Friday, May 30, 2008

SCHOOL'S OUT!!!

School has officially come to an end for Julie and Cole. Tonight we had our school graduation and end of year program. In all, there were 2 Kindergarten and 1 eighth grade graduates. Next year, we will have our first high school graduate.

Julie coordinated and produced a wonderful program that highlighted each class in the school. Cole participated in a couple of songs and skits. His favorite was playing an elephant in a play about the animals in the jungle outsmarting the lion that wanted to eat them all.

This year's program also marked the debut of a new promotional video for Bamako Christian Academy. It is our new blog video of the week. Click on this link to see it. We will be showing this several times during our trip to the States as we promote the school and recruit new teachers. We still have several openings for teachers next year. Please contact us if you or someone you know might be interested in teaching short term. Don't think that it's something that's beyond you or a project you're not qualified for. That's what WE used to think. God can do amazing things with anyone willing to make themselves available.

Friday, May 23, 2008

I'm Coming Back to the Heart of Worship

Thank you for your continued prayers for our worship ministry. There have been some really discouraging times over the past year with one group in particular. Louange Mali, our YWAM worship group, took a break for several months. To be honest, we were really grateful for the time away and weren't really looking forward to starting up again.

One of the things that has been a challenge has been the musical style. First is the note names: A, B, C, D, etc. (Western Style) vs. Do, Re, Mi, etc. (French notation system used in Mali). John has gotten accustomed to the French system, so that is one hurdle overcome. In much of West Africa, the music is based on the pentatonic scale or 5 note tonal system vs. the heptatonic or 7 note tonal system common in the West. This really changes the sound, style, and performance of each song. But we ran into a very interesting video last week that shows how some of our Western music has been influenced by Africa. Check out our video of the week for a moving and powerful example of the styles.

Louange Mali started up again a couple of weeks ago. It is now much better organized. We are grateful for the changes and are now looking forward to our meetings each week. This has been a huge encouragement to us. Please know that your prayers really do make a difference in our ministry. Keep 'em coming!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye

Good-byes are common yet always a difficult part of missionary life. Last night we said good-bye to our good friend Leigh who is leaving to pursue other things. Although Leigh wasn't a part of YWAM and she worked in Koutiala over 5 hours away, we still had a chance to develop a close relationship with her over the past year. She stayed in our guest room on several occasions and became one of our family...in fact, at school, Cole talks to his friends about his big sister, Leigh.

Leigh stayed with us the past 3 days as we prepared to say good-bye. We will have a chance to see her again this summer as she visits Southern California for a few days during our furlough. We are looking forward to seeing her again.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Where There's Smoke...

This past Sunday our YWAM team visited Pastor Christophe's church in Sabalibougou. We were there to help encourage the church and participate in the service. We were asked to lead a couple of worship songs (John on the piano and Julie leading the singing). Our base leader Issouf preached the message. It was wonderful to share at a church that's so close to our hearts. The church building still hasn't been completed so the church meets in temporary shelter.

On Saturday, we saw a very unusual site of a building on fire. We see fires all the time...but they are usually trash fires that are intentionally set. Some of them can be quite large. Buildings here don't usually catch fire as they can't really burn because they are made out of concrete bricks. There is no carpet or other flammable materials in most buildings so there is really not much to burn. The fire this weekend was in a small furniture store not too far from our house. We were surprised to even see a firetruck and firefighters at work. There are no fire hydrants to hook up to, so they rely on a water tank on the firetruck. After that runs out, there's not much they can do.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Dancing in the Clouds

Air Puppets are a common site in the States at car dealers, stores, and special events. On weekends, they can be seen dancing on almost every street corner. But the likes of an Air Puppet has never been seen before in Mali. We have the vision of adding an Air Puppet to our evangelism and outreach events to help attract attention and draw people to our ministry location. It's sure to be a definite hit at kids' events.

On our trip to the States this summer, we'd like to bring back an Air Puppet for use in Mali. The price is around $800 for a complete system. We are currently looking for sponsors that can help in the purchase of this unique ministry tool. Please let us know if you'd like to be a part of this project. This would also be a great group or Sunday school class project.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Reality Check

Hot season is in full swing and the heat is downright miserable. It really slows us down and wears at us both physically and emotionally. Thankfully, rainy season seems to be starting. We had a few days of cloudy skies and rain showers the last week or so. It really helps cool things down.

We've lived in Africa off and on for about 5 years now. What once seemed very odd and strange sights are now a common part of our daily lives. It's reached a point were we really don't see things out of the ordinary to our Western eyes anymore. But every now and then, something will hit us out of the blue and remind us that we are in fact in Africa. Today was a good example. Unfortunately, many of the "unusual" things that we see are related to poverty and tragedy. It's not unusual to be approached by a child literally singing for his supper. We also see horrible diseases and badly disfigured people...even lepers are a common sight. Today on the SOTRAMA (public transport minivan) at one of the bus stops, we waited as two women who couldn't walk pulled themselves by their hands across the street to the bus stop. Their legs were badly deformed and they get around by scooting along the ground pulling themselves along with their hands. They managed to climb into the van by themselves (the conductor tried to help, but it wasn't needed) and then scooted along the floor and pulled themselves on the seat. This is everyday life for them...and thousands of others here in Mali. The need is so overwhelming here. It was a sad reminder of the conditions we experience (and often overlook) everyday in Africa.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Let Us Pray

Today marked the Global International Day of Prayer. On this day, Christians gather around the world united in prayer. In Mali, our Day of Prayer was held at the Cultural Arts Center...the largest indoor venue in the country. The Center's main level was full to standing room only. It was so encouraging to see so many Christians assembled in one place! The program started with a large choir assembled from several individual church choirs. There were about 150 in the choir. We were then led in prayer by several pastors and mission leaders. In all, the service was about 3 1/2 hours long. Our prayer time focused on 4 areas: Thanksgiving, Prayer for Mali, Prayer for Africa, and Prayer for the World.

Issouf AgAmini (our YWAM Bamako base leader) was the Master of Cermonies and Daniel Coulibaly (our family French teacher) was the Bambara/French translator. The Day of Prayer was very encouraging and enriching. We don't have the count on how many people attended yet, but we're sure it surpassed last year's number of 3,400.

Today is also Mother's Day. We celebrated by taking Julie out to brunch at the American International Club. She really enjoyed an American style meal complete with waffles, eggs, sausage, etc.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Simmer Down

Things have remained pretty much under control with the student protests this week. There have been demonstrations at several schools as public school teachers and students attempted to disrupt classes at the private schools that are still open. Most of the private schools ended up canceling classes (and testing) and sent everyone home. There were a few isolated incidents of violence that resulted in several injuries and arrests. But thankfully there were no deaths or major clashes. The protests at a large private high school down the street from us was noisy but non-violent. Riot police were on-hand to maintain control. The school ended up canceling its classes and everyone went home peacefully.

Thankfully, the protests did not affect classes at Bamako Christian Academy. BTW: This week has been teacher appreciation week at BCA. Perhaps if there was a similar event at the Malian schools, much of this could have been avoided.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Student Uprising

The educational system in Mali is very complex and we're still learning a lot about it. There are both public and private schools and sometimes there is conflict between them. Right now in particular, the teachers in the public high schools are upset about their pay and are planning to go on strike on Monday. Next week is the beginning of semester exams and is an important week in the school calendar. There is talk of police going into the public schools and administering the exams. To complicate matters, the strike does not affect the private school teachers. However the teachers and students in the public schools want it to and have been threatening the private schools to go on strike too or there will be violence. We've seen some demonstrations by public school students at a couple of local private high schools this week. It's not a positive outlook on next week. Please join us in prayer that the grievances will be worked out and everything will end peacefully without any violent demonstrations.