It’s hard to believe it’s been two weeks since I’ve been in Africa! My time here has been a marvelous whirlwind of sights and adventures and people and friends. And God’s love is written all over it!
THANK YOU for all your prayers for our team the past twelve days as we traveled the northern regions of Togo, spending time in three different villages. Praise the Lord for protecting us all along the way!
Our typical schedule is spending three days at each village. In the mornings, we teach English classes and computer classes. We divide the people into three classes – children, beginner English, and advanced English. Teaching English is fun, but challenging because everyone is at a different level of comprehension. Their favorite thing (and mine too!) is practicing conversations – “Hello, How are you? Are you fine? How is your family, are they fine?” In computer classes, it’s exciting to watch teens and adults crowd around for a turn to type their name for the very first time. We use Bible verses to teach teaching. And the thing they love best is finding our pictures and videos and laughing at Americans!
Our afternoons are often spent evangelizing in the remote villages. We divide ourselves into groups of three and a local Christian who serves as our guide through the village and our translator into the local language. When we set out on little dusty paths toward thatch-covered huts, when we squat down under a shade tree with a mother stirring a boiling pot and her children cracking nuts with their teeth, when we traipse out to the middle of a yam field to meet a farmer taking a rest in the midday sun, when we open our mouths to speak Jesus’ name, I often think this, right here is what life is all about. We often begin spiritual conversations by asking if they know who Jesus is. Usually they say “No” and we share the gospel story, beginning at Creation and moving through the Fall of man to redemption in Christ. I love watching the story unfold as it’s told in three languages – English to French to the local dialect – and being reminded that Jesus is the Savior of the whole world.
My knowledge of who God is and my faith in His power to save has been stretched and grown as I see the way these people, who have never before heard the gospel, are so willing to respond. It’s as if this is what they have been waiting for and as if their hearts have been prepared for just this moment. Which, of course, is exactly what has happened. One young mother of four, whose husband is an idol worshipper, asked: “If I give Jesus my heart, will He also give me His heart?” A teenage boy said: “I do not want to suffer anymore in this life. I want to know Jesus and I want Him to be my Savior.” Jesus was in these places before we were, softening hearts so that when they heard His name for the first time, they would know Him. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). It’s a beautiful blessed thing to witness.
I am learning so much from this people about taking joy in every sign of God’s presence in life. Living in Africa as an American transplant, is the most challenging thing I’ve ever experienced. I miss my family and not being able to communicate with them is so difficult. When I can’t sleep I replay our last conversations and plan my emails whenever I get access to internet. Oftentimes the most glamorous bathroom is a clump of tall bushes, hopefully without the ever-present shadow of curious children. Two times, rainstorms soaked our luggage strapped on top of the van and we had to wait almost a week until we could do laundry, bucket-and-spigot style. Sometimes sleeping at night is hot and uncomfortable and my mosquito net feels more like a suffocation device. I had a bad cold that lingered almost a week, which created really interesting situations out in the middle of the bush with no tissues.
Every day, I am filthy, sweaty, extremely tired, but oh SO happy. Full of joy that the blessings far outweigh any sacrifices and are abundantly more than what I ever imagined. God is here. He is faithful, He is good, and He is kind. I’ve known His grace and provision for me in more real and tangible ways than I have ever known before. I know He has me here and is sustaining me every moment of every day.
- Pray for the Muslim influence, particularly in the Northern regions of the country. Muslims from other African countries have come to Togo villages to do humanitarian work and build mosques. In several villages, conversion to Islam is increasing and is building resistance to Christian missionaries.
- Pray for the Pioneers Togo missionaries, Christophe and Eliphaz who have left their homes and families these weeks to lead out Edge team. I have been incredibly blessed and strengthened by their passion for the gospel, heart for people, and example of humble servant leadership.
- Pray for the village churches. They face a lot of challenges in cultures mostly dominated by idol worship and sacrifice. People are afraid to openly confess Christ and go to church because their family members or neighbors may persecute them.
- We’ve met three village missionaries so far – Lemou, BaGla, and Ayandou. Please pray for these men as they each pastor several churches in surrounding communities. It’s been wonderful to work alongside them for a few days and see the way God is reaching people through their ministry, but their work is very hard and very wearing. Pray for their strength and spiritual encouragement!
- Pray for our team traveling many miles and going to many different villages. At the halfway point, exhaustion is setting in hard and we need daily reminders to rely on God’s sufficient strength in our physical and emotional weakness. Please pray the Lord would continue to protect us from illness.
- Pray for our evangelism trips in the afternoons – that God would lead us to people, that He would give us the right words to speak, and that His Holy Spirit would be present, moving in hearts to respond to the gospel.
- Please pray that everything I do, whether it is teaching lessons, interacting with my teammates, playing with the children, or telling Bible stories, would be gospel-driven. I want Jesus to be my focus and not be distracted by any little details of being so far away from home.
- Leaving villages after building relationships with the people there is one of the hardest things for me. It’s like leaving good friends, knowing you won’t see them again on this earth! I’d appreciate prayer as I say goodbye, that I would commit these friends to the Lord and keep praying for them.