Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Rolling Blackouts

Things have been pretty quiet since our last blog entry.  Thank you very much for your prayers.  We received a lot of encouragement and prayer support from our last post about spiritual warfare.  We are feeling the protection of your prayer.  Things are currently calm and uneventful, however we realize that the battle is far from over and we are expecting more in the future.  But for now, we're enjoying the peace.  Please keep your prayers coming.  They are needed!

Please also add a request for rain for Mali in your prayers.  Mali's electricity is generated from a hydroelectric plant on the Niger River.  Right now, the water level in the river has dropped below the point of being able to operate all the generators.  As a result, we are experiencing a big shortage of electricity.  Mali has began rationing power and we are currently scheduled for 6 hours of power cuts per day as the electricity is rationed and distributed only to certain areas at a time.  Today, our outage was extended to 10 hours.  It is discouraging to have the power out for such extended periods...especially in the hot season when fans can make such an important difference.  We're also learning to adapt by not relying on our refrigerator and doing shopping daily.

We have had a few of rainstorms that have helped cool things down into the 90s the past couple of days, and hopefully it's helping to raise the river level too.  It's good to know that rainy season is about to start.  The rain is also vital for Mali's crops.  A good rainy season is very important for the country's food supply which relies entirely on rain for irrigation.  Even the Muslim president of Mali has asked the Christian church to pray for rain.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

War of the Worlds

We enjoy sharing various details of our lives and ministry in Mali with you. It is fun to talk about how different things are...transportation, shopping, paying bills, etc. along with changes in our family (like a new cat!) We are also excited to communicate the ways we see the Lord working in Mali and the ministries He's privileged us with being a part of.

There are also serious circumstances we run against when we need to appeal to you for extra prayer. This week, we entered one of those circumstances in the form of an intense spiritual battle.

What does a spiritual battle look like? It can take on many different forms. In Africa, the spirit world constantly collides with the natural world and there is a lot of interaction between the two. We see some pretty freaky things. The Magnambougou church is currently involved in a very strong spiritual battle. There have been a lot of causalities in the church. This week in particular, a young man in the church died as a result of the warfare. Our association with the church and several prominent members of the church has drawn us into the battle too. We have seen and been involved in some very real manifestions of the spiritual world. A few days ago, John encountered a demon face to face. They were locked in a passionate and forceful verbal showdown. John stood firm in his position. He quoted scripture, sang worship songs, and declared his authority through Christ which eventually forced the spirit to leave. The spirit said "You haven't seen the last of me". John said, "I know. I'll be waiting for you." And we are waiting. We're expecting a lot to happen in the next few weeks.

We realize this sounds hooky spooky and many people will say we just have overactive imaginations. But the truth is, the spirit world is a very real part of our lives.

For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms.
Ephesians 6:12

We are in need of some special prayer right now. Please pray specifically for protection for the Magnambougou church, our family, and others involved in the conflict. Please also pray for strength and courage. We know that victory ultimately belongs to Jesus, and us as His servants. But in the heat of battle, sometimes the truth can be lost in the struggle. Please pray that we will remain strong and firm in our convictions.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Here Kitty Kitty Kitty

We have a new resident living at our house. Cole has been longing for a pet cat and the opportunity recently came up to adopt one from a family leaving Mali. When we got him, we were told his name is Anakin. He is named after the Star Wars character Anakin Skywalker who transforms from a sweet innocent boy into mean spirited Darth Vader. Our cat is loving and gentle purring in your lap, and without warning, a moment later he will lash out with his claws drawn, hissing and biting. His name seems very aptly chosen.

Anakin is a Malian cat with typical Malian cat coloring (no, not black!...that’s the people). But he doesn’t seem well adjusted to the heat. He often pants like a dog and has a miserable look on his face like he’s about to die of heat stroke. Another un-catlike trait he exhibits is that he comes running when we call him. I guess we have the best of both worlds with a mix between a cat and a dog.

Anakin and Cole have become good friends. And Cole’s experience at the Jedi Training Academy this past year at Disneyland is coming in handy with his battles with Anakin.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Please Wait Here

Next time you’re writing a check for your electric bill or paying it on-line, think of us. Postal service in Mali is extremely limited and most people don’t have a mailing address. This means all bills are hand delivered to each house. It’s then up to us to pay them in person at the appropriate office. Because everyone pays their bill in person, the line to pay bills is very long...in the case of the power company, it usually exceeds an hour’s wait. Today, John went to the power company office closest to our house. He waited over two hours in line. When he finally reached the window to pay, the attendant’s computer said there was a problem with our bill and we must go to the regional office. Ouch! Two hours in line for nothing!

John waited an additional 45 minutes in line at the regional office. Again, when he reached the window to pay, they said there is a problem with the bill. With his language skills exhausted, John called a friend on his cell phone to interrupt what the attendant was saying. It turns out the power company was questioning the last meter reading. Before we could pay, John would need to take a meter reader to our house to verify the current reading. Because we don’t have a car, John rode on the back of the meter reader’s motorcycle. After jotting down the current reading on our bill, they returned to the office. After a couple of people verified the new reading, John was directed back to the cashier line to pay. Fortunately, he was allowed to go to the front of the line and didn’t have to wait all over again. In the end, we paid what the original bill said…165,600 francs…about $330. This is just for 1 month of water and electricity. Hot season is nearing its end, and hopefully we’ll see our bill drop in the next month or two.

In all, the process took 4 ½ hours. It’s a good thing we have our Disneyland experience behind us and waiting in line is nothing new to us. We’re hoping they’ll come up with a FastPass system at the utility company soon! ;-)