Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Back to Prison

There is always a lot of emotion for me going into a community development project of any kind, but especially our prison projects. This year was no exception with lots of added drama.  Our national women's president wanted to visit the prison in her home town rather than the super huge one in Abidjan.  Her city is small compared to ours, but at just under 100,000 people it isn't really all that small.

The planning stage went well, but when it came down to getting authorization to get it, the project turned into a nightmare.  We were being completely refused access.  We were welcome to drop our gift off at the gate, but other than that, we were told that we difinitely couldn't enter. 

I was really frustrated.  A lot of time and energy goes into planning these things and the painful process of getting funding was done.  We had needy prisoners, money for the gifts, but for lack of access, we couldn't give the gift.  It is just not smart to give a gift when you cannot see if the recipient receives it.  We drew our line in the sand.  No access, no gift.  They drew there's too.  No access.  I got some friends praying about that time and our great God answered our prayers.  For seemingly no reason, the director changed her mind.  With a little over a week to go, we got the green light for our project. 

Thousands of dollars worth of supplies needed to be purchased, sorted, and packed into 300 kits.  That may sound like no big deal, but it is.  We took Monday as a day of rest knowing that many days to follow would be without rest.  Monday evening I got a terrible call.  My national partner had tripped and badly twisted her ankle.  I held out hope until I saw the damage on Tuesday when we would normally have started our purchasing.  Not only would she not be helping me prepare the project, I wasn't sure she would even be going with me.

I plugged on, quite dejected, but determined to make it work.  Because I think I can do more than I can, I also had agreed to make up 100 kits for an evangelistic hospital visit the day before the prison visit.  Everything had to be ready to go on Saturday, so that we could make the trip out of town to train our evangelists and prepare for the execution of the two projects.  Everything went wrong.  I went to the store and forgot this.  I went to another store and they did not have that.  I left the warehouse without getting an essential thing.  If it wasn't car troubles it was crazy down pours.  It was horrible.  I was running on too much adrenaline and missing my sweet African sister that grounds me.  I was up past midnight on Friday night just trying to get things done.  I had to be up before 5 AM to get the guards to help me load the kits.  I could barely even move by 10:30 AM Saturday when it was time to leave.  My car was loaded beyond capacity and I was wiped out.

Vivian did get to go with me to train evangelists and do the projects, but she was handicapped for sure.  The stories coming from this prison were a little worrisome.  It seemed that every other day they were grabbing somebody and changing clothes with them for some kind of prison break or holding them hostage and threatening to throw them off of buildings.  I think now that the stories may have been slightly exaggerated, but going on, the idea of a hint of truth is enough to make you nervous. I'm really ready to meet my Jesus, but I don't want to be stupid! ;)

We make it in, no troubles.  The dreaded pat down never even happened.  The officials we met on site were very happy for our visit.  We were able to walk easily into the yard with the two women prisoners.  They were sisters there for assaulting their brother.  Glad I'm not from that family.  They were super appreciative of us and kept thanking us and hugging us.  No shanks in the back.  Wow this is going really well!!!!  My African sister got to share the gospel with these ladies and they prayed to receive Christ with tears in their eyes.  I hope and pray that their decisions were sincere and that this will be a new start for them. 

And so we were off to see the men.  We headed right out into the TINY yard that they were in where some of our Baptist pastors had shared the gospel with them and sang until they were tired and hot.  By now it was around 1 in the African sun and we were all feeling the heat.  With little advance notice, we were shuffled out into the yard with the prisoners to greet them!  We had a few guards with us, but it was a little unnerving.  They were polite and attentive and definitely ready to get their gift.  They were super excited that the gift contained a towel.  Nobody wants to rile up prisoners, so we kept our little chat brief and started handing them their gifts.  Within a few moments a gift was sent to me.  One of the guys had made a pen with a design on it and he sent it to me to say thank you.  Each of the men were very polite as we handed them their gifts.  Later another man gave me a similar pen.  They must have had a craft project at some point where they braided thread around pens to make a design.  It was touching that they had chosen to give me something of the nearly nothing that they owned.

Without incident we finished quickly and headed out.  Join me in praying for these guys (and 2 gals) at the Agboville prison.  My prayer is that their hearts will truly be touched and that their lives will change because of the power of the Spirit at work in them. 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Bon Voyage!


So, I had some fun travels last week that I thought I would share with you.  I was privileged to be able to do a project for widows and orphans a good distance outside of our city.  I don’t know how far it really is away, more than 500 km, I think.  Some ridiculous google maps programs thinks you can get there in 6 ½ hours.  Google maps has obviously never actually been in my country or they would not say such silly things.  It took us 11 hours, OR SO.  It’s not like we did a lot of stopping on the way.  There’s no McDonald’s, no Taco Bell, no rest stops (unless a patch of trees count), no scenic overlooks, just potholes, bad roads and crazy drivers.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Ivory Coast, but easy travel is not what we do around here. 

We headed off in our little white pickup, thank you Baptist family for your generous giving to CP and Lottie Moon, with the back loaded down with back packs, school supplies, food, fabric, etc.  I had my trusty sidekick Viviane to keep me company.  OK, let’s be real here, when we are on the road, she’s the one that brings me back safe and sound!  She tells me where to step, what to eat and what not to touch so that I can come back all in one piece! ;)  We chatted and sang and stared out the windows until we were both sick of the truck.  We stopped once in those 11 hours to grab some rice and sauce.  It was not exactly delicious, but it kept us going.  Our mission was to head out to a Baptist church that had asked us to do a project to help their widows and orphans.  Nowadays, we have more work than we can handle and have honed our vision to do projects where churches wish to plant a church and not just serve their own flock.  Needs here are so great and the work so vast that we just have to make sure that our mercy ministries push forward kingdom work as much as possible.  When presented with our vision, the church agreed that they did have a village in mind in which they had hoped to start a church.  They had tried there a few years back, but for many reasons, it didn’t work out.

We had a list of 75 orphans and 65 widows, a plan to train national believers in an easy evangelism method, some regional church leaders ready to mobilize for future ministry and plenty of adrenaline to keep us running on high speed all week.  I really like to travel in country to see new places and encourage leaders.  There are three things that I really miss while on the road, though, my family, my sweet tea and my hot water!  Those that know me, KNOW that I have a sweet tea addiction.  I keep a cup loaded with ice within a few feet of me at any given time.  Every time we go out, I crash hard from the loss of sugar and caffeine.  It makes for some painful days of withdrawal and yet I come back to it every single time I get home.  Someday I’ll learn!  As to the hot water, I will confess here and now that I am an absolute BABY about cold water.  I don’t like it!  I can take a bucket bath with the best of them, but would somebody please heat my water for me!!

We were blessed to have a hotel room to rest our weary heads in.  It wasn’t your typical American hotel, but it was good.  The room was just big enough for the bed with a small walking area around each side and the bathroom had plumbing, but no water. No problem with that, except for my cold water phobia.  I crash, exhausted only to wake up in about an hour to find that we also have no electricity.  Not a problem there either other than the fact that we have no window to even catch a breeze and I wouldn’t have a working cell phone the next day. 

The next morning after my cold bucket bath, I am only slightly bitter, we had a great morning of training some national believers in a story that we use for evangelism.  It’s a neat tool and not at all hard, but it needs a little practice.  We had around 30 people there with us.  We teach it and then practice together and have a good time giving one another a hard time as they try to convert us!!

That afternoon, I got my first look at the village.  It was decent sized, as far as villages go, but not too big.  It was only a 20 minute ride from the church, but most people don’t have vehicles and so that is too far away for most villagers.  We did some prayer walking to prepare for our evangelism time throughout the week.  It’s hard to get my brain around the obstacles that many in the village face in considering the idea of following Jesus.  I will probably do a poor job of explaining things here, but this is my attempt.  Most of this village follow African traditional religious beliefs.  They have “masks” that rule the village life.  These are people that are ruled by evil spirits that may dress a special way or wear a certain mask that shows they are that “mask”.  What the mask says has to be followed.  The mask can kill, destroy, ruin people.  He/she has complete spiritual dominion in his/her territory.  Masks are passed usually along family lines.  Villagers must make sacrifices and gifts to the mask for blessing/protection/wellbeing.  Disobeying a mask will bring instant consequences.  Denying or disowning the mask is the worst thing you can do.  Somehow sorcery links in, not sure how or why.  Sorcerers place curses and kill.  As best I can figure there is no way to even appease a sorcerer.  They exist to do evil and they can’t be appeased, just feared.  Oddly enough there are also some Buddhists in this village and some Muslims.  I didn’t get the chance to get over to the Muslim section, although others did.  Anyhow, we walked through the territory praying for open doors, response to the gospel and protection from opposition.  We prayed for the Lord to draw hearts to Himself.  It was a good day, except that I had to eat a snail for lunch.  I don’t really like snails.  I was thankful later in the week that that particular lunch was only a one snail lunch.

The following day was full speed ahead.  I have worked with a lot of nationals in evangelism, but this group was first for me.  They wanted to work through lunch until mid afternoon, which is really hard in the African heat with the kind of work we were doing.  Evangelism is absolute constant on your toes full, brain in action work.  It means speaking wisely at all times and reading your audience to get clues while listening to the Spirit’s leading.  It was also very unusual to me because we were getting consistent expressed desires to accept Jesus.  Our first listener was the family of a traditional healer.  He uses plants in combination with incantations to treat illnesses.  Excuse my Tennessee slang, but, “Ain’t no way this guy’s going to give his life to Christ!” and then he said he wanted to pray to do so.  Okaaay!  Weird.  Group after group after group wanted to pray.  We were getting pulled from here and there to talk to more and more people that wanted to hear.  A full hour after we were supposed to be back with the group to meet for a SUPER late lunch, we headed in expecting to be in big trouble for being so late.  To my great surprise, the majority of the groups were not back yet!  By the time the groups got in I was really hungry.  That was quite fortunate for me because this was a 8 snail lunch!!!!!!  Eating eight snails is bad enough in and of itself, but the worst part is that EVERYONE was watching ME.  Our people put hot peppers in everything, so I had the added embarrassment of having my mouth burn and my nose run through the whole meal.  God is good and I did survive!

Each evening of the week was filled with last minute items that had to be purchased and kits to put together.  We were really running on fumes the whole week.  To add to the hectic schedule, nights were troubled.  I did not sleep well all week.  I was bothered by nightmares and ridiculous other things that kept us up at night, such as the night manager knocking on the door at midnight needing something out of the room, constant loud music until 4 or so each night and so on.  We burned a lot of midnight oil in prayer.  I am not usually an advocate of interrupted sleep, but I did have to agree with some of my African sister’s logic that we were being bothered at night.  I don’t know how you feel about spiritual warfare, but I believe that evil spirits are real and we were certainly stomping all over their territory all week. 

So I benefited greatly from my being the spoiled white chick and somebody had mercy on me and found a little electric kettle to heat water.  When the water boiled it was enough to warm up a half of a bucket of water, which is all I need anyway.  I took another cold bucket bath after that but that was out of pure stupidity.  I was too proud to admit that I needed to heat my water when my African sister didn’t heat her water the next day.  While gasping through that cold bucket, I repented of the sin of pride and vowed to use only warm water from then on! ;)

My group was blessed to have the village believer as a sort of a guide throughout the evangelism.  It was interesting to finish sharing the gospel with a group and then to walk away for him to tell us, that person is a mask.  I was also blessed to be able to share the gospel with one of the village chiefs.  They have two.  I was really worried as I was feeling led to share parts of an evangelism method that I have just learned and am not used to.  The Lord helped me through and the chief told us at the end that he can’t give his life to Christ right now, but needs to do a few things and will be in church after October 10.  Please pray for this chief to follow through and make his peace with God through Christ.

Lunches were always hard as I seemed to be the main source of group entertainment.  Our second evangelism day brought out another dish that I know but the sauce was new to me.  The starch part of the meal is something that resembles goo.  It is made from fermented cassava starch.  It is very soft and hard to deal with.  I don’t really like i’s taste, but it’s not too big of a problem.  My main problem with it is that it is to be swallowed without chewing, which is hard for my brain to process and do.  The sauce was a first for me.  We have a lot of slimy sauces, many of which I like.  This one was exponentially more slimy than anything I have EVER encountered and spicy.  The dish has to be eaten with the hands.  You pinch off the starch dredging it in the slime and get it to your mouth.  To make the whole thing even harder to deal with, the protein was completely whole smoked catfish, of which I had 3 in my bowl!  The slime has be dragged across the side of the dish and then “cut” with your fingers so that you can get the stuff to your mouth.  I was quickly draped with a huge piece of fabric to keep my clothes clean.  My sweet African sister tried to show me how to deal with the mess, but I’m pretty sure it is a learned skill.  An older sister was sitting down in the courtyard with her 3 year old sister to “cut” the slimy sauce for the little one so that she could get each bite to her mouth.  I was a little envious.  My main dilemma was not so much to avoid getting messy, that was a bit of a given, although I didn’t do too badly, the big problem was sorting out fish bones inside my mouth while swallowing the starch without chewing.  I’m glad to let you know that, although I did swallow at least 10 fish bones, I have not died from said fish bones yet.  They scratched my throat a bit, but I lived.

The last evangelism lunch was a little less entertaining, but it involved 1 more snail and some “aged” (could be referred to as spoiled) bush rat.  Not sure the source of my stomach issues, but this was my last full meal for a while.  I felt OK? that evening, but got served some liver which sent me running for the hills pretty fast. 

We got to talk to 273 people throughout the door to door campaign and 172 of them prayed to accept Christ.  I know that not all of those people were sincere and much follow up work will need to be done to disciple true believers from those that were.  One thing is sure, the gospel was proclaimed in that village to many.

Saturday was a change of pace as we worked on a task that has been given to us by our national convention.  Our convention wants to use mercy ministries to share the gospel, plant churches and meet needs among national believers throughout our country.  We gathered national leaders to cast vision, choose leaders and share plans for starting up these projects.  It was a really neat time in our convention’s life to be able to see this start in a national effort.  Pray for us as we plan and train and try to lead well in this task.

Saturday was great, except I was getting really sick.  It was a mess of a day.  Viviane and I got completely soaked through as we went out early to pick up the rice for the widows.  It was the last possible time to get everything for the project so we had to keep going even though it was raining cats and dogs.  We didn’t have time to change before our big meeting, so a couple of drowned rats talked to these important pastors and for some reason, they listened.  By the time we got done, I was feeling really bad.  Unfortunately, lunch was coming my way.  I tried.  I really did.  It was a sauce made from leaves and oil and hot peppers.  I left the room several times to empty my stomach before I declared my defeat and took myself out to my truck to wait for the gang.  The two pastors and the two women helplessly watched me suffer all of the way back to the hotel.  I spent the entire hour long drive scanning the road for the best possible spot to empty my stomach again.  Nobody could take the wheel for me because I am the only one authorized to drive the mission vehicle.  It was a hard day.

By Sunday morning, my stomach was not as bad, but I was as weak as a newborn colt.  I literally was having problems standing.  I was supposed to share the gospel message at the village.  I prayed through the morning about what to do.  My initial instinct was that I needed to stay back in the room to rest.  I couldn’t stand up without holding on to something, how in the world would I stand before a crowd and tell a story?  I began to pray, “Lord, what do I do?”  The answer was very clear to me, “You are weak, but I am strong.”  We sing an older English chorus here with the phrase, “Let the weak say I am strong…” in it.  That kept running through my head.  As the morning continued, I continued to question.  The same answer always came.  I managed to drive our overloaded pickup to the village, but I just got weaker as time passed.  My sweet African sister was always at my elbow forcing food, water, a chair, but she never told me that she’d do the story.  I knew she could.  I even knew she would if I asked, but I had no peace about asking her.  After we had sung and prayed the time for the gospel presentation approached.  I was certain that I was supposed to walk out and act completely normal.  Only a couple of people knew what was going on with me.  I told Viviane that I was going to share the story as if nothing was wrong, but that if I gave a signal, she was to bring me a chair.  She suggested taking out a chair to put my paper and Bible on so that If I needed it, I could just pick up my stuff and sit. 

So off I went.  The first few steps were really tricky.  The pastor that called for me, knew that I was sick and so he called Viviane and I together.  As I got started, she stood close enough to support me, but I can’t be still while I talk and I was soon off and into my story.  I zone in when I am presenting the gospel and can see/hear nothing other than my audience, so I had no idea what was going on behind me.  I wobbled quite a number of times, but tried to act completely normal.  A few times, I thought I would fall, but never did.  I managed to complete my whole presentation and start the invitation to give their lives to Christ, when I realized I was done and handed to group off to Viviane to seal the deal.  I usually prefer for her to lead the sinner’s prayer anyway.  It just cuts down on misunderstanding at a critical point.  As we traveled on to our next destination later in the day, I asked Viviane if she had seen me wobble and struggle to stand.  She said that she spent the whole message time directly behind me!  She stayed close enough to catch me if I fell and paced and prayed when I was doing OK!  How’s that for prayer support!!!  Another 13 people prayed to receive Christ that morning.  112 people were at that first church service.  Pray with us that this plant continues to stay strong without our presence. 



The national believer that lives there will be leading the church plant with the support of the local church that is close.  They will send believers to help out with music and other responsibilities.  The village believer has even said that he wants to use his own land to build the church on when the time comes.  Until then, they will meet in his living room and yard.

I would like to say that the ride home was uneventful and it mostly was.  We had quite a few close calls.  I had to swerve and slam on brakes way too many times, but the Lord was faithful to bring us safely home. 

So ends my most recent adventure.
With love,
Heather

Friday, September 1, 2017

9/1/17 post part two




It seems that blogger and I are still in a battle of the wills.  Guess I better learn how to be brief! :)

Another really fun, exhausting, rewarding, pull you hair out frustrating part of our summer was VBS.  I know, you did VBS too.  I know you were tired right?  Again, not minimizing anyone's battle, but VBS here is just hard to get across in words.  Before the thing ever starts, teaching materials have to come straight from the drawing board.  We have to figure out lessons and games and songs and crafts from scratch!  We then have the task of teaching people that aren't used to doing much of anything with kids how to play, teach and pray on their level.  Children are most often seen as just a distraction at church.  The main idea for them is often to keep them quiet and out of the way.  Also, just for reference, a child here is anyone from age 0 to 15 or 16 depending. 

The funny thing every year is that we never need to advertise for VBS.  If I show up in my truck during the summer months and start doing stuff, the kids come out of the wood work.  We had a funny experience this year because the first day fell on a Muslim holiday.  We had around 70 kids and the day was very manageable.  We are only able to break the kids up into three classes for lack of trained teachers.  I had the oldest class and with a little less than 20 kids, it was very DOable!  Later that evening the Jgirls and I sat at my house finishing craft projects for the next day and I opened my ignorant mouth.  "Oh, I think we won't have more than 85 or 90 tomorrow.  God will ease us up slowly so that we can handle the heat!  He'd never send us 120 or 130.  That would just be too much!" HA!  We had 150!!!!  Day three, I was over an hour late due to horrible rains and flooding that should have caused me to go back home and we were up to 175 kids!  I drove past an overturned city bus.  By Friday we had around 200.  Nobody can count high enough fast enough to tell us what we really had.  It was like a little army of ants moving and running and wreaking havoc all around us.  So many many kids heard the saving message of Christ.  There were easily 50 of them that prayed to receive Him as Savior.  The middle class is hard to count as all ALWAYS want to pray.  It is my most earnest prayer that many of them understood and stand behind their decision.  Many of them won't be back to church until next year.  Their Muslim parents let them come to play so that they will be out of their way and stay for lunch so that they have one less mouth to feed, but would never let them come on Sundays.  I truly believe that God can take the honest prayer of these kids and help them continue their journey to Him in His time.

We did a lot of travel as a family this summer.  We went to Benin for a meeting and spent most of July in Senegal for another meeting.  The kids enjoyed the pools.  Ben and Karis LOVED hanging out with American friends.  Those that don't know the mission family may not realize that our kids look forward to our meetings so that they can have a big family reunion.  They ditch their old parents that they see all of the time to hang out and spend precious moments being a kid with others that understand well the lives that they live.

Maybe I can call a truce with Blogger and get another post out soon.  I'd love to tell you all about our fall projects and I need to find some pictures of our kids to post!

With love,
Heather

Medical Clinic, VBS and Everything Else I Missed

OK, so the silent treatment that I have been giving our blog, for its terrible treatment of me lately is really not doing anyone any good.  I'm pretty sure that blogger cares very little if I post or not, so I'll try to give up my anger and just get on with life. ;)

Here is a brief overview of our spring/summer doings, so that we can all move on with life!

Medical clinic was great and exhausting as usual.  It was a unique experience again as it was a new year with new people and new experiences.  It was fun to renew old contacts and see doors open wider for our work in many places.  We treated around 1800 people in general medicine this year.  It is always so amazing to see the state that some are in when they come to us.  A young boy had a hand so swollen that I couldn't believe the skin was staying together.  He was terribly ill and hadn't been sleeping due to the pain, but our young doctors were able to give some immediate relief and provide medicine for him.   Others came to be treated for teeth problems.  We treated around 250 dental patients.  The big hit is always the eye clinic where one doctor did 604 eye exams in 6 days.  This has required a tremendous amount of follow up work to choose the few that would receive glasses.  Everyone in need of reading glasses got those given to them and another 128 received prescription eye glasses made for them.  None of these records are in any sort of electronic form, so we have spent hours pouring over records, pouring over them again, copying, choosing, losing, finding again.  In the end, so many lives have been changed for the better.  Over 2000 people heard the gospel story.  A couple hundred responded to this life changing message.  A whole neighborhood has seen firsthand what the love of Christ in action looks like.  May His name be lifted up!  It was so great to work with our special nurse friends from the US as well as having one of them bring her gifted evangelist daughter with her.  Sarah and Savannah, our Jgirls, were invaluable.  Mike and the whole urban team worked for all they were worth.  By God's grace and that alone, we survived and we did so much good.  It is interesting to do evangelism in this area now, because this particular church is well known for being different, in a good way.


Young and old get poked to check for Malaria and other routine tests


In news that I can barely believe, our Caleb moved back to the US, graduated from high school and has started college.  I knew this would be a wonderful and yet difficult time for us, but was ill prepared for the grief that hit hard.  I know that many of you have sent of kiddos to college.  I know that is hard all around.  I don't minimize anyone's loss or feelings, but my kid doesn't even live on the same continent as me.  When he needs me, we are more than a few hours away by car we are days from an airline purchase and then a couple of days in transit.  THIS has been HARD!  We are very proud of Caleb for the work he put in to finish high school and excited to see where God takes him next.  He has loved his very first chance to play soccer for the high school team.  He loves being a referee and is always looking for somebody wanting to play.  It has been such a blessing, as his Mom, to see Caleb choose a church and get involved.  I pray that he stays true to his faith and truly trusts in the Lord with all of his heart.




Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Hard Lesson

I had a tough lesson from the school of hard knocks today.  Have you ever been sorting through the junk drawer or junk room for something you just couldn't find.  In exasperation you begin to toss things in the trash just to clear the mess only to realize later that you threw out a (or many) much needed item.  Then you get to go dumpster diving to try to clean up your mess. 

WELLLLLLLLL...  Did a little dumpster diving on the worldwide web tonight trying to clean up my little mistake.  It means that although I think I found all of my past posts over the last three years, they are now a jumbled mess.  To most of you that know me well, this is no real big surprise.  I was so upset to have lost all of that information, that I am just glad to have it back. 

Having learned my lesson, I'll try not to let it happen again.  Thanks for bearing with this technologically challenged missionary. 

Sending love and patience your way,
Heather

Too Much

Repost from September 30, 2015

Over this last month, so much has happened that I can't imagine how I'll even begin.  One of the biggest things to happen was the loss of my dear African sister's father.  Many times I have been on the outside edge of loss and funerals, on occasion a dear friend has been touched, but I've never been right in the middle of what is happening before.  Viviane had lost her only sister and her mother in years past and so her father was the last remaining member of her family of origin.  I had worried that he might pass away while we were stateside last year as he hasn't been in the best of health for a while.  I was blessed to be able to be here to stand beside and support my African sister in this time of loss.

This was quite a difficult time of dealing with grief, understanding some of the deepest parts of pain and loss in this culture and participating in things that are hard even for Africans to handle when they have grown up here.  Funerals here are often long drawn out events with lots of rules and expectations.  Expenses are extreme for those who have so little.  The possibility of angering an entire village are ever present and the village has the ability to block the body of the deceased until all expectations are met, fines for cultural bad behavior are paid and all parties are completely satisfied.  Questions are often raised about how the deceased passed away and everyone close is on constant high alert for things or behaviors that could be perceived as sorcery or curses that finished off the loved one.  Once accused of such behavior, clearing one's name is difficult.

My African sister's ethnic group is known for the crying they have to do.  Every morning, those closest to the person who passed away must loudly cry and wail.  This must go on for several minutes and then someone calms the group and they must stuff their grief and dry it up.  At each time a new relative that has not yet been seen shows up, the gang must cry again.  This goes on over and over until the funeral.  Papa was buried in just over 2 weeks which is concerned to be a really fast funeral.  I don't even want to imagine the amount of stress involved in longer affairs.  In addition to this pain and the pain of having lost someone close, the closest relative must feed, house and provide alcohol for all guests and most of the village.  Everyone must eat and drink to their contentment or trouble brews.  One of the most difficult of things that I had to stand by for was a relative berating my sweet sister less than 30 minutes after we had buried her father.  She was so grief stricken that she could not stand and watch her father be put in the ground, but before her tears were dried, this family member came to yell at her because her family hadn't gotten "enough" to eat when the funeral feast was passed out.  I seriously wanted to crack some heads together!  Being the only remaining close relative meant that almost all expenses fell on Viviane and she had done the best she could to ensure that everyone ate and ate well.  It was a serious moment of difficulty with the culture for me.  There were times when I could do nothing more than step away for a few moments and cry and then quickly get back to watching out for and standing with my sister so that she wouldn't have to walk alone.

So as not to completely depress you, I'll have to tell you some of the stupid things I've done recently.  In general, I avoid sharing such things, but I've had to laugh a bit at myself and so thought you should get some joy out of these too.

Most of you know that I am notoriously clumsy!  A couple of weeks ago I had run out to get the baby a little snack while I was out in one of the neighborhoods I work in.  Fortunately for me, I was close to my African sister's house.  I tried to take a step up onto a little concrete porch where the store was and my other foot slipped or something somewhere went wrong and down I went.  I was holding the baby and did some immediate damage to my arms and legs in trying to keep him from hitting anything.  In later assessment, I realized I reinjured my neck that I fell a couple of years ago and hurt, but in the moment I worried about none of that.  I quickly listened to hear who had seen me fall.  In general, when I fall, I can hear a gasp from all of those gathered watching who are horrified that the white lady has fallen and most likely hurt herself.  Fortunately for me, I heard NO gasps.  Jesus does love me!!! ;)  I looked quickly in front of me and saw no one.  So far, so good.  Then I hop up as quickly as possible.  I moved on up to the little store to buy what I came for and assess my wounds.  Good, nothing broken.  All limbs working, even if sore.  I was thinking that I had narrowly escaped disaster and huge embarrassment this time, when I began to feel a gentle breeze on my derriere!  No, surely not!  I was wearing a dress that I wear often.  It is not in any way tight but as I struggled to turn my head around like an owl to see if that breeze was actually something to worry about, I caught the slightest glimpse of what appeared to be a VERY LARGE rip.  AHH MAN!  While all of this was going on, I was also asking the shopkeeper for the snack I wanted for the baby and paying.  Now, I could dash about 50 or so yards back to Viviane's house or sit down on a bench right there at the store.  People are milling about at this point, so I decide to sit.  It occurs to me that I have an extra piece of fabric in my purse so that I can tie the baby on my back.  Now all I have to do it wait, like a weirdo, on the bench until someone I know passes and I can make them go get my purse.  Again, Jesus loves me, so within five minutes or so, someone came.  In a city as large as ours, with as many people that are always hanging around, I'm sure someone saw some of what went on, but I'm choosing to pretend that nobody saw.  I'm sure I'll do something worse soon.

The other ridiculous happening in my life recently was on one of the days following the death of Viviane's father.  I was making the drive back to my house after having spent some time with her.  We live about 40 minutes apart across the city.  I was on a road similar to an interstate, but with a speed limit of about 40mph.  We've had some construction on this road and unfortunately, I saw that the road was backed up for miles as I got close to downtown.  GRRR!  I pulled up into the pile of cars and joined the ranks stacking up the road into about 8 lanes instead of the 4 marked lanes.  After 30 minutes or so of stop and go, a city bus came up on my right.  The driver stopped short of my vehicle because his vehicle was too wide to pass my also large 4X4 truck.  After a few moments passed and their lane advanced while mine didn't, the bus driver decided to give it a try.  It went OK until he got to my side view mirror and then came the tinkling of glass as the mirror bent back and shattered.  I was really aggravated because he had seen there wasn't room, waited and then went anyway.  I was stopped dead still for this and could at first see no way he'd have anything to say other than sorry.  The city bus was full and began to unload fairly quickly to further clog the already congested area and the bus driver approached my window.  "What do you want to do? Shall we just walk away?"  Now I was expecting the possibility of him asking for us to just move on, but I thought he'd be offering to pay not walk away.  In my surprise I asked why I would do that and he said I was obviously at fault because I hit him and I was not in my lane.  NOT IN MY LANE!?!  There were hundreds of cars on the road and NOBODY was in their lane.  After nearly 45 minutes of calls and frustration, threats from the bus passengers, insults and a crying baby, Mike told me to just leave and we'd pay for the mirror.  In the moment this was a really bad day!  I got really worried at one point at what the angry bystanders were going to do.  The bus driver was lying and trying to get me to let it go and I certainly wasn't thinking straight.  It occurred to me later that the mirror was bent back showing that the bus hit me and not the other way around.  Oh well.  The damage was just glass and so far we've not even had to pay.  In looking back it just seems like another bump in the road of this crazy life we live on the other side of the planet.

That's a little peak into some of what's gone on this month.  Thanks for thinking of us and praying for us.

With love,
Heather

Catching Up is All I Can Do

Repost from September 2, 2015

Thanks, Nana and Papa!

Not sure if this is his recruitment poster pose or what! ;)


Our little Karis turned 14 today!

"Why does that thing flash a bright light in my eyes, Mom?"

Birthday Girl

Ben imitating Caleb

For all of the bad things this dog does, she loves to be loved and we have some kids that love to love her!

What Ty does almost all day ;)

Ty baby's 1st birthday




Thanks, Nana and Papa!



OK, so my best intentions to blog more didn't pan out.  Since I last wrote, we've had 2 birthdays and a lot of other stuff happening.  I've composed at least 15 blogs in my head while driving, but can't remember a word now!

We've added a couple of girls to our Abidjan team after our team of 5 finished their time over the summer.  Molly and Tiffany will be working closely with myself and the Kassou family.  We are excited to see how God will use them.

Our baby is 1 now.  He is quite adorable when he smiles, which is not as often as I would like.  He likes to hang out with the guys.  He thinks women are scary!! :)  He's captured many loyal fans even with his loud obnoxious behavior.  His African name is used nearly as much as his American name in the areas that I work in a lot.  It is quite funny.  He's thinking about talking now.  Sadly he mostly only says "Ceilidh" and "Daisy" or versions of those two names.  He is quite good at communicating through pointing and screaming.  We've teased that we don't know what language he'll end up speaking as he hears so many!

Ben continues to keep us all laughing all of the time.  I keep meaning to write down his funnies, but then you know how good I am at following through on my intentions!  He started Kindergarten this year and is doing well.

Karis turned 14 today.  Not sure how she is that old.  She has been really enjoying having more volunteers around.  She's been doing pedicures and girlie movies and sleepovers.  She is in the 9th grade this year and has pulled out of that transitional phase and is quite the nice young lady.  She helps a lot with Ty and does great helping with volunteers, too.

Caleb is in the 11th grade this year! What?!  He is quite the character.  He has a shirt that says "Stand back, this might get AWESOME!" and that pretty much sums up his personality.  He is doing well with translating now and is also a big help with teams, if he wants to be.

Mike is on the injured list again.  A little backyard wiffle ball game got a little out of control and he tore a portion of his quadricep that attaches to his knee cap.  He is supposed to be immobilized for 1 month.  He's not so great with immobilization, but he is mostly staying at home at least.  He's working on his last class to complete his masters and says that he'll at least have no reason not to do well on it since he can't go anywhere.

I've been running trying to keep plates spinning with volunteers coming and going.  We've started back to school and I'm already trying to figure how many days are left until summer vacation. ;)  My sweet African sister lost her father last week and I am elbow deep in funeral plans and customs.  Viviane's dad suffered much in his last few months here on earth.  We are so happy he suffers no more, but sad to lose him.  It has been a blessing to be able to love this family at this hard time.

More personnel are on their way and life will get even more exciting.  We are so looking forward to the arrival of Sarah and Savannah next month.  These girls will be spending 2 years with us.  In addition to them, we'll have the McNees family coming in January along with Rob.  Abidjan is about to get interesting!

Thanks so much to those of you that keep up with us here.
With Love,
Heather

Attecoube 3 and Apollo with Valley Baptist Church

Repost from August 10, 2015

     We had an incredible time this week with Valley Baptist Church.  They came and worked in two areas of our beloved city, Quartier Attecoube 3 and Quartier Apollo.  They sent a team of 5 people to share the story of Christ.  Over 330 people heard a gospel witness during this time.  they partnered with our local Baptist Church in an area called Triechville with the goal of planting churches in the two areas mentioned above.

     The first area we worked in was the Apollo area close to the Triechville Baptist Church.  It would take 20 to 30 minutes to walk there from the church and about 5 to 10 minutes to get there by car.  We worked in this area Monday and Tuesday and over 160 people heard the story.  About 50% of this area is Muslim so to share the story of Creation to Christ with over 160 people is incredible and believe it or not about 30 to 35 people accepted Christ as their personal savior.  We have a small group in this area that meets every Sunday night at 6 pm.  One of our interpreters and workers in our office in the mission leads this small group every week.  We are praying that they will eventually have enough people to support it as a small church.

     The second area we worked in is called "Attecoube 3."  This area is also about 50% Muslim and about 40% catholic.  We have already started a church in this area, however it has met with difficulty.  We had a lady that let us use her courtyard for the church and she also let us install a tent so that the Sun and the rain would not bother us.  However, due to so strange circumstances she asked us to leave and the church which had about 60 to 70 members did not have any place to go.  The church tried to meet in a local members house, but only about 10 people were coming to the church.  We have been dealing with where the church could meet for several months now and the church dwindling down to almost nothing has really pained my heart.

     When we arrived in this area Wednesday morning I was informed that there was an area the local government was thinking about letting us use as a place to worship.  It was just a field with grass growing in it.  Part of the field belonged to a member of the church but the government would not let him build on it because they were thinking about using it to build a road in that area.  After we arrived we gathered at this members house.  God impressed upon me that we needed to change our program for this area.  God impressed upon me that we should prayer walk from the members house all the way through the market area of this quartier or subdivision and then all the way to the area the government was thinking about letting the church use for this church plant.  I explained the plan to everyone and we started out on our prayer walk.  As we were prayer walking people started coming up to us in droves asking us what we were doing.  We started sharing the story with those that came up to us.  Muslims, Catholics and those that practice African Tribal Religion were coming up and hearing the story.  This is really not normal.  Normally we have to go ask them if we could tell them the story.  But this time they came out and asked us to tell the story.

     When we finally arrived at the area we wanted to use to worship God laid it on my heart that we should continue to prayer march but we should prayer march around the area.  We were to march around the area 7 times as Joshua did when he went up and battled Jericho.  We marched around this area 7 times.  On the 5th time around I started singing in French even though I didn't know all the words to the songs.  However as I started singing it was weird as God just gave me the words as I was singing.  The other people who were walking with us picked up on the singing and joined me in praising God for the final two laps around the area.  After we walked around seven times we formed a circle and kept on singing and praising God.  You could just feel the power of God on that place.  After we finished singing I explained to those who were with us, about 25 people, that the church is not a building, it is the people of God singing and praising God together.

     It had become late in the afternoon and we still had not eaten lunch so we decided to march out in prayer.  As we started walking out droves of people came and were asking us why we were praying and what we were praying about.  I turned around and noticed that Bamba (one of our interpreters and also one of my Urban Team Members), Wanda (A member of Valley Baptist Church) and Jan (another member of Valley Baptist Church) had about 25 people surrounding them asking them what was happening.  Wanda and Bamba started telling them the story of Creation to Christ.  They spent the next 30 to 45 minutes with this large group of people.  I do not have the total numbers, but somewhere around 5 to 10 people accepted Christ right there.  We finally got to eat and then we went out for a few hours just after lunch.

     After lunch Bamba and I were together with out teams in another area of Attecoube 3.  There was a young lady that accepted Christ and told us we needed to pray for her dad.  He was Muslim and someone had put a curse on him and he had not been able to walk for 5 months.  He had visited all the doctors he could visit.  He had spent over $1000 US dollars on doctors.  He had visited the local Imam and the local Charlatan/Tribal Medicine Man yet no one could help him and he could not go back to work.  I told Bamba we had to visit this man and his family.  We went to his home and he was laying on his couch.  His wife met us outside and asked us to talk with her first.  She was a former Catholic that had turned to Islam because of her husband.  We shared the story with her and her family.  Both of her daughters accepted Christ right there.  She said she had accepted Christ before, but she prayed again to receive Christ because she could not give us her testimony of how she accepted Christ.
  
     We then asked her to ask her husband if we could pray for him.  He agreed to let us in to his house even though he was Muslim.  I told him the story of the woman in the Bible who had done the same thing he had done.  She had been bleeding for 12 years.  She had visited all the doctors and all the local medicine men but they couldn't help her.  She saw Jesus coming and she reached out and touch the hem of Jesus cloak and she was healed.  I told him if he would put his faith in Christ that the same could be done for him.  He did not want to do that at this time.  I asked if we could pray for him and he agreed.  Paul, a member of Valley baptist Church, prayed in English and then I prayed for him in French and then Bamba prayed for him.  Nothing happened immediately.  I was not disappointed because I know God is faithful and he has his own timing for working miracles in peoples lives. For that day we witnessed to almost 100 people.  We have never witnessed to that many people in one day before.  Needless to say we were all exhausted when we got home.

    I really want to sleep well Wednesday night.  However, God kept waking me up about every 2 hours and the Muslim man we had prayed for (Sidibe Daouda is his name). Daouda if Jula for David.  I woke up at midnight, 2, 4 and 6 o'clock on the dot and prayed for this man.  We went back to Attecoube 3 Thursday and I told Bamba I wanted to go visit this man and his family again.  When we arrived at his house he was outside of his house walking with a wood cane.  He said he was not entirely healed but he was a lot better than before.  He did not stay with us long as he wanted to walk around.  That gave us the opportunity to talk with his wife.  She really wanted to follow Christ but because her husband was Muslim it was very difficult for her.  She had a lot of questions for us and we spent all afternoon with her answering her questions and praying with her.  Bamba even told her how her family resembled his family and that he felt like he was a part of their family.  In the two days in Attecoube 3 over 170 people heard the Good News.

     Sunday came and we all wanted to worship in Attecoube 3 under the tent.  Paul preached and for the first time I decided that I would translate for him.  Below are a the pictures of our worship service Sunday and a few more incredible short stories.

This is the tent we rented for Sunday.  It costs about $25 dollars every week to rent a tent like this to have church.


 Doing my best to interpret.  I did not get a chance to talk with Paul much about his sermon.  He threw me a couple of challenges during the service.  He told a story that involved a helicopter and I don't think I have ever heard that in French before.  Turns out it is the same word in French you just have to say it with a French accent.
 Paul preaching about the Story where God told Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac.

 A lot of people joined us for our first initial service under the tent out in the open and not in a members courtyard or house.


 Paul preaching.
 Me interpreting.
     This is a special picture and it has a special story that goes with it.  The lady on the left is a church member and I met her several months ago when she was pregnant with the child she is holding.  The Pastor of this church plant and I started visiting her when she was 7 to 8 months pregnant.  She was miserable but she would not stop going to church.  She was in pain but she kept going to church and even leading the singing.  She asked me to pray for her every time we visited her because she said for a few days after I prayed for her the pain eased and she had more strength.  We visited her Thursday to see how she was doing.  Her name is Lydie or Lydia in english.  Lydie told me that she gave birth two months ago and because I had visited her so much and prayed for her so much it was my duty to name the baby.  This is a great honor.  God immediately gave me the name for the Child.  So Sunday morning we had a child naming ceremony and she is sitting with her husband behind her waiting for me to give them the name of the child.  The name god gave me was JosuĂ©.  JosuĂ© is French for Joshua.  Since God gave me the idea to march around the area like Joshua the week before it was appropriate to name the baby Joshua.  I know this is a very long post, but I hope you enjoy all these stories of what God did last week.  May he always receive all the glory.

Mike.

Summer

Repost from July 5, 2015

Summer Volunteers learning to cut up chickens








Life is CRAZY right now.  I just wanted to share some highlights with you.  Caleb and Karis went to MK camp.  The whole family spent a couple of weeks in Benin for a cluster meeting and training.  We have summer missionaries here with us now.  Thanks for your prayers for us in this busy season.

With love,
Heather

Life as Usual

Repost from May 5, 2015


















There's not much happening out of the ordinary these days.  I feel like we are all waiting for the "big storm".  We will be getting a rush of volunteers and personnel starting in June and going through the first of next year.  We'll have 5 young adults working with us this summer, 2 young ladies for the fall, 2 young ladies coming in October to stay for a couple of years, 1 man coming in January to stay for 3 years and a family with 4 kids coming in October to join our team for the long haul!  Add to that 6 teams from churches and I'm pretty sure there will be no reason for anyone to sit around idle!

The big kids are working on school, while the little ones do all in their power to make sure that nobody works and everybody plays.  Ben is a constant source of comedy relief.  You just never know what he'll say or in what language.  He's quickly gotten back up to speed in his French.  He still has a lot to learn, but if he wants to say something, he usually figures out some way to do so!  There are some other MKs staying at the guesthouse that is on our compound this week.  Ben wanted to go out and play with the other kids this morning and asked if that would be OK.  I told him he could and before he turned to go he looked around and said, "Do I have to be nice?" "Don't you think that would be a good idea?" I asked. "Yeah, probably," he replied.  Sometimes I wonder what all is going on in that little head.

Ty baby has finally showed that he does have the ability to crawl.  Anyone that has seen him recently knows that he gets around by flopping across the floor on his belly.  It sort of looks like a dry land butterfly stroke.  It's really funny that the Africans call it swimming.  For quite a while now we have been getting the question, "Does he crawl?" and any African sitting close by says, "No, he swims."  For the last coupleof days, the swimmer has been occasionally crawling, but if he really wants to go, it's back to swimming.  He is also obsessed with pulling up and walking with assistance.  He loves to be outside, so he fits in pretty well around here.  Everybody jokes that he has two "mamas".  My special friend Viviane is so good with him.  She loves to sing and Ty loves to be sung to, so they do great together.  Without her help, ministry for me would be near to impossible, but as usual, we make a great team.  It is funny that Ty actually has song preferences.  The very first day Viviane saw him, she sang him to sleep by singing How Great Thou Art in French.  To this day, no matter how mad he is, he instantly calms when she sings that song to him.  He may not stay calm for long, but he always listens a little and he usually listens as long as she'll sing.

Well, Ty baby says blogging is finished for today.

With love,
Heather