Burkina Faso situated on a map

Warming up

This weekend the boys will get haircuts, big time.  Their hair is pretty long right now, so it will be a drastic change.  But the temperatures in Burkina Faso where we’re going will also be a drastic change.  This is the hottest time of year there, with the average highs around 104 degrees, sometimes pushing 119.  A travel guide I was reading said, “Avoid travelling in late March to May as the climate is too hot and dry to bear even for the locals.” Yep, that’s when we’re goin!

I remember playing baseball for the Scarlets, we had some games scheduled against Las Vegas on a road trip. How this happened I’ll never know, but they scheduled two nine inning games starting at noon. That’s the hottest time of day, with temperatures pushing Burkina levels.  I was a catcher, and looking through my mask it looked like there were waves of heat rising off the ground. The ball seemed to float through this turbulence at amazing speed and I had a terrible time putting my mitt solidly on it. In the dugout I swore I could see steam rising out of my uniform when I took off my shin guards. I was pulled after the second inning.  Two nine inning games were reduced to two 7 inning games, then to one nine inning game, finally to one seven inning game!  We Montana boys were melting under the desert heat.

Burkina

Burkina Faso has one of the lowest GDP per capita figures in the world, situated in west central Africa.  80% of the people are farmers of either livestock or crops like sorghum, millet, corn, peanuts, rice or cotton. The University of Ouagadougou was established in 1974 and has around 9,000 students. Formerly a French colony, Burkina Faso (then Upper Volta) obtained their independence in 1960.  The population is 60% Muslim and 30% Christian.

Dan's guitar case, covered with stickersThe stickers on my guitar case reflect my travels all across Europe.  I’ve walked atop Hadrian’s wall in Scotland, watched merchants in South Korea skin live eels, eaten who-knows-what sandwiches in Albania and tried to negotiate a lack of beds with an inn keeper in Hungary.  Adventure and travel is nothing I search for.  I’ve always had a healthy fear of the unknown.  I’m sure setting foot on the African continent will be eye opening and a huge adventure.  

Time

Another thing I’ve heard about Africa is they have a different view of time.  We’ve been advised to be flexible with our schedule and see it as a mere outline/suggestion. They say we westerners all have watches, but Africans all have time.  People are more important than time.  Maybe we will all learn something there.

water dripping from a faucet

 

Look for thirst, that's what I do.  Before we talk with students we pray for the Lord to lead us to open hearts and minds, those who are already searching for God.  As we talk my questions dig, for thirst, for any sign that God is working on their heart. Sadly, most French students aren't even there. Indifference rules the day. So when we meet a student with thirst, who is looking for God, it gets our attention.

And so it was with Luc. When Halle first met him he actually said that he wants to be in communion with God!  This past week she met with him again, along with Rick, and Luc prayed to accept Christ!

Here is the story in Halle's own words:

My heart is rejoicing and I want to invite you to join in the fun :-) ...especially since this good news is thanks to your prayers, support, and many other forms of partnership!  Yesterday afternoon, I had the immense joy of being a part of seeing God bring a new son into His family!  Luc, the Congolese Econ student that I talked about meeting in my January update prayed to receive Christ with my teammate Rick and I.

Throughout our time together, in which we explained at length the gospel using a booklet called "Knowing God Personally," a major thread seemed to be

Luc's desire to find out what God created Him to do - his mission on earth - and at the beginning of our time, he didn't quite understand why it was necessary to have a personal relationship with God and receive His forgiveness in order to do that.  Rick explained that making a decision to accept Christ is the first step and without that, one is a bit like a computer that's only functioning at 10% capacity.  It's by knowing God and being guided by His Spirit that we begin to understand our purpose on Earth and the amazing plans He has for our life - how to experience abundant life and "function at 100%."

Through talking about that and a number of other topics related to man's condition without God and what Jesus accomplished on the cross on our behalf thanks to His great love, the Holy Spirit brought Luc to a place of understanding and desire to give His life to Christ.  Since seeing students make this decision here in Rennes is sadly infrequent right now (Luc is the very first this year!), Rick and I were (internally) taken aback when Luc said he was ready to pray with us right then in a little café (actually, the one where we have our monthly "Thé O Show" discussion nights).  However, it was with great joy that we participated in this sweet, life-changing moment. :-)

Traveling home via metro afterward, I could hardly keep from laughing out loud or dancing with sheer delight, but I contained myself until I met my teammate Melissa, who was as eager to hear the story as I was to tell it! 

Please pray for Luc, that his newborn faith will be grounded and grow! 

I love to talk about entropy. Call me a hopeless former engineering student, but it’s true. People on my team have noticed I bring it up a LOT when talking with students.

Back in “the day” many scientists were also philosophers because they had to think through the philosophical implications of what they were discovering. Consider entropy. I had heard about it in physics class, but really wasn’t well acquainted until thermodynamics. Entropy is imperfection, basically. In any process that takes place, entropy (some say disorder) either stays the same or increases. Entropy is the reason we can’t build a machine that will run continuously. It’s that little bit of energy lost to friction or heat or well, imperfection.

Thanks to entropy, things go from order to disorder. We all see it don’t we? Aren’t we constantly fighting entropy? I like to ponder whether entropy existed before the fall, but that’s for another blog. Entropy (disorder) is always increasing, period. It’s a scientific fact.

You might guess why I love to talk about entropy with students. On Tuesday I was talking with three mechanical engineering students, yeah! Thermodynamics won’t be ‘til next year for them, but I still told them about entropy because one of them said that as soon as he was taught about evolution that put God out of the picture.

Please note: THERE IS NO SCIENTIFIC REASON NOT TO BELIEVE IN GOD! That is why there are scientists who believe and scientists who don’t believe. Science cannot prove that God doesn’t exist, just like it can’t really prove that God does exist. Anyone who believes so is citing interpretation, not fact.

Back to entropy. I asserted to these three guys that science is subject to interpretation, and that not all scientists agree. Take entropy, a pure scientific fact. Things go from order to disorder. How can you reconcile this with the idea that eons ago some amino acids in just the right brine combined to form living cells, then multi-celled organisms, etc. That’s going the wrong direction! That is order from disorder. I asked these three engineering students how they might reconcile the theory of evolution with the observed scientific fact of entropy. They could only say that my logic was sound.

Contrast this with a conversation I had today (Thursday) with a group of literary students. They stated plainly that God does not exist, as if it were fact. They claimed that everything – even love – is explained by science. When I brought up entropy they brushed it aside. In fact, even with science students the subject often turns philosophical the moment they’re confronted with how conflicting science is.  Scientists have always thought they had the answers, yet science is constantly changing over time. What do you want to place your trust in – something that is constantly changing, even contradicting itself, or something that never changes like God’s word? Sadly, the students today were firmly set against God.  All but one, Marion, who said she was agnostic and honestly didn’t know.  She seemed pretty open, so please pray for her!

Instructions for folding and cutting paper snowflakes

At the New Year's Conference I lead a workshop on cutting snowflakes. I thought it would be fun to share:

Here are a few pointers to help you out:

1. At the tip and the top, cut all the way across. Anywhere in the middle, always finish on the same side you start cutting.

2. Find your limits by unfolding it a little. This is to avoid having your snowflake lopped off somewhere.

3.  The more paper you remove, the more delicate your snowflake will be.

4. Enjoy! Every snowflake is unique, just like God made each and every one of us unique! 

Download this in PDF.

Happy New Year

 

Ever wonder about this idea of wishing people a happy new year? In France, “best wishing” is very important. The first time you see someone after New Year’s you have to say “bonne année” often followed by “best wishes and above all, good health.” I’ve been asking students about this on campus. What good does it really do to verbalize such things? For some it’s just being polite, for others it expresses their attachment to someone or simply that they care. They all agree that it’s tied to some kind of hope for the future.  I’ve asked these same students if they ever pray and they’ve all said that they never do.

But what is prayer? Simply talking to God, of course. But when you think about this idea of verbalizing your wishes in the hope that it might make a difference in the future it’s not all that different from prayer. We seem to know there is power in the spoken word – I love you, I forgive you, I care for you – all express something intangible yet powerful and important. Spoken to one another they weave the fabric of relationship, an ephemeral but invaluable commodity (imagine facebook without relationship).

God can hear prayers spoken only in our minds, but I really prefer to pray out loud. God could have thought the world into existence, but instead he spoke. Jesus’ words “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” or “Lazarus, come out!” were plainly powerful. John calls God’s Son – the Word. How sad it is when something moves within us and we stay silent. Silence isn’t always golden.

Today, look for opportunities to say something, to bless, encourage or impart hope. Pray, because it does make a difference. Oh, and happy New Year!

Emile Shoufani

 

Have you ever puzzled over the perpetual conflict in the Middle East? Why is peace so impossible there? What practical steps can be taken toward peace?

Last night I attended a talk given by Emile Shoufani. He lives in Nazareth and is a voice for peace. He is an Arab and Palestinian, but also Israeli and an orthodox priest. For more than twenty years he directed St. Joseph’s school, with about 1300 students. The prejudice, mistrust, stereotypes, everything that fuels the Middle East conflict feed into his school.  Every time an event happens that could cause unrest, which is often, he has to calm the students and encourage patience and understanding, not revenge.

This goes deep into his roots. 

He was born in Nazareth, and in 1948 when his village was claimed by Israel the soldiers rounded up 17 young men and shot them in the public square. One of them was his uncle. His family fled, heading north toward Lebanon. Three miles up the road his grandfather too was shot and killed. His grandmother found herself with five children to take care of. With no help at the border they eventually had to turn back. It took months. When they finally returned his grandmother insisted that she was for the living, not the dead, for her five remaining children, not the memory of those who died. She refused to attend the funerals or even have her husband’s body brought back to their family tomb. She also refused to allow anger, hatred or vengeance in her house. In short, with God’s help she forgave them.

Read more: Peace