Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Making Memories

We just dropped off loved ones at the airport last night. Mike's brother Jeff, our niece Olivia, our daughter Haley and Kelsey's dad, Joe, arrived two weeks ago. Those two weeks flew by!!

Then again, so much happened during such a brief stay. Four new babies came to the orphanage, we had a widow distribution, a sponsorship gift distribution. We visited both children sponsored by Jeff's and Joe's families, went out to children's homes to take pictures for sponsorship, and Jeff spoke at two different churches. There were elephant adventures, baobab adventures and moto adventures. We played with children, held babies and had a movie night with the kids. We ate chicken and fish under flashlights, negotiated purchases at the market and had african fabric turned into custom fit clothing. This just covers some of the highlights! And although I can describe what happened in a two week period, it is harder to describe the feelings and changes of the heart that some of these experiences evoked.

I think it is best captured in some of these photos.

On the way to distribute grain to widows

Delaney, Haley & Mike with Poko, one of our widows

Village Bible Club

Joe vs. The Baobab
Haley loving on one of our toddlers
Elephant sighting!
Kelsey & Joe with Frank. This was Joe's first time meeting the child they sponsor.
Jeff with his sponsored child, Mouniratou
Kelsey surrounded by some of our babies
Olivia learns what it's like to be an African mama
At the orphanage with one of the boys, Ferdinand

Kelsey returned to the U.S. with them after four months with us. We will miss them all as our house will seem a bit empty. We are excited that Haley is staying here with us for the ext five months. We are happy for the memories made and for the memories we have yet to make.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Wet Day in the Desert!


It all started out just fine! I get a call from  “Friends in Action” leader Mark Collier. He had a group 6 guys coming in from his home town in Northern Ireland, and said that he could use an extra hand. They had 2 wells to drill deep in the bush. Great! Here is the next adventure! Living out in the bush, bad food, hot water to drink, and mosquitos the size of eagles! Sounded good on that day. After a slow start, got on the road a little before 6 am to meet Mark in a village about 5 hours away from Yako. The roads were rough, but passable. One ditch I hit accounted for the two water jugs I had securely attached to my roof rack to go flying off ahead of me. I eventually caught up to them…..

I meet up with him and he starts leading me back into the bush. After about an hour of rough riding, and a fervent prayer to remind myself to bring a kidney belt with me next time, we nearly reached our destination, but there was this large drilling rig stuck down to it’s axles on the path! Yep, our drilling rig. After about 6 hours, 50 Africans 2 winches (one that worked), and 5 blisters from shoveling, the truck began to move. All our excitement was ALMOST loud enough to not hear the loud cracking of the rear differential gear snapping as the truck was trying to climb out of the hole. Well, back to square one. Few more hours and a few more Africans, we were out of the hole, but unable to move. So by 10:00 pm were dropping the rear end of the truck and tearing it apart. Next day we head back to Ouagadougou and do the repairs. Unable to get a rebuilt gear we weld the broken one together and hope for the best.

Next day were back at the site, and putting the truck back together. A crunch here, a knuckle there and were rolling. Behind schedule, but rolling. To make this story shorter, after 7 flat tires, a rear end, a clutch seal and some bad potatoes, we were drilling wells. From 6 a.m. to sometimes 2 a.m. This team flat out worked. Tired beaten up, and talking up a storm (which I could only understand half of with the accent) we got water at the first site after drilling the full 300 feet our rig could handle. Second site we hit great water at 170 feet. This was a village that had NEVER had water! They were walking about 5 km each day just to survive.

I am always amazed at even in the most remote areas of the desert, God had already provided all the water a village would ever need! All we have to do is go and poke a hole in the ground. I am in awe of the work ethic and the compassionate hearts of this team from Northern Ireland. I love those moments that I am certain that I will remember when I am 80 years old. This was certainly one of them.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Special Visit

This past weekend we were able to visit another missionary family in the town of Dano about five hours away. It was definitely nice to see another part of Burkina with a different people group and different landscape. We were excited because we going to see Carine, Cedric and Francoise, who used to live here with us at the orphanage.
When they came to us, they were sick and hungry and had no place to call home. Carine had Cedric as a product of rape. As an unwed mother she was not welcome to stay with her family. Her younger sister Francoise left with her. During their stay with us we cared for Cedric so that Carine could go to sewing school and Francoise could attend 6th grade. This summer they went back to Dano to mend the relationship with their family and take their rightful place in their father’s courtyard and among their people group. They are doing well and look healthy and happy. Francoise is still in school and Carine has an apprenticeship with a tailor. It was great to see them and spend time with them. It is also comforting knowing that our missionary friends, The Richter’s, live close by and are there for them.
The people of this region are called the Dagara. They are primarily animist and have many superstitious beliefs. The mission the Richter’s are a part of has planted numerous village churches. Slowly, but surely converts are putting aside old traditions, burning their idols and fully relying on Christ. Hundreds of babies are also being helped with a milk program and several students have been given the opportunity to attend school. Mike had a chance to go out on Saturday morning with Geoffrey to visit some well sites where he is doing repairs, giving these villages clean, safe drinking water. God is present and at work in Dano.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Stick Day!

Well it's the second week of school and as we approached the orphanage we saw many children on their way to school carrying big sticks. In front of the gate more children were gathered in a large group and all of them had big sticks. Was I concerned about this? No, but I was very curious. Entering the gates I saw children running about clinging to their sticks. I figured it was "stick day". For some reason the teachers had told them that today they were to bring the biggest, best stick that they could find. But, why? Well you see...our children are served lunch each day and it is cooked outdoors in a large pot over a fire. And what do you need to build a fire? That's right! Big sticks! So our students were doing their part to help by bringing firewood to school. Mystery solved.

Friday, August 24, 2012

4H club? No...farming and animals al la Burkina!

This morning we took a ride out to visit our animals project. Sheltering Wings purchased cows as an income generating project to help meet the needs of our orphanage. We share a field with one of our local pastors and "animal expert" Pastor Salou.

The animals are kept in an area of Yako called Sector 6 which is very beautiful and serene especially in this lush green growing season.

Kimberly in a Fulani dwelling
The people taking care of the animals are from the people group called Fulani. These people are known for their skill in regards to animals and are very hard workers. The typical home for the Fulani looks like a domed tent made of grasses and sticks. These dwellings are usually temporary because this group of people are semi-nomadic which means that they don't stay in one place for too long and travel with their herds.

There are about 39 cows, 20 sheep and a dozen goats to take care of. We own about 14 cows. One of them is a baby and one of the mama cows is pregnant. I thought it was interesting to see the variety of colors that these cows come in and that some of them have blue eyes. I believe this breed of cattle is the humped back zebu. Don't hold me to that I googled it, but you can see that they are quite different from the cows we are used to seeing in the United States.
Mike & Pastor Salou
Pastor Salou has vast fields where he grows his crops. He used some of the cows to help prepare the fields and he uses the manure to fertilize. I saw the difference between a fertilized and unfertilized crop and it was pretty substantial. Another thing he does is move the fenced area where the cows are kept each year and plants crops on the plot of land that has been fertilized all year long. He grows corn, beans and millet. The parts of they plant that are left after harvest are fed to the animals.

It was fun and educational to venture out and see how our cows are doing. They are all very healthy and much more plump than most of the cows we see around town. It was also very encouraging to see how well the crops are doing.

Vive les Vaches!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Slippery When Wet

Well, you know you’re in rainy season when you have no choice but to be in 4 wheel drive to get to church which is only a few blocks away. The once barren dusty dirt paths that was home to so many goats, sheep, donkeys and chickens is now absent of most except the donkeys that seem none too happy to be standing in a river of flowing mud and waste. Not quite the streams we experienced from our former trips to North Carolina. Also absent is the desire to grab my fly fishing rod and throw a fly out for a trout. The thought of what we may pull up is quite disheartening. With all sarcasm set aside, we are being blessed with rain. We only have a few months of rain before we return to the desert climate where we will be lucky to see a single drop of rain for several months. The mud will be turned once again to a dry dust that stings the eyes, and fills each breath you take. These rains sweep through and act as the sanitation crews that you wait for all year long. Where there is no dumps, no garbage trucks, no bathrooms, and plenty of roaming animals, the dirt paths we call streets become a state of what many would consider to be deplorable. What government and man does not offer in a remote place like West Africa, God does. Even though this may sound like a place that one would be bitter if God were to set them in, this is the place that makes my heart race with excitement. This is home. I could not think of a place I would rather be.

I arrived at church this past Sunday to teach, and was amazed at the amount of people that still made it to church. I have no idea how they make it there. It was nearly an impossible task with my truck, unless I had a canoe, I could not imagine how I would get there. As I sat and pondered how they got there, I noticed the perfectly clean dresses the women wore, and the men’s shoes!!!! Not a drop of mud on them! I am looking for some star trek transporter machine! I look down and notice my shoes full of orange mud from the 10 feet I had to walk from my truck to the entry of the church. Embarrassed, I slowly slid them under my chair, and then hid them behind the pulpit. There are still so many mysteries of Africa I need to learn.

The fields, which are actually defined as any area that is more than 10’ x 10’ that does not have a building on it, are growing well in Yako. Any abandoned property, any small open area next to the paths are now growing corn, millet, beans or peanuts. It is certainly a different landscape than we  have experienced  since December. Come the end of October, we will lose it all and wait anxiously for next years rainy season. We are enjoying the green for the short time it lasts!

Monday, August 13, 2012

God is My Refuge

Sometimes life is very hard! These past 2 weeks have been difficult.
First, Mike's younger brother died unexpectedly in a camping accident when his head was struck by a falling rock. He was 19 years old and otherwise healthy. Mike flew back to the states to be by his family's side. I heard stories of Luke's friends praying for others in the hospital. There were physical healings as well as spiritual healings. Luke was also an organ donor and through him, others received a miracle.

Then, last week during Mike's absence, a bus transporting several of our older orphanage children blew a tire and rolled throwing a few from the vehicle and injuring many. They were on an outing funded by volunteers from France. Nobody could have prepared for this. We got a call from Sara, a volunteer from Germany who was also accompanying them on this trip. You could hear it in her wasn't good. We received a text message from one of the boys that they had been in an accident and please pray. Our local pastor called and Delaney and I drove over to his house. We were on our way into Ouaga when Ruth called and I asked her if she had heard what happened. She was about an hour outside of Ouaga on her way to a wedding with Kimberly (another short term visitor) when she got the news, turned around headed back to Ouaga. She told me it would be better for us to stay in Yako so we headed back. I was getting reports a few times each day from Ruth or one of our kids. Things were looking very bad for a few of our children and the owner of the vehicle and driver. Lucie, one of the french girls was flown home to care for her injuries. After a few days all of the children except two were released. The two boys Edouard and Barthelemy had been thrown from the vehicle and had very serious head injuries. They were in and out of conciousness. Phoebe was released but has already had two follow up visits for her injuries. When she came back to the orphanage it was shocking to see her for the first time. Throughout the week the boys were continually improving. Both of them are having some vision problems and Barto is having trouble hearing out of one of his ears. They have seen specialists and now we just have to wait as they continue to heal to see if these problems correct themself. During this time these boys and their numerous caregivers and visitors have been able to shine brightly giving God the glory for every improvement. The bus owner's wife was able to be ministered to. The family is muslim, however she was very receptive to prayers she was receiving and was able to see firsthand Christ loving her and her husband through ordinary people. The french volunteers, not Christians, have also been able to witness the power of prayer and the love of God.

We got into Ouaga yesterday and visited the hospital. Barthelemy was released and on his way back to Yako as we were on our way in to Ouaga. We were able to see Edouard. I had prepared myself for the worst. I knew his head was wrapped as he had a skull fracture and large wound. I knew that he had stitches above his eye that were not done well. He was in pretty bad shape, but he is healing up very nicely! I know that he has come a long way over the week so I was seeing him after much improvement. He greeted us and was happy to see us. He is eating and moving around a little. We are grateful that he did not need surgery for the skull injury and we hope that he will be released this week. The owner of the bus that was riding with them never regained consciousness and died last night. The driver is still in and out of conciousness, still fighting for his life.

If you were to see the hospital and how patients are treated you would understand that it is truly a miracle that all of our children will be okay. First of all there are not enough beds for those that come in so people are stacked up in the hallways and out in front of the hospital. There are bodily fluids everywhere. In each room that has a bed there are about 4 to 6 people and family members crowding the room. Nobody will be seen until someone makes a payment. A person could wait days on a floor waiting and die in the process. It happens all the time. After being seen the patient's caregiver (a family member or friend) will be told what medications and supplies are needed. The caregiver will have to send someone to a pharmacy to buy these things and bring them back. If an x-ray needs to be done, you pay first or it doesn't get done. I have seen nurses administering medicine by IV, but all wound care I watched being done by family or friends. Watching a loved one waiting for pain medication is frustrating as well as seeing that nobody writes anything down (no patient charts) and doesn't know what has been given and what time it has been given. The caregiver must take note of these things or you can see that the wrong medication could be given or too much medication can be given. It is certainly eye-opening.

But through all these trials I will not grow weary, for I know I am not alone. I know who is with me.

Isaiah 41:10 fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

One foot in front of the other

We take our steps one at a time, listening for God's direction. Sometimes it seems it would be a good idea to be blindfolded so that the steps we take are not our own and we would be forced to fully rely on God to lead us. That is not His way though. He allows us to blunder along sometimes tripping over our own feet, creating our own obstacle course. This is because He loves us so much that He wants us to freely choose to follow Him.

On the mission field it is no different. There are times we have to stop and listen because we can get so caught up in the needs around us that we lose sight of the step God wants us to take.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” -Proverbs 3:5

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Being Available

As we start each day with plans, we often have to change them. God has plans of his own and sometimes we just have to be available. When we are available we can witness the miraculous, wonderful nature of God.

Sometimes being available isn't convenient. Sometimes we are busy and in the middle of other things that are important. But I promise you that if you become available and start listening to the direction that God is leading you, you will see with such clear vision the pieces of the puzzle being put together. We had two such instances happen within two days of eachother just this week.

On Friday, our nurse Beatrice told us she was heading to the village Cabo for the bi-monthly malnutrition clinic she was doing with some mothers whose children were not thriving. Mike went with her a month ago and it was amazing to see the progress that the children were making. I wanted to go with her on this visit so Mike and I, along with one of our short term visitors Linda got in the car with Bea and headed out of town.

Approaching Cabo is a beautiful sight. There are mountains in the distance and this time of the year everything is very green because of the rainfall. We arrived at the church and the pastor informed us that there was something happening at the hospital so many of the mothers went there.We only had a few mothers waiting for us. We set up chairs and the scale to weigh the babies inside the church and one at a time, they came in. When the third mother came in we could see that the baby not in very good shape. Skin was wrinkled and loose. It hurt our hearts to see this. Then it became evident that the mother was also not well physically. Her breathing was labored and her clothes hung on her tiny, frail frame. We asked Bea to ask her if she had been enough food. We know it is hard for many this time of year because last years growing season did not produce enough crops. They talked for a long time and Bea's eyes got very moist. This is significant becuse the Burkinabe typically do not show much emotion. She explained to us that the woman got sick and her husband left her. She was living with family but they could not help her much with food. She herself was too sick to work. She was going without food and her family could not give her the money for medicine. Her pastor has helped with what he could. With her consent we brought her and her baby back with us to Yako. We told her that we would take her to the hospital and that the baby could stay with us at the orphanage while she received the care she needed. On the way we purchased her a meal, the most food she had eaten in days. It was clear to us that God had us there at just the right time. I don't think this woman or her baby would have survived much longer.

Yesterday we had two food distributions in two different locations. Our pastor who heads up these distributions had to go about 8 hours away to care for his mother who is in the hospital. Ruth left for Ouaga to pick up two girls who will be volunteering at the orphanage for a few months. We had the truck and our motos to get to and from the distributions. In between distributions we got a call that there was a baby about 30 miles away whose mother died and she had nobody to care for her. Mike, one of our baby caregivers and our orphanage manager (who speaks some english) jumped in the truck and went to get her. Timing was crazy. We had no idea how we were going to manage getting to the other distribution. But even though the timing was not convenient, God knew where we needed to be. They picked up this adorable little one day old baby and brought her back. We are not sure if she will stay with us long term because there is still some investigation to be done. When a mother dies there is nobody to feed the baby. Milk is very expensive and families cannot afford it. Many times the babies are left to die. If there is a family member who is capable of caring for the baby and we can help them with milk, then she may be leaving. If we find that there is nobody to care for her then we keep her at the orphanage with the possibility of adoption in her future. Either way, God has a special plan for this precious angel. Mike also got back with thirty minute to spare so we were able to get to the next distribution and deliver grain to families in need.

Each day we just have to remember, God's plan and not our own and be available when he calls us.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Making Shea Butter Soap: Home Ec in Africa

This past week we had the opportunity to make a batch of Shea Butter Soap. We have a woman who comes here to the orphanage and makes large batches of soap which we use for our widow baskets, sponsorship distributions, for the needs at the orphanage and to sell to others.

Shea butter comes from the nuts of the Shea Tree and is know for its amazing moisturizing properties. You can find numerous skin products that contain Shea Butter. The Shea Tree grows naturally here is Burkina Faso where is called Buerre de Karité (because this is a french speaking country). The people here apply Shea Butter daily because it helps keep skin from drying and cracking. Our babies get a generous slathering after each bath.

We wanted to test a new recipe for our soap that uses more Shea Butter. We wanted less of the other oils used in our soapmaking and more of the good stuff. It is also more cost effective when we produce large quantities. We also wanted to try a different shape and have some fun by using soap stamps.

Welcome to the test kitchen!!

Step One-
Purchase all the ingredients. We went to the market to buy the Shea Butter. You can see in the picture that they form it into small balls and they continually keep it wet so that it won't dry out.

Step Two-
Carefully mix the water and the lye in a bucket. Lye can burn your skin so use extra caution when mixing.

Step Three-
Melt the Shea Butter over low heat. You do not want it to burn.

Step Four-
Mix in your oils and colorant if you are using one. We went natural.

Step Five-
After the ingredients are mixed well, take off the heat and pour contents into bucket. Again, be carefull as you are now working with lye again so you may want twear gloves. We don't have gloves, but we did have a ziplock bag handy.

Step 6-
Add the fragrance last, but stir in quickly because this stuff starts to harden fast.

Step 7-
Now you pour the soap into a mold. Typically our soap is poured into a rectangle made from wood that has been nailed together. This time we decided to try circular soap. We used PVC tubes and lined them with silicone oven liners. Cute shaped molds are not available to us here and not really practical when making a large quantity. We have to get creative with the resources we have.

Step 8-
When the soap goes into the mold you need to tap the mold several times to remove any air bubbles. Then you wait for the oap to harden. You don't want it to get completely hard because it will be difficult to cut and if you want to use a soap stamp it needs to be a little soft. The soap stamps were not bought here either, but brought by the lovely Dawn you see pouring the soap. Dawn stayed here in Yako for a week and brought with her wonderful ideas. Below you can see the finished product.

We still have some tweking to do, but we are happy with the product, how it lathers and leaves the skin soft and clean. 

Below is a recipe that you can try. Find more recipes at

Basic Shea Butter Soap

Base IngredientsGramsOunces
Coconut Oil270 gr.9.524 oz.30%
Palm Oil270 gr.9.524 oz.30%
Olive Oil270 gr.9.524 oz.30%
Shea Butter90 gr.3.175 oz.10%
Distilled Water326.07 gr.11.502 oz.
Lye124.451 gr.4.39 oz.

Fragrance and Colorant are optional

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Mahadaga...say that three times fast!

Yako is where we live is the Yellow Star
Mahadaga is the Red Star

I had the opportunity to spend a few days with some lovely ladies traveling to the far, south east corner of Burkina Faso to the little town of Mahadaga.

Besides having beautiful rock formations and hiking opportunities, Mahadaga is also home to a very unique and incredible handicap center and school. We have three children sponsored through our program who we have sent to the school and we were blessed with a chance to catch up with them and to see the amazing work going on at the center. It is important to mention that in this part of the world, the handicapped are often pushed aside and forgotten. This culture considers the handicapped to be cursed.

Herman is a child in our sponsorship program.
He loves to learn and spends all his free time practicing.

Francoise, the director started this facility over 20 years ago with one child. While she was working as a nurse and midwife at the medical center in town she spotted a five year old boy on the side of the road who couldn't walk. This boy had polio. He now works at the medical center. In fact, there are over 30 Burkinabe employees working at the center, many of them have disabilities, and many have grown up through the program.

A few of the girls after receiving dresses
made by a women's church group

Today, The Center for the Advancement of the Handicapped offers numerous ways for the handicapped to reach their full potential. There is traditional school for the children as wells as opportunities to learn trades such as sewing, weaving, various crafts, soap making, fabric dyeing, wood working and gardening. They also offer physical therapy, have treated over 1700 patients and they have their own orthopedic workshop where braces and other items are made.


Physical Therapy
The blind use the black straps to guide them
through the garden. It's amazing!
Three Muskateers! Apparently these adorable deaf
students like to cause mischief!
We were very impressed and very inspired. We were touched by the beautiful children we met and look forward to when we meet again.

God Bless!!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

An African Wedding

A few days ago we were guests at a wedding...our first African wedding.

Many have asked what the differences are between an American and African wedding so we thought we would post some pictures and tell you a little about marriage in Burkina Faso.

First of all, there are definitely different kings of weddings here in Burkina. There are weddings taking place in villages that last several days. Often when a marriage is going to take place a bride price is negotiated. This can be a sum of money, livestock, maybe both. The woman after marriage will move to her husband's village and probably his family courtyard. There are arranged and forced marriages that still take place and multiple wives are not uncommon here.

Then there are more westernized marriages. It's been said that years ago there were missionaries that introduced the fancy white dress and big party  type wedding common in America to Africans and now there are more and more ceremonies like this taking place. Outside od small villages, it seems that there is tremendous pressure to have a huge affair inviting everybody you know. This has posed a problem in a lot of cases. A wedding is very expensive. It's expensive in America, but to the average person in Burkina Faso it seems an impossibility. Therefore many people wait to get married until they can afford to do so, many times after living together and having children.

The wedding that we attended was of the more westernized variety. The groom is a really great guy who works at the orphanage. He is in charge of daily operations and he is truly a gem. The couple are Christians and attend our church.

This is how the day went. We were invited to start the day at the Mayor's office where the official marriage took place. We arrived and waited outside the building because there weren't many seats inside, but last minute a few of us were ushered in and found a seat. It was in a mix of French and Moore so I cannot really tell you details, but the Mayor asked many questions and talked to them (possibly about the seriousness of this commitment).  Papers were signed and stamped and then everyone exited and waited for the bride and groom to emerge. Several photos were taken and at one point a man just wandered up and tried to get in the picture. Then everyone left and proceeded to the actual wedding.

He just wanted to get in the picture.

On the way to the wedding
This ceremony complete with "I do's"...but sounding entirely different in Moore, took place under rented tents in the church's courtyard. It was much like a wedding you are probably used to. There was music and singing and a processional with a flower girl who tossed confetti. Actually both time's she aimed the confetti directly at me. I have no idea why...I was covered!

Bringing out the rings
Sassy flower girl in the middle

 Afterwards there was a feast! All types of African dishes including couscous and rice and sauce and beans and chicken and goat. Also glass bottles of Fanta, Sprite and Coke.

It was a very long day and we were very full and tired. The bride was beautiful and the groom very handsome. It was a good day.