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

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
*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
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!!!