Hangin' Out in Karongue

Hangin' Out in Karongue

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Pray for Birassou Bodiankounda

Yaya with our family in his father's orchard.
A little over a month ago our family was taking one of our afternoon walks through the village seeing friends and acquaintances, praying as we walked, and looking for the people that God would put in our path. And that was when we met Yaya. He was finishing up playing in a soccer game, was covered with sweat and sand, and happened to be standing in the middle of the road as we turned the corner. We greeted him and asked his name as we walked together. He was very polite, had an inviting smile, and happened to be going in the same direction we were. As we walked by his house, he asked where we lived in Diouloulou and said that one day he might come and visit us.

And the next day he did just that. As a matter of fact, he came over almost every day that week. Usually it was for just a few minutes, sometimes longer, but we really grew to appreciate this young man. When Yaya comes over he usually helps Matt with his Diola, laughs a lot, and discusses life and all that it entails. He is one of those young men that is just a pleasure to be around. He is a student at the high school in Diouloulou, but comes from a small village about 6 kilometers from here called Birassou Bodiankounda. He lives there with his father, who is the village imam (Muslim religious leader), his father's two wives, numerous siblings, and some other members of his extended family.

Ezra with a village elder
Recently we spent the day in Birassou with Yaya and his family. We ate together, toured his father's orchard and the rice field, met many of the elders of the village, drank tea and talked about Diola culture, and laughed a lot. Thanks to the generosity of a people with very little, we left the village that evening with a sack full of oranges, a large bundle of rice, a sack of peanuts, a squash, and many good memories. And we hope that we began relationships that will open the door a little wider for the Gospel to go to Birassou Bodiankounda.

Matt and Hosanna with Yaya's father
Please pray for the village of Birassou Bodiankounda. Pray that we would have more opportunities to spend time there. Pray that God would begin to work in the hearts of the people there. Pray for Yaya, his brother Lamine, and his father, that we would grow closer to them over the coming weeks and months. And pray that God would begin to call people to Himself.

Nothing happens by accident. So the next time you turn the corner and bump into the imam's son know that God just might be up to something great!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Pray for Karongue

The director of the school in Karongue,
Mr. Sane, and his class.
Recently, we spent the day in a village called Karongue. Karongue is about 12 kilometers away from Diouloulou and Keba, one of the believers from Diouloulou, has family that lives there. We spent the day meeting new friends, talking with the chief and his family, praying for people, and visiting the small elementary school in the village. We did this with the goal of one day soon being able to start a regular Bible study in the village that is lead and facilitated by a believer from Diouloulou, namely Keba.

During our visit there we laughed, joked with the people, and talked about the things of life, but we also told them that we and our friends in America promised to pray for them and their village. And they really took this to heart. They were encouraged to know that there was a family in Diouloulou and friends in America who were promising that they would pray for their village.

And now we must pray. We must pray without ceasing. We must pray with fervency and consistency. We must pray that God, by His Spirit, would be at work in the hearts and minds of the people of Karongue. Please commit to pray regularly for the people of Karongue. Commit to pray for Keba and his standing in the village and that he would have wisdom and boldness as he prepares to lead a study there in the future. And pray for us as we seek to equip the few believers who are here in Diouloulou to take the Gospel to the surrounding villages.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Happy Anniversary Gayle!

The greatest gift of my life has been the gift of Jesus Christ. He saved and transformed me, not because of me and what I did nor because of my merit or goodness, but because of His unyielding love and sacrifice for me. That is a gift without rivals and a gift that can only be given by God Himself.

But second on the list is my precious wife, Gayle. And she too is a gift from God. From a human standpoint our "chance" meeting over 18 years ago was absolutely improbable. But from God's vantage point it was another piece of the puzzle of amazing grace that He was putting together in my life.

I often tell Gayle that I was in love with her from the first week that I met her. And she likewise always says that she was not nearly  that quick on the draw. When we were dating we were separated by almost 200 miles (and as she would say, almost 8 years!), but thankfully with some time (and heavy doses of my charm!) she began to see the light!

We both became Christians about a month before our wedding and the presence of Christ in our marriage has made all of the difference in the world. It has been amazing not just to "grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ" as an individual, but to be able to do so with the one that you walk through life with.

The Heart and Hands of a Servant:
Gayle helping our neighbor wrap sheep
intestines around the lining of a
sheep's stomach before they cook it.
Our life together has not exactly gone as we scripted it in those first few years of marriage, but one of the mind-blowing things about Gayle is that she has always been great with where God has taken our family and our lives. She was okay when we left our "careers," sold our dream home, and took our two-month-old son and moved to Kentucky for me to attend Bible college. She was okay because she trusted God and (for this I am eternally grateful and overwhelmingly amazed) she trusted me. Later, when we moved even father away from family and familiarity to serve in Idaho she was equally happy and content. Very early in our marriage she once told me, "I am okay wherever we are because the Lord will be there and you will be there." She has always just wanted to be where the Lord would have our family be. And now we live in a rural village in southern Senegal for the sake of the  Gospel and the unreached peoples here. I have watched her travel this long road to Africa with great joy and thorough resolve as she seeks to be faithful to God's call.

Gayle has always been my biggest "fan" and has always supported me in everything. That has been a huge blessing as we have sought to serve the Lord and His church together for the last decade. But she has supported me enough and with such love and thoroughness that she has never shied away from lovingly telling me when I was wrong or when I needed to think more deeply about something. She has consistently mixed overwhelming love with solid truth in our relationship and I am surely a better man because of her.

Indeed, I could go on and on with all of the ways that God has used Gayle to bless me and our family, but all of those roads lead me back to His grace. I am continually reminded of how undeserving I am of all of God's grace. I guess that is the great thing about grace: you get the overwhelming blessing that you do not deserve. And that is exactly what I got 17 years ago today  
when I married Gayle. Happy anniversary Gayle! Thanks for being the second best gift I've ever received!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Today Muslims all over the world are celebrating "Eid al-Adha" or the "Festival of the Sacrifice." In West Africa the festival is known as "Tabaski." It commemorates when Abraham, according to the Koran, was willing to sacrifice his son Ishmael. (The Bible recounts this story quite differently and can be found in Genesis chapter 22.)

Our neighbors performing their sacrifice
behind our house.
This morning our landlord and his sons went to the mosque to pray while the women and girls stayed behind at their home to continue to prepare for the days festivities. After prayers at the mosque, they returned home and "sacrificed" their ram. The father dug a small hole behind our house with a machete while the boys went to get the ram. They then held the ram on the ground while their father slit its throat and the blood of the ram poured into the hole. And they did all of this with the hope that the spilled blood of this ram would atone for their sins of the previous year.

And next year they will repeat the same process, just like they have done all of the previous years that have gone before.

The Bible teaches that "in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins" (Hebrews 10:3-4). Thankfully, the Bible teaches that Jesus "offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins" when He gave His life as a sacrifice for our sins on the cross (Hebrews 10:12). Jesus, the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world, provided for us a sacrifice that does not need to be repeated, but rather needs to be embraced, cherished, and trusted.

Pray with us today for the Muslims of Diouloulou and southern Senegal. Pray that they might forsake the rams of Tabaski and embrace the Lamb of God that truly takes away the sins of the world.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Pray for Kafountine

Kafountine is more than a big village, but seems less than a little town. For me, it is really hard to describe the place. It is on the coast so you can find a few tourists there (and all of the things that come with tourists who visit rural Africa) and there are even a few Toubabs (white folks) who live there. You can find some bars there (one with a life-sized wooden statue of Elvis out front), a few restaurants, and all along the beach you find dozens and dozens of pirogues (wooden boats that resemble large canoes) with mile after mile of racks of fish drying in the sun or being smoked over smoldering fires. 

For me Kafountine is a place like none other, and not necessarily in a good way. Kafoutine always reminds me of the bar scene in Star Wars Episode 4 on the planet Tatooine: a place filled with people who come from many different places, all seeming to be a little suspect, with an element of danger mixed in (remember that Han Solo does shoot Greedo in that scene!)

We have been to Kaufountine a few times over the years that we have visited Senegal, met a few people, and given away a few Bibles there. A few years ago there was even an attempt to begin a church there by a Senegalese church planter from the north, but we heard that the work was abandoned after less than a year because it was so difficult. We have, however, heard that a group of Ghanaians (people who come from the West African country of Ghana) have a small church there where they worship together. 

Last Sunday we spent the afternoon in Kafountine as we attended a baby-naming ceremony there. The brother of one of the believers here in Diouloulou recently had twins and Sunday was the day that he was to announce their names: Adama and Awa (Adam and Eve in English). Traditionally here you name twins after Adam and Eve.

As part of the ceremony there was a griot (a traditional singer) who sang and announced the names of the babies as well as the history of the parents and their family. We also ate together, drank tea, and the girls spent a lot of time holding the babies. In keeping with tradition, we gave the father a small amount of money to help with the expenses of the ceremony, we gave the mother several bars of soap to help in washing the children and the clothes, and we also gave the father a Bible. Their family is Muslim, but after discussing this with his brother we felt that he would be open to receiving the Bible. We wrapped the Bible in paper and placed it in a plastic bag with the soap so as to not put him on the spot publicly, but as we left I explained to him that we wanted to give him something special as he began his new life as a father; something that could make a real difference in this life and in the life to come.

Be praying for this man, his wife and his young family. Pray for the people of Kafountine who need to hear and understand the Gospel. Be praying for God to call people to Himself and to a relationship with Him through His Son Jesus Christ and then to call those new believers to go and announce the Good News. Be praying all Senegal for Christ!  

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Pray for Badioncoto

The village of Badioncoto sits next to Diouloulou, a few kilometers away. It is a village on the "interior," simply meaning that it is not along the road, but is rather in the bush. To get there from our home you have to take a trail through the bush, that then takes you to a rice field, that leads you through an inlet from the river, that leads to another rice field, that then leads to the bush again, and finally to the village of Badioncoto. This time of year the walk seems hot and long, but truly beautiful as everything is green from the recent rains.

Badioncoto is a small village, mainly made up of large Diola families, that has a small elementary school and a "boutique" which is a one room shop where you can buy the very basic necessities of life. There is no church in Badioncoto and no Christians as it seems that most everyone there follows traditional African beliefs.

On several occasions, we and the believers in Diouloulou have travelled to Badioncoto to share the Gospel there and to look for opportunities to witness.

This past Sunday our family spent the afternoon in Badioncoto with some friends. We sat under the shade of a large mango tree, drank tea, ate a lunch of rice and small fish, played with the kids, and made some new friends. (The kids were especially enamored with Matt and Hosanna's hair and could not keep their hands off of it. There is no sensation like having a little child's sandy hands running through the hair on your head and arms while it is around 100 degrees!)

And while we were there we prayed. We prayed that the Spirit of God would begin to work in the hearts of the people of Badioncoto. We prayed that God would work in the hearts and lives of the few believers in Diouloulou so that they would bring the Gospel to their neighbors in Badioncoto. And we prayed for you, that God would burden your heart to pray for the people of Badioncoto. Please pray for Badioncoto and as you do think about what a grand privilege and responsibility it is to do so, knowing that you may be one of just a few people on this earth who are lifting these people before the Lord. Please join us in praying for the Gospel to spread to Badioncoto.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Pray for the N-5

Sometimes I look at a map of southern Senegal and I think, "Where do you start?" Village after village, after village, after village with no missionary, no church, and no Christians. Village after village where the Gospel has yet to go. Really, where do you start?

The answer is that you start with prayer. A few times each month we travel from Diouloulou toward Ziguinchor on a road called the N-5; a road that stretches from the border between Senegal and the Gambia in the north to the town of Bignona. While the road is not particularly long, it represents for us a vast mission field with dozens and dozens of villages along the N-5. While these Diola villages range in size from a few families to over 1,000 inhabitants, there are two things that can be said about nearly all of them: each village has at least one mosque (an Islamic place of worship) and each village has zero Christians.  

And we believe that God  wants us and the believers in Diouloulou to do something about this! As we disciple and train the believers in Diouloulou it is our prayer that early next year we can begin initial evangelism efforts in some of these villages. Evangelism that is led by equipped Senegalese believers.

But we dare not begin this without prayer. We are starting the "N-5 Prayer Initiative" where we are asking our partners in the Gospel to pray for the villages along the N-5. An initiative where we pray together for specific villages and for the people in those villages that God would begin to open their hearts and minds in advance of our work.

Our desire is to communicate to you regular prayer requests with specific villages and specific people and families that we know and are working with in those villages. Please take a few moments to watch the video below that was taken as we travelled along the N-5 and please feel free to share it with others. Also, we urge you to set aside some time each day, possibly as you pray before each meal or as you have a time of prayer as a family, to lift up the villages of the N-5.

As we think about "all Senegal for Christ," prayer cannot just be a part of our strategy; it must be the foundation of our strategy as we ask God to move in the villages along the N-5. Join us as we seek God for the villages and the people of the N-5.



Friday, August 30, 2013

You know you live in an African village when...

You know you live in an African village when your outside bathroom is occupied and your youngest child has to go "sicky potty" because of something that she ate in the village that did not agree with her tummy and your first instinct is to grab your machete and a roll of toilet paper and dig a quick hole in the corner of your yard with the machete in the pouring down rain for her to go "sicky potty" in and she willingly does it without question.

And yes, we know we live in an African village!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Mama Lucy

Everyone knows Mama Lucy. Consensus is that she is 107 years old, but that fact is likely impossible to verify. It is, however, obvious that she is very, very old. One thing that is verifiable is that she and her late husband are the ones who founded our part of Diouloulou many years ago.

Anytime that we walked to the market we would pass right in front of her house. The path literally goes right in front of her door. She was easy to spot because she always sat in the same place in front of her house and she never wore a shirt. And "never" is not an exaggeration. (I will also "never" forget the first time that Ezra had to stop and greet the topless 107 year old Mama Lucy!)

We always spoke to her when we passed by, though our conversations were always short since she speaks only Diola and our Diola only goes so far at this point. We would greet her, ask about her family, exchange the normal pleasantries that are part of greetings here in southern Senegal, and then we would tell her that we would see her soon and we were on our way. Seeing Mama Lucy on a daily basis was just part of the routine of village life.

But when we returned back to the village two weeks ago something was amiss: Mama Lucy wasn't in front of her house. And she is always in front of her house. Yesterday we stopped by her house with a Diola friend and he went in and inquired about her and everyone said that she was doing fine.

This afternoon we stopped back by her house and she was sitting out front in her usual position. We stopped, shook hands, and exchanged greetings in Diola and our family was thankful to see Mama Lucy back in her normal place. I asked one of her daughters about her health and she said that she was doing well.

As we walked away I was thankful that we were growing closer to their family and I also began to think of more things that we could do to deepen our relationship with them.

That was about three hours ago. I just returned from walking one of our friends partway home when someone came to tell me that Mama Lucy had just died. Tomorrow many, many people from Diouloulou and the surrounding villages will descend upon Mama Lucy's house and she will be buried by the afternoon.

Pray for the Diola people, for Diouloulou, and for the family of Mama Lucy. And pray for the Gospel to take root here among a people who live in the shadow of death.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Because you pray for us

One of the believers here in Diouloulou is married. Since he became a Christian around three years ago his wife has been incredibly hostile to his faith. Because he left Islam to follow Jesus, she has at times refused to cook for him and to do his laundry; things that are scandalous in this culture. But to make things worse, on several occasions she has gone to the imam (the local Islamic leader) and asked him to come and talk to her husband about his new faith. She has also freely shared her disdain for her husband's Christianity with everyone in their part of the village.

It goes without saying that this has been hard for our brother to bear.

Up until this time we have had virtually no relationship with his wife. He told us that he wants to invite us over to his home, but his wife would not cook for us. The few times we have ventured to his house she has left soon after we arrived. But we occasionally see her in the market or in the village and we always stop and ask about her and her family before she leaves. She has always been cordial, yet cold.

A few weeks ago our family began to regularly go over to our brother's house and pray for his mother who lives with him who has been sick. As usual, his wife would leave soon after our arrival and we would be sure not to overstay our welcome, but to talk for a few moments, pray, and then leave.

And our visits to our brother's house also caused us to pray more fervently for his wife.

This last Sunday, as our brother was spending some time with us, I went out on a limb and asked him if he would consider inviting his wife to come over with him one day for a meal. No strings attached, just a time to get to know her. He grinned and said that he would think about it and we responded that we would pray that God would give him wisdom in how to handle our invitation. To be honest, we were not sure that he would even ask her as anything associated with his Christianity is a topic that is usually off-limits with his wife.

However, this morning I received a call from our brother and, much to my surprise, he said that he had given the invitation to his wife and she planned to come over. Today. At 3:00. Alone, without her husband. So of course we began to pray.

Gayle prepared a nice, simple meal and at 3:30 our brother's wife arrived. She was carrying her eight-month old daughter and she sat with us in the shade. Over the next hour-and-a-half we talked, ate, played with the baby, and enjoyed each other's company. We did not share the Gospel with her, nor did we start a Bible study or give her a Bible, but we did begin to show her the love of Christ as we served her and shared with her that we pray often for her and her family. As they say here in Senegal, "Little by little the bird makes his nest."

We believe that God opens up relationships like this one, and many, many others that once seemed closed, because you pray for us. Hearts soften and walls break down because of the moving of God and God chooses to move in response to the faithful prayers of His people.

So thank you for praying for us and please pray for our brother and his wife and family. And praise God, the ultimate bridge builder, for doing yet again what in our eyes seemed impossible.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Happy Birthday Thea!

After over three-and-a-half years of infertility problems we really believed that Ezra was going to be our only child. And we were totally okay with this and overjoyed that we would even be parents of one child. Little did we know, however, that immediately after Ezra was weaned that Gayle would be pregnant yet again. And this time it was going to be a girl!

We were in living in Louisville, Kentucky at the time and I was a full-time college student working two jobs. It would be an amazing understatement to say that things were financially a bit tight during that period of our lives. It was a time where we were having to trust God for everything. And now we were going to have to learn to trust Him as a family of four.

While we had Ezra's name picked out years in advance, we really struggled to come up with a girl's name. I really liked Lilly and fought pretty hard for it; Gayle liked Lydia and held fast to it. But neither of us liked the other's name they had picked out. There were two names that we were both kind of neutral toward: Anna and Thea. We had a friend in college that was named Thea and we always thought that it was a pretty and unique name.
So one afternoon, as we were at our usual name-picking stalemate, I wrote down the four names that we were considering on small pieces of paper and put them into a hat. Gayle and I then agreed that we would draw out a name and we would stick to it; that would be the name for our soon-to-be-born baby girl. She agreed, reached in the hat, and pulled out the name Thea. And so when we are asked where we got her name we can truly say that we pulled it out of a hat!  

I remember the moment when I saw Thea for the first time in the delivery room. And I remember how my heart felt when I saw her. I was now the father of a daughter; a beautiful little girl. When she came home from the hospital a few days later she had jaundice and had to spend all her time in what we called her little tanning bed with a blindfold on. And she was perfect! We would sit and watch her sleep in her little brightly lit contraption and we loved her and prayed for her and we began at that time to pray for her future.

Since those early days in Louisville, Thea has grown into a sweet "tween" who loves the Lord Jesus, wants to follow Him, and has a desire to serve others. Thea has not always had it easy with some of the things that God has brought her way and she is, for good and for ill, a lot like her father. But she has always had a way of capturing her dad's heart. Among the many other nicknames I have for her I often call her "Theadorable" because I tell her that her father adores her.

Happy eleventh birthday Thea. Know that your Father's plans are even grander and richer than the plans I have for you. And as much as I love and adore you, my love will always pale in comparison to His abounding and abundant love for you!   

Friday, August 2, 2013

Happy Birthday Hosanna!

Where do I even begin to describe Hosanna and what she brings to our family? Here in Senegal she is called Mymouna and she is quite the celebrity in Diouloulou. In the village most people know of our family, but everybody knows Mymouna. After all, it is not every day that a cute, blonde-haired, blue-eyed little girl ditty-bops through a village in rural Africa.

Today we celebrate the sixth birthday of Hosanna. I remember well coming home from a short term mission trip to Senegal in December of 2006. The day after I returned Gayle sat me down and said, "I think that I might be pregnant." I thought, "No way. There is no way that you are pregnant." But the next day, after at least two pregnancy tests, this fact was confirmed: Gayle was indeed pregnant. She fell on the bed and began to cry and I began to laugh (I think in an attempt to keep from joining her in crying).

It wasn't that we were sad; it was more that we were shocked. We were not planning to have another child. Gayle was 41, we did not have maternity coverage on our insurance, and we were not sure that we were ready for an infant in the house. It was just not in our plan. But the shock was short lived as we began to get more and more excited about the thought of having another child.

We had never been very good at picking out and agreeing upon girl's names and we reached our usual baby naming gridlock until Thea (who was 4 at the time) suggested that we name her little sister Hosanna. And we loved the name. Hosanna means "God save us!" It is really a prayer and a plea for God to save and to rescue His people. We chose Grace for her middle name because at this time in our life and ministry God was teaching us a great deal about His abundant grace for His people.  

I cannot even begin to express what joy Hosanna has brought to the life of our family and the heart of her father. We have often said, "What did we do for fun before God gave us Hosanna to entertain us?" Sometimes God's greatest gifts come at first as a shock, but soon after are seen as nothing more than pure grace. In this case, Hosanna Grace. Happy 6th birthday Hosanna!  

Monday, July 22, 2013


When we first arrived in Senegal we had a very wise missionary colleague tell our family to beware of the word "they." She said that it is easy to fall into the trap of using the word "they" to refer to the Senegalese: "They do things like this." "They like this type of food." "This is how they act." This use of "they" sets up a barrier of sorts, we and "they," and it makes it much harder to assimilate into the culture and to become a part of the life here. "They" causes you to think and live like an outsider.

Consciously, we mean nothing by the use of the word as it gets used to state real differences that we have with our Senegalese friends. But subconsciously it puts up walls between us. And we are here to let the Gospel break down walls, rather than erect them.

So early on we started being aware of our use of the word "they." Anytime someone used the word it would be met with a quick, "ah!" and a pointed finger and we were faithful to police ourselves with a desire to acknowledge our differences while at the same time maintain an accepting posture. And we had really gotten to the point where hearing the word was rare.

Then the other night Thea asked some questions about what "they" do. Only this time the "they" was in reference to Americans. This time the use of the word "they" did not illicit finger pointing, but rather puzzled looks. Ezra was quick to chime in that Thea was a "they" in this context and then the puzzled look was found on her face. It was the first time where she had to come face-to-face with the reality that she really did not feel as if she belonged to a culture.

You see, for Thea, and I imagine this is true for Ez and Hosanna as well as most other missionary children, everyone is a "they."

The struggle for missionary kids is that you do not really fit in here in your new culture. No matter how well you adapt, how many trees you climb barefooted, how well you can wash clothes by hand, or how many languages you can speak, you are still not an insider. It is not that you are totally an outsider, but rather that you are never fully inside.

But the same thing is true for your passport country. You forget what life is like there and how things go. Life there seems foreign as well and while it rings with a familiarity, that ring gets more distant and faint the longer you are away. And then one day the Americans also become "they."

I fear there is not an easy recipe for this other than to love our children, listen to them well, and together with them long for a city whose builder and maker is God (Hebrews 11:10). Indeed, pilgrims are never at home.

So the children live with the reality that for them everyone but our family feels a little like a "they." We teach them to seek their refuge and their place of belonging in the never-changing Christ (Hebrews 13:8). And we walk this glorious, but often difficult, road of serving Jesus cross-culturally beside them. And we try not to use the word "they;" for Senegalese or for Americans.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


"O Lord of the oceans,
My little bark sails on a restless ea,
Grant that Jesus may sit at the helm and steer me safely;
Suffer no adverse currents to divert my heavenward course;
Let not my faith be wrecked amid storms and shoals;
Bring me to harbour with flying pennants, hull unbreached, cargo unspoiled.
I ask great things,
expect great things,
shall receive great things.
I venture on Thee wholly, fully,
my wind, sunshine, anchor, defence.
The voyage is long, the waves high, the storms pitiless,
but my helm is held steady,
Thy Word secures safe passage,
Thy grace wafts me onward,
my haven is guaranteed.
This day will bring me nearer home,
Grant me holy consistency in every transaction,
my peace flowing as a running tide,
my righteousness as every chasing wave.
Help me to live circumspectly,
with skill to convert every care into prayer,
Halo my path with gentleness and love,
smooth every asperity of temper;
let me not forget how easy it is to occasion grief;
may I strive to bind up every wound,
and pour oil on all troubled waters.
May the world this day be happier and better because I live.
Let my mast before me be the Saviour's cross,
and every oncoming wave the fountain in His side.
Help me, protect me in the moving sea until I reach the shore of unceasing praise."

"The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions" - Arthur Bennett

Monday, July 1, 2013

Random Pictures of Life

One of Hosanna's friends received an Operation Christmas Child box with a toothbrush inside. Soon after, Hosanna comes inside and starts frantically searching for toothpaste. When we inquired what was going on, she replied, "I am going to teach Mymouna how to brush her teeth!" And teach her she did as Mymouna brushed her teeth for the next 10 or so minutes!

As always, she has a mango in her hand!

Ezra and Abdoulaye in the back of the truck sitting on our harvest of "egylie" that we had gone and cut down in the forest. Abdoulaye's mother with remove the seeds from the "egylie" pods, separate them from the powdery substance that surrounds them, wash them and dry them, and then send them off to Dakar to sell.

Saturday afternoon at the children's ministry.

Gayle with the aunt of a Christian young man in the village. We spent the day with their family eating, talking, laughing, and praying for them and their needs.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Taking the Long View

We have to take the long view, though it is extremely tempting to try and do it another way. I come from a culture that seeks and celebrates quick and immediate results that are quantifiable. We value taking our experience, ingenuity, and expertise and applying it to the problems around us as we seek to "fix" what appears to be broken. When we see a "problem" we develop an action plan, assemble the needed resources, and jump in with both feet to tackle the issue at hand. And the quicker we can do this the better.

And everything within me wants to do just that. But that's not  taking the long view. And we have to take the long view.

The long view takes patience; a lot of patience. And the long view takes prayer; many days more prayer than action. The long view forces you to look not just at the next step, but to dream about the finish. To look to the "Z" even though you find yourself somewhere between "B" and "C." The long view does not just see problems that needs to be solved; it sees people that need to be nurtured, discipled, and equipped. And while the long view surely recognizes the problems in the local Body of Christ, it also sees the God-given potential of Spirit-filled brothers and sisters in Christ.

We have to take the long view.

To be totally transparent, the long view often frustrates me. I want to alert everyone to what I see needs to be done, admonish everyone with biblical wisdom and practical application, pass out a written plan where everyone has a specific job to do, and then hit the ground running so that we can get it done as quickly and efficiently as possible before my next newsletter update.

And that would work. It would even work well. I could lead the charge with my decade of ministry experience, my seminary diploma, and my wallet full of cash. And that would really work. But it would only work for my lifetime. It would only work while I and my family are here. This kind of strategy and approach where I  take the lead will only be effective for the next 25 years or so while our family is in Senegal. And then what happens? What happens when the American and his ideas and his diploma and his wallet go back to the states? When that happens everybody goes back to somewhere between "B" and "C."

That's why we have to take the long view.

The long view does not run ahead of the local believers, but rather walks beside them and stands behind them. The long view recognizes that the greatest missionaries, church planters, and evangelists that Senegal will ever have will be discipled and equipped Senegalese church planters and evangelists. The long view feels the heavy weight of Jesus' command to makes disciples and settles for nothing less than disciples who are equipped to make other disciples. The long view does not look like a program that can be carried out step-by-step; it looks like you daily pouring your life into the local believers so that step-by-step they might go farther than you ever could. The long view sees the worth of the local church here, even though the church may be small, weak, and often scared. The long view helps local believers to dream with God and prayerfully ask Him what their "Z" looks like and then walks alongside them as they travel there.

I dare not settle for what I can do. I must desire what God can do through a healthy and equipped Senegalese church. That's the long view.

Indeed, the long view is slow, messy, and often frustrating. It is filled with more questions than answers and more than ample opportunities for mistakes. And the long view is not always filled with powerful stories that make for great and inspiring missionary updates. But we have to take the long view. For the long view is the story of God's grace changing a people, strengthening a church, and calling workers into the harvest from the harvest. And it's those type of stories of grace that will outlast missionaries like us and that will change a people for the glory of Christ.

We just have to take the long view.

Pray for us and with us as we take the long view and as we walk alongside Senegalese believers toward God's "Z" for the people of southern Senegal.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Progression

When we first arrived: "There are ants in the food. We will have to throw it out."

After a month: "There are ants in it, but we may be able to salvage some of it."

After two months: "There are ants in it, but I think that we can get them out."

After three months: "There are ants in it, but not that many. We can still eat it."

Today: "There are ants in it. Just pray and eat."

Monday, June 3, 2013

Operation Christmas Child

We went to Bignona to pick up the shoeboxes to take
back to Diouloulou.

The boxes arrive!
Pastor Sekou from Bignona tells the children
the story of the Good Samaritan in French
and Abdoulaye translates into Wolof.


Thea gets to give a shoebox to one of her friends.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Operation Christmas Child Comes to Town....or Village

When we lived back in the states our family always took part in filling up shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child. It was great fun to fill shoes boxes with small treats knowing that these boxes would be taken all over the world and given to children by a local church in an effort to spread the Gospel and link a family with a local Bible believing church. And we always talked about what it would be like to be on the other end of the boxes and to be able to give them to the children. Well, this Saturday we will get to find out!

This coming Saturday the church here in Diouloulou will have the opportunity to distribute some of the boxes to the children who take part in the children's ministry here. We leave early Saturday morning to drive to Bignona to pick up the boxes and bring them back to Diouloulou, get set up, and then in the afternoon we will have a special time with the children and their parents. Before the boxes are given out the Gospel will be shared and we are praying that God would work in the lives of the children and the parents who are going to take part. Please be in prayer for the church here and especially for the parents and children, all of which come from Muslim or Animist families. And check back on our blog in a few days as we post some pictures of the fun!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Good Friends, Good Times

Hosanna and Thea cracking open the cashews they had just roasted with their friends. 

Thea and her good friend Harriet after roasting cashews.

Ezra and his best friend Yaya (aka "The Monkey Hunter")
as they roast cashews that they had collected.

Ezra and Yaya in the very top of a mango tree
looking for ripe mangos.

To add a little perspective, here is Ezra and Yaya in the top of the same tree.

Matt and Ibrahima (aka "The Mirror" because he mimics Matt's every move and expression) doing what they do best.

Ez and his pals.

Hosanna and Harriet roasting cashews.

Alpha, Ezra, and Yaya hanging out in the mango tree.