Sunday, May 31, 2009

Say A Prayer

Day of Prayer 2009bToday marks the Global Day of Prayer – a day set aside for churches around the world to join together and pray.  Here in Bamako, all the churches gather for a giant prayer meeting at the Cultural Arts Center, the largest indoor venue in Mali.  We couldn’t see into the balcony from where we were sitting, but we could see the main level was filled to capacity.  There were well over 3,000 people in attendance!  Day of Prayer 2009c What a huge blessing and encouragement this is.  According to the statistics, less than 3% of Mail’s population is Christian.  So it’s wonderful to see a majority of them assembled in one place united in the cause of prayer.  We spent over 3 hours worshiping and praying for a variety of subjects ranging from the Church in Mali, to the global economy.  We knew a lot of the people involved in today’s presentation including a few of our YWAM team members.  Issouf, our base leader served as the MC .  This is one of our favorite events and we look forward to it each year. 

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Go Go Go Joseph

Joseph Musical We had a community production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat today.  It was a joint project of Bamako Christian Academy and a group of people from the American Embassy, various mission agencies, and other English speaking people in Bamako.  It turned out well considering our limited resources.  A big help was being able to use the theatre facilities at the American International School.  Cole was originally upset and complained about having to participate, but after several rehearsals, he began to come home singing the songs seemed happy to be a part of the ensemble.  He did a wonderful job and really enjoyed being in the show.  He now wishes he would have auditioned for one the parts of Joseph’s brothers.  This is a show John has done many times in the past with a theatre company in California and it has become one of his favorite shows.  He was apprehensive about this production, but he felt it turned out alright in the end.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Build It And They Will Come

Badalabougou AOG Church The tent church we visited in Badalabougou last Sunday has undergone a major transformation.  There was no delay in putting their building funds to use.  The tent has already disappeared and new tin roof structure has taken its place.  This Sunday will be their first service in their new home.  It’s exciting to see such a big milestone crossed.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Under the Big Top

Badalabougou Tent Church Once a month, our YWAM team visits a different church to encourage them and share in their service.  This past Sunday we visited an Assemblies of God church in Badalabougou where we used to live when we were here with MAF.  The church meets under a tent and we’ve always been intrigued to see what the “mysterious tent church” is like, but never took the chance to visit.  So we were happy to have a reason to go.  Coming from a Baptist background with conservative views, we knew things were going to be a bit different and possibly challenging, but that’s an integral part of missionary life.

A couple of days earlier, John was asked to preach and give the message this Sunday.  The church has been doing a series on the Holy Spirit and they requested John continue with this topic.  Wow, how does someone from a conservative background preach about the Holy Spirit to a Spirit filled charismatic church?  But John eagerly accepted the task.  Thankfully, our colleague Paula is in town and graciously offered to translate for John.  His message was about finding unity in the Holy Spirit.  He talked about how the Holy Spirit has been sent to give unity to the Church, but instead, different interpretations of the Holy Spirit and how He works have become one of the most divisive subjects in the Church.  He presented a staggering statistic that there are over 39,000 Christian denominations today – very far away from the unity in the Church that God longs for.  He demonstrated how it is possible for charismatic and conservative Christians to come together and find unity instead of points of contention; how we can act together as one body as we are called to do.

It was exciting to finally go to the tent church we used to pass every day but were always apprehensive to visit.  And we found it wasn’t mysterious or scary in any way.  We had a wonderful time sharing and worshiping with fellow Christians that have different God given gifts and styles of worship than we have.  Interestingly enough, this past Sunday was a final push in a long running money raising campaign to construct a physical church building.  What a joy it was to celebrate with them as they met their building fund goal.  Construction will begin next week on a new church.  This means this was the last meeting under the tent.  We’re glad we visited when we did.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Pick a Winner

Ralph 1 One of the biggest and lasting ramifications of our car accident in Mali in 2003 has been John’s lingering injuries, especially to his left shoulder.  Since the accident, he has had limited movement with his left arm, the arm that received the shoulder replacement.  He cannot lift it above his chest.  With the extent of John’s injuries, the doctors left little hope there would be recovery beyond this.  He was able to quickly come to terms with this and began to learn to adapt.  It’s amazing what he can accomplish with his limitations.  There are occasional frustrations, such as not being able to tie back his long hair, but he always manages to find a way to accomplish things using one arm or humbling himself to ask for assistance.

Over the past couple of days, John began to notice a very hard and large lump in his left arm next to his bicep.  This is the same area that has been the source of his pain since the accident.  Surprisingly, the pain has never been in his shoulder, but in his arm instead.  He began asking around to find someone in Bamako who specializes in massage for sports and injuries.  So far his search has turned up fruitless.  So today, he decided to try massaging it himself to see if it would make a difference.  After about 15 minutes, the size of the lump had reduced significantly.  Just out of curiosity, he tried lifting his arm to see if it felt any better or if he could move it any higher.  He was amazed that he was able to reach up and touch his nose!  He quickly showed Julie and Cole what he could do.  What a celebration we had!!  John even went so far as to demonstrate he can now pick his nose with his left hand.  As silly as it might seem, he’s excited about the ability to be able to pick his nose with both hands.  We hope there won’t be any more of these types of demonstrations, but unfortunately, public nose picking in Mali is perfectly acceptable.

Julie was especially overwhelmed and ecstatic at this answer to prayer.  (Not the nose picking part.)  A couple of days before we left for France last month, Julie was given a promise from God that John would receive tremendous  healing between Easter and Pentecost this year.  The healing would not be limited to the problem that sent us to France, rather it would  be more encompassing and touch old injuries as well.  We have witnessed an amazing event today.  Please join us in praising God and pray for continued healing from John’s accident injuries.  With God, all things are possible!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Shout to the Lord

Leading Interchurch Worship We’re back involved with our praise and worship ministry.  It feels good to be doing things again.  Our YWAM worship team sponsored a worship and prayer event yesterday.  We invited anyone who wanted to come by inviting local churches, through radio announcements, and word of mouth.  We had a good turn out.  The worship time was led by two different groups.  John played piano for one of the worship teams, Julie worked the overhead projector, and Cole was our official photographer.  We also broke into small groups with each praying for a different ethnic group in Mali.

Last time we took part in an event like this, John had to sit down between songs and barely had enough energy to make it through the service.  Today, he was full of energy and uninhibited from any sickness or weakness.  It’s so good to return to normal.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Cat Chow

We’re down to just our original cat now.  Our other cat ran away from home several months ago the day after we gave away her last kitten.  There is a cat that lives next door at our neighbor’s house that has become quite accustomed to visiting us.  He comes into our house a couple of times a day to say hi and to take a dip from the cat food bowl.  The other night, Julie was cooking hamburgers and walked out of the kitchen for a minute to check on something.  When she came back, she found the neighbor cat up on the stove chowing down on one of our burgers.  Guess he’s gained a taste for more than cat food.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Benny and the Jets

Benny PrasarBack in March before we left for France we had an amazing man come through Mali named Benny Prasad.  We didn’t have a chance to post about it then but we think it’s important enough to include now.  Benny is from India and now serves as a YWAM missionary and musician (he calls himself a musicianary) traveling the world sharing his music and testimony.  He even had a chance to play at the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004.  He is one of the most traveled people in India.  He showed his passport which is over 3 inches thick!  This man is jet set and knows how to travel.   He has been to over 200 countries and hopes to make it 220 by the end of this year.  Ironically enough, he was supposed to leave Mali on Air Senegal, which shut down the day before he was ticketed leave.  Another notch in his travel experience belt.

His testimony is about growing up feeling like a failure then being redeemed by the Lord.  He shared about the day his school called in his parents to tell them they needed to expel Benny because he was dragging down the school’s reputation and was an embarrassment to the school.  He would have been the first person expelled in the school’s history.  He felt worthless and wanted to commit suicide.  During this time, the Lord spoke to him and Benny committed his life to God.  He was allowed to stay in school and the Lord began really working in his life and blessed him with an incredible musical ability.  Today he travels the world sharing his story of how he found self-worth in following Jesus.  A few years ago his school (the one that considered him their biggest failure) celebrated their 25th anniversary.  They invited Benny to be the keynote speaker as they considered him the most successful person to have attended the school.  Benny did speak and shared the same testimony of being rejected by the school but accepted by Jesus.

Benny plays a special musical instrument he designed called a Bentar.  It is a guitar with two built-in bongo drums and a 20 string harp.  He plays all three simultaneously.  His playing style is very unique and the music is stunning.  If you have seen the movie August Rush, that is the best description of his playing style.  Our featured video is Benny playing Shout to the Lord on his Bentar at one of his concerts.  Here’s a video of Benny sharing his testimony.  If you hear of him coming to your area, we can guarantee you will not want to miss it.

Friday, May 01, 2009

The Biggest Loser

John - August 2008John’s recovery has been amazing.  After receiving the proper medicine in Paris, he changed literally overnight.  Before, he was weak and lethargic and spent most of his days on the couch or in bed because he didn’t have the energy to do even the simplest tasks.  John - May 2009With the weight loss, he looked like a little boy wearing his father’s clothes.  He’s had to punch several new holes in his belt to make it small enough to use.  Aside from the weight loss, everything else has changed.  He is back to the John we knew a few months ago.  He has all of his energy back and is diving into many projects.  It’s wonderful to see him as he used to be.  Unfortunately,  he hasn’t gained any weight yet.  It’s still hovering around 165 lbs., but he hasn’t lost anymore either.  The doctor says regaining the weight will be a long process.  Don’t you wish you had this problem? ;-)

As we said earlier, our morale has been better upon our return from France, however there has still been some lingering funk that has been bogging us down.  We have spent a lot of time this week talking and praying as a family.  We have identified many ways we let our guard down over the past few months and became susceptible to spiritual attacks that have worn us down in many ways and crippled our ministry.  We’ve also had the opportunity to share these difficulties with our YWAM team.  They spent a lot of time praying for us too.  Just like the medicine that has transformed John, the prayer times and quiet times with God the last few days have brought on the same type of instant healing…this time it’s spiritual healing.  Thank you again for taking part in this.  We feel very bathed and covered in prayers from all over the globe.