Monday, September 15, 2008

Church & the US Embassy

Life is moving on here in Libreville.

Sunday morning, we attending church in a neighborhood of Libreville called Alibendeng. It has a congregation of about 300. The church is brick walls with the roof suspended about 5 or 6 feet above, leaving room for breezes to flow around. The seating was in 3 sections, on sloping ground toward the stage. All the children and youth sit in the far left section.

It was the last Sunday for thier pastor in training. He and his family had been there all summer. He is a student from "CEFTAC" the Bible school on the other side of Libreville. He'll move out of the church's parsonage and back into the family dormitory on campus. The church took up a love offering which included gifts of food, money, and material for making clothing. His wife was the worship leader that morning and they have 3 children. It was moving for me to whatch this church pour out love and kindness upon this pastor who had been there for just a short time. The Body of Christ can be an amazing reflection of HIS love for us. Our family has been on the receiving end of much of this type of blessing- this moment proved as a poignant reminder.

The most remarkable thing about an African worship service, by far, is the worship in music. The musicians are very talented, the singers passionate, and the SPIRIT is moving! The song we sang and sang and sang during the offering (rows were dismissed one at a time to march forward with your offering) was "Je suis dans la joie" or "I am in the JOY!".

Je suis dans la joie - I am in the Joy
Une joie immense - An immense Joy
Je suis dans la joie - I am in the Joy
Car Yavhe m'a libere - Cause Yaweh set me free

All visitors were asked to stand and introduce themselves. About 20 of us stood, and when it came around to us, I was able to say the following in French (barely):

We are the Straw Family - Nous sommes la famille STRAW
There are 5 of us - Nous sommes cinq
Mon fils Samuel - My son Samueal
Mon fils Joseph - My son Joseph
Ma fille Megan - My daughter Megan
Ma femme Alace - My wife Alace
Nous sommes Americain - We are American
Nous allons commencer un programme d'avion ambulance pour l'hopital de Bongolo - We are going to start an air ambulance program for the Bongolo Hospital
J'ai une grand salut de votre soeurs et freres aux Etats Unis - I have a big hello from your brothers and sisters in the United States

The congregation clapped after each introduction and sometimes there was some "whooping". I'm happy to say that we got some "whoops". I was nervous- I've never spoken so much french in front of so many people before. The people were kind to clap although I had made a couple of errors (you French speaking people will notice the errors). Arnie gave me a "thumbs up" and said I did good.

After the service, you are dismissed row by row out of the side of the church where you shake the hand of all that have been dismissed ahead of you and then get in the back of the line to continue shaking hands with those dismissed after you! It took about 20 minutes to leave the church! It was a lot of fun, but I must admit that my cheeks were hurting from all the smiling!

In the afternoon we were guests at the residence of the US Ambassador to Gabon! A really really beautiful beach-side home with a huge garden, swimming pool, yards, and fences with gaurd shacks at the corners. In the large yard on the South side of the home, there were 4 tents in a semi-circle, with one tent at the middle serving as a stage area for a rock band. There was plenty of room right in front of the stage for dancing. The event was for the purpse of the US Naval soccer team from a base in Italy to come and mingle with the Americans living in Libreville. The Navy is visiting Central and West African countries in hopes to have them all agree to new monitoring of the Atlantic Ocean in the area (aka. The Gulf of Guinea) to cut down on pirates. That's right, I said "pirates". It turns out that this is happening here, not just off the coast of Somalia, where it has gotten a lot more press.

This week, the Navy soccer team will play a game against the Gabon navy soccer team in the largest stadium in Gabon, downtown Libreville. Of course, our family will be there. In fact, a couple of the guys on the team have convinced Joey, Megan and Sam to make signs supporting their jersey number! At the game, there is a brass group that will play some patriotic songs and a rock band that will also play. Should be fun. The Gabonese military will also have their own groups playing favorite numbers.

It's only another week until Egmont gets back and I may start to do some flying. Between now and then, I have some car repairs, some additional washing machine work, and various other things.

This morning, I successfully went to the electric company and purchased some more power credits. Then I successfully came back home and inserted the code into the unit on the side of the house and voila! we have more electricity!!!

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