Friday, June 27, 2008


It takes teamwork and cooperation to get God’s work done. And it’s neat to see how that happens sometimes. This weekend, Kathy & I are doing a “Welcome to Ouagadougou!” presentation at Lisle Memorial Baptist Church, our main partner church in Toronto. This church was our introduction to cross-cultural ministry when we first moved to Toronto and we’ve worked together ever since.

Anyway, I needed to get some imitation Canadian passports made up for this event, so I asked a printer friend about the covers. He graciously ran off several hundred gratis. I printed the inserts with programme info at home, but then needed a paper cutter and long-reach stapler to finish assembling the passports. Our partner church in Barrie, Hiway Pentecostal, graciously allowed me to use their equipment.

As I sat there, cutting, assembling, stapling, and folding, I couldn’t help but think of how this all fit together into a larger picture: a white, middle class Canadian printer and a Pentecostal church in Barrie helping Wycliffe missionaries put on an African presentation for a West Indian Baptist church in Toronto! Pretty cool, eh?

Another example of teamwork in this ministry greeted me when I went to get the mail today. A single envelope lay in our box. When I opened it, out fell a money order for $50. It was accompanied by a short letter that said, in part, “This gift is small, but I’m hoping it may provide some pleasant compensation for the ‘pain’ experienced by visits to dentists and doctors, parting with ‘stuff’ and having to say goodbye again.” It was signed “Anonymous”.

Well, this person had obviously read our latest EMU and I laughed at their clever play on the word “pain”. But I was again reminded of the fact that we’re part of a larger team, a team assembled by God to accomplish a specific purpose. Kathy & I may be the visible front-line workers, but there are other less visible members that are just as crucial to the effort. In fact, we couldn’t do what we do unless there are people praying, providing finances and encouragement, and helping in a myriad of other ways.

If you’re reading this, Anonymous, please accept our sincere thanks for your contribution! And thanks to all of you who pray for us, send funds for our work, and help in one way or another. May God richly bless each one of you!

Thursday, June 26, 2008


I’ve never been so happy to spend $300 in all my life! That’s all it cost me to get out of the dentist office yesterday! My last check up was prior to going back to Burkina in 2003. After five years, I was afraid that I’d need at least one repair or filling, if not more. To my immense relief, an extremely thorough exam, complete with X-rays, showed no problems at all! All that was required was a routine cleaning. Woohoo!

If you’ve guessed by now that dental work is not exactly something I enjoy, you’re absolutely right. I thought $300 was a small price to pay for the relief I felt at spending such a problem-free couple of hours in THE CHAIR! And when’s the last time you got out of a dentist’s office for only $300? Unfortunately, Kathy was not so lucky. She’s going to need a few more appointments. But she’s a nurse. She loves needles and all that stuff :)

On that note, it was just a week ago that Kathy graduated from York University and we celebrated with family and friends. Yippeeee! I am now married to a scientific bachelor! She graduated with honours (magna cum laude) to get her B.Sc. in Nursing, something that will open more doors of opportunity for service in the area of health training and promotion with our work in Burkina.

I was scheduled to call Pastor Emmanuel in Burkina yesterday. I tried, but couldn’t get through. Not sure what the problem was, so I’ll have to try again today.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Weekend in Spragge

Wow, what a weekend! We left a little later than planned on Friday and, having told our friends we’d be there before supper, were afraid that we were going to really hold them up. However, with cups of Starbucks bold to speed us on our way and Kathy driving much of the distance, we arrived just in time, despite a pit stop in Sudbury and hydro-planing our way through a downpour just west of there.

Our friends, the Faulkners, were in the midst of some home renovations, so they arranged for us to spend the weekend with them at a family cottage not far from their place. The outhouse facilities, lack of running water, and mosquitoes reminded us of village living in Burkina, but the electricity, cool weather, green trees, and lakeside view were definitely Canadian. It was great to spend some time with our old friends around cups of coffee, good food, a campfire, watching videos, and setting off fireworks.

I wasn’t sure what I was going to speak about at the Men’s Breakfast on Saturday morning. But Kathy suggested I tell the men there about how God led a couple of ordinary people like us from the dairy farm to linguistic & translation work in Burkina Faso, West Africa, through culture shock, personal struggles, financial difficulties, and family problems, and how He always faithfully provided for our needs, even in the leanest of times. This isn’t a story I tell very often, so I welcomed the opportunity to do so. I think it helps people see that we’re not spiritual superheroes, but ordinary people doing an extraordinary work by God’s grace. And if He can do it with folks like us, He can do it with anybody!

Meanwhile, Kathy held a fashion show with the women, getting them to model clothes she had brought back from Africa, and using this as a basis for talking about our life and work in Burkina. Judging by the laughter I heard upstairs, they had a ball! It turns out that many of the women were pleasantly surprised by this activity. It was not something they had expected at all, and they ended up having lot of fun with it.

As a courtesy, Kathy invited Pastor Fred to join them and help model a few outfits, but I’m glad he declined. Having him strutting around in an African ladies’ dress would have been terribly distracting for the men when I was trying to speak!

Sunday morning, I brought the missions message while Kathy did an activity with the youth. After the morning service, the folks organized a BBQ lunch that gave us a good opportunity to interact informally with many of them over hamburgers, hotdogs, salads, and desserts. We concluded the afternoon with an hour-long presentation of our ministry in Burkina and some of the cultural, linguistic, and translation challenges faced by people in our kind of work.

We got home in mid-afternoon today and crashed. Tomorrow, Kathy is doing a presentation for a Baptist women’s group in Orillia. After that, we’ve got to get ready for a “Welcome to Ouagadougou!” presentation this Sunday afternoon at Lisle Memorial Baptist Church, our main partner church in Toronto.

It’s nearly midnight again, so I’d better hit the hay. Goodnight!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Headed North

This morning, we’re scrambling to get ready to head up to northern Ontario for a weekend of ministry at a church there. Getting ready doesn’t just mean getting our stuff together. It also means tidying up the place, doing some vacuuming, and cleaning the bathrooms. We’ve got some friends coming in to feed the cat and don’t want them to know how messy we can really be! (Please don’t tell them!)

Spragge Bible Church has invited us to participate in a series of events for their missions weekend. Not sure what we’ll be getting into weather-wise up there since here in central Ontario, it’s already cold enough to require turning on the heat in the house even though it’s past the middle of June! However, I’m sure the warm fellowship will be sufficient to overcome any chill in the air. I’ll be speaking at a men’s breakfast on Saturday morning while Kathy will be speaking to the women at the same time (not sure if the women also get to eat breakfast or not). Then I’ll bring the message on Sunday morning while Kathy speaks to the children. And in the afternoon, following a potluck lunch, we’ll do a modified version of our “Welcome to Ouagadougou!” presentation.

We got involved with Spragge Bible Church through our long-time friends in the area, Ken & Rose Faulkner. Ken and I have been friends since we went to agricultural college in New Liskeard together, back in… well, let’s just say that it was a long time ago! Over the years, our family has visited with the Faulkners numerous times and they’ve always warmly hosted us whenever we’ve come to speak or present at Spragge.

Okay, gotta go! Please pray for us. No, not for our ministry so much as for the Internet withdrawal we’re going to suffer. Three whole days off the Net! But with your prayers and God’s grace, I’m sure we’ll survive somehow!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Presentation Challenges

Yesterday, we did a modified version of our “Welcome to Ouagadougou!” presentation for the Northern Lights Seniors group that meets once a month at Glenwood Chapel in Port Carling, ON. Someone who had seen our presentation at Calvary Baptist Church in Gravenhurst at the beginning of April recommended us to the group. We often get invited to speak at various groups like this because, unlike most churches, they’re always on the lookout for new speakers and presenters. Some people might say that we’re just providing local entertainment in such cases, but we consider them as opportunities!

The leader of the group wanted us to do as much of our presentation as possible, but was concerned that the full two hours would be too long for them. Normally, the seniors first all had lunch together, and then had the special speaker or presenter do their thing. But you know what happens to people after they’ve eaten a good lunch, don’t you? That’s right! They tend to get sleepy and doze off!

I offered to shorten our presentation, but the seniors group leader came up with a better idea: split the presentation around lunch! In other words, do half of it before lunch and the other half after lunch. It meant changing the normal procedure of things and starting their program earlier than usual, but it worked wonderfully!

Nevertheless, we did make some modifications to our presentation in order to better relate it to the age and life-stage of our audience. This is a constant challenge we face: making our presentations relevant to our audiences.

In July, we’ve been asked to give a presentation to the PROBUS Club in Bracebridge. PROBUS stands for “Pro(fessional) and Bus(iness)” and is a club for… well, retired professional and business people! It’s sponsored by the Rotary Club and consists primarily of people who were formerly members of Rotary. Most of these folks would not call themselves Christians and thus would find it difficult to understand what we’re doing from such a perspective. So we’ll be presenting our work in a slightly different way, a way that will make more sense to them in terms of where they’re coming from.

Constantly modifying our presentations to suit our audiences, as well as respecting the venue and time limitations, keeps us on our toes. It also helps us keep the material fresh in our own minds. Thank God for that! Lack of fresh input is what makes both water and people stagnant. These monthly meetings with special speakers was one method that the Northern Lights Seniors used to get fresh input in their lives and keep from going stagnant. We’re glad that we had the chance to provide it for them this time.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Most Beautiful Language in the World

We saw an interesting movie this past weekend. We were meeting Josh in Toronto for an early Father’s Day celebration (since he had to work on the actual day), and planned to go to a restaurant and a movie together. Finding a good restaurant wasn’t hard. Finding a good movie was. Despite the large number of films coming out nowadays, there’s a dearth of ones we consider worth watching at a theatre.

The movie I ended up choosing was a foreign film called “Mongol”. It recounts the story of Temudgin, a boy and then young man who would one day become the ruler of half the known world as Genghis Khan. Besides some spectacular scenery of that part of the world (the film was shot in China, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan, with the film crew having to actually build roads themselves to reach some of the more inaccessible regions), all the dialogue in the film was in Mongolian, a language I’d never heard before. As a linguist, I found myself listening intently to the words and sentences, looking for patterns that would give me an idea of how the language was structured and functioned. Yeah, I know, different strokes for different folks. Anyway, good thing they had subtitles or I wouldn’t have understood a thing!

However, the most interesting lines for me in the whole movie were when Temudgin says to his children, “Our language is the most beautiful language in the whole world. Just listen to how beautiful it sounds!” And he pronounces the word for “meat” which is something like the German word for “make” – “mach” (where the ‘ch’ is a velar fricative). To be sure, it wasn’t particularly beautiful sounding to me, but the statements illustrated a truth shared by the speakers of so many minority languages around the world even today.

People often suggest to me that rather than spending all that time and money to put other languages into writing and to translate the Bible and other stuff into those languages, it would be much more efficient and economical to just teach everyone English. Sure, it might take a few generations, but eventually everyone would learn it. I can’t disagree that it would be more efficient and probably more economical too. But it completely overlooks the fact that many speakers of other languages consider their language to be “the most beautiful language in the whole world”.

Interestingly, it’s only ever English speakers that suggest everyone should just learn English!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Fun With Dentists

I really enjoyed going to the dentist’s office today. This is not normally the case. I’ve had a fear of dentists and the pain of toothwork since early childhood. I used to start worrying and agonizing days before an actual appointment! Thankfully, dentistry and dentists have come a long way since those days. But going to a dentist’s office is still pretty low on my list of life’s enjoyable experiences!

But today was different. I was really looking forward to this appointment. That’s probably because it was actually Kathy’s :) And while she was in the hot seat, I got to sit in the waiting room and spent a truly enjoyable hour reading through past issues of Macleans magazine. Now that’s my definition of an ideal dentist appointment!

However, my turn is coming. We’ve left it to the last months of our time in Canada, but dental check-ups and any necessary toothwork is one of the things that needs to be done before we return to Burkina Faso in September. The same is true of eye exams, complete physical checkups, and vaccinations. Kathy got new glasses last year and I just got new ones a few weeks ago. Thankfully, unlike most dental work, this was relatively painless. Except for the bill. Ouch! Why do these things cost so much? We can make electronic devices that require much more physical material and are of infinitely greater complexity than a pair of glasses, yet cost less to buy. What am I missing here?

Now we’re starting on the dental work. While this involves some degree of both physical and monetary pain, it’s much preferable to having dental work done in Burkina. The trick for us, living in a different place each time we come home, is finding a good dentist.

The last time we were home, we lived in Orillia. Not knowing which dentist to go to, we got some recommendations and I made some phone calls. In an effort to find the best one, each member of our family was booked to go to a different dentist. In the end, we ended up going with mine. She was reasonably priced, took care to work with us in light of our financial situation and what really needed to be done, and above all she always talked to us about what she was doing. The other dentists were reasonably priced too, but were not so willing to work with us. They preferred to do everything possible and sometimes just went ahead and did things without talking to us at all. An unsympathetic attitude and a few surprise bills and we were outta there!

This time, because we’re living in Barrie, Kathy tried a dentist here first. She gave it a good shot, but in the end, it was the same thing. After a few “open up, shut up, and pay up” appointments, we decided to not waste more time and money looking in Barrie, but to go back to our former dentist again. Fortunately, Orillia is only a half hour drive away, so it’s not a big deal. And fortunately, my first appointment is still a couple of weeks away, so I don’t have to start sweating just yet!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Just Having Some Fun

Kathy & I have a hard time leaving what we do to have other kinds of fun. This is partly due to the nature of our work. Since it’s funded by other people who give generously and sometimes even sacrificially because they want to see this kind of work done, we feel a sense of responsibility to use those funds wisely and well. You know… good stewardship stuff. So we often have a hard time using them for personal pleasures like going to a movie, having a nice meal out, or taking a vacation like normal people.

The other part’s due to the fact that, for the most part, we already love what we do and have fun doing it! Oh yeah, there are times of stress, boredom, and sheer misery as in any other job, but most mornings we wake up looking forward to the day. We’re content in knowing that we’re doing what God has called us to do, and enjoy our work both here in Canada and in Burkina.

But yesterday, we decided to be radicals! It was Josh’s 21st birthday, and he wanted us to spend it with him and his girlfriend at Canada’s Wonderland. Since it was a milestone age for him, and probably the last time we’d do this kind of thing together for a long time, we went. The fact that we were able to get tickets at about half price through CAA made us feel less guilty about it :)

Well, we’re not as young as we used to be, and some say your desire for adventure diminishes as you get older, but I’ve found the opposite to be true for me. Probably because I was kind of timid and not very athletic when I was younger. And when the kids were small, I spent most of my time with them on the kiddie rides rather than on the bigger thrill rides.

But this time was different. Josh was now old enough to handle the bigger rides and we went on almost all of them. But the highlight of the day was going on Wonderland’s newest and biggest ride yet: Behemoth, a super-powered roller coaster that was absolutely awesome! We got the two seats at the very front of the machine and sat in high bucket seats with our feet dangling and only a small lap bar with handholds for a safety restraint. The seats had no sides and no front. Just open air all around.

The ride begins with a steep 70-metre (230 ft) climb up. The view at the top is awesome. Then comes the most intense part... a 75-degree drop that looks absolutely straight down! You feel like you're going into free fall as the coaster rockets from nearly 0 to 125 km/hr (77 mph) in just seconds! Then you're shooting up into the sky and headed for the next drop and the first turn. What a rush! The total run is just over a mile long (1.62 kms) and takes about a minute and a half to complete. It goes by really fast! And it's got to be the smoothest roller coaster I've ever been on. For a cool, real-life video of the ride, check out

All in all, we had a really great day together. Josh & I got dropped, spun, slammed, banged, jerked, hung, and soaked. Kathy and Melissa got sunburned as well as dropped, slammed, banged, jerked, and hung. And we all went out for birthday supper at Frankie Tomatto’s afterwards, where they sang the birthday boy a silly song, gave him a silly hat, and took a silly picture. Great memories to take back to Burkina with us :)

Now, where did I put that chiropractor’s phone number…?

Monday, June 9, 2008

Bonne Nuit!

It’s been another great and crazy weekend. The day-long Discover Wycliffe seminar on Saturday went well. As predicted, however, it indeed turned out to be a long night the evening before as I scrambled to get the presentations put together the way I wanted them. I finally called it quits at 3 a.m. Then we were up at 6 to load the car and drive to Toronto to set up. About a dozen people came to participate in the seminar, about half of them college & university students looking for God’s direction in their lives and wondering if ministry with Wycliffe was a possibility.

This Sunday afternoon, we were at Life-Spring church in Toronto. I spoke during their worship service, and Kathy & I did a presentation afterwards. My message was average, but the presentation was a riot! The audience really got into the stories, skits, and linguistics practice! We always find it interesting to see how different audiences react to the various parts of our presentations.

We’ve got a real challenge coming up in July. We’ve just been invited to do our “Welcome to Ouagadougou!” event at a family camp retreat for four Baptist churches in New Brunswick. So what’s the challenge? No, it’s not the drive out there, nor the fact that they’re Baptists :) It’s that we’ve got to do the whole thing in French! This is a first for us, and we’re a little nervous about it! Sure, we can speak French passably well, but since coming home to Canada in 2005, we’ve not used it much.

Guess I’d better start reading my Bible in French, listening to French radio stations, and reading French books and magazines! Maybe Kathy & I will even start speaking to each other in French again. Gotta get that language back in our heads and our tongues back around those words before we get to New Brunswick in July! But it’ll have to wait until tomorrow. It’s late again and I need to get some much-needed sleep. Bonne nuit!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Another Great Weekend Coming Up!

Whew! Another busy weekend coming up. On Saturday, June 7, Kathy & I are helping run a day-long seminar in Toronto for about a dozen people who are seriously considering serving with Wycliffe and who want to have a better idea of what’s involved. Besides an introduction to the organization, what it does, and where it works, there will be sessions on linguistics, literacy, translation, and support work, along with an ethnic meal for lunch. And, of course, there’ll be lots of opportunities for Q&A during the sessions, and time for individual discussion with other Wycliffe members during breaks. Along with Kathy & I, there will be six other staff present.

Kathy will be doing the presentation on literacy and lead part of the support work session. She’s also in charge of preparing the African meal for lunch. Good thing she’s a better multi-tasker than I am! And she’ll have some help in the kitchen to keep things cooking (ouch, that's punny! :) when she has to do her part of the presentations.

I’ll be teaching the session on linguistics (using simple exercises in phonetics, phonology, and grammar), and on Bible translation (pointing out the challenges posed by difference between the language & culture of the Bible and the language & culture of the people for whom the Bible is being translated). If you’ve seen either our “Welcome to Ouagadougou!” or “An Evening With Wycliffe” presentation, you’ll have been exposed to some of this, but on a lighter level.

Of course, we still try to make it entertaining as well as informative. That’s why I spent the past several days revamping all the material. Yeah, I can’t just leave things well enough alone, can I? This is the third time we’ve been involved in doing this seminar and I radically change my presentations for each one. Why? Because sometimes it takes some trial & error to work out the best way to do things. Each time we do it, we think of new & better ways to do something, or at least realize that something needs to be changed! I almost always look back and groan about something I did or didn't do. The first time, I had too much material to cover in my sessions. The second time, my phonetics section was too lame, and the Bible translation session was too long and academic. Let’s face it; it’s not a good sign when I’m bored with my own presentation! Thus the major overhaul this time, incorporating some of the fun stuff we’ve developed for our presentations to regular church audiences, while still retaining the core teaching material.

Then on Sunday, I’m speaking at a partner church in Toronto, and Kathy & I are doing a modified “Evening With Wycliffe” presentation there later in the afternoon (guess we should call it "An Afternoon With Wycliffe", eh? :). It’s gonna be a long night as I continue to work on getting ready for all this, so I’d better get back at it. Hope you all have a great weekend too!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Addicted to People

You know what I’d like? Internet access anywhere! On the road, in the car, at Dairy Queen, or wherever you are. I’m sure it’s coming, but it’s not here yet and I sure missed it this weekend. We were away from Friday morning until Monday night, either on the road or with friends, and could not access our e-mail, check Facebook, or post to our blog in any way that was easy or convenient. Wow, did we ever feel out of touch! I guess it’s good practice for being back in Burkina, though. We’ll have no choice but to be off-line each time we go out to the village.

What we lacked in cyber-contact, however, we gained in face-to-face encounters. Facebook and e-mail are great for staying in touch and keeping up to date on what’s happening with others in our social network, but it’s mostly surface stuff. There’s nothing like actually being together with other people for deep, meaningful discussions on life, work, purpose, experiences, joys, fears, problems faced, issues resolved (or not), and things learned. We had a weekend full of long, discussion-filled meals with friends, partners, and colleagues that were food for the soul as well as the body.

We also did three presentations and spent hours on the road. So we came home happy but zonked. Spent today working on end-of-the-month financial stuff and wading through my e-mail in-box, trying to distinguish between what needed immediate attention and what could wait until tomorrow. For breaks, I surfed around Facebook, catching up on status updates, new photos, and notes posted by all those in my network. Slowly but surely, I’m feeling in touch with those in my cyberworld again, my lifeline to the world when I'm alone in my office. Some would call this an addiction. Well, to paraphrase Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof”, if wanting to keep in touch with people is a sickness, may the Lord smite me with it and may I never recover!