Sep 30

Shoes and Visas

What do the two have in common. Well, nothing really (although you can buy shoes with your Visa credit card, but that’s not the type of visa I have in mind). I just thought the two together would make a good headline.

Missionary Todd Ohlmann was able to get his visas to Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. I am waiting on some letters and a corrected residence permit, but I will be applying for mine soon, as will Kossi (for the DRC, he doesn’t need one for Nigeria). Pray that Kossi and I are able to get the visas soon,

Speaking of Pastor Kossi. He was wearing shoes yesterday. Why is that significant, you may ask? It shows the recovery he has had from his accident. Up until yesterday he has been wearing flip-flops because his left foot has been so swollen. The physical therapy and medicine he has been receiving evidently is helping him heal, as his foot is almost back to normal. Praise God for preserving Kossi’s life in the accident and for the rapid healing he has experienced!

Sep 25

Permits, Visas, and Cards, oh my!

I just realized that I forgot to report here that I received my Stay Card (Carte de Séjour). Much thanks goes to Pastor Kossi who did almost all the legwork and had the contacts to make this super easy, barely an inconvenience.

The Carte de Séjour is an official Togolese ID and allows me to stay for a year without any problems. It also makes me a card-carrying missionary, as that is what is given as my profession on the card.

Despite Pastor Kossi’s injuries, he spent today running around checking on requirements for a visa to Nigeria and getting paperwork requested for the visa to Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), like a residency permit and a certificate of non-condemnation (to show I haven’t done anything illegal here).

Lord willing, Pastor Kossi and I will go to Nigeria with Missionary Todd Ohlmann at the end of October for a week, and then to the DRC for two weeks. Please pray that both Missionary Ohlmann and I can get the needed Visas , I just heard from Missionary Ohlmann that he was able to get his visa for the DRC. He had been denied the past few times because of the political situation.

It turns out that a Nigerian visa should be fairly easy as I am now officially a resident in Togo, which is one of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS/CEDEAO [Communauté Economique des Etats de l’Afrique de l’Ouest]), as is Nigeria. Pastor Kossi does not even need a visa to travel to Nigeria.

Thank the Lord for granting a Stay Card! And for Pastor Kossi being willing to run so many errands, even though he probably should be resting and recovering from his accident (see the next post).

Sep 17

Updated: Accident 🏍💥🚙

Monday last week, Pastor Kossi Blewu was traveling (on motorcycle) up to the land we purchased to check on the agriculture work there. He was making a left turn (and signaling) when the car behind him thought he was going to make a right, so the car tried to pass him on the left and they collided.

By God’s grace, Kossi was not gravely injured, even though everyone who witnessed the accident thought he was surely dead. He was taken to the hospital, which was nearby and spent the night there. He did not suffer any broken bones but his foot required a number of stitches. He went back to the hospital in pain on Thursday.

Kossi returned to Lomé last Friday. He is supposed to rest and not walk much, but he came picked me up in a taxi Saturday to go distribute school supplies to the orphans and to the kids in need. He was limping rather severely and obviously in pain. He has some severe abrasions that are visible and wounds that are covered.

The driver of the car turns out to be a pastor. The local police chief was coincidently (miraculously) there when the accident happened, and so witnessed the whole thing. And Kossi’s motorcycle was only very minimally damaged in the accident.

Please keep Kossi in your prayers as he recovers, especially that he will not push himself until he is better. And thank the Lord for His grace that things were not so much worse!

UPDATE 9/21/19: Kossi went to the hospital and had either the dressing on his foot removed or the stitches removed. I will know more tomorrow. This week he was in a lot more pain and has had trouble walking. I’d like to think that it is his body healing and he is feeling worse before he gets better. Check back for a more detailed update tomorrow.

UPDATE 9/22/19: Kossi will return to the hospital tomorrow (Monday) for followup. His left foot is still very swollen. He said it has gone down. Saturday they removed the stitches. They are recommending another x-ray to verify that he didn’t actually break something.

Kossi wants to make a trip up to see the land we helped them purchase on which to grow crops, raise animals, and build a church and possibly a school/seminary building. I don’t want him to push himself and slow his recovery. We will see what the doctor says tomorrow. Check back for further updates.

UPDATE 9/25/19: Kossi went back to the doctor today for x-rays. They confirmed that no bones were broken. His left foot is much less swollen. He did some physical therapy. The doctor said he was very smart to come in for treatment now, otherwise he would have more problems down the road.

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 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.

Mar 06

నేను తెలుగు బాగా మాట్లాడాలి!

If you are wondering about the title of this post, it says, “I need/want to speak Telugu well” in Telugu. Telugu is one of the languages spoken in the BELC and is the language spoken in the CLCI. It is the language of the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

The other main language in the BELC (and the language of the state of Tamil Nadu where I live) is Tamil. Tamil is related to Telugu (like Spanish and French are related), but is written with a totally different writing system: நான் தமிழ் நல்லா பேசனும் (“I want/need to speak Tamil well”).

Over the past two years I have been working on learning Telugu, as that is what a majority of the men we work with speaks. My progress has been slower than expected. Staying in Chennai, where they speak Tamil, has also not helped.

I have also started to learn some Tamil (although many of the security guards at my apartment complex are from the North and speak Hindi, another completely different language – मुझे हिंदी बोलने की ज़रूरत है), but it is difficult to find time to focus on both Telugu and Tamil.

The men here try to encourage me by telling me about Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg, one of the first Lutheran Missionaries to Southern India. He came, learned Tamil, translated the Bible into Tamil and even wrote classical Tamil poetry. I guess if he could do it… although it seems like he set the bar awfully high. Thanks Ziegenbalg!

While I may not be writing poetry anytime soon, by God’s grace I have made progress (albeit slowly in my mind).  Please pray for continued progress in both Telugu and Tamil. God has already used my language abilities to help encourage and build up the men here, but I still have a longs ways to go before I can teach in Telugu or Tamil without a translator. Being able to do so would allow me to teach a lot more efficiently and cover more in the time available.

మీ ప్రర్ధనలకు వందనాలు (Thank you for your prayers)! 


Nov 04

Jan-Oct: water scarcity, Nov-Dec: water scares city

The title above was posted to the residents WhatsApp group where I live. While it is funny, it is also true. Until recently the area has been experiencing a water shortage, but now the monsoon has hit and again has brought major flooding to Chennai.  I live on the very west side of Chennai and haven’t been affected by the flooding, but D. Paul has asked me not to go into Chennai.  As you can see from the link above the situation is rather bad in places.  Here are some additional photos posted by someone from the resident’s group with a video I took from Nov 1.

This past Weds (Nov 1) I did go into Chennai to get some Bibles, in particular some Telugu New Testaments and one English from some new believers.  We had to make several stops and calls before I found someplace that had the Telugu New Testaments. After talking to them on the phone, we pulled up and the whole block was without power.  I doubted they could sell me anything without lights (as it was dark by that time). As we were debating what to do, the electricity was restored and I was able to get the New Testaments. Praise the Lord!

The flooding have resulted in several deaths. Two 8 year old girls were electrocuted when they stopped in a water containing a live power line. And storm drains are overflowing and mixing with sewage in many areas, creating unsafe conditions.

After the flood that devastated Chennai in Dec 2015, the city was supposedly prepared such rain, but residents are questing what has been does, as it doesn’t seem they have done enough.

I don’t expect the rains and flooding to impact me much. The complex where I live, while next to a major lake, is on fairly high ground and has diesel power backups in case the main electricity fails. But pray for the many, many people here who are severely impacted by these flood waters. The state has already been struggling with an outbreak of dengue fever. These rains and fetid, unclean water will certainly not improve the situation!

Knee Update: I continue to have some knee pain, even with the pain medication. The doctor said I am developing some slight arthritis. This coming week I plan to go in for a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection into the knee (they take my blood and spinning and extract the plasma and inject it). It is a controversial treatment, whose results are not proven, but I pray it will help (or at least act as its own placebo).

Oct 12

Dengue danger and other distractions

In Chennai there has been an outbreak of dengue (which I learned is actually pronounce dengoo, not dengay) fever, which is a mosquito-borne viral illness. Since January there have been 80 reported deaths. Across the state there have been 11,500-12,500 cases so far this year.

Tuesday I did a training for the pastors here in Chennai. Less than half the usual number came because many were suffering from dengue fever. Please keep them and all the people who have been infected in your prayers.

Yesterday I was meeting with pastors in another district and loud music started playing from next door just as we were about to start. Fortunately after 10-15 minutes the music stopped and we were able to continue our meeting without further interference.

Knee Update

Last month surgeon decided to treat my knee with calcium and chondroitin supplements for three months to see if the damage will heal itself. He also gave me some joint pain medication. I continue to do physical therapy exercises at home. My knee seems to be bothering me less, but it is difficult to tell if it is getting better or if it is just the pain medication. I pray it is the former but I am glad to have the latter as well.

In any case, I have resumed my travels and trainings, which do not involve much walking (just standing), so my knee has time to recover. I pray that someday I’ll be able to navigate stairs normally and be able to freely walk and exercise.


Sep 02

Unless you bend the knee…

I went back to the surgeon yesterday (Friday, Sept 1). After immobilizing my knee for almost 3 weeks, I could no longer bend it. He sent to physical therapy (here called physiotherapy). I usually have a high tolerance for pain, but bending my knee, really hurt!

I am scheduled for five days of physical therapy. I was worried after yesterday’s session, because my knee really hurt. Today (Saturday) I had my second session and it was much easier and much less painful that yesterday.  I can bend the knee more easily and it doesn’t hurt as much.

What concerns me is that the area I had damaged on the front right of the knee still hurts a little bit, especially when I stand on my tiptoes (one of the exercises), but in general my knee today feels much better than it did a month ago; it seems the weeks resting my knee has allowed the damaged area to heal to some extent.

I will visit to surgeon in two weeks and see how things (or rather I) stand then. If I am still having pain, he would want to put scope in my knee to see what is going on and that he might end up having to shave off part of the meniscus. Pray it won’t come that or even having to put a scope in my knee at all.