In about an hour, I’ll be getting in a taxi headed to the airport to fly to Liberia. This is the last leg of the West Africa Whirlwind Tour. When we land in Monrovia, we have a four hour drive into the bush where we will stay for four days. I’m not very sure what to expect there. Liberia is a relatively recent addition to the ministry of ABWE. Actually, I believe that they were formerly in Liberia but had to leave because of hostility. I will have the opportunity to spend some time with an old friend who is working with the team there. Stefan is a Swiss national who joined ABWE with the intent of bringing his helicopter background to the table as a tool for the ministry there. He has recently brought a Bell Jet Ranger into the country and is using it to facilitate the church planting efforts in the villages of Liberia. I am looking forward to seeing this in action. I don’t know for sure that I will get a chance to ride in the helicopter, but it sure would be a great last hurrah for this excitement filled trip. I haven’t heard yet, but it wouldn’t surprise me if I had the opportunity to also speak to a youth group or children’s club. On Monday of next week we will make the four hour trek back to Monrovia where I will begin a nearly 24 hour journey back to North Carolina. It seems like an eternity has passed since I left Raleigh on the 13th of October, but when I realize all of the events that have taken place, its hard to believe all of it could happen in just over 2 weeks.

Before I go finish packing my stuff up for today’s trip, I want to tell you about a church that I went to on Sunday. Our group was staying at the ABWE mission hospital in Tsiko, Togo and one of the men, Pat Nemmers, pastor of Saylorville Baptist Church in the Des Moines area of Iowa, was scheduled to speak at two churches. He is a very animated speaker and fun to listen to, so most of us piled in a van and followed him to both churches. The first is the one that I want to describe to you. I would say that the “building” we met in was about 10 feet wide and 25 feet long and maybe 8 feet tall at the peak of the roof. There were probably 30-35 people there, which made it a pretty full room. It was entirely sticks and grass. Doesn’t sound like much of the churches we know in the States, does it? There were two qualities that really stood out as the team talked about what we had noticed there. One was that the wall behind the preacher was only a half wall. It came up about four feet and stopped. This left exposed a remarkable view of the valley down the hill behind the church and the mountains behind. What better backdrop, mural, or other decoration could you have in a church than the marvelous creation of the Almight Creator that we were there to worship? Have you ever been hiking or camping and took some time to just marvel at the work of God around you and wish you could just have a church service right there? These people had it every time they met. They may not have much of an ediface for a facility, but they certainly have a worship-inspiring setting. The other impacting realization was the simplicity, yet authenticity of their worship. Their pastor played the guitar, but not remarkably well, and they had a large bass but with just one string. There was no other musical backup to the worship time. There were no lights or screens or organs or pianos or praise teams or drums, but there was heartfelt, genuine worship in song and in prayer. Obviously, I couldn’t understand everything that was said and sung because it was in Ewe, but the authenticity of their praises transcended the language barrier and really challenged me. As I finish what may be the last update until I return to American soil, I challenge you with the lyrics of chorus “Heart of Worship” which encapsulates the way in which I desire to approach my Great Savior after spending time in a hut overlooking a beautiful valley where God was magnified in the simplicity of African worship.

When the music fades
And all is stripped away
And I simply come
Longing just to bring
Something that’s of worth
That will bless your heart

I’ll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the ways things appear
You’re looking into my heart

I’m coming back to the heart of worship
And it’s all about You
All about You, Jesus
I’m sorry Lord for the thing I’ve made it
When it’s all about You
It’s all about You Jesus

King of endless worth
No one could express
How much You deserve
Though I’m weak and poor
All I have is Yours
Every single breath

I’ll bring You more than just a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You’re looking into my heart

I’m coming back to the heart of worship
And it’s all about You
All about You, Jesus
I’m sorry Lord for the thing I’ve made it
When it’s all about You
It’s all about You Jesus

Its all about you
Jesus

(lyrics from http://www.stlyrics.com/songs/m/mattredman20504/theheartofworship929505.html)

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A week has passed since my last opportunity to update about my African adventure. Since the last update the team has moved from Ghana to Togo. It was like starting over. All of the missionaries were new. We added a person to the team. The language changed. It is a totally new experience.

Our main event in this portion of the trip was the ground-breaking ceremony for the new hospital project that is in the northern town of Mango. That took place yesterday. There was a possibility that the President of Togo was going to grace us with his presence and actually place the stone on the monument symbolizing the beginning of the project. However, he did not come. Even better though, approximately 4000 of the local residents did come and got to hear the gospel presented in a more Muslim area. The President did send the Minister of Health in his place though which was fitting. I was the photographer for the day because the professional photographer couldn’t make it. I really hope we got a few good pictures for the publications ABWE wants to put out. My theory was that since I am not a professional, my best bet is to take as many pictures as I can and maybe there will be a few good ones. Because of my theory, I took about 500 shots. I haven’t gone through them yet, but I’m staying optimistic.

Today I had the most adventurous experience of the trip so far. Our team stayed in Mango in the north, but Ron Washer suggested that I go ahead of them to the hospital in Tsiko where the airplane is stationed and see what is going on here. However, that meant I would need to travel in a Togolese cab by myself. That sounded fine because I would ride with some of the team down to a certain city where I would pick up a cab, but our original driver would set it all up and the cab would take me all the way to the hospital. That was a good plan in theory, until we got to the stop and the taxi driver said that was not a possibility and I would have to change cabs twice along the way. That got me a little worried. My French is not very good, so I was wondering how I would communicate what I needed them to do. Of course the taxis are always far too overloaded, so we had every seat full and added at least two more people in each one. It ended up that when I made the first exchange, the driver decided he could take me all the way to the hospital and I could skip the second exchange. I was really glad for that, especially since it looked like the second exchange would be from a car to a mototaxi with me and all of my bags. Even though that wouldn’t top some of the things I’ve seen on mototaxis here, it would be quite a feat for me to accomplish. The second driver did have some room for improvement. He was not very effective in dodging the plethora of potholes that mark the roads of Togo. In fact when we were about fifteen minutes from the destination he slammed into one so hard that I’m pretty sure something in his left front brake broke loose. Fortunately for me and for the timeliness of the journey, he couldn’t figure out what happened and I couldn’t communicate it. I do feel bad for him though, I’m not totally heartless! I did make it to the hospital guest house at 7pm after a 10 hour trip, 5 of those hours being me versus the Togolese taxi drivers. In the end I reached my destination and it only cost me about $12. That’s one for the memory book of this trip.

Today’s update comes amid the occasional outbursts coming from all over the town of Ho because Ghana is scoring in the under 20 World Cup in Egypt. They are playing Brazil in the finals and I think everyone in Ho is watching the game and screaming every time they score. Today was our scheduled day to visit Lake Volta. This is an extremely large man-made lake that was formed when a hydroelectric dam was built on the Volta River to give electricity to the whole nation.  In fact, I think they have even sold electricity to other neighboring countries in the past. It displaced hundreds of villages along the river and now they are found in numerous places on the shores of this large body of water. A large number of these villages have no main road making them accessible to the missionaries. Some have roads to connect to other villages, but not to the greater part of civilization. In considering how to best reach these people, the question has been raised of bringing an amphibious float plane into the region and using it to take the Bible college students to the villages. One possible scenario is that the plane would take a load of students and missionaries and drop off one per village until the pilot was the only one left. Each would minister in a village for a day and then they would all be picked up and taken back to the college. There were some worries that the large quantity of stumps left from people cutting down the trees that were sticking out of the water from the land being flooded would be too dangerous for a plane. We wanted to take a trip out on the water and see if we could tell for ourselves. That is exactly what we got to do today. We hired a boat to give us a half-hour  ride out into the lake. It is clear that a pilot would have to be careful  to map out the safe zones, but it seems to be very doable. The main question that has to be answered in my mind is whether the airplane is really the best way or if a boat would be similarly effective. That answer to that question is far above me at this point, so I will save my response. Please continue to pray as I see more of what God would have me to  see on this survey trip. I did also have an exciting time meeting some believers in the local village that is a ministry target. I even got to play some volleyball with some of the guys from the village. I look forward to giving you more updates as I am able. For now I will leave you to go relax listening to a combination of the soccer fan screams and the pentacostal outbursts from the church next door.

I left Raleigh/Durham at about  12:30pm yesterday  for a short trip up to New York/JFK where I met up with the team that I was traveling with.  From there we took a 10 or 11 hour flight to Accra, Ghana. The good news at that point was that I received all of my luggage without a problem, but the bad news is that I was the only one of the six that received my luggage.  The other five in the group have to wait until Friday to pick up their bags. This causes a bit of a hassle as the airport in Accra is a three and a half hour drive from where we are staying in Ho, Ghana. They are all in good spirits about it though and just chalk it up to the acronym “WAWA” which stands for “West Africa Wins Again.” I have been around the town here a little bit and have spent some time with my first host couple. It has been a long day since an economy class airline seat isn’t really designed with the sleeping patterns of a 6’4″ 285lb. guy in mind. Please continue to pray that I will be aware of the things that God wants to show me while I am here. The rain is pouring right now and we are about to head to another missionary family’s house for dinner. That should make the dirt roads an adventure! I will update again as I have the opportunity.

In just under 12 hours from the time that I am writing this. I will have just left the ground in Raleigh/Durham, NC on my way to New York to join the group and leave for Africa. I am packed and ready. I have said my good-bye’s. I’ve left everything in order at my house and my office so that things keep running while I’m gone. I’m still praying that God would teach me many things about Himself and His plan for me while I’m on this trip. When you think about it, please join me in this prayer. I will try to update as often as possible.

Lots of things have fallen into place since I first described the adventure that God has for me. Five days from now, I will be on my way. Earlier this week, my passport arrived back from its tour of Washington, D.C. I have all of my visas that I need to enter the three countries that I will be visiting. I have my tickets in hand. I have my teaching responsibilities covered thanks to David Guevara who is covering youth group for me and Jeff Tojdowski who is covering my Bible Study Hour class. I really owe them a great debt for being willing to cover those responsibilities for me. I have received gifts to cover about half of the cost of the trip, which is a great blessing. Its getting close to time to prepare the suitcases and make my way to the airport in Raleigh.

I received an email from the missionaries in Ghana offering me the chance to speak to their Youth Group on one night and their Kids Club on a second night. I’m looking forward to that. I may have a couple other chances to share while I am there, but I have not been approached about them yet.

In anticipation of this trip, there have obviously been lots of things that have to be prepared. Besides the flight, visas, shots, money, messages, and replacements that had to be thought through and planned for, there is one field of preparation that I have been trying to keep from neglecting. I believe that God plans to use this trip to teach me some important things. In fact, I have been praying about two specific areas of my heart in which I would like to see God work. The first is that God would show me something about His plan for Missionary Aviation in this era and in my life. The second is that God would show me something about my role in ministry to African people. I am, by no means, saying that God has revealed to me that it is time for me to leave the youth ministry of Salem Baptist Church. There are still things for me to do in that role. However, at one time in my life, God gave me a passion for using the airplane as a means to reach people for Christ. This is a great opportunity to see how others are involved in this. I want my heart to be ready to hear and see and understand what He wants me to know.

When it comes to your mind, would you please join me in praying that I will clearly understand all that God would see fit for me to learn during this three week adventure in Africa? I really appreciate the prayer support that has been promised. It means a lot to me to know that you are holding me before our Father.

God has given me the great privilege of traveling to Africa this fall. I want to make use of this blog to inform you of how the plans are coming along and what is taking place during the three weeks that I am traveling. Ron Washer, Field Director of African Missionaries for The Association of Baptists for World Evangelism (ABWE), has made it possible for me to travel with him as he visits some of the fields of ministry which he oversees. I will be leaving October 13, 2009 to travel to Ghana in West Africa. While in Ghana, I will get to rub shoulders with the men and women who minister in that country. I will also have the opportunity to observe the area in which ABWE plans to begin reaching villages along the shores of Lake Volta, making use of an amphibious float plane. From there, we will travel by land to the nation of Togo. In Togo, we will be participating in a ground-breaking ceremony for a new hospital that ABWE plans to build in the north of that country to supply medical aid for and open doors for the Gospel to the people of that area. For those of you who are familiar with my cousin Adam and his wife Faith, this is the area of Togo in which they are preparing to minister. I will also have the opportunity to observe a ministry in that country that already makes use of an airplane. This ministry has not actively used the airplane for some time, but has recently received a pilot for the program and has restored their Cessna 206 to flying condition. We will then return by land to Ghana and fly to Liberia where we will spend some time with the ABWE missionaries in that nation, among whom is Stefan Elser and his family. Stefan was a classmate of mine when I was in Aircraft Maintenance Training. He and his family are ministering among the Liberians making use of a helicopter, a Bell Jet Ranger. I feel very privileged to have the opportunity to see the active ministry of this good friend. From Liberia, I will separate from Ron Washer and return home, while he continues his visits to other fields.

The tickets have been purchased. I have visited the travel clinic for medication. My passport is Washington, D.C. making its rounds to the various embassies for visas. Things on that end seem to be falling into place. I am also in the process of making sure that everything is prepared for three good weeks of ministry in the Salem Baptist Student Ministry without me. I am so privileged to work with the great volunteers and other staff that will keep all that running while I am gone.

I’m sure that other logistical items will join the to-do list, and I ask that you pray with me for wisdom and discernment to see all the things to be accomplished before my departure