Saturday, July 30, 2005

Rather Be Home

Some days I’d just rather be home. Like today. I’d rather be serving the Lord in a place where I, for the most part, understand the culture, know how to speak to emotions and deep thought processes of my own culture, and am surrounded by a host of friends and family who can love and encourage me when times are hard. Today, to be honest, I’d rather be home.

I suspect my depressive thoughts stem from my own grief over the events of these past couple of weeks. Walking through the toil of death with a dear friend is hard because you feel so helpless and it seems like a lack of words is a deficiency of ministry ability. I know it’s not; in reality, the best ministry, in times like these, is just sitting next to a friend and weep with those who are weeping. I know that…I guess my heart hurts so much that my friend can’t hear more of the thousands of thoughts I have had about him and his difficult circumstances.

In addition, I have been so disheartened, frustrated, angered, and saddened by insights I have understood about the worldview of the Aja people, even many believers. I know this is where anthropological insights are helpful, but having insights into another culture’s worldview, and understanding it are two different things.

The Aja people, in my opinion, are so fear oriented. Yes, it causes me to have compassion on them and is really one of the reasons it was so exciting to come and share the liberating news of hope with them over 6 years ago. But candidly, their residual fear of evil spirits, curses, ancestral demons, and even fear of one another (jealousy)…well it’s just too much…I’m so tired of it! Makes me sick, frustrated, and so tired of watching them live the way they do.

So I need to vent. You have to know that, in the majority of my thoughts, I remain compassionate, caring, and sympathetic to their plight against the evil one. I will persevere in these difficult times, offering words of hope, sitting with those who mourn, and I will continue to engage those in conversation who are trying their best to make sense of a world filled with difficult things like death. I am committed to sharing the good words of Jesus with people who are so young in their faith and are simply wrestling how to make this Christian faith seem real in such intense moments of emotion. Not too much unlike us I guess.

Jesus confronts our worldview. Always has. The Spirit leads us and guides us to conviction, yet our flesh grapples with trying to wear the old rags.

I mean it when I express my appreciation for those of you who have written comments on this blog or emailed your encouragement. I express my thoughts candidly on this blog so as not to make anything appear as it is not. It’s hard being a missionary. Don’t feel cut out for it some days. Yeh, I’d rather be home. Soon, I’ll return to rather being here. Just bear with me.

- R

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Update on Ega

Tonight, I got to spend a few hours with Ega at his home. He is grieving appropriately, eyes filled with tears yet holding back trying to be strong. Life goes on around his village like normal. That’s hard when you know the world has come to a complete halt for one of your closest friends. It’s hard to have any words. We cried some, especially when I told Ega about all the emails people have been sending us with condolences. He knows many Americans, but it was especially difficult because the relationship he has with so many of our family members and friends is based on meals that Lokadi would serve us in his home. She was a hospitable woman and brought great joy to Ega. He misses her so very much.

I talked with Ega about when we would announce the name. He asked for a private occasion rather than one in front of the entire church. We’ll probably do that in the next week or so. Again, I know it’s hard for him to think about doing that without the baby’s mother by his side. Baby Lael is doing well, struggling with stuffy nose. There has been a surrogate for nursing the baby, but found out today that she is not able to continue. She lives here alone with her newborn daughter, but her husband lives in Togo (just west of Benin). She is one of multiple wives but she must go and see him for about a month or longer starting some time in August. So now Ega must choose someone else. Just this morning, another lady came forward offering to help. Though a good friend of his, she is not a Christian, and that bothers Ega because, as he told me, “it’s important for that baby to go to church.” We have offered formula and they are supplementing that throughout the day. Lael seems strong and healthy. Tori saw her this afternoon and came back and exclaimed, “Mom, that baby is gorgeous!”

Speaking of our little ToriBug, she finished her last day of Kindergarten today! She is reading well and is excited about vacation! She is ready for 1st grade….Timothy has had a growth spurt and decided with that to intensify his attempts at challenging our discipline!!! Jonathan is 7 months next week and defying all clothing labels (who says a 6-month-old can't wear a 2T like a glove!) All three are sleeping through the night and in the same room. Quite fun at bedtime!

Thank you for your emails and your comments on these postings. They do encourage us so much!


Monday, July 25, 2005

Day of Burial for Lokadi

We had a long exhausting day. Kelly and the kids (along with teammates, the Prices, as well as our visiting friends, the Glovers) all showed up around 7:30a to begin the day's events. This was the Christian "church service" even though it was conducted in an open air format outside Ega's mud hut (shaded by a tarp). Typical of Africa, things didn't actually start until well after 9a but it was good just to be there and be present with Ega and his family and friends who are so crushed by Lokadi's death. I remember someone once saying that people will likely never remember many of your sermons, but they will never forget the hours you sat with them after a loved one died.

A somber service included prayers, songs, and I gave a short message. This is one of the hardest things to do...eulogize a dear friend's wife in a language that is still so unfamiliar to me. I want so bad to speak words of true intimiate friendship and deep emotions of pain/loss/grief, but I still found myself repeating familiar phrases. However, the Lord does work through those words, and I believe that Ega and his family were ministered today by the Word of God.

I was also asked to transfer the casket (made locally out of mahogany; cost=$80) from Ega's village to the home village of Lokadi (about 5 miles away). Wish you could have seen the sight. My white 4-door Toyota LandCruiser topped off with a mahagony casket strapped down to the luggage rack (with stretch bungee cords), while hoards of family and friends danced and sang songs of mourning as we inched along this long dusty road toward Lokadi's home village. Ega was not in the car with me, but we did have his 3 older kids with us in the front seat. My heart breaks every time I see one of them.

Lokadi was the only Christian in her family. We completed the Christian service Ega requested, but the body belongs to her family so we watched from a distance as they danced, drummed, and sang songs not of our God. They were not hostile to us, however. Even as we requested, they were kind to allow a number of us to stand next to hole where the casket would be buried. Here in Benin, especially out here in the deep village, people are buried inside someone's mud hut (no communal cemeteries exist). So about 20 of us piled into this 10x10 room and sang songs, prayed, and heard brief words of encouragement from the Word of God. At the time of putting the casket into the hole, two men jumped down into the hole and the other "palbearers" (they don't use that term here) lowered the casket to them who set it in place in the hole dug about 6 ft deep. Lokadi's older sister was asked to grab a shovel and push in 3 scoops of dirt on top of the casket. Then the hard part was asking Ega's oldest daughter (Jizelle, 11) to do the same. Gut-wrenching. I was asked to be the third person to shovel. Once finished, we left. Ega had arrived, but was not permitted witness to the lowering of the casket into the ground. People around here say that often times, in states of drunkenness, the pagans will shout insults at the surviving spouse (i.e., "you should have done more," or "if we had never given her in marriage to you, then she'd be alive today.") So insensitive. So they kept Ega at a distance, inside the hut of one of Lokadi's uncles (her parents both passed away years ago).

It was a great Christian witness was so good to stand beside many of my Christian brothers and sisters and watch them minister to Ega. Many wept with him. Many prayed for him. Many just sat and stared at the ground with him (that was me). An offering was taken up and that little bit was probably a huge blessing to a man who is in great need. I was proud to watch them work through some idiosyncrasies of discerning appropriate practices. It is difficult to walk through this with them, because I myself am an outsider. But each family has their traditions (albeit most likely created by pagan ancestors) and some of those traditions are still carried on by Christians, just not in the same way. In Ega's clan, they kill a goat, take two drops of its blood, putting one drop on each side of the casket. They say it is a sign of their clan. To other Christians from different clans, this is disturbingly too close to what the pagans might do (who would offer the goat as a sacrifice to an idol; Ega said in his case, it was to be killed and then eaten, while only taken a little bit of the blood to make the family's insignia, that's it). It was quite a feud trying to navigate that one. At hearing the Christians begin to balk at this, some of Lokadi's family began to threaten Ega and say that if he didn't allow it, then they could not take the body and that he would have to figure out where to bury it. Alot more complicated than I am making it sound. God helped us and in the end, no blood was used at all. We had agreed to make sure no Christians in their family were partcipating, while leaving them to do whatever they wanted. In the end, it was healthy for the Christians to wrestle through things like this. How to bury someone? What's the proper way to marry someone? What's the biblical way of presenting a child to the world? Discerning what pleases God in intense emotional moments like these are difficult for new believers (and the missionary as well).

Ega is doing OK, as best as can be expected. I believe the Kaiteme church (and others too) have rallied to him during this time of need. The baby Lael is doing well, too. Ega has chosen another nursing mother in a nearby village (interestingly named Lokadi as well, although they did not choose her because of her name) to help nurse the newborn baby girl. Kelly saw Lael today and said she looks good and healthy. Formula is another option here (although most women in the villages nurse; in their minds, formula's not as good and MUCH more expensive). Lael is well and is being well taken care of.

Thanks everyone for your comments and emails. Your comments are automatically emailed to me so it's nice to get notice every time once is posted on the blog. Your words give us strength, as well as your generosity.

- R

Sunday, July 24, 2005

To Die is Gain

I share with you the sad news that our dear friend, Ega, is grieving the death of his wife, Lokadi. After a week of mighty miracles, some complications from the C-section last Monday were too much for her body. As of 8pm, yestersday (Sat), she received the promise of her imperishable body (1 Cor 15).

Philippians 1.21 is Lokadi's cry of victory: To live is Christ, and to Die is Gain. She is a Victor.

Our day has been filled with tears, not just ours, but the flood of tears from Ega, his small children, and the many friends and relatives. We were reminded of Psalm 56.8:

"Record my lament, list my tears on your scroll..."

Actually the footnote in my Bible says the original language is more like "put my tears in your wineskin." The jars of heaven are overflowing tonight. Today is a day of mourning.

Tomorrow morning, we will bury the body of Lokadi. More tears will be shed. I hope to offer words of comfort, hope, life, and the promise of the resurrection.

There is a time to weep and a time to mourn. We are in that season. Pray that the God of all Comfort will be at Ega's side, especially tonight and in the coming days.


Thursday, July 21, 2005

Ega's Baby: The Story PART 1

I arrived Sunday afternoon (7/17/05) to pick up Ega (ay-gah) and a few other men to go out to a new village where we have been preaching the gospel (Gbotayidohoue, or “bow-tie” as I call it). It’s an exciting place and we feel like God’s going to raise up a new congregation there within the next month. I knew Ega would be eager to go, serving as the leader of this evangelism team. Men from Kaiteme (ky-uh-tim-ay) and Dandihoue (donny-way) round out the squad. Upon arriving, I knew something was up when Ega immediately asked to speak with me privately. I learned that his wife, Lokadi (loh-kah-dee) had started going into labor earlier in the morning. Because of his polio disability, as he has done with his other kids, Ega sent his wife on to the nearby “clinic” on a motorcycle taxi and a brother followed them out there. The brother came and went throughout the morning and early afternoon with reports. When I was talking with Ega, he had just received word that the attendee at the clinic wanted to see Ega himself, an indication, Ega presumed, of something wrong. Committed to this evangelistic meeting, I could not convince Ega to abandon the meeting immediately to attend to his wife at the clinic. Rather, he suggested that God would take care of her until after the meeting when we could go and see her (trying arguing with that). We had a super meeting, a lot of excitement and an enthusiastic reaction to the story of Daniel and the lions, and Ega shared with everyone there that his wife was in labor (most of us Americans are probably shouting, “how insensitive, go be with your wife!”) Upon conclusion, I drove to Dandihoue and dropped off the men and woman from that village. Knowing our path, Ega’s brother, though, had about an hour earlier ran by and told people there to inform Ega that the problem was beyond their capacity at the village clinic. As we heard this troubling news, we immediately re-routed and the remaining of us headed straight for the principal hospital in the region where Lokadi had been transported (no ambulances at that “clinic”; so they again, in full contractions, mounted this overdue pregnant woman on the back of a motorcycle to transfer her over 15 miles, on a bumpy dirt road to the hospital in Azove (ah-zoe-vay)!

The Dad-Delegation arrived two hours later where we immediately heard the harrowing news that the baby’s head was too big for her to deliver naturally…only by C-section. Having been through 3 of these at the aggressively sterile Harris Methodist in downtown Fort Worth, I knew C-sections here were not the commonplace procedures I had witnessed when my kids were born. I knew here, just as it had been years ago in America, this was a serious situation and that the operation would be very risky. But absolutely necessary according to the nurses in Azove. Normally within their capacity to perform, there were no doctors on call that weekend night that could be reached. While they would be in on Monday morning, it was apparent that this could not wait. Ega was overwhelmed. Trying his hardest to remain strong, Ega began to weep, an emotion rarely expressed by Aja men in public. Several of us knelt to the tile floor to comfort him and assure him of God’s power to protect his wife and the baby. I knew, too, that although it wasn’t foremost, he was thinking of the cost of the operation. With health insurance an unfathomable reality to this man, and facing a costly procedure that might normally take weeks to get the money for (borrowing from every friend or relative he could find, getting small change everywhere he’d go), I assured Ega that I would help him. He had saved up some money to take care of the costs of a normal delivery, but the equivalent of $400 or more was suffocating and overwhelming at that moment (think: Aja person lives on $1/day; imagine any of us being asked to pay CASH immediately for an operation that costs, for example, the equivalent to your annual income). After regaining composure, Ega talked with the Azove nurses and all the transfer paperwork and a glucose serum was bought to help her make the next move, another 45 minutes away. The nurse offered the Azove ambulance, but it would cost about $20, a huge expense for anyone in this country, much less someone already facing tremendous expenses. One of the other men in our group asked if a personal chauffeur could be used…upon hearing this, I knew I was being summoned to drive. After verifying that the “ambulance” they were offering was not equipped with any life-saving device or personnel, I agreed to be the driver. Some of our group needed to be dropped back off, because I knew I was at the debut of a long evening. As Ega rallied things together for the departure, I sped away dropping off several of the men back at their house. Knowing the hospital staff was working on Africa time (no rush, even in emergencies), I ran by my own house to gather essentials like money and bottled water (knowing from previous experience that drinkable water is not available). Backing up the truck to the door nearest Lokadi, she and Ega’s mother climbed in the back (this is an enclosed 4WD LandCruiser; don’t think I put her in the open bed of a pickup truck!) Ega was lifted up to the front seat next to me, and 5 other men along with Ega’s sister all piled in to start the long journey to Abomey (ah-boe-may). As we were pulling out, I confirmed that someone in the truck knew the location of this hospital and all I could hear was what I thought was affirmation. The nurse then gave me quick instructions that I felt would be helpful to match up with what the others might know (later on, as we were pulling into the city of Abomey, upon my inquiry, I realized that no one in the car had ever even been to Abomey…glad I had asked…and with the little instructions from the nurse and a faint memory of seeing this hospital once, we made it).

The drive was LOOONNNNNGGGG, as I guess anyone who has driven a pregnant woman with intense contractions might know. But under the seriousness of the impending operations, Ega winced each time his wife wailed with excruciating pains (not to mention her cries, “Ega, I’m going to die! Lord this is it!”) However, the angel of speed (!) guided us along the dark paved highway (no street lights) allowing us to reach the hospital in record time (not without a few inevitable craterous potholes…not fun for the woman in the backseat!)

Following another car drive into the maternity drop-off about 9:30p, we quickly realized we (she) were going to be second in line. The waiting game was slow and did nothing to calm anyone’s nerves. Who knows how many prayers were prayed silently, publicly, or even across the world (thanks to cell phone updates to Kelly who then emailed requests to America)! God was at work. I was comforted though upon examining the externals of the facilities at the Abomey hospital, much more groomed than the one in Azove, and vast in size. Even as the night evolved past midnight, God opened the mouth of a born-again Catholic security guard who gave Ega (and me!) assurance that the experienced doctors there performed C-sections routinely every day. Lokadi had been given some kind of injection (maybe epidural?) and she was no longer howling in agony.

But the operation would not be for another couple of hours still … just waiting ....

Ega's Baby: The Story PART 2

With no appetite, Ega stayed alone while the other men wanted a ride into town for a bite to eat (although well after midnight, it was market day in Abomey and the town was still bustling with energy). Upon our return, Ega informed us that Lokadi had just been taken to the operating room.

OBSERVATION: although a much more modern facility, I couldn’t help but quietly chuckle as I soon realized that although sterility was a priority, sometimes your facility just does not permit what we might expect in America. Within five minutes, we saw how another patient was transferred from the maternity ward to the operation room. OUTISDE! No connecting hallways necessitate the exterior passage along the sidewalk to the operating room on the other side of the hospital campus (probably 200 yards away). Just a humorous observation from a modern American point of view.

At some point, the security guard, who was not around when we returned from town, rode in on his bicycle with a blue plastic bowl with a lid. Ega thanked the generous man for his effort and just said that the nurse came out and told him to go get one in the market. Later we would find out why (some of you already can guess).

I couldn’t sit down much, eager to hear some faint baby cry somewhere coming from the operating room building. I prayer-walked around that building so many times, eagerly anticipating some news very soon. Throughout the waiting game, a nurse would from time to time walk out with a yellow piece of paper with a list of supplies or medicines necessary at that very moment. Here, you are NOT billed afterward, but rather each medicine or supply is purchased upfront at the hospital pharmacy upon request. Many trips to the pharmacy and then to the cashier window to pay. Finally a nurse, with evidence on his white smock of a perhaps completed operation, called for the blue bowl. Ega quickly turned it over to Ferdinand, a brother in Christ, who I then followed to see what they were going to do with it. I could see the nurse and Ferdinand talking through the open window (sterility is relative) and then I got a good view of the necessity of the blue bowl with its blue lid. The placenta.

Either not having the means for proper disposal, or more likely respecting the wishes of each family or clan’s desire to depose of the placenta according to their tradition, the hospital allows the family to take home the placenta! I found myself staring as they transferred it from the operating room basin to this simple blue plastic bowl with a lid (thank goodness for the lid). Later, it was given to Ega who simply put it on the floor next to where he was sitting. Obviously this overly-hygienic American was the only one a little squeamish about this whole thing (I’ve since heard many people in America do this same thing….sorry, it never occurred to me to ask for it).

A while later, I asked one of the other men what they were going to do with the placenta. “We’ll take it home later” (meaning, IN MY CAR!) According to traditional pagan ceremony, the placenta is sealed in a glass jar, then buried a few feet underground at the entrance to either the house or the mother’s room. This is supposed to ward off evil spirits. Ega confirmed to me that while he didn’t need to bury it for such protection, he would maintain it in a glass jar (see-through, mind you) for at least a year until “it breaks down and becomes like sand” (his description) at which time they would depose of it properly in the ground (he said if they put it in the ground now, dogs would come around and dig it up). Lovely thought.

OK, back to the night at hand. Somewhere around 2am, when Ferdinand exited with the placenta in the blue plastic bowl, I asked, “so, is it a boy or a girl?” He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Oh, I don’t know, should I ask?” I gave him my American “of course!” look and he later returned with the surgeon himself. The surgeon, I guess not wanting to tell this young single man the news, came out and took one look at me, and rather puzzled asked, “is this the father?” Then half-joking asked, “oh, the future husband?” I knew then it must be a girl!! We ran back and told Ega who was probably honestly more concerned about the health of his wife than about the sex of the child. You could see the burden flee and Ega’s famous smile returned in an instant!

The next day, Ega told me that after the surgery, Lokadi remained in the operating facility recovery room. Puzzled as well by what I already knew, I said, “Yes, I knew that.” He proceeded to thank me for what I did. “Ega, what did I do?” Then he said, “I was talking with the surgeon later on after you left, and he inquired about the white man who was walking around the operation room building during the operation. I told him you were our missionary and that you were probably praying. He told me he was a believer and was impressed that you would be there in the middle of the night to help a poor man like me. Because of you, Randy, he said, rather than sending Lokadi to the normal recovery room, she got to stay in the one that is reserved for the rich people…it was even air-conditioned!” He was so happy and thrilled about that and I couldn’t help but thank God and laugh at the same time.

An hour or so after the surgery was complete, we got our first glimpse of this precious BIG baby girl (a little over 8 lbs). Ega, who was now the one cracking jokes, said, “I think we should give her the name, “big headed girl.” Our whole group prayed so much, giving thanks to God for showing Himself faithful in a time of intense crisis. To see the healthy girl before our eyes, we were witnessing the power of God. Ega wished us well as we loaded into the car about 6 o’clock (we had been ready to go about 4:30a, but we were warned that bandits were infamous for stalking the highway between Abomey and home). It was an exhausting evening and long night, but as I write this several days later, I ponder God’s provision for such a dear friend like Ega. While he had some money saved, what if we hadn’t been here in Benin at this time in our lives? Or what if I had refused or even said I didn’t have enough to take care of the bill? Even the night we were there, we heard of a woman who had come whose husband or family didn’t have the money (the nurse confirmed that the lady later died). Sobering. Humbling. Amazing.

Having named Ega’s son born a few years ago, he had already asked us weeks ago to consider a name for this child. Kelly I think has got a good one (we won’t announce it to Ega for several weeks until an official naming ceremony is performed). It is Tori’s middle name, Lael (lay-el). A named mentioned in the Bible (Nu 3.24), its Hebrew meaning is “belonging to God.” I think it is a perfect name for this child born by obvious miraculous intervention of God’s mighty hand.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Ega's wife, Lokadi, had her baby...a little girl! Born around 2am on Monday, July 18! Story still to come....... P.S. - Kelly and I have the honor of naming the baby....but in this culture, they are content with calling her "bebe" (French) or "evi" (eh-vee in Aja) until the official baby dedication...most likely not for another couple of weeks...we'll probably reveal the name here before that....but not yet! Keeping up the suspense.....
Posted by Picasa

Here's baby with Dad....Ega is so happy. Lokadi is doing well, just exhausted and recovering from the C-section. NO, that is NOT Lokadi holding the baby...rather a relative of Ega's...poor worn-out Lokadi is drugged up on the FLAT bed behind Ega (not a mechanical bed like at Harris Methodist downtown Fort it's flat and stiff!!) Word is that she'll be in the hospital until early next week. Posted by Picasa

A little over 8 lbs! This was taken this afternoon...myself and several others of Ega's family and friends spent the good part of today at the hospital. Posted by Picasa

Friday, July 15, 2005

Hair Gel Predicament

The other day, I found myself in a bit of an embarrassing situation. I have one of those heads of hair that kinda resembles a porcupine, or as I’ve been told before, the infamous Chia pets. When you cut it, it’s like mowing your lawn, which similarly, needs to be kept short in order to secure a respectable appearance at all. I need to keep it cut every couple of weeks, but when my barber is 3 hours away in the capital city, sometimes things get a little shaggy. I’m at that point now (don’t you just love a missionary with such vain topics) where I should have cut my hair last week, but it doesn’t yet warrant a 6-hour voyage. The solution at this junction has always been hair gel. Now, this took me years to get comfortable using, but eventually the various…uh, NUMEROUS hair stylists in the states convinced me it was my saving grace. I’m not big on gelling the ol’ mop down unless it really needs it. Wednesday, it did…just a little. So I cleaned up, got dressed, and slicked down these porcupine locks and headed out to my discipleship lesson in the village of Dekpo (deek-poe). Now, without perpetuating the vanity too much, I do have to tell you that Africans think my hair is really cool. They always want to touch it, especially right after it’s been cut real short. I’ve had several of them say, “you’re not like other Americans, you have hair like us.” Compliment accepted, I rejoice not having really liked my hair much in America.

So we’re sitting there as the crowd gathers. Minutes turn into hours. The Aja people have a custom that you don’t talk much while others are still arriving…just sit in silence. This custom drives me nuts because it seems like we could spend this time doing more productive things (such an American I am). But I’ve learned over the years just to sit and stare like everyone else. Well, Wednesday I was looking around the room and noticed an elderly woman grinning and whispering to her younger lady friends…all the while staring at me! Not only a taboo to be talking, I wondered what she might be giggling about. I thought about the many times in the past, when upon inquiry, I’d find out that the people were sharing their fondness for my hair. So I leaned to my friend, Senou (see-new), and asked him what they were saying. Awaiting the typical friendly response toward this Chia pet head, I was shocked when Senou said, “they are saying that you have stuff in your hair like women use to make their hair look pretty.” I excused myself and ran behind the trees and scrubbed my head vigorously to get every ounce of gel out! Guess I won’t be doing that again….


When we were first learning French, one of the most terrifying language experiences was having to go and get your hair cut. Not only are there so many specific terms to the coiffure world that we hadn’t learned yet, the main challenge was just getting the request out, “I would like to have my hair cut.” That is because the word in French for hair is “cheveux” (shuh-voo) and the word for HORSES is “chevaux" (shuh-vo). Imagine the embarrassment to walk in and announce your intention to “have your horses cut”!


Out here in the bush of West Africa, there are lots of thoughts about life that don’t necessarily agree with science, or even traditional Western ideas of things. One gave me a chuckle last night as I was visiting about our friend, Ega, whose wife is due any day now. I was talking with Sossa, who works for us, as he was leaving, curious if he had heard any news on Lokadi (loh-kah-dee). He confirmed she had not yet had her baby. I responded that it could be any day now, but that we’ve thought that same thought every day for the past few weeks. Sossa, with complete seriousness said, “you know, sometimes people say it takes 9 months to have a baby, but Lokadi was telling everyone at church that with her other babies it was more like a year. God wants us to be patient and He’ll decide when it’s time.” I nodded and smiled (agreeing with the latter phrase only) and then went inside where Kelly and I got a big laugh!

- Rockin' Randall

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Feeling Twisted

Feeling kinda twisted up today. Today is our Sabbath day. A weekly time of rest. Prayer is always a part of our day. Yet we started out more stressed than we would have liked. The power went off yesterday around 2pm when I was out with Steve in the village of Dekpo (deek-poe). When we came back a little after 6pm, Kelly said the power had been off most of the afternoon. We were able to get the generator up and running but then ran out of gas around 9pm when we were in the middle of our team church night. It was a relatively cool night, so we went to sleep without much difficulty. We woke with the power still off. Now we were beginning to have concerns about all the meats in our freezer spoiling. It was warming up already in the morning, so we went into town and, after some searching, found some gas. It was almost noon before we got the thing up and running. Not the way I’d like spend my day of rest. There’s also some frustration with some lingering stresses of problems in the different churches. The most talked about is a prominent former leader who has been disfellowshipped for flagrant rebellion, secret sin, and lack of repentance. However, a number of people are pushing and pulling trying to get us to loosen the rules and “forgive and forget”. We can’t do that, but they continue to talk behind our backs, trying desperately to rustle up support. As I write this, I know we must stand firm. It’s more difficult to do when you are facing these people face-to-face. We heard yesterday that there are some who are threatening to leave the church if we don’t accept this man back into the fellowship. Their thinking is “just let him come back, sit on the back row, not take the Lord’s Supper, no offering…just sit there quietly.” What? As my brother-in-law, Sam, said, “there’s no such thing as a Christian with restrictions.” The reality is this man would not be able to subscribe to such regulations if he did come back…he’d eventually exert his influence (a lot of it oppressive and negative). Just a sad and frustrating situation. We are praying for genuine repentance.

We are enjoying some RHCC colleagues, John and Linda Glover (above's a pic of all of us the night they arrived last week). They are here, in their retirement years, serving the Lord with us for two months. After this, they go straight to Uganda to work for 4 months. They are so neat and such a breath of fresh air. We have laughed a lot and team devotionals and church nights have already taken on a more encouraging tone…so refreshing (nothing wrong before, just great to have people from home among us!) So all is not bad, and we are trying to keep our head above the negative and think on the things that are praiseworthy. It’s hard when the enemy is so relentless. That’s what Sabbath days are for…resting our mind and heart so that we can overflow the glory of God the other 6 days of the week!

The shingles are much better…praise God for His healing power….and for the prayers of many. Also, Donny’s restarted his blogging again….worth a look!

-Rockin’ Randall

Friday, July 08, 2005

So Rich, Rich, Slugger

A dear friend of ours spent a bunch of money buying a huge box load of special treats for our family (not counting the cost of shipping). Nothing we couldn't live without, but we feel so blessed (tons of goldfish crackers for the kids, pancake syrup from home, low-carb snacks, Crystal Light peach tea, graham crackers, and lots of other goodies)! I pray God will pour out His generosity on the family who sent this!


Here's a website to make us all feel as wealthy as we really are. Click here. If you make only $20,000 US, you are in the top 10.02% richest people in the world. There are 5,398,344,113 people poorer than you. None of us like these little exercises do we? I know I'm farther up the ladder than just 10%. Just something to ponder. Do you feel guilt, too? Hate that feeling. Feel it all the time living here in one of the poorest regions of the world.


I've got shingles. AAUUGHH! The burning pain is like someone lighting a match and jabbing it into your skin (that's how the doctor I saw described it today). Got the meds I need and we're praying for relief and recovery. Oh, the doctor's first words when she saw my case: "well, that's not bad at all." Those with past experiences with shingles know the irritability...almost slugged her.

- Rockin' Randall

Divine Appointment

So this is not to be a portrayal of every day in Benin, West Africa. But it is an account of one day that resembles others we have had here in the past 6 years.

I was to go to the village of Ainahoue (yee-nah-way) with my teammate, Steve. Unable to accompany me due to a bout with malaria (recovering well now), I figured I’d go alone and leave around noon. Some things “delayed” my departure until 1:30p. As I was driving by the village just down the road, I saw Ega. He’s one of my favorite people with which to minister. He’s got amazing faith and has blossomed in the past 2 years into one of the most effective evangelists and teacher. He was greeting another believer who was outside preparing a meal. Ega asked where I was going and when I told him, he said, “I’ve never been to his village, can I go with you?”

Crippled with polio, I lifted Ega up from the red terrain and into our truck. We greet one another (which in the Aja culture takes about 5 minutes!) Then we start to chuckle at God’s timing. I told him that if I had left “on time”, I wouldn’t have seen him and would’ve had to minister alone. He joked, saying “maybe someday you Americans will learn that God doesn’t work by a watch, but by African time.” He laughed because he loves the watch I got him 2 years ago and he knows African time often is so unhurried that it even frustrates the Africans.

We arrived at the home of Mathias (pronounced in French as “mah-tee-ahs”). Mathias is another one of my favorite Aja believers. Persecuted by not only his own family, but ridiculed by most of his village. Job taken away. Land stripped from him by his own flesh and blood. Targeted by a relative who tried to kill him with a machete. But always faithful. He does have his days of wrestling with faith and trust, but he’s the real deal.

We were seated outside his hut in wooden folding chairs. The clouds were dark with rain impending. Just as sprinkles began, a familiar face pulled up on a bike. This man, Nyoke (guess on the pronunciation), had been a part of a conversation once with me and Mathias. He is not yet a believer and was pretty antagonistic the last time and arrogant about his confidence in his voodoo gods. Honestly, expecting a day of encouraging Mathias and other believers, I sighed heavily at the thought of having to debate Christianity with this guy.

As the rains poured down, we were rushed into Mathias’ hut…Ega, Mathias, myself AND Nyoke (“Ny-OK”; does that even help?). Mathias proposed, “shouldn’t we hear the Word of God Randy has brought?” I had prepared a short lesson of encouragement, but God took over. I instead turned to Nyoke and began to question him about whether or not he had pondered the things we discussed the last time (I’m not confrontational by human nature, but all of a sudden I found myself vigorously challenging this guy). As I talked to him about the imminent judgment of God, I asked Ega to chime in. Did he ever! He told his testimony of how God delivered him from a life of darkness. Prior to his conversion, Ega would sell the homemade moonshine that people would buy as a sacrifice to their gods or as a gift to the witchdoctor. With a little encouragement from Mathias when Nyoke had his head in his hands pretending to not listen, Ega broke into a very descriptive, powerful rendition of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Then as we could feel the intensity of the spiritual battle, Ega breaks his train of thought, shouting,
Our glances shot to the doorway to see a 6 ft long snake slithering just 5 feet from where we had been sitting outside. The snake got away before they could kill it (I was standing back like a whimp!) Ega immediately analogized to Nyoke that Satan is the snake that deceives and hates the Light (Ega’s really good!)

After an hour of a truly divine appointment (you think the rain just happen to start when Nyoke was pulling up?), the Holy Spirit of God touched his mind and he began to share about his curiosities about Mathias’ faith and the protection Mathias’ always talks about. With three witnesses, he said he’d be at church on Sunday to begin learning about God’s Word.

Rejoicing not only in Nyoke’s movement toward Christ, but also in Ega’s inaugural visit, Mathias had his wife prepare a meal of rice and a nice juicy piece of fish (eyeball included at no extra cost!) Mathias’ doesn’t have much money and this feast was a sacrificial gift, yet small in his eyes. He wished he could have done more.

We visited some land near his house where Steve has been teaching them about agricultural innovations (raised beds and organic gardening). We then drove across to the other side of the village (stopping along the way to greet some of the Christians) until we arrived at Janvier’s house (john-vee-ay; that’s January in French by the way). Since his turning to Christ, Janvier has been stricken with leprosy. He is in the early stages, but suffers from mounting deformities and lack of feeling in his hands and feet. He wounded his foot recently because he couldn’t feel the nail go through his foot. Infected, he has been having a local nurse come by to clean it, but was lacking the money. Ega and I contributed a little so that he could continue the wound care, and we sang some songs and I shared a little from the close of Isaiah 40 about hoping in God. With his infection, Janvier missed church last Sunday and was desperate for something from God. As we drove away from his house, Mathias shared with us that Janvier, his wife and two kids, had not had much food to eat in the past week. I checked my pockets and found the equivalent of about $6 and Mathias said he’d be able to get about 3 days worth of food for them. It was touching to see a brother in Christ care for another.

God is good and last Tuesday was an example of His provision, the power of His Word, and the perfection of His timing (better than American or African time!)

- Rockin’ Randall

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

How to Post a Comment on this Blog

Some people have sent us emails commenting on the blog...
in case you are new to blogs, you can post your comments
directly on the blog itself...this way other's can read your
thoughts about the blog.

Just a quick lesson below:

At the bottom of each post, you'll see something like:

" posted by Randy Vaughn at 10:37 PM 0 comments "

1. Click on the "comments" (it may be 0 or any number

depending on how many comments already made)

2. Then you'll be able to see all previously made comments

(if there are any)

3. You'll see the LEAVE YOUR COMMENT box on the right;

type your thoughts here

4. You'll need to identify have a few options:

- if you have a blog with BLOGGER, type in your info

and your name will appear on your comment
(plus we can click on your name and go to your blog)

- if you don't, you can click on OTHER, then I think you

can type in your name (you don't have to have a blog
to make a comment)

- or if you're being sneaky (or trying to hide something!),

you can post your comment as ANONYMOUS


* We get all the comments immediately sent to our
email address, so we'll see it for sure.

I guess the main (vain) reason I'm encouraging alot of

comments is so it looks as if someone is actually
reading this blog!
True vanity I guess.

Have a great day....

- Rockin' Randall

Monday, July 04, 2005

Just a Piece of Cloth

That's all it is....just a piece of cloth.

You can count the threads in it, and it's no different from any other piece of cloth.
But then a little breeze comes along, and it stirs and comes to life and flutters and snaps in the wind, all red, white and blue.

It has your whole life wrapped up in it...the meals you're going to eat, the time you're going to spend with your spouse...the kind of things your child will learn at school…those strange and wonderful thoughts you get inside a church on Sunday.

Those stars in it…they make you feel just as free as the stars in the wide, deep night. And those stripes…they’re bars of blood to any dictator who’d try to change it.

Just a piece of cloth, that’s all it is…until you put your soul in it and give it meaning.
What do you want to make it mean? A symbol of liberty and decency and fair-dealing for everyone?
Then, let’s do something about it. Let’s do plenty and do it soon enough.
Yes, that flag is just a piece of cloth until we breathe life into it. Until we make it stand for everything we believe in and refuse to live without.

Anonymous (said to have been an essay appealing to the public
in support of bonds to support America’s WWII efforts)

Here’s something we read in a book today (I wondered if it was true and found a most interesting website with some history of our national anthem):

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation,
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the Heav'n - rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, for our cause is just,
And this be our motto--"In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Happy 4th!

And finally, Ol' Glory (cake style)!

And finally, Ol' Glory (cake style)! Posted by Picasa

Nothing says 4th of July like making an American flag cake! On our recent trip to Ghana, we found frozen strawberries and we knew back then what we'd use them for! Freeze-dried blueberries make the stars and whipped cream icing...yum! Even made some homemade vanilla ice cream...low-carb version so it wasn't quite as tasty as the real deal from home, but it was still fun to have. All of our houseworkers get a kick out of watching us celebrate (we like to make a big deal of holidays). In Benin, they pretty much just have 2 holidays...their Independence Day (Aug 1) and New Year's Day. We have enjoyed the day, being with family, missing our families in America, even listening to patriotic music (to hear Tori belt out, "It's a grand ol' flag, it's a high-flying flag...." is priceless!) We hope you took time today to celebrate and praise God for all the freedoms we enjoy, not to mention our freedom in Christ.-Rockin' Randall

My beautiful wife ! Posted by Picasa

Tori dons some festive headgear at dinner...Timothy's not so sure about it. Posted by Picasa

I love this kid!  Posted by Picasa

Tori colored a picture of an American flag at school! Kelly and Jonathan look great, too! Posted by Picasa

Happy 4th of July!

Here's how we started our July 4th - Tori helped me paint the bathroom! Posted by Picasa

Well, even though we're in Benin, West Africa, we didn't fail to celebrate! We have had plans for a while now to paint our bathroom a color other than white! We found some great ready-mixed paint in Ghana during our recent trip and loved the color. Wish you could see the AFTER looks great if I do say so myself (took me all of 5 hours at least for a little bathroom!)

- Rockin' Randall

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Do Not Let the Dream Trouble You

(Posted by Kelly)

“I had a dream last night. Two women came and gave me something to eat. I ate the food and it was good, but now I am concerned because I do not know where the food came from. I think it might have been a poison.”

This was a prayer request from a woman yesterday in the village of Dekpo where my teammate Dawna Price and I have been going for the past 8 weeks. We have been working through a Bible study of the book of John. Our focus has been on the things that Jesus desired for his disciples to know and do. These 25 women are new Christians and have a contagious joy for the Lord. Each week we hear their testimonies and join in their praises to God. They are eager to learn what we have to share and they are learning to hide the Word of God in their heart as we memorize a new verse each week. Most of these women cannot read and do not have a Bible. They are oral learners and it is remarkable to witness how quickly they are able to memorize scripture and then able to repeat what they have learned week after week.

Often times after our lessons we have asked if there are people in the village who are suffering or if there has been a new baby born. We then as a group have gone to visit and pray for these people. The Lord has done great things. We have witnessed his healing power and we have seen his Spirit working and drawing people to himself as we walk through this village. As people have seen the Lord answer prayers, they have joyously shared their stories and more people know the power of our amazing God. This is a village where the instinctive thing to do in time of crisis is to make sacrifices to pagan gods and to go into debt giving money to witchdoctors trying to appease and gain favor of whomever is coming against you.

This week our lesson was from John 13. In this chapter Jesus is teaching his disciples that they are to love and serve one another. We talked about how Jesus knew what was going to happen to him and who would betray him and yet he demonstrated love for everyone. He washed the feet of Judas knowing that within a few minutes he would get up and leave to betray him. He also knew that Peter would deny him and yet he knew Peter’s heart and that he would repent. Jesus knows our hearts, he knows what we will choose to do and yet his love for us is unfailing. I asked the ladies for specific examples of how they can love and serve one another in their village. We talked about why it is important for those in this community to see us showing love to one another so that the pagans will see that we are Jesus’ disciples. One lady who is blind said, “When others see us praying for and washing the feet of our enemies they will know we are Christians.” Another said, “If an older woman is not able to go to her farm because she is sick, then we can go for her and plant seed or harvest her crop.” It was exciting to hear their responses.

As a demonstration of our love for these women and God’s heart to bless these women, we had a surprise in store for them. We wanted to relieve their burdens that night. African women work so hard and are responsible for cooking the meals. Cooking over fires with wood they have gathered and food they have harvested. We had with us in our car hot meals prepared for them and their entire family. We had taken a guess that 100 servings would provide for the 25 regular women who attend.

After the lesson, we had a time of prayer. The first lady to request prayer shared the dream mentioned above. She was concerned that it was a bad spirit that had given her food and requested prayers that the Lord protect her. We smiled with surprise ourselves and told her that it was really the Holy Spirit that had spoken to her in a dream. I said, “do not let the dream trouble you.” We then explained to them what was about to take place. It was a great surprise and Dawna and I both felt great joy in blessing these ladies who are becoming so dear to us.


Bow-Tie Church

This is not a call for more formality in the dress code of the African church! Nor is it a post about any new fashion statement I have started.

Because the names of the African villages are often difficult to pronounce, much less remember, I try to think phonetically when trying to help others pronounce the names of the churches. While possibly causing a chuckle, it will hopefully encourage you to more effectively remember these people in prayer.

Yesterday, we went to a new village called Gbotayidohoue. Can you guess the phonetic spelling? That's right, I'm calling this "bow-tie-yee-doe-way" or what Kelly and I call, the "bow-tie" church. For example, I might say, "hey, sweetie, I'm going to the bow-tie church this afternoon and I'll be back around 5pm". Alot easier to squeeze into a conversation. Hopefully you'll find it just as easy as you pray for these people.

My friend, Ega (pictured below in yellow shirt in another posting), has been talking to me about this place for several months. He’s been going there and says there’s a lot of interest about hearing God’s Word. It is about a 45 minute bicycle ride for him (he’s crippled with polio; a friend usually acts as his “chauffeur”). Ega is excited about proclaiming the Good News in this village. Ega’s first church plant happened last year about this time. That village is called Dandihoue, or following the same rule of thumb, we’ll call it “donny-way” (my brother loves this one because he can actually remember it!) Ega was responsible for the planting of the Kingdom in that village, has been the primary pastor in that church for the past year, and now has stirred them to joining him at the bow-tie place.

Ega asked me to come along for the initial meeting. Here in Africa, we rarely do one-on-one studies, because the people here are so group-oriented in their thinking and in function. So this was a large group of about 40 people (men, women and children). It was exciting to see how receptive they were to our delegation of believers (Ega, myself, and others from “donny-way” and Ega’s church, “kite-emmy”…isn’t this fun?!)

Ega and the other Aja Christians gave brief testimonies about how each of them had come to Christ (there were 8 of them). Then I spoke for about 20 minutes about God’s heart for the lost world. Just a simple overview of the gospel message. Not too many details, but a snapshot of God’s love for them and His desire for reconciliation and their repentance. The 3-hour visit included some Q&A (“several years ago, there was a church started by some Nigerians but later they left and the church stopped meeting…will that happen with you, too?”) and lots of singing and yes….dancing! African evangelism is a lot different than American! At least it is in this effort where we are not bound by traditional American church boundaries. During some of the singing, some people just broke out into a spontaneous dance!! Don’t let the elders see this!!! (Actually the Richland Hills elders have encouraged us to support indigenous styles of evangelism…thank God for people who are free in Christ!)

As we left, our delegation was so joyful as we returned to “donny-way” and to “kite-emmy”. Pray with us that the people at “bow-tie” will be eager to hear more of God’s Word and grow in their understanding. Typically our evangelistic lessons stretch over a period of 2 months before a “call for decision” comes.

Here’s the 5 churches in which we currently work:

Kaiteme (kite-emmy)
Aflantan (ah-flah-than)
Tchatehoue (chah-tay-way)
Dandihoue (donny-way)
Dekpo (deek-po)

May God be glorified in each of these places and in new villages as well!

-Rockin Randall

Jonathan and big sister, Tori Posted by Picasa

Timo on Tori's bike Posted by Picasa