Thursday, January 28, 2010

Home Depot – You Can Do It. We Can Help.

One of the frustrations of living in Africa is something is always breaking in the house and things are in constant need of repair.  John is often frequenting hardware stores for parts and supplies.  Of course here, a hardware store is much different from the Home Depots and Lowes we know in the U.S.  Here, hardware stores are usually small 5x10 foot shacks stuffed with supplies. A hardware store can also be someone riding around on a bicycle with a box of tools and supplies tied to the back of their bike.

In the spirit of “turning lemons into lemonade”, John has taken the opportunity to begin a new ministry as he visits the hardware vendors in our neighborhood.  He’s now giving out gospel tracts in each store and beginning conversations about Christianity with the shopkeepers.  Lately, he’s been bringing Pierre, our house guardian with him.  Pierre is an enthusiastic Christian and a wonderful evangelist.  Because he’s fluent in Bambara and French, Pierre is able to help John deliver the Good News and get involved in deeper conversations.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Here’s To Your Health

John is now wearing a new hat.  This semester he’s teaching a health class for middle school students at Bamako Christian Academy one day a week.  This means Cole now has both of his parents as teachers!  This is John’s first experience teaching in a formal school environment.  The first class was on Tuesday and went well.  Helping the middle school students better understand adolescence and the changes they’re going through has been something on John’s heart and he was happy when the opportunity came up to teach.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Come Together

Catholic Unity Day Yesterday our YWAM team joined in a unity celebration with a group of Charismatic Catholics (a unique sect of Catholics) that live in Bamako. The brothers and sisters at a local Catholic retreat center, invited us for lunch and a special time of worship.  It was exciting to spend the day with them and share in the unity that Christ wants the church to be involved in.  After a wonderful meal, we joined our YWAM worship team in leading a time of praise together.  Their West Africa leader then preached an excellent message on missionary service.  We then closed with a powerful time of prayer for each other and our various ministries.

Church unity is something that is very close to our hearts and this was a special demonstration of churches from different denominations coming together – especially considering the great division (and sometimes violent confrontations) between the Catholic and Protestant churches.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Tract and Field

Last Sunday, John had an opportunity to preach at the Bamako English Church service downtown.  The subject of his message was the Great Commission.  Many of the people that attend the English service are missionaries, so at first, it seemed like John would be “preaching to the choir”. But as it turns out, the message was very powerful and challenged a lot of people to take a deeper look at their lives and ministry.  Many of the missionaries in Bamako serve in administrative positions and aren’t involved in direct evangelism.  Many of us on the mission field get easily caught up in projects and tasks that support spreading the Gospel, but we don’t share with people directly.  It’s very sad how we can become so involved and lost in our work that we miss many opportunities to share with people we come in contact with day to day.

At the end of the service, John passed out packets of gospel tracts to everyone in attendance and encouraged them to hand them out throughout the week.  Yes…it seems really ironic that John was directing missionaries to get out and evangelize, but we have been really surprised by the results.  John has been approached by a couple of people this week with stories of how they shared with people they’ve known in Mali for years but never taken the opportunity to talk with them before about Christ.  Sometimes we just miss the obvious.  We’re praying this is going to be the start of a revival in Mali.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

For Richer Or For Poorer

Mali is currently rated by the United Nations as the 5th poorest country in the world.  Being surrounded by extreme poverty is an an unfortunate reality of everyday life for us.  Jesus said, “The poor will always be among you”, but that doesn’t make it any easier.  It is one of the more difficult circumstances we deal with every day.  We are continually approached by people seeking assistance for food, money, medical aid, and the list goes on and on.  It’s especially heartbreaking when children come to us, many as young as 4 and 5 years old, begging for food.  The streets are literally lined with small boys begging for food and money.  The need is far beyond anything we can fulfill.  In fact, there are over 1,500 mission, non-profit, and foreign government aid agencies working in Mali, and together, we barely scratch the surface of the overwhelming need.

Today, we were visited by a man who comes by our house every week or two looking for help to care for his family.  He has not been able to pay his rent, so his landlord has locked him and his family out of their room.  He was begging for us to take in his 3 year old daughter until his family finds another place to live.  Unfortunately, this is a need we were not able to meet.  It grieves us to be faced by situations like this.  There are so many and they are so frequent.  We can help a few people, but the majority remain in need.  The needs are usually small…only a dollar or two here and there, but multiplied times the millions of people in Mali, it quickly becomes insurmountable.  Everyday, we’re reminded of the story of the child and the starfish, consoling ourselves that we are making a difference despite the vast landscape of needs.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Golden Years

50627-MC This year marks two very important 50th anniversary celebrations for us.

Mali gained independence from France on September 22, 1960.  The country is going to great lengths to celebrate.  There are several major construction projects underway to celebrate the anniversary including a large central complex for all the government offices, a new bridge over the Niger River, a new road interchange at one of the busiest traffic circles in town, and a new airport terminal.  It’s exciting to see the level of growth and investment in infrastructure for the country.

2010 also marks the 50th anniversary of Youth With A Mission – YWAM.  Celebrations are taking place all around the world.  Loren and Darlene Cunningham, the founders of YWAM, are going to be making several “founders trips” throughout 2010.  Together with the leaders of YWAM, they will be participating in anniversary celebrations at 40 different locations around the world.  We just found out on Friday, that YWAM Mali will be hosting the celebration for West Africa right here in Bamako.  We have been asked to be on the hosting team and will be responsible for helping with a lot of the preparations and event handling.  Our celebration is scheduled for the first week in May.  We anticipate being very busy getting ready for the festivities.

Monday, January 04, 2010

The Wheels On The Bus

Our staff retreat ended on Friday and we returned to Bamako on Saturday on our YWAM bus.  The trip was peaceful and uneventful.  It took about six hours including stops at many different police checkpoints.  At each stop, our bus was swarmed by vendors selling food and drinks.  The road was in fairly good condition most of the way.  We did have to slowdown each time we approached a village as speed bumps are installed at the entrance and exit of each village.  This made for a very bumpy ride.

It is good to be home.  We’ve spent the last couple of days cleaning our house and taking down our Christmas tree and decorations.  Today was the last day of the Christmas break and Julie and Cole will return to school tomorrow.  We are happy to report that John’s health is doing much better.  The current dosage of his medication seems to have stabilized his condition.  His weight loss has stopped and his energy level has returned to normal.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Bonne Année

New Year 2010Ala ka san kura kƐ hƐrƐ san ye is Bambara for Happy New Year.  We rung in 2010 with our colleagues from YWAM Mali as part of our staff retreat.  We shared a wonderful meal then spent the night singing worship songs and dancing.  We also had several groups from different tribes and countries present a song that represented their country.  As Americans, our group of 6 sang the Battle Hymn of the Republic.  It was really interesting to see dances and hear songs from a variety of places.  Here is a video of a group of Bambara women singing and dancing.  Notice the woman dancing with a baby strapped to her back…this is a pretty common sight in Mali.

A couple from our Koutiala base were married two weeks ago and we used the New Year’s party as another occasion to celebrate their marriage.  The bride even wore her wedding gown to the party and someone from our team made a wedding cake for us all to share.

At midnight, we cheered and spent the next several minutes going around the room hugging each other as the dancing continued.  A New Year’s Eve party was a wonderful highlight of our staff retreat.  What did you do to ring in the New Year?  Click on the comment link below and share your celebration with us.