Lots of Interest, Lots of Sin
Our ministry has finally begun as Dave and I have been visiting the 20 villages that make up the Bakoum people. What we have found is that there is simultaneously a lot of interest in the project we are launching as well as a lot of deep-rooted, grievous sin.
Lots of Interest
We will start with the positive first. As we have been meeting with various village leaders, we have found that people are very enthusiastic about the possibility of becoming literate in their language. One chief, after hearing our presentation, turned to his people and said, â€œImagine, we might one day be able to write letters to one another.â€ There was a hush that spread over the people; it was as if they were being given an opportunity that they had not even dared to dream of. Another leader in the community addressed his people in saying that until the Bakoum language was written down, he and his people would remain like animals unable to read or write. He then introduced Dave and I and we gave them the first few steps they would need to take in order to develop their language. A neighboring people group (the Pol people) happened to be at this meeting and have since taken these same steps in order to get a literacy/Bible translation project started in their language. Government officials are also backing the project. They have written official letters on our behalf to village leaders giving their seal of approval for what we are hoping to do. We have local Bakoum speakers coming with us to every meeting to show their endorsement of the project and to translate into Bakoum for us. These same people have said that no matter the cost, they are committed to seeing this project through. There is also much enthusiasm for Bible translation. One man was elated that we had come and handed us a notebook which contained his attempt to translate the French Bible into Bakoum. Clearly there is incredible interest in this work and we pray that the momentum of this past month would never wane.
Lots of Sin
But, truly, the impact of the Word of God on this community cannot come fast enough. In nearly every meeting that we have been in, there has been much contention between the people and in some nearly riots. We have sat in the middle of angry men shouting over us in Bakoum for hours. There is jealously and rivalry for power to the point that we had to do two different meetings in the same village because one group of people could not be in the same room as the other. People live in mud huts with dirt floors and are often sick and hungryâ€¦and yet many seem to always have enough money to buy enough alcohol to remain in a perpetual state of drunkenness. Sexual immorality is rampant as a Christian friend pulled me aside and encouraged us to take our kids out of their school saying that the girls in the public school system in our town are often pregnant by 10. Some people are also very suspicious of us and want to make sure that we are not here to upset their ancestral spirits. In our neighborhood there is singing that can be heard in the streets in the name of dark traditions that leave people in bondage. During my morning jog, I pass by a corn field that has a â€œcharmâ€ erected to protect the corn field from anything that would bring harm to it. The prayer of the Psalmist well expresses our reaction to what we see: â€œLord, send out your light and your truth!â€ (43.3). But in order for the light of Godâ€™s Word to be published into Bakoum, necessary steps need to be takenâ€¦
A New Approach:
Doing the Work on the Front End
As I explained in detail on our blog, Dave and I have had a shift of methodology in our approach to Bible translation. At this point, we are no longer content to â€œjustâ€ get a Bible translated as quickly as possible, but instead want to produce a Bible that will be read.
In order to do that, great pains need to be taken to weed out causes for offense even before one verse is translated. When we say causes for offense, we are not talking about the message of the Bible, but instead are referring to which dialect is selected, which key theological terms are used, and the approach we take to literacy. The thinking is that if these conversations happen on the front end, there will be less cause for offense when the Bible is published. Our hope is that the message alone will offend the people as opposed to something like which script is selected.
Thus, our first term will consist of not only language learning, but also of seeking to weed out â€œstumbling blocks.â€ A Cameroonian brother, Jean Yves, who has experience in getting communities to work together will be staying with us once a month in order to do this. Our first task is to mobilize the community to create a language committee with whom we will work to deal with questions such as which dialect to translate into and so on. Already villages are in the processes of forming this committee.
How are we doing?
Since our last newsletter, we decided to move closer to our house in order to oversee its construction. We are sad to say our projected move in date of November 11th has come and gone, but we assume one day we will move in. In the mean time, we are building bookshelves and the like in between visiting Bakoum communities. Also since our last update, we have put the kids in public school only to pull them out about a month later. We have one more school in town that might be an option and would appreciate prayers that it would work out. As far as language learning, although we are learning greetings in Bakoum, we have yet to begin our formal language study. This will happen once we are moved into our house and the language committee selects someone for us to work with. And as for our health, the children have yet to get one mosquito bite and have been extremely healthy. Dave, on the other hand, has more-or-less been perpetually sick, but fortunately it has not been anything serious.
All in all, we have so much to be thankful for and are very excited to have begun what we have come here to do. We thank God for our health, for the adaptability of our children, and for the fact that we are slowly but surely getting the hang of things here.