March 16, 2017
On Monday, March 13, 2017 Colin’s father Dave Ovenell went home to be with the Lord. Many of you have been praying for him since cancer of the brain was discovered in April of last year. Through the sadness of our loss we rejoice that he is present with our Savior, Jesus Christ and the sufferings of this life are now a thing of the past. Throughout his life he longed to see the Lord’s return. Now he sees Him face to face in a glorified body.
We had determined to return home and began researching airfare the week before he passed away. We had secured our tickets and begun preparation when we were informed of the news. The past week has been a blur, wrapping up projects, meeting with those who will carry the load in our absence, and preparing our home for our departure. We will be arriving in Seattle on Thursday afternoon. Dave’s memorial service will be on Monday at 3:00 pm. We have been told to anticipate a large group so the decision was made to hold his memorial service down the block from our home church at the Faith Community Church located at 1005 10th Ave SW. We are grateful to our Pastor Don Valen for helping with organization of the event as well as to pastor Jess Slusher and the body of Christ at Faith Community for sharing their facility with our family and friends.
We will be home for a total of 7 weeks, conveniently avoiding the worst of hot season and spending time with family. Our reporting will be limited but we would love to hear from you and hope to see as many of our friends and family as possible.
March 8, 2017
The difficulty of writing a prayer update after so many weeks is determining what gets printed and what has to be left out. For a number of years now our letters have gone out bi-monthly. These last two have been more like quarterly updates. Our desire is to reverse the trend and keep you better informed. What is making that difficult are the mental and physical challenges of an increasingly demanding schedule. To add to the mix; we live in a culture that doesn’t place a great deal of emphasis on personal space. Consequently, we find ourselves struggling to sit down to a meal without “urgent” knocks on the door. It is almost impossible to start a project and see it to completion in a reasonable amount of time. It is evident that over time we have become over committed. The irony is that we love what we are doing. Teena enjoys meeting ladies at the door and helping them nourish their children. Today (Tuesday) she will have at least a dozen visitors most of whom will hear the gospel again and receive compassionate care and counsel. Meanwhile she will be guiding Ethan and Eliana in school, cooking with limited means and keeping an eye on Elias. Colin will bounce between a meeting to address property issues in Guene, construction of a wall on the station, finishing a roof on a storage shed in Boiffo, more phone calls and a meeting to discuss administrative issues for the formalities of the opening of the clinic, and finally, hopefully working on grading final exams from last weeks course on Romans in the Bible Institute. Not mentioned in those lists... at around 1:00 we will take a nap! Generally for at least one hour in the middle of the day the station is quiet...at least as far as we know!
Our last letter was before Christmas, I would like for this to be our January update but since that month slipped away and February managed to do the same I’ll have to skip over some details. This does tend to be our busiest season. We were grateful to have Teena’s parents with us for a couple of months to help carry the load and work on a number of crucial projects. Teena’s father put his carpentry skills to the test, working long hours on cabinetry and other projects for the clinic. With housing projects nearly complete we are increasingly turning our attention back to the completion and improvements of the medical facility. Mostly, we were grateful to have family close and we are hoping, praying, that this will become a regular occurrence. Were it not for language barriers we are convinced that Teena’s mother would have been content to stay here!
Bible school came and went quickly this year beginning in January with a module taught by Dr. Walter Loescher, missionary from Cameroon. Dr. Loescher’s wife is a medical doctor and the two joined us for 2 weeks to be involved in the Bible School and medical ministries. Following was a special course/conference on planning our way forward with the goal of planting more churches. We thank the Lord for our graduates and current students who are increasingly carrying the load of ministry. We only wish they would take more upon themselves and sooner but then we are reminded that lasting ministries often take years to form. At the end of February we slipped away to Cotonou to teach a Bible module and work on immigration formalities. Pray that our new 3 year residency permits would be issued soon!
We are blessed to be a part of the Benin field team. Every day the children beg to play with their friends, Stephen Beckley and the 4 Marshall boys. Teena and I are equally blessed to work with our friends. We need your continued prayers. As the work force has grown, so has the work load. More people means greater potential, after all, ministry is about people and putting them first.
In closing, Colin’s fathers health has recently declined significantly. He is currently on hospice care in Wenatchee, WA. We are considering options to return home for a short period to be with the family. Dave Ovenell lives his life for Jesus and while we still hope for temporary healing, our greater hope is knowing that he will soon find perfect healing in the presence of his Savior.
November 7, 2016
Our brains are scrambled from traveling through 8 different time zones. Our bodies are weary from a wild trip, but we are safe and happy to have arrived in Niger, West Africa. Our travels from our home in Quincy to our resting point in Niamey were challenging to say the least… 4 flights on two separate airlines and transferring 17 maxed out bags and 3 children from one terminal to another through the Paris airport were taxing indeed. The baggage transfer went something like this:
Transfer bags from 3 carts into an elevator to travel down one floor to the bus station…oops wrong route…back up the elevator with the jostling carts. Through the terminal to the escalator (which is closed to carts). Down the escalator, one bag at a time, onto the train, sliding bags and totes and rushing children to beat the closing of the doors…arriving at terminal to transfer bags. Bags rejected, check-in counter closed until morning! Back to train loading and offloading at another terminal to go to a hotel for a few short hours rest. Up the escalator with bags (elevator out of service)..onto carts to roll to nearby hotel entrance …up three floors in elevator (requiring three trips to transfer bodies and bags)…falling into bed. Wake up at 3:30 am, head down elevator to 2nd elevator across courtyard (which finally worked). Scramble onto train, over to terminal 1, frantically transferring bags off of train one last time before doors close. Head up the escalator once again and over to check in our bags. Sweaty and tired at 4:40 am we were greeted at the check-in counter of Turkish Air.
We thank God that 2 flights later we arrived at our destination with all bags accounted for. Chris Marine and Joseph Marshall were at the airport to greet us and drive us to the mission station where we are currently making preparations to head to Benin and enjoying the company of our friends and colleagues.
Many have asked about Colin’s father. Leaving our home in Quincy to return to Benin was not an easy decision given the uncertainty of his health. Thankfully, he is in good spirits and leaning on the Lord through this trial. His physical health has diminished but his mental health has taken the sharpest decline from the effects of the brain tumor. We are praying about some new treatment options and trusting the Lord to minister to him through these fragile days. Our responsibilities and calling have drawn us back to the field despite our hearts being torn. We are grateful for the thoughts and considerations of family and our friends at home and on the field as we prepared for our return.
Upcoming Schedule… Thinking about our schedule in the coming months excites our hearts and makes us weary at the same time. We need to keep moving without missing a beat. There are housing projects to complete, Bible courses to facilitate and a variety of administrative tasks to accomplish. A special thank you to our friends on the field who have so capably managed affairs in our absence and continued with much progress on various projects. Please pray with us for the these upcoming events:
- Nov 13-18: Bible Institute with Dr. Steve and Julie Nunemaker
- Nov 26-Dec 19: Bible Institute with Cindy Faile
- Dec 4-19: Work team with Bryan Bell for installation of solar grid on clinic station
- Dec 4: Arrival of Steve and Ruthann Bell for 2 months of building cabinets and teaching in Bible Institute.
- Jan 3-18: Medical team
We enjoyed very much seeing many of you on weekends these past several months and yet there are still a number of dear friends that we did not get to see or spend time with as we would have liked. Thank you for being part of such an incredible network of support for our family. We are grateful for each one who has been a part of our lives over the course of our first decade of ministry together. May God bless each of you and the work to which he has called us in the years to come, as we anticipate the blessed hope of Christ’s return.
September 1, 2016
We’ve often made light of the hardships of our missionary travels. Journeys like our March visit to the French Alps, or our July visit to the Montana Rockies, or even our upcoming family vacation in the North Cascades. The truth is we find it refreshing to visit these beautiful places in our absence from the flat lands of Northern Bénin.
Summertime fun… There are officially 21 days left of summer but for some reason it seems like the season has past. School has started and fall schedules are beginning. The summer months flew by and were full and blessed. From alpine hikes (above) during our two weeks of ministry at camp in Montana, to miles and miles of beautiful scenic highways; we have traveled nearly 8,000 miles since May. It is hard to believe that much could happen in such a short time but it has. Since arriving home 24 weeks ago we have had 27 Sunday and mid-week meetings. Highlights for our children included, camping with our friends from FBC, Sedro Woolley, VBS in Soap Lake and Quincy, and Jr. Boys and Jr. High camp in Western Montana. Weekends spent visiting with many of you have provided lasting memories.
Meanwhile in Bénin… life has not slowed down in our absence. Ken and Sarah Beckley have worked hard to coordinate ongoing ministries and accommodate guests on the field. Chris and Diane Marine have traveled to Bénin multiple times for two week periods to continue the mission housing projects.
Most recently a team of 4 from our partner mission GDMM spent ten days in the country providing further training for our Beninese ministry partners and began work on the installation of a large solar grid to power the medical clinic.
Prior to that, Steve and Bryan Bell worked long hard hours packing a 40’ container in Massachusetts that was shipped on August 18th headed for Benin. The container is full of medical equipment and supplies for the clinic and missionaries on the field. In addition, we are pleased to share that God has supplied the financial need for missionary housing through our faithful supporters!
Closer to home… Many have asked for an update on Colin’s father’s health. We are thankful that he has maintained a positive spirit in completing his first round of treatments at the radiation/oncology clinic in Wenatchee, WA. He is very weak at this point, and looking forward to several weeks to recover before more tests will be taken and further treatments explored. We are ever grateful for your kind thoughts and prayers in his regard. As we send out this report we are preparing to move from our current residence to a home in town, just down the block from our home church. Dad and Mom Ovenell will move into a new home and we will move our furlough lives into an attached apartment.
With two months to go on “furlough,” we have yet 11 opportunities to share of God’s favor on the work in Bénin. We are looking forward to seeing many more of you in the days to come!
June 1, 2016
Transition Complete! Our furlough is in full swing, and we have adjusted back to life in the states. Our calendar is mostly full with meetings through September. We have already begun enjoying time with family and weekends with our friends and supporting churches. The move from Bénin to Washington in the springtime has been enjoyable. We left West Africa as temperatures were rising and the toughest months of the year were beginning. We arrived in Washington to unseasonably warm temperatures which have seemed just right to us…if not a bit chilly at times. The kids have adjusted well but the question of when we are going “home” to Bénin lingers. We were able to place Ethan into a good school for what will amount to about 7 weeks; a blessing both to him and to us. In his new school setting we will be able to evaluate his progress and enjoy seeing him interact with other children his age. Being a TCK (Third Culture Kid) these moments are crucial to his growth and development. As a generally social individual he is thriving in the new environment.
Leaving Benin for furlough was a challenge. With the responsibilities of the clinic and construction in progress it was up to the very last minute that we were engaged in the work. Teena did most of the packing and preparing for our departure as Colin pressed on in wrapping up as much as possible in the dwindling time-frame. The clinic facility is mostly complete and housing for missionary personnel is well under way. A great deal of finish work still needs to be done, however, and we know what awaits us when we arrive back on the field. Our return tickets are set for October 31st and we will look forward again to picking things up where we left off.
Our goals in returning home for furlough are multiple. Our greatest concern is relational. We want to make the most of this time to be with friends and family and reconnect. We also want to share what the Lord is doing in Bénin as the work has become inseparable to our lives. Finally, we want to recover a bit and reflect on our health and well-being moving forward. We have been blessed with good health and already feel stronger having experienced the change of pace, climate and work load.
Our primary prayer concerns can be broken broadly into two categories which correspond with our lives, furlough requests and ongoing ministry concerns. With regard to this furlough please pray for the following:
Reconnecting with prayer and support base: We have 24 weekends scheduled with supporting churches and numerous meetings with friends. We will be putting a lot of miles on a vehicle again!
Reporting: A lot has happened in 2 1/2 years and we are excited to share about it. Our financial support is stable. We are currently needing approximately $200 a month to return to the field fully supported.
Enjoying family: It has been good to be back with family again. For 6 weeks we enjoyed being close to Teena’s parents. We once again have the benefit of living next door to Colin’s parents in Quincy. Colin’s Dad was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor and we are awaiting results of a biopsy so that we know what this will mean for our family going forward. We would ask for your prayers with regard to this situation and for his recovery.
With regard to the work in Benin please pray for the following requests:
Health and safety for our colleagues; American and Beninese, as they continue ministering in our absence.
Continued progress on the clinic facility and missionary housing in our absence.
Dendi believers, pastors and leaders to carry on with passion the vision for reaching their own people and surrounding ethnic groups with the message of the gospel.
Hopefully this update has provided you with a bit of an overview of what has been going on in our lives and enough information to continue praying for our family and the work in Benin. We are ever grateful for your labor of love in taking us before the throne of grace!
August 30, 2015
In the past few weeks two close friends faced life threatening situations. Chris Marine our regional coordinator was electrocuted while working in the attic of a missionary guesthouse. He continues to suffer from the effects of that trauma and will be returning stateside for further medical evaluation. In addition, Zachary Namata one of our medical students and a disciple from our time of ministry in Malanville survived a horrible bus accident. Numerous other passengers around him died and most were injured severely. He is dealing with that trauma and rejoicing in the Lord that he is able to continue, his only injury was a small scratch. We are reminded of David’s words in Psalm 25:20: “Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me! “Let me not be put to shame for I take refuge in you.”
The first phase in construction of the clinic is nearing completion, the finishing touches will remain on hold while we take advantage of the rains to break ground on the evangelism center and perimeter wall for missionary housing. In the photo above our ministry team is meeting for prayer to set apart the evangelism center. The EC will be built as an open sided paillote (round structure) with a corner room for storage of media equipment and literature.
The space will be equipped with speakers and a television for audio and visual gospel productions. It will also be staffed with personnel whose goal will be to share Christ and care for incoming patients.
The dormitory project in Malanville is still on hold. We received promising news from the mayors office in June but he has since been voted out of office. We continue to pray for wisdom and direction to move forward.
Our friends the Beckleys have arrived on the field and are once again settling into their home. We are excited to have them back again. Two of their children did not return with them; Mark just started his first year of college and Andrew began his senior year at Sahel Academy in Niamey, Niger. Ken is currently traveling to Mali to coordinate a previously scheduled consultation of a portion of the Bible in Songhai.
We enjoyed having Steven and Katrina Boutrus with us for two weeks of medical ministry. Please uphold them in prayer as they continue an aggressive pre-field ministry schedule and make plans for language school. We also ask that you remember Joe and Amy Marshall in prayer as they approach the start to language school in January. They are approximately $1300 a month short in needed support to move ahead.
If you would like more information on either of these two couples please visit their respective web sites and feel free to contact them personally!
Recently we enjoyed the 6th visit from GDMM medical teams in 3 years. This was the largest team we have yet had. It was particularly rewarding as we were able to work more closely with our local personnel than in times past. A number from our medical team were able to use their high school french to communicate with some of our local helpers who used their high school english in return. Over 1,000 patients heard the gospel over the course of ministry in 5 villages.
We met for the first time with 15 potential candidates from area churches who desire to lead the clinic forward. Initially, we anticipate that the clinic will be under the direction of Dr. Steven Boutrus and his wife Katrina. With personnel already undergoing various levels of training, it is conceivable that they might carry the load from the start. We are praying for wisdom as to when we might open the doors of the clinic. Much work remains in preparation, as well as a great deal of training.
Ken Beckley will return in two weeks to meet Joshua Hedges for our next scheduled consultation of OT books in the Dendi Bible. This will be the longest consultation that we have yet had. We look forward to making significant progress in 1 & 2 Kings and possibly other books as well.
The immigration saga continues. We were recently informed that Teena’s application for residency was accepted but Colin’s was rejected. An invalid visa was cited as the source of the problem. Our visa’s are identical! This will require an additional trip south to visit immigration, 4 more days out of our already full schedule. Please continue to pray for resolution to this problem. We are also waiting on the processing of Ethan’s new passport which will expire at the end of September. He will need the new passport to remain legally in Benin.
Currently Teena and the children are struggling with cold-like symptoms. This has been ongoing for several months now. Colin and Eliana have both had malaria since we last sent an update as well. Our immunities seem low and we are constantly confronted by disease and illness in this environment. Your continued prayers for our health and stamina are appreciated.
March 31, 2015
Challenges and progress have marked this past month of transition. We enjoyed a fantastic close to the Bible Institute with the arrival of Pastor Jerry Buchanan (Columbia Falls, MT) and our own pastor Don Valen. The two pastors interacted with our students for a period of 10 days, encouraging them from the Word on the subject of things to come in class and at a special Bible conference held at the church in Boiffo. Pastor Jerry made his 8th trip to Guéné while Pastor Don was making his first. The two men were a blessing to our family and we hated to see them go. We traveled to Cotonou (26 hours round trip) to drop them at the airport and pick up our friends Steve and Julie Nunemaker for our final module. Steve has taken part in our program now for 5 years often teaching the final course of the season. We are thankful for the amazing friends and co-workers that the Lord has blessed us with.
From the close of our dry season Bible training program we moved to a frenzied attempt to catch up on projects left wanting. Unfortunately our family hit a rough spell. Late February and early March were marked by a stomach virus, followed closely by respiratory infections likely due to an increase of dust in the air. The dust was so thick on same days it was necessary to wear a mask for protection. We are currently in Niamey where Elias tested positive for malaria and Eliana became symptomatic shortly thereafter. Lack of sleep, warm conditions and concerned hearts make for tiring conditions. We would especially appreciate your prayers as we battle through this latest challenge.
Not all is bleak however, we have much to be thankful for, and furthermore reminded that our hope is in the eternal God who made us and has prepared us for such challenges. We are grateful for our colleagues, Dan and Marsha Haynes, who have offered us hospitality and encouragement over the course of the past few days.
Progress has continued in Boiffo. The walls of the clinic building are nearly complete. Trusses are built and the materials are at the project site. In the week to come Chris and Diane Marine will travel down to Guéné to spend a week with us and help set trusses and put the roof on the building. Chris has offered his assistance so that I can be available to work with the translation team this week and next.
Dr. Glenn Kerr the lead consultant for the Dendi Bible project has arrived and he will be working through several more books of the OT with our translators, checking through the remainder of Ecclesiastes, 1 & 2 Kings, and time permitting moving into Song of Solomon. We are grateful for this progress advancing us closer to the goal of printing the entire Bible in Dendi, the cornerstone of our church planting and training ministries.
In our last update we mentioned progress in the village of Kouberi. Opposition has been heavy and yet our Sunday services have continued to be well attended. In a recent morning service, in the course of teaching, one individual asked if he could be baptized. Enlivened by his question I asked if there weren’t others who would be interested in obeying our Lord’s command. 7 (including our own Ethan) enthusiastically raised their hands to indicate that they would also like to be baptized. We have set a tentative date of late June to complete baptism classes and head down to the riverside!
The upcoming month of May will mark yet another transition as we will be traveling to the Democratic Republic of Congo to be a part of a conference and training module organized by Seth and Darla Curtis as a part of the Congo Coalition Initiative (congocoalition.org). This is an exciting opportunity to travel to Teena’s country of birth, spend time with family and take some time away from the most intense part of our hot season. Our travels will take us through South Africa where we will have the opportunity to spend time with Teena’s parents in neighboring Botswana. As you have come to know, our lives are full and sometimes overflowing. We depend upon your intercession and support as much today as we did 10 years ago, when we began this journey to reach the Dendi with the gospel of Christ.
January 20, 2015
Among the reports that we heard from Niger this past weekend none was more encouraging than to hear from believers that the gospel would indeed shine as a result of the damage and violence suffered by the body of Christ. Many returned to worship on Sunday morning, some to burnt out buildings, others displaced from their places of meeting gathered to pray and worship unhindered by the fact that buildings had been destroyed. “They can burn our churches but they cannot destroy the Church,” said my pastor friend. And he was right. Out of the ashes of destruction the church once again rises to proclaim a risen Savior. Some will take notice and will come to a saving knowledge of Christ and from the suffering and toil, peace and optimism will fill broken hearts.
It appears that life has returned to normal across Niger. Christians will always have to be vigilant, but they have always had to be. Reports indicate that 40-45 churches were ransacked, burnt or otherwise destroyed. 10 people were killed, in some cases trapped inside of burning churches. Our pastors are picking up the pieces and moving forward. Your continued prayers are appreciated.
Here in Guene peace was maintained although further reports have arisen that certain groups continued circulating in area villages seeking to rile the local population against Christian communities. The reports are being taken seriously by local authorities and those responsible are being called before the police to answer for their actions. We were encouraged by the solidarity expressed by many toward us. “Call me and I will be there at a moments notice,” said one unbelieving friend.
We were also greatly encouraged by the outpouring of prayers and encouragement from many of you. We recognize once again that we are not alone in this battle. I apologize that we were unable to send an update earlier, but this week marks the beginning of our 2015 Bible training program. As it is I am cramming this update into a short break between classes. Your continued prayers are appreciated.
January 17, 2015
As I write this plea for prayer, the city of Niamey has come under attack from protesters against the latest cover of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Protests are expected to continue throughout the weekend and the major targets are christians and church buildings. We are very sad to report that several churches in Niamey have been ransacked and burnt. Three of our Baptist Churches were among their number including the historic “Eglise Rond Point,” which has stood for many decades. The church we attend when visiting Niamey was among those attacked. Pastor Hassan Koma and his family have been evacuated from their home and are currently seeking shelter elsewhere. It is our understanding that they are okay. In other cities at least 4 have been killed.
Our missionary colleagues report that they are safe and do not currently feel threatened in their homes, however, they are not able to leave their homes and will not be able to hold services tomorrow morning. The US Embassy has requested that US citizens avoid all unnecessary travel and stay away from churches in the region.
Last night in the village of Boiffo a delegation from Malanville, Kandi and other larger population centers descended upon the village once again to urge the people to purge their village of Christians and their “worthless influence.” Pastor Isaac met with the village chief and others this morning, all have condemned the intrusion, but the sentiment has been felt heavily by the local population of believers.
In Kouberi our small group struggles to grow. The main reason appears to be the mocking and threats that those who would like to join have endured. One young man Illiasou was ordered by the village chief to abandon the church or give his wife back to her family. He has refused both orders but is under intense pressure and as a young believer lives with a great deal of fear.
Satan is active, particularly in regions where the influence of Christ is penetrating the darkness. Though he is a vanquished foe he continues to manifest himself as a “roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” Moments ago Pastor Isaac commented to me, “they can burn our churches, but they will never destroy the Church!”
It is important to note that these acts are not the acts of trained terrorists or islamists. They are mostly average Muslims who are quickly whipped into an ignorant frenzy and become violent and unpredictable. They have no shepherd, they are lost and equally need the prayers of God’s people in order that they might be turned from darkness to light.
Our family is on alert. It does not appear that we will be affected by these passing incidents. Local authorities have been made aware of our situation and we have taken necessary precautions. In light of these events we ask you to pray for the following:
- Calm in the region
- Safety for local believers as they are generally the first targets
- Safety for our missionary colleagues
- Safety for our family (it pains a father very much to see fear in his children's eyes when they overhear our conversations)
- Boldness in preaching the gospel which gives us freedom to live without fear in perilous times.
Thank you once again for standing with us in the Lord’s work. We value your prayers at all times, but most particularly in times like these.
January 4, 2015
Transitioning from one year to another always gives reason to pause and reflect. It is a good time to give thanks to the Lord for great things he has done and learn from challenges that we have faced as we prepare for new ones. In this edition of our prayer letter we look back on the past year to bring you up to date.
Lets start with the kids…Ethan will be turning 8 next week. That means it has been 8 years since we wrote our first prayer letters from language school in Quebec. He is currently in the third grade. His favorite activities include fishing, playing soccer with his friends, and managing his growing collection of pets (2 birds, a dog and a cat, a sheep, a warthog, a crocodile, a genet, an antelope, and 2 giant tortoises). He has done a fantastic job memorizing Bible verses from his Awana book, has a sincere desire to read his Bible, and appears to grasp important spiritual concepts. He is a good shepherd to his little sis and bro.
Eliana is our princess. Probably because Colin said before she was born he wasn’t going to have a girly-girl. She loves dressing up, trying on new clothes having mama braid her hair and paint her nails. She is very sensitive and tender, and melts her fathers heart every morning when she comes to him with big brown sparkly eyes and asks for kisses. At 3 years old she is just beginning to memorize scripture and has begun making very astute philosophical and theological statements such as, “Jesus loves I” and “God will protect I from scorpions.”
Elias is quite the mobile character. He adores his big sister and longs to have the freedoms of his big brother. His jabbering is starting to make sense and he loves getting into mischief. He always seems to have a bruise or scar from climbing on top of tables and desks. You have to keep your eye on this one!
Teena and I will celebrate 13 years of marriage this year and we are blessed. The past year has been challenging but fruitful. Teena has had opportunity to show hospitality in our home for a combined total of 4 months since last January. We consider this a blessing. She has become known for her compassion for infants and children, but particularly malnourished babies and their mothers. Most markedly though, she takes great pains to care for her husband and children!
The following is a brief summary of ministry activities and projects:
The Dendi Bible Institute had another great year offering 8 modular courses. Particularly encouraging was the start of our women’s studies program. Equally exciting is the continued involvement of our former graduates in various church planting ministries.
Medical Ministries in Boiffo and surrounding villages continue to prove effective for disseminating the gospel. Two different medical teams with Grace Dental and Medical Mission arrived ministering to approximately 2200 individuals most of whom heard a clear presentation of the gospel. Progress is ongoing on the medical clinic in Boiffo. The perimeter wall is nearly finished, the water tower is nearly finished, and the foundation and septic systems are nearly finished on the facility. Lots of loose ends to wrap up in the month to come! You can read a report on the progress of the clinic building at beninclinic.com.
The church plant in Kouberi experienced a few milestones this past year. After a full year of holding services in our little building we held our own Christmas celebration. We excitedly anticipated that our little group of 15 would grow to more than 40 on Christmas day and to our surprise we had 70! We shared a breakfast, watched a film, preached the gospel and enjoyed a traditional Christmas meal of rice and meat sauce. With tithes and offerings from the past year we were able to make repairs to the building and paint inside and out. Our next step is to begin a steady literacy program in 2015 and add another service.
The Dormitory Project in Malanville has run into a snag…My presence was requested in the Mayor/Governors office a couple of months ago. The question/accusation… “Why are you building in the middle of the road?” To which I replied… “Because that is where you insisted the building markers be placed, despite our better judgment.” Long pause… well you’d better hold off until we sort this out. My thoughts… “I thought we sorted it out months ago when it was discussed on several occasions and we submitted to your decision…” Patience, this is Bénin, and we will likely continue with progress in the months to come. Might this not have something to do with the fact that we are building next to the property of one of the wealthiest Muslims in West Africa?
Bible Studies with several young men from the village have been particularly encouraging. After 27 weeks of lessons in French we will have a little celebration and give certificates to 4 young men, all who have professed Christ as Savior. Early in 2015 we will tackle the same lessons in Dendi.
There is always more to tell but as your patience has brought you this far it is only fitting that I bring this to a close. We will save details on our plans for the upcoming year for another soon and coming update. Thank you again for your faithfulness and prayers.
August 3, 2014
Once again we are grateful for the faithful prayers of God’s people in our behalf. A short time ago we were stopped by military police on our way home. We were informed that bandits had been stopping vehicles at gunpoint on the roadway and looting them. One individual had been shot. We waited over an hour for a convoy to develop and continued on our way with an armed escort. Along the way taxi drivers were in a hurry to pass to the front of the convoy when the semi in front of us braked to avoid hitting a donkey. The vehicles behind us were following too closely without proper brakes and we had a 3 vehicle accident. To our great surprise our vehicle sustained no damage despite a rather abrupt jolt. The two cars behind us were damaged heavily. When we arrived home we were informed that bandits had struck again shortly after we passed. Once again, God has seen fit to protect our family and we are grateful.
Another reason to be grateful…we now have electricity in our village! We only have 5 amps and our power is frequently cut, but it is of great benefit to have lights and fans running in the middle of the day. Even a small amount of electricity can greatly increase productivity.
Many of you prayed concerning our residency permits. There was some concern as to whether or not they would be issued as our visa’s have come into question. The expensive fees were waived because of our mission status which was a powerful answer to prayer. We were recently informed that our permits are ready to be picked up. Our immigration status is once again secure…for another year.
Progress is ongoing on projects that so many have been praying for and giving towards. Walls walls and more walls…over 600 feet of foundation poured between the Malanville Dormitory project and the Boiffo Medical Clinic, all of which are for perimeter walls. Approximately 3000 blocks have been laid, a small fraction of those to be laid in the months to come. Pray for safety as construction continues.
The Kassa church building is drawing to a close with interior plaster and paint needed to wrap things up. Project funds have run dry so we will likely await the November harvest to complete the aesthetic work. Work teams from several churches have toiled now for several months on these projects illustrating our focus on building the up of the body of Christ. We thank God for willing hands without which not much progress would be made.
Rejoice!.. We recently learned that the clinic project is fully funded! Over $100,000 have been committed…Wow!
Continue in Prayer…for our medical team arriving for two weeks of medical intervention opening doors for our local churches to share the gospel. We will begin our first day of clinic on Tuesday, August 5th in Guene.
Pray…for important decisions that need to be made with regard to administration and partnership roles in the ongoing development of the medical clinic in Boiffo.
Pray…for continued open doors to the gospel, for progress in the Kouberi church plant as well as several other works that are ongoing. Pray that the Word faithfully preached week-in and week-out will produce spiritual fruit.
Praise…Elias recently fought through 3 days with with a high fever (104). Worried parents turned the Lord to be reminded of his grace in uncertain times.
Thank you…for upholding us in prayer, there is no doubt God is at work!
May 21, 2014
We arrived home safely from Botswana last night. We are thankful for a great time spent with Teena's family in the village of Kanye. You are receiving this update because we live in a “connected” world. While our corner of the world is still far behind in the tech arena, we are indeed connected. I will pray and hit send after several hours of preparing and uploading this update and hope that it arrives in your inboxes. It will seem for a moment as if we are together again, or at least not so far apart. At the same time having just spent a full day flying across the continent of Africa with a lay over in Point Noir, Congo, we are reminded that we live in a different world. The world of South Africa, while distinctly african, is quite different than that which we experience in West Africa. Both worlds stand in contrast to our place of residence when we are in Washington State, yet they are all somewhat interconnected by a variety of media in this age. This morning however, after a month of peaceful mornings, we were once again awakened by the mosque near by. A chill went up my spine again, as it always does when we have just arrived home. By tomorrow the chill will be forgotten and life will return to our “normal.”
The main reason for this update is to inform you that we were successful in submitting our application for residency permits on Friday. What a day it was! The day began somewhat early as a visit to the bank to draw funds for the mission was on the schedule. Banking can be quite a hassle I have found, sometimes our accounts are frozen for no apparent reason, other times the line is so long at the bank we give up and try another day. Friday was different, the transaction was smooth, Praise the Lord. Next stop, blood draw at the immigration hospital. The children are not required to apply for residency permits but Teena and I both had to have our blood tested as a part of our application. Because we don’t have someone to care for the kids they had to accompany us into a dingy hospital and watch us get poked. Poor little Eliana, tired and scared, lip trembling protested… “me no want shot.” Arriving at the hospital we were asked to return on Monday as the only doctor in the country who could certify the blood work was out in the village. I pressed further and after beating around the bush for another 5 minutes we discovered that there was indeed another doctor, on the other side of the city, who “for a fee” could certify the test. I assured them it would be much more cost effective for me to pay the doctor than to return home 12 hours to the north and come again at a later date.
At 3 o’clock I returned for the results and health certificate as instructed. I was informed that they decided not to start the paperwork until they saw me walk through the door, so I waited…Time was of the essence, I had to submit the application by 5:00 across the city or wait…yet again…for another opportunity, meanwhile having to redo certain parts of the application because they were set to expire. We prayed, and prayed…finally paperwork in hand I returned to pick up Teena and the kids to head to Immigration, hoping for the best.
Our hearts sank as we approached the immigration office. There was no parking and people were everywhere. How could we possibly submit our application in the next 30 minutes when we could hardly get to the office? We parked a distance away and hiked the kids through flowing traffic to the entrance where to our relief we were able to enter. At the office for residency permits the line was out the building. Determinedly, we pressed our way into the office to see what was going on. Surprisingly no one protested as I made my way in. The officer behind the desk greeted me belligerently, with some trepidation I mentioned that I was returning with the paperwork that they had requested, wondering if I could submit our applications. At the same time I reminded her of the gentleman that had accompanied me on my last visit, a christian brother who serves as an aid to missionaries for purposes of immigration…her grimace turned to a smile as she assured me that I had come to the right place. Within a few minutes we were accompanying her to get fingerprinted and have mug shots taken.
The life of an alien…so much like that of our walk in this world. We are here in this world, but we know that we really “are not of it”. By Gods grace this chapter of our lives is past and we move onto the next. Pray that our applications will be accepted. This term is sure to be full of office visits as we press forward with new projects and outreach initiatives. Thank you for your prayers, they continue to be effectual.
May 9, 2014
The weeks have slipped past quickly since our last letter. The highlights have begun to pile up indicating that it is once again past time for an update. Our first graduating class from the Dendi Bible Institute was quite possibly the most exciting event of our ministry in Benin. Twelve men persevered through 4 years of coursework, completing 20 modules, in preparation for various aspects of ministry. These men will be taking the lead in our church planting efforts in the years to come. They also served as an example to our 12 new students who began studies the first of the year. We hope to refine our training program to better serve the needs of our students. We are also looking forward to starting a program for the ladies of our churches with the assistance of our colleague Cindy Faile.
For the past several weeks we have been enjoying time away with family in Botswana. It was a joy to introduce Elias to Grandpa and Grandma Bell for the first time. As an added bonus Teena’s sister and family traveled down from Congo to join us for a family reunion. These occasions are few and far between and treasured long after, with great memories for us and our children.
Weekly trips to the village of Kassa have brought us closer to completion of a new church building to accommodate a growing congregation. Work teams from the villages of Guene and Boiffo have helped keep the cost of construction down and provided for great times of fellowship and interaction between local churches in our area. Trusses have been fabricated and await our return from Botswana for installation. Rains have already begun to fall, but we still hope to have things closed in before rainy season is fully upon us in June.
Temperatures have soared once again this hot season. Average day-time highs in April were around 110. It is not uncommon to sleep through the night without temperatures dipping below 90. This signals the optimal time for well digging.
Recently we began work on two new projects; a dormitory in the town of Malanville for our students who currently depend on the local church for housing, and the beginning phases of a medical clinic in the village of Boiffo. Once the wells at these sites have been dug and cased, brick production will begin. Soon after walls will go up to protect the properties so that we can begin construction. This summer is going to be busy!
Continue in Prayer…with a long list of projects and responsibilities, pray that we will have the patience and stamina to endure.
Pray…with regard to our immigration status. Our visa’s are no longer sufficient for residency. We are in the process of applying for residency permits. This can be a long, expensive process! Upon return to Benin on May 15th we will submit our application in hopes of approval from immigration.
Pray…for continued open doors to the gospel, for progress in the Kouberi church plant as well as several other works that are ongoing. Pray that the Word faithfully preached week-in and week-out will produce spiritual fruit.
Praise…All three of our children have now endured the chicken pox. We are thankful to be past this milestone!
Thank you…for the vital role that you play in our lives and ministry to the Dendi people!
December 18, 2013
A lot has happened in the five weeks since our last update. It is hard to believe that such a short time ago we were still in the U.S! Upon arriving on the field we had just a few days to set things in order for the arrival of Dr. Stephen Nunemaker and his wife Julie for a week-long course on Marriage and the family designed for our Bible School program. We found our home and the mission station in general to be in excellent condition. We are grateful for the presence of the Beckley family as well as Cindy Faile who kept things in order during our absence. We have not lacked for maintenance projects and preparations for moving back into our home, but the process has been much smoother than in the past when we came back to a vacant station.
The Bible School course was well attended by both our students and their wives. The Nunemakers are always a blessing to have in our home and share a wealth of experience, teaching ability, and understanding of the unique cultural background of the people of our region. This was the first time to have the wives of our students on campus during a week of training. We look forward to developing more of our program with a view toward investing in the wives of our students. Since arriving on the field, Cindy Faile has been actively discipling a number of the ladies in our local churches. More recently Sarah Beckley began teaching literacy. These are all very exciting developments.
While we were away Ken Beckley has been busy finalizing a trial edition of the first 10 books of the Old Testament. This has been a long, tedious process and we are grateful for his efforts and attention to detail. We look forward to having this resource for the Bible School program.
As I write this letter we are relaxing in Niamey, Niger. Our family drove up with a medical team from Grace Dental and Medical Mission. For a 10 day period we traveled to 5 villages with the team of gifted medical professionals whose desire was to see doors opened for the gospel. Over 1000 medical patients were treated as well as over 150 dental patients. Each individual had opportunity to hear the gospel on multiple occasions. Individuals from 2 villages that have turned away evangelists in the past, expressed an openness to the gospel. We pray that through follow-up, we might on day see churches planted in these challenging areas. Village chiefs from all around came for medical care and expressed great appreciation. It was a very fruitful time of ministry and a blessing to be a part of such a great team of servants.
We have made additional baby steps forward toward the establishment of a permanent clinic in the village of Boiffo. A large plot of land has been marked out and set apart by the village authorities for our use. We will soon begin official surveying of the land, acquiring a title, and constructing a wall surrounding the future clinic. We are excited about the potential of partnering with the local church in Boiffo and Grace Dental and Medical Mission. We invite you to visit www.beninclinic.com for more information related to recent ministry activity and future plans.
Just a few short weeks ago Teena's grandfather Benton Bell went home to be with the Lord. We are grateful for his legacy of ministry and for the time that we were able to share together while home on furlough. Grandpa Bell often spoke of his hope in Christ and longing for eternity. We will miss his storytelling and godly perspective.
In the weeks to come we will be enjoying the Christmas season with our friends and ministry colleagues. As we look forward to a season of celebration surrounding Christ in the manger, we are reminded that he is our living Savior, he is preparing a place for us, and coming soon to take us to be with him. What a celebration we have in store!
November 7, 2013
En Route to Bénin
As I write this letter we are making our final preparations for departure from the U.S. Our bags are packed and loaded so that we can make our way to the airport. We have butterflies in our stomachs as we anticipate the long flights, layovers, and eventual adaptation to African temperatures and surroundings. Ethan is wired with excitement, Eliana and Elias have no idea what they are in for.
The past several weeks have been a whirlwind of activity and blessing. On October 20th we enjoyed a gathering of 6 of our local area supporting churches, on Sunday afternoon at First Baptist in Quincy. We appreciate the sacrifice that many made to come together and send us off with words of encouragement and prayer. We have a fantastic support base that God has provided, empowering us for ministry to the Dendi.
On October 22, we boarded a red-eye flight from Seattle to Boston. We were greeted in Boston by Teena's brother, Bryan Bell and his family. We paid a visit to the home office of Grace Dental and Medical Mission to catch up on some business related to the clinic project in the village of Boiffo. From Boston we traveled to N.E. Pennsylvania where we visited 4 different churches over the course of 2 weekends. It was a great time of catching up with old friends and making new ones. I was privileged with the opportunity to address the Seminary students and faculty at Baptist Bible Seminary, in a Tuesday morning chapel and catch up with the distinguished faculty at BBS, to whom we are indebted for much of our ministry training. Our supporting churches blessed us with great fellowship and while our time was short it was most certainly sweet.
In the past 8 months we have visited almost 30 churches. We are grateful for 2 new churches, as well as several individuals, who have joined our support team. At last calculation were are fully supported as we head back to Bénin. Funds for the Malanville dormitory project, as well as assistance for 2 local churches with building projects, has been supplied in a timely manner. Funds for the Boiffo medical clinic have been accumulating and we now have nearly $15,000 toward our goal of $90,000. Our third term is going to be busy with building projects!
Awaiting us in Bénin...
We are excited to once again have our feet on African soil. One of our colleagues is scheduled to pick us up at the Niamey airport at 4:30 pm on November 8th. Pray that our 9 checked bags and 4 carry-on items all make the trip with us! Our plan is to spend a few days in the capital picking up supplies and adjusting to climate before boarding a small Cesna for our final flight to the Niger/Bénin border.
We are grateful for the time of furlough that we have enjoyed reporting on the progress of the gospel to the Dendi people. We look forward to keeping in touch with you in the months to come. Many are reading our newsletter for the first time and we welcome you to our updates! Please keep us informed in the future if you change your address or delivery preference. We would love to hear from you if you have time to write. We are so thankful for those whom the Lord has called to stand alongside of us in support of reaching the Dendi people for Christ. We also will be praying for you as you walk with the Lord and make the most of every opportunity to be the light of Christ in an upside down world.
September 7, 2013
Blessing upon Blessing
The past months have been filled with many blessings. Our family has been traveling all over the northwest, enjoying the beauty of the region and making the most of each stop along the way. We are thankful for each reunion as well as each opportunity to make new connections. Since arriving "home" on furlough we have been in 17 churches, several of which we have enjoyed multiple meetings, as well as assisting with a few summer children's programs. We are so grateful for the network of churches that supports our family in ministry.
We are blessed because you have been praying for us. We reflect on that fact each new week as we share the work in Bénin. Time and again we are reminded by individuals that they are praying and excited to see God work. We are grateful for the expressions of concern and encouragement. Many have prayed for Colin's father, Dave Ovenell, who was diagnosed with cancer shortly after we arrived in the U.S. We are thrilled to share that just 2 weeks ago, the doctors announced after several tests, that the cancer is no longer visible. In the months to come, he will undergo further testing to monitor his health. Today he is back on his feet, rejoicing in the Lord and recovering well from the rigors of cancer treatment. His life is a reminder to us that our time is short and that our God is indeed the Great Physician.
The summer months have offered many opportunities to enjoy time with family and friends. In the week ahead we look forward to yet another reunion as we attend the BNN pastors and wives conference/retreat in Canon Beach, Oregon. We've seen a lot of road in the past several months and have even grown a bit travel weary, but our hearts are full from the blessing of fellowship with those who have enabled us to serve in Bénin. Please continue to pray for our family as we close out our time in the Northwest before boarding a plane (Oct 24) to head to Pennsylvania for a few weeks before returning home to Bénin (Nov. 7).
Currently, we are busy packing a crate of tools and supplies for the next 3 years ministry and projects. Originally we had hoped to get the crate shipped early but many other things have taken priority. We are hoping to finish packing and send the supplies on their way by mid-September. As time is winding down we have taken to updating passports, routine vaccinations and doctors visits. Please pray for timely processing of Elias travel documents including a visa for the Republic of Niger.
Meanwhile back in Bénin...
Progress continues on the field in our absence. We were happy to hear that a team continues to travel weekly to the village of Kouberi to hold services. Life has continued to be busy for both the Beckley family and Cindy Faile. They would appreciate your continued prayer for strength and wisdom as they continue in ministry. This month temperatures will likely begin to rise, accompanied with high humidity as the rainy season comes to a close. Troy Manning with Bibles International will be in Guéné once again wrapping up his consultation of the first ten historical books of the OT in preparation for printing. We are excited for this milestone and looking forward to this added resource in the Dendi language.
In an effort to better communicate and remain connected to you we have updated our web page, http://www.beninbound.org/. You will find updated photos and information as well as information related to several projects that we will be undertaking in the months to come. We have also updated our prayer cards and prepared an informational card with details related to the needs of the Bénin field. Feel free to contact us at any time if you have questions, need a new prayer card, or just want to connect!
June 23, 2013
This has got to be one of the latest birth announcements that you have ever received! We apologize for the delay. Elias David was born on May 30th at 8:46 am in Wenatchee, WA. He weighed 6 lbs. 4 ounces, and was 20 inches long. After the initial excitement of his birth, Facebook posts, phone calls, and e-mails I sat down to write this update...and it is just now coming together.
Elias means "the Lord is my God." The name comes from the Greek form of Elijah. His middle name is taken from his grandpa Ovenell. Brother Ethan and sister Eliana are thrilled to have a little baby brother. Honestly, we never set out to name all of our children with E's!
Teena has recovered well from delivery. Overall this pregnancy was her most difficult and in some ways so was the delivery. It almost ended with a cesarean but after a few tense hours 2 doctors and 7 nurses helped the little guy fight his way into the world. He was wrapped three times in his umbilical chord (neck, chest and between his legs). It is no wonder that Teena always felt that he was an especially active baby!
Our family has taken several weeks off from traveling and enjoyed being close to home. The next few weekends we will continue with a full calendar of meetings (see sidebar for our upcoming schedule).
Elias' grandpa Ovenell has been battling cancer for several months now as you are aware. He had surgery to remove a tumor in his leg in April. Since that time he began chemotherapy and after four consecutive days of treatment he determined that chemo was not the path for him. He has returned to work and will begin radiation therapy early this next week. We are praying for a full recovery and rejoicing that his strength has returned and that he is leading a full life.
News from Bénin...
We are excited to report that Cindy Faile has arrived safely in Guéné. The last several months have been quite busy for Cindy. On the way to Niger from Mali she hit a donkey and sustained extensive damage to her vehicle (she was unhurt, and the donkey stubbornly continued on his way).
Arriving in Niger she waited several weeks for vehicle repairs and a Bénin visa. Much of her stay in the capital was without electricity and the heat was excruciating. We are grateful for her resolve and thanking the Lord that she has arrived safely to her new home in Bénin. She has already begun visiting the local churches of the region and making preparations to begin training teachers for children's ministries. Cindy is on loan to our field from the Mali field and would ask that you continue to pray for the peace process in a country that has been ravaged by civil war introduced by several different Islamic factions.
And now for a long awaited report on the status of EBM. It has been nearly 2 years since our former mission began the process of dissolution. The process has been slow and painful. This past week I attended (via the web) a final resolution meeting in which the board members presented several reports detailing the missions demise. In short, the mission agency failed due largely to mismanagement (the word chosen by several board members). A failure to navigate through increased governmental regulation, and a lack of vision to press forward through tough economic times were sighted as well as overall poor financial management of mission resources. If you would like a more detailed report of the events leading to EBM's closure, please do not hesitate to contact me. We anticipate receiving somewhere around 19 cents for every dollar lost from our various ministry accounts once the process of dissolution is finalized. Our family is thanking the Lord for his watchcare and provision. We are especially grateful for an excellent mission (FBM), a fantastic base of prayer and support and this precious time of furlough that we have been able to enjoy.
April 12, 2013
We're back! Of course you knew that, in fact we have been home in the States now for over a month. This update is long overdue! We have been busily traveling about visiting family and getting reacquainted with some of our supporting churches. It has been fun re-introducing Ethan to our friends and family and getting to introduce Eliana for the first time. While we adjust quickly to the change in climate, pace, and lifestyle the change is quite a bit more challenging for our children, yet they have embraced it and seem to enjoy all but the cold weather. It is so much fun for them to be able to run next door and see Grandpa and Grandma. We were a bit surprised to see how well Eliana took to her Grandpa Ovenell but we should have known after seeing her quickly bond with her Grandpa Bell only months earlier.
What are we doing? Adjusting, and preparing for a few months of traveling to visit supporting churches before the new baby arrives (due date June 10). Both Teena and I have been to the doctor for check-ups. We have both been given clean bills of health after our physicals and blood tests. No residual affects from malaria and no other "bugs" to report. Praise God!
Just a few weeks ago Colin's father was diagnosed with cancer, a sarcoma tumor growing in his right leg. The diagnoses came just a couple of weeks after our arrival so we are grateful to be home at this time. This past week he underwent surgery to have the growth removed. The doctors didn't appear totally sure that they had been able to remove it entirely. We hope to know in a few weeks what will be the next course of action, if any. We would ask you to pray for his ongoing health.
Meanwhile back in Bénin...
It has been nice to be able to keep in touch with our friends and colleagues the Beckleys since we have been home. Their lives have been incredibly busy since we left, and not without challenge, but we are thanking the Lord for each good report that we receive from them. Things seem to be moving along well in our absence, Ken is busy working on a revision of Old Testament historical books which we hope to have printed by the end of the year. The pastors and church leaders have continued on in ministry without missing a beat, often in the face of growing opposition and the looming threat of persecution. Please continue to pray for our missionary colleagues as well as our Béninese brethren who are pressing on in our absence. They are currently in the middle of the hottest, most miserable time of year.
We hope to see you soon...
While we realize that it will not be possible to see everyone who receives our prayer updates we are hoping to see as many of you as possible. If you are are wondering how to get in touch with us you can either send us an e-mail or give us a call using our up-to-date contact information in the bottom portion of this letter. Over the course of the next 7 months we intend to visit 19 of our 20 supporting churches as well as a few others that have expressed interest in having our family in on a Sunday. We would welcome your prayers for our travel safety. This past Sunday we enjoyed a great day of fellowship with FBC, Soap Lake. The remainder of our schedule for the upcoming month can be found in the sidebar of this letter.
In the weeks/months to come we look forward to updating you on our progress/plans for a new medical clinic in Boiffo, Bénin, as well as several other exciting ministry opportunities that the Lord has brought our way. Thank you for your continued prayers and support of our family and the work in Northern Bénin.
Colin's father was recently diagnosed with a form of cancer called Sarcoma. Last week he underwent surgery to remove the tumor from his leg. He has recovered well from the surgery but still faces the possibility of further surgeries, radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy. Our family would appreciate your prayers for his health.
February 21, 2013
Indeed we are headed your way!
This morning we boarded a 4 seat, Cesna 182 just across the border in Niger and made the first of our 6 flights on a journey that will ultimately end in Seattle on the 27th.
We initially booked our tickets early due to concern for Teena and the baby's health. Last week however, we were able to get another ultrasound and check-up that revealed that both are in good health and the signs of the original trauma that Teena experienced in December are no longer evident.
Tomorrow morning at 2:25 a.m. we will board with Air France heading to Florida to meet with First Baptist Church of Winter Haven and the board of Faith Baptist Mission. We will be spending 5 days meeting with other missionaries, relaxing and enjoying a mission's conference that coincides with our arrival.
We have already booked a number of meetings with supporting churches and are looking forward to seeing many if not all of you in person. There is much to tell from these past 2 ½ years and we are excited to give a report of what the Lord is doing in and through our family. We are also looking forward to some times of refreshing and retooling as we prepare for ongoing ministries in Benin.
As we anticipate seeing one another in the months to come please remember the following prayer concerns:
- Travel safety, as we will be covering many miles through the air and over the pavement in the weeks to come. (Oh how nice it will be to drive on smooth pavement once again!)
- The Beckley family who are currently overseeing ongoing ministries in Northern Benin. (It is quite a load for one couple, they need your prayers.)
- Security concerns related to ongoing instability in the region.
- Colin wrapped up the first 2 courses of the Bible School season but Pastor Isaac and Ken Beckley will be carrying the rest of the load for the month to come.
- Several couples and one single missionary are considering partnering with us in Northern Benin in the near future. Pray for the Lord's direction in their lives and ministries.
- General health. We are relatively healthy with no great concerns but we are tired. Pray for us as we transition to home assignment.
Thank you for your continued prayers and support of our work among the Dendi. It is a privilege to serve the Lord in this capacity and we are grateful for your partnership that makes this possible. God bless, hope to see you soon!
January 5, 2013
Into the New Year
Greetings to you in the New Year that is upon us! 2012 was a full year and we look forward with great anticipation to 2013. The past year was a year marked with challenges but was not to be out weighed by progress and blessing. One of the year's final blessings was the arrival of a delegation of representatives from Faith Baptist Mission. Chris and Diane Marine, regional coordinators arrived with Pastor Peter Brock, President of the mission. We were encouraged by their arrival, they were encouraged by what they witnessed. It a fitting cap upon a year of growth for our family and the churches of Northern Benin.
Pictured above is a group of men that are dedicated to carrying the load of ministry among the Dendi into the future as we eagerly anticipate the return of our Savior. Growth is often accompanied by challenges. A number of ministry leaders have recently commented that it seems that they are experiencing heightened levels of spiritual warfare and opposition in their villages. Despite this opposition, most of our churches reported numerical growth over the course of the past year; greater numbers came to Christ under the preaching of the Word and personal testimonies of God's people than has been reported in a number of years. Church planting efforts continued in 2 villages while 3 more works began. It has been the focus of God's people here to begin again in villages where the church has struggled the greatest. Little by little we are seeing revival in the villages of Kouberi, Isene, Tolozugu, and Bangoun. The most exciting part of these efforts has been watching young men; most of whom are preparing to graduate from the Bible School program this year take the lead. Blessings included the village of Kouberi granting us an extension of our current property that is 3 times the size of our existing plot, the village of Boiffo donating nearly 2 acres of land for the future development of a medical clinic, and re-acquisition of a plot of land in Malanville for the construction of a dormitory for young men tied to our association of churches and needing housing for continued education. Things are moving at an accelerated pace, your prayers are needed more than ever. As opportunities arise and obstacles rise up to meet them we thank the Lord for a support team of churches and individuals that partner with us in prayer each day.
In one week we will be meeting a second team of medical professionals who will arrive to minister among the Dendi people and further explore the possibility of partnering in the establishment of a permanent medical work. Please pray for safety and wisdom for this team of 7 led by Bryan Bell and Dr. Jack Mitchell of Grace Dental and Medical Missions. We are excited about the potential for this work.
We are delighted to announce that we are expecting our third child! The news came as a bit of a surprise but the timing seems just right. Mid-June is the due date, right in the middle of our upcoming furlough. We are thanking the Lord for this blessing but it has come with some trials. Teena has had some problems this time around and was ordered onto bed rest. In the absence of good medical care this was the best advice to assure that the baby was not lost after it became evident that things were not going well. We are wishing that we could be in the States already, where care is available, but we are awaiting a go ahead for her to travel or better yet, a report that she and baby are in good health so that we can finish out this term and wrap things up properly.
A number of individuals and supporting churches have requested an update on our support level. We are pleased to report that God supplied in abundance over the course of 2012 despite the fact that we are approximately $500 a month short of our support goal. Special gifts from God's people have been used over and again to demonstrate His faithfulness to us in meeting our every need. Thank you to many of you who have given sacrificially so that we can continue to work here in the harvest of Benin. We are looking forward to getting home to report on a number of projects that will likely begin over the course of 2013. We rejoice in knowing that God will again supply in His time and in His way. We have never had a greater sense that the time is now, and ever shortening, to give everything we have for the sake of the gospel. May 2013 be another year of growth as we continue to experience God's continued presence in our lives.
August 31, 2012
And the Rains Came Down...
2011 was a dismal year for rains and many continue to suffer from lack of rations. Thanks to gifts from a number of our supporters we have been able to help many families in need. In our region we have already experienced more than 4 times the rainfall of last year! In other regions nearby however, the rains have added insult to injury destroying yet another years crops and many homes. Villages along the Niger river north of us have been devastated, many evacuated and even destroyed. Our colleagues at the Sahel Academy in Niamey have been evacuated as the campus of the international school (the home of many missionary children) was declared a part of the Niger river until flood waters recede in 2013. Rejoice with our local farmers who will likely harvest abundantly and pray for those in areas close by who are suffering.
The day after we sent our last prayer letter Teena came down with Malaria, followed by Colin and then Ethan. (Malaria is not contagious although it is transferred from person to person by mosquitoes.) We are very careful to keep our home sealed up, doors closed and screens repaired but for several months the ceilings in a large part of our home were removed for necessary repairs. We attribute this as the likely reason we were infected. Word got out and many of you prayed fervently for our family. We thank you for praying us through this very discouraging time. To date we have all recovered our health. Recovering required multiple treatments and nearly a months time due to the particularly severe nature of this attack. In the past few weeks we have noticed elevated levels of mosquitoes due to abundant rains so please pray for our continued health and protection from infection.
On the subject of health, we are looking forward to the arrival of a dental/medical team early in September for concentrated evangelistic efforts in our region. Teena's brother; Bryan Bell, will be leading this team from Grace Dental and Medical Missions of Woburn, Massachusetts. The team of 6 including doctors and nurses who will be spending 8 days working in 3-4 villages. Teams of local evangelists will be working to share the gospel with those who come to the clinics for care. Please pray that the team would be well received and that the seed of the gospel sown.
A Unique Ministry...
Since the closure of EBM one year ago I was asked to take over accountability, as well as delivery of funds to a school for the deaf in Cotonou. This vital ministry has been ongoing now for over 20 years in the hands of capable local leadership. Oversight for the school is maintained by local churches in Cotonou. I have had the privilege to visit the school and its director, Jean Houetto on several occasions. Jean is a recent graduate of Tri-M's ministry training program. He has shared with me in recent weeks that the Lord has continued to sustain the ministry despite the fact that over half of the students are unable to come up with sufficient funds to pay for their education. The school currently ministers to over 44 deaf students from a variety of faith backgrounds. Many have come to know Christ as a result of loving care and a dedicated staff of teachers who are consistently underpaid. If you are interested in more information concerning this ministry or how you might directly support the ministry please contact us. Thank you to those who have consistently supported this work over the years, it has been my privilege to take over stewardship of your funds transferring them into the hands of godly servants.
Church Planting Update...
Sunday services and visitation have yielded fruit in the village of Kouberi. An average of 28 have been attending Sunday morning services for the past month despite the fact that many of the villagers are busy in their fields away from home. Sinka will soon be wrapping up his time as an intern; we are grateful for his ministry with us. Pray for him and his family as he will likely move on to a more permanent ministry soon. We are anticipating a new intern John (Jean) in September, a young man whom we hope will move into the village with his wife and young child sometime in September. We have enjoyed consistent ministry to a number of children from the village and frequent visits from different adults interested in seeing what is going on.
Thank you for your continued faithful prayer and support for our family and the work here in Northern Bénin.
June 20, 2012
The rains have come to Northern Bénin! The villagers have energetically re-entered their fields and begun planting in hopes of a better year. After very poor rains last year the beginning of this season has seemed fantastic. In fact, the most recent of our rains was too much, 4 inches in one day! The heavy rain and winds knocked down mud brick houses in the village and showed us where the leaks are in our own roofs that need attention. A number of farmers lost portions of their crops, fortunately there is yet time to replant. The rains literally transform our region turning it from a dry, parched land into a green and thriving landscape. The rains also spell relief from the intense heat of April and May. We have much to be thankful for, we've made it through another hot season, and are still somewhat sane (we think).
The change in seasons illustrates well church planting ministries. There are dry periods, and periods of refreshing. Nearly 5 years ago we settled here with church planting on our hearts. It has been a slow and arduous trek that began over 30 years ago and yet today we are seeing signs of progress. A struggling association of churches here in Northern Bénin has become emboldened. Former works once closed are being re-opened and new villages are being considered for ministry. Progress is not measured by large numbers of converts, mass distributions or evangelistic campaigns but rather individual Dendi believers stepping up and recognizing their responsibility to lead in the task.
One of these bold individuals is named Guda Haizuma. Guda came to Christ nearly 7 years ago and as a result lost his fiancé and was rejected by his family. The Lord answered his prayers for a Godly wife (Yaliya from the village of Boiffo), and the two were married a few weeks ago. Because the family of the groom refused to participate, the churches took collections to assist the young couple. The village of Guéné was abuzz as people spoke of the testimony of local believers who sacrificed their own good for the good of another. Several have begun attending Sunday services, curious to know more of what this is all about. In a village where the church has greatly struggled to survive we rejoice in the good hand of the Lord as he has once again worked his good pleasure in spite of our weakness.
In May Colin was invited to teach another Tri-M module, this time in Niamey, Niger. The title of the course was "Disciple Making." This was one of the most enjoyable courses he has taught and to a fantastic group of pastors and church leaders. We praise the Lord for the work He is doing in Niger through dedicated local servants, and for the opportunity to have a small part in their development. The course impressed upon us the great need to continue training disciples for our own works here in Northern Bénin.
Please pray for Sinka as the work in Kouberi has stagnated to some degree as a result of most of the adult population being out in their fields. The ministry has been primarily to young children and what a joy it has been. We recently switched from meeting weekly on Wednesday evenings to starting Sunday services. This past Sunday we had 18, mostly children, pray that the Lord would touch the hearts of the adult population as well and that a new church might be established in this village.
After decades of missionary activity in West Africa, sickness and disease remain the number one concern for most. Security is rapidly moving up the list however. Abductions are on the rise, terrorist cells are increasingly using this region for training grounds and roads we once traveled with little thought of peril are now being patrolled by heavily armed military personnel. We have often asked that you pray for our safety as we travel treacherous roadways, now we seek the Lord's protection from thieves and terrorists. I have hesitated to mention this request, not wanting to solicit undue concern, and yet we desire your prayers. Pray for the safety of our family and colleagues, pray also that our resolve would not be diminished. The evil one is witnessing the growth of the church in a region that once belonged solely to him. One would expect that he would defend his territory. Thank you for going boldly before the throne of grace on our behalf.
April 12, 2012
April is upon us. Arguably the toughest season of the year. Temperatures in the house rise to well over 100 degrees dropping through the night to a low in the 90's. Energy and motivation levels drop as temperatures rise. Typically we plan this season to be the lightest in terms of projects and responsibilities. This year as I was lamenting that the load doesn't seem to decrease, Teena encouraged me to take a look back over the course of the year:
In April of last year we began the remodel of Miriam Morin's home. Miriam as you remember was a retired single missionary who spent much of her life here in West Africa and is responsible for much of the progress in literacy and translation of the Bible and other resources into the Dendi language. She passed into Eternity just weeks ago having battled with poor health for several years. Miriam will long be remembered in this part of the world. The project to complete renovation of her home has taken a full year but the Beckley family anticipates moving in this week or early next.
This time last year we made our way over rough roads with a powerful new generator for the station. This month we should finally complete the renovation of electrical systems on the station and finally be able to enjoy its power!
While in Niamey this time last year Teena had another ultrasound to confirm the health of Eliana. Now 8 months old she remains healthy, very active and "talkative", a constant joy to our family.
In April 2011 we put the finishing touches on the foundation of the new Boiffo church building. Thanks to the arrival of a team this past February from FBC, Quincy and Soap Lake, a beautiful roof was put on the building (see headline photos). Two weddings were held in the new building over the past 2 weeks. The first wedding held over 500 in attendance, the second, approximately 700.
Updates from our last prayer letter
Ethan has had no ill affects from his bat bite or the 6 shots that followed. At 5 years old he is progressing well in school: reading, writing short (really short) stories, playing a bit on the piano and impressing his papa with his ability to count to 100. With the exception of the numbers 20-ten, 30-ten, 40-ten, etc. things are going well. He is the constant attraction of Eliana's admiring eyes.
We have heard no news on the accident with Guiguissou. We assume no news is good news since we have not been contacted. We continue to pray for him often remembering the events of that day.
The internship program, despite a few glitches has taken off. It has been exciting to see the men from the Bible School active in ministry. Some are busily serving in established churches, others are leading the way in new church planting efforts. Last Wednesday we projected the Jesus Film in the village of Kouberi. The crowd of around 250 was very attentive and even stayed to hear the preaching that followed the film, 23 responded with decisions to follow Christ. Colin will be working with a Bible school intern by the name of Sinka to begin a series of instruction from Genesis to Revalation using the Firm Foundations materials that have been translated into Dendi. Pray for much fruit in the village of Kouberi and in the life of Sinka as he prepares for pastoral ministry.
Years of literacy efforts are paying off. Recently the Benin government chose 3 of our students to teach literacy in nearby villages. Their main resources? A small primer, the book of Genesis, and the Dendi New Testament. We are thanking the Lord for the financial assistance these men are receiving but much more for the opportunity for the message of the gospel to reach lost people.
You may have heard that northern Mali has erupted in war as different Islamic factions have chased the Mali military out of the region. Certain factions are calling for an independent state, others are crying out to conquer the whole of Mali. Sharia (an archaic and rigorous form of Islamic law) has been declared throughout much of the region. The Church buildings and Bible School have been looted and everything that can be removed has been stolen. Christians have exited the region in mass, fearing for their lives. Our missionary colleagues have been safely evacuated, unfortunately many of their things have been plundered, buildings, vehicles, and appliances stolen or destroyed. Pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering at the hands of evil men in a region that has largely been destabilized since the overthrow of M. Kadafi.
Colin, Teena, Ethan and Eliana
February 4, 2012
Are you on Facebook? While we aren't able to make as good of use of it as we would like it has been handy to get out a couple of updates recently. Thank you for those of you who inform your prayers for our family through Facebook. As internet improves in our region we hope to make better use of this tool.
Find us on Facebook
Some of you read about Ethan's encounter with a bat. Despite our precautions he was sure the furry little guy was harmless. He and a buddy pulled him from his crack in the wall and Ethan was bitten in the process. It is not likely that the bat was infected but a parent can't take that chance. Doctors recommended that we get him treated immediately. Because we can't travel at night we waited until early morning to head down to the SIM hospital 3 hours south. Thankfully they had the proper vaccination, unfortunately they did not have the rabies immune globulin. The Lord provided for this crucial treatment through the incredibly well timed arrival of our work team who arrived in Niamey with the serum on ice. Ethan is doing well with the shots and even asked when he could get the next one so he could have his lollypop!
Through this somewhat traumatic event an even more serious event occurred. On the morning that Ethan and I were traveling to get the first in his series of 6 shots a little boy ran out in front of our car as we were driving down the highway through a village. I was unable to avoid him and we hit him at around 35 mph. He passed underneath the vehicle and although he was able to avoid all 4 tires I was sure he had died on impact. Horror is the only word that describes this event, the nightmares and flashbacks won't let it go away either.
By some miracle, and I really do believe that it was a miracle, the boy survived the impact. I quickly loaded him into the back of our vehicle with the help of a local villager and we hurried to the nearest clinic. The boy never lost conscious and didn't have a single broken bone. The doctor assured me that he would be fine and the police and villagers consoled me in that they were not holding me accountable for the incident. Please pray for Guiguissou, his injuries were concentrated to the head and although he appeared to be making a full recovery when I headed back North for home we are still concerned about internal injuries that doctors in this part of the world are unable to detect.
Boiffo Building Project
Thursday afternoon we arrived in Niamey to pick up a team of 5 from FBC, Quincy and Soap Lake. We are in for a challenge! The goal is to set trusses, purlins, and roofing over the course of the next 12 days. The challenge is that we are building with steel that must be bolted and/or welded into place. We will be setting the trusses almost 2 stories from the ground with very few of the conventional tools that a crew might be accustomed to and no electricity on site. Be praying for safety and wisdom for the crew and all those from the church and village who will be working with us.
To many of you who uphold us in prayer. Your prayers have been felt these past several weeks. Despite recent challenges we cannot help feeling blessed and thankful for your role in this ministry.
Colin, Teena, Ethan and Eliana