Emergency! – Update

4 09 2007

Good news on both fronts!

Ezra & Esther are doing well at the Tsiko hospital. The doctors are pleased with their progress and hope to be able to release them by the end of the week.

Rosaline, from Po Wayi, had the infection in her foot surgically removed on Saturday night. No need for amputation!!! (She did say, though, that the doctors were amazed at the size of the wound.) She is being cared for at a hospital here in Kara. She’ll be there is doing well. I visited her today and she looked better than I had seen her in some time.

Please continue to pray for these precious people and for God’s healing power to be a witness here in Kabiyeland.





Emergency!

2 09 2007

emergency_title_screen2.jpgRemember the late 70’s tv show Emergency!? I don’t remember all that much about about the show except that it was about paramedics and there were lots of sirens.

When I was little, I had an irrational fear of sirens. (I think some older kids in the neighborhood told me the sirens meant the police were coming to take me away.) So, I would run crying to my mom whenever I emergency1.jpgheard a siren, whether it was nearby or far off in the distance.

Anyways, my parents thought it would be a good idea for me to watch Emergency! so that I could learn that the people driving those vehicles with sirens were actually the good guys. Evidently it worked. I’m not afraid of sirens any more. In fact, I wish my truck was equipped with one.

It would have come in handy as I played the role of ambulance driver over the past two days….

On Friday, I took our day worker, Joseph, his wife and their preemie twins, Ezra (pictured here) and Esther to a mission hospital in Tsiko, Togo (a 4 hour drive). The twins were born here in Kara on August 17th at least 6 weeks early. They were released from the hospital lasttwins3_aug07-medium-web-view.jpg week on Tuesday, but they were taken a back in on Thursday. Esther was having trouble breathing and here heart rate had dropped precariously low.

God had providentially led us to ask Edith Friesen – an SIL missionary who lives in Kara and has experience working as a nurse in a neonatal ward – to help with the care of these babies. Edith noticed Esther’s complications during a house call and rushed her to the hospital. She also twisted arms (diplomatically of course) at the hospital until they gave Esther the care she really needed.

Once we realized that the twins weren’t going to get the best of care without our continous badgering, we decided to take them down to Tsiko where they’d be watched by American doctors and a more competent staff.

It was the right decision for sure. The looks of relief (and hope) that washed over Joseph and Germaine’s face as swarm of nurses placed the twins in a incubator, took their vitals and set up IVs told me so.

The twins are doing okay. Esther is being treated for malaria and Ezra may have it as well. They are eating well and are staying hydrated via the IV. They will remain in the hospital until their health improves and they make steady weight gain over a 4-5 day stretch. Please pray for these little ones, their parents and the medical staff at Tsiko. Thank the Lord for his providence which is working in their lives.

I drove home on Saturday morning and then headed out to Po Wayi – a good ways out in the Kabiye bush — in the afternoon. I went there to visit Rosaline, one of the Christians there who had a nasty infection in her foot. We had given her some antibiotics but after consulting with a doctor in the US, I decided that she needed to come to the hospital here in Kara to have the infection removed surgically.

Sadly, the infection had only gotten worse since I had last seen her. She now has a huge abscess in her heel and it appears that her skin is being eaten away. (No pictures. Trust me, you wouldn’t want to see them.) Myself and couple of other Christians visited with Rosaline and prayed for her while we sat and waited for her children to come in from the fields. Once they arrived, one of the men carried her piggy-back style to the truck so I transport her back to Kara. (Cue the siren…)

She was admitted into the hospital last night, but I do not yet know what has been done about the infection. I’m afraid that the infection may be so bad they will have to amputate her foot. Please pray that Rosaline will be healed completely and will be able to keep her foot.

Thank you for your prayers. I’ll do my best to keep you posted on these situations.





Designated Driver

21 08 2007

On May 27th, 2007, I had the most surreal village visit of my career as a missionary. It took place on a Sunday in the village of Legue Legue, which is about as far out in the Kabiye boonies as one can go. Now, the church in Legue meets for worship around 7am and since it is an hour and a half drive out there, I had planned to get up super early to leave by 5:30am. That plan failed, however, as I slept through the alarm and didn’t get on the road until 6:30. I hit the road rushed and tired, hoping that the coffee (and bumpy road) would eventually wake me up.

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With the late start, I debated whether I should even go or not since the worship service would probably be over by the time I arrived (which turned out to be the case). But, I knew it had been awhile since that church had had any visitors and I figured I could at least track down a few Christians at their homes (or their fields) and give them some encouragement. So I drove on, mildly optimistic about the morning’s possibilities. If only I had known…

At this point in my story, I’m going to skip ahead to what transpired on the drive home from Legue. The village visit itself is worth at least two posts and I’ll write those later.

When I started off for home, I had 3 more passengers in the car with me – two young girls and an older man. The girls were getting a ride to have their grain ground at the mill which was about 2 km away. The man – the father-in-law of one of the Legue Christians – was returning to his home village and was going to ride as far as Sanda Kagbangda (about a 50 minute drive from Legue).

In the small world that is Kabiyeland, I actually knew this man since I passed his house regularly on the way to another village I work in. I’d given him a couple of rides before and he and his sons helped to dig out my truck when it had gotten stuck near their place.

Still, when I saw him at Legue, I didn’t recognize him. (And he certainly didn’t recognize me!) You see, he was SO drunk his appearance had changed. It took me 3 or 4 double takes before I decided that, yes, I knew this guy.

So, off we went. Me driving, two young girls sitting in the back with their corn and the drunk old man (DOM) who didn’t know me (or himself?) from Adam riding shotgun. I had given the old man the seat of honor in the truck (an error in judgment I was soon to discover.)

When we arrived at the girls’ stop, I got out to help them unload their corn. DOM got out too. I thought he needed to take a leak, but when I got back behind the wheel, I realized he was thinking this was his stop too. It took a little bit of explaining, but I was able to convince him that this wasn’t his stop and get him back in the car. We forged on.

Not 5 minutes later, DOM asked me (in Kabiye), “Where are we going?”

“We’re going to Kagbangda” I replied.

“This isn’t the road to Kagbangda,” he said. He seemed genuinely confused and concerned.

Trying to keep him calm I said evenly, “This is the way to Kagbangda. In fact, it’s the only way to Kagbangda by car. You probably came to Legue a different way because you were on a moto.” But that didn’t seem to ease his concern.

“This is not the way to Kagbangda! I want out of this car!” he exclaimed while trying to open the door by pulling on the window crank.

At this, I quickly reached across him and locked his door, thinking that his inexperience in riding in cars and drunken stupor would keep him from successfully unlocking the door, opening it and flinging himself out of the truck as it bounced along the road (we were on an extremely rough stretch of road, by the way). Thankfully, I was right about that, but I wasn’t out of the woods yet.

I kept trying to reassure him that I knew where I was going and that he was going to have to trust me. He calmed down (or forgot where he was and what he was doing – I’m not sure) and I breathed a sigh of relief. I did not want leave DOM alone to try to find his way home through the Kabiye boonies (think occasional cultivated fields and small villages sprinkled within a jungle) while he was drunk, alone and on foot!

Well, after 5 minutes of uneasy silence, DOM grabs the door handle (by chance, I think) and states, “I want out of this car. This is not the road to Kagbangda!”

Oh boy. Here we go again!” I thought. “Good think I locked that door!

I tried to calm him down again, but this time DOM wasn’t having it. As we had turned onto another, less bumpy dirt road, he continued to yell, “Let me out of this car! What are you doing to me?!”

“Help me!” he yelled at another car which was approaching us from opposite direction. “This white man won’t let me out” Then, DOM reached over and grabbed the steering wheel and proclaimed, “I’m going to wreck this truck!”

Acting quickly, I was able to stop the truck before it ran into the trees on the left. Then, deciding that I needed some help, I began to signal to the other car to stop by waving my arm up and down out of the window. (This is the universal signal for “stop” in W. Africa.) The car slowed but kept on rolling past us. Everyone in the car had a confused look on their face.

I quickly hopped out the car and kept signaling to the car to stop for us. I could tell that they were conflicted because the car slowed, accelerated and then slowed again. I could just hear them saying, “Should we stop or not?” “Yeah, lets stop.” “Okay, but what if he is a serial killer?” “You’re right! Keep going!” “Naah, let’s stop and see what is going on.”

When I saw they had stopped and were getting out of the car, I let DOM out of the truck (I didn’t trust him in there alone!) and then went to meet the 3 men who’d finally stopped to help, or at least satisfy their curiosity. Thankfully, they all spoke Kabiye and I was able to quickly explain to two of them the situation, while the third guy took on the task of deciphering DOM’s slurred speech.

I asked them what I should do with DOM, they quickly responded, “Leave him.” I really didn’t want to do that, and started asking them about the appropriateness of that action. They explained that someone would take him in until he sobered up enough to walk home and that I shouldn’t have to deal with this.

While I was getting this advice, the third guy who was talking with DOM, interjected “HE GRABBED YOUR STEERING WHEEL?!” That pretty much solidified the idea in my advisors’ heads that I should leave DOM to fend for himself and I resigned myself to leaving him behind.

But as I was leaving, DOM asked the men if the road we were on went to Kagbangda. They explained to him that it did and that I was trying to do a nice thing for him. After some more explaining (and repeating) DOM seemed convinced that I was going the right way and he announced that I was going to take him home. Great!

We went back to the car. This time I put DOM in the back seat and made sure that the child safety locks were activated on both back doors. (If I had had a chain link partition to put up between the front and back handy, I would have put that up too!)

Over the next 20 minutes on that road, we had the “Is this the way to Kagbangda?” discussion about 3 or 4 times. A couple of those times DOM tried to open the door. Thank goodness for those drunken old men locks!

Then, just before we came to the paved road which would take us to Kagbangda. DOM saw some women carrying wood into town and started shouting at them (and me) “Let me out of this truck! Where are you taking me?!”

Frustrated and tired of trying to reason with a man incapable of reasoning, I stopped the car and let DOM get out. Then I got back in the car. DOM was on his own now. Still, I paused as I watched DOM go over and talk to the women.

They chatted for awhile and then, sure enough, the women came to talk to me. “Sir, please take this man to Kagbangda,” they pleaded. “It isn’t that far.”

“That’s what I’m trying to do!” I said as I got out of the car to let DOM back in to his secured backseat position.

Then, as DOM was getting back into the car I asked him, “Do you know who I am?” No answer.

I continued, “Do you remember when a white man’s truck got stuck in the road near your house during a big rainstorm and he had to leave it overnight and the next day you and your sons help dig the truck out of the mud?”

“Yes,” he said. “That’s the missionary who goes to Po Wayi.”

“Well,” I said, “I AM that missionary! THIS is that truck! You have got to trust me. I am taking you to Kagbangda!”

“Oh,” DOM replied and we continued on our way.

Thankfully, DOM didn’t have any more “episodes” the rest of the way. The only thing I remember him saying was when were getting closer to our destination – probably about 20 km. outside of Kagbangda – he exclaimed, “Okay! Now I know where we are going! This is the road to Kagbangda! Thank you!” Finally, he sees the light!

We arrived at Kagbangda and he thanked me profusely for giving him a ride. I was little worried that he still might not be able to find his way home. But, as it turned out, he made it just fine. (I saw him on my way to Po Wayi a few weeks later and he gave me a big smile and a wave.)

As I pulled away and headed for home, I just smiled, shook my head and thought, “Who knew ‘designated driver’ was the role the Lord wanted me to fill today.”

All in a day’s work!





The Parable of the Naked Cyclist

16 11 2006

I don’t think anyone will complain about there being no pictures with this post…

And the teacher told them this story: “One day a man was visited by his neighbor who had come to see if he could borrow the man’s bicycle. The neighbor had an important purchase to make in the market of a larger village that was some miles away and was hoping to cut the time of the trip from 3 hours to 1 hour.

“After greeting the man, the neighbor said to him, ‘Friend, I would like to ask to borrow your bicycle. I have an important errand to run in town and would like to get back before dark. May I use your bike?’

“The man was more than willing to lend his bicycle to his neighbor, but he couldn’t help but notice that his visitor had absolutely no clothing on. So he said to the neighbor, ‘Of course you can borrow my bicycle. But, tell me, you do plan to put some clothes on before you head to the market, don’t you?’

“The neighbor shook his head and replied, ‘Well, I don’t have any clothes to put on. I’m going to market just as you see me.’”

Then the teacher asked them, “What would you do if you were this man? Would you lend your neighbor your bicycle and let him go his way, naked?”

“No,” many of them replied. “We would give him some clothes first.”

“But he did not ask for clothes, he asked to borrow the bike,” said the teacher. “Why would you give him clothes instead?”

And they answered, “We would give him the clothes because the clothes are more important.”

Then the teacher asked them another question, “Is this neighbor wise or foolish?”

“He is foolish,” they replied, almost in unison.

“You are correct,” the teacher said. “He is foolish because did not ask for what he needed the most and instead set out to something that would bring shame to himself, his family and his village.”

“But, you see,” the teacher continued. “This is exactly what most of us do when we come to before God to ask Him for help. We stand there and ask Him for all kinds of things which are good and legitimate needs (like the bicycle), but they are not what we are most desperately in need of!

“We ask God to heal the sick. We ask Him to help us evangelize our friends and family. We ask Him spread His Kingdom throughout the world. We ask Him to help us start up new ministries which will bless the poor. We even ask Him to make us better people.

“But if we seek to do these things without that which is most important, we are like the man who planned to ride his bicycle to the market, naked.”

“What we really should be asking for, what we really need more than anything, what we need to have before we can think about doing anything else is this…

“a living, intimate knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ.”

And this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent – John 17:3

Lord, help us to truly know you before all other things.. Amen.





Prayer Walk

1 05 2006

A few weeks ago, during the Kabiye “All-Church Retreat”, I had what is to date, the most exciting and inspiring experience of my short missionary career. It came during the time we split up into small groups and went on a prayer walk. The group I was in consisted of three men, 2 women and 2 teenage girls.

During the prayer walk, we moved between different stations and were led in prayer at each station by a different Kabiye church leader. We prayed prayers of praise to God, out loud, one by one. We also prayed quietly together for the spread of God’s Kingdom in Kabiyeland.

At one station, the leader gave us a great word of encouragement followed by a short prayer. At another, we shared personal prayer requests which were then prayed over. We prayed for spiritual strength and protection, for the defeat of Satan and for the healing of the sick. We also prayed for unity. We prayed.

It struck me during this prayer walk, as I prayed with these Kabiye brothers and sisters, that each of them was from a different Kabiye church. What’s more, none of the churches represented had been planted solely by any of the missionaries. (Each work involved other Kabiye Christians and at least two of the churches were planted by the Kabiye Christians themselves.)

I was amazed, humbled and greatly encouraged all at the same time. The amazement came from the fact that it was even possible to put together such a relatively large and diversified group of Christians at this stage in the Kabiye work. (The 7 other prayer walk groups were just as big and varied.) I could hardly believe it was true. It seemed more like a dream.

(It is a little embarrassing to confess that while I’ve talked and dreamed of ‘bringing the Kabiye to Christ’, I don’t think I ever had a true vision – or idea – of what that would actually look like. Finally, I had caught a glimpse. It was awesome!)

How humbling it is to think that God was using imperfect, fragile beings like myself and my teammates to help this movement grow! Every day, I realize a bit more how little I know and how much bigger this work is than ourselves. Yet, God is really moving and working; turning our baby steps of faith into leaps and bounds of glory. Amazing!

Overall, I couldn’t help be encouraged to see these brothers and sisters – complete strangers to each other, and Christ, a few short years or months before – united in prayer before the One Lord and Savior. They have come so far in so little time. Imagine what all of this will look like 5, 10, 50, 100 years from now!

Who knows if you’ll ever be able to participate in something like this in Kabiyeland yourself. I hope so. But if not, don’t be too disappointed, I’m guessing you’ll get to share plenty of amazing, humbling and exciting times such as these (and many, many more) with our Kabiye brothers and sisters in heaven.





Total Eclipse

1 04 2006

Last Wednesday (Mar. 29th), our little corner of the world was treated to a rare sight – a total solar eclipse.

I took this picture while I was in Tabligbo (southern Togo) after having picked up our good friend and mentor, Mark Berryman who had come for a visit. Up in Kara, the eclipse wasn’t quite a total one, but Tracey and the boys still enjoyed what they saw (through special UV blocking glasses of course!)

Unfortunately, the vast majority of the Togolese people didn’t see any of it. Just about everyone was shut in their houses for fear that they would go blind if they went out during the eclipse. When we went out at 8am, the streets which are normally teeming with activity at that time, were completely deserted. Apparently, the government went a bit overboard in warning people not to stare at the eclipse.

Later in the week, I learned that the Kabiye word for an eclipse (solar or lunar) is alikiesso, which has the transliterated meaning – “Who is swallowing God?”

Now the Kabiye don’t believe that the sun is God, but they do recognize that God is the one who oversees the heavens. So, the word reflects a belief that something must not be right with God if the sun (or moon) is being covered up.

Mark pointed out that this idea may help to bring deeper meaning to the Kabiye understanding of the crucifixion and the darkness which covered the earth at our Lord’s death. Sounds like it will preach to me!





World Water Day

22 03 2006

Today is World Water Day, which was created to raise awareness of the world water crisis . As residents of one of the many sub-Saharan countries which are feeling the brunt of this crisis, Tracey and I are aware of the great need for clean, potable, easily accessible water.

Right now, our region is in the middle of the annual 5-6 month dry season and is not uncommon to see ladies walking well over a kilometer to get water out of a stagnent, muddy water-hole or creek bed. (This water is then used for bathing, washing and even cooking!)

Tracey has been led begin researching how we might be able to bless the Kabiye people with clean water through the digging of wells. We are hoping and praying that we will find a suitable course of action soon. Giving water to a village would be a tremendous life-giving blessing and could open doors for people to hear about the One who gives spiritual thirst-quenching water.

Please join us in praying for direction in this area. Also, if you have any helpful suggestions or leads, feel free to share them. Follow the link provided above and get yourself involved in helping the 1.1 billion of people who don’t have access to safe drinking water.