Monday, June 21, 2010

Spiritual awareness

       I know it has been awhile since we have posted. Things have just been so crazy here right now! Just a quick update before I get into what I'm really writing about. It has rained twice now and it looks as though we will be getting rain again within the next couple days, which means humidity is high, but right now we are enjoying a nice breeze. Since our last post, we have a new member to our "team" here in Gambia until July. One of the members of the Guinea Bissau YES team has joined us up here until their team heads home in July. Lori is currently traveling in Germany with her sister-in-law and will return this week, so the team leaders from the YES team came up to stay with their team-mate. In exciting news, Elais' parents and sister will be here on Wednesday until July 4, so we are looking forward to a wonderful and fruitful time with them, showing them our work and allowing them to experience part of our life here. Gary and Denise will be returning next week, so we also look forward to catching up with them on how their time has been. Overall our work with the youth is going well, but now that the rains have begun we will see some changes in participation as some will be traveling and the work load will increase.
      Now onto what the post is really about. In the United States, we aren't as aware of the spiritual world as people are here in Gambia. We may or may not acknowledge the fact that their are spiritual beings present in the world other than God and Satan. Some of us are aware of the spiritual warfare going on around us every day and others of us either don't believe or are uncomfortable thinking about the spiritual realm. Here in Gambia that mentality is very different. Nearly everyone is aware of the spiritual realm no matter what their religious beliefs.
      While Islam is the most common religion here, you will also find idol worship, Christianity or a combination of Islam and idols. In one of our fellowships that we meet with, in the window of one of the houses, there is an idol that one of the non-believers put up. It is not uncommon to either go to an idol for medical problems after visiting the local marabou.  A marabou is a witch-doctor and are quite common throughout the country. People tend to go to the marabou for various medical issues or even to curse each other. I know that I wasn't completely convinced about curses before coming here. I didn't doubt that they could be done, but I didn't have much knowledge about them. Most pregnant women won't tell you when they are due because there may be someone who wants to hurt them or their baby by placing a curse on them. We also have friends that are involved in youth ministry through soccer and have seen their players drop in the middle of a game, or a goalie miss an easy block because they have been cursed.
      The thought of spiritual warfare has always been a bit unsettling for me and in the U.S. it was somewhat easy to "ignore" or at least not deal with. Here however, the spiritual world tends to be more "in your face" and is very hard not to see, even if you don't want to see it.
      Being here in Africa has definitely opened our eyes to an aspect of the spiritual world that we were not fully aware of before. We still have much to learn, but we certainly have received more exposure here than we had in the States. Thankfully we have a God who is greater than any other spiritual power on this earth. While I said before that spiritual warfare is a bit unsettling, we take comfort in the fact with the simple act of prayer, we give God full control of our lives and allow Him to fight the battle for us. Please continue to pray for the Christians of the Gambia, since while it is not illegal to be a Christian, it is not easy either under the heavy blanket of spiritual oppression.

Prayer requests:
-For the bondage of spiritual oppression to be broken and for the Christians who have bravely stepped out in the name of Christ
-For the Zehr family as they travel to see us over the next 2 days
-For Gary, Denise and Lori as they are all traveling
-For the YES team who will be returning to the States in about 3 weeks
-For our continuing youth ministry. That the youth will understand what we are sharing and the leaders will step up and beginning leading their fellow youth more.

-Overall our ministry continues to go well and there continues to be interest
-We have had a bit a of a breakthrough with the women of Kiti as they have agreed to me, Jess, come and do church in their compound with them since they feel as though they have too much work to actually attend church at the church building
-We will soon have the blessing of sharing part of our lives here in Africa with family!

Thursday, June 10, 2010


       This past week has been quite eventful as will the remainder of this month. Saturday we had the blessing of seeing two friends from HDC (where we trained to come here). Jess Mengel had went to visit the team in Guinea Bissau and travelled up here with one of the team members who will be staying here for the next month and half! So on Saturday after going to Gunjur Beach, to find that no one was there for studies, we headed home, showered and headed off to Pirang. We spent the afternoon enjoying the company of Jess and Bree, Jess who we haven't seen since November and Bree who we haven't seen since January. After a supper of spaghetti we said goodbye to Jess and headed home. Sunday we had church at home and then headed off for Kiti in the extreme heat and humidity for studies. We were able to see the pig house, which is almost finished! It just needs a roof and the floor, but since no one knew when the rains would start the roof was the first priority. Tiu Jon was disappointed that we couldn't stay and eat, but it was getting late and we had to ride our bicycles home. Monday we were preparing for our cook, Agnus, to come when we hear someone at the door. We went out to see some other missionaries that we had met a couple of time from the Netherlands had stopped by. Ester and Anor stayed for a couple of hours and it was nice to have another white, young couple who is going through the same things as us to talk to. Hopefully we can continue to build this relationship and support each other until we leave.
         Monday night was quite hot. We both took cold showers before bed to try and cool down enough to at least fall asleep. At around 4 or 4:30 in the morning I was half awake when Elias starting tapping me and saying "listen!". The sound we heard was, you guessed it, rain! It wasn't just a light sprinkle it was a hard rain that brought a wonderful cool breeze with it so that I was able to cover up! The only thought that crossed my mind about the rain not being good was, "what about the pig houses?". We prayed that they wouldn't be affected by the rain before the roof could go up. Tuesday morning was nice and cool as we got ready to go into the city for groceries. But once the sun came out, the humidity was higher than ever (in the 90% range). The day was sticky and hot, but we got done what we needed to get done including get a new, real, mattress!
       We them came home and sat under our ceiling fans until around 6 pm when the electricity went off. This isn't uncommon, but there were other houses in Methodist Mission with their lights on. Apparently the provider for the city had an issue and the power didn't come back on until 6 pm yesterday. This made for miserable sleeping and a hot day yesterday, plus we didn't know when it would come back on and we needed to keep Elias' medications cool. Thankfully we got a cooler from Pirang some places in the city still had frozen ice. So we loaded up the cooler with medications and prayed for the electricity to come back on. Needless to say, last night was much nicer sleeping.
         Also, the director of the church stopped in last evening and was asking about how our youth work was going and asked Elias if wanted to go to Kiti today to put the roof on the pig houses. We asked if they were affected by the rain and he said no! Praise Jesus! So Elias is now off to build a roof while I catch up on work here at home.
        I apologize for the length of this post, but there has been so much going on, I haven't had time to update. Here are some of our latest prayer requests:

-That we will know how to best mentor the youth into leadership and how much we should or shouldn't do when it comes to leading at this point
-That God will open doors for new chances to share the gospel with other outside of the youth, I have a special heart for the women
-For travel:
     -Jordan and Jeweli Ritz, team leaders for the team in GB, as they come up next week
     -Elias' parents and sister as they come in 2 weeks!
     -Gary and Denise as they return here in three weeks
     -Lori will also be traveling next week to Germany to see her sister-in-law

-The rains have begun!
-We have another young couple to share and fellowship with
-We will have family visiting very soon!
-Some of the youth are really flourishing and excited about what they are learning, which makes us excited to teach them

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Mid-point reflection

      For those of you that don't receive our newsletters, this was one of our articles from our May update:

        We have reached the half-way mark! As I reflect over the last six months I see how much we have grown and changed in how we live, how we relate, how we see the world, and what we consider "normal". Six months ago we stepped off a plane into a new and unknown country and culture. We left the airport in the dark passing through towns that would look completely different come daylight, and wondering how far we would have to travel to get to the village of Pirang. As I smelled the smells and saw the small shops, memories of Bolivia flooded back to me, but I would quickly learn that even though we were in a warm climate culture once again, Gambia would be very different from Bolivia. 
Our first month was spent in Pirang where we adjusted to life without electricty and the world of hand washing clothing. I began to learn to become more creative in cooking without an oven and with limited meat. Shower time was my least favorite time of the day as I dreaded stepping into the cold stream of water. I also adjusted to wearing a skirt nearly every day.
As month two rolled around, Elias and I moved to Brikama making our own new "normal". Little by little we began to find new goodies in the market that one month ago seemed so huge and scary. Our days were busy with language study and trying to move past the fear of venturing out to some of the villages, that we would be soon traveling to every day, to develop relationships. 
We then went through another change of ending our time of language study and beginning our work with youth. We had to readjust our schedule once again to find what worked for us and the different groups. 
        With our new ministry came more use of public transportation and bicycle riding along with the challenge of preparing weekly lessons in both english and kiriol. Also throughout this time, I began experimenting more and more new recipes trying everything from my own mayonaise, which didn't turn out so well, to making homemade bagels, french bread, yogurt and granola bars. 
Things that once seemed so foreign and strange have become quite normal for us now. I now find myself not thinking twice when I step into a cold shower, even though I still rather enjoy a warm one. Laundry day comes once a week, and while Elias is counting down the numbers of time we have left of hand washing, and it gets done in a couple of hours. Each day I wake up and even if I'm not going any where I put on a skirt and one of my ribbed tank tops. We both know that we are only allowed about 3 outfits per week, no matter how sweaty they get, for the sake of laundry. Three days a week we hop on our bicyles, and yes many times I do ride in a skirt which was quite strange and frustrating at first, and either ride to the bus park for public transportation or straight to the village we are working with that day. Then one day a week we walk to the bus park, hop onto public transport and ride to and from our other study. I know that grocery shopping comes once a week meaning that we need to decide if two meat meals for that week will be ground beef and chicken, ground beef and fish or fish and chicken. The rest of the week our meals consist of meatless meals that we have grown accostomed to such as cheese quesadillas or cheese and veggie pizza (cheese only makes one vegetarian meal per  week since it is costly). I also have to think about what will fit into our dorm size fridge. 
Each day we mix up powdered milk unless we splurged on some real milk. We drink water only from our filter and heat up water to wash our dishes. We have come to acccept that no matter how many time we sweap and mop our floor it will never be truly clean and the dust will just come back later that day or the next. We groan when the power goes out once again and praise Jesus when it comes back on. I know which fellowships have "nice" pit latrines and which ones I would prefer not to use and I no longer worry about how I smell because I just blend right in. 
No matter where we go and how strange it is, life does become "normal". I put normal in quotation marks because what really is normal anyways? Everyone and every culture lives life differently, but for them that is just how life is lived. We have had to adjust to a new way of living that has challenged us, but has forced us to grow. We know what we appreciate from home, but we also know what we can live without and that God will be faithful through it all. We have learned things about ourselves and each other that we would have never known without this exeprience. 
Every day God continues to form us into the people He has made us to be. We just have to be willing to let Him. We see how He is working in us as individuals and as a couple and we like what we see. However, we are exremely thankful that He's no where near finished with us. We are excited to see what else He has in store for us this second half of our journey.  

Also, a quick puppy update. Unfortunately all 7 of our puppies have died due to infection and poor mothering from our young and inexperienced mother. We are saddened by this, but it may be for the better since they wouldn't have been cared for in this culture.

-We have made it half way!
-Our ministry is going well, the youth that are involved seem quite interested
-We were able to take a short retreat to regroup and rest

Prayer requests:
-That we will have open doors for opportunities with non-believers
-That we will know how to mentor our leaders into their leadership positions
-For Elias' parents and sister who will be coming in less than three weeks! That they will not have trouble with visas, that their travel will go well and we will have a blessed time with them.

Thank you for continuing to follow us and being part of our work here in Gambia!