April 2017

Easter Update

17504579_10155150501464089_293267007843604313_oWe have had more children sponsorship distributions in nearby villages. For the most part, distributions are executed the same way: the children arrive with their parent, sign in, and then are individually called to receive soap, rice, and any special gifts from his/her sponsor. At one of the last distributions, Babou, our “guard” came with us. His proper title is National Assistant. He was delegated by the village Chief when Ruth and Linda arrived. He does act as a protector, but he truly serves as a mentor. He speaks on behalf of the Chief to give us the “yeas” or “nays” of projects and needs. He helps find children to sponsor, he translates French-Jula, he maintains the milk program when Ruth and Linda are out of the country, and he is always informed when we leave, where we go, if we have arrived safely to our destination, and so on. And when he can, he joins us for the distributions. Having him come along is truly a wonderful Jesus opportunity. He can interact with men believers and witness the Lord’s love and joy in them. After the distribution, we went for a cold coke, and yes, we drank soda- a cold bubbly sprite- refreshing it was! As we were chatting and drinking, we noticed Babou was sandwiched between the two pastors with us. We could not stop smiling to ourselves. It was a physical image of God himself wrapping His arms around Babou. Curiosity has been planted in Babou’s heart and we see God working. Spiritual warfare is very active and apparent here. Women and men are curious and want to learn about Jesus, but are not given the freedom to do so. We are praying for the village chief to openly give a blessing for his people to go to church.

Babou
Babou

We have had more children sponsorship distributions in nearby villages. For the most part, distributions are executed the same way: the children arrive with their parent, sign in, and then are individually called to receive soap, rice, and any special gifts from his/her sponsor. At one of the last distributions, Babou, our “guard” came with us. His proper title is National Assistant. He was delegated by the village Chief when Ruth and Linda arrived. He does act as a protector, but he truly serves as a mentor. He speaks on behalf of the Chief to give us the “yeas” or “nays” of projects and needs. He helps find children to sponsor, he translates French-Jula, he maintains the milk program when Ruth and Linda are out of the country, and he is always informed when we leave, where we go, if we have arrived safely to our destination, and so on. And when he can, he joins us for the distributions. Having him come along is truly a wonderful Jesus opportunity. He can interact with men believers and witness the Lord’s love and joy in them. After the distribution, we went for a cold coke, and yes, we drank soda- a cold bubbly sprite- refreshing it was! As we were chatting and drinking, we noticed Babou was sandwiched between the two pastors with us. We could not stop smiling to ourselves. It was a physical image of God himself wrapping His arms around Babou. Curiosity has been planted in Babou’s heart and we see God working. Spiritual warfare is very active and apparent here. Women and men are curious and want to learn about Jesus, but are not given the freedom to do so. We are praying for the village chief to openly give a blessing for his people to go to church.


In addition to the sponsorship distributions, we had our own little clothing distribution. Dawn, a fellow missionary who arrived about 2 ½ weeks ago, brought pillowcase dresses to give out to the women and girls. We also had received some pillowcase dresses from a fellow missionary in the capitol so we ended up with almost 100 dresses! We decided to distribute dresses on a different side of the village so those women and children could be blessed. The women and girls loved them. Thankful to give out the amount we did but wish we could have done more. We merely scratched the surface, but it is a beautiful start. Just think, Jesus clothes us in robes of righteousness! We give thanks to Him and to those women who sewed the dresses. We hope to do a boy’s clothing drive back in the states and then have a boy’s clothing distribution.


Every Friday in our village is market day. We buy the staples, the few veggies/products we know will be available to buy at the market (onion, tomatoes, garlic and nuts). On Tuesdays, we head to a nearby village with hopes to buy cabbage, peppers, and possibly cucumber. Mango is in season and it cost a few cents in US $. We love, love the mango – so good! There are two types of mango, mangos like the mangos we buy in the states and then there are African mangos. African mangos tend to be very stringy- lots of fibers. They are great to suck on, but not much meat to cut. And we think they taste just as good. We also have found a fruit known as Kent, which is a mix between a pineapple and mango. It looks like a huge mango, but the inside color is lighter like a pineapple. They say it tastes half like pineapple and half like mango, but we tasted only mango.

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African Mango

At our market, we decided to purchase plastic cups and a plastic bucket so we could provide the children water to drink throughout the day. The children go all day without drinking water and the heat has already reached 109 degrees. Our water faucet taps into the medical clinic’s polytank, a water tank, which runs on a generator, and therefore costs money. Any water needed above our basic needs such as drinking, cooking, bathing, etc. needs to come from the community well. It’s necessary to conserve water, so we cannot get water all day long for all the kids from this water source. How do you solve this problem? The children need water – we want to love them and give them water. Ashley came up with the idea (God gave her) to have a bucket filled from the community well with cups set out for them to drink. God is good and this has been wonderful. The kids now know there is water available to drink and if the bucket is empty they can refill it. Whomever takes the bucket to the well is usually compensated by us (the kids are learning very quickly that they like filling up the water bucket). We also bought a large tub for our “gym toys.” The kids are learning to ask to play with the balls. They love balls! Our soccer ball has already been played with till its death. In the beginning 4 balls were taken from us. We explained to them, if the balls are no longer returned then they can no longer play with them.  So far, they have been responsible to return them! They have done a great job so we are going to purchase some more soccer balls.

17992240_10212151168275412_1037465748464629496_nWe worked with Dawn to create a tire playground for the children under the mango grove. We painted the tires blue, green, red and yellow. Dawn hired a couple of boys to help with the construction. First, wet the ground and then hack away and dig. Next, simply place and position tires where desired (no measurement tools needed- just eyeball), mix a little cement-dirt together on the ground and voila, your tire playground is finished. So far, we have a circle and tunnel of tires for the children to crawl through, walk on, jump over, kick balls through, relax on etc. We are in process of building some sort of tire pyramid. The trick is using the materials available to create something that is fun and durable.

A wonderful gift has been our ability to accompany Dawn while she teaches soap making. The group of women whom Dawn started to work with in our village is sadly struggling. Basically, they have not been faithful to one another, or to what Dawn has taught them. Questions being asked are: Do they not want to do it? Do they not have time? Do they just want to do it themselves? Do they not fully understand and therefore need more assistance? In the bush, knowledge is power. Living in such an impoverished state and being a communal people group, one, as we did, might assume and hope people would work together, but there is really a survival of the fittest mentality in many aspects. Do not misunderstand, the people do help and support one another, but they do not share information or teach new skills to one another. We are praying for this mentality to change and for wisdom on our parts to teach and exemplify a model of helping one another as the Church is called to do.

While soap making at home base may not be a success thus far, God is showing promising results within other villages. We went to a neighboring village to teach a different group of women how to make soap. They were excited, asking questions, working together, and laughing together. Experiencing this was encouraging and exciting for us to see. These women are of a younger generation and seem to be better educated than the soap makers in our village. We know for certain most of them can read and write. We tend to forget that many people here cannot read or write. They are physically the hardest working people we have ever seen, but they have never learned to read or write. This creates difficulty when trying to teach someone how to keep records of expenses, production, etc. Makes us personally rethink the value of our education and what we take for granted.

We also had the privilege to watch Dawn teach an older woman how to make liquid dish soap. This woman was the grandmother of a child sponsored in our program; sadly however, the child has passed away. Grandmother ran out and left her granddaughter under the supervision of another child. This is common, everyday life, for older siblings to be left responsible for younger siblings. For example, we see little ones no more than 5 watching their 6 month old brothers or sisters. The child wraps the little one onto her back and goes. The children go for hours without food or water to drink. It’s amazing and heart wrenching to see these “babies” taking care of babies.

Back to the grandmother. Grandmother had left a pot of water boiling on the fire when she left for a brief amount of time, and her granddaughter fell into it. This is such a horrific tragedy, we cannot begin to imagine the pain and guilt the grandmother must carry within her heart. Our hearts ache with her. One may think this tragedy would harden her heart to the Lord, but she came to know Jesus. She has become a Christian and was given the permission of her family to accept Christ as her Savior (we had been praying for this!) God does what our finite minds cannot begin to comprehend!! She also has not been excommunicated or rejected from her home, but instead she has received forgiveness and has been given the opportunity to start over. Praise Him, how great is our God. Our brothers and sisters-in Christ have truly come alongside her to support her and give her comfort. She is a beautiful lady. Please keep her in your prayers.


This past week we also had the pleasure of having a little visitor stay with us. The pastor’s son, Eli, stayed about a week with us, which was awesome!!! He speaks French and Jula, so we could practice lots with him. Eli is 8. We had a mother stop by to show us her newborn baby. She only spoke Jula so Eli acted as our Jula-French translator. What a wonderful experience! We invited her in, offered her fresh water and a snack. We also played bible stories in Jula while she breast-fed her baby! We loved being able to welcome her in and “host” her for a while.

On the same day, we made our first trip to the clinic! We had a child brought to us by his sister with the tip of his finger and finger nail cut off. He was 4-5 years old. He cut it off with a knife. As best we could, we explained what happened and waited to get treated. This was an interesting experience. Here, nurses and doctors do not tell how nor what they are doing to treat the child, and to ask is considered disrespectful and rude. In some cases, they are liable to become angry with you for asking. Luckily, the nurse we saw answered questions we had, but he did not offer up any info. Before we saw the nurse, we told the sister to have their mother come. Although the mother was present, we were the ones motioned to bring in the child. This was uncomfortable; such a bizarre feeling to be holding her child while she is waiting outside. Did the nurse give the child any pain medication as he cleaned and pulled back the skin hanging off? No! Oh, the poor baby cried and cried, but he was so brave. Not too much fun to say the least. As we were there, we prayed about the cost; who was going to pay for this, how much will it cost, can they afford it or will we have to pay for visit and treatment? In the end, it didn’t matter. We were trusting God, if we needed to pay for it, God would provide. We asked about the cost and if the mother would be able to pay. He spoke with her in Jula and then relayed to us in French she would not be able to pay, but her husband would be able to pay when he returned home from his trip. We were so thankful to God. Thankfully the mother could receive the bandages and medication for her boy. Treatment: antibiotic and wrapped finger. He is doing great and has become our little buddy (you’ll see his wide mouth grin in many of our pics)!! And they were very thankful for our help, although we did not do anything!! Her daughter baked us donuts as a thank you! The donuts taste like a funnel cake without the powdered sugar; it’s basically a fried ball of dough they call gateau (which translates as cake or treat in English). They taste good!


We also had the opportunity to attend the wed night prayer meeting. We sang songs, prayed for one another and read scripture in French and Jula. Afterwards the pastor joked about offering us an African dessert; however, it was not a desert but a meal they had prepared. OK Lord. They served fish and rice. We will not go into detail about the fish- let’s just say the Lord got us through it. Yes it was difficult, but wow, the feast they made to share. You do not dare say no, nor does your heart desire to say no. We loved sharing the meal with them. They even gave us the only silverware they had. If we would have realized, we would have kindly declined and ate with our hands. Most people do not use silverware in the village. They eat with and shake hands only using the right hand. The right hand is considered the clean hand while the left hand is considered dirty (for wiping purposes ;-)).

Honesty, what made this dinner most difficult was we had just eaten dinner. While we were eating the lite dinner, we had prepared, we were thoughtfully brought an unexpected African specialty, known as Toe. They really love on you and give all they can. We were served Toe before and well . . .we are not the biggest fans of Toe.  Toe is a pure carbohydrate of corn starch and holds no nutritional value. It is white and tastes like mush with the consistency of tofu. It is served with a peanut or spinach sauce. They eat it every day and thankfully most nationals love Toe. We also were brought pig liver by the pastor to eat for dinner as well. Lord, what are you doing to us? Lol! We thanked him and took a piece. Did we eat it……you’ll never know our secret.  Let’s just say it was an adventurous food day! God truly does have a sense of humor. We were worried we were not going to have enough food for dinner with our special guests (the pastor & his son), and God provided three meals for us!

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Toe

One of the most enjoyable experience these past weeks, has been our time with the children. In the evenings, we have been able to share bible stories with the children in Jula! Dawn had bought solar powered “MP3” players with Jula bible stories downloaded on them. We gather under the mango trees, sit in a circle and listen. Each story ends in a song we try to sing. Later, you can hear the children humming the tune, it is precious.  The children sit and listen quite well, and they can understand it!! We have no idea what it says but trust in the power of His word. We then pass out a snack and water; which works wonderfully with a small number, but gets out of hand with a larger group.  Still working on solutions for crowd control.

We painted nails with some of the older girls. They only wanted their left hand painted because the right hand is considered the clean hand for eating, as we previously mentioned. After we painted their nails they painted ours. Such a sweet time with them. The kids have been over nonstop because they are on Conge, a two-week break. Little by little, God is providing opportunities for us to show His love and begin conversations (as best we can). We welcomed some girls to join us for church, they declined because they are not allowed to attend. We reassured them they are welcome any time and hope in the future they will have the freedom to join us. Later that day, an older girl pulled us aside and quietly asked us to pray for her and her family. Her mother and her would like to come to church, but are not allowed. In that moment, God reassured us of our purpose. If they are not allowed to come, then we will bring His word to them. Please pray for her and her family. It is common here for the husbands to be abusive and her father is one of those men. She has been coming over more and more; she greatly enjoys helping us do things. God is doing something!!


God has put two older boys on our hearts as well. One of the brothers has been curious about Jesus and had been attending some of the wed prayer meetings, but has stopped coming. We were informed his grandmother demanded he not attend. The first time Ashley met this young man’s older brother, God put Him on her heart. He seemed so sad; an emptiness exudeds from him. Although these boys are teenagers (16-18), they are in 7th and 9th grade. Even though this may seem odd, it is typical. One’s age does not always coincide with grade level. Most people do not know their age or birth-date either; it is an estimate. Ok Lord, how can we connect with them? We were given the idea to offer French and English lessons by reading The Bible in French and English.  Sounds great, let’s go for it. We asked the brothers and they said yes. Feeling a little nervous, but excited to see what God does. We need His guidance and help with this (as in all things!)


City Life

Currently we all are in the city for an adoption taking place as well as more soap teaching classes. We said goodbye to our dear friend Dawn L. We already miss her, but we have met some other missionaries; and we are enjoying our cold water, fridge, shower head, fan and JOY FM!!!! Sunday, we went to the international church and had communion for the first time since our SW conference. It was overwhelming to share in the Lord’s supper with others. First, we were served the body of Christ, we all prayed together and then we all ate together. We then were given the blood of Christ (grape juice). Again, we all prayed together and then drank all together. What an honor it is to celebrate Him. The power of His death gives restoration and freedom. The cross gives us life and purpose. His love is not based on works or morality. His love is not conditional and is not limited by the world. His love is a gift, a priceless yet costly gift. We are called to extend such love through the power of the Holy Spirit. Repeatedly, He reminds us, “Love them.” We have been called to love, love the people and love the children. They do not understand love or experience love as we know, culturally and/or spiritually speaking. Although abuse is “outlawed”, protection services are neither held accountable or enforced. Abuse inside the home is common and culturally acceptable; especially out in the bush. A couple of weeks ago, we witnessed a child being whipped with some sort of branch by her father. Why? She was fighting (hitting) another child. How confusing for a child to be hit by her authority figure for hitting. The children around us who could see what was happening started to laugh. We see lots of hitting among the children; fist hitting, nail scraping, head smacking, etc. In general, physical affection is not common. We hope to display and simultaneously teach gentleness and patience among the children. We pray they see a difference in the way we treat each other; as well as, in the way we treat them, especially when correction and redirection is needed. While some of the children are terrified of touch, most of them we encounter are yearning for it, and all they want is to hold your hand or sit right beside you. Yes, in the US we struggle with similar issues and a whole array of unique ones, but in our opinions, our cultures are not comparable. Our intent is not to compare or go down the road of who is better, worse, etc. When we write about making a difference or wanting the people and children to see a difference in us, terms such as “us” &/or “we”, refer to Christians and how “we” the body of Christ is called to live.


Fun things:

  • Ashley got to drive in Africa; stick shift!! Although it wasn’t too far, it was a start. We are not proficient driving a stick shift, the road “rules” (we emphasize the quotations) and terrains are outside our comfort zones, so driving is intimidating! But, we just need to get our Nike’s and Just Do It. 😉
  • Britney learned how to wrap a baby on her back. Thankfully the child survived. It is quite amazing to see how these children instinctively know to hang on. They are like little monkeys.
  • Another fun highlight of the week was spending time at a national animal preserve. Think mini elephant “safari.” We climbed on top of a jeep, sat on the bars covered by a thin worn-out mattress, and hung on. We saw lots of African elephants (all different ages and sizes), crocodiles, baboons, monkeys, Pumba (the warthog), creepy huge vultures with the white heads, and lots of other animals belonging to the deer/gazelle family. The African elephants are massive and beautiful. African elephants are the largest elephants. They really are quite different from the Asian elephants we typically see at the St. Louis Zoo. From what we observed, the African elephant’s ears are much larger and wide spread, but the Asian elephants have small rounded-shaped ears. The African elephant appears to have a smaller head. Come to find out, the African elephant has a single-doomed head while the Asian elephant has a twin-doomed head. The African elephant’s skin appears to have a darker coloring, it does not look as grey as the Asian elephant. The African elephant also has a stronger trunk grip, a two-finger grip, and the Asian elephant has a single- grip trunk. There are many more differences between the two, but of course there are lots of similarities.

Ok y’all we think we have filled your heads with enough info for now.

We pray you all had a blessed and wonderful Easter.   What a joy and privilege it was for us to celebrate Easter here in Africa. How amazing for all of us to be worshiping the Risen Lord all around the world. We cannot celebrate Easter without the Cross and we cannot celebrate the Cross without the death of our Savior!! May our hearts continue to be filled with joy and may we always honor and praise Him for His love and grace freely offered to each of us.
“For God so loved the world, that He sent [us] His one and only son so that [we] may not perish but have life everlasting. For God did not send His son into the world to condemn [us] but to save [us] through Him “John 3:16-17.
 We love and miss you!

Praises:

  • For the beautiful blue bird spotted among the mango and Baobab trees as we drove to our neighboring village for a children’s distribution.
  • For the children who congregate at the back of the church to listen to the music and hear God’s word.
  • For the opportunity and ability to travel to near villages. They each are similar and yet uniquely their own. For the ability to communicate with loved ones back at home; no matter how challenging or difficult it is at times.
  • For the opportunities to love His children.
  • For fellow missionaries with whom the Lord has connected us.
  • For thoughts of Jesus every time we see a donkey- which is a lot! I(Ash) think a lot about the conditions in Jesus’ time. We have a tinny tiny and personal glimpse of it.
  • For evidence that God is faithful. There is no other explanation for the spreading of the gospel then the power of God himself. It is truly incredible to contemplate how and how far Jesus and His disciples traveled to share the good news.
  • For God as the Creator of the human body. As we are still adjusting to the heat, it’s amazing to note how God perfectly designed the human body in such a way to sustain our environments and living conditions.
  • For our time of reprieve in the city
  • For the music so graciously downloaded on the computer by our dear friend Bogener.

Prayers:

  • For safety when traveling
  • For a smooth transition between the adoptive child and parents
  • For baby Mo’s heart surgery (7 months old- another time for Mo’s story)
  • For connection with the children and older boys with whom we will be working
  • For continued guidance and clarity on how to reach out and love
  • Physical and spiritual protection over Burkina and its people

“Lord Your love builds bridges that cannot be burned
It speaks truth that cannot be learned
It’s a treasure we can never earn
It goes places we’re afraid of going
It’s not a fist it’s a hand wide open
Reaching out to the down and broken

We believe Your love is the strongest way
You’re tearing down walls and You break our chains
Even in this darkness hope will rise again
When we lay down our weapons we will let love win
Lord we lay down our weapons and we let love win”

(Carrollton, “Let Love Win)

 

 

 

March 2017

Community Celebrations

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While at homebase this past week we celebrated

“International Day of the Woman”

It is an interesting holiday as the culture in general is suppressive to women (they have very, very little freedom). We do not quite understand how women are honored or viewed on this day in the context of their culture. As a national holiday, many businesses and schools were closed. We saw celebration and a day filled with fun activities. It is celebrated differently per which village you live. We do not know the origins of the day and with such language barriers we do not know what was all spoken at the ceremony. They did have a woman from the village speak and the chief honored Ruth & Linda by thanking them for everything they have done as well as giving a blessing for them to stay and continue helping the village. Our prayer is that God would open all eyes to see women as His beautiful creation; priceless and worthy of respect; and as Christ loves the Church, so should a husband love his wife.


International Day of the Woman Sneak peek:

Bike Race (for girls=unmarried women)- which we participated in! Since we (sheltering wings) have been appointed a “guard/helper” by the village chief, he was able to get us two bikes to use at the last minute. We were told we’d race to the next town (about 5 miles away) and back. Did this happen…lol…not quite. Not only were we were excited to support the women, but now we also had the chance to finally do some physical activity! We did bike- probably about 200 yards. As we began, we were very confused b/c everyone (4 other girls along with Britney and myself which came to a grand total of 6 ladies for the big race;) biked like she was taking a leisurely stroll. Perplexed at what was going on, we simply stayed with the girls. Finally, about 100 yards out of town we all came to a stop. We thought we were waiting for others to catch up (wrong again). Come to find out, we had stopped to begin the race. The nice little stroll we had was merely to reach the starting line.  As we biked out of town, we had a crew of men follow along. When we came to the starting point, one of the gentlemen drew a line with his foot in the sandy, red dirt. The starting line was ready. The next thing we knew, the girls took off. Man, oh man did they fly! The race had officially begun. We popped on our bikes with hopes to catch up; however, once we started to peddle faster and faster we realized the bikes did not have gears nor breaks…. whoops. Thus, you can only go so fast before you feel like your wheels are out of control.

We know you are now anxiously awaiting if we caught up and won, we did catch up, but it would not have been right to pass them. We came in dead last.

Oh, how did the girls stop? The men at the finish line caught them. Luckily, we could slow our bikes down, so we did not need their kind help. LOL, it was fun.

After the race, they held a ceremony under a grove of mango trees.  The chief and elders of the village were present, as well as the mayor of our neighboring village, the village teachers, and doctors. At the ceremony, they had a small parade which consisted of the students rhythmically marching followed by the women marching and singing.  After some introductions, the women danced together in a circle. There was also a dinosaur dancing at one point (comic relief) and some men. Hopefully you can see in the picture how they dance- easier to see it than explain. It is all how they move their feet; it appears they are sticking out their buttocks, but the movement is all in feet.

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What seemed to bring everyone the most enjoyment was the dance of the masks. Depending on your village (like the national day of the women), the festival of the mask differs. There is a national day which is known as the festival of the mask. We will try our best to explain what we have been told about this festival. On this day people pray to the mask for rain. The mask also goes around and “hunts” for boys. These boys will be caught and whipped in some villages. Why? Still really do not know and have not had the opportunity to ask someone who truly understands the reasoning (maybe a rite of passage-a mark for the boy to become the next mask..?) In other villages, the mask will hunt for a human sacrifice. Does this still really happen, yes. Thank God not in our village! The current mask will then pick another young man to become the next mask- whomever the mask picks must oblige. Some villages have one mask, some have a few, some have animals, some have colors, etc. In our village, we saw three masks each dressed in different colors, representing different genders. They also had a group of young men/boys dancing along. These boys were dressed simply in pants and some were holding a whip. Come to find out these boys were in training for the mask positions. What they do during training, we don’t want to know. In our village, the masks are volunteers and we think they just dance. The dance is very specific and rhythmic- it is like a musical, so a “dansical.” How they can wear what they do and dance how they dance without passing out is beyond our comprehension! Crazy!! We were told that in older generations the boys in training would dance naked. Once again, thank you Lord of the change with the new generation!

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After the dancing, they had an award ceremony for all the bike racers. We were called forward in front of the entire village to receive a consolation prize. It was extremely uncomfortable and awkward as we stood in the spotlight to receive our gift and have our picture taken. Despite feelings of embarrassment which flooded within and overflowed to our faces, we were humbly grateful and moved to receive a national day of the woman shirt. Later that day, the children excitedly requested us to wear our shirts to a soccer game and cheered when we changed into them. Their elation was priceless and unforgettable, it was as if we were now one of them. Thankful to God for that moment!

Later in the day, there were soccer games played and late night dancing. From what we could see everyone dressed in their best for the dance. It really was a fun day of activity and cultural exposure.

Also, this past week we had a sponsorship distribution. Each child in the sponsorship program received a huge bag of rice and a gift (soap, lotion, cookies). One child received a bike.

Periodically throughout the week, woman along with their babies would come for formula.

We went to the market in a village not far from us, which is every Tuesday. We are limited to what we can buy do to sanitary measures and longevity of product.  Without the help of a fridge, it is challenging to keep things fresh for a while when they are good and ripe. You can bargain at the food market, yes, they try to “rip you off” (get the most $ for their product). We are still learning what is reasonable for certain products. We also painted the pavilion, which will be used to help teach preschool/tutor children.

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Another highlight of the week was playing with the children- teaching them games as well as having them teach us their games. Games are similar yet different, such as ring-around the rosy, bacon in the middle; however, hopscotch is the same. They love balls! They prefer to bounce them verses throwing them (so it appears). They also like Frisbee which was new to them.

They love affection and desire to be noticed. As soon as you extend a hand they want to take hold of your arm. They also try to sneak in touches of your hair, lol. The older girls braided our hair the other day while trying to watch the soccer game- a regular braid. They love to help us carry things, wash things, really anything- they even sat and listened to us read the birth of Jesus in English and then in French, mind you, they speak Dioula (Jula). We know God’s word does not come back void; no matter what language!!

God has placed some children on our hearts, two older boys to be specific. There are also a couple of older girls we have been able to bond with- starting too.  They speak and understand some French.

On Sunday, we officially said goodbye to the last of the sheltering wings crew; therefore, we were feeling a little sad, but God is good. Monday, we welcomed in another missionary, Dawn. She teaches the women how to make soaps, how to sew, really anything crafty.  We are excited to observe her work with the women and learn more about her project.  We will have her company for a few weeks- Yeah!


Prayers: Two boys- pray able to reach their father and encourage them to go to school so we can sponsor them. Pray we can build a relationship with them. Prayers for the children whose eyes seem empty and hopeless- it breaks your hearts


Praises– Meeting other missionaries from different organizations and learning about their projects, praise God for time of rest and rejuvenation, praise Him for a wonderful church service on Sunday (we sang “Great is thy Faithfulness”), and praise Him for the power of prayers and the gifts you have blessed us with!!

 

Love and Miss You!

 

March 2017

What’s Happening:

Left the capital, and spent a few days in a neighboring city.


I encountered my first, and probably not my last, bout of sickness. Not sure what I ate or drank, and while our bodies all respond differently to the same things, my stomach responded like I had food poisoning. But, praise God we were in a larger city where I had access to a toilette, a bed, & air! I also did not start throwing up until after we arrived – Praise God it did not begin on the road. While I was resting the next day, Britney went to see some of the sights – a local grocery store- to give the best picture imagine a 15 by 15 outside shed lined with differing things, like a small gas station would have, and attached to the front is an overhang where there are a few freezers for cold items, she was able to get a SIM card for our phone, buy us a tea kettle for our home, and the closest thing she could find to saltine crackers for my stomach.


Intermediate Travels

We stayed in what used to be the capital and is now the the 2nd largest city. Most people here speak Julua- rare to find French speakers.

We helped with Milk distribution, which supplies mothers with formula to feed their child. Most women who come are not the child’s mother. They are typically women who choose to step in and provide for the child as their own. Many mothers die within the first week after giving birth. If a female family member does not request to care for the child/or children (we have seen multiple sets of twins) most of the children are abandoned. Few fathers choose to step in and take care of the child. The loss of the mother is connected to the newborn. If a mother dies after labor, the husband and family blame the child. They see the child as a curse. Along with the milk distribution program, there is a foster program in place. The nationals within the Church are being taught the importance of caring for and loving children whom are not blood related. The desire is to teach them that a child is a blessing from God.

It was touching to met some of the foster families already in place. To show thanks and appreciation to one family, we took them a gift. The gift included a live goat, three chickens (male and two female) and a pound of rice. When you visit someone, the family offers you a seat, water to be shared (each person sips from same cup), and then you visit for a while. We asked to pray for the family before we said our goodbyes. They were very grateful and said it was as being so thirsty in the desert and then someone stopping to give you a drink of water.

Later that evening, we had dinner with Dramone who is the national now in charge of the milk distribution program. His wife prepared a chicken that was gifted to him earlier that day. For dinner we were served chicken, veggies (onions, cucumber, and peppers), and homemade kettle popcorn. The popcorn was intentionally made for us b/c Philip, the man who began the foster & milk distribution program had taught Dromone and his wife how to make kettle corn. It was incredibly thoughtful and kind. When you go to one’s home they are very hospitable and offer as much as they can.

After that we headed out to see a miracle healer, a Dutch evangelical proclaiming the name of Jesus. We were of course leery – it is going to be a Leap of Faith sort of film…? But honestly, it was not. Yes, there were thousands of people, but people were not falling down, speaking in tongues or anything that sent big caution signs. What we heard did not contradict biblical absolutes, he spoke of Christ and what He did….and miraculous healing did take place. God can do the impossible in the name of Jesus; however, we are just not used to seeing that type of gift in action- in truth specifically. Not to sure how we feel about it- we, including all the missionaries, were on guard and praying for spiritual protection before we went. And the hope is that people seek out truth in the local churches and God uses it for His glory.

Finally, we went back to our home and passed out. Goodbye last night of precious cool air.


Home Base

Next morning we officially left for our new home. It is quite the adventure to get there. We enjoyed a more “lush” view as we drove, but driving there is like extreme off roading in America. You never would expect to find such a village all the way out in the bush, but it’s there and it’s real. It is dry season so the bush is not luscious and everything is still very brown but it is greener in the south and we can see the beautiful sky again.

Our New home: It is beautiful- we refer to it as “sophisticated camping.” In our house, we have a living space, two bedrooms (one Britney and I will share and then one extra for guests and storage), a small room to bucket bathe in and a little terrace off the front. We have a separate squatty potty that we all share. The squatty potty is a hole dug in the ground surrounded by concert. You squat and literally aim for the hole- which I have only made good aim a few times. We have a little can with T.P. in it to wipe, another can to throw away your used T.P, a watering can to rinse the floor you most likely just peed on, and hand sanitizer. We’ll let you know how pooping goes when it happens- I joke that I might just take a bag in the bedroom. There are flies in the squatty and it smells like a johnny. With all that said, its perfect – it works and it’s much more than people have here. Okay Ash wrote the “its perfect part” so I will give full disclosure – it is difficult at least for me and something I give over to God everyday (the toilet part). Our kitchen is a separate building. We have a propane stove, a sink, a counter top table and wire hanging for fruits and veggies. Ruth and Linda have their home, which is the same layout as ours. On their terrace, they have a coffee table with chairs- this is where we eat meals and gather for devotion in morning. Oh, we also have a room outside next to the squatty potty for bucket bathing as well and have found we prefer to bathe out there. You can gaze up at the stars and its cool. Just pay attention because some nighttime critters will come to join you. We wash our hair with a bucket outside in the open so our hair doesn’t create havoc for the “drains” (the little hole in the cement in the back wall for water to drain out). And every part of life is seen by an audience as people come all day long and stay, and groups of children are consistently hanging out.

We have sheep, goats, donkey, cows, and dogs to keep us company as well as the women and children. Everyone comes to greet you- and they stay and they stay. Babou, the chief’s assigned watchman and helper for Ruth and Linda has made his personal meeting space right next to their porch.

We can hear the Muslim call to prayer in the evening and the morning; as well as the rest of the village waking up. The animals can be heard all throughout the night and as the medical clinic is right behind our house there is a steady flow of motos coming and going till very late. So, although we are in a village out in the bush, life constantly surrounds us.


Ashley – I am excited to make our new place of rest feel more like home, and begin to work with the children. I already have ideas about what we can do, but I need to first just take the time to be and see. What I feel is helpful, may not actually be the case. The Lord will direct us, in this we trust and have confidence. We still need to organize and settle in a bit first.


Britney- I’ve seen pictures, videos, and heard about life here but it doesn’t even scratch the surface of the feelings I have being here. It’s overwhelming knowing that as these are the most difficult living conditions I’ve ever lived in, what I have here is luxury comparative to what the villagers have. Going to see and give gifts to the family was quite a moment for me and then at Dramone’s house later. I cannot explain it. I praise God that He loves us all the same whether we use the squatty potty or a porcelain throne made of gold. He calls us and sees us equally. I praise God that people love Him regardless of their conditions and how amazing to think that one day we will all praise Him together as one body in His presence with no poverty, greed, hunger, selfishness, pity, jealousy, sadness, or division.


Prayers

  • The Holy Spirit be poured out over the village- each house, each mosque and each individual. May they be drawn to the Lord.
  • Language barriers to be broken- a Pentecostal moment.
  • A cool breeze throughout the day, the air can be pretty stagnant.
  • Guidance with interacting with the children. It is difficult to repress the desire to give and give. We have to be respectful of what our other missionaries have put into place as well as set up our own boundaries.
  • Physical strength- against heat, bacteria, any contagious infections from the children (it is common for the children to have ring worm- on their heads even), and stomach/bathroom difficulties.
  • Prayers for the men and women here. Thus far, we have learned the woman does most the work but has few rights. The women take care of children, work in the cash crop fields to make money, work their families crop, and take care of the home. We truly need a rival among the men.
  • Pray for the Lord Jesus to move in their hearts so they may love women as Christ loves the church. We need strong men to rise up as leaders those who passionately love the Lord and treat their wives (women in general) different from the ingrained culture.
  • Pray that we can see through Christ’s lens of compassion and not become overwhelmed by the need.

What we have disclaimed is real, raw and just factual. We pray it does not come off as disheartening, because Yay God. There are so many things we praise Him for.

The things which on the surface appear and are difficult, uncomfortable, foreign, outdated, and unnatural to us are the exact things for which we praise and thank Him. We praise Him for our well and running water in the kitchen, we praise Him for our squatty potty, our cock roach/ bug invested shower, our block of foam for a bed, for the bah -bahs and cries of the goats and sheep, for our propane stove, for our chairs, for our water filter, for our French press and coffee, for the brilliant sun, the magnificent light of the moon and stars, for the cool breeze you eagerly await, for shoes, for sunscreen, for food, for the random wild flowers growing around our home, for the mango tree grove growing next door, for the work being done here, for afternoon siestas, for the smiles on the children’s faces, for the kindness of the women, and for sounds of life and laughter. We praise Him for the opportunity to teach the children games today, such as, freeze-bee, hop scotch, catch, and ring-around-the rosy- (even one of the women wanted to learn and tried to play while her baby was strapped to her back!) How beautiful and strong these women are! There are woman breaking up concrete to sell with a child strapped to their back. So much for which to praise Him. Praise Him for the goat I now see drinking water from the bucket on the terrace that we wash our hands in. We praise Him for your prayers and His word which give us comfort, wisdom and strength.

Even in extreme poverty you see how the Lord provides! You see His immense beauty in places which people assume have nothing to offer or consider insignificant or don’t give any mind to at all. In all of creation He shows Himself, so all may know He is Lord.

 


We love and miss you all!


“The Heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hand”
Psalm 119:1

 

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February 2017

A quick recap and glimpse:

We have officially arrived in Africa – 2 days down. Wow! God is amazing.


Markets galore- in other words, street vendors selling everything imaginable (food, fabric, purses, shoes, undergarments, soaps, – much more than expected). Our favorite things to find include all the fruit and vegetables: strawberries, mangos, papayas, oranges, bananas, plantains, peppers, lettuce, onions, huge carrots, potatoes and more potatoes, rice, beans, millet, and even ice cream. Bikes, mottos, vehicles, pedestrians, police, “round-a-bouts”, few stop lights fill the streets. Women carrying babies on their backs with a simple piece of fabric while driving their mottos or bikes. Women carrying various things to sell on their head, and we did see a woman breastfeeding at the market. Little shops line the streets and if you come to a stop, you will have individuals try to sell you tissues, phone minutes, food, they will try to wash your windows, etc.…

The air is hot, dusty and scented with trash & BO. Trash covers the beautiful deep red-orange colored dirt and randomly and seldom have we seen some beautiful pink hydroniums. Mosquitos not bad, as of now, and lots of lizard friends. So far, the last two mornings we have been woken up by the Muslim prayer calls (not sure exactly what time it is, but its early). Our noses feel burnt on the inside because it’s so dry.

Beautiful bright fabric lines small “stores” making it impossible to decide so we picked two fabrics to start with two everyday skirts. Ashley purchased a handmade purse from a non-profit organization that is a safe refuge for orphans and teaches them skills as they also attend school. The organization runs a restaurant and boutique.


First thought as plane landed: “I am here.” Tears filled my eyes from a heart overflowing with joy, praise and thankfulness. I just feel so blessed and thankful. Thankful for God’s protection and His perfect timing. Thankful for the work He is doing in and through all of you. Without you allowing Him to use you as a vessel, our journey would not be possible. Praise be to Him for each of you. I am still a little in shock and disbelief that I am walking on African soil. His peace surrounds me, and I am very aware the reality of life/living here has not yet set in. I am trusting. – Ash


Surreal. I had to tell myself I am in Africa. I tried not to anticipate anything before coming. My mind goes to what it knows trying to connect familiar things to Martinique and Mexico but Africa is completely its own here. I feel physically surrounded by prayers. The Holy Spirit has reassured my mind and heart that I am completely in God’s will. My mind is overwhelmed trying to intake everything: this is Africa. – Brit


God Sightings along the way:

  • Wonderful send-off at the airport from family and friends. We are blessed!
  • Unexpected and heart-felt letters written to us. (Waiting till village to read)
  • God’s protection for safe travel, easy and successful transitions/layovers
  • “Scrumptious” plane food
  • Surrounded and comforted by our wonderful Sheltering Family
  • Baggage graciously allowed to be checked as a carry-on flight from Chicago to Brussels
  • Given a note of encouragement (a little card with scripture on it) from a Christian sitting in front of us.
  • Accommodations- the sheltering wings missionaries whom live in Ouaga, stocked our fridge with clean water, fruit (oranges, bananas, apples, pineapple, and mangos), milk, orange juice, oatmeal, cornflakes, and coffee! They even bought us pizza for dinner the first night- pizza in Africa! It was yummy, yummy, yummy. We have, a shower, fans and air, water filter, we have electricity and even WIFI at times! Very blessed!
  • The ability to consume vegetables and fruit so far, as well as drink lots of water.
  • He gave us the perfect devotion to begin our first day: discussed being the light and calling out to Him- an important reminder of our purpose and whom to turn to when struggling.
  • Brilliant Sun

Prayers

  • Matheny’s youngest daughter had to go to the hospital for a seizure which they believe is due to an infection and teething. Pray for Ann’s recovery, doctors’ wisdom, and family’s peace.
  • The Holy Spirit to bring our French back quickly and to have an ear for the Burkina accent. Opportunities to use French, courage when accent is not understood, and patience from native speakers.
  • National buddies especially when we move to the village.
  • Continued protection: mentally, spiritually, and physically (including health).
  • We would be an encouragement and joy to the missionaries and not a burden.

We carry you all with us and praise God everyday for you!


“You did not chose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit-fruit that will last- and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.”

John 15:16-17