2009 July 12
Hello again to all my friends and family. Since the last newsletter in May, I have received emails from a number of you sharing bits of news and encouragement. Recently, I received quite a number of emails wishing me a happy birthday. Thank you for taking the time to write and I thank my mother for starting that string of fun emails. I will do my best to correspond with personal emails, even if it is some weeks later! Knowing that I have a network of people around the globe praying for me gives me courage, because I know that God loves to answer prayers.
Please note my new email address: firstname.lastname@example.org A friendly reminder: please use this one only for personal correspondence (no forwards, pictures, etc.) I will still use my other address, but check it less often.
Please also check out the new website at http://africaaviationministry.org/. In addition to a description of the projects and ways you can help, you will find past newsletters and links to blogs that I do not send out via email. No pictures are posted yet, but some are on their way to Georgia to be posted on the Internet soon. The website will continue to grow over time.
After Kaleb's death, Gary and Wendy decided to take their furlough earlier than planned to allow them some time to spend with family and to start the healing process. The six weeks we spent together here were very helpful, but definitely not enough for me to have much grasp on culture and language. But knowing that God's hand directs events, I did not hesitate to remain here and to do what I can to help out in their absence. Am I out of my comfort zone? Definitely. But I am also learning very much about relying on God's strength and wisdom.
Language learning is probably my main focus during the few months before Gary and Wendy return. Learning French has been frustrating at times, but has mostly been a fun challenge. I am even trying to learn a little of the much more difficult local language. One of my African friends speaks some English, so we sometimes get together and translate for each other. I learn more French by interacting with the locals than by studying like a hermit in a hut. Finishing the welding on the first stage of Gary and Wendy's house kept me busy for a while. Learning how to converse with the workers has increased my French vocabulary, at least in the construction category. Jeremy and Annie have been very helpful in areas where my language skills are deficient. With her excellent French, Annie has helped me several times through communication issues with the workers.
While not helping me, Jeremy spends most of his time developing the agriculture portion of the nutrition center project. The plot of land that we have so far is known for being poor for growing crops. The soil is sandy and is nearly void of nutrients. With proper care over the next few years, however, we believe that this land can be much more productive. Now that the rains have started coming, we have planted a garden area for vegetables. Green manure crops will be planted soon, and Jeremy is planting many trees that will provide a source for nutrition in the future. We pray for God's blessing as we experiment with various farming techniques in an attempt to find the most productive method for this area.
Last time I wrote about the temperature here. Thanks to the rains, the days have been significantly cooler. Most days are in the mid-80s to mid-90s F now. This time you get to read a little about the water situation here. In this area, the water table lies about 10 meters below ground level. To access this valuable resource, people hand-dig wells. We had a well dug on our property recently. It took two guys about three weeks of working with a shovel; a large, sharpened piece of re-bar; a rope and a bucket to reach water. Nearly all wells here are open at ground level, and I am told that multiple deaths occur each year from people falling into these wells. If walking in unfamiliar territory at night, it might be wise to use your flashlight! I guess the simple idea of covering the wells does not cross their minds for some reason.
Here's the process a lady uses to fetch some water for cooking, drinking, or washing. She lowers a bucket, swings it a certain way to cause it to fill with water, and then raises a bucket full of water. Merely lowering the bucket causes the bucket to float nicely on the surface of the water. Learning the right swing for the rope and bucket is a bit of a trick. She will often transfer that water to another container, lift that container to her head, and carry it to her house. We have it easy: we use a generator and a pump that belongs to another mission here to pump water into a small water tower. So yes, we actually have faucets in the shower room and the kitchen. Unfortunately, nearly all wells here are contaminated, and it is not uncommon to see small village where nearly everybody has a case of worms. That is why we either boil or filter all water that we drink.
I'd like to tell you about our pet that I helped raise, but it takes a couple of pages to tell the story. Basically, Gary rescued a baby hawk and we raised it. After they left, it started flying around and sleeping in nearby trees at night. I could call at night, and it would reply to me. One morning, I walked outside and called the hawk and he flew down out of the top of the tree where he had slept and landed right on my arm, chirping hungrily. This story has a sad ending, but if you are interested in the full version, please visit Hawk.
About a month ago I was asked to help out at a series of Bible seminars in the village of Delbiane, about 10km from here. I alternated nights with Jeremy and Annie. Deep sand along the route to Delbiane presented me, as a novice motor bike operator, with a significant challenge of remaining relatively perpendicular to the ground. The bike bogged down numerous times, but I never laid it over completely on its side, thankfully, even though I usually had at least one passenger.
The beginning of the first several meetings were troubled by several people acting strange and making a general fool of themselves. I was told that these people were inhabited by evil spirits and that we needed to pray for God's presence. God hears prayers, and they did not show up again for the remaining nights. How happy I was to be present at the river where about ten people were baptized after their commitment to follow God completely!
Please pray for the efficient progression of the projects here. The month since Gary and Wendy left has been challenging for me. Yet things have gone probably as smoothly as expected in their absence. I must attribute that to God's blessing, as I do not feel fit for this task. Working for God is amazing, because He will never assign a task without first giving the ability. Please pray that God will give me wisdom to make wise decisions, as I do not understand all the potential cultural side-affects of various decisions.
Please pray for the friendships that I am building here. This Monday I meet with a group of people to study the Bible together, with Annie translating for me.
Just recently, while visiting somebody with one of my neighbors along the road, I was greeted by a lady with a gruff, strange voice. Here eyes communicated a deep, empty sadness hard to describe. She was agitated and literally foaming at the mouth. She got close enough to blow some foam onto my arm. Shortly after some people had her go away, I was informed that she was possessed by an evil spirit. My heart went out in sadness for her, and I wondered what her story is. I wondered how to help her without being able to speak her language. For now, I'm praying for her and for so many others who will have an opportunity to decide which side of the great controversy between Christ and Satan they will stand on. It is a reminder to me of how real this battle is and how we must strive to keep our focus on Christ.
Until next time, continuing in His service,