Thursday, April 28, 2011

The First Course

**Our first day in Guinea-Bissau was spent in the city of Gabu, preparing for our week long stint in the village of Canquelifa. If Lisbon was the appetizer, Gabu was the first course (maybe a salad?) before the main course of Canquelifa.**

Upon landing in Bissau, the capital city of Guinea-Bissau, I couldn’t help but turn to my teammates and squeal in delight, “We are in Africa!!” I remember thinking, “It isn’t too hot.” (90+ degrees at 3 am. No, not hot at all.) We entered the airport and entered the fray to get out baggage. After about 20 minutes, there were still roughly 30 people who had not received bags (one our team leader) and it was announced there were no more bags. I truly thought a riot was going to break out. I had my back to the wall thinking, if it gets ugly, keep your back to the wall and stay small. Luckily, a baggage cart arrived from somewhere, 15 more bags appeared and the riot was put off for another day. (Our team leader’s bag did not arrive and we would not see it till later in the week.) The airport shut down as we loaded our luggage missionary’s truck that was waiting for us. Remember there is no power grid in Guinea-Bissau. So although their was still a large group of people milling about, the airport turned off its generator, the lights went out and EVERYONE pulled out their cell phones to see by. Funny, huh?

We climbed aboard and headed 3 hours inland to Gabu. It was dark and I slept most of the trip and crashed as soon as we arrived. After a couple hours of sleep, I got back up. Half asleep, I agreed to go to the market with the one of the missionaries and my teammate, Jessica. Upon arriving at the market, I quickly woke up to the exotic aromas, the beautiful colors, the vibrant masses of people.

This was Africa….

breathtaking. exhilarating.

uncomfortable. beautiful. inspiring.

We returned home, gathered some more of our team and returned to the market to finish supplying up for our week in the village. After that, a good part of the day was spent at the mission, resting and recovering from jetlag.

As we sat on the back veranda, stories of miracles, big and small, began to pour forth from the missionaries.

There was the story of "God’s blocks." A wall needed to be built around the Bible College of which this missionary couple was overseeing the building. But before it needed to be built, there was a church in Gabu that needed to be completed. A team from America came to build the wall, heard the need to build the church and agreed to build the church first. The team had enough money left to complete a couple rows of the wall. They did that BUT there were blocks left over. They did a couple of more rows and there were MORE blocks left over than they had started with in the beginning. They completed the wall and there were blocks left over enough to build a storage building and a bathroom. God did the same thing for the blocks that He had done with the loaves and fishes.

There was the story of the African pastor who visited the US during Halloween time. He couldn’t understand why parents were dressing their children as demons. He began to point out and name the different demons that were in the masks, all demons that he had seen one time or another in his ministry in Africa.

There was the story of Lopez, the evangelist (and one of our translators) who was sick every time he left the village we were leaving for in the morning. They had realized this was a spiritual attack and had prayed over him repeatedly. The last time he left the village, he wasn’t sick, but was in a small accident on his motorcycle on the way home. Just another type of attack, they thought.

(Lopez)

There were stories of the dead coming alive, the blind seeing, the lame walking and the sick being healed. These people who daily depend on God for their very living and are sacrificing their lives and retirement for His glory have seen the New Testament church come alive before their very eyes.

While visiting with them, we toured the Bible College. (God’s blocks are truly impressive to behold.) I wept as we stepped foot on its grounds. Not because of the blocks, but because of the simple story of a woman who I have never met, Aissatu. (Read her full story here.) Aissatu was the cook and confidant of our first teams who visited Guinea-Bissau. I can remember praying for this woman with all my heart upon hearing that she was ill. My entire family, especially Caleb, took up her cause, fully expecting that God would heal her miraculously. I can remember the early morning that I was out walking when I realized that He would not heal her and as tears rolled down my face, my prayers changed to asking Him to bring glory from her death. I see the Bible College and her lovely daughters (one who traveled with us and led MANY to the Lord during our visit) as an answer to that prayer.

(The Bible College)

We closed that day with this special missionary couple with a truly powerful time of prayer and preparation for our trip out to the village. The wind began to pick up and blow mightily as we prayed. This was the first time we had felt a breeze all day and asked was this normal, for the wind to blow like that in the evenings. The missionaries assured us it was not normal, the wind only blew like that during rainy season which was still a month away. They both felt this was God’s Spirit blowing in on us as we prepared to go do his work.

Prayed up and as prepared as we could be, we woke up the next morning ready to travel the 3 hours to Canquelifa, eager to get onto the main course of our trip.


**Here is an excellent video of our trip done by my friend Jessica Hopefully it will tide you over till the next installment as we get to the main course!



Guinea-Bissau April 2011 from The Beaver Bunch on Vimeo.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Just the Appetizer

A little over a week ago, I boarded a plane that left my hometown, made a couple of connections and 24 hours later, landed in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa. This past week has been a week of recovery, sleep, enjoying my family and a little more sleep. I feel like I am about ready to share the stories of our week in Africa.

But before we get there, I have to share a little bit about God’s lavish grace. You see, on the way to Africa, we had a 13 hour stopover in Lisbon, Portugal. Now I am not a big fan of combining mission trips and sightseeing, but I am a bigger non-fan of sitting for 13 hours in an airport. So knowing we had this time and being the nerd that I am, researched Lisbon a few days before leaving and made a list of places that I would like to see.

Can I tell you how good God is and how He delights in giving us the desires of our heart? Not only did He bless us with beautiful weather while in Lisbon, but He blessed me with a great group of people who were willing to let me be tour guide for the day! You truly don’t know just how much this blessed me. I know it is silly, but it was like asking your parents for a really big Christmas gift and then GETTING it and so MUCH more.!

We saw a beautiful monastery and cathedral,

Vasco de Gama’s tomb (I told you I am a nerd.)

The Monument to Portugal’s Discoveries (one of them being Guinea-Bissau)

And walked along a beautiful bay.

Throughout the day, we began to see God answer specific prayers…safe travel, a bus turning a corner as I prayed for it, a camera lens miraculously saved (that is my dear friend Jess’ story to share.) I couldn’t help but remark that if God was being so clear to answer what seemed to be such eternally insignificant prayers as a bus’ arrival, could we imagine His answers to the eternally significant prayers He would lay on our hearts? How true that would turn out to be!

Overall, the time in Lisbon was a gracious, glorious start to an even more grace-filled, glorious trip. It was a delicious appetizer before a grand meal of God’s faithfulness and love for His children.

(You’ll have to stop back by later to hear about the main course.)

(And check out Jessica’s blog later for even more stories.)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Has a Name

My heart is overflowing with joy as we celebrate the Risen Savior today! Glory to Jesus, who conquered death and sin and who now sits at the right hand of the Father, praying for each of us!

But as I start to go about fixing our Easter dinner, my heart is sad within this great joy.

Maybe it is the figure that I read on Friday night... each year roughly 170,000 people are killed because of their faith in Jesus Christ. Did you catch that staggering number? 170,000. That is close to 9 times the people that live in my little town.

Maybe it was this article that I read. Maybe it is knowing that this article is only on the front page at CNN because today is Easter and knowing that this is not a rare occurrence, but one this church (and many others like it) deals with on a daily and weekly basis.

Maybe it is because this year, persecution has a name and a face for me.

"A" who was told by his uncle that if he believes in Jesus, he will be cut off from the family completely.

"B" who has already confessed belief and who has been cut off from by her main source of financial support for her and her children.

"M" who newly confessed and has already begun to be jeered and mocked by her friends and family.

Missionaries who are working in such a dangerous area that I cannot tell you their names or where they are working. You see, just this past month, they have already seen 6 believers killed for nothing more than their confession of Christ as Lord and Savior.

Oh, to know that the Church is hated and persecuted is one thing. But to put a name, a face, a life at the end of that hate, that death, that persecution! That is an entirely new thing.

As I walked around the village last week, I spoke with one of our translators about the oppression and persecution the believers were going through. He said "Please, please do not pray that it would stop. Persecution will always occur. Pray that it grows us stronger and closer to our God."

So as you sit down to your Easter meal, find those lost Easter Eggs and enjoy your friends and family, take time to say a prayer for our dear brothers and sisters around the globe.

Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus. Acts 4:29-30

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

For Now...

Thank you for your prayers and thoughts while we were gone. They were needed and felt. Many more details, stories and pictures will be forthcoming... but for now this sums it up...

From my journal on my last day in Guinea Bissau...

"Father, I came to Africa to see You at work and to join in for but a moment. I came seeking Your face and presence. I came hoping for miracles, signs and wonders. I experienced all of this, but in ways that I truly did not expect. I saw You working through our translators- a generation hungry for Your word, begging others to be saved. I saw You working as the Holy Spirit moved in hearts and names were written in the book of life. I saw Your face in the missionaries we met- in their servants' hearts and their dedication to reach the unreachable. I saw Your face in the children as they felt Your love and sang Your praises. I saw the miracle of lives transformed, a little boy on his way to complete healing, a baby that You have healed, amulets torn off. Signs and wonders as you repeatedly protected us from attack and opposition. Father, I am thankful, honored and humbled to be a part of your work in Guinea Bissau."




Monday, April 4, 2011

All You Ever Wanted to Know (How to Pray)

As you may already know, I leave later this week for Guinea-Bissau, West Africa. Crazy, huh? To think it is already here. I have been praying for this trip for months and now you can join in and pray with me! Exciting, I know!

First let me tell you a little about GB. GB is one of the poorest nations in the world. It ranks 173rd out of 182 in the UN's Human Development Index. It ranks 180 out of 182 in a listing of countries in which it is good to do business.

There is no power grid for the entire nation. All power comes from generators.

The weather is also going to be a big adjustment for us. 115 degrees in the day, 80's at night. Can you say HOT?

The people we will be working with, the Badayara, are a mix of animist/muslim by faith. There are very few believers in Jesus in the area (most coming from God working through earlier trips made by our church.) Our team hopes to continue to build relationships and share the gospel with anyone who will listen.

So now you know a little what it will be like, here are some ways to pray:

· For the health and strength of our team.

· For safety as we make the 24 hour trip into the country.

· That we will move safely through all checkpoints as we travel.

· For acceptance from the leaders in the village of Canquelifa as we continue to work to plant a second church among the Badyara people.

· That our team members will have clarity of thought and discernment as we try to move conversations toward spiritual matters.

· That we will have boldness in our actions and prayers knowing that we are empowered by the Holy Spirit.

· For those already in the process of constructing a new church building in the village. Pray that the well being dug will soon be completed.

· That our translators will be able to convey the power of the Gospel in all that we are doing.

· That God is already preparing someone to pastor the new church.

· That those who do receive Jesus have the courage to declare their allegiance.

· That those who have made decisions will have a hunger to learn more about Jesus.

· For the Badyara people, that the Lord will prepare their hearts to meet the Savior.

(From my church's prayer bulletin)

And some that I have been praying as well...

"Give them a new heart, put a new spirit in them; remove the heart of stone and give a heart of flesh. Put Your Spirit in within them, cause them to walk in Your statutes and obey Your ordinances. Be their God and let them be Your people." (Ezekiel 36:26-28)

"May words be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the Gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains that in proclaiming it, I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak." (Ephesians 6:19-20)

"Lord, take note...and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence, while You extend Your hand to heal and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your Holy Servant, Jesus." (Acts 4:29-30)

Thank you now for taking time to list up our team and our families over the next couple of weeks.
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