Monday, April 21, 2014

The Little Tasks

On Friday, Ben and I spent the morning over at Betty and John's, our team leaders, house. The task before us was to sort, reorganize, and label the different bins of "camping" supplies that Envision uses when teams go out to the bush to do work projects. Since these ventures usually take at least several days and are out in the villages, the groups must bring along the things they will need for eating, showering, and sleeping arrangements. Thus, there are bins that they take along in a trailer behind a Land Cruiser that contain everything from sheets to sleeping bags to pillows to towels and washcloths to plastic dishes to forks, spoons, and knives.
Sorting through the many tubs of supplies

The Envision staff does a great job with keeping everything organized and ready for visiting teams to use, but in order to be able to do that, there must be behind-the-scenes work put in to make sure everything is good to go for the next group. Otherwise, teams may end up hours away from the city without bath towels or without bed sheets. Although they could probably live through such a scenario, it seems that after a long, hard day of working in the sun, it'd be awfully nice to have a towel to dry off with after your bucket bath and soft sheets to cover your cot.

So reorganizing all of this is what Ben and I got to help with. We separated, counted, and labeled the supplies so they'll be ready to use for the next team that gets here toward the end of April. And actually, the two of us are extra excited about the arrival of this particular team because we get to go out on our very first bush trip with them when they're here! When you think of what roughing it in Africa might be like, that's exactly what we'll be doing for several days: working on a building project out in the extreme heat, taking bucket baths, dealing with nonexistent toilet facilities, eating whatever we're served, sleeping on a cot in the open air. That might sound horrifying to some, but we're super excited to go experience a bush trip!

Myself, Betty, and Ben with our finished tubs. Everything is organized . . . for now!

The behind-the-scenes parts of a short missions trip are rarely pointed out yet so necessary for trips to run as smoothly and effectively as possible. The Envision leadership seems to have this process just about perfected; it's clear that they have done a lot of work to get it to be that way. We're so glad to be a new part of the Envision staff here and to be learning what goes into making these one- to two-week mission trips successful experiences both for the team members that come from the States and for the Burkinabe whom they impact for the Lord.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Encouragement from Our Team Leaders

We were very humbled to get the following letter that was sent from our team leaders out to our sending church.  They also wanted it to be shared with the rest of our supporters.  It was very encouraging, and while we do not want to toot our own horn, we thought it should be shared with everybody who is part of our internship so that you, also, can be encouraged that your prayers and donations make a difference. 
-Ben and Molly

To the supporters of Ben and Molly,

We are so very thankful for Ben and Molly and we have to say to all of you that honestly they are an answer to our prayers and they will fill a huge need that we have in the coming months and year. 

This next year we begin staggering our home assignments for John and I first, then Joanna Gregg, and finally the Dunn family. Over the next year we will be rotating in and out and this means that this summer Dunns and Joanna were going to be on their own hosting about 80 team members in just the months of June and July, but now we have Ben and Molly to help too while John and I are gone. Joanna, Rhyan and Nicole are so thankful that Ben and Molly will be able to help us host, serve, and plug teams into ministry. 

Then next year John and I would have been running teams alone from December through the end of February or first of March. This would have greatly limited our capacity and the teams we could host, but now we have Ben and Molly who will move to the LAC team center from January through March to host and take care of the deep drilled well teams. This will enable John and I to host other teams at the same time, increasing our capacity. 

So first of all thank you, everyone, who supported them financially and who continue to support them in prayer. We need them here! 

It is not easy here. We have been having temperatures above 100 degrees, and up to 109,  with power cuts lasting up to 10  hours long. Now stop for a minute and really imagine that before you continue reading........... Now realize that the heat index, how hot it feels is  up into the mid 120's many days. Our cement block homes bake all day and it is truly hot and hard to take. It is certainly not comfortable or easy. 

On top of this they are studying French 3 hours 5 afternoons a week , in the heat, with power cuts, and sweating to work and pay attention. And they are focused and driven to succeed. They take the support and faith you all placed in them seriously. So thank you! 

On top of this their frig has been struggling with the heat to cool, and has not worked properly twice. Today we bought a new frig and had it installed for them. Life, daily living, survival,  is hard here. 

The climate is hard here. Learning how to cook, wash vegetables, shop, etc, with limited language skills can be overwhelming, especially when you add daily heat with very little escape to these things. It can be lonely and difficult and they need and will depend on all of you to pray for them, write to them, encourage them. You have no idea how huge this is to missionaries on the field. 

We love Ben and Molly already. 

To close, I want to explain that progress in language fluency and cultural understandings take time,  a lot of study, practice and hard work. Progress has to be measured in baby steps but celebrated all along the way. 

Today the electrician who took them the frig and installed it came to our house after to be paid. When he came in (and he is Muslim) he told John that he was very impressed with this new couple. He said that last week when he was repairing the frig they could not say anything really. And today the first thing they did was offer him a drink, in French. He was touched by their kindness and impressed with how they are really trying to communicate. 

Here it is all about relationships and they made a huge stride today, in just a few short weeks, to make an impression on a long time friend and electrician who is a Muslim. This is HUGE! This was an impactful witness to this man, showing the love of Jesus in such a simple and yet profound way. I was so excited I had to call Ben right away and tell him what this man had said. I was elated and excited for them. 

Thank you everyone for your investment in Ben and Molly and for sending them to us. You were all used by God to answer our need and our prayers! Don't you just love and marvel at the body of Christ and how he works? I never get tired of this. 

Keep Ben and Molly in your thoughts and prayers. 

They did use some of the money you gave to them to buy a small chest freezer which they really needed, especially for when their frig was going off and on. I told them that you had encouraged me to encourage them to use some of the money for needs they had and this was a genuine need. Thank you all so very much! 

God Bless,
Betty and John Arnold
Missionaries Serving in Burkina Faso, West Africa
Serving with Envision CMA and Engage Burkina
Envision Site Co-Ordinators
Envision Team Leaders

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Imams, Beggars, and Street Kids

Driving down the road in Ouaga, you will often encounter kids begging for money.  This is to be expected in a country that is often ranked one of the five poorest in the world.  A large number of these kids are from a nomadic group called the Fulani.  The Fulani send their kids to Muslim imams for schooling and training in Islam.  

Sadly, this is not an education that gives them a chance at a better life; it is one that only teaches them Arabic so they can read the Quran.  Even worse, the imam sends them off to beg when they are not in lessons.  The money that they get from begging is kept by the imam.

This past Saturday, we got to help/hang out with a ministry that has a focus on these kids.  One of our Envision team members has been going for a few months and has become a part of the ministry.  She invited us to come along with her and see what it was all about.

Time for a Bible lesson

The group does a time of ministry and Biblical teaching.  They do a quick Bible and French review, as they have been taught some French throughout the week at this ministry.  If the boys remember what they have learned and do well, they are given a new shirt.

Then they have a Bible teaching/sermon.  The ministry gives out Cokes to the boys who were paying particularly good attention to what was being said. We got to hand out these tokens to the boys who we thought were paying attention; of course, they all wanted to be the one selected to get this special treat.

Molly serving food
The boys all eating

After a time of ministry, we served a meal to the kids.  I am not sure how often they are fed, as they live on the street and the imam does not seem to care for them.  We served them a typical West African meal called Riz Gras (sounds kind of like ReGraw).  The food is served in the center of a group, and everybody eats the food out of one large bowl using no utensils.  It is proper to use your right hand for eating, as your left hand is considered unclean.  This was my first time eating a meal like this, and I was very glad to be a part of it.

Molly and Autumn about to eat

The organization who does this is called Go To Nations.
The workers who we have met from there come from the US and England.  It has been neat getting to work with missionaries from all over the world who work together to bring God's love to the Burkinabe.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Power Cuts

Back home in Lima, Ohio, I heard that last week the electricity went out for a couple of hours due to a rain storm. My two youngest siblings were thrilled that they even got dismissed from school early because of it! That same day, we had the power out where we live, too. But we also did the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that.

Burkina Faso does not have a set-up to generate all of its own electricity and has to get some imported. This leads to a shortage of power supply for all who use it; thus, the city cuts power for different districts on rotation. We knew that power cuts were typical here—in fact, we had even experienced one whole power cut (yes, just one) for about an hour when we had visited here last summer—so we weren't surprised when we started experiencing them living here. For the first week after we had arrived in Ouagadougou (a city of two million), we only experienced two or so power cuts during the times we were at our home. We started thinking that the district we live in must not get them very often . . .

Boy, was that week misleading! Since then, it's a huge surprise if a day goes by without having a power cut. Betty, one of the leaders here, let us know that as we get more and more into the hottest season of the year (which we're in the midst of right now), we'll get more and more power cuts. Yikes!

This past week, we've usually been having two cuts each day, with extremely varying lengths and at varying times. Here are all the cuts we've been aware of recently, just to give you a feel for what it's like.  :)

Times without Electricity April 10-15:

Thursday, April 10- 10:30AM-12:00AM; 1:45PM-5:30PM
Friday, April 11- 8:30AM-12:15PM
Saturday, April 12- None that we noticed (we were gone for a lot of the day)
Sunday, April 13- 2:15PM-2:45PM; 3:30PM-3:45PM
Monday, April 14- 7:30AM-11:50AM; 1:50PM-5:30PM
Tuesday, April 15- Off for part of the night; 8:20AM-4:00PM

Our house does have a generator that will power the lights, fans, fridge, and internet, but it is not powerful enough to run the air conditioner or the microwave. We run it sometimes when the power is out, such as when it goes off during our French lessons or when it has been out a while to keep the fridge cold. When we splurge on running the generator, we can at least run the fans to get some air moving in the 106+ degree heat. Most of the time, though, we've been trying to wait it out without using it. Running the generator can get quite costly for all the gas it uses, and with how much the power is out, we would be going through quite a bit of gas each day if we were to run it all the time. 
Our house's generator 

On top of that, we don't want to run our air conditioner too much because it costs about $1 per hour per room to run. That means that even if we were just to run the A/C in one room of our house for a month, we would be looking at paying about $720 per month for that alone. Maybe this would be feasible for a huge house, but I never payed anywhere near that for an all-inclusive electric bill in the States, let alone for just the cost of running the A/C in one room.

So as I write to you today sticky with sweat, exhausted from the sweltering heat that makes us winter-conditioned Ohioans feel groggy throughout the day, know that in no way are we looking for sympathy, but rather we aim to share this new understanding with you of what it's like for those who live here. In fact, we're quite aware that the majority of people in Burkina Faso have no electricity, and we are very fortunate to have it at all.

I plan to soon do this same kind of blog post highlighting several other challenging aspects of daily life here. We want you to be able to “live here” with us, to share in our experiences—both the good and the not-so-good—because we really believe that we are an extension of those who are supporting us, that we're all working together in the giving, the praying, and the going to make up this missionary team; Ben and I just happen to be in the “going” role on the team right now.

If you have any questions or thoughts on this topic, be sure to comment below and we'll be glad to give you all the insight we can into life in Burkina. We're so glad to have you sharing in this internship with us!


Friday, April 11, 2014

An Answer to Prayer

Cute little girl who latched onto us while we were visiting Sector 30 last Saturday.

Coming out to do our year internship, I did not realize just how thin the group was stretched.  We have been told a number of times since our arrival in Ouaga that we are an answer to prayer.  This is a very humbling thing to hear, especially when you have no idea what you are doing and do not speak the language.

We have 5 team members and 2 leaders for the year, with some short-term (few months) interns at times.  The leaders are going on furlough for the summer followed by the rest of the team members throughout the year.  Our being here during a time they are short-staffed allows more teams to come on work or vision trips and experience what God has for Burkina.  It then allows more Burkinabe to be reached through the teams.

With the office workers currently working with teams, they do not have much time to complete their normal operations.  Betty, one of the leaders, showed us the schedule for the summer and how to keep track of vehicle repairs.  It was a good thing, too, because the vehicle that she was driving expired that day and with all the busyness that being short-staffed had caused, nobody had noticed yet.  It was just a little thing, but it was neat that our willingness to help out in small ways helped to keep a vehicle drivable and without tickets or extra costs.

On another note, Shawnee Alliance Church had collected a generous donation for us to spend on unforseen ministry needs while we are living in Burkina; we were instructed to use the money both for others we meet as well as for ourselves. I am happy to say that some of it has been put to good use already.  Our house has a small fridge/freezer, and the freezer part has not been working very well with lots of food stuffed inside.  We were having issues with melting ice cubes, mushy pizzas, and thawing meat and cheese, and we even had an electrician come look at it.  It was an issue that really needed a solution, and Betty suggested that a chest freezer would be a worthy investment of a portion of the extra money we'd been given.

This Wednesday, we were able to purchase a fully-functioning freezer to use for the storage room we needed for food.  Many foods, especially meat, need to be kept frozen so that they does not spoil quickly (heat, lack of preservatives, and poor quality storage render it more likely to have problems).  Making meals here is never a quick process here, since almost every part of every recipe has to be made from scratch (or some recipes can't be made at all unless you bring ingredients from the States), so being able to make big meals and freeze the leftovers to eat throughout the week is invaluable for saving time for more necessary tasks.  This chest freezer is an item that will be in constant use to store food made by the cook who comes twice a week as well as to store ingredients that we do not want to spoil.
"Chilling" with our new freezer. Ironic, as it is over 100 degrees where we live.

We want to thank the many of you who contributed to this, as it will be a key part of our survival and daily life in Ouaga.  The freezer will be used by us while we are here and then donated to Envision for use by future missionaries after we leave.


Monday, April 7, 2014

How Bikes Reach an Unreached People Group

It is easy to think of tribes hidden in the jungle when people mention a people group that is yet unreached with the message of Christ.  That's often what I pictured.  However, Envision does work with a different kind of overlooked people group in Ouagadougou. The physically disabled are large unreached people group in this country, specifically those who cannot walk.  These handicapped men and women are often forgotten and unwanted, as they pose an inconvenience for people.  They are an additional physical and financial burden to families; businesses are not set up to accommodate them and do not want to deal with helping them; and even some churches do not want them or provide ways to assist them.
Sector 30, the area where this took place

Thus many handicapped people here spend their lives crawling in the dirt, having to look up at people in order to talk or ask for anything.  (If you are familiar with West Africa, you know that most of the ground here is dust and dirt.)  They are not able to speak at a face-to-face level with dignity.  Even if they want to go to church, they are very dirty by the time they have dragged themselves to such a location.

This past Saturday we got to take part in a handicap bike distribution.  Engage Burkina and Envision have a ministry that allows people to purchase bikes to give away to those who need them.  This particular set of bikes was donated by a biker church in the US.
The four handicapped bikes that were distributed that day

It is an amazing thing to be able to bring someone hope.  Giving them a bike enables them to be independent and interact at a level that gives them dignity.  Though giving out these bikes in connection with the local church, the goal is that they will come to understand that God gives them value that could be found nowhere else.
John and Pastor Yusef with a handicapped man who had just crawled in place on his new bike

We attended a special ceremony for the distribution of four handicapped bikes.  One by one, the bike recipients told us what the bike means to them and how having one will help improve their living.  The team currently here from Georgia got to help the new owners into the bikes and pray over them before they used their hands to peddle off to start a new life.  For just $400, one these bikes can dramatically change a handicapped man or woman's life here.  Seeing the bashful joy on their faces, though, was worth so much more than that.
Ben and some of the Georgia team members praying over a lady who just received her bike


Friday, April 4, 2014

Starting French Lessons

We've been here in Burkina for almost two weeks now, and today we just had our fifth three-hour French lesson. 

French is the official language in Burkina Faso, although many people don't speak it as their first language, and some don't speak it at all. In fact, there are around sixty-eight different languages spoken in Burkina Faso.1 Keep in mind that Burkina is the size of Colorado, so that's an awful lot of languages in such a small space! The languages called Jula and 
Mòoré are also frequently spoken by people we encounter. In the capital city where we live, though, basically all of the people who sell things or work in restaurants speak French, so that is the language we are learning. 

Our French tutor's name is Daniel, a local who makes his living teaching and translating. He's a Burkinabe who is fluent in English, French, Mòoré, and Jula; and he has taught many other Envision interns as well. For now, we're spending our three hours of class time each day at our dining room table, going through a booklet that contains the basic nouns, verbs, pronouns, and expressions we should start learning. Soon, our lessons will include going out and speaking to people in shops and such along the street. We will continue in French lessons for five days a week over the next two months, and ideally by the time June comes around, we will be able to speak and understand a decent amount. 

I'm quickly finding out just how much I miss being able to clearly communicate with others. It makes it difficult when we'd really love to build friendships with the Burkinabe and get to know them, such as our housekeeper and guards whom we see regularly, but we can't really understand much of anything they say nor can they understand us. 

Smiles and hand gestures are about all we can do for now, but that desire to communicate also gives us more motivation to work hard on French!