Friday, September 30, 2005
I also went back to Vital Records with Ega (in a town an hour away) to continue the process of obtaining the birth certificate. We went yesterday, but they told us to return today to get it. What we obtained today was the first part of the process, and we ended up with what I’ll call a “provisional” certification…but it is not the official record necessary for what we need (we got the kind of birth certificate you get at the hospital in Texas…useful for scrapbooking I guess, but nothing more). We were told that we can return again in about 6 weeks for the official one. A little disappointing to have to wait that long (nothing’s computerized here and certainly nothing is done quickly), but we are praising God that we are heading down the right path. Today, as we were waiting in a long line (really not a line at all, just a bunch of people crammed into a small hot room), I prayed that God’s favor would be upon Ega and that he would not have to wait long. Sure enough, the secretary came out with a tall stack of documents signed by the clerk and Ega’s was the 3rd one called! Hallelujah!
I have my monthly leaders’ meeting tomorrow and then a cluster wide convention on Sunday. It’ll be a busy weekend!
Thursday, September 29, 2005
The reason they invented small changing tables is that someone once tried chasing a two-year-old around a king size bed trying to change a diaper…it’s Timothy’s new game now. My response to that…potty training! That’ll start soon…any suggestions out there for the best (and quickest!!) secret to successful boy training? Please share them….
Kelly and I have tried to start changing our vocabulary over the years with regard to our kids. Rather than incessantly urging our kids to “be careful”, we are going with a more accurate biblical admonition: “be alert”. Anyone who has read John Eldredge has likely heard his rantings about that (especially from the book, Wild at Heart). We figured that although everyone knows the intent behind the phrase, when it is said over and over, it could give the impression, as Eldredge puts it, that our kids grow up with a lackluster sense of adventure, or worse, a fear of the unknown paths that await them as they go out into the daily feats that we, in reality, want them to conquer! What we really are encouraging them to do is to “be aware” (2 Cor 2.11 – we are not unaware of Satan’s schemes) and “be alert” (1 Pet 5.8 – be self-controlled and alert, your enemy prowls…) It seems a better warning…don’t “be careful” (as if YOU might do something to hurt yourself) but “be aware/alert” (because we live in a warzone where the enemy wants God’s children to encounter difficulties). Just some ramblings there….what phrases are you using in your parenting that are different from the culture’s voices around us?
OK, call me irreverent or disrespectful to the all-knowing wisdom of our God (you can tell this is sarcasm here, right?!)…but why in the world did God think it was necessary to put fingernails on little kids? First of all, it seems at this stage in Jonathan’s life (9 months) the nails only get dirty or cause him to scratch his face. I’m thinking, make it a part of the puberty process...when they are old enough to cut their own fingernails! It could be like a natural way for the world to acknowledge the awesome transition our young baby boy would make into manhood…I can just hear it, ”son, you and me, man-to-man…let’s go away for the weekend…I need to teach you how to cut your fingernails.” What a rite of passage gift…clippers! Any agreements on this one?
Lastly, look above at those cute pictures of Lael! It was totally spontaneous...she just started giggling and smiling so much early this morning that I ran and got the camera. I spent a few hours with her birth father today at the county’s “vital records” division trying to obtain an authorized copy of Lael’s birth certificate (will need that for adoption purposes soon). We first had to go to the hospital where Ega’s wife died…we needed to pick up a copy of the death certificate. That was hard…first time Ega had been back to those very hallways he walked so many days just after Lael was born and before Lokadi went to be with Jesus. He told me, as we were pulling in, “I thought I would never have to come to this place again.” But he knows we have to show Lokadi’s “proof of death” (hate that term) for him to give consent for us adopting Lael. We did that first, and then got out of the hospital there as soon as we could. We then had several hours together waiting in line at the place where birth certificates are issued and then later on in the car as we journeyed an hour to and from the town where Lael was born. We laughed a lot later on and that is great to do with Ega. Those of you who have been here and know him, you can imagine his smile and laugh…love it!
Tomorrow, Kelly takes Lael to get her ears pierced!!
Saturday, September 24, 2005
Friday, September 23, 2005
The class on John’s gospel continues to go well. The recent quick shower did send a lot of people to their fields (the rain was desperately needed), but we still had a consistent crowd the past couple of days. Everyone just about has the memorization down (our Five Statements of Truth), so I’m thrilled about that. Today, we talked about Jesus’ last days of ministry, including most notably his time with his disciples. Washing their feet was a good experience for them…it was refreshing to see their reaction. Most were very grateful and so many people had the same reaction as Simon Peter, “I could never let you wash my feet.” I say “refreshing” because when I did this same lesson at Dekpo a couple of months ago, they did not have the reaction I was hoping for (smack dab in the middle of my lesson about humility, the crowd swelled with everyone sticking their dirty stinky feet in my face saying, “me next!”)…don’t think the folks at Dekpo got the point…but today, the Kaitemey Christians seem to understand it well. I did make a small blooper when I got so absorbed into the foot washing that I didn’t understand several people’s comments, almost barking at me as if it were urgent. As I dried this old man’s foot, I then clarified, “what were you saying?” Paying attention this time, I heard them clearly say, “we were telling you to be careful with the old man, because he fell yesterday and he badly sprained his ankle.” Oops, sorry about the poor bedside manner there.
Tomorrow we’ll finish the course…we finished today at the point of Jesus’ capture. This group has been very response and interactive. I’m gonna do a visual demonstration tomorrow involving each person having to hammer nails into some wood. I hope they will get the understanding of the relation of our sins to the cross of Christ.
All the kids continue to do well and I do have to brag on Kelly! She has been under the weather all week with a staph infection, yet has kept this place hummin’ and in good order. Usually my schedule does not have me teaching a class from 8:45a – 4p every day…but that’s been our way of life this week. She’s an incredible wife! She is feeling better, but when she saw the doctor last week, the doc said specifically, “you need to stay off your feet for awhile.” Not following doctor’s orders was my fault, needing to continue with this course this week. Without complaint, Kelly has been great. I’m so thankful to minister alongside my best friend here. By the way, for those of you who read about Timothy's accident on Tuesday, he's doing great...no problems. Again, we're so thankful it wasn't anything more than it was.
Another challenge of living in Africa is constant power outages! On Wednesday AND Thursday night, the power went off at 10p and did not return until 4a! It was near impossible to sleep, plus you have different kids tossing and turning or getting up because of the heat. Then last night, right about midnight I finally decided to shower and the water pressure was a small trickle…AAUGHH! Truthfully, when we return Stateside someday, being without power and water are things I won’t miss about Africa! It’s draining and frustrating and can make a man grumpy!
What about you, what makes you a little grumpy? Some convenience that isn’t convenient any longer? Some luxury all of a sudden you can’t afford any longer? Some recurring situation that just gets under your skin? Just curious….figured I’m not the only one out there with some hang-up that battles against your contentment. PLEASE share yours...make me feel a little better.
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
It is a challenge teaching a group consisting of 20% literates, and 80% non-literates! But I choose to use both, allowing the literates to help us navigate the written word and the non-literates lead on the memorization. It’s amazing how difficult it is for the LITERATE ones to memorize things, while the non-literates are by-an-large excellent memorizers (is that a word?) It’s a strange phenomenon…literacy is called by some as the “dumbing down of our minds.” They mean that we are born as oral learners, completely non-literate. By that, our senses are to be able to hear things and remember them well…but as we learn the skill of reading, our capacities are “dumbed-down” so that we become dependent on the written page. Not completely, across-the-board accurate, but it’s amazing how close it is!
In the introduction to John’s gospel, one of the first things I asked was “did John the Baptist write this?” Keeping in mind these are all first-generation Christians…75% of the attendees said, “Yes”. So we fixed that first. I went through and explained all the different stories (well, not ALL) about John the Baptist and the author John (they, as we do, got a kick out of the fact that John refers to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved”…sounds kinda sure of himself, huh?!) For a group of about 25, most have very little knowledge of the Bible, its history, or its table of contents (even the literate ones). So we were having to memorize Matthew, Mark, Luke and John...it’s so wild to teach people who are so new in their understanding of Christianity and God’s Word.
I’ll let you link here to see our points of memorization (scroll down on that post...did this same lesson at the Dekpo church a while back)…5 truth statements gleaned from the gospel…this group has done quite well with remembering…today, most everyone could say something from all 5 truth statements. Again, probably says something to their oral learning culture (I didn’t write these statements on any chalkboard…just recited them orally).
Today, we got as far as Jesus healing the man’s son in chapter 5. We’ll take a break tomorrow (Market Day…happens every 4 days). On Thursday, we’ll pick up with Jesus feeding the 5000 and Him being the Bread of Life. Then Friday and then Saturday and we’ll be done…whew!
OK, now for the real news of today….right as I thought I would go into Jesus’ feeding of the 5000 (postponed until Thursday now), Timothy had an accident. He was playing outside like he always does, this time just about 50 feet from me. I heard someone gasp, and I turned to see my 2-year-old man underneath one of the bicycles brought by one of the church members (Timothy was playing with it and it fell on him). My first reaction was frustration, as it interrupted my meeting. Then I heard someone else obviously more compassionate yell, “he’s injured.” Capturing my attention a bit more, I then saw blood covering his head and face. That caught my attention quickly! Kelly came out and we immediately rushed him inside, surrounded by every member of the class. After cleaning him up, we did see that some part of the bike had punctured the top of his head and scraped up several other parts. After a couple of minutes, the bleeding stopped and he calmed down. It was very scary…remembering two other major concussions Tori had when she was exactly Timothy’s age. But Timothy never lost consciousness or stopped breathing, so we were confident that although in a lot of pain and very frightened himself, he’d be OK. Within the hour, he was outside playing again. He still has some pain (I love hearing him say “Daddy, it hurt” in his cute 2-year-old voice), but took a good long nap (with some occasional parental supervision just to make sure), and he ate well. Tylenol and Motrin did some wonders and he was back to playing in his usual way this evening. So scary with kids, isn’t it? But once again, we praise God for His protection…it could have been so much worse. Thank you Lord!!
Sunday, September 18, 2005
Well, the Prices are somewhere in the U.K. enjoying a well-deserved vacation. Then they are off to the States through the end of the year for furlough. We already miss them so much.
I start a week-long class with the Kaiteme (ky-tim-ay) church tomorrow. It's not my usual format...they will all come to my house for a 9-2 course Mon-Sat (take a break on Wed for "market day" though). Usually I would go to their village, but since they are all within walking distance and they begged to have it at my place (they say it's too noisy in the village...true), I am going to try it. We're going to hit the highlights (is such possible?) of the Gospel of John. All in one week!! Wow! I did a John review at Dekpo (deek-po) recently, but it was only an hour or so every week for several months. But there are a number of high school age kids in this congregation who are strong Christians and hungry for some teaching....they are still on their break (school starts here in Oct...same for Tori, too)....so I'm taking advantage of an intensive-style short course so that they can be a part of the entire thing.
Sossa's boy, André, continues to do well....praise the Lord!!!
We got to enjoy a few wonderful days of rest and so we're back home now. All the kids are healthy (Lael actually was diagnosed this past Tuesday with her very first ear infection...seems to be clearing up well with medication....we're thankful for that!) The adoption process begins this week....gathering all the necessary documents! God is so amazing....the place where we went for our rest and relaxation...well, we just "happened" run into another missionary couple from another West African country who just finished adopting a local boy in a very similar situation! God is so perfect in His timing! We were very encouraged and it was interesting to hear their story all along the way. The frustrating part that awaits us is what we missionaries call "the West Africa stuff." This is the hassles that are primarily a result of greed, power, and just corruption. It's the "system" or "the way things are done"....but it involves alot of power trips, frustrating conversations, and lots of wrangling that to us seems unnecessary! But having done this for over 6 years now, with visas, resident cards, car papers, insurance, etc...we are somewhat accustomed to it. Our new friends from Niger said that if we understood what to expect with the W.A. stuff, then we'd be fine....shouldn't take longer than 6-8 months. So here we go.....
I'm starting my self-guided Greek course....been working on the alphabet over the past couple of weeks....already have the thing pretty much memorized. That's chapters 1-3 in my book (there are over 30 so bear with me). This is all in effort toward furthering my theological education (probably toward an M.A.-Religion degree someday). Just figured someone would want to know (I don't think my Mom will feel sorry for me; I think she thinks I'm crazy!...especially with 2 kids under the age of 9 months....she's probably right!!...aren't you Mom!)
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
It’s been a couple of weeks since Ega talked to us about it, but we wanted to wait a little bit to officially announce it on the blog. Yesterday and today, we have had good conversations here in the capital of Cotonou (KOE-tuh-new) with folks from the U.S. Embassy as well as a local attorney who will represent us and assist us in filing all the necessary requests before the courts here. Never having used an attorney for much before, much less in Benin, I was excited with my initial visit to our lawyer’s office. He is the chief counselor to the president of the Benin bar association, so that was impressive. He has done extensive work for the U.S. Embassy, and he speaks perfect English (before law school in Paris, he did an MBA in San Francisco at a French-speaking sister school of USF). I appreciated his thoroughness with me and he did not have a snobbish air about him at all. Very casual, but very professional and knowledgeable about the courts here in Benin. He is from Benin, from an area not too far from our home in Aplahoue. He speaks the language of the Mina people, which is very similar to the Aja language in many ways. During the times he will speak directly with Ega, I’m assuming that’ll be a big plus. Ega doesn’t write French, and can understand only a very little spoken to him. Mainly Aja. All the documents and the court proceedings are conducted in French, so I’m excited to know that our attorney should be able to explain things to Ega without too much misunderstanding.
In a nutshell, because we already have children, we first have to apply to the Benin courts for a special authorization to pursue the adoption of a child. In their minds, if we already have children, why would we want to adopt? He also shared with me that because there has been a major crackdown on child trafficking in Benin (after some horror stories though), people in the courts are sensitive to the rights of the children, even to the point of creating a lot of checks and balances in their Code de la Famille (Benin’s guide to the rights and laws pertaining to families and children). So, first thing: apply to be authorized to pursue an adoption.
Assuming that is approved, we would then present ourselves and Ega to the courts to make a request to pursue the adoption of Lael. With Ega willing to give full consent, the attorney (is there a difference in referring to one as an “attorney” versus a “lawyer”…?), anyway, he thought that would help things go well. We have to present all the necessary docs (passports, birth certificates, marriage certificates…all translated into French by an authorized translator).
The attorney said that the process might take 6 months or so. We’re so thrilled to get started. We had the joy of giving Lael her name back just a few weeks after her mother went to be with the Lord. As we ponder things like passports and other official documents, we’ve finally decided on what her full name will be once all the adoption is finalized (name change accompanies the consent of the judge to grant adoption). Lael’s mother’s name was Lokadi (low-kah-DEE). In desiring to link her name to some of her mother’s heritage, we have decided to maintain the latter portion of her mother’s first name. Her name will be:
Kadi Lael Vaughn
Kadi is pronounced in English “kay-dee” and also means “pure”. We love the meaning and the reminder of Ega’s wife and Lael’s mother. A special woman who had a cheerful smile and we were treated like royalty by her wonderful gift of hospitality.
It’ll take us some time to gather all the documents and get them all notarized and translated into French. Once all the documents are ready, our attorney will help us arrange a hearing in front of the judge to hear the request to pursue adoption. Of course we covet all prayers for every single detail of this process.
God is so good!
Sunday, September 11, 2005
Saturday, September 10, 2005
Read a great posting on Mike Cope's blog about ACU students helping Katrina victims. Certainly all praise goes to our God working through them, but it sure makes me proud to be an ACU alum!
This morning, I studied with 5 young people who will be baptized tomorrow morning...this was exciting because it was really only a "close-the-deal" kind of study...a Christian from the Kaitemey church had been leading these five over the past several weeks, teaching them as much as he knows (he's 100% non-literate). So he wanted me to study with them just to make sure he covered the basics, I guess. It was a good meeting and I'm proud of Adrien who, over the past 6 months, has helped the church at Tchatehoue (cha-tay-way) find it's way back from the dead! These 5 will be part of the Tchatehoue congregation. I asked him to be the baptizer, but I think he'll chicken out...too scared, I think, that he's going to drown someone in the river or baptize them in the name of someone other the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. At least that was my own concern during my first baptism here (I did then just about rebaptize myself the first time I baptized someone, ended up neck deep in water myself...they don't teach the baptismal skill in seminary!)
Isn't Tori so cute! She loves being a cowgirl!!!
(Sorry I don't know yet how to rotate this picture!)
Our dear friend, Sossa, has a new baby boy! His wife had their son on Wednesday. He was born at least a month premature, so please pray for him! Sossa came by yesterday and asked if we would name the baby. Of course, he needed to know right then, so I asked Kelly and she said, "what about Andrew?" So this new baby boy has that name, but in in French, it is André. Pictures to come!
I've mentioned this before, but when I spell check my blog posting using Blogger's spellcheck program, one of the questionable words that comes up is "blog". Huh?!
Tonight, we had our final Saturday night fellowship meal with the Prices until sometime in January. They are beginning their furlough soon and we will miss them so much!
Thursday, September 08, 2005
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
It has been a great 12 days with them...tonight, in just a few hours, Mom
and Dad will conclude their visit to Benin. I just returned from the
airport where they will start boarding any minute. Our last few days have
been wonderful. Time on the beach, in the pool, souvenir shopping, good
eating, and lots of laughter and tears. I am so thankful Mom and Dad
sacrificed and made that long journey. What a blessing!! They now can
testify and tell all about Benin! All the kids will miss them so very
much...Mom and Dad poured themselves into all the kids in very unique ways.
As Kelly noted, they are both such gifted teachers, so the kids were always
learning something new. We'll try and post some more pictures in a day or
two. Pray for their safe flight over the next 24 hours.
We will return to Aplahoue tomorrow where we will spend the remaining few
days with the Prices before their departure on Monday (9/12). They will
vacation some in the UK before arriving in Fort Worth in early October. We
will be sad to see them go as well.
Sunday, September 04, 2005
Randy with Timothy; Kelly with Jonathan; Tori with Lael; the matching material was a special purchase to signify to eveyone we are all one family; here we are next to the outdoor worship facility in the village of Dandihoue (donny-way)