Friday, December 16, 2016

Made In China

For the past 10 years, we’ve driven a 1996 Toyota Corolla station wagon.  It’s not pretty, it’s not fancy, but it does get us from point A to point B most of the time (okay…some of the time).  As an older car that has put on a lot of hard miles in Africa, it spends a fair amount of time at the mechanic.

For several years we’ve been taking it to a Chinese mechanic not too far from our home.  The language barrier always makes it an interesting experience.  The mechanic doesn’t speak English or French – only Chinese and some broken Bambara.  But somehow, he’s always able to understand the problem and fixes it quickly for not a lot of money.

We are currently hosting a YWAM DTS (Discipleship Training School) from Chico, California.  One of the team members is Chinese and another is a Brazilian who’s fluent in Chinese. When John took the car into the mechanic today he took these team members along so he could communicate in a spoken language with the mechanic for the first time.  It turned out to be an amazing experience.  We talked for about an hour and the mechanic seemed so grateful to have someone who could talk with him in his own language!  John had never seen him talk so much!

Mr. Ping is the mechanic of choice for most of the mission community in Bamako.  John was able to tell him that the missionaries all go to him because we trust him and are happy with his work and we want to honor him.  He was very touched.  He even said he wanted to attend our church!  We didn’t invite him, he invited himself!  One of our team members gave him a Chinese New Testament and we were able to pray with him and bless his business.

Please be praying with us for Mr. Ping.  He seems open to the Gospel.  We hope to continue ministering to him – a bit more difficult after our Chinese friends leave next week.  Please also be praying for other connections with Chinese believers in Mali.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Vote of Confidence

Mali Election 2016With the dust beginning to settle from the U.S. elections, now we're facing local elections in Mali on Sunday. Because of the war, the election process has been delayed for several years. Hopefully they will take place and end peacefully. Please be praying for a successful and peaceful election.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Bibles for FriendsA man name Joseph came by our house with his friend.  He recently had his business torn down by the government as part of a citywide cleanup project.  Joseph was in tears as he shared his grief about losing his means of financial support.  He was in need of money for a security deposit and 2 months rent for a new location – the total was $40.  John spent time sharing about God’s provision from Matthew 6:25.  He assured Joseph that if God cares so much for the birds, imagine how much he cares for each of us.

Joseph and his friend were intrigued by this and wanted to know more.  Another man who is temporally working at our house was also intently listening in.  John went into the house and brought back 3 Bibles and gave one to each man.  He explained that the Bible is full of promises from God and much more.  They were very excited to each receive a Bible.  When Joseph opened his, he found the money he needed tucked inside.

John then went back into the house and returned with 3 more Bibles and gave one to each man.  He challenged each of them to give the extra Bible to one of their friends.  They were thrilled and promised to give them out the same day.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Boatnic

BoatnicToday, we had a potluck lunch after church.  We had originally planned to have a picnic, but decided to have our meal on a boat on the Niger River instead.  A great time has had by all.  The food and fellowship were wonderful and our time on the boat was perfect.  It’s still be pretty hot every day, but out on the river a cool breeze made for a very pleasant afternoon.

Boatnic MealSadly, it was also a time to say goodbye to several people in our church who will be leaving Mali – some for a few months, while others will be permanently relocated to other countries. That’s life in the itinerant world of international ministry.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Choose Wisely

This year's presidential election in the U.S. is unprecedented. It's become a media circus that is more focused on entertainment and ratings rather than political solutions.

Most people are viewing this election as a choice between the lesser of two evils. As Christians, we are called to righteousness - NOT the lesser of two evils. A vote for the lesser of two evils is still voting for evil. There are other options. When we vote, God does not want us to vote for who we think will win, nor who we think has the possibility of winning - this is peer pressure. We are to vote our conscience. Believe it or not, there are 1,950 U.S. Presidential candidates registered with the Federal Election Commission. Certainly, one of them shares our Christian values and beliefs.

Voting for the lesser of two evils means we don't have confidence in God's sovereignty and control of the election. It also means we are willing to compromise our values and settle for evil. In the end, God isn't going to question why we didn't vote along party lines or for the second worst candidate that had the best chance of winning. He's going to hold us responsible for making decisions based on His values, not the world's values.

Don't accept the lie that you're throwing your vote away by voting for what you believe rather than who people are telling you to vote for. Make your vote count for something MUCH bigger and better. Focus your eyes away from the world and towards the Kingdom. As an American, stand up for your right to vote what YOU believe. As a Christian, stand up for God's values that are much different than the world's values.

The Bible is full of stories and testimonies of men and women who stood up against public and government pressure when asked to compromise their Godly values. Daniel specifically comes to mind. Let us go into this election with the faith and courage of Daniel to stand against a system that's asking us to compromise and accept evil. Let us stand strong knowing that our God is capable of the impossible.

It's time to turn off CNN, Fox, ABC, BBC, CNBC, etc., and turn to the Bible and prayer when selecting a candidate. There are some very good, Godly candidates out there. As Americans, we have the special honor and privilege to vote for what we believe as individuals. We don’t accept second best – after all, we are One Nation Under God. Let’s live like it. It begins with you.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Evangelism in 3-D

Ben-Hur CrowdBen-Hur is currently playing at the movie theater in Bamako. We made special arrangements for an English showing for our Go Global English students last night. We had over 30 people attend. As an added bonus, the movie was in 3D. Bamako has the only movie theater in West Africa capable of showing 3D films.

Ben-Hur DiscussionAfter the movie, we returned to Go Global for a light meal and discussion about the movie. The discussions centered on Judah Ben-Hur's change from a life of revenge to a life for forgiveness. Our students were intrigued by this along with Jesus' words, actions, and ultimate sacrifice in the movie. It opened up some powerful conversations about redemption and forgiveness in Christ

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Meet Me In The Stairwell

Today at church, John shared a message about the anniversary of September 11, 2001. We had just arrived in Mali a few weeks before this day changed the world. Because we were overseas, we didn't experience it the same way most of our American compatriots did. We did not endure continual media coverage nor were we surrounded by our grieving fellow citizens. We also did not experience the surge in patriotism that followed. In some ways, we feel a bit left out of the experience. But we do want to honor and remember those who did.

John used this video as the cornerstone of his message in church today. We know many have heard or seen it before, but we ask you to watch/listen to it again. May it give you a new perspective on your life and your future. May it provide a fresh look at the sanctity of your life and the purpose you were created for.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Farming God’s Way

We have an interesting man staying at our house tonight. His name is Richard Leakey from YWAM Burtigny in Switzerland. He's part of an amazing ministry called Farming God's Way. He teaches transformational farming techniques based on God's design for agriculture.
This is really worth checking out.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Pray for Beatrice

Pray for BeatriceA video was released on social media a few days ago, June 16, showing Beatrice Stockly to be still alive. Stockly is a Christian nun from Switzerland who was kidnapped and imprisoned by Al-Qaeda in January of 2016. She was kidnapped by Islamic terrorist group Al-Qaeda for her apparent declaration of war on Islam in an attempt to convert Muslims to Christianity in Mali. Learn more: http://ow.ly/YtCm301n4Ze

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Risen

Risen MoveiWhat a surprise when we found out Risen was playing this weekend in Bamako’s only movie theater.  On Friday & Saturday it’s in French and on Sunday in English with French subtitles. What an awesome outreach opportunity - plus (and this is a MAJOR plus), 2 hours of air-conditioned comfort.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

All Good Things Must Come to an End

J & J at Club El KantaouiSadly our time in Tunisia has come to an end. We bid adieu to our new friends hoping that we will meet again on a future trip.

Our stay at the El Mouradi Club El Kantaoui was perfect! A four star beachfront hotel that was all-inclusive including food and drinks for only $50/night. It doesn't get any better than this.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

When in Rome

El Jem Amphitheater ExteriorYesterday we traveled to the town of El Djem, sight of the former Roman city of Thysdrus. Rome occupied much of Tunisia in the second century, and Thysdrus became an important center for olive oil production. Tunisia is host to some of the most impressive Roman ruins in Africa. El Djem in particular is home of the world famous Roman amphitheater of Thysdrus. It was capable of seating 35,000 spectators. It's the 3rd largest of the known Roman amphitheaters. It hosted events such as gladiator battles and chariot races.

El Jem Amphitheater InteriorBuilt around 238 AD, the surviving remains are quite impressive. It remained relatively intact until the 17th century when its stones were used to help construct the town of El Djem. It was amazing to explore the massive structure and marvel at the ingenuity and craftsmanship of the Roman Empire. It was also quite sobering to stand on the arena floor and imagine the early Christians that died as martyrs at the hands of the Romans all for the sake of entertainment.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Indiana Jones and the Lost City of Medina

Medina WallYesterday after church we walked to Medina - old town Sousse. It was built in 859 and is surrounded by over a mile of fortress walls built from stone blocks recycled from ancient Roman sights.
Inside the walled city is a labyrinth of narrow streets and alleyways straight out of Indiana Jones. It literally did serve as a filming location for Raiders of the Lost Ark. It's one of Tunisia's best examples of Arab architecture.

Medina DoorwayA charming little old man found us and showed us around and pointed out some of the highlights and hidden gems. He also shared some great stories - we're not sure how many were true, but he was enjoyable nonetheless.Medina Street

Medina Street 2

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Time for Church

Sousse ChurchToday we attended services at the Sousse Church - the only Christian church in this city of 271,000 people. It was an intimate service of 25 people. It was wonderful to worship with fellow believers from many different countries and encourage them in their faith. The service was in English with translation available in French, Arabic, and German.


Tunisia is in North Africa and is considered a "closed access" nation. Although there is freedom of religion, there is no freedom to evangelize. Christians are definitely in the minority here. Only 0.0001% of the population identify themselves as Evangelical Christians. Much prayer is needed for this nation.

Friday, May 06, 2016

Training Time

Train in TunisiaOn Friday, we took the train from the airport in Tunis to our hotel in Port El Kantaoui. It is about 75 miles - 2 1/2 hours. The train tickets we're very inexpensive so we decided to splurge and travel first class for a total cost of only $5 each. Turns out, you get what you pay for. First class was far from luxurious. The car was 30-40 years old and really showing signs of wear. Many of the lights were broken, windows were shattered, graffiti on the seats, and the luggage racks were broken. Not sure what second class looked like. But nevertheless, we did make it from point A to point B without incident and for only five bucks - a far cry from the hotel airport shuttle which would have been $150

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Rally the Troops

UN Troops in BKOWe're currently in the Bamako airport surrounded by UN soldiers as we prepare to leave for Tunisia - this time for a week of vacation.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

How Hot Is It?

The Themometer Says Hot Season Has ArrivedHot season seems to be here.  97 degrees F (36C) at 9am.

Inside we're at a chilly 89 F (31.6C) thanks to the A/C overnight.

Monday, March 28, 2016

A New Hope

Happy Easter from Mali!  Yes, it is still Easter here.  Because Easter always falls on Sunday, the Monday following Easter is a national holiday.  It’s fascinating to be living in a Muslim country that celebrates a Christian holiday more than we do in the States.  Actually, it’s a leftover from French colonial days, but it’s an awesome opportunity to talk with people and explain what the holiday is really about – most of them are unaware.

Easter 2016bYesterday our new International Fellowship held a special Easter celebration service for the expatriate, embassy, and NGO community in Bamako.  Unfortunately, we suffered another terrorist attack at a hotel in Bamako last week that threatened to cancel the service.  Thankfully, we had reserved a secure location and we were able to continue with our plans.  The American Embassy graciously provided extra security giving everyone in attendance extra peace of mind.  It was strange to pass through a gauntlet of national guard soldiers, security personnel, and metal detectors to attend an Easter church service, but that’s the unfortunate reality of our world today.

Easter 2016We had about 30 people in attendance from several different countries and organizations, including the American ambassador.  We were excited that so many people came despite the current security threats.  Please be praying that many of them will return to church next week too.

Together we led worship and John preached a message on peace and hope even in the volatile world in which we currently live.  It was based on Jesus’ message in John 14:27 – “I’m leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart.  And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give.  So don’t be troubled or afraid.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

One Step Closer

Alpha Games - HeadbandsToday was a special all day Alpha Course session called Holy Spirit Day.  It’s a day of teaching, music, fun, food, and activities.  We were scheduled to start at 9am.  It is unusual for people to arrive on-time in Mali, however we were feeling a bit discouraged that not one person had shown up by 10:15.  We decided to pray and worship before calling the day a bust.  About 20 minutes into our worship time, people started trickling in.  We had a total of 8 people attend today.

We shared some great teaching and had many productive small group discussion times.  We also played several fun games including Suspend, Uno, and Headbands.

Alpha Games - SuspendWe’re pretty sure that one man accepted Christ at the end our final session this evening.  Several other of our guests are also showing a lot of interest in Christianity and asking a lot of good questions.  Please keep these men and women in prayer as we continue to minister to them.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Still Growing

Our new church is off to a good start.  Yesterday we had 13 people attend – almost twice what we had last week.  With Easter quickly approaching, we’re looking for a suitable meeting location so we can host a larger gathering.  Please continue praying with us as we reach out to the English speaking community in Bamako.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Visa–Everywhere You Want To Be

We’ve been in Mali now for close to 15 years.  This means it’s time to renew our visas.  As Americans, we have a special privilege in Mali of receiving a visa for a 5 year duration.  All other countries are only eligible for a one year visa at a cost of $370.  What a blessing that the 5 year visa for Americans is only $131!

The national police woman at the Malian visa office has a reputation for being pretty sharp and difficult to deal with.  But we managed to make peace with her and even got her to smile.  Today when John was leaving her office with our fresh visas in hand, he gave her the standard Malian salutation that means, “See you later.”  She responded with, “No you won’t.  I won’t be here in 2021 because I’ll be retired.”

Thursday, March 10, 2016

No Greater Love

Our Alpha topic last night was about the Bible.  At the end of the night, we gave each of our guests a Bible as a gift.  They were eager to receive them.  A few people stayed behind after the meeting to talk about things they were learning and having trouble understanding.  Two of them were especially confused by the idea of God sacrificing His perfect Son to pay the price for our sins.  They didn’t think it was possible for God to allow Jesus to die for us.  We encouraged them to spend some time personally asking God their questions when they got home.  Please be praying for these men.  They are really struggling to understand the depth of God’s love to the point of making the ultimate sacrifice for us.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Here Is The Church - Here Is The Steeple - Open The Doors - And See All The People.

Today we helped launch a new church in Mali.  We have been talking and praying for several weeks with a Dutch couple who have had the same vision for starting an International English Church in Bamako.  There are over 1,500 international non-profit organizations in Mali, along with a large number of embassy personnel from various English speaking countries, and thousands of military and support personnel from the United Nations.  There is a huge spiritual need in the international community, and we hope to bring springs of living water to this desert land.

Today, we officially started as a small house church with a core group of people to meet and pray to help bring the vision into reality.  We had 8 people attend this morning, and we’re expecting several more next week.  Our friend Peter led worship, and John brought a message from Isaiah 43:19 about God beginning something new.  Please keep this new effort in prayer.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

I Now Pronounce You Husband And Wife

Joel & Marie Kisoki WeddingToday we had the joy of attending a wedding for our good friend Joël Kisoki.  His family lives across from us and we have spent a lot of time talking with and discipling Joël over the past 10 years.  He has also played a role in Cole’s life.  He is the person that originally got Cole interested in playing guitar and giving him his first lessons.

Joël’s parents are missionaries from the Democratic Republic of Congo with Campus Crusade.  Although Joël is Congolese, he has spent a majority of his life in Mali, and fell in love with a Malian girl named Marie Sanogo.  Joël has a good job at the American International School and they plan to continue living in Mali.

It was a large wedding, and the church was overflowing with over 400 in attendance.  Malian weddings tend to be longer than most Western weddings.  This one was 3 hours.  It made a traditional Catholic wedding look like a drive-thru wedding in Las Vegas.  There was a lot of music, blessings, preaching, and finally at the end, the wedding vows, rings, and first kiss.  An interesting cultural difference is that Malian brides do not smile during the wedding as it would be considered an insult to their family.  Smiling sends a message to the family that the bride is happy to be leaving home.  It’s not a bad tradition…just different.

Kisoki Wedding ReceptionThe wedding reception was hosted by the Kisokis at their house.  In addition to their home, they had several tent awnings and lots of chairs set up on the soccer field between our house and theirs.  Several other neighbors opened their homes and even Tiken Jah came out and provided a sound system from the club along with electricity from his generator as the power had gone out earlier in the day.  He even did a couple of songs with his band to start the reception before Joël’s friends stepped in and did worship music for the rest of the event.

It was a beautiful and joyous day.  Please join us in wishing Joël and Marie Kisoki a happy and loving marriage.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

You Get What You Pay For

We went out with some more students from our classes last night.  We really enjoy spending concentrated time with them and getting to know them better.  One young man is currently in high school – attempting to graduate for the 3rd time.  He is bright and smart, however the Malian education system is very corrupt and broken.

In order to graduate from high school, students need to pass an exam at the end of the year.  Last year, the national passing rate in Mali was a staggering 18%.  This means 82% of the students must repeat their senior year and try the test again the next year, or drop out without graduating.  Most of the time, it is not for lack of learning, but rather corruption in the system.  Students are often required to provide monetary bribes or sexual favors to their teachers in order to pass.  The passing rate did increased by almost 2% last year, but there’s obviously quite a ways to go.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Goodness, Gracious, Great Balls of Fire

Julie's 53rd BdayEach night after English class, we treat two of our students to a meal at a local restaurant in an effort to get to know them better.  It’s been a great way for us to build bridges and begin developing relationships with our students.  It’s also a big treat for most of them as they usually can’t afford to go out to a Western style restaurant.  A recurring theme is that almost all of them are excited to have a hamburger.

Last night happened to be Julie’s birthday, so two of our students had the added bonus of a birthday celebration complete with cake with a Roman birthday candle.  It was epic.  All the restaurant employees joined us in singing Happy Birthday in French.  It was just like Applebee’s except the cake was spewing out sparks and the employees were more shell shocked as they took part in their first American style birthday celebration.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Hmmm…That’s Interesting

Our current Alpha Course got off to a bit of a rough start.  The first class was scheduled for the week Julie was medevaced to Tunisia.  We had some team members that helped launch it while we were gone.  Unfortunately, only 2 people showed up the first night.  We rebooted things and started over again the following week and had 8 people show up.  Last week, we had 12 people, then last night, 17 people came!  It’s been exciting to see the numbers growing.  The first couple of weeks are critical, so we’ll defer any additional people to the next course in May.

We’ve had a few people return after taking the Alpha Course last time.  It’s exciting that even though they are devout Muslims, they continue to be drawn to the truth they find each week in Alpha.  Please continue to pray for everyone attending.  There is a lot of interest and they are eager to come each week.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Safety First

Update on Julie:  She is doing VERY well.  She is feeling healthy and free from pain.  It’s like nothing ever happened. Thank you for your prayers.

When we returned from Tunisia, we hit the ground running and jumped into our ministries.  We are both teaching one English class and hosting the Alpha Course.  In addition, Julie is teaching a pronunciation class, and John is teaching a business class.

In John’s English class last week, his students were learning about the automobile.  The following question was part of a quiz last week:  “What should you always wear when you are in a car?”  One of the students answered “seat belt/chastity belt”.  Guess you can never be too careful.

Monday, February 01, 2016

God Is Good…All The Time

We arrived home from Tunisia this morning at 2am.  We were tired, exhausted, and glad to be home.  We’ve had a lot of time the last couple of days to reflect back on everything that’s happened.

Last week began with a series of trials centering around Julie’s illness. But as the week progressed, the trials were replaced tenfold with blessings and acknowledgment of God’s goodness. We want to thank everyone for your prayers. They really did make a difference!!!

Here’s a summary of the testimonies we’ve experienced:

LOGISTICS  It was a big decision to travel to Tunisia, a country we were unfamiliar with and had no friends or contacts in. The day before we left, we were frantically researching doctors, clinics, hotels, and transportation which probably raised our blood pressure by 30-40%. But upon our arrival in Tunisia, we were met at the airport by a full-service medical concierge who took care of every detail throughout our stay, including personally taking us everywhere we needed to go in his car. He also interacted with all of the doctors and clinics, coordinating every test and procedure. He has been to medical school and is very knowledgeable about medicine and patient care. He even took care of all the billing. We didn’t need to pay for anything in-country. We will be billed upon our return to Bamako.

MONEY  A major concern was finances. This incident is considered a pre-existing condition and not covered by our insurance. Several generous people stepped forward and provided financial assistance. The total cost of Julie’s medevac and treatment was far below what we had expected. In the end, with the help of others, ALL expenses have been fully paid! Thank you for your generosity.

QUALITY OF CARE  We weren’t sure what to expect with the level of medical care in Tunisia. This can often be subjective, based on culture and personal views. We were amazed at the quality and professionalism of the doctors and clinics we visited. The main clinic we were associated with rivals most hospitals in the U.S. and their facilities meet or exceed international standards of care. The doctors are very knowledgeable and well trained, with an excellent bedside manner.

HOSPITALITY  Tunisia is a beautiful country and the people are extremely friendly and hospitable. Every person we met and worked with treated us like a close friend and ensured all of our needs were met.

SURROUNDINGS  It’s not often that one is referred to a resort destination for medical care. Although we were not on vacation and didn’t have time to tour the amazing sites in Tunisia, we did get to experience a slice of Mediterranean life and enjoy the beauty of staying on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea for the duration of our stay at unbelievably low rates.

HEALING  The point of this medevac trip was to receive treatment for Julie’s kidney stones. The treatment steps were not always easy or comfortable – sometimes they involved a lot of pain. But at the end of the week, Julie was a different person. She is now free from the pain and suffering she had been experiencing for several weeks. Her joy is restored, her personality animated, and her face is glowing with restoration and refreshment.

MINISTRIES  All of this happened just as we were starting new classes at Go Global and launching new ministries. We are thankful for the people that jumped in to fill our shoes for the week we were gone. Now it’s back to English class, Alpha, Rastafari, and church planting.

PRAYER SUPPORT  We did indeed feel your love and support. This trip would not have been possible without your prayers. We are eternally grateful to you. Thank you for standing with us. Please don’t take this lightly. We want you to share in the victory and testimony of this situation. God does care and He wants to be an active part of all of our lives – yours included. Please take some time to celebrate with us and thank God for hearing your prayers and responding in goodness.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Blessing In The Curse

Living in Mali presents a lot of extra challenges and frustrations. Lack of adequate medical care is one of them. This has been the fourth time we've been forced to leave Mali for medical reasons. In each circumstance we wanted to stay in Mali, however the high risk of death or serious complications have led us to leave the country for treatment. The astronomical cost of medical care, even with insurance, has prevented us from seeking treatment in the States so we've traveled to Europe instead. We've had good results in both London and Paris.

This time around, our doctor suggested traveling to Morocco or Tunisia to save even more money. He assured us that medical personnel and facilities in both countries meet or exceed Western standards for medical care. Further conversations with friends who have made medical trips to Tunisia convinced us to give it a try.  It turns out that the total expenses for this trip are 1/3 the cost of our trip to Paris for the same treatment 8 years ago!  The care and treatment we've experienced in Tunisia has been very high quality in top notch facilities.

In the U.S., a trip to the hospital is rarely pleasant and comes with a lot of stresses, discouragements, and inconveniences. Now add in an international trip thousands of miles away to an unfamiliar country. But God had an amazing surprise waiting for us. 

Tunisia is in North Africa and is bordered by Algeria and Libya. Much of the country is coastal on the Mediterranean Sea. It is a beautiful and exotic country with much of the economy relying on tourism. The coast is lined with large 4 and 5 star vacation resorts. Unfortunately, there were a couple of isolated terrorist attacks last year aimed at tourists. These attacks became high profile global news stories and the flow of tourists instantly stopped. This has forced many of the resorts in the tourist zones to close and just a few are operating at greatly reduced number of guests. They have slashed their prices in an effort to attract travelers. This has really played in our favor. As we were searching online for a hotel last week, we came upon a beachfront resort at an unbelievable price. The El Mouradi Skanes is a 4 star all inclusive resort that boasts over 500 rooms, a private beach, several swimming pools, multiple restaurants, onsite spa, and more. Rates normally run from $1,500 - $3,000 per week. It seemed too good to be true, but we were in fact able to book it for a grand total of $275 for the two of us for a full week!  This includes all of our meals!  Yes, we are staying at a luxury beachfront resort with meals for $45/night - less than the cost of staying at Motel 6 (or Formula One for our European friends.). Half of the hotel is shut down, and there are less than 150 guests on-site, but most amenities and activities are still available. The staff is incredible and the meals are amazing all-you-can-eat buffets similar to what you'd find on a cruise ship. 

Please rest assured that we are in no danger. Tunisia has gone to great lengths to secure the country and ensure the safety of visitors. We don't see or sense any threats and we feel perfectly safe here. 

We can't begin to tell you how blessed we feel. The medical procedures have not been pleasant or pain free, however returning each day to a beautiful resort has had amazing therapudic results. God is good!

You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. - Genesis 50:20

Mission Accomplished!

Julie had her second Lithotripsy treatment last night. It took longer and was more painful than the first, but she made it through with flying colors.  Again, we arrived back at the hotel around 11pm. We had a quick meal at the hotel late night buffet, then headed to bed. 

The Lithotripsy process breaks kidney stones into smaller pieces using ultrasonic sound waves. Although the treatment is finished, Julie will continue to pass sand and small stones for the next few days. Because of this, she's continuing to experience discomfort and pain which should last for a few days. 

A final visit to the doctor today revealed that the stones have indeed been broken up and the pieces are slowly passing through Julie's system. He did provide some pain medication and other medicine to help with this final step. Julie also found some M&Ms in a local shop which are also helping with her recovery. 

Tomorrow is a day of rest before our flight back to Mali on Sunday night. Thank you for your past and ongoing prayers. Everything in Tunisia has gone very smoothly and there have been no complications. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

International Competition

This morning we were resting at our hotel before heading out to the medical clinic. We brought along a set of Tri-Ominos and decided to play a few rounds in the lobby before lunch.

The Algerian National Handball team is currently in town for an international tournament and they are staying in our hotel.  They were fascinated by this game they had never seen before, and watched intently as we played. They only spoke Arabic, so our communication skills were somewhat limited. But by watching, they quickly picked up the game and even started pointing out moves when we missed them. We invited them to join. Because they are professional athletes, they were VERY competitive. We had a great time!  They were asking if the game is available here in Tunisia or Algeria. Unfortunately, to our knowledge it isn't. So tomorrow we're going to give them our set of Tri-Ominos as a gift if we see them again. 

This goes on our list of things we'd never imagined we'd do - Play Tri-Ominos with the Algerian National Handball team. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Stone's Throw Away

Yesterday, Julie received treatment for her kidney stone. We started by visiting a doctor in a neighboring town. We then went to a local clinic for X-rays and sonogram. Unfortunately, the lithotripsy machine, a highly specialized machine that brakes up blockages and stones using sound waves, was broken. So we needed to travel 2 hours to another city in Tunisia for the procedure. The treatment took about 45 minutes, but it was very painful and uncomfortable for Julie. Unfortunately, the doctor discovered another kidney stone in her other kidney, so it will be necessary to return tomorrow for a second treatment. 

It was as long day. We didn't arrive back at the hotel until 11 pm. Julie was pretty battered and in a lot of pain. She was also pretty demoralized knowing she has to go through it again. Thankfully she had a full day to rest today. Please be praying as she continues treatment tomorrow and for the pain she has during her recovery. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Touched By An Angel

We have arrived safely, but exhausted in Tunisia. We left Mali at 2:00 am and arrived 4 1/2 hours later in Tunis, the capital of Tunisia. We were met at the airport by a medical concierge who has taken care of all the details and arrangements for Julie's treatment. He is here to assist us every step of the way, including driving us 2 hours from the airport to the clinic. He will be taking care of ALL the logistics, including transportation for the duration of our stay. This is a HUGE answer to prayer!  God has provided an angel to help and guide us in an unfamiliar country and culture. And he speaks English too!

We had a tour of the medical clinic today and have made plans to meet with the doctor first thing tomorrow morning to begin (and hopefully finish) the procedure.  Until then, we're crashing in our hotel. Thank you for your ongoing prayers. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss

Waving goodbye to Bamako for a week. We're on our way to Tunisia for treatment for Julie's kidney stone. We arrive at 6:50 am then another 2 hours to the hospital.

Please pray for a quick and uneventful treatment. Julie's currently scheduled for a 3 day hospital stay - a surprise considering it's normally an outpatient procedure.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Here We Go Again

Things have been going very well in our ministries and we're seeing God do incredible things.  We're in the process of starting several projects including a new Alpha Course, new classes at the English center, and a church plant that is scheduled to launch in three weeks.  We're really excited about what's taking place.  Unfortunately, the enemy has taken notice too and he's doing his part to disrupt what's happening.

Julie has been sick and in pain for the past two weeks.  A few days ago, she was diagnosed with another kidney stone.  After several tests, it was determined that the stone is too large to pass and must be surgically removed.  Unfortunately, resources are not available for this in Mali. Multiple doctors have recommended Julie be medevaced immediately to a country where the procedure can be performed.  This happened in 2007 as well, so it's not unfamiliar territory.  But because of this, our current insurance company considers it a pre-existing condition that is not covered under our policy.  (Those of us living internationally aren't covered by the new laws about pre-existing conditions in the Affordable Care Act.)

We are leaving Sunday night and will be gone for a week.  In researching the various options, Tunisia seems to be one of the lowest cost but quality care choices.  We do not know anyone in Tunisia, and it’s a new country and culture we have not experienced.  Please be praying with us that all the details will come together and finances will become available to cover the medical and travel expenses.  Also, pray for Julie's health and well being and for the doctors that will be treating her.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Dreadding the Future

Radio LibreIf you’ve been following our blog, you’ll recall that John has been trying to meet Reggae singer, Tiken Jah Fakoly.  We had a chance to finally personally meet him.  Last night, he was scheduled to do another live concert at his night club across from our house.  We passed by the club several hours before the concert on our way home from teaching English, and noticed his car was parked in front of the club.  We decided to have dinner at a rooftop restaurant that is part of the club, in hope of bumping into him.  It was early, and we were the only ones at the restaurant.  As we entered, we passed by an open door of a private salon and saw Tiken Jah sitting alone.  As per Malian culture, we greeted him as we passed by.  He came out to meet us and we spent several minutes talking with him.  He said he recognized us.  We shared that we live in his old house and invited him to stop by sometime.  We also talked with him about his school building initiative and learned about some of the things he’s doing to help Africa.

We sat down for dinner as he was leaving to go home and rest before the concert.  After dinner, we did the same and returned later that night.  Koko Dembele, another famous Malian Reggae singer also performed before Tiken Jah came on at 2am.  The club was full, and the crowd was enthusiastic all night.  We left early (around 3am), tired, but excited about seeing this ministry move forward.  John’s hoping to develop a relationship with Tiken Jah and other musicians.  Who knows, maybe John’s long hair will transform into dreadlocks as he becomes part of the Reggae scene in Mali.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Seems Like Old Times

Mali Communications FriendsToday we visited Mali Communications – the company that was birthed out of MAF’s closure in 2005.  These are some of our first and closest friends in Mali.  We had a wonderful time sharing and catching up with everyone – Abou, Lassana, Mama, and Salif.  It’s been way too long since we’ve seen our friends, yet it seemed like it was just yesterday.  We’re looking forward to continuing our friendship now that we’re back in Mali.  We had an especially good time sharing with Abou and Salif.

It was strange to meet in John’s old office.  Almost nothing had changed over the past 11 years.  Much of the equipment and technology John helped install was still in place and the walls still had the same paint and patterns from our MAF days.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

The Force Awakens

Star-Wars-the-Force-Awakens-Poster-CroppedMali is a country filled with juxtaposition. On one hand, we live in the bustling capital city of 2.5 million people. It is the fastest growing city in Africa. On the other hand, our trash pickup is done by a man with a donkey cart, most of our streets are dirt roads, and the streets are filled with raw sewage that doesn’t make it to the open sewers on the side of the road. Trash fires are abundant, and the majority of families do all their cooking over charcoal fires.

Now add into the equation that last night, we saw the new Star Wars film in 3D in Bamako’s only movie theater! Even better, the movie was in English with French subtitles, so we didn’t miss out on any of the dialogue, including Chewbacca.  Now we can relate to most of our friends and family that have been part of one of the biggest movie phenomena in recent history. Even though neither one of us are big Star Wars fans (we’ve left that to Cole), we really enjoyed the movie. It was also a special treat to feel like we were in the Western world for a couple of hours as we were watching the movie – complete with air conditioning, cushy theater seats, popcorn, and soda.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Teamwork

John has been helping with a team that arrived last night from YWAM in Norway. The team is made up of mostly Americans with a few other nationalities mixed in. He helped pick them up from the airport at 2am on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. Yesterday, he spent time doing an orientation on Mali. The team will be spending 9 weeks in Mali working with various YWAM ministries around the country. Today, John took them to the bus station early in the morning for their departure to Koutiala, their next area of ministry in Mali. Julie has been sick for 3 days, so she hasn’t been able to participate in helping with the team. Thankfully, she’s feeling better today and will hopefully continue on her road to recovery.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Reggae Revolution

Tiken Jah ConcertTiken Jah Fakoly is a popular West African Reggae singer that lives in Mali. He is close to our age and our house in Bamako is Tiken Jah's old house, so we feel a couple of points of connection with him. His music is a reflection of his passion for bringing an end to the injustices in Africa and seeing a united African continent. He also values education in Africa and has funded the building of several schools. He is having a great impact on society and the people of West Africa. John has had Tiken Jah on his heart for several years and has been looking for opportunities to talk with him and share the Gospel. It’s exciting to imagine what his influence could do if he became a Christian and used his music to bring others to the Lord.

Tiken Jah has a recording studio and night club just across from our house. We pass by almost every day and have gotten to know many of the staff members. We’ve met Tiken Jah a few times in passing, but haven’t had a chance to really strike up a conversation with him.

Last night, Tiken Jah was live in concert at the club. We decided to check it out as a means to begin looking for opportunities to get to know him. Between the opening acts and Tiken Jah himself, the concert was 4 hours long. Although neither one of us are big Reggae fans, we are feeling a draw to the club, its patrons, staff, band members, and of course, Tiken Jah himself. Although 2016 has just begun, the New Year has already brought us a new ministry.  We will be spending more time focusing on this particular location as a point of ministry. Please be praying for opportunities to share the Gospel, especially with Tiken Jah.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Happy New Year!!

Happy-New-Year-2016

As we look back at last year, we and lot of changes throughout the year, including living in South Africa, Northern California, Southern California, and Mali.

Hopefully during 2016, we’ll be able to keep our feet grounded in Mali and have a bit more stability this year. We have a lot of new and exciting ministries in the works and we look forward to sharing them with you as they happen.