Encouraging June update and testimonies from Africa
I have to confess that most days I update myself with the latest news by scrolling through the headlines of my preferred news station on my cellphone as I eat my breakfast. If something of particular interest catches my eye, I follow the link and read more details – and occasionally may delve deeper into researching further. But sometimes as I read the “story” behind the headlines, I find myself wondering how on earth they could come up with that headline from the actual “real” story!! It is a sad reality today that we have access to SO much news and SO many opinions; and even knowing that so much may be questionable or biased, we are all tempted to form opinions and even make judgments without knowing the true reality of a situation!
My “headline” for this month’s newsletter was going to be “Exciting report of my mission trip to Guatemala”. Our Pastor (Pastor Todd) had asked me some months ago to accompany him, his daughter, and a small group of other pastors on a short mission trip to the Lake Atitlan area of Guatemala. The purpose was to be fact-finding as we looked at the work of a growing ministry there and considered if and how our church might become involved in the future; so I was excited as it would be my first mission trip outside of the USA since my trip to Togo in 2008. But instead of that headline, it should now read “Disappointing trip cancellation” – but probably no-one would bother to read beyond THAT headline! …. But then they would miss out on hearing an encouraging example of how, when reality hits unexpectedly, God can skillfully steer us along very bumpy roads and impart His amazing peace!
Once again I was close to actually packing my bags for the trip when Lily got sick! She had finally been released by the doctor to attend school in person 2 mornings a week (and without a mask), but after just a few sessions of course she got sick! Despite us all having been vaccinated, her Covid test was immediately positive, and Anna also came down with it! There was no doubt in my mind that I should drop out from the trip, as apart from being quarantined, there was no-one else who could help out. My “disappointment” lasted all of 10 seconds – and the following week was to prove conclusively it was the right decision! Thankfully Lily recovered quickly after 2 days and had no serious ill-effects (as seen in this picture), but Anna was really sick in bed for several days; Joe also got it, and I tested positive (though thankfully had no symptoms) but was able to take care of Lily throughout the quarantine period.
But that’s not the end of the story! The rest of the team met up at the airport to fly to Guatemala, and were at the point of boarding the plane when major flight delays were announced! One hour stretched to three – meaning they would miss their connecting flight. On attempting to arrange for a new flight, they learned there were no seats available for some 36 hours, so the decision was made to cancel the trip and reschedule it – hopefully when I can also participate! Needless to say I was pleasantly surprised at the news! It was a good reminder that even when events take us by surprise and seemingly “steal” good things from us, God is NEVER taken by surprise and truly has it all under control!
When it comes to hearing news and reports from mission contacts, I have learned it is particularly important as Christ followers NOT to allow ourselves to judge too quickly from the “headlines”. Until we can really understand the culture and consider all the facts, we are likely to make poor judgements and fall prey to misunderstanding.
1 Corinthians 4:5 says: “Do not be quick to say who is right or wrong. Wait until the Lord comes. He will bring into the light the things that are hidden in men’s hearts. He will show why men have done these things. Every man will receive from God the thanks he should have.” (NLV)
I hope you will be encouraged by some special testimonies we have included this month from orphans at the JP orphanage. It is hard for us to really understand the life there in rural Africa, especially for such vulnerable children. But be encouraged that your prayers and faithful support continue to be a major factor in changing young lives on the other side of the globe! THANK YOU! Blessings, Shirley
Pastor Honore in Central African Republic – In his latest correspondence to us, he shared that the ministry continues to go well, both with the church and school. He sent these photos of his wife, Clarisse, who preached a special service for Mother’s Day there recently. We keep them in our prayers as they continue to touch and change so many lives there.
Irene in Kenya – She continues to do children’s ministry with the family in schools and churches. She often posts videos on their Facebook page and recently sent us this photo of her ministering in a school. She also shared that she had the opportunity to minister in a women’s prison a few weeks ago. We pray that God continues to use her and the family, and provide for their needs.
Pastor Sika in Togo – After taking several weeks to rest and make some changes in his ministry, Pastor Sika is feeling some improvement in his health, praise God! However he recently learned some disturbing news about one of Pastor Tomety’s deacons at the Baptist church inside the Joseph Project compound. Brother Ekpe is a faithful deacon and works hard also at the orphanage, yet it was just discovered that he and his wife have a 15 year old son, Jeremiah, who is kept at home because he is paralyzed. No-one knew of his existence since he never left the house, although he also has two younger sisters. This photo shows Jeremiah and his dad.
It seems that when he was 5 months old, he was sick, and so taken to a village nurse. She gave him an injection against malaria but it caused him to be paralyzed from the waist down. In that idol-centered culture, such tragic accidents (and other sad disabilities) are often seen as curses or punishments for wrongdoing, so are kept hidden away. In reality, also very little can be done medically due to lack of facilities, doctors and equipment. Praise God that now this “secret” has been revealed, Pastor Sika has encouraged the boy to be brought to the church for fellowship and prayer. It is hoped that his life (and that of his family) will be more joyful as he interacts with the other children. He has never been to school but hopefully can now start some learning. Pastor Sika is looking into getting medical help for him, and also investigating the chance of getting some type of wheelchair specially made for him to be able to get around easier. We pray God will send in special funds and the expertise for this to be accomplished quickly.
Our hearts go out to all those families overseas who have children with special needs and who suffer guilt and shame as they are ostracized by others. But to end on a more hopeful note: Pastor Sika recently sent us some wonderful testimonies from children at the orphanage who testify to how their lives have been forever changed. Here are just a few quotes. If you would like to read all the testimonies just contact me.
Afi Adjavoin is a 15 year old girl who met Pastor Sika when he did children’s ministry in her village. Her parents are dead and she has no living relatives. In answer to the question “How has the JP made a difference in your life?” she replies: “I wasn’t who I used to be. I am now full of hope because of the word of God. My life change because of Christ”. She goes on to say: “Pastor Sika is doing his best for me by providing care and daily food… And he still has Pastor Tomety to teach us in the church and make us devotions before leaving for school.” To the question: “If you could change anything at the orphanage, what would you change?” her reply is: “Fencing the entire center, rebuilding the dormitories and improving the food. Create a playground. I will do all this when I have money. Also with financial opportunity God will provide me, I will improve the food, clothing and build a small dispensary for first aid.” She says that through living at the orphanage she has learned “the great love of God through his word…I thank God for that.”
Kossi Agbemadon is a 16 year old boy who attended the Baptist church in the orphanage after he was visited by Pastor Tomety when his parents both passed away. His only surviving relatives (uncles) wouldn’t help, so he was admitted into the JP. He says: “Pastor Tomety has lifted my spirits a lot. Also the deacon Ekpe for the prayer meetings and finally Pastor Sika for his support of all kinds.” To the question: “What have you learned from living at the orphanage?” He replies: “Christ’s love for me as an orphan and I must obey him for my good future…. The priority in the center has always been the teaching of Jesus and I have received him as my Lord and Savior.”
Julienne Agbokpe is a 22 year old girl who left the orphanage and is now enrolled in a sewing apprenticeship. Pastor Sika accepted her into the JP after she attended the Baptist church inside the compound and he learned she was orphaned. She says the bible classes at the JP changed her life. She learned of Christ’s love for orphans and how to live for Christ. Although she did not do well at school, she is thankful for her apprenticeship and her plan is to “contribute financially to this center when I finish my apprenticeship by having my own workshop and then I will allow the orphans who want to learn sewing to do so too. Also with financial opportunity God will provide me, I will improve the food, clothing and build a small dispensary for first aid.”