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!