Wednesday, December 20, 2006

We're Finished!!!

Finals. Are. OVER!!! Yep, we made it through our semester of French with flying colors. We're not fluent or anything, and we know that our time as students of the French language is far from over, but God has blessed us with what we need for right now.

Language learning is such a funny thing; different people learn in totally different ways, and we are perfect examples of that. April can tell you anything you want to know about grammar or vocabulary, but Brett can speak with a lot more fluency and confidence. The two will even out eventually, but for right now, we are the perfect complements to each other, just like always. It's not up to us anyways, because language is not a possession to be acquired by our money and hard work; it is a gift that is the Lord's to give, and we thank Him for what He has given us so far....

We'll get our grades on Friday and if they're good, we might just post them :)

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Blessings of Church Family

Yesterday we watched worhsip services at GracePointe via webcam. To "be" there really was an amazing blessing! At the end of service, our webcam video was put up on the big screen, and our church family was able to see and hear us LIVE! I think just seeing Caden sent people into tears...After the service, people could come up to the webcam and say hi to us, and we saw it and heard it in real time. This was the best Christmas present we could have received, and it filled our hearts at a time when we really needed it. Thanks to my brother, Chad, and all the other GP'ers who made it happen. We love you!

We leave for Togo on January 4th, a little over 2 weeks from today. We are sad to leave France, but beyond excited to be in with our teammates in Togo, exactly where we have wanted to be for months and years now. We love it when a plan comes together, and God's plans always do. Peace!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Have You Ever...

...started to get ready to go to the store, and you couldn't remember what country it was in??? Sounds strange, but it happened to us yesterday. We went to Geneva, Switzerland to get Caden a yellow fever shot and to apply for Ghanaian visas for April and Caden. We had to stay overnight because the doctor's office that gives vaccinations was only open in the afternoon and the Ghanaian Embassy was only open in the morning, and we had to have the shot for Caden before we could apply for the visas...

So everything in Switzerland is quite expensive. Depending on what international data collection agency you ask, it is somewhere between the 5th and 10th most expensive country in the world. Since we had to stay overnight and the hotels in Switzerland are way overpriced, we stayed in a hotel just across the border in France, which was a mere 5 minute drive from Geneva and about 50 euros cheaper.

Anyways, that night we decided to go out and do some shopping at a Carrefour we had seen on the way home from Geneva to our hotel just over the border in France. Carrefour is kind of like a huge Super Walmart on steroids. Seriously, it is huge. So as we were getting ready to go, I casually asked April, "Do you remember what country that Carrefour is in?" This is a question that probably never crosses the lips of most Americans, or most people in the world for that matter. It's a question that is somewhat unique to Europe, where everything is close, the population is very mobile, and a whole other country is never that far away. Just another cool little quirk of our 3 months living here so far...

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Holidays

So, today is Thanksgiving...or at least what we know as Thanksgiving. There is no such holiday here in France, so the students here are having a traditional Thanksgiving meal on Saturday with turkey, dressing, and all the other side "fixins". I'm really looking forward to it, but as I sit at our computer and read our friends' blogs, I am reminded of how special the holidays are to be able to spend them with friends and family (not to mention the traditional family smells). Now, I've spent holidays away from family before and lived through them, partially because i knew it was just one holiday and I would be with them for the next one. But this year is different and somehow seems a bit harder because I know I won't be with my family for any of my favorite holidays this year...or the next five years. I know that our teammates will become our family and celebrating holidays with them will be wonderful...but this Thanksgiving, we're celebrating with people we've only known for 3 months and will possibly never see again. So everything is different and sometimes different is hard. I simply have to remind myself of why I am here and what God has called me and my family to. I will join all of you today in counting our blessings and thanking God for what He has given us...for every good thing is from the Lord.

We love you all and miss you tremendously on this special day. --April

Sunday, October 15, 2006

GracePointe Sheperds Appreciation

GracePointe Sheperds Appreciation
Video sent by emersonstogo
A big thank you to our sheperds at GracePointe for everything you do. We could not ask for a better group of men to receive spiritual leadership from. We love you all!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Send Off Sunday

It's hard for us to put that day into words, but fortunately one of our sisters at GracePointe, Robyn Barnett, has a beautiful post on her blog. You can read it here.

Here are some pics to go with the post, thanks to our sister-in-law Betsy, and my best friend Mike. Also, as always, we give great thanks to our GracePointe family for being so loving and supportive. The next several years in Togo will be a light burden because of our relationship with you. We love you all!!!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Amos 4:13

He who forms the mountains,
creates the wind,
and reveals his thoughts to man,
he who turns dawn to darkness,
and treads the high places of the earth—
the LORD God Almighty is his name.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Our Apartment in France

Video sent by emersonstogo
Since school has yet to begin, we've had a little extra time on our hands, so we thought we would make a short video so everyone can see where we will be living for the next 4 months. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

We Have a Castle Too

With all of the beautiful mountains surrounding us, it seems a little unfair that Allbertville also has a pretty sweet castle right here in the hills south of town. We took a little hike up the hill yesterday, enjoyed the view, but found that the castle was closed for renovations. Please don't tell the Albertville Police Department, but Brett is planning one of his classic forays into areas with supposedly restricted access...we've said too much already...

Here is one of the pics we took. April likes this one the best because we're all looking at the camera....
...but this one is Brett's personal favorite...

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The View From Our Bedroom Window

The clouds rolled in late yesterday afternoon, providing us with this beautiful snapshot out our bedroom window. We love waking up to the mountains, eating with the mountains in the background, walking to the store with mountains all around...basically we just love it here! School starts in a week, so that will change things a little (OK, alot), but one thing that won't change is the mountains. Except in a few months they'll be covered in snow...

Sendoff Sunday post is forthcoming, but we need some people to send us pictures!!!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Welcome to Albertville!

Over the next several days, we will be posting pictures of our adventures in our home for the next 4 months of Albertville, France. We have been here only 2 days, but we have already had some rich cultural experiences. By "rich", we mean funny and/or embarressing!!! Here is the first pic. It's of Brett and Caden walking around town. Those beautiful mountains, the French Alps, surround us on every side. Albertville is a city that is easily walked or biked, and we look forward to living in such an amazing place, even if it is for just a short time...

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

A Special Blessing

We spent Sunday night with one of the homegroups from GracePointe. They made a quilt for us that contained the symbol our team uses showing an outline of Africa with a cross in the middle and a loop around Africa depicting that God's love will encircle the continent. That would have been enough...but they had prayer knots sewn onto the cross. They took the quilt to church and as people tied the knots, a prayer was said on our behalf. We have a list of everyone that tied a knot. There are over 365 knots. That's more than one prayer for each day of the year. Now that's love!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Visa d'Entree

The process has begun! Thank you to everyone that had been praying for this. After waiting over an hour, it was our turn to talk to the "lady behind the glass". Once again, Caden was a hit...even among the French. At first, we were told we would have to make an appointment to come back and apply for Caden's visa since he wasn't actually a student. Then, after she talked to someone back in the office, she said they were going to make an exception and just take care of Caden's visa for us without an appointment. The only thing we have to do is mail in a few items that weren't acceptable the way we had brought them and then we can pick our visas up in about two weeks. Praise God! This is one more item we can check off our to-do list.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Time With Teammates in Texas

We're back from a week in Texas, and it was a blessed trip. Our journey had a dual purpose; to spend time with family and friends and do some fundraising. Both ventures were successful, and we came home tired but very satisfied with how things went.

One of the highlights was spending time with teammates past and present, the Neals and the Rieses. We took a day to drive out to the middle of nowhere, I mean Camp Deer Run, about 2 1/2 hours east of Dallas. This is the first time we have ever met the Neals, which is strange because technically we were teammates for over a year. They are doing very well, and we can imagine how it would have been awesome living in Togo with them. They will always be a part of our team, and we look forward to spending time with them again in the near future. A possible visit to Togo by the Neal family is in the works for 2007.

One of our present teammates, the Rieses, are on furlough in Dallas. They are sponsored by the Preston Road Church of Christ, and they are home for about another month or so. We had a blast talking, joking around, asking questions about France/Togo, and just enjoying being with a great family. The Rieses have 3 boys, Isaac, Graham, and Owen, and they are one of the most fun handful of boys you will ever be around. Graham took a special interest in Caden, and little Cade is looking forward to having all of the Ries boys as playmates very soon!

Please pray for the rest of our fundraising to finish up soon. We are close to some of our goals, but on others we are far from it. Thanks and God bless!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

You Want to Take Me WHERE?!

Caden has now received his first passport. He is officially allowed to leave the country. When we told him this was so he could move to Africa...this is the face we got.

O.K., not really, but it makes a good post, don't ya think?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Packing, Passports, and Plane Tickets

They say it's all in the details, and our lives are good examples of that right now. The details involved in moving to Togo can be pretty overwhelming, but we feel like we're doing pretty good. Caden's passport just arrived, our visas applications for Togo are in D.C, we have purchased our plane tickets (we leave August 22nd from Birmingham), and our apartment is a chaotic mess of boxes, some empty, some full, some in between.

Please continue to pray for our preparations. We are OK with the fact that we might not get every single detail ironed out before we leave because we have an amazing church family to help us out, and more importantly, a mighty God who is capable of anything...

Friday, June 23, 2006

A Passport for an 8-Month Old???

Count me among those who think that having a passport for an 8-month old infant is kind of silly. The main reason I think it's ridiculous is that we had to take him to get passport photos yesterday, and the passport for a child is good for FIVE years. That means that when he is 5 1/2 years old, he will still have his 8-month old picture in his passport! Now that is just crazy. He will hardly even be recognizable by his picture, and we'll probably get stopped by customs in every country we visit; he kinda looks like an international man of mystery, you know.

Anyways, we're sending in his passport application today, not because we think it's terribly necessary, but because some "wise" government official thinks it is. A social security card would suffice; maybe even his birth certificate; but alas, we're spending another 60-something bucks so that Caden can have his picture on a piece of laminated paper for international travel. Oh well, at least he's adorable!

Monday, June 19, 2006


Togo lost today to Switzerland, 2-0, officially eliminating them from the tournament. They didn't play well, but Switzerland was clearly the better team. Let's just hope that Togo can build on this World Cup experience and come back better prepared to compete in 2010.

There is still one important game remaining, however. In an interesting twist of fate, Togo's next game is against one of their imperialist colonizers, the French! Go Hawks!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

We're Pulling for Ghana Today

Not only will it help the U.S. team if the Ghanaians can beat the Czech Republic today, but we just generally want to pull for the West African nations. Ghana is the best of them, and if the U.S. doesn't advance, we hope that Ghana can as a consolation prize.

As I write, Ghana is up 1-0 on a quick goal by Asamoah. Bringing it West Africa style baby!

UPDATE: Ghana added another goal for a 2-0 victory! Plus the U.S. is currently tied 1-1 with Italy, and they're a man up for the rest of the game!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Togo World Cup Update

Well, even though we lost 2-1 to the Koreans, it was a valiant effort. When you're leading 1-0 at halftime, it's a little disappointing to lose, but after going a man down when Abalo received his 2nd yellow card, I figured we were finished. The Koreans are just too skilled and experienced to hold off when you're playing with only 10 men.

So who's to blame? Not Mohamed Kader. He scored a brilliant goal on a hard grounder that barely hit the post before finding the back of the net. (This pic is the team celebrating Kader's goal. Gotta love it!) If there is any blame to go around, it falls on Togo's soccer federation for causing all of the chaos in the days before the match. You're in the World Cup for the first time ever; NOW PAY YOUR PLAYERS!!! Seriously, just getting there was huge, because many people, Americans especially, have never even heard of Togo. These players fought hard to give their country some world recognition, and they are rewarded with a contract squabble. Anyways...

The Togolese definitely played with more heart than the U.S. team. That game was an embarressment, but this is our AFRICA blog, and we will not speak of such things here.

Togo's next match is against Switzerland on June 19th. It's a winnable game for them if they can just focus. Switzerland is just so...neutral. Prediction: Togo 3, Switzerland 2. Go Hawks!!!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Prayer Answer

We received a very generous donation from the Bell Trust while we were away in California. Thanks for your prayers on this matter! We thank God for trusting us with so much...

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Prayer Request

In one week the Bell Trust meets to consider hundreds of applications from missionaries needing funding in some way, shape, or form. The packet from Grace Pointe on our behalf is among those applications. We ask everyone who reads this blog to pray that the Bell Trust would continue to be blessed with wisdom as they make decisions on how best to use the blessings they have been given, even if that doesn't involve us at all. While we still have a big need for startup funds to help us get Togo, we know that our needs may be secondary to others' needs. We are just thankful that there are groups like the Bell Trust out there who have a passionate heart for missions. May He continue to be glorified in all the earth!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Mission Weekend Recap

Video sent by emersonstogo
We give God the praise and glory for the success of Mission Weekend.
We say thank you to the GracePointe Church for being His hands. This video was made to remember the amazing weekend of April 29-30, 2006.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

An Obsessive Compulsive Monkey

An Obsessive Compulsive Monkey
Video sent by brettemerson91
I took this video in Togo during the summer of 2003. This is what I would do if I was chained up all day too. I'm not a big fan of chaining monkeys to a wall...

Friday, May 12, 2006

Saturday Evening Vespers Service

The night before Mission Sunday, we had a vespers style service to kick off our 12 hour overnight prayer vigil. It was an amazing time of worship, testimony, and prayer, and everyone who attended was blessed by the Spirit being present. I have asked myself over and over, "How did Mission Sunday happen? What did God see happening at GracePointe that He chose to honor and bless?" Well, there are alot of things worth mentioning, but at the top of the list I would have to put our commitment to prayer and the retreating of ourselves. We put great effort into stepping back and not letting our agendas get in the way. I believe that when we seriously commit ourselves to something through prayer, we are acting the way God created us to, and He will bless us.

The 12 hours of prayer is still resonating through the halls and hearts of the GracePointe Church. I'm sure there will be more vigils in the future, and even more participation because of the testimonies of those who were able to particpate in this one. May we continue to seek Him in prayer as a family, and may He continue to honor our commitment to His purposes!

Also, I really like this picture I took before the service began!

Saturday, May 06, 2006


4KYS? What does 4KYS mean? Glad you asked!

4KYS can be translated to mean, "$4,000.00 Yard Sale". In case you were wondering, this pic is what a 4KYS looks like.

A yard sale that raises $4,000.00 is a pretty tiny portion of a $105,000.00 Mission Sunday offering, but it was so much more valuable than it looked on paper. The yard sale was the rallying focus of a large part of the weekend, and it really brought our church together in a big way, a way that was the perfect beginning to a weekend where we at GracePointe truly experienced something special.

The fact is that the yard sale required the most physical effort of any other part of Mission Weekend. Some brothers and sisters who willed themselves out of the comforts of their beds for the prayer vigil from about 12-6 AM Sunday morning will surely disagree, but it is definitely true that pulling off the yard sale took a Herculean effort.

Have you ever noticed that working hard together binds people in a special way? The effort and dedication of people like Arlene Morris, Ann Walker, Sandra Largen, Tamara Fox, Joy Emerson, and a great host of able-bodied men to do their bidding was at the core of the success of the yard sale. We are so thankful for this special church family that we have become a part of! God is faithful to us, and we pray that He will continue to bind us together as we begin our work among the Kabiye!

Sunday, April 30, 2006

It Rained Today

Today was the long awaited Missions Sunday at GracePointe, our sponsoring congregation. The basic idea is to raise all of the money for missions for the entire year in one Sunday. GP supports us and also provides partial support for a missionary in Guatemala with Health Talents International, a medical mission organization. The final portion of GP's commitment to mission work is beginning a fund that can help our own members go out with the church's financial and spiritual support.

The missions committee set a goal of $75,000 for the financial support of these 3 goals. Needless to say, when you're trying to raise this much money, you never really know what will happen. Some people were very confident that we could raise this much cash, while others were a little more...nervous. It was definitely a challenge to everyone's faith, and we all learned alot about trusting in the Lord and sacrificial giving.

Our theme for the weekend was God's rain contrasted with God's reign. One sustains us physically, the other sustains us spiritually, and both are necessary to carry out God's purposes in the world.

So the whole time you've been reading this, you're probably thinking, "Ok, ok, tell us how much was raised already!" I can understand that. We have exhausted ourselves praying, planning, preparing, and working, and all the while we have wondered, sometimes aloud and other times secretly, "Can we really raise this much money in one Sunday?" GracePointe is a church of only about 300 people, and it takes more than just pulling the change out from underneath the cushions on the couch to raise $75,000. God owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and He was gonna have to sell a few if we were going to reach the goal that was set. The committment to missions that GracePointe has made was tested by the Lord, and they passed, if you can call obliterating the goal just simply passing...

Ok, ok, we raised $105,000!!!God be praised, our brothers and sisters at GracePointe be thanked, and we ask everyone who knows and loves us to join in our rejoicing in this amazing blessing! The floodgates of heaven were opened on us and on our church. I've always loved playing in the rain...

Sunday, April 23, 2006

A Truly Rich Gift

As you may already know, our team is committed to teaching the Kabiye people about God in their own language. Many of them can understand French, but Kabiye is their heart language, and the Gospel penetrates more deeply when they can hear the Word of God in this way.

The New Testament has been translated into Kabiye, and the Old Testament is being translated as I write this post, but there is still a major problem: Out in the rural villages, only about 10-20% of the people can read and write. What good is the written Word if you can't understand what it says? Let me share with you the powerful way in which the Lord solves this problem.

First, there is an organization called Faith Comes By Hearing ( They have made it one of their missions to provide tape recordings of the Bible in over 140 languages. Kabiye happens to be one of those languages. For just $30, we can give the Kabiye people the written word of God in spoken form. Not only can they hear the Word in their own language, but using these tapes in conjunction with a written New Testament can help them learn to read.

Second, the Lord led me to teach at Lighthouse Christian Academy here in Montgomery. I absolutely love my students, and I was blown away recently when they raised over $300 to send 10 sets of tapes with me to present as gifts to some of the Kabiye churches last month. My students give money all the time to buy nachos so the seniors can go on a cruise, for blow pops so the 6th graders can have a pizza party, and they blow hundreds of dollars a week on junk food in our cafeteria (nothing personal lunch ladies!). When presented with an opportunity to give to something that will last, something that was meaningful and bigger than them, they stepped up in a big way.

So praise be to God that He raised up Faith Comes By Hearing and the students at LCA to provide the Kabiye with the ability to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ in thier own language. This was a truly rich gift!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Oh Yeah, I Went to Amsterdam Too

On the way over to Africa last month, I had a 6 hour layover at Schipol International in Amsterdam. 6 hours is WAY too long to spend in an airport, especially when one of Europe's great cities is just a 15 minute train ride away. Despite it's better known reputation as a haven for, shall we say, shady activities, it is actually a very beautiful city with plenty to see, even for the casual traveler.

There are two things that Amsterdam has in abundance: bikes and canals. When you think of canal cities in Europe, your mind probably goes to Venice, Italy. Venice is great and a true jewel, but Amsterdam has just as many canals as Venice, if not more. I don't know what it is precisely, but canals just give a city a certain amount of character. And then there's the bikes. EVERYONE in Amsteram has a bike. It often seems as if the bikes outnumber the people, and they even have parking garages dedicated to the storage of thousands and thousands of bikes. Again, the bikes everywhere give the city a great amount of character.

My stop was brief, about 2 or 3 hours, but it was a great experience. I found a beautiful church that was open to the public, which was good, since it was only about 30 degrees out and I didn't have a jacket. I also took lots of city shots. This pic shows my three favorite things about Amsterdam: The canals, the bikes, and the beautiful architecture. So next time you come and visit us in Togo, try to fly Northwest/KLM, and you're sure to get a good long layover in Amsterdam and a chance to experience one of Europe's truly beautiful cities!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Greetings and Goodbyes Are All I'm Good For

At least for now. If this pic was a video, you would be hearing my very limited Kabiye language skills on display. I'm probably telling this guy, "pilaba cee" (pih-lah-bah chay), or "see you later". The smile on this man's face shows some of the great things about the Kabiye people - their kind nature, helpfulness, and willingness to accept others.

I no doubt butcher their language at every attempt to communicate, but they still smile, answer back, and they often try to help me with my pronunciation or word choice. Try going to France and butchering the French language to a stranger on the streets of Paris. I've done it several times, and it's often not a pleasant experience. The French may have good toast and fries, but I'll always prefer the rice and beans in a Kabiye village with a side order of mercy when I habitually speak Kabiye like the ignorant young missionary that I am...

Monday, April 17, 2006

Are you reading this?

If you read our blog...we want to know! We enjoyed our weekend in Searcy and sharing Caden with lots of friends. As we talked about our lives, so many times people responded with, "Oh yea, I read that on your blog!" Really?! We had no idea so many people were reading this other than our family and a few friends. So, I want to ask you to help us out... if you read our blog, please leave us a comment. You don't have to have an account with "Blogger".

Simply click on comments below, a new screen will open and all you need to do is write a comment or just type your name in the box titled Leave your comment. Then you have several options: 1. if you do have a "Blogger" account, sign in and post 2. click other and enter your name (no web page required) 3. click anonymous ...but be sure to include your name in your comment.Once you've done that, click Publish your comment.

Your comment will then appear on our blog and we (and others) can see who is reading. Don't worry, no information (other than your name) will appear on our blog...unless you choose to type it in your comment.

Thanks for helping us! Each comment is always encouraging to us...feel free to leave one any time!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

My First Million

I flew into Ghana last month on my trip to Togo, which was great in more ways than one. First, the airport is MUCH nicer than the one in Lome, the capital of Togo. Not only is it physically a better facility, but Ghana is an English speaking country, which makes the chaos of arriving in Africa a little more manageable for the linguistically deficient.

But that's not the best thing about being in Ghana. You see Ghana is where I made my first million. Ok, so it wasn't a million DOLLARS, but it was still a million. The morning after I arrived, Matt took me to the ATM machine to get some cash. I needed some money for gas, baskets, and some food, which would all together cost about a hundred bucks. So how many Ghanaian Cedis does it take to equal around one hundred US dollars? Yep, ONE MILLION. This smells like some serious currency and economy issues for Ghana, but no matter, because it was here that I could ride in style with my first million...

Saturday, April 08, 2006


Nestor is an old man who lives in the remote Kabiye village of Legue-Legue. Legue happens to be where I had my bonding experience during internship in 2003, and I spent alot of time with Nestor and his family during that time. That time mostly consisted of playing Mancala and drinking sollum, Nestor's two favorite pastimes. At the end of my stay in Legue, I traded Nestor an empty 1.5 liter water bottle and a DARE t-shirt for a handmade Mancala board, which is now one of my prized possessions.

On my trip in March, I was able to visit with Nestor once again. He had changed quite a bit, especially in the gray hair department, as you can see in this picture. Nestor has always been a nominal Christian. He has a disability with his legs due to a case of polio he had as a young man. He can hardly walk, so he doesn't really do much. He is a fiesty old guy who often comes to church meetings just to run his mouth and aggravate others.

So why am I blogging about Nestor? Because I genuinely like the guy. He is funny, energetic, inviting, hospitable, and just fun to be around. He doesn't possess all of the qualities I usually look for in friends, but I am still drawn to him nonetheless. Nestor to me is a testimony of how God bridges gaps between all things. My barriers with Nestor are linguistic, cultural, generational, and even personal. But I just like the guy! I can't help it, he is just a magnetic person for me. I look forward to spending more time with him come January. He was always helpful to me with language, and if nothing else, I think it would help me with culture shock to sit with Nestor outside his compound, play a little Mancala, drink a little sollum, speak a little Kabiye, and further a friendship that is only possible because God made it so.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Our New Home

One of my main goals for my trip to Kara last month was to secure housing for our family. Dave and Andrea took me to look at several places, but we finally settled on the home of our former teammates, Don and Jane Neal. They just left Togo a few weeks ago, and their house is pretty much ready to move into. We are also going to rent or purchase the lot next door to the house to expand the yard for the kid(s) as well as some cool ideas I am saving for the future.

The first picture is me outside the gate of our new home with our houseworkers, who we are adopting from the Neals. From left to right they are Acqualo(sp?), Antoinette, and Eric. Antoinette will be our house helper, cooking and cleaning and whatnot. Acqualo and Eric will be our night guards and outside workers. They seem to be very sweet people and we look forward to getting to know them better.

The second picture is the front of our house. The complex is too big to show you all of it, but I may post more pictures of the inside and the grounds in the near future.

The last picture is the view from our roof, one of my personal favorite features. We have roof access via a staircase attached to the garage, and the surface area is huge. I look forward to me and this mountain becoming very good friends. It's just a 5 minute drive to the base!

So this will be our next home, not counting our 3 months in France. I can't imagine that France will ever feel like home, although we are very excited about living in the French Alps for a few months! Please pray that we will have faith in God to provide everything that we need to move into our new home in January 2007!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The West Africa Experience

We actually saw 2 lions, a male and his female partner, on our safari to Pendjari National Park in Benin. You may notice that this male lion looks a little different than the ones you've seen on the Discovery Channel. First of all, even though this is a fully mature adult male, he's a little on the small side as far as the King of the Beasts are concerned. Second, he lacks a prominent mane. These are the two main differences between East and West African lions.

Even though his appearance is not quite as impressive, this lion sighting was actually much more exciting than an East African sighting. Why you ask? Because in East (and South) Africa, viewing lions is more like going to a zoo. They are so used to people that they usually just sit there and pay you no mind. Two of my teammates, Matt Miller and Dave Reeves, recently went on safari in Kenya, and they both much prefer the West African experience. Viewing a lion in the wild in West Africa is actually a pretty rare experience, even though there are plenty around (Pendjari alone has over 300 lions).

West Africa is much less glamorous than East or South Africa. They don't film movies here. Teddy Roosevelt never hunted the Big Five here. AND it is hotter than the surface of the sun here. But West Africa doesn't get enough credit. It has amazingly diverse wildlife and landscape, without the touristy feel and nonchalant attitude of the animals. So please, by all means, continue taking your vacations in other parts of this vast continent, and my teammates and I will continue to enjoy the unspoiled beauty of the place we have been blessed to call home!

Friday, March 31, 2006

Trip Thoughts

Well, I'm back from Togo and readjusting to life at home. I would have just jumped right in were it not for the sickness I acquired my last 2 days in Kara. Even though my trip ended on a negative note with a double case of malaria and an intestinal ameoba, I have chosen to only look at the positives of my trip. Sure, being sick is a reality and I accept that, but I will not let it define my trip. That being said, on the plane home I wrote down many of the positive things that happened on my trip that I will share now.

1. Being in africa again, specifically in Togo, felt very right and very normal. That is a gift from God.

2. The long drive from Accra to Kara with Matt. We had more good talks than we knew what to do with.

3. The Sunday Legue-Legue village visit. Being able to reconnect, be remembered, and have an impact in just a few short hours was very encouraging. Watching my teammates (in this case Matt) work again is highly motivating for me. Also, seeing the rest of the Miller family interact with the people in the village was good too. We may have missed church, but I feel like we were able to do some good ministry in its place.

4. Just spending time with the team as a whole. I realized that I really like these people we have committed to as teammates. They are genuine, funny, spiritual, loving, caring, adventurous people. The chemistry is there for many years of bonding.

5. I was consciously and subconsciously resurveying Kara. I learned that life has changed quite a bit in the last 3 years in this little Kabiye town. More comforts, more amenities, more stuff available, and a growing city were very encouraging to see.

6. Observing missionary family life again. I look forward to hours and hours of family time that we otherwise may have missed out on in the states. I also am glad that we have three sets of very experienced parents to learn from.

7. Seeing how well Matt, Dave, & Bryan are doing in language. Their language, interaction, and temperament when working with the Kabiye people has grown a lot in the last 3 years. I know that they will be invaluable as I learn these things for myself.

8. Finding us a place to live. April and I have decided to move into the Neal's old house. Even though we went back to our original choice, I am glad that i was able to go through the process. I learned a lot and I think that we are going into a really good situation.

9. Getting video footage with Matt at Katchade (*sp?). The footage I got, along with pics and videos from Bryan's computer, will give us some great stuff to use leading up to and after Missions Weekend at Grace Pointe.

10. I got lots of helpful spoken advice and written documents from our teammates. The Reeves gave us some very useful start-up stuff and the Millers and the Rieses also gave us some good information. I also look forward to getting info from the Neals now that they are stateside, and I feel much more knowlegable and prepared for what lies ahead in the coming months.

11. SAFARI! We saw lions. Enough said.

12. The long drive with Bryan from Kara to Accra. It was good to learn more about Bryan. I really enjoyed our drive and I look forward to many more in the future.

13. Even though it's #13, I consider this to be the main positive that I took from this trip. I was blessed with a reconfirmation of God's calling for the Emersons to the Kabiye. May He reveal many more truths to April and me in the weeks ahead. I thank Him and praise Him for his faithfulness during this trip.

Thanks for your prayers. Pictures to follow!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Sleepy Guys

I made Brett stay home from school today. He went yesterday and was miserable last night, resulting in us coming home from church early. He went to bed at 7:00 last night, got up for a little bit this morning when he wasn't feeling good, and returned to bed for several hours this morning. Hopefully, his body will appreciate the extra sleep and speed up the healing. I took advantage of all this sleeping by catching a picture of my boys. I thought you might enjoy it.


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Everyone's Home!

I'm sure Brett will update you all soon about his adventures, but I wanted to say thank you for your prayers. Brett is home safely (and with all his luggage). He is quite worn out from travel and the "bugs" he picked up...but he's home, and we're a happy family. --April

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Day Has Arrived!!!

I'm leaving for Togo today. Please pray for my "coming and going", as my mom would say. I know God will bless my trip. Thanks for your support!!! I'll be back the 28th. Until then, Pilaba Cee!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Some People Say That We Kinda Look Alike

Ok, so its not the skin color or the eyes, and its definitely not the hair. He's about 5'6", and I'm 6'1". He has lots of muscles from working in the fields all of his life, and I...well, let's just not go there. So if its nothing physical, then what is it?

I think it's that we both look and act like Jesus, or at least we try to. We have been clothed with Christ, and He has given us His Spirit to live in us. Look closely and I know you'll see it...

In two weeks I might get to see this man again. I don't even remember his name, or what village he is from, but I do remember him in a very real and intimate way. I sat next to him for about 20-30 minutes during our internship in the summer of 2003, trying desperately to communicate in some way, and I remember vividly the look in his eyes and the kind, gentle, jovial, and peaceful nature he displayed.

Please be praying for me as I prepare to travel to Togo on March 16th. Its just another step in our journey to Togo, but it is an important one in many ways. I feel so blessed that God has called us to the Kabiye people, and because of this calling, I know that there will one day be many more Kabiye men and women who look just like me...

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Wonders Never Cease

I am now the proud owner of tourist visas for the countries of Ghana and Togo. Not a big deal in the scope of things, but consider this: I obtained both visas by mail in exactly 2 weeks time. Not impressed?

Keep in mind that each application must include my passport and a return envelope, meaning that I can only have one visa being processed at a time. I mailed Ghana first, and received it back in 6 days. I had figured that Ghana would be faster, so I mailed it first to get it out of the way. The day I received my Ghanaian visa, I immediately mailed my Togo application. I wasn't holding my breath, figuring it would take much, much longer. 8 days later I had it back.

Now don't get me wrong, I am very pleased with the fast response. I just expected more hassle and difficulty with the whole process. I expected a call from the Togolese embassy a week before I left requesting extensive financial records and a reassurance that I wouldn't be staying and setting up a DVD bootlegging operation. Instead, it went smoothly. It's great, but the whole process just seemed so un-African...

Friday, February 24, 2006

There's No Place Like Home!

The trip to Michigan went great. Not just great, but actually above and beyond all I could have asked or imagined. My church home was much different than I left it 7 years ago, and that is a good thing. That is a VERY good thing.

The church I left way back when was a church still in a healing process. We had suffered through a pretty ugly split, and everyone who was left was just kind of stuck in a funk. Praise God that He has reconciled some members who had left back to the body at Livonia, and the members that never left are thriving under the leadership and guidance of the sheperds and the minister, Larry Stephens. Larry brought a peaceful, thoughtful, and wise spirit to the church that it desperately needed. He is a stabilizing force, a true man of peace, and I am thankful for his friendship and that of his wife, Diane. I can only pray that April and I can be a little bit like them when we reach their age!

I was well received by everyone at Livonia. There were some sweet reunions and, thankfully, some new introductions. The preaching went well, and I also had the chance to teach the young adults class. Sunday evening I was at the home of Bob and Teri Carris, lifelong friends of my family and parents to my great friend Rob Carris (who is gonna be a daddy soon!). Bob and Teri are amazing people and they are very supportive and helpful in trying to get us to Afrcia. Bob specifically has a vision for missions and how Livonia can be involved, involvement that hpefully can increase in the next few years as they grow. I was able to spend time with John Williams and Eric Sims as well (JK and E-Money back in the day), which was awesome. They are both older than me and were actually friends with my older brother Chad when were were growing up. For a while there, John WAS my older brother, mentoring me in the ways of life and basketball, altoughI am now HIS teacher on the hardwood! Seeing old friends and reconnecting is one of the glues that holds me together, and I thank God for allowing me to see my people again.

I could say much more, but I'll end with this: God is faithful. He never left me, even when I tried so desperately to leave Him, and that faithfulness was fleshed out in my life by the Livonia Church of Christ during my visit there. I am eternally endebted to my brothers and sisters there!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Going Home

Most people in life have that one place that they can call home. For me that place is Michigan, the Northcoast of the USA, home of the Wolverines, cold and snowy winters, and the church that I was raised in. Today I get to go back home. My father and I will once again blaze a trail up and down I-75, a trip so common to my family that neither of us can even remember how many times we've made it.

I'm going to preach at my home church and raise funds for the work God has called us to among the Kabiye. That's the main purpose for my trip. However, anytime I go home, I get a deep feeling of God's presence in my heart. For me, to go home is to remember how far the Lord has brought me in my relationship with Him. At home is where it all began, where I fell to my lowest lows, and where my redemption and reconciliation with God was initiated.

Of course there's the old friends, friends so close that there is little distinction between them and family. And there's the old stomping grounds, streets so familiar to me that it as if I never left. Of course who can forget the snow?!?! I'll get to see snow this weekend! But that's not what this trip is about.

Today I am going home to revisit my past so that I can have an even clearer view of my future in Christ.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

It Not As Simple As You Might think

If you've ever planned and taken a trip to Africa, you can stop reading now, because you can already testify to the truth of this post. If you haven't planned a trip to Africa, allow me to let you in on a little secret: It's complicated.

Today I sent in my visa application for Ghana. Ghana requires FOUR duplicate applications plus about a hundred bucks for a multiple entry visa. The form itself is complicated as well, requiring 2 addresses of contacts in Ghana, proof of return ticket, proof of "sufficient" funds (what does that mean anyway?), and a letter from your employer stating that you will be returning to your job after your trip. Like I was planning on setting up a bootlegging operation in Accra or something.

The Togo application is less complicated, requiring only 3 duplicate applications, but it costs the same, and it looks like a 12 year old laid it out. Come to think of it, it seems just like something that would come out of Africa...

I also went to the doctor today to get my malaria meds. I have to take them everyday beginning 2 days before my trip and continuing 7 days after my trip. They also give you wierd and vivid dreams, and I'm still trying to decide if this is a good thing or not.

A week ago, I finally got my plane ticket, but that was after hours and hours of searching, calling, emailing, and being frustrated. I got a great deal at $1,150, but that is mostly because it is the off-season for flights to Europe.

And then there's the time off from school. What's a good way to ask your principal for 4 days off, days that are bumped up against your school's Spring Break? Answer: There is no good way, you just have to do it. Thank God I work for a bunch of Christians who are behind our plans 100%.

So if you want to plan a trip to Africa, think twice about it, and then call me. I've earned some lumps that can help you out...

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Declaring an Unknown God

That's the title of my sermon/presentation for this Sunday. It's based off of Paul's short stint in Athens when he saw all of the altars to different gods, including the "Unknown God", which he declared as known to the people of Athens. The Kabiye know a creator "god", but he is far off and uninvolved in the lives of humans. We are going to join with the Lord and our teammates in making known the God that they revere as unknown. Additionally, our God can free them from the bondage of ancestor and spirit appeasment, a vicious cycle of the spirits becoming angry, being appeased through sacrifice, and then becoming angry again. This weighs heavily on the hearts and souls of the Kabiye, and as Jerome Amana, a Kabiye elder, once said, "We used to lay down at night, but we could not sleep well, because Satan would trouble us. But now that we follow Jesus, our hearts have found true freedom."

What a beautiful statement of faith and conviction. God grant us all this acceptance of and appreciation for God's gift of Grace.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Missions Presentations

We have 2 big missions presentations coming up soon. The first is Sunday, January 29th at Grace Pointe, our sponsoring church. GP always has a combined service on 5th Sundays, so we will have the entire church in one place at one time. Please be in prayer about this event, asking God to continue to use His Spirit to infect the hearts of our brothers and sisters at GP with a passion for His vision for the Kabiye people.

The second big event currently planned (there will surely be more to follow) is at the Livonia Church of Christ in Michigan on Sunday, February 12th. This is a special event for Brett since this is the congregation he grew up at. His father was an elder for many years and his mother was the do-it-all church secretary(you all know the type!), and his family was very involved and passionate about this church. It is so special to be able to return to his brothers and sisters there so they can bless our family as we follow God's call to Togo. Livonia is very passionate about missions. Their pulpit minister, Larry Stephens, was formerly sponsored by the church as a missionary in Kenya for 20+ years. He returned to preach, and the church just this month sent off Larry's daughter and son-in-law, Joshua and Julie Marcum, to begin a new mission work in Cochabamba, Bolivia. We are so excited about this opportunity, and we ask that you would pray for God's blessing on that special weekend.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

To France, or not to France?

That is one of the big questions these days. Having settled on a departure date of September of 2006, we now are asking the question of whether or not we need language school. We realize that there are pros and cons to both scenarios, and we just want to seek the Lord's guidance in this matter. We would love to be in Togo as soon as possible, but we also want to be as prepared as possible. Spending a few months in France isn't the end of the world, but we have already done alot of waiting, and we are anxious to join our teammates in Kabiyeland.

Please pray for this decision. We believe that part of seeking the Lord's wisdom is seeking out counsel from our brothers and sisters, so if you have any suggestions or guidance, please feel free to comment.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Mini-Survey to Togo

Well, I got the approval from the Missions Committee to go ahead with my trip to Togo in March. The only hurdle that remains is school. I need to take at least one day off on either end of Spring Break, but Lighthouse has been very supportive of our family and our plans, so I think I'll get the OK.

The trip will be March 17-27, give or take a day or two. I am hoping to secure final plans for housing, meet with the elders of Kabiye churches to alert them of our imminent arrival, form preliminary relationships with elders and Christians that I don't already know, and encourage and give a boost to my teammates. The last item is especially important with the Neal's headed home in March. That will be a huge blow to the team that will take some time to recover from.

Oh, and there will definitely be a safari. I did Nazinga in Burkina Faso last time, and we are planning on doing Pendjari in Benin on this trip. They have lions there. I can't even imagine!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

It Begins Again

We originally created this blog to chronicle our journey to Togo as missionaries, but it seemed so far away that we kind of lost interest. Well, its now just about 6 or 7 months away, and it's time to start blogging again. From here on out things are gonna move pretty quickly. We'll keep this site updated as to what is happening, which will be alot. God has brought us on an amazing journey, and we feel blessed to be able to share it with whoever reads these words...