[From Gail]

Church meeting under a mango tree.

Last Sunday we were invited to a small village congregation that meets under a mango tree. There were about 50 people – many children. We were greeted so warmly that two women were dancing when we opened the car door, then each took me by an arm and escorted me to the meeting area where our chairs were waiting for us.

There was a good worship time, after which some of the children presented a song and dance. The dance steps were very complex and it was obvious they had put in a lot of work together practicing. Then one of the youth ministers came and sang another song with the dancing choir behind him. Finally, there was a special song from a young husband and wife that had our names woven into it as a welcome – “We welcome you, Bob and Gail, We love you, Bob and Gail…” etc.  Very heart-warming!

Sunday School class dancing for the church service.

This was the same group that, last trip when we were here (April), the children would line the side of the road as we departed from the church where we were teaching every day – their school was near there – and they would chant as we drove by, “Bob and Gail, Bob and Gail, Bob and Gail.” Again, ver-r-r-ry heart-warming!

Bob preached a great sermon on the prodigal son and his brother that, just serendipitously, had an exact application for that specific congregation. It seems they had been on a certain piece of land under another mango tree last year, but they were chased away from it to this new location by an “elder brother,” the unsympathetic, non-evangelical variety of church in the area that is attempting to persecute these new “born-again” churches that are popping up all over this area – over 500 baptisms just a few months ago. So Bob processed that unpleasant experience of tribulation with them in light of the two brothers and encouraged them not to be bitter or angry but just to love their persecutors. He pointed out that, of the two brothers – the one that sinned greatly and was repentant, and the one who had never sinned but was now upset about the attention his younger brother was getting from the father – it was the “righteous” elder brother who was now standing outside the house of his father jealous and angry. (Bob says to mention that this was not his own original insight, but a good one anyway!)

Preaching on the Prodigal Son.

We had a time for people to come forward for prayer afterward. One came up to be introduced to Christ, and about ten came for prayer for sickness or other requests. At the end of the service, people wanted to bless us and thank us for coming. They gave us three more chickens to add to our collection, which is, in reality, Alfred’s chicken collection. The pastor of this congregation is teaching them hospitality and gratitude toward visitors.

Unfortunately, we have no way to raise those chickens for ourselves. I can only imagine arriving at the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport with a flock of clucking, complaining chickens in tow. If we were able to keep all the chickens we have been given in this generous place over the last two years, our daughter-in-law would probably have a full-blown chicken ranch in her back yard by now.

A bountiful gratitude for the preaching.

BTW, Bob’s and my Christian birthday is today [written the last Sunday in October when we still didn’t have internet] – it is exactly 48 years since we received Christ in Airway Heights, Texas, near Spokane, Washington, where Bob was stationed in the USAF in 1971. I was almost 8 months pregnant with Kristyn, our first child. What a wild ride it has been! And now we are in Africa!