"There are two great moments in a persons life: the moment you were born and the moment you realize why you were born."

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Provisions in Benin

Greetings everyone! I hope your day goes awesomely well and something fun and unexpected happens. Wow! I can hardly believe that it is already October! This time last year I was freaking out, trying to get ready to go to Africa and now I am freaking out, trying to get ready to go back to the United States. It is truly such a surreal idea that I’ll be returning so soon!


A very unique and cool part of Journey Corps is that we have the opportunity to go on a “West Africa Adventure” if we so chose to. Well my friend Naomi and I decided to do just that and left on a bus for Benin. There, we joined a YWAM team on their outreach. Instead of writing all about our trip I thought I could just use Naomi’s blog to inform all of you. Here is her link: http://theivoryjourney.blogspot.com/ so please check out the pictures and read about our craziness of Benin and Burkina Faso. Just to add…we just calculated the time in the bus…66 hours!!! I won’t lie…if I never get on a bus again, it’ll be TOO soon.

Scripture of the Week:
“So don’t worry about these things…these things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else and live righteously and he will give you everything you need.” ~ Matthew 6:31-33

The whole trip to Benin and back was an awesome testimony of how much the Lord provides for us. Naomi shared a few examples of how He provided us with bus tickets when the bus was sold out, how our contacts found us randomly in an alley at 1:30am and even how I got to climb my waterfall. But it was so much more than that. God provided us with His peace and serenity in this crazy adventure. We were blessed to learn new things and in new ways about the God we serve and to depend on Him to show up. Like Francis Chan says in ‘Forgotten God,’ “we should be living a life where we are SCREWED if the Holy Spirit doesn’t show up.” Well Nao and I learned just that.
Prayer Requests:
*Pray for my Uncle John. He is sick in the hospital, pray that the Lord would reveal Himself to him and also for healing
*The YWAM team in Benin & soon in Togo. They will continue to be warriors for the Almighty, in perfect unity in mind, heart and spirit
*Our JC team…we have 19 days left with our host families and return to the states in just 27. Please keep all of us in your prayers as we start to make the transition home.
*After being home for 2 to 3 weeks I am looking to return to the Ivory Coast. Please be praying for this transition as well. It’ll be extra hard to leave again and know that majority of my team will stay in the states.

Well as always I thank you guys for joining me on this adventure and keeping updated with what goes on here, even though I fail at keeping you updated regularly. Take care and let me know how things are going for you and how I can be praying for you. Until next time…

Friday, August 19, 2011

Mouse Trap

Happy Friday everyone :) So in my last blog I wrote about how awesome prayer has been and how it has become a new ministry for some of us during this summer break. In this blog I would like to share with you guys a story about my frustrations with prayer. So here it is!

Normally before I go to sleep I read in bed for a little while. On Wednesday I am reading the last of the “Mark of the Lion” series and then see a rat on my sister Martha’s bag. I’m not usually afraid of rats so I shine the light on it and watch it scurry away. I am then dead asleep for about 15 minutes and feel something tugging or moving on my blanket. I think “no no no…it’s not possible for a rat to get into the mosquito net, I tucked it under the bed. I must be imagining it (hallucinations can be a side-effect of my malaria preventative that I took that night).”
I feel it again.
Frantically, I throw off the blanket and search for my flashlight. When it is nowhere to be found I use my ipod and feel something soft brush my fingertips. I shine the light and there it was, now by my pillow…THE RAT!! I scared it out and thought it wouldn’t come back, well…it did! I obviously left my bed at this point and decide to go into the unfurnished living room and sit on a kitchen chair.
There, I had the strong inclination that the Lord wanted me to pray. I knew there was something I needed to pray about, but I wasn’t sure what that was and kept getting distracted about thoughts of that rat or fear that there were more in the living room. I kept telling myself; someone will come out of their room and help or the rat will just leave. After almost falling asleep a few times and each time being woken up by something, I finally hear the Lord’s voice, “you didn’t pray about the rat or for help.” Then it dawned on me, I had set expectations for God, expected them without asking Him and then got frustrated when they didn’t happen. So after hours I finally laid it all out to God. I prayed that someone would come out of their room, notice me and then help. Since I knew I was supposed to be praying, I vowed that I would continue to pray until then and just wait on God’s timing. When I say ‘amen’ my host dad walks out of his room and starts talking to me. I couldn’t help but laugh, because then and there God refuted my doubts and worries that I had been struggling with for a good two and a half weeks. Doubts about God even hearing me or that they were being answered.
My host dad un-successively searched for the rat and tucked me into my mosquito net again. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep at all that night! The rat kept making noises and I was super jumpy. I prayed for the supporters who sent requests and some that didn’t and prayed for a ton of other things. Finished Harry Potter on tape, read more Mark of the Lion and still sat there waiting for the sun to come up. Next morning, my host dad said that he saw 2 rats in the living room just a few days ago and I needed to tuck something under the door so they couldn’t get into my room…that would have been helpful to know beforehand.

Scripture of the week:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people, then you won’t become weary and give up. After all you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.” Hebrews 12:1-4

I read this after reading about the apostles healing people. I was thinking, God when I pray nothing like that EVER happens. I don’t hear about that in the churches, or in other Christian Communities. Prayer and faith go hand in hand and can’t be separated from each other.

With all of this I realized just how often I put requests or expectations on my prayers. I want it done a certain way, within a certain time period and then I say ‘Lord willing.’ So I basically superimpose my will on God’s and expect Him to work. I am finding that God doesn’t work that way. I also realized that a huge part of my faithlessness is due to me. It’s about me ridding me of myself. I have to be humble enough to not seek after my benefits or asking what will happen to me. I can’t worry about happens…I’m in His hands. Things are going to happen, I feel it…He is waiting for His perfect timing and in His perfect way!

Prayer Requests:
~PRAISE…a few people have emailed me prayer requests and a week later crazy cool answers to those prayers
~Continue to be praying from all of our Muslim friends and families during the month of Ramadan
~Let’s pray for our faith and our prayer. That we can start a faith praying revolution! What would it be like if we actually started praying boldly? Or if we really stopped worrying about the “us” in the equation and instead sought a faith that could move mountains? Dude…I can’t even begin to imagine these things. So let’s pray for a praying revolution

Saturday, July 30, 2011

I Got Nothin’

Since it has been FOREVER LONG since I have posted a new blog, I thought it would be a good idea to at least jump on here and shout out prayer requests and praises, for those of you who are on my prayer team. That, and I totally don’t have an idea for a blog. I was hoping that this would buy me a little bit of time : )

God has been laying prayer heavily on my heart. I have NOTHING other than prayer. It is only through prayer that lives are changed, mountains move and the enemy is defeated. We shouldn’t be taking this lightly and should be sensitive to the Holy Spirits leading in prayer. Also be expecting God to show up. So in your next prayer session please lift these up with me:

Prayer Requests:
- Our new team members arrive this Monday. Please keep these girls in your prayers as they are preparing to come to Cote d’Ivoire. Pray that their good-byes with friends and family goes smoothly and that the Lord would prepare them for what He has planned to show and reveal to them. Also pray that we would be open and welcoming to these girls and for them to be open with us. Pray that the enemy could not get a foothold between our group and especially within their small group.
-We have our week of seminars also starting on Monday. Pastor Kéo will be going through Acts for our seminar. Please pray that God would speak to our hearts and that we would here His small, quiet voice. Also for rest, I know a few of us are running low on fuel and really need to be energized and encouraged (me including).
- My high school girls in the states. This week is camp and we all hear the stories about how awesome camp is. (that’s how I became a Christian) Pray that this would not just be another camp or camp high, but this week lives are changed. Specifically be praying for Hayley, Emily, Kelly, Danielle, Natal, Kylie and Makenna and their leaders Anna, Amanda and Sarah. Pray that God would rock their worlds and change their lives. That they (including leaders) would hear God’s voice as though it were shouting through a loudspeaker in their ears. Also for our wonderful youth pastor Jason Hickey, that he would be renewed and refreshed this week.
-Something God has been putting on my heart it prayer. Please pray that I would learn what it means to DAILY sit at the foot of the cross and sit in awe of my Savior. Also that I would learn and recognize the power in prayer

Scripture of the week:

"Then Jesus said to the disciples, 'Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, 'May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,' and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you've recieved it, it will be yours.'"
-Mark 11:22-24

Let’s continue to pray all day every day.

Thanks for joining me in prayer. I pray for you as well. That God would show you just how powerful He is through your prayers. With that, that we would start a praying revolution and let the Spirit change the world around us. Shout out prayer requests on the bulletin or email them to me so I can anonymously post them so we can start praying for our brothers and sisters. Love you guys!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Bizarre Everyday Life

I am now 8 months into living here in Cote d’Ivoire and things after that long start to become normal and just a part of everyday life. So when I was dodging someone on a moto the other day, because they were on the wrong side of the road, I was thinking that would never happen in America. Well this blog is going to be about things that would never happen in America that I have grown accustomed to, because they are just everyday normal things here.

Transportation
In Cote d’Ivoire:
~it is ok to drive on the wrong side of the road if:
-the road has less pot holes, sand or water
-you are going to be making a turn anyways, it doesn’t make sense to go over to the right side of the road when you are going to end up taking a left turn anyways
-you were already on that side, going that direction…just SO much simpler this way

~it is more economically efficient to mimic the clown cars and cram as many people as you possibly can into a vehicle or moto. This means:
-squeezing 45 people in a 20 person car
-it’s not necessary to close the door to the bus, because someone can hold on to it and that’s just one more person that can fit inside
-riding on top of an already packed bus is fine
-jumping on the back of buses and cars are a good idea
-5 people riding on a little moped such as this one…

In America:
The cop pulling you over would say that both of these things are unsafe and a little stupid as he hands you a crazy expensive ticket.

Babies

In Cote d’Ivoire:
~we like our babies pretty so dressing them up in make up for special events or just because you want to happens often.

~breast feeding happens in the following places:
-church
-the side walk as you are walking, with something on your head
-on a moto
-at work
-as the baby is strapped to your back
-basically…EVERYWHERE and anytime
*more on breast feeding please watch the “Ode to Wrinkly Pancakes” by thee Heidi Kogler and Naomi Smith*

video
~carrying children is a piece of cake with your extra panya (a very common fabric, used to make clothes, blankets and everything else fabric is made out of). You tie the baby to your back. Women also do this while on the back of motorcycles, carrying things on their heads, or just cleaning the house. Since I am a twin, I’m always curious about what moms do with multiple children, well they tie one on the front and the other on their back. We are always looking for hands free methods of things in America, like cell phones and such, well in Cote d’Ivoire we have hands free child care.

In America:
~we still like pretty babies, but instead dress them up in ridiculously expensive outfits they can only wear once (probably for like an hour) and then the next day they out grew it.

~let’s be honest, most of us are terrified of breast feeding, so we don’t usually have to see it.

~instead of using a blanket to strap in our kids, we just put them in a backpack…the same thing we put books in…huh

Cooking
In Cote d’Ivoire:
~Safety and sanitary rules include:
-cooking on the dirt floor
-using a dull knife, not using a cutting board (it’s your leg if you need one) and cutting towards yourself
-if something falls on the dirt floor, it’s totally ok, just rinse it off with water and your are good to go
-finding different preservatives (since rice and sauce don’t store well in refrigerators) such as ashes from coals

In America:
~if this was going on when I was still working at Stonefire I would only hear “EWWW…I’m not eating that!”

Other bizarre differences would include
~the use of your left hand…traditionally, people don’t use toilet paper
~mesh (fake hair) vs real hair
(I can’t tell you how many people ask me if I have mesh or if this is real)
~matching: the more colors you use the better you look
~men in loin clothes talking on their cell phones (there’s nothing to compare that too)
~rear ends sticking up in the air
-when you sweep
-drop something
-cooking
-washing dishes
-people here are ridiculously flexible because they are constantly bent over at their waste

These are just a few of the things I went through during my culture shock. Although they sound bizarre these things feel so normal. I can’t believe how at home this all feels and how much Cote d’Ivoire feels like home. It sort of goes with the…

Scripture of the Week:
“For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.”
Hebrews 13:14

Reading that I remember that this world will never truly feel like my home. I don’t belong here. It makes me so excited to go home, to my real home. I can’t imagine how awesome it’ll be to run to my heavenly Papa’s arms in my heavenly house.

Prayer Requests:
*I would be present wherever I am at and sensitive to the Lord’s leading. Some day this place is going to feel like a far away dream, I want to soak up as much as I possibly can in the little amount of time I have left
*In just a few weeks we have lots of traveling and work to do to prepare for the next group of Journeyers. Please pray for these preparations and for our new family members. Pray that they would arrive safely and for their families in the states
*Heidi and I are starting a new project with the youth group at our church, small groups. I feel like Beachpoint has drilled that into our brains and now we have the opportunity to help start it with our church here.

I hope you enjoyed the fun things that shocked me about Cote d’Ivoire and that you were able to learn something new today. As always I am going to say if you, your family, or friends have prayer requests or praises shout ‘em out. And I would love to hear your updates or comments. Have a great day and I hope you enjoy it!

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Active Living Word

I know what you are thinking…WOW 2 blogs in just 1 week…how does she do it? Well this is something I felt the Lord telling me to share here on blogspot.

Scripture of the Week:
“The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.” Romans 8:3-4

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angles or demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow-not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below-indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8: 38-39

So the last few days or so I have been feeling a little restless and discontent, honestly I have just been downright in a bad mood. On Thursdays I go to the dispensary with my friend CJ and while she works I find a quiet place to read and journal. I can’t find an alone place at my house or at the Bible Institute. So yesterday I read in Romans chapters 6 and 7. I was still feeling not like myself so I stopped and prayed that God would show up and be my all and all, my ONLY vision. Then I discovered how hungry I was for the word of the Lord and I decided to keep reading Romans and read until chapter 11. I can’t even begin to explain the night and day difference and freedom there is from sitting and soaking up the Lords words. I literally forget how chronic I am without Jesus and how much of a necessity and source of nutrition He and the Scriptures are. And that’s how we were created to be…to be dependent on God. I praise God for creating us like this. So desperate and dependent on Him and NOTHING else (though people try to search) can ever fill or take His place. He is the Lord of EVERYTHING and especially of my heart. I want to freely and daily live for Him and bring glory to His name. I hope He would continue to mold and stretch me (although a painful process) far beyond what I expect. Even if it feels small and insignificant at times, He deserves nothing less than ALL of me.

So I didn’t want to be preachy (because I can’t stand it when people are) but I really want to be encouraging my brothers and sisters in Christ to stop and find their rest in God. As Americans we are constantly on the go, we never stop to look for rest. So today, if possible right now…STOP, pray and find out what God wants to show you in His word. Be honest with him with your frustrations and disappointments; watch what He does with them. I forget that the Scriptures are supposed to be an active living source, yet way too often I just see it as an ancient boring text. So I want to challenge you to explore those life giving Words. Then let someone know what you find, you never know if God is using you to pour the gospel over someone else. And as always let me know what He is doing in you and how I can be praying for you. I hope this finds you well. Until next time…

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Birthday Surprise's and Updates

Greetings everyone! I hope while you are reading this that the Lord is giving you rest and peace from school and work since it is finally SUMMER VACATION!! Which, by the way, I completely forgot existed. So when I was in-putting the final grades for the pastors in training at Bethel Bible Institute and see a bunch of them leaving with suitcases, I thought we were being evacuated for something haha…yup…it’s summer! So there is just too many good things going on right now and I want to share a little bit about each one.

Koko Church
On June 13th there was a roof pouring project at AEBECI’s Koko church. People arrived starting at 5 am and working till about 8pm. Hundreds of people passing buckets of cement on scaffolds and sketchy beams. I literally do not know the words to say about how amazingly cool this day was. The unity of the church was absolutely phenomenal. My friend CJ, who attends the Koko church here in Korhogo, has some pretty cool things to say about the roof pouring along with a few pictures. So check her blog out!

Birthday
My 21st birthday! This was just another normal day at work in the morning and then I was suddenly kidnapped by my two friends, Devin and Chazz, from Bouaké. They literally picked me up and put me in the car (it scared me) and took me to our favorite restaurant in town. There the owner, Rodolph, surprised me with my picture on placemats, a HUGE cake, salad, yummy frozen fruit drinks and a photographer! I was blown away by all of the surprises! It was an awesome Africa birthday the best I’ve ever had :) and the cool thing about it is that it is totally something that my friends would do in the states and something they did for my brother George. [Happy birthday to you as well brother! Love and miss you like no other, you being here would have TOPPED it off]

IBB Guest House
The Korhogo Krew had a last meeting/lunch time with Rod before he and his wife leave for Germany. So I went shopping in the market and came back to the guest house and was able to cook American style food in an American style kitchen! It was delicious. Afterwards we just spent our team picking Rod’s brain, talking and just spending some time together before they leave. The next day Naomi started not feeling well and here in West Africa it is unthinkable to leave a sick person by themselves…so the Korhogo Krew came back to the guest house and just had a kick back day. It was an extremely needed and great day of rest. We were able to watch a movie and eat lunch together again.

Scripture of the Week:
“It is a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.” Romans 2:29b


God is continuing His path emphasizing that it is His Spirit moving and working in me, it is not by my works that things are accomplished. As always God is concerned for our hearts. He is also continuing to teach me about seeking His praise ABOVE all else. I always seek to please others, when the only thing I need to be worried and focused on is seeking my Father. Like the popular Christian song “How He Loves Us” says…He is jealous for me. He’s also jealous for you too…

Prayer Requests:
-I would be here and not distracted by things in the states or questions about what’s next
-Pastor Kéo, he is still in the states and the last time I heard, the presentations and his travels are going well and are being received well.
-EVERYONE is still sick!!! With rainy season comes mosquitoes, and with mosquitoes comes malaria please pray for our health, rest and energy
-As we are creeping up on our 8th month living here in Cote d’Ivoire, things start to feel normal, please pray that we would not become comfortable in our faith and complacent with our ministries. It is so easy to fall into a normal routine instead of being pushed and sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading

As always I really look forward to hearing about you and what the Lord is doing in your lives. Please know that I pray for my supporters every Friday night, so if there is ever anything I can be lifting up for you please shout it out. And also just let me know what’s new with your life. My favorite thing about my birthday was all of the encouraging notes and updates from my friends and family in the states…so I think we should keep that up! Haha. Take care and God bless you, can’t wait to hear from you! :)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Meet the Soro's Part II

Today we are going to be getting to know the kid’s in the Soro family…I hope you have all had a wonderful week and have enjoyed getting to know my host parents and big sisters. As of now, we have 5 kid’s under the age of 10 living in my house. And we shall start with the oldest…

SORO Ferelah
Ferelah is ten years old and is my little sister. She is the third child of my host parents and is going to school right now. Like any normal ten year old girl, she is now going through the stage of “I am independent and don’t have to listen to anyone” so we definitely have our hands full with her. She is the first person who is called upon to take care of the kids with feeding and distributing things to them and is also a huge help around the house.
(Benjamin, Yellie, Ferelah)
Yellie
So one of the really cool things I am finding out about Africa is the way they view family is SO different than how we normally view family in the states. Yellie is not related to the family at all. She is a friend of the family and in order to go to school she lives with the Soro’s so that she can walk to school. She works around the house quite a bit and is treated just like any of the other kids. She even calls my host parents, mom and dad. Yellie is one of the prettiest and most sincere girls I have ever met for her age.

SORO Azariah
He is one of my favorites! I know you’re not supposed to have favorites…but really he is awesome. This is the first of the boys in the Soro clan. Azariah is 7 years old and is also going to school. This kid is fearless!!! One time when I was cooking in my courtyard he made a bow and arrow (out of sticks…how…I have not a clue) and killed a frog with it. He put the creature over the fire and then ate it. and yesterday when someone found a rat he killed that, skinned and gutted it and ate it also. I don’t understand what goes on in his mind to think it would be good, but he seems to enjoy these things. Aza likes to teach me very difficult Senoufo words and then laugh at me when I don’t understand. He also likes to think he is my older brother instead of younger, until he is tired and wants to snuggle up to me. Haha LOVE HIM!

SORO Benjamin
Benjo is the youngest of the Soro children and the biggest handful EVER!! Honestly, I have some difficulties trying to handle him. He is very much the baby of the family and knows it! Which means he thinks he can get away with anything. However, that is a different story with me and he doesn’t seem to like that. Well my favorite thing about Ben is when he is about to take his bucket bath. He does one of two things. He will either get SUPER excited and start stripping in the courtyard and bath himself right away or (my favorite) really hates it and runs down the street crying his head off. Everyone tries to come up with different ideas on how to capture this kid and then he fights with everyone to keep his clothes on. And it is the funniest thing to watch! I love it and I also love him as well. OH and he is 5 years old

Coronam
Coronam is the cutest little guy!! He is my three year old son. Everyone says that I am his mother and he will be coming home with me when I leave. But to be honest…I am totally ok with that!!! I would LOVE to adopt Coronam. His story is the same as Yellie’s, he is not a blood relative, but his parents are not able to take care of him so the Soro’s have taken him in as their own. Coronam likes to come and sit on my lap at night and run to me (and almost knock me & my motto over) whenever I come home. He is a pleasant surprise for me and a great kid. The only difficult part of this is, he doesn’t speak any French, only Tyembara so there is not a lot of communication. Usually it is just him talking to me or me asking questions and him repeating them back to me. Haha it is some good fun.

Scripture of the Week:

“Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.” -1 Corinthians 9:24-27

After reading this, the Holy Spirit convicted me of a sin I never really realized before. I so desperately want to be living a life of faith. However, I totally fail (and if I am honest I am terrified) of just outwardly asking people of their faith and boldly stepping up to proclaim mine. Along with Paul and his craziness in Corinthians, I am reading a book called “Daughter of China.” This young girl, named Mei Lin, is so bold in her faith, and she doesn’t care who see’s it! I was thinking about what I would do in her shoes, what if I was imprisoned for my beliefs, would I still be boldly look for ways to tell people about Jesus? Again, if I am honest, I would probably do what I was told and try to please the people around me. I try to get people to not only respect me, but more importantly to like me. Because I think if they like me or approve of me, they’ll do the same with my religion.
That’s not living by faith. That is living and trying to convince people about Jesus by my own means! It doesn’t work that way! How do I become more bold like Paul and Mei Lin, in preaching about the Good News? How do I get over my fear and my tongue being tied? How do I stop being so shy and timid? The answer: I need to allow the Holy Spirit to be transforming and renewing me and more importantly to be working through me. It’s not me and my message, it’s God’s and it belongs to everyone.


Prayer Requests:
*the Soro kids
*God would continue to mold, stretch and refine us
*friends and families in the states and the RCI
*the race that we run…that we would be bold in our actions and intentional with our words

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Meet the Soro's

Happy June everyone! June has always been my favorite month. School ends, summer camps begin and caterings pick up at Stonefire (which means I can make some $). But June this year marks the start of the end of this year. It also means that I have officially lived with my family longer than without since I’ve been in West Africa. So this week I thought it was finally time to introduce you to my hosts the Soro’s. (That and I didn’t know what else to write about for this blog :) ). So this will be a two part blog: first part my parents, Martha and Yo and second part the kids. And here we go.

SORO Awa (host mom) & SORO Tcholofolo (host dad)
Tchol (short for Tcholofolo) and Awa (which means Eve in French) have 5 children. Their children are Martha (28), Pauline (24), Felerah (10), Azariah (7), and Benjamin (5). After Pauline was born it was expected that Awa could no longer have children. Little did she know, she would be pregnant 15 years later. Awa says that it was a gift from God that she was pregnant again. Awa works for an NGO that helps young women and children (primarily struggling within prostitution) and helps them in school and learn trades to no longer depend on prostitution. Tchol used to own a small boutique in the Grand Marché, however, like so many others, he lost his business during the crisis. Now he chill’s out with the other dad’s in the market or goes hunting. Both of my host parents are elders in the Téguéré church and neither grew up in Christian homes. Tchol and Awa accepted the Lord through evangelism outreach’s when they were in their late teens. I’m still unsure of Tchol’s family, but I know Awa is the first and only Christian of her 15 siblings.

SORO Martha
Martha is the first of 5 children. She is 28 years old and is my “grand sœur cheré” or “dear big sister.” Martha and I share a room and bed together. Martha is a great tailor, however she cannot do this as a job due to the inconsistent pay and lack of benefits. So at the moment she is looking for work. Martha was unable to finish her schooling because the first daughter is normally expected to run the household. So she went to school to learn how to read and write and then dropped out. Martha and I are practically joined at the hip and I am very thankful for her.

Yo:
Yo was an unexpected but pleasant surprise when I came home from a Bouaké seminar a month ago. Yo is the housekeeper who lives with us. I’m unsure of her age and she doesn’t know when her birthday is, but I think she is somewhere around my age. Yo’s parents are both deceased and her older brother has left. I am continuously amazed of this young woman’s strength, joy and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And I hope to grow closer to her in the coming months.

SCRIPTURE of the WEEK:

When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.” -Psalm 94:19

O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.” -Psalm 139:1

I’m not sure if I have mentioned this before or not, but since I don’t have electricity at my house we can’t use fans (dur :) ) so at night when it is ridiculously hot we stay outside and take “pre-sleep” naps. During my nap I usually spend my time praying and lifting up different things to the Lord. So last night during my prayer time with God two things stuck out. First, is that He KNOWS me…inside and out! He knows my heart, my mind and all of the confusion between the two. And despite that craziness that is going on…HE STILL FREAKING LOVES ME!!! WHAT?!?! That is ridiculous. I am still so overwhelmed by Him. Second, is that He comforts. Knowing that the Lord knows everything about me is scary, but also SO comforting. I don’t have to worry about if I am saying the right words or have to go through the pains of trying to explain myself, He just knows. And so that is what He is teaching me this week.

REQUESTS of PRAYER:

-SORO Awa, my host mother. She is sick and we’re unsure of what, but I think it may be malaria again.
-Martha as she is looking for a job
-Pastor Kéo left for the states on Saturday, pray for his trip and his message. Also for the support of the Professors and the pastors in training
-I would be focused here and now
-What is after this year? A second year in the RCI or am I returning to the states
-Against spiritual attack; particularly the little lies that Satan plants within us

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My First Safari Ride





After two weeks of travelling throughout West Africa, I am now taking advantage of having a little break and writing a blog…especially since my last one was April 12th! Wow that is insane…and I am again failing at blogs. I need to find an accountability partner for this problem of mine.

So two weeks ago the Journey Corps team left Cote d’Ivoire and traveled to a neighboring country, Burkina Faso. There we had a little “Family Vacation” as we like to call it. After saying good-bye to four of our team members we thought it was important to come together and regroup as a team. So we went to Bobodulaso and visited a game park. So with 12 people in a legally 6 person car we went on our own little safari. 4 people on top of the car and the rest safe inside we saw elephants, hartebeests, different kinds of antelopes, bush bucks and water bucks, alligators and countless birds. It was beautiful!

A few of us left Bobodulaso for Ouargadougou to meet a short term team from Cedarville College (Ohio). With confusing bus tickets our trip back to Cote d’Ivoire was delayed for two days. Being in another West African country, I experienced another round of culture shock. Burkina Faso is more westernized than Cote d’Ivoire, by far. With traffic lights and strip malls it’s no wonder we went through culture shock. (I even had a cheeseburger!!...like a real cheeseburger). We also visited a missionary family. We sat down on their comfy sofas, ate Snickers, and watched a copy of the latest American Idol…WHAT?!?! I didn’t think this stuff existed in West Africa. It was interesting coming back through the border into Cote d’Ivoire. I had the strangest feeling of “YAY I’m going back home!!!” It’s funny how I have only been living here for 7 months and I already feel that the people I interact with and live with are a part of my friend and family circles. This feels like home. It feels like my comfort. I suppose I shouldn’t find it so strange, since we are totally submerging into this culture. I was also reminded that my home is not here on earth, but in Heaven with the Lord Jesus. It was a really cool realization.

In Bouaké we had our second set of seminars with our directors Rod and Bakary. We continued to look at projects and studied how Paul did missions. It was interesting to look at scripture almost as a text book, but it’s history…I suppose I sometimes see it as something supernatural and unattainable. Rod also continued on his seminar with the Mission of God and this time he emphasized His creation and the roles we play in taking care of it.

God continues to move in BIG ways that, as always, are un-expecting. God is constantly telling me it isn’t the works I am supposed to be concerned with this year. This year I am being molded and stretched to be in His likeness. I can’t do everything and for me that is tough…I love doing everything and doing things well (the best…my pride) and taking on responsibilities. I have been realizing it is because I am constantly trying to seek people’s approvals instead of just listening to God. I also have been finding that I have peace and comfort knowing that He is the one in control. After fighting for 7 months (honestly 21 years) I finally have said…alright God you’re in control…NOT ME. It’s a daily surrender, one that is difficult sometimes, painful or frustrating in others, but it calls for me to be humble, die to myself and pick up my cross. Obviously easier said than done, but I am learning that it is SO worth it!

Scripture of the Week (month):

“Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” -Galatians 1:10

Paul’s words are a little blunt, but to the point. Haha and so true.

“He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of ALL creation, became his prized possession.” –James 1:18

In Bouaké I led a bible study about what God has been showing me and this is an awesome summary. I asked everyone what thing they most held dear as a child. For me, I used the example of my little purple hat. I wore this thing ALL of the time and never left home without it. One time, at an Angel game, I left it in the bleachers. I think I cried for that stupid hat for over a week. My dad picked me up from school one day and said you have a surprise on the front seat of the truck…IT WAS MY LITTLE PURPLE HAT!! Well, I realized I’m God’s little purple hat…when I am lost He cries out for me. He sees me as something to be prized. And it’s not because I deserve it, but because he CHOSE to see me that way, out of love. Again…these last 7 months God has been showing me just how much He pursues and loves His children, His prized possession and that He would do and give anything, even death to His Son, for them. I don’t know about you…but I think that is pretty flippin’ awesome.

Prayer Requests:
-Against spiritual attack & distractions. That Satan could not get a foothold within this team, and within me.
-RCI family & CA family. My sister from Abidjan is going back, pray for safety. George looks like a leopard and is fighting a nasty cold (haha :) just look at his pictures on facebook)
-Relationships here in RCI & on state side
-Energy & strength to continue on to what God has planned for me

Thanks so much for visiting me today. How can I be praying for you and encouraging you? You know…when I ask how you guys are doing I actually want to know  haha so please respond. How are you and what is God doing in your life? Yup yup yup…can’t wait to hear from you!! I hope you guys have a wonderful day!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Update

SO MUCH TO WRITE ABOUT!!! So since the internet has not been working, I have yet to put up a blog in like 3 weeks…c’est pas bon (it’s not good). So…now we are hopefully getting two blogs at once or at least relatively close to each other : ) a picture diary which I hope ya’ll enjoy and an update. UPDATE: So two weeks ago I attended a 4 day long traditional Muslim funeral. SO INTERESTING. I had the opportunity to see where the traditional views and modern views come into play with each other. The first day everyone (literally EVERYONE) went to the morgue to collect the body, my host mom made sure I got to see the body before it was buried [great : / ] . Then people carried the casket through the street to different houses. There was a parade blocking most of the streets with people dancing and playing music. It was kind of cool to witness how much they celebrate a life here. The next day the lady was buried in her village. There were “medicine men” shooting guns trying to scare off the evil spirits. Then for the last two days it was a HUGE party. Dancing and singing in the streets, tons of food and a sacrifice. It was interesting watching the preparation for the sacrifice (I did not actually stay for that). There were men who are going through “initiation” [a tradition for men only, in the sacred forest] and for three months out of their 7 year initiation they cannot wear any clothes…the first time I saw this my host papa was laughing his head off, because of how shocked I was that my neighbor wasn’t wearing clothing. So for the sacrifice only men who are/have been initiated can light the fire and do the sacrifice. It was interesting watching a man in a loin cloth light a fire on the side of a busy road with lots of cars and mottos running by…and then he pulled out his cell phone (where it came from I am not sure)…how weird is that? My cultural awareness was definitely shaken with that one. Last week we had a week long seminar at the ICA campus in Bouaké. That was really great, being able to see all of the journeyers and being able to say good-bye to a few other people. {more about the good-byes in a little while}. Our seminar was a review on “projects” and how to get those started, what questions to ask and how to evaluate it. It was a much needed review. Plus it was a great time of rest and relaxation (and American food :) ) It was also a time where God rejuvenated me, and showed me just how much I need Him. In Bouaké we also attended a marriage for our friend Tenana who works at ICA. It was a super fun wedding. It was just a twenty to thirty minute walk. For our gift to Tenana and his wife we danced “American” for them. So in our African outfits we line danced :) yes…line danced at a wedding. It was so much fun!! I forgot how much I missed line dancing. And then we were invited to eat with the bride and groom. Yesterday…if you haven’t seen my earlier blog post…Gbagbo has been captured, finally! The 6 journeyers who are living in Korhogo were all out to lunch talking about our small group up here and we see people running into the streets shouting. So our first reaction is, oh no…we need to get out of here, a fight is breaking out. Well that wasn’t it. People were dancing and shouting for joy because the Ivory Coast after ten years is finally able to move on and work towards reconciliation. So we left our lunches and joined the great celebration. YAY…I am still overjoyed and I have only been living here for 5 months, I can’t imagine what others are feeling. And finally…in the last few weeks there have been a few changes within the Journey Corps family. Two of my friends have decided to move from their families in Korhogo, to two new families in Bouaké. All though I am sad to see two of my friends leave, I know this move is for the best for them. It is so interesting how God pursues us, He knows exactly how to speak to us, and for these two that means moving. I am super stoked for them and their futures here. And my two small group leaders, Peter and Katrina, have decided it is time for them to return to the States. These two have been nothing less than a blessing to this program, and will be greatly missed. I look up to these two not only for their work here in Journey Corps and with me, but for also hearing God’s voice and being so obedient to that, even though it is so difficult saying good-bye. Prayer Request: -this country would be united instead of torn, and for the new (and only) president Alassane, that he would have wisdom and rule justly. -our friends who are moving and leaving, that they would have peace and be sensitive to the leading of the Spirit -host family and family in California -against spiritual attack -He would be our vision I put up the Scripture of the Week with the last blog so instead I will do a Quote of the Week on this blog. Quote of the Week: This is the good news we offer the world. Yes, we are born into the world as children of the deep, condemned to live in darkness, to live out the sinful nature of our flesh. But we can be saved from all of that if we are willing to put our faith in Jesus. This, indeed, is what it means to become a new creation. Once we were instruments of unrighteousness, but now, by the blood of Jesus, we are instruments of good. And if we are to take into account the call to go into all the world as Jesus did, then we are given the insight to understand that God is calling the church to go into all the dark recesses of the world and there proclaim the light of Jesus. We are to continue the ministry of confrontation with the evil one. Where fear is sown, we sow love; where deceit is sown, we sow the truth; where violence rules, we enter in peace; where sorrow reigns, we minister joy; where sin abounds, we usher in the forgiveness and cleansing work or Jesus. Dan Harrison Alrighty then, we are finally all caught up on lives…oh wait a minute…you need to catch me up on your life : ) awesome, can’t wait to hear from you and hear about how things are going. So until then… Have a good day

Photo Diary




Ok so…I am sort of lame on writing blogs right now, sorry everyone. But I had a super cool idea… One of the most frequently asked question is “Alyssa, what do you do? What is your typical day look like?” Well I thought it would be super cool if you got to see what I did instead of just reading about it…so here we go :)


So I wake up between 5:30 and 6:00 am (I’m super confused about why we wake up at different times so I just wake up when my sister Martha wakes up because we share a bed) Then I sweep the courtyard while God paints me a beautiful masterpiece every morning *my sunrise* (Tyler…stop laughing at me it’s true).


[after sweeping is when my days differ…here is a typical laid back day]


After sweeping I take my bucket bath and eat breakfast. I usually help the family with the chores such as laundry, cooking, cleaning and such. I also tutor 2 guys in English who can’t go to school because of the crisis or I go to work at the church. *picture of Teguere church* This is where i do the churches finances and where i do secretarial work Monday-Thursday.


Later in the afternoon I get to hang out with my host family and eat lunch and take a short pause. Usually I do my “homework” or journaling that is a requirement for Journey Corps. *picture of family [from left to right:big sister Martha, Host Papa Chorl, little brother Azariah, little brother Coronah, me, little brother Binjamin, little sister Ferrehala, little sister Yelli, host mom was taking the picture* After my short pause I either go back to work at the church or dispensary or I help cook.

Whenever I get back home I usually take my bucket bath and eat dinner with my family. Because it is so hot and I don’t have electricity so we sleep outside for a little while and then go to bed.


These are all of the journeyers and the staff of Journey Corps, I thought you may want to see who it is I live with in Africa :) *picture of journeyers from left to right: Katrina, Peter, Jamie, Heidi, Bakary, Angelika, Rod, Stephanie, Naomi, Me, Holly, Jason, Chazz, CJ, Beckie and Devin *


Prayer Requests:

Political situation-things are still heating up.

Pray that God’s peace and comfort would reign

Different work and ministry opportunities Host family and Family in the states

Sicknesses and healing (Heidi just had surgery on her appendix pray for healing, my little brother has malaria, older sister is sick, I had Ameebas last week…and so much more)

That God would continue to be my only vision


Scripture of the Week:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,

3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,

4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,

5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

6 a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,

7 a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,

8 a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

9 What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet[a] no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end


Well I hope you guys enjoyed the photos and the short video. Let me know what you think and let me know how your life is going. Love you tons and until next time :)


Take Care!

Monday, April 11, 2011

ONE PRESIDENT!!!

The first day I can get online is the day the Ivory Coast has one president!!! Gbagbo has been captured and we are dancing and singing in the streets :) Praise the Lord Please pray for peace and reconciliation. That this country would finally be brought together in unity. Blog post to come...

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Bitter Sweet Reunion

Fotmana! (Welcome in Tyembara) I hope all is well for you and your family this awesome Sunday.

This last Wednesday the 6 Korhogo people travelled with Rod back to Bouake for 3 ½ days of debrief and rest with the other 4 Journeyers who are already down in Bouake. It was a bitter sweet reunion. I loved being with everyone again. We lived together 24 hours a day for over 3 months…with that you get used to seeing people and doing things. However, it was such a short visit and saying good-bye is also a difficult thing to do.

So on our little mini-vacation we had the opportunity for community and rest. We did tons of debriefing over the last month being in our families, shared our difficulties and laughed about our short comings (which there were many). We also met in our small groups for a little while to do the same.

After all of the long logistical things happened we got to have fun  we went to Hotel Mon Afrik for some ice cream and swimming (it was SO good since the power had been out everywhere else to finally have a refreshment). We also played volleyball and soccer—my two favorite sports to play. And I finally watched Sleepless in Seattle, a movie I had never seen until Friday. We also went to the Rock Quarry for dinner. My favorite part of the night is singing worship around the fire under the stars it’s beautiful. And Holly and I rode on top of the Land Rovers on the way back. Dude dodging trees in the dark is no easy task!

Well the last few days have been a very much needed break. And I am appreciative of that. I like to think of these times as my Sabbath. I hope you get your rest also…its biblical: “on the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation.” So I say call your bosses and take a day off  [responsibly of course]

Scripture of the Week:
“Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead he gave up his divine privileges he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:2-11
Our focus for Bouake was all of Phil…and again in church today these verses were emphasized. It’s always a good reminder to be humble.

Prayer Requests:
~the heat!! I am literally dripping sweat and it is driving me crazy…all I am doing is sitting and writing this right now…what the heck haha
~family (RCI & CA)
~our projects
~God would continue to be our strength and our rest
~we will continue to be molded and stretched beyond our wildest imagination
~maladies

Thank you again
Love always Alyssa Grabarkewitz

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Women's Conference

In the last blog I said that I would talk about the different ministry opportunities in this blog. To be honest I have yet to start my projects. The committee that I have to meet with has been busy getting ready for their General Assembly Meeting. Heidi and I did, however, meet with our Pastor, Keo, to talk about the churches different ideas and what they are already planning for this next year. Their ideas are far more exciting than any idea I could ever come up with. Téguéré church (my church here in Korhogo) is located on IBB (Bethel Bible Institute) campus. Pastor Keo is also the director of IBB. So a lot of ministry will be happening on campus with pastors in training and their wives. We will be potentially helping with the pastor’s English and mostly focusing on their wives. Some of the women can only speak their mother tongue, Tyembara, they cannot read nor write. So alongside their husbands these women are enrolled into classes to help prepare them to be pastors wives. Some of their classes include learning French and how to read and write, nutrition, finance management, natural family planning and I think counseling. I will have an opportunity to participate in these classes and even teach some of them.

Some other ideas that are away from campus that Téguéré church would like to see happen in the next year are super exciting! For starters they would like to see a church started in a village. Right now there are 4 villages surrounding Téguéré that do not have a church. They would like to start evangelizing and focus on one of these villages and help start a church there. This is perfect, because this is a huge passion of Heidi’s and what she went to school for. Another plan has to do with the 6 schools around Téguéré. Right now due to the crisis here only 4 private schools are meeting. However, when the country isn’t in the beginnings of civil war and all schools are open, we have young Christian followers and connections in each one of those schools. The church would like to see a small group/bible study happen at each site. It would be something to feed and fuel these young believers and in return, it is also an outreach opportunity to their friends and classmates who wouldn’t otherwise go to church. And the fun part about this is that this is a huge passion of mine. I am a firm believer of kids leading kids and bringing them to know the Lord. So I am pretty stoked to potentially be an unseen helping hand in this.

These are just a few of the churches ideas. I should be meeting with the committee relatively soon since the General Assembly was a 5 hour meeting after church on Sunday! So there will hopefully be more updates on these thoughts a little later.

As for more of an update on what I have been doing with myself in RCI, last week was the annual AEBECI-Korhogo’s women’s conference. 500 women from all over Korhogo took part in this weeklong conference. Heidi, CJ and I also attended with our host moms. This was an overwhelming experience. Majority of these women were from surrounding villages in Salem and only a handful could speak French. The entire conference was in Tyembara! People would speak to us in Tyembara! And then when we didn’t understand their questions and demands (because they were in Tyembara) we’d get yelled at in Tyembara!!! The funny thing was that the little Tyembara we do know we were asked to repeat over and over and over and over again and each time we said it everyone would die of laughter. Another interesting part of us being there was the fact that we are white. For a lot of the women this was their first time seeing a white person. Tons of them came up to touch my skin and as they did I touched theirs asking if it was different or the same. They all said the same. The children that were with them were terrified of us because in villages they tell young kids that if they don’t behave, the white man will come and eat them. It gets disheartening after awhile, always making children scream and cry for their moms. So we had to make a game out of it so we didn’t get depressed about this. [Please don’t judge :)] Heidi got 3 kids’ to cry, I got 2 and CJ didn’t get any. Heidi was the winner, especially since one of those times was in front of all 500 women in a seminar. That was kind of funny. At first it was hard being the freak show, there only for amusement, but at the end of the conference the women said it was encouraging that we were there. Although we are different, we are still the same in Christ. We are sisters and worship the same God but in different ways. I like that don’t you?

Scripture of the Week:
“In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over by observing your pure and reverent lives. Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourself instead with the beauty that comes from within the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. This is how the holy women of old made themselves beautiful. They trusted God and accepted the authority of their husbands.” ~1Peter 3:1-5

Since I could not understand a thing being said in the conference, I thought it would be a good idea to pray and reflect on things that would make a godly woman. There’s some interesting stuff.

Prayer Requests:
*our service projects
*strength and energy
*patience
*against spiritual attack
*the healing of many people for many things
*our friends and families at home in the states and homesickness


Well this was just a super quick update and there will be more, later. Please check out the new pictures online and I hope you enjoy :) Miss you and love you guys!

Until next time…

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sometimes you still have to give thanks

Well this week has been an interesting one, if that. It has truly been an interesting experience living with an Ivorian family. Through language and cultural barriers life is a little intense. On top of that I have been sick quite a few times, and I think it’s because of the food. My host family insisted that we call our pastor so that he could take me to the hospital, but I assured them that that was not necessary and that it is normal for missionaries to get sick from the food. They didn’t understand and called the pastor anyways, when I was taking my bucket bath. He came over and saw that I was insistent on not going to the hospital and agreed that if I still hadn’t been feeling well by the end of the day he would take me whether I liked it or not. It was quite funny. It is a complete difference between our two cultures. In America, you leave the sick person alone, give them their rest time and peace and quiet. In Cote d’Ivoire, you would never dream about leaving a sick person all alone. That’s crazy talk!! So I have had constant people around me touching me to make sure I don’t have a fever, asking how I am doing trying to feed me. I won’t lie, when I was sick the first night, I was SO ANNOYED by this!!! SO annoyed!! So much so that I had to pray that God would give me self control to let these people love on me the way that they know how. Boy oh boy that was a challenge.

While I was journaling yesterday, I was trying to think about what I should be writing about and the only things that were coming to mind, were all of the things that I am frustrated about, such as being sick (like the example above). Also how bad I am at French and how frustrating it is not being able to get your point across. I listed how I was wishing for different circumstances like living back in Buoaké or with another family. I especially can’t stand being talked to and treated like a two year old (they even locked up my bike so that I have to ask before I use it). It’s all so FRUSTRATING!!!

…well…then God reminded me of our Scripture of the Week:

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful
in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
1 Thes. 5:16-18

Crap…you mean I actually have to be thankful and joyful while vomiting in a hole outside?? Our being recovered by my older sister even though it’s 90 degrees outside and I don’t want any blankets on me?? Dude, God you are insane!! What the heck? Haha (this is sort of what I was thinking). Well I suppose I will give this being thankful thing a shot.

So I started to list all of the things that I should be thankful for. It started out small such as the gorgeous sunrises I have the priviledge of seeing every morning and for the amazing stars I get to eat dinner under every night. I am thankful for the French and Tyembara that I do know and for being able to tie my panya skirt right so it doesn’t fall off now. For my church here and back in the states and the friends and family members I have there. For my host family who is willing to take in and care for and love a stranger (and a strange one at that). For my family in the states (whom I miss an insane amount) and for their willingness to call and talk to me whenever I need them too and their support for me being here. That God has kept His promise in sending me here, to Africa. That He renews my strength each and every morning and gives me just enough strength to make it through the day. That His love and His grace have no bounds what so ever and they cannot be limited by language or culture. Dude the God who created the ENTIRE universe loves me the way no one else could possibly love me…a way that I can’t even understand or grasp. Dude…HOW COOL IS THAT!!!! That’s awesome :) I have so much more to be thankful for than I do to complain about. I have prayed that the Lord would turn my frustrations into even more things to give Him praise for. That His will would be above all else even if that means that I won’t be happy with it. So that’s where I’m at, at this particular moment. I still have to take one day at a time, I still have to pray for God’s strength that I am dependent on, I still get frustrated with things, I still feel homesick, but I praise God for these things. They are stretching and molding me in ways I could never have fathomed in a million years. I praise God!

Prayer Requests:
*1 Thes 5:16-18 will always be on my heart and mind and that I will always give thanks, no matter the circumstance
*Against spiritual attack
*For our stomach’s getting used to the food and water here
*For our service projects we will be starting soon (more to come on that next time…I am extremely excited about some of them)
*For our brothers and sisters in the south where the country is ‘hot’ and our other brothers and sisters around the world who are being persecuted for their faith [I just finished reading “Heart of Fire: a martyrs story”…so good, read it]

I get a few email responses about blogs and such, please keep those coming. They have been nothing but an encouragement to me and I appreciate every word of them. I want to hear about what you are thankful for and what else you give God praise for. And of course also the frustrations and hardships, so that I can also be praying for you. “Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep” Romans 12:15

Thanks again :)

Until Next time…

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Monday, February 7, 2011

Living with an Ivorian Family

Well since my last blog update I have officially moved in with my family. It is needless to say quite an interesting experience. My host parents have 5 kids, 4 of which still live at home. The 7 of us live in a 3 bedroom concrete home. I share my room with my “big sister” and the three little kids share another. There is no electricity or plumbing; we get our water from a few different wells around the quatier (kind of like a neighborhood). The quatier is just outside of town with lots of open land and farms. I have yet to start any service projects, but hopefully this week that will change.

Life with the family seems to have no routine, or at least I haven’t yet to find it. We wake up between 5 and 6 in the morning (yup…I wake up that early Pop :) ) and do a family bible study. Right now we are reading through Matthew, and that is my absolute favorite time of the day. It’s a time where the family only speaks French instead of their mother-tongue Tyembara, so I can understand them for the most part. It’s also an awesome prayer time together and a neat way to start the day off with your family. Afterwards I go outside to sweep our living room/courtyard…it’s outside under the mango tree haha. I take my bucket bath and eat my breakfast. Do my homework, and help cook or go to town with my host mom. Right now I am sitting in her office (I think, I’m a little confused haha) and she’s teaching my little brother Azarier how to spell on the computer…haha it’s kind of funny, because he keeps pulling up solitaire and getting caught. At night we all take bucket baths again and eat dinner and hang out on the patio. I seem to be the entertainment in the neighborhood, since we eat outside for dinner, all of the neighborhood kids come and watch me eat. It’s a little awkward I won’t lie, but sort of funny. I thought it would stop after a few days…nope still goes on, and there’s even more now.

This is a super challenging experience for me right now. I have to constantly seek out the Lord for my strength, energy and comfort. I have to take each day at a time or else thinking I’m going to be here for the next 9 months is just way to overwhelming. It’s difficult not being able to be alone for just 10 minutes (unless I’m bathing). Even when I am doing my ‘homework’ time or alone time the kids are all around watching what I write and being fascinated with English. A very humbling and challenging thing that God has been showing me is that I am nothing…I have nothing to offer or give these people. However, it was encouraging to read in 2 Kings 4:2 “ ‘What can I do to help you?’ Elisha asked. ‘Tell me what do you have in the house?’ ‘Nothing at all, except a flask of olive oil’ she replied.” God used that ‘nothing’ and filled endless amount of jars to pay this widows debt and then on top of paying her debt gave her enough to live on. God is constantly doing that…He uses the weak to lead the strong, the nothing that we say we have, or the things we deem as common or unworthy and uses them to glorify himself. That’s what I am hoping for, that the God who created the universe would take the nothing that I have and do something extraordinary, to bring more people to himself and bring glory and honor to His name.
(Hides and I got our hair braided)

Scripture of the week:
The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
He leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength
He guides me along right paths,
Bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk through the darkest valley
I will not be afraid,
For you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
In the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
All the days of my life,
And I will live in the house of the Lord
Forever.
Psalm 23

This has been my encouragement and something that I have been reading daily as a reminder that my God is always with me! ALWAYS!! And even when I am in the deepest darkest valley, He’ll never forsake me.

Prayer Requests:
That God would continue to be my vision…and my only vision
Against homesickness and against attacks from the enemy
Integration with the family
That the Lord would turn my worries and doubts into thanksgivings and songs of praise
For energy!! I’m so tired ALL the time haha
My family at home in California, I’m missing them a lot


Well I think that is all for the moment. Again thank you for your updates on your lives and the lives of your families. I hope you will continue to pray for me and update me so that I can continue to pray and encourage you.

Until next time…
Alyssa G. {G’Nandja}

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Korhogo Recap

Hey hey hey ya’ll  I hope your day is amazing this wonderful Sunday afternoon. So on Tuesday, 6 of us left for Korhogo. At the moment we are staying at a guest house at the bible institute. Monday we will be starting our seminars with our pastors and families and Wednesday we move into our new homes. Majority of us will be on our own in these homes (me including) but we all have “partners” at our churches. Ms. Heidi Kogler (the one and only from Beachpoint) and I will be attending the Teguere church on the bible institute campus. Needless to say, with the language barrier, cultural differences and working at different ministries in the day we are going to be exhausted…not so excited for that haha. However, after exploring the market here and getting to know some of the pastors and families I am so excited to start building new relationships here in Korhogo. Please pray for a good transition (yet another) and for the families who will be accepting us.

So far while in Korhogo we have had the opportunity to do a few different activities. On Friday Jason, Holly and I went on an evangelical outreach to a local village, La Meka. We went along with some of the students and pastors from the bible institute and their families, about 40ish people total. We jumped in the back of a huge truck and squeezed as many people as we possibly could in the bed of it and were off. We met at the church in the village to pray and get organized, greeted a few families and then broke off into ten groups of 4. In these groups we walked around the village greeting people and talking to them about Jesus. Around 8pm we headed back to the church for some dinner and debrief of the day. After dinner and debriefing we started a HUGE fete (party) in the middle of the street. {picture on right...us dancing} We had a huge screen and music and dancing and oh my…it was great!!! Villagers came out to party with us (believers and unbelievers) after some dancing there was a message and an Ivorian Jesus film showing. After the video there was, of course, more dancing and music (that’s VERY important here in West Africa). The party lasted all night long, literally…I went to bed at 1am in someone’s house and woke up at 6 and it was still going on haha. All and all it was a great day! I’m not exactly sure how many people came to Christ, but I do know that this for sure planted seeds in people’s lives. It was a great experience not only building relationships with the village, but also building relationships with people from my church. I actually just had lunch with one of the families today after church. Having these relationships is a must for me, and I am extremely thankful for them.

When I got back from the evangelizing outing on Saturday I found a surprise waiting for me at my house…actually 4 of them. My Bouaké friends :) they came up with our directors Bakary and Rod as a surprise for us and to help with our orientations. It was a wonderful surprise. Yesterday we all went on a hike up some steep random mountain/hill thing. A few people went repelling off the side of it and a few people ate dinner up there. It was just a nice time away from the city together. Coming down the mountain in the dark was a bit challenging, and I won’t lie I did fall quite a few times haha. It was an awesome day and was sooo gorgeous!

This morning at church, Heidi and I were officially introduced by one of our pastors Keo. One of the Senefo translators went to the evangelizing outreach and translated my introduction with my new Senefo name that he gave me there. It’s Chifiga (not sure on the spelling, but that is phoenetic and it means “clay skin” or “white girl”) and also N’Gandja (which means “twin girl” since I have a twin brother…oh by the way George you have a name also…N’Gana for “twin boy” haha). So, when all three hundred members came out to shake hands with us that is what they called me. It was awesome. I am so thankful to be a part of this young church. Everyone is so lively and truly joyful. You know those people that you don’t even need to talk to; you can just look at and see the joy radiating from them and you can’t pinpoint the reason other than Jesus? Well that’s the majority of this church. It’s awesome. I even met the man who works with the kids here (I was in his group at the outreach) and he invited me next Sunday to hang out with him and the kids…I laughed when he asked, I just can’t seem to escape from them haha.

Well so far life seems good here in Korohogo…IT’S SO HOT…but it’s good. God is pursuing me like no other and continues to mold and stretch me in un-expecting ways. Right now I’m being challenged on the idea of surrender. What am I not willing to give up to God and why? It’s so humbling asking that. For me right now, I feel like I’ve always been that person that would totally give up anything in a heartbeat for the Lord’s calling (or at least known or seen in that light) but would I actually do it? I honestly don’t know. If God asked me to stay here in Cote d’Ivoire, could I actually do that. Could I actually leave all of you guys for a longer time, or for forever? The one that really scares me is the thought, could I actually be a single woman missionary in a foreign country? My world is being rocked like no other! I love and hate it all at the same time…love it, because I know this is making me grow, and hate it, because it’s pruning a lot out of me which is painful and frustrating at times. But it’s necessary, so it’s all good!!

I believe that is all for our Korhogo extravaganza. : ) How are things back in the states?? I’ve been getting some emails back with comments on my blogs and I love them!!! Please keep them coming. I want to know how God is moving and working in your life also. And as always I want to know how I can be encouraging and praying for you.


Scripture of the week:

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” ~James 1:2-4

I never realized how good James is!! It’s awesome, totally encourage reading it haha

Prayer Requests:
*Our families who will be accepting us
*Our transition
*That God would keep pruning us and our worries and struggles would turn into something to be used for His glory

Well I hope and pray nothing but the best for you and as my wise friend Dustin Sanders encouraged me on my sheet “I pray that the Lord would truly be your only vision.” [thanks Dust for that]

So until next time…
Love always and forever,
Alyssa G. /SHORTY!!!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Long Awaited Updates

Good day ya’ll! I hope life’s going well thus far in the New Year for you and your family. I thought I would try to put up a quick update online, while I was going to be at an internet café haha so here goes just a quick update.
Classes:
We have been finishing up on our classes and doing independent French learning. The past three weeks our seminars have been on the History of Missions/the church here in Cote d’Ivoire, African Perspectives and Values, and Islam. They have been some of my favorite lessons actually and super interesting. Our last class will be this week, where we’ll be wrapping up Islam with Rod Ragsdale.
Service Projects:
We have been into town a few times for “projects.” This time I switched with my friend Jason and went to an orphanage and he went to L’Arche. The orphanage was quite a challenging place. At first some of the kid’s were afraid of me, because I’m white and they’ve never seen a white person up close. Then when I was trying to leave, the same kids screaming when I came in were screaming that I was leaving. It was sort of funny…ok it was actually HILARIOUS and everyone was laughing. Haha.
We haven’t been doing actual projects lately. It’s sort of cool, not because we’re getting out of work (I love working…come on) but because we’re just being sent out into town to build relationships with people in the market place. Everything in Cote d’Ivoire is based off of relationships. It’s so weird walking through town and seeing random chickens and goats and thinking “wow this is normal.” Or even when you see too small of trucks carrying too big of loads with people on top of those loads and others running after them… “wow this is my life.” Or even when I see 6 people on a moto (a small motorcycle taxi). Who would have ever thought that I would actually get used to everything? Haha
Families:
We did have the opportunity to return to our families homes. Steph and I went back to Soro Salif and Laurentine’s home. This time we brought pictures of our friends and families to share with them. It was great as usual and of course we were well fed and taken care of. The next few days after staying at their home, we were sent loose in town again. CJ, Jamie and I went to the panya and indigo market (the local fabric here). When we were finished paying for what we wanted we were discussing whose house we’d like to go and visit and just as we decided to see Laurentine and Salif again we turn around and guess who is behind us…LAURENTINE : ) after our greetings we asked her if we could escort her back home. When we got to her house she looked at all of our fabric and gave suggestions about what we should have made out of the material. (it is normal for one to buy fabric and have it made by a tailor) Then she took us to her tailor and we had outfits tailored made for us. I asked Laurentine to design my outfit and surprise me. Well we just got them back and I was for sure pleasantly surprised. In total the outfit including labor to make it and the fabric cost me 8,500 CFA or $17. How insane is that?!?! Coming here after being in the Plummer/McAbee wedding and having our dresses made…was such a shock!!! Some of us girls joke around that we’ll have to get our wedding dresses made here, because it’s so cheap to have things made. I will hopefully be putting a photo of all three of us girls in our new outfits.
Korhogo:
This Tuesday I will be leaving ICA campus to go to Korhogo, where six of us will be doing our home-stays. We’ll be there until March 2nd, then we’ll be returning for a little debrief for a few days and then going right back to our families. Please pray for our preparation. We’ll all be living with an Ivorian family, but some of us will be the only American there. Please pray for our strength and our energy as we struggle through our French.

Prayer Requests:
*Leaving ICA campus and leaving each other for the first time will be difficult. Please pray that we would remember God’s unfailing love and His constant presence with us.
*Against temptations and longings for things of this world
*Our friends and families back in the states. That they would know the Lord’s unfailing love and find comfort in His arms.

Scripture of the week (of a few)
“I will bring that group through the fire and make them pure. I will refine them like silver and purify them like gold. They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say, “These are my people,” and they will say, “The Lord is our God.” ~ Zechariah 13:9

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy 2011!!!

Dude…I cannot believe that it’s already New Years. That’s insane! I hope and pray that your New Year’s celebration was joyful and safe.

I want to talk about our New Years extravaganza, but first I’ll give a quick update on our Christmas vacation. So for the girls, we made the very bumpy trip to Korhogo (northern RCI). On the way up to Korhogo a few of us took a bus, because that’s going to be our means of transportation when we leave for our Home Stays. Well, needless to say, it was quite the adventure. We were stopped about four or five times at various rebel barriers. A few times they even made our group get out of the bus and show some sort of I.D. At one barrier the guard actually thought we were spies. It was pretty funny trying to explain to him why five American girls would want to come to Cote d’Ivoire (especially now) to learn about their culture. The bus ride that should have taken 4 hours took 6 plus we were waiting at the station for 2 hours. It was a long and frustrating trip up there for everyone, but everyone on the bus said we were superstars and were absolutely the sweetest people. While in Korhogo we had the opportunity to visit other missionaries and different work sites for us in the very near future. We also visited some villages and learned how they make jewelry and various sorts of fabrics. On the third day we were told to stay inside of the guest house at IBB-bible institute, where we were staying. The country had been ordered to participate in a general strike, where no one would go to work, travel or even go to the market. This was attempted a few different times, but no one had taken it seriously. So on that day we walked to a church (using side streets to avoid drawing attention to ourselves) and visited a pastor who a few of us will be working with. The rest of the time was full of relaxation, which was so very much needed! Our last day, we climbed Mount Korhogo (it’s actually a little hill) and that took 30 minutes up and 30 minutes down. The voyage back to Bouaké only took 3 hours by car and was crowded, but way more enjoyable with some dance party action. Great vacation!!

Our New Years Eve bash was a real hoot : ) The day started out around 9:30ish am. The boys woke up to help dig a ditch for roasting our pig, underground. I’m not quite sure how it worked either, but it tasted pretty good. Some of us girls decorated the picnic area in front of our gym. When the pig was finally done, we had a huge (late) dinner. All of the nationals living on campus came, plus all of the leadership team, plus a missionary family that’s on vacation here. About 30 people total at the dinner table. Afterwards some of us hung out at by the bon fire. This fire was no joke, 5 feet tall!! The wood! It was insanely huge! We played games and talked for a bit. Afterwards the dance party started around the fire, which our French military friends found extremely entertaining. We brought in the new year with the perfect touch...some worshipping of the Lord. It was amazing!! We also figured out that those of us Journeyers that were at Urbana ’09, this was our second New Years together. It was super fun. All and all, our holiday break was nothing less than spectacular. Absolutely, hands down, the best African Christmas Season ever. I hope and pray the same for you and your families. And as always I want/NEED to hear about how your New Years went and about any fun New Year’s resolutions :) Love it!!
Scripture of the Week:

This is what God showed me during my quiet time on vacation, I’ve been super distracted by things lately…
“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me-everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.” ~Philippians 4: 8&9

Prayer Requests:
-The political situation
-This is our last month living here on campus, pray for our Home Stays
-Against distractions, that all of our thoughts would be good and praise worthy

Thanks so much…I hope and wish a very Happy New Year. Know that you are missed and loved! Until next time : )