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.