Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cheers love

I don't really know why I entitled this blog with "cheers love", expect that I couldn't find a better phrase to signify that I am now safely (semi-)home in the UK with my parents, dog and four chickens!

The flights were long as usual, but I met an interesting lady sitting next to me (about my age), who was Gabonese, but lived in Washington DC for the past several years. She was well dressed and had lots of designer bags with her. She goes home to Gabon every year to visit her parents in Libreville, where they work for the local government.

I was pretty amazed by how little she told me that she interacted with the Gabonese outside her home/sports club (country club). When I told her about the work I was doing with the church-- things like venturing into villages, mixing cement, pouring church floors, working with abandoned kids...etc, as well as things like taking taxi buses or visiting newly planted church and communities in villages-- she was shocked. She said that she has NEVER visited a village outside of Libreville, nor has she ever ridden in a taxi bus, ventured into neighbourhoods, urban markets... etc. BUT! The reason I tell you about this interaction is not intended to make you all think down upon her- not at all. I just so often find myself VERY critical of the Western world-- and the western church-- for taking things for granted, and here I was talking to a Gabonese woman who was probably more sheltered than most Americans I knew.

This does bring up a good point: About a month ago, I heard Kevin DeYoung speak at a conference in San Diego, and he said that one of the saddest things that we as Americans do is hate our local church, and revere churches in other countries- especially if they are facing terrible hardships in some way. The point, however, is that God created the Church as ONE body- it's not "us" vs "them", but instead it's "all of us". Why would I ever disparage Christ's church the way do when it comes to (especially) the American church? He took the whole church as His bride and I would never sound off on someone's wife right in front of her husband's face. What I need to do is pray for the church and even more so for my attitude about the church. If there is something going on that is not right in a church, I should talk to the person about it or meet with a pastor- not just talk behind people's backs and whine (and I have been very guilty of this in the past).

I hope that as I come across more things that often frustrate me in the Western world- things like $500 pots and pans, new iphones, fancy cars-- that I will remember how God loves each person equally, and that it does me no good to hold up all my frustrations so that I become bitter and resentful about those who "have" as opposed to those who "have not". Instead, remember that God loves his WHOLE church and He has blessed me with experiences that may help me change things in my life based on what I learned in Gabon, and that He will ultimately use these things to His glory.

Monday, August 2, 2010

minus one week

So I leave on saturday night. I'm having a hard time processing things right now, so please forgive what may appear to be a really "surface-y" update... I'm trying to be as real with you as possible :)

Today, after spending the most of the day out in a village about 1.5 hrs from Libreville, we returned to our house to find my Gabonese friend Tania, waiting for me on the front porch.

A note about Tania: (she's also the one I mentioned who has a Bible that's totally falling apart)

-She's 22 and her dad had a stroke a few yrs back- she takes care of him because her mom is on a plantation somewhere in the jungle
- She also takes care of 6 other siblings
-She has a middle school education, and needs to complete one more year to get her diploma that will allow her to start becoming an apprentice for a beautician school
- Every time I see her, she's either coming or going to something at her church- she's really active with an intercession ministry and the youth ministries
- On Saturday, I convinced her to come to the beach with us. She's lived no more than 10 miles from the beach for her whole life, but had never gone into the water until now (I just hung onto her the whole time because the waves were pretty big and she's really tiny and she can't swim at all. We had such a blast and I think she swallowed a bucketful of salt water out there!)

Anyways, she is a real light here in Gabon. I rarely see someone so joyful and full of love of the Lord as she is. I'm telling you- she never stops smiling! So today we pull up after spending the morning playing with kids in a village, and she's standing there, waiting for me. I wasn't expecting her, but that's not uncommon to just drop in. She told me that she came over (she had to take a few different taxibuses to get here) just so that she could give me a present and say goodbye before I left. I opened the present and she had given me a piece of cloth that was from a city in the south (port gentil) and a little gabonese flag. I was so thankful for her gift, especially because I knew that she had to go all the way into the center of the city to get these things, which is not easy to do because we live in the outskirts.

The best part was that when I as walking her down to the taxibus stop, we were saying our goodbyes and I asked her if we could pray before she left. I took her hands, but she just threw her arms around me in a massive hug and started praying. Taxibuses were honking at us and I know that most people there never see "blanches" (white girls) walking around with "noires" (black girls), let alone stand on a street corner praying together. That moment was a real testament to God's goodness and His desire for all believers to come together as one church. I have danced at church alongside other believers here in Gabon in a way that would not be considered "normal" at my church back in AZ, but I am learning how this is something to be embraced and not regarded as a "cute" or "entertaining" way of worshipping. The people here regard our bodies as having been created for dancing and singing to God, and them dancing could be viewed just as a person in a pew kneeling down before the Lord in silent praise of His work. My desire is for the Lord to continue opening my five senses to more ways of honoring Him.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Back from the Jungle

I just had the most amazing three days, possibly in my whole life :) I spent some time at the Bongolo Hospital in the south of Gabon. There, I spent a lot of time with missionary nurses and doctors, helping put up essential mosquito screens in the maternity ward, sorting out $300,000 of donated medical equipment from various medical companies in Europe and the States, and... my favorite activities, talking to patients and observing surgeries! It was incredible how they let me get so close to patients during the surgeries- I was definitely not expecting being able to stand two feet away as a 16 yr old girl had a C-section! I also saw some tumors get removed from a woman's breast, and I saw a rod get drilled into a little girl's knee for traction for a broken femur. All the doctors here are Christians and they come from all over Africa to get training in General Surgery from American missionary surgeons, then they go back to their home countries to practice there. Dr JeanClaude from Congo performed the C -section and he is returning home in a year to be the only practicing surgeon in nearly 500 square km in Congo. If you would like to pray for him, his wife and his baby, as they prepare to serve the Congolese people, I know he would be very encouraged by that. Since the doctors here are practicing Christians they pray before each surgery- I really loved that. Anyways, it was so crazy to be able to stand there and watch all these surgeons in action! (Email me if you want photos or video- I'm not posting them because they're pretty graphic)

As far as other jungle adventures go, I only wish that I had some way other than writing to show you all what I experienced. We went spelunking (caving) in some of the most intense caves I have even been in. The tunnels went forever and they split and rejoined and split again like some crazy rat maze. We were down there for at least 2 hrs and we probably didn't even see half of it. Bats were flying right into our heads and I just had a little wind-up flashlight that only worked well if I was actively winding it... which I couldn't really do since I needed my hands to crawl! There was so much mud and water and we spent a lot of time inching through tiny tunnels on our stomachs- it was great!

Even better was the next day where we decided to hike through the jungle (no trail), past amazing HUGE bamboo trees and finally ending up a a cliff of dead jungle plant debris. Then we climbed down by jumping/ hanging onto vines and trees (watching out for driver ants and snakes), and got into a river... but not in a boat. I had been told that there were no alligators, but as far as I'm concerned, I'm in the jungle and there's gotta be some sort of creature in the water that could get me! Anyways, it was amazing and we pretty much swam ourselves through the most remote and gorgeous jungle river I have ever seen! I could only think about the Creator who made all this and I am so overwhelmed by His beauty and creativity in this place :) We finally ended up in a very fast current in a river about the width of a football pitch and there were rapids/waterfalls ahead, so we had to swim like crazy to the side of the river (but there was no bank), hang onto a log of rotting and spider-ridden wood, pull ourselves up and proceed to pull ourselves up another cliff of rotting jungle debris. I have so many scratches and bugbites on my legs, and I'm trying to keep the infections down with Neosporin.

I can think of so many friends and family I wish could do this again with me!

One last thing- starfruit are much better when you can eat a whole one off a tree than when you get a tiny sliver on your ice cream.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Into the Jungle!

Bienvenue à l'Hopital de Bongolo! A few day ago, we travelled from Libreville (north), down to the small town of Lebamba, which is about 5 minutes away from the hospital we're visiting. Bongolo was set up by the Christian and Missionary Alliance a long time ago and now it's one of the best hospitals in the country. The really cool thing about it is that they minister to their patients as well as treat their health disorders. There's a training program here for other doctors and nurses from all around Africa to come and get training from America-certified surgeons and nurses. They are also taught how to use ministry in medicine, which is even better. It's absolutely gorgeous too and I think I actually prefer it to Libreville because it's so wild and green out here :) I'm sitting here and I think I hear a monkey outside but I've never really heard one that I can remember, so I'm just going to keep believing that :)

The last couple of days in Libreville have been great too. I met a new girl at church (I now officially have three Gabonese facebook friends!), and she came over the next morning to visit. Her name's Tania, and I have to be honest that I was a little overwhelmed by her at first because she was basically telling me, "okay, I'm going to be in your neighbourhood tomorrow morning, and I'm coming over to visit you at 8am"-- I had known her for five minutes! And plus, I didn't know if that was okay with the missionaries I was living with, especially because it's their home! Anyways, Tania came over and we had a fantastic time together :) She wanted to braid my hair and so she did (she also said it was too "slippery"!) I've since taken it out because it was super super frizzy and it was falling out too.

One of the things that I loved the best about my time with Tania was that we read through part of 1 Corinthians and looked at the spiritual gifts in French together. She read it out to me and I could almost hear all the words in English :) Her Bible is totally falling apart- and there is writing ALL over it... the cover was torn and the binding had threads coming out all over the place. It was very humbling to see how well she knew the word, and yet with so little (i.e., a near- destroyed Bible, no books by Christian authors like Colson, Driscoll, Tozer, Yancy...etc), and here I am waiting to get back to the States to see if I can buy a wide margin ESV where the pages are not so thin that I can still use a pen... sometimes I really love wake up calls like this.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

One week in

The weather here has been amazing! I wish I could just take this back with me to AZ - about 30 degrees (mid 80's) and LOTS of clouds. It's bliss and I was expecting a lot more heat. So this past week I've been doing a lot of the same things as the first week (working at a mobile clinic- I get to take blood pressure readings which is pretty fun and then I feel kinda smart- lol) , and also playing with kids at the Hope House (home for abandoned kids). If you would like to pray for something, pray for the kids there. There are about 30 of them, all under 16 yrs and often there are no adults at home. The pastor who runs it (Pasteur Israel) and his wife are often out of the house doing other things and the kids have to take care of themselves. They are so much fun to play with and even the 7 yr olds can totally school me in football (soccer)! But they are so needy for attention and love as well.

I have been speaking French like a crazy person- literally, I sometimes sound like a crazy person when I speak because there are so many things to say and I just mix all my subjects and verb endings into one giant ball when I really get going :) It's getting a lot better though and I'm pretty much an unofficial translator at times.

My biggest blessing at the moment is that I have been able to get to know the girls who live behind our house. Their names are ChouChou and Poupette (Claudia and Daniella). They are 19 and 21 years old and they at from Ghana, but have lived here most their lives. They have no dad (he died about 4 years back), and they have three other siblings. I love hanging out with them, because we'll walk around the neighbourhood (the "quartier") and talk to their friends, the shopkeepers, and sometimes there will be a random visit to someone's home. This is really special for me because this is not typical for a foreigner with white skin to be integrated with the local Gabonais people (They call me "une blanche"- a white girl- and they are definitely not very PC over here (but I love it). They just shout out at me "Bounjour la blanche!" in the streets). Because I can speak the language, God had really blessed me in being able to connect with the people in ways that many of my american missionary find more difficult.

I think I might be going to the jungle next week to work with a hospital called Le Hopital du Bongolo , which was set up many years ago by the Christian and Missionary Alliance. It's now one of the best hospitals in the jungle regions of Gabon. I will also get to cross the Equator for this 12 hr road trip! It's not all that far away but the roads are horrendous, as I hear (and have experienced a bit in Libreville, but not so much). Also, I got a hold of some apples and oranges which was amazing because I had been eating carrots twice a day in desperate search of fruit/veggies.

be well and xo

Friday, July 9, 2010

Bienvenue au Gabon!

After traveling from Sunday morning to Monday evening, I finally arrived at the Libreville airport in Gabon, and was promptly accosted by French-speaking taxi drivers who had somehow managed to get into the pre-customs luggage area in the airport (security, apparently not really a focus). Total blessing was that Tim Brokopp (I’m staying at his and his wife Meredith’s house) was right outside the doors and was all up in their faces by the time I came through customs— big sigh of relief Grandma— Tim’s pretty hardcore too and yells at anyone who give us a hard time :)

I’m also staying with about ten other missionaries at Tim and Meredith’s place. We’re all here for the summer and are crammed into these great rooms with lots of bunkbeds :) I always seem to get stuck on the top bunk, and this time is no different—but I have a bed so I’m happy! I am actually eating pork because there is not much else to eat. And everyone loves baguettes as well. Not many vegetables, but I peel and eat carrots a couple of times a day. Yesterday, I befriended a little girl, Gypsy, at a food stall and she was selling peanuts (arichides), so if you know me, you can only guess what is on my mind now… peanut butter! I will let you know if this dream ever comes true.

Turns out that the French they speak here is actually pretty similar to what I know- the accent is a little different, but it’s a blessing to be able to communicate. People rarely speak English, so this is definitely helpful. Also, I am one of the few Americans here who can speak French, so I try to translate as much as possible. Road navigation is a sport in Libreville— I sort of remember driving in Tanzania when I was younger, but honestly, the driving here is like being in a video game. I have been in at least five near-crashes and today I went flying up against the back of the seat of the guy in front of me (because my own seat is broken, and sans seatbelt). There are about a million people and cars on the roads, and food stalls, and dogs and chickens and… well you get the point.

So far, I have experienced some great things in the ministries that are out here, but I need to save some of those details for later. What I can tell you about now is that I have spent a couple of days working at a home for abandoned children (Hope House), playing football with them and making clay toys from mud out of their backyard. The kids are great and I really love this one little guy, Christopher who just jumps on my back all sweaty and gross, and wants me to run around the yard with him. The other cool thing is that I have spent some time at a medical clinic and since I don’t have any decent medical skills to speak of, I just talk a lot with the local Gabonais people in the waiting room. I am praying that God helps give me insight as to how He wants me to use the skills I have. I haven’t met any disabled or language-impaired kids, which is amazing seeing as there are at least 30 orphaned kids at the Hope House, but this is also encouraging as I am praying freely for direction and vision in my areas of service; so far there are a couple of other opportunities that have risen up that I will tell you more about later. Love to you all xo

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Minus one week!

I am so psyched! This Sunday July 4th, I'm outta here!

I am pretty packed with a lot of final preparations to take care of, and I am having a little bit of a hard time focusing on the future, especially since I have this final week of clinical practicum and classes to get through.

Here are a few prayer requests:

- I need to get Malaria pills by Friday, so please pray that I can find some and that they're not too expensive.

- I have a lot of schoolwork, client's paperwork and exams to get through this week- please pray for focus and excellence in these, with regard to my level of dedication... i.e., no more senioritis!

- I have been in touch with Tim and Meredith (my hosts) and they announced that they're kicking off a rebirth of a Rehabilitation Ministry in Libreville- and they want me to be a part of that... but I need MUCH vision for this as to what I can offer with my skills in speech-language pathology.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

FULLY FUNDED! Praise God! :)

At the end of a week where I have spent on average, no less than 12 hrs a day at school-- and have been maximally challenged by a five year old, who I (lovingly!) put in a weighted vest ever so often, in an educated attempt to calm him down-- AND I am literally questioning how I can possibly keep this up for another month, God pulls this one out of His bag of perfect timing.

I have to ask myself this question, however: If His plan had not met my (hopeful) expectations in receiving financial support for this trip, what would my reaction be?

My response: I am a lump of clay in the eyes of He who Created me- dirty, sometimes dried up and resistant to being formed, unfinished and, at times, smashed flat. I fight to keep my own shape, and to succeed on my own terms. I tend to think that I know what is best for me. It just so happened that God graciously allowed for this particular situation to turn out as I have been praying.


The good news: This lump of clay will one day become a finished work- complete and final- and at that point, all the ways in which my personal resolve has strayed from God's will, shall no longer exist or matter; there will finally be pure, unchanging and everlasting congruence between longings of the Creator and His creation. The question is, how can I NOW be intentional to keep my life, no matter the circumstances, heading straight towards this end goal?

I could definitely chew on this for a while...

Friday, May 28, 2010

Took a little break- now back for the final push!

I am so thankful for the seven days I got off last week :) This week, I'm starting up for a final five-week smack down of summer classes- woo hoo! A little over a month (July 4th) and I'll be on a plane to Gabon! I'm getting really excited now and have some great news: Tempe Camera- has donated a Polaroid camera and $50 worth of film for me to take to Africa!!!

You may be asking yourself- "why ever would she want a Polaroid?"

The reason is that I would like to be able to make picture books (communication books) for non-verbal individuals in Gabon. The people I would use them with may include some kids with disabilities (some Autistic kids are characterized by their lack of verbal language), and maybe even adults who have had strokes and now struggle to communicate verbally. The reason for the Polaroid specifically (which I had a tough time finding, by the way), was that the pictures are instantaneous! No need for a computer or a printer- perfect!

So here's my trial picture- the guy in the store had to help me learn how to use it (it's super old and fully manual- I need to set the aperture, speed and manually focus it).

Not bad!

I'm really thankful for Tempe Camera's generous donation and even more so, to the Lord Himself for providing me with these materials :)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Finishing up the Semester

I'll take the time to tell you all that I am a mere 24 hrs away from completing my first year of my program! One more exam to go tomorrow afternoon- yesssss! Sadly, I do have to go to school in the summer until July 2nd, but two days later (July 4th, 6am), I'll be on a plane headed to Gabon!

Here's the itinerary:
Phoenix- Chicago
Chicago- Frankfurt
Frankfurt- Ghana
Ghana- GABON!

It'll be a long haul- I won't get in Libreville until July 5th at 6pm. Sadly my earphones got run over by a car while I was on my bike a few months ago, so I'll have to consider possibly getting some new ones for the sake of my sanity...

Lastly, thank you so much to everyone who has contributed either with prayer or with finances (or both!) for this mission! I have been truly humbled by the generous outpouring of all the support I've received :)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Wanna fly somewhere? Email this guy

I bought my ticket to Libreville last week! :) I leave at 6am July 4th, and get into Libreville on the 5th at 6pm. There are at least 4 stops going one way, so I really hope my bag makes it through... and that I can sleep a little bit.

Note to travelers who read this: I really learned how to talk down the price of my ticket by basically contacting 7-10 different travel agents I found online (google search, take the top ten hits) and then when one of them would quote me with something low, I would email the rest and ask them if they can go lower. I should also point out that I spent a lot of time on websites like, pretty much ALL of the "do it yourself" ones, but they were consistently more expensive.

By far, there was only one guy who could get me there for at least $500 below what nearly everyone else was quoting me. His name is Brad la Nasa, and he's in Minneapolis with Pangaea Travel. He didn't charge me a service fee, and he also got me aisle seats! I highly recommend emailing this guy if you're going to travel- even nationally. Here's his email:

Finally, I was kind of disappointed by the 4-5 missionary-centered travel agents I contacted- they were not really that great at finding low prices, and then when I would tell them about how another agent found a lower price, they just kind of gave up. I think that there could be a little more resourcefulness/training/I don't know what to call it because I'm not a travel agent, on their part in trying to compete with what else is out there; just a thought...

Friday, April 23, 2010

Attacks come- but God is bigger

Well last weekend, I was so blessed to be able to go on the Kairos retreat (a 20-30 somethings community group at my church in Tempe, AZ) in Pinetop. We had such a fabulous time enjoying each other and God's enormously beautiful creation.

When I got home, however, I received a letter in the post from Arizona State U, telling me that I had been denied residency for tuition purposes. My heart sank big time, and I got that horrible pit in your stomach type of feeling :( I had been pretty positive that I was eligible for residency, and had assumed that it was just a formality for me to send in the paperwork. This was a huge blow because tuition is about twice as expensive when you're an out-of-state resident....BUT! an even bigger reason I felt really anxious was because I had to buy my plane ticket to Gabon by the next day in order to get the locked-in rate (which was the lowest price I found by several hundred dollars), and if I went forward and bought it, I wasn't sure how I would cover my current out-of-state tuition bill.

SO! I went in to the residency office and discussed the appeal system with this super nice guy called Donavon, I prayed about it, told a couple of close friends and family members, asked them to pray about it too, submitted an appeal to Donovon- and low and behold I checked my tuition statement today and was overjoyed to see that I'm listed as an OFFICIAL ARIZONA RESIDENT (and to everyone in the mid-west: who would've thought?!)!

God is so good and Satan does not want me to get to Gabon.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Financial Support Online

I just got an account set up through the Christian and Missionary Alliance, so if you would like to help support my time in Gabon financially, so can now do so online at

Just scroll to VERY the bottom where it says "Designated Giving" and click on the link there. My account number is 1-47636-41-10

Have an awesomely blessed day- (it is a Monday after all!)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Oil Strikes in Gabon

Gabon's dependence on oil is the main source of its (relative) economic stability. The problem is that the income gained from the exploitation of this natural resource has not been re-invested in modernizing or diversifying the economy; thus Gabon remains heavily reliant on its offshore oil stores. Also, the current president- Ali Ben Bongo- and his father (Omar Bongo, the former president for 40+ years!), have been criticized for amassing vast fortunes during their terms in office, and have been accused of embezzling oil revenues- i.e., your basic corrupted government...

Now, workers for the oil unions are pretty ticked because many of the oil companies are using foreign workers instead of nationals. All Gabonese oil union workers started striking today and people are lined up cars deep at petrol stations, hoping to fill up before it's all gone (this reminds me a lot of the petrol strikes in the UK in 2000, when I remember there being mass panic and everyone was paying way too much for it- by the way unleaded petrol is about $7/gallon over there).

Pray that the almost inevitable protests and demonstrations will be peaceful and that panic will not overtake the country.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Going to Gabon!

I have never made a blog before, so this first post will be short and sweet: I am so excited! I'm going to Gabon this summer to work alongside an amazing team of God-loving and people-loving individuals. More info to come soon...