02 January 2007

Bonne Année 2007 !

As 2007 begins I thought that it would be reasonable that I write down a few reflections and notions concerning the year gone by and this year coming. First thing on my mind is to thank God that my father is now home and doing quite well for a 72 year old man who has been sliced open twice in the past 6 months by doctors trying to get him to feeling better. We have spoken several times on the phone with both him and my mother and it is good to hear they are doing well.

One big surprise over the holidays this year was to hear that my sister Carmel (Debbie), her husband Victor and their family flew back to the US for an early home assignment due to the failing health of Victor’s father. We were glad to hear that their field permitted an early departure due to family concerns. We are also glad for my folks who must be tickled pink to have more grand kids than expected at this time of year.

As for things in Côte d'Ivoire, they continue towards what we all hope will be a peaceful solution to the now, four and a half years of a divided country. As previously mentioned, we are now living under another UN resolution - 1721 which is more of the same and which has many people frustrated due to the constant ambiguity of the language used in calling for change. This resolution also calls for presidential elections this coming year in October, as has been the case for the past two years. In order for this to happen everyone agrees that there needs to be disarmament and a census taken which, will provide for open and fair elections. The rub comes in figuring out how to go about disarming and taking a census so that people can register to vote.

It sounds simple enough although in Côte d'Ivoire turning a rock over can be done a number of ways and with varied results, not to mention such a complicated affair as turning in weapons and getting one’s name on a list so as to be allowed to vote. The real solution is with the politicians who are still discussing from which side we should push to turn over the rock, not to mention how to deal with the results of a turned over rock! It leads one to believe in the end that most politicians must be half stoned any way and if not they probably need a good stoning! At times we wonder if they are even talking about the same rock!

Be that as it may, we have plans for this next year. At the Bouaké campus (former ICA) we are going to go forward as if there is a future. To put that dream in the ground we have an almond tree project under way even as I speak. We have about 70 almond trees in a nursery which we hope to plant in the next few months on campus. We have begun digging holes in which we will begin to put good soil to give our trees a fair chance at becoming mature and productive trees. Knowing very little about almond trees, I am going with the local advice I have been given which is to plant them no closer than 10 meters which leads me to believe that this is a tree of considerable size. Anyone out there who might have experience with the almond tree, please feel free to chime in with any advice you might have.

My major interest in planting almond trees however, is in with the flowers that will provide early foraging for my bees. Yes, we are still going after the bee deal. We have about 25 hives that are producing honey even as I write. I am excited about a project that we are hoping to get underway to provide each of our students at Bethel Bible Institute (IBB) in Korhogo with a hive, a bee hood and a smoker as well as instruction on how to produce quality honey. I am hoping to connect next week with an older man south of Korhogo who has received training in apiculture and who is willing to help us train the Bible school students. He is a believer and is excited about sharing his understanding with future pastors. Beekeeping is the kind of activity that is well adapted to rural village settings in northern Côte d'Ivoire and an activity which does not demand a lot of time and money to initiate and manage. The results are pretty good tasting too.

Of course we will continue our other activities of providing the best French military experience possible while hosting the Licorne Forces. We don’t have a lot to do with the guys staying on campus but we try to be as helpful and welcoming as possible. One of the realities of them being a long ways from family and home during the holidays is an openness which might not be true at other times and in other places. Keep us in mind as we play the role of being their hosts and also the caretakers of the campus which they have occupied while attempting to keep Côte d'Ivoire from degenerating into another Rwanda. I have begun meeting with four soldiers several times a week to help them with their English. We have had some interesting conversations. We hope to have them over soon for a meal where we can exchange on a more informal basis. Of course through all of this it is our hope that they will not only hear of Christ but that they will also see Christ through our lives.

As we enter into 2007 we will hope to continue working with our church in Bouaké and encouraging them to reach out to Muslims. There is and continues to be a certain resistance to sharing with Muslims concerning one’s faith. Many times it is simply because of a fear that in an honest discussion with a Muslim one may become convinced to follow Islam. This happens on occasion and is not an unreasonable concern. But as in so many areas of life, if one doesn’t dare to reach out, to do the unusual but to simply keep the status quo, nothing happens and nobody is challenged and no impact is made. Pray for us that we might be able to bring about change and impact this city through the lives that we touch. We do not want to settle for mediocrity when we serve a God who is anything but mediocre.

I continue to teach two days every two weeks at IBB as well as serving on several committees and boards of training institutions. All of that and the pressures of running the Bouaké campus can at times be overwhelming. Pray that I would find time to “smell the roses” and not get stung by the passing bee!

Continue to pray also for Angelika who is still very involved in women’s ministry through our churches in Bouaké and has numerous contacts with Muslim women in Bouaké. She and Abby Silué, one of the women from our church and good friend of ours, have been working faithfully together to edit Bible stories in Dioula (Jula) and telling them to several Muslim women. Pray for them as they walk the fine line of speaking the truth and not offending the sensibilities of those with whom they are sharing the truth of who God is and what He is like.

So it is that we enter into 2007 with hearts full of praise for the opportunities God places before us. We know that it is no simple thing to walk as Jesus walked but this is our prayer for ourselves as it is our prayer for those of you we know who might have taken the time to read this stuff. Bonne Année ! Que Dieu vous bénisse dans l’année 2007 !

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