Hangin' Out in Karongue

Hangin' Out in Karongue

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!