15 July 2011

As many of you know,we have been in Germany since June 24th when we arrived from Côte d'Ivoire for a long needed break. One of the things I was able to do last week was to take off in a powered para-glider that a friend of ours has and fly for about 10 minutes. a para-glider is very similar to a parachute so there is a lot of crossover. However, running with a 60lbs motor on your back while keeping the lines out of the propeller and giving the motor gas at the same time is a hoot. The sensation of leaving the ground below you is so opposite from the feeling of arriving under canopy. That was an experience worth repeating! Here is the clip, albeit poor, it is definitely me. Of course now the question is; how can I get one of these to RCI?

05 October 2010

Dedication of the Bible in Cebaara of Korhogo

As I sit here after 2 hours of speeches, songs, sermons and prayer I can't help but think of how faithful God has been to us and to the Senoufo people in allowing us to see this day. Just yesterday I was able to buy a case of Bibles fresh off the press for re-distribution to those we know who read this language. As we listened to Pastor Dossongomon read the list of all of those who have collaborated in the translation of the Bible I could not help but think of the faithfulness of God towards us through the faithful efforts of his people. As he read through the list of those individuals who had contributed to this accomplishment he had to stop several times to let us know that many of them where no longer among the living. Among those who are still living, very few could even be at the Dedication. None of our WorldVenture colleagues, who had had a hand in guiding the translation team during the past 40 years, could be here today.

We were informed that the Cebaara Bible is only the 3rd Bible to have been entirely translated since translations have been happening in Côte d'Ivoire. This is not only a religious event but a social and cultural event which elevates the Cebaara language to the ranks of languages which have a Bible!

As the Pastor Soungalo shared, language is the soul of a people and for some reason God in His grace has permitted and made it possible that the Gospel be heard and told in multiple languages of the world. From the day of Pentecost to today, telling the Story in the mother tongue has been an important aspect of what it is to be a follower of Jesus. On that day in Jerusalem people from around the world gathered for other reasons, heard about why Christ had suffered and how He had risen from the dead. Soungalo pointed out the Pentecost was a divine reversal of the confusion created at the Tower of Babel so many thousands of years earlier.

The best part of the ceremony was when the organizers called on a young girl 14 years of age and had her read from Deuteronomy 6.1-10. As I sat there and listened I could not help but think that this is the main reason for all of this noise, to hear God's Word ring out at this gathering of well over 5000 people. As the fete came to a close and the last prayer was prayed we streamed down from our seats out onto the parade grounds and began to dance in praise to the God who allowed this day to be. I think there will rarely be a day like this, this side of Glory where we will find so much joy and unity at hearing God speak.

As the celebration came to a close and we spoke with so many friends and acquaintances it was with tears in our eyes realizing that the years of faithful service has come to this. To see the eyes of those who read Cebaara light-up as they read passages they have always read in Bambara or French is a rewarding experience and one we hope to see repeated often in our fellowships.

God has done an amazing thing to allow us to see this day. Our prayer is that we will be able to practice what the whole Word of God teaches in our context of Côte d'Ivoire. God is faithful and this day we have witnessed that He is all of that and more!
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04 September 2010

About Parties and Presidents

Last Sunday in churches all over Côte d'Ivoire the announcement was made that the Cebaara Bible Dedication planned for the 4th of September (this Saturday), had once again been postponed. It is because there has been a concerted effort on the part of some of the organizers that the President of Côte d'Ivoire be invited to the party. It was only last week that we learned of the "high interest" of the president to be there for the dedication. The problem was that the 4th would not be possible and so in good Ivorian fashion, everything is put on hold until such time that the President can find time in his busy calendar to attend such a dedication. Of course this does not take into account that the WorldVenture Board Representative had to toss out his flight tickets again, nor that this means that the Bible will not be available for we don't know how long, and that all of our other plans for trips, meetings and a hundred other things have to be adjusted.

But who's to complain. In this country where only recently anyone was allowed to say anything that might be construed as being an attack on the government and its leaders, such an attitude is entirely understandable. There is an up side to this delay however and that is that the entire country will be presented with the fact that there is an important Christian community in the north of Côte d'Ivoire. This is important because much of the fuel for this 8 year long conflict has been the notion held by many Christians in southern Côte d'Ivoire that everyone in the north are Muslims and foreigners who should simply be eliminated. At the beginning of the conflict there was a concerted effort on the part of some "Christians" in southern Côte d'Ivoire to characterize the conflict as that of Muslims trying to take over the country. This failed to take into account that the north of Côte d'Ivoire is far more diverse than that. This attitude was evident, sadly enough, in the multitude of prayer vigils organized by Christians in blind support of the government, going so far as actually collecting money in churches to support the war effort against their brothers from the north. Many times during this conflict we have hung our heads in shame at the attitude of our so called brethren from southern Côte d'Ivoire. With that background one can understand better why having the President present for the Dedication of the Cebaara Bible might be so important.

Another and by far less important reason for having the President come to the Dedication is that normally his office will more than likely foot the bill for the manifestation. This of course helps us think big and as a result he will get a "free" platform, so to speak, for his presidential campaign. Incidentally, the presidential elections are programmed for the end of October this year, again! Like the Dedication, this does not mean they will actually take place the end of October!
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24 August 2010

2 Weeks and Counting

Long before I was born and well into my adult life there has been a translation project taking place in northern Côte d'Ivoire which has come to an end. The translation part of the project has been over for several years now and the final manuscripts have been in the hands of the Alliance Biblique (United Bible Society) for several years now. Last January we were contacted concerning this project and we were told that the final product would be printed by the end of May 2010. Being used to disappointment, we were not sure what to make of this news right then. However, true to their word this time, the Alliance has delivered and even as I write these words the final shipment of Cebaara Bibles is making its way north to Korhogo, the capital of the north and the cultural and traditional center for the Cebaara speaking peoples.

"Excited" is a feeble term to describe the feeling in our churches across the region as they anticipate the arrival of this treasure. For the past several months we have been planning and working on a dedication celebration for its arrival to which the President of Côte d'Ivoire has been invited. This dedication is planned for the 4th of September in Korhogo. There has been a special cloth made for the festivities which will be sewn into a hundred different styles and sizes by thousands of tailors to clothe the 10.000 faithful expected to attend this celebration. Of course, when a president makes the decision to come to such a fête there are implications which go far beyond any one person's ability to appreciate. In this case and under the actual tension that already exists in a country that has not been at peace for almost 8 years, an event of this size and of this kind can have serious outcomes. Our prayer is that as we celebrate the publishing of the first edition of the Cebaara Bible that its message of true peace with God would ring out as we celebrate together the accomplishment of such a weighty task. To be able to read the Bible in one's own language brings new meaning to old stories which are now "told" in words that make far better sense than anything you have seen or heard up until now.

We just met last night with the organization crew in Korhogo and our budget for this party is now set at a little less that $20.000 USD. When a president arrives and during a time like this only 2 months before the re-scheduled elections, you cannot sit back and enjoy the scenery! That will come in two more weeks!

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13 July 2009

Just some of what's been happening

We have been in the US a grand total of 3 weeks and we have been through 6 different western states, seen hundreds of friends and colleagues, eaten far more than what has been good for us, spent more money than we ever intended and yes, we are still married and even talking to each other.

I have officially entered the 21st century I am told. I recently purchased a Blackberry which I am actually attempting to use to write this blog. So far I like it alright though I do find the keys mighty close together. It is supposed to change the way I communicate but I must say that so far Angelika is not impressed!

About one week ago we drove to Denver, Colorado to pick up Keo Kognon, the director of the Bethel Bible Institute where I teach in Korhogo, north Cote d'Ivoire. He arrived on the 3rd of July and spent the 4th sleeping and catching up on lost sleep. We arrived on the morning of the 5th after driving for 23 hours straight.

After a few hours of sleep we were off to New Life Fellowship where we enjoyed some great fellowship with some dear friends. In the meantime Keo was off to another church, North Metro in Denver with Jim Copeland from WorldVenture's mobilisation department.

That afternoon we spent time visiting with Bob and Pam Hubbard (OT Professor at North Park Seminary in Chicago) and their two kids, Ben and Matt. Matt and his wife own an apartment in downtown Denver which was nothing less than amazing. It was also great to spend time with Ben who spent about 9 weeks in Cote d'Ivoire with me back in 1996.., I think, when he was 18 and I was younger! Age is getting to me.

After two whirlwind days at our home office and touching base with other friends in the area we took off Wednesday morning heading west on our way back to Oregon. Stopping to see friends along the way we arrived in Hillsboro at about 6h00 Thursday morning and after travelling for another 24 hours. Thursday night Angelika spent the night at Mark Colligan's place with his boys while he spent the night at hospital with Liz, his wife who is nearing the end of a loosing battle with cancer.

Friday afternoon we were off the our church family camp at Camp Tadmor where we had a blast shooting each other in their paint ball course as well as eating too much and swimming in the lake. Saturday evening we got home at 22h30 and slept for a few hours before heading to Lincoln City at 6h00 to make their 8h30 service.

After a day at Faith Baptist in Lincoln City we headed home arriving tired and with aching hearts as we watch our sister Liz slipping away. It is hard to know where, what, when... then we remember that God is.

28 November 2008

Es klopft bei Wanja in der Nacht

In the German children’s story Es klopft bei Wanja in der Nacht, by Tilde Michels, we find Wanja sleeping warmly in his hunting cabin in the woods during a snow storm when he hears someone tapping on his door. He gets up to see who it is to find a hare freezing and asking to come in for the night. Wanja lets him in, puts some more wood in the stove and climbs back in bed. Not much later the hare and Wanja are awakened by a shivering fox knocking on the door asking to spend the night in the hunter’s cabin out of the snow storm. Wanja lets him in much to the consternation of the hare. After letting him in they all bed down for the rest of the night when a short time later they hear again a knocking at the door. Wanja getting up once again opens the door to find a very cold bear asking if he could not spend the night in the hunter’s cabin. The fox is not too fond of the idea but as the hare in his regard had kept his peace so did he with regards to the bear.

Early the next morning each one of Wanja’s guests creep out of the hunter’s cabin being careful not to wake up the others, first the hare, then the fox and finally the bear. In the morning when Wanja wakes up he finds that the cabin is empty and he scratches his head thinking that it must have all been a simple dream. Stepping outside Wanja sees the tracks of his three guests in the fresh fallen snow and in the words of Tilde Michels:

Der Wanja schaut und nickt und lacht: (Wanja looks, nods and laughs)
„Wir haben wirklich diese Nacht (We really spent this night)
gemeinsam friedlich zugebracht. – (together in peace. – )
Was so ein Schneesturm alles macht!“ (And that is what a snow storm can do!)

I always get a buzz out of this story. Wanja joyfully and simply says that the adversity (in this case the snow storm) faced by each of his guests that night, brought together the most unlikely housemates for the night. For Wanja’s guests the snow storm was too much and each one found himself sleeping in a cabin with someone who, on any other day, might have made him their noon meal. The hare was fearful of the fox, the fox of the bear, and let us not forget that Wanja was sleeping in a hunter’s cabin which is not the best of places to sleep even if you are a bear. Enemies, all sleeping in one room in the middle of the forest because of a snow storm.

“Snow storms” are not our favorite times in life and we would all like to avoid them if possible. God has a way of bringing us together with some characters we would rather not be with through “snow storms”. I have asked my self numerous times in the past several years why He has placed us in Bouaké on a campus full of French soldiers. I can think of a lot of other people with whom I would rather be living and working. Our “snow storm” has of course been the continuing civil unrest in Côte d'Ivoire. We would love to see elections take place and for everything to get back to “normal”. Somehow however, I have a feeling that this is a bit of an illusion. So it is at the end of three months of home assignment in Germany, we are in the middle of preparing our return to our “snow storm” where, incidentally, we hope to find no real snow!

One of the highlights of the past several months for us has been getting back in contact with many of our friends and supporters here in Germany. We have enjoyed a number of different things ranging from cold winter walks to fantastic meals together while working on various and sundry projects. But the best has been the challenge to persevere in our walk with the Father through our fellowship here in Germany. Theirs is not an easy lot to follow Christ in a country like this where, to proclaim your attachment to God is a bit like saying you have a dreaded infectious disease. We have been inspired by those who have, through difficult life situations, remained faithful. Preparing to leave Germany and hop back into our West African roles we are a bit sad. We will not miss the cold and the snow but we will miss the fellowship.

Many of you know that we had a party to celebrate 50 years of marriage for my folks. We flew from Germany to Oregon the 13th of October for 2 weeks to spend some time together as a family. On Saturday, the 25th of October we celebrated my folks’ 50th along with relatives from all over the state and about 200 friends. It was a lot of fun seeing people we hadn’t seen in years. Following the party our entire family headed off for several days together on the Oregon Coast.

For the first time in 10 years my parents had all of their children together, all at the same time and in one place, with all of their spouses and assorted offspring. We made a squad of 19 individuals all together. We were able to spend a couple of days together and had a wild time cooking, playing, looking at photos, and walking on the beach in Yachats, Oregon. The range in ages made for some interesting conversations and creative cooking combinations. One outstanding blessing for us was the great weather we had on the Oregon coast the end of October. It was shorts and t-shirts weather on the beach and some of the younger ones even found themselves rolling in a very cold surf, albeit unintentionally. Great times like these come far too seldom it would seem. We thank God for each occasion He gives us to be with family.

Once again I find myself out of room having written far too much for your tired eyes. Thanks for letting us share with you our variously unsettled lives. May you have a great holiday season full of thankfulness for what God has done in your lives.

Rod and Angelika