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).

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

How Does it Feel to be Back?

by Dave

Imagine waking up one day in your own bed, next to your own wife, but all of your walls are white, when yesterday they were eggshell. And you are not 100% sure that they have changed, but they just feel different. You go to work and to church and on the way you see buildings that you could swear were not there the last time you passed. You see your friends and co-workers and some of them look a little bit older, some a little heavier, some a little lighter. All of the children are taller, more grown up. And you realize that some people are missing. They were there when you went to sleep, but this morning they are gone without a trace. Other people walk up to you and ask how you are, and let you know that they have been praying for you. You say, “Thank you” and smile, but have no idea who these people are. And to top things off, everyone around you is speaking in a language you understand, but you feel like it is the wrong language. When you go to respond there are at least two other languages trying to force their way to the surface.

Sounds like the beginning of a pretty good movie, right? Well, in fact it is our lives right now. We are starting to get settled back into our lives in South Dallas, a few houses away from where we lived four years ago. And everyone is asking how it is to be back. And the truth is, it is a bit hard to answer that question. People often say, “it feels like you just left,” when we feel like we have been gone 30 years. Many things here are the same, but a lot is different. And we have changed too, now considerably less American than when we left. I constantly think about whether or not I should cross my legs (in some regions of Cameroon it is considered rude). A kid came up to me in the park and said some incomprehensible 3-year-old thing, and I responded in French. I see shadows on the wall and think they are cockroaches, sticks on the ground and think they are snakes, and I am constantly listening to see if I can detect bushfires, problems with our power inverter, our water tower overflowing, neighbors knocking on the door, etc.

Some of our experiences are comforting, exciting, and fun. We have been greeted so warmly at the churches we have attended in Colorado and now Texas. Even outside of church we have been struck by the kindness of the American people in general. We were so happy to get to see my family again and spend some time with them. It has been fantastic to see how many people have kept up with our adventures via our blog. I do not know if I have ever felt so loved and cared for. The food is amazing, better than I remember. And I am eating way too much of it (but you are supposed to feast when you return from a long trip, right?!). We are stopped about every five minutes when we go out in public with people asking about our kids. But people are asking kindly because they are interested and always say encouraging things.

The transition has been hilarious with the kids. All of the things that I grew up with and just take for granted are brand new for them. The thought of a clothes dryer is mind-blowing. It is so funny to see them try to use a water fountain for the first time (see video below).


Yesterday at church Zoey met a new friend. After the service she came up to me and whispered in my ear that she wanted to share something amazing with her. Zoey was not sure if she would have experienced the joy of cereal before. I told Zoey that her friend probably already had some cereal at her house, but she had to run off to confirm it. She was a bit dejected to learn that cereal was not a special treat that she could secretly share with new friends.

Several times I have told the kids to throw something away, but they wander around in circles because nothing around them looks like a trashcan. We all walk around giving everyone handshakes (the custom in Cameroon) which you would think would seem normal, but apparently we do not do that nearly as much here in the US. My kids are grasping that we only cross the roads at crosswalks, but whenever it is time they run across at full speed as if their lives depended on it, and are genuinely surprised to see that the cars stop.

But it is not without sadness that we re-experience our former lives. Some friends have moved on, no longer at our church. We look at all the great things around us and are reminded of how little our friends in the village have. And we know that some of them will die by the time that we get back. We worshipped today in a church surrounded by believers and like six pastors! But we know that Boris (our pastor in the village) is toiling pretty much alone. It is a constant reminder to be thankful for all that we have here in America, but it is also a sober reminder.

So, how is it to be back? Exciting, happy, scary, funny, confusing, sad, exhilarating, fun, and a whole bunch of other adjectives I cannot even begin to explain.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

[VIDEO] Four Years, Two Languages, Still So Much to Do

I am sure that many of you have seen the new video in our most recent newsletter, but I wanted to post it here as well. And, just for memories sake, I also have posted the video we did at the end of our time in France as well. These two videos represent the last four years of our lives. It has been a tough climb but we are so thankful to see fruit of our labors and the grace of God throughout. Now onto bigger and better things!

End if First Term in Cameroon:

Year in Review from France:

Monday, March 6, 2017

From the Bush to the Burbs: MK Re-Entry

by Stacey
We are set to arrive in the States in just 9 days and as we talk to our children about American culture, we have realized that it may be helpful for our friends in America to understand a bit of the culture that they are coming from.

I used to think of them as American. They are being raised by American parents, we speak mostly English in our home, and even occasionally watch an American movie all together. But then, we had a homeschool teacher show up in August who later shared that she had no idea how many cultural differences there were between teaching kids in American and teaching our children. Having her here has really helped me to see the dramatic impact that this culture has had on them.

For instance, one day their teacher, Megan, was talking to them about ice and our kids looked at her and asked, “What is ice?” They had no idea. They also will ask me questions like, “Mom, what is bubble gum?” and other basic things that we all assume everyone in the world knows about (but, as it turns out the world is bigger than America…).

They also have issues with language. All four of them are more-or-less bilingual and we hope to start teaching them yet another language when we return to Cameroon. And so they will often use a French word if they do not know the English word or they will carry over French grammatical rules into their English (“The thing who is sitting on the counter” for example). They also do not really know a lot of English idioms and take them literally. For instance, when their teacher was reading them a book that said that a woman stuck her head in the door to see if the kids were OK all of our kids gasped. “How is she going to get it out?!” they cried. Also, when their teacher read a book with a southern accent, they had no idea what she was saying (although that is getting better). They also do not know what things which we would consider basic are (dishwashers, microwaves, elevators, mailboxes, sidewalks, and so on).

What is equally comical is how content they are playing with trash. I asked them to bring me what they would like to take to America and it was hilarious to see what they chose. We are bringing home two dirty marbles that Kaden’s friend gave him, a couple balls that look like they’ve been chewed up by animals (and may have been actually), and I had to put my foot down about lots of other things. I told them that we were not going to take a suitcase of sticks (or, to them, swords) to America. Nor would I take the dirty bread wrapper that they found on the ground outside. “Kids, we are not hauling trash across the ocean.” They looked at me as if I had betrayed them. “Trash?!” is what their expressions said. “These are treasures! These are swords, shields, and kites – not trash!” I told them that we were going to one of the richest nations on the world and we could easily find more sticks and sandwich bags to play with. They were utterly unconvinced.

Another thing that I find absolutely hilarious is how they will eat absolutely anything. A.n.y.t.h.i.n.g. One day there was a little kitchen mix-up and the rice pudding (which included eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc) was added to our bowl of chili. The smell alone was enough for me to skip lunch. But, I thought, why not see if the kids will eat it? I served it to them without saying a word and they inhaled it and asked for seconds (and maybe thirds for the boys). There were chunks of eggs floating around in their chili – how could they eat it? But they did and they liked it. They just eat anything. It is staggering.

Another aspect of Cameroonian culture that they have adopted is that they have no concept of personal space (except for maybe Makyra). They like to be touching other people pretty much at all times. Aside from our home, there are not many chairs around, but only benches. Therefore, there are usually like 15 kids that all share a bench at church. I am really trying to introduce the concept of personal space but it is an uphill battle. Kaden is often seen running around hand-in-hand with one of his playmates.

Also, here, since there are so many children, a lot of the older (i.e. 4+ years old) children will help with the babies. One day I was walking down the street and I saw Zoey, our youngest, carrying a newborn baby, just walking down the street. We have explained that mommies in America generally hold their own babies, but do not be too surprised if our girls ask to tie your 6 month old to their backs (you can say no).

I write all this to help our dear friends and family know where they are coming from. Even though they are our children, in a lot of ways they are like taking one of the kids in our village to America for the first time. They will be forced to learn a culture that, to them, is foreign. And so, here are some ways to help us help them adapt to American culture:

Kindly explain how we do things in America and feel free to laugh later.

Here are some examples, “In our culture, we find it impolite to pick your nose. Do you need to go blow your nose in the bathroom?” (It is totally socially acceptable to publically pick your nose here). Or, “In our culture, we don’t urinate outside. Can I show you where the bathroom is?” Or, “In our culture, when we don’t walk in the street, we stay on what we call sidewalks. That way the cars won’t hit us.” Or, “In America, we really love forming lines. This is where you stand behind the person in front of you and wait patiently for your turn.” Please also feel free to explain what things are. Anything more advanced than Little House on the Prairie may likely need some explaining. They will probably ask lots of questions and find things you think mundane (like a vacuum cleaner!) completely fascinating.

Avoid speaking negatively about Cameroon.

We teach our kids that things in various cultures are not “good, bad, but just different” (unless the Bible calls them good or bad of course). So, the way in which we cut the lawn in the US is with a lawnmower and the way we do it in Cameroon is with a machete. Not good, not bad, just different. In American culture we typically don’t wear extremely bright clothing. Here, the brighter the better. Not good, not bad, just different.

Also, these kids are being raised in Cameroon and, in their minds, Cameroon is their home. It is what they know and they love it. Just today Kaden said, “I love being a missionary kid!” They are happy here and are even sad to leave. We are thankful for their love of this place and do not think it would be productive to pity them for “all they’ve had to give up.” In fact, Elias said he was a little nervous to go back to America because of “how dangerous it is.” He said that he was afraid of the tornados over there. Cameroon does not have tornados (I guess he does not see all the other dangers….).

Less is more.

If someone asked you if you wanted the “Baton de manioc” or the “poisson braisé” for dinner, which would you choose? You would probably just sit there and stare because you don’t know what either of these are. This is exactly the same thing for our kids if you asked them if they wanted “a drumstick” or “fish sticks.” They will just stare at you because they don’t know what these are. Our kids are not used to options, partly because there is just not much out here and partly because that is how we are raising them. We are trying to help them be content and thankful for everything that they are given and everything that is around them. So, let them continue to be content playing with sticks and rocks and encourage them to say thank you for whatever they are served to eat. A lot of options and a lot of stuff would most likely overwhelm them.

Expect awkwardness.

In Cameroonian culture, if ever there is a bit of uneasiness in the air, people laugh. I like it (generally) – it lightens the mood. But what that means is that our children laugh at times that Americans consider inappropriate or even rude. For instance, if one of them is asked a question in homeschool and they do not know it, their brothers and sisters laugh. I do not think the one who does not know is offended at all. In fact, to me it seems like they are thankful that someone lightened the mood a little by laughing. We have explained to them that would be interpreted as making fun of people in American culture and they just kind of stare at us like, “really?”

Also, we expect that they will be scared of things that Americans do not find scary (we have heard that things like static electricity have scared MKs). It is like how we show up to Cameroon and are afraid of cockroaches. People just scratch their heads like “why is she afraid of that?!” I assume that many of you will have the same reaction if our kids are running in terror from something like moving sidewalks at the airport.

Ask Questions.

I know it is hard to talk to people from different cultures. My full time job is to develop relationships with people who I have absolutely nothing in common with and it isn’t easy. I understand. So, I thought I’d write down some things to help start conversations with MKs:
  • What do you do everyday in Cameroon? 
  • What are some animals that you have seen over there?
  • Do you have a favorite Cameroonian meal?
  • What is your favorite thing to do in Cameroon?
  • What is your favorite thing to do in homeschool? What did you do when you went to the village school?
  • What are some things that you see at the market in Cameroon? Do you know how to buy stuff in the market?
  • When you play with the village kids, what do you play?
  • Tell me about the cute babies in your village. 
  • Tell me all about all the pets you’ve had. 
  • What kinds of toys to your friends play with?
  • Tell me about the pretty dresses that the women wear (for the girls). 
  • Tell me what your room looks like in Cameroon. 
  • What is it like when you go out with your mommy or daddy to learn Bakoum?
  • What do you mommy and daddy do for their language sessions? 
  • Tell me about the time that your daddy ran over a viper with his car, or about when Kaden was baptized, or about the VBSs that your parents did, or about the time your house almost burnt down. 
  • What did your yard look like when you first moved in and what does it look like now? 
  • Tell me about the amazing thunderstorms in Cameroon. 
  • What seasons do you have in Cameroon?

Well, we hope that this gives our friends and family an idea of where our children are coming from. And, at the end of the day, they are extremely thick skinned and it is nearly impossible to offend them, so don’t worry too much. We are so looking forward to bringing our kids home to their loving grandparents, to meet our life-long friends, and to attend healthy, Gospel preaching, English speaking churches. Thanks in advance for welcoming us back into your lives!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Then and Now: How our Perspectives Have Changed throughout our First Term

by Stacey

In just a few days, we will be packing up to leave our village so that we can spend 16 months in the States completing our MAs in Applied Linguistics / Bible Translation. As we pack up our suitcases, we are reminded of the thoughts and feelings that we had when we left America 4 years ago. We are coming to realize that many of the perspectives that we held to on the plane ride over have changed. For instance, we now realize that…

Language Learning is a Beast.

On the plane ride over, I was sitting next to a girl telling her about how we planned on speaking French fluently by the end of our one year stay in France. “It should be easy enough” I said to her. There was a pause and then she finally said, “French is actually a different language.” In saying that she was implying that it would be more difficult than I was expecting. She was right.

If you think about it, our children grow up hearing English from inside the womb and we start school them religiously the moment they are born. And STILL, after 7 years of being schooled in English, I still look at my kids regularly and say, “I’m sorry, I have no idea what you are saying. Could you please ask your question in a different way?” Why then would we expect to speak like an adult after only a couple years?

We have realized that speaking to and understanding others is a life’s task and all the promises on the Internet that one can learn a foreign language in 6 months are just lies.

The Role of Miracles Among Animistic Peoples.

The God that we know from reading the Bible loves to do miracles. Jesus came to heal the sick, give sight to the blind, and even raise the dead. So, coming to a place where there is almost no access to good medical care and the physical suffering is rampant, we came with hopeful expectations that God would show his power to this people in miraculous healings.

But what we must have overlooked in the Bible was the role of faith in the person being healed. People here believe in miracles, are eager for them. They want their sickness and sufferings relieved. But many of them want the miracles without 
the Jesus that calls them to take up their cross and follow him.

One of my neighbors “came to Christ” years ago through the Lord miraculously saving her from her abusive husband (she says that mid-attack he became paralyzed and could not move his feet to continue abusing her). But today she bears zero fruit of one who knows Christ and is steeped in the sins of this culture. She clearly never understood the Gospel, or never counted the cost of following Christ. People here are looking for miracles and prosperity without having to publicly confess their sin, bow the knee to Jesus, and obey all that he has commanded.

They are like the people in John 6 who came to Jesus for bread, but when promised them something greater (himself), they would not believe.

They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe" (John 6:34-35).
Jesus was well aware of those who would pay him lip service for self gain without hearts that loved him. And when this happened, he refused to do miracles. In Nazareth, “He did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief” (Matthew 13:58). Because of the hardness of peoples' hearts and their lack of belief that he was what would really satisfy them, he left the sick in their sick beds.

So, we now offer our neighbors prayer and give them any medications that we have that could help them, but we do not consider God healing them to be the greatest demonstration of his power. We believe that the greatest demonstration of the power of Jesus is to have our neighbors burn all their cultic fetishes and witch potions that could “cure” them and then come and worship Jesus, whether he chooses to heal them or not. The greatest demonstration of his power would be to take a people that just try to manipulate him and their dead ancestors to get good health and make them hope in the resurrection. A question I have asked people before is, “We all know that Jesus has the power to heal you, but will you praise him if he doesn’t?” May the Lord raise up a submitted people here that loves him more than health and wealth.

The Lies of Animism.

Along the same vein, when we came to Cameroon we were really open to the idea that Satan works differently in different parts of the world. And we have heard that often, in majority world contexts, he works through demon possession and supernatural manifestations in order to hold people in bondage to fear. We are Americans who believe in scientific explanations for things, but we also know that the demonic realm is not necessarily subject to the same scientific laws that we are (for instance, they are invisible). We did not come over here as skeptics, but came ready to take any story of demonic manifestations at face value.

This has all changed. We now have come to believe that Satan does not have to be nearly as dramatic in order to hold people in bondage. This is because many people just believe everything they hear. For example, a person may come from a hunting trip in the bush and claim that he experienced a ghost. His testimony is accepted without doubt as our neighbors rush to find traditional methods of protecting themselves from this apparition. Perhaps the original encounter was supernatural, but the reality of that experience has nothing to do with the reactions of the people. They believe the testimony, feel an incredible amount of fear, and (with minor effort on behalf of the devil and his angels) hundreds of people are driven deeper into the bondage of traditional religion.

Another example is that many people here believe that in the uterus of some women, there live monsters that can come out during sexual intercourse and trouble the man. So far, no one I know has ever seen one such monster, but many are afraid of them and seek whatever means necessary (often involving witchcraft) to protect themselves from them. It is superstitions like these that send people on hour-long hikes to find special leaves that will kill the monsters instead of coming to our Bible studies.

We now see our role here is to call people to repent of these fears, to put their trust in Christ, and to live as children trusting in a loving father. And if the Lord wants to use the curse of some village witch to kill me, then so be it. I am going to Heaven. May he liberate them from their superstitions so they will have the time to learn to read and write and read the Bible as it comes out.

A More Realistic View of Missions.

And finally, we have developed a more realistic view of missions. The Lord may have used John Piper’s passionate sermons to get us to the field, but we have found that any missionary zeal is often sapped by one round of malaria. We have learned that missions is a daily putting of one foot in front of the other. Missions is years of doing things that do not necessarily feel spiritual (like memorizing all the words for their different kinds of ants…), praying that, one day, the name of Christ will be exalted here. We are convinced that missions is 98% raw endurance and 2% zeal.

All in all, we are thankful that just as the grace of the cross is available to the people we are ministering to, so the grace of the cross is available to us. We have realized our frailty and finiteness and our need for our Savior more than ever during our first term. May he continue to lead us and our brothers and sisters in wisdom day by day, year by year.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

To My Son, on the Day of his Baptism

by Stacey

Today was one of the happiest days of my life. Our 7 year old son Kaden has announced to a large, boisterous crowd of people that Jesus Christ was his Savior and Lord! I invited pretty much everyone I knew to his baptism and was overjoyed to see friends steeped in animism walk into church to listen to Kaden read his testimony. We listened to a sermon and then people from our church walked through the dusty streets singing praises to the Lord all the way to the river. It was an incredibly joyous time. I praise God for his work in Kaden’s life and pray that he endures and bears much fruit. Here is a (long) letter that I read to him today after his baptism…


To my beloved son on the day of your baptism,

I once heard in a sermon a beautiful story of a great king. This great king was wise, wealthy, and benevolent. Everything he desired, he had. One day he was out with his entourage in one of the poorer parts of his kingdom when he saw a dirty orphan street boy. This noble king had compassion on the young boy and called for his servants to bring him to him. He looked into the eyes of this little boy, and even though the boy was nothing to be desired, this kind-hearted king made a public declaration:
“This is my son!”
There was a hush among the crowd as this sheepish, stunned child was escorted to the royal castle. It was there at the castle that the king started to treat this once rejected street boy as his own son. He was clothed in clean clothes, he was taught how to read and write, and he was put through rigorous training to prepare him to fight in war. When the child was tired from all the demands put on him as the prince, his father reminded him of the great to calling to which he had been called. He was no longer a child playing with trash in the street but was now the child of a king who would one day be called upon to rule the nation.
“You are my son” he said, “now live up to what you have already received.”

Kaden, you are this little boy. You, like the rest of us, were dead to God and playing in the trash of your sins. But the great and benevolent King of the universe poured out all of his wrath on his own Son so that he might lovingly adopt you into his family.

He took you off of the path of Hell and placed you on the path to Heaven. He has taken your heart of stone and given you a heart of flesh that is soft to his Word. He has taken you out from under the control of the prince of the power of the air and given you the Spirit of love, power, and self-control.

You are now a part of the people of God. You have Abraham as your father of faith. You, through faith in Christ, have been grafted into the lineage of the David who killed Goliath. You both have a great heritage and you have an incredible future. Through faith you have overcome the world and one day you will inherit the whole earth and even judge angels. What you have been called to is no small thing.

We do nothing to earn this standing in the family of God, but once we are there, we are called to greatness. We are called to live up to the calling to which we have been called. It is both a great honor and a great duty. As Paul said to Timothy,
You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus…Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. 2 Timothy 2:1,3-4
You are a soldier who is called to not get caught up in the glitter of this world, but instead you are called to live to please the King who saved you.

So, Kaden, I call you, as a son of the God of the universe, to greatness. Specifically, I call you to strive towards five things as you begin your Christian walk. I call you to:

Love like you have been loved.
Your Savior Jesus left Heaven to come down and serve the unworthy, and you are called to do the same. You are first called to love the Lord with all your heart and how this manifests itself is by you loving his image bearers, and especially his church. You know that you will always be walking in the will of God if you are loving God and the people around you. Pray daily that the Lord will help you to love and may love be your motivation for all that you do. Pray for others, give to the needy, bear with your siblings, forgive others, and bear their burdens.
Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.

You are at the beginning of your Christian life, but the King has many plans for you. He wants to grow you and make you into the image of his beloved Son. And how do you grow? Jesus answers this question in John 17:17 when he said, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” The way in which we are made more holy is through the knowledge of and obedience to the Word of God. So Kaden, train yourself to be in the Word-to read the Bible, listen to sermons, memorize the Bible and share it with others. This depends on you Kaden. Religious zeal is something value, but what ensures godliness is a perseverant, get-up-when-you’re-tired-to-read-the-Bible faith.

1 Timothy 4:7 says,
“Train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”
Be determined now Kaden that you will discipline yourself to pursue God through the spiritual disciplines: through Bible intake, prayer, fasting, communing with a local body of believers, giving, and so on. This will mean coming in from playing to do family devotions. It will mean going to bed early so you can wake up early enough to read the Bible. It will mean praying for others even when you yourself are having a tough day. If you live a life committed to the spiritual disciplines, you will become like the King who gave his life for you. 

Do not love the world. 
“The cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” - Mark 4:19
Kaden, the Lord gives good gifts to us in this world, but also know that these good gifts can choke the word of God right out of your life. You have been adopted into an American family and culture and in that, there are many, many dangers. The greatest danger is that you will have the opportunity to live a wealthy life. Kaden, keep giving away your things and use what you have to invest in the Kingdom of God and then you can rest assured that the Word of God in you will not be choked out. Be very weary of entertainment and ease. It deadens the soul and deafens our ears to the cries of the suffering. You will live in the palace of the King forever. Store up your treasures there through investing in the “least of these” now.
Persevere like a good soldier.

Colossians 1:21-23 says
“And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, IF indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard.”
Kaden, many will say, “Once you are saved, you are always saved.” This is not an untrue statement, but it is incomplete. Based on the above verse, I am persuaded that we should say, “IF saved, always saved.” I encourage you Kaden to prove your salvation through your life. Prove that you know him. Prove that you are a child of the King. Prove that the Holy Spirit lives in you. Continue in the faith without wavering. Everyday remind yourself of the Gospel and cling to it. 

Strive to change the world. 
“Therefore, I say to you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Mark 11:24
Kaden, we are to pray that God’s will would be done on earth as it is done in Heaven. And there is no poverty in Heaven, so may we pray that there would be no poverty here. There is no violence in heaven; therefore we should fight against violence here on earth. There is no corruption; there is no abortion, no terrorism. So, let us pray against and let us open our mouths and fight against the sins that grip this world so tightly. Kaden, speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. You are intelligent and you will be educated, therefore you will have opportunities that most of the world could only dream of. Use this privilege to help others Kaden. We serve a limitless God so when you see the world’s problems, don’t feel as if they are too big to tackle.

There is nothing too difficult for this God and if he can use a little shepherd by to kill a giant, he could use to end abortion in American. He could use you to end corruption in Cameroon. Maybe God will use you like he used Daniel who was put in a palace to speak the truth of who God was in the ear of pagan kings.

Do not listen to people when they tell you that it is too hard to change the world. There is NOTHING impossible with God and he loves to use average people like you and me to accomplish great things. Dream big my friend. You serve a great big God.

I love you with all my heart Kaden,

Your Mom