May 27

Rough Road Ahead

There are three kinds of roads (that I have seen so far) on the city of Lomé: paved, cobblestone, and dirt.

The paved roads are reserved for the down-town business area and major connecting arteries, as far as I can tell.

A paved street in Lomé

The next level down is a cobblestone road, which isn’t the old-style brick, but is a new-style flat brick that must be cheaper to lay than paving. It is however, almost as rough as the old-timey cobblestone streets you find in the US.

Cobblestone street in Lomé

The most common street, however, is simply dirt, not gravel, but dirt. It’s a fine, brown dirt that gets packed fairly tightly. Somehow it still manages to have pot holes, however. And muddy and full of ruts after a rain.

A typical dirt road in Lomé

It seems that the nicer the street, the nicer the area. I told an American who has been working here for many years that the apartment I found was on a cobblestone street and she was impressed! That seems to confirm my suspicion, although the owner of the apartment building lives (in a very nice compound) on a dirt street, so it may more indicate how close one is to a major area.

I was thinking paved roads would always transition to cobblestone before one reaches dirt, but that only holds true in the major areas. On the way to the main church here, the main paved road turns to dirt a couple hundred feet into the side street.

A rather abrupt transition from paved to dirt
May 23

Pardon my French!

Today (Thursday) I taught the seminary students for the third time (not counting this past Sunday evening when both the current pastors and seminary students gathered together to study Luther’s Small Catechism). The students told Pastor Kossi that they had trouble understanding my French. I guess my accent isn’t very good (or, at the very least, isn’t what they are used to). I told them I have trouble understanding their French as well (and they seemed surprised at that). The accent here is different from what I am used to.

My comprehension isn’t helped by the fact that the church has simple thatched walls that go 3/4 of the way to the roof. They are nice for letting in the occasional breeze to help keep one from getting too hot, but they also let in all the noises of passing motorcycles, vehicles, and neighborhood animals.

I pray at my accent will improve (or at least they will get use to it) and that I’ll get used to their accent and be able to understand them better. Of course half that time they are speaking Éwé, which I guess they will force me to learn. Until then, I asked them to “pardon my French.”

May 18


Today (Saturday) Pastor Kossi had a man come over to exchange money so I could have enough to make the deposit on the apartment. Then we went over to the owner’s house. After a long conversation in French/Éwé, we gave him a 6 month deposit and 3 months advanced rent ($206/mo based on the rate of 582 CFA Francs to $1 the man gave me this morning).

We then went to a bank downtown so I could withdraw money from the ATM (Guichet Automatique de Bank [GAB] in French) in order to pay for the AC installation. My bank gave me 602 CFA to $1! That is above the market rate, it seems. I will have to go back to that ATM again if it keeps giving such a favorable exchange!

I should be able to move into the place next Saturday. I am really looking forward to getting settled (and having AC!).

May 15

A Nigerian prince and princess

This past Sunday I met a Nigerian prince and princess. No, they did not ask my help in transferring 2,000,000$ US out of the country that they discovered in dormant bank account. That was a difference prince who emailed that offer the other week (although since I’m here, I’m not sure I can help him).

This was Martin and Tina Essien from west Nigeria. They are very involved with the church there and made the 4+ hour drive to meet Missionary Todd Ohlmann and me.

We spent Monday running errands together, most significantly visiting the apartment I plan to rent, to discuss with the workers how I would like the kitchen finished. Missionary Ohlmann, Pastor Kossi, and I had met with the owner Saturday and he was surprised that no cabinets had been put in the kitchen. The worker claimed that the owner hadn’t asked or discussed kitchen cabinets. The owner asked him what he had been doing all this time then.

As a world traveler and wise businessman from Africa, having Martin (who also speaks French) provide another set of eyes was useful in visiting the unfinished apartment.

Martin wants me to visit Nigeria (as does the Mission Board). I was unable to obtain a visa for Nigeria before coming to Togo. The Lord willing, I will be able to get a “Stay Card” (Carte de Séjour) for Togo, and that should allow me to get a visa for Nigeria from the embassy here. The plan would been then go to Nigeria when Missionary Todd Ohlmann goes there this fall.

Pray that I will be able to get the Carte de Séjour and the visa for Nigeria (as well as other neighboring countries).

May 08

Unexpected Éwé

The official language of Togo is French. For the past several months, as I was waiting to begin my work here, I have been working on improving my French.

I knew Éwé was also used in Lomé and I thought maybe I’d dabble in it once I became more fluent in French. I did not expect that Éwé would be used so much in our churches and by our pastors and teachers here.

In the service this past Sunday there was a translator who translated both English and French into Éwé because that was the mother tongue of the people. Most could understand French, but not all.

Today we meet with four pastors and a woman who travels around to the different churches doing evangelism and teaching among the women. The head Pastor here, Kossi, translated Missionary Todd Ohlmann’s lesson into French at first, but then switched to only translating to Éwé half way through. The Bible text Missionary Ohlmann referenced was read both in Éwé and in French.

During my training, which I attempted to do in French (which was a bit rough), he translated only into Éwé, to ensure they all understood.

It seems that being able to understand and speak Éwé would be very useful for the work here. It is a tonal language, however, and my attempts to learn Mandarin Chinese (which is also tonal) years ago was an abysmal failure; I seem to be tone deaf when it comes to languages. But if it’s the Lord’s will, He will give the ability.

May 08

Looking in Lomé

Missionary Todd Ohlmann and I arrived in Lomé, Togo, West Africa Saturday evening, May 5th, 2019. Pastor Kossi met us at the airport and took us to the hostel where we are staying.

Sunday morning we attended the worship service at the main church and seminary building of the Mission Evangelique Lutherienne de Confession du Togo (MELC). It was an interesting mix of English and French translated into the local Ewe language. Missionary Ohlmann preached and also introduced me to the church here.

The past two days we have been going around Lomé looking at potential houses and apartments for me to rent. It’s been both interesting and frustrating.

We have also been working on getting me a year visa. The good new is that today I got my passport back with a visa valid of one year. Now I just have to work on getting a stay card, which will allow me to stay more than 90 days at a time. That requires a planned residence (hence we’ve been looking at places) and a bunch of other hoops, but I have almost 90 days to get the card so I can stay the full year. This stay card (carte de séjour) should let me also get visas for other countries so I can visited them as well.

Tomorrow I begin the work in earnest as we meet with and teach the pastors who completed their studies this last year. On Thursday we will be teaching the 6 students that are currently studying to become pastors.