Would Someone Please Find Wednesday?

Oct 31, 2013

As I awake on our first morning I realize Wednesday completely disappeared. We left Seattle Tuesday afternoon at 5:20pm and arrived in Lome at 8:30pm THURSDAY. I left on the 29th and awoke on my dear Susan’s birthday, the first time in 18 years I have missed her birthday. I wish I could be there with her tonight to hand out candy to over 400 children. God has bigger plans for me this year.

Our flight was pleasant – they get easier every time. All of us got off the plan ready to go. We all got enough sleep to be functional and it worked out well that we arrived in the evening so we could get a good night’s sleep soon after arrival.

Our arrival, as always, was wonderful as we were met by Edwige and a couple other local pastors. They drove us about 20 minutes in 2 cars to the guest house where we will be staying while based in Lome. There we were met by 3 other pastors and then we were served chicken dinner with rice, salad, fresh vegetables and pineapple. I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t get (or at least don’t recall) the name of the lovely lady that prepared and served our meal – she had a beautiful baby strapped to her back who was perfectly content helping Mommy from behind.

I suspect all the noises outside our window may have affected Greg’s ability to sleep as I just went out to the common area to stretch and write this blog and found him crashed on the couch. My ear plugs work wonders, I didn’t hear a thing all night and slept like a baby (I’m sure the Ambien helped – a must-have for me to overcome the jet lag and unfamiliar surroundings).

Our plans today, after breakfast and devotional taught by Greg, will be to visit the prison officials in the late morning, followed by a visit to the local prison in the afternoon, and wrapping up the day teaching an “encouragement session” for Edwige and her team of prison volunteers and pastors.

Edwige speaks English fairly well so communication does not appear that it will be an obstacle. None of us (our American team of five) speak more than a few words of French.

3 Days from Togo

As we now sit just 96 hours until departure I can’t help but reflect on some of the past overseas trips with Prisoners for Christ. I can’t wait to meet my brothers and sisters in Christ at SeaTac airport and board our long flight to Paris en route to Lome, Togo. I recall my first PFC trip to India – 10 hours to Amsterdam followed by another 11 hours to Hyderabad. It seemed like an eternity. The return trip being far more brutal than the outgoing trip. I’m sure that is partly because I was eager to get home to Susan and I was not feeling well for the prior week due to the pollution.

Each trip the flights get easier and easier. Our last trip, to Republic of the Congo, was only a little bit shorter but was easy, uneventful and quite comfortable. I only pray that our flights this time are equally pleasant.

Greg, Jeff, Brent, Carol and I will depart SeaTac Tuesday afternoon at 5:20pm and, after a stop at Paris-Degaulle we will arrive in Lome at 7:10pm on Wednesday. Our host, Edwege, will meet us in Lome and accompany us the entire trip along with her small team of prison ministry volunteers.

Plans can and do usually change rapidly but we plan to visit prisons in Togo beginning in Lome and continuing north until we reach the city of Kara where we will hold our first of 2 prison ministry training conferences on or around November 4. The following day (or that same evening) we will continue to travel by car, visiting prisons along the way, to our next training conference in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. We hope to visit at least one prison each day we are on the ground and conduct two training conferences.

Our prison crusades are designed to train the nationals to serve the institutions in their countries, introduce the prison officials, inmates and local community to Prisoners for Christ, provide humanitarian aid and bibles to inmates, share the gospel of Jesus Christ with inmates, establish long-term relationships with the nationals and the institution staff.

Our hope is always to establish long-term ministry in each country we visit, identify local believers to establish and grow the ministry in their country, and raise support to provide for their needs so they can continue the ministry for years to come.

The purpose of our training conference is to bring critical teaching and training to the nationals regarding effective, safe and fruitful prison ministry. Attendees usually number between 30-75 from the surrounding area and nearby countries. Our ministry usually grows as visitors from neighboring countries, usually invitees of our hosts, invite us to train in their home countries.

Our conference topics for this trip will include:

Why do prison ministry – We provide biblical, practical and purposeful reasons why prison ministry is vital.

How to Start a Prison Ministry – An in-depth outline of the necessary parts of an effective ministry, how to plan and pray, the needs and members of the team and the building blocks to get a ministry started.

How to Grow a Prison Ministry – How to recruit new members, how to introduce the ministry to other laborers, how to train the laborers so they will feel essential to the team and the ministry, etc.

Working with Staff at the Institutions – How to communicate effectively with the staff, how to minister to the staff (they are also our mission field), understanding our role as a guest in the institution, assisting the prison officials and ensuring that we don’t cross the boundaries of conduct.

What it is to be a Volunteer – Defining the term volunteer, understanding our role in the ministry, our need to be self-sufficient, understanding that the ministry will only be effective when volunteers commit to the completion of the goals.

The Four Divisions of PFC – Training about the PFC Life “VEST” – Visiting inmates, Equipping disciples, Supporting families of the incarcerated, and helping inmates to Transition back into society.

Code of Conduct – How to behave inside the prison walls (contraban, proper conversations, forbidden behavior and being salt and light.

The Importance of the PFC Network – Why we must all work together – we all count on each other to be effective.

The greatest blessing of all, besides sharing hope with inmates in often-destitute conditions, is the lifetime friendships we develop with our brothers and sisters around the world – people we know we will enjoy eternity with.

After completing our conference in Ouagadougou we will return to Lome by car. We expect to drive in excess of 2,000km in our 9 days on the ground. We will be wiped out and beat up, but refreshed and blessed all at the same time.

We will return from Togo on November 9, arriving in Seattle mid-day on Sunday, November 10.

 Lord, we pray your blessings on us as a team as we serve in the name of your son.

9 Days from Departure to Togo

Wow! Time approaches so quickly and before we know it we’re in the air. It’s amazing how quickly the time of departure comes but once we are off the ground time slows down and a week feels like a month. I am really excited to serve again in Africa with some of my dearest friends and brothers in the Lord. I have now served overseas with Greg 6 times and this will be only my second time with Jeff but it feels like a dozen times as we have grown so dear to each other.

I look forward to the time of fellowship with Brent and Carol, as well. This will be my first time overseas with them.

I have been so encouraged by all the kind words and questions I receive from all of my friends as we get closer to our time away. The prayer and financial support I receive from everyone confirms my convictions to serve in this way. God has blessed us with a powerful and critical ministry. We are so blessed to be called to serve in the prisons of the world. I can’t think of a greater way to use the gifts he has blessed me with.

I hope many will read my blog while I am away and, more importantly, I pray many will write to me through my blog to encourage me and the rest of the team.

Thank you to all of you for your prayers and support. May the Lord bless you richly as you come before his throne in prayer.