Friday, June 2, 2017

Out and About, part 2

Previously, I [Chris] was recounting all that I had been up to during the last few months.  The next bit to tell you about is my brief sojourn overseas in March-April.  Actually, my trip overseas was divided into two parts.  Allow me to tell you about the first stop – a songwriting workshop in North Africa.

In mid-March, I flew to Amsterdam.  After an 18-hour stopover to reset from jetlag, I ventured back to the airport and was heading to a major city in North Africa (sorry, can’t tell you which one).  The cool thing about this leg of the trip was that my flight left Amsterdam super early in the morning and had an 8-hour layover in Rome.  So, in Rome, I spent a few Euros to store my bag, a few more on a bus and ventured into the city.  I started in the Vatican – had to get another country visited on my list – and then walked my way across town for a few hours, visiting sites as I went.  I really enjoyed traversing the city on foot.  I ended up at Stazione Termini, the large train station not far from the Coliseum and took a train back to DaVinci-Fiumicino Airport for my late afternoon flight across the Mediterranean.

Once in North Africa, I was met by some colleagues and proceeded to their apartment.  I had a couple of days to relax with these friends before we started the workshop, and that was great.  I got to see a few spots outside of their city which were rich in historical significance and quite beautiful.

The idea for this songwriting workshop had begun a year before in the UK.  My hosts and Lori & I had been at a conference in the UK in April 2016.  They mentioned that the local church in their area wanted to begin using their own musical styles for worship in their congregations.  I mentioned that my job was exactly that – encouraging and developing creativity in communities that want to use their local arts to create new worship expressions.  We kept discussing it over a game of cards late into the night, and low and behold, one year later, there we were, about to lead this workshop!  The year in between was filled with organizing dates, my colleagues in-country organizing facilities, lodging, and meals for the participants, and dealing with funding.

My colleagues in North Africa were smart and didn’t think small.  Not only did they extend the invite for the workshop to their local friends, but to some people in neighboring countries.  And it was a good thing too, since, for reasons that we don’t entirely understand, few from the country in which we were hosting the workshop showed up.  Despite that, the participants from the neighboring countries gave us a good-sized group for the workshop.

We began the workshop on a Thursday evening by giving an overview of the next three days and laying out a thorough theology of worship.  The following three days were spent composing following various strategies.  One the first day, we gave the participants a passage to use in composing their music.  We chose a section of Philippians 2 and made them stay faithful to the text.

The second day was practicing composition using a long text (a parable in this case) that needed to be summarized.  The participants needed to decide what were the key points and construct their song highlighting what they found important.

The third and final day of the workshop was an exercise in composing a song based on the felt needs of their particular communities.  The participants had to not only reflect on their situations, but then seek a Biblical solution that could be set in song.

Following the workshop, I had a nice dinner out with my friends and colleagues with whom I collaborated in making the week happen.  We were disappointed that we didn’t have as high a participation as we would have liked, especially those from the city where the workshop was held.  But God brought whom he wanted, and in reflection, it was a well-adapted time for those that were there.

I wish I could put online some of the music made.  I also wish I could put up some pictures.  But the fact is that in that part of the world, there is a danger of being too overt about faith in Christ.  So without images or sounds to prove it, you’ll have to trust me that it was a great time of exploring worship using local, personal expressions.

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


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!