Sunday, June 11, 2017

I’ll Be Right Here

BXC Sendoff - June 2017Today was an emotional day at Bamako International Church as we bid farewell to our congregation.  There were a lot of tearful good-byes.  Due to the transient nature of the international community, many people will be gone by the time we return.  A strong sense of community and family has been built at the church and we are going to miss everyone dearly.  Starting this church has been John’s vision for many years and it’s a joy to see it come to fruition.  But in the end, it’s not our church, it’s God’s church and we trust He’s going to continue shepherding it while we’re gone.  We are so grateful for Frank and Sharon Arthur who have stepped forward to lead the church until their retirement in November.

John’s message today focused on departure.  He began with famous good-bye movie clips from E.T. (yesterday marked the 35th anniversary of E.T.), Casablanca, and The Jesus Film.  He spoke about Jesus’ ascension, promise of the Holy Spirit, and Pentecost, fulfilling God’s promise of never leaving us alone.

At the end of the service, Frank led in the church in prayer for us and sent us off with a wonderful blessing.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee

Last week at church, we had a visitor named Mohamed Ali.  It’s actually a popular and revered name in the Muslim community.  That is why the famous boxer Cassius Clay changed his name to Mohamed Ali when he became part of the Nation of Islam.

Mohamed Ali (the Malian, not the boxer), came to church at the invitation of Frank Arthur, the pastor that will be overseeing the church in our absence.  Mohamed Ali is showing a lot of interest in Christianity and wants to attend our church regularly and learn more about Christ.  Frank will be meeting with him weekly to do a personal Bible study and answer any questions about Christianity.  Please be praying for Mohamed Ali as he seeks the Truth.  This is a challenging uphill battle that is accompanied by persecution and suffering in Mali.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

This Job Is No Longer Available

We are happy to report that we have found a pastor to fill in for us at Bamako International Church while we are in the States on furlough.  The Lord sent us someone from the mission community who is retiring in November, just as we return.  He is enthusiastic about pastoring the church in our absence.  Thank you for your prayers.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Traffic Stop

Nigerian GirlsWe recently received a phone call from a Nigerian pastor friend who does prison ministry in Bamako.  He needed help repatriating two Nigerian girls who were recently released from jail on prostitution charges.  They were originally brought to Mali against their will as part of a sex trafficking ring.  There are currently over 3,000 Nigerian women who are victims of the sex traffic industry in Mali.

The pastor was able to obtain emergency travel documents for the girls from the Nigerian embassy and we provided financing for their paperwork and return trip.  Please keep these young women in prayer as they return home.  Also please be praying for the thousands of women that are trapped and abused in Mali as part of this sad situation.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Growth Spurt

BIC 30 April 2017We had a lot of visitors at Bamako International Church yesterday.  In addition to our regular church family, we had a German/American family, a family from Ethiopia, a man from Sierra Leon, a woman from the States, and a woman from Finland.

Our church is a very transient community, so we never know how many people we will have from week to week.  It was unusual to have such a high attendance after Easter, but we’re hoping this is a sign of things to come.

Please continue praying for someone to lead the church in our absence while we are on furlough in the States.  The leads we were following haven’t worked out, but we trust the Lord has someone lined up.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Down By The Riverside

Baptism - CharlesSeveral weeks ago we hosted a ministry showing the Africa Cup soccer tournament on a big screen in front of our house, followed by The Jesus Film.  On one of the last nights, a man approached us and said he wanted to be baptized.  We were overjoyed!

Today, we helped host a baptism at the Niger River with our pastor friend Daniel Tieh.  He brought three people from his church in addition to Charles, the man from the Jesus Film ministry.  It was a wonderful experience.

Please be praying for Charles.  He is a professional soccer player who came to Mali to play on the Malian national soccer team.  Unfortunately, there’s been a rift between Mali and the FIFA – the governing body of professional soccer in Africa.  Mali is currently banned from playing in FIFA games and the team is in hiatus.  This means Charles has not been formally picked up by the team and he is unemployed.  Please pray that he will find work until the Malian team in reinstated.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Small But Meaningful

Alpha Holy Spirit DayToday was a special full day retreat day for the Alpha Course.  It’s focused on the Holy Spirit.  We began with worship songs and some fun activities.  We had some very good teaching times interspersed with meals and games.  We ended with Toh – a favorite dish for most Malians.  It’s made with millet and okra sauce.

Our attendance was small with just 2 attendees, but we had some powerful teaching and discussion times.  We know the people that came were the one’s God has really been calling.  We have just two more nights before the Alpha Course draws to a close.  Please continue to keep our Alpha guests in your prayers and they are drawn closer to making a decision for salvation.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Opportunity Knocks

helpwanted,hippies,sign,vintage-e8161e01d4de57b94d64e22f26440439_hA year ago, we helped plant Bamako International Church – a church focused on reaching the thousands of English speaking expatriates in Mali.  The couple that co-founded the church with us has since relocated to Ethiopia.  As we prepare for our home assignment this summer, the church will be left without a pastor or worship leader while we’re gone.  Filling this void before we leave has become our main priority.

We are currently seeking an individual, couple, or family to help lead the church in our absence.  This is an amazing opportunity to experience missions and get a taste of Africa.  Although Mali is a French speaking country, all of the ministry at the church is English.  Our home is within walking distance of the church and we are making it available rent-free so living expenses will be minimal.  Although previous missions experience is helpful, it is not required.  You do not need to be part of a mission agency.

Perhaps this sounds intriguing to you.  Or maybe you know someone who may be interested.  We will be gone from June through November.  Although we’d ideally like to have someone come for the entire six months, even filling in for part of that time would be helpful.  Please be thinking and praying about this opportunity.  We’ll be happy to answer ANY questions.  Remember, we stepped out of our comfort zone feeling completely inexperienced and underqualified when we first came to Mali.  However, we are living testaments of what God can do when we simply make ourselves available to His call.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Ticket to Ride

Air France A380We’ve solidified our plans for our upcoming furlough and home assignment in California.  Yesterday we purchased our plane tickets.  We’ll be leaving Mali on June 15th.  Since we’re flying through Paris, we’ll be stopping for a few days to see the City of Lights.  From Paris to LA we’ll be flying on an Airbus A380 – the massive double decker jumbo jet – something that’s been on John’s bucket list.  We arrive at LAX on June 20th and will be staying through November 15th.  We’ll be living in Tustin, California in one of our home church’s missionary houses.

We are looking forward to seeing as many people as possible on this trip.  We’d like to start booking time for visiting, so please don’t hesitate to contact us to make an appointment to get together.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Will You Marry Me?

BXC - Michel Wedding FamilyThe International church we’re currently leading celebrated a joyful milestone this weekend.  We had our first wedding!  A woman who recently started attending our church approached us several weeks ago and asked if she and her fiancĂ©e could be married by our church.  She is Malian and is marrying a man from Switzerland who is in Mali as part of the UN peacekeeping mission.  We didn’t actually meet the groom until the day of the wedding as he has been in Switzerland recovering from injuries he received in a terrorist attack in Mali a couple of years ago.

The wedding ceremony and reception were Saturday at a hotel about 2 hours outside of Bamako where the couple had originally met.  John asked a friend who’s an ordained pastor to officiate over the ceremony.  Another man who attends our church is also an ordained minister and provided a message during the ceremony.  John was asked to serve communion to the couple.  Even though our church remains relatively small, we had 3 pastors from our congregation participate in the ceremony.  The multilingual/multicultural ceremony was a combination of Malian, Swiss, and Nigerian to account for the diverse international backgrounds of the bride and groom and their families.  On Sunday, we hosted a second reception at the church following our regular Sunday service for members of our church who were not able to attend the wedding.

BXC - Michel Wedding CertificatePlease join us is congratulating Mr. & Mrs. Sebastien and Deborah MICHEL.  Also, please be praying for them.  Sebastien is continuing his work with the peacekeeping operations in the north.  He is a munitions and demining expert who specializes in deactivating land mines and explosive devices.  Next week, he will relocate to the city of Gao which is the front line of the war while Deborah remains in Bamako.  Please be praying for his safety and for this young marriage which is going to endure a lot of separation due to the nature of Sebastien’s work.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Home Theater Project

Jesus Film - Niamakoro Neighborhood WomenFollowing on the success of our Africa Cup ministry, several women in our neighborhood approached Julie to ask about seeing the Jesus Film in the privacy of our home.  Julie worked with Mamou, a Christian woman who helps in our house, to arrange a special screening this week.  Mamou did a great job advertising the event around our neighborhood.  Julie was expecting 3-4 women.  She was surprised when 15 women showed up.  Everyone was quite excited and watched the film intently.

Soon after the film started, a Jehovah’s Witness came to our door to hand out literature and talk.  Julie was originally shaken up by this, but then realized that their door-to-door campaign wasn’t going to be effective because most of the neighbors were sitting in our living room and wouldn’t be home to answer their doors.

The Jesus Film takes a crucial turn when it reaches the scene of the Last Supper.  About this time, a majority of the women got up and left.  Julie was perplexed and saddened, thinking they didn’t want to see the most important parts of the film.  As the movie continued to run, Julie and Mamou talked with a few of the women outside to find out why they were leaving.  It turns out they weren’t offended by the film, but by a woman who had just arrived late.  Julie had extended a special invitation to this woman whom she was now discovering most of the neighborhood didn’t like.  She has a reputation of being a thief and someone who cannot be trusted.  We were all too aware of this woman’s dishonesty as she had stolen several hundred dollars of emergency cash from our home several years ago when she worked for us, however we were unaware that our neighbors had also been taken advantage of and she was strongly disliked.  Although she immediately lost her job after stealing from us, we extended forgiveness and have worked to maintain an ongoing relationship with her.  Julie’s invitation to see the Jesus Film was an example of this.  Julie worked at explaining this to the women, but they had difficulty understanding how forgiveness like this is possible.  What Julie thought would be a simple one day showing of the Jesus Film has expanded into a complex ministry opportunity.

Please be praying that our neighbors can come to understand the power of God’s forgiveness and the life transformation that is possible through salvation.  Be praying specifically that as Julie continues to minister to this one woman who has wronged many people, that she will repent of her sins and seek forgiveness in Jesus.  Pray that she will come to understand why Julie is reaching out to her even after what she’s done to us.

Over the past few days, several neighbor ladies have come to our home during day while Julie has been at school asking when they can come back to finish watching the Jesus Film.  The fields are ripe for the harvest.  Please pray for wisdom and strength for Julie as she embarks on this new ministry journey.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Prodigal Son Returns

Patick Smith - February 2017Since returning to Mali a couple of years ago, John has been trying to reconnect with people he was ministering to before we left.  One man is named Patrick Smith.  He is a Liberian who came to Mali as a refugee many years ago following the war in Liberia.

Patrick has spent many years dealing with a lot of internal conflicts and demons (literally).  He committed some atrocities in the war which continue to haunt him.  In addition, he has been suffering with some serious health issues.  His lifestyle has been questionable as he’s been involved in several criminal activities.  We had not seen Patrick since we left Mali in 2012.  John has been asking around town to see if he could find Patrick or if anyone had any news about him.  Everything continued to come up empty including searches in the hospitals and prisons.  We had feared for the worst that Patrick had passed away due to medical issues.

Last week we received an amazing surprise when Patrick showed up at our front door!  It turns out he’s been living in a neighboring country under an assumed name.  John spent time reconnecting and catching up with him.  He invited Patrick to our church and we were overjoyed when he came to our service yesterday.

Patrick still has a long way to go in his reconciliation and healing process.  Please be praying that he can truly repent of the things he’s done both in during the war and the years following and there will be true transformation in his life.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Alpha Continues

John started a new Alpha Course at Go Global two weeks ago.  It got off to a bit of a slow start when only 2 people showed up for the first session.  Needless to say, we had a lot of left over food as we ordered enough for 35 people.  John and the team prayed for more students and did some more recruiting.  Last week a dozen people attended.  We’re hoping they will bring friends and there will be even more students this week.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Are You Ready For Some Football?

CAN2002 - People Watch Jesus FilmIn the past, we have hosted a unique ministry centered around the Africa Cup international soccer tournament.  It began 15 years ago by putting our TV in front of our house to share the soccer games with our neighbors, followed by showing the Jesus Film after each game.

143We currently live in a house with a big dirt lot just outside our front door which often serves as a local soccer field.  This year, we set up a large projection screen and stretched 150’ of cable from a TV satellite dish on our roof to a projector to share the games with our neighbors and people passing by.  After the games, we would show the Jesus Film in Bambara – the local dialect in this part of Mali.  We had 40-50 people watching the game, and 20-40 watching the Jesus Film each night.  It would usually be two groups of people – the men would come for the game, and the women would come afterwards to watch the film.

We had several partners help out this year including our Liberian pastor friend Daniel Tieh, and a few people from our YWAM Bamako Team.  In addition to showing the Jesus Film, we handed out Gospel tracts and Bibles.  Many people showed an interest in the Gospel and we collected many phone numbers to contact people for more personal conversations.  On the last night, one of our neighbors even asked to be baptized!

2529As many of you were watching the Super Bowl on Sunday, we were just finishing the final match for the Africa Cup as Cameroon beat Egypt, wrapping up the 3 week tournament.  We battled mosquitos and endured dust for 18 nights from 7pm – 11pm.  In the process, we built many bridges and forged new relationships with our neighbors.  Truth be told, we weren’t thinking of doing this ministry this year, however our neighbors started asking when we were going to show the Jesus Film again!  Who can say “no” to that!  

Please be praying for the people who saw all or parts of the Jesus Film.  May they be moved into following Christ as their savior.  Also, please be praying for Julie as she prepares to host more intimate showings of the Jesus Film in our home for the women in our neighborhood.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Made In China

For the past 10 years, we’ve driven a 1996 Toyota Corolla station wagon.  It’s not pretty, it’s not fancy, but it does get us from point A to point B most of the time (okay…some of the time).  As an older car that has put on a lot of hard miles in Africa, it spends a fair amount of time at the mechanic.

For several years we’ve been taking it to a Chinese mechanic not too far from our home.  The language barrier always makes it an interesting experience.  The mechanic doesn’t speak English or French – only Chinese and some broken Bambara.  But somehow, he’s always able to understand the problem and fixes it quickly for not a lot of money.

We are currently hosting a YWAM DTS (Discipleship Training School) from Chico, California.  One of the team members is Chinese and another is a Brazilian who’s fluent in Chinese. When John took the car into the mechanic today he took these team members along so he could communicate in a spoken language with the mechanic for the first time.  It turned out to be an amazing experience.  We talked for about an hour and the mechanic seemed so grateful to have someone who could talk with him in his own language!  John had never seen him talk so much!

Mr. Ping is the mechanic of choice for most of the mission community in Bamako.  John was able to tell him that the missionaries all go to him because we trust him and are happy with his work and we want to honor him.  He was very touched.  He even said he wanted to attend our church!  We didn’t invite him, he invited himself!  One of our team members gave him a Chinese New Testament and we were able to pray with him and bless his business.

Please be praying with us for Mr. Ping.  He seems open to the Gospel.  We hope to continue ministering to him – a bit more difficult after our Chinese friends leave next week.  Please also be praying for other connections with Chinese believers in Mali.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Vote of Confidence

Mali Election 2016With the dust beginning to settle from the U.S. elections, now we're facing local elections in Mali on Sunday. Because of the war, the election process has been delayed for several years. Hopefully they will take place and end peacefully. Please be praying for a successful and peaceful election.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Bibles for FriendsA man name Joseph came by our house with his friend.  He recently had his business torn down by the government as part of a citywide cleanup project.  Joseph was in tears as he shared his grief about losing his means of financial support.  He was in need of money for a security deposit and 2 months rent for a new location – the total was $40.  John spent time sharing about God’s provision from Matthew 6:25.  He assured Joseph that if God cares so much for the birds, imagine how much he cares for each of us.

Joseph and his friend were intrigued by this and wanted to know more.  Another man who is temporally working at our house was also intently listening in.  John went into the house and brought back 3 Bibles and gave one to each man.  He explained that the Bible is full of promises from God and much more.  They were very excited to each receive a Bible.  When Joseph opened his, he found the money he needed tucked inside.

John then went back into the house and returned with 3 more Bibles and gave one to each man.  He challenged each of them to give the extra Bible to one of their friends.  They were thrilled and promised to give them out the same day.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Boatnic

BoatnicToday, we had a potluck lunch after church.  We had originally planned to have a picnic, but decided to have our meal on a boat on the Niger River instead.  A great time has had by all.  The food and fellowship were wonderful and our time on the boat was perfect.  It’s still be pretty hot every day, but out on the river a cool breeze made for a very pleasant afternoon.

Boatnic MealSadly, it was also a time to say goodbye to several people in our church who will be leaving Mali – some for a few months, while others will be permanently relocated to other countries. That’s life in the itinerant world of international ministry.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Choose Wisely

This year's presidential election in the U.S. is unprecedented. It's become a media circus that is more focused on entertainment and ratings rather than political solutions.

Most people are viewing this election as a choice between the lesser of two evils. As Christians, we are called to righteousness - NOT the lesser of two evils. A vote for the lesser of two evils is still voting for evil. There are other options. When we vote, God does not want us to vote for who we think will win, nor who we think has the possibility of winning - this is peer pressure. We are to vote our conscience. Believe it or not, there are 1,950 U.S. Presidential candidates registered with the Federal Election Commission. Certainly, one of them shares our Christian values and beliefs.

Voting for the lesser of two evils means we don't have confidence in God's sovereignty and control of the election. It also means we are willing to compromise our values and settle for evil. In the end, God isn't going to question why we didn't vote along party lines or for the second worst candidate that had the best chance of winning. He's going to hold us responsible for making decisions based on His values, not the world's values.

Don't accept the lie that you're throwing your vote away by voting for what you believe rather than who people are telling you to vote for. Make your vote count for something MUCH bigger and better. Focus your eyes away from the world and towards the Kingdom. As an American, stand up for your right to vote what YOU believe. As a Christian, stand up for God's values that are much different than the world's values.

The Bible is full of stories and testimonies of men and women who stood up against public and government pressure when asked to compromise their Godly values. Daniel specifically comes to mind. Let us go into this election with the faith and courage of Daniel to stand against a system that's asking us to compromise and accept evil. Let us stand strong knowing that our God is capable of the impossible.

It's time to turn off CNN, Fox, ABC, BBC, CNBC, etc., and turn to the Bible and prayer when selecting a candidate. There are some very good, Godly candidates out there. As Americans, we have the special honor and privilege to vote for what we believe as individuals. We don’t accept second best – after all, we are One Nation Under God. Let’s live like it. It begins with you.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Evangelism in 3-D

Ben-Hur CrowdBen-Hur is currently playing at the movie theater in Bamako. We made special arrangements for an English showing for our Go Global English students last night. We had over 30 people attend. As an added bonus, the movie was in 3D. Bamako has the only movie theater in West Africa capable of showing 3D films.

Ben-Hur DiscussionAfter the movie, we returned to Go Global for a light meal and discussion about the movie. The discussions centered on Judah Ben-Hur's change from a life of revenge to a life for forgiveness. Our students were intrigued by this along with Jesus' words, actions, and ultimate sacrifice in the movie. It opened up some powerful conversations about redemption and forgiveness in Christ

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Meet Me In The Stairwell

Today at church, John shared a message about the anniversary of September 11, 2001. We had just arrived in Mali a few weeks before this day changed the world. Because we were overseas, we didn't experience it the same way most of our American compatriots did. We did not endure continual media coverage nor were we surrounded by our grieving fellow citizens. We also did not experience the surge in patriotism that followed. In some ways, we feel a bit left out of the experience. But we do want to honor and remember those who did.

John used this video as the cornerstone of his message in church today. We know many have heard or seen it before, but we ask you to watch/listen to it again. May it give you a new perspective on your life and your future. May it provide a fresh look at the sanctity of your life and the purpose you were created for.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Farming God’s Way

We have an interesting man staying at our house tonight. His name is Richard Leakey from YWAM Burtigny in Switzerland. He's part of an amazing ministry called Farming God's Way. He teaches transformational farming techniques based on God's design for agriculture.
This is really worth checking out.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Pray for Beatrice

Pray for BeatriceA video was released on social media a few days ago, June 16, showing Beatrice Stockly to be still alive. Stockly is a Christian nun from Switzerland who was kidnapped and imprisoned by Al-Qaeda in January of 2016. She was kidnapped by Islamic terrorist group Al-Qaeda for her apparent declaration of war on Islam in an attempt to convert Muslims to Christianity in Mali. Learn more: http://ow.ly/YtCm301n4Ze

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Risen

Risen MoveiWhat a surprise when we found out Risen was playing this weekend in Bamako’s only movie theater.  On Friday & Saturday it’s in French and on Sunday in English with French subtitles. What an awesome outreach opportunity - plus (and this is a MAJOR plus), 2 hours of air-conditioned comfort.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

All Good Things Must Come to an End

J & J at Club El KantaouiSadly our time in Tunisia has come to an end. We bid adieu to our new friends hoping that we will meet again on a future trip.

Our stay at the El Mouradi Club El Kantaoui was perfect! A four star beachfront hotel that was all-inclusive including food and drinks for only $50/night. It doesn't get any better than this.