it’s going to be okay…

When you’re gone from any place for a while, coming back always brings a to-do list. When you’re gone from Africa for almost a month that to-do list is ridiculous! There are bills to be paid, trips to the market to be made, updates to send out, unpacking to do…and it goes on. Well finally, after a good week or so back in Bobo I have caught up. Or at least I am as caught up as I ever will be. The heat really messes with my productivity level!!

Life in Bobo is a little quieter now. Both the teammates are back in the States, and I am adjusting to life as a one-man team. It is different. I’d love to be able to say it has been a breeze, but that would make me a liar. It is hard. The Lord and I have had some tough conversations. I’ve laid it out there that I don’t really care for this set-up. I’ve questioned this plan. I’ve let him know that I am NOT. A. FAN. Being alone is for the birds!

But, at the end of every conversation with the Lord I’m reminded that he is good. All of this is part of his plan and it is for my good. For my good doesn’t equal easy. I’ve lived enough life to have experienced my fair share of, what my mom always calls, “character building moments”! I’m convinced that I am already chock-full of character…but I guess there’s a bit more room.

So, there are still those days when the loneliness overwhelming and I feel inadequate for the work and I think that I’ll never get this language down and I would much rather lock myself up in the house and tune into what’s going on in the Bravermans’ world rather than step outside my gate. And that’s usually when I get a kick in the butt!

Thursday was one of those days. My kick in the butt? A power cut. No one wants to stay inside when there’s no moving air.

Now, I don’t want to say that I’m surprised when the Lord shows up, but I’m always blown away. And humbled. And left standing in awe.

I went to visit a family I hadn’t seen in over a month. As I walked through their front gate, I was greeted more warmly than I have ever been greeted during my two years in Africa. You would have thought I was bringing them a million bucks! That’s a day-changer. And as we sat and caught up on life, one of the first things my friend asked for was more stories from the Word. A family that holds tightly to Islam wants to hear more Jesus stories. Our God is good. As I asked for the road and she walked me to my truck, she went on and on about how good my Jula was and wanted to know when I would be back to share the next story. She will never know how much her comment on my language encouraged me that day. Language learning isn’t a strong point and it’s hard work. The Lord knew.

That visit was exactly what my heart needed. It was as if the Lord was saying, “See? It’s going to be okay.” And it is. The hard days are inevitable, but the Lord is at work and has promised his presence. Couldn’t ask for more. He is enough.

In one of her sessions on David, Beth Moore said something that hit home for me, “We can go so far with God in the fellowship and comfort of close companions, but a time comes when each true follower is summoned further still.”

I’m pressing forward and going further still.

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day 3: a tour of the “o little town…”

It was a Sunday, so we had the opportunity to attend a local fellowship.  Though I could understand nothing and was busy thinking warm thoughts because I feared my extremities might give into frostbite, I loved getting to worship with the local believers in town.  Listening to people worship in their heart language is just awesome and it gives a small picture of what it will look like when “a great multitude that no one can number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb…crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'” (Rev 7:9-10).

Afterwards, we loaded up and headed to Manger Square…where we, of course, had falafel and hummus for lunch!

Some of the gang in front of the tree and nativity.

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Frying up goodness.

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The Church of the Nativity.  It is considered to be the oldest, continually operating Christian church in the world.  This church sits atop the cave that is said to be the birthplace of Jesus.

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This silver star is over the grotto (cave) where Jesus was born.  You can actually touch the rock.  Some choose to kiss it.  A nun actually cut me off as I was going to touch it, so she could kiss the rock.  True story.  The nuns and monks on this trip sure seemed to have it out for us!

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This is where the Midnight Mass is held of Christmas Eve.  It was closed when we came to visit, but we were told it would be standing room only!

DSCN0901 DSCN0905The next stop was Shepherd’s Field.  This was one of my favorite spots.

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There are buildings around, but you still can get a feel for what it would have been like for those shepherds.  I don’t really know what I pictured when Luke said “And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night”…but I don’t think it looked so rocky.  I always envisioned a nice, easy place to let your sheep graze.  This was by no means an easy place to hang out with sheep.

“And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)

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“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!'” (Luke 2:13-14)

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“When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.’  And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph and the baby lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:15-16)

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We headed down to another city to a glass-blowing factory.  The route we ended up on was not the one intended.  But, it gave us an incredible view of the countryside and allowed us to meet some super friendly guys, who made sure we made it to our destination.  When you read in the Word of all that happened during the times of the kings, when David was fleeing from Saul, etc…this is what they had to maneuver through and around.  Being able to see the geography of a place really makes the stories come to life!  It’s just cool.

                                                                          

If you can’t have Starbucks…well then, Stars & Bucks is the next best thing!!

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once for all.

The Old Mosque in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso

Tomorrow, Muslims around the world will celebrate Tabaski.  Tabaski is how those in West Africa refer to this festival.  Maybe you’ve heard it referred to by another name…Eid al-Adha, Feast of the Sacrifice or the Greater Eid.  The festival remembers the prophet Ibrahim’s (Abraham) willingness to sacrifice his son when God ordered him to do so (they believe Ishmael to be the son he almost sacrificed).  Abraham had shown that his love for God superseded all others: that he would lay down his own life or the lives of those dearest to him in submission to God’s command.  On Tabaski, a sheep (or a goat) is slaughtered as a symbolic gesture of the ram that God substituted for Abraham’s son.  The sacrificed meat will then be shared with family, friends and the poor, as an act of charity.

As I sit here writing this, I can hear the bleating of my neighbor’s sheep and I can’t help but think that no matter how many days these people have fasted or the number of good deeds they have done or prayers prayed or sheep sacrificed…it’s all meaningless.  They live without hope.

They need the great high priest.  They, so desperately, need Jesus.

He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.

(Hebrews 7:27)

He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of this own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

(Hebrews 9:12)

So tomorrow as my friends and neighbors gather together, would you take a moment to lift them up?  Pray that they would see that “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” (Hebrews 10:4) and that Jesus is the perfect fulfillment of God’s provision for Abraham and for our sins.  And pray for good conversations, as I interact with those living around me.

It is my hope that they will one day fully know and understand the greatest news of all:  that the slaughtered Lamb of God reigns as the sovereign Lord of all.

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.  For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

(Hebrews 10:12-14)

in togo…

God is doing big things in Togo and all along the truck routes of West Africa.  Yesterday, I had the chance to take a road-trip to the border of Burkina and Togo.  It is a highly traveled truck route…starting at the coast, in Lome (Togo), and ending in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso).  There are also other major routes into Mali, Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Senegal.

Along the way, there are truck stops.  These stops are mostly at borders, where truckers must stop to get documents in order for customs and such.  At times, these stops aren’t quick and easy.  They can be there for days, just waiting.

A colleague of mine had a vision to see the Gospel spread through West Africa by way of truck drivers.  Many local believers are being trained in oral strategies to reach this massive group of people…and God is doing big things!  At the truck stops, conversations are being started with the men as they sit around and wait.  These lead into opportunities to share stories…and an African will hardly ever pass up a chance to hear a story!

While we were at a border check-point, there was a group of guys sitting beside their truck.  As we waited longer, my friend said “We can’t just sit here and not share a story…come on!”  So, we made our way over to the group and one of our national brothers jumped right in to sharing the story of the demoniac.

In an audio article found at AfricaStories.org, a colleague said this:

Islam spread in West Africa from the east to the west through the trade routes.  And, today the truck routes are our trade routes.  And, the truckers currently are carrying Islam to the south where there is a strong Christian base. They’re also carrying AIDS with them.  And, they’re also leaving children along the route from the affairs that they have as they go along.  I figure they could carry the Gospel just as well and that they would be able to reach and get into areas that we as missionaries would never be able to go.

This truck is full of prayer mats. Pray for those who will buy these mats to worship a false god. Ask the Father that their eyes would be opened to the Truth.

Would you join those of us in West Africa and lift up these truck drivers, most of whom are Muslim?  Pray that the Father would continue to raise up nationals to take ownership of this ministry and learn the stories.  Pray for the families of these men, as they are away for months at a time.  Ask that these stories would change the hearts of the hearers and that they would then be burdened to pass them on.  Pray for the process of getting these stories recorded in mp3 format, so that when someone isn’t there to share a story with them face-to-face, they can still have access to the Word and a means to share.

 As you pass truck drivers, wherever you live, I pray the Lord puts this group of people on your heart to lift up before Him.

medicine and the spirit world.

As you know, I recently returned from a month of orientation in Zambia.  Let me just say, West Africa is nothing like the rest of Africa!  When I stepped off the plane, it was a whole new world.

By far, bush camp was my favorite portion of 40/40.  There were so many similarities to jungle life.  I felt right at home.  Ten days of sleeping in a tent, pumping water for a shower, sitting out under the stars at night and fellowshipping with some incredible friends.  There is just nothing quite like it.

One of our daily assignments was focused on learning about medicine and the spirit world.  It was eye-opening.  We set out for town.  This meant that all the adults, plus Zambian helpers, piled onto the back of a flat bed truck to head into Petauke.  It was quite a sight!

Once we arrived in town, we all split up and our group headed to visit with a traditional healer (aka: witchdoctor).  It was so surreal the whole time we were there.  As we approached the place where he practice, we were immediately surrounded by a mob of people.  They wanted to know what the muzungus (white people) were doing at the witchdoctor and what medicines we were seeking.  With the help of our Zambian friends, we explained we were not seeking anything, we were just wanting to learn the role this healer played in the community.

The doctor was out, so his assistant led us into a waiting area.  The room had charms and animal skins hanging for the various rituals he performed.  There was also a certificate that stated this man could legitimately use the term “doctor” and attach the letters after his name.  It said he was trained in Tanzania and is part of the International Organization of Traditional Medical Practitioners and Researchers.  This makes him legit.  With this, it makes it easier for him to convince those that come to him that he is the real deal.  It was scary.

After sitting in the waiting room, we asked a question about what services he offered the community and what type of medicines he prescribed.  Upon hearing that question, the assistant led us into the room where the witchdoctor would meet with the patient.  As we walked through the curtain, I can remember exchanging a look with Britnie that probably conveyed “What the crap?!”  You hear about witchdoctors and shamans when you study animistic cultures, but it still seems like a world away.  At FPO, we watched a video about a shaman in Latin America.  He talked about what he does and how he serves the people of his village…and yet, it was still all contained in a TV screen.  But here…I was standing in the room where the local witchdoctor practiced.  Describing all that was going through my head would be impossible.  I was standing where 20-30 patients a day stand, seeking healing of some sort.

The assistant talked through how it would play out with a patient in there, how the doctor would call on the spirits and the things used in the whole process.  It was a dark place.

The spirit world is so very real here in Africa.  We overlook it in the States.  Our scientific minds always come up with a reason for things (bacteria, virus, an accident etc).  Here, everything has a cause…there are no accidents.  And to find out the cause, they seek out the help of the witchdoctor.  Medicine and the spirit world is now no longer a far off idea.  It is something I have seen first-hand.  And it is something that the enemy is using to blind the eyes of people here.

Please lift up the people in the town of Petauke.  So many live in darkness and are deceived daily.  Ask the Father that they would see that He is more powerful than any witchdoctor and that their eyes would be opened to Truth.  And pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ that live there.  Ask the Lord that they would shine brightly in the darkness that surrounds them.

>Continuing on in the journey….

Again, it’s been a while since I’ve updated the blog.  This probably comes as no real shock.


A lot has happened this last semester.  January, I got to visit Misty, Amy, Leah, Kelli and the Jones’ in Sucre, Bolivia.  February, I welcomed my nephew – Ezekiel Joshua Brock…best known as Zeke – to the family.  March, I traveled up to NYC with the family and passed the one-year mark of being back in the States.  April was full of writing papers I had put off to the last possible second, so nothing huge happened that month.  May, I wrapped up my first year of seminary and attended a mission expo with the IMB.  And in June, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to serve as a special teamer for the Panama City Beach FUGE staff.  Life hasn’t slowed down. 

My trip to Bolivia was incredible and made me miss life on the field.  It is always a blessing to spend time with people I consider family.  We just hung out for two weeks and caught up on life.  AMAZING.  Can’t wait for the opportunity to go back.

At the risk of stating the obvious, Zeke is the cutest little boy EVER.  Riley and Aydia are so proud of their little brother.  He is famous on Facebook for his crazy eyes and hilarious faces. 

My one-year mark has come and gone.  There are moments where it is still a struggle and reverse culture shock sets in, but God is greater and I’m constantly reminded that I’m right where I’m supposed to be.  It is crazy to think I’ve been back for so long.  While I long to be back overseas, I’m doing my best to love where I’m at and invest in the lives of those I live among.   

The first year of seminary is a wrap!  It was an amazing time and I have walked away challenged and changed.  The question that looms is this: what am I going to do with what I’ve learned?  There is no answer yet.  I’m still processing through many of the conversations we had in class and thinking through how to implement them in real-life situations.    It is good and I’ve been blessed by the people who have poured into me this past year and spoken truth into my life.  The semester drained me, but I walk away having learned so much.

God blew my socks off at the Mission Expo.  I walked in with my plans firmly in hand and was prepared to not go back with the IMB if my plans wouldn’t work.  I laugh at that now.  During those 3 days, God pried my preferences and my call apart.  I had meshed the two into one thing.  My call isn’t to a certain place or culture or people group.  My call is to the lost.  To share with those who may have never heard.  And to also learn what the Body of Christ looks like in different contexts and cultures – to get a bigger picture of how God moves among the nations.  So, I’m finishing up my application to serve as a career missionary and just waiting on the next step.  It’s a journey and I’m excited to see what God has next. 

Some of you may know I turned down the rec director position at Jenness Park this summer.  There were a few reasons for that, but I wasn’t really planning on working camp again.  Another plan change.  They needed some former staffers to help out with some big weeks of camp at a few locations.  Last week, I worked at PCB with an amazing staff.  I won’t lie, I was nervous about serving with a team that had already been working together for 3 weeks.  Being a loner was what I was somewhat expecting.  In no way was that the case.  They will never know what a blessing they were/are to me.  My heart was refreshed.  It was an incredible week and I flew home last Friday so encouraged by these new friends.  I realized how much I missed being so intentionally involved in people’s lives.  So, I’m headed back to PCB in two weeks.  I’m excited for the chance to serve alongside my family there, again and to share the love of Jesus with the students that come.  I’ve known this crew for a week and yet feel like we’ve been friends forever.  I love that about the Body of Christ. 

So, there’s the latest news.  What’s next?  No idea.  The Lord knows the next steps and that’s good enough for me.  Walking by faith.