I was fortunate enough to get some basic training so that I can start to experiment with storying in our area and hopefully generate some momentum so that more folks can hear the gospel.  It was an accidental meeting and I’m so glad to have learned what I did.

I so enjoyed being in Dallas with many of my arts colleagues, but it’s always better to be home.  In another entry, I’ll share some other things that happened during my time in Dallas and afterwards.  Peace!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Life’s hard…everywhere

I [Chris] have had a really interesting question lobbed at me a couple of times recently.  The question, though worded differently each time, is basically something like this:  is it harder or easier to live without so many modern conveniences when you're in Cameroon?  The question points to an obvious implicit dichotomy.  On one side, you have life in Cameroon without ubiquitous technology but with many things that have to be done manually – things that we take for granted here in the US.  On the other, you have life with every conceivable modern convenience which then leads to having so much more to do/worry about.

My answer has essentially been, “It’s harder everywhere.”  That doesn’t make much sense, although it’s the truest answer I can give.

Honestly, it’s at the core of some struggles we’ve had in adjusting to life in the US.  And to be clear, struggles of adjustment in the US are mostly between the ears – stuff that’s hard to find a place for and comprehend.

So on the one hand, when we’re in Cameroon, we see a hard life for so many of our friends.  We have friends, some in the village, some in the city, that live in conditions that our American friends could not imagine.  There are struggles in child-rearing – the most significant of which is finding money for school fees.  There is not guaranteed public education to benefit from and the fees a family with three children must pay can take about a month’s worth of income for someone from the working middle-class.  Lower middle-class and below?  Education might be rationed within the family (selecting which child will be educated) or not even become a part of their life.

There are struggles in the day to day.  Many people in Cameroon, again both in the city and in villages, struggle to have clean drinking water.  As a result, families may have a lot of illness which they probably won’t have the money to treat and the cycle just spirals.

Also, imagine living in a home with a curtain for a front door, basic cloth curtains in the windows (no glass or screens), no indoor plumbing, and an outdoor kitchen.  There you have a fairly average home in our city.

And this is just scratching the surface.  Frankly, when I consider our “struggles” after considering struggles of the average person living around me in our context in Africa, I feel like a spoiled brat.  Our lack of a dishwasher, our two bathrooms that only have ¾ height wall between them, having to spend most of a day to do the week’s grocery shopping at several different stores, power outages a few times a week, etc. are difficult for us coming from the US, but less than a drop in the bucket compared to what our neighbors contend with daily.

So yes, life is hard in Cameroon.  But that doesn’t mean it’s easy in the US.

Having so much modern convenience means a fuller docket in daily life.  There are so many activities to chase our kids to.  There are appointments to make and then keep.  There are so many technological things to catch up on and keep up with…in part because our kids needed “devices” to use in the classroom (it was a shock to come back here to find that just about every middle school kid has a better phone than me).  There’s learning Google Classroom in order to help the kids with homework.  It goes on and on!

And then came the need to manage some of our financial matters and take care of our retirement funds while we’re here.  And the management of our fundraising and all of the people and churches that are implied in all of that.  The sheer number of “irons in the fire” has quickly become overwhelming. 

There are so many things to take care of on so many angles that life here in the ultra-modern world…is hard.  But beyond the visibly difficult aspects of life in the US is that we make it worse by covering it up.  It seems that in Western culture, all of the conveniences that we have and use mostly serve to mask the frailty of our existence and put “makeup” on the real struggles that are deep in each of our hearts.

It can be a mess in our heads, living in both worlds simultaneously.  We’re still in touch with life in Cameroon and wanting to be back there in 8 months.  But we’re here now with feet in both worlds and not completely hanging tough and savvy in either one.  Both the heart and the head are struggling to manage both and have proper perspective.  Being bi-cultural is great, but it has exposed the blind spots that we had in our understanding of this life and how certain struggles were hiding behind the method of life. 

Then there is the deeper implication:  the fact that life is hard everywhere points to our brokenness – every darn one of us.  From the most impoverished to the most wealthy, we’re all insecure, lost, and lonely in a difficult world.  We’re all in need of a purpose…and a way toward fulfillment.

My prayer is that this season of advent will usher us toward the understanding of the greatest gift ever given:  Jesus, God’s gift that gives us the opportunity to dwell in fullness forever.