Saturday, February 23, 2013

Map of Heather's Ministry Trip

This is a map of where Heather went on her Women's Ministry Trip.  This is a close look at the section in west Cote d'Ivoire and the cities she mentions in her blog post about the trip.  Thanks to David Pope for making it!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Long Story!

Sunday AM Guiglo Service
Pastor's house where we took our meals

My friend Viviane and another pastor's wife on our team

The characters there in the middle are pastors' wives from Abidjan and the others are women from a Nigerian churches in Abidjan.

Sunday AM worship where our national president and the national president of women in our Nigerian churches were honored.

Singing and dancing were big parts of every service on our trip.  The ladies were so happy to have us.

Pastors and one of our delegation getting their groove on!

Our team grew and changed as we went along, but these were most of those with us throughout the time.

Another group picture.  If you'll notice, I got a pretty interesting get up on.  I was given the dress as a token of appreciation by the church for just showing up.

Church at Guiglo

Chief of a nearby village greeted us where a new work is starting up.

We had to walk in to the village and book it back out to get to our next engagement.

Another village church we visited

Pastors' wives meeting

Welcome to Man Baptist Church

...and the dancing is continued in another city

Pastor and wife at Man

Mountains at Man  It was sort of weird for this Tennessee girl to see palm trees on the mountains. :)

Door to door evangelism

Welcome at Danane

This lady threw rice on us from the moment we arrived.

House where some of stayed at Danane and we all stayed there one night.

Night service with 1 light bulb running off of a generator

... and more dancing

Gifts from the church at Duekoue

Pastors wives that joined us for our last Sunday in the area

Wives getting together for some strategy planning with my friend Viviane

Viviane and I at Guiglo alongside our trusty ride.


This mountain is called the tooth of Man.  It is a worshiped by many in this area.

I kept a pack of little buddies everywhere I went.  It seems white ladies are even more rare out west.

... and a little more dancing

How beautiful are the feet of those that bring good news.  I'm thinking they are a little filthy too! ;)

A couple of ladies from my Danane evangelism team.  The lady to the left took me to visit her mom who prayed to receive Christ.

One of our Nigerian teammates

Pastor's wife at Danane

Dancing Grandma asked to have her picture made.  You should have seen the amazement on her face at seeing her image on the back of my camera!

Many of you know about my recent trip to the north west part of our country with a team of women from Abidjan.  We hopped in an 18 passenger van with all of our luggage to head out on a 10 day trip to visit churches and do evangelism.  Because of the instability here, very few people from Abidjan have been to visit with these churches.  This area was very affected by the troubles during our years of trouble.  Ours was a mission of encouragement, training and evangelism as well as taking a token of our thoughts and prayers by bringing just a little much needed physical aid of clothes and medicine.  We usually rose at 4AM to begin praying and preparing for the day and were often out until 8 or 9 PM.  We'd come in eat and then all of those women had to wash and get ready for bed.  Bedtime was often between 11 and 12. 

It seems now as we put the pieces together, our trip actually started 3 days before it started.  What in the world could I mean you might ask.  Our national women's president lost her house to fire 3 nights before our trip.  She, her husband and two kids were trapped in their house and were nearly lost when God gave her miraculous strength to kick in the door and drag/carry her family out safely.  No matter the loss, she chose to go.

On a Saturday, we all piled into the van with our luggage to head off.  At that point their were 14 of us.  The numbers get a little confusing from that point in, but that is how we started.  The 8 1/2 hour trip was pretty tough.  Bad roads and uncomfortable seats had me pretty sore by the time we arrived.  With only one pit stop for a side of the road potty break, we pulled into our first location of Guiglo.  I was considering walking back to Abidjan or changing my address one!  We prayed and sang a few times on our trip in, but as we pulled into town and had a motorcycle escort to the church, we sang our way through the strips as people stopped to watch the van pass by.  No AC means the windows were all open and we seemed to be making quite the entrance.  Hot, thirsty and in need of a bathroom, we piled out at the church to be whisked into a welcome service of singing, dancing, praying and introductions.

Finally we headed back out to the pastor's home where we dined on rice and sauce made with dried fish.  I'm not a big fish fan, and drying it doesn't actually improve the flavor/texture.  I got my first taste of a local favorite.  I love me some African food, but I don't love placali.  Never fear, I'd get many more chances during our stay to get more acquainted with it! I think I was already in caffeine withdrawal and was beginning to feel a little lousy.  The outhouse experience here is always fun.  The concrete block structure has no roof and the wall is usually about eye level high for me.  I have to say it is a little weird being able to see the rest of our contingent while taking a bucket bath!  Some of them are a little more buggy than others.  The ones that really creep me out are the ones with 3 inch cock roaches pouring in and out of the hole! AAAHHH!  Maybe I don't actually need to go!  Another strange idea to get used to is doubling up for bucket baths.  It didn't occur to me beforehand but to get more than 30 people bathed in a decent amount of time, you have to be a little creative.  Since I'm not really thrilled about showing my naked foot in public, it took a little bit of adjustment.

In every town we went to, we worked together to train women and pastors' wives and others of us headed out to hit the area around the church in door to door evangelism.  I had a great time visiting with people and sharing Christ.  I can't tell you how many asked to go on and accept Christ.  One particularly touching group in Guiglo was a group of now teenage orphans that had been abandoned to live on their own from an early age.  Prostitution and stealing have been methods of survival for them, but all 5 wanted to pray to accept Christ.  I hope that the church will be able to help them in their time of need and grow them up to be men and women of God.  Another young Muslim began our time with mockery, but changed his tune as we continued.  Somewhere along the line, he stopped mocking and began to really listen.  Pray that Adama continues to follow up on what the truth is.  We left him pouring over a tract that we left with him.

The church gave me a dress made of a locally made cloth.  It was so sweet of them to do that.  I wanted to let them know how much I appreciated it, so decided to wear it on our last day together.  Now for those of you that are morning people, you will have no idea what I'm talking about, but our days began at 4 AM.  Yes AM people.  I don't DO 4 AM.  Anyway, the last day we got up at 4 AM, we all got up to do bucket baths.  Cold water my friends at 4 AM out of a bucket in the dark in a concrete room with a buddy.  There are a lot of things wrong with that sentence in my opinion.  I would have tried to beg off, but I've come to understand that at least 2 baths a day are required, 3 or more are preferred.  You don't wash, they hunt you down!  My group was the last to bathe even though we were the 2nd to arrive.  It seems you have to stake out the outhouse if you want to get a bath.  I got pretty good at that by the end of trip, but I was still a rookie at this point.  Anyway, the all aboard call was made about the same time as I threw ice cold water on my sleep deprived body!  I did some quick washing, drying and dressing.  Throughout the 5AM prayer service, my caffeine withdrawals along with my sleep deprivation caught up to me.  We were sleeping on concrete floors for around an average of 4 hours a night.  I began to nod off through the 2 HOUR service.  I was doing everything possible to maintain consciousness and decided to put my hands in my pocket just for something to do.  I looked down and couldn't find the pocket.  I looked and looked in the lightening dawn and nope, no pocket.  Hmm!  I knew there was a pocket, what happened to it?  NO! NO, no, no!  My dress in on inside out!  OK, don't panic.  Surely there is an outhouse?  No.  Bushes? No.  Now people are out in the courtyard heading out for the day.  I'm not going to be able to change.  OK, no big deal.  We should be heading back for breakfast right after this I'll just hold my Bible close to my chest and pray for anonymity.  Who am I kidding?  I'm the only white lady for miles.  Back in the van, no troubles.  Off we go... to another sight to pray over the construction of the new church.  No biggie.  I can do this.  Still nobody has said anything and surely we'll head home now.  NOPE!  Off to the village to see another newly formed church.  Now one person has noticed.  OK, I'll survive, let's just go HOME!  But NOOO, we head to another village to parade through the village looking for another newly formed church.  By now, word is out. Our whole group and probably all of the village know.  Thank you, Lord for another lesson in humility! :)  Fortunately, I don't take myself too seriously.

After that day, we moved on to the next town, Man.  It is a very pretty place and fortunately the people didn't yet know what a nutcase I am.  Man has some mountains, 18 they say, and I enjoyed our brief time there.  When we were out doing evangelism, we ran across a couple of young men whose mother go to the Baptist church, but they've been putting off their decision for Christ.  They nearly begged us to talk to them about Jesus and then wanted to pray to accept Him right away.  Being the naturally suspicious person I am, I started trying to make sure they understood what that this was a life long commitment and make sure they didn't have any ulterior motives.  Finally when they nearly begged to pray, they repeated a prayer after me that was less than stellar.  I nearly giggled as they corrected my French phrases in the repitition.  I hope and pray that they are holding fast to their choice.

In Man I loosened up enough that the children started to flock to me again.  I suppose I must have been scarey in Guiglo, I don't know, but I had a little pack of friends that followed me everywhere in Man.  My hair is often a huge attraction here.  The texture, color and length is so different to them.  I most often here little tittering behind me of:  "Is that her real hair?" "NO, that's not real!"  "Yes it is!"  "No it's not, it's mesh"  "Nooooo, that is her real hair."  I often turn and smile really big so they'll know I heard them.  If they don't all run away giggling, I'll often take my hair down so they can see for themselves.  Being so far from Abidjan, there was a lot more little kiddos interested in what exactly it is I have on my head. ;)

The next place we headed was Danane.  We received another motorcycle escort, this time of 4 bikes.  We pulled up to the church to find well over 100 maybe closer to 200 men and women singing and cheering.  Being the big sap that I am, I cried.  They don't really cry much here, so I tried to pull myself together, but I am who I am. 

In Danane, we had much more of the same things; meetings and evangelism.  I was very touched by an entire family that came to Christ.  It was almost as good is being on the front lines with the Apostle Paul, excluding the whole chains and stonings and all.  The father of the family, his mother, wife, children and grandchildren all prayed to accept Christ on the spot.  I hope the church will really follow up on them and make sure they are welcomed in and helped to grow.  We made one quick run at the end of the day to the house of one of the ladies from the town that was in my evangelism group.  She wanted us to share with her mom.  I met with the older lady that night just before sunset.  She shared about a long term illness she's had and I shared with her about Christ while her daughter translated to local language for me.  She insisted that Jesus is the Savior for everyone, so we talked about accepting a gift and how the gift isn't yours until you accept it.  Praise be to God that in a few moments time, she lifted her old hands to heaven as a symbol of accepting the gift of eternal life through Jesus our Savior.

Finally we moved on to Duekoue.  There I recieved the the distinguished title, from a beloved pastor's wife of "MY" white lady.  The sound was precious to my ears!  I'm not sure why I was more often know there as white lady, but at least I belonged, as far as the pastor's wife was concerned.  I headed out of one of our long meetings to round up some stray kiddos that were invading on our very private women's health topics conference late on Saturday.  We goofed around some singing and dancing and other ridiculous things.  Once I figured out all of their names, I said, "What do you think my name is, expecting some sort of African name to come out."  One of the bigger kids looked at me rather matter of factly and said "La Blanche" (white lady).  Sorry, Mom.  Hope you weren't too attached to the name you gave me! ;) hee hee!

Since I'd had a few days time since I'd worn my clothes inside out and I was probably getting a little cocky about my ability to survive in West Africa again, I had another incident.  I was running across the road, returning from a mission of love and aid to a few friends that were tired and ailing, when I hit a little patch of gravel on the down side of the road.  I only had that one foot planted and it went up in the air like some sort of cartoon and I came down hard on one arm and my backside.  Because I feel straight down as if dropped from the sky, I didn't get a scrape, but a nasty pain in my hand, wrist, arm and neck.  There must have been at least 600 people (well it could have been 20) standing on the road to see my graceless splat and they all sucked the breath in and screamed.  I jumped up like I'd landed on a pin cushion and ran for the safety of the gated church yard.  I knew I was hurt, but for the moment, my pride hurt the most.  As the night wore on, I felt worse.  The favorite remedy to any sort of injury here is massage with a cream like icy hot.  After I had gotten bathed and fed that night, I returned to our shared room to find 10 or 15 women all piled on my mattress on the floor, just waiting to get their hands on me.  Fleeing did indeed occur to me, but I couldn't figure out where to go.  Fortunately, there was a nurse midwife in our midst and she rescued me from the hands of the wannabe doctors and chiropractors chasing me.  I'm not sure what all they learn about massage in midwife school, but I didn't die.  She ordered me to take some ibuprophen and go to bed.  I did as told and quite quickly the room filled with precious ladies coming to lay hands on and pray for me.  That was incredibly sweet, but terribly ill timed.  The temp in the house at that time must have been around 90.  Then 15 ladies piled in a room and put their hands on me.  I didn't eat much supper because we had PLACALI again and I didn't feel like eating anyway.  About the time they said Amen, I had the distinct impression I was going to vomit.  I jumped up off the bed and yelled at my buddy Viviane, "Where do I go to throw up!"  "The bathroom" she yelled as I tore out of the room.  DOOR LOCKED.  "NOW WHERE?"  "Outside in the dark" she yelled steering me away from all of the common areas still filled with CHURCH MEMBERS!  The fact that I even had that conversation in French is still funny to me.  Since I tore off without shoes a delegation that was already following me ran up with somebody's shoes.  In no time, I felt like I was going to faint and my legs stopped holding me up.  Now I'm outside with a large crowd of people all around.  The pastor comes over to check on me and I've NEVER BEEN SO EMBARRASSED IN MY LIFE.  The wardrobe incident at church last Mother's Day may have been worse, but I wasn't considering that at the time.  I finally decide to go find a chair to sit in.  I can't actually walk, so two of the ladies hauled me over there.  I was so embarrassed that even as I came to myself I didn't want to get up and walk back as that would mean I would pick my head up and see everyone watching me.  Finally I calmed down enough to realize that it was go back in our sleep in that chair in the yard for the night and then I realized just a little more about the situation.  I was wearing a tshirt and knit capris and nothing else.  It might not sound like a big deal to you, but in Africa, that is scandalous!!!  As I realized, I whispered to my friend Viviane, "I'm not wearing any clothes!"  "Aha!"  she says,  "Now you are seeing things clearly," with a big grin on her face.  The ladies offered to go in and get my wrap skirt for me, but in my mind that was worse than just getting up and walking in.  Suddenly from behind, I felt one of the Mamas wrap her extra piece of fabric around me so that I could hold my head up and walk back in with whatever dignity still remained.  I love these ladies!!!

Since I was feeble, which I actually was a little, and very sore the next day, I got to do some evangelism with my buddy Viviane.  She's pretty great at it and before too long, I got back in the groove too.  I figured that if Satan wanted me down, I wasn't going without a fight!

After a few more long days, we packed up to go home.  Many of us were touched with what should have been serious injury or sickness, but time after time, prayer and a few minutes were enough to get the person going again. We had a flat tire on the way to Man, but just happened to discover it low when stopping to get direction at a tire repair shop.  It was later changed after a hole that couldn't be repaired was discovered on arriving at the church.  We packed up all of our goods and headed off towards Abidjan on Monday.  Before we could even leave, we had another flat.  After an hour and a half to take it off and get it replaced we were on the road just before 10 AM.  30 minutes later, we had a blow out.  This time a 2 hour delay as they found enough car jacks to lift our vehicle and all the luggage off the ground, we were on the way again.  By late afternoon, I ran out of water.  That should have been fine because we should have been home.  Instead we came into a terrible down pour.  About then seemed like a good time to sing and pray.  We passed a few hours that way.  Darkness fell and we were all getting antsy about getting home.  The road got really bad and we were all gasping a little with each pothole.  Around 7:30, it happened again.  The tire blew.  I'd been updating Mike every 15 or so minutes with the name of a village to check to see how we were progressing and figure when we might get home, now that all went down the drain.  Survival was the first order of business.  We were in a forest about 6 km out a small town.  We later found out that the place was a known hang out for thieves and other characters.  Mike immediately set our prayer chain in motion.  A young man on a motorcycle stopped to pick up our chauffer into town to get help leaving 15 lovely ladies on the side of the road with one very small body guard and a super loaded van.  We decided not to start walking as we'd be leaving the van alone on the road.  I couldn't exactly figure out how it was going to go anywhere, but I wasn't sure walking off into the forest was a great idea either.  Finally we got the pastor in the nearby town and begged for mercy.  He managed to round up a vehicle big enough for us and our bags and sent it our way.  Some young men on bicycles had also stopped to help and managed to get the van in limping condition.  Making it home that night was out of the question, but the pastor got a church member to let us crash on their floor and feed us a piece of bread.  Early the next AM the tire got repaired and we were back on the road by 9.  Are you ready for just one more twist.  We started to hear a noise on the way past the city gates.  We immediately started to pray but within a couple of minutes, BANG, whack, whack, whack, whack.  Same tire.  Gone again.  I didn't even get out of the van before I had Mike on the phone begging for him to come save us!  He'd wanted to come get me the night before, but it really wasn't safe to be out at that time of night.  Mike came and rescued 4 of us from the never ending journey and delivered us to safety.  In an unbelievable continuation, our president had about an hour ride in a totally different vehicle to return to her home.  On said drive, her first vehicle blew a tire.  Her second vehicle had an accident.  Evil is alive and well here, but it's no match for our all powerful God.

So amid outhouses, plagues of mosquitoes, cold baths, injuries, hard floors, car trouble, good friends, great fellowship, sweet times sharing Jesus alongside my sisters in Christ, it was a pretty great trip. 

For those that persevered to the end, Bless you!  Know that I had about 6 more pages of material, but wanted to spare you at least something! ;)

With love,