Friday, March 19, 2010

We are back n blogging!

March 19th, 2010 begins our blog posting once again after a long time of absence from the blog world. We want to quickly catch everyone up on the exciting things going on at A Place of Hope Africa. One year after our last posting, we have poured the floor, and begun putting up the walls of the 1st orphan home and have 22 precious children in our care. Our family also includes 50 chicks, a goat, 2 kids, and a dog.

The recent addition of the twin newborns has defnitely increased the workload of our staff. One illness after another has seemed to have plagued the children lately. although cleanliness is a number one priority at A Place of Hope, when you have so many children, everything from typhoid, to a cold is quickly passed around. Add into the mix, 2 special needs kids and 4 with HIV and these illnesses can become complicated very rapidly. Thank the Lord that at the time of this writing, the children are all better after several rounds of meds. Sometimes we think a full time person is needed just to administer meds to all the kids!

It has been an extremely hot, dry season-unbearable at times. The good news is that when it is hot and dry, riding motorcycles is do-able and the clothes on the line dry really fast! Bad news is that water is scarce and has to be bought and put in the cistern. That is alot of water for 30 people to bathe, wash clothes, and drink. Rainy season is upon us soon. Good news - FREE WATER! Bad news - rain, rain, rain, and more rain. Transportation becomes very difficult at best. We have 30 people on the compound and 3 motorcycles to get everyone around. Church, school, and trips to the market to buy goods is a wet challenge! This brings me to the special fundraising effort that one of our supporters is doing. It was born in his heart and we appreciate every effort made by anyone to raise the $$ for this NEEDED mini bus. If you would like to participate in this effort, you can go to our website at:, or you can donate via snail mail: P.O. Box 833, Hurst, Texas 76053.

Thanks for check out our blog. We appreciate ALL of you out there that care, pray and give to this ministry!!

Monday, February 09, 2009

"No way, you are asking what?"

Here's the latest....

rummage sale
Rummage Sale is a huge success!!! Our volunteers and donors all worked together to put together a fantastic event that raise over $1500. We began the day before 7 a.m. and closed out by dark. Thank you Sarai, Paula, Juan, Cynthia, Ruben, Connie, Tammie, Jason, Christie, Christy, Libby and so many more who spent part of their Saturday helping Orphans in Africa! We appreciate you! A big "Thank you" to Temple Days for their parking lot! The sale was well attended and people liked our prices! I heard one man say, "No way, you are asking what?"

If you can help our rescue of orphans by hosting a garage or rummage sale, it is a way to enlist neighbors, your church and friends in helping make a difference in a child's life. If you need more information, please let us know. Christy Fox, our volunteer communication coordinator, in Texas will make sure you get brochures and any other info you need!
Departure is eminent! To keep expenses as low as possible we luggage
have worked with a missionary travel group to book our flights in advance...however our Passports with Visas are still at the embassy. Due out tomorrow (Tuesday - 2/10), we should be on bo
ard flights to Nigeria on Thursday & Sunday. We have tons (15 pieces that each weigh 50 lbs.) of luggage with supplies for the orphans, equipment, medicines, etc...
Donated Van Auto/Van donations. Juan & Cynthia donated a van they are no longer using to A Place of Hope - Africa. As you know, your donation of a vehicle may help us in several ways. In the case of the van, we are able to use it as our work van, as we haul donated items to and from storage, garage sale and the like.

However, other vehicle donations help us and donors get a tax receipt. One of our volunteers here in the USA can then put it on the market and APOHA reaps the financial value of the sale for our work in Nigeria! So, don't hesitate to donate a vehicle if you have one you need to get rid of.
David AFAMWe know America is in difficult economic times. Believe me, this also affects the millions of orphans around the world... but our simple plan of $10 monthly is an awesome way to keep helping and actually allowing our orphan rescue to expand!

If the majority of our friends, family and contacts were able to contribute (some of you already do this and more - thank you!) just $10 per month, our operating budget would be close to 10,000 USD per month! In three months, we could build a new home and rescue 15 - 20 children! Can you believe the power of ONE! The power of just $10 bucks!

Our 501-c3 (tax-exempt status) is still in process.... but Temple Baptist Church has been kind enough to host this ministry until we have our own status! So, be assured every donation comes to A Place of Hope-Africa.

We are sorry for being persistent... but, a little boy named David (Afam) who we took in... and a child we have not been able to help, Emeka are just two of the millions that we have seen and personally have experienced their desperation. They keep us focused...and keep us writing you.

Again thank you for being our friends and for caring! Click the following link if you would like to become a ministry financial partner: APOHA $10 PARTNER
A Place Of Hope - Africa
Joey & Beverly Starling
Founders & Directors

Saturday, January 24, 2009

E-News Update January 2009

Update... A and J
Orphan Rescue
January, 2009

In This Issue
Building the first Orphan Home
Rummage Sale
Join Our Mailing List!
Quick Links

Dear Friends,
Here are some updates regarding
our Visas, Construction and our
upcoming Rummage Sale in the
DFW area. Thank you for your
support and for taking time out
of your busy lives to read our
blessings and needs.
passport cover For those of you who
have not worked abroad,
a VISA is a permit
provided by the Govern-
ment of the country you
will enter. Many countries
do not require a VISA to
enter their territory as an American
Passport toting tourist (Most Western
European countries, Japan, Central &
South America). However, if you are
entering most countries for a long-term
period to conduct business, charity or
religious activity, you are asked to
attain a Work VISA .

We have processed ours in Nigeria.
However, Nigeria requires that you
obtain this type previous to entry into
the country. We have been in this
process for many months now and
at last the approval has been granted
in Nigeria. Now we await the docu-
ments to be delivered next week to
the Nigerian Embassy in Washington,
D.C. After they have been delivered,
our passports will be verified and a
VISA will be attached on the pages of
our Passports. When that is completed,
our Passports will be sent to us and
we will be ready to depart back to
Nigeria. The steps that we have taken
have been many and at last we believe
we are close to wrapping up this process.

block making africa The building of the first house is about to begin.
This will occur in several phases, as we have not
raised the total amount necessary, but believe
that the funds will come in by the last phase. The
blocks for building have been being made at the
site by locals. A supply shed has been
constructed to hold the supplies for the project.
We built a road to the property back in July/August and some of the
land was cleared. Upon our arrival we'll begin the foundations and then
the walls.... Hopefully by the time we are ready to put the roof on, we'll
have the rest of the funding. The third phase will be the interior...
finishing, painting and all the fixtures/cabinets/closets etc.
Rummage Sale to Benefit APOHA
rummage sale This coming Saturday, the 31 of January, we'll
be having a rummage sale in the parking lot of
Temple Days Daycare at 6816 Randol Mill Rd.
Fort Worth, Texas 76120
. One of our supporters
is involved in a moving business and they have
collected a number of items (furniture, appliances, clothing, house
wares and decorations, etc) which they have donated for the sale.
Others have donated some antiques and other items. If you have items
you would like to donate for the sale or if you would like to help with
the sale, please email me or call
me (817.319.9096) for more details. Please pray that we can raise
an additional $1000 for the building fund!
BLOG - We have a new blog, which we update regularly with events
and happenings... it is easier to update with photos and daily things
that don't always make the E-news updates. Visit the blog at:

THANK YOU - We are so thankful for all of you who have recently
begun to support "A Place of Hope - Africa" with financial support.
We are grateful to all of you who have been backing us in prayer
and finances since the beginning and along the way. We are excited
about the building we get to build & the additional orphans we'll be
able to help in the coming months.
Joey & Beverly Starling
A Place Of Hope - Africa

Africa Address: P.O. Box 242 Nsukka,
Enugu State, Nigeria - West Africa

Friday, January 23, 2009


Have you ever felt like life sometimes is like a fire drill? Then there are times you wish what just happened was just a drill and not reality. We have just gone through a "departure" fire drill. We were guests at a Missionary house, thanks to the RHBC until yesterday and this morning when I went to turn in the key..... well things changed.

The missionaries that were moving in next week, decided they would not need the house until the end of March and called the RHBC office yesterday to let them know! When I went to turn in the key this morning, I was told that we were welcome to stay on until our visas were here. It was an emotional moment....The whole m0ving out, packing and finding a new place for a few weeks was what seems like a "fire drill".

Now that everything is in storage or in suitcases, we can move back in to an extremely clean house for a few more days or weeks. We are so thankful to those who opened their homes (J.D. & Christy and also our dear former neighbor, Lester). You were so kind and giving! THANK YOU!

Then there were our dear friends who spent some time on the phone concerned that we not be "homeless".... Thank you so much!

On the VISA front... well we have great news... the documents have been signed and are on their way to the embassy in D.C. Next week we will submit our application, passports and payment to the embassy along with copies of the signed documents from Nigeria. Then we wait another couple of weeks for them to be stamped and sent back to us! Departure is nearer... yeah! I am so thankful for all the prayers!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Generous People

I can't say enough about the heart-felt gratitude Beverly and I have for the people that have made these months back in the USA easier for us. The Richland Hills Baptist Church helped A Place of Hope - Africa's launch and fundraising efforts in a "BIG" way over the past year. They provided a home for us to live in... yes, a fully furnished 3 bedroom home. All we had to do was pay the utilities. This was huge, as we began the process of leaving our life in the USA toward our new life in Nigeria. The house will hold many memories for us.... Christmas and Beverly's Dad's 80th birthday party... THANK YOU SO MUCH RHBC!

Then there are people like Heidi and Tony who were so willing to loan us a vehicle! Heidi, thank you for the car... it has been a blessing.... Of course there is an incredible ministry "Righteous Rides" that helps missionaries who are back in the USA. They provided us with a van for several months! ( They also are faith-based organization impacting the world through their vehicles. Then there is Viginia Hills Church.... wow.... just can't say enough about their investment in A Place of Hope - Africa!

I can't leave out all of YOU! You give unselfishly, monthly or yearly.... I am amazed and honored.... and I know the children are grateful... though they are too young to understand all of the complexities of charitable donations... they now know the difference of being an orphan on the street and an orphan who is loved and cared for! IT IS BECAUSE OF YOU! Bev and I get to deliver the goods and we are so privileged....

God bless all of you..

Keep praying for the VISAS... just heard that the official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs wasn't in the office in Abujah, Nigeria (Capital City), so the individual who is in charge of getting our VISAS has to return tomorrow to try again... keep praying. These visas are for residential status and are important for us to carry on the work in Nigeria. Any other way, it would be for a maximum of 3 months in the country without leaving.... Please pray about this!

We appreciate all of you....

Saturday, November 24, 2007


It is 4:30 in the a.m. and it is raining heavily and has rained for hours. I can’t sleep, my body is dealing with 7 hours time difference right let me tell you in more detail about the trip to so far.

On Sunday I went to a church service at a church just a half a block from the hotel (hotel=guest house in Nigerian English). It was called an “Apostolic Church”. Not sure what that means, but the music was very nice. They had a good instrumental group, including a great Sax player. Of course the rhythm and the dancing were in the usual African style. I really enjoyed myself and felt really at home. The pastor and pastoral staff were all men and they wore the suites with the white collar like priests. I was there for about an hour when the driver, Alphonsus, came for me. I had told him I would be there worshiping. I didn’t get to hear but a small portion of the s sermon.

Anyway, after that, I had a great opportunity to share with Alphonsus my personal beliefs about Jesus Christ. He professes to have accepted Christ as his personal Savior when he was 16, he is now 28. He attends the Catholic Church, because he says he wants to be sure that he is in the right church before he leaves. You know there are so many “Christian” churches here in Nigeria. We talked about salvation and the teachings of the Bible vs. the teachings of so many of the churches that have sprung up all over Nigeria. I told him, I would send him a guide to use when looking for a church and I could probably get him a Bible Study for to take. (I’ll have to look for one). He is hungry for truth. You know there is so much corruption both in the government and in the religious circles.

I forgot to tell you, that they don’t really do “Customs” like in Malabo, here in Nigeria. None of my suitcases were ever inspected. The only thing they want to make sure of is that your luggage tags and your receipts match, so no one carts off your luggage or you don’t steal someone else’s. I also learned that Aero-Contractors, is the largest airline in Nigeria. I didn’t know this. Ogechi was not able to meet me, as she got stuck in Malabo. (Upon my return to Lagos she told me her, the Prince you met, and the a few others have formed a Natural Gas Company and are bidding on the purchase of a nearby country's supply to sell around the world. She asked me to pray that a contract would be signed as it would bring great wealth to her personally. I'll pray!). But she had me a room and a ticket to Enugu at no charge! She is such a compasionate individual. I am very excited about having her and her husband Simon as supporters of our efforts to make a home for the orphans here. We have to keep praying she will be able to have a child. That is her desire....

I met a lovely woman on the plane to Enugu. She is rather large and I was concerned when she looked at the middle seat beside me. I had to raise the armrest for her to fit in her seat but we had the best time. She turned out to be so sweet. She is a business woman. She runs a large faming operation and deals in livestock and poultry. She wanted to stay in touch, she has donated many times to needy organizations, and she was very satisfied with what we are going to do. She kept patting my hand when I told her about our plans. Then she told me how she believed God had sent me to Nigeria to replace on of her dear friends; an old Irish Priest who recently died. I think she can be a good contact for us in Enugu. She said she would email me her contact information. I sure hope so. Her name is Madam Uche.

When we arrived in Enugu, Williams was there waiting. He rented a “bus” (one of those 9 passenger vans that are packed full of 15 or so people) to pick me up, because his friend’s car he had been using had broken down on Friday. Anyway, it was fine and after waiting forever for the luggage we made our way up to Nsukka. The trip was uneventful, and we arrived to the family, who was waiting eagerly for my arrival. All of them were asking how Mum Beverly and “Ann” were doing. We spoke for a little time and then the offered me supper. They remembered I am allergic to crayfish… YEAH!!! I had rice and fish in red sauce with yam. It was good. After this, we discussed the venue for Friday's meeting in Nsukka. The posters and flyers will be posted and distributed on Wednesday. I went to bed after that …. I was pooped.

Today I bought the motorcycle. It is a Jensing.... whatever that is. That is one of the three brands around here that I see most often. They have parts for it!!! It is funny how people looked at me and even turned their heads in a "retake" after they saw a white taxi driver. Any white people that come to this city, ride on the back.... they do not drive!!! I drove and William rode behind me and we constantly heard people calling out "Oniocha Okada", which means white taxi driver. I guess I was a hit, for everyone would be smiling and laughing when they saw me. The ride through town was at first a bit frightening; one, I had to readjust my brain. The gear change was opposite of how you change gears in the US... to change to a higher gear, you raise the gear pedal with your foot... but the Jensing is one down for each higher gear... then the way the drivers drive (no red lights-few police) is basically a free for all. I got the hang of it and just found a way to fit right in... I even forgot I wasn't African! Pastor William drove several times for me to film. I think the first time I rode with him he was very frightened, but after that I did better.

Riding reminded me of my childhood in the mountain villages of Mexico. It was quite fun. But the weather was in the process of changing... The African winds were beginning to blow and the red sand would dry out from the evening rain and blow about with the wind. I wiped my face after one morning of activity on the motorcycle and found what was on my napkin appalling! I can't imagine how much went in my mouth while I talked to William on the motorbike ride all morning!

Christmas at the Onah family was fun! Found shoes for all the girls and even Tochi got the white and pink tennis shoes. I didn’t have the heart to tell them they weren’t boys shoes, not that in Africa it really matters anyway.

Everyone got something. They were so happy to receive the gifts. The shampoo and soap, the shoes and I gave them colored pencils and reg. pencils and a flashlight-screwdriver gadget I got somewhere to Sylvester. Everyone was very happy. I also made the Frijoles Charros last night…not quite like we do at home, mind you, but it turned out delicious and everyone loved it! I put the beans to soak overnight and by the time I went to cook them yesterday afternoon, they were sprouting and smelled a little bit wasn’t sure what that was going to do… then, instead of bacon, or canned pork, Sylvester brought “pig” as he called it. Yes, just white pork meat with a couple of slices of skin and fat. I fried the fat, to get the lard, and then fried the tomatoes and onions with the pork meat and then added my salsa, that I canned before leaving the U.S. and packed so carefully. I rinsed the beans well and then cooked with onion and garlic. I mixed it all together and let it cook for another 30 min. and then added my last thing of salsa a few minutes before serving. We heated the tortillas and I showed them how to eat it like a burrito or taco. Sylvester was beside himself. He even invited the neighbors over to try it all. It was fun to watch.

Yesterday, we went to Enugu…fun cramped ride with another 18 people in the equivalent to a 7 passenger minivan in the U.S…. to see about radio time. I have the Wednesday and Thursday prime time evening spot for 15 minutes each night. I am nervous about what I will speak about, but you know it will turn out. All of Nigeria will hear this broadcast! In the process the marketing woman who sold us the spot, took us down to the studio, to see how we would record the show, and introduced me to Aká the Last, a national radio personality and two others one's of them is named Ola! Can you believe it? She seems to be a nice woman. I can't believe her name is the same as your aunts. (I don’t remember the other one's name). We began talking about what all I was there for and what we will be moving to Nigeria to do and they commented on how well I communicated and that I didn’t have the typical American accent! I said I did, but that I adjusted to my environment as I wanted to make sure I was understood. Aká then said he would like to interview me for his show. He is from around Nsukka. He took me to his interview studio and interviewed me. He asked me about what my purpose was for being there, he asked about differences in American and here ( I said talked about how people have the same needs and desires the world over no matter the culture or race, but differences were “the roads”!!! He asked about the CIA operatives spying and pretending to be religious people. I indicated that I am sure governments around the world have used religion to spy and get information about other nations, but that I personally had never known any and that I was here to do the work of God helping the destitute children of Nigeria. It was a nice 30 minute segment. Today he will tell me when it will air.

We then went to the police station, one of the head police of Enugu. He told me I should write a letter to the Governor and Health Minister, so that they would be aware of our desire to help the street children and they would be glad to help us retrieve the children.

After we were done there, we went to a supermarket in Enugu, and yes they have most everything from the U.S., but it was two, three and up to four times what it costs in the U.S. I saw a supermarket here in Nsukka, but when I went to it, it really didn't have any food items only toys and some small appliances.

After the supermarket, we rode motorcycle taxis back to the car-park and then a bus with all my fellow 18 passengers, back to Enugu. On the ride back, I sat with a student from UNN (University of Nigeria at Nsukka). She was very nice, and was from another state. She was very interested in the what I was telling her and she told me about student life here in Nsukka. I think there is a huge opportunity for us to minister to them, much like what our friends on the Island of St. Lucia.

We got home and I made dinner. During dinner the discussion about the land came up. The portions of land that Williams and I saw on Monday are really small for what we want to do, and when I was directly asked by Sylvester, I explained that we would do what we had to, but that I wished I could explore more land by the waterfall or elsewhere, because I needed a larger property to house all the children’s homes, our house, a large event/gathering room, a clinic, a playground and soccer field, vegetable gardens, and animal corrals. He agreed that the land was not enough, but that he had been thinking about it and there were some lands that were being disputed and that perhaps giving it to the orphanage would be satisfactory to both sides and help end the dispute or Cordelia’s family also had land by Opi that was 20 Kilometers in size….plenty! The land in dispute is in Opi and it is near the highway, so access would not be an issue.

Sylvester will go tomorrow, Thursday, to talk this all over with the corresponding parties and leaders and set up meetings for Friday and/or Saturday.

Today I am off to Enugu, then back immediately (if we don’t see the governor). Then, I have to interview the destitutes this afternoon and Thursday morning. I want to find some in Enugu to interview…. It didn’t rain last night, so it won’t be as wet, but it will be dusty! You should have seen what came off of my face after I returned from Enugu! Amazing!

On Monday, I had visited Opi and sat a bit with Papa and Mama Onah and all the family. They brought me oranges to eat. They are so kind. Papa Onah was getting his weekly shave! I held Williams sisters precious 4 month old baby girl. She was so sweet and didn’t cry when she saw me, like the neighbor’s little boy does. But, after a bit, she decided to throw up on me, right on my arm and the dirty rag they used to clean my arm, well you can imagine…… I survived!

I haven’t done any clearing of land yet, because we are still figuring that one out. I asked Sylvester if it would seem that we have not been grateful for what has been offered, he and Cordelia said no, that the people will understand the expansion of what is needed and what we have to accomplish and will be happy we are there.

Well, I have to eat my plantain and hot chocolate breakfast, not dieting here!

Today is the big day for the “Crusade” in Nsukka. Yesterday, I met the Area Commander for the Nsukka Police. He indicated that he was here to help us in any way and that he would provide a guard for us at night and would help in any way. I also went up to the University to meet the Chancellor or Vice-chancellor, but they are on break along with the students. I left word and spoke to their assistants and they seemed excited about the plans I laid out for them.

The interview with Aká “The Last” will be broadcast today at 11:30 local time, which you will not know about until after it has taken place, because of the 7 hour time difference. I am recording it on the video camera, so we will have the audio. The radio station changed the last evening’s broadcast to 7:45 p.m. and called to notify us about an hour before hand, so we couldn’t advise everyone about it. I have a bit of it on video. The translator’s voice is that of Livinus, who I have dubbed “Living News”, because that it is the way it sounds to me. He is a member of the Church of the Saviour in Opi. He is studying “Mass Communication” at the University. I have met several students, including Vivian, on the bus back from Enugu. She emailed me. Hopefully she will be at the meeting tonight. There are so many students and they come from all over Nigeria to attend the university here. As I spoke with them, so many demonstrated interest in what we will be doing. I asked them if they had any type of Campus fellowship or religious services. All said there were some but not many attended. I asked if there was an exciting forum, would that be something students would be interested in.... all of them said yes.

Today, we will buy the wood for the portable baptistery, as Williams has asked me to help him build it. We will be out finding orphans to interview. I will pick-up my African “dresses” for tonight and Sunday. I wore one of them to Enugu to the radio broadcasting studio and Aká saw me and commented how nice it was and that I was “fitting” in very nicely"! The people here have been so nice to me. After we do this, I will prepare for tonight. The meeting is to begin at 7:00 pm. Who knows what time it will really start.... Africa Time...?

I have been taking my daily dosage of anti-malarial meds, and Tochi came down with malaria, but yesterday he seemed to be better than the day before. The problem here is that you can’t really see the mosquitoes, they are very small (not really No-see’ems, but like nats). I shooed away some last night, in the living room, while eating.

Sylvester has talked to the “elite” from the village. These are men who have been educated and now work as lecturers at the University or have moved away with their professions. They had already scheduled a meeting for Sunday, and will be discussing our orphanage’s need for a large plot of land, sufficient enough for the clinic, the housing, the meeting place, the school, the playground/soccer field, and the farming and livestock area. I have spoken with these men as Sylvester introduced me to most of them. They agree that they will be able to come up with “something”; they certainly do not want to miss out on this opportunity of this type of "blessing", as they have called it.

Pastor William is still working nights for the police. When I met the area commander, I asked him if Williams could be off while I was here, and he said Williams should take his annual rest period. I would like for him to leave to Police and work for APOHA. The church he pastors is so poor. They really cannot provide a living for him. I think I will appoint him as our local Nigerian Representative, as he will be able to organize the block-making, meet with the villagers, carry and necessary paperwork to and from the government offices in Nsukka and Enugu and many other important tasks.

The meals have been really good. I even had some “sweet” potato. It was really good and of course, the plantain is always welcome. Everyone enjoyed the meal from America! We will have to bring a few things when we come. I have not found any “Sunshine”(cilantro was called this in Equatorial Guinea), so far. We will have to bring seed. I'm sure it will grow here. And, if I can get some from Malabo, I will grow that variety here as well.

Orphaned Children abandoned and brought to a Church in Lagos by the local police.

Emeka - Homeless Child living with Beggar on the street

My Taylor. He is very exact with his work. He also made Beverly and Anna's dresses when they were there. His little shop is not much bigger than what you see.

This group were waiting in line to be baptized on the Sunday I attended services with Pastor Williams in the village where he pastors a small congregation that is emerging in the community. It was quite amazing that he has garnered the support of so many of the older people in his home town.
Pastor Williams is such a sweet man. Generous and faithful to the people he serves. He was a tremendous help in getting the necessary land donation and will be directing the building of the road and the block-making. I met him in Malabo at a block-making work site. It is amazing how things make a full circle.

His small congregation held a "Friends Day" on the day I was there. They rented a tents and held services outside. The youth had prepared a very nice play which went over really well.

I was encouraged to see how much support he receives from the leaders in his town. He is respected.

I enjoyed the time spent here. The people were so kind to me. We sang together (though most of their songs were in Igbo), but I hummed along.

Their colorful outfits and their singing and dancing was so hearfelt... so real. They are grateful to God for all he has done for them. We have so much more than they have, including life expectancy. Yet, they are overjoyed with all they have been given.

Monday, September 03, 2007


Our daughter Anna and I were blessed with the awesome opportunity of taking a trip to Africa on July 19th! "Excited" cannot begin to describe the way I felt, as we took off from the DFW airport. In route to Nigeria, and after a long 2-day turned 4-day journey, due to one flight delay after another, we stopped over in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. It was that town that we made our home for a year. It was during that time, we fell in love with Africa and its people. As we flew over the island of Bioko, my heart was filled with emotion. I struggled to see familiar landmarks through the low-lying clouds outside the window. When there appeared a break in the clouds, I could see the beautiful jungle as well as the people, living out their daily routines below us. Four years had passed since we had stepped foot on African soil. The island had changed so much in appearance. The area that we had lived in previously was not even recognizable.

What was once a jungle almost at our doorstep, was now an area of huge houses, small hotels and a brand new stadium! We were blessed to have the opportunity to see many of the people that we had grown to love while we lived there.

We were welcomed with open arms by the members of the church congregation. To my disappointment however, some of our church family that I had looked forward to seeing, had moved on to other countries, others had died, even some of the children that I had looked forward to seeing had gone on to heaven. It had been 4 years. A lot can happen anywhere in a 4 year period of time, but especially in Africa. Things change very quickly. The church was doing well. During the week that we were in Malabo, we enjoyed a great time of fellowship, memories, story-telling, reaffirming of friendships and good ole’ African food, need I say more?

We visited three villages and ministered to the kids there. They absolutely loved the blow up beach balls and Frisbees! We shared with them that Jesus loved them through Bible stories and songs. Several children asked if they could trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.

Our time in Equatorial Guinea was short lived. The week that we had enjoyed, passed so quickly, but it came time to say our goodbyes. It had been an awesome visit.

It was time then, to move on to Nigeria, the main reason for our visit to Africa. Anna and I were headed there to represent “A Place of Hope-Africa”, and receive the land that had been donated for our project. I was so anxious to see the cultural resemblances and differences between the two places and meet the people. I had never been anywhere else in Africa, but E.G (Equatorial Guinea).

We traveled from Malabo, E.G. to Calabar, Nigeria, then on to Lagos to catch a plane to Enugu. At the airport in Enugu, we were met by Williams, the pastor in the village where we will have our orphanage. He has been our constant contact in Nigeria. He lived in E.G. when we lived there. He had traveled by boat illegally to find work there. He worked as a cinder block maker. It was there on the job that Joey met him and shared his faith with Williams. He was a very committed believer and studied in our video institute. He had told us that he felt called to be a pastor. One year after we left E.G., he was deported back to Nigeria with only the clothes on his back. God opened doors for him to start a church in his village.

I was so excited to see him. After Anna and I made our way through the small airport, we exited the main doors that led straight onto a landing atop a flight of stairs. Because of where we stood in relation to the people, it felt as if we were making some sort of grand entry. We stood there gazing out over a sea of black faces; most were waiting for the arriving passengers. We were absolutely the only two white women there and we obviously had many curious eyes on us. I could feel the stares and whispers as we passed through the doors. Williams was nowhere in sight. We slowly made our way down the stairs and worked our way through the crowd, keeping our eyes peeled for a familiar face. That was when I heard a voice from behind me say, “Momi”…Momi? Is it you? I recognized his voice right away. He, Anna and I exchanged numerous, very sweaty hugs and made our way to the car. He couldn’t believe we were actually there. As we loaded our things into the taxi, all he could say was, “momi”, “momi”….”chai”(a word they say when they are amazed), and then would repeat, “momi” again and again and just smile.

The almost 2 hour ride to Nsukka, where we stayed, proved to me that there are worse places than Tegucigalpa, Honduras, when it comes to driving. Until that trip, Tegucigalpa had topped my list of the world’s worst places to drive. Traffic consistently in places it was not supposed to be (like in the oncoming lane), car-sized potholes, motorcycle taxis whose passengers would knock knees with the passengers on other motorcycle taxis, absolute traffic chaos mixed with multitudes of pedestrians carrying everything from bananas on their heads to goats, was what welcomed us to the small city. I thought, “Those people on the motorcycles are crazy!” The next day, our mode of transportation was…yep, a motorcycle taxi! Our guardian angels worked overtime while we were there.

Monday and Tuesday, daytime hours were spent visiting with our host family, getting used to new foods, meeting new friends, exchanging money, getting fitted for our African dresses, and exploring the market (that is one place that never ceases to amaze me) for items that can and cannot be purchased there.

I had been anxious to see the orphans and get some pictures and video of them. I didn’t know what I was looking for until Williams began to point them out to me. He had told me that they were visible everywhere we looked in the market area. After he showed them to us, we began to see them lining the streets with their wheel barrows. They are paid a few cents to haul heavy items around for others. Many were also selling water or some other small items. They work from sun up to sun down and then most will go to a house in the evening to be a servant there, just for a place to sleep. These children are uneducated, without a place to call home, and without a chance in the world to ever be anything else in life.

Anna and I began to point out one after another to each other. We tried to take pictures, but they would just turn their heads every time. I asked Williams why they didn’t want us to take their pictures and he told us it was because they were afraid. I told him to try and get their attention so we could talk to them. He walked over and began to tell them what we were there to do. I told them that Anna would get in the picture as well and they loosened up a bit. She began to joke around with them and try and get them to make funny faces. They didn’t know what to do. She would show them and they would just laugh. As I spoke to them, she began clicking away at the camera and shooting video. The images of those children will be our motivation to continue passionately raising funds for our orphanage project. They are waiting for us. They need us.

On Monday and Tuesday nights, I had the opportunity to speak at open air services that were translated to Igbo for those older and younger people that didn’t speak English. My messages were well received and many people accepted Christ those nights.

Wednesday, the day began with a trip to the 10 acres or so of land, which the traditional leaders and some members of the church in the village of Ogbozalla-Opi had donated to “A Place of Hope-Africa”. I was so excited to see the land that would someday host the orphanage, school and clinic that God has put on our hearts to build. It was a beautiful piece of property atop a hill, overlooking a valley and multitudes of cashew trees.

After a brief tour of the area and explanation of how the land was laid out, we returned to the house where we were staying, to change clothes for the “land donation ceremonies.” Both ceremonies were very similar. One was held at the church and the other at home of one of the traditional leaders. Upon arriving at the church, we entered into the small room which had been decorated for the special occasion. Anna and I greeted the people and Williams called them to attention. They had prayer and then started singing, clapping, and dancing. The celebration had begun. When all of that ceased, I thanked them so much for their donation, then began formally explaining what our intentions for the land were and that we would need more land. I told them that the orphanage would be an outreach opportunity for their church and that the donation of land could be the way that they could help us in these efforts. The village does not have running water, school, or medical care. The water well and school that will be needed for the orphanage will serve the village community as well. The clinic will be a tremendous blessing to those who live in misery because of such a lack of medical care. As I shared each aspect of the project, there was an outburst of applause and affirmative shouting after each one. Several people stood up when I finished, expressing their heartfelt gratitude and excitement, and exclaimed, “In Jesus name it will be done”! The people all agreed then and there that lack of land would never be a problem. They offered all the land that we would need for our project. The ceremony was closed in prayer and then someone came through the back door with a huge white chicken and a bag of 2 dozen eggs or so. As a gift from the church, they presented it to us in gratitude. We were honored at their kind gesture, although, when I reached down to pick up the chicken it went crazy on me and I dropped it. Everyone laughed at my lack of “animal skills”, a lady picked it up and tied its legs and gave it back to me. I held it up and everyone clapped. What a way to end a fantastic celebration of what we are all trusting God to do!

We headed over to the traditional ceremony at one of the leader’s houses. Much of the same explanation was given to them as was given to the church. They were equally as happy. One of the elders told us that he too, had been an orphan. He knew what it felt like and was filled with gratitude for what we are planning to do there.

As we were leaving, Williams told us that his mother (the wife of one of the traditional leaders) was very upset. When I asked him why, he said it was because she too, was going to give us a chicken but the children had cut the string that had its legs tied up and it had run away. She was very angry at the children and was worried because she didn’t have anything to present us. I didn’t want to tell her that it was ok, that we already had one in the trunk from the other ceremony. But I assured her that it was no problem, thanked everyone once again and we left to our host home (William’s brother’s house). Our hearts were filled. We were leaving the next morning for the states. So, upon arriving to the house, we presented William’s brother’s family with the chicken and eggs as a thank you for their hospitality. They were grateful and presented us with a cola nut. That is the greatest honor that an Igbo man can give to someone. As one can see, it is a cultural norm for a lot of exchanging of gifts to go on. A westerner may not think of all of this as any big deal, but for a Nigerian and anyone that might have any dealings with them, it is a very big deal. You might as well be giving diamonds, sports club memberships or hunting rifles, whatever is closest to your heart. So, I think we did really well. During our stay, we received a warm welcome, 2 cola nuts, 2 chickens, a bag of fresh eggs, and a fresh, passionate vision for what God has called us to do. What more could I ask for? I guess the only thing would be that more people catch the vision and see the need. Someone told me one time in a mission’s emphasis conference as he placed his hand on our photo album that the pictures were so sterile. He had been to Malowi, Africa. What truth he spoke. No smells, taste, touch, emotion….just pictures. If only all of those missing elements could be conveyed to everyone looking in from the outside, the funds for the orphanage project would not be an issue. Please pray that God will pour out His blessings in ways that we cannot even imagine. God bless you all. Thank you for caring and praying for our family.

Til next time,