Friday, June 12, 2015

Not By Bread Alone

A-lo-ko.

Aloko, small bits of fried plantain, was one of the first African dishes we ate. It tasted sweet—like a sweet potato—and could have been paired with chicken or eaten by itself with some powdered sugar on top.

It was the first of many dishes we hope to try (and make). We have jumped into the culture, and are learning by immersion. Making food here is not just cooking—it is getting to Interfrais, the local grocery, by taxi, buying ingredients that are all labeled in French, and paying for them in West African francs.

Thankfully, in addition to teaching us new recipes, the missionaries here are teaching us how to get around, buy groceries, and use the local currency.

Pray that we would continue to adjust to the culture, that we might be unhindered in our efforts to share the gospel and disciple believers here in Abidjan.

The Creepy Crawlies

Our team has experienced many things since being in Thailand a mere week, but Alyssa and I added some new adventures to the list these past few days. So far we have taught our first English class, introduced ourselves to our entire school and explained we were there to share the love of God, eaten fresh fruit at every meal, moved into our home for the remainder of the summer, and have been introduced to many new critters. 

We already knew from observation that lizards are the squirrels of Thailand, and we have been warned of the multitude of snakes and scorpions, but our experience tells differently. 

The two of us were helping the children who live with us at the dorms (33 total) with their homework around 7 o'clock. As soon as the sun set, flies began to pour into the room, attracted to the light. We tried to ignore this for the sake of the children, but they were even having a difficult time concentrating with thousands (I'm not even exaggerating) of flying bugs in one area. Did I mention these flies lose their wings if you simply breath on them? It was literally raining bug parts on us all. 

As we finished homework with the kids, we headed to our guest house only to realize we left the front light on. So, you guessed it, we were greeted by a plethora of the little pests. We tried to sneak in the door, but inevitably many flies came into the room with us. Nevertheless, we were in shelter. I collapsed on my bed only to hear Alyssa whisper, "Abby, come here." She stood petrified as I came over to see a spider bigger than the palm of my hand on the side of the bed. After a brief white-girl freak out, we devised a plan to kill the sucker. Fully positioned, I lunged at him, but not before he scurried under the bed. Let the hunt commence. We were not about to sleep with that monster on the loose. Finally, after many prayers and continuous hymns sung, we conquered the beast, so we could move on to sweeping the fly carcasses and wings outside. Praise the Lord for giving us His strength. Now we are prepared for anything. Well, maybe...

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Flooded Church

The rain fell rapidly, washing away the ground beneath us. The men struggled to keep the tent from collapsing under the weight of the pooling water.

Minutes before, we were in the car with one of the missionaries headed to a church plant in an area of Abidjan. I wasn't sure what to expect. It is the rainy season here in Abidjan, and it looked like the sky was about to burst.

When we arrived, I saw something I was not expecting. The church was a tarp held up by metal poles, full of scattered plastic chairs. It was beside a concrete wall—the wall of someone's house. I am not sure how to describe what I saw; it was an eye-opening experience. I saw the true church, the called out people of Christ who have been flooded with grace upon grace.

Together with our Ivorian brothers and sisters, we worshiped the risen Christ. We sang, danced, and shouted "amen!"

I did not understand most of what was said—the service was in French. God did, though, and our time was but a shadow of heaven—people from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation gathered around the throne of God in glad-hearted worship.

Pray that God would continue to draw people to himself in Abidjan, that he might be glorified through the worship of those whose sins have been washed away.

By Carley

Good Neighbor: A Lesson on Hospitality

Most of us are familiar with the term “Southern Hospitality.” Having moved to Georgia from Wisconsin, it was something I experienced first hand. However, we as Americans still have a long ways to go when it comes to being “a good neighbor.” I love the American culture, but the warmth I have received from the refugee community in Nashville has completely opened my eyes. 

My first night in the refugee apartment complex I stayed with a Rwandan family. They brought me platters of fruits, replaced warm water bottles with colder ones, and repeatedly told me to come visit at ANY time. Knocking isn’t necessary! What a foreign concept (literally) to those of us who are too conscious of intruding in the business of others. 

Momena, the Somalian mother across from my apartment, stressed the importance of visiting. “Neighbors should ALWAYS check on eachother! What if someone is sick and he/she needs help? What if they need you to make them dinner or clean? My other neighbors never visited. You MUST visit. It’s what a good neighbor does,” she told me. Her words hit me like a ton of bricks. So often I offer my help to those around me. I tell them to let me know if they need anything at all, but rarely do I take the initiative to truly serve. Because my team and I are living with the refugee community, this concept of initiative must be grasped. These precious people welcome us in even if they speak little to no English. They offer us everything they have even if it means missing a few meals. In relationships with hindering language barriers, where words are hardly understood, actions must speak louder than words.

Please pray that this team will have a door that is always open, that we will continue to be well received, and that our actions would speak loud and clear.

Sharing Under the Sunset

The journey to Southeast Asia went well for us. We made all of our flights and made it through airports and landed safely in our city. We never knew that feeling so much excitement and tiredness was possible. However, it didn't take long for reality to settle in and the Father to show us why He has us here.

After we finished settling in, our supervisors took us to a string of restaurants down by the water. There was a nice walking track that ran parallel to the beach and boasted an incredible view. While the others got a table, the guys took a stroll to take in the view and check out a potential way to meet people. The sun was slowly settling and the sky began to change from blue to bright orange. The ocean was glistening and a picture didn't do it justice. We all agreed it would be great to meet someone who could take us fishing one day.  At the end of the track, we saw a guy about our age resting and decided to ask him about it. Naturally, his name was difficult to say but we can call him H. He was very friendly and spoke decent English and shared about his city. He told us about his family, education, and even his beliefs. We learned about his view of God and the afterlife and sin. He told us about his practices and customs. Thankfully, he was willing to listen as a team member Shared the Story from scripture. It was beautiful to listen to and H smiled along the way. At the end, he told us that was the first time he had ever heard The Story of Isah.

He had lived his entire life without hearing the Story or knowing someone who would share it. Honestly, he probably never would have in his own culture. He did not make any decisions that day but finally he heard. All of the statistics and talks we knew about the unreached transformed into the face of a guy by the beach. We no longer knew the numbers but saw the faces of thousands who have yet to hear the Story.
  • Lift up the seed sown in his heart to grow. Also, lift up the team for this summer to meet more people and have these opportunities.  
  • The Father goes before us and we are excited to be here. He is doing great things and please remember us and the task at hand. Difficult days will come but it is all worth it.   
  • Ask for us to have boldness and discernment as we live in this city for summer. In only a short few days, we have began friendships and shared with several people here. 
  • Ask for the work to continue and be fruitful.

Beautiful Feet

When I first came to orientation, I wasn't thinking about my feet. Yet one night a speaker quoted Romans 10:15. "How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!" Even though I always thought this verse was somewhat funny, I began to see the beauty of those who had made their way to orientation, and who would soon walk through different airports, city streets, and rural roads in the name of Jesus.
At first I didn't know how to take our first steps as a team. Orientation brought the unexpected, but soon we learned our way. We stumbled to the back of the church to bucket bathe, learning how to hold the flashlight for each other in the dark. We took each wobbly step during team building day in the woods, balancing on blocks of wood, ropes, and of course, each other. We made our way to the church's upstairs hallway on the last day of training, spending three hours to tell our testimonies with each other. As the Alabama clouds rolled by in the overhanging window, in tears and new connection, we shared the struggles that made us human and the redemption that made us Christians. On our last night at orientation, we all walked up to our team leader, Allie, to light our six candles in a final candlelit service with the full, holy knowledge that we had light from God, and we needed each other to sustain it.
Monday night commitment time
Each morning we take new steps with the faith that God will direct the next opportunity, interaction, and attempt at connection. Whether we're almost getting lost in the Johannesburg airport or taking the first steps to the children in Zimbabwe, we walk together.
  • Please pray that we would be filled with loved for the children here, that we would seek to care for the least of these, and that we would continue to grow as a team.
  • Pray that we would be kept from fear, bitterness, and impatience, and that God would be glorified today.
In Christ's Love,
Ellen

From Un to Deux to Trois—Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac

"Un, deux, trois," I said to √Člie, proving to him that I could count in French. We had just finished singing "Father Abraham Had Many Sons" and "Our God Is So Big." Hannah and I spent the rest of the time talking with the children.

This was our first Sunday working with the kids. After singing with the congregation, one of the missionaries, Hannah, and I led the children to a small, adjacent room, where they rolled out a woven mat and sat down on it. All of us went around and introduced ourselves; the children learned our names quickly, even Hannah's ("H"s can be hard to pronounce for French speakers).

The missionary told the story of when Abraham and Sarah learned that they would have Isaac. We asked them some questions about the story, which they were able to answer. They so were precious. I am looking forward to working with them this summer.

Pray that many of them would come to know Christ!

-Kaylee

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Stepping Out on Faith

Stepping off of the plane at our destination was one of the greatest feelings I have ever experienced. As much as I want to say that I'm the adventurist type who loves flying...I am not. However, that doesn't matter--what matters is that we are safe and sound and ready to share the good news. While our supervisor drove us around Bulawayo, I couldn't help but look forward to all the mighty works He will do this summer...  and will continue to do once we leave. 

During our first full day, we had a meeting at Bulawayo Baptist Church--just to introduce ourselves to the church staff. I was amazed by all the things the Lord had done through them. I was also encouraged by their genuine desire to seek Him and make Him known. After a few hours of rest (jet lag was no fun), we headed back to BBC for a youth service. It was truly wonderful to unite with believers thousands and thousands of miles away--worshiping the same AWESOME God.

Please continue to pray that His Holy Spirit will move through us, and that He will open up incredible opportunities for the gospel to be shared!  

In Christ,
Jessica
Psalm 113:3

The Man Behind The Bars

The man behind the bars stared blankly at us. We knew we needed help.

We had gotten settled in our neighborhood for the summer, and decided to venture out. We walked up to a boutique, asked the man behind the bars for a baguette, and received a blank stare. The little bit of French we learned at orientation was not enough; we needed help.

Thankfully, Momma Kassou, the wife of a local pastor and a close friend of our supervisors, agreed to give us lessons for a few days from 9am-3pm.

We quickly learned the difficulty of learning a new language. We weren't allowed to speak. Much like how a baby learns to talk, we simply listened to Mama Kassou as she pointed at objects and told us what they are.

The Lord is teaching us patience. As we struggle with language, we are growing as a team—we are growing in the Lord together. Frustrating language lessons have led to long talks and moments of vulnerability.

We are determined to share the gospel with the people here in their language. We have learned commands; we have learned the currency; we have learned greetings and simple questions. We are learning about and adapting to the culture of Abidjan, all with the hope of making Christ known among the people here.

Pray for us as we continue to learn French.

Au revoir!

-Hailey

Riverboat teams push on

Hello all!

On June 6th this past week we arrived at our "outpost" on the river...  staying together there at the church for some extra orientation until June 8th when we packed up and went back down river. Leaving that morning (at 4:30am!) and seeing the fog roll over the river just as the sun was coming up was such a beautiful and encouraging sight and as we sailed further down we were graced by a triple rainbow. God's blessing for this mission I'm sure! It was a much needed sight and it filled us all with hope and joyful anticipation for the coming weeks.  

We are now all finally split up into our respective teams and off to start our ministry.

I'm currently with the Ulot team and will stay with them for a few days, at which point me and Ate Gigi, my translator and constant supporter, will travel to the Dolores team, then the Oras, and finally Mountain Trek team. Then midsummer break will happen and we'll be off again to continue into our last month.

I wish I had the time to write about all the things God has been teaching me these past few days but unfortunately internet connection out here is very hard to come by and I only have a little bit of time at the internet cafe I'm currently sitting in before we have to go, I promise to have much more to post though when we get back in town Saturday! 

I figured that you'd all like a few photos in the mean time and the reassurance that everyone is safe and sound and doing exceptionally :)

A special prayer request too, our very own Jake P. has been blessed with the chance to lead a 1 hour sermon back at our base camp church in Can-avid this coming Sunday. He would very much appreciate prayer for God's guidance on what the topic should be, as well as boldness in the face of this change.

Thank you all for your constant support!

The dock at Dolores
About to Leave!
Our Boat Driver
The "Crew"
Emmy and some of our national partners
(From right to left: Ate Gigi, Ate Gwen, R-r, Di, Lisa, Eris)
The Chores Crossroads
To the right washing clothes & dishes, left is bathing, and straight ahead is the clothes line
Sarah and Shaefer washing dishes
Josh and his new BFF
Sweetest girls around
(Danielle and Emira)
The front yard

Monday, June 8, 2015

Adjusting to Thai Culture


Our supervisor's backyard
We have finally made it and settled into Thailand! Although we endured many long flights (23 hours total), these groggy eyes eventually gazed upon the boisterous Bangkok. Our feet were swollen, but ready to discover all the city life had to offer before spending two months in the remote villages of northern Thailand.
One big moment for our team was visiting a shrine (which are located on nearly every street corner). This particular one became extremely popular after a fatal car accident nearby; the Thai people are very much influenced by the idea of spirits, so this shrine became a hub for many to seek favor from the "angry spirits." As we looked upon such beautiful architecture, our team prayed for the brokeness we saw amidst the people.
A young woman who paid to receive a special blessing through song and dance 
After exploring Bangkok and tasting many delicious Thai dishes, we made our way to northern Thailand. The ride may have taken 12 hours, but we were warmly greeted by our supervisor's family and our new friends who are also staying here. They pamper us with actual showers, washing machines, air conditioning (sometimes), and "Western" toilets, a luxury soon to be foreign to us. We have been constantly learning about Thai culture and how to attempt the language. After church today we got to enjoy the Lord's creation by wandering to a waterfall/swim hole; which was a great reminder of beloved adventures back home.
Wai-ing with our BFF
Pad Thai
Little adventure
Tuesday we will begin teaching within the schools we have been assigned. Our group will split in two and tackle separate locations. Begin praying for:
  • our lesson plans
  • our knowledge of Thai to expand
  • the hearts of those we will be ministering to
  • our lives to reflect Christ's love 


The Good News in the Air

Caleb, Shelby, and I had already checked in at the airport and received our seat numbers. We were waiting for Samuel because he was still standing at the ticket counter. At first we were being patient, but it was really early and we all were ready to sit down so we were losing patience. He finally finished at the ticket counter and we found it was taking so long... he was changing seats. The airline worker saw that Samuel was really tall so she offered him an emergency exit seat.  Here's Samuel's perspective on what happened next:

"On the flight to South Korea from Atlanta, I sat next to two passengers who looked Asian. After talking to them, I found out they actually live in Auburn, AL. One is in high school and the other will be attending Auburn University (which is where I attend University also) in the fall as a freshmen. We talked for a little bit during meals on our 14 hour flight and eventually got around to the topic of religion. God gave me the opportunity to share the Good News with him. He said he had never heard this story before. I could tell he was interested during the whole time we talked. He said he needs more time to think about it. We exchanged numbers, and I told him to call me in the fall."

Our whole team thought it was extremely awesome that this happened. If Samuel had not changed seats, he would not have had the chance to share the Good News with this guy. God showed us that even we were impatient and couldn't see what He was doing, He was working out an amazing story. 

Praise the Lord that Samuel had the chance to share the Good News with someone who had never heard it before even before we arrived on the field.
Please be praying that God moves in this guys heart and that he would continue to think on the things Samuel told him. Please be praying that this guy would contact Samuel and that they can connect in the fall at Auburn. 

"Dont Forget To Come Back"

Friday morning, June 5th, we we're privileged enough to have the opportunity to visit a local elementary school. The students are taught some English so they we're trying to practice the little bit they knew with us. It was an incredible experience! They also had a sing & dance competition that we we're asked to join in on. Its safe to say that their culture promotes public outbursts of dancing much more than ours. It gave us all an opportunity to loosen up and assimilate to our new lives for the next 8 weeks or so. Activities like this will certainly be the norm!

Upon leaving the school we were taken back by all the little voices that were yelling "Don't forget to come back and see me, don't forget to come back!" At that moment I believe the reality of why we are here was truly confirmed in our hearts. You can send money and resources but no amount of either can replace the joy those kids felt from simply seeing our smiling faces and I can confidently say that the joy we felt was equally as impacting on our lives as it was on there's. We were a people created for relationships and when you go to the other side of the world you find a people created for the exact same thing.
 
Our team has experienced supernatural unity and our bond continues to grow. Keep us in your thoughts this week as we split up into 3 separate groups to seek out persons of peace among the different islands of the area. Ask our father to use us as vessels to reveal truth to hearts that have been fed centuries of lies.

Its no small task but we can do all things through Him
who strengthens us.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

With Him, We Can

We made it to Thailand with no complications, which is an answered prayer!
We were so happy when we arrived
BUT we were very tired!!!
The rainbow was so beautiful on the drive to Phrae.
In Thailand, we see elephants instead of cows!
 
 We enjoyed some great worship before Bible study one morning.
We loved sitting through a whole church service and only understanding one word! Only 1!
We will be three separate teams to reach out to more people. The vision for Northern Thai Christians is 20/20! By 2020, the goal is to have a Christian population of 1 million!!!
With Him, I can.
With Him, you can.
With Him, we can! 
Another goal held by a Thai Christian is to have a church planted in every sub-district. All things are possible, when we believe.

Please continue to pray for God to break our hearts for these lost people in Northern Thailand. Also pray that we can be an encouragement to the Christians now. Thank you for your prayers! Trust us, they are much appreciated, especially when you pray for the heat!

Love in Christ,
N Thai Team