Tag Archives: Togo

Broukou

Saturday I will be going out to Broukou where we hope to plant a church. Mark Kennell and Ryan Head have been teaching in this village for several months. Since they are both out of town, I will be using my limited Kabiye abilities to teach a literacy lesson.

 Probably more importantly, I will continue to build relationships in this village about an hour from Kara. After spending some social time in the market, I will travel with Kossi to his house to meet with some of his friends and family. Although Kabiye is spoken throughout our area, most people cannot read it. French is taught in schools here but Kabiye is not.

 The people here place a high priority on relationships, and so our time spent blessing their lives with literacy training is not lost, but builds trust in us and the message we are bringing. Please be in prayer for a fruitful Saturday.

Broukou

Saturday I will be going out to Broukou where we hope to plant a church. Mark Kennell and Ryan Head have been teaching in this village for several months. Since they are both out of town, I will be using my limited Kabiye abilities to teach a literacy lesson.

 Probably more importantly, I will continue to build relationships in this village about an hour from Kara. After spending some social time in the market, I will travel with Kossi to his house to meet with some of his friends and family. Although Kabiye is spoken throughout our area, most people cannot read it. French is taught in schools here but Kabiye is not.

 The people here place a high priority on relationships, and so our time spent blessing their lives with literacy training is not lost, but builds trust in us and the message we are bringing. Please be in prayer for a fruitful Saturday.

Link

Beth’s blog

Beth’s blog

Beth has written a very powerful post about our life here. I hope you are as touched by it as I was.

Safari Park and Malaria

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.Image

Language and Culture

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.Image

Wheels

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!

 ImageWe 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.
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Scenes from a Village church

Jean Marie, Christiane, and Essowe help us learn Kabiye and the Bible at the same time.

Happy Holidays

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!

Vehicle Update

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.

Blessings,

The Richardsons

Finding Beauty

(From Beth)

I’ve been wanting to write for a while on this topic.  Since our visit to Africa,  I’ve been mulling it over and over in my mind.  God is definately working in my heart, and I find it quite amazing.

I had been to Togo before our visit this fall.  I went as a missions intern when I was a college student in 1994.  And on our recent trip, things in Africa were much as I remembered them.  But one thing that really got to me this time that I didn’t really remember being as bothered by when I was an intern was the dirtiness.  It was everywhere, and inescapable.

In Kara, there is no city sanitation system.  The missionaries we stayed with paid for some sort of service, which involved two guys coming by the house with a large wheelbarrow, into which went all the trash, and they took it away to God only knows where.  But most people cannot afford such a service, so they just dump their trash wherever they can.  On the side of the road.  Into the stream.  There are piles of trash and refuse just about everywhere you look in the city.  You can smell it, too, especially with the heat.   The smells of the trash mix with the smell of the animals (a myriad of chickens and donkeys and goats  roam all over the city) and the smell of hot, sweaty people who aren’t able to use deodorant.  And the little black plastic bags lying and drifting everywhere are a real eyesore!  In Kara, all purchases are wrapped up in these little black plastic sacks (like the bags you might get here from Wal-mart or Target or any grocery store, only smaller and black).   Unfortunately plastic does not degrade, although it can get torn, so there are black plastic bags and pieces of black plastic bags everywhere you turn.  And I haven’t even begun to talk about the mud puddles.  We were in Togo during the end of the rainy season.  The  daily rainstorms leave huge puddles that seem to radiate dirty humidity once the sun comes back out.  The mud, and later in the year, the dust, leave permanant stains on the concrete buildings in the city.   Even inside the missionaries’ homes, there is no real getting away from the dirtiness.  The mud follows you inside and soils the tile floors; the dust and the smells drift in through the slatted windows that can’t be shut completely.  After being in Kara for just a week, my eyes literally felt tired of seeing all the dirt and mud and trash.  I wanted to shut them and cover them up so I didn’t have to see any more.  Truly, it was as though the ugly dirtiness actually hurt my eyes.  By the end of our short stay, I was longing to feast my eyes on the pristine cleanliness here in the States:  the sharply cut lawns trimmed with bushes or flowers, the clean smooth streets, the unstained houses and businesses with clear glass windows, the air untainted by animal smells and rotting trash(and often supplemented by candles or perfumes).

I felt somewhat ashamed of this struggle;  after all, I should be able to see past the dirt, especially in Africa, where there are so many needs.  My heart should be able to get beyond such a surface issue.  But there all that dirt was, and I was truly having trouble dealing with it.  Maybe it bothered me more on this trip than when I had been to Togo before because my children were with me this time.  We like to keep our kids clean and germ-free, right?  Whatever it was, I was having a tough time keeping my eyes open!

I talked with my dear friend Nicole about this.  She is one of the missionaries in Kara, and my family stayed with hers while we were there.  How can you live amongst all this ugliness?  I asked her.  How can you keep looking at it day after day?

And Nicole challenged me to find the beauty.  It is always there, she said.  In every place, in every circumstance.  But we have to have our eyes open to see it.  And we have to have our hearts open to receive it.  God will show it to us, if we are willing to keep our eyes and our hearts open.

I pondered that for the remainder of our stay in Togo.   I began to pray  for open eyes and an open heart.  And God started to answer that prayer.

I saw a woman wearing brightly colored garments, balancing a brightly painted enamel bowl on her head, her sweet toddler tied to her back.  I thought about the hardship of carrying both a full bowl and a growing child,  often in the pouring rain, and I marveled when the woman smiled at me.

I saw a child, dressed in dirty brown rags, who peeked shyly at me, and grinned when I waved.

I listened to the story of a woman who had searched for God all her life.  Her childhood had been filled with extreme poverty and loss, yet there was no bitterness in the story she told me, only praise for a God who loved her and had found her.

I traveled to a retreat center built up in the mountains, where bright orange flowers grew everywhere among the quiet, peaceful stillness overlooking the city.

I worshipped God with people who spoke a different language but sang the from the same Spirit that I do.

And here, back in the good old US of A, I continue to learn to have my eyes and my heart open.  Just recently I visited a nursing home where my father is a short-term resident.  It was a difficult thing to do, given all my history with my dad, which I won’t go into, except to say that my dad’s choices continue to put him in very sad places.  Just seeing my dad there was heart-breaking.  It’s a typical nursing home, smelling like urine and inhabited by people the world has forgotten.  But even there, I found beauty:

In the upbeat personality of a woman named Karen, who liked listening to gospel music.  She couldn’t get all of her words out well, but she remembered my name and my sister’s name when we came back the next day.

In the innocent sweetness of another lady named Joyce, who has Alzheimer’s.  She spoke to my sister and I at length–and we could make little sense of any of it–but all the while, she smiled and giggled.  Becky said to her at one point, “You are always smiling, aren’t you?”  And in a moment of complete clarity Joyce responded, with all seriousness, “Well, you’ve got to, don’t you?”

In the clear blue eyes of a man named Stanly, who wheeled himself up and down the hallways, over and over again.  My dad dismissed any idea of speaking to Stanly, saying “He can’t talk back to you.”  But Becky and I talked to him anyway, and once, his somber face cracked the smallest of smiles, and another time, he waved back at me when I waved to him.

In the faith of a Baptist preacher who comes to the nursing home every Sunday to conduct a worship service for anyone who wants to atttend.  My sister and I didn’t get to meet him, but Dad said that he usually goes to the service, and I am grateful for what this man of God is providing.  He hasn’t forgotten the people there, like the rest of the world has.

I find these discoveries very exciting.  No matter where I may find myself, no matter what the circumstance, there will be beauty to behold.  God will show me where to find it.  I will never be in a place where His light cannot reveal something lovely, something of light, something He has touched.  So it is that He can change what seems to be dirty, destitute, left-over and forgotten by the world, into a thing of wonder and joy.  That is one of the mysteries of the gospel.  And it is truly beautiful.  My eyes and my heart are open.

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What Will I do?

This past weekend was a great time for us to think about our future in Togo, and meet many wonderful people who have worked there in the past.

I often get the question, “What will be the focus of your work in Togo?” I think this is a great question for us to be thinking about.

I think the first answer comes from Frank Bunner, whom I quoted in a previous post. Our work should come out of God’s work. He is already working in Togo and has ideas about how we can be used there.

Recently, I had the opportunity to preach from Acts 13:1-3. The church in Antioch, while praying and fasting, set apart Saul and Barnabas for mission work. It wasn’t really specified at that point where they were going or what exactly they would do. But the church  sent them out trusting that God would equip and lead those He was sending.

We have to move forward in the same faith. It may be that a Christian in Togo shares an assignment with us through his or her own prayer and fasting. I’ve heard the Togolese are better at prayer and fasting than us Americans.

Having said all of that, I do believe that God has prepared me in the areas of leadership development, and perhaps language learning. I asked Brett at lunch yesterday about the possibility of reaching out to a new language group near Kara. He said that would certainly be a possibility.  . . would you pray on that one for me?

Ryan

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