Friday, August 31, 2007

On My Way

It's time to praise God in a HUGE way! I had asked you to pray for the release of the Korean hostages in Afghanistan. Every one of them has been released and allowed to go home. There are strings attached, of course. See the entire story at: http://eugenecho.wordpress.com/2007/08/30/prayer-for-korean-hostages-in-afghanistan/

I will be leaving for Niger on Monday, September 3. Pray for me as I travel from Dayton to Boston, change planes, and then fly on to JFK in NY City. In NY I will have to collect my suitcase, find my way to another terminal, and check in. Pray that this whole process will go smoothly.

My flight from NY to Casa Blanca, Morocco is an all-nighter. In Casa Blanca I have something like a 16-hour layover. Thankfully, the airline gives us a hotel room and food vouchers. I leave Morocco late at night on September 4 and arrive in Niger at 3:30 a.m. on September 5. Two all-nighters leave one exhausted, then figure in jetlag and you can imagine why we feel like zombies the first few days back in Niger.

Pray for Daniel at Cedarville. He seems to be making a good adjustment. It will sure be hard to say goodbye to him.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Day 9







As we discussed going from CO to CA, we realized we would not have time to visit the Grand Canyon. Dad said there wasn't much to see at Four Corners, either, and that it wasn't really worth going.
We left the hotel at the appointed time and stopped at a very slow Denny's in Cortez for breakfast. From there, we continued on our way west. We got to the cut-off for Four Corners and Dad decided we were there ahead of schedule, so we might as well go see it. It was fun....desert, lotsa wind, and a cement slab in the middle of it all to indicate where the four corners of four states come together. I put each foot in a different state and my hands in different states, so I was in four states at once. I don't particularly like this photo of me, but you get the idea! I also enjoyed talking to some of the Dine (Navajo) who were selling things and I got a great souvenir for Daniel.
When we got to the cut-off for the Grand Canyon, we realized we would get to go after all. It was well worth it. This is one of those sections of the world that God created that just can't be described. The pictures we took just don't do it justice.
We spent the night in Flagstaff, then drove on to CA for the next day. About all I can say about western CO, AZ, and this part of CA is that it will prepare me to return to Niger! It is a hot, dry, barren desert.
There are orange groves nearby here in Hemet where my brother lives. I don't know where the water comes from to keep them alive. It is very rocky here and the surrounding rocky hills reminds us of the Jos Plateau in Nigeria.

Day 8







The next day we took the old steam train from Durango to Silverton, CO. We were staying half way between Durango and Silverton and we were able to pick up the train near our hotel. The first hour, from Durango to where we picked up the train, is the most boring part of the trip. So, by picking up the train where we did, we were on the train only for the interesting part.

It took two hours to get to Silverton. The first part of the trip is really scaring because we are right on the edge of the mountain with a sheer drop-off to the Los Alamos River below (I think that's what river it is!). The train creeps along at about 2 miles per hour at that point. It was a very scenic ride....beautiful, beautiful Colorado. As the cowboys at the Bar D Ranch sang, "If God doesn't live in Colorado, it's where He spends most of His time." Fortunately God is omnipresent and we know He spends equal amounts of time everywhere, but it's hard to beat Colorado for beauty. If Colorado is this beautiful, think what heaven will be like!

Silverton is an old silver mining town. It looks pretty much like it did back in the day when silver miners came in from the mountains with their silver to trade for goods. We only had two hours there, which is just not long enough to see everything. I bought some good souvenirs there and had a great time browsing through the shops.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Day 7, Clarified

On the previous post, the pictures are a bit confusing as they are placed in the wrong place in the story line. The fourth picture is not the Sangre de Cristo mountains, but was a pass on the western side of the mountains, Red Mountain Pass or something like that.
The picture of the room is not at Ranch of Hope, but is at Silver Pick Lodge.
The last few pictures are at Bar D Ranch.
The web site for Ranch of Hope should be www.ranchofhope.org

Day 7








Alesha lives with Hope and David Taylor at Ranch of Hope, a ranch that offers counseling and help to marriages and families in crises as well as to burned-out pastors and missionaries. Just spending a night there, I could see that it is truly a healing kind of place. People can get far away from the problems that drag them down, and spend intensive time in counseling with Hope and David who also schedule in large amounts of time for counselees to spend alone with God and with each other.
Hope and David love to use the Sangre de Cristo mountains as a very visual learning tool. Sangre de Cristo means the blood of Christ. As the sun rises each morning, it stains the mountains red (pink really) and the redness flows down from top to bottom. They visually remind each person that comes to them that the blood of Christ flows down to cover their sins and that He can heal their past. For more information about Ranch of Hope you can look up www.RanchofHope.com .

Unfortunately we had to leave early to be on our way to our next place, so we didn't get to spend as much time with Alesha as we would have liked. We left Natalie there and she was with Alesha until Saturday.

We saw lots of gorgeous scenery that day as we got to travel smaller roads in lieu of the interstate. We checked into our hotel at Silver Pick, CO in the late afternoon, then got ready to go to the Bar D Ranch.

The Bar D Ranch is a place with little western shops and so on. But the main attraction is a chuck-wagon style meal served on tin plates. They can serve a crowd of about 200 people in a matter of minutes. Everybody sits at picnic tables under the open sky. After the meal, the cowboys sing western songs. They had a good comedy going between them and were excellent singers who have even performed at the Grand Ole Opry. It was a great show and very reasonably priced. If you're ever in Colorado, make sure you go to the Bar D Ranch or if you're in the Colorado Springs area, to the Flying W Ranch.

Day Six










This was our morning for sleeping in. We were going to eat at a special restaurant at noon, so we had a free morning. Unfortunately Dad thought the clock said 8:00 and thinking we all wanted breakfast, he woke us up. Sadly, some of the lines on the digital clock weren't lit up and it was only 6:00. Mom was in the shower by the time Natalie discovered his mistake. I was able to go back to sleep for awhile.

Before going to the restaurant we drove past where I used to work. This used to be the Geico building...before Geico got big. That was my first full-time job. I was able to finish my senior classes in high school by December and then I worked here until I went to college in September. It was a good paying job with lots of promotions and benefits. That's probably part of the reason Geico became what it is today.

Then we drove past the house we lived in when I was in high school. Whoever bought it after us has totally trashed it. They ripped out all the trees and bushes and did a bad job converting the garage to a family room. Then in the end they moved out and abandoned it. There was a subpoena on the door ordering Mr. So-and-So to appear in court for a hearing in a custody battle. One can only guess at the heart-break that has happened in this sad-looking house.

From there we went to eat at the Casa Bonita Restaurant. This is a Mexican restaurant that took over an out-of-business department store. When you enter, it's like going to a Mexican town. There is even a water-fall where divers take plunges into the pool below. In the evening there are singers that come and perform at your table. There are a lot of fun things for kids to do. I tried to get a picture of the diver, but she was in the water before the camera could write the picture!

From there we went to Westcliffe, CO, which is southwest of Colorado Springs in the Sangre de Cristo mountains. My niece, Alesha (pictured here with her boyfriend), works at Hope Ranch as a office gal/ranch hand/counselor apprentice. It's a beautiful place and I'll write more about it for tomorrow's post. We saw this sign on the way to their ranch. We got a kick out of it since there were so few houses. This is not Hope Ranch, but is very typical scenery for this part of CO and it was near the ranch where Alesha lives.

Day Five










On the fifth day, Mom, Dad, Natalie, and I continued on our way to CO.

Kansas was, well, boring....and took hours. Most of the day was in Kansas. The most exciting thing was when we stopped at a rest hour and saw a man proposing to his sweetheart. They

then came over and asked us to take a picture of them.

So, here we have Kansas. Lots of fields, lots of grain storage elevators. But it was more hilly than I expected. We pretty much stuck to Rt. 40, instead of Rt. 70.











































We finally arrived in CO. We went directly to our friend's house, Jim and Kay Koch. Jim Koch was the principal of the high school I attended in Denver. I used to babysit his kids. He and his wife live in a beautiful house. They have done a fantastic job landscaping the back yard. Here is Mom. We got a kick out of their dog drinking from the little waterfall. Kay had set a beautiful table in the backyard and served a delicious meal. Their backyard could easily be featured in Better Homes and Gardens or Good Housekeeping.

After a good evening of fellowship, we went to our hotel. The Kochs would have had us stay with them but their basement guest books were damaged by water (a flood?).

I don't know why, but my posts publish a lot different than they look in the preview. I'm not used to the computer I'm working on, so I don't know if it's me, Blogger, or the computer!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Days 2, 3, and 4 of our Trip




We are now in Hemet, CA at my brother's house, having been on the road for over a week (from PA, that is).

Daniel and I took a lot of pictures driving from NY at my sister's house to Ohio. Unfortunately I removed all those pictures from my camera and put them on my computer which I didn't bring on this trip, so I can't show you any photos. We had a good trip, but got in a major slow-down in Cleveland caused by construction.

We arrived at Aunt Jeanette's in good time. Uncle Carl had arrived the day before and Mom, Dad, and Natalie arrived late that night because they needed to wait until Natalie got off work to come to Ohio. Aunt Jeanette had a really full house, with every bed and couch full!

Daniel and I went over to Cedarville for
registration. I was so proud of Daniel for wearing his Niger t-shirt on registration day. There's nothing like being proud of your roots!We got there shortly after the line opened and found that there was already a long line.
The next day and a half were very busy with settling in and trying to absorb all that we were being told in the sessions we attended. I regret that I didn't have much time to go through things with Daniel. I think he may have felt a bit overwhelmed, but these things work themselves out and will be a learning experience for him. I told him that the first week will be confusing as everything is new, but after that it will become routine. We were pleased with the size of his room, and with Mom and Natalie's help, soon got everything put away. Meanwhile Dad and Uncle Carl put together a "some-construction-required" bookshelf for Daniel.

On the 2nd day of orientation, I helped Daniel get his books for his classes and then there was a session for mk's that I wanted to attend. So Mom, Dad, and Natalie came and met us at the cafeteria for brunch. While Dad, Daniel, and I attended the mk session, Mom and Natalie finished putting away some stuff in Daniel's room. By the time we left on our trip, Daniel's roommate still hadn't arrived, so I have yet to meet him. Thankfully I will be back to Ohio and will get to meet him then. As you can see, Cedarville has a nice sunny cafeteria with lots of windows and a view of the pond. I would call it a lake, but when I was a student at Cedarville and I referred to it as a lake, all my friends from Michigan would scoff since to them it barely rated as a puddle.

We drove that day through the rest of Ohio, Illinois, and Missouri. Near the end of Illinois we ran into construction and moved about 15 miles in two hours. It was extremely late (about 12:30 a.m.) when we finally reached our hotel. Unfortunately a rollicking party was going on and the drunks made plenty of noise most of the night. I put earplugs in and slept pretty well, but we were on the road by 7 or 7:30, pretty tired from our short and restless night.

I will post more about our trip tomorrow. I can't get this picture to move up where I want it, so I'll just add a note here. This is Dad hanging out with his hommie, Paul Dixon, the former president of the college.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Day 1 of our Trip West


Fortunately we didn't have to get up too early to start yesterday's trip. We needed to wash sheets and towels and remake the beds before we left. Unfortunately, when we were too far down the road to turn back I remembered that we had left some of our clothes in the dryer.....they'll be sent to us in Ohio.


Daniel loaded up the car while I finished putting away dishes, etc. The car is loaded, but not overly so. Somebody else is bringing his



biggest suitcase and a smaller one. If I didn't have a big suitcase, all of his stuff would have fit in the car. That's pretty much everything he owns at this point....he has one box of stuff in the DeValve's attic. That box is mainly his Louis L'Amour book collection.









Here we are driving with the big boys...up I-81 to Binghamton, and then across New York on 17/86. It was a beautiful day. The mountains in this area are small compared to what we'll see out west, but they're too big to be called hills. This is a beautiful part of the country.













Daniel and his cousin, Jeremiah, got in some good cousin-time while my sister, Natalie, niece, Erika, and mom and dad and I went shopping looking for an extra-long twin bed mattress cover. It looks like Target had had such an item, but there were none to be found.





Later in the evening four of us were using our computers all at the same time. I couldn't get all four of us in the photo at the same time. This is Jeremiah and Erika and my computer is on the end of the table. Daniel was in the living room.





















Later today we leave my sister's house on Bucktooth Run Road for Xenia .

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

On the Road Again






Today Daniel and I begin our journey towards Cedarville, Ohio where he will be attending Cedarville University (http://www.cedarville.edu/).




Tonight we will stay with my sister, Natalie, in Little Valley, NY. On Thursday we will drive to Xenia, Ohio. And on Friday orientation starts for Daniel. On Saturday my parents, my sister, and I will start our trip west. Natalie will stay in CO for a few days to visit her daughter while the rest of us drive on to CA to visit my brother, Dean. From there I'll fly back to Ohio and then on to Niger. I will try to post regularly about my trip.







Meanwhile, school started for Suzanne at Sahel Academy yesterday. In this photo she is giving a testimony in chapel on the last day of school in June. She did such an amazing job. If she gets nervous when she's speaking publicly, she sure doesn't show it!




This is way off the subject of traveling, but during that chapel, the seniors gave some of the other students gag gifts. They presented Suzanne with a book of stories because she is the best story-teller. Anybody who knows Suzanne knows this to be true! Right now I'd love to hear one of her stories. I miss her!......so I guess it does tie into our travels!





Right now John is in Niamey, but he will soon return to Tera. Poor guy will be all alone there, so pray for him that it won't get too lonesome. He said the rain is coming quite regularly and that the crops in Tera look pretty good.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Two Korean Hostages Released

Praise God, two of the Korean hostages have been released "unconditionally as a gesture of good faith" by the Taliban. Read the entire New York times story here: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/13/world/asia/13cnd-hostages.html?ex=1344744000&en=6e2a8b8acc6241c5&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalinkex=1344744000&en=6e2a8b8acc6241c5&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink

This picture is from Pray for Hostages in Afghanistan: http://eugeocho.wordpress.com/.

Praise God for the release of these women. Keep praying that the rest of the hostages will be safely released soon. Let this be an encouragement to keep praying.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A Study in Contrasts

I've been thinking about some of the contrasts between Niger and Pennsylvania.
















NIGER: Trees are few and far between in Niger. It is simply too hot and dry for them to thrive.







PENNSYLVANIA: Trees are everywhere here in Pennsylvania. I am really enjoying looking out my living room window right into the woods!








NIGER: Hard, rocky soil abounds. Wide open spaces are everywhere. There seems to be a total lack of color. Well, brown IS a color....but it's rather monochromatic. Believe it or not, Niger does turn green between June and October!











PENNSYLVANIA: There are so many different shades of green with surprising bursts of color. There are trees and hills rather than wide open spaces.












NIGER: We have absolutely no grass in our yard. It is all sand. We do have some flowering bushes, though!






PENNSYLVANIA: Grass and flowers are everywhere. I love sitting or lying in the grass! Flowers abound here at MRF...food for the eyes!







NIGER: Somebody planted this millet in our yard last year. They waited too late and it wasn't a very good rainy season, anyway. But isn't it pitiful looking?!





PENNSYLVANIA: A farmer's field of corn. What a contrast!



You may think a person would love the prettiest place most, wouldn't you? But it's not true! Niger, in spite of all it's monotonous brown and stark scenery is beautiful to me! Why? Because it's home!





And we do have some beauty! Here is one of the flowering bushes in our yard. We also have pink and yellow bushes like this (bouganvilla).



Most of all, we have learned to love Niger's people, people who survive in spite of the harshness and lack of beauty. That's what makes it home to us.