Grace and blessings,
Thanks for your continued prayers over the course of the project. Your support and of encouragement have meant a lot to me. I have missed your fellowship (especially in this last week) and look forward to my return to Canada.
I believe there is a huge misunderstanding regarding my prelude to GAM-TV. I have tried to reword things to clarify. It is a danger in using a writing media as if thing are not worded precisly they can be misinterpreted and come across poorly. Please accept my apologies and please re-read my edited post.
I thank everyone for your emails long and short. My intension were just to improve the efficiency of the process. However, that is something I've struggled to learn is not the most important thing. Irronicly, it has shown up the past few days of my stay here in the Gambia.
I hope you have enjoyed reading the blog and understand its imprefections as an honnest representation of the missions field. I do this as I feel the need for transparency in our walk with God. All too often the media we receive (even with-in the church) is sugar coated and makes the outside things look far sweeter than they are or simply puts the emphises on the were the joy is truly found.
As in 1 John if we claim to walk without fault we simply decive oursleves and do not walk in the light. As Paul stresses through out his letters, we are to strive towards improvement of our walk.
I was informed some as finding hard to read my detailed improperly grammared and mispelt blog entires. So... begin I have the time I've decided to include a brief summary of the week. in blunt point form sentences. :o)
Soma was hot, 40+ each day.
Football camps were a sucesses dispite our disorganisation.
4 Jesus film showings 2 with heated discussion (but thankfully not too many rocks were thrown)
Got to do some more African driving and ride a dirt bike.
Stayed in good health for the trip. (yah)
Not yet approved to go the Senegal to visit friends, please pray for permission.
For those who would like the details there are below as usual. Thanks for your emails and comments.
Miss you all,
Wednesday May 25th 2005, 9:12PM
God blessed us with a beautiful overcast day for our travels to Soma. This didn’t keep the temperatures from spiking in the low 40’s. To keep up with Gambian standards we were running well behind schedule. When we picked up our film equipment it turns out they had yet to use it since it had arrived from the US. On suspicion I pull out some of the gear for a quick test. It didn’t take me long to discover a major problem. All the equipment was 120V while the generator only output 220V. It is all good, as we managed to borrow a transformer but it delayed out departure to the hotter part of the day.
Now a couple of things about Gamtravel; normally a 150km journey would take about an hour. But because the highways look more like 4x4 logging roads travel is a little bit slower. It was a good thing Martin, our driver, had a 60min 1970s cheese ball Christmas tape to help us trough it all. Africa is full of randomness such as cows eating grass at a gas station or a village girl with American Tourister luggage. Listening to Christmas music in a 14 passenger van driving through a barren landscape in 40oC weather just seemed to be the norm.
We made a short stop at a camp by the Gambian River and I saw some mudskippers and crocodiles. We and our lunches arrived in Soma all in one piece. Put the stamp on a blessed journey that many Gambians will not ever make.
We were guide to our accommodations and discovered we would be living without city power and running water as those have been out of service for the past couple months. Toni and Rita, Brazilian missionaries who we will be working with, prepared for us an amazing meal that really hit the spot after a day of travel.
The neighborhood kids think it is the best thing ever. We played some street football with them before we set to work preparing for the week ahead. Should be fun, providing I remember to shake out my clothes before I put them on. Can we say Scorpions!
Thursday May 26, 8:38PM
Last night us semi Scottish blood had a Scottish party as Jana had somehow managed to keep a package of shortbread untouched. We spent the evening telling weird and wonderful stories and asking ridiculous questions. Nobody got attacked by a scorpion, good times.
Today was Steve David’s Birthday. The girls managed to find another Happy to You card this one had a dreamy Asian boy on the front. Geisbretch, you would have loved it. We had devos and ventured off to the market for food and footballs (soccer balls).
The camp began at 2pm nothing like running around in 40oC weather. We were the only ones foolish enough to show up. Some of the team had the bright idea to go “get used to” running around in the hot sun since we would be doing it all week and did so. The kids knew better and started showing up around 4pm. Needless to say we will be making adjustments to our program tomorrow.
At around 5pm we had a big game during the course of which I was humiliated several times. Nothing like having a 12 year old kid undress you t keep your ego in check.
The evening was spent preparing thing for Jesus film and watching to Kenny Rodgers. Fun stuff.
Saturday May 28th, 2:46PM
I just finished playing a song for Mariatu, my Gambian Grandma. I say this because she reminds me of my grandmas at home, full of joy and with a desire to glorify God with her hands. She has spent the last 2 hours the dirt and sweat out of my clothes even after I refused to give them to her. It is a Jack Johnson-ish song with a catching little hook made up of 10ths. She seem to appreciate it. “What been eating like would we do without Mariatu?” It is so true. We have been eating like royality despite the fact there is a weak selection of produce and only one shack where you can buy meat and even a limited supply of staples.
Yesterday was a challenging day. We ran two football (soccer) camps with teaching times and showed a Jesus film at night on a sunny day where the mercury scaled well into to 40s. The time between the camps was spent sweating on a thin wooden bench and then profusely sweating on a foam mattress. It is especially challenging, as I am required to carry much of the load.
My responsibility for the module is the Jesus Film equipment however, I find myself taking responsibility for loose ends and oversights that were not accounted for. It is always a fine line knowing when to jump in and take over other people’s responsibilities especially when they are out of your jurisdiction. I found myself in my “focused mode” as I hammered through the setup of the Jesus film equipment that we had never used before in the dark.
During the film I had a great discussion with the local pastor who is from New Guinea. It always amazes me the dedication of believers in Africa. It is their lives. They are seeds that have grown un-choked by the worries and desires of the world.
The pastor picked me up on his motorbike this morning to go look at some “better” Jesus film equipment. He even let me try it myself. very cool, by far the best way to get around in the rural African areas.
Sunday May 29th, 6:40PM
There is seldom a dull moment here in Soma.
Moments before dinner, as our compound invaded by kids learning hopscotch and playing with balloons to the melodies of Reliant K and Jars of Clay, a Mandinka wedding parade came marching by our compound. As I poked my head out in curiosity, I was thrusted into the middle of the dance circle. The energy was unforgiving. In a flash I was dancing with the African woman in a frenzy of joy and excitement that could never be captured by digital media. Left with no choice I let loose jumping and dancing shedding my white skin like a snake. Apparently, I did well as when I bowed out the woman pulled me back in for a second round.
It quickly occurred to me this was by far the best wedding dance I had ever participated in. We north Americans spend thousands of dollars on wedding dinners with DJ’s and seldom do people leave their padded chairs to experience the dance floor and few still find the freedom to really dance. Yet, it took little more than a homemade drum and some 50-cent whistles to rock my body. I wonder if I can fly them out for my wedding…(by the looks of it I’ll have plenty of time to save up)
The morning we spent in church, I led some worship and sawed through 2 strings and a chunk of my middle finger. Once again despite the lack of sound system ect... the experience was alive full of and spirit.
Other highlights of the last 24 hours included a great football camp. I am finally starting to get the hang of the sport. I have found my hockey background to be a blessing and a curse. After year of training to “take the man” I have had to issue myself enough yellow cards to make a deck. However, many of my old hockey drills cross over nicely and have really been enjoyed by the kids.
Last night I got another birthday celebration as Toni and Rita baked a cake and dished out Brazilian candies after our worship and prayer time.
I also made use of Jessica’s cool medical kit to removed foreign objects from my eye and have been voted smelliest member of the team for three days straight, a real feather in my cap.
Monday May 30th, 11:16PM
Another Monday and one less Malaria pill brought to us what was most likely the hottest day we had seen thus far close to 45oC. I moped out of bed with barely enough time to stuff down a peanut butter/jam toppalappa sandwich before marching off to the pitch.
Last night’s Jesus film stir up quite the reaction. After technical plans fell through (unable to find a working VCR with RCA outs in all of Soma), we were force to show the football version of the Jesus film. IT sparked quite the debate at the end of the night. Many young bucks of the Islamic faith showed up to strut their stuff on the Toubabs. As our goal is not to argue pointlessly with stubborn mind or start riots, the challenge was finding individuals who were truly seeking and actually wanted their questions answered.
I believe I was guided to a young Fula boy most likely a year or two younger than me. We discussed various aspects of faith and later moved to education and cultural topics before I was again thrusted into the fire with a bunch of wolves interested solely in spouting out premeditated questions without paying any reverence to the answer at which time we headed out for the night.
The afternoon was spent sweating on a foamy listening to Handles water and some Switchfoot. The afternoon session was a little more challenging. Arriving at 4pm the temperature was once again in the 40’s. Paying little respect for the scorching sun or the advice of Toni and Karamou our team charged out on to the field. (go figure, a number of the team members had headaches and weren’t feeling well when they got back) The kids didn’t last long and as they came in for teaching chaos reigned. To boot our translated was needed to pick up a team of three locals to help with the Jesus Film. A frustrating situation but by grace we managed to finish the session and move back out for a game as the temperature began to cool off.
After my shower I got to hang out with Mariatu. We discuss life and she told me stories of life in Sera Leone and with toubab teams she had worked with in the past. She shared some wise words worth remembering. “If you are not at peace with God, you may have food but you will never enjoy it, you may have thing s to drink but they will never satisfy and you may sleep but you will never be rested.” She claimed her journey on this earth is a testimony in God’s faithfulness in providing direction and provisions. It has been a real privilege to hang around her and learn from her wisdom.
Wednesday June 1st, 12:46AM
The month has flown by, along with my week stay in Soma. Tomorrow (today) will be our last full day under the Soma sun. For some on the team it couldn’t come soon enough as the heat and sickness have started to take it toll on people. My heart truly goes out to them as my last trip to this climate left me sun-stroked sweating on a foamy for three days. However, through my experience and by God’s grace I have managed to stay in excellent health.
Today I was the only toubab at the morning football camp. It was nice as we had a small group and the assistance of the team which arrived from Seracunda. I was able to show some pictures I brought and tied it into a lesson on the purpose of Jesus. It definitely reminded me of my days at summer fun. Only this time I was talking to children in Mandinka. We managed to break a Florescent light and demolish a deck chair playing indoor soccer but, a good time was had by all. Despite the fact we have cancelled the camp for the morning I hope return to hand out some pens and wish the kids well in their studies.
Lunch was spent at Toni and Rita’s as they cooked an amazing shrimp dish (you can get fresh shrimp from the Gambia River as the water is still slightly salted. I also got to drive Toni’s truck into town to help run some errands. Being careful not to drive through any check points and potholes large enough to swallow a tire I had yet another positive Gambian driving experience. I even got to check the weather in Vancouver. 13oC and raining, maybe this 40oC stuff ain’t too bad after all.
The afternoon camp was arguably our best. It almost brought me to tears to see kids hanging silently off the windows to hear the gospel and have me pray for them. God has given me a heart for the lives of these children.
Tonight we showed the Jesus team in downtown Soma. After I found a kid wearing a POD shirt and so I played with some off of my notebook and then had some discussions with people about the film. as some young “punks” were getting rowdy leaving, intelligent conversations to rot by the wayside so we decided to pack up.
I spent the rest of the night talk with the Gambian team. I have really appreciated my time with the locals and take advantage of it whenever I get the chance. I have learnt much from their culture and relationships and in exchanged given them my limited insight into North American culture.
Thanks for all the emails…
Just a reminder to send brief messages via the blog as Email takes forever to read. It takes a minimum of 5 mins to open a text email. An internet cafe here shares a 56K modem between 6 or more PII computers.
Longer emails are cool and I enjoy getting updates from home.
downloading 2MB pictures is not going to happen please make ‘em really small so I can enjoy them. :0)
I pray all is well at home. Toady I spent catching up on journaling and decided I should getting old using “Gamnet” everything is called Gam- something here.
Friday May 13th, 11:08PM
So guess who is going to be on Gambian national TV? Well, I hope you guessed me. The story starts shortly after m last journal entry. That night I was inspired to write a song. The next day we decided to began a morning devotional time and work on some music. After a short but intense rehearsal we sounded slightly less like a bunch of disorganized white musicians and took to the streets. We headed down to the shack and played for 20 some odd people. We were extremely well received and as we returned to our compound a man suggested we’d go on TV.
He told us of a national Gambian music show from 11-1pm. “Samdi __?!?__” This show is
One major advantage of being in the
Walking into the station we were greeted by two of
Other exciting events included a talk with Fajara’s Maribou. I even invited him to the see the Jesus Film. That would be something else. I also have been practicing my Wolof and had some more Sengalise tea on my round yesterday afternoon. The stuff kept me wired for 4 straight hours.
Tonight I went running with Omar. He showed me his pictures from his racing prime (one picture was of him winning the Gambian national 400m race by 30 some odd meters. He was 1 second off of qualifying for the Olympics. Even at night running was extremely hot, it was a good thing Omar had eaten too much for dinner it slowed him down enough for me to keep up but it felt good to be running again. I’ll see how my body feels tomorrow.
Monday May 16, 8:02 AM
Saturday I vented on a Tanka with Ali to
“What is the point of being of TV?”, “What long term benefits does it hold?”, One week is lots of time… You don’t have a lot of time so you don’t want to waste any time.”
I had to defend everything I had spent my last week working towards. It took a lot of control not to leave the meeting with out ripping off someone’s head. By the grace of God I was able to hold myself together.
However, after a brief rant on a park bench Maurice met us at the Benjul arch and all anxiety quickly faded to the back of my mind. Our first stop was the Catholic Church in the center of
He took us to his simple bachelor suite and were warmly welcomed by a group of youth that hang out outside in his hall. We had some tea discussed plans for working together exchanged our musical and religious histories. I am really excited about working with him. He his extremely gifted and dedicated he has the vision of building a musical school to develop musical directors and musicians. It is hard to put into words how much fun we had but it was definitely a highlight of the trip.
After our discussion we ventured off to the
We jammed into a Tanka and I quickly realized that the back seat is not the best place to sit for a tall guy such as myself. After introducing my head to the roof a couple of time, we stopped at
Saturday night we had our Jesus film at Gary and Pam’s. We had a musical presentation that reminded me of many gigs back at home, empty chairs and a dozen people. (more evidence towards the similarities of our cultures) By the time we had finished our set the courtyard was beginning to fill. At the end of the film, I made arrangement to answer questions of a young guy named Jo Fatty, I will be meeting him this morning at 10am.
Sunday morning three of us headed back to Abiding Word for some crazy fire preaching Pentecostal action. After getting lost in the streets of Seracunda, we finally arrived. I spent most of the service processing my thoughts over the last couple of days and work out a rough guide to the my week. I also decided I needed to sit down and talk with leadership about the ministry I was involved with. In heart I knew we held the same goals but where just not catching ourselves heading in the same direction.
After a chaotic adventure home, where we somehow managed to take a 100m tanka trip, I sat down with Steve and got on the same page. It was such a relief to unify our thoughts and visions that were never really that far off.
The rest of Sunday was spent working on a single we hope to have ready for the radio on Thursday and tripping down to the Elton station for a flat of Eggs.
The problems with recording in Africa are space, power and
Thursday May 19, 10:19 AM
Monday morning after devos, I ventured off to meet with Jo and Ishmaela (the watchman at Pam and Gary’s). We spent three hours on a wooden bench under a shady tree talking about religion, marathons, Wolof, family and culture. I can type into words how real the experience was. I will meet with Jo again on Friday to go to the beach and continue our discussions.
Lunch at McFati’s (not Mcdonalds there is none in
The initial session work went fairly smoothly with a few minor computer crashes. However, as I was finishing the final BGV tracks, the entire Cubase file became corrupted and would not load. The full gravity of the situation did not sink in until I had tried a few simple fixes, rebooting, opening a few other files, moving the directory ect… I then spent 10 mins silently staring at my computer using every ounce of strength not to hurl it to the ground for a 30 second curb stomping session.
By the grace of God I found an orange in the fridge. I don’t think I have ever thrown and object so hard in my life, I felt my arm come out of its socket. I grabbed a pineapple Fanta refocused and proceeded to reconstruct the project from the fragmented audio files. – (all the audio file still existed on the computer I just had to put them together, much like a jigsaw puzzle) After a three hours of intense thought and concentration we were up and rocking.
The evening was spent singing with Maurice’s choir. For those who know my rhythmic incompetence, you can just begin to imagine me trying to sight-read African syncopation in a language that is not even Wolof. Never the less, being vocally dwarfed by an authentic West African baritone was an unforgettable experience.
The musical team returned to hear that Steve had been mugged and had his passport stolen; another rude awakening to the reality of being in
After a late night of programming and mixing Tuesday morning came as a rude awakening. I find I can’t keep my crazy schedule and sleeping habits that I do in
So we piled into a van with our gear and traveled to a village 20 mins south of Brikama. The smell of cachou fruit (the nuts grow around the top of the fruit) excitement of children greeted us as we drove into the dusty town. After meeting some of the local Mandinkas and trying to learn a few phrases of second African tribal language. I took the opportunity to draw some water from the well and teach the kids how to play hopscotch.
We did another short musical presentation before showing the film. I spent the majority of the film talking with Benjamin a native of Sera Leone he came as a refugee to the
After the film, people stayed for prayer and for more information. (about 50 in total) Benjamin will be returning with a small to do follow-up. People are hungry for truth in this region. I hope it is found.
On a quick aside, I had an discussion on the drive home regarding Benjamin’s ministry. From it I derived the following; Do not ever let me pass unfounded judgment on someone’s ministry. I was dishearten to listen to someone so blindly reject the ministry of a man who has devoted his life to the service of the Kingdom. Add to my frustration the individual offer little in the way of a position correction to the situation other than to just ignore it. I do not want to let my heart become so jaded to intensions of people that I ignore the spirit of God.
Well, yesterday was my Birthday. I spent the early morning finishing the mixing on Mango Tree Revival’s first hit single “Message of love”. It sounds really good (at least throught the headphones I mixed it on)
I spent the morning with the Sisters of Charity who work with malnourished and sick children who cannot be supported by their family. The play area filled with 25 odd kids smelled of puke and urine however, I could not have thought of a better way to spend my birthday. I spent my time entertaining kids with a stuffed elephant singing James brown, Justin Timberlake and Grishwin’s Rhapsody in Blue (the elephant part, you would have loved it Jord). At several moments, I found myself at the verge of tears along with my other co-workers. After watching the kids “eat” (aka. smear rice and sauce everywhere but in their mouths), I paraded a stampede of naked malnourished children down the hall to a line of kiddy potties. Today I gained a whole new respect for the woman who have dedicated their lives in service of these kids. After a long walk home due to another Tanka mistake, Hewko and I went on a Tanka loop to three radio stations.
It was great hanging out with him as he shared some of his vision for CVM. Although I styles are quite different I have found it is a great privilege to serve along side of him.
My meeting with Gabriel and Maurice was cancelled due to Gabriel’s busy day. However, we still made it out t choir practice and I once again sang with the choir. There was no power so the practice was by candlelight. I finally started to catch on to some of the rhythms and was able to sing along to the song we were rehearsing last time. The guys in the choir are a lot of fun and can really belt out those low notes in comparison to my weak voice. Maurice is also an extremely talented choir director. We practiced “How great thou art” which we will be singing at Mass on Sunday with the choir and finally the choir blew me away by singing me happy birthday. Unreal.
I returned to find our house decorated for a small informal party for Jana and
Oh ya just am update on the TV... because of teh football we might not be on until we get back from Soma. However, we are on the radio tonight at 11Pm Gambian time (close to prime time for them) it is called city limits radio form westfield gambia. Not sure if they web cast. (4pm PST)
It is hard to take it all in.
Yesterday, Gambia won its first game in the under 17 African football (soccer) championship which are being held here in Gambia. The chaos and celebration was unreal. Parades marching the crowded streets a few times today we found ourselves in the heart of the action. Only once did we ever feel threatened and we were quickly able to remove ourselves from the situation.
The day started out with a broken door handle. No longer being able to shut or lock our door I quickly stepped into action knowing it would be days until an Gambian repair man would show up to do the repairs. After 2 hours of walking in the midday sun we found a Lebanese hardware store (the Lebanese own many store in the Westfield area) Which sold the part for 100GMD ($5) this was a vast improvement to the inflated cost at other stores ($35+). The sisters at the mission were quite impressed with my Gambian skills.
During the late afternoon, we were involved with a children’s ministry in telladine. I was given the opportunity to share a song with the kids. The most challenging part is to be involved in what is happening. With language and cultural differences, I resorted to the universal language of wrestling and sprint races, a great way to ensure you will sleep well.
With so much chaos from the football match we decided against showing the Jesus film this evening. Instead, we put on a short concert. The conditions were challenging to say the least. However, we were well received by the 75-100 people who took in our 30min musical presentation.
Monday May 9th 8:04AM
This morning half of our team left for the north bank of the Gambian river in preparation for a Jesus film presentation. We have officially begun or ministry cycles. I will be work along side Gary and Pam Nipper. We will be doing preparations for a Jesus film and hopefully solving some of their technical problems.
Yesterday we attended a Gambian church. We were very surprised to have the sermon preached by a video on a LCD projector. Not really “African church” although the scorching temperatures and tin
roof helped make the experience more authentic. The afternoon included a chance to swim in the ocean before the May birthday/ mother’s day dinner at the Kora. The evening we gathered and had a prayer and worship time with Gary and Pam. It gave us a moment to refocus for the work that lies ahead. I am excited to see how we will be used over the next couple of days.
Tuesday May 10th 8:07AM
The reality of living in Africa in finally setting in, as we began our ministry yesterday my stubborn self came to terms with a number of factors beyond my control.
1. It is hot here; being hot makes you tired. This may sound like an obvious concept to grasp however, I find myself expecting to maintain my North American intensity and energy level.
2. Things take time in Africa. Yesterday I spent many hours working on solving some fairly basic technical problems for Gary and Pam Nipper. Not to dissimilar to ones I would be called upon to solve at work. However, at home we optimize things for speed and convenience. Africa has a way of ensuring everything you need is one more step away.
3. I don’t speak Wolof; Learning languages in an uneducated society is hard. I really appreciate people with the gift of teaching. A good teacher has the ability to break down information into bites that their student may properly digest the information. Gambians are so excited you are learning the language they begin to teach you the other three languages they know how to speak as well. Although, Mandinka and Fula would be great to know. I’d really be content with being able to carry a basic conversation in Wolof. In a sense this also relates back to 1 and 2 as my mind is definitely a little slower in the heat.
All said things are going well and by African standards we had an extremely productive day. We plan on seeing Gambia play in the African U-17 football championships tonight. We are taking Omar for his birthday.
Thursday May 12th, 12:03AM
I am sitting in the family room of our new living quarters listening to Steve plucking away on his guitar over the drone of a 5KW generator reverberating though our concrete bunker. The tenants upstairs obviously enjoy having the power on and we live in a part of the country that it is usually off. The Girls whose room is right beside the generator have given up sleeping into their room and have prepared to camp out here as well.
The last two days have swung me like a gate. I was so choked at the way things were going I did not even type my journal entry. I spent the entire morning reading the bible and in prayer. The frustrations of blind spoon-fed, disorganized ministry left me disillusioned to the world and the restof the team.
A brief lapse occurred during the football match...
If you would like to simulate attending an African soccer match simply grab a seat between two sweaty men on a cement block while a couple of friends blow whistles in your ear and splash you with an assortment of soft drinks. It was amazing the amount of focus these 17 year olds played with considered a hundred fans at fainted and had been passed down to the field carried on stretchers to be fanned into consciousness. The experience was out of this world.It is a good thing we won, Gambians know how to celebrate a victory we haven't seen what happends when they loose.
The earlier part of yesterday was spent moving. An unexciting boring task which dragged on all day to make matters worse I believe the location we are now in is worse than the last for transportation. We require two tanka-tanka fare to get anywhere other than the traffic light and that distance is not really walk-able. I also miss the outside (and inside space).
After my intense quiet time this morning, we were scheduled for a prayer walk. Grouped with Ali we spent the morning walking the streets by Pam and Gary’s home. We spent time discussion the objectives and direction of our ministry and worked through a number of thing that were eating at me. We concluded we needed to take charge of our ministry and start working towards our own objectives and goals. Like getting the keys to our ministry. Before this we had been slaves to our schedule that we never knew more than a half-day in advance. This will undoubtedly mark be a turning point in my trip.
The rest to the day fell together as we got to call the shots. I got to drive a Nissan 4x4 pick-up in Africa! We also went out an got Jana’s drumming. Up to this point practicing had been rather futile with our a drum.
This evening was a total highlight. We were picked up by Gabriel an ~50 year old heavy set African man with a glow in his eye. He toured us to Banjul and then to an African choir practice. These guys can sing, such power and rhythm a true treat for the sonic sensory organs. Although I forgot a cable at home so I was unable to record it. The door was left open to do some work and exchange with the group. I look forward to the resulting events.
it has turned out that just because internet cafes exist it does not mean they work...the entire country's internet has been up and down like a yo-yo (or like our water system) and trying to time that with our schedual makes updating more of a challenge.
But alas here is the first update... there is lots enjoy.
Sunday May 1st; 6:53PM PST
Well, I am off again. It is hard to believe it has been 5 years since I left for Senegal and almost on the exact same day. Who would have thought?
In a cool surprise we met with most of the team in YVR. I was under the impression this would occur in London. However, it has made for an already pleasant start to the trip. Everyone has connected quickly; you can really see God’s work in assembling the team.
The flight has even been somewhat enjoyable, although, I learnt not to get the white red with the meal. I had the privilege of sitting beside Dave Warner who I’ve discovered is a project assist of sort and is working part time for CVM. Jess and Jana are beside me while Ali and Steven are right at the back.
I was given three verses for the trip
1. Psalms 91 from my Grandma
2. 2 Kings 5-ish by Darrell Neufield
3. Another one which was posted anonymously on my blog.
It is unreal how much stuff I am taking with me. I can only imaging what security will think of my bags. ~72Kg in total. The transfer to Gatwick should lend some stories for the next flight.
Tuesday May 3rd, 3:41 AM GMT
My dried fruit, honey nut cheerio cheese wrap was surprisingly good. I must be really hungry. I managed to grab 3 hours sleep tonight in the Gatwick Airport. Our group has taken over a large alcove has our “hotel room”. Our stay included free skate boarding entertainment, a steady stream of airport reminders and room service from the machine gun totin’ airport police who searched Adam because he was sleeping with out luggage.
I had am amazing day in London. The transfers went extremely well. It was a bank holiday meaning the ‘tube’ was quite vacant giving us ample room to lurch on and off of the old rickety underground to the chime, ‘mind the gap’.
We took over a row of seats in the Victoria train station and took turns guarding the luggage (aka) trying to sleep on top of it all. Those not passed out on the luggage would wonder around the winding streets of London trying to remember which way to look as not to have an unfriendly encounter with a speeding Peugeot.
My first shift was guarding. I pulled out my guitar and jammed with a group of disenchanted high school aged punk rockers that just happened to be hanging out at the train station. They couldn’t keep a cig out of their mouths for more than a minute as they ranted off lines of their favorite underground British punk tunes with a laugh, accent and banter that brought alive the forced British readings of my secondary school education. Once they had parted ways I managed to pass out on my red bag to the amusement/shock of the other travelers and security.
Upon arrival of the other half of the group, Steven, Jess and I set out to get lost of a beautiful Sunny day. You don’t really need a tour book in London. You just start walking and you will start to run into landmarks, beautiful old cathedrals and a few close calls with the traffic. A couple of thoughts I pondered while crashing sauntering through the streets; there are very few beggars on the streets, they will dispose of any unguarded bags in public places, all the cars are new or restored classics, McDonalds is the best source of public washrooms and the underground transportation is really cool and there are more tourists than locals in most of the downtown area.
At 8:30 we caught an hour coach to Gatwick. In my sleepless glazed stat of mind I had my watch torn off while handling my bags. I was sure I saw it on the ground as the bus rolled out of the station. However, it later turned up in the under bus luggage compartment, a sweet taste of grace for a tired traveler who spent most of the bus ride musing over the loss of my cheep digital watch. This served as yet another piece of evident that someone is looking after me.
Tuesday May 3rd, 9:53 PM Gambian Time
It is great to be back in Africa.
After an hour or so of Frisbee in the airport we headed in the check in. We had a few problems getting our things on cleared to be loaded. After we cleared security then we were crammed onto a new 300 Series Airbus. It seemed the manufacturer had accidentally installed an extra 5 rows. However, the flight went by quite quickly as I sat beside a young English chap named Nicolas. Rambling on between the monarchy, music, pop culture and cultural idiosyncrasies the 6 hours flight, flew by.
The Gambia Airport was actually quite nice. Built in 1997 and designed by some famous Senegalese architect it was more stylish then Heathrow or Gatwick from the outside, it definitely had its Africanisms. The general chaos, print shop deluxe signs, a customs desk that was little more than an old school desk and no security. Steve Hewko was able to wander back into the secure area of the airport along with and the extra helpful “freelance baggage handlers”. It was amazing how quickly they would end up holding a piece of your luggage, it is good thing they are at least honest. In comparison to my last African airport experience this one was quite mild,
On the down side two pieces of baggage did not arrive in African. We believe they were left behind due to weight restrictions. We hope they arrive on Friday on the next flight into town.
We (okay really 5 over helpful Gambians) piled our bags on top of a blue 1986 Toyota 7 passenger van and subsequently piled all 14 of us inside for a 15min ride to Shalom, which will act as our principal residence here in the Gambia. Beautifully situated on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean the color full compound houses a Catholic mission which the pope John Paul II had himself visited in his day. Complete with a few mangy dogs and random kids and various other quintessential Africanisms. I will have no problem calling this place home.
We unpacked had a drink (the water here tastes just how I remembered it) and ventured off to town to send off a quick email regarding our safe arrival. On the way back Hewko loaded everyone onto taxis, well everyone but the other Steve and I as the guy in the internet café would not let go of my hand. So, began our first adventure. Finding the way home was easy. It was shaking of the ‘bumsters’* that was the issue. “My friends, my name is Jimmy, Jimmy look after you we are bothers, I hook you up take care of you because I’m an honest man, I like to help you we do music have some ….” After 15 min of non-stop talking we finally managed to ditch him at the British consulate. Meanwhile, Hewko realizing we had been left behind was riding taxis back and forth on wondering where we were. Everything worked out.
Dinner was delicious; the sisters here know how to cook. After we had a quick health and safety meeting and after which I had a cold shower that was a refreshing end to a muggy 31oc day of travel.
* bumsters are African bums which try way to hard to make friends with White people in order to get some financial backing or gifts in return.
Thursday May 5th, 7:16AM Gambian time
Having trouble sleeping I decided to wake up and have some quiet time. It is a cloudy morning with quite a strong wind.
Yesterday, we spent the morning with orientation. The focus was primarily cultural and religious. In the afternoon we left for a walk to a Crocodile pond in the middle of an urban slum. Despite the poverty the streets were remarkably clean and void of real Africa stenches which typically scream at your nose. Apparently the Gambian government has legislated a few hour block of time were Gambians must clean up the area in front of their dwelling. It was also surprising how little we were being harassed, for a mob of Toubabs.
The crocs were fairly docile and most were in the pond. Charlie, the giant pettable one, is the main attraction. However, he was on the far side of the pond. With the guides sleeping in a wheel barrel on their siesta, I hardly felt comfortable venturing around the other crocs for a hug.
When we returned to Shalom we had the privilege of meeting Gary and Pam Nipper who had been missionaries to the Wolof people group since 1987. They had some amazing stories of work God has done through them and some excellent advise for us as short term missionaries. I am looking forward to working with them.
In the evening we had another short session and them a quick Wolof lesion with Omar. If I have yet to talk about Omar he is a contact from Hewko’s last trip. (Decker I did say hi for you) EH told many Wolof jokes, I hope to record a few as they are so funny because they aren’t. Understanding jokes is the last thing that happens when you are entering a new culture.
The rest of the evening was spent hanging out and playing a nostalgic game of hid-n-seek. I also had a chance to Jam with the other musicians on the trip. I wasn’t quite sure what to think of it. We definitely did not connect on a musical level. It will undoubtedly be a challenge to put things together. I also realized I left 4 cables behind when I was repacking bags before I left. Not so cool. Mom, Dad if you could check the side pocket of the black bag to confirm that would be appreciated and I’ll just have to find a way around it. :o)
Thursday May 5th 11:37PM
The best thing today occurred after the worst way of spending two hours in Gambia, watching the Waterboy. After touring through Sena-Gambia to see the monkeys. It was a 7 min taxi ride with a driver named Mamadu and Jana. After our initial banter over the price we hopped in and got him to put on a reggae tape. He will hopefully be back to drive us to our destination tomorrow. We will be doing a Jesus film on Saturday and will be doing a prayer walk through the town and making preparations.
Just before bed, I went down by the ocean and played guitar with a few others and somehow lured myself into the ocean for a night swim. To my dismay the water was out when I returned to the compound that will leave with a salty sleep night.
Saturday May 6th 12:08 AM
Today began our first day of ministry. In the morning I spent my time, putting together some musical tracks for a concert we will be putting on tomorrow (well, I guess today). Then after a trip to Westfield for Chawarmas and a Coke we head to Telladine where we spent time walking the street and meeting with the chief as we will be showing the Jesus film in the area. We returned and cooked a spaghetti dinner with the first Mangos of the trip, quite the treat the Mangos here are unreal.
The evening consisted of trying once again to find an open internet café and Catching crab for the sisters at the mission. You could almost call it a crab rodeo.
Note from Sat 12:00 apparently we caught the wrong crabs and we ceremoniously release a bucket of dead crabs in the ocean. (it turned out only the big one survived)
I'm currently on the lawn in the speckled shadow of the willow tree which canvasses my backyard. A yellow post-it proudly displays the shrinking list of task which preclude my departure. These I scribbled down between day dreams and short bursts of actual work on what may be may last day as a Creo employee. (I'm not quitting, it just will be called Kodak when I get back, I'll be a Kodiak when I get back)
My week traveled through the dark valley of a vector calculus midterm, to a fountain of joy with when a couple of Fedex boxes on my porch and a the rush of a packed stadium where Bono himself called people to the aid of the poor and helpless in Africa. Like a prelude to a beautiful symphony the week's melodies have paraded through carefully woven to introduce what lies ahead. A journey that will undoubtedly challenge my character, open my eyes to colours previously unseen and expose a soul to the oceans of the world.
Before I get carried away with a lame attempt of putting my experience into words on a screen. My sticky note listed a reminder to thank everyone for their prayers, encouragements and support. It has humbled and encouraged me to no end, people must think I will make a difference. With such an experience of joy, peace and power, I am almost ready to head-on down to Deer lake to try walking on water.
However it has managed to stay off my tattered yellow friend. Unfortunately, my faith isn't quite there yet and the microscopic creatures in that lake are most likely worst than anything I'll see in Gambia....Maybe tomorrow.
Normal is Over.
After church I trekked to Squamish with a small entourage for a final hurra with the beautiful West Coast, could not have been a nicer day. We hiked the Chief's second peak and spent the afternoon watching the sunlight's glow on the southern face of diamond head and dance across the waters of the Squamish inlet. A peacefull and humbling experience to say the least. What could I have ever done to deserve a day such as this?
25“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life[b]?
28“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
I had you asked me the simple question "how are you?" 4 hours ago, as some poor well meaning souls did. You would have gotten a "mneennewah" type groan or a 5 min-mini lecture on all the variables which hang in the balance with a personal invite to my semi-sick tired body's pity-party.
It was little after 10pm when I sat down with guitar and began to flesh out my woes. Why was I so concerned? Even now reading my last post it is clear I'm uncharacteristically stressed. I definitely upped the anti since then. I had lurched through my last 3 days in a flap over the details of my trip. As much as I would like to blame the Larium for my edge, I could only really attributed it to be an enhancer.
I am not sure quite what sparked my mind; however, it became apparent to me how foolish I had been. I have a ticket, yellow fever shot and a plane ticket... Really everything else is an accessory. It is not like there would nothing to do in Gambia if I arrived with out a FMR RNP or eco-charge battery system. I had done all I could. I was simply questioning Gods ability to aid the flow of international shipping. I had set my focus on all which could go wrong. The result was an undeniable drift from the vision of this trip, changing lives in light of Christ's love.
After planting my discombodulated self on a couch my guitar, pen and a pad of paper for a couple of hours. I emerged with a few chords put together with a few intelligent scribbles and peace. Arguably the most productive two hours of my week.
Thanks for your prayers.
Thanks for checking the Goat Post.
I choose a blog to update everyone of my Gambian adventure. I hope you'll enjoy the format. It will no doubt give a more intimate view of life than a traditional newsletter. It also gives you all oppertunities to comment and ask your burning questions. You don't need to sign up for anything but please put your name in your comments so I know who left them.
*** Please excuse typos which will litter this blog. I think faster than I type this leads to problems... thanks for your patience and understanding. Otherwise, enjoy!
Well, Gambia sits on the horizon no more then a 2 1/2 weeks down the time pipe. I have started a count down on my white board at work to give fair warning to all who wish to pile their urgent work requests. Some have caught on and are taking full advantage.
On Monday the Gambia team commences our Malaria meds. Most of us are taking Larium, the pharmasudical that makes your dreams come alive in full spectrvision. Our goal is to sync-up our dosages (one a week) so we all wake up with comperable dream squencies. The other more logical reason is so no one forgets admist the countless other things which will be on our minds.
The crunch of preperation has been chewing on my schedule like a teething dog. It is hard to believe I'll get it all done... an exam, assignment, taxes, a heavy work load, shopping for the final peices of recording equipment and the countless administrative tasks which make for smooth traveling. All this has made sleeping a challenge, an unfortunate fimiliar reality as the readers of the badgerlounge may have noticed.
Although my body is worn, my spirit has been strong. I anxiously await to serve and see mircles of God's hand. In a sense they have already begun...