Wednesday, April 6, 2011

We Made It Home

The last I wrote, we were going to be waiting until Monday night to head home. I finished writing that and laid down for a nap. When I woke up, Ken informed me we had new plans. We were flying out Sunday afternoon instead.

I had relinquished control of the situation to God and went to sleep, letting go of my worries and He provided a better solution to us getting home. We left Bamako on Kenyan Air (we still don't know what the Kenyan tickets will cost us). instead of Air Mali and flew to Dakar. We had an 11 hour layover in Dakar, so we planned to sit at the restaurant since the missionaries told us this was a good place to wait during a long layover. Just getting to the restaurant became a challenge because of all the guys that wanted to carry our bags for us. It seemed we had to drag guys up the stairs because they wouldn't let go of our bags.

We spent almost 9 hours in the mosquito infested restaurant at Dakar airport. Mostly, I read and did crossword puzzles. Ken got interested in some wrestling on TV and a few soccer matches. We had supper at the restaurant. I had nems, which we had several times in Mali this year. They remind me a bit of taquitos. The ones at the airport had seafood in them, so they were really good! Ken had grilled fish and said it was some of the best fish he's ever eaten. Thankfully, there were a few items on the menu we recognized from other menus we had seen in Mali! The menus were in French and the waitress apparently didn't speak any English.

We went to check in for our flight and they were having computer problems and our names were not on the list of passengers. So, we had to go to the South African Airlines' office. They charged us $200 each because of the flight changes. They said that usually, Air Mali would pay that penalty for us, but that Air Mali hadn't done that in this case. They said we could submit the receipt to Air Mali for reimbursement. I have my doubts that will ever happen with Air Mali. Lesson learned: check with the missionaries and find out which airlines are most reliable and stick with those, no matter the price difference.

Finally, we were on a flight home. I slept about 6 or 7 hours on the plane. When we got to New York, we were there for a 7 hour layover. We had coffee and pastries for breakfast and fast food for lunch before flying out. It was just good to be back in the USA where most airport employees speak English. I spent most of my down time listening to music and catching up on emails and stuff. It was so good to talk to Sarah and Zac on a cell phone! We had a slightly rough flight, flying through storms into Columbus. I thought I was going to get sick with the plane bouncing all over.

When we got into Columbus, Sarah and Zac were sitting waiting on us! It was so good to see them! It was so good to be home! We headed to Red Robin for supper! It was good to have a huge hamburger with a fried egg on it! We serve an amazing God! The time in Mali was so blessed by God. Our flight home was guided by His hand! I praise God for this great trip! Please pray that the phone system at the hospital will continue to be a blessing to all the hospital employees and that through this means of communication, lives will be saved and Malians will come to know Christ!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

God Is In Control

I think this whole flight home thing is a way God is showing me that I'm not in control of anything in this world. Thank God, He is!

Our tickets have been transferred to Monday/Tuesday flights with the same airlines. We have to keep a very close eye on Air Mali flight schedules for Monday and be sure our flight out does not get cancelled/postponed. If this flight gets cancelled/postponed, we have to try to get on an earlier Air Senegal flight, paying for a ticket. I'm not sure if we'd have enough cash with us to get the tickets, so we'd have to see what we could work out. If the Air Mali flight leaves much later than scheduled, we'll probably miss our connecting flight in Dakar again. At this point, the best situation would be the Air Mali flight leaving on time. Please pray and have everyone you know pray that this flight will remain on time and that we will be able to get started home!

On a different note, we've had the opportunity to do many things today we wouldn't have gotten to do. We went to a yard sale at the U.S. Embassy in Mali. We also got to go tile shopping with Kristen, Angela, and Doug. It's fun to see the shops and all that goes on in the streets here. We've also gotten a little taste of what happens when a missionary gets a house and has to do the usual "decorating". We had lunch at a great, new, little place. It was amazing!

I'm really missing my wife and son. It's been over two weeks now since I've seen them. The fact that our arrival home was seriously delayed isn't helping that much. I am very thankful that we have quite a bit of support from the local missionaries and a safe, comfortable place to rest.

Please continue to pray for our flight situations. Please also pray for me as I struggle through letting God have control over the situation! Please pray that our bodies will hold out and that we'll get the rest/sleep we need when we need it. Please pray for Ken as he took the last anti-malarial pill he brought with him. That leaves a few days without it. Please also pray for our families at home who are trying to stay strong even with all the delays and confusion.

Thank you to all our prayer warriors out there! Your prayers have been greatly felt throughout this trip! We are very blessed to have such faithful prayer warriors on our side. We are also extremely blessed to have a relationship with the one true God! It's hard to see so many people here that do not know the one true God that I know.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Last Day Of Work Here

Wow, what an amazing trip this has been! God has been so good throughout the trip! Yesterday was a very high "mountaintop" day for me. We've been trying for months to get calling outside and inside working on the phone system. Yesterday, God turned on some lights in my head and allowed us to accomplish this. Isn't our God amazing? Sometimes, His timing isn't our timing, but we got this accomplished with His guidance just in before we leave. I was able to call the hospital from the guest house this morning. These calls are all dependent on the Internet connection speeds, but at least we know they work.

Today, we're spending mostly documenting and training for Ed in case anything would go wrong with the system when we're gone. Ed has done amazingly great in learning phone and extension configurations. God has been good there as well! Thanks, Ed, for your patience and willingness to learn! You have a lot on your plate and have still made time to learn this system!

Yesterday, we got some money changed and went shopping. Ken bought most of his stuff from the vendor that came to the guest house last night. I was more interested in stuff at one of the shops. Mind you, the shops aren't like shops in the USA. We went to this guys shop and he invited us right in to his little "hut" type shop. He took us inside to look around and then asked us to have a seat. We both sat down and he had the kids and women set everything he had out for us to look at. The whole time, I was afraid he was going to ask us to eat or drink something. He had cups and plates laying around. Thank goodness he didn't. I've actually been healthy this trip! I bought several things and we left. As we were crossing the street, we just about got plowed over by a moto. The moto came out around a semi truck. I saw the moto and stopped. Ken didn't see it and kept walking. The moto went right between us, swerving to miss us.

Tomorrow morning starts our long journey back home. Please pray for safe travel and that all our flights will be on time and as scheduled! We can't wait to see our families!

Blessings to you all!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Praise God It's Monday

Good afternoon! We are finishing up lunch and I wanted to share a bit of our trip with you since it's been a few days.

Friday night, we had a cookout at the Wenger's! The steaks and fish were amazing as were all the salads the families brought! We watched a movie with a laptop, projector, and sheet hanging between two patio umbrellas. Then the power went out and was out for a few hours. Rolling blackouts continue each day. No one is sure why this is happening because the power company says they've fixed the problem.

Saturday, we headed in to the hospital around 9am to do a bit more configuration on a server to manage the addressing and internet routing on the network. This seems to be helping speed the Internet traffic up a bit because the little router just couldn't handle all the additional traffic we had added with phones. I'm so glad Ken knows what he's doing with that because I've never set one up. He has some more work to do on it, but we'll get to that in the next day or so.

Sunday, we went to church at Bethel again. I just love being able to worship with people that speak another language. It's amazing how we can all worship our God in our own languages! It's also amazing to see how others worship through song, dance, and music! We had lunch with the Wenger's...my favorite meal...beef and noodles and mashed potatoes. In the afternoon, we went to a soccer game. That was a lot of fun. The team we were rooting for won 6-1. We had a worship service with all the missionary families and then got to go to John and Carol's to watch another movie and have snacks!

This morning, we've spent most of our time trying to eliminate radio frequency interference between all the access points we've installed. It's the same kind of idea of your microwave interfering with a portable phone in your house. All the access points were on the same channel and causing interference with each other. We're still troubleshooting this and looking at additional settings we can use to reduce this interference.

Tonight, we're headed to John and Carol's for dinner. This week, we're visiting the missionaries' homes for our evening meals. This will be a lot of fun!

Update on the 19 year old girl I told you about: We talked to Dr. Dan last night to get a status update. I could just sit and talk with Dan for hours about the miracles God is doing here! Dan told us that the young girl is doing much better and will probably be going home in the next few days. He has told her over and over that they've done all they can do and that he knows that wasn't enough. God came in to do the rest! Dan has been telling her that God loves her. She's struggling with the fact that she aborted her baby and is having a hard time believing that God could still love her and forgive her. Dan said this is kind of like telling someone that God is something completely different than they've been taught.

Please continue to pray for this young lady. Pray that she will be completely healed and that through this, she'll realize that God does love her and will forgive her. Pray that she will accept God's love and forgiveness!

For Ken and I and the phone project, I ask that you continue to pray for us as we try to stabilize the network and phones so that there won't be any major problems after we leave. Pray that our bodies will remain strong and energized to finish strong on the project the Lord has given us! We're at that point in a two week trip that exhaustion can settle in and we know we need to finish strong!

Please also pray for our families back home. I know I'm missing my family and that they are missing me.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Friday Update on Saturday Morning

Good morning everyone.

Yesterday was one of those days that I think we were fighting a bit of a spiritual battle. All week, we've been on such a high seeing everything working so well. Yesterday, we tried to start getting outbound and inbound calling from and to the hospital working. We had no luck at all. I think the Internet connection at the hospital is too slow to make it work. Another thing that happened was something on the network is slowing the Internet traffic even worse. We believe it's just the added connectivity to the main router, which wasn't made to be used in the way we're using it. One other thing was that we moved a switch to making the wiring a little cleaner and broke a piece of fiber cable. Ken was able to patch the connection with another cable to get things back up.

On the positive side, Ken started building a server to do a large part of the work that the main router is. This should take a load off of that router and begin speeding things up. We're headed out to the hospital this morning to try to get these things running and to do some additional testing.

Please pray that our minds will stay focused on the project as we move into our final week of work here. It's hard to believe we've been here a week already. Pray that we'll be able to resolve the network issues so that the phones and computers at the hospital will all work well together. Pray also that we will recognize any attempts by the enemy to bring us down or to bring the project down and that through the authority God has given us, we can cast them to the feet of Jesus' cross!

Thank you to all the prayer warriors out there! Without you, it's hard to say where we would be. God bless you all!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thursday

Well, it's Thursday and the weeks almost over. It's hard to believe the things God has done through Ken and I...and all our Malian and Missionary helpers!

Today, the day started with Ken making us eggs and ham! Thanks Ken, it was a great breakfast!

I finished up training Ed on setting up phones and new extensions. Before I knew it, he was sending out phones and people are using the system quite a bit! We spent the majority of our day trying to finish up the networking. We still have several challenges ahead of us to complete the networking!

Tomorrow, I think we'll be primarily trying to finish up the networking on the west side of Pod 2 and all of Pod 3.

Tonight, we had quiche for supper! It was very good! We continue to eat way too well! We also went for a swim after supper to cool down. It's crazy how cold the water can feel after being in 106 degree weather all day.

Please continue to pray for the phone project! Pray that the excitement will continue among hospital employees and that they will not be discouraged if problems arise. Pray that God will provide wisdom to Ken and I as to how to properly finish up this networking. Also pray for a 19 year old woman who was brought the the hospital a few days ago. She had some crazy form of abortion (as if abortion isn't crazy enough) and has not been doing well since. Her heart has been beating 150 times per minute and she's been breathing 60 times per minute. According to Dr. Dan, this is very high. If she weren't so young, her body wouldn't be able to sustain itself with numbers this high. She's also on pressurized oxygen as of this morning. Please pray for healing and that God's light, love, and grace will shine through to this young woman and her family through this difficult experience.

Here's a couple pictures of the excitement of a container arriving yesterday!


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wednesday Late

Wow, it's almost 10pm and we're just sitting down to relax.

Today, the day started with morning devotions at the hospital as usual. We then were off to the races trying to get the networking in the south end of pod 1 working. We found a very interesting problem. If we mount the access point in outside of the building, we get really good coverage, except in the lab. So, we moved the access point into the lab. In the lab, the access point would not bridge to the other access points. After trying several things, we found that if we mount the access point above the counter top and only along certain parts of the wall, it would bridge and we could connect to it in the lab. Outside of the lab, it doesn't seem to work so well. We have some sort of challenge with the Lab, but are unsure of what it is so far. We're hoping that having an access point in the lab will work for the lab and maybe another access point will cover the area outside the lab.

On the positive side, Ken made a phone call from one of the portable phones to a portable I was carrying. He was able to walk around most of the hospital compound talking to me without dropping the call! This is very positive! I also was able to train Ed Bonvillain to set up the Nortel phones we're using. I'll just have him do a couple more so that he's used to it when we're gone.

Tomorrow will be another day of trying to finish up the networking and probably more training for Ed with the other phones.

Oh ya, almost forgot. They got a shipping container in today at the hospital from Christ Community Church in Omaha. It was amazing to see Doctor Dan's face light up seeing some of the new medical equipment that came in. He said it's amazing to have equipment that is less than 7 years old. There's a lot of equipment being used from many years ago.

Please continue praying for the networking throughout the hospital as we try to finish that up. Please also pray for one of our next tasks, which is trying to find a way to allow the doctors to use this phone system for inbound and outbound calls from their homes to the hospital and vice versa. Please also pray for Ken's ankle. He either injured it or got bit on Monday and it's been pretty swollen and tender since. The swelling seems to have subsided slightly, but still requires some healing!

Thank you for all your prayers! It's only through God that this whole system is coming together as well as it is!

God bless you all!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Happy Tuesday

Good evening, Friends! Blessings to you all!

I don't have a lot on my mind tonight, but thought I'd give you a quick update on our work.

Today, Ken did a lot of networking work trying to get the wireless access points to work throughout the hospital complex. He found that it is really hard to transmit a wireless signal because of the metal windows, metal roofs, rebar in the walls, etc. The wireless signal likes to just scatter/bounce off of metal surfaces. We also found out that only one access point we expected to be here already is actually here. Additionally, the one router that was already here can't be configured the way we're configuring the rest. Please pray for God's guidance in getting the networking configured in the best way possible!

I spent a majority of the day getting desk phones and portable phones configured so that when the network is ready, we can start distributing phones. Tomorrow, I think the plan is for me to work with Ed and a Malian worker to teach them how to configure the phones. This should go well, but pray that God will let this training go smoothly so that they are able to sustain the phone system when we are gone.

Ken cooked eggs with ham this morning and it was really a great way to start the day! Tonight, the Malian man made us tacos. This was really good and I found out cucumbers and ranch dressing are great in tacos too! Of course, I'm either really hungry or the cucumbers here don't taste like the ones at home. I hate cucumbers at home.

Thanks to all those that have been praying for us! We can feel God's presence, guiding our hands and minds in His work here. God has brought us through town safely each time and has provided us great nourishment when it is needed! Most of all, I am not sun burned yet! hee hee.

God bless you all!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday Update

Good evening to all my friends out there! Today was our first day of work and went pretty well. We were able to get a general layout of the hospital and where phones would be located. We were also able to bridge two wireless access points. For those non-technical people reading this, that pretty much means we took two access points and connected them together wirelessly. Hopefully that makes a little sense. We placed one access point in Pod 1 and another in Pod 2. The second access point connects to the first. When a computer connects to the second access point, it can also get to the first access point.



Eventually, we will have several access points connected to the hospital network and phones will connect to any of the wireless access points and make phone calls to other phones at the hospital. We were going to work on an access point that is already at the hospital tonight, but we forgot to stop and take it on our way home.
Tomorrow, we will do more work on getting the access points connected to the hospital network. We ran into a small snag in the plan late in the day today and have to do some testing tomorrow to get things connected.

We've been eating well. Sunday, we came home to a great meal cooked by a Malian woman. It was great! I am not sure how to describe it, but it had cabbage, onions, carrots, Chicken, and maybe more in it. We ate it over rice. Sunday night, Ken and I made salads and sandwiches. They provided us with ham, salami, and cheese, along with the amazing bread here. We've been eating corn flakes with bananas for breakfast and also had apples this morning. For lunch we had leftovers from Sunday.



Tonight, we have a couple Malian men cooking dinner. They're in the kitchen right now. Mmmmm...Pork, mashed potatoes, gravy, and cole slaw! Don't think Ken and I will be any lighter when we get home!

Ken took up driving today! He got us home and back to the hospital and back home safely! That's three safe trips through town! Go Ken...and Go God! I super-appreciate that Ken is driving because I'm not sure I have the nerve to even try.

Continue to pray for God's work at the hospital! There are lots of babies being born every day. Pray for all the work the missionaries are doing and also the work of the Malians! Please also pray for Ken and I as we continue the phone project!

Sorry for any misspellings! Blogger is trying to spell check my post in French...doesn't work so well.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

In Koutiala

Wow, what a wonderful God we serve!

We left from Columbus airport without incident on Friday. Our checked bags all weighed in at exactly 50.0 pounds or less. The server box weighed in under 50, but was oversized. They didn't say anything about the size of the box! God is good...no extra baggage fees!

Then, it was off to Washington/Dulles airport. This time, our only problem was that they started boarding over an hour early. We had stopped to get ice cream and use the facilities to find out we had to get our boarding passes re-printed before we could board. We still made the flight in plenty of time. The flight wasn't too bad. We knew we would be hitting turbulence about half way across the ocean. We had hoped we'd be asleep by then, but they had just collected our dinner trays when we hit the turbulence. I had lamb on the plane and, boy, was it good!

We got in to Senegal airport Saturday morning and were sent through the airport exit in order to re-enter the airport for our next flight. We couldn't check in for at least an hour, so we found a couple rickety chairs to relax in for a little bit. When it was time to check in, they asked about our checked baggage. We told them it had been checked through to Bamako. They informed us that usually doesn't work, so they sent us with an employee to find our bags. We ended up back in parts of the airport most travelers never see. Our bags were found and we took them back out of the airport and back into the airport to be checked to Bamako.

Of course, now they weigh our carry-on bags for the first time on the trip. Our carry-on bags were both overweight. We started to panic a bit, but she just waved us on. I think she was glad to get rid of these two westerners. We went through security where they forced us to turn over all AA and AAA batteries. They actually went through part of Ken's bag to make sure they got them all. Finally, we were at the boarding area for our flight! We saw Andrea Bonvillan and all the missionary kids she was bring back to Mali. It was good to see familiar faces! We got up to the door and Ken's boarding pass set off a red light. There was something wrong with his checked bags. Ken was again taken into parts of the airport that most travelers never see while I had to board the plane. On comes Ken, telling me they only wanted him to open the lock on his bag so they could see what was inside.

We landed in Bamako with our demarcation forms already filled out and headed for our bags. We pulled all our bags off the belt and loaded them on carts. God is so good! Our 4 bags made it to Bamako with us! We started to exit the airport when we were informed the red marks on our bags meant we had to go through customs. Oh great. Ken goes in to talk to them. He tried to explain what the equipment was for and all, but didn't seem to be getting anywhere. Another guy there told me they were going to need a receipt for every item in those bags. Finally, something Ken said clicked and they sent us on. Ken's not even sure exactly what he said. God is good! Through customs without paperwork or a fee!

We met a lot of missionaries right outside the airport! Again, so good to see familiar and friendly faces! Many of the missionaries work in the Bamako area, so we got to meet some new people! We loaded all our bags in or on Ed and Andrea's van and headed out for Koutiala, making a quick stop for some roadside stand food. There's a stand where some Vietnamese women make sandwiches and fried egg roll things. Oh man were these all good!

We arrived in Koutiala late Saturday afternoon and were glad to get showers and clean clothes! We rested for a little bit and headed to Dan and Marcy's house for dinner. Marcy had made an amazing dinner and dessert! It was fun to sit and talk about the phone project with those that will be using it and to discuss future plans at the hospital!

We both laid down last night and crashed. I'm not sure I've slept that soundly for a long time. Of course, it had been since Friday morning that I had gotten more than 15 minutes of sleep at one time. Ken made coffee and milk this morning and we had corn flakes with bananas for breakfast. Oh ya, we had TOAST!! Sorry, Ken and I love the bread here. It's one of our favorite things. We're off to church, so I'll hope to update you all again later! Thanks for all your continued prayers as we begin work on the phone project tomorrow! God bless you all!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Count The Miracles God Has Done

I have to say, it's been amazing to see God work in the plans for our trip! I can only describe most of the plans as miracles. Here's what God has already done:

  • Put Ken and I together for the trip

  • Placed a big need (phones) on our hearts

  • Provided the knowledge and skills we needed to prepare the phone system

  • Worked it out that one of the missionaries would be on our last flight and giving us a ride to the guesthouse

  • Provided the necessary funds for the trip and for the phone system

  • Allowed for the revocation of the travel warning that was posted late last week (I think I'll be blogging now!)

  • Provided a return ride to the airport


Please continue to pray for Ken and I to remain rested and healthy. Please pray for my son, Zac, who woke up sick this morning, that he will be healthy quickly! Please pray that travel will be safe. Please pray that the phone system will work as planned and that we won't have any major problems to work through when we get there.

God bless you all!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Praise God!

Saturday evening started Missions Festival at our church. This is a yearly celebration of what Christ is doing through missionaries and ordinary people throughout the world. Saturday night kicked off with the men's Prime Rib Dinner. Well, rumor has it the Chick-fil-A cows flooded out the business that makes the prime rib and therefore, we had barbecued chicken instead. There really was a flood, but I don't think the Chick-fil-A cows were involved. Anyway, at the dinner, they shared about the phone project and the goal of $5,000. They asked the men in attendance to consider throwing a few dollars or even their pocket change in toward this goal.

Sunday morning, they announced in the church service that God did a miracle and $1,200 was given toward the project, bringing the grand total over the $5,000 goal. God is amazing. I think sometimes I try to limit what God can do and it's silly of me to do that. He always comes through in ways we can't imagine! My jaw dropped and tears of joy flowed when I heard this announcement of what God chose to do through those 400 men in attendance Saturday night!

Sunday night, we had another dinner at church. This time, it was Thai food and it was great! I'd never had Thai, but I'm ready to visit the local Thai restaurant now! The guests spoke about going all out for God. Their stories included things like giving up huge job opportunities to serve God in a much lower paying job that may not have as many opportunities for advancement. They also told of how they have used Ebay to sell "junk" that's been laying around a church camp in order to purchase new, useful items for the camp! In the end, it was all brought back around to the story of the parable of the talents where the master entrusts his servants with varying amounts of money and leaves on a trip. Ultimately it comes down to what will we do with what God gives to us. This may be money or it may be a skill or job.

So, it's got me thinking about what I am doing with the things God has given me. At the same time, I'm thinking through what more I could be doing with the things God has entrusted me with. It's important to invest those things into growing the kingdom of God!

We're leaving in less than 2 weeks for Mali, West Africa! God will use the time we spend there in many ways. My prayer is that the work I do there, through God, will be a small part of growing His kingdom in Mali!

Keep your eyes peeled! You never know when God's going to use you or do a miracle around you!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Phones

Happy Saturday! It's been a fun couple of weeks for me. Ken has allowed me to bring home a couple of the phones we'll be taking to Mali. I was able to set up a server here and connect the phones up to it. I was able to call my wife in the other room. I was even able to get video calls going between the desk phone and the soft phone on the computer.

This week, we were able to get a my soft phone and Ken's desk phone to communicate over the Internet. We are able to use the phones in this way to communicate without having to use land lines or cell phones. There's still an extra step we need to figure out. We need to get the phones to connect to the Trixbox (phone server) across the Internet. If we can get this working, we'd be able to have phones at the missionaries' houses for communication with the hospital. Right now, we have the system working in a way that they will be able to call within the hospital complex. There are still some questions in our minds that probably won't be answered until we are there.

We are both very excited about our trip and how God is going to work through us. We've taken an attitude of "whatever it takes" to make this happen for the hospital and residents of Mali. With Malaria season coming up, the hospital staff will be able to better communicate throughout the hospital complex without paying cellular charges.

Please continue to pray for our project/trip. I'm sure there will still be considerable challenges ahead for us, including getting two servers and 70 phones through airport security. God has proven Himself faithful and I know he will work out everything before we even get there.

Side note: Our church is raising the funds to pay for the phone system. If you would be interested in helping reach the $5000 goal, please contact me for more information! Thanks everyone!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

God IS In Control!!

This week, we found out that our per diem would not cover the cost of someone driving us from Bamako to Koutiala. Usually, with a team of 8, the per diem for 8 people covers the transportation. The option given to us was to ride the bus. While riding the bus would be weird, not knowing the language and all, we were ok with it. The part that we weren't comfortable with was the fact that we will have all the phone equipment with us. The way I've seen stuff stored on buses over there, I was really nervous about the equipment safety.

Here's where God comes in! One of the missionaries and their children will be on our final flight into Bamako. This means they will already have a car there that can take us to Koutiala. We will still ride the bus back to Bamako at the end of our trip, but without all the phones, we'll feel much better about that. To be honest, I think it'll be a fun way to experience a bit of the culture there.

I've been a bit discouraged about the amount that has come in to cover my trip costs, but I think this is just another reminder for me that God is in control of everything, especially our trip plans! There is one more thing we're concerned about. We're going to have a lot of phone equipment packed in our suitcases for the work we're doing there. Please pray that we will be able to get all this through airport security without any issues!

Thank you for your continued prayers as we move closer to the March 18, 2011 departure to Mali.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Studying and Preparing

This week, Ken sent me the manual for Moodle and the link to start using it. Moodle is a program used to set up online learning. The plan for this software is to allow the hospital to create training programs for new nurses. I've been having a good time reading through the manual and setting up a class. This will all be helpful when we work with the hospital staff to create computerized learning programs.

Tonight, Ken and I will be meeting to start working on the systems we'll be installing at the hospital. This includes the computerized learning software and the IP phone system. I'm excited to start learning and preparing for our trip.

I got all my stuff together to send in my visa application so that I can get into Mali. After I make a couple copies tomorrow, I'll get that sent in. Vicki is looking into airline ticket pricing today and hopes to have tickets ordered this week. I will need to turn in any remaining funds needed for my plane ticket this coming Sunday. I think I have all the funds I'll need for the plane ticket, but still need to raise about $900 for my remaining expenses. You can track my fundraising with the thermometer to the right of this post.

In addition to our individual trip expenses, our church is also raising funds for the phone system we will be installing. Here's what was shared Sunday morning about that:

Project for Koutiala Hospital: The Great Commission Team will be collecting funds for a communication system for the Koutiala Hospital for Women and Children in Mali, West Africa. This system will allow hospital staff to more readily communicate and (most importantly) respond quicker to emergency situations, etc., especially during Malaria season which begins April 1. The Mali Team 2011 is hopeful to begin installing the system March 18-April 1. Please prayerfully consider your participation to help us reach the goal of $5,000. Make your check payable to Shawnee Alliance, put "Koutiala Phone Project" on the memo line, or on the offering envelope.


If you would like further information on how you can give toward my trip expenses or the phone project, please feel free to contact me (mattschmunk@gmail.com). Please pray for Ken and I as we prepare for the trip. Also, please pray for the phone project that funds will be raised quickly so that the system can be purchased and prepared for installation before we leave.

Thank you so much for your prayers and support as we approach March 18, 2011!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Trip Plans

It looks like it will most likely be only two of us traveling on this trip. I'm very excited because God has placed a project on the heart of Ken and the missionaries in Koutiala that is technology related! If you know me, I love technology. My job is completely based around technology and I often do computer work outside of my job too. I'm always interested in the latest technology, even though I'm often a few years behind in getting it.

Ken is in the process of planning out an IP phone system for the hospital complex. This will greatly reduce cellular phone costs among the missionaries in Mali. I'll be learning the phone system with Ken leading up to our trip so that I'm knowledgeable enough to help out. I have some experience with IP phones because we put in an IP phone system a year or so ago at work. I'm also very excited to work with Ken. Ken is an awesome man that I have grown to look up to!

I still need to send out some additional support letters to finish covering my costs. I also need to get my Mali Visa so that I can get into the country. Ya, that's important, I guess. I've been dreaming for a while now that I get to the airport and don't have my passport. Hopefully the dreams will keep me from forgetting it. Ha.

Please pray for Ken as he orchestrates this phone system project and for me that I'll be able to learn the system quickly! Please also pray that God will prepare our hearts for the trip. Additionally, please pray for our families that will remain her in the USA while we travel. Praise God for the wonderful things He has done...and will do!!!