Monday, January 28, 2013

Burkina Faso: The Place to Be and where God Continued to Work on our Hearts and Minds

As Lindsey said we arrived safely back to the US last night. Thank you God for the safe travels. Sorry everyone that the last few days have been a little sporadic with the blog posts. The last few days were extremely busy wrapping up their project work and experiencing their last few moments of Mahadaga and Ouaga.
The trike team was able to accomplish all the work we had planned on doing. We worked on Yempabou and Debedi’s trikes getting them updated with new designs and fixing any problems his or her trike had. We got Etienne’s trike up and running. We added a double sided support for the axle, so that the wheel is supported on both sides of the wheel axle. We are interested in how this design performs on the dirt and bumpy roads of Mahadaga. We were able to get Malligiwa’s trike up and running. The frame had been previously built, but we needed to add the electric components to the frame and add wheels, brakes, etc. John worked closely with Diergou, our fabricator, on building a hand-powered tricycle for an organization called, His Wheels.  We cleaned up took some inventory and wrapped our work up. Taking time to look back at the work that we did I realized that we accomplished a lot in the past two weeks. At times there was definitely frustration when parts didn’t work how they were supposed to or we didn’t have the tools we would if we were back Messiah, but we were able to persevere and get the work done that we set out to do.
The rest of the team was able to wrap up their remaining projects. Friday we did the bumpy, dusty and long ride from Mahadaga to Ouaga. The Johnson’s drove us in the van. So 2/3 of the trip the back of the van got to entertain Joel and Caleb, we sang Veggie Tales songs, looked out the window at the animals and napped. Yesterday we headed back to States. Our flight left around 10 PM and we got back to Dulles Sunday afternoon. It was a long travel day/night. I am excited to see everyone and share my experiences, but I am definitely going to miss Burkina. Culturally this place is very different than back home, but I have enjoyed experiencing it and gaining more knowledge of another place outside of my normal bubble. There are so many faces of people I have met, people from the center, our clients who we work for with the trikes, the kids I got to play with, their faces and names linger on my mind. I would like to thank everyone who was praying that re-entry into the US was smooth. We didn’t have any plane problems or issues with customs. I would like to ask that you would all continue to pray for our re-entry mentally. I know that everyone on this trip has been affected by what we have done on this trip and I think that each of us don’t want this trip to be just another distant memory that we think about from time to time, but that the things we have seen, heard and experienced will continue to shape our lives and that we will be ever more trusting God to show us what’s next, where does his plan lead us. Even now I am feeling some culture shock for sure, just from the cold weather and seeing white people everywhere haha.
 I want to thank you to everyone who has been reading the blog and keeping us in your prayers. I look forward to seeing you all soon.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Home Sweet Home

Greetings to our Friends and Family!

We are all arrived back at Messiah safely this evening around six. All of our flights went well and we didn't have any problems getting through customs. Thank you for all of your support and prayers throughout the trip. We appreciate it more than words can express.


Friday, January 25, 2013

There and back again

Hi Everyone!

The first leg of our journey home is complete! We are safely in Ouagadougou and settling in for the night after a good meal. We'll be spending our last day in Burkina visiting the Artisan Village, exploring the city a little bit more, and packing. Our flight leaves around 10pm tomorrow (Saturday) evening so we'll be able to have one last full day here in Burkina.

Thanks so much for all of your continued prayers as we reach the end of our trip and travel home.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

We're not quite dead yet...

Sorry that the updates have been so infrequent as of late. Life in Mahadaga has been very busy the past few days. We've been working hard to finish up all of our work before we leave. Tomorrow is our last full day in Mahadaga. On Friday we will drive to Ouagadougu and then we will fly home on Saturday and arrive on Sunday. Prayers for safe travel would be appreciated! I miss you all at home and I can't wait to share more about what we've been doing!


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Bridging Cultures

This evening we hosted a station BBQ for all of the people who work here at the station. Many of them have been helping to host Messiah teams at the station here in Mahadaga for years and we wanted to show our appreciation for all of their hard work.

We built a fire late in the afternoon and started cooking the potatoes, sausages, and shish-kabobs. As the sun set and the food cooked many of us enjoyed running around with the Walsh and Johnson kids and a few Burkinabe kids. The kids are lots of fun, but we were very ready for dinner when the time came. Once the sun had set and people had arrived we started the evening by singing a few worship songs and hymns. After we sang, some of the Burkinabe sang some familiar hymns in Gourma. When the food was ready we followed the cultural norm by dishing out plates and serving each person, men, then women, then children, as they are not used to buffet style serving.

After we ate the Burkinabe started singing again and began dancing around the fire. A few of us from the team joined in on the dancing and tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to master the footwork of their dancing, which gave them a good laugh. I really enjoyed dancing with everyone and being able to laugh and sing with people that I usually can't communicate with. Eventually the singing died down and everyone sat back down to rest a little. We wanted to share a bit of American culture with them and teach them one of our dances. So most of the team members stood up in a circle and did the Chicken Dance. Many of the Burkinabe joined us right away and everyone had a great time laughing and dancing.

I have always enjoyed times when people are able to cross cultures and language barriers through music and singing and tonight was no different. It can be very frustrating to be in a place where you don't speak the language and can't communicate with people. Tonight I was reminded that even though we don't speak the same language and there are so many differences in our cultures, we're all God's children and that unites us. We have hymns that are the same that we can sing together, but even more than that; when we allow ourselves to open up we can have a good time worshiping our God together, singing, dancing, and laughing, and seeing the beauty in all the lives that are around us.

With love from Mahadaga,

A Sunday afternoon photoshoot

So today was a relaxing day here in Mahadaga. The team split up, a few of us went to the Fulani church again and the rest of us went to the French/ Gourma church.

Today has definitely been a day to recharge for our last week in Burkina Faso. Tonight we have a bbq on the compound for people we have worked with here in Mahadaga.
This afternoon after lunch I hung out with two Burkinabe boys. One was named Deataga. I wasn't able to get the other kids name. We played with the two bikes that we had on the compound. Then they both said, "photo photo" and acted like they were taking pictures. So I went and grabbed my camera and they were very excited! They both took turns taking pictures of them with me. And when Jared and Lindsey walked they wanted pictures with them too.  Deataga especially enjoyed taking pictures. He wasn't taking them of himself, he took pictures of the compound, or of any people that were walking by or were in the area. By the end of the time together over 150 pictures were taken. And a lot of them were very good!  It was a lot of fun seeing Deataga take the pics and how good of a job he did. He would move me around for different backgrounds and tell me to sit or stand or one time he had me ride the bike and took my picture. He was very happy. Even though we couldn't really communicate verbally we were able to communicate through pointing and talking slowly which was awesome. He definitely had some pretty legit artistic photography ability! It was a great way to spend the afternoon.

I hope all is well back home! Peace from Burkina,


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Steel, Stones, and Cokes

It has been an exciting week for the well drilling team.  We have been working daily with Bouba, Ali and their crew of well drillers to drill a 5.5”diameter well on the station.   We started out with a hand auger set with 1.25” diameter drilling rods.  We made good progress, but ended up breaking 3 rods in 2 days.   From there we started using a large yellow set of drilling equipment constructed by Brendon Earl that had not been tested.  This set is made of 2.5” rotatory drilling rods with square threads on the end and welded square couplings that join with the drive handles.   These rods are very strong but are very difficult to take apart because the drilling process over-tightens the threaded couplings.  We spend a few days working on a spanner to help to take apart these rods, despite this we still need to occasionally use a torch to break the connection. 

In hand auger drilling the team must turn a riverside auger till they become full and then pull the entire well drilling system out of the ground to remove the soil.  Sometimes the soils fall out of the drill bits and a special tool called a bailer must be used.  This tool is basically just a 4” steel pipe with a steel flap valve in the bottom.  The bailer is lowered down the hole and bounced along the bottom to remove any mud or water in the hole.  As you progress deeper you eventually spend more time pulling the drill rod and making and breaking the couplings than drilling.  For this reason we started using percussion drilling once we reached 8 meters depths.

Percussion drilling is very simple and relatively low power (it can be done with less people).  In percussion drilling a heavy drill bit is suspended from a cable with large tripod.  The drill bit is then manually raised a lowered to loosen the soil.  This is done with the addition of modest amounts of water.  Once the soils are turned into a thick mud, a bailer is used to clean the hole.  This process is repeated until the required depth is reached.

When people ask me what is the secret to well drill I tell them “ there is no secret just hard work.”  That being said we have had a lot of fun working.  Bouba and Ali taught us to count to 40 in Fulfulde as we heaved on the rope, and every 20 minutes or so a West African pop song starts blaring from Bouba’s cell phone.  I also spend a lot of time working making special tools which leads to my much relished trip to Djeda’s weld shop on Matt Walsh’s motorcycle.   Last trip I saw ¾ of a butchered cow on the back of a motorcycle.  I was invited to buy a piece.  If I had been on my own I would have gotten a piece to roast into a stew, but considering my responsibility to the health of the team I passed up a good deal.
We finally hit water today at just over 11m depth, sadly I was out with Matt Walsh looking at local riverbeds to see if there are any opportunities for sand dam construction and missed the striking of water. 

Last night before dinner Lindsey, Darin and I went a got a coke and climbed up on the side of the cliff before sunset.  As I sat up on the rock, I began to remember my former life in Mozambique and my heart yearned for a place in Africa.  I love the hard work, the inane banter, dusty roads, and heart felt joy of a job well done.   Everything matters here, life is short and every minute must count.  So I will close with the words of the Hymn of Mozambique:  Stone by stone we will build tomorrow, lets gain the victory. 

Mwari Zwakka nakka Africa!  (God thank you for Africa)