Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Heart of Sin

John Teaching Kings Kids.jpg YWAM has a ministry called King’s Kids that is a youth program that focuses on evangelism through song, dance, and performance.  This week, there is a King’s Kids camp in Bamako that about 30 kids are attending.  The weeklong camp is allowing the kids to draw closer to the Lord, learn new things in classes and study sessions, and develop new song and dance routines that they use to share the Gospel through evangelistic performances and events.

John was asked to teach a couple of sessions about technology at the camp on Monday and Tuesday.  He shared about the good and bad of technology and how to best use technical tools while avoiding the pitfalls and temptations it can bring.  John talked about 5 main areas of technology that are changing life in Mali:  Television, Computers/Internet, Music/MP3, DVDs/Movies, and Cell Phones.  Even though Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world, technology is making major inroads bringing both good and bad to the country.  This is something very close to John’s heart and an area he was eager to share about.

One area especially is television.  Having watched TV erode our society and morality in the States during our lifetime, it is especially hard to watch it happening in Mali too…and at a much faster rate.  Television is still a relatively new item in Mali.  Since 2001, we’ve seen it grow from a few TVs scattered among the wealthier people to something that is now expected in every home.  Keep in mind that the average per capita income for Mali is $270 per year.  A TV can cost an average family between 6 months to a year salary!  But one of the hardest things has been the programming that is attracting people.  Every night a 7pm Mali comes to a grinding halt as a telenovela (Brazilian soap opera) captures everyone’s attention.  People stop on the street and gather in front of TVs set up to watch Au Coeur de Péché – The Heart of Sin.  The title says it all.

This was the second landmark teaching opportunity for John in the past few days as he once again did his entire presentation in French without the help of a translator.  This is an exciting step that will hopefully lead to a lot more opportunities to share with the people of Mali.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

PowerPoint to the People

Yesterday, John was invited by our friend Edward who is a missionary with Campus Crusade, to teach a class on Microsoft PowerPoint to a group of students from Bamako University.  Many of the students are specializing in business studies.  Edward has a ministry working with students to teach them practical business skills they don’t learn in school.  He uses this as an opportunity to develop relationships with students which gives him a chance to share the Gospel.

Unfortunately, most of the students don’t have access to a computer and many have never used one before, so teaching them how to use PowerPoint was quite a challenge.  John focused on the basics of business presentation and how to put together several different types of presentations including marketing, sales, training, and reporting.  Then together as a class, they put together a simple PowerPoint sales presentation.

The students were very excited about learning to use a business program like PowerPoint and they asked a lot of questions and expressed a lot of interest in John coming to teach other computer classes.  It looks like a new ministry has opened up for John.  Please be praying for direction in this new area.

This class marked an important milestone as John taught only in French without the need for an interpreter!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Joyeux Noël

Christmas 2008 sq

We wish you and your family a wonderful and very Merry Christmas.

From the edge of the Sahara, we are far from a white Christmas…in fact, we’re experiencing more of a red Christmas.  The dust storms are coming in and there is a brown/reddish haze in the air all the time.  Our temperature today topped out at 98°, so we’re a long way from braving the winter weather many of your are experiencing in the States.

Each year at Christmas, the Malian Church commissions a fabric that people of the church buy then have made into clothes to wear to church on Christmas day.  We picked up our clothes from the tailor a couple of days ago so we blended in well at Church this morning.

Last night we attended Christmas Eve service at our friend Pastor Christophe’s church in Sabalibougou.  This has become our family’s tradition in Mali.  The service ended at midnight and we returned home to get some sleep for Christmas day.  We awoke Christmas morning and spent time opening gifts.  We received a couple of wonderful Christmas packages from the States along with a few gifts we picked up for each other in Mali.  After our gifts were opened, we donned our Christmas clothes and headed back to Sabalibougou for Christmas day service.  It was complete with lots of singing, dancing, and a wonderful Christmas message.  Following the service, the church hosted a wonderful lunch of African rice with vegetables and meat.  It was one of the best meals we’ve had in Mali.

Nativity Set The children built a wonderful nativity set at the church.  Traditional western style nativity figures were outside a handmade African stable.  Inside the stable was a large doll representing the baby Jesus.  It’s interesting to see Malian’s interpretation of Christmas decorations.  Many businesses are decorated with Christmas lights and gaudy tinsel decorations.  There are also large light up Christmas decorations adorning many of the streets…the big difference is all the decorations stay up year-round here.  Because Mali is a Muslim country, Christmas really doesn’t get celebrated outside the church.  Today was just like any other day for most Malians.  Looking around town, there was no sign today was Christmas day.  It was wonderful to spend our celebration in the church remembering what the true meaning of Christmas is all about without getting lost in the pomp and circumstance, and more importantly, the stress of the holiday.  May you and your family feel the peace and love this Christmas holiday is meant to represent.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Amber Alert

One of our Malian employees at Bamako Christian Academy received a call from his wife that their 6 year old daughter had disappeared.  The wife and daughter went to the market together and the mother sent the girl home early.  When mom got home a couple of hours later, she found that her daughter had never made it home.  The family and neighbors began a frantic search.  After a few hours, they located the little girl.

There are conflicting stories of what happened, but things are leaning towards her being abducted by a couple of men.  Thankfully, it appears they didn’t do anything to her.  The police have taken one of men into custody.  Now the process begins to sort everything out.  The police have received reports from some people who say they saw the men take the girl.  They’ve also received reports that the girl was simply wandering around.

Please keep Thierry and his family in prayer as they work through all the details.  They have had to pay the police a large sum of money to begin the investigation.  Please pray that the police will resolve everything fairly and the truth will be revealed.

We are thankful that no harm came to the girl, but it serves as a reminder that crime is everywhere…including Mali.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Supply and Demand

Kalima School Gift Presentation Bamako Christian Academy (where Julie teaches and Cole attends) has a Student Ministries program that allows our kids to reach out to Malians with their own mission projects.  Last month they held a bake sale to raise money for school supplies for La Victoire Christian School - a local Malian Christian school.  They were able to raise enough money to purchase notebooks, pencils and rulers for one of the classes.  Because of the poverty in Mali, most kids don’t have even the most basic school supplies.  And when it comes to books, they are usually shared by several students.  Often, an entire class will share one book.

Kalima School 1st Grade Class Another contrast between the two schools is class size.  Where BCA has a total enrollment of 35 students in K-12th grade, La Victoire has 65 kids in just the first grade class alone.  The class is taught by one teacher with all 65 students in the same classroom.  The students also sit 2-3 to a desk and practice their lessons on chalk slates like classrooms in the States 150 years ago.

Today, the BCA Student Ministry leaders (Cole is currently the vice president) went to La Victoire Christian School to present the supplies they purchased.  Believe it or not, it only cost $30 to provide basic supplies for the entire class.  They were very excited to receive the supplies.  We’re hoping Student Ministries will embark on more projects like this.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Hallelujah

Messiah Concert Back in October, someone from the U.S. Embassy began organizing a choir and orchestra within the English speaking community to perform Handel’s Messiah.  There have been about 45 people involved including several people from the mission community, several different embassies, along with Africans from a few different countries.  They were able to assemble a full choir and a small orchestra including a few violins and a couple of wind instruments.

Julie has been attending rehearsals for the last several weeks and yesterday we attended the performance.  They did a WONDERFUL job.  Our featured video is a segment of the Hallelujah Chorus.  You can view it by clicking here.

The concert was held in an upscale hotel downtown.  It was interesting to have carpet under our feet for the first time in months!  The juxtaposition of extremes in Mali continues to fascinate us and this concert was no exception.  We spend a majority of our time living in third world living conditions.  Spending a couple of hours in a modern, western style environment was quite a treat.

TRIVIA – At the first London performance of the Messiah, King George II was so moved by the words and music of the Hallelujah Chorus, that he stood and remained standing for the rest of the chorus.  According to the protocol of the time, when the king stood, everyone else stood too – thus initiating the tradition of standing for the Hallelujah Chorus.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Olly Olly Oxen Free

Wow...Sorry for the break in communication!  Please rest assured that we are alive and well.  We're not sure why we haven't been keeping up with the blog.  But we're going back to our regular schedule now.

It would be very difficult to catch up with everything that's been happening the past month.  We have had a variety of experiences that run the full spectrum from good to bad.  Here's just a brief summary.  Grab a cup of coffee or hot chocolate as we catch you up on the past few weeks.

Julie had another medical scare when she started experiencing the same symptoms she had last year with the kidney stone incident.  After a couple of doctor visits and several lab tests, a kidney stone was ruled out.  BUT...this time the doctor found gall stones.  He said normally that shouldn't be a problem and gave Julie a prescription to help settle things down.  When Julie asked what the medicine was, he said "Really, it's just clay that you mix with water."  It's fascinating how sometimes technology can't outdo the basics God provides.

A couple of weeks ago we experienced a big conflict in our family and our marriage was put under great stress.  It took several days, but we were able to pray through everything and resolve the conflict.  Thankfully, our marriage is now stronger than ever, however this time was very frightening and a reminder that we need your prayer to help fend off the attacks and lies of Satan as he attempts to destroy us and create disunity in our family.

Aside from the problems, we're happy to report that there have been some exciting things happening lately too.  John has spent the last few weeks acquiring a computer, projector, and printer for a Malian pastor who works with a mission called Tentmakers International that specializes in training people how to serve as missionaries while supporting themselves with a job.  Pastor Tiowa is the head of the Africa branch and is currently coordinating training and equipping many people from Mali and other African countries.  Thanks to on-line shopping, purchasing the equipment was easy...it was finding someone who would agree to transport it in their luggage from the States to Mali that was the difficult part, even though John arranged to pay for the extra baggage fees.  After several weeks, he was finally able to find a missionary who agreed to bring it over.  John was able to train the pastor and a couple other people how to use the equipment and last week Tentmakers International had a dedication ceremony to officially open their new office in Mali and present themselves, their computer and other office material to the Christian community.  It was exciting to be part of launching a new ministry organization.

We celebrated a simple Thanksgiving holiday.  Most of the Americans we know already had other commitments or plans, so we shared a meal just with our family.  Julie did a wonderful job preparing a wonderful meal including homemade stuffing (no StoveTop stuffing here!), pumpkin pie from scratch and several other Thanksgiving trimmings.  We were not able to get a turkey, but we managed with a chicken instead.  We were able to by a roasted chicken from a street vendor that made a wonderful centerpiece for our meal.  It will be nice not to have to eat turkey leftovers for the next couple of weeks.  Having simple holidays really helps bring the true meaning of our celebrations to light as we don't get lost in all the preparation and other details of the day.

We have been active in our YWAM worship ministry.  We have had some really good worship times the past few weeks.  This ministry is really starting to take off and grow.  We've also been busy in our TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) English tutoring with two of our students preparing to take the TOEFL test this week.  Please keep Daniel and Abel in prayer as they take the test and await their results.  They are both eager to pass so they can attend seminary in the States.

On Sunday night, Bamako Christian Academy presented their Christmas program.  Julie stepped back as the director this year when another teacher expressed interest in leading the program.  Julie enjoyed the less stressful role as assistant director.  Cole had a narrator part this year.  He did an excellent job!  He really struggled during practice time saying the word "abolitionists" in his script.  But when performance time came, he nailed it with no problem.

Tabaski, the Festival of Sacrifice was this week.  This is one of the biggest holidays in Islam.  It is a day to celebrate when Abraham was going to sacrifice Ismael but God stopped him at the last minute and provided a ram instead.  If this story sounds familiar but a little different, it's because Islam recognizes Ismael instead of Isaac as the chosen son.  With the familiarity of the characters, it's an excellent point to start a conversation with our Muslim friends and talk about God, forgiveness, and atonement.  On Tabaski, it's tradition for each family to sacrifice a ram or a goat and prepare a big feast for family and friends.  They even set aside 1/3 of the meal to give to the poor.  Maybe we can learn something from this.  In many ways, Tabaski is like our Thanksgiving celebration in the States.  But instead of picking up a Butterball at the supermarket, you buy your sheep from a local shepherd who's leading his flock for sale through the streets.

Julie will be participating in a community concert presentation of the Messiah this weekend.  There are about 40 people in the choir.  Many come from American and European embassies, mission agencies, and NGO non-profit organizations.  There are also several African participants.  We'll share more details after the concert.

We have several YWAM short-term teams coming to serve in Mali over the next couple of months.  The first arrives from Canada on Saturday night.  They are an English speaking team, so John is going to coordinate and assist with much of their time in Bamako.

It's been getting cold the last few nights.  We're now shutting our windows and turning off our fans as the temperatures drop into the high 60s at night.  In the morning, we're donning jackets as we venture out into the cold mid-70 degree mornings.  Who knows...it could turn out to be a white Christmas after all!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Tree of Life

Guava TreeLate the other night one of our African neighbors came to our door wanting to see a Guava tree in our yard.  Someone in his family was sick with Giardia (a parasite).  Apparently, the leaves of a Guava tree act as a medicine for Giardia.  He had seen the tree in our yard a few weeks ago and came by to ask if he could pick some leaves.  I guess this is the Malian equivalent of borrowing a cup of sugar from one of your neighbors.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Meeting of the Minds

It's been a very busy couple of weeks with meetings and conferences.  The past week, John attended a conference about pastoral care and crisis management.  Even though the topic dealt with trauma situations, it was a much smoother conference than last week.  It was nice not to be dealing with controversial subject matter.  He learned some good techniques for relating with people and dealing with several different kinds of situations.

Over the weekend, Julie attended a Christian women's conference that comes to Mali each year to provide renewal and spiritual enrichment.  A team of women from Palmcroft Baptist Church in Arizona came out to host the conference and minister to over 80 English speaking women who came from all parts of Mali and a couple of surrounding countries.  They spent time studying God's holiness and sovereignty out of the book of Isaiah.  There was also good fellowship and food.  The conference is held in one of the nicer, upscale hotels in town, so the women were pampered and treated to a weekend full of refreshment.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Numb3rs

It's amazing to see technology sweeping the world.  Mali is no exception.  Even though Mali ranks as the 5th poorest country in the world, the juxtaposition of the availability of technology is astounding.   When we first arrived in 2001, there were less than 10,000 telephones in the entire country.  As cell phone technology has grown, the number of telephones has grown at an astronomical rate.  In 2003, it was necessary to change from 6-digit to 7-digit phone numbers.  Today, there are over 2.5 million phones in Mali (for a population of 14 million) and the number is growing every day.  We currently have 2 cell phone companies with a 3rd on the way.  All of our phones are pre-paid and people selling phone cards to recharge a phone are on every corner...it's one of the biggest businesses here.  The average Malian lives on less than a dollar a day.  The smallest phone card currently costs $4.  It's hard to see people's priorities shifting and it's now becoming more important to "feed" one's telephone before one's family.

With the continued growth of telephones, our phone numbers are quickly running out.  Today, Mali switched to 8-digit phone numbers.  It's very confusing to remember what number to add to each phone number as it varies depending on what phone company the person you're calling is with and what part of the country they're in.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Taxi Driver

100_0844 We were very sad to lose Phillipe our house guardian this week. He's gotten a taxi and has decided to go into business as a full-time taxi driver. Like many of Mali's taxis, it's an old Mercedes that is barely running. The appearance and interior are far from what you'd expect of a Mercedes, but it gets from point "A" to point "B", and that's about all that matters here.

Julie has ridden with Phillpe a few times and saw her life flash before her eyes on a couple of occasions...but that's not uncommon in a taxi here. On one of her trips, he bumped into a pole and a few minutes later almost ran into a sewer ditch. Tijuana is known for its crazy taxi rides, but Mali makes a Tijuana taxi seem like a quiet ride on the Autopia at Disneyland. Although we don't have much faith in Phillipe's driving skills, we still wish him well in his new business.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Keep Up The Good Work

Thank you for your prayers and concern for the conference John has been attending.  It is still very troubling to see the confusion it's brought and the spiritual attacks aimed at the very core of the church.  Please continue to pray that God will shed light on the darkness that has been brought in and the lies and untruths will be exposed.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Synchronicity

There is a large conference in town this week promoting an insider movement in Mali.  Its goal is to help people understand how Christians can better integrate with the Muslim community and not be viewed and rejected as outsiders.  It has been well attended by over 150 missionaries, pastors, leaders, and Christians from Mali and surrounding countries.

John has been looking forward to this conference, but after attending the first 3 days, he chose to stop going.  He found many of the methods being presented were contrary to Biblical teaching...including not calling ourselves Christians because it can create resistance in some people.  The teachings also encourage new Christians to remain in their Muslim culture and practices and continue attending services at their mosque rather than becoming part of a Christian church.  These ideas are part of a movement of syncretism that mixes other beliefs with Christianity and pollutes the Gospel.

There are many influential people from the Malian Christian community attending this seminar including the leader of the national Christian church association.  A lot of local pastors and missionaries are being drawn into this New Age type movement.  It has been very troubling and extremely heavy on our hearts to see many of our friends and co-workers being led astray this week.  Please set aside a few minutes to pray about this issue and join us in asking the Lord to touch our colleagues to expose the lies of these teachings and return them to the Truth of the Gospel. 

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Leave The Driving To Us

Bex & Daniel We have really enjoyed having Bex stay in our home the last week.  We had a chance to get to know her better along with helping her get situated in Mali.  We said good-bye to her yesterday as she left for Douentza.  John took her to the bus station and helped her get her ticket and loaded on the bus.  It is always interesting to see what is loaded on buses in Mali.  On this  particular trip, a large armoire and refrigerator was loaded on the roof of the bus along with the luggage.  Someone even checked a used car motor as their baggage.

Bus BaggageBus trips in Mali are often adventurous.  Because Bex is just beginning to learn French, we made arrangements for one of our Francophone YWAM teammates to accompany her on the bus to help out if things didn't go as planned.  We're glad we did.  The trip is normally around 9 hours, but in Bex's case, it turned into almost 24 hours.  The bus broke down a few hours into the trip and was delayed for 3 hours as the driver fixed the problems.  (There's no AAA or roadside service so each bus driver is responsible for his own repairs...even out in the middle of the bush with no access to parts.)  Further into the trip, the bus hit someone and and was delayed for several more hours as the police investigated the accident.  We were all very happy when Bex let us know she had finally arrived safely.  The trip was a pretty accurate orientation to Mali.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Goin' To The Chapel And We're...

Garibou Kids Bex came and shared about her ministry at our weekly chapel at Bamako Christian Academy (BCA).  She will be working with Garibou boys in Douentza.  Garibous are young boys that are sent to study the Qu'arun under a local Marabou (Muslim teacher at the mosque.)  Garibou boys are given away by their parents and entrusted to the Marabou.  Sometimes their parents send them because they can't afford to raise them and other times they are sent because the parents are hoping for a blessing from Allah for giving up their son.  The boys are often given up as young as four years old.

The life of a Garibou is very difficult and humiliating.  They are sent out on the streets with a tomato sauce can to beg for money for the mosque.  If they don't come back with enough money, they are beaten by the Marabou.  There are literally hundreds of Garibou boys wandering the streets in the towns of Mali.  It presents a real challenge for us.  It is heartbreaking to have a 4-6 year-old boys come up to you begging for money with a lost, lonely look in their eyes.  If we give them money, it goes to support the local mosque.  If we don't they get beaten for not bringing back enough money.

The Garibous do not know what love is.  They receive no form of affection and there is no one in their life acknowledging their worth or recognizing them as human.  Their parents have rejected them.  The Marabou treats them as slaves.  The people on the street only see them as one of hundreds of beggars wandering the street.

Bex and a couple of people on her team make it a point to reach out to the kids and show them some dignity.  She shared in chapel how one of the easiest and most effective things she does is simply stopping and asking a boy his name.  They are not used to even this tiny bit of attention and it leaves a lasting and loving impact on them.  They also provide meals, help the boys wash their clothes, and show them some extra attention.

Our school kids now have a much different view of the Garibou boys that are a normal part of our daily landscape in Mali.  They are now looking at ways in which they too can reach out to the Garibous and demonstrate the love of Christ.  Please be in prayer for the Garibou boys who are so lost and lonely.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Kiwi Care

We have a woman named Bex (short for Rebecca) staying with us this week. She is from New Zealand and has come to Mali to serve at our YWAM base in Douentza. She was in Mali back in December as part of the short-term YWAM team from Norway that we worked with. During that trip, she gained a real heart for Garibou boys (young boys attending Qur'anic school) who are sent out on the streets each day to beg for money for the mosque. She has returned to work with Garibous in Douentza and help them come to know the love of Jesus. Although she was here with a team for 3 months, it's a lot different to acclimate to living in Mali for a long duration. We're helping here with her visa and getting settled into life in Mali.

Please keep Bex in prayer as she adjusts to life (and heat) in Africa and works on learning the French and Folufide languages.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Red Light Green Light

The streets and intersections in Bamako are quite an adventure to traverse. During heavy traffic times, police will sometimes direct traffic at some of the bigger intersections, but normally we're left on our own. We've concluded the dominant traffic law in Bamako is the Law of Inertia - "An object in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force". When we reach an intersection, we judge the speed and size of the vehicles in all directions and proceed or yield as appropriate.

There are several traffic lights in town but only a couple of them work. During student demonstrations and riots, the students destroy the traffic signals because they represent a symbol of control and authority. So sadly their actions have left the traffic in our city in a state of disorder and mayhem for years. Bamako has been rapidly changing since we arrived in 2001. It is now the fastest growing city in Africa and is in a constant state of change and improvement. Over the last couple of months, the government has begun repairing all of the the signals and installing new ones. It is amazing how much easier it is to drive around the city. But being Africa, things often malfunction or stop working. As you see in the picture above, the traffic light at an intersection near our house recently had all three colors lit simultaneously! Some things never change.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Read Any Good Books Lately?

I (John) recently finished reading a book called The Shack. I am not a book reader by nature, so it took a lot to get me to read it. But once I started, I found it hard to put it down. It's a fictional story about a man named Mack who encounters extreme tragedy when his young daughter's life is taken by a serial killer. His life loses all meaning and he is entrapped by his grief and sense of loss. Several months later he receives a mysterious invitation to meet with someone calling them self God at the crime scene.

Mack ends up spending a weekend with God and discovers a very different perspective of who God is and the relationship God created us for and desires to share with us. Mack's encounter with God is very different from his expectations and the form in which God manifests Himself in the book really challenges Mack's faith and views of religion.

The Shack has been on the best seller lists of the New York Times, Amazon.com, USA Today, and Barnes and Nobel for several months and has been sweeping through the Christian community. It has also created a lot of controversy in its wake with many Christians and churches. Many have called the book a heresy and false presentation of God. This is really unfortunate as these people have missed the entire point of the book much like the Pharisees couldn't see beyond the law to recognize when Jesus was standing right before them. Please keep in mind that The Shack is a work of fiction and is presented as such. In very much the same way as the C.S. Lewis Chronicles of Narnia series allows us to see Christ in Aslan the lion, The Shack presents us with a different view of God than just a distant old man in a robe with white hair and long white beard.

I have been a Christian for almost my whole life. I was raised in the church, attended Christian school, and have gone to church nearly every Sunday. But after reading this book (along with other things God has exposed me to in the last couple of years), I now realize how mired I've been in religion for the sake of religion. Just like the Pharisees, I can quote Scripture, say all the right things, and go through the motions of being a Christian without really discovering who God is. This book has been a paradigm shift for me. It's amazing to have discovered who God really is and have a much better picture of what He desires from me.

I encourage you to pick up a copy of The Shack and read it without any preconceived ideas. Read the entire book even if you don't agree with everything in it. Ask the Lord to speak to you as you read, and reveal the relationship He desires to have with you. It's a relationship we often talk about but can't really seem to grasp or accept as possible. God didn't create us because He wanted servants (He would be a pretty weak God if He needed servants to take care of Him) rather He created us for a close and personal relationship with Him. He made us to walk and talk with Him.

Friday, October 03, 2008

That Darn Cat

Back in February, Julie and Cole found a wounded kitten in the road on the way home from school. We decided to adopt it and nurse it back to health. She has been a part of our family ever since. She was still only a few months old when we left this summer, so we couldn't get her fixed before we left. Well, lo and behold, when we got back in August, we found she was pregnant. When we woke up yesterday morning, we found 5 new baby kittens.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Lost in Translation

Last Sunday when John preached on unity at the Bamako English Fellowship, we also lead the worship time. There is a worship song in French called Nous Voulons Vivre l'Unité by Sylvain Freymond. In English the title is We Want To Live in Unity. The song has really touched us and we wanted to share it with the English speaking congregation. Unfortunately, the song has not been translated into English. So we took up the task of trying it ourselves. We ran our finished translation by one of our native French speaking YWAM friends to have her check the accuracy of the translation. She felt it was done very well. In fact, she knows the writer of the song and asked our permission to submit the translation to him. He was very pleased with the translation and felt it reflected the original French version. Wow...what an encouragement to our French learning this has been!

Click here to listen to the original French version of this song.

We Want to Live in Unity
by Sylvain Freymond - translation by John Clark

We want to live in unity
Every moment every day
Careful not to split apart
As we move ahead

Chorus
Together we share the love
Love of the Lord as we worship our Savior
Together we welcome
The Spirit of the Lord, Creator of unity

We want to remain faithful
And become united as one
Bonded together in peace
As we walk in the Spirit of God

We recognize our differences
To God they are our strength
We will share in everything
While we seek the kingdom of God

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The English Patient

We are continuing to work with Malian students who are building their English skills to pass the TOEFL (English proficiency) test and attend college in the States. Julie is working on grammar and written skills and John is helping with speaking and listening skills. We've have found several great resources that have been very helpful in both arenas. John has located some wonderful podcast sources including a language institute in Los Angeles that produces English podcasts specifically for people preparing for the TOEFL exam. We have purchased some inexpensive MP3 players to allow our students to listen to these podcasts and practice their listening skills at their leisure. We've also been sharing some wonderful podcasts that talk about the culture and lifestyles in the U.S. John even found a podcast of chapel services at Asbury Seminary where one of our students has applied for a scholarship. He is really excited about getting a special sneak peek into the school each week.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Independence Day

Today is Malian Independence Day celebrating Mali's break from French Colonialism in 1960. Previously, Mali had been a part of the French Soudan when military forces began occupation in 1880. Today, Mali serves as an example of a successful independent republic in Africa. We enjoy peace and harmony among different tribes and people that is rare on this continent filled with strife and conflict. Because Mali is a such a poor country, there wasn't a big national celebration. There were small parades in some parts of the country, but nothing big in Bamako where we live. We chose not to go out but to watch highlights on TV instead. Our featured video this week is Malian President Amadou Toumani Touré (ATT) placing a wreath at the Independence Monument in downtown Bamako. This monument also serves as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The perpetual flame is only lit on holidays otherwise people would be camped around the monument using the flame to cook their meals.

John preached about Church unity last night and talked at length about Independence Day. He used the Malian government and society as an example to the Church of what church unity should look like. Mali's national seal states the country's motto: One People, One Goal, One Faith. If we could only follow this same mindset in the Church. A sobering statistic he quoted is there are currently 33,700 different Christan church denominations today...and it is forecasted this number will increase to 55,000 by 2025. This is a far cry from the unity in the Church that we are taught to exhibit.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Trick or Treat

We're now a couple of weeks into Ramadan...the holy month in Islam.  During this time, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk with no eating or drinking.  The most devout Muslims consider swallowing their saliva as drinking, so there's a lot of spitting this time of year.

Obviously, people are pretty drained from the lack of eating and drinking, so things move at an even slower pace than usual.  At night, things really begin to come to life as people are re-energized after starting to eat and drink again.

Ramadan GirlsThere was a knock at our front gate around 10:30 last night.  It was pretty persistent, so we chose to answer it.  There was a group of kids at our gate with their faces painted and holding musical instruments.  They came into our yard and began singing and dancing.  It turns out this is a West African tradition associated with the midpoint of Raman.  Apparently, for 5 nights, the kids go out door-to-door entertaining their neighbors in exchange for small gifts similar to trick-or-treating in the States on Halloween.

We hadn't heard of this before, so we were caught completely by surprise.  We went into the house and found a package of cookies and soon word got around that the white people were giving out some great treats and we had more groups of kids show up.  It finally calmed down about 11:00 pm.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Swipe Your Card

We found a little unpleasant surprise when checking our credit card account on-line.  It appears someone has gotten a hold of our credit card number and has been on a gas buying spree across Florida and North Carolina.  We've called our credit card company and they've canceled the card and are in the process of reversing the charges.  In all, there were over $700 in gas purchases over a 2 day period.  We're glad we caught it early. 

Several of the charges were for $100 exactly.  Now you know why there's a $100 purchase limit at most gas stations.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

John & Julie Clark - Special 19th Anniversary Edition

Yesterday we celebrated our wedding anniversary. We went to an upscale hotel owned by Muammar Gaddafi. (He owns many hotels and big businesses in West Africa.) We had a wonderful western style meal in the hotel's restaurant on the bank of the Niger River. The menu had a lot of items that are difficult to find in Mali. They even had Diet Coke (called Coke Lite outside the US) which we normally can't get in Mali. Believe it or not, it was $9.75 for a 12oz can! It's a good thing we don't like Diet Coke.

The night also a marked a rite of passage for Cole. Now that he's getting older, we felt he'd become responsible enough to stay at home without a babysitter.

In all, we had a lovely evening together reflecting back on our marriage and laughing about how on our wedding day we could have never pictured ourselves living in Africa!

Monday, September 01, 2008

No News Is Good News

All Is Well - We Are Safe and Sound in Mali.

We have finally gotten around to updating the blog. Our last week in the States really threw us off track for some reason and we never caught up. We are sorry for the the lack of news.

We have backfilled our blog entries to help catch up on what's been happening the past month. Now that we're caught up, we'll get back to our regular posting schedule.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Search for the Mysterious Party of Cole

Indy Birthday Party We had a special themed party to celebrate Cole's twelfth birthday this weekend. It started with special party invitations that needed to be decoded using the Indiana Jones Mara code (our Disney friends are familiar with this.)

Cole invited several of his friends over for a sleepover party that featured several different Indiana Jones adventure games. Birthday Cake The most exciting was a treasure hunt involving several keys and a couple of treasure boxes. They also watched Raiders of the Lost Ark and feasted on hot dogs, Kraft mac & cheese, birthday cake, and ice cream well into the wee hours of the night.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Heart of Worship

Joel's New Guitar We are very thankful for several guitars that people donated during our trip to California for Christian African musicians without an instrument. We were able to present the first guitar to our friend Joel Kisoki today. His family is from Congo and they are serving in Mali as missionaries with Campus Crusade.

Joel is a talented musician and a gifted worship leader. But he has always played on a borrowed guitar. He was in disbelief for quite some time after we gave him the first guitar. He couldn't believe it's his very own. When we gave it to him, he told us how he had just prayed that morning for a guitar!! Talk about an answer to prayer!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Ring My Bell

John preached again last night at the English church. He has really gained a heart for preaching and enjoys presenting God's message whenever he can.

BCA School got off to a smooth start last week. Cole is adjusting to being in 7th grade and changing classes for each subject. Julie is back to teaching high school English after several years and is enjoying returning to her teaching roots. She also has a special responsibility of being the school bellringer this year, ringing a handheld bell to announce each class change and break.

Please continue to pray for teachers for our school. We are still in need of 3 teachers...especially for the 2nd semester this year. If you have teaching experience or know someone who does, please ask the Lord if He'd have you come out to Mali for a short teaching assignment. There are no special requirements or experience necessary. Please click here for a short video about our school.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty

Purrcilla Our pet cats were very happy to see us. For the first couple of days we were back, they stayed as physically close to us as possible. But now they seem to be returning to their normal stand-offish feline personalities.

There is a new kitten that seems to have adopted us while we were gone. We had someone leaving food out for our cats every day while we were gone and it seems a couple neighborhood cats discovered this. One kitten in particular seems to have made himself right at home. We keep encouraging him to go back to his real home next door...but it's not easy.

Our kitten Purrcilla is about 6 months old now. She's gaining some weight in some suspicious places and we think we'll soon have some new additions to our "zoo". Who would like a free kitten?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Get Back to Work!

We squeezed as much time as we could out of our trip to the States. But on the other side of the coin, we've limited our recoup time before jumping back into our work and ministry in Mali. John preached in the English church yesterday and Julie started back at school today for orientation. School starts on Thursday so there's just a couple of days to get ready for the new school year. Of course, this affects Cole most of all. He's really bummed about summer coming to a close.

The first couple of weeks of school are going to be a little challenging. Our school administrator is in the States for several months and we have brought in someone to fill her place. We also have 4 new teachers along with a new Norwegian track for several students. So there's a lot of new people and things to get used to. Please pray for the many adjustments that need to be made.

Many of our YWAM colleagues in Bamako are on vacation right now, so things are on hiatus at the YWAM base. So we get a break from some of our ministry responsibilities for a couple of weeks before things start up again.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Fat and Happy

We've been readjusting to life back in Africa. It's rainy season right now so everything is wet and muddy. But the nice thing is the cool temperatures. Our house shows definite signs of being vacant for a couple of months, but we're managing to get it back into shape. Thankfully we didn't come back to a termite mound in the living room like after our last trip.

The time change is always difficult coming back as our bodies are 8 hours behind Malian time. This means we're not ready to go to bed until 3 or 4 am and we're sleeping until 11 or noon. We're having trouble breaking it but we know it will come with time.

We've been visited by a lot of our African friends already. It's customary in Mali to visit someone when they return from a trip. One of the first things most of our friends have noticed has been our American weight gain...and they're not shy about saying so. We've gained 15-20 pounds apiece! We're embarrassed when our friends point out the gain...but they're not. In Africa, being overweight is a sign of prosperity and something people want! So they are happy we've gained weight and see it as a blessing rather then the curse we view it as. It's all a matter of perspective.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Bonjour de Bamako

We have arrived safe and sound back in Mali! Our trip was beautiful and uneventful. And we had a couple of special surprises to boot! Our trip was booked on two different itineraries. The first was a round trip on Royal Air Maroc from Mali to London. The second trip was a round trip from London to Los Angeles on Air France.

When we were checking in with Air France in LAX, the gate agent asked what our final destination was. We told her it was Mali even though our Air France tickets were only booked through London. She found our second trip in the computer (the wonder of connectivity!) and managed to link our two trips together. She booked our luggage all the way through to Mali! We were expecting to have to pick up our bags in London, clear customs, and check in again for the 2nd leg of the trip. What a relief to not have to move our bags in London! This was a special blessing because our flight arrived an hour late in London and we probably wouldn't have had enough time to transfer our baggage. As an added bonus we brought guitars on as carry-on luggage so we wouldn't have to check them and loose some of our baggage allowance. In LA, Air France said due to space limitations, we couldn't bring the guitars in the cabin. But they would accept them as extra luggage at no additional charge...plus they were checked through the second airline at no charge too!

We bid farewell to American food in the LAX terminal at Wolfgang Puck's. A tasty wood-fired pizza was a wonderful last memory. We're going to miss American food, but not the extra pounds it brings.

Monday, August 11, 2008

My Bags Are Packed I'm Ready to Go

Our trip has now officially come to an end. The last couple of days of final good-byes has been difficult. But it's wonderful to know there's so much love shared between us and so many people in California. Thanks!!!!

Our bags are packed and thankfully, we've been able to fit everything from our Stateside shopping sprees. We pack our luggage on a scale to maximize the amount we take back with us. Thankfully we're not overweight and everything physically fits. We are also very grateful for some guitars people have donated which we're taking back with us to give to some Christian musicians in Mali.

We're leaving tonight out of LAX at 8:30 PM Pacific time and will be arriving in Mali two days from now at 2:30 AM. We'll be flying on Air France and Royal Air Maroc. We're retracing our steps by passing through London and Casablanca. It's going to be a long trip. But we're looking forward to getting back home.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Let's Just Kiss and Say Good-bye

Wilshire Ave Community Church Our last church visit was today at Wilshire Avenue Community Church in Fullerton. We had an opportunity to share for a few minutes in both of their worship services. A very interesting turn of events was a guest pastor that was speaking in the church this week. When we introduced ourselves to him, we found out he not only knew about the country of Mali, but he's been there too! He came out a few years ago to help build a Malian Christian school that Cole has helped out at a few miles outside of Bamako. It was really cool to have that special connection with the guest pastor.

Cole & PoppyNow comes the painful good-byes. Bidding farewell is a major part of missionary life...and it never seems to get easier. Today we said good-bye to Cole's poppy (John's dad). We're going to miss everyone but we're looking forward to seeing you again on our next trip to the States. We still have a couple of days left for our final adieu and some last minute packing. We've relocated to John's mom's house in Santa Ana for our last couple of days.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Showers of Blessings

Oceanside Home We're quickly reaching the end of our trip. It's bitter-sweet and we're going to miss California, our friends, and family. But we're also anxious to get back home to Mali. We have been really blessed on this trip...especially with God's provision. When we were planning our trip, we had a difficult time finding a place to stay. We also weren't quite sure how we were going to get around. But in the end, we were blessed in some incredible ways! We went from not knowing where we were going to stay to having offers to house-sit in 4 different houses. We also had 2 different people offer us a car. We had 4 houses and 2 cars! We were especially blessed with our "home base" house in Oceanside.

Unlike most missionaries, almost all of our supporters (churches and individuals), family, and friends, are within a 50 mile radius. This makes it so much easier for us to visit as we can stay in one place and have easy access to almost everyone we need to see.

We were also blessed with two new churches wanting to support us and a couple of new individual supporters that joined our team. It's so wonderful the way people have stepped forward to share in our ministry. We are eternally grateful to everyone that has lifted us up and made this a wonderful trip. We had several chances to minister to people while we've been here and there have been just as many opportunities where we've been ministered to.

Friday, August 08, 2008

We're Gonna Party...Like It's Your Birthday

Killer Pizza From Mars Cole's birthday is still a couple of weeks away, but we decided to throw him a U.S. celebration along with a party in Mali with his friends when we get back. We found a fun pizza restaurant in Oceanside called Killer Pizza From Mars. It has a space and alien theme with lots of Star Wars collectibles and other fun things decorating the restaurant.

Happy Cole After the restaurant, we went home for cake, ice cream, and best of all, presents! Cole was really excited to receive a Nintendo DS portable game player that he's been longing for. He was really excited!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Baywatch

Leigh & Cole at Santa Monica One of our all-time favoriate places in California is Santa Monica Pier. We've had many special family days here in the past and have been looking forward to our visit on this trip. Today was extra special because we met up with Leigh, our good friend from Mali. She's in the States for a few weeks and had a chance to visit with some relatives in California for a few days before she heads off to school in The Hague. Cole was especially excited to see his adopted big sister.

A couple of years ago when we were living in California between mission assignments, we had a unique opportunity to see a famous Malian musician named Salif Keita in concert at the Santa Monica pier.

Santa Monica Pier In all, the home of Baywatch did not disappoint and we had a wonderful day at the pier and the Third Street Promenade. When John came out to SoCal a few months ago, he brought sand from Timbuktu to give to several friends in California. This time we scooped up a few bottles of California sand to take back to Mali.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

You Belong In the Zoo

Panda at San Diego Zoo Yesterday we visited the world famous San Diego Zoo. They were offering a special family four pack ticket deal. It was cheaper than purchasing three individual tickets. We gave the extra ticket to the family behind us in the ticket line. When they thanked us, we recognized their accent as Nigerian. We told them we were from Mali and asked if they were Nigerian and they said they were. It was fun to meet some African neighbors in California.

A little later in the day, we bumped into them again waiting in line for the tour bus. They asked for our email address. We gave them one of our prayer cards which has our contact information on it. They thanked us again and went back to their place in line. A couple of minutes later, the man came back with a big smile on his face and asked if we were missionaries. We said we were and he said he was a pastor from Nigeria. What a cool connection this was to make.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Sunday in the Park

We had a busy day at church yesterday. We visited Calvary Church of Santa Ana, our home church. We had a potluck with our Sunday School class, attended the worship service, and then did a presentation for the college group and people interested in missions as part of a picnic at at local park. We enjoyed sharing our story of being called to the mission field with a small group of people currently asking questions about their possible future in missions.

Last week, we were featured as a part of Calvary's worship service even though we were at a different church in Lytle Creek. The pastor was speaking on wealth and Christianity and we were interviewed for a video segment talking about how we left our prosperous lifestyle in California to follow God's call to Africa. We've made this our blog video of the week and you can watch it by clicking here.

On the way home to Oceanside, we stopped and visited some good friends in Corona that used to be our neighbors in Anaheim. Overall, it was a busy, but very rewarding day.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Yesterday we took time out for a family day. We've been pretty heavily involved in ministry and sharing with people. It has been very rewarding, but tiring at the same time. It's taken a toll especially on Cole. We took a short trip to San Diego and spent the afternoon touring the USS Midway aircraft carrier museum. It was really interesting and educational.

Last night, we went to a San Diego Padres game at Petco Park. Cole especially enjoyed it as his first real baseball game. He also enjoyed eating the traditional roasted peanuts and Cracker Jacks for the first time. Although the Padres didn't win, we still had a great time anyway. Because the Padres are named after the missionaries that came to California to build the missions along the mission trail, we're wondering if we should choose them as our new hometown baseball team. ;-)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Shake, Rattle, and Roll

We got a stark reminder of life in Southern California this morning when a 5.4 earthquake rocked the area. We were speaking at a senior luncheon several miles from the epicenter, but it still rocked our area pretty good. Thankfully there was no damage or injuries where we were.

Today, we also ran across a few new wonderful resources for our ministry in Mali including a supplier of medical supplies for the mission world and a new Bible study designed as a tool to introduce the Gospel as part of an ESL (English as a Second Language) program for students like those we've recently started working with in Mali. We also received a couple more guitars for some of our Christian musician friends. We know these are going to be a huge blessing.

We're not sure how or when we're going to put these resources to use, but we know they will play an important role in the future. We're looking forward to seeing how God is going to direct us to use them.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Little House In the Big Woods

We spent the weekend in Lytle Creek in a small mountain community. We stayed with a couple in their beautiful log cabin and had a great time sharing with them and getting to know them. On Sunday, we spoke at Lytle Creek Community Church who is one of our supporting churches. This church continues to amaze us with their commitment to missions. They are a small church of about 30 people yet they have committed to support 3 missionaries. They are a wonderful encouragement to us.

We also received a guitar for one of our Christian musician friends in Mali. We know it's going to be a huge blessing them.

When we left Lytle Creek, we returned to Oceanside where we will be staying until our departure on August 11th.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Please Pray for Julie's Mom

We are continuing to do a lot of visiting and are enjoying seeing so many people. To those we've had a chance to see, thank you for taking the time to visit with us. We have so enjoyed seeing everyone and it has been a big encouragement to us.

Tonight we'll be leaving the OC and spending the weekend in Lytle Creek. From there, we will be returning to Oceanside for the remainder of our stay. Again, please contact us via email or telephone (714-618-1184) to schedule time to get together.

Last week, Julie's 80 year old mother Joyce fell and was taken to the emergency room. The doctors discovered she had a broken leg from a fall a couple of weeks earlier that has kept her bedridden. The doctors needed to perform surgery to put a plate in her leg to help it heal. She also suffers from Parkinson's disease and this has been a very difficult time for her. We're pretty sure this is the last time Julie will get to spend with her mother and she is going to be saying her final good-byes. Julie's mother is not currently a believer which places a heavier burden on us. Please be praying for her salvation, for Julie's family as they deal with this, and for Julie as she says good-bye. We are very grateful that our trip fell into this timeframe that has allowed us to be here during this time of family crisis.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Beach Blanket Bingo

Bike Ride at Balboa There's nothing like a day at the beach...especially now that we live in sub-Saharan Africa. Today we had a perfect day at Balboa and packed in as much as possible in one day. We started with lunch at BJ's Pizza followed by a walk out on the pier. Later we took a surrey ride along the boardwalk. Of course, what's a trip to Balboa without riding the ferry and stopping for some famous Balboa Bar ice cream treats.

Seals in Balboa Harbor Later in the day, we took a harbor cruise to see some of the beautiful multi-million dollar waterfront homes and a trip out of the harbor to see some sea lions. We finished with a beautiful sunset over the ocean.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Greeting Card

Our family is continuing to change...both spiritually and physically. We are happy to present our new prayer card for 2008 to reflect the physical changes in our appearance. We will be sending out new cards in our next mailing in a couple of weeks. Please let us know if you'd like extras for you, your church, or someone you know.

TRIVIA: We always take our prayer card photo somewhere at Disneyland. This year's is the same location as our very first photo for MAF in 2001.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Friends

Sorry for the delay in updating our blog. We have been so absorbed in being back in California and enjoying time with friends and family that we haven't taken the time to catch our breath let alone post any new blog entries for over a month! SHAME ON US!! We have back-filled the last several entries, so please read the entries before this to catch up on what's been happening.

Today we attended Rose Drive Friends Church in Yorba Linda. We had a chance to speak in their Catalyst Sunday School class which was a LOT of fun!! We really enjoyed meeting everyone. We also attended one of their worship services and took part in a missionary prayer time and mission committee meeting after church.

Last night, we were invited to a Rose Drive Friends Church mission BBQ. It was a time to meet a lot of people from the mission committee and have a good time sharing and getting to know each other. There was also another RDFC mission family from France there too. We have so enjoyed our time with the people at RDFC. They have really made us feel welcomed and a part of their church family.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Half Time

Today marks the midpoint of our trip. It's hard to believe we've reached the halfway point of our furlough already. We knew the time would go fast...just not this fast.

Now that we're in Orange County, our visiting schedule has kicked in full speed. We've been able to see a lot of friends and supporters this week and we're looking forward to even more in the coming weeks. Our calendar is filling quickly, so please get in touch with us ASAP to arrange a get together.

We had an excellent meeting with a couple of pastors from Wilshire Avenue Community Church in Fullerton this week. They took a great interest in our story and our work and have invited us to do a couple of presentations at their church. We are in awe at how the Lord is drawing new partners to our ministry.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Tales of the Unexpected

We spent this past Sunday at Harbor Trinity Church in Costa Mesa. This is the church John's mom attends. Her Sunday school class has taken an interest in our ministry for the past few years and several people in the class support our ministry. We had the chance to share with her class and another Sunday school class followed by a presentation in the church service. As an added bonus, Harbor Trinity took us on as missionaries this month and have begun to support us. We're thrilled to have another church as part of our team. Something that really caught our attention was a sign posted at the exit of the church parking lot that reads "You are now entering the mission field" as a challenge and reminder to all church members that the mission field is everywhere and we are all missionaries.

We also got confirmation that people are reading this blog. We have longtime friends that we were hoping to have a chance to see but were afraid we wouldn't have an opportunity to arrange a get together. We got an awesome surprise when they showed up at Harbor Trinity this week to hear us speak. They have been following our blog and saw that our furlough schedule listed a church presentation near their home so they decided to attend. We were so excited to see them! We had a chance to go out to lunch with them afterward and have arranged another rendez-vous at the OC Fair in a couple of weeks. If you're following our blog, please don't hesitate to tell us by leaving a comment on the blog or sending us an email. Letting us know about your interest in our ministry is a very big encouragement to us.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Change of Address

It's a treat to be able to celebrate the 4th of July in the States this year. We get to participate in 2 different Independence Days this year...July 4th for the USA and September 22nd for Mali. We had a picnic at a park in Yorba Linda (the hometown of President Richard Nixon) followed by a wonderful fireworks show. Living in a different country as ex-patriots has a way of separating us from our homeland and heritage. It was fun to get into the Red, White, and Blue spirit again and celebrate with our countrymen.

Today, we also have moved to Orange County for a few weeks. A family from our church left for a three week European vacation today and have offered their house to us while they are gone. We feel very blessed to be in a lovely home in the hills in Orange overlooking the OC. We're looking forward to being much closer to friends and family and having more opportunities to visit. Now more than ever, please take the opportunity to get in touch with us to arrange for a get together while we're here. Contact us by email (jclark@ywammali.org) or telephone (714-618-1184). We're looking forward to seeing you while we're here. We'll be moving back to Oceanside at the end of July and will finish our last 2 weeks there.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Constant Gardener

Cole earned a new responsibility this week. He is now in charge of yard work and lawn care at the house we're staying at in Oceanside. We don't have grass in Mali, so Cole has never experienced operating a lawnmower. He had the chance this week to give it a try. Of course like most kids, he proposed taking on the job using a riding lawnmower.

Because of his hard work on the yard and around the house, we decided a day at LEGOLAND was in order. We remember visiting the park with Cole the year it opened and it has always been one of Cole's favorite SoCal attractions. Now that he's getting older, he'll probably soon outgrow the park so we made sure he really made the most of this trip.

This past Sunday, we visited Rose Drive Friends Church in Yorba Linda. We chose a Sunday school class at random and it just so happens that the teacher wasn't present this week so they asked us to share in his place. We enjoyed talking about some of our ministry and answering many questions. We developed many new friends in the process. After church, we went out to lunch with the Rose Drive Missions Pastor and another missionary family who are on furlough from France. We enjoyed getting to know them.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Storming the Magic Kingdom

No trip to California would be complete without a trip to Disneyland. It doesn't hold any importance to us like it used to, however it's still nice to visit now and then. We spent the day with John's brother Jeremy who works at Disneyland as a computer programmer. We had a great time with Jeremy and it was nice to share the entire day with him.

We took the opportunity to see the new things that have been added since we've been gone including the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage and the Toy Story Mania! attractions. Other than that, not much has changed. It's nice to have lost the obsessive-compulsive attraction we once had that kept us scouring Disneyland looking for the smallest changes. It's a lot more fun just to be a tourist again.

Monday, June 23, 2008

This is Your Pilot Speaking

We attended Calvary Church of Santa Ana again this past Sunday. This time we had a chance to sit in with and share with the Berean Sunday school class. We've met with them a few times in the past and have developed a lot of friendships. After church, they treated us to lunch to help us regain our Stateside weight. Believe it or not, Julie's lost around 25 lbs and John has lost 4o lbs in Africa the last year. It's not for lack of food...it's just the purity of the food and lack of processing and additives.

A couple of days ago we had a chance to reconnect with one of our YWAM friends who went through our DTS (Discipleship Training School) with us in Chico and Guatemala a couple of years ago. He is a former U.S. Navy jet fighter pilot. John (his name too) and John really connected during DTS and became close friends. John McKanna has affectionately referred to John as his "wingman". He now lives in La Jolla and it was wonderful to see him again. We have really been able to encourage each other the past couple of years. Even after our MAF days, we're still hanging out with pilots.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

First Wave

This past Sunday we attended our home church - Calvary Church of Santa Ana. We visited our Sunday school class and had a chance to do a lot of catching up. It was also nice to attend a church service in English again!

After church we visited John's grandparents. It's good to be back together with family. Cole shared a special time with great-grandpa in his woodworking shop. Together they built an airplane for John. Cole really enjoyed working with all the tools.

This week we made our first trip to the beach...oh how we miss the beach! There's plenty of sand in Mali, but we're hundreds of miles from the ocean. Cole especially enjoyed building sand castles and playing in the waves. Although we were only there for a couple of hours, we soon discovered that our California tan base has long disappeared and we are very susceptible to burning. John got the worst of it. But it's a small price to pay for being back in such a beautiful place.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Hi Honey...I'm Home!

We're here! We have arrived safe and sound in Southern California. Again, our trip went very well. We arrived late Wednesday at LAX, so we spent our first night in a motel next to the airport. John's mom then picked us up from the airport and brought us to Orange County to pick up a car. We are very grateful that our friends the Sipps have donated the use of their car during our visit while they are out of town on vacation. It's humbling to be the recipient of such generosity.

We had a wonderful time reconnecting with John's family the first couple of days. We're now off to Oceanside where we'll be staying for the next few weeks. John's aunt has graciously given us use of her home while she attends to John's grandparents in Buena Park. Again, we're overwhelmed by our supporters' kindness and thoughtfulness. It's a lovely home in a very nice area. We are looking forward to spending a lot of our time here. We are close to Camp Pendleton military base and the troops there are busy on maneuvers and target practice. We hear distant canon fire most of the day. It reminds us how fortunate we are as many people in Africa live with threat of military attacks every day. We are grateful that Mali is currently quiet and politically stable.

With the rise in gas prices, we will be limiting our trips to the OC to a couple of times a week. We'd like to maximize each trip and see as many people as possible. You are also more than welcome to visit us here in Oceanside. We're just an hour away and a short trip off the 5 freeway. Please give us a call or email us if you'd like to come see us or to schedule a get together on one of our trips up north. We are REALLY looking forward to seeing you!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Setting Sail for the New World

For our last couple of days, we had a chance to see Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. Both are official residences of the Queen. There was a lot of activity as the country prepares for the Queen's birthday on Saturday. Unfortunately we won't be here to help her celebrate...but we'll send her a Hallmark e-card instead.

We did have a chance to tour part of Windsor Castle and see "how the other half lives". It was beautiful and awe inspiring. We left wondering what our mansions in Heaven are going to be like.

It's hard to believe that our trip to London is drawing to a close. We did feel like we had extra time each day to see everything as it doesn't get dark in London until 10 pm each night...that's been really cool. Overall, our trip to England was a wonderful time of refreshment and reconnection for our family. But that's just the beginning! Now we're off to California for the main event. We're looking forward to seeing you and reconnecting with you soon.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Seeing Eye to Eye

On Sunday, we visited East Sheen Baptist Church, London. This church took our family under its wing in 2003 while we were in London for John's hospitalization. It's hard to believe it's been 5 years since the accident. It has been wonderful to return and see some really good friends again. We gave a short update and testimony in the church service along with sharing a song with Julie singing and John playing the piano. After church, we had lunch with several people at one of the church member's home and spent the afternoon sharing tea and conversation in their English garden. John especially enjoyed time with Paul, the church pastor. They spent most of the afternoon talking and sharing together while Julie and Cole got reacquainted with several old friends.

Big Ben Street The past couple of days we've been able to see more London sites including Piccadilly Circus, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, and Westminster Abbey. It was really cool to hear the Westminster chimes of the tower clock and hear Big Ben chime on the hour. Big Ben is actually the name of the master bell that chimes each hour...not the clock itself. The tour of Westminster Abbey was very interesting and included a special section called Poet's Corner which is the burial and memorial place for several famous poets, writers, and composers. The Abbey is also the official church for the British monarchy and has served as the place for coronations, weddings, and the final resting place for English royalty for the past few centuries.

London Eye We also had a chance to experience the London Eye. This is one of the largest Ferris wheels in the world. Passengers ride in glass capsules that hold 20 people. It takes 30 minutes to make a complete rotation and offers stunning views of London. When John was in the hospital, he had a clear view of the London Eye from his room and would look out at it every day. When he got out of the hospital, it was the one site in London he wanted to see before we left. Unfortunately, it was closed for maintenance and we didn't get a chance to experience it. So this was at the top of his sightseeing list. Riding the London Eye seemed to bring our trips to London full circle...no pun intended!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Merry Ol' England

Clarks at London Tower BridgeWe arrived safely in London on Thursday afternoon. Our travel was smooth and uneventful. We did have one piece of luggage (a djembe African drum) lose its way in transit, but it eventually found us the day after we arrived in London. We were very tired upon our arrival considering our flight from Bamako left at 3:30 am. Our layover in Casablanca went smoothly as well. We were surprised by the Casablanca airport. It was one of the nicer airports we've traveled through. It was very large and modern. We we able to do some shopping for Morocco souvenirs in the many shops in the airport. We were also impressed by the service of Royal Air Moroc Airlines.

Our hotel in London is very conveniently located in the city. The room is small and cramped, but we won't be spending much time in the room anyway. We are just 2 blocks from the underground station which serves 2 different subway lines making travel throughout London quite easy. As natives to Southern California, we haven't really been exposed to mass transportation. But with our experiences with the Paris Metro and London Underground, we've become big fans of pubic transportation.

We've been taking in a lot of sights in London. Julie and Cole had seen some of the city a few years ago when John was in the hospital here, but it's like a first time visit for John. So far we've seen the Tower of London (including the crown jewels), Tower Bridge, Shakespeare's Globe Theatre (a real treat for Julie!) and the magnificent Saint Paul's Cathedral. It's possible to climb to the top of the dome of St. Paul's (one of the largest cathedral domes in the world) for a stunning view over London. Julie and Cole were reluctant to make the climb, but John took the opportunity for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

It's been several years since our family has had a vacation. We are in dire need of some family R&R. So far, this trip is doing wonders. We're looking forward to the many adventures and sights waiting in the days ahead.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Signing Off From Africa

Tonight we're leaving Mali to begin our family vacation and furlough. Believe it or not, this trip marks our first furlough from Mali. Every trip to the States in the past has been after finishing a short-term assignment thinking we wouldn't be back. This is the first time we're going to California knowing for sure we're returning to Mali soon.

Our flight schedule is a bit grueling...we're leaving tonight at 3:30 am. We then have a 5 hour layover in Casablanca before our next flight to London. We made the mistake of watching the movie Casablanca last week. It's an excellent movie, but the subject of the story is people who are trapped in Casablanca due to political reasons.

We are really looking forward to spending a week in London. We have a pretty full itinerary planned. Next Wednesday, we leave for California. With the time change, it's only a 3 hour flight from London to L.A...let's hope if feels like it too. ;-)

We're looking forward to seeing as many people as possible during our visit. We'll be staying down in Oceanside, California. We've added our furlough schedule to the blog on the right hand side just below our family picture. We'd love to have you j0in us at any of our speaking engagements. Please check back regularly as we'll be updating the schedule as new opportunities come up. Of course, we'd also like to get together with as many people individually as possible too. (Yes...we have a list of restaurants we've been craving.) Please give us a call to plan a get together - 714-618-1184.