Sunday, August 31, 2008

In Transition

We're going to be in transition for the next week or two as we finish up our time here in Canada and then work on getting set up again in Burkina, so please bear with us. We'll do our best to post here whenever we can get access to the Internet because a journey or adventure is always more fun when you can share it with other people!

We left our townhouse in Barrie on Thursday afternoon after an incredibly hectic time of final packing and cleaning. After dropping off our shipping crate and baggage at Lisle Memorial Baptist Church in Toronto for the time being, we headed off to a Toronto hotel for a couple of days to celebrate our anniversary. We were so exhausted that we ended up sleeping most of the time. Not the ideal way to spend your anniversary, is it? But we haven't felt so tired for ages, so we really needed the down time. We did get up for meals, but could hardly stay awake long enough to eat them. And once we were done, we could hardly wait to get back to our hotel room for another nap!

However, after tons of sleep in a nice bed (we've been sleeping on an air mattress for the past week because we put our box spring & mattress into storage), a few nice meals, a couple of movies, and several cups of Starbucks later, we're at least functional again. It also helped that Josh took me paintballing for a few hours on Saturday afternoon. A few good whacks from a paintball gun in the side, legs, and head is enough to wake anyone up! And I've got some beautiful multicoloured bruises to show for it!

Today, we had a recommissioning service at Lisle. This is something we've had at each of our supporting churches in the area, and we're glad for it because of a certain amount of complexity and uncertainty concerning the situation we're going back to in Burkina.

We'll be spending the next few days with our friends, Audley & Yvonne, until it's time to go to the airport on Wednesday. It's hard to believe that our next Sunday will be in Burkina Faso. Being in transition means that everything feels a little surreal right now. Almost all the normal routines and activities of our lives are gone or temporarily suspended. However, God’s direction and provision are clear, so we continue to move forward to the goal of returning to Burkina and our work with the Kusassi people.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Out of the House at Last!

Sorry about the lack of posts for the last few days. I just haven't had the time or energy! Despite the fact that we moved most of our stuff last Saturday, our life has still been a zoo as we continue with preparations for getting out of our townhouse and returning to Burkina.

Building our shipping crate (about 4’x 3’x2’) took a lot longer than I’d planned, partly because I had to include internal dividers to prevent the heavier stuff (like our 90 lb mattress-in-a-box) from crushing lighter things (like our printer and the crank lanterns) in case the crate got turned the wrong way. Since this is not something I do all the time, I ended up measuring everything two or three times to make sure all dimensions were correct before I started cutting. At the price of lumber these days, a mistake can be costly!

In the meantime, Kathy was packing our baggage, trying to arrange things in the various bags and suitcases in such a way as to maximize our 23 kg/bag weight limit. And more than once we had to make serious decisions about what to take and what to leave behind (or get Josh to bring at Christmas-time).

Then there was the cleaning. Gotta leave the place clean and in good shape for the next tenants, right?

Last night, we were up to 3 o’clock in the morning before calling it quits. Then it was up again early this morning so that we could get everything out of the house and at least into the garage, where things could be finalized, before the carpet cleaners arrived.

It’s amazing how much time all this little stuff takes up, trying to sort through odds and ends, deciding what to keep and what to throw out, whether to take it with us or leave it here, etc. Then there was garbage and recycling to look after. But finally, by mid-afternoon today, we were done. Our friends, the Goulbournes, lent us their van to transport the shipping crate and baggage to Toronto, where it will be stored at our church there until we fly out next week.

Tomorrow is our anniversary, so we’re spending a couple of days getting some R&R before we take off for Burkina. And boy, do we need it! Tonight, we could hardly make it through supper. Both of us were practically falling asleep over our meals! I'm having a hard time concentrating and staying awake long enough to write this post. Kathy is already fast asleep.

We’re looking forward to sleeping in for a couple of days. This is actually the first time we’ve done this, taking a short break after the rush of packing up and before heading off to Africa. Normally, we work like crazy right up until the last minute, and then get on the plane, arriving in Burkina totally exhausted and ready to succumb to the first disease that realizes our bodies are run down and ripe for takeover. Not fun at all.

We’ve appreciated several wonderful friends who invited us for supper or dessert over this past week. Thank you Ted & Norma, Jason & Jaylene, and Jennifer & Don. Thanks also to Scott for a pound of Starbucks beans to take back to Burkina with us!

I’m going to be off-line for the next few days, but hope to post an entry or two next week before we get on the plane, so stay tuned!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Bad News, Good News

It was shortly after 8 a.m. this morning when my cell phone rang. We had just brought our car in to a local garage and were sitting in a nearby Starbucks trying to wake up while they did a safety inspection on it (necessary for officially turning the car back over to Kathy’s dad, who has kindly let us use it for the past three years). “You need a new ball joint for the front right wheel,” said the voice on the other end of the phone. And just like that, a $70 safety inspection fee turned into a $465 repair bill! Just what we needed! :) With all the expenses of getting ready to go overseas again, like moving, buying supplies & equipment, getting passports, visas, and immunizations, etc, etc, our credit card is already screaming bloody murder. But it had to be done.

If that’s the bad news, here’s the good news: We received an e-mail this morning from a couple of friends telling us that they were sending (via Wycliffe) sufficient funds for us to purchase a new laptop computer for our work! It just blew us away! In case you’re thinking that a few hundred dollars isn’t such a big deal, I need to tell you that we’re not looking at a Future Shop or Staples special here. I’m looking at a Toshiba machine that is ultra-light, that has a special screen that is clearly visible even in bright light, and that has a battery life of up to nine hours, all ideal features for travel and village work. It’s not cheap, and these friends are generously willing to foot the entire bill! No, they’re not wealthy. But they are committed to serving God and joining in His work in any way that He leads them, even at great sacrifice. I’m not going to mention their names here since that would just embarrass them. But God knows who they are and will repay them. Why? Because experience shows that God keeps refilling the cups of those who empty them by passing the blessings He gives them on to others. It’s one of the beautiful ironies of the Kingdom of God.

Kathy started the cleaning process in our house today. We want to leave it in good shape for the next tenants. I spent much of the afternoon planning how to construct our shipping crate. In the past, these have been simple boxes with a top, a bottom, and four sides. This time, however, I’ve got to put some different-shaped compartments into it so that the more fragile items are protected from the larger heavier ones, no matter which way the crate is turned or dropped. I hope to get it built tomorrow (I haven’t put my tools into storage yet).

We spent a wonderful evening with friends we’ve gotten to know from Hiway Church. Ted & Norma are salt-of-the-earth and what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of people. They’ve had us over to their place several times over the past several years, and tonight had us over one last time for supper. Over the next few days, we’re scheduled to meet with several friends and ministry partners one last time before we head back overseas. And despite our busyness with preparations, we wouldn’t miss these opportunities for all the world!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

One Busy Weekend!

It’s been a busy and wonderful weekend. Our move on Saturday was probably one of our better ones. We were all prepared for it and weren’t running around frantically trying to pack up the last few things. Thus we could concentrate fully on just getting the stuff out of the house and into the truck.

We also tried to make it easier this time by just renting the biggest U-Haul truck we could get (a 26-footer). That way, we’d have lots of room to put stuff in without having to be overly fussy about packing it with maximum efficiency (which takes significantly more time and effort!). And we could do everything in one shot rather than having to make several trips with other people and vehicles involved.

Josh and his friend, Matt, carried most of the heavy items. And it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a girl work as hard and diligently as Josh’s girlfriend, Melissa. Every time I saw her, she was carrying something! Meanwhile, Kathy supervised things in the house, while I mainly packed the truck. Good thing we rented the biggest one. Compared to most people, we don’t have a lot of stuff. But since we didn’t pack everything up to the ceiling, it came right up to the back door!

Our first stop was Orillia, about half an hour up the highway. Our friends, Bob & Eileen graciously agreed to store half our stuff in their basement again. Two other friends, Brian & Jennifer were there to help us unload and bring the stuff down. Good thing because Josh & Matt got lost on the way, or else they were just killing time until Brian and I had unloaded most of the heavy stuff :)

The next stop was Kathy’s dad’s place in Gravenhurst to drop off a few items that belonged to him. Then it was up to my dad’s place in Huntsville to unload the last half for storage in his barn. Our final stop was my mom’s place in town, where she had a nice supper waiting for five very hungry and thirsty people.

The older I get, the more I realize how important a role other people play in our ministry in the larger perspective. We can do our work overseas because other people stay here and have regular jobs that enable them to help support us. We don’t have to worry about owning a house or renting a storage unit when we go overseas because people here offer to store our stuff for us. People think of us as those on the front lines, and in that sense we are. But we could not do what we do if it were not for the people here, our families and friends, who do their part too. We are humbled and thankful for each one and pray for God’s rich blessing on them.

Today we had a great time at Calvary Baptist. Pastor George had a short re-commissioning service for us and I brought the morning message. It was so great to see all the folks there again and have the opportunity to greet and exchange words with many of them.

After church, a couple we know, Jeff & Kathy, took us out for an afternoon on Lake Muskoka on their powerboat. We enjoyed every minute of it, especially since we know we won’t be enjoying anything like that in Burkina!

Well, it’s almost midnight again. I need to get to bed! Goodnight!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Packing Marathon

Today was a packing marathon since it’s our last day before the U-Haul arrives tomorrow morning. I’ve still got a few things to look after in my office, but other than that, we’re pretty well done in terms of what’s got to go tomorrow. Now that everything’s in containers or boxes, things are looking a little neater in the house, though it’s still kind of crowded.

It’s almost midnight now and I’m taking a blog break. Got to wait up for Josh and friends to arrive anyway. They won’t be here for another hour or so. That’ll give me some time to work on my message for Sunday. I certainly won’t be in any shape to do it tomorrow night when we get home again!

Tomorrow is supposed to be one of the hotter days of the summer. Good practice for Burkina, I guess :)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Welcome to Our Mess

Our house is a mess! It’s amazing how much stuff is actually put away somewhere out of sight in the normal household. But start hauling everything out of cupboards, closets, dressers, and storage spaces to be packed, and you’ll soon realize you’ve got a lot more stuff than you thought!

Then there are the piles: one for stuff that’s going to one place, one for stuff that’s going to another place, one for recycling, one for garbage, and one for stuff to give away. It’s getting harder and harder to move around in here! Fortunately, tomorrow is garbage and recycling day, so that’ll take care of some of the piles.

There’s nothing like a move to disrupt your routine and make you feel like your life is being turned upside down. And so many things to look after! Yesterday and today I made arrangements with the utilities (electricity, water, phone, and internet) to terminate their services at a given time. Today I arranged to have our mail forwarded to Josh’s address.

We also rented a truck for Saturday, and went to CAA to get our International Driving Permits (had to get another couple of passport photos done for that). Our airline tickets finally arrived. Not sure what the delay was, but at least they're here.

Tomorrow is our last day of packing, so it’s going to be a long and busy one. We’d better get to bed. We’re beat! We’re not 45 any more, you know! :)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Making Progress

This morning, we went to the provincial health insurance (OHIP) office to apply for our missionary health cards in preparation for returning overseas. Yes, OHIP actually has a category specifically for missionaries, something that was instituted around 2000-2001. Prior to that, all our health insurance coverage had to be purchased privately (we got ours through a Wycliffe group plan), and it was not cheap! Now, however, if you meet certain residency requirements and have a letter from an Ontario-based organization that is sending you overseas to do missionary work, OHIP will cover your health costs overseas to the same degree that they will in Ontario. Of course, this does not cover everything. We still have to get private (group) coverage, but it significantly reduces our premiums!

We can’t complain about the cost of our private coverage, though. Between my medical evacuation to Paris and subsequent surgery for a strangulated hernia (nearly $25,000 total!), and Josh’s operation for his broken arm and finger several years ago following a motorcycle accident ($7,000), we’ve gotten more than our money’s worth, and are only too happy to continue paying our premiums!

Anyway, we still qualified for the missionary status, and had no trouble getting new cards once we filled out the necessary forms and presented a letter from our main sending church in Toronto.

Then we got into some serious packing. Moving day is coming up fast! This afternoon, I went to reserve a U-Haul truck for Saturday. I was glad to see that they had lots of vehicles available. However, today happened to be the day that they closed at noon! Every other day, they’re open until 5 p.m. Just my luck! I’ll have to do it tomorrow.

We’ve been taking stuff to the Salvation Army and Goodwill in order to clear things out a bit here in the house. But it seems that these places are getting too much stuff already. Are they ever picky about what they’ll take now! So we’re starting to look around for other groups that are more receptive (or desperate) for stuff. One that we discovered is “Bibles for Missions”, which just opened a Barrie store late last year and is eager for donations. They’ll even come and pick up larger items. Great!

We’ve got some things we want to take to Josh’s place in Kitchener, but wondered how we were going to do that since they were too big for our car. Last night, a friend from Orillia called to say he was headed down that way today and would be willing to take the stuff in his trailer. A real answer to prayer. Thanks, Brian!

Got our passports back today, complete with visas for Burkina. One more thing to stroke off our list. Now if only those plane tickets would arrive!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


First, there was the complete physical exam. I hope you don’t mind me sparing you the finer details. Let’s just say that it was… thorough. Then came my favourite part: blood samples and vaccinations. Haha, yeah, right! :) Thank God they only needed four vials of blood this time. And only had three shots to give me. I barely had time to feel faint!

Kathy had already gotten hers done, so she helpfully distracted me by telling me to look like I was in pain and then taking a few snapshots of my suffering with the camera for posterity. Fortunately I’m a very talented actor, especially when someone is sticking needles in my arms.

Then we went out to the front counter to get our immunization booklets updated. While we were there, Kathy just happened to notice that there was another shot I should have. Great! Back to “the chair”. I think she was really looking for another opportunity to get the perfect picture.

Standing at the counter again to finish up the paperwork, I suddenly broke out in a sweat and began to feel light-headed. So I went and sat down in the waiting area for a few minutes. When I came back, Kathy remarked that maybe I should have stayed there since I still looked pretty pale. The lady behind the counter said that some people just have that kind of reaction to needles, and there’s nothing they can do about it. I told her that it wasn’t really getting the needles themselves that made me dizzy this time. It was the fact that I’d just seen how much they were going to cost us! :) Haha, I guess we could say that a good vaccination hurts you twice: once when you get it, and again when you have to pay for it!

Our provincial health insurance doesn’t cover these kinds of shots, so we have to pay for them ourselves. They turned out to cost a total of $625. Ouch! Well, it’s some consolation to realize that it’s probably money well spent. It sure beats getting the typhoid, meningitis, or yellow fever that these vaccinations are designed to prevent.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Practicing for Moving Day

Boy, I’m sore and tired tonight! We got our first taste of moving stuff into storage today: fifty plastic milk crates of books. (Can you tell we love to read? Next to Starbucks coffee, books are our only other addiction; it's hopeless but not serious :) Anyway, some friends in Orillia offered to store these in the basement of their new house. But they’re leaving shortly on a trip, so we wanted to get the books in there before they took off.

Another friend from Orillia (Bob) graciously lent us his pickup truck for the job. I drove up to his place this morning, picked up the truck and took it back to Barrie where a friend and partner from Hiway Church, Roxie, came to help us load and tie down the crates prior to us driving back up to Orillia. Once there, our friends John & Ruth graciously helped us unload. That cut the time in half, but we sure were all soaked with sweat by the time we were done! I reckoned it as good practice for Burkina.

We did some more sorting and packing when we got home again this afternoon. This evening I wrote another EMU to send out, letting our friends and partners know how God has provided the remaining funds necessary for us to go.

Tomorrow morning, we’re scheduled to have our physicals and vaccinations at the Missionary Health Institute (MHI) in Toronto. Even after all this time, I still hate needles so I’m not particularly looking forward to it! But it’s got to be done, so I’d better be prepared to just grit my teeth… I mean, grin and bear it :)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Good Friends, Good Preaching, and a Starbucks

It’s been an awesome weekend! First we had a great evening on Saturday with our Malaysian-Singaporean friends (see my previous entry). This morning I spoke at both services at Hiway Church in Barrie, one of our supporting churches, reminding the folks there of God’s agenda (in Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8), and challenging them to get involved by praying, paying, or getting on the way.

Kathy & I have been the “resident missionaries” there for the past 3 years, and besides allowing me to serve on the Missions Committee, Pastor Todd has several times been brave enough to take the risk of allowing me on the platform to speak to the congregation on a Sunday morning :) He was also the first to take a chance on hosting our very first “Welcome to Ouagadougou!” presentation. And another time, he was willing to join me up front in a somewhat radical “team preaching” effort.

I think I had him worried this morning, though. The first service at Hiway begins at 9:30. At 9:10, I was still at home putting a few finishing touches on my presentation when the phone rang. It was Pastor Todd. “Hey, where are you?!!!” he asked with a touch of franticness in his voice. “You know you’re preaching this morning, right? Church starts in 20 minutes and you’re not even here yet! You’re gonna be late!” I thought of feigning surprise and saying I’d forgotten all about it, but decided I’d better not give the poor man a heart attack :)

Instead, I remembered what had happened to a friend of mine several years ago in Africa. He had gone as part of a CUSO team to a village where they had decided together with the villagers that they were going to build a school. Everyone was to gather at 9 o’clock the following morning to begin the work. My friend was there at 9:00, but nobody else was. The first person didn’t show up until 10! Somewhat annoyed, my friend said, “You’re late!” To which the African replied, “What do you mean? I got up, I had breakfast, and here I am. How can I be late?”

Haha, I told Pastor Todd that he shouldn’t worry. I was just practicing getting back on African time. He couldn't have been too upset because he took us out for lunch afterwards. And even paid for the meal :) (Haha, just razzing you, Pastor!)

Tonight was such a lovely evening that I decided to go for a walk up to our local Starbucks. Only two and a half weeks left to enjoy the taste and ambience of my favourite coffee shop. While I was sitting there sipping on a short bold and working on a crossword puzzle in the paper, who should walk in but Scott, my favourite barista! “I’m gonna get you a pound of Starbucks to take back to Africa with you,” he told me. He just made my day. It was the perfect ending to a great weekend.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A Pretty Cool Team

It’s Saturday afternoon and time to take a break from formatting! I’m speaking at Hiway Church tomorrow morning and I’ve got the message worked out. Now I’ve got to put together a PowerPoint presentation to go with it. Speaking in churches sure has changed since the introduction of digital projectors. It’s a lot more work for the speaker to put together a message AND a presentation, but a good presentation can really enhance the message. A bad presentation? Well… ‘painful’ would be a nice way to put it! (I’m aiming for the good one, of course :)

A little later on this afternoon, we’re driving to Toronto to get together with a group of people from Malaysia and Singapore who have been friends and prayer/financial partners for years now. We first met many of these folks through our involvement with the Malaysian-Singaporean Bible Church (now Toronto Life-Spring Christian Fellowship), one of our supporting churches. Most have now gone on to other churches, but they have maintained their contact with us, inviting us to group gatherings whenever we are home. They have also been instrumental in connecting us with new financial partners over the past couple of years. In both prayer & finances, these folks are an important part of our team and we thank God for them!

It was when we first went to Africa that we noticed how very multicultural our support team was, not just in terms of individuals, but even in the kind of churches that partnered with us. We had a white, middle-class Canadian church in Muskoka, a southern Baptist church in Texas, a West-Indian Baptist church in Toronto, a Malaysian-Singaporean church in Toronto, and a francophone Baptist church in Quebec City. Doesn’t that sound like the kind of team God would bring together? Yup, we thought that was pretty cool, alright. It still is.

Anyway, enough goofing off here. I’d better get back to work on my presentation. I think I’m gonna have to work on it in the car too. I need all the time I can get to get this done. Guess that means Kathy will have to drive. We'd better skip the Starbucks, though. Unlike me, Kathy doesn't need a caffeine boost to be an aggressive... I mean, attentive driver (haha, just kidding, honey!)

Friday, August 15, 2008

And With Still Three Weeks to Spare!

I was not looking forward to talking with Pastor Emmanuel today. For the past several months, each time I called to touch base with him in Zabré, I’d told him that we were planning to return to Burkina in early September. He, in turn, had told all the Kusassi pastors. Today, however, I was going to have to tell him that we still weren’t sure, that we still had not booked our flight because we were still short on finances.

But that all changed this morning! Last night I received an e-mail out of the blue from someone that’s not even on our EMU list. He said that a friend had forwarded a copy of our newsletter to him. Could I give him an update of our current financial shortfall? Sure! I told him that we were still $195/month short of our required budget.

This morning, when I opened my e-mail, there was another message from this gentleman. It read:

“Dear Mike, God has covered the remaining $195/month for your mission. Please let me know where to send the money to. Go forward and do your mission in confidence because He will provide for all your needs according to His riches in glory.”

Wow! Now, doesn’t that sound like exactly the kind of thing that God would do?!!!

We got on the phone to our supervisor and told her the good news. She immediately gave us permission to go ahead and buy our plane tickets. So then Kathy called the travel agent who had given us the best deal up to this point. He still had two seats for us on September 3, and the price was even somewhat lower than what he’d quoted us last time! We took them!

I spent much of the rest of the day filling out all the various forms required by Wycliffe prior to returning to the field: a Financial Readiness form, an End of Canada Stay report, an Emergency Instructions form, a Foreign Medical Plan application, and instructions on how and where to direct our finances once we leave Canada. Paperwork! It's the story of our life! :/

We have to admit that it’s been a rollercoaster ride of faith over this past week, with all the breath-taking ups and stomach-lurching downs that such a ride entails. But in this one week, the God who called us to serve Him in Burkina has provided the funding that we need to do so. On Monday, we still needed $340/month. Today, only five days later, the last dollar is pledged. (God must have decided to go easy on us this time and not wait until the very last minute; He provided with almost three weeks still to spare! :)

Oh yeah, I could hardly wait to call Pastor Emmanuel and tell him the good news. I think he was more excited than I was! In fact, it was all I could do to dissuade him from making the long trip from the village to Ouaga by public transport to meet us at the airport!

Thanks for your prayers, support, and encouragement, folks! Now we can concentrate more fully on final preparations for departure, knowing for certain (God willing) that we are definitely leaving on the 3rd. Guess I’d better go and pack another box or two before I hit the hay.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Rollercoaster Life of Faith

This week, and today in particular, has been an emotional rollercoaster as we alternate between exhilaration and despair, exhilaration at God’s provision… and despair at all the additional work & expenses associated with moving and going back to Africa, things that just seem to multiply as the time for departure approaches! Welcome to our life of living by faith! This isn’t pie-in-the-sky living by faith. It’s where-the-rubber-meets-the-road living by faith.

Ask anyone who lives like this and they’ll tell you that it’s usually not smooth sailing with the calm, nonchalant assurance that God will provide. It’s more like walking along the edge of a cliff, with a yawning chasm ready to take advantage of your slightest misstep on one side, and God’s sustaining hand on the other. His hand will catch you if you slip and fall, but will not always prevent you from falling in the first place. After all, without the chasm and the fall, you will not appreciate His helping hand! And falling and being caught makes a far better story than merely being prevented from slipping in the first place, doesn’t it?

Today, first of all, we stood amazed at God’s hand of provision. Two people contacted us: one to increase her level of support significantly, and the other to join us in ministry for the first time. This leaves us now only $195/month short of our budget. Quite a change from only two days ago! Praise God for that!

Then we saw the chasm on the other side: the list of expenses still before us for visa applications, for equipment and supplies, for car repairs, for cleaning, for moving, for shipping, and more. Yikes! Our hearts and experience tell us that God will bring it all together, probably right at the very last minute. Our heads and emotions tell us that there is no possible way it will ever happen in time. Isn’t this an exciting way to live?!!!

Haha, actually it is! But I’m too tired right now to care. It’s late and I’m exhausted, so I’d better go to bed and get some sleep. Things will no doubt look much better in the morning :) Good night!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Things Are Looking Up!

$2,000! Holy cow! That’s what it was going to cost us to ship our box spring and mattress over to Burkina! So much for our great idea. When we read that in an e-mail from the shipping company, we knew we were going to have to find another way to get a good night’s sleep in Africa! So off we trekked to see what Canadian Tire and Wal-Mart had to offer.

Do you know what we discovered? The “Bed in a Box”. Did you even know such a thing existed??? Well, it didn’t when we first went to Burkina, but believe me, it does now! It’s a full-sized, mixed foam mattress that has been specially compressed into a box the size of a large tent, and weighs about 90 lbs (40 kg). Once unpacked and released, it is guaranteed to expand to normal size and provide a comfortable night’s rest for years to come. We tried out a floor model. We loved it. We bought it.

Apart from that, we spent much of the day on the Internet and the phone, checking out prices on carpet cleaning (to leave our townhouse as clean as when we got it), a new windshield for our car (it has some cracks from stones and we’d like to give it back to Kathy’s dad in good shape), a new battery for my laptop (after 5 years, the battery only lasts 20 minutes per charge now), and a myriad of other things. I’d really like to get a new laptop since this one is showing its age and likely won’t last much longer in the extreme temps and dust of Burkina, but we can’t afford it right now. C’est la vie.

I also spent some time bringing our financial records up to date, filling out a ministry expense report for July, and, almost on impulse, rechecking our ministry budget for return to Burkina to see if there was anything we could trim to help reduce the amount of funding we needed. Imagine my surprise and delight to discover that the premium for our overseas health insurance coverage was incorrect! It was nearly double what it should be. When I corrected that and factored in several new financial partners that God had brought on board over the past few weeks, our budget shortfall dropped to a mere 7%! Wow!

As you can see in the sidebar, we’re now only $340/month away from 100% and permission to buy plane tickets and head off to Burkina. Praise the Lord, things are looking up!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mom!

One of the bittersweet things about going overseas again is doing things or seeing people and wondering if it may be the last time. I remember the first time we went to Burkina Faso in 1997. Kathy’s parents were in their late 70s already and it was tough for them to see us leave for the next four years, and for us too, not knowing if either of them would be alive when we got back. So I asked God to please allow us to return to see them at least one last time. He was gracious and we got to come home and see them several more times before Kathy’s mom passed away in early 2005.

We’ve made it a point when we’re home in Canada to go and spend time with our parents on their birthdays. This becomes especially important to us as the time for our departure draws closer.

Today, we drove up to Huntsville and spent most of the day with my mom. It’s her 77th birthday and we wanted to seize the occasion and help her celebrate it.

She told us not to bring any presents, so we disobediently got some anyway and enjoyed watching her open them. Then we took her out for lunch at a unique restaurant called “Three Guys and a Stove”. By the time we were done, it was pouring rain outside and we had to run for the car. And once we got back to her place, it was raining so hard that we had to wait in the car for 20 minutes until it settled down enough to make a run for the back door.

None of this is a big deal in the overall scheme of things, but these are the things memories are made of, the kinds of things we will look back on with fondness and nostalgia when we get tired, lonely, and discouraged in the years ahead in Burkina. Happy birthday, Mom!

Friday, August 8, 2008

A Long Day (But a Good One!)

Thursday was a killer. I went to bed well after midnight, had to get up at 6 a.m.(an early morning person I am not!), and didn’t get to bed again until after midnight. But this was worth it because we were scheduled to spend some time that day with our friends at Canadian Baptist Ministries (CBM) in Mississauga.

Kathy & I serve with Wycliffe Bible Translators, but we are also Strategic Associates with CBM through our Baptist church membership and the fact that our ministry reflects CBM’s strategic focus areas (outreach, discipleship, leadership development, and sustainable community development). Since coming home to Canada three years ago, the folks there have kept in touch with us and invited us to participate with them in a number of ways, from a family retreat to a partnership development presentation.

Yesterday, they invited us to give an updated presentation of our ministry during their morning chapel time, and prayed for us. We also got to touch base and discuss a number of relevant issues with a couple of folks over breakfast and lunch. We appreciated the insights and broader perspective of ministry that these people could share with us.

Later on in the afternoon, we dropped in to see a friend at the PAOC (Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada) headquarters. While we were there, we got to meet the new General Superintendent (although we’re embarrassed to say that we didn’t realize who he was at the time!). However we had a pleasant chat together. He was particularly interested in the fact that we serve in Burkina Faso since his son had spent some time there too.

By this time, the late night, the early morning, and the good food began to take its toll. We found a parking lot, scooted back our seats, and had a short siesta. Getting back into the habit of taking a daily siesta is an important part of our preparation for returning to Burkina, don’t you think? :)

The reason we got home again so late was due to a very pleasant evening we spent with our friends and Wycliffe co-workers, Paul & Libby Hooper. They are the people God initially used to direct us into ministry with Wycliffe back in the late 80s, and who encouraged and helped us so much along the way. They have also been our direct supervisors over the past three years and we couldn’t have asked for better people to serve under.

Kathy’s still been researching airfares and the best workable deal she could find at this point is a flight for $2100 each. The good news is that we have funds available for the airfare once we reach 100% of our required funding and get permission to return to Burkina. And in the funding department, we’re glad to report that the remaining need has dropped from $1200/month a couple of weeks ago to only $920/month now. Thank God for these new partners! Please keep praying for just a few more...

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Seek Ye First...

Just recently I read an interesting quote: “Too many people are thinking of security instead of opportunity. They seem more afraid of life than death.” (James F. Byrnes)

This sounds like a variation on Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:25-33, which conclude with, “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

It's hard to think in terms of opportunity as our planned departure date draws steadily nearer and the funds necessary to leave and serve God in Burkina are still not completely in sight! But experience has taught us that God can be counted on, that he will provide what we need if we focus on what he’s called us to do. It’s never a question of IF he will provide, but WHEN and HOW. That’s the adventure part! We got an example of it today.

We were at the gym, exercising the parts of our bodies that don’t normally get a workout on the computer, when it happened. A lady on her way out of the gym came up to Kathy and said, “You’re the reason I came here today.” Kathy must have looked a little stunned because the woman went on to say that she had read our latest EMU in the church bulletin and the Lord was giving her no rest. He wanted her to get involved in our ministry. How could she do that?

Wow! Now that’s God at work! Stay tuned to see what he’s going to do next.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

How To Spend A Long Weekend

Serious sorting and packing has begun. Josh and his girlfriend, Melissa, came up this weekend to help. They tackled the big job of packing our books in plastic bag-lined milk crates (to help protect them from moisture and possible water damage). Kathy organized that task and a few others. Administration/organization is one of her strong points, an invaluable ability whenever we're going on a trip or moving. I can do some, but not near on the scale that she can. I'm better at detail work, and grunt work, doing what I'm told. That's actually why Kathy & I get along so well. She tells me what to do and I do it! :)

I spent most of the day going through filing cabinets and files, trying to determine what we needed to keep for future use or reference, and consigning the rest to the scrap paper pile or the shredder. My office looks like a bit of a disaster zone! And I haven’t even started on my desk yet!

Up until last night, we weren’t sure if we were going to be doing a presentation at a church up near Orillia this evening or not. I had just begun working on putting an appropriate one together in case it was a go when the pastor finally called and asked if we could do it next Sunday instead. That was great with us because it allowed us to concentrate more on our time with Josh & Melissa today. And when we saw the traffic on the northbound highway just crawling through Barrie and further north, we were doubly thankful. It’s a holiday long weekend here, but we never expected the northbound lanes to be so congested! That being the case, it’s doubtful we could have made it to the church on time even if we’d left considerably earlier than normal.

Next Sunday, we were originally scheduled to do “An Evening With Wycliffe” presentation at a church in Aurora. But the event was cancelled due to an anticipated poor turnout. For another event earlier in the summer, they had anticipated a turnout of at least 100 people. Only 17 showed up. We can take a hint :)

This coming week promises to be busy with appointments and visits with friends and partners. And more paperwork and packing. I’d better go to bed in decent time tonight to make sure I get my beauty sleep. You don’t want to be ugly when you’re doing paperwork or packing, never mind visiting people!

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Cost of a Good Night's Sleep

Preparations for departure are continuing to ramp up. We purchased several packages of Ziploc bags and garbage bags for added protection in storing personal effects, along with a few rolls of tape to help seal boxes and bags, and have started packing. Several friends have offered us storage space in their basements for our temperature and moisture sensitive stuff. Non-sensitive stuff will go into my father’s barn like last time. We’re thanking God for each of these folks because the cost of a commercial storage unit is just not in our budget! It’s another example of the importance of teamwork in our ministry.

I’ve started making some inquiries about the cost of shipping a few things overseas via airfreight. Some of you may be wondering why we don’t ship by sea. Wouldn’t it be cheaper? The short answer is yes. But for what we have, shipping by air will not cost that much more, provides less opportunity for theft, will be much more direct, and will take only a couple of days max compared to several months by sea freight.

One of the main things we want to ship over this time is a box spring & mattress. Isn’t that a bit extravagant, you ask? Well, first of all, you need to be aware that box springs & mattresses as we know them are not available anywhere in Burkina. They simply don’t exist. Nor is there any company importing them.

During our past terms in Burkina, we’ve tried virtually every form of bed available except a roll-up nylon mat on the ground (which is about as comfortable as an air mattress without any air). When we first went over to Africa, someone suggested a waterbed, reasoning that the water would help keep us cool in the hot season. So we tried that… and discovered that exactly the opposite was true! Both the air in the room and water in the bed would heat up over the course of the day. At night, however, the air would cool a bit, but the water took much, much longer for any noticeable drop in temperature. The end result was like sleeping on a big hot water bottle for most of the night! And no matter how many baffles are in there, anyone turning over would cause the other to bounce around like a ship at sea (and a stormy one at that!).

We’ve slept on camp cots with thin foam mats. That’s doable for a couple of nights, but soon gets quite uncomfortable. There are thicker foam mats, but it’s soft foam that you sink right down into. Imagine spending hot nights with that stuff wrapped around you like insulation and you’ll be cooking just thinking about it!

A few years ago, they came out with a harder foam for use as a mattress. The problem was that it was too hard. It was like sleeping on a table! (Go ahead. Ask us how we know that :) Thus the box spring & mattress idea, born out of desperation to get a good night’s sleep. After trying everything else, we're convinced it’ll be worth every cent that it costs to ship those things over there!