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.