We were truly blessed to spend a couple of days in Pendjari Park in northern Benin. It is only about a five hour drive from where we live, not counting time dealing with border officials. It seems that laws have changed recently requiring us to get Benin visas in Lome, not at the border, so we had to spend some extra time and pay an extra fine to get across.
Once we were across the border in Benin we were greeted by smooth roads to drive on, which made the trip even nicer. Once we drew near to the park, we found a beautiful waterfall where we were able to swim twice, because we made it a point to go there on the return trip as well.
Inside the park, we saw the equivalent of lions, elephants, deer, cape buffalo, warthogs, crocodiles, and a few others. I say equivalent because many of these animals are not the same species I am used to seing. It was wonderful seeing the animals and also spending time with other missionaries from the Kara area who went.
However, once we returned, I, Ryan, came down with my first case of malaria. After four days, I am now starting to get some energy back and was thankfully to get my language learning in today. The malaria medicine did its work, not only on the parasite, but also on my stomach, so I am glad to be finished with it.
Please be praying about the four Harding interns coming in one month. It will be great to give them a glimpse of missionary life as they consider their future careers.
Since we are spending much of our first year learning language, two languages actually, language and culture are continually on our minds.
It is interesting to me what a language can say to you about a culture. I had been told a while back that there were no words in Kabiye for admitting wrong. This lesson was backed up by work in verbs recently. I started working through the excitingly titled “501 Essential French verbs” and also had been trying to learn the corresponding verbs in Kabiye. In one lesson I had the words admettre, to admit, and absoudre, to absolve. (Yeah, French and English share a lot of words.) Going to my French/Kabiye dictionary, I could not find Kabiye words for either.
How do you teach forgiveness in a place where there is not a word for admitting wrong? Of course, I have much to learn about this culture and some of this could be a misunderstanding on my part, but it is humbling to live and attempt to teach in a culture so different from my own. However, the more I get to know the people here the more I think that we’re really not that different in many ways as well. Actually, the people here seem to complain less than me and work hard for very little pay. I am thankful for their joyful spirits and ever present smiles as they talk with me.
I was able to pick up my Toyota Fortuner (see the attached pic) last weekend in Lome. It ran well all the way back to Lome, about a seven hour drive. We are so thankful for your donations to make this happen!
We have about two more weeks of language and culture learning until we go to the West African Missionary Retreat in Ghana. On the Tuesday before we leave, we will have another quarterly meeting with the Kabiye church leaders. Please pray for these leaders as they encounter many challenges in their churches without having a lot of the training or resources that we might consider essential. We are encouraging them to rely on each other more for resources, communication, and training as we seek to build a sustainable movement among the Kabiye.
Jean Marie, Christiane, and Essowe help us learn Kabiye and the Bible at the same time.
We hope that your holidays have restful and encouraging! Although we miss our families and friends in the U.S., we are thankful for a wonderful family of Christians here who encourage us daily. We have been blessed by all of your care packages, emails, letters, and phone calls!
Injured Coworker Update
Andrew Stoff had successful surgery in Germany and is planning to make a return to Togo in about two months. Thank you for your prayers through this process. His recovery is going well!
Due to some large and small contributions, we have enough money to get a reliable vehicle. Thank you so much for your prayers and offerings! It has been humbling to see you give to us when there are so many good projects you could give to. Ryan will be travelling to Lome, the capital of Togo, to purchase a vehicle next week. This process may take a couple of weeks and require two trips so please pray for safety and a smooth process.
Pictures of our Home
Beth has put several pictures of our home on her blog. Check them out here.