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.

No comments: