Sunday, January 22, 2017

In a Country Where Abortion is Illegal

by Dave

If you knew some of the things that happened here in Cameroon, you would be so angry. There are injustices here that, just to be honest, we would never see in the US. And if they did happen, it would be in the news and people would go to jail. I doubt that this is particularly surprising to most of you. We tend to think that unjust things happen in third-world countries. But have you ever considered that the practices of your nation are shocking to someone in the third-world? I am not talking about just culture shock, but real moral outrage.

This is the response that I receive when I have talked to some of my neighbors about abortion in America. They have been genuinely repulsed by the fact that abortion is legal in the States. Their shock comes from several reasons, among which I will name a few.

Children are a Blessing

In the US we often hear rhetoric telling us that unborn babies are not really babies. We hear that they are unformed clumps of cells, and that disposing of them is no different than an appendectomy. I have very strong doubts that many in the US believe this lie, but many pretend to. This fantasy is not present for most here in Cameroon. Children are not seen (merely) as a burden, but a blessing, something to strive for. Barrenness is seen as weakness and feared. And the natural response from parents to their children, even their unborn children, is to protect. I find this perspective overall refreshing, and closer to the biblical mindset.

For instance, the psalmist in Psalm 127 tells us, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward” (v. 3). Not ignoring the difficulties of raising children, the Bible teaches that they are a blessing from the Lord. According to this psalmist, when we discover a pregnancy, we out to think: this is a reward from God! I do not feel like this is the overall mindset of Americans, however, it is the mindset of most Cameroonians I know. Abortion is outrageous because it is the destruction of a blessing.

Parents Love Their Children

I spent several months living in the jungle here with the Baka, a pygmy tribe here in Cameroon. One day I spent some time with a mother who had a very sick little baby. Not too long later I heard loud wailing and walked out to find her holding her baby boy, now dead in her arms. I sat there with the family for a while, not really knowing what to say as they mourned their newborn. As I now reflect on this time, I realize that there could not have been a more appropriate response. Parents love their children and the death of a child is one of the saddest experiences a parent can ever go through. The abortion industry tries to sell us the lie that abortion is, in some situations, what is best for the parents (and even the child). However, naturally we know that the death of our children is not good.

Biblically speaking, the love that a parent has for her children is an assumption. Paul, when wanting to describe his gentle love for the church said, “we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children” (I Thessalonians 2:7). It is so normal, so common, for a mother to love her child that Paul used it as an illustration knowing that it would not be confused. Whenever I read reports of women or men who have killed their own (already born) children in the news, it is shocking. Abortion is no less shocking, as it is no less the murder of a child by her parents.

We All Have a Conscience

When Stacey and I spent time with the Speak for the Unborn ministry in Louisville, KY we saw many men and women go into the abortion clinic. Some tried to put on a tough face, I even saw a few laughing, mocking those of us who would speak out for their children. However, by far the most common look I saw on the women’s faces was sorrow. Whether they were coerced, felt like they had no other choice, or were just slaves to sin, these women knew what they were doing. You could see it in their eyes. And you could see that it haunted them.

This is not a mystery. We have a God who calls us to “speak for those who cannot speak for themselves” (Proverbs 31:8), and to “defend the poor and fatherless” (Psalm 82:3). This very same God has written his law on our hearts (Romans 2:15). He wired us to know what is right and wrong. He wired us to know that he hates the killing of innocents. Why are so many women haunted by their decision to abort? Because they were made with a conscience that tells them it is wrong. I have seen in the West how we have calloused ourselves to this conscience in this regard. And living in a less-calloused culture makes the horror or our apathy so evident.



There are lots of problems here in Cameroon. There are many ways in which I teach my children not to be like the culture around us. But when the subject of abortion comes up, I am genuinely ashamed to be an American. Cameroon has a much lower literacy rate, is full of people enslaved to traditional religion. But its people look across the ocean and cannot imagine how we can so freely kill our own children. And it is not like we have not had warning. We have had the Bible for centuries longer than my neighbors. We tend to think we are so much more advanced than those in poor countries, but I tell you, the people of Cameroon will rise up at the judgment with the Americans and condemn it. For we, who were so knowledgeable, so “advanced” failed to see the obvious. We failed to thank God for the blessing of children, failed to love them, and ignored our consciences.

I pray that this Sanctity of Life Sunday would be a time of repentance for my generation. May we turn from the sin of abortion and to the Savior who is so ready to forgive.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Stacey's Interview with Pilgrim Radio

Check out Stacey's interview on Pilgrim Radio regarding her post: Why in the World Did I Leave America?


Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Best Kind of Self-Care is Care for Others

by Stacey

The joy that comes in serving others is grossly underrated.

It is true that Lord has created all things for us to enjoy. Spending time with family, enjoying the beach, hearing children laughing, playing with your pet bunny, or seeing a great movie are all things that bring joy and refreshment. God deserves praise for these gifts and we should not feel guilty in experiencing them.

And yet, I would say there is a different type of joy that comes from self-sacrificing service that can only be tasted by those who lay themselves aside. I would imagine that the exhausted fire-fighter receives one type of joy in spending time with his family at the beach, but another type of joy when he carries someone out of the burning building. Both may bring nourishment to the soul, but a self-sacrificing love feeds a part of the souls that a million good meals could never hope to touch.

The Bible has much to say about this kind of joy.

Take Paul for example. If we read a description of his ministry, we would definitely sign him up for counseling. He said that people doubted the authenticity of what he was doing, no one really knew him, and that he was sad. Physically speaking, he was poor and even dying. On paper, we would think he had every right to be burnt-out and maybe a little bitter. And yet, Paul continues his report explaining that he was very much alive, making many rich, in possession of the entire world and even…rejoicing (2 Cor 6:8-10). How could this be possible?

It is possible because his joy was based not his general well-being, but instead his joy was wrapped up in those he was serving. He called the church in Philippians “his joy and his crown.” If a firefighter loses a limb in saving the life of a little girl, his joy will be wrapped up in watching the little girl live a long, healthy life. The mother who tirelessly works with her child to prepare a speech feels like people are applauding for her as her son confidently says his last few words. When we give of ourselves for the sake of others, there is an undeniable deep joy that far surpasses momentary pleasures.

Jesus also tasted of this joy. When he started his public ministry and lived a life of homelessness, he was not thinking about things like food or clothing or how he could best care for himself. He did not need to because he was already full on a different kind of food: the work his Father had sent him to accomplish. He said, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (John 4:35). There was something so deeply satisfying about seeking to do the work set out for him that the basic need of eating was almost forgotten.

And then there are the plain statements in Proverbs that say,
“One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered” Prov 11:24-25.
It is not the one who occupies himself with right care for his well being that is satisfied. It is instead the one who is seeking the well being of others that finds himself refreshed. It is in giving of ourselves that we live rich lives and in preserving ourselves that we end up impoverished.

So, how do we receive this kind of joy?

Don’t Seek Your Own Good

To our “have it your way” American culture, I think we need to be reminded of Paul’s words in 1 Cor 10:24 “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” The Bible actually tells us to not look out for “number one” but instead to put ourselves aside and look out for the good of those around us. I wonder how our decisions would turn out differently if we took the big ME and MY NEEDS off of our pros and cons list completely.

Lay Down Your Life and Encourage Your Friends to do the Same
There is a holy joy in serving others in a self-sacrificing way that runs so deep that it simply cannot be rivaled by a life of safety and comfort. We, as the church, should be encouraging one another to seek this kind of joy in difficult service within the Kingdom of God. There is, for example, a sweetness of submission to God in staying in a difficult marriage and having him sustain and comfort you than in leaving it for an easier life. Good friends remind one another of this joy and the example of Christ first and foremost and call one another to sacrifice comfort and ease for this joy.

Know that True Joy is Often a Tired, Sad Joy
Jesus, the Savior of the world, was known as the “man of sorrows” who “set his face like flint” and walked towards Jerusalem in order to die “for the joy that was set before him.” He was all at the same time a man who was completely fulfilled in doing the work that the Father had set out for him to accomplish, he did it for joy, and he felt anguish in thinking about what he had to do. If Jesus faced all of these emotions in his ministry, I think it is normal for us to too. Sorrow, fatigue, and weariness are not necessarily warning signs that something is going wrong, but may be crucial ingredients in a God-honoring ministry.

The truth is that a life of self sacrifice is often exhausting and sometimes a break from it would be helpful. But what I want to make clear is that pouring oneself out to the point of exhaustion is not in opposition to self-care, it is a means to a deeper joy.

Take for example fellow missionaries who minister in a neighboring tribe called the Baka people. They have ministered to the Baka people for over 20 years, and have only now started seeing some converts. They have chosen the harder life, living deep in the jungle, wrestling malaria, biting ants, and dark, evil traditions. And just last week a Christian Baka woman died and immediately went into the presence of her Lord. She is possibly the first Baka adult to enter the gates of Heaven. And I believe that if you were to ask those very missionaries today if it was worth their labor, sickness, pain and loss, they would say yes. And they would say it both with tears in their eyes and a smile on their face. This is the exhausting, frustrating, exhilarating, peaceful joy that I strive towards. And I pray that you will too.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Have a Sober New Year


by Dave

2017 is off to an extremely sober start here in Cameroon. Our friend and brother in Christ, Nestor, the only elder-qualified Baka man in our area, lost his wife this morning. She, still a very young woman, has battled sickness off and on, but I do not think anyone was expecting her death. We went to her funeral this evening and listened to the wailing cries of her lost family members. We reminded Nestor of the fact that, as she is in Christ, she is already doing much better than we are. But we reminded him with tears in our eyes, mourning not for her, but for us.

Our pastor, yesterday, preached from the only psalm attributed to Moses: Psalm 90. This has been an important psalm in my own life that was part of what has led me to believe that God wants us to be sober-minded. Moses certainly spent much of his life in dark conditions, leading a people for forty years that were condemned to slowly die in the wilderness. And he too, died in the desert overlooking the Promised Land, but not a part of it.

In Psalm 90, after talking about the brevity of life, Moses prays, “So, teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom” (v12). It seems to me that, rather than avoiding thoughts of death, Moses is actually calling us to dwell upon sober realities and to let them change the way the we live.

Sobriety is Characteristic of A Christian
In the New Testament, we are actually commanded by God to be sober-minded. Paul, considering the rapidly-approaching end of this current age said to the Thessalonians, “So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation” (I Thessalonians 5:6-8). Paul even goes so far to tell Timothy, “Always be sober-minded” (II Timothy 4:5).

As Christians we have been given much more revelation than Moses. We are not blind, we live in the light. But what we find in the light is that just as Moses was living in a generation of the condemned, we live in the midst of a dying race. Christ has conquered death and for those of us who believe the sting of death has been removed. However, we still die. We still feel the effects of the Fall. We still have an enemy that goes about like a roaring lion. For Christians, just like for Moses, life is hard, life is short, and we must be sober. Of course, in order to be sober, we must as the question…

What does it mean to be sober?
Sobriety is NOT Drunkenness BUT Hard Work
Not surprisingly, being sober does mean that we are not drunk. The Bible does not lead us to consider death with the despair and hopeless that leads to drunkenness. We ought not say, like the Epicureans, “Eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die” (I Corinthians 15:32). Dwelling on death did not cause Moses to be casual about life and to feast on all her earthly temporal pleasures. Death is an enemy, a result of sin, a reminder of sin, and it leads to sobriety, not drunkenness.

In Psalm 90, verse 17, Moses says “Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands.” Dwelling upon his approaching death makes Moses want to live a life of eternal significance. He wants the work of his hands to be established by God. And think about how God answered this prayer for Moses. God used Moses to lead his people out of slavery and then judge them righteously. Moses parted the waters of the Red Sea, delivered God’s law for the first time, and wrote the first 5 books of the Bible! The brevity of life might make the world want to get drunk and hide, but it ought to make us run harder and beg the Lord to use our efforts.

Sobriety is NOT Fear BUT Confidence
Note though, that while Moses was sober about our brief existence, he was not afraid. Hebrews 11:10 tells us that Abraham, “looked forward to a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Moses, like Abraham, was not looking ahead to a formless afterlife. He was not allowed to enter Canaan because of sin, but he soon found himself in the Promised Land experiencing true rest. His confidence was in God and in God’s promises.

You can hear some of this confidence in 13-17:
“Return, O LORD! How long? Have pity on your servants! Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!”
Moses uses a lot of imperatives there: “Satisfy us”, “Make us Glad”, “Let your work be shown”, “let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us.” Those are not commands, they are requests; bold and confident requests. Moses knew that he was weak, like grass that is here one moment and then gone. But he was not asking these things of a weak God. To the God who has been “our dwelling place in all generations” he confidently asks for joy, favor, and fruit of his labor. Moses was not facing death in fear, but in confidence. And so much less do we fear death who have been explicitly taught of the resurrection and the defeat of death by our Lord Jesus Christ.

Numbering our days means living a life of sobriety. And biblical sobriety works hard in great confidence because of God’s promises.

Sobriety Means Seeking a Life of Weight

I think the greatest challenge to me in Psalm 90, in regards to living a life of sobriety, is in the call to have a life of weight. Moses said “establish the work of our hands.” After calling us to sobriety in Ephesians 5, Paul said “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise.” There is so much in this life that is pulling me to frivolity. The world, flesh and devil beg me to live for comfort, toys, and weekends. 1 John 2:16 says, “For all that is in the world--the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions--is not from the Father but is from the world.” I want to take pride in my possessions! I want to live to please my eyes and flesh. But to do so would be to act as though this life is it. To do so would be to forget to number my days. To do so would be to ignore the fact that everyone I know and will ever know will die, and after death comes judgment.

We sometimes treat thinking about death as a buzz-kill, a destroyer of joy. But I tell you it is not true. There is a time for goofy, slap-stick, joshing around with the buddies. There is a time for fun and silliness. But you will not taste true joy in those moments. This evening I sat on the dirt floor of a small house in a circle with my brothers and sisters in Christ. In the next room lay the earthly body of our brother’s wife. And surrounded by an entire village lost in despair, we sang worship to Jesus as we wept. Surrounded by those who grieved without hope, we grieved with hope. We grieved knowing that Dali’s death was not really death for her, but entrance into true life. The sobriety of the moment did not weaken our worship, but deepened it. And it made me want to spend my 2017 pleading with others to join us.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Merry Christmas from the Hares!

Merry Christmas from the Hares. We celebrated with presents, cupcakes, church, and a lot more dancing than we would have in the States. So overall it was a great day.



One amazing aspect of Christmas this year was the sheer mass of children that the Lord has brought to our church. We decided not long after we moved in that we should add a children's ministry focus to our lives. It is beyond belief how God has used that prayer.



It was a great celebration. May God continue to grow his church in Cameroon for years to come!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Why in the World Did I Leave America?


by Stacey
Missions is a lot like marriage. Marriage is not a one-time commitment at the altar. Marriage is instead lot of little daily commitments and recommitments to love one’s spouse. In the same way, I thought missions was a once-and-for-all sign on the dotted line, get the visa, get on a plane commitment. But I was wrong. Missions, like marriage, is a day in and day out decision to stay where you are, to keep learning the language, to cherish the name of the Lord, to love people who are difficult, and to honor the Gospel. It is a life of be being committed to not looking around, but instead keeping one’s eyes focused on one and only one thing: The advancement of the Gospel to the least-reached.


Why in the World Have I Left America?

I spent the last week in California, after having lived overseas for four years, and was blown away by so many graces present there. I was blown away by the general kindness of people who would pet my parent’s dog that I was taking on a walk, who would say “bless you” when I sneezed and who did their jobs without looking for bribes. Even at the airport at 5am, the associates greeted me with a warm “Good morning!” while smiling. Instead of getting elbowed and shoved around while waiting for my luggage at the baggage claim, a man helped me get my heavy bag off the belt.

On top of that, I was enamored with the organization of America. There are sidewalks. Lanes on the freeway that people stay in. You can cross the road at a crosswalk and cars stop. People wait in what I have heard called “lines” without pushing and shoving.

What else was tremendously striking was the wealth and comfort of America. The wealth in America is like having a child who only plays with dirt and sticks, and then one day someone takes him to Disneyland. There are simply no words to describe the sense of amazement that child feels as he looks around at the beautiful buildings, the flashing lights, and the laughing Disney characters.

But what is most awe-inspiring about America are the churches and the Christians. I know there are problems there too, and yet I have abundant numbers of sincere, God-fearing, Jesus-loving friends. I went to my parent’s church and stood in amazement as hundreds of people were singing in unison “Hosanna in the highest.” The love, and particularly the Christian love, I have found in America is an almost forgotten foretaste of the love of Heaven. One cannot help but to be drawn to it.

And so, in seeing all of these graces, a question that kept lingering in my mind was, “Why in the world have I given all this up? Why not live in a place where my kids could have friends that grow up in Christian homes? Why not go to a great church and grow in my knowledge of the Word of God? Why not avoid the malaria, bugs, and intense suffering that is often at our doorstep?”

Because My Life is Not Precious

While these thoughts may be normal, I am convinced that they are not godly. Paul said in Acts 20:24 “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.”

My comfort, my happiness, my ease, my desire to be around kind people are simply not of any value. I know that cuts against human nature and the air we breathe in America as we hear in a million different forms, “Have it your way,” “Do what’s best for you,” and “Follow your heart.” The messages we hear from within, and from without, scream for us to consider ourselves first. These voices call us to take up our own comfort, but I do not see such a call in Scripture. The Lord calls us instead to lay it down. Paul said that the value of his life was not even on the list of factors in his decision making. He did not consider his preferences at all, but instead was single-minded focusing only on the ministry he received from the Lord.

Because the Privileged are Called to Share

Another sentiment that I felt in America was not only a sense of awe but also a burden for those who live without such luxuries. It just does not seem fair. Take for example my mom, who has (had?) cancer. She was operated on by one of the best surgeons in America who also seemed to genuinely care for her. In fact, when she read my mom’s prognosis, she started crying. My mom was operated on at Stanford, which is renowned for their cancer research. Hundreds of people prayed for her and sent her letters, some sent her flowers, and others texts to encourage her. And, in contrast, how many people in the world die of something preventable like dehydration, without one prayer offered up for them? And then many go and spend forever in Hell. Something in us ought to scream that this is just not right.

It is hard because the gifts in America are truly gifts from the hand of a kind God, given to us to enjoy. And it is hard to let go of these gifts. In one sense it feels like they are not meant to be let go.

But if some do not, who will help those who do not have such gifts? Perhaps God intends for them to receive such gifts through our hands. If doctors from developed countries do not let go of their wealth and status, who will train up doctors in undeveloped countries? If people do not leave their families who have a long, rich Christian heritage, who will teach the children who come from a long lineage of idol-worshippers? If we all stay in our own churches, who will go to the places that have no churches? The truth is that the rich will keep getting richer and the poor poorer unless the rich go and help the poor out of their poverty, whether that be physical or spiritual poverty.

---------

And so, I choose missions all over again. I do not like leaving my friends and family who understand me to come to a place where I am not understood. I do not like leaving great Christian role models for my kids to come to a place where we can count the number of Christians we know on one hand. And I do not know if, even after a life of work, the Bakoum will even read the Bible. I do not think God is ripping these kindnesses out of my hands in being a missionary, but rather he is calling me to lay them down before him over and over again, trusting that he is keeping better kindness safe for me in Heaven. Come what may, I am all in and glad to be back.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Blinding Nature of Victim Mentality

by Stacey

Reverse culture shock is real.

A couple days ago, I made the long, long voyage from Cameroon to Turlock, California where I am staying with my parents to support my mom through an operation (which was a success by the way!). I have left one of the poorest places in the world to come live in one of the richest places in the world. I have left a place where finding clean water is a serious problem, leading many to spend hours hauling water jugs back and forth to their homes. And here I am in a land where we have what we call “water fountains” where we just push a button and are instantly offered clean, cold H2O. I have left a land where men truly eat by the sweat of their brow and have arrived in a country where few understand the intense labor involved in growing the food we buy in supermarkets.

So, while I was on the plane processing all of these differences between my two worlds, I was simply astonished to overhear a conversation between two American women in front of me. These women did nothing but complain about the service they were receiving on the plane. I could hardly contain my delight at the little tarts and cheeses brought to me by Air France employees! But these ladies were berating a poor flight attendant because they ran out of chicken. I was struck by the flight attendant’s courtesy as she respectfully explained the situation. The passengers were accusing her of being rude, but they were actually the ones who were way out of line.

When the manager came over these two women unjustly slandered the flight attendant and then said, “We have to ask ourselves if we are being treated this badly because of the color of our skin.” I realized at that moment that these two women were African American, being served by a white flight attendant.

I watched every interaction between this flight attendant and the ladies and saw they were treated with respect and courtesy. Further, in their yelling frenzy, they neglected to realize that they were not the only ones that did not get the chicken they requested. But now these women are going to write on Trip Advisor about how Air France was racist. This is injustice and it is not right.

This leads me to observe something about my home culture that I did not see in the other cultures I have experienced. Namely, it is the thinking that “If I feel hurt, I was hurt.” If my feelings were hurt or if I felt wronged by someone, then I am the judge and jury. The perceived offenders are found guilty without a trial. All objectivity is lost and I am now the victim.

These two African American women were not victims in this situation; they were victimizers. They slandered a woman to her manager and then wrote dishonest reviews about Air France. They were guilty of ungratefulness, entitlement, and racism. They assumed that because this lady was white, she was not serving them well because they were black. This is judging her based on her skin color and (based on everything I saw and heard) this judgment was not founded in reality.

We Do not Deserve Chicken
The other night when we asked one of our language partners what makes him happy, he responded, “When I get to eat.” He said that he was thankful to the Lord when he did not have to feel the pains of hunger. He sees every meal as a gift from a kind, benevolent God. And he is exactly right.

We as God’s creatures are sinners and offend God every day and then we think we deserve some of his food? Does the mistress have the right to go to the wife and demand a plate of chicken? No! She has greatly offended the wife, broken her heart by stealing away the affections of the husband, and thus she has no right to make demands. It is the same way with God. He created us for his glory and we squander our breath complaining and slandering his other image bearers. Do we then presume that we have the right to approach God and demand that he feed us? We have no such right. Every sunny day, every flower, every delicious meal, every good night’s sleep is an undeserved gift from the hand of a gracious God. We, no matter our skin color, do not deserve chicken.

We are called to love, even the racist
Jesus was a friend of sinners. And he was not just a friend to people who had “culturally approved” sins. He was a friend to the racist, the bigot, the sexist, the rapist, the narrow minded, the proud, the authoritative, abusive husband, the homosexual and the “homophobe.” Jesus invited and still invites all sinners to come to him be cleansed and forgiven of all their vices.

As whites living in Africa, Jesus calls us to love the store owner who, as soon as he sees our skin color, jacks up all the prices. He calls us to love the man who tries to convince us to sleep with him after we have repeatedly asked him to leave us alone. He calls us to love, from our hearts, people who make unfounded judgments because of the color of our skin without knowing us at all. He calls us to pray for those who hate us simply because of our religion or convictions.

So, I call the victims, or the perceived victims, to love the racist. People are going to hate you, or try to use you, because of your skin color. But what are we going to do about it? If we want to follow Christ, we need to love, from our hearts, those who mistreat us.

Feeling Victimized Does Not Make Us a Victim
There is a proverb in the Bible that says, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (Prov 18.17). If I had read my fellow passengers’ review of Air France without having been there myself, I could have actually believed that they were mistreated. But I would be making a premature judgment. According to this verse, judgments cannot be made until both sides of the story were heard and witnesses are even brought in.

The depth of my feelings of hurt and betrayal should not be the considered the scales of justice. Also, we cannot assume a person’s motives definitively unless they actually tell us their motive for their behavior. Maybe someone in the market is being rude to me because I am white or maybe they are being rude because they have never known a kind person in their life. Maybe the police are demanding to look through all my belongings because they want to know what kind of stuff white people have or maybe they are somehow actually convinced that we may have ties to a Nigerian terrorist organization.

Just because I feel as if someone is mistreating me because of my race does not mean they actually are mistreating me. And when I make assumptions of what someone might be assuming about me, I become guilty of the very sin I hate.

--------

I do not know what these women have endured in the past. I do not doubt that they have faced racism and been mistreated because of the color of their skin. Racism is a genuine and sad reality of our fallen world. I have tasted of this sin in my time here in Africa and I too am tempted to read others’ actions in light of such experiences. But to do so is to allow the racism that we hate to take root in our own hearts. It also draws our attention to our “rights” and what we “deserve” instead of to God and others.

If we live thinking that we are entitled to food, shelter, and being treated in a certain way, we have totally forgotten that we have offended a holy God with our sin. We have forgotten that we are charged as guilty and have no right to hold others to a standard that we ourselves have fallen short of. If we live only to love those who never wrong us, we will have nobody to love and will end up bitter and alone. And finally, there are times when we will feel wronged by others, but we simply need to forgo our feelings and let them be “innocent until proven guilty.” We should not pretend to know the motives of others and unless their motives are loud and clear, we can experience the freedom of giving them the benefit of the doubt.

My experience on this plane has opened my eyes to the fact that when dealing with racism there are actually two sides that need to be exposed and condemned. Racism ought to be called out, exposed, and decried as injustice to those created in the image of God. But we ought to also condemn those who cry “racist” as a means of self-promotion. We ought to listen to both sides of an argument and seek wisdom to discern the truth. And above all, in every circumstance, even when racists acts are committed, we ought to love.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

How God Has Worked Through Our Helping

by Dave


You may have read of our distress in thinking through when to give in a past blog “When Not Helping Hurts”. I wrote about a little girl in our neighborhood that was sick, our desire to help, and frustration in not knowing what to do. With much prayer and seeking counsel, we decided to help financially. And now, I thought I would give you all an update on how Madeleine is doing. I am pleased to say that she is doing incredibly well, considering her condition. First, though, I will tell you about her sickness.

The Sickness

Originally I just knew that Madeleine was very sick. Her stomach was extremely swollen and lumpy, definitely a bad sign. She also had pretty much no energy, her skin was yellow, and she just looked terrible. Her father told me she often woke up at night with extreme pain in her limbs as well. The family had taken her to a clinic who had recommended a particular test that she would need to get in Bertoua (the closest big city). Her father approached me for help with transport to Bertoua and money for testing. This was the first step in our personal dilemma, as I knew that he could find the money for these tests, but also that he would not. So, as a foreign missionary, would it do more help or hurt to give them money for these tests?

Well, we decided to give them money and they took her to Bertoua. It turns out that Madeleine has Sickle Cell Anemia. The sickness has caused damage to her organs, which is why her stomach is so bloated. This is a very sad diagnosis because there is no fix for this. Sickle Cell is something that she will have for her entire life, and her life will likely be short. In a moment I will talk about her needs, but first, I am so pleased to report that we have seen great progress.

She has so much more energy, has grown several inches, is losing baby teeth, growing adult teeth, and just looks so much healthier (praise the Lord!). Her stomach is still uncomfortably swollen, but she has said that some of the other symptoms have improved as well (i.e. she has less pain in her limbs). Though her family does not attend church, she often comes to our porch Bible studies and knows many of the Bible songs by heart. It has been a remarkable joy to see her improvement in this area. She went from a sad, lifeless, skeleton to a joyful, vivacious little girl. She giggles with our girls in the front yard, and leans her head on my chest when she sits next to me in church. We are so happy. However, we remain sober knowing that she is in constant mortal danger. Allow me to describe for you her physical needs.

Her Needs

Blood. The main way that Sickle Cell is treated is multiple blood transfusions. I just spoke to someone the other day who said that she knew a girl with SC that had to receive blood over 20 times in a single year. This is without a doubt the saddest part of this reality. There is no way that Madeleine’s parents could ever afford a lifestyle of blood transfusions. Further, the hospital in Bertoua could never provide her with all of the transfusions she would need. The only answer that I see for Madeleine would be for her to move to somewhere with a better hospital, and have funds for a lifetime of medical intervention.

Diet. One aspect of life in a Cameroon village that makes these issues even worse is that protein is hard to get. Meat, beans, milk, and eggs are all expensive and the diet of my neighbors is mainly starch. This is one area that I feel like we have been able to help. From time to time we give Madeleine eggs and beans and have been able to talk with her family about her diet. I believe that it is mostly because of this change in diet that Madeleine has greatly improved.

Prophylaxis. Because Madeleine is already anemic, we have been told that if she catches a major illness which also causes anemia (i.e. malaria) she will most likely die. She needs to be taking medication everyday pretty much for the rest of her life. This is yet another expense that her family cannot afford. We saw this as an urgent need, and all of our family takes prophylaxis every day (prophylaxis is a medicine that you take daily to prevent disease), so we decided just to invite Madeleine to our house every day to give her the medicine. We are able to buy the medicine in bulk, which means it is so much cheaper for us, than it would be for them.

The Ongoing Dilemma

In the decisions mentioned above, we have chosen to go against the principles that we previously held, and are normally given in helpful missions books like When Helping Hurts. Specifically, as I mentioned in the first post, we have always been told that we should not do for others what they can do for themselves. This applies to a few of the decisions we have made, including paying for the testing and for protein rich food. In both of these situations, there is no doubt that her family could do better than they do. But we have become convinced that they will not. Which leaves us believing that if we do not intervene, she will die.

Another missions principle is to not engage in unsustainable support. That is to say, we should not do things that make the nationals dependent upon us. In this case, if something would prevent us from being here, this family would have no resource for the prophylaxis. However, once again, we feel like to not give her the medicine is to just let her die.

I am not sure that any of our confusion from earlier has been resolved, but it has been such a grace to see her grow healthier. And as I reflect on the decision I most certainly do not regret it. However, had we decided not to give and she had died, I know I would have regretted that decision. I believe that as I grow in my understanding of missions I am leaning towards being more and more generous. I am coming to believe that many times the cost of not giving is greater than the cost of giving. I think the goal is to not only be wise, but to be generous. Perhaps my generosity will lead some to abuse me, perhaps they will think I am a fool, but I would rather be an abused, foolish, generous man than one seen to not love. And for many poor, especially when dealing with medical matters, to not give is seen as to not love. I am certainly not saying that I have all the answers, but I am glad that we erred on the side of generosity in this case, and I pray for wisdom in the future.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Does God Expect us to Change the World?


By Stacey

Imagine a child, just before his first trip to the ocean, telling you he is going to fit the whole ocean in his toy bucket. It is only when he stands on the seashore and soaks up the immensity of this body of water, that he is able to see the ridiculous nature of his ambitions. Why? Because no matter how hard he tries the ocean is simply too big for him to master.

This is how we feel about the problems in which we face on a daily basis: poverty, injustice, corruption, sexism, illiteracy, abuse, false gospels, and lack of access to good medical care to name a few. Before arriving, we had so many great ideas on how to help. But now, we find ourselves lost before a sea of complexity.

Generally, how we deal with this is to remind ourselves that the Lord has not called us to fix every problem in Cameroon, but instead to come be faithful linguists / Bible translators. We are not economists, doctors, or agricultural specialists. We have one main task ahead of us and giving people the Word of God in their language will be, in our estimation, the greatest thing we can do to serve them.

But, whereas I believe that God does not necessarily call his children to change the world, we still want to. Specifically, here are a few domains in which I hope to see change within my life-time: 

Illiteracy


I was over at one of my closest friend’s house a while back. We were sitting outside her house on little benches talking. This friend is in her mid-30s, has 9 children, and 5 grandchildren. She nurses her young child and two of her grandchildren, often with all 3 of them fighting over her. She also works in her field every day in order to have food to feed her family.

When we were talking, one of the toddlers had to use the restroom and so went poop on the ground (she does not have diapers). The mom called for her other child to bring her some paper to clean it up. This child handed her a book and something in it caught my eye. I asked to look at it and saw that it was a book that talked about water purification, wound care, malaria prevention, and nutrition. It pretty much said everything that I would like to say to my neighbors to enhance their quality of life. My friend politely took the book, tore a couple pages out and used it to scoop up the poop and wipe her daughter’s bottom.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!” I screamed inwardly to myself. But it was then I realized that there is no difference between toilet paper that one buys in the market, a book talking about malaria prevention, and the Bible if you cannot read. It is all just paper. Sigh. 

Poverty


Most of the people in our people group are sustenance farmers and live hand to mouth. What this equates to is hours of back-breaking work and no money for medical care if someone gets sick.

The other day, our language partner was sick, so his sister and I went to go visit him at his house in a neighboring village. While we were there, a man who I do not remember meeting, approached me and said that it is not enough for me to just pray for our language partner but that I needed to reach in my pocket and give him money to go to the doctor (awkward).

Whereas I agree completely with what he said, sometimes I actually wonder if people would have a better chance of survival if they stayed away from the medical care centers here. The one in our region does not have running water and thus has a hard time keeping things sanitary. One time Dave was there when the nurses were walking through the waiting room carrying buckets of blood to dump them out outside. There are other stories.

So, what ends up happening is that people have medical needs and want us to help pay for them, but we are hesitant because we are not convinced that they will receive good care. We fear that our reticence communicates stinginess as opposed to the concern for their health that we feel. Sigh. 

False Gospels


I would estimate about 90-95% of the people group in which we work does not attend church. However, there are some churches present, which is exciting. That is, it would be if they were preaching the Gospel.

For the past three years we have tried to go to a new church at least once a month and have almost every time left grieved by what was taught. There are churches on the extreme end who abuse the “spiritual gifts” to the point that they have people who literally “die” and are “resurrected” during the service. There can be SUCH an emphasis on fertility and a desire for health that we have heard, “Holy Spirit, come down and burn our genitals (possibly for a purifying effect?)!” Or there was the group “vomiting” time where everyone “vomited” out the impure food that they ate that week.

Most churches are not this extreme, but a constant theme that we find is both the prosperity Gospel and the Gospel according to works. People teach that Jesus died to liberate us from negative forces and we need to follow him in order to receive all of his blessings. When we sin, we are inhibiting God from blessing us (with health and wealth) and that is why we need to stop sinning. Then there was the woman who preached in her sermon over and over that “The wages of sin is death, so abandon the bad and practice the good.” The sermons are consistently man-centered about what we can get from God and do not communicate that we have offended a Holy God who sent his Son to die for our guilt. Sometimes the “Gospel” is preached with no mention of Jesus at all.

But, what makes this even sadder is that though the church leaders seem to be humble, teachable, sincere and eager to grow in their knowledge of the Word of God, there is no one to teach them. Where would the rest of us be if we could barely read the French Bible for our only source of spiritual growth and had no one to teach us? Sigh. 

What Now?


Looking at all of these problems (and others that we did not mention) is like looking at the ocean and wondering how to fit it into a little toy bucket. Or maybe it is like looking at a mountain and trying to make it move from one place to another. This reminds me of something Jesus said:

Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, “Be taken up and thrown into the sea,” and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Mark 11: 23-24

Jesus never asks us to pick up mountains or come to a poor region in the world able to help people in every area of their lives. He does not ask us to change the world, but instead to be faithful.

And yet, I think he gave us verses like these so that we would rebel a little bit against the “just be faithful” mentality. My own faithfulness cannot make an ocean jump into a bucket, nor can my own efforts cause mountains to move, but according to this verse God will do all these things if we just ask him in faith.

And so, I ask that the Lord will raise this people’s standard of living within my life-time. I ask that there would be access to good, affordable medical care. I ask that the Lord would raise up Bible teachers to come and spend their lives teaching people here who have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. I ask that the schools here would improve and that people would become literate. I ask that there would be anti-corruption laws put in place and that corruption would be purged from this country and I ask that “justice” would no longer have to be bought. I have no idea how the Lord may be pleased to answer these prayers, but I wait to see the impossible happen before my eyes. I know that I cannot single-handedly change Cameroon. But I know someone who can, and I am eager to see him do it.



Sunday, November 13, 2016

A Day in the Life of a Bakoum Pastor

by Dave
Bosco standing in front of the men working a large tree.
You know the typical “mom” response when you do not eat your dinner: “There are starving children in Africa who would love to eat this!”? I have noticed here in Cameroon that there really are not that many starving children. There are sick children, and children killed in accidents, but not really very many starving ones. So it was surprising to me the other day when we asked our language partner Bosco what made him happy and he said, “When I get to eat!” Bosco later asked me to come to the field with him one day to see what it was like. This is my account of our day.

We started out at 7:30am, I drove out to his village and we began walking to his field. He told me it was not long, and I enjoyed the walk. He talked about different birds that we saw and plants and told me the words for them in Bakoum. I noticed he was wearing a long sleeve sweatshirt, which seemed crazy to me. Until a branch reached out from alongside the path and ripped off a chunk of skin off my arm. Noted. He told me that there was a particular tree that had red flowers that only bloomed right before the dry season. He told me that a village custom was to call out that this tree was in bloom whenever the gendarmes (French-type police) arrived. The flowers are reminiscent of their red berets and if someone did not want to run into the gendarmes they would know to flee.

As it turns out “not long” is a little over an hour. After veering off the main trail we walked past a couple of men cutting up a gigantic tree with a chainsaw. We were at that point walking through the rain forest. His field was a clearing with only a few enormous trees and LOTS of brush that was taller than I am. It was a sea of leaves and vines. Our task for the day was to clear out this brush with machetes so that he could begin planting plantains. I have a bit of experience with this type of work, as this is how I cut the grass in my yard. But it is intense physical labor, and it did not take long for my T-shirt to be completely soaked in sweat. Just before we started I asked if there was anything in this valley of weeds that he did NOT want cut down. He said just avoid the plantain trees. So…I immediately cut one down. If you have never seen a plantain tree, it is more like a stem, very easy to cut through. And with the thick surrounding bush, I just did not see it. I felt bad but he said it was no big deal and that it would grow back.

After about an hour Bosco offered to give up on the work for the day. I asked if he usually only worked for an hour and he said, “Of course not.” So, after telling him I was there to help, we worked for another hour. I type this without a whole lot of feeling in my right arm due to this period of time. After we cleared a large section of his field he asked if I wanted to go hunting with him. I said yes, picked up his village-made shotgun, stuck a shell in my pocket and we headed out into the bush. We walked up large deteriorating fallen tree trunks, through a marsh, and deep into the forest. The ground was covered in decaying plant material and was soft and spongey. Bosco stopped in front of me at one point and looked up into the trees. He pointed, said there was a monkey, and told me to follow him and be quiet.

At this point Bosco turned into Legolas, walking on top of the leaves of small plants without them bending. I was much more akin to Gimli and could seriously not take a single step without breaking down entire trees. How does one be quiet when walking on a carpet of dead leaves? At one point he looked down and said forcefully, “Shuluku!” I looked down as he started to run away and saw the entire ground, as far as I could see, covered in biting ants. For the next hour I picked said ants off my legs and feet as we continue through the forest. I would have liked to stop, but could not bring myself to admit that I literally had ants in my pants. At the end of the two hours, he said the monkeys were hiding, but he was not sure why. As we were walking back to his field, though, I swear I heard a couple monkeys talking. One said, “I could hear the big one breathing from a mile away.”

This is looking across Bosco's "field."
We left the field and started heading back for home. I realized at this point that every thread of my clothing was soaked in sweat and I was very thirsty, and I did not bring water. Bosco seemed completely unfazed and did not bring water, though he did bring us some bananas. He started quizzing me on the Bakoum words that he taught me on the way, but I could barely open my mouth. I was pretty convinced I was going to die, but we did make it back to the village. We ran into Bosco’s sister on the way and she asked if I fell into the river, which sounded pretty nice at that point. Bosco answered for me, “No, it is just sweat” and we continued on our way under a barrage of laughter.

I asked Bosco what he would do when he got home and he told me that usually after the field he washes up and studies for Sunday. It was then that I really realized the cost of his life. It is true, Bosco and his family does not really know starvation. But they do know the curse far more than I have ever known it. I joked with Bosco in the field that when God said that we would grow food “by the sweat of our brow” he was not joking. He smiled and said that it was definitely not a joke, and that he appreciated every bite all the more because it cost him so much. My whole life I have had it so easy. I told him, "I cannot imagine doing this everyday. I cannot imagine even doing it tomorrow!" He said, "You get used to it." Bosco later confided in me that because we did not catch anything he spent the next two nights out hunting for his family, only catching two small monkeys. But through all of this he did not complain once, and he told me how much he loved being a farmer.

As Thanksgiving is approaching, I am seeing so many things to be thankful for. I am thankful for conveniences and an indoor job. I am thankful for coming from a country where we can listen to tons of great sermons by men who can spend much of their time studying. I am thankful that, even with great labor, the land here yields much fruit and my neighbors are not starving. And I am thankful for Bosco, who spends his life not lusting after the privileges of others, but thankful for the ones he has.