Friday, December 01, 2006

First Day of December

It’s been a busy week, so busy that I can’t believe it was Monday when we last posted. So much to write about, but no time to write about it. Many of you can relate to the busy lives we all live, wherever we live them.

On Tuesday, I drove to Cotonou with Timothy. As a Dad, I love times like this with my son. Just Timothy and me. He’s so well-behaved when there’s no competition around! I love the talks we have…yet, I will say that I tried to interject a new thought to him on the subject of “self-control”…Daddy used the “there’s a time for talking and a time for silence” (oops, I reversed the order from Ecclesiastes 3). For me, I love trips to Cotonou; the long 3 hour drive is usually a time for me to clear my head, pray about so many things, brainstorm with the Lord about creative ministry, and just think about things of the future. Anyone with an inquisitive 3-year old knows that you get lots of questions during an all-day trip to the city! We had a great time, though, and I will always cherish times with Timo like this…can’t wait to start the same soon with Jonathan. Father-son times…times to talk about the mundane and the important. I want to be intentional about the latter.

During the day, I kept getting a call on my cell phone from one of our church leaders, but it was always at a time when I was not at liberty to take his call. Later on, Kelly called and said Mathias (mah-tee-ahs) had called the house several times to inform me that one of our older Christians had died on Monday. Ballovi (ball-oh-vee) had been sick for a couple of months with probably a form of cancer. He was a quiet believer, old in age and young in faith. His one and only son is also a believer, but no one else in the family. So there was lots of tension between the son and the other relatives of the type of funeral to have…pagan or Christian. Mathias was there in full force, championing for a Christian interment but the fight was fierce. I rerouted my trip home and took a washed out road in the pitch black dark (not good on my alignment I don’t think) but he was so thrilled when Timothy and I pulled up around 8p. I shared a little money with Mathias to help with the funeral expenses (the pagan family was demanding the Christians foot the entire bill since they wanted a “Christian funeral”). We visited in the late night around a kerosene lantern, all the while with Timothy hugging me close (his first time out in the village at night…he was a little scared naturally). After praying together, Mathias escorted me to the car and it lit my heart to see Timothy and Mathias’ daughter playing sweetly together on the walk back. I pray that he was aware of my confidence and thus he was able to rest easy with these strangers whom he could not see because of the dark.

Wednesday was a day of dichotomy. The morning started out with a meeting of our brothers from Dekpo (deck-po). One of the men had a new baby girl and wanted to plan the baby dedication for this Sunday. They brought bags of cassava, bananas, and oranges as a way of saying thanks. It was a time of great joy. God worked out the timing though, because the burial for our brother in Ainahoue (yee-nah-way) was to be just after noon. So these men agreed to go along with me and Senou (see-new) and represent all the other churches in this area. After a morning of laughter, we switched gears and arrived to hear the familiar sounds of an African funeral. It’s not quiet somber organ music; rather, it’s a loud sound system blaring African music with drums playing in the distance and people dancing (traditional dance associated with voodoo). Mathias and a couple of believers from Ainahoue greeted us and sat us under a makeshift shelter from the intense sun and heat. The debate was still raging on how the final steps of the burial would be handled; in the end, Mathias and Ballovi’s son “won out” and we were able to enter into this 5x5 mud hut where our brother’s body laid to rest in the rough wooden casket. I spoke for about 5 minutes, drenched in sweat and trying to talk through the unpleasant stench of a body that had died 2 days earlier (there was some preparation of the body, but still….) As another brother prayed, we exited the room to where the men had just finished digging the grave. Whereas an American funeral climaxes at the moment of the lowering of the casket into the ground (sometimes with loud cries, sometimes with quiet sniffles), the Aja way is to all hover around and yell loudly at the two poor souls who are underneath the casket, trying their hardest to lift a couple of hundred pounds and gently lower it to the bottom of the hole…one guy lost his grip and the casket dropped a few inches, but loud enough to make a “thud” heard by everyone…so the crowd started heckling him even louder. Finally, someone maintained enough order to permit the son to offer a final blessing and shovel the first bit of dirt back on top of the hole. As the crowd hovered nearby, coins were tossed in and blessings were shouted (most from those with a non-Christian worldview) as the grave diggers began to fill up the hole with the dirt. We went back to our seat in the shade, were served a heaping bowl of hot and spicy rice and fish heads, and we returned home about 4p.

Yesterday, I got to spend another 4 hours with the 3 members of the executive committee of our church’s leadership council. I love these guys…we laughed a lot together, encouraged one another and prayed together. They wanted to hear all about my time in America. And they wanted to relay some of the experiences they had in my absence. In the same way, I enjoyed sharing with them greetings from many of you who know and pray for these Aja Christians regularly. And shared with them a few gifts as well…their favorite was a new video projector donated by the Richland Hills Church of Christ. They regularly show DVDs of Christian movies (usually made in Ivory Coast; they are in French) or they also periodically show The JESUS Film to as many that can gather around a small television. They were so thrilled now to have the ability to show all their films to a much larger audience…a film shown on a large white sheet in the middle of any village here will surely attract a crowd. They are excited about using it for the first time at our end-of-the-year convention the weekend prior to Christmas.

The power has been sporadic…our generator still chugs along and performs great! The water has been cut off since last Saturday. We’re praying it will come on soon…we need to replenish our reserve water barrels very soon! We buy bottled drinking water at the local supermarket, but that costs adds up (we usually drink water from our tap, run through a quality filter). The power usually stays on about 8-10 hours a day, and is off the rest. Fortunately, they have always given us city power by midnight every night so that we haven’t had to run the generator into the wee hours of the night.

Kelly and Tori have continued well with school…getting back to a routine is still a challenge but Tori is enjoying some new things and Kelly is enjoying some new ways to teach (thanks to both Moms and MaryKay C.)

Tonight we celebrated the first day of December beginning our Advent worship book, Just 25 Days of Christmas by Rebecca Hayford Bauer. (Jack Hayford’s daughter) We have used this book just about every year and enjoy how it focuses our thoughts on Jesus during this season.

Tomorrow, Kelly and I celebrate 11 years of wonderful marriage! I’m such a blessed man!



vicki said...

Congratulations to both of you on 11 years filled with wonder and joy and made even more sweet because you spent them married to one another. Two very blessed people!! And Beck is right...your kids are beautiful and we love seeing the pix and reading of "a typical day" in the life of a missionary! Love to all, aunt VG

Julie said...

Everyone looks great! Happy Anniversary you two!
Love you and miss you,