Friday, December 31, 2010

They Keep Going…And Going…And Going…

King's Kids 20th AnniversaryAs 2010 draws to a close, we reflect back on all the anniversaries that have been celebrated this year.  We’ve celebrated 50 years of Youth With A Mission (YWAM) and 50 years of independence for Mali.  Last night, we celebrated 20 years of King’s Kids in Mali – a YWAM kids performance ministry.  We attended a big celebration at a King’s Kids camp taking place in Bamako this week.  Over 100 kids from all over Mali were attending the camp.  There was a big performance last night with lots of songs, skits, and dances.  A special surprise was when they called all the Kings Kids alumni in the audience to participate in one of the dance numbers.  After all of the performances we were treated to a wonderful buffet of African dishes.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Alpha Omega

Alpha Fall 2010Our 10 week Alpha for ESOL Course has drawn to a close.  We had our final meeting on Wednesday night.  It’s always bittersweet when a course wraps up.  It’s satisfying to have seen the Course through to conclusion, but it’s sad to say good-bye to everyone.

We had 5 students complete the course.  Everyone was glowing about how the course had changed their lives.  Following the lesson on Wednesday night, we had a small graduation ceremony and awarded each student with a completion certificate and an NiRV simplified English Bible that were graciously provided by a church in Washington that has partnered with our Alpha Course.

We’re already planning our next course for February.  In the meantime, we’re very excited that a training team from Alpha in the UK is coming to Mali in January for an Alpha Course leader training.  We’re hoping this will increase the amount of interest and participation in Alpha Courses in Mali.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Joyeux Noël

Christmas 2010Merry Christmas from the Clarks.  Yes, the blog has been pretty quiet the past few weeks, but it’s certainly not for lack of activity in our lives.  Here’s just a quick summary:

Julie has developed more kidney stones and was in a lot of pain a couple of weeks ago.  She visited a doctor here who prescribed some medicine and advised her that they should pass naturally without any medical intervention - specifically no need to leave Mali for additional medical care.

School is currently on Christmas vacation so we are all free from school activities for a couple of weeks.

We have a YWAM short term team from Switzerland visiting Mali.  They have been staying in Bamako for the past week.  Because a majority of the team are English speakers, John has been given the responsibility of overseeing the team’s activities while they are in Bamako.  He started with an orientation program to help acclimate them to Mali.  He then accompanied them on several activities including a visit to a preschool for children of widows and orphans,  ministry at the juvenile prison, a prayer walk around the government ministry complex, shopping downtown (always a very challenging task) and other adventures.

We have been most excited about a Christmas program John organized explaining what Christmas is all about.  Even though Mali is a Muslim country, Christmas is a legal holiday.  But even so, there is very little evidence of Christmas in Mali.  A few stores that cater to Westerners have Christmas decorations, but other than that, the landscape is devoid of Holiday cheer.  We held an outdoor event on three different nights to explain Christmas.  We projected pictures of Christmas and film clips on a large screen.  The Swiss team sang a few Christmas carols and John explained what they mean.  The program was designed to explain the sights, sounds, and traditions of Christmas in the Western world.  But most importantly, the program ultimately led to the story of the first Christmas and the birth of Christ with related clips from the Jesus Film.  We explained the importance and significance of this event and shared about the most special Christmas gift of all.  The events were well attended and we passed out a lot of literature afterward and had several good conversations with people after each event.

Last night our family shared Christmas Eve in a local church.  We returned again this morning for the Christmas day service.  In all, we have been very blessed this Christmas season and we wish the same to you and your families.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Concert Tour-Part 3

We arrived in Ségou early afternoon on Friday.  We set up camp at a local church.  Our concert venue was an indoor concert hall…by far the nicest of the places we’ve been – it was even air-conditioned!  Someone had made arrangements for a sound system and John and the tech crew went to a local bar of all places to pick it up.  It was a nice system and worked wonderfully.  Again, our concert started with a couple of Malian choirs followed by our team.  Because we were indoors, our audience was limited to around 200 people.  But the concert went very well.  After the concert, we returned to the church for dinner and some sleep.  The dorm rooms were small and weren’t able to hold everyone, so John and a couple of other guys slept on the floor of the church sanctuary.

Saturday morning we left Ségou and returned to Bamako for the last 2 concerts.  It was exciting to return home.  We had a wonderful family reunion until John had to leave for the concert an hour later.

Concert Stage - BamakoOur concerts in Bamako on Saturday and Sunday nights were wonderful.  We had several groups perform ahead of us including Kings Kids, a YWAM children’s performance group.  They are always a crowd pleaser.  Because Bamako is the capital city and there is so much to do, we had our lowest turnouts of the tour with our audiences topping out at 100-150.  But that certainly didn’t keep us from worshiping the Lord.

The travel was long and grueling, and it was difficult to be separated as a family.  But it was an event of a lifetime for John and he is happy to have been a part of it.  He never imagined he would have the opportunity to tour with a professional singer/songwriter.  It was in many ways a dream come true for him.  One of John’s favorite French worship songs is Entends mon coeur.  It’s originally an English song called Listen to Our Hearts by Geoff Moore and Steven Curtis Chapman.   Concert Crowd - BamakoJohn fell in love with the French version (sung by Rolf Schneider of all people) a few years ago when he first heard it.  We’ve still never heard it in English!  John has always wanted to play the song, but it’s mainly a guitar song and didn’t translate well to the piano.  John was so excited to find it part of the repertoire for the concert tour and on the play list every night.  He accompanied on the synthesizer which he doesn’t get to play very often.

Each concert ended with a song written by Rolf Schneider called Shalom.  John reminisces of looking out at the crowd swaying and singing along at the end of each concert.  It was a fitting end to every evening.  We’ll also let it be our closing remark for the Concerts de l’Espérance 2010 tour of Mali.

Shalom

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Concert Tour-Part 2

Mosquito NetsAfter several hours on the road, we arrived in Sévaré on Monday afternoon.  Our lodging was at a Bible school.  We set up our mosquito nets and beds and had an evening to relax and catch our breath.  John was able to buy a cool mosquito tent for only $12 in Bamako before he left on the tour.  It’s like a small camping tent, complete with folding poles, but it’s made out of mosquito netting rather than nylon.  On Tuesday afternoon we headed into town to setup for the concert.  This time our concert venue was a basketball court.  We didn’t have electricity so we fired up our generator.  Thankfully we now had the proper cables to get everything hooked up, but it took a while to get the generator actually working.   A Malian choir opened for our concert.  They only had a small minivan at their disposal for transportation, so they arrived bit by bit throughout the concert.  It was interesting to see the choir growing every 15 minutes or so.  They started with about 20 choir members and grew to over 60 as the night went on.  They wrote and performed a special 50th anniversary song for the occasion.  We went on after the choir and the concert went very well.  We had 300-400 people in the crowd.

On Wednesday, our team was invited to Mac’s Refuge - a bed and breakfast in Sévaré run by man who grew up in Mali as a missionary kid.  He treated us to a wonderful lunch.  Back in 2001, our family stayed at Mac’s Refuge during our second week in Mali as part of an orientation tour we took of the country.  It was interesting to return nine years later and see how things have grown and changed and catch up with Mac.

Concert CrowdOur next concert was in a nearby town called Mopti.  Because it was so close, we continued to lodge at the Bible school in Sévaré and drove into Mopti in the afternoon to set up in a sports park.  We had several places to choose from and decided on a basketball court again.  This court had stadium seating to allow for greater crowds.  Unfortunately, the remaining part of our sound system failed just before the concert.  Throughout the tour, we were using a small sound system to provide sound for the worship team so we could hear each other on stage.  For the Mopti concert, we were forced to use this instead for our main sound system.  It was not nearly as powerful, but it managed for this concert.  The evening began with a couple of Malian groups followed by our team.  Our starting time was 8:00 pm – our latest concert to date.  We didn’t finish until after 10:30 pm.  Due to security concerns in this region of Mali, John and the other Westerners on the team were rushed back to Sévaré immediately after the concert ended and the rest of the team stayed behind to clean up.  Thankfully, it was just a precaution and there were no issues with safety.

Thursday we left for the town of San.  After two flat tires we arrived safely and moved into yet another Bible school  This one had a dorm complete with beds and mosquito nets already set up for everyone on the team.  We made arrangements to borrow a sound system from one of the churches in San.  We arrived early to set up up the borrowed sound system and the rest of our equipment.  San was one of our biggest crowds yet with 400+ people.

John learned several new songs for the tour including Nous announçons le Roi which he really enjoyed playing.

Next stop….Ségou.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Concert Tour–Part 1

Our concert tour hit the road on Thursday October 28 for Bougouni, about 3 hours from Bamako.  Our venue had both an outdoor and indoor stage.  We chose to setup outside to attract people in from the street.  Unfortunately, 10 minutes before the concert started, a big rainstorm rolled in and we needed to break everything down and move it inside.  Just as we were set up, we were hit by a power outage.  We tired to use our generator to get things up and running, but we didn’t have the right cables.  An a cappella Malian group performed in the meantime in the dark.  Eventually the power came back on and we had a great concert.  Unfortunately, because of the rain and our isolated indoor location, our crowd was less than 100 people.

Concert Tour - SikassoOn Friday, we moved on to Sikasso.  The road was very difficult with more potholes than pavement in a lot of places.  The road was also diverted onto a nearby dirt road several times due to road construction.  But we eventually made it.  Our concert was held in an outdoor amphitheater in the center of town.  There weren’t any power outlets available, so John had to connect everything directly to a power meter.  Thankfully, it went well and he didn’t curl his hair.  Unfortunately, half of our sound system failed in Sikasso, but we were able to do the concert with the remaining half.  The amphitheater was adjacent to the main street in town so we had a very good turnout.  We had about 250-300 people in the seats and a hundred or so standing in the street.  We had a Malian choir perform before our concert started then we went on.  After the concert, we stayed overnight at our YWAM base in Sikasso.

Concert Tour - KoutialaOn Saturday morning, we packed up early and headed out to Koutiala – the home of our largest YWAM base in Mali.  We spent 2 days in Koutiala with concerts on Saturday and Sunday nights on a big outdoor stage.  We had an excellent turnout of 300-400 each night .  Each concert was led off by 3-4 Malian groups before our group took the stage.  We were able to do the concerts using the working half of our sound system.  This was our first nighttime concert and there weren’t any lights on stage, so we had to rig some up so we could see.  The lights we found didn’t have plugs on them so we had to plug the bare wires directly into the power outlets.  The cords were not long enough so we had to twist wires together to make them longer.  We didn’t have any electrical tape on hand, so we had bare live wires lying on the stage – watch your step!  This definitely isn’t OSHA approved - but then again, not much in Africa would be.  We also had a terrible bug problem and did a lot of dancing and wildly flaying our arms during the concert to avoid a wide variety of flying pests.  Here’s a selection from the Koutiala concert:  Regne en moi (Reign in Me).

It was refreshing to stay at the Koutiala base with real beds, running water (complete with showers and Western toilets) and fans to keep us cool.  Monday was originally scheduled as a day off, but because the next leg of our travel was so long (8 hours) we chose to make it a travel day instead.  Next stop…Sévaré.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

End Of The Line

Concert TeamAfter 9 cities, 11 concerts and over 1,000 miles of bus travel, the Concerts de l’Espérance drew to a close on Sunday night.  The tour went very well.  We traveled on our YWAM bus along with a support car to carry more people and equipment.  Our team was made of up 20 people – 5 band members, 6 singers, plus tech and support people.

Even with all the travel, we had almost no vehicle trouble!!  The support car burst a radiator hose just as we were leaving town the first day, but thankfully it happened while we were still in town and not out in the middle of the bush.  Concert BusThe bus also had 2 flat tires along the way.  But considering the distances and conditions, travel went remarkably well.  Most of the roads were in fairly good condition.  We did have one day on a bad road and couldn’t travel faster than 35 mph.  At times, it was more advantageous to drive on the unpaved shoulder of the road.  The travel time was long and drawn out each day, mainly due to slowing down as we passed through villages and the many police stops along the way.  At each checkpoint, we gave the national police Bibles as they checked our paperwork.  This proved very popular with them.  How exciting!!

Our lodging was mainly in churches and Bible schools.  The conditions were quite primitive with running water in only a couple of our stops.  We slept on the floor under mosquito nets with all the guys in one room and the girls in another.  For the most part, it felt like a camping trip.  We did eat well along the way and each stop provided wonderful African meals.

For the most part, everyone stayed healthy.  John did catch a cold along with several others.  There was also a smattering of tummy trouble for a few people.  Unfortunately, one of our teammates did catch Typhoid and had to leave the tour halfway through.

Thank you for your prayers about the security situation.  This too was uneventful.  We did have one concert end around 10:30 pm and immediately after the concert, John and the other Westerners were rushed back to camp while the rest of the team remained behind to pack up the equipment.  Thankfully it was only a precaution and we made it back without incident.

We did have several equipment failures along the way including losing our entire sound system about halfway through.  But we were able to adapt, improvise, and borrow what was needed.  After all was said and done, (and sung), hundreds of people were touched by the concerts and heard the Gospel message.  Throughout the tour, we were able to give away over 1,000 Bibles along with hundreds of Gospel tracts.

Here are a couple of songs from the concert tour.  O Dieu Tu Es Grand (How Great Is Our God) and Je Te Donne Tout.  Be sure to listen for John on the piano!

It is wonderful to be together as a family again.  John is still playing a lot of catch-up and more blog entries will follow in the next few days with more details of the tour.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Blame It On The Rain

Concert First NiteThe concert tour kicked off today.  The capital city of Bamako (where we live) is the first stop on the tour.  The concert was held at an outdoor concert venue.  Our turnout was about 100 people.  We’re hoping for more at our future concerts as news gets out.

Today there were 4 separate groups that performed:  A youth group called “Shine”, a group from the Magnambougou church, a group from the Bethel church, and the YWAM team that John is playing with.  All of the groups did a wonderful job.  Unfortunately, halfway through the concert, we were hit with a torrential rainstorm.  We scrambled to get all of the sound equipment onto the stage and out of the rain.  At same time, the audience rushed the stage trying to keep dry.  After about 15 minutes, we realized the rain wasn’t going to stop and we reconfigured the sound system and continued the concert with the audience on stage with the performers.  It brought a  special feeling of intimacy to the concert.

John leaves tomorrow morning for the second stop on the tour.  He’ll be gone until a week from tomorrow.  Please continue to pray for the concert tour and all the people we’re hoping to touch in the process…and oh yeah, pray for no rain during the concerts.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

National Concert Tour

Concerts de l'EsperanceIn celebration of both Mali and YWAM’s 50th Anniversaries this year, YWAM Mali is sponsoring a special Concerts of Hope worship tour.  On Wednesday, John embarks on the 2 week national concert tour.  YWAM has teamed up with churches in 9 different towns that serve as stops on the tour.  John is going to be playing piano and keyboard.  The worship team is being led by Rolf Schneider who is coming in from Switzerland.  Rolf is the godfather of worship music in the French speaking world.  He is responsible for officially translating most of the popular English worship music into French and is a leading writer of French worship music.  He is the French speaking equivalent of Michael W. Smith.  John considers this a very exciting yet intimidating opportunity.

Rolf will be leading on acoustic guitar, Daouda (our Malian musician friend) is playing electric guitar, another man is coming from Switzerland to play bass, Cole’s friend Emmanuel is our drummer, and John will be on keyboard.  We also have a group of singers from Mali.  The team will be traveling on a YWAM bus for the approximately 1,000 mile trip.  As we’ve already experienced first hand, Malian road travel can be very challenging.  Please be in prayer for safety on the trip.  Also remember Julie and Cole who will be holding down the fort in Bamako.

Monday, October 18, 2010

How Many Stamps Does It Take To Mail A Letter To The US?

Ballot Envelopes Living overseas, we still have the ability to vote in local and national elections in the States.  We pay income tax every year, so it’s nice to know we still retain our voting rights.  We just sent off our ballots for the upcoming November election.

One of the advantages of living in Africa is that we’re not constantly bombarded by telephone calls and TV campaign ads.  But believe it or not, we do occasionally receive campaign mail for a couple of local SoCal candidates that pay international postage rates to send their literature to us.  But it’s nowhere the amount that’s stuffing a  lot of your mailboxes every day.

BTW:  In answer the the question, it took us 8 stamps to mail each of our ballots back to the U.S. at a cost of $3.50 each.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Don’t Forget to Wash

GHD_signat_lockup Today we received the following message on our cell phones from UNICEF, the Ministry of Health, and Orange (our mobile phone carrier):  Des mains propres pour sauver des vies.  Translated it means “Clean hands save lives”.  In case you didn’t know, today is Global Handwashing Day.  This is the third year Handwashing Day has been held.  Events are planned around the world.  For more information, visit: www.globalhandwashingday.org. Tens of Thousands of people get sick and die every year in Mali from something as simple as lack of proper hand washing.  It’s amazing what we often take for granted in the Western world. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Independence Day

cinquantenaire On September 22nd, Mali celebrated its 50th year of independence.  Locally, it’s referred to as the Cinquantenaire.  Unfortunately, we were preoccupied with the death of Julie’s mother which precluded us from taking part in any celebrations or talking much about it at the time.  We received the news about Julie’s mom on the morning of the 22nd.  The timing turned out to be bittersweet.  Although we missed many of the celebrations we wanted to see, the declared holidays gave Julie time to step away from school and other distractions and focus on processing her loss.

Mali’s 50th Anniversary has been incredible.  The amount of work that has gone into Bamako, the capital city, has been nothing short of amazing.  Everything has been repaired and freshly painted.  We have a lot of new amenities including a huge new government office complex, a new bridge crossing the Niger River (a welcome addition as the 2 current bridges are gridlocked during rush hour), a new interchange that bypasses one of the busiest traffic circles (preferred over intersections in this part of the world), a new airport terminal, new street lights, an amazing National Park complete with GRASS!! and the list goes on and on.

While we didn’t get out to any of the events, we did watch the national parade on TV.  The parade was filmed from a special viewing area set aside for the President and his special guests.  The guest of honor was Muammar al-Gaddafi.  This has a lot of political implications that we won’t go into.  We enjoyed the TV coverage.  While it wasn’t the Rose Parade, we liked watching Mali celebrating in grand style.  There were several airplanes that performed as part of the parade and when we saw them fly over the parade route on TV, we’d run outside and watch them fly over our house moments later.

Mali gained independence from France in 1960.  For the first 30 years, Mali was under a dictatorship.  Then in 1991, a coup resulted in Mali’s current democratic government.  We are grateful to be living in a peaceful country – a rare occurrence in Africa.  Click here for more info on Mali’s anniversary.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Charting a New Course

Logo Large The Alpha for ESOL Course we hosted several months ago was a great success.  This was a special version of the Alpha Course that’s directed towards people learning English.  It provides a forum for practicing English while learning the answers to some of life’s biggest questions.  Last night, John began another Alpha for ESOL course.  We had 15 people show up for the first night.  We’re anticipating there will be more next week.  Please hold this ministry up in prayer.  The Course runs every Wednesday night for 10 weeks and begins at 6:30 pm our time (11:30 am PDST).  If you’d like more information on how you can help and/or pray, please let us know.  If you’d like to know more about Alpha or are interested in a attending a course in your area, please visit www.Alpha.org

This is an exciting ministry and John sees this becoming a bigger part of his work in Mali.

Monday, September 27, 2010

In Loving Memory

Thank you for your prayers, notes and thoughts of encouragement for Julie and her family as they grieve the loss of their mother.  Julie is disappointed about not being able to share in the services with her family. Even though the funeral was rescheduled for tomorrow, all the Air France flights leaving Mali have been booked solid for several days.  We did record a couple of songs of John playing the piano and Julie singing that will be played at the funeral.  This was a major challenge due to a loud wedding party just outside our front door yesterday.  But we were able to complete the recording at night after the party had ended. Julie also wrote a touching poem and a few words to be spoken during the service.  It’s comforting to know she can still participate despite being thousands of miles away.

Click here to listen to Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) and In the Garden.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Personal Note From Julie

Dahnke Ladies My sister Mary in California informed me three weeks ago that my mother Joyce had reached the last stages of Parkinson’s disease and was not expected to live through the month.  That prediction proved true.  My mom, Joyce Warner Dahnke died peacefully in Yorba Linda yesterday, Tuesday, September 21st around 2 pm.  She was 82 years old and had suffered from Parkinson’s disease for about six years.  Her last two years had been spent in care facilities in Orange County.

Some friends here in Mali have been praying for me that when the news of Mom’s death came, I would hear clearly from God whether I should go to California or stay here in Bamako, for I was unable to attend my father’s funeral in 2004.  Unusual circumstances here in Mali prevent me from going to California for the funeral, which will be this Saturday in Whittier.  God made it clear this morning that I am not to board a plane here.  Firstly, today is Mali’s Independence Day, a national holiday and the 50th Anniversary of independence at that.  Bamako, the capital city, is full of dignitaries, special events, and military parades.  The airport today and tomorrow is being used for state purposes and it would be very hard to get a commercial flight at all.  Secondly, there is to be an air traffic controllers’ strike in Paris tomorrow which would directly affect flights, creating another obstacle to my route.  Research on another airlines confirm that I cannot physically arrive in California in time for the funeral services Saturday.  I have spoken with my sister Mary about these circumstances.  Her words also gave me peace that God is asking me to stay in Africa.

Please remember me and my siblings Mary, Cathy, Ginnie, Amy and Tom this week in prayer as we grieve, and they make arrangements and attend the funeral service.  Overall, there is a sense of release and relief in the family with the understanding that Mom’s physical suffering has ended.  I am praising God for personal answers to prayer in this matter. I am also comforted by the knowledge that I was able to spend some special time with Mom this summer. I knew then in my heart that those would be my last visits with her and I’ve treasured those precious moments these last weeks. God can indeed “work all things to good for the sake of those who love Him.”

Monday, September 20, 2010

Code of Silence

Yes!!  It really is a new update!  We’ve decided to crawl out from under our rock of silence.  We apologize for the lapse in communication.  To be quite honest, we had a difficult re-entry back to Africa.  We arrived just at the start of Ramadan and there has been a huge amount of spiritual oppression hanging over us for several weeks.  It has affected our sleep, along with several things that have been out of place both physically and emotionally.  We decided to lay low and adjust back slowly.  Thankfully, most of it seems to be behind us now and things are getting back to normal.  Thanks for sticking with us and checking up regularly.  There is a lot happening in Mali right now and we’ve got plenty to share, so stay tuned…

Friday, August 13, 2010

Just Flew In From L.A. and Boy Are My Arms Tired

We’re happy to report that we arrived safe and sound back in Mali yesterday morning.  A few of our flights were delayed, but there was enough transition time between our connections that we didn’t miss any flights.  All of our luggage also made it through without incident.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

You Are Clear for Take-off

We’re off to the airport on our return to Africa.  Our time in California has gone by so quickly and it feels like we were just getting started and now it’s time to go.  So we bid farewell to 500 TV channels, the sound of police and fire truck sirens along with helicopter and jets constantly overhead.  We’re looking forward to the slower lifestyle in Mali.  But we will certainly miss California.  Thank you to everyone for making this trip such so enjoyable.  We enjoyed seeing so many people, visiting some beautiful and fun sites, and gaining 15 lbs. each during our summer restaurant binge tour.  We were also blessed with some wonderful times of rest and relaxation.  We truly felt like we were “lying down in green pastures beside the still waters.”

Our first flight leaves LAX today at 2:35 pm.  Four flights later, we will finally land in Bamako, Mali on Thursday morning at 5:35 am.  We’ll check in again when we’re on the other side of the ocean.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Life is a Beach

Beach Party 2010 We had a wonderful farewell/Birthday beach party last night.  The beach was a lot more crowded than we expected so we were not able to secure a fire ring.  But despite no fire, we still had a fun time.  Thankfully there were sandwiches to make up for not being able to roast hot dogs.  We also want to apologize for the parking situation.  Again, with the crowds parking was very difficult.  Thank you to everyone for braving the crowds to come to the party…and to those who didn’t make it all the way, thank you for your effort.

We watched a beautiful sunset over the Pacific which will long serve as a reminder of the wonderful time we’ve had in California.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Beach Blanket Bingo

Wow…it’s already time for us to say good-bye to California.  We will be having a farewell beach party/birthday party for Cole this Saturday at 6:00 pm.  We hope you can join us.  We spent yesterday scouring the coast looking for a good location.  We were really hoping to be around the Huntington Beach pier, but the U.S. Open Surfing Championship is happening this week and Huntington is a absolute zoo.  We’ve decided to party next to the Balboa Pier.  Newport is the first pier and Balboa is the second pier on the peninsula and home to Ruby’s Diner.  It is opposite the Balboa Ferry Landing on the other side of the peninsula.  We’ll be at the fire rings just to the left of the pier as you’re facing the ocean.  Click here for a Google map location.  There is a large pay parking lot at the pier.  If you have ANY questions, please don’t hesitate to call us at 714-618-1184.  Everyone is invite and we hope you’ll be able to join us.  Be sure to bring blankets, beach chairs, and other beach gear.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Hit Me With Your Best Shot

In all the hubbub of our trip, we just realized we needed to get our vaccinations updated.  Thankfully we were able to get into the OC Public Health Travel Clinic this morning without an appointment.  Typhoid, Hepatitis A & B, and Yellow Fever were the plat de jour.  Our arms are all a little sore – and so is our wallet - $600 not covered by insurance.  Ouch!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Save the Date

We’re having such a wonderful time in California this summer.  We’ve been able to see a lot of people and do a lot of things.  But now it’s all drawing to a close.  We’re preparing to leave for Africa in a little over a week.  But before we go, we’d like to see as many people as possible.   We’re planning a beach party for Saturday night, August 7th.  It’s going to be a combination good-bye party and Birthday party for Cole.  We hope you can join us.  Please watch our blog for more details on the time and location.  And please contact us with ANY questions and/or if you’d like to arrange a time to get together before we go.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Smiling From Ear to Ear

John took a good blow to the face in our car accident back in 2003.  As a result, he broke his jaw and lost most of his front teeth.  He has been wearing a partial denture since then, but with time, the damages have spread and John has lost more teeth.  One of the goals on this trip was for John to receive extensive dental care and reconstruction.  He has been visiting the dentist for several weeks and yesterday, he had several tooth extractions done and received a new upper denture.  He is still a little sore from all of the work, but not in much pain…especially considering the work he had done.  He is so happy to be able to smile again and expose a full set of teeth.  In a few days after the healing is done, he’s really looking forward to eating many things that have been difficult for him to eat over the past couple of years.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

On Pins and Needles

The other day on the way home, John noticed a medical office close to our house that specializes in deep tissue massage.  For years he has been suffering periodic pain in his left bicep as the result of our accident a few years ago.  He decided to stop in and have them look at it and see if they could soften a hard lump in his arm.  He received both a deep tissue massage along with a recommended acupuncture treatment.  This came as a surprise but John decided to give it a try.  Amazingly, despite having 30-40 needles inserted, he didn’t feel a thing!  It is a very interesting therapy.  We’ll wait and see what the ultimate results are.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Sailing Takes Me Away

Captain Cole Wow. Things just seem to be getting better and better. Yesterday, friends took us sailing out of Newport Harbor. We spent over 5 hours cruising the harbor then took a short trip out to sea. It was a most relaxing afternoon. Cole enjoyed helping with the rigging and trimming the sails. He had an extra special treat when he was invited to pilot the boat for 45 minutes or so. He was beaming from ear to ear and has been talking about it ever since.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Star Gazing

Observatory Yesterday we went to Olvera Street (the oldest street and buildings in Los Angeles) followed by a trip to the Griffith Park Observatory. We had a wonderful time at both – especially the observatory. We ended up spending most of the day at the observatory and extended our stay so we could look through the telescope once it got dark. We also enjoyed a show in the planetarium. The observatory underwent a total renovation a couple of years ago and a lot of new exhibits were added. One of the most interesting is a wall called The Big Picture. At 152 x 20 feet, it represents the largest photograph of space and contains over one-and-a-half million stars, galaxies and other objects. As massive as the picture is, it only represents a tiny slice of the universe – roughly the small amount of sky that your index finger would cover if you held it a foot from your eyes. One can’t help leaving an exhibit like this in total awe of how big and powerful God is. Even more astounding is pondering the expanse of the universe and realizing that in all that is out there, God’s complete and full attention is focused on a tiny speck in space called Earth.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Viva Mexico

We had a fantastic trip to Mexico this week. We arrived at the YWAM San Diego base on Tuesday morning. It is in an office complex and serves mainly as a support office for the Baja, Mexico bases. We toured the offices and met the staff. We then loaded in a van with 3 other YWAMers and they drove us south of the border to the Tijuana base in Baja Mexico. The Tijuana base recently relocated. It is brand new and still in several phases of construction. It is on a hill with ocean views and within walking distance of the beach.

We were escorted to our room which turned out to be their VIP speaker suite overlooking the ocean. Everything was brand new and it is one of the nicest places we’ve stayed. It included a full kitchen, living room, bedroom, and bathroom. We then shared lunch with the staff and a few short term mission teams. After lunch, we were given a tour of the base including an overview of the existing and future construction.

Baja - Djembe Presentation The YWAM San Diego/Baja bases played an important part in our recent 50th anniversary celebration in Mali. They donated a substantial gift which helped with the finances for our event. The purpose of this trip to Mexico was to share the highlights of our anniversary and personally thank them for their support. On Wednesday morning, we had a chance to participate in a staff meeting with all three bases - both live and via teleconference. John did a presentation on YWAM's ministry in Mali and our anniversary celebration. You can view the meeting which is in two parts by clicking Part 1 and Part 2. We also presented them with a djembe (African drum) from Mali.

Baja - Homes of Hope YWAM’s main ministry in Baja is a house building program called Homes of Hope. Through this program, teams of people come to Mexico to help YWAM build houses for homeless Mexican families. The teams range anywhere from church youth groups to corporations like the Walt Disney Company. The teams provide the funding and manpower necessary to build a house which is constructed from start to finish in just 2 days. We had a chance to visit some of the homes and families that are benefiting from them. What an exciting project this is. To date, Homes of Hope has built over 3,000 houses! We are planning on returning on one of our future visits to the States to participate in building a house. We have become big fans and proponents of this ministry. If you would like more information, you can visit the Homes of Hope website.

Baja - Ensenada Base On Wednesday afternoon, we were taken to the YWAM base in Ensenada, Mexico about an hour away. This base is a converted beachfront hotel. Again, we were not prepared for the blessing of our surroundings and a room overlooking the beach. There were several short term youth teams at the base working on various evangelism projects. It was exciting to see so much activity. After a tour of the base, our host took us down to the harbor for fish tacos - the origin and inspiration for the Rubio’s and Wahoo’s restaurant chains. We had a chance to tour the waterfront and fish market and do a little shopping. We finished the day at a wonderful Mexican restaurant.

On Thursday, sadly our stay in Mexico came to a close. In the morning, our family took a walk along the beach collecting seashells and sand dollars. Our host then drove us back to San Diego. It took over an 1-1/2 hours at the border crossing which is the busiest international land border in the world.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Red, White, and New

We had a busy and satisfying Fourth of July.  We started the day by going to church with John’s dad at Voyage Calvary Chapel in Fountain Valley.  We enjoyed worshiping and sharing with John’s dad.  After church, we visited Julie’s mom at the nursing home where she is living in Yorba Linda.  It is a small and very attentive facility situated in a regular house in a quite neighborhood.  There are 5 other people living in the house.   The caregivers invited all the families to come and celebrate at a special July 4th BBQ at the house.  Three of Julie’s sisters also attended.

Our Independence Day family tradition is to celebrate and watch fireworks somewhere different each year.  This year, we were invited to a party at the home one of our supporters on Balboa Island.  We LOVE Balboa and this was an extra special treat for us.  We celebrated and had a good time of sharing and socializing with several friends from one of our supporting churches who were at the party with us.  We finished by watching fireworks from a couple of different shows reflecting off of Balboa Harbor.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Stop the Presses

We were working on getting our new newsletter out when our printer quit halfway through the printing.  :-(  We’re actually glad it' happened while we were here so we can get it repaired or get a new one in place before we leave.  John’s mom has been so faithful in printing, assembling, and sending our newsletters for us.  Her service is a real blessing to us and we want to make sure she has everything she needs to help us.

Monday, June 28, 2010

What About Bob

Bob's Big Boy Yesterday we spoke at Lytle Creek Community Church in a small mountain community in San Bernardino.  We are always blessed to visit Lytle Creek.  We had the special privilege of staying in a beautiful log cabin on Saturday night hosted by a couple from the church.

One the way home, we spotted a Bob’s Big Boy and decided to stop for some world famous Big Boy hamburgers at this SoCal landmark restaurant.  We are making our way through the restaurant list we prepared before leaving Mali and our waistlines are beginning to show it.  Thankfully it will all come off without trying once we return to Mali.  Until then, we’re following the Biblical advice of “Eat, drink, and be merry”.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Coming to a Theater Near You

Look to the right, and you will see that we’ve published our speaking schedule for California.  We’re anticipating there will be a lot of additions, so check back regularly for updates.  We’ll be speaking on a variety of topics depending on the group.  If you’d like any further information or directions to any of these events, please let us know.

Besides these group events, we’re also meeting with a lot of individuals and families.  We would love some one-on-one time with you, so please contact us at your convenience so we can schedule a rendezvous with you.

Friday, June 25, 2010

0 Miles From Disneyland

Dland Dumbo Yesterday we visited Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure.  One word sums up our day:  Overwhelming.  Even though we’ve been to Disneyland literally thousands of times (REALLY!), we were not prepared for the sensory overload.  How did we do this in the past?!  Our slow paced lifestyle in Africa is a far cry from the high energy environment of Disney.

We ended the day by watching the new World of Color show.  It was a beautiful show, however it was just too much for us to take in after a long day of cultural readjustment.  Julie had to turn her back to the show about halfway through.  Perhaps it was just a matter of too much, too soon for us.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Picture This

Prayer Card 2010 - Small As per our tradition, we have created a new prayer card with an updated photo upon our return to the States.  One of the most dramatic changes you’ll notice is how much Cole has grown.  In the past, he used to stand in front of us, but now, he’s taller than Julie!

TRIVIA:  We have taken each picture throughout the years somewhere on the Disney property in Anaheim.  Can any eagle eyes guess where our photo was taken this year?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

All Present And Accounted For

We have been in SoCal a little over a week.  We arrived safely and without incident.  As a special welcome gift, we were treated to a small earthquake a few days ago to remind us we are in California.  Although we’re not basketball fans, we also had an opportunity to witness the Lakers win the NBA Championship and the ensuing celebration that overtook the LA/OC area.

Our pace this week has been slow and leisurely as we’ve enjoyed reconnecting with family and our home church.  We are hoping to see you soon, so please don’t be shy about contacting us so we can arrange a time to get together.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Wherever You Go There You Are

We made it!  We are now in California.  We arrived at LAX last night safely and without incident.  Our trip was long, but well worth the time investment.

We’re looking forward to seeing you.  Shoot us a message or call us at 714-618-1184 to get together.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Ready Or Not, Here We Come

Tonight we’re off to California. Our first flight leaves at 3 am from Bamako to Casablanca. We then fly Casablanca to London, London to Paris, Paris to Los Angeles. We finally arrive Wednesday night. We’re sure to be exhausted upon arrival, so we’re spending our first night at a motel just outside LAX.

We’re really looking forward to seeing as many people as possible and dining in as many restaurants as we can. ;-) We’ve also heard that next week is the final week for The Lion King in Orange County. If anyone has a line on tix, we’d really love to see it. But first it’s off to In-N-Out Burger!

Signing off from Africa

Sunday, June 06, 2010

A Giant Step Forward

Our YWAM base in Bamako is relocating as we’ve outgrown our current facilities.  We had another time of praise and prayer at the new property this past Friday.  We focused our prayers on finances as the $18,000 down payment was due on June 5th.  Last night, I received a phone call from our regional director who was very excited to report that a large donation had just been made and we now have all the money for the down payment!  Why does God always wait till the last minute?!  ;-)  We are happy to report the land purchase is now in full swing and the contract is being signed.  Please be praying with us as we work to raise the remainder of the purchase price.  If you are interested in sharing in this project, please let us know and we can provide information on how to make a tax-deductable donation.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Final Preparations

The countdown has officially begun…actually, it started several days ago.  School is out and we’ve finished up almost all of our responsibilities.   John is preaching on Sunday night, but other than that, we’re free to wind things down.  Our short-timer syndrome is really kicking in as the power cuts have been more frequent and lasting longer, hot season is lingering on, and there continues to be a constant stream of people coming to our door for various things.  Oh yes…let’s not forget the never-ending battle with ants in the kitchen.  Seriously, yesterday they were bringing in a bird piece by piece.  All in all, the WAWA (West Africa Wins Again) moments are steadily increasing.

We’re preparing our last minute tasks and getting packed.  A couple of days ago, we found out about a short term missionary that is going to be working in our neighborhood and looking for a place to stay.  His work dates in Mali coincide with our travel dates.  He is from Madagascar (which is more than a cartoon about some wacky animals.)  It is an island off the coast of East Africa.

We’re now just 3 days away from departure!  We would really like to see as many people as possible in California.  Please contact us as soon as possible so we can reserve a time to get together with you.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

L O S T

Okay…let’s change the topic a little.  We do have some time for leisure activity and try to stay connected with the Western world when we can.  For the last 6 years, our family has been engrossed with the TV series LOST (the show with the world’s shortest theme song.)  With the advent of technology, we’ve been able to download and follow the episodes via iTunes from multiple continents and countries.  We started in California, continued in Guatemala, France, London, and Mali.  We’ve also have all the DVD sets and they’ve become a hot commodity in the mission community here.

Our internet connection has been pretty bad lately and it took us 4 days to download the final episode.  And after all that waiting…wow…what a disappointment.  We had much higher expectations for how everything would resolve.  I guess it’s proof that we should be focusing on the real world.  Now, back to our regularly scheduled program.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Pomp and Circumstance

Cole's Graduation from 8th Grade This year has been filled with many milestones for our family.  Yesterday marked another as Cole graduated from 8th grade with his three classmates!  We are so proud of him and were beaming with joy as he gave his graduation speech.   Time has flown by as we remember Cole starting kindergarten when we first arrived in Africa.  Most of his school years have been spent here in Mali in small missionary schools.  He is thriving and is happy going to school in this environment.  Next year he will return to the same school with his friends to start the adventure of high school.  Interestingly enough, as freshmen, they will be the upperclassmen next year unless more high school students arrive.

Our video this week is a special BCA Friends Forever memory video John put together for the graduation ceremony.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lifeboat Drill

Many times we see things in Africa that often leave us scratching our heads and sometimes cause us to laugh hysterically.  Of course, a picture is worth a thousand words, but even with current technology, sometimes you can’t even get a camera phone out fast enough to catch that priceless Kodak moment.  One such incident happened a few days ago.  As we were driving, we came upon a road construction crew.  There was a flagman (with a red cloth tied to a stick) cautioning people of the approaching work.  Instead of wearing an orange construction vest, he was wearing an orange boating life vest.

Monday, May 24, 2010

If My People Pray

Day of Prayer 2010 Yesterday marked the International Global Day of Prayer.  For the past 10 years, churches around the world have gathered together on Pentecost Sunday to pray.  This year marked a big milestone for Mali.  In years past, the Day of Prayer has taken place at the Cultural Arts Center.  This year, the Day of Prayer event outgrew the 3,500 person capacity of the Arts Center and was held at one of Mali’s soccer stadiums.  It was so encouraging to see a 25,000 seat stadium 1/4 full!  The most optimistic statistics put Mali’s Christian population at under 3%.  How amazing it was to see all those people gathered in one place to lift our voices to God in prayer.

Day of Prayer 2010 Choir The Day of Prayer event included a lot music and dancing including a 300 voice choir comprised of local Bamako church choirs.  Our video of the week is one of choral performances.  There were also special presentations and prayers marking Mali’s 50th Anniversary.  Over a course of 3-1/2 hours, we prayed for 7 major prayer subjects ranging from thanksgiving for Mali’s democratic government, to prayer for the national church, to prayer for the nations of the world.  2 Chronicles 7:14 is the theme verse of the Day of Prayer and sums everything up so well.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Pedal Power

We never know what each day is going to bring.  There is always a new surprise waiting around the corner for us.  Yesterday, John received a phone call out of the blue from a young man named Luke who was looking for the YWAM Guest House.  He is English speaking and not familiar with Bamako.  John gave him directions to a landmark close to our house where they could meet.  As he was waiting, John was trying to figure out how he knew Luke.  Once they got together, he discovered he had never met Luke and by a set of strange circumstances, he had gotten our phone number as a point of contact.  He doesn’t speak French and was lost in Bamako.  We were happy to get together with him and help him get oriented and find our YWAM base.

Luke’s story is very interesting.  He is riding a bicycle solo from England to Ghana.  Yes, as incredible as it seems, he has ridden his bike thousands of miles alone including through the Sahara Desert to reach Bamako!  Wow…talk about an adventurous spirit.  Luke is on a missionary trip to explore mission options in Ghana.  He is continuing his journey tomorrow.  All together, his trip is 3150 miles by the way the crow flies.  What an amazing guy.  It was a pleasure to have crossed paths with Luke and help him along his way.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Dum and Dummer

Tweedle Dee Tweedle Dum Bamako Christian Academy put on a school musical last night called Wonderland.  It is a continuation of Alice’s adventures in Wonderland.  Practices have been going on for weeks and Cole was nervous as the program drew near.  He played the part of Tweedle Dum with his best friend Jonny accompanying him as Tweedle Dee.  They both (actually everyone in the cast) did a smashing job and the musical was a great success.  We are especially proud of Cole for learning and performing several song and dance numbers.  Julie and Jonny’s mom designed some creative costumes for the twins.  We don’t think Cole is going to be breaking down any doors in a rush to the Broadway stage but we are glad he participated.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Closing Ceremonies

Our YWAM 50th Anniversary Celebration for West Africa has drawn to a close.  Events will continue to happen throughout the year at various YWAM locations around the globe as we celebrate our Jubilee year.

50th Loren & Darlene It has been an honor to be joined by Loren and Darlene Cunningham who founded YWAM back in 1960.  They have passed on some amazing stories over the past few days and encouraged us with news of what is happening with YWAM around the world and where YWAM is headed next.  We feel very blessed that in our short 3 years with YWAM, this is our 3rd chance to see Loren Cunningham in person.  This is pretty amazing considering that YWAM has over 17,000 full-time staff members in 160 different countries.  John was given the task of confirming Loren’s flights out of Mali and making sure things were in-line for the next leg of their travels.  This was a special treat for John to have a chance to look at Loren’s passport.  Loren Cunningham is no stranger to travel.  He says that he has not been off jetlag since he was 19 years old.  He holds a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as being one of the few people to have traveled to every country on earth.  His sense of geography and knowledge of every country is amazing.

50th Cote d'Ivoire Presentation To mark our final day of the Jubilee Celebration yesterday, every country in attendance had a chance to do a special presentation.  Most countries did song and dances.  It was really great to see the variety of celebration styles from various countries.  We have included a song and dance from the YWAM team in Togo as our video of the week.  There was also a fascinating dance performed by Brazilians serving at various YWAM locations throughout West Africa.  Click here to see an excerpt from the Brazilian Fighting Dance.

We have been focusing on preparing for the Jubilee event for several weeks.  It’s going to be nice to work on something else for a change.  We have only 3 weeks left in Mali before we head to the States for the summer.  We have a lot to do before then, including our next celebration which is Cole’s graduation from 8th grade.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Higher Education

50th Tamou Graduation One of YWAM’s ministries is operating a school called University of the Nations.  UofN offers full academic and university degree programs.  One of the unique traits of UofN is that it operates as a global campus.  Credited courses are offered in 101 nations on all continents.  Many of the YWAM training classes around the world are eligible for UofN course credit.  Tamou, one of our Malian teammates, recently completed his final course and received a BA degree from University of the Nations.  He is the first person in West Africa to receive a UofN degree.  In honor of this occasion, Loren Cunningham presented him with his diploma as part of our 50th Anniversary Jubilee Celebration.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines

50th AttendeesToday marked the start of our YWAM 50th Anniversary celebration for West Africa.  Lynn Green, YWAM’s International Chairman, was the keynote speaker for our opening night.  Tomorrow we will be joined by YWAM’s founders Loren and Darlene Cunningham.  They are in Bamako for a few days as part of their 40 stop world tour to celebrate YWAM’s Jubilee year.

We have over 200 people attending our celebration from YWAM locations all over West Africa.  We’ve met many new people and had the opportunity to reconnect with several people we met a at previous YWAM conferences.

50 Flame Goes Forward John has been very busy creating a PowerPoint presentation about YWAM’s history in Africa and another one highlighting all of the YWAM ministries currently operating throughout West Africa.  He has also been in charge of designing our 50th logo, welcome cards and name badges for all the attendees.  To make things more interesting, we have three main languages represented at the conference so everything including the presentations and printed materials have to be done in French, English, and Portuguese.  The French has been challenging enough but Portuguese has added a whole new layer of adventure.  John is also responsible for the all the technical aspects of the celebration including sound, lighting, video, and computer presentations.

Our Anniversary Celebration is happening at a location called Cité des Enfants which is very conveniently located just a 5 minute walk from our house, which is sure to become Grand Central Station this week as people drop by for various things including internet access.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Alpha Omega

Alpha Omega On Wednesday night, our Alpha for ESOL Course drew to a close.  We had 14 people complete the course.  The Alpha Course went very well.  We saw several lives transformed and a lot of growth in the people who attended.  We’ve already scheduled our next course for September after we return from the States.  A few of our Alpha guests have expressed an interest in helping out with the next course.  Thank you for your prayers.  We look forward to sharing about our upcoming course.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

BLT on Wheat

This week our YWAM base is hosting a special leadership conference called Base Leadership Training (BLT).  Our base has been talking and preparing for this conference for several weeks and our mouths have been watering each time we hear mention of the BLT.  Unfortunately, BLT sandwiches are not part of the conference so we’ll continue anticipating a BLT sandwich when we arrive in the States next month.

We have been serving on a worship team for the BLT event, but besides that, we aren’t really involved in the conference as we put our energies into preparing for the YWAM 50th Anniversary Celebration which immediately follows the BLT.

One of the main speakers for the BLT is Lynn Green who serves as YWAM’s International Chairman.  It was neat to have a chance to meet him.  He’s also been stopping by our house periodically to check his email so we’ve had an additional opportunity to get to know him.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Keep On Truckin’

First YWAM Team Crossing the Sahara We are deep in the throes of preparing for our YWAM 50th Anniversary celebration next week.  One of John’s responsibilities is creating a timeline presentation outlining YWAM’s history in West Africa.  He is really enjoying reviewing archive photos and learning about our history.  For many, YWAM conjures up visions of young, hippie “Jesus people”.  One of interesting items John has discovered is the story of the first YWAM team who came to Mali in 1975.  This was one hearty team.  They drove all the way from Switzerland – including traversing the Sahara Desert in, you guessed it, VW vans. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ticket to Ride

It’s now official!  We are traveling to California this summer to visit family, friends, and churches.  (With an occasional stop at In-N-Out Burger of course!)  We purchased our tickets last weekend.  Because they’re non-refundable, we’re pretty much committed to going.  We are really looking forward to seeing everyone.  Please get in touch with us ASAP so we can schedule a time and place to get together with you.

We currently don’t have housing or transportation arrangements in California.  If you know of a house and/or car that is available even for a week or two, please let us know.  We’ll be arriving on June 10th and staying until August 10th.  Hope to see you soon!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Fill ‘er Up

We’ve been thrilled by the popularity of the terracotta water pot we’ve placed outside our home.  We’re finding we now need to refill it several times a day as we’re currently going through about 15-20 gallons of water daily.  We don’t know how many people are using it, but it must be a lot.  We are very happy to be presenting this service and sharing hospitality with our Malian neighbors.  We’re now going to make a sign in French and Bambara quoting John 4:13-14 and inviting people to knock on our door for more information.  We’re finding sometimes the simplest gestures can have the greatest impact.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Reunited

Patrick and John Before we left Mali in 2005, John had been working with a man named Patrick Smith.  Patrick is a refugee from Liberia.  He has had a very troubled life including experiencing indescribable atrocities during the Liberian war.  He doesn’t have a job and he survives on the streets by lying, cheating, and stealing.  He has gained a very bad reputation and most people have shunned him.  Despite these problems, John became good friends with Patrick.

When we arrived back in 2007, John began looking for Patrick without success.  He asked all around and even searched the jails.  We had been fearing that Patrick was dead.  But then a couple of weeks ago, a warning message went out through the expatriate community that Patrick had resurfaced in Bamako.  John was overjoyed and immediately put the word out that he has been looking for Patrick and asked that he be directed to our house if anyone came in contact with him.  He soon showed up at our door and has visited a few times the past couple of weeks.

John has been focusing on sharing about God’s desire to see Patrick turn his life around and experience His love and grace.  Patrick is beginning to listen, but he still has a way to go.  He’s also suffering from a recurring medical condition.  Please hold Patrick up in prayer:  that he would experience God’s miraculous healing touch and that he would turn his life over to the Lord. 

Sunday, April 18, 2010

We’ve Got Spirit Yes We Do – We’ve Got Spirit How ‘Bout You

The Alpha for ESOL Course has been going very well.   We have 12-15 people attending regularly.  They are learning a lot about Jesus and Christianity.  A special part of the Alpha Course is a retreat called the Holy Spirit Weekend.  This is a weekend getaway where the teaching and discussions focus on who the Holy Spirit is, what the Holy Spirit does, and how to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  We were limited in our ability to have a weekend retreat, so we compacted everything into a special Holy Spirit Day which took place yesterday.  We rented an air conditioned meeting room and enjoyed an entire day from 8am to 8pm together complete with all of our meals.

It was a long but very productive day.  People were really open to learning about the Holy Spirit and the discussion times were very active.  At the end of the evening, several people asked to be prayed for and to receive the Holy Spirit.  There were no earthquakes or smoke filled rooms, like in the book of Acts, however the Holy Spirit was among us and filled new people and began influencing their lives.

We still have 3 weeks remaining in this Alpha Course.  Please keep our Alpha guests in prayer as they discover many new and exciting things.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Land Ho!

New Land Our YWAM Base in Bamako is currently in a rented apartment building.  We recently received the opportunity to purchase an acre of land in Bamako.  The property is within walking distance of our house which is really cool!  The new land will allow us to build base facilities to accommodate our current and future ministries while saving a lot of money on monthly rent.

Today our team met for prayer and praise on the new property.  It was exciting to see the area and begin to visualize our new base.  Please be praying with us as we raise the money for the land purchase and building projects.  If you would like to contribute, please drop us a line and we’ll provide details for making a tax deductable donation.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Long Time No See

Whoa!

Remember us?  Yes, we’ve been doing a really good job of playing hide and seek.  But as you can see from our picture, we’re all alive and well and doing fine.

We are now officially in hot season and doing our best to survive each day.  Today our high was 113° (not the hottest it gets) and the low last night dropped all the way down to 84°.  It’s a challenge especially with the frequent power cuts we’ve been experiencing.  On select days, we’ve also lost water for several hours.  Oh, the joys of living in Africa!

Our silence has not been due to a lack of activities….including John’s birthday.  We won’t try to fill in all the details here, but we have back-filled a couple of bigger events the last week or so.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Blown Out of Proportion

BlowoutWe just returned from our annual YWAM General Assembly meeting which was held over Easter weekend at our base in Koutiala.  The meetings went well and were uneventful for the most part.  Unfortunately both Cole and Julie were sick and had to stay in bed for a few of the meeting sessions.  They have both since fully recovered.

We drove our car to Koutiala which is 275 miles from our home in Bamako.  Julie is always nervous about the trip as this is where we had our serious car accident in 2003.  John was also a little apprehensive this time too as this is the first long trip our car has taken since the motor was rebuilt last year.

The section of road between Bamako and the halfway point is not in very good condition and is usually a challenge to drive.  The road for the second half of the journey is in much better condition.

Our car performed perfectly…well, until our return trip.  When we were about 2 hours from home, we had a high speed tire blowout.  Fortunately, John was able to avoid other vehicles and various other obstacles and safely pull our car off to the side of the road.  John and Clement, one of our Malian colleagues who was riding with us, quickly changed the tire.  (Thankfully, we had just bought a new jack the week before…irony or God?!)  We then discovered our spare tire was flat!  There we were, stuck out in the bush in 120° heat with no spare tire.  We flagged down a passing truck who agreed to take Clement and our tire to the next village for repair.  Ironically enough, the next village was Fana, the village we were taken to after our accident.  Fana has now come to our rescue twice!

After about an hour, our tire was repaired and we were back on the road.  The rough damaged road took an additional toll on our car as one of the brackets on our roof rack broke and we needed to stop and fix it too.  Thankfully, we made it home -- two hours later than we had planned, but safe and sound none the less.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Snake Pit

This week at school, the kids were in PE class on our improvised playground.  The school had recently built a sand pit to use for track and field long jump activities.  One of the boys took a running leap and when he landed, a snake popped up out of the sand.  There is no such thing as a good snake in Mali and mayhem soon ensued as people came running from all over frantically throwing rocks at it and trying to beat it with sticks.  Someone finally managed to kill it and peace was restored.  Superstition dictated that its head be chopped off and that it was buried properly.  Sure makes for a great “when I was in school in Africa” story. 

Monday, March 01, 2010

Four Eyes Are Better Than Two

One of our Malian YWAM teammates has been having a lot of problems with his eyes.  He has seen an eye doctor and now needs to purchase special glasses.  He recently shared a prayer request that he’s looking for financial help to pay for them.  His glasses are $320 here in Mali.  That’s a huge amount of money for a Malian.

A couple of years ago we bought Cole’s glasses on-line and saved a lot of money…they only cost $17 complete!  We shared this with our friend and helped him submit his prescription and chose some frames on-line.  The total price came to only $70!  Sometimes God answers prayer in unique ways.

If you wear glasses, we would highly recommend you check out www.eyebuydirect.com.  If you order, use this code:  IF93EXDN37 and you’ll receive an additional 10% discount.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Tragedy in Timbuktu

We’re happy to report that unrest in Bamako has ended and things have returned to normal.  However, there was a tragedy in Mali yesterday in Timbuktu.  Yesterday was a national holiday marking the birth of the Prophet Muhammad – kind of like the Muslim equivalent of Christmas.  Muslims traditionally visit the mosque as part of the celebration.  In Timbuktu, thousands of people march around the mosque 3 times as part of the festival of Mouloud.  Because construction was blocking the main road to the mosque, people were packed into smaller streets that couldn’t accommodate the crowds.  Tragically, 24 people died and 55 were injured at a stampede at Timbuktu’s Djingareyber mosque.  Over half of the dead are reported to be children.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

All We Are Saying Is Give Peace A Chance

Things have become a little unsettled around Mali lately.  Last week, the country of Niger on the eastern border of Mali experienced a military coup and the president was overthrown.  Also last week, the president of Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), our neighbor to the south, shut down the government of his country in a disagreement over presidential elections which have been delayed for over 5 years.  Technically, Ivory Coast has been divided by civil war since 2002.  There has been rioting and several people have been killed in the past few days.

Uncomfortably closer to home, yesterday Mali experienced a couple of incidents of its own.  There is an al-Qaeda cell operating out of the Sahara Desert in northern Mali.  Due to several kidnappings over the past year, it is no longer safe for us to travel to Timbuktu or the regions in the north of Mali.  Al-Qaeda is currently holding a French hostage in Mali who was kidnapped from his hotel in the north last November.  Yesterday, the Malian government released four terrorists who were imprisoned in Mali in exchange for the French hostage.

Also yesterday, a policeman shot and killed a minibus driver in Bamako.  As a result, all public transportation including busses and taxis have gone on strike bringing Bamako to a grinding halt.  There has also been rioting in many parts of the city.  In addition, the police have abandoned all of their posts and police stations.  We’re just laying low and avoiding going out on the street until things calm down.  We are not worried about our safety, but we’re taking appropriate precautions.  Please don’t fear for us, however keep these situations in prayer.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Dust In the Wind

Harmattan Bambako “Winter” ended in Mali a couple of weeks ago.  Gone are high temps topping out in the 90s and the overnight lows in the 70s.  We’ve since shut off our hot water heater and are now looking forward to cold showers again in the mornings.  We’re still about a month away from hot season when every day is downright miserable.  Until then, we need to get through dusty season.  This time of year we see the Harmattan winds blow in from the Sahara Desert bringing in dust and haze far greater than the smog Los Angeles is famous for.  From satellite pictures, it looks like Mali is covered in brown clouds.  Together with the pollution in Bamako, at times visibility can be limited to a couple of hundred feet.  Some days, we can’t even see across the Niger River.  It is also very difficult on the sinuses and people with allergies.  This hasn’t been a problem in the past, however both Cole and John are struggling with terrible allergic reactions this year.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

You Say It’s Your Birthday

Water Pot Yesterday was Julie’s birthday.  John went to the post office to pick up a package of birthday presents from the States.  Unfortunately, only one box arrived of the two we were expecting, so we’ll try the post office again next week.  That helps keep with the theme of celebrating our family holidays for a week.

Last night, we went to dinner at a new restaurant in Bamako called the Steak House.  It’s supposed to be a Texas themed BBQ restaurant, however it missed the mark.  The dining room was decorated with pictures of New York City…not quite Texas, but at least they got the country right.  The food was very good, including Steak Cordon Bleu and Steak Roquefort, however it was prepared French style so it wasn’t quite the savory BBQ taste we were expecting.

In addition to a ceiling fan in the kitchen, one of the birthday gifts John got for Julie was a terracotta water pot – he even found one with a message written in English.  The water pot is a symbol of Malian hospitality.  They are placed outside the gate of a family compound to allow people passing by a place to stop for a cool cup of water.  The terracotta has a natural cooling ability which chills the water despite the hot outdoor temperature.  Because we live on a soccer field, Julie has been wanting a water pot to help refresh the soccer players.  Our Malian friends and neighbors were very surprised and excited when we placed Julie’s water pot outside to show our hospitality. 

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Blast Off!

Last night John launched the Alpha for ESOL Course.  10 people showed up for the first meeting.  That number seems ideal as this is our first Alpha Course and we’ve got a lot to learn on running it.  In true African style, even though the meeting was scheduled to begin at 6:30 pm, people showed up throughout the meeting including one person who arrived at 8:45 pm just as we were wrapping up.  Hopefully people will arrive closer to the starting time next week now that they know where the meetings are being held.  Maybe our meal at the beginning of each meeting will be a motivator.

People responded well to the first meeting and seemed to enjoy it.  We handed out 25 additional flyers as people were leaving, so it’s going to be interesting to see how many people come next week.  We had quite a variety of English comprehension levels, but overall, people seemed to understand the course and participated well in the group discussions.  Please keep this new ministry in prayer – in fact, please consider joining our Alpha prayer team.  Contact us at jclark@ywammali.org for more details.