Baby Naming at Tambɔna Preaching Point

Sumnibooma#1 Baptist Church, a place we visit fairly regularly, has a new preaching point in Tambɔna, a very small community a couple miles away. They erected a simple shelter in which they meet weekly for a worship service. Sumnibooma#1 sends two or three of its members to lead the service.

I had not yet been able to visit the group at Tambɔna but had promised I would do it soon. Rev. George asked me to go on March 25th to preach and do a baby naming ceremony for a couple there.

Often for such events I preach a sermon that has a theme that matches the meaning of the child’s name. However, this child had no traditional name (those are often connected to proverbs) and his English given name was Desmond. Desmond is an anglicization of the Gaelic locale Deas-Mhumhna, or “South Munster.” So basically, Desmond means “Irish guy from South Munster.” Kind of hard to preach a sermon in a rural West African village on that topic.

Thankfully, I found one claim that the American meaning of Desmond has become “gracious defender” (don’t ask me how). That was a much easier meaning to tie to Scripture since Christ is our gracious defender – our advocate before the Judge!

Randy and Kathy Arnett

We lost two dear friends and missions role-models yesterday. Randy and Kathy Arnett served 32 years in Africa – many of those years with my parents in Ivory Coast.

Randy prophetically sounded the alarm about the lies, dangers and influences of the Neo-Pentecostal movement invading and destroying West Africa’s protestant churches. I thank God that he was able to write and publish his book on the topic before he was called to his Savior’s side. It is a seminal work that captured his legacy as a theological educator who wouldn’t compromise Biblical truth yet loved West African church leaders with a Biblical grace.

You can read an article on the IMB website about the Arnetts’ legacy as well as a touching tribute from their friend and colleague Chuck Lawless on his website.

Here are some photos of the Arnetts at some events we attended together: BMC’s 50th Anniversary in 2008 and the 2016 Jubilee Celebration of Baptist Work in Ivory Coast

Experiencing Israel with Pastor Andy Cook

Six years ago I had the privilege of working with Pastor Andy Cook in creating multimedia materials for Bible education. Andy’s ministry Experience Israel Now uses them in seminars and speaking engagements in churches, school, and prisons in the US. I was thrilled that he asked me to come work with him again this month in Israel.

This trip was different from the first one in that we didn’t hit the most popular sites but explored biblical locales that are a bit more off the beaten path. We traveled for ten days from Beersheeba down to the Sea of Galilee, north to Omrit and and back up to Jerusalem.

Another new twist was that Chris Dunn of Georgia Drone Pros came along to shoot drone footage of the sites. He got some incredible aerial footage – some of it had never been shot before! Read More

Weiner Schnitzel vom Schwein with the Germans

Recently our friend Nils told us that his favorite European food was weiner schnitzel (Germans eat it with pork instead of the traditional Austrian type with veal). So we got some pork from a local butcher, made cutlets, flattened them out and had them ready for Sunday night.

When he came over we worked together to fry up the meat and prepared a very German meal of weiner schnitzel, potatoes, and cabbage.

Marlen, who had been ill the week before mustered up quite an appetite and surprised us by eating a whole schnitzel herself! Perhaps her illness had some symptoms of homesickness that we helped to cure.

Gambaga’s Bird (Muscicapa Gambagae)

My recent research into Dr. Rudolf Fisch’s 1910 trek through Mamprugu led me to another European visitor’s journals about a visit to Gambaga, Gold Coast (Ghana) in 1901. Lieutenant Boyd Alexander was a British Army Officer who was famous for his expeditions from West to East Africa in the early 1900s. He was a passionate ornithologist and through his travels he amassed a collection of African bird specimens that he later gifted to the British Museum – many of them from Ghana.

Lt. Alexander was lucky enough to discover some new species in Ghana* and he named one after Gambaga since he first spotted it there. This bird is Muscicapa Gambagae or the Gambaga Flycatcher.

In 1902, Boyd published a report in Ibis, a renowned ornithology journal, about his travels in Ghana and the birds he collected. That report first mentions this bird.**

I found his report of the journey from Kumasi to Gambaga to be quite interesting. Here are some excerpts from On the Birds of the Gold Coast Colony and its Hinterland. Read More

The Sacred Baobab of Toumousséni, Burkina Faso

Baobab trees are often considered to be objects of spiritual significance in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Tyurama (or Turka) ethnic group have a massive baobab tree in Toumousséni, Burkina Faso. At 18 meters in circumference it is the largest in the country and it is held sacred by the locals.

Locals attribute their survival of a war centuries ago to the spirit of this tree and therefore protect it and make sacrifices to it to this day. It currently has a middle-aged albino man as its guardian and he makes sure that its leaves and fruit are not harvested and that it receives regular offerings. As long as the tree is satisfied with their worship, a massive hole in its trunk remains open giving access to a cavernous room inside the tree.

When we visited we were allowed to enter the tree and sit with its care-taker in the cave. I’ve never been inside such a large tree before. Twenty people or so could have stood inside!

At the center, a single strand or root rose up from the ground to the top. They called it the antennae and said it was the original “core” of the tree. It was quite interesting how the tree was hollowed out around that core.

Ghana’s Wee Problem

The production of Indian Hemp or cannabis, popularly called “wee” throughout Ghana, is increasingly replacing traditional crops on farms in the remote areas of the country’s northern regions.

In recent years, Ghana has become Africa’s largest consumer of marijuana and is third on the global lists. The increased demand has caused the value of the plant to skyrocket and the nation is now the biggest producer and exporter in West Africa.

Poverty in the region drives farmers to grow the popular plant-based drug. One Mamprusi farmer explained, “I get 50 cedis (12USD) for a small bag of dried wee, but a bowl of maize will only fetch me 3 cedis (0.75USD). Which will I grow to feed my family?”

Farms that are safe from authorities’ prying eyes are interplanting Indian hemp in their corn fields and some farms are completely replacing their acres of food staples with it.

When asked what was in the hand-rolled cigarette he was smoking, a marijuana farmer laughed and replied, “Ayi, taba! Vaari maa ya sa’am i zugu.” (No, tobacco! Those leaves with spoil your head!)