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Tamou Guest House. It’s Not the Ritz, But It’s Pretty Close!

I began but never finished the following blog post nearly a year ago…. Why? I have no idea. Right now we’re in another cold season and are looking forward to being at the guest house again next week for children’s camp.

March 16, 2016
Today we went to Tamou. Tamou is our Discipleship Center in the Gourmantche region. The headquarters of the region is the Tamou Church compound. In addition to the church there is a discipleship school, men’s and women’s student dorms, the pastor’s home and we’ve recently built a guest house on the compound so we can spend more time there.

Here’s the church.  The dorms being built (now complete) are to the left.  The Guest House is at the back of the church – the green door at the back right is the entrance.img_0668

You see Tamou is a 90 minute drive (Neal’s driving, so longer if you’re not with him). It’s a pretty remote location without many amenities. So when someone from Niamey goes to teach in the school, it’s best to teach for the whole morning, 4 hours, to maximize your effort, and then drive back. It makes for a long day.

We’ve also done events in Tamou – all day events. And not many people go all day without having to ‘use the bush’ as we affectionately call it. When in Tamou, there is no place to use said bush – not really even any bushes – and certainly no place to rest or have any down time. But it’s a place we love to be, and a place God is moving.

Thus the guest house. Really, it’s a thing of wonder. It’s tucked behind the church and has it’s own wall so is quite private. But if you step outside the door you’re right there with everyone. Best of both so to speak.

The guest house is back to back with the church.

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Welcome inside!  This was taken as construction was being finished.  The 2 square holes are for trees.  We dug about 10 feet down, removed rocks and fertilized well in advance.  A picture at the end shows the progress of the trees.

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Neal and I have stayed in the newly built guest house a few times, trying it out, getting the kinks out, before we had our first team visit. That happened in February — last month. We had a children’s camp with a team of 6 from the US. It was WONDERFUL! Better even than we had hoped. That could be partly because it was such a great team. Thanks Bob and Team Christian Life! (Note: that was Feb 2016).

When you walk in (door on left like in above photo) you see the kitchen/common area to the right.  That is where this picture is taken from – the dining area.  From here, you are looking at the 2 guest rooms.  They mirror each other and there is a small veranda in between.  Each has it’s own bathroom.  If you look to the top at the center, you see the roof of the church.  Also, take note of the spots on either wall reserved for planting.

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And just for perspective, here’s what you see when you walk out that green door. The church is to the right.

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The dining/common area is open, but is attached to a kitchen that can be closed.  The kitchen is where this photo is taken from.

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And here’s the kitchen- from the outside in….

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And from the inside out…

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Like I said, that was February. February is still considered ‘cold’ season. And relatively speaking, it is cold. Like cold enough for me to wear a sweatshirt early in the morning. Of course I’m in a sweatshirt if the temperature drops below 72….you be the judge.

Until right now, March 16, 2016. February was our last visit to Tamou, on account of our trip to India and Philippines. But for pete’s sake it’s only been a month. Where did this heat come from?

This is our first time to stay out here during hot season. We’ve done all we can to make the place comfortable. Because we really enjoy being out here, and we feel that we can make much more of an impact when we can spend more time with the people. More time than just teaching in a classroom setting. But I’m not gonna lie. I really enjoy a real toilet. With toilet paper. And lights. And running water. We even have hot water (though one might wonder why, but when it’s only 72 degrees…) AND, drumroll please—we have air conditioning.

Yep. We’ve outfitted the guest house with AC. It was wonderful during the days of cold season – because the days still get quite toasty – 90’s. And at night it wasn’t even needed.

Here’s one of the the guest rooms – the one on the right.  Picture is taken from the bathroom.

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And here’s ‘our’ room.  Or the room we use when we’re here.  But it’s also a guest room.

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You can see from this angle where the bathroom is (white door). It’s a mirror of the bathroom in the other room.

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And here’s one of the bathrooms.  They’re both the same.  Strangely I don’t have any pictures of it finished.  It looks quite nice.

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And here’s the veranda between the 2 rooms.

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Hot season though, that’s the real test. And we’re in that test right this minute. Today, it was 107. So while hot, 107 is still not THAT hot, compared to what will be coming. Needless to say, the AC came in handy. It would be interesting to note that Tamou doesn’t have 24/7 electricity. It’s a ‘town’, but an up and coming one. The town has a large generator that provides electricity from 10am – midnight each day. Except for Wednesdays. Lovely Wednesdays. Power comes on at 12 noon on Wednesday and because Thursday is market day, it stays on straight through to midnight on Thursday. In other words, 36 hours of beautiful, uninterrupted power.(Well, barring any generator issues…) Being the strategists we are, we try to plan our overnight trips to include Wednesdays/Thursdays…

However, so as not to be powerless in Tamou, we also purchased a small generator for guest house usage. Here’s what we now know.

We’re thankful for the generator.

There are 2 rooms for sleeping (each with an AC), and our generator is only strong enough to run 1 AC at a time.

The one AC takes the edge off the heat but isn’t strong enough to properly cool the room during hot season. In other words, walking into a room cooled to 90 feels like an arctic blast when it’s 115+ outside–until you’ve been in ‘cooled’ room for a few minutes and realize you’re sweating.

One working AC is better than none.

If a group of people is staying at the guest house, someone has to make the decision as to which subset of that group gets to stay in the AC room, providing a great opportunity for character growth.

Eventually, we will get a larger generator and install stronger AC’s.

My husband is not only a missionary, a great preacher, and great Bible teacher and a whole host of other things, he’s a great architect.

The Tamou Discipleship Center is amazing. We’re so grateful to those who gave to make it a reality. The guest house really has helped to advance what is happening there. Churches in the region continue to be planted, disciples are being made, and pastors are being trained.

Tamou Guest House update February 2017:
The guest has continued to be a blessing. Not only for ministry teams, for Bible School teachers, but also for the well drilling team. The first Vie Abondante wells were completed recently and the team was able to stay in the guest house multiple times for long periods, enabling them to spend more hours drilling rather than driving back and forth to Niamey (you may remember that’s a 90+ minute one-way trip journey).

The Christian Life team has come and gone- just a couple of weeks ago. We had a successful camp with 225 kids and about 50 volunteers. Neal and I stayed with the 6 member team in the guest house for 4 days/3nights. Why I didn’t get pictures of the 6 of us ladies crammed into 1 room with mattresses covering all available floor space, I don’t know. But what an awesome time we had.

And last, here’s the picture I promised.  Pastor Samuel is helping me show perspective on the size. These 6″ trees were planted about 9 months ago.  Nine months!  And check out the greenery on the walls.  This happened because of the diligence of Pastor Sule, the director of the Tamou region.  He not only waters the leaders and members of the now 14 churches in the region, has faithfully watered our trees 2X/day, month after month.  This is all fruit that will remain!

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Update

I last left off at the Softball tournament in which Trae’s team took the championship, and Neal’s team 2nd place.  Where to go from there?   During the tournament, Trae had a birthday – his 17th.  Not really believing that.  But if I check his birth certificate, I can see it’s true.  We had a big group of his friends gather Saturday night at one of the newer restaurants in Niamey – you can actually get ice cream there.  So that ‘s what we all did.  Winning the tournament then was appropriate since it was his birthday.  Since Trae was in the motorcycle accident, we haven’t had the bike repaired – it’s a very long and painful story – insurance is refusing to pay a cent, even though it was clearly ruled the fault of the driver of the truck.  In the meantime, we all decided that it would be best if  Trae could drive a car instead of the bike.  So he persued getting a license.  Technically in Niger, you are not eligible for a license until you are 18. Trae was 16.  But he ‘looked the part’, so he started drivers training.  Those 2 words can be a bit deceptive.  ‘Drivers Training’.  I think it’s more like ‘Drivers Un-training’.  But I’m not going to dwell on that.  It was a long and very painful process, one in which we had to submit to the powers that be while trying not to spoil our testimony.  But victory was finally had and Trae recieved he license 2 days before he turned 17.

Grama & Grampa were heading for the US and will not be here for Christmas, so we celebrated our Christmas with them in September.  It was quite fun, as their gift to Trae was his very own car!  The idea is that he’ll use it for this year and then sell it and have some money for college.  Works for me!  It’s a 2-door Toyota and it reminds me of my first car – a Ford Fiesta.  My dad lovingly referred to my car as a ‘rollerskate on wheels’.  That it was.  Trae’s car is similar – only smaller.  But unlike a bike, it’s all enclosed and he can fit 4 people in there (sort of) besides himself.  It’s been a great blessing to us, as he is able to take the kids to and from school when we need him to do that.  And he has been willing to do so.  Fuel is amazingly expensive, so that’s been an education for him all by itself.  He’s a good driver and it seems that parents of most of his friends are ok with their kids being in the car with him.  That’s something we told him he always has to be sure about.

OK, what else…I guess since I’m on the subject of Trae, I’ll continue.  He has applied to and been accepted as a student at Oral Roberts University.  He has also been nominated for an invited to campus for the “1st Annual Whole Person Scholarship Competition”.  So he will be in Tulsa the last week of February.  It’s a huge investment, but it will be well worth it if he were to win one of the 25 full tuition – 4 year scholarships being awarded!  So, please begin praying with him for favor even now.  I’m somewhat in denial that I could be old enough to have a kid about ready to enter college, but again, unfortuantely neither of our birth certificates will lie.  Registration is August 14th.  If anyone has figured out how to slow time, please let me know.

In October we had a medical team come for their 2nd year in a row.  We traveled with them to Maradi for several days of medical outreach and ministry.  This was scheduled during our kids Fall break so they could be a part of the team.  Trae and Tanika interpreted for doctors and nurses, Trae helped wrestle cows for the vet, and Tobi worked in the ‘pharmacy’, counting meds.  We then were in Niamey for more village outreach, as we are now working on doing more in this region.

In November we had our 10th annual campmeeting – another trip to Maradi and though it was short, it was well worth it.  Our guest speakers were from the US and from Nigeria – ministering on our theme – Unity: One Vision, One Purpose.  We enjoyed ourselves – especially the part about our pastors taking care of most of the details.

This past week we had 3 visitors from Kensington Temple in London, England.  They were looking to come and ‘check out Niger’ and we offered to show them some of the things God is doing here.  We kept them pretty busy and according to them they accomplished even more than they hoped.  That’s what we like to hear!  We ended up with 2 bonus days with 2 of them though, because Air France would not allow them to fly – they were told the validity of their passports was questionable.  So it took 2 days of running around, again working on maintaining our testimony, but they were finally allowed to leave.  At one point Neal asked me to go to the Air France office because he was so frustrated and he didn’t want to ruin his testimony.  It was basically harrassment and when they arrived home they were told that Air France in Niger had been ‘unreasonable’. Ya think?

This next week we have a Nigerian pastor coming from Benin for both our Maradi and Niamey bible school graduations.  Then, the day after he leaves, my brother Brian, his wife Kim, and our nephew and neices, Jake, Kate and Ellie are coming to visit for 2 weeks!  We can hardly wait.  It’s their first trip to Africa and we are so thankful for the sacrifices they are making to come and be a part of our life here.  It’s going to be a great Christmas!

I really have so much more to say, but I need to stop for now.  And I’m sure you are ready for this novel to be finished for now as well.

I plan to write again soon.

Team Word of Life

I would almost say this is de ja vue, as I sit here alone on a Sunday afternoon like I did the last time I wrote – Tanika was hanging out with her friend and the guys were at the rec center playing tennis. Today, 3 weeks later,  Tanika again is with her friend and the guys in the family are playing tennis.  However, when I think of all that has transpired since my last entry, I’m amazed that it’s only been 3 weeks!

I’ll start with Team Word of Life from Kansas.  They left western Kansas on Monday at 3am for a 5 1/2 hour drive to Denver, where they caught their flight to New York.  From New York they were on their way to Casablanca, Morocco.  We were expecting them to arrive at 3:30am on Wednesday, July 30th.  On Tuesday afternoon we called our faithful baggage guy #11 to help us get a ‘badge’ so we would have permission to go inside the airport and help the team through immigration/baggage.  He informed us that the airport was closed so there would be no flights coming in or going out.  What?!  That can’t be!  We have a team coming in – we have a plan!  How could ‘they’ put a wrench in it like that?  That’s just not right.  But right it was.  This is Africa.  The team, however, was waiting to depart from Casablanca where they had just completed something like a 15 hour layover and didn’t know they would NOT be boarding the plane that night to arrive in Niamey in the wee hours of the morning.  They were actually bussed from their hotel to the airport that evening to board a flight that we knew hours earlier had been canceled.  This is Africa.  Back to their hotel they went to play the waiting game.  We called around and heard that the problem was an air traffic controllers strike that covered West Africa.  It was scheduled to end Thursday afternoon.  Which we knew meant that our ‘happy’ travelers would not be arriving to us until 3:30am Friday morning.  They didn’t know this, but we did.  So, with flexibility being the name of the game (not to mention a word describing our lifestyle) we had to make some scheduling adjustments.  They were coming to speak at our annual alumni meeting in Maradi, and to do some first ever night-time evangelistic crusades in surrounding villages.  The alumni meetings were to start on Friday evening.  They have been planned for a few months, so we felt that we should do all we could to keep the meetings as planned.   So here’s what happened.  Our flexible team wa supposed to board their plane in Casablanca at around 11pm Thursday evening.  Keep in mind that they left their home at 3am the previous Monday.  Since we were prepared for the team on Wednesday, we had their beds ready at our house and Grama and Grampa’s house.  All 3 kids were staying there.  So as not to mess up beds, the kids had been staying there since Wednesday.  We attempted (unsuccessfully) to get some sleep Thursday night and got up at 2:30 to head to the airport.  Our plan was to wisk our guests off the plane and into the vehicles and head straight for Maradi – an 8 – 10 hour drive, depending on the roads.  They knew in advance that 3 of them would be joining Trae and Tanika on the bus.  THE bus.  I’ll have to save that for another post.  The bus people were supposed to be at the station at 5:30am.  So if the plane arrived at 3:30 as scheduled, (yeah, right) we felt that we would be able to at least get them through immigration etc and get them to their waiting bus on time.  When we arrived at the airport we were told that the plane would arrive at 4:20am.  Huh.  Grama and Grampa also drove with us to the airport to bring water for the travelers, and to take home the luggage that wasn’t going to Maradi, and to rush to the ‘busees’ to the bus station.  4:30 came and went and we were getting a bit concerned.  Maybe a bit more than a bit…Neal was pacing.  If they didn’t make this morning’s bus, they would have to wait until the next morning, thus some of them missing the 1st alumni meeting.  I reminded him that it was possible that the bus would leave late. This is Africa.  The plane landed at 4:45.  We saw our team through the glass partition filling out their white cards in what appeared to us to be slow motion.  We were pounding on the glass (this is when we learned that the glass was likely sound proof) trying to get their attention to get them to put some fire under their pencils.  They finally saw us and began to get the picture.  They came out and we didn’t even let the 3 bus riders wait for their bags.  We quickly welcomed then and then threw them into  Grampa’s car for their race to the bus station.  Their journey was far from over…  The rest of us waited for the 17 bags and they all arrived. We sorted through what had to go and what was to stay. Amazingly we got all the needed bags and 11 bodies in 2 vehicles, including Tobi, who was stuffed into the way back with the bags (3 cheers for my kids who are so great about stuff like this).  We were on our way at 6:30, just as the sun was coming up.

To be continued….my writing time is up.

Adventure in Benin – Days 6 & 7

I have got to get this finished.  I did manage to figure out flickr photos and have finally uploaded everything I want to from our Benin trip.  Our connection here is so slow it literally took days of being persistant.  I love though that I can have this online photo album all categorized.  It plays right into my need for organization.

On to Thursday.  We had a leisurely morning and around 9 Pastor Joseph showed up at our door with breakfast.  Put away the granola!  He had omelettes, sardines (Neal & Tobi enjoyed that delicacy), tea, coffee, chocolate drink, juices, jam & 2 loaves of bread — all prepared by his wonderful wife.  We enjoyed getting to know him better over breakfast, which was a bit awkward at first since he refused to eat with us.  He said he brought it for us.  We tried to insist but he persisted in his refusal.  We then had more down time – Neal prepared for his message for that night and we read and relaxed.  Trae had plans to spend the day with Rufus exploring Cotonou.  The rest of us went with Pastor Joseph when he returned for us at noon.  We took Tanika and Tobi to his house to hang out with his kids and he took us to a very nice, air conditioned, business center.  It was nice with the exception of the French keyboard.  It’s amazing how a few differently placed letters can really make a mess of things.  We sent and received essential mail – and their ‘essential-ness’ was determined with the mis-arranged keyboard in mind.  In other words I sent very few as typing was hen and peck.  That done, we went to Mama Benin’s for lunch where we enjoyed real Benin food.  Very fun.  Pastor Joseph was so gracious not only taking care of our physical needs, but he spent all of his time with us as well.  We spent lot’s of time at lunch talking about ministry, what we see going on in Benin, and what we believe will take place in Niger.  From there we decided we needed to get some ice-cream.  That is a luxury for us.  We couldn’t believe our eyes when we entered what might has well have been a Baskin Robbins Ice Cream Shop combined with a Bob Evans Restaurant.  The ice cream looked wonderful so we had some packed up to go (we’d have to ‘go’ quickly or melting would become a real issue).  We got enough for our families and went back to Pastor Joseph’s house where we all enjoyed the ice cream together.  Since he lives near the hotel, we were able to make our way back there on our own, where we went to prepare for the evening service.

Trae enjoyed his day and met us at the church for the service.  More great music from their choir and very talented and anointed musicians.  Neal had me come up to greet the people, and finish one of the stories he’d left unfinished the night before.  Before doing that, I invited Trae up to give his greeting.  He didn’t know I planned to do that but he did well ‘off the cuff’.  Neal’s message ‘going forward’ was well received, and fit in well with the conference theme of Divine Advancement.  The kids and I have heard the message before but I have to say that I don’t think any of us get tired of hearing Neal preach.  Trae was even taking notes. 

That night food was again prepared and brought to our rooms – French fries and plantain with a type of onion/oil/egg/tomato sauce to dip them in.  I wish I could duplicate it!  Though the electricity was off and on all evening, it ended up staying on all night so we slept another night with AC!

Friday morning we told Pastor Joseph that we still had plenty of the previous days food so there was no need to bring more for breakfast.  There was a fridge in our room that they had filled with juice, soda, milk and fresh fruit – including grapes.  They had no idea how huge the grape thing was.  That’s something we never get in Niger.  Grapes are imported but they are something like $15/pound.  Maybe more.  So finding them right there in our fridge for us to enjoy was quite a big blessing for us! 

I spent the morning preparing for the evening service where it would be my turn to take the stand.  Pastor Joseph then picked us up and wanted us to meet with his Bishop, a Benin national with an incredible church.  He is building a new church and took us to see it.  We were impressed.  More than impressed.  Inspired by what was being done in a country right next to Niger.  The building was incredible.  It was 6 or 7 stories high – we weren’t quite sure because of the different levels.  It was beyond anything we’ve seen in West Africa.  Our mouth’s were hangning open.  It’s close to being finished and up to that point about 1.5 million dollars had gone into it.  The reason that is so impressive is because it’s money that has been raised entirely in Benin!  It really gave us hope as to what is possible when the people learn to give.  That’s really what stood out to us the whole time we were there.  The way people give.  We don’t see that in Niger.  We teach it, and it is slowly changing, but there is a long way to go.  People in Niger for the most part live with their hands out.  And why not?  That’s how the government operates.  But I truly believe that once they get a revelation on giving they will find a door out of poverty.  We went to Benin expecting to take care of ourselves during this ministry time so we were amazed at the care that we were given.  Blessed.

From there we went to Pastor Joseph’s house where his wife had prepared a vegetable stew to be eaten with Semolina (I think that’s what it’s called.  It resembles cream of wheat prepared like mashed potatoes, to be eaten with one’s hands.)  The stew was made mostly of fresh greens, onions, tomatoes, meat, oil, peppers and crayfish.  This is one of Neal’s favorite things to eat.  I would have absolutely loved it myself without the fish.  The proper way to eat it is to dip your right hand into the provided bowl of water.  Then you take a small handful of ‘paste’and sort of roll it with one hand and then flatten it between your thumb and fingers, sort of making a well in it.  Then you dip it into the stew, scooping up a good amount which is then quickly transported into your mouth – preferablly without losing any stew along the way.  Tobi is quite good at this, though he does get both hands involved.  He and Neal love the fishy taste.  Tanika, Trae and I could do without it but we all enjoyed and were very thankful for the food provided.  I can be thankful that the training our kids received when they were small pays off in these situations.  They eat and enjoy all kinds of food, but I knew this was something neither Trae or Tanika would be particularly fond of.  However, without a warning from me they ate what was set before them without complaint and were thankful.  I appreciate that.

After lunch, we took advantage of our only opportunity to visit the market.  Pastor Joseph insisted that both he and his wife go with us, as they didn’t want us to get cheated.  We really were monopolizing their time.  In fact we later learned that Pastor Joseph never goes to the market.  They asked what we wanted.  The problem was, we weren’t shopping from a list.  We just wanted to see what was out there.  A different concept for our hosts.  The market in Cotonou is much bigger than the one in Niamey so when we arrived, I was thankful we weren’t alone.  We started pricing already made clothes.  That probably sounds like a funny term.  In Niger – and I’m sure many other parts of the world, most of our clothes get made by a tailor.  Yep, I pick out my own cloth, I have a tailor and my clothes are custom made.  (Sometime I need to include a picture of what that tailor shop looks like, but let me just say the sewing machine is powered by said tailor’s feet)  Let me also add that getting my clothes made is one of the most frustrating things I do.  That said, I was interested in looking at ‘ready-made’.  We all found stuff we liked, with the excpetion of Trae who for some reason has an aversion to wearing African outfits.  He’s ok with the shirts, but he can’t bring himself to wear the print trousers.  And the stuff we found was so cheap.    Especially with the help of Pastor Joseph.  Entire outfits for $7-10.  They thought we were hilarious with how excited we were over stuff they thought was too expensive.  I’m sure they heard more times than they wanted “but in Niger it’s so much more expensive”.  We ended our excursion buying inexpensive avocadoes, pears and apples. 

We couldn’t pass up one more opportunity for ice cream so we all hit that shop before heading back to our hotel to prepare for the evening service.  I was pretty nervous at this point.  I even thought I might ask Neal to fill in for me – except it had already been announced that I was that evening’s speaker.  So I just swallowed hard and looked over my notes again.  And prayed.  But that had been going on almost non-stop! 

More great praise and worship, then I was called up.  Rev. Mrs. Neal Childs.  (hee-hee).  I wanted to look around to see who that might be.  I started by inviting Tanika and Tobi up to help me sing and drum a song in Hausa.  I also employed the talented band.  That was fun.  Then I began my message.  I was being interpreted into the local language, Fon.  Neal is a preacher – in every sense of the word.  And this group of people love that.  I on the other hand, am not.  I am a teacher.  So all week I had been trying to figure out how I would be received, knowing how much they were loving Neal.  Neal kept telling me they would love me too, since I was so different.  Okay….different is good, right?  I was nervous to start but kept praying.  I knew that I had a message that would bless and help the people.  It was the delivery of it that concerned me.  I finally felt like I got into my groove and begin to enjoy it.   My message was basically that God has an intense desire to bless us but in order for that to happen we have to obey Him and His word.  Disobedience ties His hands.  When I was finished, I asked Pastor Joseph to come and pray with the people.  He came up and talked about the revelation he had received and basically ‘re-preached’ my message.  He later said that it was ‘like a bomb going off in our hearts’.  I thank God for his help, and for the opportunity.   I so want people to get that God wants the best for us.

More food back at the hotel – Jolof rice, one of my favorites.  Then another nice night of sleep, complete with air-conditioning.

Adventure in Benin – Day 5

We had another wonderfullly chilly night and Wednesday morning we were ready for more beach. Not really sure how long it would take for us all to get our fill…or if that was possible. We let the kids eat the standard restaurant breakfast for a change, while Neal and I enjoyed my trusty granola. Today is the day we were heading back into Cotonou for the start of the meetings that actually brought us to Benin in the first place.

We packed up our load – everything except what we’d be changing into – and loaded it into the car. Then it was off to the beach for more sun and surf. We decided up front that we had to be driving out by 12pm so everyone had to plan accordingly.

When making our plans to come to Benin, we looked into a few different options as to where we could stay, based on what other missionaries had told us. There was another option – a very nice resort about 25 miles from where we were staying. Casa del Papa, in the town of Ouidah. We opted not to stay there, as it was about 3X the price. But we did want to see the place, so we planned to eat lunch there today, on our way back to Cotonou. It was a grand place! Three swimming pools, close to the beach, tons of activities (for a fee!) and a nice restaurant. The place was huge. We had pizza for lunch and it was enjoyed by all. We discussed it while waiting for our food and decided that we would much rather stay where we were for 3 days, then to stay in this place for 1. It was a no-brainer. It was nice, but since we all love to hang out on the beach, all we really need is a clean room with cold AC. Did I say cold AC? And the fact is, if we wanted any of those activities, we could come and do them. You have to pay for them whether you are staying there or not. We were pleased with our choice!

On to Cotonou. Casa del Papa was pretty hidden so we had to have a taxi driver lead us to it. We would have never found it on our own – driving through the narrow streets of Ouidah. Leaving however, we felt confident we knew what we were doing. How wrong we were. We may have been ok if there hadn’t have been ‘road construction’ at every turn. We knew the general direction we needed to go to get to the main road that leads to Cotonou, and we are very good at stopping to ask directions. It would have been helpful if we were actually able to speak to the people in their language. Again, Trae came to our rescue. He had been pretty valuable up to this point with important things like ordering food. Sure glad we brought him along. With Trae’s French and some sign language, we turned our vehicle around (this wasn’t easy on the narrow dirt path – not to mention the crowd of onlookers that had gathered). As suggested, we went left then right and were at yet another impasse. Either we got wrong directions, or we missed something in the the translation. Nonetheless, we were getting good at asking for help. Which we did, but we were told to turn around and go right, then left. Ummm, thanks, but that’s exactly where we just came from, and I’m sure the crowd we gathered at that location is just starting to disperse. Obviously, we made it out of the maze – I would have loved to seen an aerial view of the place – because it really did feel like a maze. Now the road that connects Benin Republic to Togo is a 2-lane ‘throughway’. Not really. Suffice it to say that it took us – on account of overloaded trucks that were nearly impossible to pass, potholes, and construction – 2 hours to travel about 35 miles.

Upon arrival in Cotonou our instructions were to call Pastor Joseph and he would meet us somewhere. That meant finding a phone center. We did that without too much trouble and he gave us directions as to the best place to meet. We arrived first so we called him again. He was still 30 minutes away. We were thirsty and hot. Trae stayed with the car while the remaining 4 of us walked down the traffice laden streets (yes, again, we were a sight) to find ourselves a coke. We had victory and walked back to the car and Trae took his turn at finding a coke. Soon Pastor Joseph showed up so Trae jumped in the car with him and we followed them to our hotel. We were very pleasantly surprised at our accomodations and were so blessed to find that again, we were going to have AC! Up to that point, we had no idea.

Let me explain how we came to be here. In October 2006, Neal was invited to speak at a Four Square nation wide conference in Benin. He met several pastors at the conference and was invited to come back. Pastor Joseph, a conference attendee, and his family are Nigerian’s and God called them to start a church in Benin. He invited Neal last year again, but he wasn’t able to make it. He was persistant, and this year it worked out for all of us to go. So except for Neal, our gathering on the busy streets of Cotonou was the first time we met him. What a joy it was to get to know Pastor Joseph, his wife Joy, and their 4 sweet and talented kids. And they were both of those things – sweet, and talented.

At our hotel, Pastor Joseph had booked 3 rooms for our family. That was huge for us, as we are usually crammed into one! It was close to 5pm and he informed us that the service started at 6. He was going home to get our food. More food? It had only been about 3 hours since our pizza, but somehow I knew that we were going to be presented with some Nigerian food that would demand an appetite. I was right. Rice and stew and pieces of fried chicken. We enjoyed, and decided we better hurry up and get ready for the service. I took a shower, but wondered why I bothered. I was already wet again before Pastor came back to the hotel to pick us up for service. Guess it’s the thought that counts?

We didn’t know what a treat we were in for. The music at this church (Kingdom Life Glory Mission) was incredible. All of us thoroughly enjoyed it. And we knew that this is exactly what we are needing/wanting in our churches in Niger. We know the power of music to draw people to the church and to Jesus, and we want to develop it in Niamey. It’s always good to get away to renew prespective, and get new ideas. Then the preacher got up (my gifted husband) and the house nearly came down. The majority of the church is made up of Nigerians so when Neal started speaking the Pidgen English he learned as a boy, the roof nearly came in. It was a great way to get their attention before he began to preach – about being an influence. By the time he was finished, there was not a dry spot on him. His clothes were literally wringing wet. The humidity here is just not something we’re used to. The service ended with invitations to bring more people the next night. We really had fun.

Back to the hotel we went, where we were told that our food would be coming. More food?! It was 9:30 for goodness sake! But we somehow, with no difficulty at all, managed to eat the food when it arrived. It was wonderful. Pastor Joseph said goodnight and went home. Then the electricity went out. The generator came on. Then it went out. Once again, we were sweating in the dark. A few minutes later Pastor Joseph knocked on our door. He was so apologetic and feeling so bad. He didn’t know what was going on, but would find out. We kept reminding him that we lived in Africa, and that we understood! A bit later he returned to tell us that they had run out of gas for the generator. Were they planning on getting more? No… at least not until he showed up! Talk about influence! Not too much later we were back in generator business. No matter that they called our rooms and asked us to turn off the AC, that the generator could not run them. No problem. (Well, to be honest, it was a little problem but I’m trying to count my blessings with a fan). Praise God from whom all blessings flow the ‘real’ electricity came back on before we even got to sleep. So it was a good night sleep for us all. Another wonderful day!