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...