As promised, here is the public link to the photos from our trip to Africa.  Unfortunately, our camera died just over half way through the trip, but we got most of the key people and places.

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=3886293&l=5963c&id=848585610

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Our family has come to  the end of a 2-week visit to Africa, and I’m finally blogging for the first time since Christmas.  I had intended to keep an online journal during this trip, but the internet connections in Tabligbo didn’t permit it.  Now I’m at the Baptist Guest House in Accra, Ghana.  This afternoon, we will fly out from here to Singapore.  Once there, I hope to get some photos posted on Facebook, and I’ll post the link here.  (Fortunately, we did get lots of pictures before our new camera malfunctioned.  The only cause we can guess is the jarring it took on the African roads. Maybe I can get it fixed in Singapore 🙂 ?

I need to begin by praising God for his provision for and protection on this trip.  All of the missionary re-entry advice we received said that we needed to make this trip.  I wasn’t even sure of all of the reasons, though that has become much clearer to me in retrospect.  We are so thankful that God opened so many hearts to make this trip a reality without our family savings taking too big of a hit.

In Africa, I’m so much more aware of God’s protective hand over us.  Every drive in the car begins with a prayer, because we are so much more aware of the danger.  We’re inspired by stories from local Christians of God’s miraculous works.  We went to Denis’ house to find his wife and new baby in good health, although we had heard that Denis’ wife was very sick.  When she had complications after childbirth, three hospitals, in fact, had sent her home to die, saying that her case was hopeless, but Jesus had healed her.

We flew into Accra on July 22, where Murphy Crowson and Marty Koonce met us.  They had just flown into Accra the day before after attending a church planting conference in Zambia.   Our flight from Dallas had gone off without a hitch, and all our luggage had arrived with us.  The drive to Tabligbo, Togo took most of the next day.

We spent our first full day in Tabligbo resting up, greeting visitors who heard that we had arrived, and visiting our old house, which now serves as the teachers’ quarters and school.  That afternoon the team grilled hamburgers at the Crowsons.

Because it would be impossible for us to visit all of the Watchi churches, the missionaries had invited all of the men who could to come to Tabligbo for a meeting on Friday evening and Saturday morning.  If they could provide their transport, we would feed them.  Over 50 men did show up and my soul was refreshed by joining them in worship.  The ladies from Tabligbo did the cooking, and Maureen came to help them.  Murphy and Marty shared an approach to Bible study that they had learned in Zambia, and Saturday morning I talked to the leaders about the power of questions — how they could help one another work toward their own goals and solve their own problems by using some of the principles that I’ve been learning lately in the field of Christian coaching.  I wasn’t really sure how this would come across in Africa, but the feedback that I received was very positive.  Most of all, I was just relieved that my Ewe language abilities — limited thought they have always been — were still there to draw from.

What did Jeremy and Jonathan do on this trip?  They played — and played and played with the Koonce and Crowson boys, who were on a two week vacation from their school year.  All the kids seemed to find great joy in being in one another’s presence and got along fabulously. Although they saw plenty of African life in Tabligbo, it wasn’t until our last Sunday that they actually got out into the villages.  Jeremy asked a question that showed how their memories of Africa had already begun to fade after two years away.  As we were driving to Tsadome he asked, “Is this really a road?”

For several weeks before we left the States, Maureen prepared extra food on Wednesday evenings and accepted donations for our trip from our friends and neighbors who were excited to find Chinese takeouts in Albany.  With the extra money, she bought school supplies that we distributed in the different churches and villages that we visited, as well as seeds for the agricultural ministry.

Here’s a quick look at the rest of the visit:

  • Sunday–Worship with the Tabligbo church, where I was again able to teach.
  • Monday–Trip to Lomé for lunch, swimming for the kids, while I worked on extending visas and exchanging money.
  • Tuesday–Maureen and I went to Sedome and Batoe with Murphy and Christine.   We had to park about a mile from the village and wade through water several times.
  • Wednesday–Maureen visited Kpotonou with Christine, while I left for Benin with Laté, the agriculturalist who works with the Watchi churches.  In Soglogon, Benin, we met evangelist Eugene, and went out to the village of Zounkpa where we encouraged the Christians to sow and harvest both spiritual and physical seeds.  We slept out in the village to the sounds of African music that played until 5:00 a.m., when the generator finally ran out of gas.
  • Thursday–Maureen and the other missionary women visited Hedzranawoe, the used clothing market in Lomé.  After touring the fields in Zounkpa, Laté and I returned to Bohicon, Benin where we visited friends and I taught in Soglogon that evening.  We slept on the cement floor at the home of Marie Weke, a true mother in the faith to so many of us.
  • Friday–We returned to Tabligbo, where I was very happy to be reunited my family.
  • Saturday–a day of rest for me while Maureen prepared a wonderful Chinese dinner for the whole team.
  • Sunday–We worshiped and I taught in Tsadome with representatives from the whole Dagbati cluster.  We distributed school supplies and dropped off a brick press that the missionaries had bought so that some churches in the area could rebuild their fallen church buildings.  From there we drove to Vogan to visit with Hammer and Dela, where we were treated to Dela’s yam balls and the Afakulé’s warm hospitality.
  • Monday — Drive to Accra, with Papaye’s famous chicken and fried rice for dinner.

There is so much more to say — I hope to have some more reflective posts later to flesh some of this out.  But I know I haven’t been the most faithful blogger lately, so I won’t promise.  For me, the most valuable part of this trip has been to reconnect.  Yes, to reconnect with places and people that have been so dear to me.  But mostly, to reconnect with myself or, at least, with that part of myself that has been and always will be, a missionary to Africa.

Well, Santa came across a lone Wii in Target several weeks ago, so our boys got one of the much coveted game systems. They had been asking for one for Christmas, but Jonathan “fainted” when he saw it. Maureen had a good time trying it out. I got some great video that I’d love to post on You Tube, but I really do like being married and want to keep that relationship intact. The cutest part was the end, where Maureen raises h er hands in victory and Jonathan looks up at her and says, “You lost.” (Drop by the house for a private viewing!)I hope that you and yours have had a great day today.

Many blessings for a Happy New Year!


Maureen & Friends at the Grand Canyon

Originally uploaded by claypotparker
Maureen returned home to Albany Monday night with her good friend Irene (Sock Mei) Lee. Needless to say, there is great rejoicing in our household. Click on the photo to see a larger version of Maureen and her friends at the Grand Canyon. Maureen and Irene are on the right, and they are joined by Margaret Goh, also from Singapore, and Peggy Lee, who lives in Albuquerque. I assume that Peggy’s husband, David, took the photo.


Santa’s House

Originally uploaded by claypotparker

Santa was in Albany last night at the home of Red & Shirley Alexander. The boys were mesmerized by the lights that the Alexanders have been putting out for the past sixteen years. Although I had told them to have in mind what they wanted to ask Santa for, they were both a bit tongue tied when they say on lap of the jolly old elf.

Although I know analogies between Santa and God are dangerous, I wonder if there is a comparison in there somewhere with being speechless in the presence of an awesome and holy God, whose dwelling place is far more glorious than any earthly dwelling.


Family Christmas Photo 2007

Originally uploaded by claypotparker

We tried to take our Christmas photo this morning before going to church. We got good expressions on everyone’s faces, but the picture came out unfocused and too dark. So, finally, tonight, after–morning worship, a pot luck fellowship lunch, baby shower, raking leaves, watching some Harry Potter with Jonathan, small group meeting at the church building, “Bible in 90 Days” meeting in town, small group at our house, boys bathed and ready for bed, remembering we still needed to take the photo, getting everyone dressed again (is there a Sabbath in there somewhere?)–we got this photo about 9:30 p.m. tonight.

We needed to get it tonight because Maureen leaves tomorrow morning to join some Singaporean friends in Albuquerque, and they’ll go see the Grand Canyon from there. We guys will just stay at home and batch it for a week. When Maureen returns, she’ll have Irene, her good friend from Singapore, with her for about a 10 day visit here with us.


First Snowman

Originally uploaded by claypotparker

After we got home from the Bradfords’ (see previous post), and during halftime of the Cowboy’s game, the boys and I built our first snowman together! OK, it’s not the most symmetrical, but it’s an effort and we had fun.


Thanksgiving Snow in the Country

Originally uploaded by claypotparker

Today we were invited out to Calvin & Pat Bradford’s farm/ranch for Thanksgiving Day. Guy “Bear:” McCain (Calvin’s stepson) and his wife Charlotte are part of our church family in Albany. We had a wonderful away-from-home Thanksgiving meal with turkey, ham, and all the trimmings. The amazing thing was that it started sleeting and then snowing beautifully with accumulation that defied the weather predictors. Just before we left, I took this snapshot outside the McCain’s house on the Bradford property.


Our Scarecrow

Originally uploaded by claypotparker

Today was scarecrow day for the kindegartners at Nancy Smith Elementary School. Jonathan wasn’t too excited about feeling itchy all day, but we thought he looked cute. And yes, he did put on shoes before he left for school!

As you can imagine, communication in our “poster family for diversity” can be a challenge, with all of our varied accents and assumptions. Here’s a recent example.

Our 9 year old, Jeremy, rides a school bus home. Each day his bus drops several children off at a local youth center for an after-school program called “Aspire.” Jeremy had heard something about this and so he had asked Maureen what “aspire” meant. She had him look it up in an online dictionary.

Jeremy still wasn’t sure why the children were getting off the school bus, so he asked his bus driver (who later told me the story) what the children were doing. She simply told him that they were going to Aspire. “What’s Aspire?,” Jeremy asked. “It’s a place where they can go and do their homework, have a snack, and play after school,” she replied. Jeremy responded, “That’s what I told my mom, but she said a spire was a pointed thing on top of a church building.”