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 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.

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)! 


Feb 14

No flowers for you!

Valentine’s Day seems to be big in India. At least is an opportunity for every business to advertise offers on special gifts, meals, trips, etc.

Missionary Todd Ohlmann asked our driver if he was going to get his wife flowers and chocolates for Valentine’s days.  His response: “No, my marriage was arranged.” That made my day!

Arranged marriages are the norm in India. According to this site, 88.4% of marriages in India are arranged. India has only a 1.2% divorce rate (although the site isn’t clear if this number is just for arranged marriages or for all marriages).

Many of the marriages in the Old Testament were arranged as well and the New Testament does not tell us what their practice normally was.

Traditionally prospects came from one’s village or were found through one’s network of real-life contacts. Now technology has gotten involved too. I constantly see ads for _Matrimony.com, like TamilMatrimony.com, ChristianMatrimony.com, etc. These are not dating sites, but sites that help that help parents find prospects. This company has a whole range of websites targeting different languages, religions, and regions.

While arranged marriages may be foreign to westerners, it seems one advantage is not having to give in to “Hallmark holidays” and spend money on Valentine’s day.

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).