A Vacation for the not-so-faint-of-heart: Part 2

I guess I’m in a ‘writing in parts’ phase.  But I promise, this saga will not be 10 parts long.  I don’t know how long it will be.  Maybe it’ll be 11!  Won’t know until I write it.  I’m the type of writer that doesn’t write with a plan or an outline.  I just write.  Some might call it rambling.  Whatever it is, it’s me.

OK, so we were getting ready for Day 2.

Our plan, as is usually our plan when we travel to Benin, is to see Rev. Joseph and Joy Nwobodo and minister in their church.  Neal met Joseph in a conference he was speaking at in Cotonou, Benin several years ago, and we’ve been friends ever since.  We’re like family now.  So the plan was for all of us to spend the weekend in Cotonou, Benin’s capital – in the capable hands of Joseph and Joy.  What a great weekend it was.  But I digress – let’s get back to the journey.

Check out the palm trees!  Now that’s what I call tropical!

There were a few issues along the way – what a bummer.


What a city!

Here we’re following Pastor Joseph to the hotel.

That evening we had an INCREDIBLE meal at an African restaurant – I think one of Pastor Joseph’s favorites.  So much food!  From salad with avocados to cous cous, rice, fries, fried turkey, fish – I could go on.  (On a side note, I don’t think I’ve mentioned how I couldn’t wait to get to the beach to eat avocado and pineapple.  So I was pretty excited about the avocado salad) We were stuffed!  Back to the hotel we went for the night.  As is frequently the case in I would guess many large cities in west African countries, the water was out.  The AC’s worked in some rooms and not so much in others.  But Pastor Joseph was all over it and made sure we stayed cool and had water.  He even hauled  20 gallon containers of water up 2 flights of stairs himself.  Sadly, I didn’t take any pictures at the restaurant or the hotel.  Don’t know what I was thinking…it’s just not like me.

Sunday morning bright and early, Joseph and Joy arrived with trays of tea, coffee, juice, bread and jam.  So sweet.  Neal was slated to preach at Kingdom Life Glory Mission’s 9th Anniversary service.  Quite a privilege.  We had also been there for their 5th anniversary.

Here’s Rev. Joseph Nwobodo

And his beautiful wife, Rev. Joy

The music was awesome!  Here’s the worship leader, band and choir.  I’ve tried hard to upload a 30 second video so you could hear it for yourself, but so far no success.  Our internet…

Before Neal preached, each of us shared testimonies with the people. Including Tobi.  He was so cute, and so nervous, but he did great.  Again – I FORGOT MY CAMERA!  I was so annoyed with myself.  And Tobi and Neal were even dressed alike – unplanned.  At least a few pictures were taken by others and I was able to get some of them.

Here’s me.

And Neal

Here’s part of our team.

The ladies.

The Guys

At the end, to celebrate the anniversary, we ALL got to be part of the cake cutting.

After the service, there was another incredible meal.  Yep.  More food.  Again, sadly, no pictures.  But trust me, it was good!

It was quite the lovely day.  Back to the hotel to rest and after that a trip to the beach with Pastor Joseph and his family (they have 5 wonderful kids).  That was the plan.  However….

They met us at the hotel at 5pm.  We’re all excited – finally – we’re going to see water.  You see where we live, we are surrounded by ‘beach’, but water is seriously lacking in the Sahara Desert.   We’re tooling down the busy streets of Cotonou, everyone crammed into 2 vehicles so as to cut down on the challenges that ensue when cars have to follow each other in the kind of traffic that lives in Cotonou.  We’re following Joseph.  Suddenly, our vehicle just stops.  What does one do when that happens?  We kind of looked at each other and said ‘Huh’.  By we I mean Neal and Don in the front and Jess, Erin, Kerrianne and myself squished into the back.  All 8 of our white (soon to be tan) legs were a scary sight all stuck together in the backseat.  Scary to us because in Niger, shorts attire isn’t very common – and would never be worn in public.  So we were trying to get used to ourselves in shorts.  It was quite humorous really, as 2 of us are tall and the other 2 of us – not so much.   Someone did take a picture of that, but I don’t have it.  Probably a good thing….

We managed to push the 4Runner to the side of the road in  spite of traffic (thankfully pretty light it being a Sunday night) and opened the hood.  The men in our group looked into the engine to see if there were any obvious issues.  By this time Joseph realized we were no longer trailing him and he turned around and joined the men – staring at the engine.  The oil seemed low so we added some.  Turned the ignition and what a wonderful sound when we heard it come to life.  Off we went.  The beach.  We girls all breathed sighs of relief (I know this since we were crammed together in the back seat) since the next day the plan was to get to our beach location and plant ourselves there for 5 days.  And vehicle issues would put a definite crimp in the plan.  We got 1/2 mile or so and again – we came to a halt – not a screeching one, but a slow ‘the engine just died’ kind of halt.  Once again, we all found ourselves standing around the vehicle, wondering what the ramifications might be.  I must say, everyone was very upbeat and positive about the whole thing.  No complaining – at least nothing that was out loud.  I’m big enough to admit that I was complaining in my head though!  And praying.  We were all doing that.  And we were realizing how fortunate we were that this happened where it did and not somewhere on one of the roads you saw in Part 1 of this post.

You must realize that having a vehicle issue this far from home – another country (far from your own trustworthy mechanic), can be a big wahala (problem).  Especially if you yourself don’t know much about vehicles.  And since you stick out like a sore thumb – a target of sorts – the mechanic will see you as  fresh meat, as an opportunity really, and will be strategizing as to how much he can get from you.  He may even thank God for sending you his way.  Not kidding.

We were thanking God for Pastor Joseph!  He immediately got on his cell phone and dialed his trusty mechanic, Ben.  Remember, it’s Sunday evening.  But Ben, from wherever he was, showed up to where we were.  And instead of having to pay big bucks for a tow, Joseph took Don to the hotel to get his vehicle and we were able to tow our 4Runner with his Explorer.  And by ‘we’ here, I mean the mechanic and his assistant.  It was a treacherous drive let me tell you.  I was in the ‘towee’ vehicle and the rope that attached us to the ‘tower’ couldn’t have been more than 4 feet long.   At night.  In traffic. In a very busy city.  With lots of big trucks.  Since the 4Runner was not on, of course the steering and breaks don’t really operate.  Needless to say, it’s not something I’d like to do again.  But I would.


We got the sick 4Runner to the ‘hospital’ and Joseph assured us that he had complete confidence in ‘Dr’. Ben and that the truck would be perfectly safe.  Good.  It would sleep there, we would sleep at the hotel and Ben would be back in the morning to make an assessment.  I should add here that Pastor Joseph was very insistent that Ben get the job done quickly.  Very insistent.

All this took place over a period of a couple of hours so it was now dark.    The beach option was out.  Next best thing?  Ice cream and pizza of course!  So off we went.  All the kiddos, Tobi included, had been so patient through it all – they deserved it, right?

Here we are – enjoying our ice cream….

…and pizza!

The kids really were with us – they were just sitting away from the adults.

Monday morning we all went to visit the 4Runner.

Here are some of her insides.  And I gotta be honest – at this point I was wondering if the beach was really going to be a reality…

This did not invoke confidence that hitting the road would happen today.

Here Dr. Ben is giving Neal the down low – at least trying to.  Language barriers are such a pain!

But wait!  There’s the pineapple lady!

Pineapple anyone?  Fresh Pineapple!!?

She was seriously good at cutting it up.

So while we waited for the news…we enjoyed more pom pom and pineapple.

And I mean enjoyed it!  Everyone had their own and paid about $.20 each.  Peeled and sliced.  Somehow, it made the waiting so much nicer.

That boy is carrying a radiator on the motorcycle.

Wait!  That’s OUR radiator!

Stay tuned til next time and find out if the beach remained a dream or became a reality…

14 thoughts on “A Vacation for the not-so-faint-of-heart: Part 2

  1. Lenoir Randle

    Great! Have been anxiously awaiting this news about the journey…. Just as I am the rest of the trip! More and more memories made!
    Joe and Lenoir


  2. N.A.

    WOW! Benin looks sooo much different than Niger! And the pineapple does look good! 🙂 In your last post, I know now what those bumpy roads feel like and when I saw the really pretty road with all the nice white paint on, I almost did a double take! lol.



  3. Scott

    Don’t keep us waiting too long. The suspense is killing me! Also, do you know if we could get a pineapple lady imported to the states?


    1. I’ve got the next part all written…in my head! I’m not sure – the pineapple lady to the States. I suspect she would be more than open to the idea!


  4. Danette,

    You guys are awesome!!! I love your “ramblings” and the details of your dusty hot challenges and joys. I am seriously so excited about spending time with your family here in Oregon and Wahington. And how fun to see a picture of Pastor Joseph and his wife. Hope we can take care of him the way he took care of you! Bless you all!


  5. Brad Howard


    I so enjoyed reading your wonderful chronicles. I’m really impressed with the way you always make the most of every opportunity and keep a positive attitude along the way — I’m sure one of the added blessings of being a Rhema grad. You and Neal are such an inspiration to Denise and me. Keep up the good work and know you have a lot of fans who are lifting you up in prayer.


    1. Pastor Brad! Wonderful to hear from you. Thanks so much for the encouragement! Maybe we’ll see you this summer. Heard you have a wedding too. Hard to believe it’s that time of life. Many, many blessings. Danette


  6. connieweis

    Hello Lady,
    I feel like I am making the trip with you. I remember trips with vehicle challenges…like right outside the Niamey airport when the bags need to be checked in that night. Calling Ron and Jerry for help and barely making the check in. Or the hood flying up as we drove to Maradi and the guys in the first vehicle had no idea we had a problem for a while. I have photos of you and Kim trying to sit on the hood to make it latch. Nothing like travels in Africa. Love these blogs. Connie


  7. Norma Formby

    Hi…It was such a blessing to meet you and Neal along with your children visit us at Conroe Christian Center. I have prayed for you many times and believe God to meet all your needs through his bounty. Blessings on your continued faithfulness. Norma


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