Friday, July 24, 2009

A farewell and thankgiving

Well, we've been home for a few weeks now and it seems like a dream. Again, what we take for granted. Memories keep flooding back...the children at the VBS who needed to be taught how to color because they didn't know what crayons were and what they were used for. The children who were happy to come to VBS and wait quietly and patiently. The friends we made...Lamoudi, Adjani, the Walshes and the Johnsons, Daniel and his whole family. The home visits with the Handicap Center therapists. The wi-fi towers being set up. The fellowship we had with other believers despite language and culture. Thank you to all of you for your prayers and gifts to make this all possible. We all want to share our experience with you. Let us know! Que Dieu vous benisse!!!

Bien fraternellement,


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Interloper Among Them

I'm Elizabeth Barr, Messiah alumnus and SIM short-term missionary, and it's been my pleasure to be adopted by the West Shore team since they arrived in Burkina a couple weeks ago. I've spent the last four months working at the Handicap Center with Dale and Florence, doing administration for the center and helping to bridge the gap while the Walsh family was on furlough in the States.

We're in the Casablanca airport at the moment, waiting in line for a second (!) bag check to get on the plane to NYC. We left the SIM station at midnight local time last night. It's already been ten hours, and so far, we've made it to Casablanca. Progress comes in baby steps when one is traveling internationally, it seems. Our flight to JFK airport will be about eight hours, and then we'll part ways - the team to drive home to the West Shore, and me to fly to Charlotte, NC to debrief at SIMUSA before going home to Altoona, PA.

The team and I have been having a great time together, hanging out in Mahadaga and driving back to Ouagadougou together. We were able to spend yesterday out doing some shopping and spending too much money buying fantastic souvenirs at an artisan village and the Grand Marche. I was propsed to by an already-married Muslim man, and protested heartily that I was certainly not second-wife material. He laughed, fortunately, and then tried valiantly to sell me cloth. I didn't buy any.

It's been a terrific four months for me in Burkina. I'm preparing to come back for two years, to keep working at the center as a business manager and possibly teach some English and basic computer skills. If God blesses me richly, there is also an option for me to return to Burkina very (very) quickly and spend a year working with SIM Admin in Ouagadougou, filling in for the SIM treasurer, Malcolm Watts. His family will be taking a year-long furlough starting in December, and as of this moment, there isn't anyone to substitute for him. I've expressed a willingness to take over that position for the year, if I can manage to raise the money quickly enough. If not, I'll go back to Mahadaga, likely with the Johnson family when they return to Burkina after their furlough ends next July. I'd appreciate your prayers! The decision rests in God's hands at the moment, which is a simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying place to be :)

Well, the time has come to board the plane, so off we go. We're looking forward to seeing our friends and family and sleeping in our own beds. See you all soon!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

And the rain's coming down!!!

We are at Ouga now it is raining as hard as I've seen it for months. Ice cream is on the charts if the rain stops but we leave for the airport at midnight. Our time on the mission field has been incredible. We have urged each other to perform at a very high level in all areas. And I mean all areas. Food and water is the thing in short supply here, we have all learned to improvise with every meal. Tonights meal, spagettie with sauce, had lentils in the sauce, I hope Doreen does not find this site because enough is enough!, I cooked the sauce!
Last Sunday I was in Church trying to be Holy, sitting right beside Pastor Ian, an un-holy bat or two let it fly right on Pastor Ians head! Our Lord came to the rescue though, a skinny cat came on the scene, walking on the open beams where some of the ceiling was missing, a lot of squeeling and a bit of a squabble and no more problem from bats.
Onthe way here in a town called Diapaga we found hundreds of small cat sized bats hanging in the trees just churping away at noon.
We have lost the lights here 3 times now and i'm a bit concerned that all this nonsence is going into the big bit bucket in the sky if I don't send it soon.
Right now Steve and Kristas room is flooding through the window. We fly out tonight and the thought just hit me that I wont see these wonderful people again---They are some of the most sincere Cristians I'v met. How can I stop praising God for allowing me to experience Burkina and His people, our brothers and sisters.

-Paul Mank

Some prayer needs of Burkinabe people

During our stay in Mahadaga, each of us on the team took turns joining a pair of caseworkers from the Handicap Center going out into the bush on motorbikes to visit the homes of Burkinabe families, who have a child with an identified need. In my experience, we met three families having a child crippled with Cerebral Palsy, and one family having a case diagnosed as Epilepsy. In the latter case, according to his mother, the child has just had another seizure before we came to visit, and was very despondent, lying on a mat, during most of our stay. To make matters worse, we learned that the father, who greated us a little overexuberatently at our entrance, is an alcoholic who had already had to much to drink at mid-day. After discussing the boy's case with his mother, and checking to see that he had been taking his prescribed medications, we learned that his seizures were not getting any better, rather they were getting more frequent. His mother was frustrated. Both his mother and father treated him with less than gentle care while we were present. Even the seasoned case workers were at a loss to know what to do next. It came out that when the boy has seizures, he runs around screaming "Save me, save me!" Not surprisingly, the case workers believe something may be going on than just Epilepsy. Taking this as a cue, I suggested we ask the mother if it would be alright if we pray for the boy. She agreed, and right away the father came walking over. The case workers directed the father to sit down on the mat next to his son. I led in a prayer thanking God for the father and the son, and asking in Jesus name for each of them to be healed.

Please continue to pray for this family, that God would not only show the power of his healing hand, but reveal their opportunity to have their sins forgiven, and come to know him in a personal way as their Heavenly Father. Please also pray for the other three families who deal with a child crippled with CP, one of whom knows Christ, and the other two do not. Without the knowledge of God's love, these families really lack the motivation and enablement to meet the needs of a disabled child, casting the child to the perifery. Please pray also for the caseworkers, that they might continue to show God's care in a tangible way by their therapy, and continue to expose the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who have not yet heard, understood, or received Him.

by Harold Underwood

Back in Ouagadougou

Hello everyone,

We had hoped to be able to send you news from Mahadaga, with internet, but the best laid plans don't always work. It didn't stop us from meeting wonderful people, getting lots done, and seeing God at work.

We went to the small town/village of Mahadaga last Saturday. It took 8 or nine hours in a rented van with suitcases on the top, tied down with rope and a tarp. No AC. We are SOOOO spoiled at home. We didn't have AC at all except last evening and today in Ouaga. I honestly don't know how people survive. We're drinking water constantly and perspiring. The national route was a two lane road ( one lane in each direction) through BF, but the road south was dirt. Lots of bumps, but it had been grated this past year. Often times the driver had to honk his horn to have mopeds, sheep, cows, donkeys, carts, etc. get off. Quite an experience.

In Mahadaga, we stayed at the SIM( Serving in Mission) guest houses. Our cottage was modest, but it had a kitchen, fridge, drinking water, toilet, etc. All the amenities of home, but frankly, if it were home, none of us would stay there. Here, it is a palace. I can say that because we were blessed to visit homes nearby and homes out in the real bush. I honestly don't know how people survive. There are often 6-10 children, and some men have 3-4 wives, with 40 children. Often they count on the kids to help with the work, but in a drought, it must be tough.

Anyway, we arrived in Mahadaga, and were shown the work of SIM by Flo Johnson, one of our church's missionaries to Ouaga. She and her husband, Dale, who is the director of the Handicap center, are WONDERFUL people, and are very well loved by the Burkinabe people. SIM runs a clinic with the government, where people come from miles around. I had to get some meds for Aimee because she had a fever. There are no doctors at the clinic. What amazed me was that I paid the equivalent of $2. for amoxycillin where in the states, I wouldn't pay much, but much more.

TO describe the clinic...there was a maternity ward. All rooms opened to the outside. A pump for the patience in the middle of the clinic. Family visitors stayed with the patients. Like Vietnam. Men, women and children were there.

Then to the Handicap Center. It was the closing ceremony of the school. They have classes for the blind, the deaf and other handicaps...about 250 children. The center also allows children from the town to come..going through 6th grade. They are pretty lucky to have a 6th grade education. They have to take a test to pass. Of the sixteen children in the graduating class, all 15 passed, and the 3 deaf children earned honors on the national exam. Some will continue their education, some won't. Many have learned crafts at the center--weaving, tye dying, painting, sewing, knitting, leather working, sand crafts, card making, etc. I'll have a catalog of their wonderful work when I get home. I said I'd ask if we could somehow do "fair trade" with them!

At the ceremony, the asst. director (or someone) read a statement in French ( all courses are taught in French--which they have to learn at school, because they speak Gormancha at home),
and a blind student wrote it out in Braille. Then, the deaf student read it in Braille and signed it to another deaf student. The other deaf student then wrote it on the board. We showed up too late for that, unfortunately, but I read the statement and was touched by the fact that with education, mountains can be surmounted! The students at the center learn braille, sign and French.

The employees and children were so welcoming!


Sunday, we went to a local church where they were celebrating the day of the child. The kids performed skits, sang and danced. It was a bilingual service in French and Gourma. We even sang "I want to see Jesus lifted High!" in English and French.

Monday, we started.
Ian, our WSEF Missions Pastor, led a four day leadership conference for area pastors and employees of the Handicap Center. There were about 20 participants. They had opportunities to discuss church problems. Since Ian grew up in Morocco and worked in So. France for several years, he could definitely relate to what they were talking about!

The men ( and we women sometimes!) helped set up the wifi system. They were able to erect two towers, one at the Guest House station, and another at the Handicap center. The clinic was more difficult to deal with. The tower is to go near one of the buildings, and they have to do some sort of relocation, or get real creative with how to mount it. They also had difficulty with the satellite company, which had changed the satellite on them, which meant they had to wait for a delivery from Ouaga. It didn't come in time. However, Matt Walsh, one of the other missionaries there, knows what to do. The final goal? Connections between the three centers which are not together, an internet connection for all three areas, and a cybercafe at the handicap center. What's interesting is that there are no land telephone lines in this area, but cell towers, so many people have cell phones!

Krista, Aimee and I did the children's program everyday. We had prepared the book and made xeroxed coloring pages before we left. Thanks to those of you who donated soccer balls and crayons!!!! They were a big hit! We started out with 120 kids the first day ( we expected 60),
in a big field in front of a middle school. It grew to be as many as 200+ one day! We played games daily ( dodge ball--they played it lined up), blob tag, red light/green light ( we had to explain what they were), and sharks and minnows. Everything was done in French and then GOurma.

After the games, Ann / Krista read a story--creation, David's adoption of Mephiboshet ( I just learned that one), Jesus and the children, his death, resurrection and ascension. Lamoudi, our Burkina friend, shared the gospel and several children made the decision to ask Jesus into their hearts! It was amazing!

Anyway, with those activities daily/almost daily, we were busy. We also helped at the guest houses...Krista prepared our food, there was clerical work to be done, sorting linens, etc.

One of the biggest highlights, at least for me, was to go out to the bush with the physical therapists and watch them with the children. Aimee and I walked to one home together, where the man had been in a car accident as well as in a home accident where his wall had fallen on him. He had several children and was a paraplegic. The therapist worked his legs, talked to him very gently. The handicap center helps him daily with incontinence issues in the evening. It also helps his family financially because they are very poor.

A blessing for the area---it started to downpour! Not though, before we returned back from our home visit. Oh well, the rain felt great to us, the water rats!

Everyone had the opportunity to go out on the visits...on the back of their cycles. Boy, do they move. Well, they have to! The therapists have so much compassion.

There is so much more to write, but I'll save that for another time. Now, back in Ouaga, we're doing last minute odds and ends. We have been blessed.

Lots of love to all of our friends and family,


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Here is a post from Ann from Sunday!!

It is hot here. It's even hot for ME, and you know what that means for Aimee and what that would be for you. Lots of kids are on the porch. My French has come in handy. They get a big laugh when we try to speak Gourmancha.

I've been tempted to cry a few times. No politics, just survival. People who love Jesus. Went to the graduation ceremonies of the kids--they postponed it due to rain, but still had it. I never thought I'd ask, but pray for rain. It is so dry and the people can't plant their crops. They are a month behind, and they've only had 3-4 rains. Usually everything is growing by now. My camera has been a big hit. I take pictures of life and kids around here. THey want me to, and then show them. What laughs we have had. Aimee is out on the porch playing ball with the kids. She's feeling better, thankfully. Today we went to the church next door where they celebrated the day of the child. Lots of songs. We sang we want to see Jesus lifted High as a group in French and English. The service was in French and Gourmancha.The clinic reminds me of Vietnam/China. So do the people...friendly. I like the bush better than the city.

The guys have already started working on the antennas. Tomorrow, I think, we do the Bible lessons. The kids love my French kid's Bible that I colored in with black people. THey are so used to white pictures...I told them that I think Jesus looked more like them than me!!!

Well, gotta run before the battery dies and electricity runs out. If you can post this on the blog, that would be great!


Pray for rain folks!!!!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Welcome! Introductions and Presentations

Hello to all our friends and family! Welcome to our blog. We want to thank all of you who are partnering with us, enabling us to go to West Africa, and to thank you for your prayers. As we are gearing up for this awesome adventure, we'd like to share with you who we are and what we will be doing along the way.The team is comprised of seven people, all who attend West Shore Evangelical Free Church in Mechanicsburg, PA.
We are:
Ian Campbell, missions pastor of WSEF
Krista and Steve Frank ( wife/teacher and husband/engineer)
Ann and Aimee Hudson ( mom/ French teacher and daughter, middle school student)
Harold Underwood, engineering professor
Paul Mank, WSEF operations manager

We have been collecting items to take over to the Handicap Center in Mahadaga, Burkina Faso, which is in the southeast corner of the country. We will leave JFK on Monday, June 22, flying through Casablanca, Morocco, and then land in Ouagadougou, BF, which is the capital city. Then we will be driven to Mahadago. Included in our luggage will be antennas, materials for the handicap center-tools, walkie-talkies,wires, books, routers, laptops, clothes, gifts, etc--everything we'll need to set up a wi fi system for the handicap center/school, etc. Matt Walsh, one of the missionaries on furlough, just brought over bags loaded with stuff. We take all that "stuff" for granted here! We will return on July 8th. If our "mission" works, you will hopefully be able to follow us from Mahadaga! We can't forget any pieces here!That's enough for now. We'll try to add pictures of our team before we go.

Blessings to all of you,