One day this spring, while walking through our Women’s Ward, I noticed a woman who was paralyzed from the waist down and had been admitted to the hospital for a simple infection. Her hands were calloused with thick leathery skin and she explained to me that she cares for her family and her home by scooting across the room with her hands. She had an active child playing by her bedside and I couldn’t begin to imagine how she was able to run a home and keep up with a toddler all with limited mobility. We talked some more and arranged for a follow-up visit at the hospital a few weeks later for a potential solution to her problem of mobility.
Several years ago a missionary family became interested in “Personal Energy Transportation” carts or simply “PET Carts,” which are hand-cranked transportation devices for the disabled. Items like traditional wheelchairs and crutches are difficult to use in areas without paved roads or level terrain, so often the disabled are home-bound and isolated from society.
Thanks to these missionaries’ interest, and some generous donors, our hospital received a large shipment of PET carts just a few weeks before this woman’s hospital visit! I quickly recruited a volunteer PET cart team to assemble the device and then we waited for the woman’s follow-up visit.
When the day came, the woman was dressed in her best clothes and smiling ear to ear in anticipation. We began by explaining all the features of the cart followed by a personal demonstration by yours truly. Next, we helped her onto the cart and watched as she quickly learned to pedal, steer, and brake by herself. After reviewing the safety features once more, she was ready to return to her town as a newly independent, and mobile, member of society.
Honoré Afolabi received one of the PET carts for a gentleman in his Lomé neighborhood. The man agreed to do a short Bible study with Honoré and he also accepted a French Bible. Honoré was able to walk him through The Story of Hope study. Without being told to, the man decided to take notes and write down the verses to read them again at home.
By the grace of God, on the afternoon of Monday, June 26th, he accepted Christ as his personal savior! We give God the glory for his saving grace. Please pray for him as he expressed the desire to continue the Bible study.
Wiyau is a very shy boy in our 4th grade class. His favorite subject is math, but he says he struggles in French. He loves to play soccer. His name means chief in his local tribal language. His family are farmers who live in a remote village. 6 years ago his father died, leaving him and his brothers and 2 sisters alone with his mother. His mother is a Christian, but he asks that you pray other members of his family that are not Christians. In 2013, Wiyau heard a message in chapel that really spoke to him. He decided to accept Jesus. He says that ever since that day, his life has been changed.
Ronaldo lost his sight when he was 12 years old after becoming very sick. He became completely dependent on others. One day someone was helping to lead him across the town, but then abandoned him. He didn’t know where he was. A pastor was walking by and found him. The pastor helped him find his mother. While they were looking for her, the pastor explained the gospel and Ronaldo received Jesus. Ronaldo praises God because after he received Jesus, he was able to be much more independent. He could walk places himself, wash clothes, pump water, and do other things that he used to do when he could see. He explains it was a miracle from God. However, people in his village could not believe this and accused him of being involved in witchcraft or even lying that he really was blind. He asks that you pray for these people that they would know the truth, God is powerful and helps him every day.
One day he met another blind person who told him about the Village of Light School for the Blind. He started attending. He loves it here at the Center and is praying that he passes this year so he can continue to 6th grade. Ronaldo loves to weave chairs to make some spending money. He also loves to sing in the choir.
Amen became blind just two months after he was born. But that hasn’t stopped his joy, enthusiasm, and love for life. As you can see, Amen loves to laugh and play. You can usually find him playing soccer or swinging on the swings. He loves singing during chapel. He comes from a very poor family, but he works hard in school so he will be able to support himself one day with a good job. His favorite subject is science.
Amen became a Christian in 2013 with one of his teachers. He had never heard the gospel before coming to the Village of Light. He says as soon as he heard the Good News, he knew it was truth.
17 year old Aimée has been at the Village of Light for 10 years. She has struggled in the class work so this year she switched to our workshop to learn skills she can take back to her village to provide for herself. She loves learning all the different trades, including chalk making, soap making, and weaving chairs. Aimée comes from a poor background with many family problems. She asks that you pray for her family. From abuse within the home to neglectful parents, Aimée has dealt with more in her short life than most people have their entire lives. She became blind when she was very young and was told it was because her mother was cursed while she was pregnant with Aimée. She also has an older sister who is blind. Aimée also does not feel safe in her village as “many people have bad intentions with her.” Pray for her safety and protection for whenever she is home.
Aimée became a Christian here at the Village of Light in 2007. She loves to sing worship songs and loves learning about Jesus’ love for her. Pray that she will take that knowledge and help her village and family to know Truth.
During 2016 Hôpital Baptiste Biblique (HBB) saw another example of the connection of healthcare and God’s church. In June , M. Agouda, a retired teacher from the village of Gbadigbena, came to the clinic for treatment where he heard and responded to the gospel of grace during his consultation. Coming back for a follow up visit in July, he spoke with a chaplain asking for help. A group of new believers had grown up in his village because of his testimony. The chaplain spent time with M. Agouda and provided Bible Study Materials from the Christian Materials Center.
God also directed M. Agouda’s path to cross with another believer from a small church which had been started through the outreach of the hospital many years ago – a village much nearer to him than our hospital. This church leader began to visit, pray with him and encourage him in the Bible. Two of the HBB chaplains traveled to this village in August to encourage this small group. In September, the Evangelistic Mobile Clinic, made the more than 3 hour trip to provide a free day of clinic to the village at the church meeting site. By October, one of our surgeons, Eric Miller, accompanied the chaplains to see how God was leading in the establishing of another gospel outpost in a dark place.
This group continues to meet and study God’s Word together. At the end of December they journeyed to the regional church conference where they connected with an experienced Togolese pastor whose heart has already been burdened to reach out to this remote area. Please pray for this small group of believers and others like them to grow into strong churches.
Joseph is rarely seen without a smile or his coat and tie. He loves to play soccer and draw with the little sight he still has. His favorite subjects in school are history and dictation. He loves school because he is grateful for the opportunity to even go to school. Many blind in Togo are not given the option of education apart from the school here.
Joseph has 2 brothers and an older sister. His sister is also blind and used to attend our school as well. Heartbreakingly, she was raped and became pregnant. She now stays at home in their village with the baby. Joseph’s life in his village is difficult. People tease him and insult him because of his blindness. Joseph became blind when he was six years old. He believes a man in his village cursed him. I asked him if he is angry with this man for what he did. Joseph says no. He says that he knows God is alive and is helping him to forgive.
Joseph first came to school 4 years ago. It was here he first heard about Jesus with one of his dorm parents, Mr. Kossi. He later received Jesus with one of his teachers.
Ten year old Emmanuel might be considered the class clown, less for mischief and more for his bubbly personality. Even though he likes to play, he is very smart and does very well in his classes. His favorite subjects are science and geography. He loves school because of the opportunities it gives him for the future.
Emmanuel is an only child. In his village people insult him and even beat him because he is blind. He is praying for these people that they would come to know Jesus and have a change of heart.
When he arrived at the school, Emmanuel had never heard of the person of Jesus Christ. His teachers and dorm parents explained to him that Jesus gives eternal life and He is the only Savior. When Emmanuel heard this, he wanted to know Jesus personally so he gave his life to Him. He says that ever since, his life has completely changed.
Mathieu is our oldest student this year. He is in our trade school program but he is passionate about learning to read and write in Braille as well. He loves learning to make things with his hands and doing something different every day. I asked him how he likes being the oldest here at the school. He says it’s definitely a different culture being at a school with so many young people, but he loves teaching them and says they also teach him. Mathieu has become a father figure in many of the kids’ lives.
Mathieu became blind in 2008. It was a very difficult time for him and he cannot talk about it without getting emotional. As a child, Mathieu was unable to complete school. Because of this, he became a disappointment to his father and was kicked out of his father’s house. When he became blind he sought out his father again because he needed help. However, Mathieu was met with more feelings of disappointment from the man he wanted to please most.
Life in his village of Vogan is difficult. Mathieu once was independent, but now that he is blind he is fully dependent on others. Many in his town refuse to help him because he has nothing to offer them in return. He is learning to weave baskets, make soaps, chalk, and other sellable items. We hope and pray that Mathieu can provide for himself once he completes his time at the Village of Light.
Mathieu grew up Jehovah’s Witness but says he felt restless and unsatisfied in the church. He started going to Catholic mass but felt the same feelings. One day he decided to go to the local Baptist church and heard the Gospel for the first time. He realized that this was the truth he was searching for. He was baptized and walks closely with Jesus now. He now has satisfaction and hope because of Jesus.
Ways to pray for Mathieu:
Mathieu’s village is very dark and some consider it the voodoo capital of Togo. Pray for boldness and courage for him to be a light to his neighbors and family. Pray for his life after school, that he will be able to provide for himself. Pray also that his identity will be rooted in Christ and not his approval from men.
Romaine is one of our best students. This trimester she finished in the top of her class. She loves to learn and study. She says she loves school because she is learning and progressing. She has been at the school for six years and this will be her last year. She is very smart and plans to progress to the local middle school.
Romaine became blind when she was one year old. She believes her uncle cursed her because he didn’t want her to succeed. This is a common theme from the students here. Many believe they have been cursed by enemies and it is not uncommon for people to curse each other using the local witch doctor.
Romaine accepted Christ in 2012 here at the Village of Light with a former chaplain, Mr. Woaku. Before coming to the Village of Light she attended Catholic mass with her family in her town, but she never really understood the Gospel and what it meant for her. Now one of her favorite things to do is lead the girls in praise songs. She is always the leader of the singing and you can count on Romaine to lead the students in a song in most any and every situation!
Ways you can pray for Romaine: Her father is ill and cannot work. Pray for provision for her family. She also asks that you pray for her to have success after she completes school and can obtain a good job.
“Give thanks in ALL circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” I Thessalonians 5:18
This is Thanksgiving weekend, and we’ve counted our blessings & been grateful to God for all that He is and all that He has done. For the past week, I have been going back to this verse that I learned as a child—that mom repeated many times– “In EVERYTHING, give thanks…” That’s a command for us to obey. So how does one give thanks when returning from a funeral of a young man who was busy serving the Lord as a 5th grade Christian school teacher and leading a daughter work of one of our churches in Lomé?
Luc texted me last Friday morning to tell me that his wife’s dad had died so the funeral would be in Atakpame (about 2 hours from Lomé.) Only Luc never made it to his father-in-law’s funeral as on his way to Atakpame, he remembered he had left something at his home in Lomé and returned & while driving his moto in traffic another moto hit him & a huge truck ran over him and he went to be with His Lord. So I’ve been asking myself this week how can his wife (Ahoefa) give thanks for the loss of her dad and husband in one week—leaving her with a little girl not quite 2 years old and a baby on the way?? Thankfully, Ahoefa’s faith in God is strong, and though we don’t understand, we trust God’s ways are higher and better than ours!
Ahoefa also is a teacher in our Christian school & went through our training course & graduated in 2007. She came to the training with many difficulties and consequences for wrong choices she had made, but God did a miracle in her life that year and she grew in her walk with God by leaps and bounds! I’ve seen her continue to blossom over the years, and the last time I was in their church was when Luc & Ahoefa got married in April, 2014. Please continue to pray for Ahoefa and her daughter Yayra. Please pray also for the students in Luc’s class & the whole school as there are holes now that Luc is no longer here. Please pray for those who heard the Gospel last night at the wake and today at the funeral. Please pray for the body of Christ who is hurting from the loss of one of their members who served teaching adults and children.
Storyteller Kathryn Shoaf is telling the story about a young woman named Djamila. She is the daughter of an Islamic soldier, but found herself torn between two opposing worlds – the familiar traditions of Islam and the unknown Christian faith that her mother had claimed. With guidance from two ABWE teachers, she discovered the life changing love of Christ.
Nyakpo Kossigan Dzidzinyo was born into a Royal African family and raised by his grandmother. After her passing, and a series of difficult trials, Nyakpo came to know the Lord. He is now a teacher for the Bible Baptist Schools of Togo, and highly involved in youth ministry. Storyteller Stacey Schuett tells his story.
Abra is my partner in ministry as I work to provide Biblical training for Togolese pastors’ wives. She goes with me as I travel to train pastors and does much of the training herself. In April I attended the funeral of Abra’s father. It was heartbreaking to see her older brother Kofi at the funeral. He came up to talk to me, and I honestly didn’t recognize him (there were many crazy people at the funeral so I almost ignored him thinking he was one of them) but then realized that he had lost so much weight since the last time I saw him, I didn’t recognize him. He admits he is the drunk of the family. This is so hard for Abra as it was Kofi that encouraged her to go to church with him, and it was there Abra came to know Jesus as her Savior! Now Kofi had become addicted to alcohol and lives as a recluse. Abra was so upset about his getting drunk at the funeral. I told her that she has God to help her in her grief, but her brother doesn’t have God—that’s why he has to turn to something to drown our sorrows. We could only have faith and pray that God can break these chains of addiction.
In our 5th week of class training pastors’ wives, we studied Jesus healing the demoniacs. Since that time, Abra and I have been crying out to God for Kofi’s deliverance! Recently we met to pray and she told me that the weekend before, people had come to get her mom because Kofi was drunk– passed out somewhere in the village. I remember feeling a bit discouraged with this news, but Abra said “Jesus healed Legion and He can heal my brother and deliver him from all these chains.”
Three days ago, Abra called me. She and her husband had been to see Kofi and after sharing the Gospel with him and asking him if he knew he was in bondage, he went in his room and brought out his fetishes and said these were the things that were binding him and he wanted to follow Christ and burn the fetishes!!!!!!!!! Abra asked me to pray a lot afterwards and we did. Sunday we had the privilege of worshiping with Kofi—he was clothed and in his right mind! HALLELUJAH!!!
Please pray that we will see spiritual fruit in Kofi’s life.
Just as rainy season has brought back the green forest beauty, I have seen students’ lives being transformed by only God’s power.
One 10th grade student told me awhile back that when she returned to her village for a visit, she refused to go out to the bar with her friends and they commented that she had changed. They didn’t make fun of her for it but instead wanted to know what she had that made her seem much more happy and alive. In that moment, this student shared the love of Christ with her friends and told them how they could accept Christ as their Savior. Shortly after this, her father started calling her mother and sisters and decided to help pay for their school tuition. This was a huge answer to prayer as the father lives far away and rarely speaks with them. It has been incredible to see fruit in her life as a new believer and watch her experience God’s faithfulness in her life.
By the middle of June, the school year will be finished so I have been trying to visit all the schools as often as possible, encouraging the teachers to persevere until the end. It is always an honor to speak with the teachers and see their love for the students. I love hearing the teachers share testimonies with us about students accepting Christ. They are so excited about their students’ decisions and take discipleship seriously.
The teachers are my heroes as they receive at least half the salary of a public school teacher, some of them don’t even have a bed to sleep on, and have to provide for the needs of their families. Many of them supplement their salary by working weekly on their small farms. On top of this, they are leaders in their churches by teaching Sunday school, leading Awana, and discipling children. Oh, and if they are a woman, there is a good possibility that they might be teaching while carrying a baby on their back!
They are amazing right? The sacrifices they make in order to spread the gospel with their students is an inspiration to me. We need to daily carry our cross for the Lord and never miss an opportunity to share Christ no matter the personal sacrifice we may have to give.
Please pray with me that these teachers will endure until the end of the school year and will find ways to sustain themselves during the summer.