Learning a new culture makes our life a constant adventure.

Maybe I’ve Been Getting It All Wrong

I have to start this with a confession. The undercurrent of all of these numerous up-dates over the years has been misplaced, and it is the undercurrent that moves the most water. While I should have been declaring God’s glory as we see it in Mali, I have largely tried to justify us being in Mali and make our family and our circumstance understood by a distant audience. I repent, and I ask you all to forgive me for leading you to look at us more than leading you to look on God.
The following three stories about God working in peoples lives sum up what I am most excited about: God’s Word, shame, and confession. The three stories together remind me of the gospel: we learn from God’s Word, we find that we offend the One we should love, and through confession we find forgiveness and liberty.
Children Memorizing God’s Word.
We just got a box in the mail from Heidi’s mom. Every kid was hoping to open it up, but they wanted to wait for me. I was having a pretty intense conversation about a very difficult thing in our church. Finally, I came into the house, and they wanted me to choose who should open the box. With the church conversation still ringing in my ears, I asked the kids what the Bible said about who should open the box. In under a minute they rattled off several verses and applied them to a potential dispute.
Exodus 20:12 “Honor your father and your mother,…”
Matt. 7:12 “Do to others what you would have them do to you.”
Phil. 2:3 “in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”
Someone mentioned “The older will serve the younger.” Rom. 9/Gen.25 which is out of the context of the passage but inline with scripture in principle.

Jethro on the first day of school.

Jethro on the first day of school.

In the end they decided that their mom should open it. That, my friends, is God at work in the hearts of children. It lifted my Spirit so much. If you are a follower of Jesus and you don’t use scripture to make decisions… or if you don’t know scripture well enough to do it… or your church leaders don’t do it… Go ahead and let the shame settle in. It is good for you.
Tairou’s Shame
I stepped outside to see how the kids’ yard work was coming along, and there was Tairou standing in the Red Flyer wagon that I have told him SO many times that he is too heavy for. I asked him, “Tairou, what should I do?” He hid behind a pillar of the new garage, like Adam and Eve in the garden. I told him to come see me. He came out but stood 3 meters from me and faced nearly the opposite direction. I told him that the wagon wasn’t all that important to me. What I was really concerned about was his inability to respect me. I could see his eye lashes blinking fast, trying to hide shame and hold back tears.
I said, “I can see that you’re not ready to talk, but before you go home tonight, I want you to tell me what I can do to help you respect what I say. It doesn’t have to be a punishment. I can be an encouragement. Do you understand?”
He nodded. So I left him. As I gave Joe and Zach more tasks to do, I said maybe they could help Tairou think of something since so few boys know what to expect from a Father that talks like that, but Tairou disappeared while no one was looking.

Testing the boys mettle on a long trip through the bush.

Testing the boys mettle on a long trip through the bush.

The next day Heidi and I went out for some exercise. I ran past where he usually hangs out if he’s not at our place. I saw him with some older boys, and as I ran by I said, “We’re going together?” A smile broke on one corner of his mouth, and he fell in a few meters behind me. He stayed behind and said nothing for the first kilometer or so, but gradually, he worked his way up beside me and became his normal, playful self.
As we stretched I asked Mariko if he would come over and talk with us. We all sat on the well as I recounted the previous day. I told Tairou that I knew his heart was a little hard because he smiled when he killed our neighbors rooster. But I could also see that his heart was a little soft too because of the regret and shame I saw in his eyes from disobeying me. “A diara ne ye.” I said. “That pleases me.” Mariko helped me explain that God is willing to give us completely soft, healed hearts. We prayed, and I encouraged him to confess the bad things he had done to me because I want to forgive him, like I have been forgiven.
Drew’s Confession
It goes against our human nature. But the Bible promises us “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” 1 John 1:9 There are good things waiting for those who confess their sins. We can see in that verse that God’s justice can be satisfied in our confession.
One hour a week, that is all we have asked Drew for. He even picked the time. Saturday afternoon should have one hour set aside so we can talk with him. But the second Saturday found us waiting by the phone and Drew at the beach with his friends. I thought about what I should do. I didn’t want to blow it off, and I didn’t want to blow it up. Before I did anything Drew wrote me an email saying that he was sorry for missing our call. He said he would write it down and put it on his wall because he really did want to make talking with us a priority. “I love you.” He said.

Drew at Nabilasso on his last Sunday before going back to boarding school.

Drew at Nabilasso on his last Sunday before going back to boarding school.

We have always taught our children to be truthful, but it has only been recently that we have made confession, modeled after what we see in the Bible, a standard practice. They picked it up so quickly, and to see it put into the practice is an awesome thing… even more beautiful than our new baby girl, and that’s saying somethin’!

I have also seen God in: how like minded Drissa and I are, the incredible professionalism Heidi has brought to a one-room-four-grade-plus-a-nursing-infant school, the local pastors working together across denominational differences to see the gospel preached in our area, Tom and Laura’s unnatural tenacity to live in a HARD place to see the Shempiré people have God’s Word in their language, and Moussa’s desire to know the Word and his conviction that it is truth.

Clothes Pins and Christlikeness

Heidi said not to send this one out to everybody. It is risky only in that it is unrehearsed. I was resting, listening to music, and thinking. This is the thought that came to my mind. I grabbed a Go Pro, headed outside and recorded exactly what you see above. I hope it feels conversational to you. Converse freely.

My Day (May 24th 2016)

16.05.24 My Day
It is in everyone’s best interests if I am the first one up. All left to our own devices, Adam would be the first up, and if he gets up all alone, the call of mischief is too great for him to resist.
So I was up this morning studying Matthew 9. Even if I am exhausted, it is so helpful to spend time in the Word before everything else. It helps me be Christ-like more than sleep. I guess that sounds obvious, but I have often held sleep as the best remedy for my human nature.
Adam was up second. I held him a bit until he was fully awake. Then I took him outside to play. Once he was contented pushing a bike around the yard I headed back in to finish my Bible study.
The boys remembered to clean their room first thing after they woke up, and that made me happy. Everyone came in for a delicious breakfast Heidi made. That reminds me; yesterday, while I was reading the Bible to everybody, Zach fried up some eggs and toast for his mom who had been nursing Dorothy. He made her tea and did everything the way she likes it. That’s a pretty great 8-year-old, right?!
After breakfast was cleaned up, I walked everybody through the passage I had been studying. Joe and Harley really soak up the scriptures. They don’t miss a beat, even when I ask tough questions.
We sent the oldest three kids off to get started on school work. Heidi waited around because she needed to do some preparations for the day’s meals before she went to teach school. I sent some emails while I waited for 9:00 am when I planned to call Drissa for a meeting today. Before 9:00 am Aboubacar Koné was here to greet me. He is pretty resistant to the gospel. He is in the category of uneducated people who follow blindly. That isn’t my estimation of him. That is what his Malian neighbors tell me.

A little Bible translation/ language learning time.

A little Bible translation/ language learning time.

As a means to bring him to the scriptures regularly, I asked him to help me translate scripture from Bambara to French. Honestly, it is helpful to me for more than language learning. My American side really wants some structure to the time I spend with friends. Koné stops by almost every day, sometimes twice a day. It is hard for me when he wants to just sit and talk about nothing. So this has been so good for us on every level. We have been working our way through Luke’s account of Jesus birth.
Heidi texted me about this guy that has been sitting by the side of the road on the way to the school house for the past week or so. He has always given us a strange vibe. His whole family is off. I called her, and she told me that he finally went too far.
I called Drissa, whom I was supposed to meet with. He was already in another town. So we planned to meet tomorrow while he is DJing at the radio station.
I talked to Mariko about the guy Heidi was talking about, and I decided to go talk to him. He was sitting on a thin, queen-size mattress beside a house that was never finished. Three neighborhood boys were sitting with him, and Tairou had been there with him before coming over to our place. We greeted each other, and he rolled right into his normal, hard-to-cut-into, blah blah. I said, “I’m here to talk about my wife. You told her that she pleases you. Do you like my wife?”
He assured me that he had been misunderstood. He only liked that she spoke Bambara with people. That is what pleased him.
I told him that I couldn’t know what he had meant, but I knew what my wife had understood, and I told my wife and kids not to go by him anymore.
He made some more small-talk and excuses.
I told him, “I have observed your family for many years now, and there is a bad spirit in your home. Everyone knows that this world is filled with spirits, but only one of them is good. Until you find the good Spirit who can protect you from all the others? I am going to tell my family to leave you alone.”
“Your right,” he said, “Everyone in my house tells me that this foot injury isn’t normal.” (It hasn’t healed in years.) “There are bad spirits with us.”
“We will keep praying for you and your family in the name of Jesus.” I told him.
Then I told the kids, “Let’s go to my house.”
Tairou had come with me. So he was ready to go, but the other boys hesitated. “Come on, let’s go.” I said, and still they sat there.
“Every day you guys are begging to come into my yard. Today I ask you to come, and you don’t what to go?” Two of the boys got up to go.
Benogo sat there unmoving. “My arm is broken.” he said.
“Yeah, but you feet still work. You can’t walk?”
“No, I can’t walk.”
“Then how did you get here?”
Benogo laughed…
“Okay, I’ll carry you.”
“No, I don’t want you to.”
“Do you want to go with us or not?” He hesitated, and I asked him a few times before we started to go.
Tairou smacked me playfully. I started chasing him, and it was a mad dash with all the rest of us toward my house.
It bothered me that Benogo seemed tied to that place. That guy is no good. I don’t know what the kids like about him. Nonetheless, they are drawn to him. Benogo did come around a few minutes later.
The boys sat around with me. I got them water to drink, and I showed them how to carve while Tairou practiced reading to me. What he was reading brought up some questions about how God created us. So I brought my Bambara Bible out and read the portion of Psalm 139. Mariko was there to help us understand each other for part of the time.

Carving a Roubo book stand and talking with neighborhood kids.

Carving a Roubo book stand and talking with neighborhood kids.

I really believe I rescued those boys. We all share a common enemy.
We got rain in the afternoon. It was such relief from the oppressive humidity that had been leading up to the rain for the previous few days. Sometimes it is even hard to breath.

Honestly Asked, Honestly Answered

I asked for some questions, and here is the first response I got.

Hi Jeff, First off, thank you for the nice email that you sent us to let us to know how you do your work for the Lord.
(He is referring to Mali Story #95 “How Are People Being Disciples Through Jeff & Heidi Frazee?”)
I have to tell you that I always pray for you and your lovely family.
(Then he poses several questions that many of you are probably asking yourselves.)

I wonder how you guys handle the large family you are taking care of, and the labor to spread the gospel.
What any other project you guys are working on, is there any kind of a plan to do it, what is the short and long term goals, in a summary way, details can be addressed afterwards
The last emails I have from you is to let us to know all the deals you go through to be able to receive your new baby, and during all that time, about four months, there is just traveling stories, that for sure gives you the opportunity to share the gospel, but what about your commitment with your “work” how did you follow up on the plans you have, described in line 3. I think it is important to be in touch with all your supporters, by letting them to know how is your family doing, but also including the status of the projects you guys are working on
Honestly, I was kind of concern about your lack of information about your work for which you are in an other country, I share some of your communications to my friends, and they concurred with this: it was most about the adventure you were having than the actual report of activities for which your are there. Please don’t take me wrong with this communication, but I may need some more information to see how can I help you better.
God bless you all Javier Garcia

Javier’s first question was about how we handle our large family and the work of spreading the gospel. Several of you who follow us closely find our large family to be poor judgment, an impractical use of resources, and irresponsible. We believe our large family to be exactly the opposite. By our judgement, according to the Bible, we are doing our best to live with open hands toward our good Father. We are trying to make the most practical and responsible use of the resources He has given us. Understanding that, I think Javier’s is a question of balance, and it is a good question.

We have eight children 14-years-old and under, and we have a responsibility to preach the gospel and teach other people to obey what Jesus taught us. How do we balance these two nearly-impossible tasks? There are two ways you can balance a load. You can take from one side to give to the other, or you can move the center of balance. It would be wrong to take from our children. So at this stage in our lives we are more closely centered on family than most people are. Caring for our family has become one of the main ways of preaching the gospel and teaching others to obey the Word at this time in our lives.
I read the Bible with my children’s friends. I encourage and train them all together according to the Bible. I model and discuss Biblical marriage for Drissa, Baba and other young men. When I ask my children for forgiveness, something Mariko says he has never done, it becomes a time for us to talk about what the Bible says about forgiveness and unity among followers of Jesus… all … day… long. That is how I live… every day.
Trusting YHWY with every aspect of your life is the best way to spread the truth about who He is to all peoples.

Javier also asked about short and long-term goals. My short-term goal is to teach the guys closest to me to know and obey God and the Bible. And my long-term goal is for them to do the same thing with other people. It is so simple that it might be hard for most American church-goers to imagine. Here is what it looks like: people are daily in my house, and I am daily in theirs; time is taken to read and question the Bible; driven by God’s love for us, we strive to obey it. And it grows like that. Jesus told the people the parable of the sower. Then he told parables about what the Kingdom of God is like.
Matthew 13:33 (NIV) He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds[a] of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

Yeast represents sin in the Jewish tradition. It is a shocking thing He said. If you’re shocked that all I do is talk to my neighbors about Jesus and the Bible… I’m okay with that. That lady was making 60lbs of bread!
Everyone has a different method, but I am playing the short game. Drissa, Koné and Tairou will move on and disciple other people, and I will disciple new people. I don’t intend to organize a church. I’m just mixing yeast into the dough, and in heaven I will see what God made of it.

Finally, Javier expressed his sincere concerns that we were doing little besides raising our family.
First of all, I want to apologize. I can see that I haven’t done a good job of communicating, and I agree that it is important. It wasn’t for lack of trying. It is really hard to account for how different life is here from San Jose, CA. And if I can’t account for it, our communications tend to sound like a huge waste of time to your average American.
Our world does not function around work hours. Life is not divided into separate pieces, and we work to live in our world. It is hard for us, but we constantly give up more and more of our personal space, private time, and our right to have our own things. While that will continue to make our lives less and less familiar to most of the people who read what we write we believe it is the right thing to do.
Three things have greatly encouraged us in our work lately: a training session and two godly men reflecting on how they devoted their lives to the spread of the gospel.
A little over a week ago Drissa and I were in Bamako together for two different conferences. His conference was a CityTeam training about using Discovery Bible Studies for evangelism in West Africa, and my conference was a 30+ year missionary who reviewed all his time in Mali and shared his best advice for the future of disciple making here. Both conferences greatly confirmed and encouraged the methods we are using. The second godly man that encouraged me was Billy Graham. This taken from a Christianity Today article from January 2011.

(Taken from Christianity Today 2011 January )

They asked him,
If you could, would you go back and do anything differently?
Yes, of course. I’d spend more time at home with my family, and I’d study more and preach less.

What are the most important issues facing evangelicals today?
…the most important issue we face today is the same the church has faced in every century: Will we reach our world for Christ? In other words, will we give priority to Christ’s command to go into all the world and preach the gospel? Or will we turn increasingly inward, …
…our calling is to declare Christ’s forgiveness and hope and transforming power to a world that does not know him or follow him.

I hope this is helpful to all of you who are committed to partner with us in growing God’s Kingdom. In a later e-mail Javier asked us to pray for him and his family that they would be more proactive than reactive when reading our communications. Likewise, pray for us Eph. 6:19 NIV
Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel,

Our Average Sunday is Awesome

Journal entry Sunday 31 January 2016
I was up so late the night before (sending my last supporter communication) that I wasn’t sure I would be able to drive to Nabilasso. (It isn’t far, only 10 km, but it is a punishing drive.) I felt terrible, but things just started happening. That is the beauty of good habits.

It feels so right, going to Nabilasso. As we walked to greet people and invite them to church Drissa said, “So is your follow-up message well prepared?” I hadn’t thought about it at all for the past few days, but I knew what I wanted to say so it didn’t take me long to prepare. Heidi added an evangicube, and I was set. Praise God. It went so well. Drissa barely helped at all (That means I did it all in Bambara.), and the people were well engaged.
Afterward, we did three more videos for the sondage (survey) interviews we are working on.
Joe was a hero (in the afternoon) watching the kids so Heidi and I could get good rest. He even took care of an Adam explosion that required both him and Adam to take a shower.
Marie arrived late at night.

The road that leads over the rice patties is only one car wide. So we had to back up about a half kilometer to let this truck by. It is very rare that we see any other cars on this road... I can't think of another time.

The road that leads over the rice patties is only one car wide. So we had to back up about a half kilometer to let this truck by. It is very rare that we see any other cars on the road to church… I can’t think of another time.

Jeff explained the gospel using an evangicube emphasizing the humanity of Jesus.

Jeff explained the gospel using an evangicube  emphasizing the humanity of Jesus.

10 Things You Should Know About the Frazee

1. The Frazee’s are expecting their 8th baby in March (18th to be precise).
2. The Frazee’s don’t have many close friends.
3. Two girls are living with us this year.
4. Dakar, Senegal has become a big part of our lives.
5. The next time the Frazees plan to be in America is the summer of 2019.
6. Our neighbors (nearly everyone) cooks with wood cut a walking distance from their home.
7. The two villages that the Frazees are working in are Sama and Nabilasso.
8. Butchers don’t use refrigeration. Only imported fish are frozen in Kadiolo.
9. We don’t work through the leadership of our local church because of an unresolved issue.
10. You can’t fathom how long it takes to get things done here.

1. The Frazee’s are expecting their 8th baby in March (18th to be precise).
Some of our closest friends in America have 6 kids… at least, I’m pretty sure they’re about to have their sixth.
So, for the sake of clarity I will just tell you that we have 7 kids: Drew 14, Joe 12, Harley 10, Zachariah 8 in March, Jethro 5, Katy Beth 4, and Adam 2. The largest age gap will be between Adam and our next baby. (Only Heidi knows if it is a boy or a girl.)

Click on this picture to see the faces of the people that were waiting at the medical clinique with us. We got a 16 week ultrasound on this day.

Click on this picture to see the faces of the people that were waiting at the medical clinique with us. We got a 16 week ultrasound on this day.

2. The Frazee’s don’t have many close friends in Mali.
Jeff’s closest friend is Idrissa Diallo. He is about 12 years younger than Jeff. He’s married and has two kids. For a myriad of reasons, Idrissa is Jeff’s easiest relationship. They see each other mostly on Sunday when they go to Nabilasso together.
Heidi’s closet friend is Angeline. She works at our house preparing meals four days a week. I don’t know if it is Heidi’s easiest relationship, but Angeline has six kids about the same ages as ours. Angeline just seems to ‘get us’ better than most people. She listens and remembers. That is such an important quality in a friend.

That's Idrissa in the center and his wife, Miriam, on his right. We were visiting the family of the first believer in Jesus in that village who had recently passed away.

That’s Idrissa in the center and his wife, Miriam, on his right. We were visiting the family of the first believer in Jesus in that village who had recently passed away.

3. Two girls are living with us this year.
Do you already know what their names are? Emily came to live with us at the end of September, and Meredith arrived in late October. If you remember praying that God would provide a teacher for us, these girls are God’s answer to your prayers. He sent us a college student and a marine biologist. Heidi oversees the children’s schooling, but Meredith and Emily carryout all of the day-to-day work. Better than that, they plan and do so many other things with the kids, and they have been an enormous encouragement to us.

This is Emily riding on top of the car on the way back from our favorite spot, the waterfall. Meredith was safe in the car.

This is Emily riding on top of the car on the way back from our favorite spot, the waterfall. Meredith was safe in the car.

4. Dakar, Senegal has become a big part of our lives.
Drew attends high school in Dakar, the capital city of Senegal, a neighboring country. It is a two or three day trip from where we live. Heidi is on the Board of Directors for the school, and we are planning to deliver our next baby there. What was a distant star on a map a year ago has become a very important place for us.

5. The next time the Frazees plan to be in America is the summer of 2019.
Drew started high school shortly after we arrived in Mali for our second term, and we plan to furlough in America shortly after he graduates in 2019.
6. Our neighbors (nearly everyone) cook with wood which is cut a walking distance from their home.
The government has an office that is charged with controlling how many trees people cut down. You are supposed to have a permit from them to cut down trees. Most woodcutters will get a permit and use it three or four times, hoping not to get caught. A donkey cart load of wood is about 6 feet long by 5 feet wide and about 5 or 6 feet high, and costs $18. That is about a month’s worth of cooking wood for a large family. If someone can’t afford that, the woman (wife/mother) walks into the bush to cut wood for themselves. They bring back as much as they can carry, and that is not regulated at all.

This is where we pay our electric bill about 100 meters from our house.

This is where we pay our electric bill about 100 meters from our house.

7. The two villages where the Frazees are working are Sama and Nabilasso.
Each village is about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from our house. Nabilasso has a history of Christians. There was even a pastor in the village for several years. One of the believers there just died. They believe he was near 100 years old, but they can’t be sure because he didn’t get a birth certificate until nearly 10 years after he was born. He was the first believer there. Currently four people living in Nabilasso, are willing to be identified with Christ. None of those people can read. In fact, even though I go there with Idrissa, there is still a language barrier because they nearly always speak Shempiré, their native dialect of Senoufo.
Sama has one believing woman who lives in the village. I don’t really know her. A friend of mine, who followed Jesus, lived there. He died almost two years ago, and it is his older brother, the second in line as chief, that I go to visit mostly. His name is Cémᴐgᴐ, pronounced ‘Chay mogo’. I haven’t had the chance to share the good news about Jesus very clearly in Sama.
The next villages Jeff is going to explore are Gninnaso, Kambo and Lofigé.

Chémᴐgᴐ is the main person I visit when I go to Sama. He is so generous, and we enjoy his courtyard.

Chémᴐgᴐ is the main person I visit when I go to Sama. He is so generous, and we enjoy his courtyard.

8. Butchers don’t use refrigeration. Only imported fish can be purchased frozen in Kadiolo.
Butchers are better regulated than wood cutters. They butcher a cow (or other animal) in the morning, and a veterinarian makes the rounds to see that the animal was healthy (at least that’s what I hear happens). We always try to get our meat as fresh as possible, but they don’t kill another animal until all of the meat is sold off. You can’t get any cut of meat that you want. You can get it with bones or without bones. And occasionally if you are lucky you can get a filet.
9. We don’t work through the leadership of our local church because of an unresolved issue.
Over the course of years, Jeff grew to know one of the pastors intimately. Jeff confronted him after about two years and went through all of the Biblical steps to the best of his understanding. None of the church elders or other pastors was willing to follow through with that pastor, and Jeff broke off his relationship with that pastor. We still attend the church occasionally. It’s not all bad and hard feeling. The pastors are very thankful for us going out to the outlying villages to encourage the believers they aren’t often able to see. We are still a part of that Body of believers trying to walk that tightrope of sin in the church.
10. You can’t fathom how long it takes to get things done here.
You’re just gonna have to come and see. We think you’ll like it… mostly.

Adventures in Learning Bambara (Nov. 2015)

Journal entry from 2015.11.23
Adam was unreal today. He woke up at 6 am by holding out his poopy diaper to us. Heidi fielded that one. Love you, Babe.
I worked in the garage in the afternoon, never got to guitar lessons. I worked on Tairou’s bike a little. It’s still apart in the garage. I can’t believe it rolls down the road. It has half as many spokes as it should, and the ones it has are attached in a random order, and they poke through into the inner-tube. Malians are amazing at keeping things running with almost no resources.
Tairou is in the middle. I don't know the other two boys. So many people come by that I honestly can't keep track of them all.

Tairou is in the middle. I don’t know the other two boys. So many people come by that I honestly can’t keep track of them all.

I feel a little guilty to be working on Tairou’s bike before having finished any of my family’s bikes. He started the work himself, and now it is apart in my garage.
God, I ask for Tairou as a disciple of Yours. I envision a bicycle-riding evangelist who spreads your disciple-making gospel like wildfire in Mali.
Journal entry from 2015.11.24
A lot of Bambara today.

Konɛ’s wife gave birth to a little girl, their fifth child, about a week before this conversation took place. This is a photo of when we went to greet and congratulate them.

It feels like I only learned one word today, “dingɛ” hole, but experience tells me that the hours invested in interacting in Bambara will blossom unexpectedly. So I’m not discouraged by the plateau.
I was in the garage working on Tairou’s bike (Yes, it took 15 days to finish.) when Aboubacar Konɛ came to visit. Tairou was holding a keychain of mine that Konɛ noticed.
I can’t remember exactly how the conversation unfolded. I asked him, “I bɛ i muso fɛ wa?” “Do you your woman/wife like/love/want?” You can see where confusion may have started at the very beginning.
This is Konɛ's almost three-year-old daughter that brought us together several years ago when we gave them all the sunscreen we had.

This is Konɛ’s almost three-year-old daughter that brought us together several years ago when we gave them all the sunscreen we had.

He said he did, and I asked what that meant to him. He said, “A diyara ne ye.” “She pleases me.”
I’m pretty sure he volunteered that he liked his wife so much that he wanted as many as four wives.
Admittedly, I was a little upset. When he asked if he could have the key chain that pleased him, I said he would have to pay me 200cfa. He was visibly upset and demonstratively gave me one… coin… at… a… time.
I said, “I like you, but I like myself more. That’s why I asked for money.”
I told him he likes himself more than more than he likes his wife.
I gave his money back saying I was only joking. He accepted that. Malians want nothing more than relational peace.
Around noon today I was with Paul Coulibaly watching the workers next to where he sells fowl melt down motorcycle engine blocks to make cooking pots, and I told him the story to the best of my ability.
“Guys think they can buy girls. Am I wrong? Have I misunderstood something?” I asked.
He said I was right. We talked about how you can’t understand the good relationships that are possible if you don’t have Jesus’ Spirit.

Learning What I Don’t Know at Nabilasso

I called Idrissa Saturday night to see if he was going to Nabilasso for church. He said, “Oui” and I said I would drive my car if a lot of people ended up coming with us, otherwise we would just take the motorcycle he usually used. That is when I started to understand that he didn’t go with much regularity. The call ended with, “So you’re going to preach?”
I said, “Well, at least, I can lead a Bible study.”
Idrissa’s wife and two little boys came with us, and I brought our three youngest kids. The older three kids went with Emily and Meredith to the Kadiolo church and gave Heidi a couple quiet hours.

Four-wheeling puts this boy to sleep.

Four-wheeling puts this boy to sleep.

When we arrived, there were already two ladies in the church, Djeneba Coulibaly, and a younger girl, maybe 20 years old, that I didn’t know. Her wide-set eyes, wide-spaced teeth, most of which were missing in the front, and her way of speaking made me think that she was developmentally handicapped in some way. She might have had a cleft pallet.
Djeneba always looks like she is about to fall asleep until those moments when a sublime smile lights her face. She reminds me of my grandma as she neared the end of her life.

Because Djeneba's last name is Coulibaly, I am obligated, as a Dembele, to make fun of her for being a bean-eater. When I found out she was a Coulibaly, I told her that next week I would bring beans instead of cash for the offering.

Because Djeneba’s last name is Coulibaly, I am obligated, as a Dembele, to make fun of her for being a bean-eater. When I found out she was a Coulibaly, I told her that next week I would bring beans instead of cash for the offering.

Our kids all piled out of the car and started playing on the ruins of the pastor’s house. He has been at Bible school for more than two years now. So his place is in disrepair.

My little billy-goat and she-goat.

My little billy-goat and she-goat.

Idrissa’s wife, Miriam, headed right into the church with her two-year-old on her heels and started to beat a rhythm on the djembé. Idrissa told me he was going to find some village kids to look for Bakarri Ouattara, the old man who is usually there. He met Bakarri before he found any kids to go look for him. Bakarri said, “Oh, I didn’t even know it was Sunday.” and I guess he wouldn’t. His world functions by the sun and the seasons, not by a calendar and a watch.

Heidi and I watched Miriam lean how to crawl when we first lived in Kadiolo in 1999 (the first year of our marriage).

Heidi and I watched Miriam lean how to crawl when we first lived in Kadiolo in 1999 (the first year of our marriage).

Bakarri showed up with two boys, maybe 5 and 7. The younger one wouldn’t let Bakarri put him down. I thought, as is often the case with little kids, that it was because he was afraid to be near a toubab (a white person), but later I found out that he was sick. JEF_6559_w
Idrissa was going to lead a song, but then he decided to delegate the song leading to his wife, who willingly accepted. Women aren’t as afraid to be seen as they are in America. I can’t imagine any woman in America willingly accepting the invitation to sing an unprepared, unrehearsed song in front of the church, yet a majority of the women here would.
After a few songs we prayed. All of the requests were for healing from sickness and the growth of the church.
Then Idrissa turned it over to me. I asked a few questions about the Bible. Idrissa and Miriam know their Bibles pretty well, but the other three were more or less clueless. I told the a little about where the book of Romans came from. Then Idrissa and I read the first two verses of chapter eight out loud several times because the other people can’t read. I asked them to tell me what they understood.
They couldn’t really say. They said they understood the words, but they couldn’t restate it.
I brought it down to one word.
“Jɛnɲᴐgᴐnya kᴐrᴐ ye mun ye? I don’t really speak Bambara, because of that tell me what jɛnɲᴐgᴐnya means.” I said.
It took a while, and Idrissa retranslated what I said. Eventually, Bakarri came up with, “Your jɛnɲᴐgᴐnya is your close friends.
Based on some other conversations about close friends I asked if it would be someone you could trust to hold a large sum of money for you. Yes, he agreed, that would be like jɛnɲᴐgᴐnya, but for the life of me I couldn’t get him to think of anyone like that in his life. Neither could Djeneba, but he thought he would consider a Christian as his jɛnɲᴐgᴐnya.
I kept asking questions to get them to interact with the text, which any Bible teacher knows church-goers are generally ill-equipped to do. Nonetheless, I could see that I needed to start with what is most important, and I spent the rest of the time doing a very basic gospel presentation, Ray-Comfort-style. That, they connected with.
In the end, I believe I had assured Djeneba that God loved her which she doubted only moments before.
I love the challenge of teaching people to be disciples of Jesus in Nabilasso. They don’t even speak Bambara very well. At this point I am not considering adding a forth language to my repertoire. Even with Idrissa restating my broken Bambara it was hard to verify that the concepts we presented had been understood.
God, here I stand with two things before me: an impossible task and a limitless Helper. Between the two things, I choose to fix my eyes on You.