Sunday, March 25, 2007

Build It And They Will Come

We’ve been visiting a lot of churches since we’ve arrived. Today, was our first chance to go to what we consider our home church in a neighborhood called Sabalibougou. Our good friend Christophe Dembele is the pastor. We’ve had many great experiences and opportunities to serve at this church over the years.

3 years ago, Pastor Christophe shared an ambitious expansion plan with us to transform his small and simple church building that held under 100 people, into a large church that would seat 500 people. We have helped encourage him and have been a part of some of his fund raising efforts in Mali. It’s been amazing what has been happening since we left in 2005. Our last visit was in the original building. Outside on the church grounds, the cornerstone had been laid for the new building. When we visited today, the old building was gone. In its place were the foundation and walls of the new church. It was glorious to see how big it’s going to be. A new smaller “building” (a tin roof with 4 foot tall walls) is now in the corner of the compound and is currently serving as the meeting place for the church until the new building is completed.

Pastor Christophe gave us a walking tour through the new church. He led us through what is going to be the main entrance and showed us the layout of the sanctuary, including where the pulpit and baptistery are going to be along with the location for his new office. He was most excited to show us the far corner of the building where the church property has recently been expanded. This part of the church occupies the former location of a mosque. This is almost unheard of! Mosques are normally forbidden to be destroyed. But in this case, the Lord took one away to make way for His church. How exciting!!

The new building occupies much of the church property, including the location of Christophe’s house and the church’s water well. Christophe took us to the outside corner of the church building and showed us the well. The new building butts directly up against it. The well has played a very important role in the church’s history and they’ve made the decision to leave it in place. When the church was first getting started in 1997, Pastor Christophe asked MAF if they could dig a well on the church property to serve the people living around the church. The MAF well team completed the well in May of 1997 and people started coming from houses all around the church for water. This gave Christophe an opportunity to share and witness to them along with using the well to show the love of Christ in sharing such a valuable resource. Visiting the church compound and seeing the well in use was one of the first activities John did when we first arrived in Mali in 2001. It was one of our first experiences with frontline mission work in Mali. So this well is very important to us too.

It’s exciting to see how much the church has grown in the 6 years that we’ve been involved with it. Looking at the changes today gave us a huge boost and helped us see and understand the difference that we’ve been making in Mali.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Iceman Cometh

We now have air-conditioning!!!! We got 3 A/C units on Wednesday, and had them installed on Friday and Saturday. It should have been a pretty simple installation job, but Malian technicians tend to do things a bit differently than we do. Hence, a 4 hour job turned into 2 days. The technician had to knock big holes in our brick walls to mount the units for Cole’s room and our guest room. He then ran into electricity problems. We called our landlord, and he sent a military electrician to help resolve things. He ended up rewiring the unit in our bedroom. In Mali, when you need to run wires, they are generally just nailed to the wall. The electrician did a kooky job of running wire up, down, and criss-crossing our bedroom wall. But hey, it works now. What a difference it makes to have our rooms drop back down into the low 90s to sleep!

Today Julie had the opportunity to be involved in a children’s evangelism event at the YWAM base. She found her experience in Guatemala really helped prepare her for this. Because of the language barrier, she didn’t understand a lot of what was being said, but she played a crucial role in helping keep the kids focused and attentive on the lesson that was being taught. About 25 kids come every Saturday and Julie will likely help every week from now on.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Hotter Than...

Hot season is creeping up on us. For our first few weeks, the temps have been mild (by Malian standards), but now it’s beginning to hit 110° consistently during the day. At night, it’s only getting down into the mid 80s. Because our house is made out of cinder block, it collects the heat during the day and releases it at night. The temperature in our bedroom the past few nights has been around 95° when we go to bed. Needless to say, it’s been a challenge to sleep. Buying and installing air-conditioners has become our top priority. Hopefully we’ll have them by the end of the week. But on the other side of the coin, we’re definitely not missing having a hot water heater. The “cold” (water @ 75°) showers in the morning are refreshing.

We started French lessons last week. A man named Daniel Coulibali from the Magnambougou church is coming to our house 4 days a week. It’s been very helpful to have a private tutor that can help us with the individual things we need to learn. He’s also been helpful with some cultural issues and questions we’ve had. In additional, we’re also working with a computer based language program called Rosetta Stone. It’s been an excellent resource and a program we’d recommend to anyone learning a new language.

On Friday night, our YWAM team came to our house for prayer and worship. When we were done, we all moved to different parts of our house and prayed and dedicated it to the Lord. We then went on the roof and did an overall dedication and blessing of our house. It was a moving and uplifting time. We now have a real sense of our house belonging to the Lord.

On Saturday, John and Jean-Patrick (our YWAM leader) led a seminar on communication at the Magnambougou church. It was geared for the youth of the church. There were 9 people that attended. John had an opportunity to share about the communication issues Satan uses to try and get us to miscommunicate and create disunity in the church. This was John’s first teaching and discipleship task since we’ve been here and he really enjoyed it and is looking forward to more opportunities.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Home Sweet Home

We’re in a new house! We finally finished contract negotiations and ended up with the house in Niamakoro that we’d been looking at. We are so excited! The owner seems nice and has been easy to work with. He is a high ranking officer in the Malian military. Negotiations were tough, but we’ve managed to forge a friendship in the process. He was especially happy once he had the cash in his hands. We ended up paying 8 months of rent (1.2 million CFA (about $2400)) in advance in order to receive the monthly price and terms we wanted.

Our house is in a very quite neighborhood. Niamakoro is also the home to Cite UNICEF which is a large village set for orphans by the United Nations International Children's Fund. We are located just a 5 minute walk from Cole & Julie’s school. We’re also about a 5 minute walk from the main road so it will be easy to get where we need to go. The YWAM base is only a mile away so we can walk or take a short 10 minute sotrama ride to the YWAM base. In all, we’re very happy with the location. We do have a large dirt soccer field just in front of our house, so we’ll probably have dirt and dust (more than normal for Mali!) issues to deal with. We have a thatched veranda on our roof and we’re really looking forward to spending evenings on the roof relaxing and enjoying the cooler outdoor air.

John spent an entire day at the electric company getting the service transferred into our name. He had to visit several offices (including the mayor’s office), pay a few taxes, and pick up a meterman and bring him to our house to verify the meter readings. It’s definitely not as simple as picking up the phone in the States and ordering service.

Our house doesn’t have hot water, but now that we’re getting into hot season, we’re going to pass on installing a water heater as all the water is hot now anyway. We do have a well in our yard so now when the water goes out, we simply go outside and pull up a few buckets of water to get us by until it comes back on. We still need to filter the well water too before we can drink it.

Friday was moving day. We went to a mission compound across the Niger River in town to pick up the “insides” of our house and move them into our new home. There was a LOT to pick up! But we had some very special help. When we got to the compound, there was a Malian Army truck and several military men to offer assistance! Our owner had made special arrangements to have the Malian military help us move into our house! It took 3 truckloads, but we finished in just a few hours. Is God looking out for us or what?

Over the weekend, we began unpacking and arranging our house. About the only thing missing from our “insides” purchase was a stove so we still ate and slept at the YWAM base through the weekend. The YWAM base leader from Timbuktu is in Bamako for some meetings and he and John went into town on Saturday to find a stove in the market. They found a really nice used one for about $200 complete with a full gas bottle. The stoves here are operated on bottled gas much like gas BBQs in the States. For some reason, the gas bottles here are called “gas bombs”. We don’t know why, but we hope we never find out. John & Tommy were able to fit the stove in the back of a taxi and bring it home right away. So Saturday night, Julie cooked our first meal in our new home. We still went back to the base for one more night and to gather our clothes and last remaining things.

We’re glad we stayed at the base on Saturday night. About 11:30 p.m. a wild ruckus broke out with people marching through the streets banging drums, pots and pans, and yelling and chanting. They stopped at each house and also banged on the gates. We couldn’t understand what they were saying and weren’t sure what they were yelling about. We thought it might be a student protest and the beginning of some unrest. We found out the next morning that it was actually a celebration for the lunar eclipse on Saturday night! The Malians call it “the cat taking the moon.” They make a lot of noise and yell for the cat to release the moon. It was an interesting cultural experience. We’re glad we were surrounded by others rather then being alone in our new house that night.

On Sunday, we made the last of our move by taking our clothes and a few extra things by taxi to our new house. We are now completely moved in. We’re still sorting through and unpacking the “inside” boxes along with the items we brought with us from the States.

Thanks for your prayers and encouragement as we’ve been house hunting. We feel we’re right where the Lord wants us and we are now eager to jump into ministry and language training.