Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Science is a small 'god'

by Stacey

It is the glory of the Lord to conceal things. - Proverbs 25:2

One of my all-time favorite movies is Arrival where a renowned linguist is called upon to figure out how to communicate with aliens (who don’t have mouths...). I love this movie because I now have a point of reference to describe my work to people: “What I do is like what the linguist in Arrival does except that it takes a lot longer and we work with humans, not aliens.” People seem to get that.

And, within the movie, my absolute favorite part, which totally describes how I feel every day on the mission field is when the government agent walked into the linguist’s office with a tape recorder. He sits down and plays sounds that are totally incomprehensible and asks her to translate it. Her deer-in-the-headlights look is my life.

Swimming in Linguistic Theories
This past semester my husband and I took a class called Advanced Grammar and found ourselves burning the midnight oil over books describing this linguistic theory or that. An overarching goal that we found in some of the literature was to come up with a “Universal Grammar” that could account for every system of grammar of every language in the world (close to 7,000!).

We spent hours unlearning how we were taught to diagram sentences (or more precisely, draw trees) in Intro to Grammar in order to learn how to diagram sentences within the framework of the newest theory. The goal is essentially to come up with the perfect tree that could be used to diagram any sentence in the world’s languages.

I had to ask myself if I would have to unlearn this newest, greatest way to diagram on our next furlough in order to adopt a better theory.

The Blurred Line between Scientific Theory and Makin' Stuff Up
In reading all these newest and greatest theories, my husband would often say, “They’re just makin' stuff up.” And, in a sense he is right. Linguistics can be defined as the scientific study of language. What we do is: observe, then make theories based on what we observe, and then test these theories with a native speaker. After that we revise our theories based on the response of the native speaker. It is cycle that we do over and over again as we seek to come to an understanding of the structure of the language. We have been told by some professors that we will do this for the rest of our lives as our understanding of the language grows and grows.

A hypothesis is an educated guess, but it is still a guess nonetheless. At some point a linguist has to say, “Hmm…maybe this verb construction is indicating…past continuous action?!” This proposition is based on years of in-class, then in-the-field study, but, at the end of the day, it is still just an educated guess.

One professor told us a story of how a linguist was able to formalize a particular language in the model of his day (which is no small feat). He sat his language partner down and showed him how the sentence is diagrammed. Then, he continued, when the sentence is turned into a question, one particular word is moved here or there. The language partner listened quietly and then, when the linguist was done, said, “Very interesting, but there is no way that any of that is true.” A theory and structure of understanding a language that was accepted without question in the mind of the linguist was totally rejected by the native speaker. Interesting.

A Call for Humility
After getting my feet a bit wet in the scientific community (by analyzing what is heard as opposed to what is seen, touched, smelled, etc), I am all the more baffled that people place so much faith in Science. Science is almost personified as this all-seeing, all-knowing force that is able to explain everything about life. What I think it really is is a bunch of humans thinking long and hard about what can be observed and then coming up with theories about what is unseen.

As linguists, we write down what can be heard and then theorize as to what rules might govern the forms that we find. Other scientists observe what is seen and then make theories, based on what is seen, as to what cannot be seen (i.e. we see the Earth and then make theories as to how it came about). What we all (mostly) agree on is what is perceivable in the here and now: “I heard a ‘g’ and so did my partner.” But what is most difficult to prove is why, in this situation, he produced a 'g' and not some other consonant. It is through theory and speculation that we write our theses and dissertations regarding the unseen (or unheard).

But God does not have to make educated guesses. He knows everything. Linguists are not the makers of language. God is. He made thousands of languages in a matter of seconds and he understands every conversation that is spoken in every language all over the world. Some of the brightest linguists speak maybe 6 languages, which may seem impressive…until you compare that linguist to God who speaks 7,000 of them. Studying language should lead to a great humility before the brilliance of God, not arrogant pride.

Linguistics, and the discipline of Science in general, is simply a tool that opens our eyes to the wonder of God’s creation. His creation is fashioned with such brilliance that I am sure I will not be able to plumb the depths of the intelligence of just one language within my lifetime.

Learning and studying languages is meant to show us that we are but creatures at the mercy of our Creator. We are not the creators of language and we do not hold them together. It is Jesus who does that, as it says in Colossians 1:16-17:
…by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
I think those in the scientific community should be the humblest people in all the world because they study the brilliance of God day-in and day-out. They study how God pieced together the human body, how he made fish with flashlights on their heads, and how he made some languages where the pitch of one’s voice changes meaning of words. Instead, I fear that those within the scientific community compare their “vast” knowledge to those outside of their discipline and develop a sense of pride. What we should be doing is looking at the vastness of our field of study and admit that we will only scratch the surface in our analysis and understanding of one of many of God’s creations within our lifetime.

And so, to those in the scientific community, may the magnificence of what you study humble you. And may you be honest about what you do not know. Giving the impression of omniscience is deceptive. And to those who place their trust in Science, know that what you put your faith in is a theory that is here one day and gone tomorrow. Put your hope instead in Jesus who is the one who created everything and who holds everything together.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Fulbe Children: What is their worth?

by guest author Lisa Belau

My name is Lisa Belau, and I am a World Team missionary among the Fulbe people. I grew up in the Prairies of Saskatchewan and am now living and working in Cameroon, Africa. I have been here for almost two years, just about to complete my first term. My main focus is children’s ministry (kids camp), with my heart’s desire to see the Fulbe children freely proclaim the praise of Jesus!

My childhood holds many bright and loving memories of my family and friends and involvement in the communities I was a part of. As I have grown and entered into adulthood, I have held onto the childlike faith I was gifted with at a very young age, that God is faithfully nurturing and growing. I aim to try and look at life in a childlike way (not childish – there’s a difference.). As Christ taught his disciples, we are to become as little children, ever looking to our Heavenly Father to show us what he is really about.

I see HUGE potential in God’s Kingdom work with investing into children. I experienced that first hand when I was a child, and I want to thank my Father by obeying his command to share with others the truth of the Gospel! The eternal joy of eternal life with Jesus.

In building relationships among the Fulbe people, the children have become some of my closest friends and encouragements. I believe God has gifted me with being on level with children, in being able to relate and talk with them. In the past few years, I have been learning and observing the reality of their world - some of it is affirming (the children are often the source of joy in their households and communities) but other aspects are oppressive, like what is believed of their worth.

How the Fulbe View Children
Last year, I had a dear little friend named Ishiatu who lived with some relatives here in the village. After she has been here for a few years, word came from her Grandmother. Ishiatu was sent to go and live with her in the bush, because the Grandmother was lonely and wanted a companion. It’s hard, because on one hand I get it, but on the other I don’t understand why you would send a little girl to fill that role, removing her from school and her community and friends, and having her live in a place where she would be isolated and have the little opportunity she did have stripped away.

I know I still have much to learn of the cultural ways, but sacrificing the opportunities for a small child to serve her grandmother doesn’t make sense to me. But the Grandmother’s value is seen as high above the child’s, so who’s voice is heard?

One of the things I was told early on by a Fulbe, is that the children are viewed as not having anything to ‘give’ until they have grown up. There is not much they can do that is of real worth until then are basically adults. This breaks my heart, as I know that the earliest stages of life shape a large part of who you will become! And I see them all as so incredibly unique and genuinely valued. The vast majority of the Fulbe (99%) are unreached and have always been deeply rooted in Islam. They have never heard they have a Heavenly Father who loves them. So how could they know just how much they are valued and cherished, right now!

Why this Breaks my Heart
As a missionary in this place among these people, there is a part of me that is often tempted to become embittered or angry towards those I am serving (like Ishiatu’s family sending her out into the bush). But then I am reminded, “How can they know, if they have not heard?” How can they know the value of a child (or any individual despite their gender, age, or placement) without knowing Jesus? How can I expect them to understand when they haven’t been taught? Just because I have had the upbringing involving the Word and a personal relationship with Jesus, I can’t expect those around me to have a similar outlook/worldview, when one of their main concerns since they can remember, was having enough to eat each day.

And so I continue on in my work and pray that as the Gospel penetrates hearts, it will trickle down into the Fulbe’s view of their children and help them to see their value as God does.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Scripture, the Spirit, and the Isolated Christian

by Stacey
“Thy Jesus can repay from his own fullness all he takes away.” -Be Still My Soul

Right now, in the North American church, there is a huge emphasis on Christian community, small groups, and doing life with other believers. I think this comes as a reaction to a culture that becomes more and more individualistic by the minute. So, instead of withdrawing from others who are different than we are, the church is saying that “in Christ” there is no longer black, nor white, rich, nor poor, male nor female. We are all one and thus we ought to live in a community that demonstrates this bond. I think this is a beautiful and biblical message.

And yet I wonder if this emphasis has gone too far when I hear sermons that say that we cannot be a faithful Christian unless we live in Christian community. While we were in Cameroon, without much of a Christian community, we listened to a sermon online that said this very thing. This claim made me wonder if we are actually being unfaithful to the Lord for having left Christian community behind in order to go overseas.

Christian community is a gift and it is not ideal to leave it and yet, I think that there are other gifts from the Lord that can make up for this loss when necessary. I can testify to the faithfulness of the Lord through the following means when there wasn’t the luxury of Christian community:

1. The Sufficiency of Scripture
2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
We have committed our lives to Bible translation because we believe this verse. And we believe it not just for the Bakoum people – that the Bible will be sufficient for them, but we believe it for ourselves. The Bible is profitable to rebuke us and correct us when we are in sin. It is able to teach us to be righteous. It helps us to be competent in our work on the mission field. And it gives us what we need for every single good work.

The Bible is powerful and not just when it come through the lips of someone in my small group - it can speak for itself when I don’t have one.

By implication, this means that even though we don’t have access to all the new, great parenting books, we have the book of Proverbs. I have read and re-read that book hundreds of times looking to it for wisdom in parenting our kids. I have poured over the letters of Paul the missionary, absolutely amazed at his passion for those he was seeking to win to Christ. He sets the bar high for the new missionary and I treasure his heart, his determination, his zeal. In times of great loneliness, Psalm 139 reminded me time and time again that the Lord was intimately involved in my every thought and my every word, in whatever language I was trying to speak.

There is a place for benefiting from the study of others through reading and seeking counsel, and yet when the Bible is all you have you realize that it is actually the treasure that the godly counselor was trying to get you to all along.

2. The Gift of the Spirit

The presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian is such an amazing gift that Jesus said his presence was preferable to being with him personally (John 16:7). There can be communion with God even when one is separated from a local body.

What’s more, I have found that this same Spirit has much higher standards for my holiness than my Christian friends do. Leaving an accountability group does not guarantee that one will automatically fall into sin. The Spirit does not just know the sin I confess, but even my every sinful, hidden thoughts. He is more invested, more concerned and more committed to my righteousness than my brothers and sisters in Christ.

When we left Christian community, we did not leave God. God, in the person of the Holy Spirit resides in the believer and that is why the light of God cannot be snuffed out in darkness when even just one believer is present. It is true that believers together are what are being build up, brick by brick, into the temple of God. But for this to happen in unreached communities, sometimes individual bricks need to go out on their own for a while until there are converts to Christ in the new community. The new and living temple of God will always be incomplete until members from every tribe, tongue, and nation are part of it.

3. The Gift of Trials

Romans 5:3-4a says, “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character.” According to this verse, Christian community and sitting under solid teaching is not the only way for one to grow. How a Christian grows is through suffering. Suffering and continuing to be steadfast in suffering is what teaches a Christian to endure and this endurance produces character.

Having a small group discussion on this verse is great, but being persecuted for one’s faith and remaining steadfast is greater. I am convinced that life on the mission field furnishes opportunities to suffer and learn endurance in ways that staying in one’s home culture does not. Day in and day out life provides countless opportunities for one’s character to be tested and to grow. Being spurred on to love and good deeds through Christian community is something that is lost, but what is gained is a life that demands perseverance and daily reliance on Christ. I would go so far as to say that it is impossible not to grow if one is plodding along faithfully on the field.


I say all this not to say that Christian community is unnecessary. It is a gift and a treasure that I am so thankful for, especially as we spend time in the States. And it is this very community that we are striving to create among the Bakoum. Healthy local churches that worship Jesus is what missions is for.

And yet, I think that we are insulting the Holy Spirit when we say that his voice is only as loud as the voices of those in our accountability groups. He does use other believers as tools in the lives of Christians and yet his main weapon of choice is the Word of God. The Word of God has penetrated my heart time and time again even though my home church was oceans away.

Jesus is building his church and nothing can stand in his way. And what he is building is beautiful and it is natural for Christians to stay within the family they were called into. And that is why I think at the very end of the Great Commission, Jesus reassures his disciples, “I am with you always.” Even though you may be alone, far from other Christians for a time, I will make it up out of the fullness of my own presence.

Four years ago, I took this promise by faith, but after having seen his faithfulness on the field, it is by sight that I say that he has never left nor forsaken me.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

4 Misconceptions of the Missionary Call

by Dave

We are currently out on our American Tour, and are talking to people about what it is like to be a missionary. We have found that there is a very common perception that certain people are "called" to be missionaries in a unique way. While I certainly have met a lot of unique missionaries, I believe that there are some misunderstandings undergirding this belief. Below are four of these misconceptions I hope to clear up in this post. The first misconception is that…

1. Normal people are not "called"

Stacey remembers hearing a song in her church where she grew up that said something to the effect that they were willing to do anything for the Lord so long as the Lord did not send them to Africa. The line at the end of the chorus was: “Lord, please don’t send me to Africa.” There are two main problems with this type of song (which, by the way I think was written to be tongue-in-cheek). The first problem is that many people do not consider missions because they believe it is something that they could never do. Whether it be the snakes, or the heat, they believe that they personally are incapable of enduring in that type of situation. The error in this thinking is not people saying that they are weak, that part is true. The problem is that the focus in on us.

Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 9:8:
"And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work."
We as Christians serve a powerful God who is able to make all grace abound to us. God is able to give us grace, for instance, to abound in thankless service to our children. Have you ever felt like you could not handle hearing your baby scream ONE MORE TIME? I have felt that. But what happened when the baby screamed? You handled it. Either you sought God’s grace to deal with the child, and felt his power. Or you sinned against him and sought God’s grace for forgiveness (and hopefully for the strength to be victorious the next time).

God is able to give us the strength to fight anxiety and speak to our unsaved family members about the Gospel. He is able to give us the power to wake up early to stand in front of an abortion clinic at 6am begging women to turn away. And God is “even” able to give us the grace to abound in the good work of leaving everything and going overseas. Missionaries are not able to go because they have some power within themselves that you do not have. There is nothing stronger about missionaries than about you. We are just people that rely on God’s grace, both to endure through the harder aspects of the missionary life, and to repent when we have sinned in the face of these difficulties.

The second aspect of this song “Lord, don’t send me to Africa” that reveals a misconception of the missionary life is that it implies that:

2. The missionary call seeks us out.
When we say “Lord don’t send me to Africa” the implication is that God seeks out an elect few to send into missions, but not others. We have found that people think that in order for them to go into missions Jesus needs to appear in the sky like he appeared to the Apostle Paul and say, “I am sending you as a light to the Gentiles.” This is not how it works.

I do not believe that the missionary call is something that seeks people out. Instead, I see that when Jesus left his disciples, he left them with a task: make disciples of all the nations. This task has passed from the disciples to us, and is not yet complete. Thus, every person in the church plays some role in seeing this task fulfilled. If we are asking, “Am I called?” the answer is always “Yes!” But just like any other task that we work toward in the church, we need to ask how we can best serve. Not everyone would be best teaching a kids Sunday School class. But generally, when we are deciding on whether or not we are going to teach, we are not looking for a calling. Instead, we weigh our strengths and weaknesses, our availability, and whether or not children tend to run from us screaming.

I believe it ought to be the same for missions. I don’t think we should ask the question “Am I called?” I think we should ask: ‘How can I best serve in this Kingdom, with the ultimate purpose of seeing the nations saved?” And for some, the way in which they will best be used is to stay in their home town. For others, the best way is to be a part of reaching out to Native Americans, or the unchurched of New England, or, of course, more exotic locations. When we are looking for some sort of calling outside of that, I believe we are erring into our third misconception:

3. The call of Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20 is insufficient.

In asking for an external experiential call, we are saying that we need something other than the Great Commission, something specific to us. But if we look at the Great Commission, we see Jesus leaving the disciples with the purpose of the New Testament Church. If you think about it, right before Jesus left the earth, he could have said anything to his disciples. He could have said, “remember the poor” or “do small groups in your churches” or “seek the spiritual gifts," all important aspects of the church age. Instead, his final call was:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
This is one of the clearest passages that demonstrates the difference between the Old Covenant method of saving the nations, and that of the New Covenant. No longer were God’s people called to build a kingdom and then bring the nations to themselves. No longer was God’s presence dwelling in a physical temple, to which the people were called to bring sacrifices. Instead, Jesus told his disciples that the Holy Spirit was going to come to live in them. Then they were to go everywhere, like mobile temples. He was calling them to go and make more disciples.

I think when we read this passage we do believe that it applies to us, right? Yet, when it comes to moving overseas, we are looking for something more. When we read the Bible in Ephesians 5 where Paul calls husbands to love their wives, do husbands sit their idly and say, “well, I can’t love my wife until I’m called to.” What would we say to that man? “You ARE called.” In the same way, Jesus gave us the responsibility to make disciples in very clear speech and thus we don’t need to wait for another call. The first call is sufficient.

A final misconception is:

4. You have to be adventurous in order to go into missions.

So, this is just a lie, I think from Satan, to keep more Christians from going out. This is the lie that says you have to enjoy poisonous snakes inside your house to become a missionary. No one likes poisonous snakes in their house. This lie says that you have to enjoy travelling to become a missionary. I don’t like travelling. I used to like travelling, but then I had kids. I don’t like the jungle. I don’t like the dirt. I don’t like hiking through the bush with a machete. You know what I like? Pavement. Air conditioning. Cheese. Having an ER that I can take my kids to. That’s what I like.

People tend to think that missionaries go because they somehow like to live in miserable places. This is just not true. Missionaries like comforts just as much as the next guy. But, the reality is that the unreached are generally unreached for a reason: they are usually the ones with the snakes, with the bugs, with the humidity. Even in Cameroon, when we were looking for a place to work, we were told that the languages by the beach were already taken.

I write all this because I want the church to see that first of all, missionaries are just regular Christians. I am convinced that the vast majority of missionaries are not “called” in the subjective sense, but persuaded from Scripture. We are persuaded that the task of the church today is the spread of the Gospel to the nations. And we are persuaded that the God-chosen method of spreading the Gospel is by normal people going to far away places. We are persuaded that the message that we carry is that people by nature are separated from God, and without the Gospel they will spend eternity without Him. We are persuaded that this world is not our home, and we shouldn’t love the things of this world. We are persuaded that God is made strong in our weakness. And finally, we are persuaded that the job is not yet done.

There are just over 7,000 living languages in the world. Of these languages, only 9% have a translation of the entire Bible. That is 636 languages. 21% of these languages have the New Testament, which is awesome. Another 16% have portions of the Scriptures. So, even if we are going to just do the New Testament, we have this 16% plus the 3,777 languages that do not have a single word of the Bible. Now, not all of these languages will survive the time it takes to translate, so the estimate, not including those who already have portions or already have the NT, there are around 1,800 languages that currently have no Scripture and need it. In the last 2,000 years we have only translated the whole Bible into 636 languages. There is so much work to do.

While I find that a lot of people do not genuinely consider the missionary life as an option, I believe that all Christians should consider the missionary life. Many will decide in the end that they should not move overseas and become a missionary. But this decision should not be based on the misconceptions above. It should not be because they are waiting for supernatural confirmation. Instead, those who chose to stay ought to do so because they believe that they are best used in God’s kingdom in that role.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Needed: Homeschool Teacher for 2018-2019 School Year

by Stacey

Megan and Makyra (8)
We are looking for a lady (young or not-as-young) to come to Cameroon with us in August 2018 to homeschool our children for the 2018-2019 school year. Please help spread the word because the application with our mission agency, World Team, would need to be in by August 25, 2017 (details below).

The Opportunity: Mutually Beneficial

Bonnie with two silly girls (Zoey and Makyra)
Coming to Cameroon to be a homeschool teacher is beneficial both to Dave and I as Bible translators and it would also be beneficial to you as the homeschool teacher. It is beneficial to us because we will be starting translation and literacy this next term and really need to spend our time pulling our hair out over translation issues. Our work is very hard and very technical and it requires hours of silent concentration. We have found that juggling linguistics and 2nd grade times-tables makes it so that we do not go a good job in either role. We really need someone who can devote their time to being our kids' full-time educator. 

Also, it would be beneficial to you because you would get to see the missionary life up close. You would live in our guest house, eat your meals with our family, pray with us for the Bakoum people, and hear all that we are learning about the language and the culture. You would be living in a village in Africa and you would see a part of the world that would be completely foreign to anything you have experienced living in the States. For you, this wouldn't only be a year of travel, but it would likely be a year of long days, possible sickness and loneliness. If you come, you will understand, in many ways, what life on the field as a missionary is like. It won't be a picnic, but it will be rewarding.


Where we Live: 
We life in a small town in Eastern Cameroon which is next to a tropical rain forest. The people speak a local language called Bakoum although French is used as a trade language.

Our Kids:
We have four children, all adopted from Ethiopia: Kaden (8), Makyra (8), Elias (7) and Zoey (7). Although they are a year apart, we are currently keeping them all in the same grade (starting in August 2018 they will be entering 3rd grade). They come with lots and lots and lots of energy and zeal for everything, including learning. We are looking someone assertive and firm who will be able to control the classroom and channel their energy well (this is no small task).

This year we will be joining FES (Field Education System of SIL in Cameroon). You will be working with this program in order to receive curriculum and we will also be attending their joint learning sessions where they kids will have an in-classroom experience. You will need to do lesson planning, but there is curriculum to help you navigate through teaching the kids. 
Our House

We live in a good-sized house outside of town which includes a school room where the children are homeschooled. We also have a separate “guest house” in our back yard, complete with a bathroom, which serves as the lodging for our home school teacher. Meals would be eaten with our family. We most often have electricity and (hot and cold) water. 

Job Description
  • Homeschool the kids, including working one-on-one with them outside of class in areas where they struggle. 
  • Prepare daily individual lesson plans from the suggested lesson plans available. This can be work intensive. 
  • Be responsible for checking out all curriculum materials, taking care of them and checking them in at the appropriate time.
  • Be willing to watch the Hare kids when Dave and Stacey both need to attend language / Bible translation committee meetings (this happens rarely).
  • A strong walk with the Lord and a life committed to the practice the personal spiritual disciplines. Our work is very much pioneer work and therefore you would not reap the benefits of a good church and small group. You would need to mainly feed yourself through your own personal study of the word (bring sermons!)
  • A teachable spirit. We are looking for someone to come as a learner of the culture, our family, ministry, and so on. 
  • A robust knowledge of the Bible (as our children are known for asking lots of hard Bible questions!)
  • A strong recommendation from your local church.
  • A love for and experience working with kids of this age. 
  • You do NOT have to have any experience as a teacher (although that would be a welcomed bonus) but we ask that you come with a willingness to learn and to work hard to ensure they receive a good education. 
  • Must come willing to love and pray for our children. 
  • Must be at least 18 years old. 
  • Must apply through our mission agency, World Team, and be willing to raise funds to support yourself for your 9 month stay.
You would be responsible to raise approximately $300 USD/mo plus one-time costs (airfare, immunizations, visa and passport fees, a trip to World Team’s Support Center for an interview / introduction to the agency ($100), etc). Personal expenses (buying gifts, souvenirs, etc) are not included in this figure.

The Process 
Please contact me at stacey.hare@worldteam.org so we can begin initial conversation, answer any questions you may have and give you an idea of what it is like to live with our family. If you seem to be a good fit for our family and if we seem to be a good fit for you, you would then begin the application process with our mission agency, World Team.

If you would like to talk to one of our kids' former homeschool teachers, you can contact them at: bonnie.marcum2@gmail.com (Bonnie) or meganmauterer@gmail.com (Megan).

World Team would require an initial application, phone dialog, references, and so on. If everything is approved, you will be invited to come to the main office for their orientation / application week. Please visit the website at www.us.worldteam.org/get-started to fill out the initial application. 

This needs to be filled out by August 25, 2017.

From the Mouths of Previous Homeschool Teachers

From Bonnie (2015-2016):
I am so thankful to have had this opportunity with the Hares because I was able to participate in authentic, everyday life with missionaries on the field. I loved being a part of the real joys and struggles that missionary families experience and I believe it has helped me become more faithful in prayer, compassion, and endurance.
One joy of being a homeschool teacher was simply to watch the kids learn and to see things anew from their perspective. The Hare kids get excited to discover new things! Teaching is definitely hard work and requires lots of patience and perseverance, but spending the time to get to know and understand the kids was totally worth it. I grew in my walk with the Lord, especially in prayer, as a result of the constant realization of how inadequate I was for the task set before me. But God was faithful!
Bonnie in the backseat with all the kids

The Hare kids absolutely love learning! It was such a joy to hear them chatting after school was over about a history book we read or discussing the solar system or even reciting their addition facts. They are each unique in the way they express themselves and relate to others. They have their own strengths and weaknesses, which were both difficult and a pleasure for me to discover. Some days they would try my patience like nobody’s business, and others they would persevere with difficult math problems or spelling words and encourage each other towards obedience and joy. It was a year well spent as the Hare’s homeschool tutor! 

From Megan (2016-2017):
I am extremely thankful God granted me the opportunity to teach for the Hare family. The children are sweet, energetic kids who absolutely love learning. Together, we had a wonderful time singing our way through the curriculum, writing creative stories, and discovering fascinating animals and plants in science. Of course, there were times in which the children had difficulty controlling their tongues and energetic bodies, but overall the experience teaching them was wonderful. I really treasured seeing the missionary life in Cameroon firsthand and the role these children played in their parents’ journey to translate the Bakoum Bible. I will definitely miss seeing their smiling faces each morning, hearing their infectious laughter, and watching their countenance light up as they understood new concepts. Teaching the Hare children was a real joy. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Committed to the Cause All Over Again: Recap of Missions Conference in San Diego

by Stacey

Dave and I were asked to speak at a missions conference at Kaleo church in San Diego, CA last weekend. We were praying that the Lord would use us to encourage others towards missions, but we had no idea that we ourselves would walk away as encouraged as we did. 

The conference started out with an African choir leading us into the courts of Heaven through their four part harmonies, bight dresses, and dancing unto the Lord. 

However, this time of joy was accompanied by some moments of sobriety.

It's "On Us"

The pastor of Kaleo Church, Tim Cain, preached a sermon on Romans 13 which essentially says that people will not believe in Christ on their own unless they hear the message of the Gospel. And without the hope of the Gospel, people will be punished for their sins for all eternity.

He then addressed a common objection which says that it is unloving for God to send people who have never heard of Christ to Hell.

Tim's response to this objection was two-fold. He first reminded us that we are in no place to judge God and call him unloving. God demonstrated his love by sending his Son to die for his enemies. Sadly, we may be tempted to accuse God of a lack of love, and yet remain unwilling to cross an ocean (or even the street) to reach out to our fellow man.

Secondly, Tim directed us to 2 Corinthians 5:18 where Scripture says that says that God gave us the ministry of reconciliation. The Lord gave his Son as a sacrifice for sins and then tasked us with getting this message to the world. So, if we fail to do this, we have no right to blame God, but instead we ought to admit our own failure. He said that if the unreached do not hear the Gospel, it's not on God, "It's on us."

No Special "Call" Necessary

Another speaker, Brooks Buser who works with Francis Chan at Radius International, spoke on his experience as a church planter/Bible translator in Papua New Guinea. It was through hearing his father's, Brad Buser's, stories that I was persuaded to join the cause when I was in college. As someone who has spent time on the field, both he and his father are the voices for the many many tribes who have been on a waiting list for 5 or more years for missionaries. It is stunning to me that there are regions of the world where there are people who have been asking for missionaries to come to their villages for multiple years, but there are just not enough people being sent out.

In addition to the needs of those on the field, Brooks shared with the congregation that he never had a "missionary call". He never looked down in the sand at the beach and saw the words "Papua New Guinea." He never heard the voice of God outside of "this Book" he said as he held up his Bible. He went on to say that he has asked many missionaries if they ever received some type of "call" and 98% of them said "no" - they never had some type of mystical experience or call that had led them to field. Instead, it was the simple words of Jesus who said, "Go out into all the world and make disciples." 

This idea went hand in hand with one of Dave's presentations where he said that people shouldn't have to be "called" to go onto the field, they should be "persuaded." Dave said that is is the biblical texts combined with the state of the lost that should persuade many to go to the nations. One of my favorite quotes from Dave was, "I've tried to get passages like the Great Commission to say something else, but I just can't." Both Dave and Brooks' testimonies were similar: Neither of them like the jungle, both really like cement and city life, but both said they were persuaded from Scripture that they needed to be part of getting the Gospel to the ends of the earth. And, Lord willing, because of their faithfulness, there will be two more tribes around the throne of Jesus one day. 

Brooks and his teammates have translated the New Testament and planted a church among a tribe in New Guinea and his faithfulness, experience, and perseverance was an inspiration for two rookie missionaries like Dave and me to see. 

The Great Commission and Parenting are Not at Odds

At another session that Dave and I taught at, we shared very candidly about how there are costs (but also advantages) in raising kids on the mission field. We shared some of the difficulties that we face, but then ended that section saying that, "Jesus knew all of the costs that there would be for us to raise our family on the field but he gave the Great Commission anyway. He expects us to go, come what may."

There seemed to be a sobriety in the air and in having conversations with people afterwards, I dare say that concern for the safety of one's children may be one of the biggest barriers to getting people to the field. Going from one country where safety is not as big of a concern as it should be, I realize that I have reentered my own country where concern for safety is suffocating concern for Gospel advancement. 

We also talked at length about the Lord's heart for the nations all throughout redemptive history and concluded by testifying to his faithfulness to keep his promises to us throughout our first term on the field. 

When then returned back home to Dallas with midterms and four children awaiting us. We were exhausted and yet it was worth it. We were encouraged to keep pressing in the cause, were inspired by the ministries and passions of the other speakers, and were blessed to be around mature Christians at Kaleo church who care about the lost.

If you are wondering where we are now, and what we are doing, check out our new "Where are the Hares?" tab at the top of the blog.

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Wisdom of the Folly of the Gospel

by Dave

I will not make you raise your hands, but I want you all to consider a question. How many of you have ever questioned the wisdom of God? Perhaps it was in a personal situation: “Why did God let my sister die?” or “Why is God not answering my prayer for the salvation of a friend?” I recently read an atheist mocking the God of the Bible by saying that the idea of creating an exclusive way of salvation is foolish. Even more, he said that God’s choice to send out his foolish message by word of mouth was absolute absurdity. I mean, if God is all powerful he could have spoken the Gospel message directly to every human being, right?

When we ask these types of questions, whether we mean it or not, we are implying that we know better than God. Now, let me ask you another question: how many times this week have you lost your keys? How many times have you called your child by the wrong name? How many times did you write 2016 on a document this year? Not too long ago, I was in Walmart with my brother and we were separated for a minute. Then, I looked over and saw him bent over looking at some CDs. Just for fun, I walked up and tweaked his love-handle. And immediately this large, bearded, not-my-brother man stood up and looked at me with anger and bewilderment in his eyes. You see, as smart as I think that I am, I cannot even recognize my biological brother in a supermarket. I often spend 30 minutes looking for sunglasses that are on my head, forget scheduled appointments, and cut myself while cooking. All of these facts have led me to seriously reconsider whether or not I am qualified to question God.

The Folly of the Gospel

Considering these truths led me today to read a passage in 1 Corinthians:
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, 
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men (1:18-25).
Do you see Paul wondering similar things here? “Where is the one who is wise?” When I look around I see a bunch of people like me. I see people that like to consider themselves wise, but truly wise men, I have met few.

I would like to say that when someone becomes a Christian we automatically see all of God’s actions for the wisdom that they are. I would like to say that I understand everything that God is doing. But I do not think that is what Paul is saying here, and I do not think that is the message of the Bible. I do not think that God gave us His Word so that we can say, “Oh, now I get it.” Instead, Paul says “in the wisdom of God, the world DID NOT KNOW GOD THROUGH WISDOM.” But instead, “it pleased God through the FOLLY of what we preach to save those who believe.” To be honest, I do not get it. I do not know why God did not write his Gospel in a universal language on every tree that grew out of the ground. He has legions of angels, why not have them bring the message? Surely more people would believe angels. But God does not even address this question, he does not explain why his methods are wise.

The Wisdom in Submission

Instead of a persuasive explanation, this passage is a call to submission. Paul says, “the foolishness of God is wiser than men.” In order for us to be saved we have to give up on the idea that we are wise. We have to give up on the idea that we know what is best, or at least a better way. Jesus Christ, dying on the cross, and then giving the message of the Gospel to a bunch of fishermen, is the wisdom of God. Sending out men and women all across the world to places where they do not even speak the same language, is the wisdom of God. And God specifically chose this way of salvation, in part, because he knew that it would look foolish. He knew that our proud hearts would want to reject it. And therefore, the only way to accept it is to be humbled. The only way to be saved is to trust God, to believe that he knows what he is doing, and to believe that he knows better than us. And if you resist this idea of submission, and do not find yourself drawing closer to God, do not be surprised. “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).

I think this call to submission gets garbled in American culture. We try so hard to reach out to our culture in a way that is reasonable and winsome that I think sometimes we present a Gospel that is more logical than biblical. However, I do not think my neighbors in Cameroon have any problem seeing us as foolish. We come into their village and have no idea how to talk like an adult, cook normal food, and I cannot even carry stuff on my head! One of our linguistics professors said that God confused the languages so completely at Babel in part so that missionaries would stay humble. And after spending a few years in the village I am used to people looking at me like I am an idiot. But for my neighbors to come to Christ, they have to reject parts of their culture and worldview. They have to be willing to tell their family members “no” when asked to participate in their cultic practices. And for them to do so is stupid, dangerous even, in the eyes of their families. But when they do, when they submit to the wisdom of God, they have a peace that is beyond understanding. It is a peace that comes only to those who can finally say that they do not have it all figured out. It is a peace that only comes with salvation.

This is a message that never gets old. It is a message that we need to meditate on. We are fools, and only in Christ is there wisdom. I do not always understand why God does things, but there is one thing I know for sure: I can trust him. Let us pray with that desperate father in Mark 9:24: “I believe; help my unbelief!”

Monday, April 24, 2017

Verses to Meditate on When Considering Missions

by Stacey

I fear that when we think about going into missions, we can often turn too introspective.

We tend to meditate day and night on the all the questions that flood our minds: “Do I have what it takes?” “Am I ready to go into missions single even knowing I may not meet someone on the field?” “Am I qualified?” “Am I called?” “How do I know if I am called?” “How will I be able to learn another language and school my children?” “What agency would I go with?” “What would I do on the field?”

There is an aspect of counting the cost that is good and healthy. Yet, I do not think our minds should rest there. Our minds should instead rest on the Word of God and meditate on it day and night, especially as we investigate missions as a career choice.

Here are some passages that I would put forward to anyone who is asking the question, “Should I go into missions?” I would encourage him or her to write them down and carry them around with them – to put them up by the sink as they do the dishes, put them in the car, pray through them, even memorize them while jogging. I think that good decision making comes most easily when our hearts are saturated with the Word of God.

God is a Giver of Wisdom. He will direct you:

Proverbs 2:3-10

If you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints.  Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;
James 1: 5-7
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord
Missions is God’s will

Matthew 28:18-20

And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
Revelation 7:9-10
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" 
Isaiah 61:11
For as the earth brings forth its sprouts and as a garden causes what is sown to sprout up, so the Lord will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations.
Psalm 46:10-11
Be still and know that I am God.I will be exalted among the nations,I will be exalted in the earth!
The Lord of hosts is with us;The God of Jacob is our fortress.
1 Timothy 2:3-4
This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Psalm 67
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us. God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!
There is no Salvation Outside of Christ

John 3:36 
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
Acts 4:12 
And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
Romans 10:13-15
For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!"
Jesus Comes before Family, Before our Own Lives

Acts 20:24 
But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
2 Corinthians 5:15
And he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 
Luke 9:23-25
And he said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?

Luke 14:26 
If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.  
Set the Lord Before you and you will not be Shaken

Psalm 16:8
I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
Psalm 27:1
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid.  
The Sufferings will not Compare to Coming Glory

Romans 8:18
For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
God will work out everything, every bout of malaria, every moment of rejection that you will feel, every frustrating interaction with the government for your good

Romans 8:28 
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
God's Grace is Sufficient Anytime, Anywhere

2 Corinthians 9:8 
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

It is amazing how all the questions, anxieties and unknown seem to dim in light of the power of the promises of the Word of God. There will always be unknowns, always be concerns, and always be suffering, and yet the promises bring a strange, unexplainable peace.

The above verses show us that missions is something that God wants. It is his will and his plan that people from every tribe, every tongue, and every nation will be represented before his throne in Heaven. There is no question.

And this is why I think missions should be approached with less caution. The Christian does not need to pray and fast in order for God to show him that he should tell his friend and work about Christ. The Bible says that is something that the Lord wants and therefore we can freely walk in his will and share the Gospel. Nor do we need to agonize about if we should or should not go to church. This is something that is just a "given" in Scripture. In the same way, I think these verses show that the Christian has God's "permission" to go into the world and make disciples.

I pray that the Lord will use these verses to send out many more laborers into the harvest.

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Need for Cultural Humility

by Dave
I had an interesting conversation with a couple at church a few Sundays ago. They both were born in Africa, but have lived in the US for a number of years. In discussing children, they told me that they were concerned about raising their daughter in America because of the dangers here. Without a second thought, I knew exactly what they were talking about. As Americans we have become accustomed to comfort, such that we think we deserve it. We have grown cold to the suffering of those in the majority world, and we are greatly tempted to live only for ourselves.

However, this wonderful couple also told me that they had tried to explain these concerns to another American who could just not see it. They could not fathom that there would be anything in the States that would be more dangerous than living in Africa. I believe that this reveals a cultural short-sightedness that we cannot help but have, and that we need to work to eliminate.

Manifestations of Cultural Short-Sightedness

When we were in France we learned that the French have a very different perspective of the separation of Church and State than we do in America. I was speaking one day with a friend about evangelism and he told me that Christians as a general rule are not allowed to go out in groups do to street witnessing. He said that no one is really supposed to talk about religious things in public, or wear religious symbols. He told me that he thought this was a good idea because it helped to avoid religious disagreements and even violence. Looking at his life from the outside, I did not see much effort put into evangelism at all and instead I saw hostility towards those of other religions. Not all French people are like this, I know several who are extremely evangelistic, those who have taught me what boldness for Christ really looks like. However, for this man, his culture had affected the way that he saw his role as a Christian in society. As an outsider, with different cultural baggage, I saw a deficiency in his worldview that he could not see at all.

In Cameroon, one day I went to the hospital with a friend and saw two men arguing. I asked my friend if we should intervene as it seemed on the edge of physical violence. He looked at me perplexed. To him this was the sight of two men having a normal disagreement. Over time this friend has come to see that shouting and shoving is not the way that the Lord would have us deal with conflict. But he needed an outside perspective.

I personally have been confronted in numerous areas as I have encountered new cultures. In France I was at first shocked to see how small everything was: cars, grocery carts, people. But I learned in France the people have a value for moderation. In what they eat and drink, in how they travel, they see excess as unnecessary and undesirable. I have found this to be an area in which I am lacking. Both the French and the Cameroonian church has put me to shame in their kindness and hospitality. On the first day we went to church in Albertville, France we had two offers for people to meet with us weekly to help us learn French. A Cameroonian family invited us to live in their house (I have four children!) without a moment’s hesitation. I have found that my American bred brain values privacy and individuality to a sinful fault. But without input from those outside these weaknesses, I was blind to it. I was just acting in a normal way.

The Need for Cultural Humility

In each culture I have found truth and aspects to be admired. But as good as our cultures can be, “culture” is created by humans, and like humans, it is fallen. And every culture I have ever encountered has been riddled with sinful attitudes and behaviors. But like a fish in water, or like the air that we breath, we do not think about our own culture. Just the other day at the grocery store a woman asked my kids if they were going home to paint eggs. My children just looked at her in bewilderment. What in the world is this woman talking about? We have never painted eggs with them, as that is not something people do in Cameroon. But for this woman, it was a very natural questions and pretty much any other American child would have known exactly what she was talking about. In the same way, culture is not something that we think about, it is just something that we do.

Therefore it can seem bizarre and attacking when someone says something against our culture, almost as though they are attacking the very essence of who we are. This is where we need to have cultural humility. By that I mean that we are able to take a step back and say, “Not everything in my culture is right.” But I also mean that we allow others to speak into our lives. This is a risky task because it opens us up to criticism and confrontation.

One thing that keeps us back from this risk is the lie that those outside of a situation cannot speak into it. I have seen this lie on the street in front of the abortion clinic, where I have been told that I should have no say because I have no uterus. I have heard this lie come from the mouths of Americans who are unwilling to listen to the critiques of those from other countries. The idea is that someone on the outside does not understand the situation fully and therefore cannot give useful insight. But I have found that the opposite is true: sometimes those on the outside have the most profound insight.

When I was in Ethiopia for the court date for two of our adoptions, I drove around with the director of the orphanage. He was looking for a new location as the orphanage was continuing to grow and they did not have enough space for all of the children. As we drove, we saw some incredible houses. You would not believe these houses. They were huge and lavish, some had pools and beautifully manicured lawns. I have seen big houses before, but the contrast between the poverty that surrounded and these houses made them shine out like a diamond on a black cloth. I must have made some awed comment to my new friend because he immediately pulled the car over to the side of the road. And he looked me in the eye and said, “These houses will not get you into heaven! There is something so much better than wealth, so much better than lavish living, and it is the Gospel!”

I was pretty stunned. And to be honest, he totally misread me. I have many faults, and though I am tempted to love comfort, I have zero desire to live in a big house. But while he misread me, he nailed my culture. This man had encountered a good number of Americans, and had seen much about America in media. And he knew that wealth and comfort was a temptation for many Americans. And he also knew that you cannot serve both God and money (Matt 6:24). I walked away from this conversation a little offended, feeling misjudged. But over time, I find myself thinking about this man’s words quite often. Here, my brother in Christ from a different country, was speaking into an aspect of my culture that he saw so clearly. My response should not have been offense, but humility.

Truth is, I do want comfort. Maybe not in the form of a big house, but in other ways. And sometimes when I am on Facebook and I see how some of my friends live, I feel a craving for more of that in my heart. And in those moments I remember “There is something so much better than wealth, so much better than lavish living, and it is the Gospel!” Sometimes, when people confront an aspect of our lives it feels out of left field. And our first response is to believe that they have no right to question us. But I think most of the time it is those confrontations that feel so out of place that hit the nail on the head. And fortunately, as Christians, we do not have to fear confrontation. A Christian is someone who is characterized by repentance and we cannot repent of sins we do not see. Slowly, I am learning to invite such confrontation, and asking the Lord to use it even when I think the people are wrong. And I pray in doing so, I am weeding out sins I would have never even though of before.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

African Traditional Religion Keeps Them Poor

by Stacey
Missionaries are generally disliked by the secular linguistics/anthropology community. Why? Because missionaries do not come to the field as neutral observers, but with a desire to see change. Missionary linguists do not come to merely preserve and describe languages, but to see the Bible translated and then confront the culture. And Dave and I desperately want to see the Bakoum culture confronted and changed. 

Do not get me wrong, there are aspects of Bakoum/Cameroonian culture that I love and miss. I love the brightly colored cloth custom made into form-fitting, eccentric dresses. I love walking down the street and seeing an individual, standing by himself dancing to music that no one else can hear. I love how everyone sits outside in the evenings and talks until the sun goes down while goats, chickens, and babies wander around freely.

Harmful Traditions

But then there are some aspects of their culture that I cannot accept because they are harming the neighbors I have come to love. So much so, that they are actually ensuring that an already impoverished people remain in poverty. What I see around me in Cameroon is not a tribal religion that supports a rich culture among its people. Instead, I see a commitment to a system that enslaves its followers. The primary damaging belief comes from their perspective on the afterlife. The worldview of the Bakoum is dominated by a belief that when one’s relatives die, their bodies are buried but their spirits stay in the village. And generally speaking these spirits remain to torment the living -- unless they are appeased. They are a force that is behind almost all events in life and the job of the living is to manipulate them to ensure the safety of the individual and the community.

Wasted Food
The ramifications of this core belief touch on almost every aspect of their lives. For instance, our neighbors will go out to their fields all day to work, and then they haul what they harvested on their backs, sometimes for miles, back to the village. The women then work to prepare the food and then the family sits down to eat. If some of this food falls off of someone’s plate, he assumes that one of his deceased relatives is hungry. So, out of obligation, he sets his plate of food on the ground for the ghost and walks away. The food is wasted and the true hunger is unabated.

Wasted Money
And then there are funeral celebrations which need to be conducted in a very particular way, because if the deceased feels dishonored, he will torment the family. Therefore, there must be 6 days of weeping, sleeping by the grave, dancing, and so on. And for this to happen, it absolutely cannot rain. So in order to stop the rain, a family member follows the prescription of a local shaman and spends money that he does not have on kerosene. The shaman then tells him to pour out this expensive gift onto the ground. That formula supposedly stops the rain, even if that means their children will not have money to go to school for the year. Precious money that is so hard to come by is not used to start something like a small business, but instead is spilled on the ground to appease a ghost who is not even there.


And, in Bakoum culture, there is no such thing as an accidental death or a death that comes from natural causes. The reason for death is always due to a curse on the deceased or because a neighbor transformed themselves into an animal in order to kill him. At funeral ceremonies there is a time to determine, through casting lots, the person responsible for the death. As can be expected, this leads to extreme suspicion and strife between the members of the community. I have seen adults stand on either side of our street and scream at one another for hours upon hours, accusing one another of such evils. And then, when the time comes for the community to work together to fix the pump of the local well, there is such division that they refuse to work together and the pump never gets fixed, again leaving people in need. 

Sinking in the Pit that they have Made

Our neighbors do not like being in poverty. They want change. They want good education for their children. They want affordable health care. They do not want to have to work sun-up to sun-down while having malaria. They do not want to bury yet another child. They do not want to die in their beds alone without anything to relieve the pain. They know that this is not the way things are supposed to be and they cry out against this suffering. And we cry out with them. 

But what they do not see is that their allegiance to their traditional religion is actually allegiance to their poverty. They do not see that the Father of Lies is behind it feeding them falsehood in order to keep them poor and dying. Their traditions lead them to hunger, wasting what little money they do have, and disunity.

Psalm 9:15 says “The nations have sunk in the pit that they have made; in the net that they hid, their own foot has been caught.” Our friends and neighbors see that they are in a pit but what they do not see is that every time they make some kind of sacrifice for the spirits, they are digging themselves deeper into this pit. They see that they are caught up in poverty, but what they do not see is that they themselves lay down their own traps every time they go to the local healer.

It is easy for members of this community to blame this person or that for their poor state. It is easy to blame corrupt government. It is easy to blame Western companies who come in and make themselves rich by pillaging the country of her natural resources. We could also blame the West for not offering more aid. While there is validity to many of these causes, the Bible calls us to examine ourselves before we cast blame on others. I pray that the Lord would open the eyes of the Bakoum to take a long, hard look at their system of religion and see that it has a hand in the poverty they so detest. 

The Role of the Missionary

The role of a missionary is to place the Bible side-by-side with the sacred traditions of the culture and call people to choose. For instance, the Bible illustrates through the story of the rich man and Lazarus that, after death, each one’s fate is irreversibly sealed. There is a chasm between Heaven and Hell that cannot be crossed. It is true that there are angels and demons around us, but one’s deceased grandmother is no longer present on this earth. Therefore, one is free to enjoy their meal without having to share it with her ghost. 

Also, it is the God of the universe who controls the weather and if Elijah who was just a fellow human prayed to stop the rain for 3 years, we can humbly pray the rain would stop for this reason or that. We do not have to manipulate spirits nor God. He tells the Christian to simply ask for things.

Further, the Bible teaches that in Adam all die and so, while death is awful, it is inevitable. This idea could liberate people from accusing one another of murder without grounds. Accepting this inevitability would remove a major source of conflict between people and could maybe lead to people working together to learn to read, build factories, and dig wells. 

The truth is, I am not neutral. I cannot look at the poverty and suffering of my friends and neighbors and content myself to describe it, catalog it, and then leave. The Lord has given us a great tool in the Bible to see beyond our culture, to see our cultural sins, to understand the schemes of Satan and to be set free through truth. It would be a great disservice to this people to withhold such freedom. 
If they accept the message we bring, will they lose part of their culture? Yes, of course. But in doing so, they will gain eternal life.

May such wisdom call out in the dusty villages of animistic peoples. And may they see that those who fails to find it injures himself and all who hate it love death (Prov. 8.36) But, for those that embrace wisdom, they will find that with her are riches and honor and enduring wealth and righteousness (Prov. 8.18).