Jun 09

No more cover fire!

Back at the beginning of March, the head pastor and I were talking about the election and how the opposition was challenging the result. He told me (in French) that he hadn’t heard that there was « un couvre-feu », which literally means “a cover fire”. My thought was, “Are things that bad that there is gun fire?!?”

A week or so later I was talking to the neighbor who lives behind my building (but the entrance to my building leads to her apartment behind, so we share the main entrance). She was telling me that she got back from her work at a restaurant downtown at 2 am. When I remarked how late that was, she said that there wasn’t « couvre-feu », and I was confused, but also glad no one was shooting guns on my street.

Finally toward the end of March, the government instituted a « couve-feu » and I was like, “OK, I have to look this word up!” I did, and it actually means “curfew”! I had totally misunderstood what my neighbor and the head pastor here had said!

Ironically, our English word comes from the French “cover fire”. I guess when a curfew was enacted back in the day, it was the time you had to literally cover your fire and go inside.

In any case, the curfew that the government started from 8 pm to 6 am to limit the spread of SARS-CoV-2 was initially loosed to be 9 pm to 6 am, then a few weeks ago to 10 pm to 5 pm. And as of today (June 9th, 2020), the curfew has been lifted completely (although I will miss it, as I live on a busy street and welcomed the peace and quiet).

The closing off of several major cities (of which Lomé was one) – which was to limit travel and spread between bigger cities – has also been lifted, as the number of new cases is fairly stable, and low.

In place of these measure, it is now mandatory to wear masks.

I have heard that initially in some countries, like Cameroon and Ethiopia, foreigners were being attacked by the locals because it was foreigner who brought the virus into the countries. While that is highly unlikely to ever happen here, as Togo is very welcoming, I have been wearing a mask whenever I go out, even when it wasn’t mandatory, to show that I take the situation seriously and am trying to do my part to protect others and limit the propagation.

Compared to the rest of the world, much of Africa, and Togo especially, has not been hit very hard by the pandemic. That is very fortunate (thanks be to God!), as the medical facilities in Africa are not as equipped as they are in other places.

The airport is still closed to incoming passengers (except for repatriation of Togolese), but they are making plans for when it opens again, including rapid COVID-19 testing upon arrival and other measures.

Schools and churches are still closed. This has been more difficult here than in the US and in more developed countries. While I have been blessed to tune into some live-streamed services, and I have even been able give a virtual presentation on the work here for a church in Minneapolis and preach at their mission festival from my dinning room table here in Togo, most people here do not have access to affordable internet and churches and schools do not have the setup or equipment to stream services or classes. I pray that we will be able to resume worship services and seminary classes soon so that we can encourage one another from God’s word during these difficult times.

Mar 21

Locked in Lomé

As of March 20, 2020 there are 12 confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 in Togo. This has led the government to enact a number of measures to slow the propagation of the novel corona virus:

  1. Land borders are closed to all travelers for two weeks. This does not affect the movement of goods.
  2. Several cities, including Lomé, are blockaded.
  3. It is forbidden to go to the beach indefinitely.
  4. Places of worship are closed for one month.
  5. All schools and universities are closed for 3 weeks.
  6. Funerals and burials are to be attended by no more than 15 people.
  7. All venders in markets are to wear masks.
  8. All mass cultural and sport events are suspended indefinitely.
  9. All nightclubs are closed.

Recently the US State Department said that any citizen residing in the US should return or be prepared to remain overseas for an indefinite period of time (I am prepared to remain here for an indefinite period).

So far Africa has had relatively few cases of infection, and I pray that continues to be the case. The World Health Organization, however, said that we should prepare for the worst. As the number of infections and the death toll mounts around the world, the health care system here is even more fragile, so it is very important to take every precaution to limit the propagation and “flatten the curve”.

While this can be a frightening time, we must remember that the Creator of the Universe is still at work preserving His creation:

Man and beast you save, O Lord. – Psalm 36:6

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. – Matthew 10:29-31

Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. – Psalm 33:18-19

As I write this, I see two men going up and down my street wearing masks and handing out information. I assume they are encouraging the vendors to follow the guidelines and wear masks. There is a car with a load speaker blaring information in Ewe, which I cannot yet understand, but I assume is encouraging everyone to follow the guidelines.

Taking precautions to limit the propagation of and exposure to SARS-CoV-2 does not contradict our faith and trust in our Heavenly Father to protect and care for us. Out of love for God and our neighbor, we obey the government and follow the guidelines. We obey God by obeying the government.

The Triune God – the Father, Son, Holy Spirit – promises to protect and comfort us, but we should not test the Lord our God by ignoring the wisdom and advice of medical professionals. We should not metaphorically “throw ourselves from the pinacle of the temple” in attempt to demonstrate a strong faith.

That said, we can be tempted to place more trust in preventative measures or modern medicine than in God. Even in normal circumstances we are often tempted to place our confidence in the things of this world or in ourselves more than we trust in God.

But through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God’s Son, we have forgiveness for every time we have sinned against the first commandment and any and all of God’s commandments. Jesus has paid for and taken away all your sin so that you may have eternal life.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:31-39

So wash your hands as you trust in the salvation God has given you in Jesus. May He continue to protect and preserve us all until He brings us to the heavenly home He has prepared for us in Jesus. Amen.

Jun 09

Pentecost is important!

Pentecost is a important festival commemorating the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost after Jesus’ ascension. On that harvest festival, the Lord reaped a harvest of about 3000 souls and added them to His church.

In the US, however, Pentecost isn’t one of that major celebrations, like it is here. This past week we had evening meetings Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Tuesday we met with the 3 current pastors and the 6 seminary students and studied the work of the Holy Spirit using the explanations to the 3rd article of the Apostles Creed in Luther’s Small Catechism. The following evenings were services of prayer and instruction on the work of the Holy Spirit, except for Thursday, when there was a violent downpour that made any preaching impossible.

Heavy rain on a tin roof makes preaching impossible.
Pentecost Sunday gathering

This Sunday we had a big gathering in church, as many of the members from the church in Ghana came over and joined us for the Pentecost celebration. Pastor Moses from Ghana preached a sermonette, as did I.

Women from Ghana sharing a song. Click here to listen.

Rejoice that the Lord has poured out His Spirit on you, to create faith in your heart – faith in Jesus and His death and resurrection – through the witness of the apostles we have in God’s word.

Tomorrow is Pentecost Monday, a national holiday. Happy Pentecost!

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.

Apr 08

30º more and brace for impact

I just had my 6-week follow-up from my knee surgery (to repair my meniscus). I can bend 30º more for a total of 90º and the surgeon said I can take the brace off unless I will be “exerting” myself. I asked him what that meant, and he said for things like stairs, etc.

I think I will wear the brace for a few more days as I walk around with the new bend-ability to get used to 90º and I still plan to wear it while traveling and for trainings, as getting situated in the vehicle is difficult and I can easily twist or bend my leg in the wrong way.

He also said I could write a bike if I move the seat up high so I’m going bending my knee as much. And I should not use any resistance on a stationary bike. I will try the bike tomorrow, with the brace, to see how it goes.  I’m not sure what good no resistance does, but I guess it will get my leg moving.

I will go back for a follow-up in another month.

Mar 25

“Clinically Progressing Satisfactorily”

That’s what the doctor wrote in the notes from my 4-week follow-up today.

I was hoping that the range of motion would be increased from 60º to 90º but we are waiting another 2 weeks for that. The important thing is for me not to twist my lower leg at all (as that is what produced the injury in the first place) so that the meniscus is able to heal.

I went shopping a little bit on the way home from the hospital. Not only did I not find what I was looking for, but it was hard to stop at shops along the roads as there is usually no parking. Walking to a shop is a challenge as there are usually no sidewalks, and if they are, they are like obstacle courses (especially in Bengaluru!), although the one road had a fairly decent side-walk.

My scars have “healed completely” and I can do stairs slowly, which is good as most stores are multi-level and they do not always have elevators. Fortunately I only had to go up one level in the two I visited today, and the one had an elevator.

Riding in the vehicle is not comfortable. I have been sitting in the back seat with my let straight. I cannot bend it enough to sit normally. We will see how I do on the 1.5 hour trip to the MLBS graduation on Wednesday morning.

It’s a slow recovery, but I guess it is good that I’m “progressing satisfactorily”.

Mar 16

Back on my feet… for 10 minutes every 2 hours

Last Saturday I had a 10-day followup. The orthopedic surgeon removed the stitches. He said there is no fluid in my knee, which is good. I took the bandage off Monday and have three small scars that look like two eyes and a nose on my knee. Sam Rodebaugh suggested I draw a mouth to complete the smiley face.

My brace has been bumped up to 60º and the physiotherapist upped my exercise reps from 10 to 25 twice a day and told me to walk for 10 minutes every 2 hours, which I have been doing. 

So I am back on my feet, at least a little bit. I haven’t had any pain until today, perhaps because I just reached the end of the NSAIDs.

I go back in a little over a week and a half (2 weeks from the previous follow-up). By then I should be able to bend 90º. Perhaps a couple weeks after that I can get rid of the brace entirely.

The BELC graduation has been rescheduled to the 29th of March. I should be navigate the stairs by then, at least slowly.