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)