Thursday, November 28, 2013

Day of Thanks

This is the day Americans gather with family and friends to reflect on the blessings of the past year and to give thanks. Today I experienced a unique Thanksgiving.

Our celebration was held in Bobo where Andrew and Esther opened their home to more than fifty people of various backgrounds and cultures. Some from Finland, Switzerland, America and Africa, all ministering here in Africa. Different people, different works yet a single goal, serving the spiritual and physical needs of the People of God in Burkina Faso.

We sang.We prayed and we feasted on turkey , stuffing, pumpkin pie and all the traditional foods of the holiday.

The main reason for the day, however, was to give thanks. And I have so much to be grateful for this family, my friends, my community of sisters , donors back home , new friends in Africa and my teammate Ruth who daily provides encouragement and support.

Every day is a day to give thanks!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Bon Appetite !

Sometimes baking a cake Kimini-style takes a little tweaking of a recipe and a lot of creativity. Ruth had all it took to put the two together and satisfy our sweet tooth.

The steps go something like this :

First, eat a large can of sardines and save the can. This is very important. It becomes the cake pan.

Next, substitute missing ingredients for your banana cake and cross your fingers.

Fill the bottom of a small roasting pan with sand from outside your door.  Place an empty tomato paste can in the center of the sand.

After that, you are ready to add the cake to your Dutch oven. Cover and cook on low heat on your little camping-type gas stove. Don't leave the room ! Your cake will be done in no time ! Slice and enjoy!

Voila !

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Kimini Clips

The morning of November 7th was not like any other day for me. At last, the time had come to pack the van and begin our journey to Kimini. Frequently, on our four hour trip to Bobo, the first leg of the seven  hour trip from Ouagadougou to Kimini, Ruth and I would take turns saying, "I can't believe this is finally happening."Psalm 118:24 sang within my heart,"This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it."And every day since then, I continue to be thankful for the wonders and new experiences that are mine each day. Although daily challenges exist , they are far outweighed by the blessings we are granted.

Our first stop after arriving in Kimini was to greet the chief who warmly welcomed us to his village. Soon we were surrounded by curious children who stood at a distance but soon sat at our feet sharing a song.

As daylight faded away,we unpacked and settled into our new home, which for now is an unused classroom, where we sleep on cots and cook on a small gas stove.We have gotten very creative in our cooking. I never knew Slim Jims could be used in SO many ways! Bedtime comes early when there is no electricity. It took me a few nights to get used to the sounds of critters sharing our abode. The flutter of bats flying overhead was a bit unnerving at first and I would pull the covers over my head. I guess you can get used to almost anything. 

Babou, a delegate of the chief and president of  the village development commission, has been instrumental in our transition to village life. His daily visits and concern for our well being are very reassuring.

Awa, a young woman from the village, stops by each day to check on us and brings us water from the nearby well.There are two wells in the village. To meet the water needs of a village you need one well for every five hundred people. The population of Kimini is about 4, 000.We are praying that in the future more wells can be drilled to meet these basic needs.

Awa has also taken on the role of language tutor. Jula, the language spoken in Kimini, is 
not for the faint of heart. A recent"field trip"to the local Shoppette provided a long list of new vocabulary words for us to learn. I am impatient to learn to communicate but realize this is no small task.

As Thanksgiving approaches this year, I do not want for things for which I am grateful. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Amazing Day of Celebration

What an amazing day this was in Yako! Today October 31, was the day of transfer of directorship of the Sheltering Wings Yako Project from Ruth Cox to Mike Riddering. Preparations began early this morning  with women readied food for this special "fete" .  Cucumbers , tomatoes and peppers were peeled and cut by women sitting in circles enjoying commoradory.Our house was filled with the wonderful aroma of beef and vegetable brochettes (shish kabobs ) cooking in our oven. Young men and the older boys undertook the task of killing , plucking and preparing the chickens for the feast. It was obvious that this was not their first time doing this. 

Around  two thirty , dignitaries, local officials and other invited guests  dressed in their African finery began to arrive .  Festive music played over loud speakers welcoming all to this important gathering.

 Babies were bathed and dressed in their best outfits. Even these little ones sensed that this was no ordinary day. Tantes ( baby care takers ) , teachers , staff and children took their places under the tent erected to shield everyone from the African sun. While under an adjacent tent , guests  greeted each other with the usual African hospitality and warmth.

Soon the master of ceremonies commenced the program by stating the significance of this ceremony. Ruth Cox shared a heartfelt speech , delivered in French , in which she outlined the growth that has taken place here at SW since its inception in 2000. Orphans were given a loving home, education was provided  with the addition of both a primary and secondary school  which continue to expand to meet the growing need. A medical clinic was constructed to serve the orphans living at SW as well as sponsored  children and adults living in the local community.Ruth assured everyone that while she would be leaving Yako to pursue her dream of constructing a new project in Kimini, a remote village in the south , she will not be leaving Burkina Faso.

Mike Riddering , Ruth's successor, then spoke of the projects undertaken since he and his wife, Amy arrived in Yako two years ago. The Lord continues to work through them to bring new projects forward to enrich the lives of the children of Yako.

Presentations were made, prayers of blessing were shared , and children sang in celebration. The festivities concluded in the newly constructed dining hall where food and fellowship were shared.

It was a privilege to be present at this amazing day of celebration! 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Convenience Is Key

Yesterday marked week three of my stay in Burkina Faso. Every day is a new experience . Things that were commonplace  and familiar now are strange and unusual. Nothing is taken for granted any more. One thing that is shared, however,is the local convenience store.

It may not look like 7 Eleven but many of the same products can be found under one roof. Need yogurt, water , powdered milk or eggs ? No problem! Eggs stacked five layers high can be found sitting on the counter waiting to be taken home and tested for freshness. Drop one in a bowl of water . If it sinks, it is safe to use.

 On the highway away from your local convenience store? That is not a problem either! Just flag down one of the many vendors walking down the side of the highway in the blazing sun.You don't even have to leave your car.

Craving peanuts to snack on while watching the World Series ? We have that too !

Convenience is key!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

New Land - New Home

My feet are now firmly planted on African soil (sand ). I have finally arrived in Burkina Faso. So in one sense my journey is complete. Yet in reality , the journey has only begun. The poverty surrounding me is clearly evident . The lack of material goods is astounding. However the Burkinabe people possess a wealth not attained through accumulation of goods but cultivated  in the depth  and  importance
placed on family and relationships. We have much to learn from these warm, welcoming people.

Friday October 4th  was the afternoon of arrival in Africa. The trip , though LONG, was happily uneventful.We made our way to Ruth's home here in Ouagadougou where we were pleased to relax, unpack and get settled over the weekend and where we will be spending the better part of the month of October. On Monday we took the 1 1/2 - 2 hr. trip to Sheltering Wings in Yako. It was wonderful to visit there again and be surrounded by the precious babies , children and volunteers. It was not long before the older children returned from school and I recognized the beautiful smile of Barkawende, one of our sponsored children.Her warm hug revealed that her heart was as joy-filled as mine at our reunion.It was not until the following day when I  saw a group of older boys and locked eyes with Alexis that we able to connect.  Smiles all around !

Monday morning found us on the road once more. This time to visit an orphanage to the north of Yako where three year old Victor lives. The  focus of our trip was to see Victor, obtain vaccination records and scope out lodging for ourselves and his adoptive parents who will be  arriving in BF on October 14.Much needs to be finalized in the short amount of time that remains before this newly formed family returns home to America  on October 24.

I have enjoyed the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables readily available in city markets and at roadside stands . Ruth and I have big plans for the pumpkin we purchased on our way back from Yako. We are thinking oatmeal-pumpkin muffins sound mighty delicious.

The weather is hot  (for me ) , the pace much slower and the need great. I miss my St. Agnes Academy  Family and loved ones back home but  rejoice that I have been called to walk beside Ruth in her ministry here in Burkina Faso. Even though I lie in bed at night listening to the clicking serenade of geckos who share our dwelling!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Blessings and Well-Wishing

It wasn't in my plans to write another blog until after I arrived in Africa. After all, not much would be happening until I planted my feet on the African sand. I could not have been more mistaken.

Some of the details of preparation are rather mundane....taking care of material things. Never having been in a position  where I would be leaving for such an extended period of time , I discovered how much I didn't know. I found once more how eager people are to be of assistance. I learned to network and ask for help. It is not always  easy to allow people to help when you tend to think you are somewhat independent.There is always someone who has the expertise in whatever area you encounter.And they WANT to help. I am still learning that it is a gift to allow people to help you.God puts people into our lives. We just need to be open to accepting the gift they offer.

Farewells and closures are not  my strong points. Yet, I have painfully discovered how necessary and healthy they are.Leaving my students and friends at St. Agnes Academy was the most difficult last day of school that I have experienced in 42 years. Although I will not be physically present, my heart still beats in Dalton! I look forward with hope and joy to the new ways God will lead us to in joining St. Agnes Academy and Sheltering Wings .

Connections Day in August provided time to come together with the Community of St. Joseph and pray for blessings for us all as we begin a new year of service,"Uniting neighbor with neighbor and neighbor with God" , through the various ministries in which we engage. It was during this time that my individual commissioning took place. I was called forward and as our sisters who have been engaged in Africa  placed a beautiful African shawl over my shoulders, all present extended hands in blessing. At that moment , it was clear that where one Sister of St. Joseph ministers, we all minister.

Celebrations, too many to mention individually , continue to cause me to rejoice at the blessings that surround me. My dear friends at the PJP Charity Center with whom I work on Wednesday afternoons, really know how to plan a picnic. My cheeks still ache from smiling!

Just this past weekend, I was given the opportunity by Fr. Dan to share my story with members of our parish community. Once more I marvel at the generosity and prayerful support extended to me.During the presentation of the missionary cross and blessing for missionaries , it became very clear to me that I do not journey alone.

For all your prayers and blessings, I am grateful !

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Preparing My Heart

So many emotions rise to the surface as I  leave St. Agnes Academy but the greatest of these is gratitude. In the words of Oscar Wilde," Memory is the diary that we all carry with us. I am part of all I have met."

My diary is filled with joyful experiences and memories of St. Agnes Academy. This is the place that has nurtured me for the past 42 years. Each time I traveled to Africa, and especially to Sheltering Wings Orphanage, I left a little piece of my heart behind. As I begin the next phase of my ministry and leave St. Agnes Academy, I will leave a HUGE  piece of my heart there. Though I may not be physically present, emotionally I will never be far away.

Thank you for all the ways you have allowed me to grow. Thank you for the encouragement and support I have received and the friendships I have formed. Thank you for your generosity in making my dream to minister in Africa a reality.

Please pray for me as I embark on this challenging and exciting journey and know you will be always in my prayers.