Lauren and I are in Bouake (Bwarkay) at the moment, where we have made ourselves useful by fitting the carpet and vinyl in two of the dormitories at ICA, a boarding school where Lauren grew up. Everything is difficult in Africa; the only glue we were able to locate is contact. This contact is thick and elasticy, and when we laid the vinyl down, it melted. So we have learned to allow the glue to dry before putting our drops in, which is painfully slow! Metal strips don’t even exist here, so we had a carpentry shop make up something similar from wood. Privat and Isaac, two African workers, got the job of sanding these back. Oh, yeah, by the way, they did the take-up before we started, which was a backache and a half. It took us three days, but the job is good.

I didn’t get time in the last letter to tell you the most exciting bit about Ghana. (I was weary from using the French com-puter; that letter took me three hours to type.) The people in Ghana love the Lord. The entire nation seems to have been through an enormous revival. Every second vehicle on the road is hand-painted, with signs like: “Repent and believe”, “Jesus is Lord”, “My Redeemer lives”. And just as many business names have signs like “Christ Cares Frozen Foods” or “God is My Provider Eat-in Restaurant”. I love this one that I saw in Takoradi: “The Everlasting Building Materials.” This outward Christianity seems to reflect a very high moral code from a people who readily accept a strong leadership by the Immortal Spirit. They have no problem believing in the existence of good and evil spirits. Many have personal ex-periences of the evil and rejoice when they meet the Truth. “I am the truth” says the Lord Jesus.

While we were in Cape Coast, Ghana, our room was broken into, and Lauren’s camera, one t-shirt, and US$20 were sto-len from our bag. When I notified our host of this misde-meanor, he was visibly upset, immediately calling his house-hold to attention. There followed an enormous ruckus, which grew to involve over one hundred of the town’s people. Af-ter much yelling and shouting in the local language, one par-ticular young man was apprehended by his fellows and forced to the police station. I also went. Cape Coast police station has only two vehicles, no two-way radio contact, no firearms that I was aware of, and very few uniforms. Proba-bly twenty to thirty officers are among the ranks, and they all live in the barracks, which serve as the police station, along with their wives and families.

The next few days involved the hunt for our camera and the man who had purchased it from the apprehended. This was all done on foot. Upon location of the camera, we returned to the police station and to the youth who was locked in a cell. When the camera was shown by our Inspector to his superior, the suspected was now considered guilty, and suf-fered the wrath of the officers present. His clothes were taken from him, he was given a pair of Lycra bike pants, handcuffed, and violently removed from his cell. They brought him to me so that I could hit him. Man, the guy
had tears in his eyes; he was terrified! Who am I that I should raise my arm against another? Am I not the worst of sinners? And was not I forgiven?

The next day we all appeared in Cape Coast court, where our case was heard. When I was asked to speak, I spoke in de-fense of the accused, which amused the officials. Our goods and money were returned to us, and I do not know the fate of this young man. I hope and pray for mercy.

After Cape Coast, we traveled back to Accra for a couple of days to visit one of Lauren’s friends who had traveled from the U.S. Thereafter we returned to Cote d’Ivoire and Abid-jan, before travelling north to Bouake.

I had the opportunity these last few days to be involved in an ICA building outreach. This is one experience I’ll never forget, and one I hope to repeat. At 9am, on Friday the 19th of December, 19 people of the ICA staff, and their teenage children, plus one vagabond Australian, met at the workshop and began to build, and prepared to travel to a rural Ivoirien village to roof a church building. We had two experienced builders among our number and many willing hands. My job in preparation was food supplies, in particular pounding meat. Humble, yes, but one starts that
way. This meat was purchased from the local market. What cuts? If you can imagine an unsuspecting cow hacked into pieces with a machete, you’d be close. On completion, we had finely diced and tenderized beef to match any standards.

Shortly after 4pm, we departed, travelling about one hour north of Bouake, 41 kms to be exact. If you saw the condi-tion of these roads, you’d understand. Travelling in convoy was a “pick-up” (ute), carrying scaffolding, trusses and tools; and one 47-seater bus built like an army tank, loaded to the hilt with half a ton of timber and corrugated iron on the roof racks, audio-visual gear underneath, twenty people with tents, food, and bedding inside. I was offered the front seat and accepted with delight. Congratulations was due to our driver, who navigated this beast down the narrow and diffi-cult path, crossing over bridges made out of logs, and through sections where the two-meter-high grass touched both sides of the bus.

Upon arrival, as is customary in these parts, where white man is a spectacle, we were taken to greet the chief. This took the three of us who did this about half an hour, because we had to greet everyone else of any notoriety first. Not speaking more than a few words of French, and no Baoule (Bow-lay), I didn’t understand very much, but I don’t think the locals caught on. If one just says “yes, yes” and “very good” and shake hands with everyone, one is welcomed warmly.

This village blew me away! I mean, what can I say?! MAN, I’M IN AFRICA! You should see this place. At night I walked outside the village to find a place to take care of my business. Looking back, you could see firelight and hear the sound of voices clapping and chanting, smell the smoke and the cooking, hear the laughter and children playing, with thatched roofs silhouetted by the lights from the fire.

This is a blessing. The Lord has dealt kindly with me. My cup runneth over. Glory to the God who only two years ago took me from sin, spoke to me and said “I will show you how to live.” I am free! I am free to worship my God, my Re-deemer. I am free to obey Him because I want to. Glory be to the Everlasting, the Ancient of Days. Exalted be our Fa-ther, our Creator, may your kingdom be established, Lord, may every knee bow and tongue confess that you are God.

The next day we built the roof. It was good. After our sweat and toil, we set out in search of a swimming hole that we had been told of. Our bus had returned to town, so we crammed onto the back of the pickup. This driver was careful but fast. The terrain we were travelling through was what you or I would call heavy bush land, but it was not too dense com-pared with what is found here. We were in the territory of the Fulani cattle herders and found ourselves waiting for slow, humped cows that were not accustomed to traffic. White man is rarely seen in these parts. A ute-load of screaming “toubabs” with a fast driver? Everyone stares.

We glimpsed a body of water from the road but were unable to find access. Searching by foot, a track was found. Pro-ceeding carefully, we stumbled upon a small shack. There were two sticks on either side of the entry to this area. On the tops of these sticks were two fetishes, a warning: Whoever passes through is under the power of the resident god. There is only one God; in Him we trust. We went in. The shack had more fetishes on the door, but no one seemed to be home, unless they were very quiet.

Continuing towards the water, our breath was taken away by the most beautiful lake, completely surrounded by dense, green forest. We marveled. Edging near the water, the track widened, then became boggy, disappearing into the depths. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Crocodiles…. We edged back.

On the far side of the lake, there was a single tin roof. The bank looked steep; perhaps this would be a better entry point. There was no possibility of walking. Dusk was approaching, and the way was heavily overgrown. Retreating to our vehi-cle, we drove away and attempted to locate the tin roof. Success! It was an old pump, no longer in use. One man was there, he seemed to have made this his home. Everyone greeted him and inquired if we would be able to swim. His French, I was told, was extremely poor, so our questions about crocodiles remained. He was friendly and gestured that we should swim.

I am usually the first in. Not this time. I was third in. Soon all seventeen were enjoying this clean, cool water. It was deep, about twice the height of a man. Long reeds grew up to tickle our feet if we treaded water, so we swam and floated on our backs. I looked out across the lake. Magnificent. Just before sunset, completely surrounded by African jungle, the water appeared black, almost as if it was thick, and the rip-ples reflected the dim sunlight. I noticed something moving in the bushes near the edge. I’m sure it was a bird. Then I noticed that I was the furthest from the shore. This made me uncomfortable. I thought I’d move closer into the circle of people. I moved in, and everyone else must have been think-ing the same thing. So they moved in. I was outside again. I moved in, they moved in, we all moved in some more. There were girls with us who panicked a little, and we ended up in a tight huddle. It seems humorous as I now recall it.

We had given our meat and rice to the Africans, and they gave us a sheep, so as is customary, we offered that they kill our sheep, and that night we feasted together. It was good. Yams and plantain foutou was prepared; rice; beef and sauce; lamb and sauce; okra sauce was served as well. Okra is a slimy, green vegetable, which is hot like chili. It tastes good if you can stomach the slime. We brought plenty of good water and loads of ice.

This Saturday evening, a movie screen was erected in the village, and a sound system was set up. An African minister had come, was given a microphone, and he preached in the local tongue. This was followed by our presentation of the Jesus movie, which had been cleverly dubbed in Baoule. This movie has been taken entirely from the gospel of Luke and is the ministry of Jesus. After this, another film was shown about an African man who believes and is saved, and then is confronted by his fetish-worshipping family, but maintains his obedience to Jesus. When the fetishes are con-fronted and burned, our audience gasped and cheered. The fetishes really have a psychological bondage over the people. Jesus came to set the captives free.

Just briefly now, on Sunday the bus returned with out wives and families. We all had church together, exchanging songs. They would sing for us, and we for them. It was a memora-ble occasion indeed. Glory be to the God of peace and unity.