Wow....back at the clinic again, back into good food, warm bucket baths, and clean beds. The conference was in the village of Dieke', which is about a 2 1/2 hour drive from the clinic here at N'zao. We arrived to Dieke' on Wednesday afternoon wondering where we would be sleeping and eating. We had taken tents and cots that are used by the clinic for outreach trips into the bush, thinking we'd be prepared for anything. As it turned out, the "head Elder" of the church in Dieke', and their next door neighbors totally moved out of their houses and gave them to us. This is African culture. They wouldn't just give you a guest room, they would give you their best room, or in this case, their entire house. Now, this isn't a house like most are thinking right now. This is a plastered mud brick, 3 room home. A large room (10' x 15') where there were some chairs and a low table and two bedrooms with beds that have foam mattresses on them. The bathroom/shower was a door on the back that led to a small open roofed enclosure with a hole in the floor. That was our toilet and our shower. YUCK! A cold bucket of water from the well served as our bath. The family that moved out also served several of our meals and took very good care of us.
Thursday morning we drove to the church, which is one of the larger churches in the region. I (Brian) shared a message each morning and one evening, Dwayne shared a message each afternoon, Jordan shared messages each day with the youth and one evening, Sara shared devotions with the small children, and Sandy and Katie led devotions and teaching with the ladies each day. Jordan, Katie and Sara were quite busy with youth activities throughout each day.
Attendance varied from around 450 people on Thursday to over 800 on Sunday, including youth and children. The building was jambed on Sunday, with many standing in the back and outside. It was the kind of setting that really gets me excited and their was quite an atmosphere of celebration, praise, worship and joy in the air for the entire 5 hour service.
The weather has been very nice. In the mid/upper 80's during the day and cools down the the low 70's at night. I would call that perfect except for the suffocating humidity.
The food on the other hand, has been anything but perfect. I'm guessing we all shed a few pounds over the last 5 days and would have lost even more had it not been for the extra snacks that we had along with us to hold us over. Every meal consists of rice with some kind of "sauce" over the top. This "sauce" may be chicken, fish, beef, pork or leaves. But understand, this is not the kind of meat you are thinking of. It's the entire animal, chopped on a dirty plank with a machete, and thrown in a large pot over a fire. Yes, even feet, bones, body parts, tails, fat, skin and the hair that didn't get cleaned off. Probably the most challenging meal was Saturday morning when about 100 people from the Dieke' church got together to thank us for coming by serving us breakfast and giving us gifts. The breakfast was a huge pot of rice with sauce made of large squares of hog fat with much of the hair still on the skin and various parts from a field deer. We were fairly dainty eaters, but when we were all done, it only took a few of the ladies a minute or two scrape our platters clean.
Some of our best memories are the many moments we were given opportunities to pray specifically for people or with groups of people. So many people with so many needs that we can hardly comprehend. Sufferings, persecutions, pains, afflictions, cripples, blindness, family problems.......etc. etc. The most memorable time of prayer was what was going to be a small annointing service on Saturday evening for the most afflicted. When the congregation was given an opportunity for the "sick" to come forward, around 150 flooded forward. We devided them into three groups and just began to pray over them all, annointing and laying hands on as many as we could reach and prayed for nearly 30 minutes. Wow....and incredibly moving and humbling experience. Sandy and Katie had a most moving experience after one of the afternoon sessions with the ladies. At the close of the meeting, it erupted into spontaneous group prayer, and then ending in 200 ladies all dancing and singing together. We could hear it from quite a ways away, and I am so convinced that the Lord was looking down with an enormous smile of satisfaction with some of His daughters.
Through the grace of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit, we trust that the Gospel was shared with truth and clarity. It's always difficult working through translators, but we know that God is able to do so much more than we could say. Our prayer is that the Mano people we grow in faith and become a source of the light of Jesus in the midst of a very dark culture.
Thank you all for the incredible generosity, prayer and help that made this possible!!!!
"Bless the Lord Oh my soul, oohhhh my soul. Worship his holy name......"