Friday, December 30, 2005

Books that Influence

I was thinking today about books that have influenced my life. Apart from the Bible, which is the basis of all truth, and in no particular order, I reckon the five books which have had the most influence on my life are:

'The Story of New Tribes Mission' by Ken Johnson (1985)

'Christian Foundations' by Ian Paisley

'Cry of the World' by Oswald J Smith

'Commentary on Ephesians' by William MacDonald

'Hearts of Iron, Feet of Clay' by Gary Inrig

Early Days in Upper Volta

I read a book last night called ‘A Place Prepared’ by Gloria Kearney. It’s about some of the first missionaries who worked in southwest Burkina Faso (Upper Volta, as it was then).

Stanley Benington, and his wife Alice, who came from Northern Ireland, worked with the Qua Iboe mission, and left Nigeria in 1932 to start the work among the Lobi people of Upper Volta.

It was very interesting to read about some of the trials and struggles that these early missionaries faced. The book comes right up to the present day.

Marina and I have met some of the missionaries mentioned in the book. In fact, some of them have been a great help to us, particularly on our previous visits to Burkina over the past few years.

In 2004, when Marina and I were in Burkina doing literacy among the Loron tribal people, we actually got to read some of the original manuscripts, by Stanley Benington, upon which the book is based.

Recommended reading. Get the book here.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Galileo didn't play second fiddle

About twelve or thirteen years ago, at the end of the dry season, a Belgian archaeologist made the first of a number of visits to our village of Gogo, in northeast Ivory Coast. He usually appeared along with a pale-skinned, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed archaeology student around February or March. He was a professor at a Belgian university, and he was very anxious to discover ancient African settlements in the part of West Africa that we lived in.

Each year he would stop by our home for a cold drink or cup of coffee before embarking on a long foray into the local hills and forests in search of some long-forgotten prehistoric ruin. Having some knowledge of the area, we were able to help point him in the direction of some interesting spots.

One dry season, at least ten years ago, he arrived with a device which he assured us could pinpoint the location of our village, and indeed, the location of our home, within 5 metres/6 yards. He used his GPS receiver to connect with overhead satellites to record the exact location of his important finds. Guaranteed annual coffee and cookies ranked as an important find, so from his gadget we learned exactly where we lived on this huge terrestrial ball.

GPS technology was invented and developed in the US for the American military, and was then provided free of charge to the rest of the world. So, you can imagine my surprise when I read today’s news from Reuters about the Galileo programme:

‘The 3.6 billion-euro ($4.27-billion) Galileo programme, due to go into service in 2008 and eventually deploy 30 satellites, may end Europe's reliance on the GPS and offer a commercial alternative to the GPS system run by the U.S. military.’
The 3.6 billion-euro ($4.27-billion)!

What an absolute waste of time, effort and money in reinventing a system that already exists.

The final paragraph of the Reuters report said it all:

‘Galileo's critics say it is an unnecessary exercise in political grandeur, which is unlikely to be commercially viable, as GPS is free of charge and will soon be upgraded.’

It’s totally amazing. Something is freely offered, yet because of arrogance and pride, some people would prefer to spend a fortune to try to come up with an equivalent system, and then pay for what will be a perpetually inferior product.

What are the spiritual parallels? God has provided the free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ, and the only thing a person has to do is ‘believe on the Lord Jesus Christ’ to be saved, accept what is on offer. Yet some people prefer to spend their lives trying to develop their own method of salvation. It’s a waste of time, effort and money. We are saved by grace, through faith. It is not of ourselves, it is the gift of God. It is not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2.8-9)


Michael Yon recently won the 2005 Best Media/Journalist weblog award.

His moving photograph of an American soldier comforting a mortally wounded Iraqi child is one of Time magazine’s most popular photographs.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Burkina Basics

One of my favourite descriptions of Burkina Faso comes from the Lonely Planet travel guide.

'[The people in] Burkina Faso consistently produce silk purses from sows' ears; they come from one of the poorest countries in the world, but they are renowned for their don't-worry-be-happy optimism and have managed to fashion a beautiful and culturally sophisticated country out of the little resources they do have.'

Some basic facts about Burkina Faso:

Population: 13.8 million (UN, 2005)

Capital: Ouagadougou [wa-ga-do-goo]

Major languages: French, 68 indigenous languages

Major religions: Indigenous, Islam, Christianity

Life expectancy: 47 years (men), 48 years (women) (UN)

Main exports: Cotton, animal products, gold

GNI per capita: US $360 (World Bank, 2005)

Internet domain: .bf

International dialling code: +226

(More: BBC Burkina Faso Profile, University of Pensylvania African Studies Center, Photos)

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Great quotes from Bob Jones Sr.

When I started attending Bethany Free Pesbyterian Church in Portadown, N. Ireland in 1975, I always enjoyed the visits of Bob Jones Jr. to the church. I liked his southern 'drawl' and his colourful, expressive preaching.

I recently came across some of Bob Jones Sr.'s popular chapel sayings. Superb. BJ Sr. started Bob Jones University in 1927.

Here are a few quotes to whet your appetite:

The door to the room of success swings on the hinges of opposition.

The two biggest little words in the English language are the two little words "do right."

It is better to die for something than to live for nothing.

Your character is what God knows you to be; your reputation is what men think you are.

It is never right to do wrong in order to get a chance to do right.

God will not do for you what He has given you strength to do for yourself.

Don't sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the immediate.

The test of your character is what it takes to stop you.

Zacchaeus had short legs, but he outran the crowd when Jesus passed through town. Short legs will get you there as fast as long legs if you know how to use them.

Flights Booked

We have booked our flights for Ivory Coast/Burkina! Lord willing, we will be leaving Northen Ireland on January 30, flying to Paris with easyJet, and getting the Air France flight to Abidjan on Tuesday, January 31.

We are planning to get our pickup truck in Ivory Coast, and travel through Ghana (to avoid rebel-held territory in northern Ivory Coast), to Burkina Faso.

We have sent off our passports to the Ivorian embassy for visas. We also need to get visas for Ghana and Burkina.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Loron initiation

Loron children between the ages of 7 and 14 are taken to the Black Volta river in Burkina Faso to be initiated into the tribe.

Over the years we have become aware of many of the activities that take place, but as they are supposed to remain secret, and some of the things they do are quite personal and inappropriate to blog about, we do not feel free to elaborate on them very much.

It is a very frightening time for the children. If a child dies during the initiation, his parents are not allowed to mourn but must pretend that the child never existed. When the children return to their village they are dressed in shells and feather headdress, and are considered to be now fully human, entitled to play a full part in the tribe.

Preparations for return

We are in the process of preparing to return to Africa. All being well, we will be going to Burkina Faso at the end of January.

We have a lot of things to take care of, like arranging flights, getting visas, and going to the dentist!

We are also gathering up some items to bring back with us. When the war broke out in Ivory Coast in 2002, all of the stuff in our village home was looted, so we need to start again.