After about 24 hours of travel we are finally home. The boys are thrilled to be back in the land of their own toys, bikes & grandparents. It’s taking a little time to adjust to being back in the States, but we are thankful to be home. Please continue to pray for us over the next few weeks as we have a lot to think through & pray about. One of the things that has been on our hearts, whether we go back or decide to stay stateside, is making sure that we live our lives intentionally. We want our journey through this life to be worthy of the Lord. Thank you so much for all the prayers that you have already lifted up on our behalf — we have felt every one!
We enjoyed every moment of our two day visit with the Marshalls in Timbuktu (Tombouctou).
We took a small plane from Niamey about 3 hours to the airport in Timbuktu. Arriving at the Marshall’s took me back 10 years to my first visit. There is something beautiful about the desert and the people who live there.
Our Mali Family
The Marshalls live on a compound on the edge of the ministry they started called, “The Living Waters Project”. The Project is a huge piece of land divided into about 65 parcels for the people of Timbuktu to farm. Being able to farm gives the people food for their family as well as food to sell. The hope of this ministry is that the people of Timbuktu will learn what it takes to sustain their own families & most importantly that they would come to have a real relationship with Jesus Christ.
Rich and Anna are also transitioning into a ministry where they will travel to drill wells for local people and to cut fire walls in their fields. Rich recently plowed and burned 3 fire walls 15 meters wide some 30 Kilometers long. The people were skeptical until the first fire. When the firewall held, word spread and the door was wide open for them to teach people about fire walls and also how God has provided a “Fire Wall” through his Son Jesus Christ.
They asked for prayer as they hand over the Living Waters Project to the national families currently using the land and transition into this new ministry and travel throughout many villages.
During our short visit we were able to tour the Project, have a picnic on the Niger River, sleep put under the stars, get a tour of Timbuktu (more on that later!) & just enjoy the Marshalls! And did I mention, that the boys learned to swim? I’m sure not many people can say that happened for them in Timbuktu!
Just a quick note to let you know that we’re flying up to Timbuktu, Mali today to visit some good friends. We will be gone until Thursday & probably won’t have Internet until we return to Niger.
One of my favorite parts of traveling is the chance we get to worship with nationals. And even though we may not understand each other so well, the fact that we are sitting side by side, lifting our voices to the same Savior, blows me away every time. This morning, we got the opportunity to take part in communion with the church we visited. The church met in a plain concrete building about the size of a room in one of our houses. After the message was over we took a couple minute break while the seats were turned into a circle around a low table. There were about ten believers, both Nigerian & American. The Pastor led us in song & then spoke a couple of words while he held a baguette in the air & broke it. His words were foreign to me, yet when I watched him break apart that loaf of bread all I could think about was Christ’s body crushed. Not just for me, the white American, but for each person in that room & the people group they represented; Zerma, Hausa & Dendi. But why, when Christ has died for us all, I am the one who has heard the gospel my entire life, grown up in a Bible teaching church, & these people are a few rare believers in a nation who, for the most part, have never heard? The grace & lovingkindness of the Lord leaves my heart oh so thankful but there is a lump in my throat & tears in my eyes. Why? Why are we not motivated to go and tell when not everyone has heard? Wouldn’t we be faster to respond if it was one of our children taken to another country? Why is there a separation when it comes to Gods’ children who have not heard? As I wrestle through these thoughts, I wonder if you might think through them as well? Yes, we are not all called to pack up our bags & move to a foreign country, but the Lord has still commanded us to ‘go’ — to move, & to be active in telling others about His love & sacrifice for us, & to baptize & disciple believers of every nation. What does that look like for me & for my family? What will that look like in your life, in your everyday? Praying that the Lord makes it clear for each of us.
(Especially for the Grandparents!)
Keeping cool on an especially hot afternoon!
Ben’s hands were in the water anywhere he could find it.
Ethan, Nathaniel & Landon — Ethan is the Ovenall’s 4 year old son & the twin’s best buddy while we were staying in Benin. They were out the door running first thing in the morning & would only come back in for meals & naps!
Colin & Teena’s home & where we stayed while in Benin.
Ben loved all the animals on the compound — & they loved him right back. Here he is with their antelope, “Piddles” & their dog “Dusty”. Colin & Teena have two antelopes, a dog, a cat, two turtles, two parakeets & a ton of lizards!
When reading through my Bible this morning, there was a passage that has stayed with me all day. If you have a moment would you mind lifting us up to the Lord in accordance with this passage?
For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,
so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the LORD, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God ;
strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously
giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints of Light.
– Col. 1:9-12
There have been so many different things that have occurred while we have been in West Africa that there is not a lot of time to process through thoughts let alone write a blog post before the next thing happens!
Lately, I have been thinking through some conversations that we had while in Benin. Ben & I were fortunate enough to be able to sit down with two pastors of Dendi churches, & through a translator, ask them as many questions as we could come up with. Both men came to know the Lord through the ministry of the first EBM missionaries who lived in Guene, Benin. They both went through Bible training & later became Pastors of their own healthy & growing Dendi churches. One of the men, Pastor Isaac, explained to us that many men made decisions at that point to follow Christ, but the majority have returned back to Islam. The obvious question that came up was what made these men & their decisions different? The answer was clear in our minds, & something that has struck a chord in our own hearts.
In both instances, after the Pastors had made decisions for Christ, someone had come alongside of them, identified their worth in Christ, saw their potential for leadership, & began to invest both their time & their hearts in these men’s lives. The missionaries studied Scripture with them, taught them practical skills & helped the men whether it was out in the fields or needing advice when it came to picking a wife. These men grew & became leaders in the church because someone had seen them with the eyes of Christ & truly loved them.
It immediately made me think of Ben & why he is who he is now. As a young boy, Ben’s pastor approached him & a few other guys in the church to meet with weekly. This Pastor’s investment in each of these young men was a seed planted that eventually grew into a ministry mindset. And later on in life, it was another man who invested both his time & heart as Ben began to teach in Philadelphia. It is this type of relationship that Paul had with Timothy. And it is an encouragement & challenge as we think of the ministry the Lord has given us with the students at Ben’s school.
update: Benjamin is feeling much better! We should be hearing back from the Doctor either today or tomorrow on his last test results — thank you so much for praying!