Saturday, February 03, 2007

Kelly has had the opportunity to write some great thoughts this week. I’m so thankful for my wife! Living here in Africa, especially lately with our all-day outages of water, phone, electricity and even gasoline for the generator, she still maintains a joy in our home that keeps things peaceful (even with kids tossin’ guacamole at her…yesterday’s post!)

This has been one of my busiest weeks in a long time. I am truly exhausted, but the good kind of exhausted. Starting this past Sunday night and continuing every night except Tuesday, we studied the Gospel of John (took a break for their market day). I have done this study now in all but 2 of our congregations. I enjoy the fellowship with the different churches and I get “fed” a lot myself by teaching the Word of God! We do tons of memorization which is brought to an exciting finish with an oral examination on the final day! They dread it all week, but in every church where I’ve done this, everyone has surprised themselves at how well they know the material. The church at Aflantan (ah-flah-than) was no exception. Over 35 people gathered 5 nights this past week to soak in the Word of God. Especially noteworthy is that only 5 of those had any abilities to take notes or read the Scriptures for themselves. We minister in a primarily oral learning culture!

It was in the year 2000 when the small assembly first started meeting together at Aflantan. They were truly my “guinea pig” when it came to church planting. I arrived in Benin in ’99 and spent a year learning language in a classroom setting. The following spring, I was ready to advance my learning into the field, and another Aja evangelist at the same time was wanting to proclaim the Good News at a village called Aflantan. So I went along as his sidekick and his apprentice. I don’t remember a whole lot from those days, but I remember well the days of getting aggravated that I had spent most of the day preparing my Aja language notes so very carefully, only to find out that when I presented my brief Bible story in their language, it was incomprehensible still! The amazing thing was that after 6 weeks, my evangelist partner decided he was done at Aflantan and left me in charge of this new body of believers! Oh, Lord, thank you for your mercy! It’s a wonder they are still a vibrant congregation! I committed plenty of cultural blunders out there (and probably continue to do so!) I am certain I became well-known for demonstrating a pathetic lack of patience with my African brothers that I didn’t know I was capable of having (aka, “extreme frustration!”) But all-in-all, the Lord has been gracious and so have the brothers and sisters in that church. Yaovi (yah-o-vee) and Honore (on-or-ray) and their families have become some of my favorites among these Aja people. I have poured hours and hours of leadership training into those two men and it is encouraging to see the fruit of such labor. Honore continues to grow in his confidence as a leader and Yaovi was chosen by his peers last September as the head of the Executive Leadership Council. Last night as we finished the final night of study, Yaovi and Honore invited Senou (see-new) and me to share a soft drink together. Senou has been my apprentice in this study for the past 3 times I have done it…he is now fully capable of leading the study on this own…I hope he’ll do it at the remaining 2 congregations. As Senou and I drank the locally bottled fruit cocktail drinks in Yaovi’s mud hut, he and Honore started recounting a number of tales about their American friend. Fortunately they had laughed long enough once they recalled the time THEY spent 2 hours trying to pull me out of a huge mud pit in the middle of a rain storm just outside their village 6 years ago (I was their new “pastor” and they would not let me lift a finger). I remember well the days of leaving their homes a bit discouraged and perturbed, thinking to myself that “surely my lessons were not sinking in!” Now, all these years later, to be seated around the table, laughing, telling tales, offering counsel, praying together, studying the Word together, and drinking a local drink called Youki (u-kee!), I know I will miss going out to Aflantan once we depart from this place in a few months. I see Yaovi at least once a week and we talk 3-4 times on his new cell phone (he’s promised to keep up the communication even when I’m in Texas!) I have thought about it a lot today, wondering how their individual lives plus the life of the church at Aflantan will progress long after we’re out of the way! God is good…always has been and always will be!

I only thought I was tired last night after having arrived at 5p and then not arriving home until almost 11p. This week, we’ve been without water and were down to our last barrel of reserve water yesterday as we climbed into bed. I know we were both praying fervently that we would not have to start skimping on the bucket baths we’ve been taking (it’s plenty warm to warrant a good shower without having to do so sparingly). Well, God heard our prayers, but seems like He’s on a different time zone (just kiddin’ Lord!) At 3a, we heard the gurgles in the faucets and immediately shot out of bed to start filling up our reserve barrels. The water was flowing, but was without much force at all…so the process to fill up one 50 gallon bucket took almost a half-hour! By 6:15a, we were all done!! But no time for a nap, ‘cause the kids were up and I was due to leave at 8a for an all-day leadership meeting with our national organization! It was a great meeting and although I could write a lot of good things about their vision for the future, their sacrificial efforts to creatively finance their own evangelistic efforts (through the raising of pigs!)…well, I’m just too tired. Maybe another day. Kelly has had a good day with the kids, but the discipline has been consistent all day long…my wife is tired as well. We’re blessed with so much activity in our lives…between the ministry and our kids, we live a life full of rich blessing!

We’re going to go relax at the beach for a day or so, enjoying walking and playing in the sand, swimming in the beachside pool, and enjoying some good food (prepared by someone else!) I would hope that on at least one of the 10 TV channels, I might find some coverage of the Super Bowl (it’ll either be broadcast in French or out of South Africa). Either way, I’m pickin’ Chicago…sorry JK (my Indy friend):
Bears 27
Colts 24

As we were waiting last night the customary hour for the folks at Aflantan to arrive, I took off onto a long winding dirt path and was doing some praying and thinking. One of the great blessings of our missionary life is the amount of time we get to be around our kids. I know this is the joy of other missionary colleagues and probably the envy of my Stateside friends who spend most of their working day apart from their kiddos. My office is on the other side of the wall from the TV and there are a number of videos playing throughout the day, depending on the age appropriateness of the viewer. I have spent a lot of my mornings this past week in my office preparing for the evening’s lesson in the Gospel of John. Somewhere on my walking path, a tune came into my head that I couldn’t shake. I began to whistle it as well…but could not place the song. I was going through all the Aja songs I knew plus as many of the new Hillsongs or Chris Tomlin worship songs we have recently heard. I was singing in English, Aja and in French trying to get words to fit this catchy tune of this mysterious hymn. I whistled and whistled some more. Finally I discovered the source of this energetic song when the words flowed right out of my mouth: “I love Clifford, the Big Red Dog!Gotta move my office or I’ll next start beginning to mix up Jesus’ words of wisdom with the wise counsel brought by Reverend Alden from the Little House on the Prairie!

We’ll be beachside tomorrow and Monday…we’ll try and post some new pictures when we return. God bless your weekend!



Cheryl said...

Praise God for water...the kind that runs through the faucets and the Living Water you are sharing with those you minister to!
I am so encouraged by the positive things you and Kelly choose to focus on in the midst of difficult times...God's Spirit of Joy is evident in your testimonials... God be praised!
Way to go Randy and Kelly! His Spirit shines bright in you!

Don Box said...

Dear Randy and Kelly,
It is always a pleasure to read and contemplate your accounts of ministry, family, and endurance in the land of the Aja. It will certainly be great for Becky and Peyton to visit soon. What a hoot it will be!
I enjoyed bunking out with Morton at the RHCC men's retreat this weekend. It was great. God bless! Don Box

Kendra said...

Your water story makes me feel tired - real tired - just thinking about all the extra work you guys have to do there. Gather your own water in the middle of the night, power your own electricity with a generator, cook every meal from scratch . . .thanks for having such a great attitude about it!!! I sure hope the beach was nice and relaxing. Someone else to cook, water hopefully is there immdiately, and a great AC to keep you nice and cool! Sure do love you and have been praying for you especially today.

CommentRV said... are the best communicator!!! I feel like I am walking the paths with you...or bumping along the roads...sweating in the huts...hearing the laughter...the stories of your life in Benin are treasures...I do pray that our Lord is writng them on your heart forever...I pray that the momories will always be fresh...blessing...m-i-l

CommentRV said... are the best communicator!!! I feel like I am walking the paths with you...or bumping along the roads...sweating in the huts...hearing the laughter...the stories of your life in Benin are treasures...I do pray that our Lord is writng them on your heart forever...I pray that the momories will always be fresh...go Clifford!!...blessing...m-i-l