Uncategorized

Our story continues….

1

Back at home base:

After leaving the city we were happy to return back to our precious village; however, we were a little worried about the heat (remember there is no air conditioning or electricity in the village). But, the Lord truly sustained us and he even blessed us with a couple of rain showers! At times, it is cooler in the village because there are no buildings or congestion blocking air flow or attracting and trapping the sun’s heat. In the village we are in the bush, have huts and lots of open land.

Once we returned to home base we officially started our preschool; we began tutoring a little girl named Awa in math and reading; we started our Thursday night English sessions, and had our very first “puppet” show. We love our village and the children whom the Lord has brought into our lives.  Yes, we have challenges, but when we arise in the morning to braying donkeys, chickens clucking, cows mooing, and children crying and/or laughing, we know God has an adventure in store for us. Each day is a new day to depend on Him and give Him glory.


 Preschool in Action:

“And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.”

Repeatedly the Lord has reminded us to love the people here, and Love My children. Thus, our primary mission is to do exactly that; to expose these children to His love. Through the work of the Holy Spirit we want to be a physical extension of His love to them. We want these children to feel adored, valued, and simply loved on. Conversations with the Lord and one another consisted of questions such as; “Ok Lord, how is our preschool going to look and function?” “How can we be effective and efficient with our time and resources, while being culturally adaptive and respectful?” “Do we need a committed group of children or allow children to randomly come and go?” “How do we enforce a consistent committed group?”  “Lord is it necessary, now, for us to hire a French-Jula translator?” We prayed and sought council about who should attend and the number of children we could handle. After much prayer and discussion, the Lord gave us a clear vision. First, He put it on our hearts to give those who may never get to go to school a chance to learn something as well as those who were going to begin school in the fall.  Although we did not want to turn any child away, He made it very clear we needed to begin with a committed group of children for consistency, those who could and would be faithful to come each morning. Some guidelines we used to help us prayerfully decide who specifically to invite and our number where: the children who are at our house every day all day; age, he/she needed to be at least 5 years old; and those who had verbal parental consent. We settled on 8-10, but the Lord answered our prayer in the way He knew best and gave us 11. All but one child whom the Holy Spirt instantly put on our hearts to request came!! We wrote out our list, presented our proposal to “The Man,” Babou (our international assistant), and he went to work. He was excited to help and at once spoke with the parents. Our first day of preschool began two days later! We had prepared, but did not think we would actually begin that quickly. (Time is relative culture to culture) Praise God is all we can say to that!

Our objective is to teach basic pre-academic skills through play and hands-on activities while teaching them about Jesus and His love for them. Every day we offer a substantial and nutritional snack for the children, as well as water to drink.  It helps the children to learn when they have some food in their belly. We meet every morning for about 2 hours or more. The children are a mix of boys and girls between ages 4 (Babou’s son J) – 8 (estimated). Out of the 11 children the Lord has blessed us with, we have one boy, Yaya, with special needs. We are not sure of his diagnosis, but Yaya is dependent on a walker and the right side of his body is weaker than his left. He also has some language/speech delays. Yaya was in school, but he now no longer attends and there is some discrepancy for the true reason this is.  What we do know is he often cried, he would have bathroom accidents in the middle of class, he struggled with embarrassment, and there was no one available to help him. Teachers simply thought he was incontinent which created an inconvenience. However, come to find out he is not at all incontinent. The environment of the school was the problem and it is simply not conducive for his situation. We give thanks to God because he is doing so well with us. He is easily able to walk to the door and go to the bathroom. He is trying to repeat tasks, and he can grip a crayon in his left hand and colors little by little. He is working hard. We need to give God glory for this situation because Yaya also comes from the other side of the village. He is dropped off two hours before we begin and waits. It takes two bikes to transport him and his walker to our side of the village; and then he tries to walk back home at the end of the day. Walking home is a great challenge for this little guy, but we know it will help strengthen his legs, hands and arms. The first time we walked him home, but now he along with his friends from the same side of the village will walk together. We were a little worried to just let him go with his friends because Yaya fell the very first time we tried walking him home. The wheel on Yaya’s walker hit a stick, set him off balance, and he fell straight backwards hitting his head. He was ok, thank the Lord, just a little shook up. If Yaya does not walk, he will wait an additional hour or more for someone in his family to come pick him up. It is a blessed sight to see little 6-8 year olds peddling on adult size bikes carrying all sorts of things. In this case, Yaya’s brother or cousin (8) strapped Yaya’s walker to the back of their bike and peddled behind Yaya who is riding on the back of his sister/cousin’s bike (she was 8 as well). Your heart just melts to see such kindness and helpfulness shown to Yaya.  You know Yaya’s family loves him dearly and greatly desires for him to learn and have the same opportunities as the other children because there is no other explanation for doing all that for just a few hours a day!! Thank you, Jesus,

3

We truly have the sweetest class. We absolutely adore them.  They anxiously wait for us to open our door to begin the day. They are quickly learning the routine and little by little understanding our expectations. They are learning how to listen, how to wait, how to share “toys,” the consequences of hitting, etc.  They are very typical in the sense of having a short attention span and becoming easily distracted by outside factors or one another. The seek both negative and positive attention.  We naively assumed they would be better at sharing materials since they do such a nice job of sharing food and water. However, as with any child before he/she is taught the art of sharing, the sin of selfishness is often evident. They do not like to share things, but they, like all of us, will learn and continue to learn.


Glimpse of our day:

  • Enter pavilion and wash hands whiling singing a song
  • Circle time: hello/good morning song, who came to school today activity for name recognition, what is your name game
  • Calendar time – sing days of the week song, discuss the date, weather (cloudy, rainy, sunny)
  • Color of the day – color activity
  • Music – Jesus loves me (song of the week)
  • Snack
  • Story time (play creation story in Jula on mp3 player)
  • Alphabet review and game
  • Letter review and game
  • Activities – we set up three “centers” sometimes 4.
  • Special large group activity- parachutes, bubbles, a special craft, etc.
  • Goodbye song and pray

Joys of the Day:

The children’s smiley faces and excitement to learn; all their hugs; listening to them repeat French words; hearing them sing the songs; watching them experiment with colors, blocks, letters, cards, glue, paper, etc; their insistence to help us clean up; our additional 30-minute goodbye hugs and handshake routine after the pavilion has been cleaned and closed; and the most heart fulfilling moments are when they point to our cross necklaces and say the name of Jesus. We know the Lord is cultivating something beautiful in them! They know the cross and they know the name of Jesus.


Challenges of the day:

Outside distractions – when the school is on recess break, the other kids flock to the pavilion to see what we are doing. They try to engage our kiddos, which distracts them from listening to us. The kids climb up and hang off the side of the pavilion to peak in, if our kiddos are eating a snack the other kids ask for some; if the kiddos are working on an activity the other kids ask them to show them or give them the answers, etc.…What becomes even more frustrating is when we ask for them kindly to leave and they refuse. Some will listen and others will not. Besides the children acting impolite, their behavior takes time away from our teaching and the students learning. Thankfully, the situation has improved the last few days of class.  Less kids were coming over, and those who did would say a hello and then leave on request. We also have mothers stop by and engage us and if they speak French they may ask if their child can come; while others will say hello and just watch or address the children. In general, there always seems to be an outside interruption every 15 minutes, which is often frustrating and draining after a while. At times, we must remind one another to not always see these interruptions as inconveniences but as God ordained opportunities. Men and women who stop by to watch us can see the way we interact with the children. They can hear the tone of voice with which we use to speak; they have an opportunity to witness the way we correct, yet encourage the children; and they can see the multiple ways we show affection to the children. In the village, there is always a flow of people, and people stopping by to greet and meet; it is cultural. We are still adjusting to open courtyard living, which means you have very limited and lack of personal space and boundaries. We either need to flow with this situation, or else we will hit a wall of resistance and struggle. 


English tutoring:

We have had three students (1 boy and 2 girls) come on Thursday evenings for English conversation and help with homework. It has been so much fun! Helping them, helps us with our French and we have the privilege to ask cultural questions and discuss cultural differences which leads into conversations about why we do what we do. As Peter writes “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” ( 1 Peter 3: 15). The young man Yacouba who attends and was raised in a Muslim home, began asking questions and started attending the Wed. night prayer meetings. Unfortunately, he soon was instructed to stop. We are confident the Lord is going to use our time together as an open door for intriguing conversations. Speaking of intriguing conversations, we had a wonderful conversation with Babou. We were writing and having our devotional time when he inquired about what we were writing and reading. We happily explained, and read to him from the English and French Bible.  We told him he was welcome to read the French Bible anytime. We were able to explain to him, as best we could, the reason we are not yet married, the gift and sacredness of marriage, and the parallel image between marriage and that of Christ’s relationship with His children.

Fun side note, Yacouba is Babou’s son! The Lord is working on him and his family.


Festival of the Mask:

The first week of May was the festival of the mask in our village. It is a week-long festival concerning the coming of age for boys into manhood. Throughout the day, two men dressed in full costumes run around as “the masks” whipping any boys they came across. There is dancing and other ceremonies which take place in the evening. After asking many natives what exactly everything means and why they do what they do, we never got a clear explanation. Every people group has its own mask ceremonies and festivals. They are all rooted in animistic beliefs and a reminder of the spiritual ware fare surrounding us. We were extremely happy, as were the boys, when the festival ended.


God Blessings:

Our pastor officially moved in with his family! So, our last night in the village, we enjoyed a delightful time of food and fellowship with Pastor Bernard and his wife, Dorcas. Typically speaking, people prepare spaghetti(pasta) for celebrations or special occasions. Pastor Bernard’s wife, Dorcas, graciously prepared pasta with chicken. They also brought us cokes and Fanta’s to drink. It was a feast and a time to celebrate the work the Lord has done and is going to do through Pastor Bernard. We also had another unexpected and thoughtful cuisine prepared for us.  Pastor Joel, whom we have mentioned in previous blogs, offered us, essentially, veggie sandwiches. Pastor Joel had prepared pork for us to eat once before; however, this time he served us bread, avocado and onion for lunch. We couldn’t believe it! After our pork incident with him another situation arose in which we had to come clean to him about our meat feelings. He was surprised, but not at all offended. So, he remembered! There are no words to describe his thoughtfulness and kindness.

 We had two beautiful rain falls. Oh, how we greatly enjoy the cooler temperatures the rain brings. During the last rain, we joined a few of the kids as they courageously began playing soccer. The giggles and smiles at the sight of us sopping wet and trying to kick the soccer ball, were priceless.  We did carry some guilt because they had to go back to school soaked and cold, while we could go inside to dry off and put on new clothes.

7

Our first Puppet Show! It was truly a show for all those participating and those watching. We had a fun activity prepared with a powerful message to share with all present. At the same time, God was doing a show of His own. God was showing us His intentionality to draw people to himself, as we needed all hands-on deck to help perform the show.  The Lord is constantly at work. He has to clear out weeds and soften the soil before a seed can be sown. Little by little He is seeking new relationships, while deepening relationships with those who already claim Him as Lord and Savior. We will never fully grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ for us. It is a love that surpasses knowledge (Ephesians 3:18-19).  Literally we had 4 pairs of hands trying to hold up our fabric pieces, due to the wind, which could have easily become a nuisance, yet it was completely a Jesus moment. Pastor Dorcas’ wife had a brilliant idea, and brought us safety pins. Babou passed out peanuts to the children; Ruth and Ashley held up props corresponding with each new day, while Britney changed back ground colors; and Pastor Bernard translated the creation story in Jula. Linda took pictures as well as gave light to the show as the sun set. Luckily, she noticed the sky quickly turning black and before we realized it, she rigged up a spotlight with a solar flashlight.

8

Church Sunday morning- Oh, what a joyous day it was! Pastor Bernard was preaching for the first time as the ordained pastor and we had a packed church of about 20 adults and 30 kids. To our great delight, we had some visitors as well. As Ashley peered out the window she saw one of our girls (from our preschool) being dropped off outside the church. She was followed by two of our other preschool buddies who excitedly ran into the building and stayed.  This was the first time for them. Not only were they full of joy and enthusiasm, but they also had crosses with them. On the Friday before, we did a special craft with them which included foam crosses and other foam pieces.  They could have chosen any other piece, but they choose the cross. Holding back tears of elation and suppressing the desire to jump and down we gazed upon the beautiful scene God painted right in front of us. Once again, God gave us a show of His love for us. He reassured us we are where He has called us. Sunday was one of those moments in which we wanted to fall on our knees before the King. Cleary there is one True God.  “There is peace and fullness of Joy in His Loving Presence. As [we] delight in the Lord He fills [us] up with Love, Joy and Peace. Look for Him throughout the day, He is eager to be found by you” (Young, Sarah).


Prayer Request:

  • Pray the children remember our words as being encouraging and comforting to them even when we are not with them. Through our physical touch, we pray they feel gentleness and a sense of security. Even when we correct and/or redirect their behavior we pray they see patience and unconditional forgiveness.
  • Pray for the fruit of the spirit to be evident, especially on the days we will be tested and tried.
  • Continued prayer for spiritual and physical protection
  • Continued prayer for the Chief to give his blessing stating that anyone interested in going to church has the freedom to go.
  • Continued prayer for softening of hearts and awaking of eyes
Uncategorized

Hello There!!

17240712_10155088926174089_1237552940440080339_oSorry, it’s been awhile since our last post. So much has been going on and we have been keeping track of everything. Several posts will be put out to get you all caught up to the present. Looking back to the last several months here is what has been happening in our lives.


To begin we will give you a quick summary of life in the city:

As we previously said in our other posts we take full advantage of cold water; the fridge, shower heads, fans, wireless connection, accessible food, and physical activity. During our time in the city we explored our area a little more, which meant we had to walk! It was wonderful to walk for more than an hour. We found a new boutique, a mini store we like, a boulangerie (bread store), and the food marche (open air food market). We also took a walk on the “wild side” and took a taxi cab for the first time! Us along with our new friend, Donna, whom lives in the city, decided to ride over to the other side of town. To be blunt, the taxi was questionable, but we made it to our destination without a break down or passing out from the heat and odd smells. Our driver was extremely nice as well. The quality of the taxi was different from ours (which we anticipated), but we did not expect to stop for gas. Both drivers stopped to buy gas; however, they did not fill up the tank but they simply put in a few cents. We also had to bargain and set a price to pay before we accepted the cab rides. They don’t use taxi meters to measure distance and time. Hopefully we got a good deal! Our adventure to the other side of town was a success. We bought a French press, made copies for our preschool, bought paper, notebooks, scissors, etc. We also had passport photos taken to use for our US embassy library cards.


Memorable moments:

Copy store: A single room space with paper and select office materials enclosed in a glass case on one side and a couple of copiers on the other side.

Differences: We had to ask for the type of paper or material we wanted to buy and we were not able to make the copies ourselves. Back at home, we can make copies quickly at work, Kinkos, library, etc. but here, it does not work quite like that. We waited about two hours, maybe more, for 100 copies to be printed.

You might be thinking this would be frustrating, especially if you are on a time crunch (you learn quickly not to do anything on a time crunch), but it was very nice. We were not in a hurry, there was a slight breeze from whatever was blowing out of the air conditioner, and we enjoyed listening to Christian music. They were playing Christian music! Come to find out, yes, they are believers. They were also extremely helpful, patience with our French, and just genuinely kind. It was a success!

US Embassy: It was a cup of reverse cultural shock. Of course, green grass surrounded the Embassy- literally the only grass in town as of now. The bathroom had an automatic flush toilet, a soap dispenser, paper towels and an automatic hand drier! We were not able to take a tour or go anywhere else on the grounds besides the library. You can take a tour, but you must schedule in advance. We hope to tour next time we visit the city. We decided to visit the Embassy library because an American friend informed us the library was amazing, thus, pre-bias expectations were set. We were visualizing our home library, yet on a smaller scale. Reality and expectations did not match up in terms of book selection. The library was clean, organized, there was a flat screen T.V, computers, water accessible to drink, a trash can, tables to work at, a few magazines, dvds to rent, and a selection of books. It really was very, very nice, and you did feel like you stepped back into the States for a bit. Plus, it is one of the few libraries here, possibly the only one. The choice of books was slim and outdated, but they had a selection of both French and English resources. After we looked over the book selection we decided to try out the computers to freshen up on US news. Our internet accessibility did not last long, not do to internet connection, but rather do to viruses. To say the least, we will have a forever implanted memory of disturbing images- yikes! Before one uses the computer, he must sign a contract which holds you accountable to what you are or are not permitted to research. The contract was violated from someone else and we had the pleasure of exposing the culprit. We kindly reported the problem and were reassured they would find out who last used the computers, so hopefully this will not happen again. Overall, it was a good visit. The guards and workers were helpful, warm, friendly and inviting. Lesson relearned: expect the unexpected.

17758180_10155150498759089_3478506077586776956_oAdoptive Family: Another highlight of our time in the city was meeting our adoptive family. The boy adopted out is profoundly deaf and 14. Praise God for this adoption. Sheltering Wings adopts children with special needs, which includes children over the age of 6. Because older children are more difficult to find forever families they are considered a special needs case. US law also states that a child adopted here must reach US soil before their 16th birthday and it takes about 2 years for the adoption to be completed. Our adoptions are more difficult and challenging, yet, the Lord has been faithful to give families for these children. It breaks our heart to see these older children who may never have a family and the children with disabilities who would excel in the US. We pray for God to convict people to have a heart for these children. One of the many blessing which came from this particular adoption was the opportunity for the adoption to be filmed by the organization known as, The Archibald Project. The Archibald Project is an orphan care advocacy organization. They use media to advocate for orphans, educate people on orphan care, build community and inspire people into action. Because of their stories fewer children are called orphan (http:www.thearchibaldproject.com). Praise God! We encourage you to check out their website!! Adding the cherry on top, they also asked to film and promote Sheltering Wings!

Meeting others: While staying at the guest house we had the pleasure and joy of meeting a gentleman, “JP.” We actually knew of him before we met him. When we first came to the city we had meet another missionary who told us about his friend J.P and his story. J.P. grew up here. We do not know his story in detail, but we do know he had to choose between his faith or family. His step-father tried to kill him with an ax so he fled his village. He ended up in the capital and met an American missionary couple. By God’s grace his life was forever changed. JP is a follower of Jesus and working to build His kingdom by ministering in the US and in here. JP’s nonprofit is called Kingdom Investment International. Its mission “is to engage the body of Christ to empower the local people to solve their own socio-economic difficulties”. Through the founding initiatives of the Micro Finance Initiative, the School of Leadership and Development, and the Community Project Initiative, Kingdom Investment International equips communities by establishing core proficiencies that promote sustainability for generations to come” (http://kingdominvestment.org/). It was truly an honor to meet him. His love for the Lord radiates and his passion for the work God has called Him to is encouraging and inspiring. Not only did we have the opportunity to speak with him we also had the privilege to help assist him with interviews. He was interviewing nationals (women!) for a liaison position. He asked us to help him rate their language comprehension, language proficiency and language clarity. We interviewed 4 women. We hope to hear whom the Lord put on his heart to hire.


Some other highlights:

Guesthouse guards: Our guards at the guest house offered us a gift of peanuts and tried to speak English with us. One guard offered Ashley his hat after she said that she liked it. Culturally, if you tell someone you like something he/she has, you are indirectly asking for it. Whoops!! Her intention was to merely complete his sense of fashion. We think he was quite happy when she refused his gift.

Swimming: Yes, we went swimming. Some missionary friends have a pool and invited us for a dip! It felt amazing!! They are a family who are all about hospitality and community. They are part of a Pentecostal missionary organization. They help plant churches, do pastoral care, Sunday school, etc. What is really amazing- all God of course, Ashley used to go to grade school with their son-in-law!! While visiting for dinner one evening, we were looking at family pictures when Ashley thought their son-in-law looked all too familiar. She asked what his name was and where he went to grade school. Sure enough, she knew him and he remembered her. They were friends back in the day. God is always doing the unimaginable. He along with his family are moving here in December.

Easter:—Day of Life and Celebration!!

“Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said” Matthew 28:5-6”

“We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:4).

Although we did not die Easter eggs, or feast over the traditional Easter delicacies, it was still a wonderful Easter. Truly a day set apart for the Lord. Easter, the celebration of Christ’s victory, is the most important day to celebrate as a Christian. We missed our family and celebrating Easter with them of course, but we appreciated the sole focus on His resurrection. If Easter was going to be celebrated, it was going to be about Him, not the Easter bunny or Easter baskets and such. At church we took communion which, once again, was overwhelmingly powerful and joyful. We could not contain tears of gratitude and adoration for Him. We sang songs of His victory and resurrection and the pastor preached about what Jesus did and what it means for us today! Glory Hallelujah! Later that day, we did try to boil eggs to make deviled eggs or at least egg salad, but failed miserably. We are finally learning how to distinguish edible, good eggs from nonedible, rotten eggs. You can do the sink vs float test depending on type of chicken egg. You have pentad eggs and chicken eggs. The float test is dependable for regular chicken eggs- if egg floats it is bad, but if sinks it is good. However, with pentad eggs it depends. Usually you must crack them open to find out. Usually you know by smell and color; however sometimes the egg does not have a potent smell so you must decide if it is a bad or good egg by the yoke consistency If the yoke breaks apart easily or separates it is bad. We tried over a dozen eggs- all bad. The night before we were “successful”, in making chocolate chip cookies. Well, they were a little dry, but editable. They tasted mostly like sugar and chocolate. Britney feels they turned out exactly how the people here would enjoy them. We passed out the cookies with an attached scripture verse on Easter. We simply wanted to bless the people and let them know how much God loves them and the reason for this national holiday.

Perks continued: We have found our new “Q.T.”, now known as Total, Bonjour. They have a mini coffee machine, patisserie/boulangerie, cold drinks and other assorted beverages, milk, cereal, candy, assorted snacks and cookies, chips, etc. and the best dried mango we have found. Feels like your typical gas stop.

While we were in the city we tagged along with Ruth and Linda to visit some of our kiddos, up for adoptions. As you can imagine not all the orphanages are in good condition. Mixed emotions run through you as you see workers, whom appear to be caring and affectionate with the children, yet see the living conditions and how extremely poor they are. All we can do is pray for them and pray they find forever families.

Our time in the city was blessed, but we are ready to return to home and begin our work with the children.

17499098_10211917975725744_1343505038647778619_n

17457327_10211917990926124_5966420287018626453_n

 

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.

2017-04-14-PHOTO-00000109
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!

2017-04-12-PHOTO-00000070
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

V__3355

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.

IMG_4797

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!

IMG_4832

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.

V__37EF

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

 

*If you use Amazon or Amazon Prime, logging in thru Amazon Smile you can place Sheltering Wings as your Charity Organization, and a portion of your purchases goes to Sheltering Wings!

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