Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Happy New Year ! ! (final post of 2005)

Well our last post on Christmas Day indicated a house full of sickies!  Praise God for His healing power…we are all on the road to recovery (fortunately, Lael never has gotten any kind of ailment!!)  There are still lots of coughs and runny noses, but gone are the high fevers and extreme fatigue.  We had to postpone our vacation a day, but we leave in a few hours for several days at the beach to celebrate the coming of the new year.  It’s plenty hot and we are looking forward to the rest and relaxation.  Thanks to those special people who have helped us make this trip possible!  We’re a little sluggish, but I think the beach will perk everyone up some.  We will not have access to email or the internet while we are away, so this is our final post of 2005.  We hope to return to blogworld the first part of next week.  As I mentioned below, we’ll be celebrating our Jonathan’s one-year-old birthday next week.  We’re going to throw a bigger celebration later in January after our teammates return to Benin.  It’s more fun to party with friends!!

As this year comes to a close, we praise God for His faithfulness to our family.  He has provided financially for us in ways we could have never imagined…often through so many generous friends and family members.  We have lacked for nothing!  Thank you to the family at RHCC for their partnership and generous support as well.  We couldn’t do this without the incredible prayer support and amazing missionary care we receive from people at the Richland Hills Church of Christ.

The Kingdom continues to advance wider and deeper among the Aja people.  As we reflect back on the year, we remember the number of joys (births of new babies as well as new Christians).  As well, we grieve the passing of several Christians, notably the death of Lokadi, the wife of Ega and the mother of our Lael.  This time last year, we were joyfully anticipating the birth of Jonathan.  We could have never imagined that Lael would be joining our family as well in 2005.  What a joy!!

I’m thankful for my beautiful wife, Kelly, who holds this family together!  She is a treasure from heaven!!  An amazing woman intimately involved in celebrating the uniqueness of each of the children in our home, while pouring herself into the major task of homeschooling Tori.  As we minister Light to the Aja people, I know my ministry activities would not be near as numerous nor as effective if it weren’t for her perseverance and prayers.  I’m thankful as well for Tori, Timothy, Jonathan and Lael.  They are such gifts from the Lord as well!  

Celebrating the blessings of Jesus with each of you….Happy New Year!
Our Jonathan turns 1 next he is posing in his new Texas Rangers outfit he got for Christmas. He's walking around like crazy all over the house, applauding himself as he goes! Posted by Picasa

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Day

Our Christmas Day was fun in many ways.  However a cloud of sickness hangs over this house.  Never a fun time, especially on Christmas Day, to have your kids sick!  Jonathan still has a croupy cough, but seems a lot better than he did last week.  Timothy as well has wrestled the past several days with the same thing, but no fever today.  Praise God for that!  Still very irritable, not his fun self, and obviously still struggling a sore throat and nagging cough.  Tori is the one who loves Christmas the very most, yet has been the sickest today.  A high fever (like 102-103!) off and on…plus all the yucky stuff that keeps you near a bathroom…plus some light vomiting.  On Christmas!!??!!  Poor thing only had very small windows of time where she felt like she could enjoy the day.  As well, Kelly and I are both suffering with sinus problems and that makes for a rough day.  PLUS, the water has been back off today…from 7a until about 9p this evening!  Although not everyone had the normal appetite, we still enjoyed a brunch of cinnamon pancakes, homemade egg nog, and scrambled eggs.  Then tonight we had honey ham with cornbread dressing.  We even had bought some ice cream from the capital city the other day and it was frozen in our freezer awaiting consumption on Christmas Day…but no one felt like getting it out (that tells you the kind of day we had).  

We are praying for a better day tomorrow, especially with Tori.  It’s a day of rest and preparation as we are scheduled to go spend the rest of the week (including New Year’s Eve) on the beach.  We are really hoping for better health this week so we can enjoy our stay at the beach.  

It’s hard having a Christmas Day when sickness drags everyone down…I know many of you can relate to times like that…it’s hard and makes you miss home and family even more.  But we praise God for His amazing goodness and kindness shown to our family in 2005.  We have enjoyed an amazing amount of good quality family time this Christmas season.  For most of you who read this blog, we celebrate alongside of you as we worship our Jesus, our Savior and Friend!    

Merry Christmas!
The biggest thing Santa did this year for Tori was bring her a new bike! She's very excited!! Posted by Picasa
Timothy got a portable tool bench from Santa . . . he loves it! He is also into all of Dad's tools, especially the screwdrivers (can't find a one when I really need one). Lots of other fun stuff, too, not only from Santa but family as well! Posted by Picasa
Before she started feeling really bad, Tori enjoyed seeing all the gifts from Santa as well as gifts from family back home. Here she's holding some special ponies she got from her Nana.  Posted by Picasa
Tori and Timothy loved playing with the new cowboy gun set . . . Tori only thought she'd enjoy some of our homemade egg nog in peace . . . little did she know Timothy was still very much into the game (that's him with gun on the left!) Posted by Picasa
Lael enjoyed her presents too . . .  Posted by Picasa
Jonathan, feeling better after a couple of weeks of sore throat, fever and ear infections, was all smiles today (still coughing a little bit).  Posted by Picasa
Fellow missionaries, Josh & Virginia Hamm (and their cute little boy...also a Timothy) joined us on Christmas Eve for a pizza lunch and Christmas cookies. Tori loved being part of the action of making cookies! Posted by Picasa
Rolling out the dough . . . Posted by Picasa
Decorating Christmas cookies on Christmas Eve. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Tori poses with some gift sacks our family prepared for many of our neighbors. We distributed them this afternoon�greeted with lots of smiles from our friends!
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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Our dear friend, Ega (in yellow), had us over to his house for his annual year-end party. We usually exchange gifts for the kids. This year, we got a guinea fowl (below), some pineapples, and LOTS of great bananas! Tori poses with Jizelle, Mawu-way, and Azari. Most of our American visitors have shared a fellowship meal in Ega's home...even after his wife died back in July, Ega still desired to demonstrate hospitality and kindness to people in his home. We enjoyed some local food, lots of warm Coke, and enjoyed a leisurely 3-hour visit with one of our closest Aja friends. Posted by Picasa


Tori enjoyed the pineapple for dessert (Ega's oldest daughter thinks Tori is great!)  Posted by Picasa
Timothy had no problem taking Azari's new green ball and deciding it was his!  Posted by Picasa
Ega's son, Azari, was holding on tight to that new ball once Timo finally relinquished! Azari was named (by me) in honor of Abed-Nego's Hebrew name which means "the Lord helps." Posted by Picasa
Here's a classic "missionary kid" picture...we come into Ega's village for a year-end celebration and they start right off by killing a guinea fowl right in front of us...they asked me if I wanted to do it at home (it was part of his gift to us)...I thought about it for two seconds and said, "No, let's let that guy over their do it and my kid's will love to watch!" You can almost hear the "EWWWWWW!" coming from Tori's mouth! Posted by Picasa
Today was Tori's last school day of the year. She was so thrilled! We decided that she needed a class Christmas party, so earlier this morning, we brought in the entire family and all had a great time. Cupcakes with Christmas sprinkles was the big hit! Dad created a scavenger hunt around the classroom where Tori had to find all the different letters (with accompanying Christmas symbols) and spell a popular phrase thrown around a lot this time of year. I'll be the first one to acknowledge that on the first letter of the word "Christmas" (that's the "C" for those who are slow catching on) know, the first letter of CHRIST, the Reason for the Season.....well, look closely and you'll see I put on that letter the picture of Santa! A big "oops" from the missionary.
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I'm such a blessed man to have such a wonderful family!! If Lael, who was taking her morning nap at the time, had been in the picture, you'd be looking at 5 of my favorite people in all the world. I love being "Dad" in this family! Posted by Picasa
An annual Father-Daughter tradition in our family: I take a picture each year with my daughter, Tori, at Christmastime. Look closely and you'll see the one from 2004 in the background just over my shoulder. It's already fun to watch her grow into such a beautiful young girl! Posted by Picasa
Kelly and Lael: Two gorgeous gals! Posted by Picasa

My Least Favorite Thing: Evangelize a New Village

Last night, I did one of my least favorite things as a missionary:  evangelize a new village.  Before my elders fall off out of their chairs in shock, let me take the drama out of that statement for you.  Among my favorite tasks as a missionary include things like helping people who are in need of food or medicine, assisting some trusted believers in small business grants, gathering a group of believers in a small group setting and teaching them something new from the Word, preaching at church on Sunday mornings, or organizing a group for mission efforts to another people group…just to name a few.  So why would a missionary say that “evangelizing a new village” is his “least favorite thing to do?”  It’s totally selfish I admit, but I don’t like all the attention.  Now to those of who you who have visited Africa before, you know what it’s like to be STARED AT all the time.  Even in villages where I have worked for years, when the white man enters the village, I become a walking spectacle.  But at least in some of those places, the people know me by my name (not just “hey, white man!”), they already know I speak their language (rather than getting interrupted in my speech a thousand times because every other sentence is catcalled with “did you hear that? The white man speaks our language”…in other words, they miss the next few important words I had to say), and they don’t gawk at my Nike sandals or stare at my funny porcupine haircut (new villagers are NOT given permission to touch these prickly locks…I gotta know you a little bit before I’ll let you do that….yes, people do have this thing about my hair…???).  So it’s a bit dramatic to say I don’t enjoy evangelizing a new village.  Probably just shock value that perhaps made you read on this far (I married into a family who loves this charming communication technique).  I had a great time last night, for lots of reasons, even though for some of the selfish reasons listed above, it was not always pleasant.  I’m amazed all the time that God still permits me to serve as an ambassador of His Grace when I find myself so irritated at times with…people.  (

OK, the real story is that last night, I was part of a delegation of 5 men (representing two different congregations) whom God used to bring the first words of His Hope and His Love to people in darkness.  Three men from the church at Kaiteme (Justin, Senou and Ega for those who know these names) joined me for the 25 minute drive to Ainahoue (those villages are respectively pronounced:  “ky-uh-tim-ay” and “yee-na-way”).  There we picked up Mathias and Janvier.  We drove another couple of kilometers up the road to the village of Missebo (me-say-bo).  We arrived an hour before sundown.  We gathered under the large overhanging tree right next to a local carpenter hard at work.  At first, the crowd seemed smaller than I had anticipated, but we began anyway.  We went around the square and all of us “foreigners” introduced ourselves with a brief testimony about our history with the Lord.  It was amazing to here the stories of these 5 men.  God is good!  We then shared some time in song, even though it was only a few of us who knew the words to these Christian songs (am I’m even doing the “watermelon” thing on some lines that I still don’t understand).  As dark approached, one man left his place on the long wooden bench.  Moments later, he returned with a kerosene lantern and placed it in the center of the square on the hot red dirt.  The soft glow lit up the faces of those seated in the square, but it still remained pitch black dark all around us.  As more and more gathered around those of us sitting on the benches in a square, I could not see their faces; I could only hear their rumblings to know they were getting more and more numerous as the evening went on.  I really began to enjoy myself once the dark night concealed the Yovo among them and all attention was turned to whichever Aja brother was speaking.  I enjoyed it not simply because eyes weren’t all gaping at me, but because I had heard that still small voice of God reminding me, “step back, let them shine.”  This is a word I am hearing a lot lately.  Although still in its infancy as a mighty movement of God, He has already raised up some gifted Aja teachers, evangelists, preachers, and so many faithful silent servants.  Based on nearly 7 years experience, I knew that a lot of those Missebo people were there to simply meet the white guy, to hear the Yovo speak, to wonder what exciting financial project this American was going to announce.  I loved the evening because as each one of my African colleagues spoke, God was speaking through them in a powerful, dynamic way.  While I did speak to this group of more than 40 people for at least 30 minutes (I can get long-winded even in another language!), I was definitely not the main speaker.  I loved watching Mathias dramatically testify to so many of his peers and to the peers of his parents, both who lived their lives sold out to the veneration of voodoo gods and spirits.  He did not have to convince anybody that his transformation was by Christ’s power alone; they all knew the influences of his life and so many watched him grow up to be “a man of many evil acts done in secret; a corrupt man doing only what pleased himself” (his own words).  I loved watching Ega (Lael’s birth father) command the attention of everyone, not just because of his disability (crippled by polio), but because of his command of the Word and its proclamation!  It was a great evening!  Regardless of my shocking revelation at the beginning, it was an exhilarating night to watch God at work in the lives of those men with whom I invest so much of my time and energy.  I love seeing fruit in their lives, fruit that I am confident will last for generations!  The evangelization of Missebo has begun…pray with us that God’s Word will penetrate the arts of many people in that village!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

ANNUAL CHRISTMAS PARTY!!! Today we had the joy of celebrating Christmas
with some of our dearest friends here in Benin. LOUISE (far left) helps
cook for us two days a week; SOSSA (holding Timo) has worked for us for over
6 years doing anything and everything; LAURANCE (far right holding Jonathan)
helps in cleaning and child care 4 days a week; and of course our dear
friend EGA (yellow shirt). We have enjoyed this Christmas tradition since
we arrived in Benin...a time to bless those who bless us so much. It is fun
to share with them an American meal, as we have eaten many African meals in
their homes. Today, for dessert we had pineapple and white chocolate chip
cookies! We love the sweet fellowship and constant laughter. Although Timo
has been under the weather with a throat infection the past couple of days,
he's doing somewhat better and was able to participate some. Tori and
Laurance's daughter played hard all afternoon long. Kelly and I spent an
hour showing Sossa and Ega photos of family members from home. Not only are
they happy to see all of them (so many have been here to visit), but they
marvel at all the small details of each picture that are different than
things the backyard fence at Morton and Suzy's house in a
picture of our nephew Payton...people here don't have WOOD fences ("won't
the insects eat the wood?" they asked), but rather they have CONCRETE. So
even something as simple as a fence caught their attention. It is always
fun to watch Lael interact with Ega, her birth father. And Jonathan is
walking everywhere now, so just about every one of us was chasing him down
the hallway at some point. It was a great party...enjoy all the pictures!  Posted by Picasa
Two of our favorite Aja Christian brothers!!!! Ega and Sossa really enjoyed their meal today of spaghetti and garlic bread! NOTICE: displayed behind Sossa is some of Tori's Christmas artwork...they were equally impressed with her talent!! Posted by Picasa
Bensha & Tori Posted by Picasa
Laurance brought her daughter, Bensha. She and Tori had so much fun all day. Here, Tori gets to explain every part of Bensha's new present to her. Posted by Picasa
As we have every year, we give out gift bags filled with some of their favorite foods that they use for their January 1st celebration (pasta, tomatos, cookies, rice, candy, etc...) They were all so excited, saying, "we'll have a big party now!!" We also give each family some money which is always well received. Posted by Picasa