Thursday, April 26, 2012

Guitar Hero

Guitar HeroA couple of years ago, Cole began playing the guitar.  Unfortunately, his guitar was damaged on our trip back to California.  Thankfully, we found someone at our church who could repair it – Adam’s Music Studio in Orange.  Adam is an accomplished professional musician who has toured with several top name artists throughout his career.  When we picked up Cole’s guitar, Adam had not only repaired it, but completely cleaned and detailed it too.  We were incredibly blessed when Adam told us it was all free of charge.  When Cole mentioned that he was saving his money for a new electric guitar and asked for a recommendation, Adam pointed out a new Fender Starcaster he just got in.  Cole said that’s what he was looking for, and Adam told him to take it at no charge.  Wow! Cole has been beaming from ear to ear, and our house hasn’t been quiet since.  We are extremely grateful to Adam’s Music Studio.  Adam and his staff specialize in music lessons for guitar, banjo, bass, dobro, piano/keyboard, drums, mandolin, dulcimer, and more.  If you’re interested in learning to play an instrument, or in the market to buy one, we would highly recommend Adam’s Music Studio.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Shaken Not Stirred

We’ve been laying low as we decompress and adjust to Western life.  Today as part of our re-integration process into life in California, we were subjected to a small earthquake.  It was a dramatic reminder of where we are.

We are experiencing reverse culture shock in many forms.  First there’s TV, with shows like Storage Wars and Duck Dynasty, to virtual coupon clipping with an iPhone app in the grocery store.  But the biggest shocker came this afternoon when a representative from animal services came to our front door conducting a dog census.  This is going to be a complicated process.

We feel like we’re catching our breath and ready to begin seeing friends and family.  Please feel free to give us a call and let’s arrange a time to get together.  Our cellphone number is 714-618-1184.  We’re looking forward to seeing you soon.  There’s so much to catch up on.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Safe And Sound

We arrived in California without incident on Saturday afternoon.  It was strange having to pass through a military checkpoint to get to the airport in Bamako, but after that, everything seemed normal.  John had some AA batteries confiscated going through security.  When he questioned why, the policeman said they could blow up the airplane.  In reality, they fit the policeman’s radio.  Ugh!

It was very difficult for us to leave Mali on such short notice.  There are so many people we didn’t have a chance to say good-bye to.  We’re also grieving over the loss of several of our ministries, including Bamako Christian Academy.  It was hard to pack everything into 2 suitcases each and leave the rest behind, including our home, furnishings, and car.  We are very thankful we found a home for our monkey Jac the day we left.  But the cat and turtle were left on their own.

We are very thankful that the situation in Mali has begun to stabilize, including the lifting of economic sanctions and opening of the borders. But there is still a very long way to go. The former president of Mali resigned to allow the head of the National Assembly to become the new interim President paving the way for elections. Unfortunately, the coup leader is still insistent on maintaining his power. We fear it is going to be a long, complicated, and probably bloody process to eventually remove him.

Because of the power vacuum created by the coup, there have been huge changes in the North of Mali over the past week. All three major towns, including legendary Timbuktu, have fallen into Tuareg rebel hands and they have declared independence from Mali. In addition, Islamic extremists have imposed Islamic shari'ah law, an oppressive and often barbaric legal system. We are weeping as all Christians have fled the northern towns leaving the area void of any Christian witness.

We have not posted recently because we’ve been resting and recuperating from the evacuation.  We have a beautiful home in Tustin, CA provided by our home church.  We’re going to continue staying in seclusion for the next week or so as we continue to process all that’s happened.  We will then have some debriefing time to talk about it with others.  We are looking forward to reconnecting with a lot of people now that we’re in the States, but we ask for your patience the next several days as we transition and begin to acclimate to life in the Western world.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Closing Up Shop

It’s been a whirlwind past few days as we transitioned from a regular daily routine, to quickly packing to evacuate the country.  Along the way, we’ve been second guessing if we’re making the right decision, expecting things to get better.  In fact, they continue to spiral downward.  Yesterday, the leader of the coup announced he wants to bring high treason charges against Mali’s deposed president.  His outrageous plans each day never cease to amaze us.

The American Embassy is now recommending all non-essential personnel in Mali to leave as soon as possible.  Also, for the first time in 41 years, all members of the Peace Corps are being evacuated.  This is a pretty strong message to us that it’s time to go.  Thankfully, we’re just 24 hours away.  Yes, it’s going to be very sad leaving, however we’re not going to miss the conditions of the past couple of weeks where we’ve been experiencing 10 hour power and water cuts each day.  Pretty miserable with the daily temps hitting 100-115­­­° F.

It’s amazing how we’ve been surrounded by your thoughts, support, and prayers.  Thank you for helping us through this.  Within hours of announcing our evacuation, friends and churches have stepped up to provide for us.  We have housing and transportation completely covered from the day we arrive.  Thank you!!

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Emergency Exit

The situation in Mali does not look good and there doesn’t seem to be any good news on the horizon.  The coup leader is really digging in and it looks like it will be a long and ugly process to restore democracy in Mali.  In the meantime, there will be a lot of Malians suffering as a result of the embargos.  This has brought us to the most difficult decision we’ve made in our lives.  We have chosen to leave Mali and return to California.  Because we’re leaving under emergency evacuation conditions, we are forced to walk away from the lives we’ve built in Mali over the past eleven years.  We’re now obliged to say hasty good-byes to many good friends, our ministries, and Bamako Christian Academy, which will most likely be closed for the remainder of the school year.  Now we must walk away from our house, our car, and most of our personal belongings.  At this point, we don’t know if we’ll be back in Mali in the future.  It looks like this chapter of our lives is drawing to a close which can sometimes be a painful process.

This entire situation has taken a huge toll on our family.  The ups and downs have been overwhelming at times along with the struggle over the decision to stay or go.  This was further exasperated by a travel agent who was unresponsive and seemed oblivious to our dire situation.  We started the process of trying to get our tickets changed last Friday, and it’s just today when the changes were booked.  It’s a wonderful feeling to finally have made a decision to leave.  Today, we received confirmation that we did the right thing as most of the remaining missionaries in Mali have also made the decision to evacuate in the next few days.

We will be leaving at midnight on Thursday. This leaves us just a little over 48 hours to sort and pack the few belongings we can bring with us.  We have been getting very little sleep this week and are nearing the point of exhaustion.  We just keep chanting a quote from Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.”  It’s extremely difficult to swim when you’re in the middle of the dry and arid desert.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Should I Stay Or Should I Go Now

Just when you think things can’t get any worse…Over the weekend, the Tuareg rebels advanced in the north and captured 3 key cities including Timbuktu.  In addition, the rebels intend to establish Islamic sharia law in the north with the ultimate goal of imposing it throughout Mali.  One of the  most dramatic elements is that it will outlaw Christianity.

Down in  the south, where we live, our junta rebellion continues on.  The junta leader promised he was going to step down and re-establish Mali’s original constitution and the nation would return to as it was 2 weeks ago.  Unfortunately, these turned out to be empty promises to try and avert the threat of sanctions.  This backfired, and the embargos against Mali began today.  All the land borders have been closed and the central bank has shut off the money supply to Mali.  We are effectively cut off from the world.  In anticipation of this, there was a mass exodus of missionaries by road on Sunday – some traveling to Senegal and some to Burkina Faso.  Several more are planning to leave by air this week.  We have chosen to remain in Mali for the moment, however we are weighing our options about leaving.  We have been going back and forth on this decision.  This ordeal has been extremely challenging as we’re riding on an emotional roller coaster.  Considering our Disneyland background, you’d think we’d enjoy roller coaster rides.  Not this one!  We are going through huge shifts each day and the events in Mali are literally changing from hour to hour.  Please be praying for us as we process everything happening around us.