Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Day 2 ~ I wish I had a Camel

          The next morning we returned to Dian. However, there were no people to be found! Apparently, God sent the rain and the rain sent the people into the fields. We found the chief’s field and went out to meet him. He said that it would be hard to gather people, because the work was not hard, so they would be working until night. He did go and attempt to call people though and we went to wait in his courtyard. The people that came to meet were the people who were unable to farm plus the chief and a few other guys who were interested. We retold the story of God creating the world and went to Jesus ascending into Heaven. This day was just like the day before; the people who gathered listened eagerly! We explained the entire gospel and told them how to seek after God. We told them that He would send His spirit to guide them. They replied with, “You should come again to continue telling us”. To that we answered, “No one may ever come to you again, you can not wait and put this off”.  We explained that we did not know if we or anyone else would ever be back and that they could not rely on that. One old man responded with something that I could not argue with. He said, “If we easily change our minds and decided to follow Jesus today, then we might be easily swayed again another day. So we can not just decide this in one day”. The man had a good point. We answered him with more stories from God’s word, telling him not to wait too long because when he dies or when Jesus comes back it will be too late and that no one knows when there time on earth will be finished. With that we left the ball in their court, knowing the truth and how to follow the Jesus road had been explained, without the expectation of more missionaries coming. Otherwise they might wait for others to come tell them more and never decide to follow Jesus.
            Backtracking a bit, we returned through Zon and Pohon in search of the village of Ourodourou. After traveling most of the morning, we found ourselves with a flat tire in the middle of a field. Most fields are right outside the village with a few fields lying further away. In this situation, we were between two villages, but we seemed to be in between those “further away” fields. Having a flat tire here is no different then having a flat tire in the States, or anywhere else; however, we quickly discovered that we had no tire iron. This changes the situation; there are no tow trucks to call in the bush. Being that many people were in the fields and had donkeys, I suggested tying up a few donkeys and having them pull us into town. But, Lamiene (the driver) did not think that was the best idea. Honestly, I just thought it would make a neat picture. It took the entire afternoon to get the tired changed and fixed, which put us at Ourodourou right at sunset.
            We unloaded the truck and greeted the chief, then sat to rest. This village had lots of camels! The wells in this entire area were really deep, so they kids would commonly use donkeys to pull buckets of water up; but this village used camels. I think that made us all happy. Camels just made us all happy on this trip. It seemed that they used camels for everything! This fact is only exciting if you have not been around camels much, and are intrigued by them and their noises. One time there were about ten camels sitting in a row. Then a bunch of kids ran up and took shelter behind the camels, using them as shields during a camel poop fight. They would jump up and throw their stinky ammo then duck down and hide to reload.
While talking with the men, we learned that Ourodourou is the common name for all the villages in the area and the village that we were actually looking for was another 7-8 miles (30-40 min) further. This seemed a little disappointing, as we were obviously off our planned route! Ha, as if our plans really mattered anyway! That night after dinner many people gathered and we told stories from God’s word. We always started with the Creation to Return story, because this story covers the entire gospel. It seems pointless to go so far and simply tell people a neat story about Jesus. After all, Muslims accredit Jesus with being a very good profit that did many good things, so the fact that He healed people is not far fetched for them. But mention that God and Jesus are the same and you will get their attention, they might just even walk away. After the story we began asking question that are intended to get them to think about the story and apply it. However, we Americans made that idea up and it does not really work in African culture. Instead, they kept asking the two Christians (this village has a church and some believers) what a good answer would be. So, we stopped the questions and told them more truth about God and answered any real questions that they had. After a few hours of this (it was near midnight) a few people asked if we could be done because everyone was tired from working in the fields all day. I couldn’t stand the idea of leaving them without knowing that they understood how to follow the Jesus road, incase they decided to follow after we had left and did not understand. I explained a little more until everyone was about to fall asleep, then as I was telling them goodnight a woman spoke up behind me. She said, “I am old. Can I follow Jesus?” I responded, “The Jesus road is for the young and the old, of course you can follow it!” I started to ask her questions, just to make sure she understood. After the first question she interrupted me saying, “But what if I just believe. Can I just believe?” I said, “Well, sure you can!”
            The next morning, while we were saying our goodbyes the woman who accepted Christ came up. We did not recognize her, because it was dark the night before and we could not see her face. She told us that she had gone home and told her whole family about what had happened and the choice she made. Then she told us that her daughter and older sister wanted to follow the Jesus road too. We were amazed at what God had done. Seriously, isn’t that amazing! God literally had someone forget to put the tire iron back in the truck so that He could have us run over a thorn (a big thorn) in the middle of a field. He did this to throw us off our plan so we would stay in this village so this woman could hear; and within hours she made disciples! I wish I could say the same thing for my own life! I think the reason that I can’t is because I usually make it all about me. It’s hard when it is all in my hands! If I have to confront someone and tell them all about Jesus, then I have to lead them in a prayer and all that mess; besides, anyone can say a prayer so what does that even prove? I just now understand that it really is not about me at all! The only part that involves me is that I have to be willing, then just sit back and enjoy the ride. I told the same stories that we all have in our house right now and God used His word and His spirit to speak to the hearts of His people. If we are just willing and if we let go, then there is no limit to what God can do through us! 

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Day 1 and 2

            We left Bamako around 7:30 am to begin our research trip. Our team consisted of four people; Me, Cass, Lameine (the driver), and Ezechiel (the translator). We had never met either of the two Malian guys going with us. Lameine has been the driver for the IMB for several years and takes almost every team out. Ezechiel is a student at the University in Bamako and in the IMB’s English Class. At the University he has studied English for three years and has one year left. Over the next 7 – 14 days we had the task of researching several people groups and areas of their different dialects.
            Bright and early our alarm went off to awake us. Lameine pulled up about 7am to load the truck. Then we picked up our translator and headed out. We passed through Segou and then Mopti. Eventually we arrived in the mountains, which were beautiful! However, these mountains are not like the great Rockies back in the U.S. The mountains are more like a giant step, stepping down onto a new level of earth. There was no huge mountain that appeared on the horizon for us to climb up and over, instead the earth just stopped and we had to climb down to the lower level. But still, it was beautiful. From atop the mountain the earth seemed to stretch for miles and miles until the sand met the sky.
            After that little moment of beauty things got back to normal, just red sand.  Nine hours after we left Bamako we arrived in Bangiagara. Now understand, on this trip there isn’t much more planning than the idea of going; so of course we had nowhere to stay in Bangiagara. Lameine asked what our plan was and said that his wife’s family lived there and we could stay with them. He had never visited his wife’s family’s house before so he thoroughly enjoyed the stay. The next day we left, in search of the Somoya people.  A few hours into the bush we stopped in our first village, that supposedly had these people living among them, however, no one had ever heard of these people. We continued on to the village of Zon, which was only about a 30min drive. There we found that this was the center of the people group and several Somoya villages radiated from it. One thing that is interesting about Africa is that people tend to stick to their own ethnic groups; it’s almost hard to believe that people 10 miles apart don’t know the other exist, but it we learned that it happens a lot! In Zon we were able to find all of the information we needed on the people group, rather than having to drive for days to each village.
            There was one village, however, that was about 15 miles away called Dian. According to our information Dian was supposed to have Somoya people in it. The people in Zon were not sure about this village, so we decided to go see for ourselves. When we got there we met with the chief and greeted everyone. We soon learned that there was only one Somoya family there, which is not enough to list it has a Somoya village. The chief asked us the purpose of our travels, so we told him that we were researching this people group in order to tell them stories from God’s word.  We then told him that God must have wanted us to come to this village to tell them stories instead. We began by telling them a long story from the creation of the earth all the way to Jesus ascending into Heaven. The people seemed very interested, so we told them more stories. Before I knew it our whole group was telling stories, at one point the driver, Lameine, even started telling stories. The Holy Spirit was truly guiding that conversation; there is no doubt about that. We told them that they had now heard the truth and they must decide to follow the “Jesus Road” or choose not to follow it; that from that moment on they had no excuse, because they new the truth. The asked, “How can we believe after you are gone? What if we decided to follow this road after you leave?” I said, “Just like in the story, God will send His spirit to guide you.” I arranged a story by combining a few Bible stories saying, “If you are working in your field and you have something very valuable in your pocket, then you return home and find that it is missing from your pocket, then all of your attention and energy will be focused on what you lost. You will search over your entire field until you find it! When you search for God in this way He will make Himself known to you. It will be like what you have lost simply stands up in the field and is easily found.” We followed by telling the story of the angels harvesting the weeds with the wheat and told they must not wait too long, because we don’t know when the harvest will come. Before we left they asked us to pray for rain and so we did. As we drove back to Zon the air became thick with humidity and we soon came upon huge puddles of water in the road. It seemed that while we were there it was raining all around us. Then that night the first rain came, bringing a downpour on the entire area! Having a few extra days planned in our trip, we went back to Dian the next morning to share more stories and hear their thoughts.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Today Was a Good Day

Today was a good day a long day, but a good day. At times today I wondered if it was wasteful. I wondered if I could better spend my time doing something different, something more productive. God has been drawing me to Him. He has been teaching me about His Holy Spirit. I have been learning what it really means to live for God and how to search for Him as for silver and gold. But, today I did not spend my time sitting and praying for God to reveal Himself to me. I did not listen to any of my books about God and His Holy Spirit. I didn’t do anything; however, I did try to sit and pray this morning. By try I mean that it was a pretty pathetic attempt at prayer. So, I didn’t really do anything that made me feel closer to God today. But, God did reveal Himself to me today.

Today I woke up earlier than I wanted to. After having an inspiring day yesterday I planned on waking up this morning, going to the roof and praying to God. I didn’t want to pray a normal prayer I wanted something more. I wanted to connect with God. I wanted Him to send His Holy Spirit to me and work in the areas that I prayed for and show me areas I needed to pray for. So, when I woke up this morning I did as I planned. Half asleep, I went to the roof and sat there. I prayed the best I knew how, but apparently I didn’t really know how. I did the best I could up there on the roof, but it wasn’t what I had imagined it to be. Maybe I’ll get it right tomorrow. (I just killed a fly on my arm, that’s how brave they are here. I hate them.)

Cass and I had breakfast this morning and discussed the things that needed to be done in preparation for our trip next week. Cass made her list and I shoved it in my pocket then we got ready to head into town. Upon realizing that it is my birthday month I suggested, that rather than eating our usual African lunch (a well spent 20 Cents on rice and sauce), we should go to a restaurant so I could have my coveted chicken sandwich. After eating we started on that list.

Most importantly, we needed money to pay for the driver and the translator and the gas and the food; which adds up much quicker than one might think (Africa doesn’t mean cheap). Because I forgot all of our cash at the house we had to walk back home to get it so we could change it into CFA (the currency here). See, I had a lot of cash left over from the last time I changed money because on that particular day the bank decided that they only accepted $20 bills made in or after 2006. It just so happened that almost all of the money we brought was made in 2004, so I changed very little money that day. We made it to the first bank. After talking for a while they said that they had a lot of US Dollars already and didn’t want any more. Isn’t that some good reasoning? We didn’t even try bank number two, because they are the ones that didn’t like the older $20’s. We walked into bank number three just as they were closing and they informed us that they didn’t take US Dollars any more, but they did tell us of a bank closer to town that might help us. So, we jumped a bus and headed that way. An old Canadian lady was in the bank and translated to the man what we needed, he said he would call someone to change money for us. After some time had passed a man came in and pulled out a plastic sack full of money. I assumed that he would be a bank associate, but that was just me jumping to conclusions. Rather, he was a moneychanger from the street. He first through out an exchange rate well below the current rate, which would have profited him a couple hundred dollars, and I quickly called him on it, but he was hard to budge after that. If it had not been for Cass, I definitely would have lost some money today with that guy. We left him frowning and playing his sad game to try and make us feel badly because he didn’t cheat us as bad as he would have liked.

Next on the list was an FM radio transmitter for our ipod, so we would be able to listen to our books during our trip. We had seen a kid selling one and figured we might be able to find one somewhere. I stopped at the first place the seemed promising, but trying to explain an FM transmitter without any language really didn’t work out for me. I said to Cass, “We need to find someone who speaks English”. Seriously, as soon as the words came out of my mouth I recognized a man. His name is Ali and he was standing maybe ten feet from us. I knew him when I was in Mali before, but hadn’t seen him during this visit. He speaks perfect English. We had a round of tea with him and told him what we were looking for. He took us to his car and drove us to a pretty awesome electronic store. I didn’t even know Mali had those! (Neither did I know my friend had a car, very surprising) Within minutes I had what I needed.

We left the store and as African markets go, there were two guys waiting to show us around. One guy was very annoying and the other quiet. The quiet guy told me that he knew me. He said that he had seen me in Gao a few years ago. We never talked, but he had just seen me there. Gao is two days from Bamako and I was there in July three years ago. He walked with us for a while, and then we got his number and told him we would see him another time.

As we walked we found a clothing store. It was a French clothing store and as we entered the store we discovered that it was three stories and had more clothes than we could possibly look at. We stayed there for a while looking at things while being amazed and feeling that we were no longer in Mali. Cass even found a skirt that was just a little too big, so they tailored it to fit her right on the spot. When we left the store and got back on the busy street we almost immediately ran into they quiet guy that we met earlier. Again, we walked with him for a short time and then parted ways.

We walked towards a nice hotel to see a friend’s shop that was there the last time I was in Mali, but he was not there. So, we went to see the pool at the hotel and get a cold drink. After sitting for a while we decided to go through the hotel and see what it looked like (you don’t have to go through the hotel to get to the pool). We noticed a gym inside and schemed how we could come and use the gym while pretending to be guest at the hotel. We figured we could get away with it for a while. Then we went upstairs to see the lobby and we sat there for a short time to enjoy the air conditioning.

We left the hotel and visited a lady who sells vegetables to buy things for supper. We left her and tried to catch a bus, but because we were so close to the bridge and all the busses were heading to the bridge, they were all full. So we had to walk. We crossed all the traffic and got to the walking portion of the bridge and almost stepped on the same guy we had run into two other times! We walked a long ways with him this time. Cass told him what we were doing in Mali and told him that when we get back from our trip we would call him and come have tea and tell him stories.

After that we just walked a lot more and got some groceries and went home with our legs burning from walking all day. But on the walk home we realized how God had been in control of every part of our day. Think about it. In a city of about one million people, I ran into the one person I know outside of the Artisan. He just happened to be in that spot because he was waiting for a meeting that he had. He took us to find something that we were selfishly wanting. Which was were this other guy was. We selfishly looked at clothes for while, but left just in time to walk right into the same guy. Now think about that fact. The streets are covered with people, so if we had left a portion of a second, later or earlier, then so many people would have been between us that we would not have seen the man. Next, we selfishly went to rest and have a cold drink. We selfishly wondered through the hotel and sat in its cold air. Then we bought our food and couldn’t get on a bus, so we walked. We had to wait and wait for a gap in traffic to cross to the walking part of the bridge. Realize this; God even knew the distance between the cars so that we would cross the road just as that man walked right in front of us. Isn’t that amazing! God put a man that simply saw me three years ago right in front of us three times today and now we will get to share with him about Jesus. So, as I wondered if my day was pointless and selfish, God was controlling the traffic and the flow of people and our wondering around; so that He could put this man in front of us, so that He could further His kingdom. I wonder how many times this happens and we don’t even notice? Luckily, Cass was sensitive to God and told the man that we wanted to come visit him and tell him stories. Now we get a chance to tell him. It made me realize that we should always be looking for a chance to tell people, even when we selfishly go about our day.

One Time I Had a Dream

One time I had a dream. In my dream I was sitting at a table in a room that looked much like an interrogation room in a jail. Everything appeared grey and the table was up against the wall. Across from me was a man. I don’t know who the man was, but I felt like I was supposed to tell him about Jesus. You know feeling you get when you come across someone and you know you need to talk to him or her about God? I had that feeling, and I knew that if I could just start the conversation that I would it would be ok and the bad feeling would leave. As soon as I said the first word a great power came over me leaving me seemingly paralyzed! I was completely engulfed by this power; it was not only around me but seemed to be moving through me. I could not move and I sat lifeless with my head hanging down. I could feel this power surging up through my body and then out of me towards this person at the table. I could see myself and my point of view was as if I were sitting in the top corner of the room. This power was, with no doubt, God. He spoke through me, but not by giving me words but as if I were a vessel for Him to pass through. I could not see God or anyone else, but I could sense a being standing right behind me. With every word He spoke his power seemed to pulse through me and I was filled with such a greater joy than I have ever known existed with each pulse. It was a perfect joy. Then God finished talking the power flowing in me was gone. I lifted my head and said, “Well then, what do you think about that”. Then I thought to myself something that I had heard many times before, “If you just start, if you just say yes then God will give you power and the words to say”. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


So, I am a procrastinating person. Which means by my own defining nature I put things off for a while, two and a half weeks to be exact. Sorry about that all who have been anxiously awaiting to hear what the bush was like. Ha. I know that is just the two moms out there.  Anyway, here we go….
We left with Scott on a Monday morning. It was a 3-4 hour drive to Kita, Scott’s retreat town, then another 1-2 hours to the village of Dune, where Scott lives. We ate lunch in Kita a small restaurant that was cleverly named, “McDonalds”; it even had the golden arches! And I might say that it had much better food, in both quality and taste. I would take those chunks of goat meat over any ammonia bathed, mass produced, heart attack waiting to happen, meat from McDonald’s any day.
After lunch we headed out to Dune. This part of the country is west of Bamako. The people group that the Dune village belongs to is the Melinke people, who live along a mountain ridge that goes through Mali. Now, about two years ago there were two journey girls in this village. The girls were crafting stories from the Bible so that they could be taught to the people, this would, in way, serve as their Bible (there is not one in there language). Just before they left a few people became believers and these people are whom Scott is discipling.
During the drive to Dune Scott told us stories of a miracle that had happened and of the spiritual warfare that was going on. He told us about a believer in the village who is a middle-aged woman named Awa. While her and the other women were out doing women things they saw a boy fall from the top of a mango tree. Now these mango trees are enormous, about thirty-to-forty feet high, so try to visualize here. It was said that when he fell he hit several of the branches all the way down, and then landed on the ground lifeless. Awa said she ran over to the boy and saw that his eyes were rolled back into his head and that he look like the life was out of him. She later told Scott, “I did not want him to die so, I put my hands on him and prayed for him. Then he got up and went home”. That was it. Scott helped to put this in even better perspective. He told how this woman had lost children of her own before and has seen death many times in her life. She knows death and what it looks like. We discussed how often God works miracles, however, we excuse them as coincidence or give other reasons rather than giving God glory. We also said, “Wow, what faith. I would have tried CPR or something. I don’t think I would have even thought to just lay a hand on the boy and pray”. We never even found out which boy had fallen and been healed. You would think that he would at least have a broken arm or something to give him away, right?
The next story he told was a little more familiar to missionaries who have come here. It was a story of spiritual warfare. The week prior, at a retreat for all of the journeymen, he was sleeping in hut at a resort/hotel. Now, the hut had only a wooden door and a small window with a wooden shutter over it. In the night he heard a tap, as if something tapped on a glass window. He did not think anything about it and went back to sleep. Then, he heard two taps and again he went back to sleep. Then, he heard three taps, but this time he realized that there was no glass in the room. He grabbed his flashlight and shined it around the room; by this time the tapping was louder and continuous. His light stopped on a picture frame that was bolted to the wall. Within then frame was a small mask shaking violently, which was hitting the glass in the frame as it shook. He left the hut and awoke two others to tell them and pray about it. They prayed that God would remove the evil spirit, and then he went back to bed. I asked, “Where you scared to go back to sleep in there?” He said, “We prayed. If we truly had faith then I knew the spirit would be gone and if not, then it would still be there.” We discussed that when you are on the right rack Satan gets scared and will mess with you. But, the fact that Satan sees Scott as a threat gives him joy and hope that he is going to down the right road with God and doing something right.
In the village we met the small group of believers. We learned that the first leader of the group was not a very good leader and had a few wives, so after Scott gave them some scriptures to ponder upon they decided, on their own, to elect a new leader. Now, the believers were saving money to buy a bicycle, but the newly elected leader stole the money and ran away with it. So, a third leader was chosen. We are told this third leader should have been the leader from the start and is a good man. As you can see, the church has already faced a few trials.
On our first day the three of us split up. I went with the leader of the church, Cass went with Awa, and Scott – well, I am not sure what Scott did. The leader and I went to a nearby village and greeted lots of people. We hung out for the morning and then came back to find Cass and Scott sitting with Scott’s best friend. Cass had been to the well, pounded millet, shelled peanuts, and all that other lady stuff. That evening all of the believers and several others gathered and Scott played them a story that the journey girls before had created. The group tries to learn 1-2 stories a week so they can learn the Bible and be able to share the gospel with others. After the story is played the group takes turns telling older stories and then they all tell the new story; however, one man did not play by the rules well. The first night, in the middle of telling the stories the first leader of the church came up. Rather than greeting everyone then joining the story telling, he decided to teach Cass the names for all the parts of his face (eyes, nose, ears… etc…). After a few minutes a member of the group stopped him and he joined us, but this action became a trend. It seemed that every night, during the meeting he would do something to interrupt it. One night he refused to tell a story until Scott and I repeatedly told him to (we are talking a good five minutes or more him trying to get others to tell it for him). We also learned of other deceitful things this man was doing. I later read in Acts 20:30 about people from within the church who will try to distort the truth in order to take people away to follow them.
One day, I went with Scott and his best friend’s garden. As we were watering the plants Scott’s friend noticed some dying leaves around his watermelons. He discovered that someone had jumped the fence around the garden and cut the vines of the watermelons to kill them. Now, this was done because he is a believer. He told us how he often finds charms tied to the vines of his plants or animistic poisons left at the gate of his garden. But this time, they physically killed his plants. This time of year food is not plentiful and it draws a good price, so this was not just a mean gesture, but an attack at his lively hood, all because he is a follower of Jesus. It made me think about how many times my lively hood is threatened because of my belief – never. Maybe American culture is just less hostile or maybe I am not living with my heart truly set on Jesus. We encouraged him by referring to Acts, when it says that the life of a believer is a life of hardship and that he should consider it a joy that he is considered worthy to suffer and face trials because of his belief. So that afternoon we all ate watermelon.
Now, there were other events that happened, such as people, with no authority, deciding that we could no longer meet at our current location; which lead to no one showing up for our meeting. That night Scott decided to go and gather the believers for prayer, while Cass and I waited and prayed. This night had a bad spirit about it, so we sat and prayed, not knowing what was going on and at this point not knowing why no one had showed up. Soon, the bad spirit was replaced with a spirit of peace, just as Scott arrived back to us; then we all met and prayed for a long time that night.
The events of this week were intense, especially considering that there are only maybe five believers. And it is important to know that this was just one week, 3.5 days to be exact, but this goes on every day and I did not even mention the verbal harassment. If there is a purpose of this post I hope that it is one that depicts a faith and church that we should have in America. One that seeks Jesus so much that it scares Satan. Acts says that the life of a Christian is hard but I will be the first to tell you that my life back in America, it was not hard. I encourage anyone who reads this to go and read the book of Acts. Now, do not let that scare you, because for some reason it seems hard to read a whole book of the Bible, scary even, but it is not. It is just 28 short chapters. Read those chapters and see what real church is like. Even more, see what real believers are like.
Pray for Scott. He is one young man, only 23, trying to drive this huge train that is much bigger than him. He has a 1.5 years left to be in the middle of no-where, alone. With his sole task being the discipleship of these believers and helping to build this church. God is laying the tracts for him, and he is well aware of that, but take a second and put yourself in his shoes. Day in a day out he is struggling to learn a language and a culture that is not his own and has no one, by his side, to help share the burden. If any of you has ever felt the need to support someone, I promise you this kid needs it! His faith, wisdom, and willpower is stronger than anyone I have ever met and I can attest that he is truly relying on God and he is pouring out everything he has every day, so that he will not leave this placing reserving anything for himself. He needs your encouragement. So send him a letter, a picture, a pop tart, ANYTHING to let him know that he is not alone and that he is being prayed for.

Att: Scott Ferguson
B/P 2017
Bamako, Mali
West Africa

Sunday, May 9, 2010

We are going to the Bush

So, we will leave tomorrow about 9am to head out to the bush. We are going to a village that has a young church. They have faced trials of people in the church steeling and deaths, but there are a hand full of believers that are seeking God with their hearts. Other than that, I only know that we are supposed to take 30 bottles (45 nalgenes) of water and we will be coming back Saturday on public transport, which opens up all kinds of possibilities. This will be Cass's first time living in a village for a short time. Something to pray about will be her. Guys and girls do there own thing here, and while in the village she won't get to hang out with me all day, which would probably hard for anyone. Ha.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

She Ka Faga Bi

We are still in Bamako, the capital city and so far this week we have been doing a lot!  There is another volunteer here who is teaching an English class.  It's a free class so Malians can come learn English with hopes that they will be able to get a job as a translator after completing the class.  It' s also a great ministry opportunity because we are able to share Bible stories as the method teaching them English and the skills of   a translator.  
Each morning this week, we have gone to the class and shared a story from the Bible.  First, we tell it in English.  Secondly, we tell one line at a time and allow them to translate into Bambara.  Then we let them tell it and English and also translate it to Bambara.  After all of this we ask them question about the stories.
The method of telling Bible stories as a way of evangelizing seems elementary, but it is a pretty deep concept that I know I haven't thought about. It is the idea of letting God speak for Himself! We have been taking stories, such as The Demon Possessed Man",  "Creations to Church", "Abraham", etc.... Simply read the scriptures and simplify them into a story; being careful to keep it anchored to scripture, then tell the story. Afterwards we ask a series of questions, such as: "What did you like about this story?"; "What did you not like/not understand about this story?"; "What does it teach you about God and man?"; "How does this story effect you?". These simple questions have a big impact. We have realized that we should read the Bible with these same questions in mind for ourselves. We discuss each question with the class. The answers the students give are pretty awesome; ranging from, "This story made me realize that I am a sinner", to "God is graceful and merciful". It is really cool to see God speaking for Himself rather than us stressing about what to say about a piece of scripture. In our personal Bible Study, we can clearly see where Paul does the exact same thing, he simply reads the scriptures to people and lets God do the work. 
Most all of our students are Muslim. God is using these stories to change the way they think about Jesus. Muslims are familiar with Jesus and they of course believe in God, but hearing them answer the questions after sharing a story is showing us that God is truly bringing His word to life and drawing His people to Himself.
We have also been taking Bambara lessons from one of the students in the class. All week we have assumed our teacher, Nonjon, to be a “seeker”. Which is someone whom God is speaking to and who is very interested in knowing about Jesus. We talked with for a long time, today, to see what he believed. After a short time it was completely clear that he knows Jesus. It turns out, that he found a Bible a few years ago and read it. Since then, his Bible and prayer has been his only discipleship.  It was wonderful to hear the wisdom and purity that comes from a faith in God that is unhampered by the traditional misconceptions and conflict that can come with today’s churches. It almost made me not want to even talk to him so that I would not pollute his virgin faith.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Our First Few Days in Bamako

Sorry for the brief post before... this one will be better.

Galations 1:10
     For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

We arrived in Bamako Wednesday evening. Imagine walking into a sauna, but never walking out. That is the best way to describe getting off the plane when we arrived and the scary part is, "they" say that we are in the middle of a cold front.... hence the couple of rain showers we have had. We are not going directly out into the villages like most teams do; however, these first few days here we are getting to visit old friends in Bamako and begin learning the language.... and hopefully help Rita (the missionary here) with some things.
Rita has a friend here who I got to know very well the last time I was in Bamako. For going on 8-9 years now Rita has prayed for her and visited with her and shared with her, but she has only become more and more indulged in her Muslim faith. Cass and I went to visit her Thursday morning and it was very evident that during these last three years, since I have last seen her, she has become much more committed to her faith. Maybe she is running from God and hoping that if she is "religious" enough she will get into Heaven. It's not about religion though. Pray that God puts overwhelming confusion into her heart and mind and causes her to question everything she knows and thinks about Islam and Christianity. Like Elijah and the prophets of Baal, let the TRUE God show Himself.
It is such a blessing to have community; to have people who care about you and make you feel welcome. Yesterday when we went to visit my friends at the Artisan (tourist market) I experienced that. The moment Cass and I walked in we were greeted with excited faces and a warm welcome; rather than the typical, "Buy this", "Come see my shop", "I give you good price", that normally comes with the market. My friends there were very happy to meet Cass and so happy we had returned to Mali to see them. Soon, my best friend in Mali, Omar, came running through the teeming market with a huge smile on his face saying, "Martan, Martan!" We embraced with a big hug, as we were both excited to see each other and then held hands (don't worry! That's what you do here, it's cool I promise!) I introduced him to, ne musso (my woman) and then he immediately took us to his shop. He pointed to all of the necklaces hanging on his wall and told Cass to pick one out as a gift. He then gave Cass a tour of the Artisan. It was cool to see how eager everyone was to make Cass feel welcome there. Pray that Cass and I have the courage to go and share stories from the God's Word with my friends at the market and that they too have confusion and questioning in their hearts of Islam and understanding of God's Word.
This next week will be sharing stories from God’s word with an ESL (English as a Second Language) class. Pray that Cass and I are able to learn these stories by heart and are able to effectively and passionately share them with others. 

Friday, April 30, 2010

We are in Bamako!

Hello! This is just a quick little update. We arrived in Bamako Wednesday evening and it is HOT here! However, it rained yesterday and stormed last night, leaving a cool nice day today. These first few days we will be visiting my old friends here and next week we will begin sharing stories to students in a English class.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Like every morning in Dakar we woke up drowsy, but not as bad as the four mornings prior. It seems that these five days in Dakar have been a good transition into the five-hour time difference from the States. Today was our last full day Dakar, Senegal; so it took a lot of discussion to decided how to spend it. We decided on a visit to Goree´ Island and dinner at the most western point of Africa.
Omar is the day guard for the guesthouse here and is the same age as Cass and I. He is a very nice guy whom we have shared several conversations and a Mango with. As he opened the gate for us today we told him of our plans and wished him a good day. The guesthouse is in a cul-de-sac at the end of short road leading to the ocean (every road seems to lead to the ocean as we are on a small peninsula). We walked to the end of the road where a man has a fruit stand. We have bought fruit from him everyday, today it was two bananas. Then on to the bakery to buy some bread, but just any bread – awesome bread with yellow stuff inside! I do not know what it is, but it is mighty tasty. We actually bought the bread just to get some small change. Most people here only use small change and can not break a bill over 5,000cfa ($10).
Cass still knows the Wolof that she learned when she was here before and she got us a taxi to the port of Dakar. After waiting a while we boarded a fairy heading to the island. The architecture in the city is simple square buildings made of sender blocks, but the architecture of Goree´ Island is much nicer! The buildings on the island are of a Spanish influence and beautiful.  There were plenty of tour guides offering their services once we got off the boat. We chose a guy named Julian. Julian had “Rasta hair” (dreadlocks) and seemed to be well like around the island. We saw several slave houses and the small, inhumane, places the people were kept. We learned how the slaves were selected and sold and even where in West Africa most of them came from, Mali (where we will be for the remainder of our trip) being one of the places. It was amazing to stand in the tiny rooms where literally millions of others where once held captive.
After our tour of the island we rested on the beach and watched all the people. Soon a boy who had noticed my chacos falling apart appeared and before I new it had my shoe trying to fix it. He insisted that there was no charge and figuring that the shoes needed fixing more than they did not, I let him continue. Being the wonderfully nice guy that I am I gave him a tip and now I am happy to say that the souls of my chacos are well intact again - well sort of well intact, there is only so much a toothbrush and glue can do.
We finished our day with a trip to the most western point of Africa and a nice dinner with Cass’ friend. Our trip to Dakar has been a great transition into the culture and temperature of West Africa. Tomorrow we will depart for Mali and trade this nice 80+degree weather for hot 95+degree weather. Cass and I can already see where God is beginning to work in our own lives and we are excited to see what the next three months have in store for both us, and the people of Mali.

Monday, April 26, 2010

So far in Dakar!

We arrived in Dakar early Friday morning.  That day we slept and then went to eat with a friend.

Saturday we went to visit my Senegalese family, the family that I lived with during the Summer of 2007.  This visit went well.  They have even started eating with spoons, so no meals with hands yet!  I was sad to realize that my closet friend had gotten married and no longer lives there.  We called her and she said to come back on Monday.  We stayed about 6 hours....this is very different than visits in America.  Here, you sit, sit some more, eat, eat some more, and then take a nap on the floor.  They also hold men in high regards, so Martin got special attention all along.  They told me to get up from the seat and sit on the floor so Martin could lay down.  They insisted he rest as they fluffed a pillow for him.  Then everyone set on the floor around one large bowl to eat except for Martin, they brought him a special stool.  While eating they told me that I was a bad wife and that they would find him a Lebou wife due to the fact that I was not cutting up his food and putting it right in front of him.  I just laughed!

Sunday we went to church and then had lunch with some of the field missionaries here.

Monday, today, we went back to see the family.  This visit was great!  I helped cook, which was fun.  Then something happened which brightened my day.  One of the little boys who lives with the family, but is not directly related, and who gets very little attention;  would not talk or interact and had a sad face showing no emotion.  I asked him to come sit in the room with Martin and I.  He hardly acknowledged that I had spoken to him, until the women began to command him to do what the "white" woman had asked.  He sheepishly came and sat down.  I took a ball and rolled it to him.  After a long time of trying to get him to play, he had a smile on his face and seemed mesmerized that someone would take the time to play with him.

This visit was also special because Cole', my close friend from the Summer of 2007, came by the house. Because she speaks English we were able to communicate very well.  After the visit with the family, we went back to her house to have a coke.  Cole' has been heavy on my mind since my last trip due to a dream that I had about her.  I dreamed that I was in inside of Heaven and she was outside the gates yelling out to me, "Cass! You came, but you never told me! Cass, You came , but you never told me!" This has broken my heart ever since.  When I was there in 2007 we did try to tell the family, but it was very hard to communicate clearly.  This time, while drinking Coke at Cole's house, I was able to ask her if she knew why we come to Senegal.  I told her, "to learn the culture and to explain that Jesus is the only way to Heaven."  Though Cole' did not come accept Jesus as her Savior, I was able to plant a seed in her life.  It is my prayer and I hope yours too, that God will work in her life and continue to show her truth.  We did exchange email, facebook, and skype info, so hopefully I can continue to talk to her and encourage her.

Later today we had a good talk with the day guard at the guest house.  He is a 24 year old young believer.  He shared with us about the recent, tragic loss of his grandmother and also the loss of 4 other relatives in the last few years.  He also talked with us about his desire to find a wife who is a believer.  This is hard considering most people here are Islamic.  He asked us to continue to pray for this!

Please pray for Cole' (Co-lay), Omar and us for the Spirit of God to be at work

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hello and Welcome to all who find themselves here... this is a little bit about us and our trip~

     So... If you don't know Cass or myself, then hello to you! Or if you know me and not Cass, then Cass says hello. Or maybe you know Cass and not me, me being Martin; in that case, Hello to you.
     Cass and I met in the fall of 2007 right after we both returned from West Africa. We dated for exactly one year, in which time we both knew that the next step in our individual relationships with God was going to be together. So, we tied the knot on October 18, 2008.
     Missions is something that IS ALWAYS heavy on our hearts and something that we can't ignore! (believe me, we tried a time or two...) Cass and I both want to serve God, whatever and wherever that means. Since before we got married, we knew that we wanted to do missions together and this trip is the start of that.

     During this trip we will visit two countries in Western Africa. The first will be Dakar, Senegal. This is the place that Cass spent her summer in 2007. After a brief stay with the native family she lived with, we will travel to Bamako, Mali (where I was for the Spring and Summer of 2007). We will stay in Mali for the remainder of our trip as volunteers with the International Mission Board. In West Africa, the IMB sends missionaries to villages with the purpose of gathering information about the people. This information is then presented to churches in the U.S. with the opportunity for them to "adopt" the village and present the gospel to the people several times a year. While in Mali, we will begin laying the ground work for these engaging churches to come; by gathering information about the people, such as: population, religion, language, etc.  We will also travel to villages that I visited on my previous trip, discipling the believers there.   
     Something that we will do in every village we encounter will be teaching stories that have been crafted from the Bible, such as the Creation to Christ story. Story telling in West Africa is how information and history is passed down from generation to generation. Quite often these stories will be retold several times, planting seeds far after we have left. This process begins the work for engaging churches, who will adopt these villages, by laying a foundation of the Bible before the churches ever visit the people.

We will leave for West Africa on April 22, 2010 and return July 29, 2010.

The total cost for our trip will be near $10,000. We have just started raising this money and if you would like to help us with this task please send donations to:

1349 West Jackson St. Baptist Church
Tupelo, MS 38801
For/Memo: Martin and Cass Hickman's even tax deductible! ... and that "For/Memo" is the key for your contribution getting to us and not to, you know, the general church budget. SO DON'T FORGET IT!

So, if you feel led to give then give. If you don't then don't. If you feel led to send us a twinkie, then send a twinkie. You do what you have a peace about. But either way, please have us in your prayers and please keep visiting this blog to keep up with our stories and experiences!

*For those who are interested.... Here is the break down:

Extra Cost100
Plane Tickets:
Airport Fees200
Insurance                                    670
Total   $10,552.07


Sunday, January 31, 2010