Sunday, December 25, 2011

Joyeux Noel Mes Amis!

Merry Christmas everyone! Wow, I can't believe it's been a whole YEAR since my amazing Christmas in Bouaké. We did secret Santa, and I had Naomi! I made her "Christmas Strings" and "Santa Mac" and some other little things. Stephanie made me this amazing journal with maps of Africa glued to the inside covers. I remember as part of Naomi's gift I spent hours sewing fabric over the packs of strings, and even through a wooden basket! I had to hammer the needle through the wood to make it look right!

Anyways, a few things recently have reminded of the meaning of Christmas. They were a super God-glorifying wedding, a great Christmas concert, and two awesome church services. So what is the real meaning of Christmas? Presents? Being with family? Joy and peace? Well, those are all great things, but they all miss the mark. Christmas is all about celebrating Jesus giving up his place in heaven to become a human baby destined to make a way to the Father for us. That's right, Christmas is for Jesus. Just like the awesome song by the Pawnshop Kings. God really does choose the simple, the uncomplicated, the humble things of this world to do the most amazing works through. What a wonderfully thoughtful God we serve! And what a romancer is Christ, I was really reminded of that at the wedding. Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Anyways, this year for Christmas, our family has done things a bit differently. We celebrated a couple weeks ago with Dan and Hilary, and my Dad's parents. Can and Hilary are spending Christmas with Hilary's parents in Illinois this year. Then on Christmas Eve the rest of us had a family lunch and did presents. It was some great family fellowship! It's especially great to see my two beautiful nieces, Bonnie and Molly, yet again! Molly learned to wave on command today, it was so cute!

I plan on blogging about my time back here in the state and how I'm processing everything soon!

Anyways, enjoy these photos from my Christmas season:

Ding fries are done! Would you like an apple pie with that? Christmas is here!

Holly and I rocking out last year in Bouaké. A very different setting than my house this year!

I went ice skating recently with some friends. Almost forgot what ice was! :P

Russell's parents gave me this computer desk, and I spent a while setting up my home "studio."

Set up my walk-in closet as a vocal booth and gave it some Christmas cheer!

Rockin' the wall of amps! :P

This is Evan Whickham, Phil's brother. He was one of the artists at the concert.

Had to wear jeans to Christmas Eve service! Oh well.

I made an addition to mom's nativity scene. Aslan?

Giving Bonnie a very productive piano lesson. She makes beautiful tone clusters. :P

Sheer excitement at my shiny iPhone. No it's not your present Bonnie!

Giving Mike and Laura a panya for Christmas.

Everyone got panyas actually. Here's Gran and Grandad with part of one framed.

Grandad showing me how to tie some sort of awesome knot.

Molly getting friendly with a bunny. This right here is Laura's idea of fun. Bunnies and babies.

Monday, October 17, 2011

What October Has Looked Like

So these last couple of weeks have been going by really fast, and I am upon my last full week here in Korhogo. I can’t believe how fast time is passing by!

Lots has been happening. I’ve been all over town visiting people and getting last minute souvenirs, and spending every possible moment hanging out with my friends and family here. I’ve been to a wedding nearly every weekend for the past month, and played guitar in two of them. This last week I spent a fair bit of time with my church buddy CJ and her parents, visiting from the States. We climbed the hill next to my house and climbed Mount Korhogo, and had adventures in the marketplace looking for pentads. I also had a lot of good times hanging out with Chazz and Devin, who came to stay with me a few days.

This is a week of goodbye’s. It’s really weird realized that every day is my last of that day in Korhogo. Tonight I’m asking my family “for the road”, something you have to do well enough in advance so they can prepare a gift for you. Every time I talk to my friends and family it comes up that I’m leaving next Sunday, something that is hard to accept but is a reality. Saying goodbye to people you love is never an easy thing to do!

CJ’s brother Pierre left for Togo already, so he gave us some traditional clothes as a gift, and my friends from Abidjan are leaving Wednesday afternoon, and then I’m leaving just a few days after that.

I am already thinking about coming back. I’d love to return sometime next year for a short-term trip, doing a recording seminar here in Korhogo and maybe bringing some much needed equipment with me. I want to start organizing that already so that I can look for people who’d go with me.

Spiritually, God is kind of rocking my world right now. Everyday seems to show me ways in which I’m not trusting Him enough or trying to control my circumstances. With all the crazy schedules, the preparing to say by to some very close friends, trying to find gifts for people here and back home…it had made spending time in prayer and the word more difficult. Those are no excuse, if anything I should be spending more time with God as a result. It’s just been a struggle because I’m tired a lot lately, and I also have a cold again, boo. Anyways, God is still getting his messages through to me, through reading, prayer, and interactions with people, and I’m stumbling along behind Jesus, getting closer to where I’m going but not always very gracefully.

So here are a few pictures from the last week or two, enjoy! See you all soon!

Joel spent two weeks making this shirt for me!

After church with some friends, CJ wearing a similar gift

After this weekend's marriage, jamming outside

Ivorians know how to have a good time

I know how to have a good time too

Gifts from Pierre! Handmade dresses/robe

Pentad/Chicken market

Saying goodbye to Pierre

A view from the hill by my house

Devin, Me, CJ, and her mom, Marsha. I climbed the mountain behind us the next day.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Married in NioFoin!


Well this last week an event took place that I (and my whole family) have been joyfully anticipating for a couple of months now….my brother Zachary’s wedding! Yeah I said a couple of months, because he proposed in late July, and they were married October 1st. Pretty long engagement eh?

On Friday we all headed out to Niofoin to get everything prepared. I went in the morning, accompanied by my church buddy, CJ! It was definitely nice to have a close friend around with whom I could converse in my own language! We spent the day pretty much attached at the hip as we helped my family get things ready. Finding somewhere to sleep at night was a fun game, and after getting moved around several times, I finally settled down on a couch at a friend-of-the-family’s house (the 3th house I’d been relocated to).

(Working hard or hardly working? Making sauce sumbara)

(With Joel the carpenter and his son, Michael. Hadn't seen them in months!)

The next morning I got ready and went over with everyone to la mairie ( the mayor’s office) where Zachary and Esther got legally married. There were a hundred or so present, but only about 30 could fit in the room, so I hung outside with most people. Then we all went to church while Zachary and Esther got changed into their other wedding clothes for the real ceremony. I stayed inside for about half of the procession, or less, but had to go outside because of the suffocating heat inside the church. I’d say a few hundred people attended, and about half had to stayed outside in the shade on plastic chairs waiting for the ceremony to finish. After it was all over the happy new couple came outside to shake everyone’s hands. A while later, after we had all eaten at the reception, Naomi, Alyssa, CJ, and Rod all left together to Korhogo and I hung around for another night in Niofoin. That night was filled with dancing (literally all night) and lots of opportunities for this “toubabou” to keep the kids entertained. It’s just so amazing to little black children who have never before seen a white person so up close…they got to learn that white people like to eat, and act silly, and do normal human type activities…just like them! So crazy right? It was fun :).

(This is my host dad, Soro Zana!)

(Panjama party with my youngest brother, Ungalo!)

(Naomi having a hard time look hard-core.)

(Leaving the Mairie, looking pretty chic)

(Ceremony begins at church)

(Zachary in expensive Baoule-king dress, basically to show that he has money)

(They were so happy to be married!)

Coming back the next day was fun, as we got roughly 25 people back in two medium sized pickup trucks, all in one trip!

(Safe passage out of Niofoin is always welcomed.)

Anyways, wedding aside…I’m sure you are all wondering about my soon-to-be arrival back in California! Well, I’m going to be arriving in Fresno around 10pm on Halloween! There is so much to say about what lessons I’ve learned here in RCI and about how that impacts the way I’m going to live my life in the States that I barely know how to begin explaining it all! But here are a few words that have acquired a much deeper and refreshed meaning for me:












I know that those words entail about every aspect of life imaginable…so that’s about right then! I’d be hard-pressed to think up a single aspect of my life – how I view myself, the world, God, and how they all relate to each other.

So you can expect a very different Jason when you see me next, though of course au même temps I’m the same of course. I’m going to dearly miss the friends and family God has given me here in West Africa, but also with each passing day I’m growing more eager to be with everyone I miss back in the States and to continue along the path God is leveling our before me as I walk in his lamplight.

I will try my best to get another blog or two out before I leave. In the meantime, may God bless you! Thank you so much for your prayers, and for your interest in my life! Also, please let me know how I can be praying for you!

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Lesson in Trust

Lately God has been teaching me a lot about trust. I've been reading a biography of the life of George Müller, who was an amazing man who ran an orphanage for 2000 children, a family, and a church congregation during his lifetime - all without ever having a salary and never asking someone once for money. He just completely depended on God, and though faith and prayer alone God met his every need and more. It's been really challenging the way I view trusting God, and giving me a lot to think about regarding how I want to live in the future. There have been a few issues in which I haven't been trusting God completely, but rather depending on my own self. About a week ago I had a really important talk with Jesus in which I laid out everything to be sacrificed on the altar of God, and it has been a really freeing experience. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;" that is really the heart of the matter. I have to remember everyday to trust that God knows all, that He sees my situations a lot better than I do, and that He works everything together for my good. A really important day in this last week for learning to trust was the 16th, which is 40 days before my departure of Côte d'Ivoire. Just as Noah spent 40 days in the ark trust God and just basically looking forward to what was next, so am I here in Côte d'Ivoire. Just like Noah, I'm going to be in a place of new beginnings. When I return to Fresno, there are things I want to be involved in, but there are no obligations that are necessarily keeping me there - I could go anywhere and do anything. It's definitely a place in life that I've never experienced before, and so it's going to take a lot of trusting God! I want to be really missional about the way I live when I get back, so it will be really interesting to see what changes take place.

Well, that's kind of what I've been going through lately. Other than that it's just been everyday life here. I suppose my next blog should be more about what that is like, what are some of the everyday things I experience. Well, I look forward to sharing that with you! For now, here are a few photos from the last week, the top is hanging out with friends on top of mount korhogo, and the others are from worship practice at church. :) have a good day!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Meet Yéo Martine, my sister!

This is my host sister, Martine. :)

A truly remarkable girl, and easily the best Ivorian friend I’ve made this year. Martine is 20, and interestingly shares the same birthday (May 4th) as my childhood best friend Mike, though seven years apart. She, like most of the kids in my enormous family, is not one of my host parents blood children. She is my host-Mom’s neice, and Martine’s mom (Naomi’s older sister) also lives in Korhogo and on occasion comes to visit. The reason she came to live with my host parents at the age of four was simply because Naomi asked her sister if she could have one of their children, and she sister of course agreed. I don’t know why she asked to have Martine, but I’d imagine it probably has something to do with financial difficulty and my family being well off and able to send her to school. After that in 1995), Martine grew up in the village of Niofoin with the family until 2005 when a my host aunt and a handful of the kids, including Martine, moved into the Korhogo house. The parents and rest of the family followed suite in 2009.
Martine has been something of a cultural guide for me since coming to Korhogo. And I've had a lot of fun sharing about my culture with her. One good example would be when I told her that American wedding ceremonies generally don't last longer than an hour. She was awestruck and of course asked why. I told her it's probably because the American bride and grooms walk about 100 times faster than the Ivorian brides and grooms, who usually take 5 to 10 minutes to do so. She made me demonstrate, which resulted in an eruption of laughter and me repeating that about 10 times for everyone. Nowadays whenever we walk somewhere fast, we are walking "like the Americans." In reality the reason weddings are so much longer in Côte d'Ivoire is because they have a full length church service complete with sermon and worship setlist, take forever walking down the isle, and then dance and eat. It's the ceremony, reception, and a sunday service all combined. Interesting, n'est pas?

Martine is quite a unique individual, with many talents and interesting tastes. She speaks, reads, and writes three language, loves math, sings really well, leads worship at church every week, and is learning both piano and guitar. She also cooks the majority of the meals for our family of 16 and does a good majority of the cleaning as well. All of this on top of the fact that she is taking several college-level classes and doing well in them. She is so busy, even when sick, and manages to be one of the most joy-filled people I’ve ever met. Definitely a superstar.

Martine is really intelligent as well, and has some interestingly high life goals considering the place and role she was born into. Martine is a Senefou girl, and even though she comes from a farily modern family, she is likely expected to conform to the general mould, which means getting married and having kids within two years and be a very hard working, mostly stay at home Mom. I definitely see a big part of Martine that wants this life, but I also have observed that she would really love to get away and chase her dreams. Martine wants to be an architect/civil engineer. Even more than that dream, she wants to be devoted to helping orphans and the poor for the rest of her life. Martine is still in “premiere” meaning she has one more year of school before she can go to University (God willing), so she has plenty of time to think about her future. If she decides to pursue that dream she will have lots of mountains to climb to reach it. It’s sad to say, but women are traditionally viewed as second-class citizens in West Africa.

I’ve come to feel that something is off about my day if I haven’t spent time hanging out with Martine. It’s a pretty common thing for her and I to be sat on chairs doing a guitar lesson, or me getting a French lesson, or just relaxing and talking about life. The last few days she’s been really sick, so I’ve spent a lot of time just being in the same room to comfort her, or finding ways to encourage her and make her smile. Probably the best thing about Martine is that she really, REALLY loves Jesus. And second to that comes her love for singing TO Jesus, so the way I've been making her smile for the most part has been convincing her to come sing french worship songs with me.

Anyways, that’s my introduction for Martine. I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about her in the near future. I think when I leave this place, I'll miss her the most out of all my new family and friends!

Here are a couple photos of Martine, more to come soon!

Martine and Parfait singing it up at church

Martine and "her baby", CJ (aka Julia)

Roof pouring day :)

In Niofoin

Drama practice with CJ

Monday, August 15, 2011

Déjà le 15 de Août?

We are only halfway through August and it already feels like such a full month!

Our first week this month saw us in Bouaké, welcoming two new journeyers, Kelly and Tricia! We spent the week doing their orientation, and having a super fun trip to Yamoussoukro, the nationals capitol, to visit the worlds largest basilica and go swimming at the president’s hotel! It was a great time of relaxing and unwinding, but boy did it feel great to get back home to Korhogo! Reuniting with my family and friends here was like letting out a big breath I’d been holding for too long.

Since being back in Korhogo, I’ve spent time visiting friends and new acquaintances, reading lots, and hanging out with Taylor, who was here to visit his girlfriend Heidi, one of our fellow Journeyers. Taylor stayed two nights at my house and then I spent two nights with him at one of the bible school’s guest house. He had a case of the amoebas, and I came down with a cold, so it was good to stay at IBB for a bit. He was feeling all better before we went on Saturday to get his bus ticket to Abidjan. It was fun having him stay with my family, and I think he got a decent idea of what Ivorian family is like. Meals for one were spectacular, making me pretty happy to have a visitor and reminded me of when I first came to live with the Soro family, too. I had fun translating for him and helping him get around town too. He was pretty independent despite having amoebas which made things lot easier for both of us I think.

Also since being back, God has been doing a lot to remind me of lessons learned over these last several months. The main lesson he’s been pressing on me this week though, is to remember to keep HIM as the central purpose of my being. When I’m struggling with temptation, run to Him, think about Him, surrender to Him. When I’m wandering, slacking in being still before His throne each day, and getting distracted – to remember to pray and to take initiative in returning to Him. It’s crazy how just a few days of letting distractions take your eyes off of Jesus can rob the spiritual zeal out of your life. It’s crazy how difficult it can be to get back into good habits, but how rewarding time spent with God is once you’ve put him back where he belongs – at the center of your life. These last few weeks I’ve been battling distraction, and am in process of getting back to where I should be, or I should say, where Christ ought to be.

Anyways, I don’t have lots of photos to show…but I do have some to share of our trip to Yamo and of our time in Bouaké! Enjoy!

Baptism! Steph and Naomi were the first Americans Pastor Keo had ever baptized.