Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Latest and greatest

Yes, I have internet today.  I'm actually sitting at a missionary's home on the front porch (and I mean right on the porch, not on a chair) with a rubbermaid tub turned upside down as my desk and typing as fast as I can because the internet is good enough here to load photos.  So here's a little photo journal of what's been going on lately.  


We stayed at this great hotel on the beach and the kids got
to try coconut milk straight from the coconut.
Jack enjoyed it; Kylie was less than impressed.

Look at how we suffered in Lome.
This is the pool at our hotel.  Palm trees, sunny skies, and the beach
was just a few steps away....

The beach!  The waves were big and we had loads  of fun in the
salty Atlantic.

Adam drinking 2 coconuts at once.  Not only can he speak perfect French
and guide us through the crazy visa process, he knows how to have
a good time!

Togo is french culture and when in France, one MUST
eat pastry.  These were breakfast one morning...

Speaking of culture, we showed the missionaries ours!
Hockey Night in Togo.  Nate set up a "rink"
in the shop and we played for a couple of hours
one Sunday afternoon....

Gary and Ruth Benn and their two kids, Kristen and Andrew spent three weeks here in Mango and just went home yesterday.  We had so much fun with their family and much work was accomplished. Ruth jumped right in to working in the hospital and had several difficult shifts working in the hospital but we prayed and she prayed and God answered and she did a great job.  God placed them here at the exact right time -- the hospital was very short staffed in July and Ruth filled a big hole by being able to run the station and work in clinic as well.  She was a huge help!

Gary and Nate worked together every day on the houses and various other places on the compound.  Gary is so easy going and Nate thoroughly enjoyed working with him daily.  I could hear their laughter all over the grounds.  They also spent some quality time together riding motorcycles all over the country, touching the border of Ghana, Benin and Burkina Faso.  They also did some fishing, some sports and a variety of other things.  Together we had movie nights, campfires, sports activities, motorcycle rides, a trip to Kara, a trip to Dapaong, just to name a few.  The kids had a blast together....I never knew what they were going to get up to from climbing the water tower, bike rides, swimming, games etc.  It was so much fun.

We went to the local convent because they sell really good sausage there.  The
sisters gave us a tour of their big chapel.

Kylie and Kristen spent some time watching surgeries together.  This photo was
taken after they watched a leg amputation together.
What could be more fun?????

I wish I could share more photos of our time together but there's only so much time to sit on a porch and load photos! We were so encouraged by their visit and how they just jumped right in to life and work here.  We're so grateful that they came. Now we anticipate the arrival of our family.  My parents, our son, Ethan, my sister and my nephew will be arriving in Lome in just four days.  And we are super excited.

In other news, House #1 is totally complete and the surgeon and his family arrive next week to be here as full-time missionaries.  House #2 is still under construction but it's going well.  Nate has begun the latrine for the hospital and just got approval to start on the guest house addition.  Yesterday he moved a bunch of trees from where the addition will be built.  So the construction keeps on going...

Sorry this is a bit of a rushed post, but it's time to head home and make supper....

Monday, June 5, 2017

News, news, news!

Ack!  The internet is just terrible out here and I feel so badly that I can't keep you up-to-date on what's happening.  So much to say, so I'm jumping right in!

Anna and the Baby:

If you remember last time I wrote, I told you about Anna heading over to Indianapolis with a Mango mom and baby to have heart surgery on the little 6 month old girl, "S".   Well, they made it to the USA without any major glitches and within just a few days, the surgery was performed.  It went amazingly well and the heart-condition of the baby was totally repaired.  Anna was overwhelmed with the response of a local church and missionary friends and family that visited them, encouraged them, took them out to dinner, loaned a car, and prayed with her and Mom and baby.  The mom, "S", was so moved by all the love and kindness that she was receiving from all these strangers.  Anna and the mom were able to have some really great talks about life in Mango, her religious beliefs, her marriage, her past and so much more.  Turns out this sweet momma had already lost a child and was petrified when they took her baby girl away to the OR thinking that she might never see her again.  Anna was able to share the gospel many times and though no decision to follow Christ has been made yet, the Holy Spirit is definitely at work in this family.

Please keep praying for the whole family, the father, as he awaits their return from the States next week, and the mom and baby and Anna as they make the long trek home around the 10th of June. The salvation of this family is near and we are so excited to see what God will do with them and in their extended family here in Mango.

Lassa Fever:

We finally celebrated the last day of Lassa Fever on the 30th of May out here.  It's over!!!  It has been a long haul and we are so incredibly thankful to God for the protection for Mango and the surrounding area.  Lassa is an illness that can become epidemic and we were all spared from that catastrophe.  The medical personnel here did a great job at taking care of the sick patients and keeping them sequestered from the healthy people so that it did not take more lives.  Praise the Lord that it's over!!  No longer do we have to bleach our hands and feet and take our temperatures regularly.

Seasonal Change:

Rainy season has finally started which is a wonderful change of season here.  Everything that was dead and brown has started to become green and lush.  The bad news is - snake season also coincides with rainy season.

Rainy season storm brewing over the guest house.

Let me be very clear about how I feel about snakes:  I despise them.  They are creepy and gross and basically every kind here in Togo is poisonous.   The Togolese people believe that the only good snake is a dead one, and I agree whole-heartedly.  The entire time we lived here in 2012-2013, I never once saw a live snake.  Dead ones, yes.  Live ones, never, to the praise and glory of His Name!

Well guess what happened...

Last week, it happened.  First of all, let me tell you that it wasn't the first snake the kids had encountered that week.  Earlier, Kylie was riding her bike to the school when she saw a snake, a big one for Togo standards (ours here are skinny and long, not fat like the ones you think of from the jungle or rain forest).  She hollered for help and some of the kids from the school came running, as did a couple of Togolese men who dispatched the snake for her.  The following day, a snake decided to go to school and Nolan was able to make his first "kill" while Jack's teacher stood on a chair, hollering for help.  And only a day after that, it happened to me.

Teddy holding up the dead snake, the headless dead snake.

I was driving the little golf cart to the school during recess when a long snake slithered past me.  I could see Nolan and Kylie with the kids at recess, so I hollered (okay, okay, I screamed) and they came racing towards me on their bikes.  In the time it took us to find appropriate weapons (shovels and sticks), the snake had slithered into the long grass and disappeared.  Nate and a couple other men came to help but to my total dismay, the disgusting creature could not be found - which means, he is out there. Where my children play.

This is my least favourite news to share with you.  I was so sad that we couldn't find it and kill it just so I could know there was ONE LESS SNAKE out there.

All the kids checking out it's lifeless carcass. Yuck.

As I was sharing this story with the teachers at our MK school, we got to laughing that we don't so much have seasons out here in Togo - rather, we mark our changes in the year by plagues.  Let me explain...

January and February is dry season and so it's Meningitis season.
March, April and May are Lassa Fever season.
June and July are the rainy months which brings Malaria and Snake season.
Then comes Fall which is Bug Season (and I mean thousands of them) which also brings out Frog season because there's just so much for the frogs to eat (when I say frog season, you probably cannot imagine how many...)
By then we've hit November and December where things dry up again and you have respite of the creatures but we get the Return of the Diseases and we're back to Meningitis.

Sounds delightful, doesn't it??  Anyone ready to jump on a plane and come and visit??


Teddy celebrated his 8th birthday just at the end of May.  He was so excited to get his first pocket knife and a bag of lollipops.

Eight candles on his favourite cake: carrot with cream cheese frosting!

Carte de Sejour:

We just attempted to renew our visas for the second time.  And were denied.  Ugh.  This is so not cool.  Our case was pleaded until they granted us a two month visa (at the price of a three-month visa) and a grace period to apply for a Carte de Sejour = a permit to stay in country for those of us not born American or Lebanese.  So Nate does not require this handy piece of paperwork but the kids and I do.

As soon as we were told that we required the Carte, we had several people tell us how sorry they were for us - not only is it difficult to get but the required paperwork is a nightmare.  Apparently the blend of West African organization and French bureaucracy comes together in a perfect storm called Carte de Sejour.  We require 11 documents, some from Canada, some from Togo.  Some are easy to get and some not so much.  Since we only have a short grace period to get it done, I've been working like mad with two other missionaries (both from France who also require it) to prepare all the necessary paperwork.  Oh, and it's expensive.  And it only lasts one year. 

Last week, I made a one hour trip to the city north of us to apply for a piece of paper that says that I live in Togo and don't earn any money, therefore I had to pay a tax on the tax that I don't pay.  Make sense?  My friend, Faith Drake, made the trip with me as both interpreter and shoulder-to-cry-on.  Thankfully, the shoulder part wasn't required as the men at the OTR office were super helpful and willing to walk me through the process.  

Since you can't have an actual address in Mango (since there are no
street names and numbers) you get to draw a map of where you live rather than fill out the
address on the forms.
Here's mine. 

We have two more documents to get by next Sunday when the six of us will make the quick jaunt (10 hour drive) to Lome to meet a Togolese man who will help us with the actual process.  We all must be there in person to have our fingerprints and photos taken and likely this will be the most difficult and frustrating part of the process.  PLEASE PRAY!!  We obviously want to stay in Togo and don't want to be deported or stay here illegally so pray that we find favour with the different authorities.  It will not be pleasant but we're so hoping you'll pray so that we can get it all done and know that we can legally be here for the next 12 months -- and then we get to do it again! 

Pray for us as we head to Lome on the weekend of June 18 and then meet with the officials on the 19th and 20th. I'll keep you posted....

We NEVER Have Any Fun:

And before you think that everything is crazy and hard and scary, let me just say that we never have any fun at all out here....

What's the least fun thing?
Riding motorcycles with your buddies on compound.

And the fishing out here is TERRIBLE!
Too bad the Nate and his friend Josh (pictured above) never have any
fun catching fish on Saturday mornings.

Riding bikes together is just so awful.

Making friends with sweet little missionary kids is super terrible.

And definitely, having to swim in the pool daily is just the WORST.

So that's the news for today! Though there feels like I have much more to say, I'll save it for next time.  Thanks for faithfully reading and praying.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

House Work

I've come to believe that basically both Nate and I are here for one simple task: house work.  At least of one kind or another.  Between building houses, working at the guest house and then our own personal home, there is definitely a theme of housework going on. To be honest, most days the tasks seem anything but simple!

Each of the three types of House Work are so different and provide a variety of funny stories, interesting people and an abundance of prayer requests and praises.  Here's each one with some detail:

House Construction:

House 1 and 2 are coming along beautifully.  It has been so encouraging to see the changes from week to week.  Even more exciting however, is to see how Nate's relationships with the Togolese workers continue to grow and change.  With every step forward in building relationships, there also seems to be a struggle.  Which is a sure sign that Satan is not happy with the relationships that are being built.

As for the actual houses, here are some photos of House #1 in progress:

Mary, Kylie and I priming the bedrooms of House 2

House 1 getting the outdoor finish: half stone and half painted "stucco" 

Here's the front up close looking in the front door.  You can see the
beautiful stone work.  The house will be painted the same as the other's
on the compound: "Bagel",  a favourite shade of brown.
Inside the front door looking into the living room and dining area.
It is such a nice home! Just this past weekend, another missionary family
helped us prime the house.  A shout out to the Farver family for
working hard in the crazy heat to get it done!

Nate's co-worker and friend, Bruce, left to return to the USA last week.  He will be missed greatly.  And now Nate is the only person on site that understands him!  That's not easy.  He works so hard at building into the lives of the workers as they build the homes together.  

The other day he drove a bunch of the workers home when the work day was done.  Before he dropped them all off, they popped in to visit one of the construction guys who was sick.  Just before they all left, they asked Nate to pray over this particular worker and he was so pleased to be able to do so.  He has such interesting conversations with his "guys" and shares the Truth with them as often as he can.

The work continues on House #2 as well.  They recently poured all the concrete floors and are working now on building all the interior walls.

Guest House:

As of this week, the Guest House is now my responsibility.  Yikes.  Below is a photo of the main Guest House.  We have a kitchen, dining room and four hotel-style rooms, plus an apartment.  Then there are several other homes both on-site and in town that are considered guest house accommodations as well.

There are six ladies that work in the kitchen and do all the cooking and cleaning and laundry.  I just "oversee" their work (they're amazing, they don't need me checking up on them) but also pay the bills, help purchase groceries in Kara, take care of the bookings, welcome guests, etc. It keeps me very busy!

One of the highlights of the week is a Bible study with our six ladies every Friday afternoon.  Two of them are new believers and it is so exciting to watch them grow!  Just this morning I received a text from one of them, sending me a note and a Bible verse to encourage me.  There is such joy in seeing a new believer grow and seek to know God and His word in deeper ways.

The Guest House:  The first door on the right is the laundry room, then the door in the corner is the
entrance to the dining room.  The three doors on the left are doors to the "hotel" rooms.

At Easter, we celebrated at our Bible study by making "Resurrection Rolls".
For two of the women above, this was their very first Easter
celebration and they were so excited to celebrate
the Risen Christ together with us!
Our own home:

It has been such a blessing that we have been able to move onto the compound.  I'm not sure how I could do my job at the Guest House if we were living off-site.  We're so thankful to be able to live right there in such a lovely home with filtered water and a generator for when the power goes out - which still happens daily.

The boys are loving school at the MK school.  They have about 5 weeks left and they're done for the year.  Their teachers are amazing women who have served so faithfully.  We're super grateful for all the work they've done with our boys and freeing me up to serve in other capacities. Nolan and Kylie continue to do school at home and both of them help me immensely with the guest house responsibilities.  It's a whole family affair!

Here's a photo of our place so you know where we are!
Here's our little house!

A very amazing story:

Why not finish with an amazing story of how God is working out here.  This one is super cool.

So, there's a little 5 month old baby who has a serious heart condition.  Her father is a marabout in town, meaning that he is a fetish/witch doctor/religious leader.  He is supposed to have the ability to heal people.  And of course, he has been unable to heal his own baby girl.

Sweet baby "S" - now on her to way to America!

The family came to the hospital and discovered that the baby is in need of a major surgery only available overseas.  Amazingly, God ordained that a hospital in Indiana would be willing to do this surgery.  In the meantime, mom and dad have been both amazed at the love and care their daughter is receiving through the hospital.

It was decided that mom would go to the the USA with the baby and with our friend and co-worker, Anna.  Anna would help her in the travel but also help her with the adjustments required.  Can you even imagine having NEVER left Mango in your life, traveling to the capital, getting on an airplane, landing in the USA, going to a major children's hospital, living at Ronald McDonald house and all without a single word of English, let alone an understanding of all that is around you?  It's so crazy!

While preparations were being made, there were glitches in the system.  At one point, Anna was able get a ticket to travel with mom and baby but the cost was $8000.00 for her ticket alone.  The Lord had provided $3300 in donations towards her trip costs, and after a series of amazing miracles, Anna was able to book her ticket, plus the mom and the baby, for $3316.00 total. Act of God.

They left yesterday on this adventure - so please, please be praying for Anna as she tries to guide this mom through all the overwhelming stuff ahead (Anna doesn't speak Mom's heart-language and Mom barely speaks French.  Oh dear.). Also be praying for mom and the baby, both of their names start with S.  Pray for the dad too, as he has totally seen the Lord act on behalf of his family and is so close to deciding to follow Jesus.  It would be so amazing if a local marabout (also considered a major leader in the M-faith) came to Christ -- think of the impact that would have on the people in Mango!

This is just one snippet of many amazing stories that are happening out here.  It is so exciting to see God at work in the lives of the Togolese and what He is doing to bring them to a knowledge of His Son.

Please continue to pray for us - our family, the ministries, the hospital (it's seriously under-staffed but God is providing!!), the radio ministry (another whole story how a major storm blew the roof off the radio building that Nate and others had put on, then took out the radio tower...they are in major need of funds and encouragement to begin rebuilding) and the health and safety of all those working out here.  We're so grateful for your love and your prayers for Mango!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

March Madness

This has been a crazy month.  I can hardly believe that April starts next week.

It's been a month of ups and downs and this little graphic describes it best...

The month started out with the return of Lassa Fever to our region of West Africa.  At first we had only a couple of patients in our hospital that had come from neighbouring countries.  Let me just say that our medical team, having experienced Lassa Fever last year, was prepared. They had guidelines all set out for what we needed to do, as a team, to avoid contracting it as best we could.

Lassa fever is a contagious illness that is passed through bodily fluids. It doesn't often kill the person who gets it, but it can and it has and it did. So once it was confirmed that we did indeed have a Lassa case in the hospital, we were required to follow some simple guidelines including taking our temperatures, avoiding public places and washing with bleach water upon entering our homes.  The hospital shut down any non-essential services and non-urgent surgeries to be able to focus on the Lassa patients and avoid the line-ups of people outside the hospital "sharing" the disease with one another.

The guidelines were simple and easy to follow, except for one little part.  It was March Break here. Meaning there was no school, meaning there was kids home all day long, and meaning that we were (at first) not allowed to go to the pool because that was considered a public place where we could spread it to one another.

And it's hot season. In fact, one day of March break hit 46 degrees celsius.  And no pool.  And then that same day we lost our electricity for the entire day.

It was awesome.  Kids home + stuck inside + very hot + no fans + no pool + no friends to hang out with = a whole new level of sanctification (read: a miserable few days)

As things progressed over the month, there were a couple more cases of Lassa fever found in our region, closer in fact to us. The medical staff kept us up-to-date but did allow the kids to go to school after March break and did, kindly, allow us back into the pool since basically it's like a big bleach bath anyhow and as long as everyone took their temperature before entering the pool.

Aunt Melissa (an MD) teaching the children about Lassa and how
to wash their hands properly with soap and then with bleach water.

After March break was over and things were somewhat back to normal, we found out that it was time for us to move!

It was a Monday when we found out that a house had opened up for us on the compound....and not just any house, but the house we lived in when we were here in Togo in 2013!  It was like moving home - again! We packed up all day Tuesday and moved in on Wednesday.  Thankfully we don't have a whole lot of stuff, and with the help of some very wonderful men, it took three truck loads of stuff to get us all moved in.

Josh, Bill and Bruce helping us unload the second load of stuff.
These men had it all unloaded in just minutes.

It took us until Friday to get all settled in, but after that, well, I cannot tell you what a blessing it has been to be on the compound.  There are several perks that make this a great place to be (and actually make us feel a little guilty for being able to enjoy them) - they include: 

1.  Clean water!  All the water on site is filtered and clean and wonderful.  It is SO nice not to have to filter all our water or worry about ingesting an amoeba in the shower or off a not-quite-dry cup or plate.

2.  Electricity!  Consistent, wonderful, beautiful electricity!!  When the power in town does go out, we wait about 30 seconds and it's back.  What a blessing.

3. Only steps to the pool.  The pool is out our front door and to the left. Easy access is amazing.

4. Close to work, school, and friends.  Nate pops out the front door every morning and walks across to the job site.  It's so easy. The boys bike over to the MK school and wander the property with their friends. Jack has enjoyed having easy access to the farm here, especially the two donkeys that he likes to ride and pet.

So, as you can see, we are VERY thankful for the opportunity to live here.  Being on site means that I have started taking on some of the responsibilities of managing the guest house.  I'll be taking that role on full-time in the next couple of months.  Currently, it's run by an amazing couple named Bill and Melanie.  We're very sad that their time in Togo is coming to a close.  I'll be the "Melanie" and Nolan plans to be my "Bill" - helping me with a variety of jobs from taking the compost to the chickens,  "burping" the boiler at the hospital (don't ask me what that means) and a bunch of other stuff.

Since the Lassa thing has started, Kylie and I have not been into the hospital at all (because they asked any non-essential people to avoid it) - actually, that's not 100% true.....

Jack and his buddy, Aaron, were climbing a mango tree here on site and picking and eating mangoes til their hearts content.  A few hours later, we notice Jack had some red marks on his face.  By the next morning, he had a lot of red on his face - rashy and swollen.  Turns out Jack is allergic to a particular kind of mango.  The one on the trees here.  I discovered that the skin of the mangoes has an oil similar to poison ivy - and if you know our family, you know that we have had several nasty run-ins with poison ivy, Jack included.

Over the next day or two, his rash continued to spread over his body so we popped into the hospital to see what our doctors thought.  They put him on a few days of steroids and he has recovered well  - and avoided the mango tree.

As for construction, Nate has continued to work in the heat of this terribly hot season.  The other day we were told that it was 120 degrees Fahrenheit/48.6 degrees celsius.  And he just keeps working.  House #1 is coming along nicely with the plumbing almost done and the tile starting next week. And here's a photo of House #2 with the steel roof on.  They'll begin interior walls in this house soon.

House #2 with a roof on -which means working inside the house
is now a shady place! Yay!

Nate's buddy and co-worker, Bruce, is only here for another month.  We'll be very sad when he and Mary leave us to go back to Michigan.  He's been an amazing leader on these projects, a great friend and a real encouragement.  You can pray with us that they'll return later this year!

Kylie and I and our two friends.

Lastly, here's a photo of a dear friend of ours, Mr. M.  He has been at the Hospital of Hope since last May and just went home with his sweet daughter a week ago.  He came to the hospital with a nasty broken leg from a moto accident.  Over the months his leg didn't do so well but his heart did.  He came to know Jesus personally.  Please pray for him now that he is back in his village.  He will, indeed, face trouble for his new faith but we are so excited to see him when he comes back for a check up in mid-April.  He told us that he was so very grateful for his broken leg because it led him to know the truth of Jesus Christ.  And God, because of His awesome power and amazing grace, chose to heal his leg too, so not only does he head back with an ability to walk, but also with a joy and peace inside of him that has changed his life.

The one drawback to living on the compound is that the internet here is pretty lousy, so please be patient as we attempt to communicate through the blog.  A shout out to Ashley who often asks "when the next post is" - thanks for being patient, Ash!!  

Thank you, again and again, for praying for us and for taking the time to read what's happening over here in Mango.  We're happy to be here and are so grateful for your love and support.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Highs and Lows

Maybe you'll remember this sweet baby boy that I've talked about.  He came into the hospital very ill and undernourished. Because his eyes were so big in his head, we called him Baby Bird. He was skinny and scrawny and miserable.

This is the earliest photo I have of Baby Bird.

Many of us have had the joy of holding and feeding and loving on this little guy.  Because he was sick, he had to be fed by NG tube slowly.  It took a lot of time. Which meant a lot of holding and snuggling and singing and squeezing. And praying.

Sleeping though a feed just before Christmas. Shortly after this feed,
Baby Bird was "Baby Jesus" in a Christmas play.  He performed perfectly.

Baby Bird was improving, albeit at a snail's pace.  The doctors wondered if he had a problem with his lungs and so an amazing visiting surgeon took him to the OR to fix the issue.  But the problem wasn't THAT problem and we all continued to wonder at why he just wouldn't grow.

Just after surgery with plenty of monitors and leads on his tiny body.

In the past month or two, there had been slow but steady improvement.  He was sitting up on his own. He began smiling at us. He was gaining weight a little at a time.  We all celebrated when he finally hit the 5 kilogram mark!  

Me and the Little Man, just before bedtime one night.

I love this photo of him. He looks so great, sitting up like a big boy.

 A couple of weeks ago, Cindy, Sarah and I went out to his village.  He'd been staying at the hospital (or with Sarah and Kelly) for about a week or so because his momma had to return to their village to take care of another sick child.  Since she hadn't seen him in over a week, we thought we'd have a little visit/reunion.

We sat on little wooden stools outside their home of mud huts.  Two dogs lazily slept under the trees while chickens pecked here and there.  We watched as family member after family member arrived to see him, hold him, smile at him and love on him.  It was so good for us to see him being loved by his family.  They wanted him to stay but there was just no way.  This village doesn't even have water, let alone clean water, or a way to care for his special needs.

This past Saturday, I popped into the hospital to do some work while the kids were at French Club.  Baby Bird wasn't feeling so good.  Fever, diarrhea, that kind of thing.  While I worked away on the computer, he sat in his little bassinet beside me until his eyes got heavy.  I wrapped him up and rocked him to sleep and then put him back down.  When I left, he was fast asleep in his little bed.

And that's the last time I got to see him.

He passed away on Sunday. 

Oh, Baby Bird. Such a sweet boy with so, so many obstacles to overcome. 
His real name was not Baby Bird, obviously, and though I can't share what it is, I'll share what it means:  Hope.

He is currently, at this very moment, living the HOPE we claim.  Baby Bird is with Jesus.  And he's perfect. And happy. And loved beyond comprehension. Therein lies our peace and our purpose. And why the amazing doctors and nurses and workers here will continue to love and serve and work and not.give.up.

Because of our hope in Jesus.

The last time I posted, I had such good news to share.  This time, not so much.  There are highs and lows in every corner of the world.  This is a big-time low.

This one, this loss, is a hard one. 

Having a little fun with our boy.
Yet there is that stubborn, persevering, uncompromising, tenacious, persistent Hope that we cling to that keeps us afloat.  I hope you know Him.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

God of the IMPOSSIBLE!

Things have been going well over on this side of the ocean and we're thrilled to let you know the many ways that God has been working and answering our prayers!

In the mornings, the kids and I do a short Bible study and keep a journal of all the people and situations we're praying for, including space to see when and how each request is answered.  In the past 2 weeks, we've been filling in that "ANSWERED" column multiple times.  God is at work and we are so grateful to watch Him working in the lives of the Togolese people.

You might remember a story I told of Little "G" and his grandmother who is from a dark and evil village.  Here's a photo of him that I posted a ways back.

If you don't recall his story, he was living in his village (about 2 hours away from Mango) and fell out of a tree and was paralyzed.  That was a year ago.  He arrived at our hospital after suffering for a couple of months, just lying of the floor of his home.  In the process of treating his general health and several very large bed sores, the doctors discovered he had cancer.  He was given chemo and responded extremely well.  In the several months that he has lived on-site, he has become a real "fixture" of the hospital.  Everyone knows him and calls him by name.  We befriended him in the first week we were here and have come to love him.

He listened to many presentations of the gospel and watched the Jesus film a variety of times.  When the chaplains talked to him, they really sensed that he believed in Jesus and had a basic understanding of the Gospel.  We were so excited for him!!  But Grandma was always there.  We prayed for his dad to show up and take care of him but dad only showed once and had no interest in taking care of his son's needs.  

I looked in our prayer journal and we've been praying for "G and his evil grandma" (seriously, that's what it says) since December 9th.  Last weekend we heard that they would be discharged this week, able to go home for the first time in almost a year.  As exciting as that is for them, we were so sad to think of him heading back to his village.  One of our missionaries and a chaplain, who speaks their village language, decided to make one last effort and talk to grandma about Jesus last Saturday.  I got a quick text just before that said: PRAY! 

When the chaplains spoke with her, she told them that through the months, she has seen what our God has done for her grandson.  When her whole family believed that he would never survive,  she knew that it was the power of our God that made the difference.  He is well, happy and healthy. She then told them that she had decided to give up her voodoo worship and FOLLOW JESUS!!!

Um.....INCREDIBLE!!!!!  We have seen this woman multiple times a week for the past three months, we have prayed for God to open her eyes to the Truth of who He is, and He did. Her countenance has changed so much in the past weeks, from never looking us in the eye, to greeting us with a smile and a handshake.  Thank you so very much for praying for this little boy and his grandmother.  We are praising and praising God for saving them both and are asking God to make them a bright light of the truth of the Gospel in their very dark village.

So, today they went home.  I went over to say goodbye and help load up their belongings.  It was bitter sweet.  It won't be the same without him there, greeting us, waving, and playing with the kids. But we are so thrilled that we will see them again, one day!! 

Little G, me and Lovely Grandma

The next amazing thing that I get to share with you is another salvation story!!  (Isn't that the best kind?)

We have a friend named "A" who works at the guest house and at our house once a week.  Every Friday, there is a Bible study for the guest house staff (6 ladies in all) and though she doesn't work that day, she was coming faithfully to the study.  She expressed interest in a Bible but could not afford to buy one, so I "loaned" her one of my Bibles.  When I told her she could use it, she was so excited and brought it faithfully to our study. 
The other week, at the end of study, one missionary and I (who don't speak french fluently) asked another missionary, Cindy, (who leads the study) to speak to her afterwards - we both just had this sense that she was ready to follow Jesus but didn't have the courage to ask questions in front of the other ladies.  After quite a long chat with Cindy, "A" understood and committed her life to Jesus.  

ANOTHER INCREDIBLE MOMENT!!  Again, we had been praying for her for several weeks and God totally answered those prayers!!  

Lastly, (man, this is a fun blog to write today!) the hospital oxygen system has been barely functioning for several months.  I think it broke down at the end of November and two faithful men on our team were able to by-pass the system but that meant that they had to manually reset it every 6 to 8 hours - day or night.  For months these two have been getting up in the middle of the night, heading over to the hospital and resetting the machine.  It has been long and tiring and frustrating, as it seemed they were just not getting straight answers on how to fix it.  We've been praying about this one since December 8th.  This past week, a package arrived by courier with two computer-y SD cards that had upgrades for the machine.  They inserted them and within moments, the machine was functioning like it was new! The timing of this is incredible!  During dry season (which is now), because there's basically no humidity, they could continue to by-pass the system but once rainy season hits, and the humidity is high, that would have no longer worked.  Amazing!  And these two very tired men finally get consistent full-nights rest.

As you can tell, it's been an amazing couple of weeks, seeing God work, change hearts, and lavish love on His children. 

However, on a separate note, this week is also a very difficult one. It was a year ago this Sunday that our dear friend, Todd Dekryger passed away.  There is a memorial service for him, for the community to attend this Sunday so please, please be praying that the Truth that is spoken in the service will penetrate the hearts of those listening.  The anniversary of the opening of the hospital is the same day that Todd passed away - February 26th.  So while we grieve the loss of our dear friend and celebrate his life and how he poured out everything he had for the Lord, we also celebrate that the Hospital of Hope has been open for two years!  This will be a weekend of big emotions.  Please remember to pray for Todd's wife, Jennifer, and her four boys: Will, Grant, Luke and Drew.

The Dekryger family at the entrance to the hospital.

It seems that we always have so much to pray for.  A favourite quote of mine sticks in the cover of my journal:  Offer up definite petitions.  Expect definite answers.  We have just shared with you how God has done just that.  May He receive all the honour that is due Him.

I'll say goodbye by leaving you with another favourite verse.  The one I quoted the first time I posted about Little "G":

I watch in hope. I wait for God my Saviour. My God will hear me.
Micah 7:7

True that.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

A Mango Moment

This week's Mango Moment is brought to you by Pottery Barn.

Mango is a small town that sits in a bowl. Because it sits lower than surrounding towns and cities, it's  very dry and very hot. We get far less rain than the surrounding towns and there are times in the year when Mango is actually the hottest place on earth. Today feels like one of those days.

But Mango has much to offer.  And if you'll take the time to visit us, we'll happily tour you around.  But since that isn't likely to happen, I'll bring Mango to YOU!

The downtown of Mango is made up of a central market with small boutiques on the surrounding "streets" - I put the word "streets" in quotes like that because I'm kind of afraid that you're picturing a street.  Like paved and wide and smooth and clearly marked out.  That would be the wrong thing to picture.  For example:

A street in town. Its hard to see the pot holes from this angle.

Because a lot of the boutiques don't have signs - or if they do have signs, I don't understand them, I have renamed some of the shops in town so that I can remember where they are and what they sell.  If I made a map of Mango for you, you'd see the following stores labelled on it: Home Depot, Staples, Pottery Barn etc.

Today, I'm taking you to Pottery Barn.

Pottery Barn is located just outside of town and it isn't easy to find. In fact, the first time we tried to find it, we passed it twice before we were able to locate it and also find the driveway.  We were greeted by Mr. Yacoubou.  He is an artisan. He both makes and sells the pottery. 

The entrance to Pottery Barn.
The doors on the left are his studio where he handcrafts the
pieces and the far door on the right is his boutique.

When we went the first time, his boutique had very little stock.  I asked him to make me three bowls with holes in the bottom that I could use to plant herbs.  It took me a while to explain what I wanted but once he understood, he invited us back to watch him work on his pottery wheel.

Here he is making a vase.

He measured the clay (which, by the way, he first digs out of the ground as hard rock, then soaks it for several days, then cleans it with a screen and then it's ready to be used.) He spins a large concrete wheel with his right foot and taking the lump of clay, he begins to create! The kids and I were oohing and aaahing as the bowls took shape.  He is truly a craftsman,

I've taken pottery lessons before and it's no easy thing to work on a wheel.  He created my four bowls (I asked for three but he made four, just in case one broke!) and carefully put them on that piece of plywood on his work space.  

He told us that he'd let it dry for a week and that we could return the next week to watch the next step.  We totally accepted that invitation.

He and his family carried many dried pieces and put them in this large brick oven that acts as his kiln.  Each piece was carefully placed on shelving and if you look closely,  you can see that it's loaded with different pieces.
Loading the big oven. He built this oven himself in 2012.
He said he would start a fire the next day early in the morning and keep it going for 17 hours.  We told him we'd return in a few days to pick up our finished bowls.

And here's the finished product.  Four lovely bowls, with holes in the bottom for the water to drain.  They currently sit outside, seeds planted in them, as we wait for chives, parsley, cilantro and basil to sprout.

My little planters.

And so that's your little Mango moment for the day. Tune in next time for a trip to Staples!