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.