Beautiful Things

Sunday, January 30, 2011

I'm a little more Ivorian now!

Here's the story:

So, Heidi, CJ, Alyssa, Holly, and I are sitting around the table a few nights ago just chatting about the day, when Nema walks in. She had just gotten her hair done and she looked gorgeous! She explained how the ladies braid her hair and then sew more hair into it- African women really make their hair an art form! We were admiring her do when someone mentions that it would be fun to get our hair braided. Now this has been kind of a taboo topic since Holly got her hair braided in the first few weeks of being here and it didn't quite turn out like she had hoped... it lasted a who 2 days and was pretty painful. Well, as soon as one of the girls mentioned it, I jumped right on the band wagon (I'd been considering it, but hadn't told anyone), and pretty soon we decided we were all going to do it together! So the next morning we were all going to go into the market and buy our "mesh", which is just fake hair. This was a first for all of us! 

The next morning, we woke up and no one seemed quite as excited as they were the night before. That was a little discouraging, but no matter, I was going to do it! So our day was an adventure trying to figure out how to get my hair braided. We ended up right across the street from IBB. 

6 hours of sitting cross legged on the concrete, having multiple women tug, twist, and untangle a mess tied to head! It was an experience! I have a whole new appreciation for the women who have this done every 2 weeks. That's right, it only lasts for about 2 weeks! I didn't cry, but I sure made some funny faces (as chronicled by CJ)! When it was over, all we could say was "Worth it!" The wonderful thing about that 6 hours was that it was a great bonding with those women! They knew I'd never had my hair braided and they had never braided a "toubabou's" hair. Seems to me that's just the beginnings of building relationships here.

It's so interesting seeing how people react just a little differently to me now. Ivorians seem to do a double take. In the States, I would look pretty funny, but here I look normal! At about the 3rd hour, a man sitting next door looked over and smiled. He asked if I was getting ready to marry an Ivorian! I just laughed and said no, but later I realized that this small thing is an act of acceptance of their way of life. It's the same reaction we get when we tell the mango ladies down the street that we'll be back often because we're living here for many months. That reaction just makes me really happy! I've always just been a tourist, or a traveler, but to just BE somewhere for awhile holds so much potential! 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Korhogo To Stay

Our first few days in Korhogo have been filled with discovering this city and plenty of walking! It's the beginning of the dry season here, so it's pretty dusty and hot! Our good friend, Nema, took us around and introduced the six of us to the local pastors, merchants, and ministries. We saw our churches and will be introduced to the congregation this sunday. We're pretty much on our own to get to know Korhogo on our own until Monday, when our orientation with our families begin and then next Wednesday afternoon, we'll head on home with them!

My first impression of life in Korhogo: I think I'm going to love it!

and here's why:

1. The market is INTENSE! It's a maze of wooden stalls filled with fresh vegetables, piles of spices, dried fish, goat hooves, towers of eggs, potatoes, and pagnes (patterned fabric) in ever color. Stairs lead up and down in every direction to more stalls with more treasures of shoes or tea kettles. You could find just about anything in this place. All of it is covered by giant, steeped, tin roofs with "Maggi" advertisements all over it (Maggi is a seasoning cube used for everything here). I look forward to exploring in there often.

2. The barrage. It's a dam built around a small lake in the Koko Quartier. As you walk across this long cement walkway, there is the lake on one side, and on the other is plots and plots of the brightest green gardens I have yet to see! In this dust place the bright green leaves feel like Eden.

3. It's day 3 here and people are remembering us. Not that this is a difficult task when there are suddening 6 white kids walking around. But the coolest thing is walking from IBB (Institute Biblique Bethel, our temporary home this week) to the market and the ladies calling out to greet us from across the street. Or, stopping to buy fresh bread and being asked if we're staying or just passing through- "Oui, nous restons pour plusiers jours!".

4. I have seen my church pastors, from the Delafosse church, everyday this week. It's always in a random place, like in the middle of the market, or riding their motos past on a side road. They always call out to us and are so friendly, I'm really looking forward to the Delafosse church being homebase. Speaking of the church... The church building is right across the road from the mosque. I think this is great! When we're constantly hearing the call to prayer, it reminds me to pray for my new neighbors.

5. CJ, Alyssa, and I just walked around all morning and explored. This is something I could do forever! I loved just walking around the city and finding little markets tucked away and hidden inside the city. When we got tired we stopped at a cafe and had an omelette et pain- which is eggs in a bagette. It was DELICIOUS! The perfect thing to get us back on our feet.

So, I'm finally where I'll be "to stay" the next 9 months! What a thought! I'm so thankful for time- time to know people, time to learn, time to really communicate. There's enough time to be known. It's hard work being a stranger, but what a wonderful thing to be known. It's a difficult thing, to leave all the people that know you and venture into this "great unknown". But, in a way, we share it all- all the joys and struggles, all the unknowns.

It all starts on Sunday. We'll be introduced to our congregations and we'll meet our families. Then bright and early Monday morning, we'll begin 3 days of orientation with our pastors and families to talk about why we're here.

CJ and I, sitting on the Barrage with Mount Korhogo behind us

The kids of IBB- they were entertaining me while I tried to post this!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Last of These Bouake Days

We finished up this week of training with a survey of Islam and Theology. It was a great week of learning and, I think, helped to further prepare all of us to better love our neighbors.

 Last sunday we went back to the rock quarry for a bon fire. We threw a pot on the fire and Rod cooked us up some of the greatest camp fire food I have yet to experience! We sat around and talked about the last 3 months and sang songs. It was nice to just be together there.

We all split up for our last Sunday in Bouake, in our Ivorian duds! 
Some headed to the Jamboru church, others went to the Bellville church, and Holly and I decided to go back to Brobo to see the Yeo family and our favorite little church. The wonderful thing about this church body is that they are few in number (less than 20), but they are so faithful! With just a small drum, we sang and danced until the dirt floor made the air dusty. This little church has no resident pastor, but the church in Bouake sends a pastor the 33 km. to teach every Sunday. It was great seeing Yeneyela, Marius, and Barnabe again before heading to Korhogo.

Jamie, Alyssa, me, Steph, CJ, and Holly

So tomorrow is filled with cleaning, packing, laundry, and all those other delightful things! I'll say goodbye to half of our team as a new part of this journey begins. We won't be back on our little campus for 5 weeks, when we'll have time to debrief everything and encourage each other for a few days. Praying for courage, strength, and complete joy in knowing that all is taken care of by the One who is Most Capable!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

I'm Moving!

We have about a week left here at ICA. I can't believe our training is coming to an end! In about a week, six of us will be hauled up to Korhogo and four will stay in Bouake. In Korhogo, we will be at the Bible Institute with our friend and school director, Keo. We'll get a feel for the land, find out where the market is, where our churches will be, and meet our host families. At the end of the week, our families will take us to the place we will call home for the next nine months!

As I look back at the last three months, I'm stunned by how much God has done. Through culture shock, adjustments, and language learning, there's been so much growth. My first week in Bouake, I remember thinking, "I don't know if I can do this. I don't know if I can live in an Ivorian home. I don't know if I can eat this day after day. I don't know if I can." Well, funny thing is, I know that I have no ability or strength to do this on my own.

And this is when God reminds me that every step of the way, he is preparing us for what's next.
One day at a time.
 I can now say, 2 months later, that I'm excited!

I'm ready to go to Korhogo and really dig into ministry.
I'm ready to live with people and share life with them.
I'm ready to sleep in different places,
                        and eat weird things,
                                      and speak french 24/7,
                                                         and feel totally completely out of my element!

 As my fellow journeyer friend, Steph, says : "God is my comfort zone!"

This time of training has been a time of pruning, of shaping for all of us. CJ and I sat outside on the porch swing yesterday and had a great conversation about how our time here is producing something in us, something long lasting. We have had things from our lives stripped away. The comforts, the people, the things we rely on are not here. Through that we've learned and continue to learn what it means to rely on Christ. We've had plenty disagreements with each other (with 10 twenty-somethings in a little dorm, who can blame us). Even our little conflicts show us what it means to truly love each other as brothers and sisters. We've all been challenged and have grown from this time on our little campus.

Now as we ready ourselves to head out, I'm so thankful that God promises to give strength for today. Tomorrow is too much to think about some days. Tomorrow will present it's own challenges, but today we know that we're being prepared for tomorrow, and tomorrow will prepare us for the next day. When I feel overwhelmed, or weak, or anxious, or alone, He reminds me:

"My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" Psalm 73:26

Korhogo, here we come!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Snapshots: Christmas and Korhogo

The last week has been jammed packed with so many experiences.
In an effort to share... I'm going to do it through snapshots.


We were blessed to be able to celebrate Christmas Eve with the local church! Our team arrived at the church around 9 pm. and sang, listened to teaching, watched skits, and danced under the stars with the believers here until 2 in the morning! It was such a joyful night, dedicated to celebrating the birth of Christ and redemption!

Getting ready to dance the night away in our new African outfits!

The guys doing the Senefo plow dance.
The ladies tried showing us how it's done.
Leaving the church for home at 2 am!
Christmas morning
We exchanged handmade/found gifts in a Secret Santa gift exchange.
Some gifts were pretty strange. These guys were found in the old Biology classroom.
Jamie wrote CJ a poem!

Jason was my secret santa!
Mac 'n cheese!
Chazz and his snack basket of awesomeness (made by me)


The Journey Corps girls decided to take a trip up to Korhogo after Christmas to visit the churches and see what ministry opportunities there were for us. We also had a bit of fun visiting a weaver's village, where they make cloth and jewelry, and climbing little mountains. Five of us jumped on the bus with our Ivoirian sister, Nema, and started the journey with a six hour bus adventure!

Bus rides to Korhogo.
Safety note: sticking your head out a bus window is not a good idea. 

The little girl who sat next to us for the 6 hour drive.
bunches of banana's: our favorite road-side snack
The Koko church being built. The roof is being held up by tree trunks!
Out one side of the church you get this great view of
Mt. Korhogo- I know, it's more of a hill.
Out the other side, you see the lagoon!
Warrenyerra- the weaver's village
Holly, seeing what it means to spin cotton by hand.
Seeing the bead making process

This guy spins the beads on a stick and uses a bird feather to paint them.

Driving around put Holly to sleep.
The girls, making our way up the hillside.
On top of Mt. Korhogo
African Tulip trees
All the girls after our hike.
Photos lovingly taken by Heidi Kogler

We had such a fun break from classes this last week. Tomorrow morning, we head right back into it. It's hard to believe that there are 3 weeks of training left before we head out into full time ministry!

Please be praying for peace in Cote d'Ivoire and the political situation. Things remain calm in the north, but our prayers are with our friends in Abidjan. You can find pretty accurate news through BBC's coverage of the crisis.