Sunday, May 27, 2007

If My People Pray

Today marked the Global Day of Prayer. This is a day when churches around the world unite together to pray for local, national, and global issues. In Mali, Christians from all around Bamako gathered at Mali’s Cultural Arts Center to pray together. Mali is still a predominately Muslim country with Christians accounting for less then 2% of the population. Today, over 3,400 people assembled in Bamako to pray. The Arts Center was nearly full! But with all those people in the building and the soaring temperatures outside, it reached about 110° in the auditorium. Whew! But despite the heat, it was so exciting to share with so many Christians together in one place.

The program began with a wonderful worship team that led us in both French and Bambara songs. Then the head of the church association in Mali (AGEMPEM) spoke on the power and importance of prayer. We then spent the next two hours in prayer for specific issues both local and global. The feeling of power and unity was awesome.

The host and MC for today’s events was Issouf Ag Amini, who is our YWAM Bamako base leader. The Bambara translator was Daniel Coulibaly, who is our French teacher. And the worship leader was Pastor Abel, the pastor of the Magnambougou Church we often attend. It was exciting to know many of the people involved in organizing this event. We’re hoping to be more involved next year.

A condensed version of the Global Day of Prayer in Mali was shown during a Christian television program broadcast on national TV. Our video this week is a short edited version of this program.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Happy Africa Day!

Today marks Africa Day, which celebrates the founding in 1963 of the Organization of African Unity - now called the African Union. Today is considered a national holiday in most AU countries including Mali.

You can help celebrate by listening to Network Africa - a BBC radio program with the latest news and information on what's happening in Africa. We wake up to this radio show each morning. The roster crowing during the opening segment of each show has become our family's signal of the start of the day.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

We’ve backfilled a few blog entries to compensate for a lack of posts the past couple of weeks. Please read back a few entries before this to catch up.

You've Got a Friend in Me

One of our dearest friends in Mali is named Abou Traore. We have known him since our arrival in 2001. He was the former office manager at Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) and served as John’s right hand man when he was the MAF Program Manager. Abou still remains an important part of our lives and we consider him one of our best friends in Mali.

Although Abou worked for MAF for 18 years, he has never received Christ and is a devout practicing Muslim. Many missionaries have shared the Gospel with Abou, but he has never become a Christian. Abou is well connected within Mali and maintains an important position in his family. He also has many valuable friendships and relationships. This has been one of the main stumbling blocks in his acceptance of Christ. If he were to become a Christian, he would lose a lot of his position and relationships. The fear of being ostracized has kept him shackled to Islam.

Because of John’s past position as Abou’s boss, it was difficult for John to share with him and have Abou accept things without viewing it as a directive from his boss. In fact, Abou has “accepted Christ” many times in the past when each of his past directors would share the Gospel with him. Now that John’s relationship is strictly as a friend to Abou, he can share with him on a different level…not as his boss, but as his friend. This week, John had the opportunity to really begin talking with Abou for the first time about Christianity. Abou had many questions and seemed interested to hear more. John is really looking forward to many more conversations. This has taken on a bit more urgency as of late, as Abou’s health is beginning to fail. He has been diagnosed with heart trouble and he’s needed to change many aspects of his lifestyle to compensate. Abou’s health problems are what actually opened the door for John to talk to him about Christ because John shared his concern for Abou’s health and ultimately his concern for Abou’s eternal destination. Please add Abou to your prayer list. We love him and care for him very much. One of our greatest joys would be to see him come to Christ.

Another plug for Skype (no…we’re not making a commission). We received a Skype telephone this week. This means we can now receive Skype calls just like a regular telephone call. It works independently from our computer so we don’t have to have the computer on or be in the same room to get calls. Our Skype name is clarkorama. We look forward to hearing from you! Please remember that we are on GMT standard time...currently 7 hours ahead of Pacific Daylight Time.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Batman

It was interesting to see flocks of bats flying around Sunday morning on our way to church. We usually don’t see them during the day. As we were walking through the market, we saw a man who had caught some of them and was butchering them in the street. I guess this goes on our list of things you are probably not likely to see in your neighborhood.

John attended a youth meeting on Sunday at a church in Torokorobougou. The youth meet monthly to discuss various issues and how to address them from a Christian perspective. The topic of this meeting was culture and how it relates to Christian life. They broke up into small groups and each one addressed different areas of culture. The group John was in discussed how Malian culture views marriage and how intermarriage among some tribes in Mali is forbidden. They also talked about how some of churches in Mali are endorsing these cultural views. Other groups talked about dress (both Malian and the influence of western fashion) and mass media. At the conclusion of the small group discussion, they reassembled and each group reported on their discussions. It was very interesting to hear how mature they were in their observations and where we are supposed to fit as Christians.

We have seen some dramatic changes in Malian culture since arriving in 2001. It is frightening to see how the influences of western culture have suddenly descended upon Mali and how their values and focus have suddenly changed in their adoption of materialism and mass media. When we first arrived, there was only one TV station in the country and very few Malians owned a TV. Today, almost every house in the city, (huts included) has a TV antenna. Several French and European TV stations are now broadcasting in Mali and the content of many of their programs is morally objectionable. The society in Mali has always placed a very high emphasis on relationships and visiting and talking with friends has always been a high priority. But now, the TV has taken the highest priority in the home. Now when visiting with friends, Malians no longer sit around and talk. They now turn on the TV and watch in silence together. Coming from the U.S., we know where this is ultimately going to end up.

The cell phone and cyber cafes have also had huge impacts on Mali. It is very difficult to watch a country change their values in such a short amount of time. This is something that’s been especially heavy on John’s heart. That’s why he was asked to attend the youth cultural discussion. He had a chance to share on values and his observations of the changes taking place in Mali and how the western world is deteriorating due to the things Malians seem so eager to adopt.

John was encouraged that several of the breakout groups during the youth meeting began to identify some of these issues on their own. It was exciting to see them use some Bible passages to begin looking at how to address the changes happening in Mali.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Higher Praise

Please be in prayer for us as we work with a worship ministry called La Louange Mali, which means Mali Worship in French. We are a worship team made up of several YWAMers and singers and musicians from several churches in Bamako. Our goal is to introduce new levels of worship and praise to the Malian Church. For us in particular (John & Julie), we are struggling with various dynamics of the group. To begin with, our group has no defined leader. A different person is chosen each week to lead our next meeting. This has left a big void in vision and moving forward as the leader changes each week. We also seem to have many different ideas on how to implement the program and begin ministering to churches. Again, a lack of vision and a leader to help direct our efforts is hindering our ministry. This ministry is currently a big discouragement for us, however we believe in the overall concept and feel the Lord is calling us to continue in the group. Your prayers are needed to help our group focus and identify the direction the Lord would like us to move in.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

For Whom the Bell Tolls

We got a doorbell this week!! Doesn’t sound like a very high priority? Well it is to us. In Mali, all the houses are within individual walled compounds. Our house is surrounded by an 8 foot wall. When someone comes to visit, they stand at our outside gate and knock. This can be very difficult to hear inside the house. Hence, we’ve missed many visitors and workmen. We bought a doorbell a few weeks ago, but John has had a very difficult time figuring out Malian wiring to install it. Based on the substandard work of our air-conditioning installation (and past experience), we’ve been reluctant to call an electrician. Unfortunately, a Malian worker will not say that a job is beyond their knowledge or abilities, so it’s common to have contractors who don’t know what they’re doing…but the whole time they’ll say everything is okay.

We were talking about this with our French tutor the other day and he recommended an electrician friend of his from his church. He was able to successfully install the doorbell in a couple of hours. He then only accepted $4 for gas money as payment. What a huge blessing! It’s wonderful to now be able to sit in the house and know when someone is at our front gate so we can greet them. A doorbell may seem trivial, but it has made our life much easier and productive. One of our first visitors was the power company meter reader coming to deliver our electric bill. Ironically, he showed up during one of our many power outages and the doorbell didn’t work for him. ;-)

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Earning the "M" in "MK"

For the past six weeks, Julie has been participating in the children’s evangelism program held on Saturdays at the YWAM base. Calling upon her recent experiences in Guatemala doing children’s programs that bridge language barriers, this past week Julie found herself leading the entire 90 minute program, with the assistance of six junior high students from Cole’s Christian school. As a team, we lead songs (in three languages), played games (“fun” is a universal language), performed two skits (in pantomime), and served a snack. And with the assistance of the student helpers, it was also possible to do a craft in small groups for the first time. The colorful beaded gospel bracelets provided by Calvary Church of Santa Ana were a really great way to share the story of Jesus with these 40 Muslim kids from the neighborhood. It was a successful afternoon. The kids who attended the program were delighted with the variety of activities of the day. Julie was very proud of the Missionary Kid volunteers from Bamako Christian Academy for their willing, cheerful participation in a mission outreach program. And the student volunteers expressed sincere interest in helping out at the base again sometime. Praise God for such a win-win situation.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

All's Well That Ends Well

Sunday was a very exciting day for us. We marked the 10 year anniversary of the water well at Pastor Christophe’s church in Sabalibougou. There was a big party to celebrate the occasion. The church was filled beyond capacity and several special guests were in attendance including the chief of Sabalibougou. Pastor Christophe’s message was about Living Water and focused on the theme of wells and water in the Bible. There were several special musical numbers by various choirs in the church and different youth group drama presentations including one reenacting the well’s early days. Our video clip this week features this skit. It even features a young boy playing Pastor Christophe preaching as women come out to draw water. It was a big hit with the congregation! After church, we gathered around the well with the church leaders and the chief and his entourage to rededicate it in service to the Lord. After the dedication, the entire church was invited to stay for a wonderful meal of African rice and sauce. It was delicious.

Prior to 1997, there were few sources of water in the area. When Christophe’s family and the few Christians attending his church would go for water at a neighboring well, they were charged twice a much as other people because they were Christians. In 1997, a man named Alec Forman with Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) offered to dig a well for the church. Upon its completion, Pastor Christophe offered the water from his well free of charge to his neighbors. What a powerful testimony this was to Sabalibougou. The Christians were now offering their water for free despite having been charged double in the past by the same people now coming to get their water free of charge. As people began flocking to this new source of water, Pastor Christophe used the opportunity to share the Gospel and talk about Living Water, much like Jesus did in John 4 in the Bible. Because of the church’s generosity and Pastor Christophe’s reaching out to the people, the small church began to grow.

For the past 10 years, the well has been an important tool to help the church reach out to its community and shine its light throughout Sabalibougou. Even though he’s a devout Muslim, the chief of Sabalibougou has been a supporter of the church and its activities. When the church began a large expansion a couple of years ago, the chief was instrumental in helping the church expand its property to make room for the growth.

The well has helped the Sabalibougou church grow from a handful of believers to a weekly congregation of over 150 people. And there’s still a lot more room for growth. A new church building is now under construction that will have a capacity of up to 1000 people. What an amazing transformation it’s been for us to witness the past few years.

Today, Sabalibougou has running water and electricity. Even with land space being at a premium, the well was preserved and the new church building butts right up against it. There are frequent water outages in Sabalibougou and people still come to the church well to draw water. It still serves as an important service of the church.

The first picture in this post was taken on Sunday during the rededication. The next two photos show how the well looked a few years ago before the construction of the new church building.

Please join us in praying for the chief of Sabalibougou. Although he is Muslim, he is showing interest in the church. It is obvious he’s witnessing the love of Christ in the church and sensing there is something important happening here. He attended the church for the last Christmas service. The church honored his attendance. He then gave a blessing to church and said he would like to see it outgrow its new development. Wow! That’s quite a statement from a Muslim. Let’s pray that he will soon become a Christian and experience the grace and love of Jesus first hand.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Hanging Chads

The Malian presidential election was held last Sunday. It’s been interesting to watch the campaigning. Posters and pictures of candidates have been popping up everywhere. Thankfully, the voting process went smoothly and quietly…unusual for an African election. In order to be elected president, a candidate must receive over 50% of the vote. If no one gains at least 50%, a run-off election of the top two candidates is held 3 weeks later. For this year’s election, the current president, Amadou Toumani Toure (ATT) was the overwhelming favorite. There were 8 candidates running (including Mali’s first female candidate).

The voting system is very different from what we’re used to in the States. Because the literacy rate is so low, people vote by picture. The voting ballot was a large piece of paper with the picture of each of the 8 candidates. To vote, each person stuck their finger on an inkpad, then put their fingerprint next to the picture of the candidate they were voting for. As you can imagine, the vote counting process is long and cumbersome. It took several days to complete. The election result announcement was also delayed because there was a big international soccer tournament on TV. (This shows where the country’s priorities are.) On Thursday, ATT was announced the winner of the election with over 65% of vote. This avoids a runoff election.

The opposition candidates were not happy with the results and have claimed fraud. They have accused ATT of using state funds to pay for his campaign, alleged that he paid people to vote for him, and ordered all military personnel to vote for him. Two days ago, the opposition organized a protest rally to try and stir up the people. They have also refused to accept the results of the election. The election challenge has been passed along to the Constitutional Court and there should be a ruling within the next few days. Over 1,000 international election observers were present for the voting and the consensus is the election was conducted fairly. But for the next few days, we’re advised to take precautions until things settle down. We have talked to a lot of Malians to get their perspective. Everyone we’ve talked with says there’s nothing to worry about.

Thursday marked the YWAM International Day of Prayer (which coincides with the U.S. National Day of Prayer). Everyone in YWAM stopped our daily activities to focus on a day of prayer and fasting. We were asked to focus our prayer on the fallout from spiritual battles waged against YWAMers around the world. In the past few weeks, there has been a big increase in sickness, accidents, and death throughout YWAM. We can especially relate to this after going through our car accident in Mali a few years ago. Please remember all of us missionaries…and especially people with YWAM in your prayers over the next few days.