Archive for November, 2008

Under the mango tree

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

 

It’s Sunday afternoon, and Shannon and I are taking a bit of time to relax during the hotter part of the day. We’ve come to appreciate the “siest” time (between 12:30 and 3:00), where people break from work to nap or relax (or shower to stay cool for us missionaries!). A couple of Sundays ago, some kids from the church were hanging out near our house after church, waiting for one of the short term missionaries who does a little kids program in the afternoon. I pulled out a soccer ball we had brought along to kick around with them, and they loved it. This Sunday, there are about 10 kids in front of our house playing with the ball!

There are so many differences with life here, and I thought I’d share a few related to transportation. Very few of the people out here in the village of Mahadaga have a car. If they are pretty well off, they’ll have a moto (motorbike), and they buy gas for it in old glass alcohol bottles at the side of the road. If they’re not rich enough for a moto, they’ll buy a bike. LOTS of people ride around on bikes here! Or, if they need to transport goods like produce from their fields, their preferred transport method will likely be donkey cart. Or, if they can’t afford any of those, walking is just fine too. Right from the time people are kids, they learn to carry things on their heads, and I can’t believe what they manage to balance as they walk along! Actually, that seems to be another trend. Why take three trips, when you can pile things up sky-high and just take one? This works on foot, on bikes, on motos, on cars, vans, buses, and trucks. On the highway, we passed trucks so highly loaded down they were leaning precariously. We even snapped the picture below, of a pretty highly loaded van, with a person sleeping on top! (apparently he was tied in).

Last weekend there was an orientation for all the new short term missionaries (anyone here for less than 1 year) in Burkina Faso. There were 8 of us there, and it was nice to connect with some other people who have come to serve here and to find out what areas they will be ministering in. There were people from France, Switzerland, the US, and Canada, who will be doing things as diverse as carpentry, running kids programs, nursing, and computer work! It’s amazing how God uses each of us, no matter who we are or what talent He’s given us, to contribute to His kingdom.

After returning from the orientation, I’ve started more fully into the work of laying out the database that will help replace the paper forms and manual calculations. There are so many parts to it, it’s a little overwhelming! Please pray that I’d have wisdom, and be able to understand all the requirements they have.

Shannon has been exposed to some new experiences with her work in the last little bit as well. Recently, she rode on the back of a moto out to a village to give vaccinations. They basically waited under a mango tree for parents to come with their babies for the shots! She has also been asked to help out administratively at the handicapped centre and possibly even at a local Christian high school that just started last year and needs help with typing up curriculums. Pray for guidance for how she uses her time as well, and that we would both be very useful.

We’re so thankful for all of you who are praying for us!

 

Some Pictures…..

Final steps to our destination

Monday, November 10th, 2008
Words from Jason
I thought I would send you another message to post, before we head out to the rural area:
 
First off, I’ve posted some more pictures of our trip so far on Facebook. To check them out (you don’t need a facebook account), use this link:http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=176701&l=704d4&id=593615598.
 
This afternoon, we will probably be leaving for the long journey to Mahadaga, the rural station where we will be for the next few months. We’ll drive the first 2 or 3 hours on the paved roads to Fada this afternoon, and then stay there overnight. We’ll then drive the last 6 or 7 hours on dirt roads to the final destination tomorrow. It’s not really safe to drive that part after dark today, as there are bandits around and the road can be pretty bad after the rainy season. Pray that the trip goes well and there are no car breakdowns.
 
Finally, this trip will mean the end of our internet access, which has been so nice up to this point. We’ll be able to check a special e-mail account through a satellite phone once a day, and we’ve set up Shannon’s e-mail address to forward to that account. So, if you want to get in touch with us while we’re in Mahadaga, send e-mails there. Thanks for all your encouraging comments and faithful prayers so far!
Words from Shannon,

Friends and Family,

We have officially arrived at our new home safely!  We drove a couple hours to a town called Fada and stayed there on the night of the 3rd, and then yesterday we left from the guest house at the SIM compound in Fada to come here to Mahadaga.  To say that this is in the “middle of nowhere” might possibly be a huge understatement!  We are definitely at the end of civilization out here and it was a lot of work to get here!  We strapped all our stuff on top of our truck and endured a very bumpy ride to Mahadaga.  At some points the roads are completely devastated, other points there are rivers over the road or a herd of cattle in the way!  It was a very hot and dusty ride but the truck had a/c which was somewhat of a help.  We thankfully did not get attacked by bandits and had no car trouble (apparently both are VERY common here).

 

Driving into this area- there is a large difference in how it looks compared to the rest of Burkina.  You drive over these “hills” and down into the valley area – which was thick with condensation (looked like fog).  It’s more hot and humid here, very lush and there are mango trees everywhere.  There are a few towns before you arrive in Mahadaga- so it’s not completely all on its lonesome- but there is not much by way of a ‘town.’  You feel sort of like a celebrity driving along- everyone waving at you and smiling.  It’s not often they see vehicles and even less often they see white people driving them.  My favorite part though was the group of swimmers we drove right beside….all children…there was a herd of cattle in the way and they all jumped out with their naked behinds and swatted away the animals- all the time smiling and giggling.  Was quite funny!

 

We settled into our home here soon after arrival….I started to “nest” and try and get our kitchen in order.  Our little home hasn’t been lived in for awhile so there was dust everywhere and lots of cockroaches and spiders!  (I had Jason go ahead of me in every room and wipe all the shelves and spiderwebs down for me!)  We actually got quite a bit done soon after arrival which made me feel a bit more at home.

 

We had a nice dinner potluck last night with everyone at this compound.  Two families with 2 kids each.  One of them just built an incredible home here on the compound- they have a million stories about the difficulties it took in getting all the supplies here from Ouaga or the U.S.  There’s also a French nurse (about my age) and the 80 year old missionary we met beforehand in Canada!

 

Today we got to tour the clinic where I’m working (just across the street).  It’s huge!  Lots of maternity, overnight rooms, a laboratory, and much more.  Most of the staff were gone today to go out in the bush and do immunizations- but I did get to watch one of the African nurses start to suture a very bad cut on a guy’s arm.  (felt a little woozy- ha ha!)  Also got to see the sweetest, newest little babies.  HOWEVER- I realize even more how much I need to learn the local language Gourma- it will be most useful!  The long term missionary Betty- who’s 80 years old and has come here for over 50 years will be teaching me soon- or we’ll hire a “language helper.”

 

So much more to say- hope it’s not too long!  Some random things….

-there are LOTS of scorpions here apparently and one lady in our compound just got stung last night (thank goodness they’re not deadly),

-took me about 3 hours today to make brownies (HA HA)- all ovens are gas powered and problematic, our eggs were bad etc (will tell you the interesting story of making brownies later)

-donkeys are the worst sound to wake up to in the morning

-I was actually cold last night.  NO JOKE

 

Love to you all

Will update more infrequently now as we get into our work.  We’ll be starting our jobs probably after we get more settled after the weekend.  We’ll also go next weekend BACK to fada to hopefully collect our baggage and have orientation with other short termers.  I may have to go a bit further to get dental work too- PLEASE PRAY I DON’T NEED TO AND MY TOOTH WITH HEAL!

 

Hi all,

In case anyone wants it- here is our mailing address here:

 

For letters/small things:

SIM Mahadaga

BP 18 Diapaga

Burkina Faso

 

For large things (NOT that we’re expecting many large packages- but if it’s anything that you are concerned that we don’t get):

 

Shannon and Jason Brink

SIM Mission Protestante

01 B.P. 1552 Ouagadougou 01

Burkina Faso

There…

Saturday, November 1st, 2008

 

Good day to you all.  My name is Jeffrey Thomas and Jason and Shannon have entrusted me with updating their blog with their travels/adventures/mishaps as they are in Africa.  This is quite the step of faith on their part (I owe them an act of revenge because of a prank they pulled).  Their trust in me is either an honor or completely mistaken.  I have attached a copy of their first e-update.  Read, enjoy, and praise God.
Friends and family,
 
We’ve sent a few e-mails to some of you along our crazy adventure to get here to Burkina Faso- but for those of you who haven’t heard…hope you enjoy our wacky story of our trip here….and the many God fingerprints on this voyage!
 
So we left from Ottawa, Ontario on this past Monday (the 27th) for a quick flight to Toronto, a 3 hour layover and then a red eye flight to Frankfurt, Germany.  PROBLEM #1: at the Toronto airport (when reviewing our ticket itinerary) we suddenly realized that we had read our ticket wrong!  From Germany we were flying into Brussels, Belgium (to arrive at 10:00 am) and then to fly out at 12:00pm SO WE THOUGHT.  But at more careful examination we realized that we actually were to fly out the NEXT DAY from Brussels at 12:00 pm, not 2 hours after our arrival!  So in Toronto we scrambled to look online and book a hotel for the night in Brussels.
 
After our long red eye flight to Frankfurt (with no sleep) we then transferred to Brussels.  Thankfully, after many prayers- we discovered that there was a storage place at the airport we could store our luggage so we didn’t have to take it to the hotel.  SO we took the train from the airport into the heart of Brussels and only had a 5 minute walk with our rolling luggage to the hotel.  Unfortunately though, we arrived at about 12 at our hotel and couldn’t quite check in.   SO we hit the town (after leaving our luggage at the hotel).  We saw many old churches and the really cool “grande place” area of Brussels- a huge square that has many many shops.  You wouldn’t believe the number of chocolate shops and the number of street waffle vendors!   (By the way, we had an actual belgium waffle from the street vendor and it was absolutely phenomenol!!!!   They are NOTHING like Canadian belgian waffles- very dense, sweet, and oh my goodness- fabulous!)
 
We walked until we thought we’d keel over from fatigue and lack of sleep, went to the hotel and intended to sleep for 1 hour and slept for 3!  Headed out for dinner and saw the city lights, and then back to the hotel to sleep.  It was actually a huge blessing that we ended up having this layover because we got to have a good night’s rest!!!
 
Next day we hit the airport again and flew from Brussels to Tripoli in northern Libya.  (It’s right on the Mediterranean).  PROBLEM #2: Ha ha- we got there and they were like ” oh no, we don’t have any flights to Burkina Faso today….” UMMM…..ow well! Opportunity to trust the Lord once again!  After much confusion and many employees rushing around us (they had like 100 too many employees for the size of that airport) an employee whisked off our passports from us and our tickets and told us to wait.  One hour went by….one hour and a half went by….they finally came back to tell us that they would put us in a hotel (praise God!) cause the next flight to Burkina Faso wasn’t until the next evening at 8:30 pm!  And they told us to keep our luggage at the airport AND our passports and the lady handed us a “receipt” and said that when we came back they’d return the passports to us… (what?)  But okay…we trusted and let go of all control.  They sent a taxi for us and we hopped in and waved good-bye to our passports and luggage!  (So- some few little known facts about Libya- it’s incredibly islamic (98%), it is THE hottest place on earth (in the south- it is mostly the desert and they have recorded air temperatures of 58 degrees CELSIUS!!, and everyone, I mean EVERYONE smokes….)  So we had actually a very pleasant stay at the hotel- minus the cigarette smoke, my sore throat and increasingly sore tooth (it’s in need of a new root-canal I found out 1 day before we left Canada- please pray I don’t need dental work here!!!!)  Meals were paid forand everyone there loves their cappuccinos (how can one argue with that??? they sell them for cheap at the hotel ‘mini capuccino bar’!)
 
The next day we decided to be brave and ventured out around town and stumbled upon the “old city” which apparently is an old ruin of some kind (the country is known for very well preserved Roman ruins).  In the old city there were TONS of little shops, men smoking bizarre looking and large pipes, and lots of women in hijabs.  Interesting.  Mainly middle eastern looking people- with only a few black africans.
 
Anyways (bored yet?) …we enjoyed another free meal at our hotel and PRAISE GOD our taxi shuttle arrived promptly at the time it was supposed to- at 4 pm to take us back to the airport……where, we simply gave the ticket people the name and number of the lady who took our passports the day before (an angel) and she came flying in with our passports, waves us through the MANY, MANY security checkpoints and brought us to the waiting area for our flight.  Phew!!!!!  It was incredible to see God’s provision in the circumstances- we had peace, we had an angel carrying us through the process, and lived to tell about it!  (We were told later that the issue was that they needed to give us a visa so that’s why our passports were held…and 6 months ago they didn’t give visas overnight like that and if your flight was delayed for 24 hours they would house you in the prison….HA!  That would have been interesting….)
 
Waited 4 hours in the smoke-thick waiting room and finally, 1 hour late, the plane took off for Burkina!  We were praying hard things would go well in Burkina customs cause we realized we didn’t have proof with us of our yellow fever vaccination!  But customs was a breeze, seriously, and the only problem was that one of our bags was missing (PROBLEM #4).  Please pray it arrives soon!  Apparently the next flight comes from Tripoli tomorrow at “around” 10 pm and we have to just ‘wait around’ at the airport to collect our baggage off the carousel- hopefully!   The only good thing about the baggage loss was the hour it took to get the forms filled out- I got to practice my french with the officials! 
 
SO we are currently staying in the guest house here at the SIM compound in Ouaga.  There are around 50 missionaries (long term) in Ouaga and this is their main office- so many come and go (as well as short termers).  We thought we’d be here for awhile but we leave on Monday for our 10 hour drive (which is SOO long because of the bad road conditions) to our new home in Mahadaga.  We’re a bit jealous because of the comraderie here, and the ammenities are lovely (air conditioned rooms and internet!) but we are excited to see how we adapt in Mahadaga.  For the first two days we have lunch and dinner provided by different long term missionaries which is AWESOME to get to know the staff and we’ve been really blessed by them!  Most of the long termers are Canadian or Australian which is interesting!
 
It’s hot here- despite reports of this being the ‘cool season’ and most african folks are wearing long sleeves or jackets (ha ha) it’s definitely going to take some getting used to!  It’s actually a lot more humid than I expected!
 
Please pray for our safe journey there, our baggage to arrive safely, and that we’ll adapt.  I’m most nervous about the daily living stuff!  There’s practically nothing (so we are told) in Mahadaga so we have to stock up on food in Ouagadougou for a month’s supply and I just don’t know how to cook here!  Washing clothes by hand here we come!  Please also pray we have good relationships with the staff on the field in Mahadaga.  Thankfully we have two young missionary couples out there each with two small kids and a few others- so we’re thankful for the company!
 
God bless and we will be receiving a new e-mail address in Mahadaga as well as possibly a change in the postal address we originally sent you.  Keep posted!
 
Thank you for all our prayer warriors!  Though our journey was 4 days- we are thankful to be here in one piece!
 
Love in Christ, Jason and Shannon