to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy
dwelling. God sets the lonely in families. (Ps 68:5-6a)
This past week I've taken a good like at the family the Lord has
given me here in Mali, and I was overcome with gratitude and pride.
I'm a blessed person. The Lord is not only building a HOUSE in Mali,
but a BODY. We are a unity, living and working and sharing together.
We're now 5 adults living on our property (including Sekouba) and
two children. Two more live just around the corner and come over
nearly every day. It was only natural to celebrate Christmas together
as a family, and since my childhood I haven't looked forward to
Christmas like I did this year!
Our first celebration was on the 21st - with over 100 street children
and neighbors' children, and it was an awesome team celebrating
Jesus (read the report and look at
the pictures). Then the 24th came and I invited our close family
over to celebrate together. I wanted to do something special with
them, and so I invited them to go swimming. There are a few hotels
in town where you can do that, and so we squeezed into two taxis,
full of anticipation. We were 8 adults and two kids.
Paul and Simeon having fun, even though they
don't know how to swim.
Hassim and Seybou, who both know how to swim,
had the time of their lives.
Sekouba is from the ethnic group of the Bozo
who are fishers, and he therefore knows well how to swim.
I've seldom seen him have so much fun, laughing and taking
full advantage of the pool. I was so happy to see him like
Little Hama also GREATLY loved the pool! He
wanted to be in there all the time, and so I went into the
kids' pool with him, throwing him and pulling him and having
fun with him, while the adults stayed in the big pool.
had such a good time - I have rarely seen them smile and laugh so
much. How blessed it is to give! Read more about our time at the
pool on my blog page, including how Hama nearly drowned.
We finally got into two taxis again and drove back home, where
Emma (in spite of having a bad cold) and Elisabeth joined us. The
part I had most been looking forward to had finally come! For many
days I had already wrapped one gift after the other, imagining with
excitement their faces at the moment they'd open them. Each person
had drawn the name of another person to give a gift to. But I had
reserved for myself the right to give gifts to several people, wrapping
all the gifts for everybody.
wanted to make this celebration very special to all of us. For four
of them it was the first Christmas as a Christian! So I decided
to cook for them the best I could do (and I'm not at all a cooking
person). Since we were 9 people, I prepared three courses of basically
Austrian dishes. When we got back from the swimming pool, I went
inside the house alone, lighting the little candles all around the
room, switching on the lights around the gifts and turned on Christmas
music. Then Sekouba was the first one coming in and being stunned
like a little boy in the West.
all had a great time eating - them asking what it was - and talking,
and finally the time for the gifts had come. But before that, I
said a few words and we spent some time in prayer, honoring the
"birthday child". Then I called up Sekouba to distribute
the gifts. He only just started learning reading, so I had to help
him with the names, but he enjoyed it anyway. I felt like a real
Mom, proudly watching her son distributing the gifts to the other
kids. I told them we'd open them one after the other, watching the
others do it.I just couldn't wait sharing in their joy!
Paul (left) was like a little kid, not able to wait for his turn.
And Sekouba (right) was totally into it, opening all his gifts with
joy. But most fun of all - for all of us - was watching Emma, who
was totally stunned receiving the guitar he has been wishing for
for so long. Praise God!
The following day, Christmas Day, we had a church service remembering
the birth of Christ. We all put on our best clothes and welcomed
our guests as well as our guest of honor Jesus. After the service
we all had a meal together. During that time I learned that the
mother of some kids (neighbors) gave her life to the Lord at the
Street Kid Party a few days earlier. Praise God! I asked Aissata
to meet with Elisabeth, her neighbor, every day to pray and read
the Bible Elisabeth received at Christmas since she now knows how
to read (she's in our literacy class).
Claudia with little Hama and his new toy,
a Christmas present.
With Marie out of town, Sekouba took her place at the tam-tam
during worship, greatly enjoying it.
NIGHT INTO THE NEW YEAR
10 pm we gathered in the garden to start the New Year together,
with each other and with the Lord. Emma and Marie were unfortunately
out of town, but we had a few visitors - Muslims - that joined us,
even as we started to worship the Lord together. I will admit here
that I'm a technology freak, and I use that technology for the kingdom
of God, so I set up my computer with the projector, for us to have
the lyrics for the songs (for those who are literate), to know the
time (when it's midnight) and to look at pictures taken in 2005.
We worshiped the Lord for over an hour, before we had a precious
time of cleansing, forgiving and taking communion, just before midnight.
We entered into the new year being in an intimate place with Jesus.
After midnight, we remembered all God did last year with the pictures,
those taken in Mali and those taken on trips (mine as well as Simeon's
to Mozambique). We were all overwhelmed with gratitude and expressed
our hearts to Him in prayer. Then we spent some time looking ahead
and praying for the upcoming year. We set some goals for CAM (the
church), and then I asked them to set personal goals for themselves,
which they wrote down and put into envelopes to receive back one
year from now. I also challenged them to step up prayer for a few
people who regularly come but have not given their lives to the
Lord yet. We are now committed to interceding for Hassan
(Seybou's cousin, healed a year ago, English class), Kassim
(comes to children's program, English class) and Hawa
(Elisabeth's neighbor, comes to services) intensively until they
become His disciples.
At 4 pm we closed out our first prayer night - though I wasn't
at all tired yet and could have kept going. By then it was only
the core team that was left - Simeon, Paul, Seybou and I. I was
a little grieved that Sekouba had chosen to go to the parties in
the neighborhood instead of praying with us - please keep praying
for him, for his healing and relationship with God.
CAR/TRUCK - Emma left for his home town before we were
able to go look at it. He's coming back to town tomorrow, and if
everything works out, we'll go look at it on Thursday. We've got
the money now for this old car that is a special deal, so soon our
prayer for a car might be answered.
* PROPERTY - The pastor helping me with this has
been busy with all the end of the year events, but I hope that we
will soon take the next step in acquiring our (free) land.
* SCHOOLING - I'm getting ready to teach reading/writing
Bambara, maths and French three times a week in the morning, 2 hours
each. The need is very big for these couple of children as well
as some adults. Right now I'm in the process of looking for good
materials to use (there's not much in Bambara).
* HIGH SCHOOL - Paul's High School fees for the
second trimester are due now. If any one of you would like to sponsor
him, please earmark your donation FOR PAUL'S SCHOOLING. The fees
are $90, that is 76€.
Other than that, our weekly street kid program continues, as well
as our English class and literacy class, movie nights, prayer meetings
and services. Our Bible School starts its second trimester in February.
The reason for that is that I'm traveling for 10 days in January
(see the event list on the left).
want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your support
in 2005 - whether in prayer, giving or encouraging emails - and
am looking forward to partnering with you again in 2006. The Lord
has done many mighty things, totally beyond what any human could
do or imagine, and yet, we've ONLY JUST BEGUN! I'm praying for MULTIPLICATION
and ACCELERATION this year - for you and me - for
the GLORY of HIS name and the
advancement of HIS KINGDOM!
In my Beloved's service,