Beautiful Things

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Last night's dream:

I'm walking down a cobblestone street in some random foreign city. Everything is black and white and feels like the1940's (not that I know first hand what the 1940's felt like, but I've seen Casablanca...). So I'm walking when someone points me down an alleyway. As I'm walking along I start to realize that I'm not actually moving my feet at all, it's the sidewalk that's moving past me. Along the street, moving past me are people I've known from different times of my life. This is when I realize that I am in control of how quickly the sidewalk moves past me- I can press a button to make everything slow down or speed up. Then I'm in a department store (still black and white 40's) and I have this strange feeling that I'm in Australia and I'm just waiting to go on this great adventure in the outback. I'm anxious and nervous and excited, but calm all at the same time, because I don't know what this adventure is going to be like. 

Then I woke up.

Now I could probably blame this on the anti-malarial meds, but I know that it's more than just that.

I'm getting on a plane in 2 weeks.
I'm saying goodbyes.

And it doesn't seem real.

I've had so many times this year where I've wished I have a remote control for time. Sometimes I wished for a fast forward button. Like during the political crisis, when we were discussing evacuation packs and who would go in what vehicle. Mostly I wanted to hit "pause" and just soak it all up. Nights sitting under the mango tree, making popcorn with Mama Yeo. Or staring up at the stars with the other journeyers talking about life, joy, God, struggles, growing. I want to memorize it all. Sweet days.

Now we're talking about goodbyes, flights, debriefing, re-entry, and life after Journey Corps.

I know that this year has changed me. Some changes are more noticable than others, like how the sun has multipled my freckles innumerably and lightened my hair. Other changes will be unnoticable to many, like the fact that my heart feels different in my chest. I love this church, this family, this neighborhood. Leaving hurts more that I expected it to. They've tied themselves to my heart strings. The wonderful thing is that I know these relationship don't end with me boarding a plane- they're coming back with me. I'm praying that my french stays put in my brain so that communication isn't so difficult!

I went to my pastor's house to tell him of my departure date and ask for the road. Before he would give me the road (because you can't leave if he doesn't!), he said that they fully expect life updates. I realized that these people have shared so much with me- weddings, new babies, losing loved ones. They want to share in all of that with me too. Gosh! My family just grew substantially!

The family isn't just Ivoirians. It's this crazy team of mine, too. It's my community of english speakers, of life-sharers, of brothers and sisters who have become dearer than I would have thought possible 12 months ago. We're parting with some in Paris and then all grabbing separate flights in New York (after grabbing our first American meal together, of course!)... Okay, I'm not going to think about saying goodbye to them yet... one thing at a time!

Goodbye is hard, but how beautiful to have people to say difficult goodbyes to!

After I finished college, I started realizing that the future looked like a giant black hole. There could be so many different things ahead, but I couldn't see any of them. All I knew was that I was heading to West Africa for a year- even then I didn't know what I was getting myself into. Now we're on the edge of the unknown again, but this time it doesn't seem so dark and daunting. It feels like there are so many things waiting ahead. It feels like life is going to be a grand adventure!

I feel like this place, these people are a part of me.

I'm returning to another place, another people who are I've missed very much.

Life won't ever be the same. I can't speed up or slow down time,
but I feel ready for what God has next.

Monday, October 3, 2011

September in a nutshell

We're are BACK from Benin!
Last week, actually, but I've been getting back into the swing of life here.

I'm having a hard time believing that October has arrived. Where did September go?
Well, September stayed in Cote d'Ivoire and continued on without me.

Oh, how do I begin to explain? It's going to be a mish-mash of a blog.

Here are some numbers for you:
66: total number of hours on a bus.
7: number of buses taken.
7: also the number of times we visited the Immigration Office in Cotonou for our visas.

We made it, though! We spent almost 2 weeks working alongside Rob Wiens and his YWAM team in Cotonou (the south) and in Tanguieta (the north). The team was amazing- they brought us in as part of their family for 2 weeks and we were so blessed to get to know them! We spent time in neighborhoods and villages just talking to people about Jesus, and it was really fun! It also put my french to the test!

Day 2 of our trip, we somehow managed to get two seats together on the bus to Cotonou. We had been sold seats, but were told that the bus was oversold, so we'd have to wait and see if there was room. The next bus wasn't scheduled to leave for 4 more days! We were definitely thankful when we were seated and rolling out of Ouagdougou that day- last ones on! When we arrived at the border to Benin, I tried calling the contact we had in Cotonou with Rob's team to let him know that we would be getting in much later than we had expected, but our phone died. So we're riding the bus 13 more hours down to the southern part of Benin just praying that Rob would somehow find us! Well, we rolled into an alleyway (no, not a bus station) at 1:30 am and the first person I see is Rob! God took care of us. It was awesome!

I apparently gained weight, since my sister has told me multiple times that I've "grossir"-ed (gotten fatter)!
I think that FanMilk is to blame.
Oh, how I love FanMilk.
It's ice cream in a little bag, but it is yummy! Especially to the girl who has been ice cream- less in Korhogo.

When Alyssa and I were riding down in the bus, we went through these hills in northern Benin that were beautiful! Alyssa saw a waterfall out of the other side of the bus. I was sad I missed it! She kept saying, "can we go back there?!" I was thinking, "No way, Lys, we're headed to the south! How could we ever get back here and get off the bus to climb a mountain and see a waterfall? Not possible." Well, week 2 with the team, we find out we're headed north to Tanguieta. AND guess what mountain we climbed our last day in Benin? Yup, that's right, Alyssa's waterfall! It was amazing- what are the chances?

Even though Rob and I have not been around each other for 11 months, we still managed to break into song simultaneously...  I'm talking same song...  It happened more than once...
Somethings just don't change. I'm thankful for that.

I think I'm still processing all that we did and experienced over the last few weeks. 
This is just a piece of it. 


We went to a wedding a few days ago! 
Don't they look happy?!

We were rocking the uniform!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Les Voyageurs

Bus tickets: oui!

Passport and visas: oui!

Bags packed and ready to go: .... almost.

Alyssa and I are headed out early tomorrow morning for our West Africa Adventure!
We're going through Burkina Faso and Benin for the next 2 weeks....


56 hours of bus rides ahead of us, but we've got podcasts and the Harry Potter audio books, so we're set! Can't wait to tell you all about it!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cote d’Ivoire Feels Like This

Riding over red dirt roads with a headwind, signaling a storm rolling in.

Sitting out under the mango tree with Dorcas, talking about what the past has taught us and what we hope for the future.

August 014 

Watching Brazilian soap operas about India, dubbed over in French.

Eating lunch at Rodolphe’s chawarma shop and being given a Kenny G cd for my birthday by that very strange Moroccan man.

Winding through alleys in the market looking for just the right pagne.

Let’s be honest: some days, it feels like Giardia.

Hearing my parents’ voices once a week- all the way from California. Thank goodness for technology!

My host dad, Papa Yeo, and I teasing Dorcas endlessly that she ate all the popcorn. We both know it was actually me.

Praying that the rats in the attic, having a WWF match over my room, will not break one of the ceiling panels and land in my bed. Poor Alyssa has actually had the pleasure of finding a rat in her bed with her…. no thank you.

Brushing my teeth under the stars.

Walking Martine and her 3 year old son, Aracide, home after a visit. Carrying a very sleepy boy down the street and seeing fires gleaming in every courtyard that we pass.

Eating rice and sauce choro out of a giant bowl with 5 other women and burning my hands because the sauce is so hot! Senefo women are tough ladies!

A cool breeze on an overcast morning and hot sun beams by early afternoon.

All 10 of us becoming a year older. CJ turned 24!

August 024

Stopping by the Korhogo’s only supermarket so that I can feel air conditioning while I pretend that I’m going to buy something.

Spending the morning hours washing piles and piles of clothes by hand with Mama Yeo and Dorcas. They only let me rinse and hang up since my hands aren’t very good at scrubbing- I guess it’s a lost art.

Never being able to totally blend in because of the color of my skin, but knowing that those closest to us don’t just see a “toubabou” (white person) anymore.

My nameless family dog following me down the street and sitting loyally by my side while I greet friends from church and buy phone credits.

 August 003

 Watching this little girl carry a dinosaur around on her back like it’s her baby. And hearing her jabber on and on in Senefo thinking that I understood it all.

August 008

Cote d’Ivoire feels familiar now.

It feels like missing family and friends back home,

               but being given a whole other family and home.

It feels like not wanting to say goodbye.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

23 and Feelin’ Free

Last week, I had a birthday.

And as I began the 23rd year of my life, I found myself reflecting on the freedom that has been found in the last 12 months.

Freedom in knowing that God is in control of all things. That He has a plan for our lives.

I read Psalm 139 on the beach in Abidjan (we were there to pick up Heidi’s boyfriend, Taylor, from the airport). I’m pretty sure that psalm was meant to be read on a beach in West Africa! I’m blown away that the God who created the universe also decided to create me! Makes me feel really small… and really loved.

Birthday in ABJ 005

Birthday in ABJ 012




Well, we got back to Bouake last weekend and the whole team celebrated together with a Christy Miller themed Murder Mystery party. You may be wondering, “What is ‘Christy Miller’ anyway?” Christy Miller is a Christian book series for girls ages 12 and up (sounds awesome, I know) and all the girls (+ Jason!) have read them all! We love them. I can’t really explain why we’ve been so captivated by it, but it’s been so fun for us to read together (yes, out loud!) haha!

Anyway, we had a great time being back together in Bouake again! AND we have 2 new teammates! So excited for Tricia and Kelly to start their own journeys here in Cote d’Ivoire.

Pastor Keo came down from Korhogo to lead a seminar on the book of Acts this week. We talked through Acts in regards to Mission, Salvation, the Church, Prayer, and the Holy Spirit. It was awesome and refreshing!

On our last day of the study, something started moving and shaking in me. As Keo started speaking of the Holy Spirit and baptism, I started feeling this intense rumbling somewhere in me- like butterflies having a wrestling match in my stomach. Something prodding me to ask a question. I couldn’t sit still. I felt as if I would jump out of my seat if I didn’t just speak up! I asked, “Pastor Keo, I need to ask you about baptism.”

Now, I was baptized as an infant- this was the choice of my parents to raise me with a knowledge of Christ, as I see it. I’m so thankful to them for that! I was also confirmed in the Lutheran Church when I was 14, claiming my faith as my own and choosing to learn more about the church. But something hit me last year in a bible study with Pastor Bruce that stirred me to question if I could be baptized as an adult. The passage I remember reading in that room at Clovis EVFree was the very same passage that Pastor Keo led me to. He pointed me back to Act 19:1-7. Baptism must be in the name of Jesus Christ.

Then I read Acts 8:26-38. There is a man who is riding back to Ethiopia from Jerusalem. He is reading from the Book of Isaiah. Philip, one of the disciples, is walking along the same road when the Holy Spirit tells him to walk alongside this man’s carriage. Philip hears the man reading aloud from Isaiah 53. Philip asks if he understands what he is reading, but the man says , “how can I unless someone instructs me?”. Philip rides with him and explains that the very passage he is reading is the Good News of Christ.

“As they rode along, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, ‘Look!, There’s some water! Why can’t I be baptized?’ He ordered the carriage to stop, and they went down into the water, and Philip baptized him” (Acts 8:36-38).

I felt the tears of intense emotion brimming. “Why can’t I be baptized?” ringing in my ears. I didn’t want to put it off any longer either. I had avoided the question and prodding toward adult baptism for more than a year. I wanted to declare it! I wanted Pastor Keo to take me down to the river and dunk me!

And that’s what happened! Pastor Keo and Rod, all my teammates, all our Ivoirian friends on campus: Bakary, Clana, Sarah, Benjamin, and Tenena; we all walked down to the little river behind Village Baptiste and I was “washed by the water”! Steph was feeling the same stirrings and was baptized too! We sang in Dyula, Tyembara, French, and English! Pastor Keo asked me to proclaim my faith in Jesus Christ and I answered with a resounding “OUI!” There was so much joy! PLUS: we were the first Americans Pastor Keo had ever baptized! And it was all in French!
















Baptism is a declaration of our faith in Jesus Christ. Just as He died for our sins and rose again, our sin and brokenness are buried in the water and we raise to proclaim our new life in Him.

This past year has been full of new freedom. Freedom from sin. Freedom from anxiety. Freedom from political crisis. Freedom from expectations.


Freedom to live for Him.

If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36)

I’m 23 and feeling free.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Faces that I love.

The youth at my church are pretty wonderful. I struggled so much in the beginning feeling like I wasn’t getting past the “stranger zone”, but they plowed that barrier over and opened their world to me. I’m so thankful for the friendship found in this group.

I thought that maybe you’d like to see what a good looking group they really are.

Korhogo 013

Korhogo 011

Korhogo 012 

Korhogo 014

I’m having too much fun.

I love these girls TOO much.

Where is the “pause” button?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Tomato, To Motto.

I’ve been wanting to write this one for awhile, but have not been certain of how to go about it. I’m just going to try and explain what God’s been showing me.

He Goeth Before.

That’s become the motto for this year. I remember reading the phrase back in January, when I was reading Amy Carmichael’s biography. There was a photo of a page in her devotional where she had written next to the date, “He goeth before”. It struck me then as something that I hadn’t thought much about before.

Since then, those words have penetrated and proved true in every part of life. And they just keep popping up everywhere:

Journal 003

When I think about how in the world I managed to find myself in Cote d’Ivoire.

When I think about all the people who encouraged me to step outside of my comfort zone and think about ministry in a different place.

When I think about how God’s prepared me for ministry here, and how He is preparing me for future ministry.

When I think about why He chose who He did for our team.

When I think about all He has for all of us after this year .

Everything points me back to the fact that He has gone before me.

Journal 006

But it’s not just me He’s gone before.

He’s gone before us all in everything. He was there at the beginning of this world and He knows the entire story. He went before His people, the Israelites, and brought them into the land He promised them. He went before us as He walked on this earth. He went before us in His death on the cross and He went before us in His resurrection to sit beside the Father. In all things He’s gone before.

Journal 002

All He asks us to do is keep our eyes on Him and follow. We don’t have to be looking at our feet wondering if the next step we take is wrong or right, or worrying that the next pebble we step on will cause us to fall. Jesus knows the path well, He’s walked it before!

This is exciting stuff! All this is to say that plans for next year are being confronted. Every journeyer has prayed about the possibility of continuing our ministries here in Cote d’Ivoire for a second year. So…… [drum roll please] ….

I’m coming home! [bumbadabum!] I feel that God gave this year of growth and struggle for the purpose of stretching and preparing me for what’s next. I don’t exactly know what that will be in the long run, but I do know that grad school is in the works. This year, I saw such a need for Missionary Member Care out here in the field, what that means is counseling. So, I’m hoping to move forward with getting my Masters degree in Marriage, Family, and Child Counseling. I’m adding another tool to my tool belt as Gaylene Demars would say!

Goodness, I’m excited about what’s next! I’m even more excited about what the next 3 months will hold. As I continue to deepen relationships with my family and church, I’m reminded of the importance of living each day to its fullest. Today is a gift; it’s a day that I get to visit my pastors, grab a bite to eat with Jason and Alyssa, and sit and laugh with Dorcas as we sort rice. And you know what? God knows exactly what our days hold, so there’s no worry of tomorrow. That’s a beautiful thing. He goeth before.