Thursday, November 28, 2013

Children's Day at Church

I think my illustration for why we need help with our 70 plus kiddos will be long remembered, I just hope it will bring results.

This last Sunday was Children's Day at church.  We had a great time with all of our kiddos in service taking part and doing presentations.  I have been very blessed to have been able to help out with this kids in the last couple of months and look forward to making some progress in the children's program and how things work so that our children's group can continue to grow.  I think you might know a few of those lighter colored faces in the pictures.  Those other faces with the beautiful tint to their skin are among my favorites around here!


Saturday, November 16, 2013


Church of Pastor Barthelemy who also runs the orphanage

Lunch time at the orphanage

All the orphans ready to go back to school for afternoon session

Littlest orphans at nap time

Church on the outskirts of Bouake that we attended on Saturday for a special service.  The Kassous were the first pastoral family at this church.

Sunday worship at another church in Bouake that the church the Kassous started at planted while the Kassous were there.  Pastors wives are called mama here, so she was grandmama at this church. :)  They enjoyed her brief word of encouragement and loved dancing to "grandmama's" singing.

There are thousands of bats in this photo in a village where people barely have enough to eat, but love bats.  These are sacred bats, though, and cannot be eaten.  It is so sad that God is providing for their needs, but they are slaves to Satan's lies.

It's hard to get African women to smile for photos, but this quickly snapped photo shows the joy on the face of this woman who is the chief's wife in this village, but also the sister of Pastor George Kassou.

To honor us for visiting her, she gave us a chicken and a huge sack of sweet potatoes.

My second chicken came with $10 so that we could eat well.  $10 is enough for several days food for a family living in this area, so that was super nice of them.  It's hard to accept such gifts, but unkind to refuse. 

This is the village school that Viviane attended as a child.

This is a small group of the relatives we visited in Viviane's village.

For those of you that may not know, I just spent 10 days several hours north of our lovely city of Abidjan in another city called Bouake (BWA-kay).  I took my buddy Viviane with me because she has lived and ministered there and still has lots of good contacts.  Her husband's family home is also there and so we got a free place to stay out of the deal.  We also had relatives waiting on us hand and foot, which is nice when you are in a strange city but need supplies, need water heated and carried and need to cook with no dishes or kitchen.  The main stated goal was for me to be able to meet and begin to get to know as many pastors' wives as possible, other Baptist women leaders and get to know some of the churches in the area and some about what is going on with them and their ministry and what needs they have.  I also wanted to get a little look at the city in case we are ever allowed to write a request for that area to have colleagues return there to work.  We have had many people there in the past but no one has been in that area for more than 10 years now due to the unrest.  As a brief summary note, I had a great time.  As usual, I thought you might or might not be interested in my wanderings and thought I'd give you a run down on our trip.

The Kassou family seems to be well known and very influential wherever they wind up and Bouake was no exception.  The little area where the family house is located is called Kassoukro.  Pastor Kassou's dad was the chief a long time ago when people were moving into that area.  If I understand correctly, someone in the family still is chief.  It was a nice big house with probably 7 or 8 rooms and electricity, but no running water.  There was an outhouse a little ways away which consisted of a concrete cubicle with a hole in the floor over the raw sewage.  The concrete cubicle next to that was just that, concrete floors and walls that came to around my nose when standing with a little drain hole off to the side, no roof on either side.  You the side with the hole was obviously for toilet purposes and the side with the drain was designed for bucket baths.  For the faint of heart, water could be heated in a huge metal pot over a fire and meals were cooked in the same fashion.  We had several women there to help us out, most of which were Kassou relatives.  Pastor Kassou's sister, who lived just around the block, cooked all of our meals for us that we ate at the house.  Everyone was very kind and welcoming.  I am learning that the Baoule people are huggers, so I can get along fairly well with them.

Let me just insert here that every move I make everywhere is thoroughly watched and analyzed for every detail about whether I am accepting of the way of life around here.  They aren't usually watching to see if I make errors, although those are always noted, but they want to know that I appreciate their way of life.  This is HUGE when it comes to food.  The Africans I know love to eat and they know that their food is very different from our food and they are always watching me to see how I'll react.  They also watch to see if I'll be able to handle the differences in comfort of living and if I'll accept them and love them for who they are when they are very different from me.  To this people pleaser, all of this is a recipe for HUGE stress. 

Because I was traveling with Viviane and I am an American white missionary, we got big honors wherever we went.  People were always asking what we wanted to eat and we got some of the best that these sweet people have to offer.  I love a dish called foutou that is made by pounding plantains and a root into a play dough type consistency and is eaten with sauce.  The funny thing about this particular dish is it is almost exclusively eaten with your right hand traditionally.  Even very western Africans would eat this with their hand.  Never one to be an odd ball, I also eat it with my hand, but that always brings huge giggles and lots of remarks.  The other very common thing for me to do is to share a bowl with Viviane.  There are lots of reasons I prefer to eat this way, one of which is the ability to stick out less in what I eat or don't eat.  If you share a bowl, the end result is always what the two of you finished together and there is less notice of what any one of you ate.  It also fits better with my philosophy of blending in if at all possible.  Anyway, time after time I sat and ate foutou with my hand out of a common bowl, while trying not to choke on fish bones.  Fish bones used to bother me a little.  I'm not so good at separating them out in my mouth and inevitable swallow a few.  I used to cough and hack and worry about everyone of them, but now I've accepted my handicap at sorting fish bones out with my mouth and just go with the flow.  For those of you that know of some reason this will cause me serious harm, please don't tell me.  I'm just getting past the panic when one scratches its way down my esophagus when I worry about what the sharp pointy object could possibly do in my intestines! ;)  Don't worry, Mom, I'm down from 10 or 15 tiny weapons of death per meal to usually only 1 or 2.  Hee hee!   Because of the near constant surveillance and my desire to make everyone, including my traveling buddy, happy, I ate a LOT of food!!

Because I was traveling with a Baoule lady and Bouake is a big Baoule area, I was once again at a language disadvantage.  I at least had a fall back language of French.  Most of those we were with could speak French, but they often preferred their heart language.  I very quickly learned the word for "white lady" so that I could keep track of when I was being discussed, but other than that my vocabulary isn't much more than come, sit, bat, cat and boy.  At least I was relieved of the duty of chit chatting for most of the trip.

Another special experience that I was able to have was the joy of motorcycle taxis.  There are many more motorcycle taxis there than cars.  Viviane told me that she didn't really like them and they weren't cheaper, so I thought I might get to skip this particular part of Bouake life, but of course my Jesus seems to love to keep me humble and so...  One night we headed out to see what used to be an international school for MKs.  Viviane had been told it was close and so we headed out on foot around 5 PM to see what it looks like now.  The sun always sets here around 6:30 and after about 45 minutes of walking, Viviane turned to the family member accompanying us and puzzled asked, "Do we have much further to go?"  "Yes, much further!" she replied.  At Viviane's distressed look, she added, "We can take a motorcycle taxi."  My poor Viviane tried to balance the options and finally turned and trudged ahead mumbling, "We are going to..." and the rest was drowned out.  "We are going to what?" I said and Viviane started to laugh.  The young lady with us started to laugh and said, "Are you scared."  "Of course not I said with my mouth," while "Yes, yes I am." ran through my head.  I know I can't say anything to make you understand why I would be worried, but I'll leave it at the fact that they don't obey any normal traffic rules I'm aware of and they don't wear helmets, not to mention that I'm about to cling for dear life to some African man that I don't know.  These motorcycles are pretty small things, not a whole lot more than a moped and you ride with 2 passengers and the driver.  Fortunately, Viviane climbed on behind me to make sure I stayed put.  I managed to wrap one arm back around behind her leg to lock my fingers on chrome behind her and the other hand had a death grip on her other knee.  She put one arm around me to keep that hand on the driver's shoulder while locking in my other hand by putting that hand on her other knee.  I had to take 3 motorcycle rides while there, but I survived them all.  I appreciated even more my dear African friends habit of always asking for God's protection each time they left a house.  Every trip was prayed about over and over and all of those prayers were answered by safe trips.

I got to spend a couple of days in a couple of villages.  We came back with gifts of peanuts, sweet potatoes, dried hot peppers, chickens, money and other things.  The people were so kind and generous.  It was a very special time.  It was also neat to see the Baptist churches in those villages doing well.  We encouraged and prayed for each pastor and wife we could. 

We got to spend some time with several pastors' wives that have fallen on hard times.  One of them had lost her husband only 3 months ago.  Another's husband had died from aids a few years ago.  Another's husband had left her for another woman, leaving her with 3 kids and no income.  Each of their stories was heart wrenching.  We encouraged and prayed and will hopefully pray for a long time to come for them and their needs.

We got to meet with and encourage several pastors and their families.  Due to a special service held on Saturday, we were able to hit two different church services in our 10 day trip.  It was really neat to see how these churches really seem to have a heart for church planting.  Many of them  have several church plants going on at the same time and at least one of those that is planting churches is still meeting without a building.  I admire them looking outward rather than inward.

One of the other things we got to do was to visit an orphanage run by one of our Baptist pastors.  There were around 33 kids there.  We were able to take some clothes, backpacks and flip flops that a US church sent for them and they were very happy.  It was nice to see how well the kids were taken care of.  Almost all of them were school aged children and I imagine that will be there home for the rest of their childhood years.

Because I was out of my element, it was so great to have a knowledgeable guide with me.  I really had to watch and imitate most everything that Viviane did especially when communication was in Baoule.  It was funny that I had to follow her like a baby duck in all of the new experiences we had so that I did the right thing and didn't offend somebody or bring harm to myself.  It reminded me of how we should be with Christ.  We should be watching Him for our every step and word so that we fall completely in line with who we should be in Him.

My last first may gross you out, so look away all of you that have weak stomachs or embarrass easily.  Bouake has had a lot of trouble with security after the internal conflicts our country has had through the last many years.  Law and order has been established, but is a little tentative.  Since the house we stayed in had no running water, midnight bathroom runs require a trip out of doors.  After the first night of getting up and heading off together for the outhouse, our hosts told us it wasn't a good idea to be outside at that time of night and we should stay in.  "No problem," was my friend's reply, "So where is our chamber pot?"  Now, I actually didn't yet know that vocabulary word as it isn't one I've needed up until now, but I became very familiar with not only the vocabulary, but the thing itself.  I wouldn't say that I am overly modest, but that was stretching my abilities to be vulnerable.  I prided myself in the fact that for the whole time, I managed to use that thing in the dark and never wake my friend... until the last day that is.  Assuming I hadn't used it yet, my precious friend and teacher began to give me instructions on how to use that little plastic receptacle on my last and most embarrassing night.  Let's just say that I am pretty excited to be back in a place where there is a toilet that flushes in the room right beside my bed tonight! ;)

I do appreciate all of you that knew I was traveling and prayed for me.  Your thoughts for us and our families were very much appreciated.  I think that I have surely bored you enough with my chattering by this point.  Many blessings on you for your persistence.

With love,

Ben's Birthday

Our beloved little Ben turned 4 last month, but if you ask him, he'll tell you he is 5.  After many days of trying to convince him he is 4, he calmly explained to me the last week, "Mom I don't do 1,2,3,4,5 and I am 5!"  Ben's always up to something silly and telling us something that makes everyone laugh.  He's the typical baby of the family in that, I suppose. 

As stubborn and just plain cantankerous as he can be, he continues to steal the hearts of those around him with his zeal for life.  I'm still, and probably always will be, known as Maman Benjamin, by most everyone around here.  One of Ben's particularly favorite adults is Maman Kassou, who he's always trying to rope into a game of Wii or conniving a piece of gum or candy out of her.  She usually obliges and so the two get along pretty well.  One of the neat things about Ben connecting with her and my friend Agira, is that Ben is doing pretty well again with his French.  He understands a lot and is speaking a good bit as well.

Viviane (aka Maman Kassou) has an 11 year old that Ben loves, so now we all have buddies in that family.  Her son is so sweet with Ben and both Karis and Caleb have Kassou buddies too.  It is so neat for everyone to have someone that we enjoy spending time with and what could be better than having them all in the same family!

Better get some supper on here so that I can write up my Bouake trip.  Sorry for doing it all at once, Mom.  I know you don't like it like that, but if I don't do it all now, I'll never get it done.

With love,

Busy Days

These last few months have been incredibly busy.  Mike has traveled often and we have hosted 2 volunteer teams as well as adding a semester missionary to our midst.  After Mike's return from the states and then South Africa, we had a team here from Calhoun, LA.  It is always a joy to have them here with us and this time was no different.  They were so sweet to bring us many things we were missing from the states in addition to bringing some things to Ben who had a birthday while they were here.  The other team we had was a group from our home church in North Carolina.  They were also great as usual.  They were kind enough to pack in some Christmas presents we had sent to them along with bringing a suitcase for our new teammate who is getting situated here with us.

Back in August we had two young ladies come to work with us for the semester.  Unfortunately, one of them had to return to the US after only two weeks.  The other is doing a great job here with us now.  She lives with our dear friends the Kassous and is working hard with them.  Several of us girls took several days to go to the beach here to celebrate the middle of her term and to encourage her to finish well.  She has less than one month left with us and we will all be sad to see her go. 

My friend Viviane has been an amazing help to me during this time.  She is taking great care of our semester missionary, who has become a member of their enlarged family.  She's helped me through many difficulties when Mike was out of town and she continues to be a great friend.  I'm always so grateful for my precious little sister and my little brothers that were born into my family, but am also thankful that at 36 years old, God saw fit to give me a big sister as a gift of His grace and mercy in my life.  She is an amazing ministry partner, an example to me of what a Godly African woman looks like and a wonderful friend/confidante.  At her side, I've learned so much.  She is a blessing to work with and to have in my life.

Since I love so much to be right in the middle of life here, I'm always looking for new opportunities to learn more and to fit in.  The quest for that in the last few months has added a few new items to the things that I have eaten.  Food is not at all to be wasted here and so even the normal items that I eat on a usual basis end up being totally new experiences when eaten with my friends.  Almost every part of every animal is to be eaten when it is presented including: skin, bones, cartilage, joints, organs, etc.  Up until this point in my life, I wouldn't consider myself a picky eater by our standards, but there are things I don't eat for example: skin, bones, cartilage, joints, organs, etc.  Hee hee!  One day while sharing lunch of chicken, which is a treat here, I was polishing off (from my point of view) a piece.  I had eaten the skin, because even I know that is necessary, and thus deemed myself finished with that piece of meat.  My friend asked me, "Why do you just play with your food?"  Hmm, I thought I was doing pretty well, but as I looked from my scraps to hers, there was a notable difference.  Mine still looked fairly intact, whereas hers was a tiny pile of chewed up bone remains.  "I don't guess I know to eat it right," I said, and thus began my instruction.  I'll have to say that I am still very American, but my pile of bones now resembles less the intact creature I started with.  I've learned to chew off the joints and get those down as well as chewing off pieces of cartilage and what not.  I can get every scrap of meat and skin off of most bones and on occasion can be convinced to gnaw off the tip of a thigh bone and suck out the marrow.  I can't say that I particularly enjoy all of the extras I'm eating, but I will say that my gag reflex is coming more under control every day. ;)  Please do refrain from letting me know how any of those things I have to eat are going to kill me or harm me in any way.  The eating is hard enough as it is. 

After my initial instruction in eating a chicken, I moved on to bigger and better things.  I can now proudly say that I have eaten bush rat, porcupine and snails.  Bush rat is not so bad and I actually chose to eat porcupine a second time.  I have had other encounters with bush rat as well.  Given a long list of things, I might not choose it, but there are many things here that I do prefer it to.  I have a hard time eating his little hand.  Same thing with the frogs here.  Most parts of most animal go into the sauce, so you've gotta figure out how to get it all down.  The frog was totally intact.  And so goes my culinary education. :)

It has been a great few months for my language abilities as well.  Being able to spend so much concentrated time in language has given me a further boost.  Having a very close friend and ministry activities pretty much every day as well as the times that Mike was gone when I mostly spoke small bits of English with the kiddos when no one was around, really helped me to be more comfortable in language.  It's such a blessing how God uses hard times to hone our skills and make us into who He wants us to be. 

I've got many more photos to add and much more to write, so I suppose I better move on.  Come on out and visit us and I'll cook you up some of my new recipes!!

With love,