26 December 2006

Christmas Eve 2006

Written Christmas Eve, 2006 from Bouaké, Côte d'Ivoire

I am sitting here in Bouaké reminiscing just a bit this morning about my dad. We received a call from my mother this morning saying that dad was admitted to the hospital and had emergency surgery to remove an inflamed gallbladder. As many of you know my father has been on a 6 month course of chemotherapy due to colon cancer. Apparently a few days ago he began feeling pain associated with this inflammation. At that time the doctor ordered a CAT scan to determine where the pain was coming from. Upon the discovery that the pain was coming from an inflamed gallbladder he was scheduled to have surgery on the 26th of this month. Yesterday however, he woke up with considerable pain and the doctors decided to operate immediately.

Of course we have been thinking and praying for him for some time now as we have been relatively concerned about this colon cancer. Several months ago dad was operated on to remove a tumor from his colon before beginning chemotherapy. As you can imagine we are not at ease about this most recent development and we are waiting to hear what the results might be from the test to be done on the tissues removed during the surgery. This morning on the phone mom said that according to the doctor the gallbladder looked “normal”, whatever “normal” must be, aside from the inflammation. I cannot for the life of me think about what could be “normal” looking about a gallbladder outside of the body and lying in some tray waiting testing.

The last time I saw dad was last January when we were in South Africa for a short vacation and research trip. We were staying with my younger brother John and his family in Kempton Park and had a great time with the folks who were down to help take care of kids at a WorldVenture conference which had been organized for its missionaries. Another bonus was that my sister and her family were also there for that same conference. With Carmel and Victor’s four kids and Jean and Carol’s as well, we were quite the crew. By the time we left South Africa the Madsen family and my folks were off to the WorldVenture conference.

Before leaving South Africa however, we dropped by at the conference to say goodbye to everyone and spent a couple of hours with mom and dad who, at the ages of 72 and 71 respectively, were in the middle of running after 3 and 4 year old missionary kids, trying to keep track of them as well as have a good time. I guess that when you see that kind of service at that age one can’t help but be impressed. I know that I was! All that to say that this was the last time we saw the folks as we left shortly afterwards to return to Côte d'Ivoire where we had other pressing matters to attend to.

As I think about all that has happened since that short and intense visit together with the Madsen family, my folks and John’s family I am amazed that it was ever possible to have been together at all last January. Since April, when Dad was diagnosed with colon cancer, he has had colon surgery in which he had a tumor removed that turned out to be cancerous and has, since then, been doing chemotherapy. Then in November John’s oldest, Jean Marc, had emergency brain surgery to remove an olive sized tumor which turned out to be benign for which we thank God. And now for dad the doctors have determined it necessary to remove his gallbladder post haste on the 22nd only three days before Christmas.

In all this we are thankful that my brother Ray and his family are still in the US where they can come to the aid of our mother during these difficult days. And so it is that during this time of so much family joy and fun we would ask that you think of my old man and our mother who, this year, will be spending it in hospital and most likely alone. It is not that they begrudge our being overseas at all. On the contrary, my folks and Ray and his family are amongst our most ardent and committed supporters in our efforts here in Côte d'Ivoire, the Madsen’s in Uganda and John and Carol’s in South Africa. But that makes life particularly difficult at times like these when we would rather all be together and with the folks rather than spread out all over Africa and North America.

I know that neither mom nor dad would want us to be concerned about them at this time, knowing that they are in the hands of a God who knows far better than we what we need for each day. Mom is a rock and I believe that she will do fine regardless of what happens. Even so, it is difficult to think of them alone at this time. As she wrote us in a note today, “Pray but do not worry. The Lord is with us and we trust Him completely.” At times it is hard to do as she says but we know that anything else is to multiply folly with folly because the Lord is forever in full control of all that comes our way. We don’t like it sometimes but as Job so well reminds us when he needed hope, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.” I know this is true today and we look so forward to that day when He will stand on the earth.

09 November 2006

1633 to 1721

1633 to 1721

As of the end of October Côte d'Ivoire is supposed to have had a new president according to the UN Security Counsel’s Resolution 1633 which has been, until the end of last month, the ambiguously worded document which permitted the actual president to remain in place as the actual president even though Côte d'Ivoire has had a UN named Prime Minister since last year at this time. In the former UN Resolution, 1633, the powers of the acting president were “limited” and the powers of the Prime Minister were “beefed up”. Just what that meant and how it was to be applied was left ambiguous last year.

According to last year’s resolution we were supposed to be identified and disarmed so as to open the way for elections. There was a significant difference of opinion as to whether the disarming of the different fighting factions should happen before, during or after the identification process. On one side you had folks saying that if they disarmed then the president would not allow a fair and open identification process to go forward.

On the other side you had folks saying that if disarmament didn’t take place that the entire identification process would be faulty, having not been done before the proper state authorities, state appointed judges and the like. In the end some people were identified and some people were disarmed. Not enough of either happened however so as to allow us to have elections this last October.

That said and the UN Resolution 1633 re-visited has resulted in a new UN Resolution 1721. This new resolution is about the same as last years, again “limiting” the authority of the President and “beefing up” the powers of the Prime Minister. Apparently the language is still fairly ambiguous as seen by the different kinds of messages we have heard from both the President and the Prime Minister.

As with 1633 the new UN Resolution 1721 does not supersede the Ivorian Constitution. This has also been a hotly debated issue as it would seem to some that for the past several years the constitution has hindered significantly the peace process. Much to the surprise of certain observers, the United States supported the strong constitutional clause along with Russia and China. France and several others traditional allies of the United States on the Security counsel had hoped to see a change in this regard.

The President has of course been very positive in his accolade for the new 1721 Resolution, saying that he is going to take his responsibility seriously as indicated by the constitution, bring an end to the war and organize elections. Just how he intends to do that is what frightens many in the north of the country.

One needs to understand that some of those who have been the most belligerent in their refusal to disarm are pro‑government militias in the south as opposed to rebels in the north. These militias have been active in harassing and exacting tribute of all sorts from anyone who might seem opposed to the current regime. Of course it must also be said that with this kind of talk the rebels in the north are in no hurry to lay down their weapons.

The Prime Minister on the other hand, when he spoke last night, left us all thinking that if he does what he has said he will this next year there may be some difficulty between him and the President who continues to claim that as a dully elected president, although his term was over in October 2005. According to the President he will retain all of his authority as president as stipulated in the Ivorian Constitution. It would seem that we are somehow at an impasse.

That said we should note that some observers feel that this year is going to be much the same as last year. We will make little steps toward peace and elections. Due to the ambiguity in the language of the UN Resolution 1721 however, there will continue to be some very different interpretations of a text which, in trying to please everybody has really pleased nobody to the extent that everybody reads it simply the way he thinks it should be read which means that even though it pleases nobody it really pleases everybody. I have to take my hat off to the UN! They should call this art or something! I know I don’t understand it!

01 August 2006

Excuses, excuses

So, what does one write after not having written for over 3 months? Maybe “Sorry” would be a good place to start. Excuses? You bet, I could start an entirely different blog listing those but I don’t think it would make for very interesting reading.

Since our last entry we have hosted at least three other major groups here at the school, besides the French Military who we continue to provide housing for due to the continuing unrest in the country. Our most recent event was just yesterday with the arrival of 30 young girls from our churches in Bouaké. They came out to greet Angelika and Tiémogo (another lady who along with Angelika has been a counselor to the young women in our church). Greeting can mean saying “hello” or it can be as involved as spending the afternoon and evening together eating and talking and just sort of hanging out. Yesterday the 30 girls were here for one of the latter types of greetings!

This meant feeding them and the Tiémogo gave them and excellent talk on how to depend on God for things such as a husband, work, schooling, etc. Tiémogo has been married for a little more than half a year and during this time she and her husband have not had the joy of living in the same city together. Her husband studies in Abidjan and she has been teaching in Bouaké. Through all of this and the difficulties this causes her and her family she has remained faithful first to God, our fellowship, and to her new husband. She has been an inspiration to these young girls as well as an encouragement to the rest of us who see life from a different perspective.

After Tiémogo shared with the girls her journey as a young woman and how God lead her to her man we took some the girls to the water tower (13 meters high) and had them rappel off the sides. We had a good time and the girls enjoyed getting out there beyond the comfort zones. It is always interesting to see who is willing to try and then what happens when they get up top. Nobody refused to go down the rope once they were on the top! Of course some went down more willingly than others but all went down. I use a safety rope for the descent as you can see from the photos. Our water tower is of course nothing compared to Smith Rocks in Central Oregon but it works. One has the definite notion from that height that a fall would kill you or at least break you up a bit. It is a great teaching tool on trust. Just what does it mean to have faith in God, in someone, or in something? It is a lesson that I am still learning and on some days not so well.

Of course the really big news since I last blogged my way onto the web was the passage of our national football team to the World Cup in Germany. We had a rare opportunity to travel to Germany and attend the Côte d’Ivoire – Holland game in Stuttgart. After flying all night we met up with friends from the US who brought us tickets for the game and we had a great time cheering and meeting other Ivoirian fans there for the game. It was a wild a crazy thing to do but who could miss such an opportunity. As we were tight on time we did not get out of southern Germany to see family in the north but we did get a chance to spend time with Jens and Silke, Angelika’s cousin who is himself a very big football fan. It was a wild few days traveling from venue to venue. One of the great things about this World Cup was that, regardless of the place of the match, there were giant screens setup in fan parks in all of the game cities where you could watch the games alongside hundreds of other fans. Perhaps the wildest party we attended was in Berlin alongside a million other German fans cheering for the Germany-? game. We saw the final matches in Côte d'Ivoire having returned before the end of the first round. It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime kinds of experiences. It was great fun to be with friends and doing something like that together.

Hey, hope next time will be sooner than later, but then again, you may not! Tough, this is my blog!

20 May 2006

Sepikaha Church Story

For the past two weeks we have been running up and down the road to Sepikaha, a village outside of Tafiré in northern Côte d'Ivoire with a crew of 6 young men from Bethel College in Indiana, USA and a seventh from Canada who joined the Bethel crew for this trip. The reason for this visit was to roof a chapel that has been sitting for close to 12 years waiting for a roof. This chapel was the 6th chapel that Sepikaha has seen since it built its first back in the early 60’s following a difficult beginning. Perhaps the most interesting thing about Sepikaha is how this fellowship began and why in the last two weeks we have been roofing a chapel this size.

Chloe (pronounced “klo”) began having eye problems as a young man. While working in the south of the country he began to loose his eyesight and returned to his home where he found that his aunt had received Christ while in Korhogo trying to take care of a daughter who had died from a short illness. He along with several others put their faith in Christ and began to study together the Word of God even though he was loosing his eyesight. Because of what they were learning they decided that they could no longer participate in the secret society called the “Poro” because of the idolatry involved. This refusal to belong to the poro angered many in the village who made threats against them and made life hard on this new band of believers. Through a series of events the government officials where eventually implicated in the attempts to pressure the new believers into participating in the poro. To the surprise of the poro supporters however, the representative of the government, after reviewing the case and a visit to Sepikaha, decided to support the Christians saying that the village was even blessed to have them present in Sepikaha.

During this time Chloe decided to attend the Bible School in Korhogo even though his eyesight was gone.
He had visited the hospital several times to try to reverse his failing eyesight but in the end he lost it altogether. While at Bible School he would study as the others but from memory. While others took note in class he listened and learned. He learned to find biblical passages by learning the thickness of the pages of the book. Chloe became one of the best evangelists in the region and after his time in Bible School he returned to the Tafiré region where he continued to lead this small group of believers in Sepikaha. Being blind Chloe would walk many kilometers to share the gospel and to teach the company of believers. Through his faithful teaching and the faithfulness of the other believers in Sepikaha the little group of believers grew in spite of the treats and mistreatment.

Through the years this group of believers had built 5 different meeting places and had out grown each of them. Their most recent chapel which we roofed had been built to accommodate 300 plus believers but they lacked the funds and the skill to roof the chapel. For several years they had been requesting help but with the recent changes in Côte d'Ivoire their request had been all but forgotten. Thankfully, when the crew from Bethel College asked about a building project through Bill Grudda, the WorldVenture ST coordinator for West Africa, Katiénéfoa Timothée, the president of the Association of Evangelical Baptist Churches of Côte d'Ivoire (AEBECI), remembered the plight of the fellowship in Sepikaha. Through a series of events, visits, much prayer and the faithful support of churches in the US, Canada and Germany, the Bethel crew arrived in Sepikaha the 3rd of May to raise the trusses into place.
As we raised the trusses the guys developed relationships with both members of the church in Sepikaha and other believes from Korhogo and Bouaké who had come to help in the construction and roof-raising. Every morning we woke up to breakfast prepared and brought to the home we were given for the time of our stay. We ate very well and there was always more than enough. It was a joy to see how involved the members of the church were as we raised trusses, tied them down and attached the metal sheets. Our home was actually the newly finished home of Chloe which he had finished a few days before our arrival. I was impressed and humbled to see the way the believers engaged themselves in the project. By the time we had finished roofing the 14 by 20 meter building we knew each other pretty well and we were pleased that no one was hurt. Lifting the 1.5 ton trusses was a bit of a challenge as well as raising and bringing down our home built crane. In the end we learned quite a bit about lifting heavy things up in the air and about how to do it safely. As with any project this size and crews this big, we struggled some with communication and illness. Thank God however, only a few were feeling down only part of the time which meant that we were mainly up most of the time, which when raising a roof is a good thing!

Thanks for your prayers and support during these past few weeks. We are trilled to have spent a few days with the Bethel Crew and to have been the liaison between them and the Sepikaha believers. Lot of work but the privilege was out of this world!

20 April 2006

He is Risen!

Today is the big day! He is Risen, He is Risen indeed! This morning when we got up were just a little bit tired out from all of the activities leading up to this great day of Easter but as ever thankful for what it means to each of us to know that the King Lives!

Being into the kingdom building stuff let me give you a run down on our more recent activities. Angelika has been running flat out for a week preparing and helping teach girls at a retreat for young women which was held at our church over this weekend. The retreat was the first of its kind ever to have been hosted at our church in Bouaké and it was a hit! About 35 girls arrived from the surrounding region for two days of cooking, teaching, singing, drama, and all the other stuff young women like to do when they get together. Needless to say, my involvement was at a distance trying to support Angelika as she jumped into it with both feet. What a woman, that one! I couldn’t believe it when I saw her load up a stove and haul it into the church to teach the girls how to bake cakes and cookies. Now, you might think that I got some of the goodies; after all, it was my stove they took! No way! I think that the only thing I got out of the deal was a clean stove. Don’t be feeling sorry for me though, I really don’t need all that cake around here. Angelika was thinking about me after all!

While Angelika was busy with preparations for the girl’s retreat I have been busy cutting and welding steel to make a gin pole of sorts to help lift heavy trusses. This is in preparation for a church roofing project which some of you have been following in recent months. The church in question is in a village called Sepikaha which is north of Bouaké about two and a half hour’s drive north. Sepikaha has had walls built for over 10 years and they have been asking and waiting for technical help on how to build the trusses for their span and then lift them into place. We will be hosting a team of 8 young men who plan to arrive in Sepikaha the 2nd of May. We will work for two weeks and hope that within that time frame we will be able to get the trusses built, place them on the walls and put up the roof.

It sounds easy enough when you think in terms of cranes, rental lifts and building supply stores in every town. Our problem is that Sepikaha is a long way from a building supply store and it is impossible to rent a lift or a crane for raising trusses. Therefore I find myself cutting and welding steel these days with the hope that what I am building will be useful for many different church roofing projects. In the end what I am putting together will be a cross between a "pole derrick" and a "jinniwink" according to the US Army FM 5-125 chapter 5 "Lifting and Moving Equipment". I plan to mount an 8000 lbs truck winch (donated by a friend in Medford, Oregon for this purpose. Thanks loads Jim, it works great!) at the base for lifting purposes routed through a pulley at the top of an 8 meter long and 18 cm steel "I" beam pole. My counter balance is a 14cm steel "I" beam which will be chained to the 8 meter pole as well as guyed to a 5 ton in-line cable come-along. All in all I think it is going to be able to lift a fair amount and for a good while. The plan is to set it up next week and have the French military engineers look it over for problems and then try it out. I figure if it can lift the front end of one of their trucks we should be in business. No, I will not try it out on my truck first!

I hope to include some rudimentary drawings of my invention which might help you pray more intelligently for this fool and the gang that is coming out to work with him! Those of you who know the fool well know that this is one of those things that I get a kick out of. So far I have scrapped only one job but if I think and draw and plan any more I may start all over again. After last week and the sore muscles I am hoping that this plan is for good.

Oh yes, I have now over 10 bee hives with colonies in them and they are getting active this time of year. The other day the Catholic sisters from down the road were by and they asked if they could purchase two of our hives. They have had some more colonies move in and apparently need more place for them. They have agreed to trade wax foundations for the hives which will be great for me having started to mess around a bit with the European style hives. I have certainly enjoyed the hood and smoker I got from South Africa. They are so much better than the stuff we were using. It is reassuring to know that no matter how angry the bees get they just can’t get to you. Of course anyone else in the vicinity not so well protected can get the ride of their life if they are not careful. So it is with the bees.

23 March 2006

South Africa and Back Again

Today finds me sitting in the Java House in the Nairobi airport in Kenya waiting for our flight on across the continent and back to Abidjan. We have just spent 3 weeks in Johannesburg with family. We had the rare and exciting possibility be with my younger brother John and Carol his wife for the duration. They hosted not only us but my sister Carmel and Victor Madsen, her husband, and their four kids as well as my folks, who had flown down from Uganda where Victor and Camel serve with WorldVenture. John and Carol work with Trans-World Radio serving in Johannesburg.

We had all come to South Africa for different reasons but found time enough to spend a few days doing stuff together and sharing. It was a rich time marred only by the absence of my younger brother Ray and family who has a normal job in the Bend, Oregon and felt, reasonably so, that a trip of that magnitude for his whole family might well be his financial ruin! Of course we did not dwell on this and had a good time anyway!

We should explain however that this trip to the southern part of the continent was not entirely vacation and fun. I spent several days at TWR headquarters working on radio related questions to enhance our programming in northern Côte d'Ivoire as well as other local FM stations in West Africa. I also worked with a couple of engineers looking into how to better install radio towers in the future. TWR has asked that I help them with the installation of some of the medium and short wave towers in Parakou, Benin in the future. This is where TWR has installed a transmitter site and they are hoping to get authorization to move forward with a short wave installation within the next few months.

Another thing that occupied our time and thinking while in South Africa was the question of what to do with the ICA campus. If it does not interest the mission community as a boarding school we need to think of other options and wove forward. While in South Africa we were able to make some good contacts and pickup some interesting ideas that we may pursue in the near future.

We were also able to work some more on the French version of Battle for the Hearts which should be finished up within the next few weeks according to the executive producer, my brother John! We are certain looking forward to this release. In our opinion the French version is far more interesting than the English version is, especially with regards to our context in Côte d'Ivoire. At the same time I was able to get some pointers from Michael Comse, the camera expert for the Battle for the Hearts, concerning future filming possibilities with some of our church theatre troupes that would like to put together stories. Ambitious sounding it is but if you don’t dare to try you will never do anything.

One other topic that occupied my thinking and my pocket book were some professional South African fabricated bee supplies. I was able to get a great little smoker and some good face and neck protection. I made contact with a fabricator of wax foundations who could be a supplier in the future as we have no way of making our own foundations… yet! This contact that I made also informed me about a reality that I was sort of aware of but he confirmed my thinking. Africa has about 11 different species of bees. The sort that we encounter in West Africa makes a smaller cell for the larva and food storage. This being the case, foundations made with the European and North American bee species in mind are too large. I always knew Americans liked big cars and big houses but I had no idea that the bees in the States have the same tendency!

Of course you may be wondering why this foray into beekeeping. As I stated in an earlier blog, bees are an insect that is very industrious and in West Africa they are particularly so. Beekeeping is an under-developed industry in our part of the world. As I have previously stated, I am working closely with a guy from our church trying to develop better ways and means of working with the bees we find here. We have recently fabricated about 30 hives of different sorts which we will be trying to populate and then harvest next year. I am hoping to use beekeeping to give young men and women in our part of the world a supplement to their normal income. One of my dreams is to get the young men and women who are at Bethel Bible Institute trained and setup with an initial hive with which they might supplement their income made bring some sweetness to the life of the churches they lead. I am also working with young Dioulas, trying to get them setup and helping them to understand the importance of honey production as an alternate occupation.

While we were in South Africa we received word that a friend and colleague of ours, Kayleen Merry (Slater), passed away after a long battle with leukemia. Steve and Kayleen Merry had been with WorldVenture at our hospital in Ferké where Steve had hoped to begin a training program for doctors. At the beginning of the war they were evacuated along with their 5 children. They re-located in Togo serving at a hospital there until they returned to the US for their home assignment. While in the US they learned of Kayleen’s leukemia. They began treatment during which time Steve was asked to work at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Due to this change and Kayleen’s illness they had resigned from WorldVenture in January of 2005.

Kayleen’s home going is a blow to many us around the world who had been praying for her healing. Kayleen was the daughter of Dwight and Barb Slater one of several families who have played an essential role in the beginning and continuing ministry of the Hospital in Ferké. All but one of Kayleen’s 5 siblings has been in full-time ministry in Africa at one time or another. The Slater connection to world missions is a strong one and her loss impacts many around the world. No one is as affected however as deeply as her 5 children and her husband Steve. Please pray for them when you think of it.

Steve and the family have setup a memorial fund to help support doctors at the Baptist Mission Hospital in Ferkessédougou. You may send your check with a note or memo stating the target of your gift to WorldVenture, 1501 W. Mineral Ave., Littleton, CO 80120-5612 or go on-line at https://worldventure.com and follow the links for on-line giving. If you would please enter "Kayleen Merry Memorial Fund" on the line beside the 4th option for giving ("other"). Gifts given to the fund are 100% tax deductible.

Thank you in advance for your prayers for Steve and family. It is hard to imagine anything quite as hard to understand as why God would take a young mother and wife from a family of five young children like this. Trite can be our answers to such devastation and they often ring false. Perhaps Isaiah says it best when he asks the question, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.”

Oh yes, I almost forgot to mention that while in South Africa I was also able to help my brother John setup a model train track table. We had a good time fabricating a table that swings on pulleys from the roof of his garage. This way he can park his car in the garage when he is not playing with his train set. Needless to say, his car didn’t see much of the garage while we were there! With nieces and nephews running about for a few days there it was a fun project to work on. Like all toys for children however, the question as to who had more fun with the train set is still up for debate! For those who want to know the table is simply two pieces of plywood put side by side with a hole cut in the middle so that you can reach all sides of the tack, villages, hills, rivers, stations, roads, and all that jazz. Obviously we had a good time.

05 March 2006

ICA Reflections

by Braden Mugg, ICA Grad 2001

I must say that it was odd to come back and visit Cote d’Ivoire and ICA after having been gone for almost five years. Although the places that I knew as a child have remained very much the same, almost all of the people that I knew in those days are gone. Surprisingly, even with all of the changes, I was particularly struck by how much my visit reminded me of the time I spent here and the people I knew.
I was particularly struck by the changes in the country itself. In the rebel controlled North traffic has slowed to a trickle under the pressure of the rebels whose main source of income seems to be extorting money from travelers. The people here speak of a hard life where jobs are in short supply and the future is unpredictable. The overall climate, however, remains surprisingly hopeful and peaceful as people go about making the best of a bad situation.
It is interesting to note the many ways that ICA has changed in its current incarnation as a military base. Although the infrastructure remains very much the same, the campus now prominently displays barbed wire, spotlights, and fortified defensive positions. Basketball courts where children once played have become parking lots for armored vehicles. Perhaps the change is most visible at meal times when the voices of grown men fill the cafeteria that once resonated with the joyful cries of children.
The strongest tie to the past is the workforce many of whom speak fondly of the days when there was peace in Côte d'Ivoire and ICA was a school. It was especially interesting for me to see that Joseph and Thomas both of whom worked in Beth Eden when I lived there are still here. It was fun to bring them and others news of students they had known years ago.
Coming back to Côte d'Ivoire and ICA brought back a flood of memories from a childhood that I had more or less lost. Therein lies the importance of my trip for me. Although the people I had known long ago are gone and the places have changed, during my stay here I felt more strongly connected to them then I have in years. In spite of the fact that these memories and connections will probably slip away as quickly as they returned, it was nice to have one last chance to say goodbye to the world of my childhood.

20 January 2006

Yahoo, ambiguity!

As you may have heard by now, there has been renewed unrest in Côte d'Ivoire due to what seems to have been a simple misunderstanding of what had been said by the UN’s International Working Group (GTI) assigned to help in the resolution of the continuing conflict in Côte d'Ivoire. Wednesday, Obassanjo, the president of Nigeria, flew into Abidjan to meet with the leaders of the government and the new prime minister to explain what was meant by what the GTI had said concerning the National Assembly. Unfortunately, because of this little misunderstanding four demonstrators in the southwest of Côte d'Ivoire lost their lives because those who knew better incited them to demonstrate. Being in the rebel held part of Côte d'Ivoire these demonstrations do not affect us directly, though we find ourselves concerned for those friends and colleagues who find themselves living in the middle of it.

Besides the country being in a bit of a scrap right now, both Angelika and I have been hit with some bug that we are finding quite debilitating. For the past four days in my case and for the past two days in Angelika’s case we find ourselves running to the toilet far more often than we would wish. We have had a serious bout of the runs and an inability to keep most foods down. When the only food that looks attractive to you is boiled rice and rice water, you know that you have been hit by something. Fortunately we have a fairly understanding French military doctor and staff right here on campus and we find ourselves making regular trip to the infirmary for meds and advice. At this point we have no clue what has hit us so we are trying to lay low and build up a little strength. If you are of the praying sort you might want to mention this to the Great Physician. We are confident that He knows what is going down and what is coming up!

This week we began a 15 weeks theological training course at our church in Bouaké. We had about 7 students turn up for the first lesson this past Wednesday which was simply a test which I had prepared to try to help each student realize where he might need to do some study as we go into this class. The main reason for the class is to help those who want to learn how to better preach and teach the Word of God as leaders in our community. We have an interesting collection of young men, older men and a couple of women who have signed on and have agreed to pay the 250 CFA (approx. 50 cents) per 2 hour class. We are encouraged by the enthusiasm and interest expressed by the students and their involvement in the life of the church. Pray that the things shared in this class will be useful and helpful to our community here in Bouaké and beyond. We have some interesting situations that are certain to come to a head as we go through the different aspects for what it is to lead in the church and what exactly it means to teach in the church context. In the words of Alfred Kuen, the teacher is tied to what he teaches. Unlike other occupations, to teach or preach the Word demands a corresponding lifestyle which attributes honor to the One who is the subject of our teaching. To do or live otherwise is to neutralize the message and in many cases brings more harm to the Kingdom than good. As I think about that I am more impressed than ever of the weight of the task before us.

On the lighter side of life, we need to let you know that we are planning to fly to South Africa around the end of February for about 3 weeks to visit family and to do some research concerning the future of the ICA campus. We will be getting in touch with several vocational schools and technical colleges to see what they are doing. We will also be looking for possible partners who would be willing to help our association of churches in Côte d'Ivoire dream about how to make the most out of a property which is uniquely setup for live-in training/teaching. This is only exploratory at this point as we still have a 5 year commitment to hold the school against the possibility that there may be other mission agencies interested in running a school on this campus. You can see we have a curious dance to follow right now. We are to care for this place for a given period in hopes that it may once again be useful as a missionary kids training institution. At the same time we are being asked to look into other options for the use of this place while at the same time it is already spoken for at the moment. Ambiguity has never come easy to me but I am finding that right now I have to embrace it.

Yahoo, ambiguity!

06 January 2006

Beekeeping African Style

Several months ago the thought came to me that with all of the trees that we have on this campus that we might be able to make a go of raising bees in the hopes of harvesting a small bit of honey. Of course any of you reading this and who have raised bees and done the honey collection dance in the more temperate zones might find our methods a little curious at best. However, there are several reasons for why we do the honey business as we do here and perhaps the most compeling reason has do do with the bees themeselves, the apis mellifera adansonni, which are said to be aggressive.

While in Germany we had a chance to talk to former colleagues of Angelika, Arnold & Marie-Louise Vogt who used to work with SIM in Burkina Faso. They had been working in agricultural development for several years and he had helped the church leaders in the Fada-N’Gourma region understand the importance of bees and the honey industry. He worked to help them become self sufficient and competative as well. He had concluded that the best kind of hive to use was what is called the “Kenyan Top Bar Hive”.

Arnold introduced me to a little know book written by Stephen Adjare from Ghana called “The Golden Insect,” ©1984. Adjare had drawn the same concusion while raising honey in the Kumasi district of Ghana and working for the University at Kumasi in the Technology Consultancy Center. This little book of 105 pages is rich with simple instructions and advice on how to raise honey in West Africa.

Adjare begins by explaining how in most countries in West Africa the honey collector kills bees to get the honey. The notion that one can actually harvest honey and not kill the bees is a rather foreign one in this part of the world. So it was that I have taken on trying to do as Stephan Adjare has outlined in his book and raise honey. My main objective is to try to spread the idea that bees are good and can be managed for a profit as well as harvest some good tasting honey.

So it was last night that I harvested honey for the second time in the past two months from our first hive. To do this one really should have a smoker, which I do not yet have, and a bee suit, which I have after a fashion. As I found out last night, the pockets of the pants I was wearing are excellent places for bees to go and remind you that the honey you are taking is not really yours to take after all. That said, I was able to ignore the pain of the moment and finish the job but several bees died in the process. Of course without smoke these bees were rather posessive of their honey. It would seem that the experts are right when they say that the apis mellifera adansonni are aggressive.

In Côte d'Ivoire most honey is all of the juices of a hive squeezed out of the wax by hand or melted out by putting the honey ladden comb on screens and dumping hot coals on top which melts the wax and lets the honey run through the screen giving the honey a smokey taste. Of course the brood cells also get mixed in with the honey changing its taste. This means that most honey purchased along side the road is very inferior honey if it can be called that. Unfortunately this “honey” often has water added to increase the volume and to augment the purchase gain.

With these kinds of practices going on it is no wonder that good honey is in high demand. At this point I have hived three colonies of bees. I am working with Keho, a Senoufo from the Boundiali area who has experience with traditional bee keeping (which involves killing the bees to harvest the honey). He has shown me a number of techiques to attract the bees to the hives that seems to work fairly well.

First of all we take cow manure and spread a thin coat all over the interior of the hive using a hand full of citronella grass on all of the exposed wood. After letting it dry we then burn some tiama (redhead tree) pods (see photos) and turn each hive over placing it upside-down over the smoking pods. The sweet smoke from the tiama is very agreable to the bees and they are attracted to the risidual smell left in the box after a good smoking.

Once the smoking if each hive is finished and the top bars are put back in place the hive is ready to place in a tree where the bees are likely to come and look for lodging. So far I have found that hiving a hive is best done by moving an older inhabited hive a short distance away and placing a new hive in its place. Smearing cushed wax with honey on the inside of the hive also helps greatly in attracting new swarms.

In Adjare’s discription of the honey bee I could not help but think that it is a small picture of how the Body of Christ should work together, each on doing his part for the good of the hive and for its growth. It would be too much to go into detail here but there are some amazing paralles that we would do well to imulate in the church. Continue to pray for us as we try to make a difference in our part of this big world.