Sunday, June 29, 2008

The "Rabbit Guy"

If you keep up with our family blog,
you might remember this guy:

He came to us with rabbits and has faithfully come to our home every day since Oct.'07 to feed and take care of them. We have increased his jobs as he has shown incredible responsibility for a teenager. He now takes care of our first set of bunnies, walks our dog daily, and even found us a bird for a cage we bought on the side of the road. One of the things I love the most about this young man is how he plays with Caden. He lets Caden hold the rabbits (sometimes a scary thing to witness), kicks soccer balls with him, helps him learn to learn throw balls, pulls him in his wagon, pushes him on the swing, and brings his nephew over for Caden to have someone to play with.

Just yesterday when I told Caden he needed to have shoes on if he was going to stay outside , Caden grabbed his sandals from me and took them to AklaEsso (his name means, "Who is greater than God?").

Several weeks ago, AklaEsso's father passed away. He came to work one afternoon and Brett noticed he seemed sad. (He is usually a very smiley guy.) When we found out what had happened, we gathered what food we had that we could send home to his family. About a week later, his mother, aunt, and sister all came to greet us and thank us for the food and more specifically for the work we give AklaEsso to do. We were proud to share with his family how thankful we are for him and the work that he does.

On Saturday, AklaEsso was baptized into Christ!

He invited Brett to the baptism and he gladly accepted the invitation. You see, AklaEsso's father at one time had told his son that he was not allowed to go to church. We prayed and were making plans to talk with his father when one day he just decided to allow AklaEsso to return to church. We praised God with him and continued to pray for his spiritual journey. Witnessing this incredible step was a joy to see and a blessing to be a part of.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Planting New Hope With Tears

The following is something one of our interns, Ben Fulfer, wrote in response to a few things he has witnessed recently while experiencing life with the Kabiye. We thought some of you might enjoy seeing things through a new set of eyes. Please take the time to read will be blessed.

Trees are something to admire. They do so much and they do not get any props for it. A few things they do for us humans are the following: they give us shade, they let off oxygen (which we need to breathe), they can provides us food (fruit trees), they give us wood, and the list can go on and on. So when I went planting Mango trees in Africa for a cluster of small churches in the local villages I was excited. The trees were giving so much to those churches. We planted Mango trees, ninety three of them to be precise, around three churches. Those churches could now have a way to have shade, food (both mentioned earlier), but they also would gain respect by others in the villages. By planting these trees we were planting so much more than just planting more than bark and roots and leaves but we were planting hope for that church and the lives of the people in the villages. The people around those villages would see those trees as a beacon for something more to their lives, at least that is our hope. The feeling that was pumping through my veins as I saw the brilliant faces of the families we were helping you realized that these trees were a lighthouse in a dark place. The fruit from their branches would bring up strong willing kids and bring income for the church at the same time. I could not help but be filled with hope.

There is another thing that I could not forget about trees. That is, they do not sprout up in one day. By planting these trees we were depending on that church to take care of these trees and groom them into their full potential. They needed to bring water to the roots of the young trees. They needed to know that without their help this trees would not make it. But with their help these trees would grow to be strong centers in their churches. The bringing of life to these trees inspired and made me wanted to jump with joy.

A few weeks ago as we were digging wells in the village of Lassa Tchou and a older woman came to us telling a sad story. She told us of the recent death of a lady in the village. The lady who died had left a 9 month old baby behind. This baby's father, a man not of faith, decided that the baby was lost and left the village, in turn leaving the baby to die. The woman told us that the grandmother was taking care of the baby as best as she could but the baby had no way to get the milk it desperately needed (the lady was trying to get one of our team's girls to breast feed as we later found out). Well over the next few days and weeks we prayed for this baby. We continued to call and ask about the health and situation of the baby. We were told by his family that he was doing okay, but was not eating. So just a last week one of the missionaries went to the village and picked up the baby for they feared the babies condition was getting worse. When she (the missionary) got their she found a baby that looked more like a skeleton. The bones of this poor child of were so apparent and visible. She rushed him to a local hospital where the doctors tried to get the baby some food. The news came that the baby should pull through which relieved us all. However around lunchtime at that same day we got the news that the little boy died. The rest of the day was a rush of emotions as the missionary, myself and one other intern took the boy's family and body back to Lassa Tchou. When returning to the village we saw the village come and share a few words to the family. We (missionary, myself, the intern, the grandmother and what I assume to be an aunt of the boy) went into a hut and prayed over the lifeless body of the boy.

That day rattled me personally, for so many thoughts went running through my head. How could God, a God who had showed me two days earlier the hope of new life through planting trees, show me the terror of the loss of this baby's life. I hated the fact that this boy's life was taken and he had not even had the chance to experience life. I thought it was so unfair that I get the chance to experience all I have in this life, and that boy got to experience next to nothing.

On the car ride out to the village I watched the baby's family and the tears welled up in my eyes. I badly wanted to say something but I did not have any words (plus I do not speak their language). I wanted to know why God did not come down and show the boy the same hope he showed in the trees that I planted a few days earlier. The boy's family were not Christians, what did that show them? Did they show them they should come to Christ and watch their children die? This thoughts came like rapid fire to me and I was a crying mess. I tried so hard to fight it off for Africa culture does not show much emotion. But the pain was to real to bare.

I never want to be God, he has a hard job. However at the same time he is really good at what he does. I do not know why he allows children who are 9 months old die because they cannot eat. I do not know why he allows war to ravage our world. I do not know why he does a lot of the things we does. I know that God has given us free will and the chance to choose what we want with our lives. How cool is that? That the most powerful being allows us to choose our lives! However with that choice comes the messy sections of our lives. The dark places, for sin is ever apparent. God showed me over and over in my life that he can work through hard, messy, crappy situations. You know what, he can't stand that those things happen. He was hurt to his core just like I was that the boy died. However, God is so powerful that he can take that bad situation and make something new. I pray that through that situation something radical happens. What that looks like I have no idea. I hope that some how that those people saw Jesus through what happened through last week. Maybe the family of that boy saw some kind of love that they never have before, maybe their grief will spur them to ask questions about this universe. I have no idea. I just have the prayer that God will work his unmatched power in this crappy situation. Let us look at this way. While I was there crying for the immense pain of the family, I hope those tears fall and start making a puddle. A puddle of hope that begins to water a seed that God planted. And that seed turns into a tree that bears fruit that is eternal.

So I hope this inspires Christians to stop looking at things in the way of good and bad. Let us start looking at everything through the eyes of Jesus. Does that mean bad things will never happen. No! Does that mean we have to be super happy all the time and being that annoying non-sensitive kid. No! What it means when we laugh, laugh with the voice of God. When we dance let us dance with a total jig towards God. And when we cry let us cry tear of hope. For through my laughter God can show joy of bigger things. And through my sight we can see faith of the full potential of God's plan. And finally through my tears I hope to being planting new hope, and maybe I can enjoy some sweet mangos while I am at it.

You can read more about the Lassa Tchou (la-sa cho) infant who died by clicking on Becky Reeves' blog.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Language Learning

I want to give an update on my progress and also share some thoughts on language learning. After returning from our furlough during the month of April, I jumped right back into my Kabiye studies. The process looks a little different now than it did before furlough, but the idea is still the same: get out and speak it!Working on a lesson I wrote with Eyabane, a leader in the church in the village of Kaacaade

Instead of having class 4 times a week and studying straight out of the book, my language teacher and I have adopted a strategy of thirds. One-third book study, one third translating (English or French into Kabiye), and one-third heading out to the village together to get practice/correction/guidance in a hands-on way. So far, I am enjoying and benefiting most from the translation portion of my study time; I think this is because it helps me to see more clearly that Kabiye people don't say things the same way that I say them. Seeing something in English and then turning it into Kabiye sheds alot of light on the Kabiye way of phrasing things. The cool thing is, I am actually starting to think that way sometimes :)
Playing a Mancala-type game with my friend Nestor in the village of Legue Legue
Language learning is a funny thing. Just when you start to feel a little confidence in your abilities, you get knocked down and have to drag yourself up again. The ups and downs are full of both joys and frustrations, with very little in between, at least for me. I have found it to be an ever-evolving process, with some strategy or approach working well one day and then being barely useful the next. I have also found that it is a series of milestones and small victories. In the picture above, I am playing Mancala with my long-time friend, Nestor. We met on my internship 5 years ago and have spent alot of time together since then. Over the years, we have probably played about 20 or 30 games of Mancala, and I have never won; until this past Saturday!

Yeah, it's just a small victory, one win out of 30, but it gave me great joy. I immediately saw it's symbolic nature in relation to my language learning, showing that while they may be few and far between, a series of small victories will eventually win me fluency in the hardest task I have ever taken on: learning the Kabiye language.

Finally, I want to stress how I have seen that language is gift from God that only He can give. He formed the Kabiye language and knows it even more intimately than the Kabiye themselves. Please Lord, open my mouth to speak and my ears to hear!