Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sunday With the Mossi

Actually saying that we were at a Mossi church this morning may be stretching things a bit. There are supposed to be Mossi at the church, but it isn’t made up completely of Mossi. We are very interested to know exactly how many Mossi there are there. The service was not in Moore, but French. In any event, we had a great time.

We had a bit of trouble getting there as one of the roads we needed to go on was closed and we had to find a different way there. We finally made our way onto the tiny dirt road that we needed to be on. The path was very small and not necessarily made for cars. People and little shacks crowded the road on both sides. At one point we squeezed through with merely centimeters to spare on either side. We were quite a curiosity passing through in our big four wheel drive vehicle. We drew stares from both sides of the road all of the way down.

When we arrived at our destination, a cement block building with red doors, we hopped out to a sea of smiling faces and even an English “Good Morning”. We were a bit late due to the detour, but were ushered up to the front of the room where the kids and I were deposited on the front way and Mike and Jeff taken on up to the front of the room facing out at the crowd.

Music today came from 4 microphoned singers and what appeared to be a homemade drum set as opposed to the keyboard and guitars we’ve been encountering. It was actually quite nice. Most of the drums were square shaped today as we’d been told that many Africans do to distinguish a church instrument versus a ritualistic drum. After a little while I was joined by a man who translated most of what was said for me into English. They had a great “Conga” line this week with a little one dancing around in the center. All of the other moms had their wee ones tied snuggly on their backs as they danced.

The pastor preached to his congregation about the comfort of God through suffering and how we should hold one another up as we experience trials. The church had lost a deacon in the previous week due to cancer. I couldn’t help but think about how much suffering and loss that the congregation must face every week, that I’ve never had to face.

After the service we had a huge hand shaking line that began with the pastor and those seated with him at the front and continued on to include the whole congregation. After you shook hands with those already in line, you joined the line. It was quite fun.

We managed to attract more than a little attention with our camera at church. Mike had pulled it out to snap some pix of the drummers and then others began to ask to have their picture taken. We got a smile from all as they saw their face appear on the screen after the picture was taken.

Our kids drew an immediate kid crowd too. They were quickly joined by all of the small kids there. They had a good time sharing their names with us, which is about all that we can really do yet unless someone wants us to count to 100, name some veggies or conjugate a few verbs! One kid around Caleb’s age took on the role of protector. He ushered our kids outside by the hand and then as it was time to go, pried Karis loose of all of the sweet little girl hands that had her and deposited her over to the car. It was funny to hear one of the little girls comment to another as Karis walked away: “Elle(she) parle(speaks) Anglais (English)." They stood in a little pile and waved goodbye as far as they could see us. In translation later on we were told, the adults told Jeff they want us to come every week. Right now, it’s where I’d love to be. It is the warmest welcome we’ve received so far. We so want to be among those we came here for.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Another week in Africa

We’ve had a good week. Learning French is very tiring and frustrating, but we are having a good time anyway. There have been several sounds in words this week that my American mouth just can’t seem to form. After many, many attempts with my tutor’s corrections, he’ll just smile shake his head and go on!

Caleb and Karis got their bikes this week. They had needed a new bike in the states, but we just put it off as we knew that we could not bring it with us. So we headed off this week to make the purchase. We couldn’t find anything worth buying in the stores, so we headed off to a little neighborhood that has open shops along the streets where you bargain for goods. We found some pretty good bikes for them, but Karis’s is a bit large for her. They didn’t really have her size, so we had to go a little big. After much discussion in Frenglish, we had the bikes and were on our way!

Mike and I both had some pretty neat encounters this week. Mike went out with one of our missionary neighbors and our night guard to do some street evangelism in our neighborhood with local shop owners and neighbors. Mike followed the conversation as best he could and prayed and joined in where possible.

I had an arranged meeting with a lady that sells fruit about a half mile down the road from our house. One of our missionary friends walked with me early in the week to ask if it would be OK for me to come and sit and listen to her talk with her customers because I’m trying to learn French. She quickly agreed that not only could I come and sit, but that she would have her sister come and walk with me up and down the street to talk to people. When I arrived on Friday, all alone and very nervous, the sister was there waiting for me. She walked with me to some nearby vegetable stands where she told me all of the names of things and made me write them in my notebook. Then we continued down the street for nearly a mile, all the while I’ve got no clue what we are doing or where we are going. She took me to a huge market and paraded me through the whole thing, talking away as we went about what things were. Finally we headed back to the fruit stand where I took my leave. I was so appreciative to God for bringing this kind woman to teach me things. I understood very little of our conversation, but that’s OK for now. My new language helper’s name is Wassa and hopefully I’ll see her again this Friday.

One of our missionaries here had a funny experience this week, at least funny after the fact. Greg and Laura have been in Abidjan for 4 months now and attempting the whole time to get their Ivorian driver’s license. After much frustration they finally got it last week. On one of their first trips out with their new licenses Laura got pulled over in a routine traffic stop, very common here. By the way, the police here have no cars; they just stand on the side of the road and point you out and motion you to stop. Anyway, upon this officer’s examination of Laura’s brand new license, he told her it was no good and that she’d have to be arrested. He said that he knew this because he had seen on TV that the new licenses are no good, only the old ones are good. Because Greg and Laura had their little one with them, Greg got the officer to take him rather than Laura. After a call back to our office, one of our office workers here came and managed to get Greg free. So that was it for their morning of ministry. Apparently God had in mind for them to be ministering to police officers rather than Hausa people that morning. There’s never a dull moment around here.

We are very thankful right now for God’s provision here as well as in the states. All of our language and other needs are being met in exciting ways. Thank you for all the prayers you are lifting on our behalf and for the Mossi people.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

We are getting a lovely tropical rainstorm this afternoon. We are approaching the end of the rainy season, so we don’t get rain every day, but still several times a week. The rain is a welcome friend. Although it limits our outside activities it cools things off a bit. If you can believe it, I think we are beginning to adjust to the temperatures here.

We visited another new church today. We haven’t been to the same church twice yet. Fun differences in service here are that they spend the first 1 to 2 hours in prayer, private confession and intercession, and praise and worship, 30 – 45 minutes on sermon and then 15-30 minutes on announcements. They don’t dance much here. Most people have a good sway going, and may shuffle their feet a bit, but that’s about all. The first part of the service is devoted to a more solemn time of prayer and singing and then they start singing more lively songs and clapping after that. They have an interesting clap rhythm that is hard to explain, but we are catching on. Some of the women carry small handkerchiefs or tissues that they use when they are singing the happy songs with hand motions. Something that hasn’t failed to make me smile yet is a little “Conga” line that breaks out as the happy songs go on. They range in size each week at the different churches, but we’ve always had one so far. Mike is threatening to join one, but hasn’t gotten the nerve yet.

Driving is quite interesting here. I haven’t yet tried as I am very unsure behind the wheel of a stick shift and the dodging of people, bicycles, potholes, and other drivers is still too scary to me. More than once we’ve watched or been cut off by a taxi driver making a left hand turn from the right lane. And turn lanes or driving lanes are just made by how many cars fit abreast and which direction the driver intends to go. It all definitely makes for an interesting ride. In addition to that fun, the horn here is used to say, “I’m “beside you”, “I’m passing you”, “Don’t crowd me out”, “The light is green”, “The light is red but I want to go anyway”, “Get out of the way pedestrian”, “Go faster”, “Let me pass”, and many other things I haven’t figured out yet. Someone here has said that Africans are never in a hurry until they get behind the wheel of a car.

We are enjoying living on the mission compound right now. Our neighborhood is nice and very tropical looking. There is always someone to talk to or visit here with two other families here and 3 single women plus those that are passing through the guest house rooms from time to time. The kids think it is great fun to visit their missionary family. It has been a little difficult to make contact with other African children, though. All houses in this neighborhood are surrounded by a 10-12 foot wall. We are hoping to make some good Mossi contacts soon.

We are going to visit a Mossi church next week. We had no idea that there was one, and so are excited about getting to go. The service is in French rather than their language. It should be fun.

Speaking of French, we are still trying desperately to learn enough to hold up even a 3 minute conversation. I was able to communicate to our house help that were going to the store for the first time. We are learning, it’s just going to take time.

Someone just brought by a litter of puppies. The kids are really missing our dogs. I really miss our dogs. It’s usually great being here, but sometimes it’s hard. We love our new friends and mission family, but we miss so much our family and our friends. Karis said yesterday, “Mom, it’s never going to be the same.” She’s right.

Life is beginning to take on routines. We’ve gotten in two full weeks of French tutoring and two full weeks of school. The kids both have their beds and we have plates and dishes and cookware and living room furniture. I have tried my hand at African brownies and chocolate chunk cookies (no chips here). Both met with hearty approval! We know where the grocery stores are and the markets and the mall and our favorite produce stops. We have a beef guy that drives by the house on Monday and a fruit guy that brings his goods to the mission compound to sale. I couldn’t quite bring myself to buy the chicken out of the back of a station wagon last week that drove up to our gate, but maybe some day I’ll be brave enough. I doubt it though.

We love you guys so much.


Saturday, November 3, 2007

November 3

We are doing somethings with our pictures to try to make them upload faster. Let us know how it goes.

We had a nice time at the beach yesterday. We went to a "resort" that had a pool too and spent most of our time poolside. The beach waves are just a little too rough for my tastes and the beach drops off really quickly. It looks like it wouldn't take too much to get pulled out.

I went to the grocery store alone yesterday! I know that sounds rediculous, but that is the first time I've been brave enough to try that. We had been to this particular grocery twice before so I knew some of the people working there and knew they'd help me if they could. I survived, and not only did I survive, but I bought my groceries.

We are having internet blackouts often, so please bear with us. We love you guys.