Ministère Togolais du Football

September 24, 2020

From The Ground Up

The genesis and sustaining of a grass roots ministry in the heart of West Africa

In August of 2018, I was first introduced to him by the mission hospital administrator. She first told me that she knew a fellow soccer enthusiast and evangelist working for her in the hospital that she would like me to meet because of our shared interests. Tsigbo had a powerful build and an infectious smile. He extended a heavily calloused hand for the traditional Togolese greeting, followed by a mutual snap with the thumb and middle finger.

The administrator explained to both of us our mutual desire for a soccer ministry in Togo, and a partnership was born. At first, it was just an idea. I expressed that I had a son who would love to play soccer and that I’d love for him to be able to play on a local team, but also that I would like to somehow incorporate a ministry into this idea. Tsigbo was way ahead of me. He had been thinking it through for several months and was just waiting for the catalyst to see his calling come to fruition.

In fact, Tsigbo has already been doing it, just with a much older group of young men. He coached the village of Tsiko’s team. They often travelled to other, sometimes quite distant villages to play football and at half time, he would share an evangelistic gospel message. It was expensive to arrange travel for an entire team, but since the players were almost entirely employed elsewhere, they could usually collectively scrounge up enough funds to pay for the “friendlies” in other outlying regions. 

He lamented the fact that the local private school had an informal soccer team, and the Catholic school located in the larger city a few miles down the road had a rather well organized team, but the public school in Adeta, where most of the children from Tsiko went to school, did not. In fact, he said, none of those children could even afford cleats, which was necessary for playing an organized match.

I asked him, “what are our first steps?”. 

He said, “we need a place to practice.”

That was easy enough, the missionary campus had a single open area with grass that was relatively flat, and I had brought two small soccer goals with me from home.

“Great!” he replied, “now we need good bible study material.”

I was surprised. Not cleats, jerseys, or money? I knew immediately his heart was in the right place, keeping the main thing the main thing. And he had already been eyeing one devotional in particular. It was a 12-week study on the gospels in french, and it had a picture of a soccer player on the front cover. 

We went straight away to the mission’s bookstore and purchased enough copies of the study and pencils for a team of 15 players. The next step was finding the players. And that was harder than we thought it would be. 

The first practiced was scheduled for a typical hot and humid Saturday afternoon at 3 o’clock. I brought a pitcher of Kool-aid and plastic cups to the field and waited. Only a half-dozen kids showed up that first day. None fo them with shoes, but all of them with the skill of someone much older. When I expressed my concern over the size of the team, Tsigbo assured me that more wold come when they started hearing about it at the public school. Tsigbo had trusted the recruiting to his 13 year-old son, Mawuko, and apparently, he was was pretty choosey.

Weeks went by and only a few more had joined, but Tsigbo was dedicated. They’d work out until dark or thunderstorms would force them off the field, then they’d spend up to an hour under going through the Bible study together. After about 6 weeks the team was hovering between 8 and 10 regular attending players, I mentioned to Tsigbo in passing, “We have to fill this team, you need to find more players so we can start playing some matches.”

“But there are no other boys that go to church to join the team,” he admitted.

I was surprised. That wasn’t part of the deal. But the way Tsigbo saw it, if this team were to go out as missionaries and evangelize through soccer in other villages with no Christians, he needed to be sure the other boys on the team could exemplify what a Christian athlete was all about. We prayed about this, and the next day both reported to one another that God was calling us to invite any boy who had some skill, and they would learn from the culture of the rest of the team, and perhaps come to know Christ themselves.

But we had one more problem. The regular attenders were not showing up some days. We were coming to the end of the rainy season, and being subsistence farmers, that meant money was running short. Some of the kids couldn’t afford to take time away from farming or couldn’t afford the fare to ride by motor cycle taxi from their rural farms to the mission campus. 

Worried that this would be the end, I asked reluctantly, “how much would it cost to help them so that they can keep coming?”

The answer to that question shocked me, Tsigbo let out a long sigh, “about $10 a month.”

“Ten dollars!” I said too emphatically for his comfort. Obviously, that would not be a problem.

Soon we had a full team practicing, and even some nearby villages were starting to inquire about scheduling some friendly matches. Tsigbo hadn’t scheduled any by the beginning of the year, and the kids were getting understandably antsy. Several, if not all of the boys who had joined later had decided to give their lives to Christ and had begun attending church, and they were looking amazing on the field as Tsigbo masterful skills coaching had led them to become formidable attackers and defenders.

The only thing that was holding us back at that point was equipment.

I reached out to friends and churches on social media asking for help. The response I got was amazing. Within a couple fo hours, my son’s old soccer club in Oakdale had donated cleats and soccer balls as well as individuals donated enough funds for some really nice jerseys. Others donated some professional level goal nets. 

Cleats were a challenge, though. The ones that were shipped were caught up in the abyss of the postal system, or maybe in customs, and some more were on their way in the luggage of a short-term medical missionary who volunteered to bring them with him on his flight over, but we had a match scheduled, and no idea where we would get them. 

I decided to get Tsigbo involved in this, along with another missionary whose son was also playing on the team with mine. We loaded up in a Toyota Land Cruiser and travelled the hour or so to the city of Kpalime. There we found a roadside stand that sold cleats. We bought them out, every last pair, with Tsigbo’s reluctant help to help us get the best price in negotiations where being an American always resulted in getting gouged. We had two left to buy though, and headed to the busy outdoor market deeper within the city. We found the sizes we needed, including a pair for the coach. 

One of my most vivid memories of my time in Togo was watching those boys try on their new cleats for the first time. Most of them had no socks, and only a few of them owned another pair of shoes. The joy in their faces as they raced up and down the field just filled me with a sort of hopefulness for the world to come that I’d never known until then. 

After a full practice in the new cleats to get them used to kicking a ball with something other than bare feet, he had them return their shoes to him so that he could store them. When I asked him why he made them give the cleats back, he explained that when the kids got home with them, they’d likely be told by their parents to sell them, if they didn’t choose to do so themselves. 

It was January 26th, 2019 before we would have our first match, and we were playing on home turf, sort of. The opponent was the almost legendary Catholic school boys team. Our young team, which came to be know as the “hospital team”, looked well-organized and sharp in their matching red jerseys and brightly colored brand new cleats. Each team warmed up on their respected side of the field amongst wayward chickens and grazing goats. 

It wasn’t long before both sides of the field became lined with dozens, if not hundreds of spectators. They just kept coming. I didn’t even realize we had that many people living in our village. And the audience was not just their to spectate. This was war!

The drums were my first sign that this was not your typical little league soccer match. Then the chants and songs. The crowds on both sides of the field looked synchronized as they undulated and rhythmically bounced. It was positively euphoric. At first I thought one side was for our team and one side for the other, and I was amazed that our brand new team of kids from another town had so many fans. It wasn’t long before I realized that it didn’t work like that.

Except for a few hardcore “fans” for each side, everyone was cheering on and for everyone. I’d never seen a match played out like this before. It didn’t matter who scored, with every goal, the entire crowd would erupt in song and cheers.

Owen, my now 14 year-old son, once expressed after a match that playing soccer in Togo had ruined soccer for him in the US. I understand why.

We one our first match, quite decidedly actually, which I heard had surprised everyone through both Adeta and Tsiko, and suddenly the invitations of friendlies began flooding in. This began some of the best few months of my life and Owen’s.

Some of our matches were so far away, it would take hours to reach them in our missions 15 person van. Those were long trips, in a car with poor ventilation and 12-14 perspiring and noisy boys, but those were adventures we’d never want to have missed.

As time went on, our team itself became a bit of a legend. In all the games we played, no matter the opponent’s size, skill, or renown, we just kept winning. But that wasn’t even the best part. The best part was that in every match, at half time, the coach would call on both teams to come and sit with us as we passed out little plastic baggies of the local “Volta” filtered water, while he would share a passage of scripture, a short Christian devotional and the gospel message with both teams and spectators alike. 

Tsigbo did this so boldly, yet humbly. He shared the gospel confidently, yet gently. He’d close in prayer and often you’d see almost everyone both on the field and on the sidelines join him in his prayer. Who knows how many of these players and spectators heard for the first time who Jesus was, but this was clearly both and effective discipleship and evangelistic ministry now, and I knew I was in it for the long hall.

It’s been almost a year since I last saw Tsigbo. Things haven’t been easy for he and his family during the economic upheaval caused by the Corona virus pandemic. Elizabeth and I have lost count of how many times he and his children have had malaria in the last several months. Personally, I’m a little worried about his blood pressure, and he seems quite stressed to Elizabeth and I, as we frequently check in with one another.

His home, that he has been renting for several years, is falling apart, and his landlord continues to raise the rent while neglecting to replace absent window screens or fix gaping holes in the roof. Of particular concern to Tsigbo is the latrine facilities that have become increasing inhabited by poisonous snakes and he is afraid to let his children go outside at night to use the restroom both because that’s with the malaria carrying mosquitoes are most active, the giant black scorpions are on the prowl, and when the mambas and night adders are out hunting. 

He has been working on building a new home on a very small plot of farm land that he acquired some years ago. Even thought he and his wife both work and farm, they’ve only been able to partially finish their home. Elizabeth and I have helped as much as we could, and at least one missionary surgeon has contributed to help finish his home, he is still in dire need of assistance.

We’ve managed to get as far as getting a well dug, the land leveled, wales and structure built and just this month a roof on the house, but he still cannot move in because he dare not expose his children to the critters of the night by putting them in a house with no doors or windows. 

To make matters worse, theft has become a greater problem recently, and if he is not able to watch his farm at night, since he lives about a mile from his farm, his crops are often ransacked in the night.

We are looking for some ministry partners to help us support this humble servant of Christ. If you have a heart to donate something, anything, to help him finish his house so that he can continue in this life-changing ministry, keep his family safe from the elements, and continue to pursue the calling the Lord has put on his life, please help us out by clicking the link below and donate to help him finish his home. 

Thank you.

Three Principles of Immortality

February 27, 2020

Toward the end of 1 Corinthians, Paul exhorts his readers, “Therefore, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” These are probably familiar to words to some, but I think its easy to gloss over and say, “Yeah, good advice!” and then move on. It is good to pause there for some deep consideration of what he is calling us to. Or, calling us out to do.

Let’s dive into a little context. You’ve probably heard the old cliche, when you see therefore, you should always ask ‘what’s it there for?’

The preceding verses are, starting with 1 Corinthians 15:54:

When this corruptible body is clothed in incorruptibility, and this mortal body is clothed in immortality, then the saying:

Death has been swallowed up in victory.

Where, death, is your victory?

Where, death, is your sting?

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

I Corinthians 15:53-56

So now we have the context. Through faith in Jesus Christ, by the grace we now enjoy through His atoning sacrifice, we not only have been cleansed of our mortal sins, but also of our mortality. Our souls may live forever, and we may therefore live as if we will never die. This is not YOLO lifestyle. This does not mean that we should pursue a hedonistic lifestyle as gluttonous pleasure-mongers because we are forgiven and there are no consequences. What this equates to is freedom to live recklessly for Christ.


C.H. Spurgeon, one of my favorite Baptist preachers and theologians wrote extensively on this verse, and I will be borrowing a lot from him on this subject. He identified four different kinds of steadfastness that we should take from this text.

First, steadfastness should apply to the doctrines of the gospel. We should both seek to rightly understand the scriptures and gospel, and once we have obtained understanding, hold fast so that we are not persuaded to deviate from biblical truth.

Second, we are urged to be steadfast in character. We should be unwavering in our commitment to holiness and the pursuit of truth and righteousness. Though we may stumble and mess up, we should never give up in pursuing the virtues that mark the life of a believer, living a life above reproach, insofar as we are able, both through our effort and by empowerment by the in-dwelling Holy Spirit.

Third, we should be stable in the level of Christian maturity that we have obtained, not moving backward, and continually striving to move forward as we grow in maturity.

Fourth, we should remain steadfast in our Christian work, “persevering and enduring to the end.” Whatever that work is, we are all servants of Christ, and our life is one of service, selflessness, and great love for our neighbors and our enemies. That work should be evident from day one of following Christ.


This stuff, up to now, should seem fairly obvious. There’s nothing earth-shattering here. This one may be the most difficult though. The exhortation to be immovable seems to be based upon the presupposition that our steadfastness with be challenged. There are several things that can move us. If we are like trees near the bank of a river, when the current grows and the river swells beyond its banks, what will keep us standing?

“Deep roots” you are probably thinking. I ask myself, how deep do my roots go into the soil? Will they prevent we from being tempted by wealth? Comfort? Reputation? The culture? Approval?

How much discomfort am I willing to endure for the sake of Christ? Could I risk my career? Could I risk my social standing? Can I risk my safety, or the safety of those I love?

On days where faith and a passion for the gospel burn brightly in my heart, there’s nothing I wouldn’t endure. Some days, I’m so distracted, so in love with temporary pleasures and comforts that there’s little I would endure. We have fickle hearts, all of us. Our moods change. I’m not saying that we can’t enjoy creation and take part in benefits of technology. I LOVE a good cup of fine coffee, tacos, fly fishing, fast cars, watching hockey games, and all sorts of things. And God doesn’t call us to not enjoy these things. But it is a trap, and we need to be vigilant. The game is rigged, because the stuff you and I enjoy can prevent us from thinking too deeply about it most of the time, partly because there are so many pressures and things vying for our attention, distracting us from the eternal. This may be why Paul seeks to first point out that we were made for the eternal. Safety, comfort, and passions for things of this world pale in comparison to the eternal glory of our Father.

C.S. Lewis is famously quoted from his book The Weight of Glory:

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

There is much more to this life than the American Dream. There is much more to this life than safety. There are more important and worthwhile things to give your life to, and even lose your life for than the dull cliche repetition of work, vacation, retirement, buying more stuff, etc. Being immovable means a deeply held conviction that the cares of this world pale in comparison to the eternal glory and joy that we find in our Creator.

Always Excelling in the Lord’s Work

What is the Lord’s work, you might secretly wonder? I’ll let Spurgeon speak to this:

Some Christians think it enough to excel on Sundays or only for a few years of their lives. The text [of 1 Corinthians] calls this service “the Lord’s work,” and we must always bear this in mind so that, if we are enabled to excel in Christian service, we may never become proud but may remember that it is God’s work in us rather than our own work. And whatever we accomplish is accomplished by God in us rather than by us for God.

Christian service is not a separate compartment of our lives. It’s not “the religious part” of our day to day routines. It is our lives. It is in the mundane work around the home, in welcoming the stranger to our table, puting your arm around a lonely teenager and praying for them, buying groceries for the person in line behind you, giving the other driver who appears to be in a hurry the chance to go ahead of you, writing to that missionary who thinks everyone at home has forgotten them, visiting that old neighbor in the nursing home who never sees their family, inviting your non-believing friend out to coffee, without an agenda, but just to listen to them.

Excelling in the Lord’s work is not just about teaching a Sunday school class, or volunteering as an usher at your church. It is a daily rhythm and posture of servitude, humility, love and selflessness. And the fuel can’t be self-righteousness, but rather the Holy Spirit marked by inexplicable love that expects nothing in return.

There May be No Earthly Reward

I ask myself often, as maybe should be a habit for you as well, “What is it that I want most?” This question carries the weight of eternal significance, because if what we really want, what I really want, is recognition, or a particular platform, or a certain kind of reputation, then my pursuits will either be fruitless, or of no eternal value to me. How do I know this?

But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your comfort.
Woe to you who are now full,
for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who are now laughing,
for you will mourn and weep.
Woe to you
when all people speak well of you,
for this is the way their ancestors
used to treat the false prophets.

Luke 6:24-26

Yep, the beatitudes. Look, none of this is new revelation. I don’t hold any special insight other than what has been given to me by much wiser, more Spirit-led men and women than myself.

We live in a technology driven world. Until you’ve been out of it for a little while, you don’t realize how advertising and marketing are ever-present, hijacking your higher functions and seemingly deliberately keeping you from focusing on what is truly of value and importance in the world. I want to help snatch as many people from the soul-sucking meaninglessness of entertainment and amusement, because, we are, as Neil Postman put it, amusing ourselves to death.

Not until you create a barrier, purposefully allowing yourself to be bored and contemplative, will you realize that there is a freedom that exists apart from consumerism, comfort, safety, and the American Dream that may be quite uncomfortable at times, but is far sweeter than our mud pies in the slum.

Please leave a comment or send me a message if this inspires you, angers you, is exactly what you’ve been thinking too? I crave a discussion on these things, and I want to hear about your insights, struggles, or even admonishments. Thank you.

Talking Ashes

February 26, 2020

Most already have the fact that today is Ash Wednesday on their radar. But, if you are like me, you aren’t entirely sure what you are going to do with that information.

I have two major themes that to discuss here. The first is cognitive dissonance and the second is actionless faith.

Cognitive dissonance is defined as being in a state inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes. Although this includes hypocrisy, it means a bit more than that. It can also equate to what is becoming popularly referred to as moral injury.

I love the term moral injury, because it is something that had insufficient terminology until recently, and was referred to as feeling guilty. But guilt is a bit more complicated. Remorse for doing something wrong usually refers to guilty feelings. Moral injury is the after effects, after knowing you are forgiven and the guilt has been lifted, but still trying to deal with the destructive effects that your wrongdoings had. For instance, if I have a patient that I know requires a lot more time than I have to give because I’m busy in the clinic, and I don’t give them the time they need or deserve, I know I’m doing something wrong, but I don’t know how NOT to do that wrong thing because I am part of a flawed system that places more priority on volume than quality. Then that person, let’s say, gets admitted to the ICU, and I may have been able to prevent that had I adequate time to assess and evaluate them. Once I am forgiven for this, I should be done with it. I can even forgive myself. But there is a lingering effect from that sort of thing, it’s not guilt, it’s no longer remorse, it’s moral injury.

So let’s draw the logical line to connect both cognitive dissonance and moral injury.

I live in California. I am not a rich man by any western standard. I live in a very average home, in a very average suburb, make an average salary and have access to average resources like health care and financial assistance (welfare), should I fall on hard times.

I have a good friend who was born and raised in a rural village in one of the least developed countries in the world. He has worked hard and endured much difficulty in his life and has little to show for it, materially. He has been trying to build a house for his family for years, but struggles to find the funds, or hold onto the funds he saves to build the home. Due to the relative instability of living in such an environment, he took out a loan to finish his home.

My monthly mortgage is about the same as the loan that is breaking him, financially (no, I don’t have a big mortgage, I’m in fact very lucky to have such a small one).

$500 would literally put a roof on his home.

I just had to spend $3300 to repair my 5 year-old minivan that broke down. Sure, it may seem like a necessity to most Americans to have a running minivan, however, $500 to my friend could mean the difference of he and his children surviving the next bout of malaria through the wet season or not. Not having a minivan is not a matter of survival, it is a matter of extreme inconvenience.

I spend much less money on luxuries than I used to, but compared to life in places like this country in West Africa, I live an extravagantly wealthy lifestyle.

On average, Americans spend 10%-15% of their annual income on vacations.

With no frame of reference, that may seem reasonable to most, but it is a painful number for the globally-aware. What that kind of money can do for a family in a place like Togo, where parents have to make tough decision on which kid to provide an education for because tuition is $40 per year and they can only afford to educate one of them.

I KNOW the right thing to do, yet over and over and over, I don’t do it. That is cognitive dissonance that has led to a moral injury. Essentially, I feel guilty for living an average lifestyle. How can anyone morally justify this lifestyle when so little could do so much? But what can I change?

So onto point number two, which you can now see is closely linked with the first.

Actionless Faith

“Actionless” isn’t even really a word, because, let’s be honest, it’s an oxymoron. Either you have action or you have inaction. And same goes for faith, either your faith compells you, propels you into action, or you have no faith.

Let’s look carefully at James 2:14-26, because we talk about this all the time, yet seldom actually change, or put our words into action.

Faith and Works

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? Can such faith save him?

15 If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, stay warm, and be well fed,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.”[a] Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one. Good! Even the demons believe—and they shudder.

20 Senseless person! Are you willing to learn that faith without works is useless? 21 Wasn’t Abraham our father justified by works in offering Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active together with his works, and by works, faith was made complete, 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,[b] and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, wasn’t Rahab the prostitute also justified by works in receiving the messengers and sending them out by a different route? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

James 2:14-26 CSB

I think this is at the heart of the criticism that we endure (and sometimes deserve) as Christians for saying that we are praying for someone but what we really mean is that don’t have the time or energy to get wrapped up in their mess so we will say a prayer instead.

For 14 years I struggled with having a calling into missions, and proclaimed my pursuit of it, but did not actually do it. Sure, I was doing stuff to pursue that calling. I was gaining experience with street evangelism, learning to disciple, teaching Bible studies, taking seminary courses, finishing my medical education, but I wasn’t in the mission field. Nor did I know how I was ever going to get there. And once I did, it was only for a short time. I could talk all day about the importance of making disciples among the nations, but I wasn’t doing it. I was comfortably sitting in my home town, evangelizing to people who had access to churches, bible book stores and numerous resources, but I was not reaching out to the unreached.

Even now, after only spending a year doing this in West Africa, I still bear the weight of an actionless faith, because, let’s face it, it’s hard to find time in the busyness of life to actually commit to doing it. I want to go back. My whole family wants to go back. We don’t understand how or if we can at this point, and would like to understand that. But we don’t have the network we need right now to make sense of all this.

Yet, we give tons of advice don’t we? “You’ll get through this, just trust Jesus.” We pray for our neighbors and each other’s difficulties and crises. We remember Aunt Bethany’s fungal infection in our prayers. We are CONSTANTLY praying for safety, I mean, don’t even get me started on our prayers for safety…. We ARE safe! How about WE go do something that actually involves risk where prayers for safety are actual heartcries for protection? Heaven forbid we encounter an unsafe situation!

Faith in Action

Every action should begin with prayer, and that prayer should be continuous during action. But here’s the difference prayer + faith + action makes:

Photo of men’s ward, from website

There was this young man, we will call him Mohammed. He was a Muslim 20 year old with a bright future, going to school and well-loved by several missionaries around him. He was a talented musician and for years had been cared for, loved, and had the gospel presented to him on a number of occasions. Then, while he was in medical school, he developed a tumor. The tumor was growing fast. He left school to go back to the mission hospital where he had grown up for care. Every missionary physician that saw him recognized the tumor and knew that it was terminal.

It seemed like everyday he grew weaker as treatments failed. He was given a bed in the “infection ward” as a comfortable place to slowly pass away.

Though several missionary physicians visited and prayed with him daily, he seemed no closer to giving his life to Jesus. Then, for some reason, a doctor from Oklahoma showed up and took a special liking to this young man. He’d sit every day for hours and hours in the crowded, hot, smelly, humid infection ward, reading gospels to Mohammed through an interpreter. And every day, he’d pray for Mohammed to be healed, telling him that even if God chooses not to heal him, He is still a loving faithful father.

After that doctor from Oklahoma left, I continued the daily dressing changes and began to see the tumor and ulcer improving, almost like the cancer was gone and now the body was just healing like a normal open wound would. Day after day I saw rapid improvement. I started to talk to the other physicians about what I was seeing, and they didn’t quite believe until one day, out of frustration I begged a missionary physician to come look at what I was seeing, just to prove that I wasn’t crazy. He couldn’t believe his eyes. He called other physicians over, one after another, we broke down into tears and thankedGod over this young man. We were witnessing a miracle. (Just want to be 100% clear, I had nothing to do with this recovery. All I was doing was changing his bandages once or twice a day.)

What we didn’t realize is that when the wound was at its worst, and showing no signs of healing, the Mohammed had secretly decided to give his life to Jesus.

This young man had been prayed for for over a decade by missionaries, effort had been put in by many, and one in particular that was unable to be present for the recovery portion. And by faith, Mohammed was healed, not by human hands and human wisdom, but that faith was not devoid of action. Devoid of action, Mohammed may not have ever come to know Christ, or to find comfort in the words of the gospel read by a doctor with a southern drawl in a Boomer Sooner t-shirt.

Faith that draws us into action, that is real faith. Platitudes and words of encouragement do not help when the chips are down. They have no real substance when faced with real suffering, real death, real discomfort, or real brokenness. We need to do things, not talk about, strategize about, learn about, study how to do them. That can mean actually getting to know your neighbor, inviting someone into relationship with you who you know is a mess and hurting, routinely setting aside time to show them that you really are invested in them.

What we do is as important as what we believe, because if we say we believe something, like “Jesus will get you through,” without being willing to be the hands and arms of Jesus, they are just words. I know this because I am the worst example of this. It has been my natural tendency to “give encouragement” in suffering, when what my suffering brother or sister needed was someone willing to be “in it” with them. That requires a willingness to share in sorrow, suffering, and pain. It requires us to put aside our consumeristic values of comfort and the pursuit of happiness to instead be present in both word and deed. It is difficult. Paradoxically, giving up the pursuit of our own happiness is not giving up that pursuit at all, but rather pursuing the one thing that really does produce everlasting and transcendent joy, loving others.

And I mess up a lot. Sometimes when I try to help, I get a hero complex thinking that my wisdom and experience and training is what my brother or sister needs, when in actuality, all they need is a humble heart to listen and be present in their pain, not offer advice, or counsel. We are not in the business of fixing people. We are in the business of loving people.

So my question is, are there sins of apathy, selfishness, and/or cowardice that are preventing you and I from loving others that we need to repent of in this season?

This was a long post. I’ll have a shorter one tomorrow where I will discuss what it means to be present with people. I welcome your comments. Would love to hear from you.

Lentin Thoughts

February 25, 2020

Tomorrow marks the first day of lent. Historically, the season of Lent, beginning on Ash Wednesday and concluding on Easter Sunday, has been around for a very, very long time. Early mention of the recognition of this period of self-examination and penitence go back as far as the second century AD, and possibly earlier. Since St. Irenaeus made mention of a dispute on when it should be observed between a well-established Eastern and Western early Christian church, it had at least been around long enough at that point for traditional observance dates to be established.

Ash Wednesday by Carl Spitzweg: the end of Carnival (wikicommons)

In many evangelical denominations, with the notable exceptions of Methodists and Reformed church traditions, it is not routinely celebrated. Some may view it as a vestige of the Roman Catholic church, while others seem to completely eschew any sort of traditional practice that came from early church fathers. I want to, as I have many times in the past, make a case for it’s observance and some of the spiritual and practical implications of it.

A basic description of Lent is a period of 40 days (actually, 46 by the orthodox Christian calendar) that is a time of spiritual renewal by repentance and often marked by symbolic austerity. The fact that many of us have to look up the meaning of the word “austere” may be evidence of the need for it. Simply, austerity can mean simplicity or plainness. Even if we embrace simplicity and austerity as a decoration style, we tend to lack simplicity in our lives.

Because of this, we leave little room for experiencing and maturing our relationship with God. I will, in later posts, discuss how Jesus models this for us in the gospels, but at this point, I just want to make a brief case for it. Tomorrow marks the beginning of Lent for us and I believe that it is a practice that the church (the body of Christ, all believers and followers of Christ) may need to consider adopting again.

Traditionally, in the Roman Catholic tradition, Lent is a time to give up meat. Other traditions take a much more personalized approach such as encouraging someone to give up something that may be good, but also imperils their relationship with Jesus through distraction. Many people find it useful to give up social media for a time (which I have done as well, to my great benefit). Others will give up sweets, and still others will use it as a time to reignite their passion for scripture by changing their morning or evening routine to set aside time to read and study their Bibles for extended amounts of time, daily.

Most importantly, whatever someone decides to do for this season, they should consider that the purpose isn’t to earn God’s favor, or to appear more holy, but to grow in relationship with Christ.

There is some value to the Roman Catholic tradition in this. Roman Catholicism (similar to Anglicanism and other high church protestant denominations) view their faith as highly communal, and prefer to recognize Lent as a community, giving something up together, which many believe strengthens the body of Christ through both the act of repentance and “suffering” together. This is something I agree may have great value among the body of believers, but isn’t mandatory, nor should it be legalistically applied.

Finally, before I get into deeper things, as I will write sporadically over the next 46 days, I would stress that ultimately, Lent is not about us. It is about Christ. It is preparation, similar to advent but with less emphasis on a child-like expectancy, for the Resurrection Day. It should be a sobering experience. It is a chance to re-orient our wandering hearts to God, in love and through self-discipline.

Let us pray faithfully for how God might want us to observe this Holy season and prepare our hearts for it.

I would love to hear what you have given up in the past for lent, as well as your plans for this year. Please leave a comment and any thoughts you may have on this season in the comment section.

Church in Togo

December 16, 2018

Eau de Vie Church

The invitation read  “Les femmes de l’eglise “Eau de Vie” de Kpotame vous invitent à prendre part à leur fête qui aura lieu le 04 Novembre 2018 à 08 heures précises.”  (The ladies of the “Water of Life” church invite you to partake in their celebration on the 4th of November at 8am sharp) My first invitation to attend church in Africa was from Akofa, the Penny family’s house-help.  On that Sunday morning, Christine (my good friend here on the compound) and I went together in our best African skirts to the church 3 miles up the road and down a really bumpy side street, which was more like a off-roading road than a street!   Chris informed me before we left that we needed to bring a gift to exchange with the ladies, so we each took an African handmade bag and put some money in it to give to Akofa. I had no idea what to expect but Chris mentioned it would most likely be a very long service and quiet loud, lots of singing and dancing, and the seats would be really uncomfortable…she was right on all three!

Upon arriving we were immediately created by Akofa and several other ladies.  We took a seat and instantly a little girl came and sat beside us, she looked no more than three years old.  Chris told me that it’s customary for the Togolese people to send one of their children to go sit with a newcomer so they don’t feel lonely or unwelcome.  Every lady that was part of the lady’s group wore their best white embroidered shirts and beautiful colored fabric skirts, and under each of their seats was a silver pot or some sort of gift.

 The service began with some hymns, accompanied by trumpet,  in French and in Ewe (pronounced eh-vay). Once the worship was over, the lead Pastor’s wife welcomed all the ladies and announced they would be starting the ladies service now.  First they were going to exchange gifts with the ladies whom they been praying for this past month or year, I lost that part in translation the other Pastor’s wife who was translating in French spoke so softly and wasn’t aloud to really finish speaking  before the other lady spoke again! But for however long they did pray for each other, they did so without the other lady knowing and would now be revealing who they had been praying for and give them a gift. I looked at the center of the church and saw that that would mean we may be here a while since there were at least 25-30 women sitting in the middle section of the church!!  Chris was right again church was going to be long…I hoped that my poor back would last that long sitting on these very hard pews! The first lady to go was the lead Pastor’s wife, she announced which “Madame”  she had been praying for and they all clapped and got really excited as the lady approached the front of the church dancing.  The ladies hugged and proceeded to sing and dance together.

This went on for an hour…meanwhile behind me sat four kids, three of  which had snuck in some glitter in a dried up tube of glue. They were sharing it amongst themselves and spreading it all over their hands and arms.  The youngest of them decided she was going to smear it across her face! I turned around to see what all the commotion was for, well she looked like a glitter raccoon.  The kids were frantically trying to remove the glitter off her face, but it was so humid and hot in the church that the sweat on her little face had stuck the glitter on pretty good!  I tapped Chris on the shoulder and motioned for her to look behind her. A few minutes later the little boy sitting next to her touched my arm, I turned around and he just looked at me like a deer in headlights…was I going to get mad or would what he had done be ok ?!  I just smiled and he had this look of relief on his face. The glittered girl decided she would do the same thing, this is a frequent thing amongst the children here they all want to touch the Yovo’s (white skin) skin, well her hands were entirely covered in glitter so she left a trail of it on my arm.  She thought that was so funny that she had to do it again. My arm was now green with glitter! This went on for about 10 minutes until I had an entire arm covered with glitter. Then she wanted to touch my hands too, so let’s just say this little game became quite popular and I was now the glittered Yovo!  

Getting glittered! 
Akofa dancing with and her gift 

   Once the gift exchange was over all the ladies danced in a circle with their gifts on their  heads, sang loudly, and marched out of the church. The pastor then did a mini sermon and Chris and I thought afterwards that meant the  service was now over, but we were wrong and Akofa met us at the door and said we needed to go back to our seats they had a couple songs they were going to sing soon.  So we begrudgingly went back to our seats. The ladies came back into the church walking in two lines up to the front of the church while singing. They sang three songs, which reminded me of the music from the movie “The Power of One”, and then marched back out of the church.  They were beautifully sung and made me want to go up and dance with them while worshiping the Lord. Once over we thought for sure this time it was over, but even if it wasn’t I couldn’t sit any longer in the pews my back was beginning to really bother me. I had been suffering from back pain then for over 6 week and sitting on hard surfaces triggered terrible pain across my lower back.  But as we walked towards our car Akofa came over and thanked us for our gifts and for coming but we couldn’t leave yet. She took us both by the arm and lead us down the road to a house, which we later learned was the Pastor’s. They brought out a couple chairs and a table, and now Chris and I were a bit confused as to what was going on. Akofa and several other ladies were going in and out of the house very quickly.   Akofa finally stopped long enough for us to ask her what was going on, well they were going to feed us lunch now! I couldn’t believe it what a truly awesome experience and blessing to partake in this meal. They served us some rice, which contained green beans and a red sauce in it, and beef which was a lot like beef jerky in texture and quite flavorful, and lastly a bottle of soda and told us to enjoy our meal. Akofa said that since we were leaving early and they had planned to feed the whole congregation that the pastor’s wife told them to go and rush home to feed us!  We both felt guilty for leaving early and touched that they went out of their way to include us in this meal. When we finished our meal Akofa showed us all the food they had prepared this morning since 4am! I have never seen so many pots of rice, 50 kg of rice was used to feed this congregation!!

So many pots of rice…there are more behind me…

   Church in Africa is long,  loud, and hot but it is also a beautiful thing to be a part of.  To be able to witness our brothers and sisters in Christ here in Togo worshiping and serving the Lord was pure joy.  For them to see us and take the time to make sure we were included in the meal, even though we had left early, was such a touching  gesture and one I will never forget.

Chris, Akofa, and Elizabeth 

A Day in Togo…

November 20, 2018

By Elizabeth Greenlee

The alarm goes off on Zach´s phone, but my body doesn’t want to wake up or get out of bed. I slowly open my eyes and can´t help but think…¨I´m in Africa!!¨ The sound of birds galore and a rooster, who thinks it is his job to announce what time of day it is at random intervals throughout the day, is how each day starts out here. The coffee pot, which is just as vital here to our survival as it is in California, starts to gurgle. The kids slowly wake up and make their breakfasts. Cereal and milk here are just not the same as back home, no matter how hard they try to close their eyes and pretend that it is. You can actually keep milk out of the fridge until opened. I’m not even kidding. We do have the option of making powdered milk, but none of us are really up for that taste bud adventure yet.

We all do an ant check of the floors and counters. Ants here are ferocious. They can take over quickly and in big numbers. And their bites hurt like the dickens! Once the perimeters have been secured, we reload the ant poison spots if needed and move on to the next chores. The water cooler needs to be changed, which means rinsing the big thing out and replacing the previously frozen water bottles used to chill our water for us with new ones from the freezer. We do this because we don’t have an ice maker and only two ice trays. This makes having cold drinks all day long a little less of a challenge…so we’ve Macgyver’d it and reuse milk bottles as ice jugs.

Once the water cooler is filled and the ice trays emptied and refilled, it´s on to figuring out the meals for the day and prepping accordingly. Mondays are usually bread making,fruit and veggie buying and washing, and laundry days. Actually, everyday is laundry day since it takes about 2 or 3 days to get laundry dried here during the rainy season.

Making bread from scratch has been a fun challenge as I try out recipes and see which ones work best in this EXTREMELY humid climate and with all the new kinds of flour and yeast they have here! I have experimented with the Irish Soda bread, which unfortunately came out looking like a blob that resembled Jabba the Hutt, it tasted more like biscuits than bread. Tried my hand at potato buns, but potatoes here don’t seem to cook all the way through no matter how long I cook them so they didn’t come out look anything like the picture or tasted like the ones we get back home but were good nonetheless. The most success I have had was with french bread and white bread. It seems to turn out the best and last the longest, but once it has sat out for 10 minutes the all powerful African Humidity has sucked out all crispiness from the crust…humidity is unlike any kind of humidity I have ever experienced!

It blows me away how humidity causes so many challenges here. For instance, humidity makes your salt clump up in the shaker to the point that you have to whack it like the Blue Oyster Cult striking a cow-bell. Out of convenience, we have resorted to putting it all in a tupperware. The glue that holds the green scrubby thing onto your duo-sponge for washing dishes falls apart after a few days in this climate. The spices need to be ¨de-clumpefied” with a knife so they too can shake out of the shaker. Every cereal, cracker, chip, cookie, pretzel bag once opened needs to be placed inside a ziplock bag or else it will become soft and gummy! Let’s not get into what the humidity does to our hair and skin.

On Mondays, at around noonish the Veggie lady comes to our compound to sell her produce. It saves us the crazy trip to the market on days when we don’t feel like experiencing the extreme chaos of the market or if we cannot make it to the market we won’t be without produce for the week. I take my large basket, my purse, and a notebook and pen which I use to write the items I purchase and their cost so I can come up with a total…she doesn’t have a cash register or scanner to keep track of this for me. Fruits and veggies here, are as Jerry Seinfeld says “ Fruit’s a gamble. I know that going in…” when you buy fruit you never know how long it will last, if it’s actually ripe, or if it will have critters crawling around in them! I have had my fair share of live beetles in my avocados, that each time I cut into one I’m afraid I will see the dancing legs of a beetle wiggling up in the air! The fruits and veggies available from the veggie lady are onions, beets, pineapples (long white fleshed ones that taste almost like candy), apples (tiny green ones imported from south africa), green peppers (small and not always available), eggs (which are sold in a plateau, which is a flat of 30 eggs for about $4-5 USD), cucumbers, zucchini (which is the biggest gamble since these tiny white worms seem to go crazy over zucchini), tomatoes (which are tiny, weird looking, and just don’t taste as flavorful), lettuce, cabbage, carrots, and potatoes. Once purchased all my produce is off to get washed. I fill two sinks with water and two capfuls of bleach for 20 minutes and then rinsed, chopped up, and stored in the fridge.

Once that’s done, off to laundry mountain I go! A single load of laundry can be a week-long process during the rainy season. Without a dryer the clothes dry inside on a rack or outside when the sun shows it’s face…but you have to be on your toes and ready to run outside to retrieve your laundry at a moment’s time! The washing machine takes a toll on your clothes. Underwear and shirts come out a bit crooked looking and get a little more threadbare with each wash, but c’est la vie en Afrique! The machine, once it is filled sounds like it’s a rocket ship about to blast off into space!

In the middle of all these chores, school is also in session at our dining room table. We start each morning all together and do a bible lesson followed by a French lesson, which I didn’t anticipate being this difficult! Once we have finished with these two Liam, Owen, and Maeve each start their grade appropriate lessons. The boys are pretty much self-sufficient and only need me when they don’t understand something. But Maeve will usually stay in the dining room and do her work while I bake or prep for all the meals for the day. Homeschooling for more than one child and three different grades has been a challenge, but after three months we have a groove going and it goes pretty smoothly for the most part. School starts at 9am so I can have my own bible reading time and enough time to prep for the day. Lunch break is around 12 and lasts until 2pm here. I have embraced this wonderful lunch break, especially on the extremely humid and hot days! Once lunch is eaten and all the many dishes are washed we finish up whatever school work we have left then it’s off to prep dinner. The thing I learned very quickly here is that you need to plan ahead early in the day what you want for your meals that day or else you will be eating spam and crackers for dinner…or in our case lots of backpacking meals, which were provided by our generous supporters! These have come in handy so many nights where the exhaustion has gotten the best of us all and we don’t feel like making a meal from scratch or washing tons of dishes!

Washing dishes three or four times a day has gotten old fast but has made us closer as a family. The kids take turns washing and drying the dishes, and have realized how much work it is to run a household here…and I think I will not have anyone complaining when I ask to fill or load the dishwasher when we return home. We learned on day one that you cannot leave dirty dishes on the counter or in the sink to wash another day because you will have a copious amount of bugs parading in the kitchen enjoying the feast you left behind for them. I swear these ants smell a crumb of food from a mile away!

This wild, crazy, and super hard experience so far has challenged all of us in so many ways. The days are long and this was just a little taste of what a “normal” day is like here. Some days are extremely long and hard while others go by so fast it’s hard to believe the day is gone. But each day God is working in us and strengthening us through these hard times. It has been an emotionally hard four months and some days I just want to pack up my bags and come home, but then something amazing will happen and God reminds me that I’m here to serve Him and to see his name glorified in the good and hard times. I’ve realized that i’m a lot stronger than I thought I was and that His promises to give us strength and be right by our side through it is the only way I have gotten through this time in Africa. Thank you for all your continued prayers, letters, packages, and emails it has helped us immensely through the hard times.

When we don’t even know that we can hope

November 5, 2018

Photo #1:

You might remember Frederick from some previous facebook posts. He is a local kid who has been unofficially adopted by the mission staff. He is 12-years-old and when I arrived in Togo 4 months ago, he still had both legs. In fact, he was walking, although not well. Just like most boys his age, he enjoyed playing soccer.Those kids off in the distance, they would have been his teammates if it weren’t for a bone infection.

Bone infections, called osteomyelitis are not unique to this part of the world, or to developing countries. They happen in the US too, but they often go untreated for prolonged periods of time here for a few reasons.

In Frederick’s case, it started like most cases of osteomyelitis do here, with a skin infection that was untreated, probably some innocuous looking break in the skin that got infected, then went to his bone. When it goes untreated for too long it becomes chronic osteomyelitis. Chronic osteomyelitis, to quote our Pediatrician here at the mission hospital, Russ Ebersole, is the bane of my existence. When Dr. Ebersole says this, which he has on more than one occasion, I can tell that he means it, because his upper lip gets tight an he practically spits the word osteomyeltis. I’m learning to feel the same way, because the stories too often end the same way. Months and months of trying to save a dying extremity, with painful daily dressing changes, dangerously high doses of antibiotics, all at a huge cost of the family, just because we are trying to avoid amputating the leg.

But then we end up waiting too long, the infection spreads, and instead of amputating a foot or ankle, we end up taking a knee or half a femur. Why do we wait too long? Because there are either no means to obtain prosthesis, or no knowledge that they exist.

Photo #2:


I don’t know her name. She doesn’t know mine. I just know her because she is my neighbor. Kind of. This young woman lives in the small mountain valley that our hospital shares with the hundreds of coffee sharecroppers that surround us.

I was walking to a nearby waterfall, admiring all of the ripe coffee beans (actually they are the bright red cherries that hide a green coffee bean inside) when we came across this lovely young lady quietly harvesting beans by hand. Christine Penny, a fellow medical missionary from Canada asked her if we could take a picture of her with her harvest. She proudly posed with her delicate harvest for a few photos.

We thanked her and began walking away. As I turned my back to her, she asked me something. Not speaking much of her language, I turned to Chris who said “I think she is asking if you have any candy.”

I shook my head know, but I pulled out a sweet green apple. Her eyes lit up. She gratefully accepted my gift and went back to picking. We walked a little up the trail to catch up with the rest of our hiking party, and my guide said to me, “That’s almost worth a days wages to her.”

The sad truth is that here in Togo, many coffee harvesters make less than $1 a day picking beans. They are vastly underpaid by any standard, and there are a complex set of reasons for this. However, direct- or even fair-trade, are not concepts that have probably even been mentioned to our local coffee harvesters.

The link

I’m not sure how, but somehow, I feel like these two stories are linked. I feel like if I can figure out how, I might be able to restore some hope for both of these gentle children who don’t even know what to hope for.

In the coming weeks, as I start investigating these two stories, and search for the convergence, I will be posting updates on this blog. Please join me and share this blog with others.

Get excited, get hopeful. If we can change the world for even these two people, it will be worth the effort.

Zach Greenlee

What can God do with a shoebox?

September 16, 2018

Da Bebe in her traditional pagna dress.

By Elizabeth Greenlee

With National Collections Week for Operation Christmas Child around the corner, I thought this would be the perfect time to share this beautiful story of how God’s love and gospel is being spread here in Togo through these shoeboxes!  I have been praying for so long for God to give me the opportunity to go on a distribution to see how these boxes are impacting people’s lives first hand or to see a distribution first hand while here in Togo.

Yesterday God answered my prayer in a way I hadn’t considered, He allowed me to meet this sweet Christian woman whose daughter received a shoebox about three years ago. Here is their story and a little gift for all those shoebox packers and volunteers with this ministry:

Today three missionary ladies, who are serving together with us at the hospital, and I went to Kpalime (pronounced Paleemay) a town about 35 minutes south of our hospital and mission station.  Saturdays are market days there, which means vendors come out and set up their booths full of fruits, vegetables, fabric (oh how I adore the fabric selection here!), tupperware,  pots and pans, clothes, school supplies, and so many things I’m not quite sure what they all are. They even sell knitted hats, which they do wear by the way. So if you ever worry about packing a winter hat in your shoebox, don’t. They actually get cold here and wear winter coats and hats!!

Shopping here takes a long time as you weave through long narrow streets and alleyways filled with vendors looking for the best looking fruit and veggies for the best price or any other supplies you might chance across. If you see it today you need to buy it today because it most likely won’t be there next week.  Between the crazy and sometimes noxious smells, loud noise, moto traffic coming in and out of the market streets, the hot sun and humidity, and constantly having to be on guard and aware of your surroundings, these market days can be physically and mentally exhausting! Despite all of chaos, it is still such a fun way to venture out into the community and meet so many different people, some who have come to the hospital before and are now a part of this amazing ministry here in Togo.

After a long day of trying to find all the supplies I needed for the week, we came across this tiny fabric booth that just caught my eye.  It had the sweetest flower-patterned fabric that I thought my seamstress could turn into an adorable little play dress for Maeve, who, by the way, needs more skirts than you’d expect since she plays so hard and gets them so dirty and stained in this red clay mud here. I wouldn’t have it any other way though. She is happy as a clam and enjoying her life here which does this mama’s heart good!

After purchasing a pagna of fabric (which is about 2 yards and costs roughly $3.50) my friend Christine looked over and got all excited and started speaking with the Togolese woman working at the fabric booth.  She introduced me to her and said “this woman has an incredible story I need to share with you!” After talking with this sweet woman with an incredibly contagious laugh and smile, I learned that her daughter had received a shoebox about 3 years ago!

I couldn’t believe it! God gave me a little gift here and an answer to my prayer!

Her name was Da Bebe and her daughter’s name is Sharon. Sharon is 13 years-old now, and had received a shoebox at the age of 10.  What makes this story particularly praiseworthy is that Da Bebe is a Christian woman who God is using in incredible ways to minister to the people in her community.

She runs a pregnancy crisis center for young moms and pregnant woman, all in the name of Jesus.

When she was pregnant with Sharon she had many complications due to diabetes and was eventually sent to our hospital up in Tsiko where she stayed for two months.  Sharon was born prematurely and, at under 2 pounds, was the smallest baby ever born in the hospital!  Sharon was named after the missionary nurse who still works here and teaches at a nursing school co-located with the hospital. Sharon, the nurse, had cared for the mother and baby over those scary couple of months in the hospital.

And here’s where OCC comes in. At the age of 10 Sharon received an Operation Christmas Child shoebox from her local church.  She told her mom she wanted to open it back home and share it with the neighborhood children.  So she gathered the local kids and did just that!  Afterwards Sharon started inviting children to come to her home and listen to bible stories.

Three years later what started as a small gathering turned into a large gathering of over 110 kids coming to play and hear God’s word!  It also gave root and new vigor to a children’s camp ministry there, which had been previously interrupted due to a lack Togolese teachers willing and able to run it! Hundreds of kids are coming to Christ every year as a result of the work that God did through a single shoe box and this miracle baby born at our own Hopital Baptiste Biblique! 


June 12, 2018

I really am sorry for how long it has taken to update this blog. As you can imagine, we have been incredibly busy with preparations for the mission. So busy, in fact, that I woke up at 2 AM this morning and could not fall back asleep because I kept thinking about things I needed to get done this week. It’s not a very trusting attitude toward God, especially for a missionary, but that’s just one of my many many flaws… but I digress.

Oh, and why is the Africa song by Toto EVERYWHERE these days? What is that all about? I hate to admit that I have never liked that song, it has always reminded me of a dentist office and getting teeth drilled. I must have had some traumatic incident as a kid in a dentist office with that song playing in the background.

Well, as an update, we have quite a bit to accomplish before we depart for Africa on July 18th. We have found a renter. We have found free storage for most of our stuff, not everything, but close. We are still looking for a home for our dog and still haven’t been able to secure a years worth of malaria medication or funding to purchase them.

We still don’t know much about what we will be doing in Togo and are going in kind of blind. I can tell you what my personal preference is though… I want so badly to do Community Health Evangelism and Mobile Clinics. Forays into the rural villages to provide medical aid and investigate ways to address community health issues while also presenting the good news of Jesus resurrected is the kind of thing that makes me choke up with joy.

Here is a short story and description of what that looks like coming from the hospital we will be in from the vantage point of s short-term medical missionary (you can also read this story here and get some more detail into what Community Health Evangelism is):

I had the wonderful privilege of going to one of the off road villages (Kaduaso-Kope) about an hour from HBB.  The village is actually a collection of local farms with the village center being four thatch-roofed school buildings (a brick school is under construction).  There is no market in the village; no dispensary; no pharmacy.  People walk on a dirt road for about five miles for any type of health care – and for buying anything other than what they can grow themselves.

Pastor Lalabia (our chaplain) shared the gospel with all of the villagers who came for the clinic; Gnoyi (a nurse) taught on hypertension; nurses and nurse aides took blood pressures on approximately 230 individuals as they talked with each person individually about their need of a Savior and the peace and joy that only Jesus Christ can give!

We had the opportunity to evaluate children’s height, weight, and arm circumference.  The CHE team set up under a huge tree. Our innovative team members attached a tape measure to a long pole which was set upright against a tree for measuring height, and found a flat board on which to place the scales.  The pastor talked with the kids about how Jesus called the little children to Him.  He then had them line up – and the weighing/measuring began!  288 children later, the measuring was completed!  We will do some analysis of weight-for-age and weight-for-height,  and results will be reported to the village leaders with recommendations related to nutrition and other aspects of health.

I had the privilege of being involved in both ministries:  helping to set children on a contraption they had never seen before (the scales!), which was quite a scary experience for some!  Looking into the faces of moms who were so excited about having their children weighed and measured.  Estimating ages for children (probably only 10% of the children knew their ages; the rest had no idea how old they were)!   Applying a band of cut-up x-ray film, marked with green/yellow/red, around the upper arms of children – in order to evaluate nutritional status.  And also being involved as a nurse practitioner in treating hypertensive and dehydrated patients. Numerous times I told people that they should drink more – not ever thinking, of course, that I might want to consider specifying what they should drink!!  I did not realize until mid-afternoon that some of the villagers had a tchouk bar set up outside the school building where the mobile clinic was meeting.  Some enterprising villagers were taking the opportunity, as long as a crowd was gathered, to sell this locally-made alcoholic beverage!  I started smelling it on people as they came for treatment; saw some evidences in behavior as the day wore on!  Wouldn’t you know it:  the missionary nurse practitioner telling people to drink lots – 2 to 3 liters per day!  But not telling them what to drink (or what not to drink!).  I can imagine numerous villagers, downing the tchouk, while saying that the white missionary sent them!

We ended the day by visiting the chief of the village.  As we entered his compound, we saw a stick set up with the bones and feathers of two old, dry, dead chickens stuck on it.  It is a fetish that is used to ward off evil spirits from his compound.  How sad to realize that this chief – and probably close to 100% of these villagers – believe in such fetishes as the way to ensure protection and health!  Our prayer, our longing – is that God would show these people the wonderful love that He has for them, the fact that Jesus Christ died for them, and that they would realize the futility of trusting in a fetish – and would place their trust in the living God!  Pray, please, that Satan – who now controls these people – would be completely defeated and that God would build His church in this village!

UPDATE: The Big News

April 16, 2018

If you follow us on Facebook or receive our prayer letter update, you may have already heard the big news.

When we reached 85% funding, a big benchmark in missions fundraising, we are faced with a decision that has a sense of finality to it like few others in the process of mission field mobilization. It is time to finalize our date for leaving and purchase 5 one-way tickets to Togo.

Previously, we picked the date, more or less at random, of July 18th to depart. This date was arbitrary and used only to give us a deadline to raise funding. In reality, it would be beneficial to the hospital to leave sooner, but there is much that has to be done. We need the kids to finish their school year first, then We have to rent out our house, put our household items into storage, cancel services like power, cable, internet, sanitation. We also have to figure out who will take care of our finances and home while we are away and find a place for our dog to live for a year.

Mid-July seems feasible at this point still, but before we finalize this date, we need to make quite a few decisions, and ask that you be in prayer for us right now about these things. I’ll post a link to the prayer letter than went out yesterday with our specific prayer requests here.

Thank you again for all of your support, prayers and encouragement through this challenging season.