Saturday, March 20, 2010

An Amazing Homecoming Part 1

Sorry everyone for the delayed post. Since I got home 2 weeks ago, I've been blessed but also very busy visiting with friends and family. So asides from not much time, I've also been struggling with the words to conclude such an amazing adventure.

To start I'll begin with sharing about our last horah in Etiolo, Senegal. We decided to share in a big feast with some really close friends who made our time there so special. Considering the daily diet is mostly vegetarian (powdered fish doesn't count as meat), we decided a as Phillipe would say to "Croquez la viande", in english: "Crack some meat" (this is accurate as the norm amongst the Bassari is to leave in lots of bones to crack and eat the marrow).

The funny thing is that meat in Africa is fast. After church, three of us rallied up the chickens and chased after a rooster for 20 minutes. Haha we got pretty frustrated and in the end it was Augistin (my friend and translator) who grabbed with our tasty little friend. I called him a 'Camarah' - which means big hunter and he laughed (perhaps at my mis-pronunciation).

to be continued..........

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Big time Pictures; If a picture's worth a thousand words.... Well good thing I don't have to describe them

Horay for some photos! There are some older ones from Christmas time.

There is quite a variance from bugs to baptisms, to the big lizard we ate last weak.... Mmm meat, not so much like chicken.

The people of Etiolo are doing well after a great harvest season thanks to God who gave some extra rain this year.

Our youth program is alive and kickin' and this week we'll be heading into the neighboring village where news of Jesus Christ has caused a spark. We'll have a service, sing some songs and eat some grub, should be some good times.

We're all pumped, the drums are painted and the rice is peeled, let's go!

Looking at the pictures, notice the new office we built during the past few weeks. We had a lot of fun together building it.

Also note the minor forest fire which is quite common as the locals burn the long grass. Some nights whole mountain sides are aflame. In a community of mud huts with grass roofs well... accidents happen.

I'm healthy and encouraged for the last month of our adventure here in this distant land.

I'm both sadened and excited to come home, but just trying to focus in on the last leg and finish strong.

Please continue to pray for us here; our new brothers and sisters in Christ, that many more will come to faith in Christ and that we would be rooted and grounded in God's love.

Love you guys


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas 2009 Update

Hey everyone and a tardy Merry Christmas!

So much has been going on in the last month I'll start from last month and work up to speed.

We had 6 missionaries come to visit and help out for 3 weeks and I know they're reading so I'll say all nice things... [for the real story check out the other blog I started and didn't tell them about; just kidding I barely have enough time to upkeep this one]

Canadians invaded Kedougou, Etiolo, and Ekess and it was a fantastic affair. The team veterans were John and Jim Stanley Sr happy to be back in territory so familiar to them. John's legendary bartering skills were met head on with vendors' classic line "Sir, any lower and I'll have no food for my family."

Jim Sr brought with him a line we all borrowed throughout the trip: "I LIIIIIKE IT!" I was impressed when in his sermon, after explaining God's love expressed through the cross of Jesus;
from the bottom of Jim's heart came "I LIIIIKE IT!" haha

The father daughter team; Jim and Kylie's service didn't go unoticed with little kids proudly flashing their new bead bracelets (which has backfired since it's now obvious they're cooler than I am; the bracelets officialize previous speculation) to the elders at the christmas party finding shade under the new roof addition Jim helped build.

Amanda didn't miss a beat jumping in with her spiritual gift in leading a mosh pit/dance off with 150 school kids, part of our outreach at the local school.

'Momma T' Terry helped out at the local clinic and played a significant role in our kids days; steadying kids as they transitioned from dizzy double vision back to regular ol' single. Ok Ok I picked the game , BUT we needed a filler and I was thinking on my feet.... we'll chalk it up as a experience for next time.

Overall we had fun, ate good preservative filled Canadian food, and touched many lives. Also it gave us a surge in our ministry whose momentum we've been able to and will continue to build upon.

Personally it was an encouraging, and refreshing time being invested in and I thank you all for that. Jesse's life has been transformed by the little battery operated blender Jim left him; I have suspicions he's a vidabanane; vidacafe addict.

I had the waters of my heart stirred in receiving letters from home. Haha also the packaged meat was awesome too! Apparently Africans don't like beef jerky! Haha but it was hilarious watching them try to maintain their composure.

On the other hand the Bacon was a hit; here's the story. Eggs are pretty tough to come by here since the Bassari see a better stretegy in raising them to get more meat. So I hiked to neighbooring Salimata, about an hour and a half walk over 2 mountains, bought some eggs and made a nest for them in my bag so they wouldn't break (the locals liked that). So I plan my first bacon and egg'er in 3 months, but truly I thought in my head "back off Africa this is for me" haha but a young guy named Edouard came by who has a great personality (or ola likik) and it weighed on my heart to share it and let me tell you I have never seen taste buds be satisfied like I saw in Edouard's face that day! It was the good breakfast we needed that day cause he stuck around and helped me build a bed out of bamboo.

In running on a tangent here but the bed is my 3rd bamboo project joining my bookshelf and desk. The trick to working with bamboo is..... I don't know, there isn't one, patience I guess. Half the nails bend on you, half the bamboo splits on you but the labour wages are great cause I pay kids with candy and juice mix, and if they ever watched Seinfeld I'm sure they'd respond in broken english "Gold Jerry, Gold!"

Let's continue with another update. In the last month it's been great being more involved in the culture. I have carried millet in a basket on my head over ruged mountain territory.... in sandals, I have also joined 20 other guys surrounding a pile of rice and beat the rice off and out of it's stem... blistered hands? Believe it.

There are ongoing new experiences inwardly as well as outwardly.

I'm being challenged and encouraged in God's word. I read a great quote, "don't focus so much on what your going to say, but on how your going to serve." and that has been the theme of this last 2 months.

Also I came to a personal deliberation in how to respond when your angry, upset frustrated.
I was frustrated and was stuffing it down publicly but praying it out privately really wondering What do I do with this? And reading Jeremiah, I was encouraged having God's example in expressing His feelings. I don't believe in lashing out in malice for the bible says "be angry but do not sin."
But I believe feedback is neccesary, healthy and a blessing for the other person for "iron sharpens iron" Proverbs 27: 17 and proverbs also says "rebuke a wise man and he will be wiser still."
However we are required to forgive and keep our heart soft for Jesus died for them too for "hatred stirs up dissention but love covers all wrongs"- Proverbs 10:12

And also "it's no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me" so why am I frustrated cause it's not my life anymore. Also God's in control and He allows trials into our lives and reflecting back, I'm grateful for it because God used it to show me something cool.

So it was freeing to sort that out between God and I, perhaps you won't come to the same conclusions but I'd be interested in your opinions.

Now for Christmas!!

The church was excited to have a party so we invited the other churches and started to prepare and prepare; and then we got bored and prepared some more.

The youth we're amazing, I was so proud of them. They organized all the food and had worked throughout the year and saved money towards this party. It all came together in God's time. haha, There is a difference from a North American mentality to that of the average African. For example: we use watches, they use the sun. It's funny reflecting on their 'laissez-faire' indifference, but it all seems to come together on the daythey need it to... just not the right hour.

Most of the village came out over the 2 day Christmas party including the elders of the village and the chief. God's amzing love and grace slam dunked using our gospel delivery systems; our youth theatre portraying Jesus' life and the christmas messages.

But truly God's beaming affirmation glowed over us in the afternoon for our baptism along with the shining sun. There were 15 people baptised! We used in a rusty barrel which worked great! Though it was kinda tricky to manoever getting out in some cases. We had some laughs.

The hilight for me was baptising Mary-Theresa who is a widow who lives next door to us. She is quite a sassy character who keeps on proposing to Jesse and I to marry her daughter lol. But God specifically pointed her out to me to really served her; helping her out picking peanuts or whatever the need. It opended a door to show the love of God and the night before the baptism she came to mel solemn and quiet (not her normal disposition) and asked if she could be bapstised saying she had faith in Christ as her saviour! AMEN! it was really encouraging.

Funny Story: 2 weeks ago when as I was building my bamboo bed; Mary-Theresa came by asking what I was doing. I replied "Je construit une camion!" (I'm building a car); she laughed and I said "but it's one that you have to puch and I'll need you to push me around" (i used the Bassari word for push 'AFIM.'" So we're in a packed Saturday night service and we leave a pause for testimonies. Mary-Theresa stands up and says in Bassari "I'm happy Joseph is learning Bassari and how to build cars..... AFIM! AFIM!" haha it was a great moment that I won't forget.

So I'm in Kedoogoo for a few days checking email and eating 'white man food' as Jesse calls it; like process chicken luncheon meat.... oh yeah baby! Precious. It was a great Dec 29th yesterday in Senegal; the sun was shinning and so Jesse and I went swimming in the Gambia river.
It was good and bad news that we didn't see any Hippos I'd lmike to catch a glimpse before I leave... From a safe distance mom I swear, no Hippo-back rides.

TRIVIA: Is the plural of Hippopatamus; Hippopatami?

Unfortunately I don't have any pictures to put up for this blog..... I'm sad about that too.

So Merry Chritmas and a happy new year to all!


PS - please forgive any spelling mistakes I don't have time to proof read this one

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

New Life

Hey everyone,

My hilight of the week has been our youth night kick off which targets kids aged 5-13 years old. We had a blast colouring and drawing pictures.
Most of the kids drew pictures of the cross and church! It was cool to experience the progression of relationship with the kids from almost cold and distant melting into joy, fun and laughter.
All without speaking the same language in most cases. God is good.

Low of the week

Sad news this week hearing of the death of a local pastor named Immanuel. I didn't know him but it was said that “No one deserves to enter into heaven more than him.”
It got my wheels turning thinking of of this life in relation to eternity and it would seem that this life is only the womb from which we're delivered into the next......

Being held in His Love


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Month Gone By/ Happy Thanksgiving!

Man, looking at an empty text document page is so bland, or maybe overwhelming is the right word: where to start. I may ask that question, but I am here on behalf of the One with the great master plan. It's a comfort to know that each day, hour and minute, each circumstance, conversation and adrenelaine rush has all been forseen by the Almighty and He is ever-present living out each moment with us.

To start off I want to say “Happy Thanksgiving” from Senegal, Africa!! Wish we could be there with you but we're also glad we're here instead.
Random Stuff
Haha, funny story- Last night in the middle of the night, my air matress deflated and I had to blow it up. Jesse thought I was hyper-ventalating..... Picture it............... and then laugh along.

These past two weeks have been a wonderful routine-like 2 weeks securing Etiolo as home. We have had some funny 'Only in Africa' situations this past week. The most impressive is when Jesse and Aliu went hunting and shot a 3 meter long snake! It was a “monkey swallower.” A reminder that when hiking through, it's important not only to watch the rugged path but also to keep your head up searching out trees trees for dangers..... or better yet, dinner.
These guys skinnned the snake which could end up being part of a cool souvenir but then we actually ate it! After 2 hours of cooking in a pressure cooker with some garlic.... Mmm Hmm it was fall off the ribs (and there were a lot of ribs) good. None of the locals took up our offer to try some.

I've had the chance to hike around the area where I've taken some great shots with my camera. It's fall here in Africa and in some of the pictures you'll notice the leaves are changing colours. Hiking in some parts reminds me of the Gatineau hills.
We built a tree fort in the pictures you'll notice too, for business of course. The pastor has a couple corn fields about 2 km away from the church. We've been recruited to stand (or sit, hence the fort) and guard for monkeys which have been eating the corn, ruining the crop. Like I said: strictly business..... Crazy awesome fort building business that is!
The life of the church is just that: a verb not an adjective. With regular teachings on Sunday as we continue in Matthew chapter 3 this week and on Wednesday night we are continuing in the book of Acts chapter 2.
This past Wednesday night we had a packed church (see pics) mainly youth and I could feel a burning desire inside me to deliver the good news of Jesus Christ. I went with the Holy Spirit and not my notes, and just talked about how awesome He is. Very exciting stuff!
As we keep our eyes on Jesus we're just growing together as a body. It's so great to be part of the body of Christ. My favourite time in the service is the time of testimony and prayer as the whole congregation is sharing testimonies of how God's worked this week in their lives or bringing forth needs in faith that He'll meet them. THAT'S AWESOME , I LOVE THAT!
There's some young people around who are just excited about the Lord and about the Bible which is so great to be a part of. Interpreting on Sundays is getting smoother and smoother as poor Augiste gets used to my french which is obviously improving now that I use less english words with french accents and more real french words. Haha, ie: confidencé?
The harvest is slowing down and school should be starting up next week and we have the chance to help out with some books, bags and school fees and to show God's love by helping to meet a need.
But their reactions are quite funny. As a tribe, the Bassari make it a point to never show a lot of emotion. For instance: if you leave for a long time and when returning a Bassari would see you, they would avoid you untill the next day untill they can get their emotions under wraps.
Prayer Requests:
As a culture, tribe and village Etiolo prides itself on some customs that really don't glorify God. For the boys there's the initiation which involoves Idol worship and fighting with spirits. There are also a lot of other social events with drinking and dancing but with a spiritual element to it, It goes along with the buying or charms and just a lot of superstitions and sorcery. In regards to this I was reading in the book of Numbers and God enouraged me in chapter 23 vs 23-24. The scene is that Balak hires Balaam to curse the children of Israel for him because he's afraid of them since God's with them, but Balaam instead blesses Israel. He says “For there is no sorcery against Jacob, nor any divination against Israel. It now must be said of Jacob and of Israel, “Oh, what god has done!” Look, a people rises like a lioness, and lifts itself up like a lion; it (Israel) shall not lie down until it devours the prey; and drinks the blood of the slain.” No sorcery or Idols are going to prevail against God in power. But they still exist because the worshippers have hardened their hearts against the One LIVING and TRUE God. They worship created things instead of the creator.

-So let's pray that they would turn towards Jesus the Author and finisher of our faith.
-Also pray for the church body here that we'd be a light for the lost here, filled with the Holy Spirit.
-There are so many youth running around here let's pray that they get come into a relationship with Jesus, talking to Him, just being with Him, that's what it's all about.
Enjoying Eternal Life

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

First Contact

Return to Kedougou
Well it is certainly a breath of fresh ... goat fur to be back in Kedoogoo. Just coming back into town we had to dodge a herd of cattle, only in special nooks in the wrold such as this can such an event take place.

Dirt bike highs and lows
So we're back from our first journey into Etiolo and all is well. You'll notice in the sequence of pictures the one of me on the dirt bike so hopeful and excited and another of me stuck in the mud! Man was there mud on he road to Etiolo, and that one mud pit in the photo was the worst and the deepest, seriously I swear it was. There's nothing like landing in a pile of mud ealizing your stuck...... then the engine stalls then TSSSSsss; the cool water against the scolding hot engine after its been running for 3 hours. TSSSssss warm steam riding up your legs and I thought “uh-oh better get outta this pit before Jimmy comes”. Not happening, it was quite a sloggish escapade to get that bike out of that mud but, of course my pride had to get that thing outta there before anyone could help. Ladies, its a man thing.
What a thrill to be slolemning through the back roads of Africa on a dirt bike! One ridge I perched atop of I just stopped, looked around and started praising God for this experience- one word comes to mind ELATION.
Being so close to the Saharan desert, the rest of Senegal is desert and shrub-like vegatation. However, Etiolo and southwards towards Guinea has lush, rolling hills, a beautiful tapestry to back some amazing sunsets.

`First Contact`
We arrived in Etiolo friday night and had saturday as a day to settle in before church on sunday. Church started off with worship which involvded an orchastra of tum tums (drums) and tamborines. Africans have rythym and they left me in the dust. I was schooled; as some were clapping on the down beats, some both up and down beats and still others are a mystery to me. I kept it simple making an effort to stick to 4/4 time not wanting to throw the whole assembly off.
I really enjoyed the time of testimony and prayer requests after worship. So cool to hear how God's working among His people, we also got to glorify Him for His protecion over us as we travelled.

Jimmy interpretted the message for me which went really well, he's had a lot of practice.
The message was on God's grace in Peter's life. What a thrill to look into people's eyes and see their comprehension and deep satisfaction hearing about God's amazing grace and how we needn`t be afraid of God but we can run towards Him.

I'm pretty sure I was the first one to change out of my pants after church into shorts! It's hot here in heavy cotton pants. After church I treked with some of the guys to go get some mangoes. I thought we were merely going into the field across from the church yard. Nope, a 45 minute hike later, all uphill, we came to Phillipe's house where there were a few laying around. What a treat! There's nothing like a refreshing mango on a sunday afternoon after an unexpected climb. I learned that you never know what`s in store when you leave the property.
We had a great week getting to know the people of the village. Everyone has been so warm and have brought some welcome gifts such as corn and potatoes-like things. We went fishing, hunting for birds with slingshots and also had some time to get industrious. By this I'm referring to the shaded porch area Jesse and I made ouside of our hut which goes a long way in the afternoon. This along with the potatoe sac chair Jim made has rocketed us past the Bassari people as far as luxury is concerned. It amazes me how content people are to be just inches off the ground sitting on their makeshift stools. I laugh thinking of the ergonomic chairs and desks we have in Canada, I guess they didn't get that memo.
Man the kids here are so cute! Some had meandered up to our hut and offered us some sugar cane and Jesse in turn gave them some toy cars and balloons, they were stoked! And with the innocent entrepreneurship of kids, TWICE the kids came back 10 minutes later with several long canes! Haha I'd hate to think of who's field they were taking them out of.
This week we also had the chance to see some great soccer matches. This week was the tail end of their playoffs and I caught both semi-finals and the finals. The field your picturing isn't the same field they played on. Corner kicks were interesting with a ten foot termite hill hogging the same corner of the field. If your ever over here, out of bounds is the long grass and for the nets, the side posts are logs and a thinner longer log for the cross bar not strong enough for the distance across as evidenced in its warped dip in the middle. I think this even caused an argument at one point. Did I mention they play in sandals.......
Funny Story: I was offered to sit next to the chief of the village on a thin piece of lumber eventually leading to the loss of blood circualtion in my leg. Not knowing the customs I thought this was a huge honor and that it'd be rude to stand up and recirculate blood back to my leg. So a played off the pins and needles untill half time when I was pulled up by one of the local church boys to go say hi to the team and give encouragement. Well I stood up took a step and felt nothing, took another and still nothing even right down to my toes! So there I was limping/draging my foot along trying to play it cool. I couldn't play it off any longer, I just stood there in the middle of the field waiting to gain some feeling in my leg while the village oggled the new white guy. I just played it off “Hey how are yah? It's cool, just something my leg does sometimes. ........... No, no really I'm are you?”
The next game I watched I stood the whole game, I learned my lesson.

Ongoing excitment
Throughout the week we jumped right into Chorale or “youth” nights here on wednesdays and saturdays. I started teaching through the book of acts and it also gave the opportunity to try out a local kid to interpret which went well but like anything it will take some getting used to. It is excitting that there are 3 young men who are hungry to be discipled.
These three are beacons for the youth to look up to as many of the others in the villages still look to buying charms off muslim priests for good fortune. Some nights you can hear their get togethers as they are yelling and shouting. These youth however aren't intimidated by such things for they know the truth of Jesus Christ.
In another instance one of these boys plays on the local soccer team and a team member tried to sell him some charms saying that players were buying them for goodluck for the championship game. Would you believe that that team actually didn't win the game!
A Thank You
I have to thank so many of you right now for the prayer support you've been providing, it's tangible. Personally my own devotion times have been precious being refilled again and again. Also every activity seems to have a flow to it, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord of hosts”. God's spoken peace to my heart on several things I've brought to Him in prayer confirming it's His work and it's His Spirit that's doing the work.
The Spiritual
I was reading KP Yohannan's book “Revolution in World Missions” and it really struck home to me that so often we think it's a food problem or a money problem but it isn't KP writes, it's a spiritual problem, we see that here in Senegal.
For instance, in Dakar, the capital, there are muslim priests selling charms or “gri gries” as cures of all varieties of sicknesses offering to buy God's favour.
Like God cares about money- “I will not take a bull from your house, nor goats from your folds. For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds on the mountains, and the wild beasts of the field are Mine”-Psalms 50:9-11.
Also, the muslim priests literally have slaves who go around a beg for them all day long giving them their daily earnings. These are usually kids aged 4-9 and it is their duty to their religion to leave home and go begging. These kids do not attend school, the only reading they do is a few memorization verses from the kuran. It's a shame when such practices are allowed culturally because the people are scared and unaware of the freedom available to them in Jesus Christ.
Let's pray for God's children over here and that God would set these captives free from such an oppresive spirit!
In Etiolo there are those who are muslim but as is the case in many Islam dominated countries, they don't really understand the kuran or know of the life Muhamed led. Instead it is more about the traditions which are deeply engrained from the time of youth, whereby such traditions they hope to earn God`s favour.
Interesting, I heard a speaker talk on how muslims will often say `God is merciful` but they won`t say that He is love. If God is love, He would be the opitimization of love; be the greatest lover. This would inevitably point to Jesus who taught `No greater love is there than for a man to lay down his life for another` and that`s exactly what Jesus did for us.
But they do have a strong belief in the spiritual which I think is a good start, and it'll be interesting how Jesus is going to reveal Himself to them. I'm sure it'll be slightly different than it is in North America but then again maybe not, salvation is simple and I selfishly would love to see adoring tears of bewilderment fill eyes as they see in their hearts that
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His only Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” -John 3:16-17

I still find myself giggling to myself in appreciation anytime I survey this wonderland around me. We`ve had some funny observations, and to quote Jesse between bursts of laughter “where else would we have a conversation like this except in Africa!?”
A few memories come to mind like opening the bathroom door and seeing 3 or 4 lizards scurry away through holes in the tin roof.
Or just the fact that I'm becoming accostumed to the old fridge we use as our cupborad and that it is longer just a cruel taunt and reminder of the tresure chest it is in another part of the world.
Throughout the day, national geographic images shine into my retnas without warning as various birds of all colours scurry lazily overhead using short bursts of effort overhead maintaining flight. I`m looking forward to the next month or so when the chimpanzees migrate back to Etiolo. I hear Jane Goodall does some local work.

Coming Up
During the next leg we`ll be planning for the arrival of some missionaries in November, working on the Kedougou mission compound with a massonry project and setting up beds and other ammenities for incoming brothers and sisters in Christ. One of the missions for this group will be expanding the church and doing some much needed structural improvments in the nearby village Ekess.

As for me, my focus is continuing to grow closer to Him and to know His love more and more . I was encouraged by Pastor Brett Robinson's message reminding to expect God's love and to live in that assurance as the whole church body did in Acts.
Also I`m enjoying having my brain picked by these young guys in the church and teaching them. The village just decided on Sunday to let these guys have a diminished workload in the community so they can devote themselves to ministry training. Lets lift these guys up in our prayer closets, that they would grow in character and in His word.

We`re also beginning to miss certain aspects of Canadian culture too. The running joke is to have a daily craving for some Canadian food be that a big mac, or steak or even grapes. Enjoy them for me guys, I`ll certainly put a dent in the food budget when I get home.

Love and miss you guys,


Thursday, September 24, 2009

2 week trip

Hey everyone.
Tommorow we're heading into Etiolo; Salimata; and Edane for 2 weeks. So the next posting I will put up will be then.
Untill then have a great 2 weeks!

God's Blessing In Christ