Sunday, January 26, 2014

Our Trip Home: Back to the Cold!

After over 24 hours of traveling, we are happy to say that we arrived home safely on Saturday night! We left for the airport in Ouagadougou at about 9pm on Friday night and completed our first leg of the journey, which was a 6.5 hour flight to Brussels, Belgium. Due to a long layover, we had the opportunity to take a train into the city, walk around, and eat breakfast at a great cafe/bakery! We then finished up our trip with an 8.5 hour flight to Dulles airport in Washington D.C. and our drive back to Messiah.

Thank you so much for your thoughts, prayers, and support over the course of our trip! We would also appreciate ongoing prayers as we adjust to coming back from another culture (especially the cold weather!) and continue our work here in the United States. We will also hopefully be uploading more pictures now that we have reliable internet!

Thank you again!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Safari and Sleeping Under the Stars!

First, apologies for the delay in blog posts- we’ve been on the road a lot this week! After our change in plans and not being able to go to Mahadaga, we spent the weekend at a hotel outside of Ouagadougou, near the town of Koubri. We stayed in huts and had the opportunity to see the surrounding area on quads/4-wheelers (which handled the roads much better than the 15 passenger vans)! On Monday we then returned to Ouagadougou for one night to drop off our bags at the SIM guesthouse.
After a short walk to the local market we ate dinner, which was a HUGE amount of spaghetti noodles with a traditional tomato and cabbage sauce. A local dance group was performing at the hotel that evening, so we had the opportunity to watch (and participate in!) some local singing and dancing. That night we stayed in traditional African stone huts and slept on the roofs! Although sleeping outside included listening to motorcycles, donkeys, and roosters, we managed to get some sleep before getting up early the next morning.

On Wednesday we left at 6:30am to drive several hours to Nazinga for our Safari! The road to the park was long and extremely bumpy in our less-than-comfy old van, but the ride was worth it! After climbing up on top of the van and having a guide join us, we were able to see elephants, antelope, crocodiles, and two types of baboons! It was absolutely amazing to be able to spend the afternoon seeing God’s creation. After concluding our Safari, we climbed back inside the van and began our drive back to Ouagadougou to finally join the rest of the team at the SIM guesthouse. 

Thursday was a more relaxed day as our entire team was back together in Ouagadougou. We were able to spend time debriefing, doing some shopping, and catching up on last minute work.  We were also able to treat the staff and missionaries at SIM to a dinner of pizza and ice cream in the evening!

Tonight (Friday), our plane is scheduled to leave 10pm, so from now until we leave this evening, we’ll be packing, packing, packing! We would still appreciate your thoughts and prayers as we prepare to head home!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

God is Spontaneous!

God always has a plan even when ours change! Saturday morning our team (plus Kiersten and Lauren) were all packed at 6:30 a.m. to head to Mahadaga to join the other half of the Messiah team! Unfortunately, due to a miscommunication our driver never arrived. Some of the team when back to bed and some of us went to play with the babies while Angela scurried to figure out plan B! Our team has been very blessed to have her expertise, leadership, and french skills during our time here! After a couple of hours we boarded what we thought was a personal bus that came all the way to the orphanage to pack our things. We soon found out this bus was owned by three men who take people to Ouaga! After arriving in the capital we took two taxis to the Auberge Les Bougainvilliers, a resort type hotel outside of Ouaga.
We spent the night getting cleaned up and discussing what our next step would be! Today we will be spending the day exploring the resort and all the activities it has to offer! We have decided that we will most likely head to Nazinga within the next day or two to a Safari in that region. Although this is not what we had in mind for the last week of our trip we are very blessed for the provision God has shown us. Please keep us in your prayers and we will keep you updated on the coming adventures! -Bekah

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Community Fun!

So last night, most of the house went to the Gobila school to have a community activity and movie night. Dr. Phillippy, Matt, and Bekah played a balloon game where the children in the room had to keep the balloons from them. According to Bekah, it was quite the workout. In the next room, Angela (a short-term missionary who lived in Burkina Faso before) and I (Sarah) gave each student a Ziploc bag with different items, such as a coloring page with colored pencils and gummy bear vitamins. In the last room, Dr. Hare, Kirsten, and Emily showed the children the importance of washing your hands with a product called Glow Germ. Put a little of the powder on your hands and shine a UV light on it. After seeing how germy your hands are, try just washing your hands with water. There will still be powder on your hands, so wash your hands with water and soap. The magic of UV light reveals that the germs are almost gone.
After an hour of the activities, the teachers organized a game that involved all the students. One student stands at the end and yells an hour of day, such as 9:00 and the others must take 9 steps. If the one student yells lunch time, the others must sprint back without getting tagged. The students loved that!
Next, we watched NARNIA! One of the teachers translated the entire movie into the local language and it was hysterical. The people rejoiced when Aslan came back to life and when he saved Peter from the White Witch. Overall,  everyone that participated seemed to have a wonderful time.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Return to Yako and Progress in Gobila!

After a great weekend trip to Banfora, we have returned to Yako and have rejoined Lynn and the other local teachers to continue our work in the schools! On Monday morning we had the opportunity to visit the school in Wedkiungo  and see a grammar lesson. Although there were some glitches with the lesson, it provided a great opportunity for discussion about improvements that can be made in the future. After doing prep work , making a run to the m;arket,  and preparing dinner, we attended a meeting held by the staff for students at the orphanage who have been performing well in school. The end-of-semester grades had just been returned, and four students ended up ranking in the top five of their classes! These students were given some small treats and snacks as well as the gifts that the rest of the students were given to encourage them:  small stuffed Koala pencil-toppers (from Andree, who is from Australia) and bookmarks with encouraging Bible verses. The kids seemed to appreciate the gifts and hopefully they will be encouraged to continue their good work for the rest of the school year!
On Monday night we also received exciting news from Lynn about Burkina Faso Outreach’s school in Gobila! Over the weekend there had been a meeting for the state’s department of education. Test and grade results had come in, and the school at Gobila was found to have some of the highest scores in the state! Eric, a teacher and director of the Gobila school, was invited to speak in front of the group to explain what they are doing differently to get such great results! This was very encouraging because Lynn has been working to transfer more and more of the responsibility and leadership to the local Burkinabe staff. Having leaders from the public school system look to the staff for advice is a huge encouragement for them!
On Tuesday there was no school due to a Muslim holiday, so we were able to travel out into the bush to visit Angela’s support child, Rasmata. It was an amazing experience to be able to see her home, bring some small gifts, and meet her family, who is also being helped through the support program.
Overall, we’ve had some very fun and productive start to the week! Tonight we’ll be going back to the school at Gobila for a community outreach event!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Anybody out there?

Alright, so check it y’all- we were blessed with the opportunity of going to a “resort” in Banfora over the weekend. We piled into a large van and embarked on an incredible journey, which served as a great opportunity for our team to grow closer together. The car ride is a rough 7 hour trip, and although we had minimal technology, we still managed to pass the time pretty well. We played some travel games and made up some of our own games which served us nicely. When we finally got to Banfora, the first thing many of us did was to find the pool and go swimming. As you probably know, Africa is incredibly hot, so we thought the pool would be a nice way to relax and unwind in luxury. We have never been so wrong in our lives. As we jumped into the crystal colored water, some of us wanted to get out pretty quickly, as the water was just above freezing temperatures. After we had exited the pool, we went over to our dinner. Dinner was nice and we had a great time bonding and joking over our meals. I retired to the hut I had to myself and watched kick boxing and football well into the night. I can’t be entirely sure what the rest of the team did that night, but kick boxing and football kept me busy and happy. The next day we woke up and went to our breakfast, and we learned to eat fast the hard way. If any food was on a plate for more than several minutes, flies would cover it pretty quickly. We went out on a hike to a beautiful waterfall, which we climbed to the top of and swam in some smaller waterfalls. It was a nice time to sit back and reflect on the trip thus far, and I found a nice, quiet spot under the waterfall to sit at. On the hike back down, some of us bought some souvenirs and ventured back to our resort. Most of us spent some time on the internet and I got to skype with my family a little. (By the way, if you’re reading this, HI MOM  ). After a little, most of us went out to a lake and tried to look for hippos with no success. Urged by my teammates (or by my own accord) I began making what I thought were hippo sounds and tried to draw them out. As you may have suspected, this failed pretty badly and I got made fun of. We retired back to our rooms afterwards and this morning we left back for Yako. The bumps on the road caused Kirsten to bang her head on the ceiling of the car and caused me a great deal of pain elsewhere, but we are safe and sound. If you made it this far into my rambling, thank you!! If you would prefer someone else to write the next blog, please comment your feelings for this change. In all seriousness, thanks for your prayers and God Bless!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Meetings, Markets, and Christmas in January!

Thanks to a couple days of classroom observations and more communication with the local staff, it finally feels as if we are getting into our main work here in Yako and the surrounding villages! After spending time in the Gobila school (as I mentioned in our previous post), we were able to meeting with Lynn and four of the head teachers to offer feedback about what we were seeing. The goal of the school is to teach in a more American style (compared to French/Burkinabe style that is much more strict and lacks in some areas) while maintaining the Burkinabe culture and doing without much of the expensive materials found in American classrooms. The teachers were trained at the school, but had no previous experience with studying education. Luckily they have had good training and are doing a great job! They are still, however, looking to make improvements, and that's where we come in! At the Tuesday meeting we first shared the positive things we saw and then offered some suggestions for improvements that could be made. Despite the language barrier (for some of us, as least), the meeting seemed to be a success and the teachers were very open to our suggestions! We were also able to gain a lot of insight into the Burkinabe schools and culture.

Since our Wednesday classroom observations did not start until the afternoon, we had the opportunity to go to the local market in the morning. It was quite the experience! We saw everything from food and kitchenware to clothes, shoes, and jewelry! Many of the girls enjoyed buying several panyas of cloth to be made into dresses/skirts similar to those worn by the local women.

Later that evening, Angela, Sarah, Bekah, and I were invited to attend Lynn's annual Christmas/New Year's party for the staff of the schools she is involved with. It turns out that they had waited to have their party until we were here! Although I was initially very nervous because of my lack of French and their lack of English, an ice-breaker game to learn names was all it took to get everyone laughing! We then enjoyed a traditional Burkinabe meal of rice, fish, cabbage, and grilled and sauteed chicken. It also turns out that people everywhere enjoy a good game of "Now you have it, now you don't" (one of many names for the game) and some funny group pictures!

Following the Christmas party, we were able to visit the home of one of the young men (and his brother) who Angela new from several previous trips. Needless to say, apartments here are much different from those back in the US! They were very welcoming and we got to see many pictures of families and missionaries from previous trips to Yako and Mahadaga. We then walked back to the orphanage and got to enjoy the stars that are so bright here without the bright city lights.

Well, this post only scratched the surface of everything everyone has done over the past few days. Hopefully we'll be able to add more pictures this weekend if we're able to get better internet access!