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,

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,

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,

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.



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,

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,

NC and AR Teams

Repost from April 3, 2015

We've had a lot going on in March with 2 volunteer teams.  We shared the gospel with around 500 people and many accepted the invitation to follow Jesus.  Now comes the hard work of following up on all of that!

Mike has been posting lots of pictures on Facebook but here are a couple from a ceremony in Toumodi.

If you know of anyone interested in coming as a semester missionary with the HandsOn program in the fall, please let us know.  We have a young lady that wants to come, but she needs a partner.

Thanks for your continued interest and prayers for us.

With love,

What's that Smell?

Repost from February 23, 2015

Ty's big baby dedication day at church

Everybody wants a picture with the superstar!

What, you might ask, could make all three kids laugh like that? Only their mother stepping in dog poo!

Starting to sit, but he'd much rather try to figure out how to crawl

So, Africa is still keeping us humble.  We had a lovely day at church the day we dedicated our little Ty baby to God.  The church that has waited so long for Ty, scheduled his dedication as soon as possible.  We had to reschedule the first time because Mike woke up sick that morning.  It was neat to hear the frustrated sigh when they announced the reschedule.  So the day finally arrived and we were absolutely floored by what they did for our little guy.  This is a church where most members feed their families with less than $5 per day.  Many of them are happy if they make $100 a month.  Some do better, but the majority of them live at what we'd consider poverty level.  Tradition demands that when a baby is dedicated the church gives gifts.  The women give soap, the men and singles give money.  Knowing that we don't use soap the same way they do, they made a special exception and gave half of the traditional soap and half was given in disposable diapers and clothes.  The men and singles got together $30 for our little one.  I could not believe their generosity towards us and this child.  I wanted to return their money and just let them know how happy we are to be there with them, but that would never have worked.  May God bless them abundantly for their extreme generosity welling up out of such poverty!  I hope that He gives me a heart that comes close to what they have.

Ty is working his little charm like his big brother, Ben.  None of us understand it, Ty screams at everyone, just like Ben did and yet everyone loves him.  Fortunately God has given a special love for 2 African women.  My friend and househelper, Agira, can usually quiet Ty and get him to cooperate for a few minutes.  My African sister also manages to get this fussy baby to hush.  She is one of the very few who often gets Ty to sleep.  He loves to hear her sing.  Those of you that know Ty, know how miraculous that is!

I'd like to write more, but the little troublemaker has been refusing to sleep the last couple of days.  I put him down and within 5 minutes, he's back up.  Hopefully Viviane can work her magic on him tomorrow, as Wednesday is one of the days that we do ministry stuff together.

Keep praying for Mike.  For those that don't know, he broke his left hand last week and he is growing weary of the pain and swelling.

With love,