Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Language Learning the Silent Way

The Silent Way

You can google this method to learn the method we are using for language learning, but this is a photo of the color chart we use during class that teaches the silent way of language learning.  Our teacher, Juliet, doesn't talk unless necessary.  She instead uses her mouth to show how to make the sound without making a sound herself.  While listening to us, she points to the sound we should be making.  If we are right, she moves on.  If we are wrong, she tells us what sound she hears and patiently shows us the embouchure to make to correct ourselves.  One thing about this system is that it will mean our lessons are participatory.  So I look forward to the fun activities we do as a class to learn together.

The top colors on the chart are vowels and the colors below the line are our consonant sounds in the French language.  As you can see, there's a lot of vowel sounds!  And many of these sounds are still confusing to me.  We have moved fast, covering nearly the whole chart our first 2 days of class.  Now we are putting sounds into making words and have begun with numbers.  Some numbers have 8 or more sounds we have to make! 

Something funny about numbers in French, when you get to the number 70, you have to say "sixty ten."  When you get to 80, you're saying "four-twenty."  So it is a confusing counting system.  We played a game our 3rd day of class with saying aloud our French phone numbers.  This was quite a challenge to do, but certainly helped to enforce this counting system for us.

Our class of beginners has 6 of us together.  Two are single, and we are one of two couples.  The other couple has 3 children, one of which is Abby's age!  They are already playing together a lot in their nursery time during each day.

Another game we played was learning colors.  We were introduced to 5 colors--yellow, black, red, blue, and green in blocks called reglettes.  We would choose (prendu) the correct color from our teacher's tray.  We would then take turns giving a block to each student, and saying the full sentence "choose a (color) block."  When everyone had a turn, we would tell our teacher what we had. "I have a red block, a yellow, and a blue." When everyone finished this sequence, we then would say what each class member had. "He has/she has..." and while doing this at times going back to the color chart to sound out the words we were using correctly.  I see this color chart being very important in our phonetic exercises. 

One great thing about being here at this school is the attention to speaking phonetically correct.  We certainly could have taken French from a tutor in America.  But what if French was their second language?  Then the mistakes they may make are taught to us and we would have extra work to overcome that mis-learned application.  Having a French teacher correct us now and work with us to enforce proper pronunciation is important so we can speak French as missionaries.  I've heard several missionary friends who learned French in a country in Africa say that they had to relearn their mistakes.  So to all that have made it possible for Denise and I to be here to study, thank you!  It's going to be hard work, but it's going to help us to share the gospel.  

Friday, April 27, 2018

Denise, Roy, and Abby safely arrived in France!

Hey All!

Here we are in the romantic country of France!  We are still in jet lag mode and entertaining a toddler full of energy, so we'll work on the romance a bit later!  J  And since this is Denise's pseudo-author, I can say things like that and get away with it!

While we can still remember some of the many blessings we have had along our journey, let me share about these amazing adventures with each of you!

Since our cultural training class in NC, we have flown to Seattle to visit with our supervisors and support team members.  Now our brains are even more overloaded as we journey.  The flight to France was great, left Charlotte at 430 and arrived in France 7 and a half hours later.
The time difference is 6 hours, so we landed just after 6am local time.  Customs was a breeze, just a simple stamp in our passport, grab our bags, and we were on our way.

I was just telling a good friend of mine that we give up some comforts to be able to serve as missionaries, but along the way we meet some amazing people who become friends.  Some of these friends and these blessings:

-A friend arranged for us to get a ride from the airport to our school.  What a blessing!  We hope to treat this man to a fast food meal in the near future (he is American and confessed he missed Wendy's from home...maybe we can find a burger king or kfc, which they do have.

A family staying here in language school invited us to dinner with their family our first night here so we wouldn't have to worry about cooking our first day.

We were able to go shopping with some students today at the African Market.  They go every Friday after class.

A sweet 10 year old girl made us homemade chocolate chip cookies today to welcome us to class.  Her and her dad brought them up to our apartment this afternoon.

Many times when I'm getting a little down, or wonder if God has called me to do what I am doing, these little confirmations come to me.  It's as if God is speaking my love language to me to remind me of his provisions and faithfulness to me.  These reminders make it

We successfully have made 2 shopping excursions and installed new sims cards on our phones. 

Denise made chicken parmesan tonight for supper!  Did I say how blessed I am??  Oh, opps, almost forgot I was writing this in first person.  This should read, "Roy doesn't know how good he has it, that he was able to have chicken parm on his second night in France. He better pay up big time!"

Abby is doing well.  She has a sand box outside and has loved filling up trucks and her shoes with sand.  We met her teacher today, she will have 5 others in class with her.

We'll post pictures and more stories later this weekend.  For now, let us go off to bed so we can get on our routines.  Thanks for your encouragement and prayers!  Please let us know if you have questions for us.  We can answer those in later writings.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

I have wanted to post this photo on our blog.  This map shows the farm that CEFA (Center of Education and Formation of Agriculture) operates in Gamboula, Central African Republic.  It is this site that Denise and I will be working and ministering to the Fulani.  Through this farm we can begin to study and better understand the agricultural management opportunities the people in CAR have available to them.

Looking at this map shows an area of roughly 1,000 acres.  You see small creeks that run through the property, which are used in 2 locations for tilapia fish farming.  Roy Danforth, the missionary present on the farm today, is pointing to one of these locations on the map.   I remember the director being somewhat disappointed by the lack of fish harvested.  Perhaps this is an area that can be improved on the farm.

You notice green grids along a large portion of the farm.  These are 2.5 hectare (5 acre) grids that have been designed for agroforestry.  Agroforestry is a key management component of successful agriculture in CAR.  In the US field crops want to capture all the available sunlight possible in order to maximize production.  In CAR, however, sunlight is available evenly throughout the growing season as it is near the equator.  So sunlight is in abundance and can actually overheat the soil.  Trees spaced appropriately can keep annual crops growing well without extreme temperatures in the soil.  Also, these trees have the potential to bring nutrients to crops.  Roots of trees that go deep into the soil can find such nutrients like phosphorus which are critical for plant and root health.  Specific species of trees can actually help fix nitrogen in the soil.  Trees can also provide fruit for many years to landowners.  The importance of a successful agroforestry program cannot be understated to farmers in CAR, and will be a major source of development taught on the farm to neighboring villages.

There are further items on the farm that I hope to develop further.  Kudzu, cowpea, and a peanut variety which does not produce seed have all shown potential on the farm.  Using these in a crop management system may help improve crop yields with the nutrients they provide to the soil.  Managed appropriately, these species can be of great benefit.

Another part of the CEFA farm are the nutrition gardens.  These are small raised beds, but exist to grow produce vegetables year round.  We hope to produce an abundance of vegetables that will aid in providing a full balanced diet to families.

A final area of the CEFA farm that we hope to develop related to crops is some of their major crops that are grown in the area.  A large portion of the Fulani frequently visit the local hospital in a malnourished state.  It is a major goal of the CEFA farm to improve food calorie crops that are available to the people in CAR.  Cassava is the major crop grown in the area, though corn and peanuts are also commonly grown.  If the farm can look at improved varieties of these crops that resist disease while producing a larger crop, this will add value to the Fulani's farms and their markets.  We will purposefully explore these possibilities and provide seed, tools, and knowledge to villages through these agricultural principles.

All the crop species and forestry work is being done on 2/3rds of this tract of land.  Let me introduce you to the last section of the property.  This is the part that is on the top-right of the above photo.  It is the livestock area of the farm, where Denise's love for animals will be explored. 

Denise will be asked to help evaluate their cattle production.  In doing this, she may explore grazing options--looking at grass species the cattle prefer, improving their diet with added milo, oats, millet, and other grass species, and introducing sectional grazing when an area of grass has been overgrazed to allow the area time to recover.  She will teach animal husbandry--taking care of the cattle, preventive care, noticing signs of skin infections, disease, etc.  She will teach basic things such as watering, how often to milk, basic clean up of their pen.  We would like the chance to help villages build their cattle herd population back up again as Fulani cattle herders move back into the area.  Perhaps we can do this in programs that gift an animal to a village, with the expectation that the village returns the gift in the form of it's offspring to sustain this project.  Denise will have cattle breeds that do well in the environment.  She will also work with other species, such as goats, sheep, and chickens for Fulani farmers to have other animals to raise.

You see there are many opportunities for us to explore in agriculture here on the farm.  I admit this is a dream job of mine to help manage a research farm such as this.  But let us not forget our purpose for doing this, and it is to build relationships in order to share the Gospel to those who do not know about our loving God and his saving grace in Jesus.  We desire to help the people have a better life.  But most of all we desire they know about Jesus.  Please pray that we find appropriate ways to share our faith while we model successful agriculture production techniques to them.

This is from Roy, who has blog-napped this space for the day.  For those of you still following our blog, we are sorry for the lapse in writing.  You see, we have had a few major events in our lives since July 2016.  

Here was our major event:

Isn't she adorable?  After 28 hours of labor (maybe harder for me I realized it would be, I'm glad for the modern advances of medicine that took some of Denise's pain away), we celebrated our Daughter Abby being born!   She was born September 23, 2016 at 1:08 am.

Meet our family, Christmas 2017:

And now we are embarking on an incredible journey as missionaries with CVM back to Africa to work with the Fulani in Central African Republic.  Many of the older blog posts tell a more of the story, and we will promise to add more to our story as we experience it.  So please follow along and encourage your friends and family to keep in touch with us.

We leave this Saturday March 17 to begin our cultural training sessions for 4 weeks in western NC.  On April 14 we will venture to Seattle to visit with our supervisors and other co-workers who support us here while we serve as field workers.  And we will be in France for 12 months learning French starting April 30.  So lots of moving parts these next few weeks and months.  Continue to pray for us for healthy adjustments (physically and emotionally) and pray that our heads and hearts will be opened and receptive to all that we are learning.

Friday, August 19, 2016

C.A.R. (Wednesday, July 6)

Roy with a new fruit.
From guest blogger, the wonderful husband, Roy Thagard! 

Today we woke up to a light rain.  Who would have thought that it would rain in Africa?  But living in a rainforest climate, it is likely to come!  One realization in my eyes is that on days of rainfall, are people able to work during the day?  For jobs that are labor-intensive, I would believe many would not be able to work due to the weather.  This would also mean that if a wage is unearned, that perhaps their families may go unfed.  So while we know the rain to be life-giving, today was a reminder of job insecurity within African countries.

With the rainfall today, our team did a tour of the CEFA farm where we were staying.  There is so many individual projects  that are taking place, today was a day to see just a glimpse of all that is being done.

A typical day will see 2-3 flat bed trucks bring as many as 100 people to work at the farm for the day.  Everyone is dropped off at the front gate where a morning devotion is led by either Roy D or one of the farm managers.  These are shared in Sango, the local trade language.

After the devotion, everyone disperses into their respective jobs.  Today we would see some of the efforts to establish cover crops, the agroforestry landscape, aquaculture ponds, and the nutrition garden. 

The perennial peanut as a cover crop in the "Garden of Eden"
There are many purposes of a cover crop in a landscape.  In a tropical climate, rainfall can quickly deplete soil nutrients.  Legume crops produce nitrogen in the soil, which is desired for plant growth.  If a cover crop can provide this valuable nutrient, it will make other plants and trees grow substantially more efficient.  We looked at two legume cover crops that the farm is interested in establishing—kudzu and ground peanut.  Those in the southern US know kudzu for its undesirable ability to take over a landscape because of its prolific growing habit.  But if the plant is kept in check it builds a great soil biomass while providing a great nutrition source for the landscape.  Ground peanuts are an unreproductive plant that also produces nitrogen.  It grows closer to the ground as it spreads, so it does not require as much management as kudzu.  It does, however, seem to spread more prolifically through its rhizomes when left unchecked. 

Here are a few pictures of workers on the farm using a board on a string to pack down the kudzu from growing and spreading onto trees in the landscape.
stompimg down the kudzu
the stomping down tool :-)

We also went to see the nutrition garden.  Here they are just beginning to establish vegetables as the rainy season begins.  Insect feeding has been problematic, so early establishment of these vegetable plants has been slow.  The CEFA farm has a night watchman, and his family lives here near the nutrition garden.  His children seem to be tasked with keeping the garden growing well. 
Roy D. in the newly planted nutrition (vegetable) garden
Beside the garden are 6 individual aquaculture ponds.  These ponds have tilapia fish that are harvested every 8-10 months and sold in the town’s market for profit.  This money would go back to the farm to sustain its work, such as purchasing additional fish.

One of the Tilapia ponds
For our afternoon time, we were invited to be guests for lunch in Kenzu, a village on the Cameroon side of the border just a few miles from our location.  Today was the day that the Ramadan fast was broken, so it was a time of celebration.  Aleta told us our greeting for the day, “Barka de sala” which means Blessings of peace.  We spent time getting to know H, a very dear Fulani friend of Aleta.  It was wonderful seeing the children dressed in new clothes made just for the celebration of the day.  Even the men in the village would take time to come and greet their family, many traveling from great distances for this celebration.  We were honored to be invited to celebrate such a special occasion with these new friends.
Denise with H and a friendly kitten
We were blessed with a delicious meat and rice meal. 
Aleta catch up with H's family
 Later in the day we walked and visited other family members and friends in this same village.  Roy D. noted fruit trees that he had once planted in the village continue to thrive.  He was excited these trees were being cared for.  The family also took us to the edge of town where they were establishing personal family garden areas.  

The ladies showing their garden preparation.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

C.A.R. (Tuesday, July 5)

Today we went out to see some of the farmers that the CEFA farm works with. We visited a couple cooperatives which is the primary way that CEFA works in the community. First we all climbed in a land cruiser pickup and traveled down a path which they called a road. Oh, and I should introduce all those in the "we." We includes Roy and I, the 3 men who joined up with us at Cameroon, Roy D. (our missionary host), Benoit (the director of CEFA, and Nadej (another CEFA staff member). Most of the guys bounced around in the back the truck on what Roy calls worst road in CAR.  :)  (They were mighty nice to me and I got to sit in the front while Benoit drove.) We stopped when the road started becoming just a motorcycle path. A hike from the truck brought us down to the field. One of my first impressions was "where is the fence?" To me, no fence means that there isn't many livestock around that would otherwise destroy the crop. 

One of the coop members describing his field
This field was a peanut and cowpea field, and they had also planted cassava, an important staple crop. The cooperative members joined us out in the field. This was their first year grouping together as a coop. They had received permission to clear and plant on the village chief's land. This coop also was made up of members from the same church. CEFA  had given them seeds to plant, tools to work the field and expert advice. At the harvest time the coop will give back the same amount of seeds to the project, they will also save enough seed necessary to plant the next year, and the rest of the crops can be divided or sold. Money from the harvest will go into a lock box where there are 3 different locks and 3 different keys. They will decide as a group how the money will be spent & 3 different key holders provide accountability.
Roy looking at the health of the peanut plant with the CEFA director, Benoit looking on.
While the farmers already know how to plant, CEFA comes alongside to help them improve their technique. First, their access to tools is limited and so they provide tools for the Coop members to use. Second, CEFA teaches some techniques to help get the most harvest from a field of crops. They learn about crop spacing instead of just broadcasting seed or putting several in one hole. This year this coop learned about distancing the plants. Next year they'll learn about planting in rows and also plant a different crop. 

The peanut, cowpea and cassava field
We also learned about the importance of land ownership. They would love to purchase their own land. CEFA teaches the importance of doing this properly and getting the land deed (a challenge that comes with paperwork--difficult if you aren't literate!) One goal of many cooperatives is to plant fruit trees eventually (interspersed with the crops). BUT, we learned that if you plant trees on borrowed land (or land that you own but don't have the deed) then suddenly the land owner sees the value of the fruit trees with their fruit and he claims that the fruit is his and takes the land back. The cooperative is then left with nothing and must start over. 

After lunch we visited the "Garden of Eden." This is an acreage on the mission station in Gamboula where Roy D. has collected and planted trees and plants from all over the world. They are arranged in sections according to the continent of their origin. Plants that do well here may be propagated and used in the community. We saw all sorts of fruit trees and fruits that I've never heard of. 
Roy D. showing us a jack fruit. 
Then we went to the mission hospital for a tour. They treat many things including lack of nutrition--mothers and their young children are particularly susceptible. Malnutrition patients and children will stay for 3 months, and the ladies learn how to plant vegetables, eat healthy and save seed for the next year. When they leave they will receive a machete for at tool and seeds to plant at their home.
Nadej showing us the nutrition garden. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Flexibility is a must (July 3-4)

Our first morning in Cameroon we got up bright and early for breakfast and then we were ready to meet our taxi driver, Moses at 8:30 AM so that we could get some local currency and some grocery items for the next day's travel and for our travel companions that would come in that night. Except our taxi driver didn't show up. He was an hour late and we found someone who could call him for us. We found out first that he was no where in the city and then that his 8 year old daughter had just passed away and so he was driving to be home with his family. We soon heard new plans that another driver, Paul would pick us up to do our errands that afternoon. We spent the rest of the morning resting and checking out the street and vegetable vendors near us, but not purchasing anything since we didn't have any money yet.

Moses was also going to drive us all the way to Central African Republic the next day in a van. So our hosts, Aleta and Roy D. arranged for 2 taxis from the Cameroon / CAR border to bring up one missionary family and then return with us the next day. Unfortunately, neither of them spoke English, but at least we had a ride! At this point I realized how much of a mission trip this was where all the carefully laid out plans have to be changed. Flexibility is always a must in missions!

After running errands in the afternoon, we met up with our new taxi drivers that night, and all was arranged for a 5 AM departure the next day. Then the other three men, Dave, Eric and Mark who represented the project's mission agency, a support agency and a supporting church arrived from the US. They would have a short night, and Roy and I were thankful for the extra day we had to rest.
These are the 3 men who joined us for the first 4 days, along with our missionary host, Roy D (right)
Our 5 AM came soon and we packed up and were off. We were driving on the last day of Ramadan (month of fasting for Muslims) and so our groceries were helpful so that we didn't have to hunt for restaurants that would be open. We made super good time driving across country. The roads went from beautiful smooth pavement to gravel to rough gravel and then after crossing the border they went to rough dirt roads.

Sunrise on the way out of Yaounde on nice paved roads
onto the gravel road which was mostly smooth

This is the main road (dirt) once we crossed into CAR.
I was impressed that Musa, our taxi driver even stopped at gas stations where there were real bathrooms (a luxury I did not expect). Roy and I both compared the countryside to the parts of Africa we had been in the past. Cameroon was much greener than Senegal where Roy had lived, and I noticed a lot less animals, especially donkeys, and many more motorcycles on the road as compared with Ethiopia. There were also a lot of check points where sometimes they would wave us on and sometimes they would check our passports and ask questions and a couple times ask for things. We made it to the border town of Kentzou on the Cameroon side by 2 PM, and Roy D met us and picked us up to take us across the border. More security checks, and it took a couple hours to get through all of them with all five of us visitors.

Then we arrived at our destination, CEFA which is a project farm (NGO or non-government organization). It stands for Center for Education and Formation of Agriculture and is located 5 km from the small town of Gamboula, CAR. It is basically a training and demonstration farm set up to help people improve their lives by improving their farming.

Almost out to the CEFA farm!
We would call this home and stay in a guest house here for the next couple weeks. We got to shower off the road dust (of which there was a lot since we didn't have any air conditioning) and we foreigners (especially pregnant ones) want  the windows down to keep it cool. Our driver would have preferred a hot car free of dust! Then we were fed a hot delicious spaghetti supper and planned out the next day.
The guesthouse where Roy and I stayed at the CEFA farm.