Thursday, April 26, 2007

Querida, That's French!

Thank you for your prayers as we learn several new languages (French, Bambara, & French Music Notation). It’s exciting to be able to report results of your prayer. In the short time that we’ve been here, we’re already beginning to see our language skills taking shape. Julie is excelling in French and is managing quite well. She led our YWAM base worship and Bible study time yesterday entirely in French. What a huge encouragement this has been. We are both getting a lot out of our French lessons. But they have become so much more than just learning French. We are learning a lot about Malian culture and lifestyle. And it’s also a wonderful discipleship opportunity for us. John and Daniel (our French teacher) have some very deep and thought provoking spiritual discussions at almost every lesson.

John also had a language breakthrough this week with French Music. During our worship team rehearsal last night, he played every song out of the French music books without needing to transcribe them into American chords first. This has been a huge hurdle for him and he now feels much more confident in his music ministry.

Living in the sub-Saharan climate, has really added to our thirst factor and we have been drinking a LOT. Our family is easily going thru 5 gallons of drinking water a day. We have found iced tea to be one of the most refreshing drinks. We’ve been making sun tea every day, but recently discovered that with the intense heat in Mali, we don’t even need to put it out in the sun. We can put tea bags in a pitcher of water and leave it on our kitchen counter and have a fully brewed pitcher of tea in about 2 hours. We’ve named it Ambient Tea. With the addition of a couple of chunks of ice, it’s as refreshing as sun tea.

This week we also discovered a new butcher just up the road. Rather than operating on a wooden table in the market, this one has a tile covered counter and walls. The roof over his room keeps the meat a little fresher. No…there’s still no refrigeration, but the selection of meat is much better than we were used to in the market. The fly factor also seems a little lower. ;-)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Rock the Vote

This past Sunday we attended the Oasis church. It was originally a church reaching out to refugees from surrounding English speaking African countries. Today, the church ministers to the Malian community along with the refugee population. The services are conducted in Bambara, French, and English. (With three languages, the service was 3 ½ hours long.) It was nice to have a thorough understanding of the pastor’s message. This week, a guest speaker brought a very courageous and convicting message. He spoke about fornication and provocative dress. We wish more pastors had the courage to speak about these kinds of topics.

On Sunday night, we had our first rainstorm. It was WONDERFUL! The temperature dropped by 15°. What a refreshing change it was. We still have about a month left of hot season before the rains really arrive.

Sunday, April 29th is national presidential election day in Mali. Mali is very blessed to be a democratic nation that holds fair and open elections. This is rare in Africa. Just this week, Nigeria has been having lots of problems with the alleged corruption in their presidential election.

Mali has only had an elected government since 1992. This election is only the third one in the nation’s history. To date, only 2 men have served as president. Our current president is running again. He is popular with the people and expected to win the election. He has been good for the people and is concerned for the welfare of Mali. His name is Amadou Toumani Toure. Because of the illiteracy rate, most people know him by his initials of ATT.

Please be in prayer for the election. Although things have been peaceful in the past, anything can erupt in a moment’s notice in Africa. Also, the candidates and their supporters often utilize the powers of witch doctors to gain strength and power and subdue their opponents. It is not uncommon for them to go to the length of offering human sacrifices. Children and Christians are favored for the sacrifices due to their purity. Please be in prayer for protection of the children…and especially for Christian children as the candidates seek drastic measures to gain an advantage in the election.

New Feature

We’ve added another new item to our blog. We now have a video clip of the week posted below our family profile on the right side of this page. Just click on the picture and it will play the video for you. This week’s video is a public service announcement we recorded from television. It shows how to vote in the election. A couple of things worth noting are: Notice the long Bambara greetings the man and women go through when he first approaches the desk. Also note that the ballot consists of pictures of each candidate because the literacy rate is so low. Finally, at the end of the segment, the man dips his finger into a bottle of ink. This is permanent ink to show he has already voted. If he returns to the polls to try and vote again, they will see the ink on his finger and know he has already voted. Also…be sure to return the ink pad when you’re finished!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Rumors of My Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

Yes…it’s been way too long since our last blog entry. Rather then writing one huge post, we’ve decided to backfill the past two weeks. So continue reading backwards from this post and you’ll see what’s been happening in Mali.

We’re also in the process of adding some new features to our blog. Today you’ll find current weather information for Mali on the right side of the screen. This is updated automatically each time you view our blog. We're not quite sure where these temperature readings are taken from…the readings we get at our house are usually 10° higher both on the high and low side. Anyway, stay tuned for more features…

Julie and Cole have finished up the Stanford Test procedure at school. John has been very busy the past couple of days. Yesterday, he met with Pastor Christophe to propose a celebration for the 10 year anniversary of the completion of his church’s well in Sabalibougou. Christophe was very excited about the idea and he will begin putting the wheels in motion for the fete. Please keep this in prayer. This is an important event and one that can bring a lot of encouragement to the church, local pastors, and the MAF well team that continues to dig wells in Mali.

On Saturday, we attended the annual Mali Education Association (MEA) meeting. MEA is the parent group that operates Bamako Christian Academy, the school Cole attends and Julie helps at. Board member elections are held during the annual meeting, and John was nominated and voted onto the school board for the next 2 years. Please keep him and the board in prayer as they work to provide an exceptional education to the missionary kids in Mali.

T
hank you for your continued prayer in our search for car. Yesterday we found one! It’s right in the price range we’ve been looking for and we’ll be buying it from some missionary friends so we’re confident about its history, maintenance, and overall condition. The downside is that we’re losing some very good friends in the process as they relocate back to the States after 18 years in Mali. They won’t be leaving until June, so we’ll still have some time to spend with them before they leave. It also means that we’ll still be without a car for the next couple of months. But during the past week when we had Paula’s car, we only drove it twice. With the traffic and driving hazards in Bamako, we find it easier to take public transportation or walk to most of the places we need to go. But it will be nice to have a car available when we need it.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Blown Away

John has volunteered for helping with maintenance at the YWAM base. One of the projects he’s been working on is installing ceiling fans in one of the apartment living rooms. He has not been able to lift his left arm above his waist since the accident, so working overhead with one arm was a challenging task. There were also some Mali construction issues that helped frustrate this project. But yesterday, the project (that turned into a three week project) was finally finished and the fans are providing much needed air circulation to help combat the heat.

Yesterday evening we hosted the Mali worship team rehearsal at our house. There was a nice breeze blowing, so we met on our roof under our thatched rooftop patio. It was a wonderful time of practice and getting acquainted with each other and blending our various worship styles. We also had some good discussions and brainstorming about how this ministry is going to work with the various churches in Mali.

This time of year is considered Hot Season in Mali. The temperatures are normally 10-15° hotter than other times of year. To add insult to injury, we’re also susceptible to a phenomenon called Harmattan winds which blow dust in from the Sahara desert. The Harmattans cause very dirty, dusty, and hazy conditions this time of year. As we were getting ready to finish our rehearsal, a dust storm from the Harmattan blew in. We saw it in the distance and quickly picked up our instruments, chairs and other things and headed downstairs into the house just as it arrived. This is probably another feature we should leave out of our travel brochure enticing people to come to Mali. ;-)

John is continuing to work on connecting our different YWAM bases with Internet and email. Today, he received a call from the base in Tombouctou (Timbuktu) to help them resolve some email issues. This really wasn’t a big project or anything unusual for us, however we thought we’d mention it…after all, how many people can say they’ve received a phone call from Tombouctou?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

This is a Test...Only a Test

We came thru a very busy weekend. Not only did we serve on the worship team on Saturday, but we also led (both worship and teaching the lesson) on Sunday morning at the English speaking family Sunday school in Bamako. On Sunday night, we led worship at the English speaking evening church service downtown. Whew! They were all wonderful events, but we certainly enjoyed taking the day off on Monday. We were blessed to have use of a car this weekend to transport the keyboard, computer and projector to the various churches.

Unfortunately, our spirits were tested when our day off was marred by an extended power outage. It started at about 11pm Sunday night and lasted until 4pm Monday. The biggest loss to us during power outages is the loss of air circulation from our ceiling fans. When the temperature is 95°+, moving air makes all the difference. It was very difficult for us to sleep on Sunday night. We would have slept on the roof, but our optimism told us the power would come back on “any minute now”. In the morning, a “cold” shower was just what we needed to cool off after a difficult night. But Murphy’s Law kicked in and our water pressure dropped so low our shower stopped working. John had to finish his shower with a bucket of well water. In the mornings when your day seems to be getting off to a difficult start, try to remember the things we tend to take for granted in the States like reliable electricity and running water.

This week is Stanford test week (standardized aptitude school tests) at Bamako Christian Academy. Cole will be spending most of his class time doing testing this week. The big plus for him is no homework! Julie is helping as a test administrator all week.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

More Than We Bargined For

We have anticipated being involved in leading worship in Mali. This week, we began to understand the extent of our involvement in this ministry. We recently joined a worship team that will be playing a major role in worship throughout Mali. Our team is comprised of several people from YWAM and representatives from worship teams from various churches in Bamako. Our goal is to help the Malian church understand the importance and role of worship. We will be traveling to many different churches over the next few months and helping them develop the worship in their services. This is much more involvement than we were expecting…but that goes to show how small our personal vision is compared to God’s.

We participated in our first worship event today at the Magnambougou church. We’re looking forward to doing more of this. The initial plan is to lead praise at a different church each month on a given Saturday for a dedicated worship service. Every Wednesday night, we will be hosting the rehearsals and preparation times at our house.

Meet Juliette:

Juliette is one of our YWAM Mali team members from the country of Burkina Faso. She serves with us in Bamako. Juliette is active in our children’s ministry and King’s Kids programs. She recently left for a 6 month YWAM Worship and Evangelism Training (WET) program in the neighboring country of Togo. She was having trouble raising the $200 needed for the tuition and transportation to Togo and back. We were able to provide the money to cover the shortfall. Because this money came from our personal funds, it really came from you. Thank you for helping support not only us, but Juliette too. You are giving her the opportunity to receive some valuable training.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Reach Out and Touch Someone

This week Paula, one of our YWAM colleagues from Koutiala stopped in Bamako on her way to some meetings in the neighboring country of Senegal. John has known Paula for a couple of years when he helped her with her computer as part of his MAF responsibilities. She drove down to fly out of Bamako and left her car with us for the coming week until she returns. It will be nice to have the freedom of a car.

With hot season well upon us, it’s wonderful to have air-conditioning in our house. However, the electric meter and main circuit breaker are only capable of running one A/C at a time. We’ve been running Cole’s when he goes to bed until he’s asleep then turn it off when we go into our room and turn ours on. We’ve contacted the electric company to have our system upgraded. Please pray with us that the process will go quickly.

We have a new way of contacting us! Believe it or not, with all of John’s computer experience and always trying to be on the leading edge, it’s taken us this long to finally try out Skype. If you are a Skype user, please don’t hesitate to call us. Our Skype address is: Clarkorama. If you haven’t installed Skype or don’t know what it is, we encourage you to visit www.skype.com. By downloading and installing the free software on your computer, you can call any other Skype user anywhere in the world for FREE. All you need is a microphone and speakers (a headset microphone works best) and the Skype software on your computer. Talking on Skype is just like talking on the phone…and the quality is wonderful. Please feel free to give us a ring if you get a chance. Just remember, our time zone is GMT…the same as London. We’re 8 hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Something Smells Fishy

On Sunday, we celebrated Easter at the church next door to the YWAM base in Magnambougou. They combined the Bambara and French services into a single service. It was wonderful to see how crowded the church was. There were several rows of chairs set up outside the church to accommodate the overflow crowd. Although we didn’t understand a lot of the sermon, we know the pastor delivered an important message.

On the sotrama ride to church Easter morning, there were several ladies on the way to the fish market to sell their fish. We had to step over several buckets of fish to get to our seats and our feet were straddling them for the entire trip. We’re not sure how bad we smelled when we arrived at church…but that’s just one of the joys of living in Mali. ;-) Besides, many of the Apostles were fishermen and with the time that Jesus spent with them and on the boats around the lakes, He probably smelled like fish a lot too. So we arrived at church Easter morning smelling like Jesus! Perhaps this is the meaning of 2 Corinthians 2:15-16.

One of the really cool things about YWAM is the importance placed upon praise, worship, and prayer. It’s not something reserved just for Sundays. Our days begin with 1-1/2 hours of worship and prayer. What a difference it makes when priorities are put in order and we start our days focusing on God rather than the tasks at hand. We each take turns leading and today, John led for the first time. We are looking forward to doing this a lot more.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Road Trip

Last weekend we went to Koutiala for the annual YWAM Mali General Assembly meeting. This is a gathering of everyone serving in Mali with YWAM. We currently have 67 people from 14 different countries (mostly other African countries) serving in 4 locations in MaliBamako, Koutiala, Douentza, and Tombouctou (Timbuktu). The meeting was a great opportunity to meet everyone in one place at the same time. We also got to learn about the other bases and the ministries they are doing. We had the chance to hear about the activities of the past year and what’s upcoming this year. It was an awesome overview of everything about YWAM Mali. We were amazed at how much is happening here.

We met in a conference room at the YWAM Koutiala base. When it got too hot, we moved outside under the mango trees. The meetings and presentations were all in French. Besides our family, there were a few Canadians who didn’t speak French either so someone translated during the meetings for us.

John has taken the responsibility for the IT needs and Internet strategy for Mali. He will be building a YWAM Mali web site and creating YWAM email accounts for everyone on staff. He is also in charge of setting up each base with a full-time Internet connection. He gave a presentation at the meeting about the Internet plans and creating an on-line identity for YWAM Mali. The plans were well received and most people seemed excited about our bases entering the digital age.

After the meetings ended, we stayed an extra day in Koutiala to see the elementary and junior high school operated by YWAM. Julie has an opportunity to teach at this school once her French skills improve. It was an interesting experience for her to tour the school and visit each class. As we walked into each classroom, the entire class, usually 40-50 students, would immediately stand and without prompting, greet us in unison by saying, “Bonjour Monsieur. Bonjour Madame.” A couple of the classes also sang a song for us. The classroom environment is much more structured and disciplined than in the U.S.

One of John’s first mission experiences when we arrived in 2001 was a trip he took to the YWAM base in Koutiala to do some work on one of their computers. His first impressions were how primitive living conditions were. In particular, he remembers watching the staff cooking outside in iron pots over open fires. He also remembers white people dressed in tie-dye African clothes. His thought was, “My gosh! You people really live like this? You’re like a bunch of freaky Peace Corps people.” Here we are 6 years later living in that same environment. Now we’re the “freaky Peace Corps people”!

Our car accident in 2003 happened on the road from Bamako to Koutiala. This presents some challenges when traveling to Koutiala today. John and Cole don’t have a memory of the accident. But Julie still has a difficult time as she relives the events of the day when we drive by familiar landmarks. We still don’t know the exact site of the accident (our friend Abou who picked us up from the accident has offered to show us), but we know the general area. On our return trip to Bamako after the meetings, we passed a car and a sotrama like the one we hit by the side of the road. They had also been involved in a head-on accident a few days earlier. This remains a very dangerous section of road. Please keep this in prayer as we will be traveling quite a bit between Bamako and Koutiala.

John’s birthday coincided with our Koutiala meetings. We had a small party with a few friends one evening.

Our French lessons are going extremely well. They have become much more than language lessons and are incorporating cultural education and learning about Islam and the other religions that Malians practice. This has given us a very big picture of the ministry opportunities available in Mali and started to give us a vision of some ways to begin introducing the Gospel. We’ve also talked a lot about the Malian church and it’s been a wonderful chance to help disciple Daniel, our French tutor. Although Daniel speaks fluent English, we conduct all of our lessons and conversations in French to build our comprehension and speaking skills.