Equatorial Guinea

The following posts tell about my trip to Equatorial Guinea. Through words and photos I hope to succesfully share my experiences. I've decided to do this on a day by day basis. I hope you enjoy. If there's anything I may have missed, or something you'd like to know...please email me at michaelh@uwyo.edu. Thank you all for your unconditional support of me, both financially and spiritually. Without you, this trip wouldn't have happened. More on Africa here: http://53lat158long.blogspot.com/

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Day 2- This morning after breakfast and our morning devotional we split up into two groups. Stokes, Garrett, and Jill all went back to the school to help out there. Andy, Bolzer and I went to a small "subdivision" on the outskirts of the city to promote the film showing that night. We each followed a Spanish speaking native pastor that Carlos had trained, and handed out 4 laws booklets. Being as none of us were fluent in Spanish, the pastors did most of the talking...we were kind of the white freak show that initially attracted people. The majority of the people living here had seen white people, especially with all the oil companies in the area, but a white person being in their part of the city was pretty unusual.

The part of the city we were in today was probably one of the worst in the entire city. There was kids running around naked, going to the bathroom wherever the pleased, garbage everywhere. The dogs had open sores on their skin...they would give you a look that was just torturing, wanting to be petted. What I found most strange, but heart warming about this culture was that even tho most of their buildings were shacks by our standards with dirt floors, a lot of them still had stereo systems, satellite dishes, televisions, game systems, or other electronics in their houses. I know this because they are the most generous people I have ever met. When we were walking around their village, they would always invite us in and give up their seats for us. More often than not they would notice that we were sweating like pigs (not being used to the climate) and give us some of their bottled water or something else to drink. One of them gave me a pineapple Fanta and I have been craving one ever since, but they aren't sold in the States. God only knows how much these things cost, and what they had to do to get the money for these things. The people didn't care if it was the only soda they got for six months, they still gave it to us without any regrets. Andy briefed us before we left, telling us that we never want to take away the opportunity for them to serve us. Don't set your mind on how little they have and how you would be taking away from them, it is an honor and a privilege for them to serve us, and can be considered rude if you turn them down. I don't even think they thought about things like honor when they came across us, they just noticed that we looked hot, tired, and thirsty--so they invited us into their cool house, let us sit down in their chairs, and gave us something to drink. It was as simple as that.

I went to Tijuana, Mexico the summer after my senior year in high school. If I were to compare Equatorial Guinea and Tijuana, I would have to first off say that they both need a lot of work. Tijuana was a lot drier and seemed a lot dirtier, and the buildings were a lot worse. I'm not sure if this is correct, but Tijuana seemed to have much more of a problem with worldy things, like drugs and prostitution. Equatorial Guinea was also very dirty in terms of trash, but it didn't seem quite as bad...possibly because the jungle just kinda grows over a lot of it. It also didn't seem to have as much of a problem with drugs or prostitution, they have a lot of problems with their infrastructure, government, and they seem to be a lot more prone to disease. The AIDS problem here was one of the lowest on the entire continent according to the CIA factbook, but because of factors like climate there was a lot of diseases here that weren't necessarily a problem in Mexico. We were taking Malaria pills everyday, and had to get a number of vaccinations like Yellow and Typhoid Fever that we didn't have to do for Mexico. I saw a young man walking around with Polio today as we were advertising the film. His legs were horribly bowed and he probably should have had some sort of crutches. While a lot of the buildings in Tijuana were corrugated metal sheets stacked together to form a shelter, the buildings in Equatorial Guinea were usually made up of some sort of plaster, cinder blocks, or made of wood siding.

It started to sprinkle on us a little bit towards the end of our stay in this part of the city. Garrett and Ryan got absolutely dumped on while they were pouring a concrete foundation out at the school. Garrett's passport actually got wet enough that it started peeling apart by his picture, so we had to stop by the US embassy later in the week.

That night we showed the Jesus film at the church in the part of the city we visited. Antonio, the pastor that I promoted with earlier that day was a pastor at that church. He had a small figure...maybe 5'5" 130 pounds, and a very reserved personality. It surprised me to see him leading the worship at the church that night. He had a powerful voice. I took some video of him singing, and of the worship...hopefully I can post it on here or something. He can really belt it out! We had a pretty good showing tonight...probably close to 150 people were there throughout the film. Most of them were already members of the church, but we still had about 30 people accept Christ into their hearts that night. It was truly amazing. During the breaks between film reels Stokes, Bolzer, and Jill gave their testimonies with Erelio (one of the pastors that promoted with us) translating. The drama team also performed between reels. Most of the people that accepted got the new testament, and were asked to come back to the church in the morning so we could follow up on them.

I mentioned the 4 laws earlier, and that we handed out little packets of them while we were promoting. These laws are what Campus Crusades for Christ uses to tell people about Christ. Each law has some verses and illustrations that go with it. It's a pretty efficient way of witnessing.
Law 1-God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life. God's Love"God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16, NIV).
God's Plan[Christ speaking] "I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly"[that it might be full and meaningful] (John 10:10).
Why is it that most people are not experiencing that abundant life?
Law 2-Man is sinful and separated from God. Therefore, he cannot know and experience God's love and plan for his life. Man is Sinful"All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).
Man was created to have fellowship with God; but, because of his own stubbornself-will, he chose to go his own independent way and fellowship with God was broken. This self-will, characterized by an attitude of active rebellion or passive indifference,is an evidence of what the Bible calls sin.
Man Is Separated"The wages of sin is death" [spiritual separation from God] (Romans 6:23).
This diagram illustrates that God is holy and man is sinful. A great gulf separates the two. The arrows illustrate that man is continually trying to reach God and the abundant life through his own efforts, such as a good life, philosophy, or religion-but he inevitably fails.
The third law explains the only way to bridge this gulf...

Law 3-Jesus Christ is God's only provision for man's sin. Through Him you can know and experience God's love and plan for your life. He Died In Our Place"God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners,Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).
He Rose from the Dead"Christ died for our sins... He was buried... He was raised on the third day,according to the Scriptures... He appeared to Peter, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred..." (1 Corinthians 15:3-6).
He Is the Only Way to God"Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through Me'" (John 14:6).
This diagram illustrates that God has bridged the gulf that separates us from Him by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross in our place to pay the penalty for our sins.
It is not enough just to know these three laws...
Law 4-We must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord;then we can know and experience God's love and plan for our lives. We must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord;then we can know and experience God's love and plan for our lives.
We Must Receive Christ"As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name" (John 1:12).
We Receive Christ Through Faith"By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves,it is the gift of God; not as result of works that no one should boast" (Ephesians 2:8,9).
When We Receive Christ, We Experience a New Birth(Read John 3:1-8.)
We Receive Christ Through Personal Invitation[Christ speaking] "Behold, I stand at the door and knock;if any one hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him" (Revelation 3:20).
Receiving Christ involves turning to God from self (repentance) and trusting Christ to come into our lives to forgive our sins and to make us what He wants us to be. Just to agree intellectually that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He died on the cross for our sins is not enough. Nor is it enough to have an emotional experience. We receive Jesus Christ by faith, as an act of the will.
These two circles represent two kinds of lives:
Self-Directed LifeS-Self is on the throne-Christ is outside the life-Interests are directed by self, often resulting in discord and frustration
Christ-Directed Life-Christ is in the life and on the throneS-Self is yielding to Christ,resulting in harmony with God's plan-Interests are directed by Christ,resulting in harmony with God's plan
Which circle best represents your life?Which circle would you like to have represent your life?
The following explains how you can receive Christ:You Can Receive Christ Right Now by Faith Through Prayer(Prayer is talking with God)
God knows your heart and is not so concerned with your words as He is with the attitude of your heart. The following is a suggested prayer:
Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be.
Does this prayer express the desire of your heart? If it does, I invite you to pray this prayer right now, and Christ will come into you life, as He promised.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Day 1- We weren't really able to get to sleep until 3 or 4 the night before because of the traveling and when we slept. It also got really cold because of our sweat from the humidity, so that didn't help with getting to sleep at all either. We were planning on getting up at about 9, but ended up getting up at 7 because of all the racket outside. As it turned out, the church is located between two tire shops. At 7 every morning, we woke up to the sound of a pneumatic drill right below our window. This morning we didn't have a clue what it was, we thought someone just got the urge to jackhammer outside! With roosters cock-a-doodle-doing all night, cars honking their horns at the bend in the road outside the church, and the humidity, it made for a rough night. Fortunately, we got used to all that by the end of the trip, and it actually kind of helped us get to sleep...much like crickets in Wyoming. Believe it or not, but I actually had some trouble sleeping for about a week when I got back home because of the lack of noise.

There tends to be livestock running all over the place also. Mostly chickens, a few pigs, and some goats. The roosters love to cock-a-doodle-doo whenever they please. Not just at sunrise. It definitely took a little getting used to, but I ended up really enjoying it. I think the people "brand" their chickens by cutting off certain toes, but I'm not entirely sure. Stray dogs are also very common, and they usually have sores all over them. Petting a stray dog is something of a no-no...kinda sad.

I think I will try to introduce what we called "Africa time" now. In Africa most people show up as much as a few hours later than when they said they would. The culture here is so relaxed, and unlike America's busy hurry-up-and-wait style, that it's not considered really rude to not be on time. I like to think that it is because the people here are more concerned with building relationships and caring for the people around them than for being punctual.

This morning after we got up and ate breakfast we had a little Bible study before everyone else showed up. We studied John 15:1-17, about the vine and the branches. We studied the first 8 verses today, and continued to study it throughout our stay.

The first person to show up was the cook. She was going to start preparing our lunch, which takes a while because I think she had to boil all the water before using it. The water comes from a well where Carlos and his family sleep at the school they started. It isn't disinfected or filtered in any way that I saw, but other than the bottled water that we used to drink, it is a very good source. They refilled a couple of 50 gallon drums everyday for us to use for the cooking and bathroom facilities. Anyways, while the cook was getting things ready she sang the most beautiful songs. I have no idea what she was singing about, but she had quite the voice! Unfortunately, a few days before she had tripped on the stairs and cut up her shin pretty badly, and it got really infected. Later in the afternoon she somehow broke it open, and it was a puss-filled mess. I didn't actually witness any of this, but Garrett went to the hospital with her and Carlos and watched as they cut it open, cleaned it out, and stitched it up...all without anesthetic. Needless to say, he didn't have much of an appetite when he got back.

George and Kileto showed up shortly after the cook. George is the Director of Campus Crusades for Christ for this region of west Africa. Kileto is his translator. Both of them are living in Ghana working with CCC. George grew up in Nigeria, and Kileto in Ghana. They are both very knowledgeable men of God. They were only able to stay a short time, because they had to make a trip to the mainland to meet some people over there.

Even after the exchange rate, things on the island are very expensive. They have to import most everything. For example, a packet of Ramen was six US dollars, but I think that was considered a little more "high-class". Fortunately, instead of having to go to the market everyday and buy food and water on our own, we paid Carlos a lump sum and he and his family took care of all the meals and everything for us. This is just another example of how fortunate we were, and it gave us the opportunity to go out and about and recruit for the films and what not.

Carlos is quite the guy. Imagine moving your entire family from Mexico to a small Spanish speaking country in Africa. His two daughter were somewhere around the age of 10 when this happened...probably not the easiest of tasks, but if God calls you to do something you put your faith in him and do it. He has a church back in Mexico that supports him. He is the pastor of the church we stayed above, and has been training younger pastors to go out and make disciples of others and start churches of their own. He has done a lot of work with these pastors, and just about everywhere we went we saw them. He is also devoted to bringing up the youth of Africa in a healthy Christian environment. He owns some land outside the city where he and his family now stay at a small school they built. The teachers there teach the kids reading and writing in both English and Spanish using a Sunday school type curriculum. They also give them a taste of mathematics and sciences. He has plans to build an orphanage, a larger school, and a bunch of other stuff on the land. Unfortunately, workers who know what they're doing are hard to come by, and the whole organization of projects like that is hard for him to manage given his schedule and even his history in Mexico. He just isn't constantly around building projects like we are here in the states. He and his family are amazing men and women of God.

Today, Garrett and Stokes went with Abram to do some errands...pick up some groceries at the markets and stuff like that. The rest of us did a few errands with Carlos around the city and then headed out to the school. Driving around in Africa is an adventure on its own. To start off, most of the cars are models I've never heard of, and a good majority of them wouldn't even come close to passing an emissions test in the states...probably due in part to the fact theat they run on gasoil instead of regular gasoline. In other parts of Africa there's a lot of motorcycles running around, but we saw very few here. The van we rode in most of the time was a little Nissan. The engine was located beneath the front seat between the driver and the passenger, so the front of the car ended right where the drivers feet are. That way you can get inches away from other cars while. The drivers are constantly honking around bends, and obstacles...to tell pedestrians and other vehicles where they are. They hardly ever slow down for any of these either, but it seems to work very efficiently. We never saw any sort of accident, just breakdowns, and there was never any sort of traffic signs or laws...or at least none that were paid attention to.

The school was far enough out of the city that it was alright for us to take some pictures. When all those kids saw us pull out the cameras they would charge at us like wild animals. It was great, all of them wanting to be in our pictures. We had arrived at a recess of sorts, so we got to kinda play with the kids, and take a few pictures of them and the jungle. After the recess, we all went in and helped them with their studies. We either helped them with reading English or Spanish, and checked off their papers when they were done. Our Spanish is good enough that we were able to at least tell if they were pronouncing words wrong. The kids were very bright, and very willing to learn. After each session they would have a short bible study type of thing, where they read a parable or a short story out of the bible and asked a few questions...much like Sunday school. You could tell a lot of these kids were sick, they had sores on their arms or complained of stomach aches. When we were leaving, they all got a little baggy of some medicine to help them out with their illnesses. Then, about 25 of them, were all piled into the sweat wagon to be dropped off around the city at their homes. Jill and I got to ride along for a few stops with them, before we got back to the church and were dropped off there for some lunch. It was the middle of the afternoon by this point. After seeing these kids play and study, and then seeing where some of them lived, your heart would have to be made of stone for it not to go out to them.

Lunch was amazing. It was a huge Mexican meal. Throughout our stay we pretty much just got the one big meal a day, and the rest of the time was just snacking with some cereal and bread and stuff. I'm not sure but I think that this is more of the Mexican culture than the African. I still probably ate better with that one meal than I usually do at school. We were so very fortunate.

After lunch, we were allowed some time to catch up on our sleep and take some naps and journal. Late in the evening a bunch of younger people, about our age, came to the church to hang out and practice what they called a drama. The drama was a series of short acts that they acted out to music like mimes. It was a lot of fun watching them practice, and we got to see that despite how easy it looked, it was actually quite difficult to time things right with the music and dialogue. They ended up acting out some of these scenes at the film showing when we were swapping out the reels. It was a very effective way of showing how Christ works in your daily life.

Possibly one of my favorite parts of the trip was building relationships with the kids on the dram team. They were all our age, and very easy to get along with. I wish that we had more time with them. We had a lot of trouble trying to explain the climate and nature of Wyoming to them. If I ever go over there again, I'm going to take some pictures of Wyoming with me to show the people I meet. Wyoming is so different from anything they've seen growing up in the jungle on an island. Maybe I can get some video footage of the landscape and different seasons and send it to them.