Back in the Saddle

When we were in Cameroon our last term, we would often spend our Saturday mornings working on our “yard.” This means that we tried to tame the jungle with a couple of machetes and a handful of 1st graders. We have about an acre of land and planted grass more-or-less blade by blade. Other missionaries gave us cuttings of their trees and we planted them in our back yard. Through the years of our first term, we tried to convert the land around our house from the wild jungle into something manageable and something beautiful. We worked really hard but only saw much of our grass dry up and little kids pull all the leaves off our growing saplings. But then…

…we show up to our village after being gone a year and a half and walk into a paradise of a yard. We have orange trees, moringa trees, every blade of grass has come back and even spread, we have red flower bushes, orange flower bushes, and yellow flower bushes. The trees that we planted now completely shade our backyard and reach taller than our house. The toil of our last term produced results while we were gone.

In the same way, our toil of language and culture learning has yielded incredible results while we were away. We have not come back to a foreign land with foreign languages – we have come back home. Granted it is a home filled with difficult memories and suffering all around us, but it is no longer foreign – it is familiar. There is much to praise God for and, as can be expected, there are also challenges that we are facing. Here are some specifics:

Good things

House intact. We weren’t sure if our house would still be standing, but it is! Some of the appliances still work and we have beds to sleep in, complete with mosquito nets.

Warm welcome. We have been very warmly welcomed back. Our village cut our grass for us and when Dave returned, they were inside the house cleaning the floors. Last term, we moved into the village and were surrounded by hardened stares for about a year. This term, however, we are welcomed with warm embrace. And, for me personally, I enjoy so many things about African culture – I love the boisterous markets, the communal feel, and always having people around me. It is so good to be back.

Language. Losing ground in French and Bakoum was my biggest concern in returning to Cameroon. Oddly enough, I believe through answered prayer, these languages are coming more naturally for me than when I left. It was as if those sections of my brain were neglected in the States and are very excited to be back in use. It is such a joy to see the looooong, exhausting days of language learning in Cameroon, then analysis in the States, pay off. I am praising the Lord.

Not only is Bakoum coming back, but our former language partners have committed to continuing to meet with us. One said that we need to start ASAP because he wants to see us get to a higher level. Another one of my language partners said that she would do anything she can to see me fluent in Bakoum (and she’s been through two weeks of a tone workshop…so she knows what it takes). We are so thankful.

Hunter. Our homeschool teacher for this year is named Hunter and having her here through all the chaos of trying to get re-settled has been a gift from the Lord. She bears our burdens with us and is a light in the midst of darkness.

Bad things

Burden of surviving. I simply forgot how difficult it was to live here. I spent the last week cleaning out piles of dead ants out of my house. Keeping our children clean, healthy, and fed seems like an uphill battle. I completely understand why people groups like ours never learn to read – they are so busy trying to survive the day that reading seems like it can be only a rich man’s pastime.

Today a filthy, half naked little boy sat next to me in church. He had sores all over his body, poop smeared on his skin, and flies buzzing all around him. Turns out his mother has died, his father is not in the picture, and his grandfather is blind. Then, our daughter asks me, “Mom, what are we going to do about him?” I remember now how many times the verse “Blessed are those who weep” brought me comfort as there are so many to weep over here.

Children regressing. Our children are happy to be back, some are eager to learn French and Bakoum, and especially Kaden is just thriving. We are so thankful that they love it here. However, as is typical with children in major transition, there has been some major regression. Victories that have been won, childish behavior we have put behind us, and bad attitudes which had been laid aside have all returned with a vengeance. It is a very difficult season of parenting in the midst of a difficult season of transition. They are not longing to return to America, thankfully, but are “kicking against the goads” of the instruction of their parents and teacher who only want to see them adjust and thrive.

Please pray

Children who follow. Please pray that the Lord would work in our childrens’ hearts to follow, instead of resist, our lead. Pray that they will trust that we are out for their best interest. We teach a “team” mentality as far as meal prep, chores, and maintenance of our house as opposed to a “mom-does-everything” mentality. Please pray that they would learn to work around the house with joy in their hearts. Also, as far as homeschool, please pray that they would follow their teacher instead of  seeking to manipulate her and create a riotous classroom environment.

Language, language, language. This year we plan to work on language acquisition and analysis and test the writing system. Please pray that we would MASTER Bakoum and that we would have a solid provisional writing system. We believe the Lord is leading us to start translation by oral Bible stories (mainly from the Old Testament) and hope to start that next Fall. The better we are at the language, the more we will be able to ensure that the Bible stories being transmitted are accurate Biblically.

We are, all at the same time, thankful to be back, worn out, tired, saddened by the suffering, frustrated by the choices of our children, irritated by the biting ants, excited to begin full-time work in the language, and would choose to be nowhere else.

The cry of our hearts in the words of the Psalmist, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” – Psalm 73:26


Author: Stacey Hare

Stacey is a servant of Jesus Christ as well as a wife, mom, linguist, and Bible translator among the Kwakum people of Cameroon.