dimanche 13 janvier 2019

A painful goodbye

Sometimes friendship strikes when you least expect it. I know a lot of people here in Benin, and just like back home in Europe, I won't be true friends with many of them. When I say "true friends" I talk about a meeting of minds and a meetings of hearts. Yet sometimes something in someone else rings a chord somewhere in me, and a friendship is born.

She was my friend. A Beninese woman, whose mother tongue I don't speak (and she didn't speak mine), and who came from another religion. But we cared for each other.

Last week she died very suddenly - from what I've heard it was a diabetic coma. I'll mourn her and miss her.

samedi 29 décembre 2018


We had a lovely Christmas celebrating with friends in their small Assemblies of God church, and eating with them after the service. And later more friends called round to see us.

What a colourful Christmas!

mardi 18 décembre 2018


Our car broke down on Saturday. We were going to visit our Baptist
missionary "neighbours" an hour north of here, and as we dropped down
from a kind of speed bump there was a bang. And when we tried to keep
driving there were repeated bangs.

The good news was that we could see our friends' wall from where we were
stranded. The even better news was that our friends know more about cars
than us. So we walked the rest of the way, then Marc and Colin walked
back to the car, and were able to drive it limping to their house.

It turned out that the exhaust had been pushed out of its socket (in
non-technical terms!) and was hanging onto the part of the central
transmission that turns, meaning that it was banging on some nuts as the
car went forward. So the guys jacked the car up enough to tie up the
exhaust pipe up so that they could drive it a few miles to where another
missionary friend has a proper mechanic's pit, where they were actually
able to fix it. So that was amazing, and yet another example of God
allowing things to go wrong, but allowing them to go wrong when we are
in the right place with people who can help us!

By the time it was done though, it was getting a bit late to drive home,
so we ended up staying over. Our friends graciously found us beds,
bedding, towels, T-shirts to sleep in and even some toothpaste to rub on
our teeth! The kids were overjoyed to have more time together, and as we
left the next morning their daughter said, "I hope next time you come to
visit your car breaks down again!" "Or," suggested her mother, "you
could just plan to stay over in the first place!"

I have never had so little unpacking to do when returning home after a
night away!

lundi 10 décembre 2018

Selling technique

When I was doing my weekly shopping in our nearest town of Kandi last
Saturday, I was approached by two young men. By their over-polite
greetings, I could tell they wanted something, and sure enough one of
them soon launched into his sales patter.

Him: We're selling traditional medicine. It can help with all kinds of
diseases (and along came a list of examples...).
Me: Thank you, but I'm in very good health.
Him: It can also protect you against witchcraft. Do you know witchcraft?
Me: Yes, but I'm protected by Jesus.

And they gave up (convinced by my argument?). I obviously didn't want to
help them with their sales technique, but I felt they were hardly
pitching to their audience. Generally speaking, any white person around
here would either not believe in the power of witchcraft, or would, like
me, know that they have nothing to fear from it. If I'd wanted to help
them, I'd have suggested forgetting the supernatural, and insisting on
the natural, organic ingredients and cleansing, preventive powers of
their products ... well, it still wouldn't have worked on me, and there
are very few whites about, so maybe they should stick to their "one
script" approach ...

jeudi 29 novembre 2018


Some friends came for lunch on Saturday.

Their "hostess gift" was a future meal...

vendredi 16 novembre 2018

The law is the law ... except when it's the laws

There aren't many words for "law" in Monkolé. The one I've heard most often is "wooda". It seems that it originally came from English ("order"), passed into Hausa and presumably from there into Monkolé. (A slightly awkward reminder of the colonial past.)

There are, however, many different words for law in Hebrew, and in some verses you can even find up to four of them used in one sentence :

"because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes and my laws." (Genesis 26:5, ESV)

Our consultant asked us to do a word study of the different words used in Hebrew (he suggested 8 of them) to decide which Monkolé words had the closest meanings. Of course, this abstract study then has to be applied taking context into account (there is no such thing as a literal translation).

We made one helpful discovery as a side effect of this work. For instance, in the Psalms, particularly Psalm 119, "the Law of the Lord" is often mentioned. This had been translated with a singular noun in Monkolé … but of course in English (or French or Hebrew) it is a collective noun. When I asked my team whether the collective use existed in Monkolé – ie. using "the law" to refer to a collection of many laws – we realised that it doesn't. So while the actual word was a good translation, we needed to make it plural where it was being used as a collective noun.

mercredi 7 novembre 2018


A year ago I had a message from a missionary friend in Mali to let me know that mutual friends of ours were in need. A young Beninese couple living in Kandi had been expecting their first child. The husband had to go to France for training, and the baby had been born 3 weeks early. Fortunately the young mother had her mother-in-law with her, but the baby was on oxygen, and our friend asked me to go and visit.

This hospital visit was the beginning of a deeper friendship between our two families, and this last Sunday we were pleased to be invited to the little girl's first birthday party.