Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Our American Journey - Day 23 (2)

Yesterday, we finally got to meet someone we’d only corresponded with by e-mail to date. Jill first got in touch with us several years ago, having found us on a website somewhere. She had a bunch of Jesus videos available in various West African languages and wondered if we or others we knew could use them. She’d cover the shipping costs. Soon we discovered that her servant heart covered a whole lot more ground than that. Together with her friend, Terri, she was not only willing to send out various ministry materials, but also other useful and personal items to those working overseas who couldn’t get them. We’ll never forget the box of goodies she sent to us in Burkina Faso back in 2004!

It was a chilly, rainy day outside, but we spent a warm and inspirational afternoon with Jill & Terri, talking about ministry and missions. One of the best things, hands down, about this trip has been the people we’ve met, visited, and stayed with.

For those of you that have been wondering how we made out with the Days Inn customer service issue, we’ll give you three guesses and the first two won’t count. That’s right, no phone call. There’s probably not much point in following up more on this except to notify corporate headquarters that the motel in question never did call us, right? After all, what are they gonna do about it now? No sense making a federal case out of it, I guess. What do you think?

One new motel chain we’ve discovered on this trip is Baymont Inn & Suites. The first time was out of necessity: they were pretty well the only place that had a room left when we arrived in Longview, TX. The second was by choice, thanks to a little financial incentive in the form of a serious discount coupon we picked up at a Michigan Travel Center. Baymont isn’t luxury, but it’s not economy either, so it costs more than we’re normally willing to pay. However, it has the nicest rooms of any of the motels we’ve stayed in. Nice continental breakfast and eating area too, kind of like a little cafĂ©. Okay, there are no exercise facilities, so there’s still room for improvement. And we’ve not had a customer service issue with them yet, so we don’t know how they’ll actually do in that department. But we like their attitude:

“A 100% satisfaction guarantee is nice, but at Baymont, we try a little harder. Should you have a problem during your stay, let us know. If we can’t correct it, your night’s stay is on us. Plus you’ll receive another 10% off your next visit. It’s just our way of showing you how serious we are about your experience.”

We also have to recommend the Cracker Barrel restaurant chain. Good meals, a decent variety, good service, and reasonable prices, all in a unique country store atmosphere with old-tyme artefacts all over the walls. Their coffee’s a little weak for our taste, but we can always find a Starbucks afterwards if we need to. The contrast makes us appreciate the Starbucks more :) Cracker Barrel also has the coolest gift and souvenir store, neat stuff we’ve not seen anywhere else. I wish we had this restaurant chain in Canada just for that reason alone! But since we don’t, Kathy & I took advantage and stocked up on a few things for upcoming celebrations. Check them out the next time you’re driving in the USA.

Well, it’s almost midnight again. Time to hit the sack. We’ve got a long day ahead of us tomorrow, but are looking forward to sleeping in our own bed again tomorrow night!

Our American Journey - Day 23 (1)

Back when we were studying linguistics in Dallas, TX, in the early 1990s, finances were a little tight. So we advertised a room for rent in the house that we ourselves were renting. The person who finally came to live with us was a Korean girl who had come to America to study at a nearby Bible college. Min Sun was our family’s introduction to Korean language, food, and culture. For a year and a half, we shared each other’s lives. We discovered delicious Korean food with her, and she ventured into the world of North American food with us. She helped us with the language (Korean was our practice language for linguistic analysis) and we helped her with writing assignments in English. She took us to her church and introduced us to a wonderful family of Korean people, and we took her up to Canada and introduced her to our families back home.

We even met her mother… sort of. She would call from Korea to talk to Min Sun. Unfortunately, Min Sun was usually at school when she did. Furthermore, she didn’t speak any English, and I didn’t speak any Korean! So I asked Min Sun how to say, “Min Sun is not here. She is at school and will be home later.” in Korean. The next time Min Sun's mother called, I was ready. But as soon as I said my two sentences, she launched into a torrent of Korean that I didn’t know what to do with! I asked Min Sun to teach me one more important sentence: “That’s all the Korean I know!”

Once we finished our studies and left Dallas, however, we almost lost track of each other. These were the days before e-mail was common. But there were occasional letters back and forth. We learned that she had graduated from Bible college and gone back to Korea. Then that she had gotten married. And finally that she and her husband had moved back to the States to pastor a Korean church.

We just spent a wonderful weekend with Min Sun and her family in Iowa. She now has three children and her husband is a man of God who loves his ministry as a pastor to a small Korean congregation. I had the privilege of bringing a message to the congregation on Sunday and Pastor Ahn Ho translated for me. Afterwards we joined in the traditional after-church fellowship meal with lots of good Korean food, and enjoyed talking about language development, Bible translation, and our ministry with the Kusassi people.

Korean Christians are extremely missions-oriented and they were shocked to learn that so many of the world’s languages still don’t have even a verse of God’s Word available to them. When one man discovered that I had only given this message to their church, and that we had only given a 5-minute presentation at another, he even berated us for not making a greater effort to speak in as many churches as possible on our trip through the USA in order to make them aware of this sad state of affairs!

Easier said than done, but we thank God for the opportunities we’ve had so far, and look forward to more in the future. May & June are already filling up with speaking engagements and presentations. In fact, I’m speaking at a church the first Sunday we’re back in Canada... Yikes! Maybe I should let Kathy drive today while I work on my message!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Our American Journey - Day 19

Our village home in Burkina Faso was an old concrete block, tin-roofed house built over 50 years ago by the first Assemblies of God missionary in the area. Sure, it needed some work to be liveable again, but it was still standing and structurally sound. Out of historical curiosity, I tried for months to try to find out the name of the American missionary who built it. All I got was “Monsieur Bootlay”. I knew this was probably an English name spoken with a French pronunciation, but couldn’t for the life of me figure out what name the people were actually trying to say.

One day, an Assemblies of God administrator from Ouaga came to see the pastor that lived near our house. I happened to be there and was surprised to discover that he spoke English. He mentioned that his father had known the missionary that built our house. When I asked if he remembered the missionary’s name, he said, “Of course. It was Mr. Herbert Butler.” Of course! In French, an “u” is pronounced “oo”, and “er” is pronounced “ay”!

When we got back to Canada, I began a search for Mr. Butler on the Internet. I wasn’t sure whether he was still alive or not, but I was curious to find out what had happened to him. I finally discovered a lady called Butler that worked for the Assemblies of God in the USA. So I e-mailed her. It turned out that she was Mr. Butler’s daughter! She said that her father was indeed still alive! And she would pass my message on to him.

Within a few days, I received a message from Mr. Butler himself. He was living in Illinois, now a retired anthropology professor. We corresponded back and forth for months, with him telling me stories of his time there and me telling him how things were now. We talked about people, places, and events. I learned a lot from him, not just facts but cultural insights too.

Some time later, we went on a trip through the States and had the privilege of actually meeting Mr. Butler at his home. We stayed there again last night and spent a wonderful day together with him and his wife today. He’s in his 80s now, but is still actively involved in serving God and people. If I can do half of what he’s doing when I’m in my 80s, I’ll consider myself a blessed man indeed!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Our American Journey - Day 17

“Hey, there’s a Dennys! We haven’t eaten in one of those in years! Let’s have lunch there.”

Kathy & I were headed out of Texas towards Oklahoma, the first leg of our return trip to Ontario, Canada. It was already past lunchtime and we were looking for a place to grab a bite, so Kathy pulled off the highway and rolled into a parking spot right by the front door.

Ah, Dennys! We have somewhat fond memories of this restaurant chain from past trips in the States, especially when the kids were younger. This was about the only place we could find that wasn’t a McDonald’s type of fast food joint, yet didn’t require a fortune to feed a family of four either. For some reason, it was really tough to find something in between those two extremities, but Dennys managed to fill the bill. However, we rarely ate a meal there that was without incident: a misunderstood order, a completely missed order, missing cutlery, empty or missing condiments, other creative forms of poor service, …you name it!

From today’s experience, we’re happy to report that things have changed somewhat. At first, I was afraid we were going to be disappointed! A waitress met us almost as soon as we were in the door and took us to our seats. However, subsequent patrons were allowed to stand at the door and wait for several minutes until a waitress noticed them. This gave them an opportunity to stretch their legs after long hours in the car, an opportunity that we, unfortunately, did not get.

But thank goodness, things improved from that point on. Just as I thought I was going to have to start a conversation with Kathy, a waitress began vacuuming the floor near our table. After several attempts to speak to each other, each time at higher volume, we finally gave up and settled into the comfort of our own thoughts. After 25+ years of marriage, what’s left to talk about anyway, eh? Saved by the vacuum cleaner!

Then there were another tense few moments when the cleaner moved further and further away, and finally was shut off altogether. I was just starting to sweat, my minding frantically searching for something intelligent to say to Kathy when I was saved by another waitress that came to clear the table behind me. The crash, clatter, and clang of cutlery and dishes effectively cut off any possibility of having to continue my efforts. Whew!

Not far from us was the kitchen where the food was prepared. As orders were ready, the cook placed them on a counter for the waitresses to grab and bring to the customers. How relieved we were to see that these dishes were usually left on this counter long enough to cool down significantly so as to reduce the risk of customers receiving their meals while they were still hot. I guess Dennys must have learned a lesson or two from McDonalds’ experience with customers and hot coffee!

And this particular Dennys had in-house entertainment. The bickering and arguing between the waitresses was worthy of a stand-up comedy routine. They even went further and included members of the audience in the act. At one point, one of the customers, seeing her order sitting on the kitchen counter for several minutes, got up from her table and walked back to get it. However, before she could reach it, she was intercepted by one of the waitresses and told she could not do this. The resulting interchange, and the subsequent one with their server when presented with the bill, was highly entertaining to all the patrons of the establishment.

Although we did not have to pay extra for any of these services, I felt obliged to at least leave a sizable tip to show our appreciation for the fact that the staff of this Dennys had put so much effort into not just maintaining, but even improving on the restaurant’s reputation for a memorable dining experience!

Now, where's the nearest Starbucks...?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Our American Journey - Day 16

Wow, am I ever glad we weren't in the car when this thing went off! We had an unopened can of Coke sitting in the coffee holder for a few days. Today we drove to a nearby Wal-Mart to get a few things to take back to Canada with us, as well as to Burkina in the fall. Most things are somewhat cheaper here in the USA than in Canada.

We left the car in the parking lot and walked into the store, not thinking twice about the fact that the sun was beating down on it while we were gone. When we came back and I got in to start it up, I noticed the Coke can, its top bizarrely peeled back. Then I noticed the light brown stain underneath, with rivulets running towards the rear. Little puddlets of Coke still lay on the rear seat floor mats.

It wasn't until I started cleaning up that I saw the drops on the rearview mirror, and then the dried spray all over the inside of the windshield. Sure glad I wasn't sitting next to that thing when it exploded! A guy could have a heart attack over something like that! Maybe I'd just better stick to Starbucks, eh?

The good news? The car started :P

Monday, April 21, 2008

Our American Journey - Day 15

Click! That’s the sound our car made when we tried to start it to go and visit friends on Saturday night. Nothing we tried produced anything more than that sound again and again. Terrific! No hint, no warning, just a dead car, just like that. Thank God our hosts had a vehicle to lend us for that evening and to go to church the next day.

It turned out to be the battery. For some reason, it decided to just up and die on us right then and there. Which was a blessing. Why? First of all, it gave us time to get alternate transportation for Sunday morning. If it had happened when we were in a hurry on Sunday, we’d have missed the presentation we were scheduled to do at a supporting church. As it was, we were nearly an hour late in visiting our friends on Saturday night. And secondly, it happened at a place where we had time to diagnose and fix the problem by getting a new battery. Had we been on the road somewhere with a tight schedule…

It was great to see some familiar faces at High Pointe Baptist Church, as well as to meet some new folks. This was the church we attended for two years when we did our linguistics studies at the nearby SIL Center and the University of Texas at Arlington. They even allowed me to teach a Sunday School class for younger adults, most of whom had families similar to ours at the time. Pastor Toby Snowden introduced us to the congregation. He remembers us for two things. One was when the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Texas Rangers to win the World Series back in 1993. We had just moved back to Canada from Texas and I called him up to rub it in. Considering the record of the Blue Jays, I just had to capitalize on that one, brief, shining moment!

The other thing he remembers us for us our first presentation at the church, just prior to returning to Canada. When I asked how much time we had to do it, he asked me how much time I wanted. However, he added that the more time we took, the lower the chances of ever being allowed to speak at the church again. We both laughed and he said that he was only half joking because the last special presenter they had was scheduled for 15 minutes and took nearly 45! So I thought for several seconds and answered, “Please give us twelve minutes.”

At the appointed time, Kathy & I spoke and completed our presentation in eleven and a half minutes. Pastor Toby looked at us and said, “I don’t believe it! You two can come back and speak here at any time!” And we have :)

Last night, Steve & Elaine had an open house at their place for anyone who wanted to drop by, say hello, and talk with us. About a dozen friends and acquaintances showed up and we had a wonderful time together. A few said that it was the first time they’d seen each other in years. They encouraged us to come back so that they could do this more often!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Our American Journey - Day 13

God had some fun with me today. Our hosts in Dallas, Steve & Elaine Maddox, were away for the day, so they provided us with gift cards to a couple of local restaurants for our meals. We were on our way to an IHOP (International House Of Pancakes) for brunch when it happened. I was sitting in the left turn lane, waiting for a break in the oncoming traffic before turning into the shopping mall parking lot. Finally there were only two vehicles left, a pickup truck that was preparing to turn into the mall too, and a car further back that had cut across all three lanes and still had its left turn signal on. Assuming that it was going to turn into the other left turn lane for oncoming traffic in front of me, I pulled out.

Suddenly Kathy yelled, “Mike, he’s not turning!!!” I stepped on the accelerator and shot into the parking lot right behind the pickup truck just as the car whipped past our rear end. “Wow,” I said, “that wasn’t a real bright move on my part, was it?” I should have known better than to assume he was going to turn just because his signal was on!

Driving through the parking area to the IHOP restaurant, I became aware of a motorcycle policeman coming up behind me. But no lights were flashing and no siren was blaring, so I continued on. Then the flashing lights came on. My heart sank. Great! I thought. That’s what you get for messing with Texas! Pulling over and stopping, I undid my seatbelt. “Don’t get out of the car,” Kathy cautioned. “I wasn’t planning to,” I replied. “I’m just getting my wallet.” Reaching into my back pocket, my heart sank even further. “Oh no!” I groaned. “I changed pants this morning and forgot to re-pocket my wallet. It’s still on the night table at the Maddox’s!” “Oh, boy…” whispered Kathy.

The policeman appeared at my window. I powered it down. “Hello, sir,” he began politely. “Do you know what you just did at that intersection back there?” “Oh yeah,” I replied ruefully. “I shouldn’t have turned when I did.” “That’s right,” he went on. “You could have had an accident. We have a lot of accidents at that intersection. Can I see your license, please?” “Ummm, I’m afraid that I left it back at the house,” I said with as much remorse in my voice as I could muster. “Would you give me a chance to go back and get it?”

“Weeeeelllll,” said the policeman with a long Texan drawl, “I see that y’all are from Canada, so I won’t make you go all the way back to Ontario to get it." He smiled. "How long did it take you to get here?” “About a week and a half,” I said, “since we were visiting friends on the way down.” “I was up in Canada once,” he continued. “I took my motorcycle training up in Michigan and spent a couple of days in Sault Ste. Marie. The Canadians there treated me real nice, so I’m gonna return the favour. No sense making you pay a ticket from all the way up there.” We spent a few more minutes talking about Ontario mosquitoes, Texas heat, and how hoth were good preparation for our work in Africa. Then the policeman wished us a good day and left. Whew! God bless Texas!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Our American Journey - Day 11

SOMEONE must have warned the US Department of Homeland Security that a couple of crazy Canucks were coming to this part of eastern Texas! When we got to Longview, TX, there was hardly a motel room left to be found, apart from smoking rooms and Jacuzzi suites, both of which were not on our list of desirables for various reasons. It turns out that Homeland Security had booked nearly all the motel rooms in the area for some kind of event, so it was with some difficulty that we finally secured a place to stay for the night. We don’t think there was any connection between these two events, but that didn’t stop us from wondering if someone hadn’t tipped them off!

Longview has been a spiritual pilgrimage site of sorts for me every time I come to Texas. It’s home to LeTourneau University. It’s founder, R.G. LeTourneau, is one of my heroes of the faith (yes, I know it’s odd, but true). He was a Christian industrialist that God blessed with incredible success in the world of construction and heavy equipment manufacturing. Although he became tremendously wealthy, most people don’t realize that he went bankrupt four times and travelled through some pretty stormy waters in his life before he reached that point. However, he was very serious about serving God, and early in his career was prepared to give up the construction and machine-building work he so loved to go to the mission field. A wise pastor prayed with him and then told him that God needs businessmen too. R.G. devoted the rest of his life to serving God through his businesses. His autobiography, “R.G. LeTourneau: Mover of Men and Mountains” makes for a very interesting read.

LeTourneau is often cited in sermons on giving or tithing as the man who gave away 90% of his income and lived on the 10% that was left, instead of the other way around as most Christians do. What some pastors fail to point out is that LeTourneau’s 10% was more than what most of us get for our 100%! However, Kathy & I are pleased to report that we too have managed to achieve this incredible goal of giving away 90% of our income and living on only 10%. In fact, sometimes, we manage to give away the whole 100%! Do you think it matters that our list of donor organizations and people include MasterCard, Bell Telephone, Pembridge Auto Insurance, and our landlord? After all, these folks are trying to make ends meet too!

Starbucks just went up another notch in my books. Yesterday I walked into one of their stores in Louisiana and asked for my usual order, a short bold. The barista behind the counter said, “How about I give you a tall bold for no charge instead?” I thought they were just out of small cups and were going to give me the next size up for no extra charge. Imagine my surprise when she told me that, no, it was absolutely free! I’m not sure what happened there, but I walked out with a free cup of Starbucks’ finest in my hand that lasted me all the way to the Texas state line. If someone has a possible explanation for this, please feel free to fill me in!

Today, we’re off to Dallas, TX. Dallas – Fort Worth is the home of Super Suppers, by the way. It’s where the company started, spreading from there to every state in the USA, including Alaska and Hawaii! Check out their website at http://www.supersuppers.com/. I’m more and more impressed with this idea. And I see that they do not yet seem to have entered the Canadian market. Some of you may want to click on the Franchise Info tab :)

Well, check out time is fast approaching, and as usual I've managed to stay on the computer long enough to give Kathy time to do all the packing up :) There's no exercise facilities at this motel, so maybe I'll carry our stuff out to the car instead. Being on the second floor helps too. Wow! Imagine getting to use real stairs instead of a StairMaster machine!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Our American Journey - Day 10

When we were planning out this trip through the States and cruising websites looking for motel possibilities when we weren’t able to sponge off… oops, I mean, enjoy the hospitality of friends along the way, we were impressed with how some motels were attempting to capture the new breed of traveler (ourselves included, of course!).

Many offer free Internet service, essential to the connectivity to the rest of the world now demanded by business travelers, and increasingly by those just on vacation. People want to be able to check on their Facebook account and keep in touch with family & friends there, look at and write e-mails, post to a blog, check on dining and entertainment possibilities in their present location, and even check out their next stop down the road.

Continental breakfast included with your room stay is nothing new, but is certainly a factor in our choice of motels to stay in. We’re not big breakfast eaters, and I’m always running behind anyway, so having a small but usually adequate breakfast on location instead of having to go out to a restaurant somewhere is a quick, low-cost solution. But it’s interesting how much motels vary in their offering and set-up in this department. The best we ever experienced wasn’t even on this trip, but on a previous one to Quebec. At a motel near the airport in Montreal, the selection of hot and cold items was incredible. There was even a cook who would dish you up a bowl of oatmeal, toast you a slice of bread or a bagel, and clean tables with a smile in his spare time. We were impressed!

Our experience on this trip so far has varied. Our first stop, at a Ramada Inn, was good. Nice selection and a clean, comfortable sitting area. Our second, at a Super 8 Motel, left something to be desired. Continental breakfast hours were 6-9 a.m. We got up early and were there by 8:30 (haha!). By that time, there was hardly anything left. And some kind of sales group was setting up the breakfast room for a meeting, so we had to find a place to sit down and eat in a corner of the lobby. Don’t think we’ll be doing Super 8’s again. Continental breakfast was only one of the issues we had with them!

Our most recent breakfast was at a Days Inn. It was the most pathetic to date! A nice motel, convenient breakfast hours (6-10 a.m.), a beautiful dining room, and just one little cart for breakfast supplies! Cereal, coffee, juice, and a couple of pieces of fruit was all they provided. However, there was also a toaster and microwave, so when we asked what those were for, the hostess brought out packages of little biscuits with tiny meat patties between them, about two bites in size. She said we should stick them in the microwave for five minutes. Yikes! We didn’t want crispy critters for breakfast! Fifty seconds was more like it! Unfortunately, even nuking these things didn’t make them taste any better. Surely an organization like Days Inn can do better than that!

Another service we’re increasingly finding offered by motels is gyms or exercise facilities. That’s great for those of us already on an exercise schedule through a fitness club membership at home. It helps us keep up our routine even while on the road, at least some of the time. It’s also a good way to balance all that sitting in the car while you’re traveling. Unfortunately, the reality hasn’t yet caught up with the advertising.

The Ramada’s “gym” consisted of a small room with three pieces of exercise equipment and a bathroom for changing and employee smoking. The treadmill worked fine. The upright bicycle could be pedaled, but that was all. And the weight machine was broken completely. But at least they beat the Super 8, which advertised exercise facilities but didn’t actually have any! As for Days Inn, we drove an extra hour to stay at one that had exercise facilities over one that didn’t, only to find out that they were out of order. Terrific! We were not impressed. A call to Days Inn customer service brought sympathy and assurance that someone would be in touch with us soon to see what could be done. We’re still waiting...

By the way, Mississippi has just joined the list of states that does not want anyone sending postcards and letting outsiders know what's attractive and interesting about their state :) Louisiana almost made the list. We'd stopped a total of five times along our route and were about to call it a day when Kathy found some, pretty well at the last travel stop before the Texas state line!
The continental breakfast selection at the Days Inn :(

Our American Journey - Day 9

If we hadn’t been going the wrong way on the Interstate highway, we’d have never noticed those billboards. We were supposed to be on I-85 heading out of Charlotte, NC. But after a few miles, I noticed the traffic getting heavier and the sun on the wrong side of the car! It was after we’d gotten ourselves turned around and going the right direction that the first sign caught our attention: “Church Trailer Thief, Hope You’re Enjoying Our Communion Plates!” Not your average billboard, right? We were trying to decide whether this was a joke, a creative publicity campaign, or what when we saw the second billboard: “Church Trailer Thief, We Need Our Stuff Back!” This time we saw that it was sponsored by KineticChurch.com.

Intrigued, we told our friends, Wayne & Amanda Dove, about it when we arrived at their place in Birmingham, Alabama late that afternoon. And finally, we looked it up on the Internet this morning. It appears that some thieves stole a trailer containing 75% of Kinetic Church’s belongings, including communion trays, Bibles, and children’s toys. It’s an interesting story and you can check it out by typing “kineticchurch.com” in your Internet browser’s address bar. Be sure to also watch the YouTube video that goes along with it by clicking on the Video link at the bottom right of the church’s website. What a creative way to capitalize on a negative experience!

Here's some links:


Amanda also told us about an interesting new business in Birmingham called Super Suppers. Sounds like somebody identified a potential niche market, saw a possible need, and developed a business to meet it. Super Suppers is a place where you can go to prepare any number of meals that you can then take home and stick in the fridge or freezer until you’re ready to pop them in the oven or microwave, ready to serve. You can’t just make anything you want, but Super Suppers provides all the ingredients for a wide variety of meals along with cooking instructions for each type, and up to 10-12 mini kitchens to prepare and cook them in. More expensive than cooking at home, but less costly than eating out, and all without the hassle of having to come up with a meal plan, find recipes, shop for ingredients, or clean up afterwards. Kind of a laundromat approach to meal preparation! The ideal solution for busy men and women who really love to cook, but don’t have the time for the whole enchilada. Maybe there are some entrepreneurs out there looking for a new business idea…?

One final note: We’ve decided that Virginia and Alabama seem to be determined to be two of the best-kept secrets in the United States. We probably didn’t look in any of the right places, but we couldn’t find postcards in those states to send to friends and family to save our lives! After nearly an hour of trying a wide variety of stores we thought would sell them, but didn’t, we gave up the quest and headed for the highway to motor onwards. It’s true that selling postcards probably isn’t on the list of high-income type businesses, but I think there’s an opportunity just waiting for the right person here.

Well, we made it almost all the way through Mississippi today. I’m gonna go out and see if I can find some postcards around here…

That works out to just over 83 cents/litre!

Where can you gas up for this amount in Canada?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Our American Journey - Day 7

Well, we definitely didn't need the air conditioning today! It started out sunny, but in the afternoon became cloudy and cool, then rainy and downright chilly in the evening! Probably a hint from on high that it's time to travel further south :) So tomorrow, we heading off to Birmingham, Alabama.

During our stay here at the JAARS Center in North Carolina, we had the joy of meeting and talking with several former colleagues from Burkina Faso, as well as a Wycliffe couple we got to know in Canada before they came to serve in a technical support position down here. I also had the pleasure of meeting with a few people I had first gotten to know via e-mail as a result of some of our EMUs where I talked about using the Internet to speed up linguistic analysis and language development. They are themselves pretty creative and innovative people, and it was great to talk further about these things and other ideas.

I also met someone who is in charge of creative strategies for speeding up the task. One of the main areas he's focusing on is business as mission. In other words, businesses whose focus is either direct involvement in Bible translation through a service or product that is helpful to the task, or indirect involvement by generating income that can help fund literacy and translation projects. We spent a very interesting couple of hours together and I came away with my head spinning with new ideas and possibilities! Getting them into practice, however, is a different story. But you've got to start somewhere.

Before I call it a day and hit the hay, I'd better find out where the nearest Starbucks is for when we hit the road tomorrow. It's gonna be a long drive!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Our American Journey - Day 5

"What were we doing a week ago tonight?" I asked Kathy this evening.
"Ummm, give me a minute..." she said.
I gave her a subtle hint: "It involved feeding 90 people and doing a presentation."
She looked surprised. "Was that just a week ago?"

It's hard to believe that just a week ago, we were doing a presentation of "Welcome to Ouagadougou!" and then scrambling on the weekend to get ready for our trip through the States.

We arrived at the JAARS Center near Waxhaw, North Carolina, late on Thursday afternoon. JAARS (which stands for Jungle Aviation and Radio Service) is Wycliffe's aviation, transportation, communication, and technology arm, providing equipment and support in these areas for Wycliffe personnel all over the world. Here the trees are not merely budding and blossoming as they were further north. They are actually out in leaf! Earlier in the day, it had gotten warm enough in the car that we had to open the windows to cool things down. Finally, even that didn't do the trick and we had to turn on the air conditioning. We found it funny that when we left home, we had the heater turned on in the car, and now we're running the A/C!

We'll be spending the weekend with Ken & Katy Wienecke, friends and former colleagues from Burkina Faso, where Ken served in computer and technical support, and Katy ran the linguistic library. It was good to reminisce about old times, people we knew, and adventures we'd had. It was also good to talk about what was happening now. After leaving Burkina, Ken was heavily involved in recruiting computer personnel for Wycliffe for several years. Two areas of greatest need in Wycliffe right now are those of IT and teaching. We desperately need more computer people and school teachers all over the world.

Today, we made a tour of the Center and met a number of people we'd known in the past, or had gotten to know more recently through e-mail communication. It was good to meet some of these latter folks face to face for the first time and to be able to talk about some of the exciting work they are doing to further the work of language development and Bible translation. It helps us to see that we're part of something that is much bigger and exciting than just our little corner of it.

Tomorrow, we're planning to visit a few more people for fellowship and inspiration. But right now, we've got to get some sleep! Good night.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Our American Journey - Day 3

The last time we saw our friends, Andy & Lori Keener, was when we'd all finished our linguistic studies at SIL in Dallas, TX. That was 15 years ago! Since then, they've gone from no kids to four kids, and have just finished a New Testament translation for the Teribe people of Panama. It was a real joy to see them again after all these years, to meet their really delightful children, and hear of their adventures, insights, and lessons learned during years of fieldwork. Lots of food for thought as we talked about the remaining task of language work and Bible translation.

The Keeners live near Amish country in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and took us on a tour of the Farmers' Market, an Amish store, and the surrounding area. With such interesting sights and interesting conversation, we were loathe to leave and managed to put our departure off until just after lunchtime. Thanks, Andy & Lori, for your wonderful hospitality!

Then it was on the road again, with just a quick stop to mail some postcards to family & friends. Was it coincidence that we just happened to spot a Starbucks nearby? I prefer to think that it was divine intervention! A cup of bold for the road and off we were. Smooth travelling except for a bit of construction. The speed limit in most places on the Interstate highways was 65 mph. Everyone was going at least 70. Even when the speed limit was 55 mph, people still drove 70! I spent half my time watching traffic and the other half trying to figure out how fast I was going. While the numbers for speed in kilometres/hour on our speedometer are big and easy to see, the numbers for speed in miles/hour are not, especially if you're wearing sunglasses! Ah well, we all need challenges in life from time to time. Keeps things interesting!

As we passed from Pennsylvania into Maryland, and then on to Virginia, we noticed that things were getting more and more spring-like as we went along. Trees were budding and blossoming, flowers were blooming, and we even saw a guy mowing grass!

Our stop for tonight is in Richmond, Virginia. Tomorrow we'll go on to the JAARS Center in Waxhaw, North Carolina. JAARS is the aviation and technical wing of SIL. We'll be staying with former co-workers there from Burkina Faso.

Trees in blossom at a Maryland rest stop

Monday, April 7, 2008

Our American Journey - Day 1

We finally got on the road today. Kathy was ready by mid-morning. I had just one more e-mail to write, just one more item to arrange, just one more thing to do... you know how it is. Kathy says that every family has someone that's always running behind, and that in ours, it's me. Actually, what I really wanted to do was make sure we missed the morning rush hour traffic through Toronto. Thanks to my delaying tactics, we left home shortly after lunch and had smooth sailing right through that city!

On our way to the Canada-US border, we noticed the snow was really disappearing. It occurred to us that this would probably be the last time we'd see snow for the next several years!

We decided to cross into the US just east of Kingston instead of at Niagara Falls because we thought it would be far less busy there. It certainly was! We were across the border in no time with no problems at all. First stop, Syracuse, NY.

An interesting fellow-traveller...

The line-up at the border (no kidding, there was no one behind us!)

Gas prices in Syracuse. That's less than a dollar per litre! I wish I'd waited to gas up until I'd crossed the border!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Is It Time to Go Yet?

Trips are fun! But as some of you know, getting ready for them can be a lot of work. Sometimes I'd like to skip that part and just jump in the car and go! But then I look at the car and think, "I'd better get that thing cleaned up or the people we're going to visit will think we're messy and make us sleep in the garage." And how many of us really don't want to clean the house before we leave, but do it because in the back of our minds we're thinking, "If I don't make it home again, I don't want people coming into my house to arrange my affairs and thinking what a messy person I am!"

So this morning we got up bleary-eyed and aching after a great "Welcome to Ouagadougou!" event the evening before at Calvary Baptist Church in Gravenhurst, ON. After our morning injection of caffeine, and putting all the materials from the presentation away in their proper place, we contemplated what needed to be done before we could leave on Monday morning.

First there was the housework. I made a valiant effort to put it off as long as possible by hiding in my office and doing e-mail and correspondence, but finally had to fire up the vacuum cleaner and get busy doing my part. At least I like vacuuming. And I don't mind cleaning the bathrooms too much. But dusting I hate, so I'm glad Kathy does that. Then I cleaned the car while Kathy started to pack. I used to say that I didn't need to learn to do housework, laundry, or cooking because Kathy knew how to do that. After all, if both of us can do the same things, one of us is redundant, right? Unfortunately, I could never get Kathy to understand my logic for that argument.

Well, I probably should clean up my desk too. Now there's a major job! But I'm afraid that if I do, I'll never find anything when we come back. Yeah, it's a lot of work getting ready to go on a trip, but maybe we can look at this as a practice run for getting ready to return to Burkina in September.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Scrambling Through the Countdown

In preparation for our upcoming trip through the USA, we finally decided to get a CAA (Canadian Automobile Association) membership, after years of managing to do without it. It's not so much for possible troubles with our car as we travel. It's for the medical insurance should we have troubles with ourselves and end up in a hospital or clinic! Gone are the days when we thought we were invincible :) It was a simple choice between paying about $150 now or potentially having to sell our house to pay medical costs later. Since we don't have a house to sell, this was a no-brainer.

Other things on our list? A tune-up for the car, exploring options for our cellphones, arranging for a housesitter and bill payments while we're gone, cleaning up the house one last time, and preparing to do a performance of "Welcome to Ouagadougou!" before we leave. Calvary Baptist Church in Gravenhurst is hosting it this time, with the ladies group preparing an African meal and the youth serving it prior to our presentation. The Missions Committee is endeavouring to raise enough money through this event for us to buy some medical equipment to take back to Burkina with us. It takes place this Friday evening (April 4), starting at 6 p.m. So far, we have almost 70 people coming in total. Considering the size of the venue, things will be cozy, but there's always room for a few more, so if you still want to come, please let us know.

I was asked to speak at one of our partner churches on the Sunday before we leave, and was sorely tempted to accept (I have a hard time saying "no" and love to speak when I get the opportunity. I haven't found a microphone yet that I can't make friends with!). But on second thought, I realized that this would really be too much on the day before our departure and regretfully ended up declining. Sorry, Pastor Audley!

Some of you have asked about our itinerary during our time in the US. Here it is to date:

April 7 - Departure
April 8 - Visit friends & partners in Lancaster, PA
April 10-14 - Visit friends, colleagues, & JAARS Center in Waxhaw, NC
April 14 - Visit friends in Birmingham, AL
April 17-22 Visit friends, partners, & partner church around Dallas, TX
April 24 - Visit friends & partners in Macomb, IL
April 26-27 - Visit friends & partners in Cedar Rapids, IA
April 30 - Return home

Thanks to the people who have posted comments on this blog so far. It's great to hear from you in this way! Sometimes we can tell who you are, but often we can't because there is no name associated with the message. If you wish to remain anonymous, that's fine. But we'd encourage those of you who don't mind us knowing who you are to put your name(s) at the bottom of each message. Looking forward to hearing from you!

Well, it's approaching my bedtime, so I'll bid you all good night!