Monday, March 19, 2012


Being a friend here, means not only getting to know each other, sharing good and hard times, sharing common interests, but also hosting and being hosted in each other's homes.  That can present quite a difficulty at times for us as some of our friends are a good 30 minutes car ride away and very few of them own a car.

We managed to tackle a few of those hurdles last week and got to have two meals with friends here at our house.  It was fun to share food and conversation.

I was also struck by the fun difference in our neighborhood acquaintances here.  I have to struggle sometimes with my frustration level at needing to stop and talk to everyone even when I'm in a hurry.  In my western world, often the task takes first priority and people around me know and understand that, at least I like to think they do.  Here, people are always first.  As I was hurrying through the streets to find a lost friend trying to get to my house, I had to stop to talk to no less than 6 different groups of people.  It became obvious really quickly that one of them wanted to rattle on for a while.  I quickly said that I'd love to talk to him later, but I was late.  He totally ignored me and continued to rattle on for 5 minutes.  To him, that meant nothing.  An appointment was not important but the person in front of him was. 

I was also laughing at my different life as I walked home from the grocery store loaded down with groceries the other day.  I only had 2 bags but when I added up the weight, it was around 20 lbs.  I'd been out walking all afternoon and was already tired when I went to the store and the day was hot and sticky.  I was late again, imagine that, and I just needed to get home with my goods.  The first offer to walk me home was when I was less than a third of a mile from the house.  I laughed to start with and then realized he really meant to leave the task he was doing and carry my groceries home for me.  "No, no.  Just getting some exercise," I laughed.  After the next offer several houses down, I began to take stock of why everyone figured I needed help.  I looked down and realized that the two plastic bags containing all of my goods was cutting off the circulation and all of my fingers were actually blue by now.  Second, I realized that all sorts of short hairs had escaped my raggedy pony tail and they were sticking out in every direction because of the humidity.  Third, I realized that the heat and sun was probably putting a serious flush on my no makeup face.  All told, 4 people offered to carry home my goods in that last third of the mile and one of them was a sweet old man with no teeth out trimming his boss' hedges.  Note to self, next time, take a taxi! ;)

With love,

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Special Update

I wanted to give a special update on a few of our projects.  Some of you have joined us in prayers for this and we see God's hand at work.

Mike had what he considered a frustrating day this last week in one of his groups, but I think was more of a success story.  He stories with a family that you've been praying for and storying with a family is one of the best ways to see Muslims come to faith, so we hear.  If a family comes to saving faith together, they are bringing their own community and support and it removes the excuse of "I'd like to follow Jesus, but my family will reject me."  A guest dropped in this last week and the question was raised about why bad things happen.  Mike took the opportunity to go back and retell the story of creation and how man choose to reject God's plan and follow his own that brought suffering and sin to our world.  He went on to tell of God's plan to redeem mankind and bring them back into right relationship.  As he got through the story of Jesus and moved on to the crucifixion, the guest quickly asked to be excused.  One of the family members walked him out and when he returned he said the guest said that they weren't to listen to stuff like that.  Mike was discouraged and asked if they wished for him to continue.  The family gave a whole hearted go ahead and so he finished the story.  The family has heard that story on a number of occasions, but around here, a good story is worth retelling!  Mike was frustrated because the guy walked out, but I was encouraged because in face of opposition, the family asked Mike to continue.  This is one of the families that feel we all worship the same God and we each just have our own way of praying.  To me, this man walking out may help open their eyes to the difference and only when they clearly see a difference can they choose truth.

I also have a friend toying with truth.  Our conversations have been nearly comical because of my thinking I know what she's going to say.  I've told you about Adiara that lives here.  She's been listening to the stories for a few months.  Her family is Muslim and she is to some extent.  She is in an interesting storying group that keeps me on my toes.  They always have some tough questions and I have to go prepared not only to hear and answer what is asked of me, but to really work to understand why they asked and where they are coming from culturally to have asked that question.  Maybe that is why I was reading so much into her comments that led me down the wrong paths in our recent conversations, I don't know.  Although I enjoy this group, I was feeling that I really needed to go ahead and draw our stories to a decision point.  I didn't want us to get in a rut of just hearing a story and there never really be a time to say, OK, put up or shut up.  I find that a lot of women I've worked with in the past just want to say, "little by little, I'll understand."  That is true, but if someone's never really going to change, there's no point in continuing.  I think for me to spend my time on someone, they need to hear the truth and show that they are going to do something about it.  Even though they will really only understand little by little, I don't want to help them put off their choice without end.  It seems to me that is what Jesus did as well.

Anyway, after telling the crucifixion and resurrection story, a commotion arose that distracted her, imagine that!  I left frustrated that day and came the next week with a story about the kingdom of God and how we must be clothed in the righteousness of Jesus to enter.  She got the story first time, it was great.  Then she looked off and said, "I'd really like to do that, but my whole family is Muslim and ..."  I'm running ahead at this point and filled in for her in my head that she was saying she couldn't because her family would reject her.  That is true and we hear it, especially from women and mothers.  They can be thrown out of their house with their kids and no means of support or without their kids to never see them again.  So I started covering for her as I didn't want her to outright reject the truth that seemed to be glimmering for her.  "I know it's hard for you and costly, but you know you can accept Jesus in your own heart and we'll figure out the rest later.  You can pray yourself..."  As I trail off into details, she says, "Yeah it is hard for me because my whole family is Muslim and I have no idea how to pray like you.  Do you have a book about that or something I could read?"  I laughed out loud to realize she'd not meant at all what I thought.  I quickly arranged to come back with a story about prayer and that "book" that we have that teaches us how to pray.  ;)  She then yells down the street to a mutual friend of ours and says, "Hey did you hear that, I'm gonna learn how to pray."  Crack me up.  So much for being worried about what her friends and family will think!  Then as I was about to leave she looks at me and says, "Don't you people sing songs or something?"  My dumbfoundedness went to a new level at that point and I could only think of one song that was really simple that we sing.  Now when you learn a new language, songs can help, but they can also be really hard.  We use language in songs we don't use elsewhere and the rhythm can really mess with the sound of a word.  So, I know some songs, but not a lot and mostly those that are uncomplicated and I've heard a LOT!  The song basically says, Take my hand and lead me (although the word me more like, direct me, steer me, guide me), I don't know how to walk.  When I got through singing she said, "You know that's exactly right.  I need God to show me because I don't even know how to walk."  As I left that day, I could hear her singing the simple song.

The next time I saw her, I brought her Bible to her.  She was so thrilled to have this "precious treasure".  I could have given her one a while back, but I didn't think she'd have cared about it.  I showed her where she could start to read.  The next time I saw her, I asked about her new Bible and if she'd started to read it.  She looked sheepish and said, "I wanted to, but my husband took it and ..."  Now my mind started running and I'm worried again about her family and how are we going to protect her now that the word is already out and what we are going to do.  I asked her if he was really mad, as I wanted to hear the rest of the story.  She said, "Oh no, he just wants to read it all the time and I hardly get to look at it!"  I slowly recover from my near loss of consciousness and say, "Well, let me get you another one."  "Oh no, I could never take another one from you, you need to keep those for other people."  Eventually I convince her to at least let me give her a new testament and she happily carries off her new treasure.

I'm still not sure where she stands.  I find that people here make decisions a little differently than we do, but I'm encouraged by what I see from her.  We now start our storying groups with songs and we are having a good time.  This last lesson we talked a lot about assurance of salvation and prayer and Bible study.  We bounced about because of comments, but a friend urged her to "count the cost"  as she makes her decision about Christ.  That will leave a good open door for me to ask her next time if she has counted the cost and what does she think.  She shared with us a couple of dreams she had a long time ago about end times.  It was odd to me that someone who has never been exposed to the Bible would have a dream that could have come from scripture.  She saw everyone bowing in reverence to Jesus.  She saw people grouped into 2 groups and being held accountable for their actions on earth.  She had found herself in the group bound for torment, but someone told her to go to the other side.  It was neat to see how God has been pursuing her for some time.  She cracked me up again as we were leaving by making a summary comment for the day.  "OK, I've got it," she says.  "I'm going to pray and put God's word into practice, not just read it."  I loved it.  May God bring to completion what He has started in her.

Thanks to all of you who pray for these dear ones. 

New Toys

Before we left the states, we got to pack a few things in a crate that would be delivered to Abidjan by boat.  In it was a bike for each of the big kids and a tricycle for Ben.  Everyone was glad to get their new wheels a few weeks ago.  Ben quickly figured out how to pedal his tricycle, but steering was a little iffy for a while.  He's finally figured it all out and zips around the house and up and down the side walk on his three wheeled cruiser!