Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Blog of the Century

Wow! Can you believe that our blog is 100 posts old today? It feels like we just started this. What a cool way to keep you up-to-date on what's happening in our lives and ministry. We love to hear from you too. Be sure to check out the "Comment" feature and share your thoughts with us.

Cole and Julie have started school at Bamako Christian Academy. Cole is now in sixth grade. He is happy to have returned to the familiarity of the facilities, the predictability of routine, and the companionship of friends. This year Julie is teaching fifth grade language arts, Bible, American history and music.

As this school year gets underway, Julie has already learned the value of flexibility. A garage is being transformed into a brand new classroom for Julie’s fifth grade class. We’ve been able to witness and be involved in the physical construction progress from walls, to electrical wiring, to flooring this past week but it means that Julie’s classes have been housed temporarily in the assembly room. Completion of the new classroom is expected next week.

We invite you to pray for our school throughout the year. At this time we are still in need of two full time elementary school teachers for grades 1 & 3. These classes are currently being covered only by temporary means. God has been faithful in meeting the needs of the school these past two years. We go forward in confidence that we will have full staff soon.

John too will be involved in BCA this year in his role as Treasurer of the school board. The whole family is looking forward to a challenging and rewarding school experience at BCA.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

You Say It's Your Birthday

Monday we celebrated Cole's birthday. It's hard to believe, but he's now 11 years old! Because amusement parks have played such a big role in our family, we decided to celebrate by enjoying the day at Luna Parc...Mali's version of Disneyland. (It almost hurts to use both places in the same sentence!) Luna Parc is different from *any* other amusement park experience we've had. Admission was only 100 francs (20¢) and the rides were 300 francs (40¢) each. And you get exactly what you pay for. Luna Parc resembles a scary abandoned amusement park from an episode of Scooby Doo. All of the rides are in horrible condition and it's a wonder that they even operate. They are the rejects from the worst traveling carnivals and fairs.

Because it was Cole's birthday, we put our faith and trust in God to the full test and went on a couple of rides with him. After all, to an 11 year old, an amusement park is still an amusement park. We went on a Ferris wheel and a "new" ride for Luna Parc that was similar to on Octopus ride. Cole really enjoyed it. But he was content with riding just the two rides...the others rides didn't even appeal to him.

The trip was also a cultural experience that tried our patience and put our Christian virtues to the test. Standing in line is not an African concept. So getting on a ride is a matter of running, pushing, and shoving to get to an open car. And there is no concept of vehicle capacity. A two person car often would be holding 3-4 kids. And forget about ride safety...people waiting would be standing within the ride area as the ride vehicles came within inches of crashing into them. We have such a better appreciation for ride safety basics (remain seated keeping your hands and arms inside...etc.) after experiencing the carnival anarchy of Luna Parc. Our day was stark reminder that we really are 6892 miles from Disneyland.

Last night, we had a special treat of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese that we brought with us from California for this occasion. This is Cole's favorite meal and one that he's been missing since we left the States. Cole has sacrificed a lot by growing up on the mission field. But it's resulted in minimal expectations, learning to be content with what he has, and finding joy in small things. Rather then asking for a new XBox or Wii, he was content with getting small gifts (some we bought secondhand from other missionaries) including a geometry school kit (he is really excited about the compass), a Swiss Army knife, and a fountain pen. He was thrilled with these simple gifts. He also received a couple of packages from people in the States that had small LEGO sets which he really enjoys.

It was cool to celebrate this happy occasion. We feel so blessed to have Cole as a part of our family.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Maiden Voyage

Our car paperwork is finally complete!! We can now drive the car we purchased 3 months ago. The last bit of paperwork (the equivalent of a "pink slip") was held up because the Transport Ministry wanted to see a passport to be sure the name is correct on our car papers. But even after providing a copy of John's passport (having a middle name listed on the passport really confused them as Malians don't have middle names), they still misspelled the name as Jonh Clark. And our insurance is listed under John Clarl. "Close enough for government work" takes on a whole new meaning here. Oh well. At least we can drive.

We took our maiden voyage on Friday to drop Amy off at the airport. We have really enjoyed being with her the past week. She also had a chance to visit several people living in Mali that used to live in the country she's currently working in. She's starting some new work in children's ministry and had a chance to gather lots of information and materials from the people she met with. So her unscheduled trip to Bamako turned out having a lot of unexpected blessings.

She was able to get her passport reissued at the American Embassy on Thursday. They processed everything the same day. And the visa for her working country (name omitted for security reasons) was granted the following day. Even an airline ticket was available for Friday. And we were blessed with having money on-hand to help with her passport and travel expenses until she gains access to her money back home. It's been wonderful to see God bring all the pieces together. We are going to miss Amy but hope to meet up with her again. Please keep her and her ministry in prayer.

We've also posted a new video this week. It's of Cole performing with a group of YWAM kids at our conference in Koutiala last month.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Home!

We returned from Kayes today. It was so good to be home. When we arrived, we were greeted by Anakin who was once again very happy to see us. He is fat again, so his time with Felix seemed to go well.

We were so looking forward to reliable (by West African standards) water and electricity again. Unfortunately, we found the power wasn't working at our house. We checked with our neighbors and they had power, so we decided it had something to do with the electricity upgrade we've been waiting weeks for. Since we didn't have any food in the house anyway, we decided to unload the car then go out to dinner to a local restaurant and deal with the power later.

It was wonderful to have a western style meal again! John has really enjoyed the African food we've been eating for the past two weeks, however it was beginning to wear thin on Julie and Cole.

When we got home, the power was still off so we called the electric company. It was 9pm on Sunday night, so we didn't have very high expectations of it getting fixed until Monday or Tuesday, however they sent a crew out and the power came back on within 45 minutes. Woohoo!!

We have two American ladies staying with us for the next couple of days. Paula was our driver to and from Kayes. She lives at the YWAM Koutiala base. Amy currently lives in a neighboring country. Unfortunately, her purse including her passport, bank card, etc. was stolen in Kayes. She will be staying at our house while she gets a new passport and is able to return home. The Embassy won't begin processing her application until Thursday so she'll stay with us this week. We're looking forward to getting to know her and helping her get resituated.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Let's Get This Show On the Road

We've had a video projector for several years, however over the past few weeks our family has been blessed with getting a generator, large outdoor movie screen, and a sound system to help us with outdoor evangelism events. We are now completely self contained for showings of the Jesus Film and other Christian movies. This week is our first chance to try everything out. It took awhile to figure out how to put the movie screen together, but once it was up, we found it did a wonderful job. It's viewable from both sides so we can assemble groups of people both in front of and behind the screen. On Wednesday, the rain didn't come so we were finally able to set everything up and hold our first outdoor event in a large field in a Kayes neighborhood. The generator started easily and operated flawlessly. It's been really cool to see all these tools come together as we share the Gospel with the people of Kayes.

On Thursday, we fired up the generator and the sound system and began singing worship songs to help assemble people. The neighborhood kids were the first to arrive (they actually came early and helped us set up) and soon the adults began to come. We played several songs then performed a short skit about the danger of sin. Next came movie time. Because it was our first time setting up, we started late on Thursday night. Because the Jesus Film is 2 hours long, we decided to show a shorter movie instead called Le Combat (the battle). It is about a man in Ivory Coast who rejects the animistic ways of his tribe and becomes a Christian. At one point, his friends turn on him and try to place a curse on him. Instead, the curse gets turned on his friends and one of them gets very sick. In the end, his family becomes Christian too. Mali is a very animistic country, so this movie carries a powerful message. On Friday we showed the first half of the Jesus Film and on Saturday we showed the remainder. We showed both movies in Bambara, the most widely spoken dialect in Mali.

All three nights went very well. We had between 100-200 people attend each night. The people were very interested in the films and most stayed after to hear a testimony and the Gospel message.

Cole was on a different team as part of YWAM's King's Kids ministry. He and a group of about 40 kids performed several singing and dancing numbers they have been rehearsing the past couple of weeks while we've been in the seminars. The King's Kids were supposed to perform with our team on the nights we got rained out. Thursday thru Saturday, they moved over to the other team. We would have really enjoyed seeing Cole involved in his own ministry.

Our family will be leaving for Bamako tomorrow. The rest of the evangelism group is going to stay in Kayes for another week. Please be praying as they continue to show the Jesus Film and share the Gospel.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Rain, Rain Go Away

Thank you for your continued prayers for rain in Mali. We have had some excellent rains throughout the entire country which has really helped the water situation and is wonderful for the crops. It's good to see the rivers rising...the Senegal River here in Kayes and the Niger River in Bamako. But the rain has also presented some obstacles for us. As we walk around Kayes, we're constantly trudging through mud. Cole has enjoyed this aspect.

We started our evangelism efforts on Tuesday evening. We split our group into two teams and headed out to different neighborhoods in Kayes. We set up outdoor evangelism events in both locations. Our goal is to show the Jesus Film, perform some skits, and share testimonies and the Gospel. We began by going door-to-door and inviting people to the events. Because Mali is such a social culture, this is very easy to do. As we walk down the street and greet people sitting in front of their houses, things naturally progress into conversation, and before we know it, we're invited to sit down and share some more. Unfortunately, it began raining on Tuesday just after we started our door-to-door campaign. But the rain actually benefited our time with people. When the rain started, we were invited inside where we were able to spend more time talking to them about Jesus.

Unfortunately, our team's outdoor evangelism events were rained out on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. The other evangelism team was able to move their event inside a church building close to where they were planning their meeting. But we were still able to share with people door-to-door. Afterward, we had a time of praise, worship, and prayer.

Rain is still very important to Mali this time of year, so our prayer is not for the rain to stop, but for the timing to change to morning rains leaving the afternoon and evenings clear for our outdoor events.