Monday, January 28, 2008

Football Fever

We're continuing to show the CAN 2008 soccer games followed by the Jesus Film every night. The turnout has been much lower on the nights Mali is not playing, but we're still getting 50-75 people coming to watch the game. But after the game, our turnout increases as people come to see the Jesus Film! This is so encouraging. We have 100-150 people coming to see the Jesus Film. It's wonderful to witness them intently watching the story of Jesus unfold before them. We have a lot of women and children coming to watch the film every night. Please continue praying for them that they will hear, understand, and embrace the Gospel message.

Also, please be in prayer for our game on Tuesday evening. Mali is playing the first place team in the series, Ivory Coast. Mali has been doing well in the CAN tournament but this game will decide if Mali will advance to the finals. Ivory Coast is also Mali's neighboring country to the south. Tension and rivalries will be high for Tuesday's game. Unrest tends to break out when Mali loses a big match like this. Please pray for peace throughout Mali and particularly for the group that will be assembled at our house.

In the States, beer commercials are a staple part of NFL football broadcasts...and especially the Superbowl. Mali also has beverage sponsors for our football (soccer) games...only instead of beer, it's tea. Drinking tea is a very important part of Malian culture and there are ads for many different tea companies on TV before and after the games. Our video of the week is for Cheval Tea...one of the tea companies sponsoring the games on Malian TV. Click here to see the ad.

Tiken Jah (the music star that used to live in our house) is currently in Mali. He's been spending a lot of time at his studio across the street and he's been driving by our house everyday (in a brand new Mercedes Kompressor!) as we're setting up for the games. John's been able to greet him and wave and say hi whenever he passes by. We're hoping he'll stop and watch one of the games and we'll have a chance to talk with him. Please keep praying for Tiken Jah also.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Win Lose or Draw

Tonight was Mali's second game in the Africa Cup tournament. The excitement level continues to rise...especially on game days for Mali. People are marching through the streets wearing Malian flags, blowing whistles, and showing their excitement for Mali. Like people displaying team flags on their cars in the States during playoff games, Malians are also flying flags from their cars and motorcycles. Even the donkey carts have flags in support for Mali!

There was a power outage in our neighborhood 10 minutes before tonight's game started. The crowd gathered outside our house was very disappointed (but calm) when everything shut off. We brought out our generator and had things back up and running just seconds before the kick-off. Because we were now the only ones with power in the area, even more people showed up to watch the game. God used an interesting tactic to bring even more people to our house for the game. It's cool to see Him work in unconventional ways. The crowd was so large it was hard to get an accurate count. Our best estimates are between 300-400 people!! We just stood in awe and amazement at the number of people that came over. Because we're showing the match on a soccer field, we have plenty of room for even more people for future games. (Sorry we don't have pictures. Because it's dark it's very difficult to take pictures).

The crowd was very excited during tonight's game. With the noise level, it was almost like sitting in a stadium. Tonight's game was Mali vs. Nigeria. Unlike most American sports, there is no overtime during a normal game and soccer games can end in a tie. That's what happened tonight. The game ended in a scoreless tie. Tonight, we felt that was a blessing. Soccer fans can get very excited and often unpredictable after a game. They have a reputation for violent acts and demonstrations based on the game results. Sometimes they'll riot because they're upset that their team lost, and sometimes they get overexcited when their team wins. We were a little concerned with the size of the crowd how they would react after the game. Thankfully the tie kept their emotions from going to either extreme. Please keep this in prayer. As we continue to show games and gather large crowds, please pray for peace and calm with the crowd.

One of the nicest things about soccer is there are no commercial breaks every 1-2 minutes. The game runs continuously and stops only for a 15 minute half-time break. During the break, we show 15 minutes of the Jesus Film to help draw people into the story and entice them to stay after the game to watch the rest. Tonight we had about 100 people stay to watch the Jesus Film after the game. There is something surreal about standing outside under a full moon and star filled sky looking at a large group of people watching the Jesus Film. For most of these people, this is the first time they've seen the movie or heard the story of Jesus. Please continue to pray for our CAN ministry and film showings. We're going to start rotating in a couple of other evangelical films too over the next few nights. Please pray that people will hear, understand, and respond to the Good News.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Monday Night Football

Yesterday marked the opening of the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN2008) soccer tournament. This is a series of games held every four years to determine what country will represent Africa in the World Cup soccer finals. This is the equivalent of the NFL playoffs leading up to the Superbowl in the States. Mali is playing in the CAN games and the country is in the height of soccer fever.

Back in 2002, the CAN games marked a very important milestone in our missionary journey. We originally came to Mali in missionary support roles only with John doing computer support for missionaries and Julie teaching in a school for missionary kids. We wanted to help missionaries, but we didn't want to be missionaries. We had no desire or intention of doing front-line evangelism or missionary work. But God used the CAN games as a way to draw us into a ministry we didn't picture ourselves doing. We placed our TV outside our house so we could share the soccer games with our neighbors. God then prompted us to find a copy of the Jesus Film in Bambarba - the local language and show it after each game. Although we couldn't speak the language, God used this unique vehicle to allow us to share the Gospel. We invited local pastors to come and share at half-time and after the games. We had 50-60 people coming each day to watch the games and the Jesus Film. Over the series of 30 games, people came to know Christ thru this ministry and God really started to develop a heart of ministry and evangelism in us that transformed our lives.

Tonight was Mali's first game in this year's tournament. We are reprising what we did in 2002 by showing the games outside our house followed by the Jesus Film. This time, we're showing the games and Jesus Film projected on a big movie screen. It was really exciting to have over 125 people show up! It allowed us to build some good bridges with our neighbors who were grateful for our enthusiasm for Mali and hosting a large outdoor "Superbowl Party". Even our landlord heard about it and stopped by to visit. We were very excited that over 50 people stayed to watch the Jesus Film.

Tonight's game was delayed by 20 minutes when the power went off at the stadium in Ghana where the game was being played just a few minutes before kickoff. Power outages are common in Africa, but it was still an embarrassment to Ghana as the host country.

Mali won the game tonight beating Benin 1-0 so soccer fever has jumped up a few notches higher. As the games progress, we're praying that even more people will hear about our large screen showings and attendance will grow each night. There are 31 games in all with the final match taking place on February 10th. Because we're using a projector outside, we'll be limiting our "parties" to night games only. This ministry is going to be our main focus for the next three weeks. Please join us in prayer that many can come to know Jesus during the CAN 2008 games.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The French Connection

Daniel Coulibaly is our French teacher. He has really helped us in our French and Bambara language studies. He's also become a really good friend.

Daniel has been offered an opportunity to attend Asbury Theological Seminary in the U.S. He is very excited. We have helped him complete his application and are assisting him with the various details involved in the application process. One of the requirements is to pass the Test Of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) test. The TOEFL is used by universities to measure English competency of students applying from non-English speaking countries. We have spent this week helping Daniel prepare for the test. This has involved dropping our practice of speaking French with Daniel, focusing instead on helping him speak English. This has been a very strange turn of events. His English is very good and we think he did well on the test. We'll report the results when he receives them in a couple of weeks.

Another interesting French connection happened this week. In looking through the list and pictures of missionaries from our home church (Calvary Church of Santa Ana), John recognized the name and photo of a lady named Corine Hatch who serves with Wycliffe in Florida. It turns out that Madame Hatch was John's high school French teacher! He was able to send her an email this week sharing how those classes many years ago have transformed into serving as a missionary in French speaking West Africa. It's amazing the way that God weaves the tapestry of our lives.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

We're In Hot Water Now

The weather has been getting rather cold in Mali the past couple of weeks. At night, we've been dropping down into the 60s. This is far colder than we are used to. And we don't have any hot water in our house. So getting up in the morning and starting the day with a cold shower has been a pretty rude awakening...literally. Our last hot shower was during our trip to Paris back in October. We finally decided to break down and install a hot water heater this week to ward off the cold chill in the morning. We'll only use it a few weeks out of the year, but it will be worth it. It's only a tiny 13 gallon water heater, but because it doesn't really get that cold here, it is more than adequate for our needs.

We're now getting a lot of people staying in our guest room and a hot shower will be a welcome addition for our visitors. On Saturday night, a couple named John & Joan Tungseth, who work with Campus Crusade for Christ in Orlando, FL, arrived and have been staying with us the past few days. They are missionaries with Calvary Church of Santa Ana, our home church in California. It's been a real blessing having them here. We've had a chance to briefly talk with them during mission conferences at Calvary over the past few years. It's really great to see them again and spend some concentrated time getting to know them better. We have not been getting to bed until 2:00 am each night because we're really enjoying our time together and losing all track of how late it is. They've also had some people from their Campus Crusade Mali team come and visit and we've enjoyed getting to know some new mission co-workers. It's given us a chance to learn about their ministries and share what's happening with ours. It's been exciting to start some conversations about collaboration and working on some projects together.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Welcome To Our World

Today we've added a new feature to our blog: The photo of the week. This is a snapshot of things we see every day in Mali that you probably don't. Check the right hand sidebar just below the photo of our family for this week's glimpse of Mali.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way

Each YWAM base has short term teams that come through to help with various ministries in each country. We have several teams currently in Bamako including teams from Kona Hawaii, Switzerland, and Norway. It's always a joy to meet new people from all over the world and work side-by-side with them in spreading the Gospel.

The team from Borgen Norway has been with us since Tuesday night. English is the common language for their team and no one speaks French. We had the the opportunity to step up and be their guides and YWAM contact while in Bamako. It's really exciting to think that just one year ago, we were finishing our Outreach trip with our DTS class in Guatemala. Now we have the chance to lead a team and help them learn and grow by sharing our experiences with them and guiding them on their journey...both physically and spiritually. Our language is coming along far enough to be acting a their translators too.

It's been a real blessing to get to know the team which is made of of 9 girls and 1 guy. They are from a wide variety of countries including Norway, Australia, Russia, and Greenland (we'd never met someone from Greenland before!) John has spent the last 5 days with the team. He has been very busy from welcoming them at the airport to seeing them off at the bus station for the next leg of their journey and everything in between. He spent the last few days doing orientation and helping them acclimate to Mali. On Friday, they traveled downtown for some shopping, sightseeing, and cultural orientation. Two of the highlights were visiting the fetish section of the market where the vendors sell items (everything from monkey heads to alligator tails, to dead parrots) to place demonic curses on people. The team took the opportunity to pray that these items will prove ineffective and people will find power in Jesus instead. They then did a prayer walk around the central mosque. This was a challenge considering they did the prayer walk at the height of Friday noon prayers...the Muslim equivalent in Mali of our Sunday church time back home. Everything in town shuts down as everyone heads to the mosque for prayer.

The time with the team has been a huge blessing to us. This is our first experience leading a team and we are really looking forward to doing a lot more of this ministry. We've really caught the vision of YWAM's discipleship model and organization.

The Norway team is now traveling to other parts of Mali, eventually ending up in Tombouctou (Timbuktu) for a big worship and evangelism event we're holding at the end of February. We're looking forward to rejoining the team in Tombouctou. Please pray for their team as they continue their ministry in Mali. They will be facing a lot of challenges and growing in some amazing ways. Please pray especially for team unity and that they will draw together to support each other throughout their trip. You can follow their journey via their team blog at www.BorgenTeamInMali.blogspot.com.

Saying good-bye to the team today was very difficult, but we're looking forward to seeing them again in a few weeks.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!

We had a very full workload this past Sunday. We led worship at 2 different church services...one in the morning, and one in the evening. John also preached at both services. Both were English speaking services. The morning was at English speaking family Sunday school and the evening was at the large protestant church downtown. For the evening service, John spoke about the grace of God. It was a very uplifting message. He incorporated a video clip from the movie Les Miserables. It's a beautiful example of grace. You can view it here. We hope it will inspire you to reflect on the wonderful grace the Lord gives to us on a continual basis.

We've had a couple of people come through our house for overnight visits this past week as they take care of various tasks in Bamako. Hospitality is one of the core values of YWAM and we're really enjoying sharing our home with people. We're very excited to be hosting a missionary couple from our home church in SoCal later this week. We will also assist in taking care of a YWAM team from Norway later this week. Their team is English speaking only, so they need English hosts to help them get oriented in Mali and to translate for them. We're looking forward to this opportunity. We'll post updates on our experiences.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Bonne Année

From our family to yours, we wish you a wonderful and prosperous 2008. We celebrated the passing of the new year at a YWAM King's Kids camp in Bamako. The camp is a gathering of about 40 kids who have spent the last week in Bible studies, teaching sessions, worship, and music and dance practice. We joined them for a night of feasting and worship celebration to usher in 2008.

Reflecting back, 2007 has been a wonderful and life changing year. This time last year, we were celebrating New Year's Eve in Guatemala. We then returned to the States for a short 3 week transition before heading to Mali to begin our service with YWAM in Bamako. It's amazing the places God has taken us and the things He's shown us in just the past year alone.

We wish you a Heureuse Nouvelle Année - Happy New Year!!!