Monday, April 18, 2011

April 2011 Update

Weather:  With the anticipation of cooling temperatures and the rains beginning, we continue on with the current conditions of low-90s, feeling like low 100s with humidity staying pretty consistently at around 80%.  As I write this at 7 am on Saturday morning, it is 82F with a humidity of 84%, and it feels like 91F. 

West Africa Political Update:  The last few months have certainly deepened my appreciation for democracy - maybe that's true wherever you live while watching all of the revolutions, but living in Africa while country after country undergoes protests and fighting, and the ramifications of that turmoil affects neighboring countries, the appreciation begins to go very deep. In West Africa, with the countries as small as they are, it would be like Michigan having a civil war - all the neighboring states would be affected significantly and quickly.  Here is an update on the four countries with whom I work.

Cote d'Ivoire - we are truly thankful that with the arrest of former President Gbagbo, it appears that Cote d'Ivoire will begin its recovery.  There is much to do in the way of reconciliation and peace building, however, and that needs to be in continual prayer for healing to take place.  There are accusations of atrocities on both sides. UNHCR is reporting over 130,000 refugees have fled into Liberia from Cote d'Ivoire; over 1 million persons in Abidjan had to flee from their homes during the fighting.  All of this causes difficulties as it relates to water, food, shelter, and health.  [As an aside, the president of Burkina Faso just sacked his government because of protests due to rising costs of food prices.  The reason is that as a landlocked country, the turmoil in Cote d'Ivoire has affected them, as well as other landlocked countries, like Mali and Niger.]

Nigeria - One of the countries that falls in my portfolio is Nigeria - I haven't spoken much about it yet because they do pretty well on their own and haven't required a lot of time from me.  However, Jos continues to struggle for peace - it's been a year of on and off violence, which has caused significant disruptions in life and business there.  Additionally, Nigeria is currently undergoing elections and faces the test of democracy, with 70 million registered voters and 20 candidates.  The run up to the election has not been completely peaceful, with bomb blasts and assassinations.  It looks like Goodluck Jonathan will win, but if he doesn't, will he step aside or refuse to leave as other recent incumbent leaders have?

Liberia - This is election year in Liberia as well.  It's hard to believe that it was just six years ago that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf won the election.  A number of candidates have thrown their hat in the ring, and President Sirleaf is also running for another six year term.  Liberia has enjoyed peace and significant development in the last six year - we hope and pray that this election will be fair and will allow this progress to continue for another six years.

Ghana - In the middle of all this turmoil, sits Ghana, peaceful and continuing to grow economically.  Next year is an election year.  There is a demand through ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States) for Ghana to continue to get involved in the turmoil around them by sending troops, mediating, and intervening, and they do get involved, but it is a continual drain on manpower, time, and money.

So we ask for your continual prayers for democracy, civil rights, wise and honest leaders in West Africa.  And if you are fortunate to live in a country that experiences free and fair elections, thank God for it!

Hannah's soccer team
Family Update:  Hannah and Noah have a late spring break this year, with the first day of Spring Break falling on Good Friday.  Directly after spring break, the seniors (all six of them) will be going on their senior trip.  The destination?  Rome, Italy.  No, that was not a typo.  They have been doing fundraisers all year and have raised enough to spend a week in Italy, visiting the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel, the Colosseum, Pompeii,  as well as working in a soup kitchen with the Sisters of Charity.  They then have school until the end of May, and then exams, so the end of the school year is in sight.  Noah and his friends, who have a slightly larger class of eleven, have started to dream about their senior trip and fun destinations.

Some of you have asked about the puppies - thanks in large part to Dusty and Jack's puppies, Hannah has raised enough money to pay for her portion of the senior trip.  The puppies have all gone to their new homes, much to the dismay of Noah.  But he is hoping for his own batches of puppies next year to help him with his senior trip!  Here is a very brief video of the cuties - they were all playing and fighting over a slipper (sorry, Mom!) but when I came out some of them decided to attack me instead.