Monday, October 27, 2008

Prayers for the Millers and Reeves

Our teammates the Millers and the Reeves left last week for a 2 week survey trip to Rwanda. Both families plan on making the move to Rwanda sometime in the next 3 years or so, and this trip will help to pave the way for that eventual transition. They are a part of the Musanze Team, which also includes the Crowsons and the Koonces, our colleagues in southern Togo, and the Robinsons, who are currently in the States preparing for the big move. The Musanze Team, minus the Robinson family

Please pray not only for their comings and goings, but also that God would bless them with great experiences. Especially for their children, that God would use this trip to begin helping them deal with the coming uncertainty. Thanks and God bless!

How Did You Find My Blog?

Following are the top 5 Google keywords from the last week that were typed in and eventually led to this blog:

1) "Flooding in Togo" (glad I could help make people aware of this problem)
2) "Akpema" (this is the female initiation ceremony for Kabiye girls)
3) "Three village football schedule" (I have no idea on this one...)
4) "Emerson's Mission" (we'd like to clarify that it's God's mission; we're just along for the ride!)
...and finally, maybe the greatest keyword that has ever led to this blog...
5) "Madness, it's all madness!" (this was said by our good friend Faires Jones while he was visiting us here in Togo; his words will forever be famous!)

These are just the top 5...somehow, people continue to find us in weird ways!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

500 and Counting!

508 to be exact. That is how many CFA we can currently get for 1 of our American dollars. The CFA (SEE-fah) is our local currency here in Togo. We get paid in American dollars just like everybody else, but we must then withdraw money from the ATM here in town to pay for anything and everything. Living in a 100% cash society has it's challenges, and the fluctuation of currencies is just one of them.

For several months the exchange rate was about 420 CFA for each dollar, which meant that we had a lot less money. Let me give you a simple math example. If I take $1,000 worth of CFA out of the ATM at 420 CFA for each dollar, I get 420,000 CFA. If I take out $1,000 worth of CFA at 508 CFA for each dollar, I get 508,000 CFA. The difference in these two transactions is 88,000 CFA, or about $175!!! As you can see, a lower exchange rate greatly reduces our buying power here. Considering that we take thousands upon thousands of dollars out of the ATM each year becaause we live in a cash based society, having the CFA back up around 500 is a huge blessing to our personal lives here, and it also lets us help people more in our benevolence ministry.

It's interesting to me that the quick rise of the exchange rate has come hand in hand with the economic crisis is America. I'm not an economist, and I don't claim to know why these two events are linked, but they are. We have been praying for everyone in America as the financial crisis continues, but it may help you to know that your missionaries are a little better off now than they were a few weeks ago :)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Reflections on the GracePointe Group

I want to share some of my thoughts on the first group of visitors from GracePointe, our sponsoring church in Montgomery, AL. No disrespect to Charles Campbell, who was truly our first visitor (singular) :)
This group brought an amazing set of gifts to the table. It was well balanced, and the 5 of them meshed together incredibly well despite many differences, like life stage, age, personality, and on and on. One of the best things about living in community as Christ-followers is that none of that really matters! Even taking that last sentence into consideration, describing this group in many ways involves putting them into groups but please note that this group was in no way divided!
First Let me talk about Scotty and Faires. These two guys provided the spiritual guidance and thoughtfulness that the group needed. Scotty is a great preacher, and like all great preachers, he always has a word from God ready and appropriate to any given situation. The man lives and breathes the Word of God! He was also very gung ho and ready for just about anything at anytime. He provided us with some comic relief as well, sometimes in the moment and sometimes upon further reflection. Scotty loved the beauty of the area of Togo where we live, espcially the coconut trees :)
Faires is a man that is very intimate with God; he knows His heart and is known fully by Him. It's great to be around someone who is so in tune with spiritual matters. He also knows his place in relationship to God; I heard him call himslef a sinner living only because of God's grace on more than one occassion. Faires is very tough as well. There are very few 67 year old people who could endure the physical hardships of a trip to Togo with it's 10 hours car rides, awful roads and hot weather, but Faires is not your typical 67 year old man. I'm only 31, and I hope that in 36 more years I will be half as tough as Faires! The man is also genuinely funny. He kept us all rolling with his often random comments coming from the backseat of the car or with a playful jab at one of us. "Madness, it's all madness!" will forever echo in my mind :)
When I picture Scotty and Faires, I see them sitting together in our rocking chairs out on the front porch. Those two spent HOURS out there!The conversations about God that streamed in through the windows at all hours of the day or night were a blessing to me, even if they didn't know I was listening...
Betsy and Sheal Lea...what a tandem! These two are obviously good friends, but they are friends in a way that doesn't exclude others, but draws them in instead. Betsy is my sister-in-law, but you can just scratch the in-law part. She is my sister, and I love her very much. She holds the distiction of being the first member of the Emerson side of the family to make a visit over here, narrowly beating out my parents by a month or so. Betsy experienced life here to the full. She has the ability to realize the meaningfulness of a moment while she is still in the moment. She is also a very thoughtful person. We felt loved and cared about by her in a major way. She is an emotional person, sometimes more so than she lets on, and she allows God to use that emotion to bless others. Betsy is also a true seeker; she loves God and wants to know Him more. She is mostly quiet about her spiritual side, but that is not because it is small or not important to her. Her love for God runs just below the surface, and it guides her actions daily. She played alot with the boys too, which is not a stretch for her since she has 3 of her own, and Caden will definitely remember her being here and spending time with him :)Shea Lea is awesome. She is fun, outgoing, energetic, organized and mindful of others. She brought something extra to the group, that "go get 'em" type attitude that can be very infectious (although Faires never quite caught it!). The rest of the group claims that they would have been lost without her organizational skills, and we could see that in her as well during her brief time here. One of the greatest things about Shea coming here was how passionate she became to be an advocate for us and to even join the GracePointe Missions Committee. We love knowing that we have another strong person fighting for us back home :) On a personal level, I realized that Shea and I have tons in common. We grew up during the same era, and we have lots of common experiences in our pasts. I enjoyed getting to know her as a friend during this trip! To top it all off, she makes awesome balloon animals, and she was a big hit with all of the Kabiye kids she interacted with :)Finally we come to Susan. Let me say first thing that Susan was one of the best visitors we have ever had over here, and a personal favorite of mine. She is the kind of person who loves people and refuses to let language be a barrier, using instead an endless supply of smiles, hugs, hand gestures and silliness to connect with them and communicate God's love. It pains me that an accident where she hurt her foot and neck cut down on her time out and among the people. Seriously, it pains me! I loved watching her out in the village those first couple of days, and the picture of Susan smiling and laughing as some village children touched her hair will be the one that I always carry with me. Susan is also a wonderful mother figure to April and I. She has that loving quality and compassion that only mothers who have raised grown children truly have, and she embraced April and I with that love. I know that God smiles when he watches Susan live her life, and she is a joy to everyone around her as well :)In summary, we were incredibly blessed by these 5 as individuals and as a group. The only thing we would have changed would have been more time with them, as they only had about a week to experience a month's worth of our lives and work. They just scratched the surface, but they did it with joy, great attitudes and a desire to learn. To Scotty, Faires, Besty, Shea Lea and Susan: We love you deeply, and we thank you for making the effort and sacrifice to come so far and visit us. We now have 5 people who better understand our lives and care immensely for us, and that will live on for a long time to come. God bless you!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Africa Moment #9 - Ghana 4 Obama

I guess this is more of a series of Africa moments. I have been informally interviewing alot of Africans lately, and they have so far been 100% for Senator Obama. It would be completely normal to see dozens upon dozens of Obama '08 bumper stickers, shirts, hats and even large banners on the streets and malls of just about any town in America. But to see this in Togo and even more so in Ghana just seems strange.
It shows me that the world is watching; it also shows me that many of these residents of small West African nations care more about who is president in my homeland than I do! I readily admit my apathy towards politics, but this election has something special about it, and its not Senator McCain :) Not since I was living in Italy in the fall of 2000 and saw the craziness of the Bush/Gore debacle unfold from afar have I been at all interested in who is running things. This year I may just drive the 6 hours down to the American Embassy and cast my vote. It would be incredible to think back and realize that it was a group of Ghanaians I met at the Accra airport while waiting for visitors to arrive that inspired me to jump back into the politial process!