Thursday, October 29, 2009

Oktoberfest in Togo

Best quote/conversation starter of the week award goes to Matt Miller. Please enjoy.

Matt: "Today was Oktoberfest in Togo. It was funny. There was a strange parade; there was a truck with a German flag and a Togolese flag followed by a truck with an open back half with two benches in it. In the back of the truck on the benches were 15 white people playing instruments and doing tricks."

Me: "What do you mean by tricks?"

Matt: "Like a wave around the truck."

Me: "So not only was there a parade, but there were fifteen white people who had the ability to play instruments AND do tricks in the middle of a city in Africa...? That's brilliant."

Friday, October 23, 2009

Scott is home

Scott McEndree passed away yesterday morning. Please join me in an outpouring of love and prayers for his beautiful wife, Bonita, and their children, Mac, Rhone, Ayla, and Alia, as well as for the rest of his family and friends.

I love you.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

He is Here

On our wonderful eleven-hour car ride to Kara from Accra, Ghana when we first got to Africa, we talked a lot. There isn’t much opportunity for sleep because of the beautifully paved roads (please sense the utter sarcasm in that phrase) so we got to know Nicole and April and they got to know us. As we drove into the actual city limits of Kara, however, I was defying all odds and falling asleep with my heavily cushioned head against the window (at least once every couple of seconds), and sermons from Mars Hill Bible Church were playing on the radio. I soon found out about the Mars Hill Bible Church podcast that I, too, could subscribe to. So, I did.

I love the way Rob Bell teaches. He teaches from the Bible and speaks to his audience in a way that is compelling about things that are relevant. There are often other individuals teaching at this congregation on the podcast, they, too, teach straight from the Bible. I have so enjoyed listening to the sermons from this podcast, especially these past few weeks. Mars Hill Bible Church is in the middle of a series on the Beatitudes. It takes a while to download things here, so I was a few weeks behind as of the end of last week, but I got the latest ones downloaded and have since caught up.

Last night, as I cooked dinner, I listened to the sermon on “blessed are those who hunger and thirst.” Rob Bell was the teacher that day, and the message was marvelous. I highly recommend that you go subscribe to the podcast if only for this one lesson. Here is why (in a long, drawn-out Jacque way of telling reasons).

I’m a little worried about my reverse culture-shock. I’ve been more worried about reverse culture-shock than anything else since I decided to come here. And quite frankly, I don’t know how much I’ve had culture shock since I’ve come; we were (and are) aided greatly in our transition and in adjusting to life here in Kara. Here, I’m surrounded by people who expect culture shock to be a part of adjustment to life. When I go home, people won’t know what I’m thinking when I walk through Walmart or Target- I’m not even sure I’ll know what I’m thinking! I’ve always had inner turmoil when I think about the world and how it operates and how awful some things are. It’s why I can’t watch the news or read a whole newspaper without crying. There are so many things that I cannot fix in the world, so many things that are just not right.

In this particular sermon, I was affected on so many levels so many times. Rob Bell tells this story of a couple at his congregation that approached him with a dilemma. “We want to buy a couch.” Now, this seems simple and easily answered, “Ok, then buy a couch.” But this couple was faced with the knowledge they had that if they put the money they would put into a couch toward fresh water wells in Africa, they could save lives. If they used the money saved by buying a cheaper couch to sponsor a child, they could send that child to school and affect generations in that child’s family. OR they could buy a nice leather couch that was exactly the color and squishiness and size they wanted.

Those of us who have our eyes open should be facing this same dilemma. Now, Mr. Bell doesn’t provide an answer for people with that question. What he does provide is the assurance that God is with us in the tension that question brings up in us. The fact that we have tension is a sign that God is working in us! There is no right answer, necessarily, but we can take comfort in the fact that God knows that our world is not how it should be, and the tension we feel when we buy a couch is simply something we have to deal with in our broken world.

At one point, Rob Bell talks about an television interview he did for the BBC and how she asked him a question that caught him off guard. He and I are alike in how we deal with being caught off guard- he just started talking, thinking, “Wow, that’s interesting that I would say that,” as he spoke. Later, he replayed his answer over and over and over (courtesy of the “rewind demon”), dwelling on the response he wished he hadn’t given, beating himself up over the words that came out of his mouth

I do that almost every day. I re-live the things I did that were boneheaded and silly, the things I never should have said, the look I never should have given, the phrase I never should have laughed at, the couch I never should have stood on, the way I never should have been or reacted.
“The Gospel is Jesus’ counter-intuitive, exuberant announcement that in those moments of frustration beating myself up, God announces, “Blessed are you. I’m with you.” Not “When you get it together, then I’ll meet you.” No. God meets us in the frustration and anger, giving us “blessing, love, and acceptance, saying, “I’m with you in that.”

I’m so glad that when I go home and have no way at all of processing everything I’ll need to process, God will be with me in the tension. While I go to Walmart and buy ready made food and go to the furniture store a buy a couch that’s a tad more comfortable than half of the beds people sleep on here, God will be blessing me in the inner turmoil I will most assuredly feel. 

He is with me now, and He will be with me then. And, He is with you always. Don't forget!

This is a picture of two adorable members of the Reeves family, Elijah (who is one of my students, in the orange) and Gabriel (one of the Kindergarteners, in the red). As we drove up to their house to drop off the girls who are in dance one day, I thought they had a lemonade stand... nope! They had a peanut stand set up outside their compound. And I thought I would share this hilarious memory with you!

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Last Sunday, Brett asked us what we were doing on Monday (which is our day off). We told him we were going to Codhani to see what was out there. Then Brett asked us if we would be interested in going on a hike. Despite the almost-amputation of Bethany’s toe during our last hike (which has healed quite nicely, by the way), we were super excited by the prospect of trying again. Brett told us that there was a waterfall near Codhani called Yaka, and that he would take us there after our shopping trip. Our Codhani trip was for the afternoon, and we decided to go on the hike after that.

The next day, we had a relaxing morning around the apartment, getting ready for our little trip in the afternoon. About an hour before we left, the sky started getting dark and about five minutes before we left, the sky opened up. We ran through the pouring rain to the cars outside of our gate and drove through the pouring rain to Codhani. I was riding with Becky and she mentioned that she hadn’t seen it rain that hard in a while- all the while, I’m thinking, “And we’re about to hike to a waterfall...”

We made it to Codhani and looked at the beautiful material. Bethany and I ordered pagnes for our Christmas pajama pants and Sarah bought one that was already made. I also got some paper and envelopes with beautiful scenes painted on them. All of the merchandise at Codhani is made by handicapped people who are employed there, and it's incredible stuff! I’ve been hearing about it since I got to Togo, and it was really wonderful to get to go. We have future plans to go in the morning so we can see the workers in action.

After we finished at Codhani, we climbed into the Emerson vehicle. Caden was supposed to come with us, but he chose to go back with April instead... which turned out to be a very good thing.

We knew it was going to be wet, not only because we were going to a waterfall, but also because it had rained so much earlier in the day and had only really stopped about fifteen minutes before. Yet, our spirits could not be dampened, and we set off really excited about what was to come. As we drove to Yaka, Brett told us, “It’s in the middle of nowhere. Seriously, when I bring people out here, they always ask if I’m serious.” We proceeded to turn onto a “road” that literally consisted of some grass that looked as if it might have been driven on three years ago. Quite frankly, it was hilarious. We turned around and thought we might be wrong, but the fact that we were on the right path was confirmed by a local and we went on our merry way. We parked under a mango tree, doused ourselves with bug spray (because there were eighty million flies buzzing around us and who knows what else), and started on our path.

Brett led the way, taking all of the cobwebs out for us and beating down the very tall grass so us short people could comfortably (HA) trail behind. We could hear the waterfall from the car, and Brett said was the first time that had happened for him- that made me excited to get there and see it. As we walked toward the waterfall, the roar got louder and louder, and finally, the grass parted and we saw the river full of water and raging toward the waterfall. As we explored the rocks a little, I tested the water to find a strong current. Then Brett took us down the side of the mountain to the base of the waterfall. 

It was magnificent. The water was pounding, and by the time I made it to the farthest point I could, we were shouting to communicate, and the backs of my ears were stinging from the water hitting them. Brett and Bethany came as far as I did and we spent some time looking through the “rain” at the beautiful sunset God gave us to look at. My words cannot do the waterfall justice, so I am not even going to try. Just let me tell you it was incredible, and I will never forget it.

So, drenched and blessed, we retreated from the base of the waterfall and realized that night was quickly approaching. We started to head back to the car... and took a few wrong turns. By the time we found our mango tree, it was dark and we were glad to see the car. Brett had resorted to standing on a rock and pushing the button to trigger the lights on the truck to find our way. We got in the car, called April to assure her of our safety, then drove home, soggy but content.

God is good. He reminds me of this every day. Open your eyes to His reminders to you. I love you.

This is the cool little rock house we saw along the way to Yaka from Codhani. It was super creative and an amazing bit of architecture.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


In the past few days, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how God uses our loneliness to remind us that we need Him. I think it’s a beautiful way that our natural human desires draw us closer to Him. Sometimes I think I’m a person standing alone in a crowded room. The kind of loneliness I have isn’t the kind that is solved by eating dinner at someone’s house or watching Casablanca with the girls—although both of those things are nice. The kind of loneliness I have is the soul-kind, the kind that needs another Being to know me, not my favorite color or my favorite food, but Someone who knows my very essence.

Yesterday, in the midst of a particularly rough situation, I was washing dishes and thinking about how much I wanted someone to talk to about everything at that moment. Then, I literally said to myself in my head, “Duh, Jacque, God is always here to talk to, and He always has all the answers!” It seems so silly that I have to remind myself of this constantly, that just because I don’t have someone here in flesh and blood doesn’t by any stretch of the imagination mean I’m alone in this world. Hugs are fantastic, but knowing God cares more about me than I can even imagine is indescribable. That knowledge gives me a peace unattainable anywhere else.

Bethany, Sarah, and I started the Believing God study by Beth Moore last Sunday. This is the first time I’ve done a Beth Moore study, and I love it. Bethany got the workbook before she left, so we all have “homework” that we do each day. This week, there were five statements of faith introduced that I would like to share with you. They are as follows:

1. God is Who He says He is.
2. God can do what He says He can do.
3. I am who God says I am.
4. I can do all things to Christ.
5. God’s Word is alive and active in me.

I feel like these principles are simple statements that every Christian knows, but statements that very few have given themselves the opportunity to believe. I know God is always there for me, but I feel like I’ve missed the boat on believing that He is. There are so many reasons this simple truth is the biggest truth in our lives, yet I feel like so many people I love struggle with believing it; I certainly struggle.

Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” My prayer for the beautiful souls surrounding me both physically and spiritually is that the peace promised when we come to Him will permeate our beings.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Hardest Part of Being in Africa...

I've had a couple of hard days since I've been here, but nothing that I wouldn't have had if I was anywhere else in the world. Today was one of those hard days- it had hardly anything to do with me, and I need to ask for prayers.

My friend Scott McEndree has a beautiful wife and four beautiful children. I'm quite attached to the McEndree family, for many reasons. They are an incredible Godly family that has impacted me greatly in the past four years that I've known them. Scott is currently fighting a battle with cancer, and they flew down to Reno, Nevada since the last time I had internet to try some natural cancer treatment options there. When they got there, Scott ended up in the hospital, had surgery, and is now doing better, but not fantastic.

At every step along the way, Scott and Bonita have shown nothing but faith in and love for God through the roller coaster that is Scott's cancer battle. I've been fighting to do the same.

Please join me in praying for the McEndree clan, as they do the treatments in Reno and continue to strive in their faith. I want to ask a particular prayer for Mac, Rhone, Ayla, and Alia. They're young and this is hard for me to understand at 22, and I'm not sure it gets easier with age, anyway.

I love you. Thank you.


for the story.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Well, I’m learning lessons every day, though not all of them are new ones. Here are some news snippets of what has happened since the last time I posted.

Peter Dexter was very sick and didn’t make it. He was acting off, so he went to the vet, and then the morning after, he was unable to stand up. So, alas, yesterday, our beloved African goat died. The Kennell’s guardian, Joseph, came and took him away from the school so we didn’t have to deal with it yesterday during school. Joseph also buried PD for us... I’m not sure what we would have done if he hadn’t done that for us.

School is going well- I’m dealing with some strong-willed children, so there are some challenges, but overall, I love teaching the 4th graders! At the end of school every day, after we have hustled the kids out the gate, I collapse on the futon usually with the other teachers and we lay there and decide what we’re going to do for the rest of the time we have until our next activity. Last night, we had some time before we went to the Hangen household for dinner, and we decided to spend that time walking to the mini-market close to our house to get more credit for the cell phone Becky got for us (Thanks again, Becky!) and bananas. We also stopped by Sante Plus, the pharmacy closest to us, to get more malaria medicine. I got two boxes of doxycycline- I’m going to try it for a couple of weeks.

Fun random story: when we were standing in line at Sante Plus, a very well-dressed man driving a very nice vehicle came in to get something. As he came in and stood in line behind us, I caught a whiff of him (which, I know, sounds so strange). He smelled SO GOOD!!! He was wearing cologne, maybe a bit too much (or maybe my nose is just super sensitive to those kinds of smells now), but it was one of the best smells I’ve smelled since I got here. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like it always smells bad here, but I’m not spraying extra good smelly stuff on myself, in hopes of convincing the bugs to leave me alone. So, that quick smell of that man’s cologne was wonderful... it’s the little things in life, right?

We started Meet the Robinsons yesterday, which is, I’ve decided, the epitome of my humor. I love that movie- I recommend it for everyone, because it’s clean, clever, adorable, and it has a fantastic message!

Matt picked us up, and we went to his and Grace’s house for calzones and The Office (this season! I can stay caught up with the lives of Jim and Pam from Togo, who woulda thought?!?!), and good (always significant) conversation. Matt Hangen doesn’t mess around when he wants to talk about theology or social issues or anything else huge, for that matter, and we’re learning that he doesn’t often NOT want to talk about those things! It’s good though- I need to learn more than I know, and Matt is a smart, great guy with lots of experience in lots of different areas of some of those issues. And you can’t beat The Office towards the end of a long school week- thank you TBS for the break.

This morning, I woke up grumpy, which meant I snapped, which meant I had some apologizing to do to my beautiful housemates. The things I said were things I needed to say, but I didn’t say them in a way I needed to say them. The interesting part of living here in Togo is that my social circle is quite limited. I went from living at Harding University with a million friends, to Kara, Togo, West Africa, where I live with three girls my age, work with eight kids who are school age, spend a good amount of time with four toddlers, socialize with ten missionaries on my team and eight people on the other team in town... it’s a little different. I love it. It’s great. Relationships will get deeper than they ever could back at glorious Harding. But still, I have some adjusting to do. Just thought I would be honest about it.

We had our fourth dance class tonight! It was great- I hope to break from my instruction for long enough to take some pictures soon.

In other news: we had pizza at the Miller homestead, school is out for the week, we’re going swimming on Monday, we have a future Settlers of Catan party almost scheduled, my toenails are pink, and life is really beautiful. 

I’m thinking about and missing all of you. Love.