Join the Edmonds family as they travel to Guinea, West Africa. Sent off by their local church as a support to the Jahango missions team, the Edmonds are sure to experience many adventures battling snakes, crocodiles, diseases, and more. You won't want to miss a single episode of the Guinea Pig Diaries.

Disclaimer: Reading this blog may provoke side-effects including but not limited to intensive prayer, missions fever, desires to give, and longings for the Edmonds to return.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Being Back

    One of the strangest parts of going abroad is coming back. This is the time when you find yourself a stranger eventhough you're at home.  For Jen and I, here are a few of the impressions we've had in coming back to the U.S. from Africa:
      >  America is so spoiled!  The other day Nathanael invited some friends into the house to get a drink of water.  He was so proud to show them that you can drink the water, right from the tap.  His friends weren't that impressed.  Running hot water on demand, clean filtered water in the taps, food, food, food everywhere you turn and without worries of it making you sick, paved roads, large parking spaces, garbage trucks and mailmen, Walmarts, high speed wireless internet...I almost cried the first time I got on the internet; Jen had the same reaction the first time she did laundry.  Everything is so easy and convenient! Don't get me wrong, I love it.  But the fact of the matter is that none of us in the West should ever complain.  We have it so easy.
     >  Everyone looks the same.  Everywhere I go, I feel like I should know people.  In Guinea we were living the small town life where you know someone everywhere you go, but here I feel like everyone around me looks really familiar because they're all white, Americans.  Furthermore, I look the same.  I guess I got used to the super star status we enjoyed in Africa--everyone staring and pointing at us, calling out to us as we walk by, clamoring for our attention, running up for a high five or a hug.  Back stateside, I know I'm different from everyone else, having lived abroad and experienced another part of the world, but no one around me seems to notice it.  To the naked eye I'm just regular Joe.  But I don't want to be regular Joe.  I've learned and experienced so much, I just can't fit back into "regular" society.
     >  Safe!  I didn't realize the tension that had built up from always being on guard.  Especially towards the end of our time, I was always looking out for potential threats and hazards to our health:  Will we get sick if we rinse our toothbrush in the sink?  Will the kids catch malaria if they play in the backyard?  Am I safe sleeping without insect repellent?  Can I let Abi crawl around the floor without getting some kind of rash?  Can I try the food at the local stand?  Did we disenfect the apples before eating them?  Our bodies are definitely still readjusting, working out some the symptoms we've acquired abroad:  skin problems, stomach issues, etc.  But it's so nice to feel safe again.  Even on the airplane I felt such relief in being able to ingest things without thinking about what consequences might result.  And now that we're back, I'm going to the opposite extreme, eating food that's fallen on the floor or fruits and veggies right out of the bag.  I'm so relaxed about everything because things here are so much more sanitary and safe.  We have quite the horror stories to share when it comes to unsanitary conditions that everything here feels like living in a hospital.

    As predicted, I'm finding myself much more quiet and pensive.  I even had to force myself to write down this post, feeling more the need and desire to withdraw into myself rather than try to share it with others.  I guess it's due to fear that no one will understand, that others can't understand what I myself am having a hard time wrapping my mind around.  So more than anything this journal entry is an attempt to try to unravel what I'm going through.  There's a LOT more to process and discuss, the emotions of family dynamics, job security vs. vacation time just to name a couple, but at least this is a start.  It will be interesting to see how it all plays out, and what kind of person and family we become through it all.  One thing is for sure, we are not the same as when we left, at least for now...  

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Made it!

Just fyi, we made it back to the U.S. safely.  Our trip was very smooth.  Abi had some diarrhea issues throughout the whole trip but maintained a cheerful disposition.  The kids slept on most of our flights.  We watched lots of movies.  And now we're back, excited to have hot water, sleep in a real bed and not be sweaty all the time.

Thanks for all your prayers for our journey.  God was faithful to answer them all.  He is a good God.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Misc. and Malaria

     This last month has been really busy so I’m going to summarize using bullet points.

Ø  May 10-11—Homeschool Beach Trip.  We took 12 kids from different missionary families on a camping trip to the beach, a conclusion to our monthly homeschool meetings.
Ø  May 17—Last day of swimming plus Pablo’s birthday party at the pool.  Jesse was diving down to the bottom of the pool.
Ø  May 18—Children’s Ministry Training.  I did a training for 20 leaders from 3 different churches in Sangaredi.  This was part two to the training I had given earlier in the year.
Ø  May 25—Soccer Team Beach Day.  Andres and I drove the champions out to Bel Air beach as an end of the year celebration.  Our host cooked us fish and rice.  We played soccer on the beach and nearly sunk a boat.  The boys had a great time!
Ø  May 29—Andrew and Jen’s 9th wedding anniversary.  I cooked pancakes and bacon (Jen’s favorite and a rare treat in Guinea).  On the 31st the Galvez babysat for us and we went out to eat in Kamsar.  We also did grocery shopping.  Very romantic!
Ø  June 1st—Hannah Jensen’s graduation party in Tarensa.  We joined the other missionary families for one last get together, celebrating one of the missionary girls’ completion of her high school courses.  We also played volleyball.
Ø  June 7th—Last day of school.  Having already finished all our exams and packed up the school the day before, we canceled class and let the kids sleep in (the teachers got to sleep in too!).  We concluded the year with a celebration lunch for the whole school, the parents, and our helpers. 
Ø  June 9th—Farewell Church Service.  From 9 to 11:30 we had a nice short service (I gave the sermon).  Then from 11:30 to 1 there was a formal goodbye ceremony, including speeches from the Boke, Sangaredi, and Kamsar pastors and the 3 heads of the missionary families (Cees, Andres, and I).  There were also gifts, songs, and official goodbye certificates.  Following this we then went up to the pastor’s house for a goodbye lunch.  The people were extremely generous and appreciative despite the fact that we have only been here one year and the Galvez and Snetselaar’s are planning on returning.
Ø  June 10-12—Packing up.  We have almost everything packed up already and Fatim is helping clean the house.  Yesterday Saliou also hosted a soccer “gala” in our honor.  I scored two goals (one was counted offsides) and our team won 2-1(should have been 3-0). 
Ø  June 16th—Departure.  Only a few days left now and we’ll be heading out.  Here is our itinerary:
§  Boke to Conakry, departing June 16th at 11 a.m.
§  Conakry to Brussels (with a stop in Dakar, Senegal).
§  Brussels to Chicago
§  Chicago to Seattle, arriving June 17th at 5:30 p.m.
o   Total Travel Time: approx. 38 hours.
o   Total Time Change:  8 hours difference.
o   Total Exhaustion Level:  150%

     It’s crazy that our Guinean adventure is finally ending.  It’s been an amazing year.  What a great experience.  I have no words to sum everything up.  I hope the blog this year is enough to capture an overall taste of what it’s been like.  I’m sure I’ve left out plenty, but it’s the best I could do.
     Thanks to all of you who have followed the blog and prayed for us.  As we finish up we ask for your continued prayers for the following:
          Pray for smooth and safe travels as we fly to the U.S.
          Pray for an easy transition back into U.S. culture.
Pray for God’s provision and direction for a job, a home, a church, and schools.
Pray for God’s continued work in our lives and amongst the people of Guinea, especially the Jahango people group.

     I’ll try to update with a couple more posts as we land in the U.S. and figure out what we’re doing next.  Thanks so much for all your support.  May God’s peace and blessings be over your lives as well!  Praise be to God!

p.s.  After having written this post I contracted a pretty severe case of malaria.  After having passed out in the Dr’s office, I spent about four hours in the clinic hooked up to an IV.  I’m now on three different kinds of medicine.  I’m feeling a lot better than I did yesterday but am still not 100%.  Thanks to all of you praying.  Please keep praying.  I really need to be at full strength for our long travel home, and we really need the whole family to be healthy.  Thank you!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

     It seems we’re being hit with all the hard stuff right before we leave.  It first started with feelings of loneliness and isolation—the feeling that everyone has forgotten us.  Mostly it’s been due to the fact that we hardly hear from anyone anymore, and have only been getting junk mail.  Second our internet and phone connections have been going wonky.  That means they’re even more unreliable and frequently cut out on us for days at a time (which partially accounts for not hearing from anybody).  Third, Jen has some kind of fungus on her back, I have weird hives, and Abi’s heat rash has come back.  And though the rainy season has come back, bringing with it strong winds and cloud cover, it’s also brought back the high humidity which makes the already high heat really sticky and sweaty.  Oh, and we’ve also caught colds (seems ironic considering the heat).
     Still, other than feeling icky most of the time, I would say we’re pretty optimistic and positive.  Mostly I know we’re excited for our return to the states and Panama (we leave in three weeks), eager to be back on friendly soils again and to see friendly faces again.  It’s amazing how fast time has flown by.  10 months ago we were speaking in church, asking people to pray for us to have safe travels and protection to Guinea.  Now we’re at the tail end of it all, asking people to pray for safe travels and protection home.  It’s been an amazing journey.  God has done and is continuing to do so much (even as we speak some of the elders and young men of Correrah are meeting with Andres, having recently seen the Jesus film.  They are asking if that is why the team is really in Correrah.  We weren’t the ones to show the film, but people are finally putting the pieces together).  These are exciting times for our family, for the team, and for the Jahango people.  Along with the excitement come plenty of challenges and tests (such as the fact that we’re still praying for a job for next year), but God is definitely at work.

     Please continue to pray for us.  Pray for our family:  God’s provision and protection as we head back to the U.S.  Pray for our team:  continued clarity and direction, protection and provision for their furloughs and future ministry.  Pray for the Jahango:  God’s revelation to penetrate their hearts, convince them of their need for Jesus, and bring them to repentance and faith in Him.  Thank you for your prayers!!!!  

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

We’ve been doing swimming for P.E.  Every Friday we pack up the school early and drive out to Kamsar.  This has been a nice end to our week, and a great way to beat the heat.  One of the greatest things about this, though, has been Jesse.  Jesse is 8 years old, somewhat tall for his age, but has been deathly afraid of the pool.  He’s happy to swim around in the baby pool, but refuses to get in the big pool, in spite of the fact that his four year old, pint-sized brother is a daredevil in the pool.
  For the past three weeks he’s been telling his mom on Thursday nights that he’s too sick to go to school the next day.  I believe he probably was sick from anxiety, but nothing beyond that.  Then when we would arrive at the pool, he always had this look of anguish on his face and would nearly always begin to cry.  This was all rather ridiculous, because he’s a decent swimmer and the lessons always end joyfully with Jesse swimming around, diving for objects at the bottom and staying in the water well past the lesson time.
     But yesterday was the greatest. We knew we had reached a breakthrough when he arrived at school excited for swim lessons, without any sign of sickness or worry.  During our swim time he successfully swam the whole length of the pool without any help.  Then to top it all off, we were able to convince him to jump off the diving board in the deep end, and he loved it.  Our time ended with Jesse jumping off in a big karate kick jump, a big smile on his face, just as his mom walked in. Corinne was thrilled and shocked to see him so happy.  
     It’s a small thing to be sure, but these kinds of victories make teaching worthwhile.  We’re grateful God has allowed us to be a blessing in helping these kids this year.  The greatest blessing is being used by God.  If only our neighbors saw us as a blessing too…our mission would be complete.

     Our neighbor ladies are mad at us…again.  On Wednesday last week, in the middle of the school day, one of the ladies went into our yard and started picking mangoes off our tree.  They have their own mango tree, plus there are three other trees on our property that we allow them to pick from freely.  But this mango tree has the best mangoes, and it happens to be behind the fence that separates our yard from the other residents on the property.  This has been the barrier we have established to keep some measure of privacy and to try to reduce the risk of having things stolen from us.  It’s been there all along, and no one has ever had a problem with it.  Yet on this particular day, Jen happened to intercept the lady as she was taking mangoes from the tree behind the fence.  Jennifer says the woman seemed embarrassed as she smiled and walked off the property, mangoes in hand.  Just as Jen was explaining this to me, walking out of the school for lunch, we caught the lady’s sister doing the same thing.  So I walked over and asked her to please stay out of our back yard.  That’s when things got ugly.
     The woman started ranting and raving, literally shouting at me.  It’s important to note that these particular ladies shout a lout.  They shout at our neighbors, they shout at the girls, they shout at each other.  They seem to always be angry about something.  And today it was our turn.  At first they started yelling out that the mango trees belong to them.  Their descendants planted the trees, therefore they should have access to them.  Then they started telling me (remember this is all shouting) that they had always treated me like family, that despite our differences in skin color we were the same family, and I shouldn’t treat my family like this.  Then they began yelling out that we were always mean to them, never did anything for them, were rude, never visited them or greeted them, etc…  The women even tried to tell me that the Bible says we are not allowed to keep people out of our yards.
During this whole time I tried calmly to reason with them (I know, dumb mistake).  I tried to explain that we’ve always tried to be nice, allowing them to come into our compound to get water, do laundry, etc.  I explained that we were fine with them taking mangoes from the three other trees.  I explained that I didn’t even mind her taking mangoes from this tree, as long as they would ask for permission first.  I told them that the landlord had given us permission to lock all the gates to the property, and that everything inside the compound belonged to us, even if we wanted it the other house on the property.  I also questioned the ladies’ sense of family, seeing as they have tried to sell us bananas they picked from our own yard, they regularly make fun of us and call us Foté (white-man), and they never come and greet us, as they say we should do with them.  I was going to remind them of the bread we often buy them, the Christmas gifts we gave them, and the kindness we show to their girls, but I simply couldn’t get a word in.  The women were just too loud.
    Now all of this also happened to occur at the same time that our team was having a rather important meeting with the New Tribes Field Leadership Team (FLT).  Of course they couldn’t help but hear all the shouting and came out to see what was going on.  Immediately the ladies buttered up to Cees and started repeating all the insulting things they had said to us.  They also greeted a couple of the FLT members and began accusing us in front of them.  I felt so ashamed and embarrassed.  What an awful missionary I must be, causing all kinds of problems with the neighbors, totally culturally insensitive, etc. 
     Thankfully when we went inside, everyone on the team, FLT included, told us this was very cultural.  In fact they indicated their surprise that we hadn’t had a blow out like this yet.  Since this is a shame culture, people defend themselves when they are guilty by passing the blame and inventing lies and rumors to make the other person look like the bad guy.  Interestingly enough, our house helpers also told us that they believed the women were clearly in the wrong.  They told us no one in Guinea would ever walk into someone’s yard and take fruit from them without asking first, especially when there’s a fence.
      For a whole week the women stayed mad at us.  They ignored us when we waved or said hello.  They refused to accept gifts of bread.  They tried their best to make us feel bad in every way.  If it weren’t for the fact that we were rather glad they weren’t in our yard as much, I think it would have worked.  We felt bad that they were mad at us.  We felt incompetent as missionaries, to have offended our neighbors over a few mangoes.  And we felt horrible that these women are completely closed off from receiving anything else from the Christians, let alone hearing about Jesus.  But the truth is (I feel a little guilty saying it), they are really difficult women to live with, and I also felt rather happy they weren’t bothering us anymore. 
     Still, in an effort to maintain peace and harmony, to repair bridges and to ease my conscience, this past Sunday I went over with a bag of mangoes as a peace offering.  It just so happens at that exact moment, the ladies had laid out literally hundreds of mango shreds, drying in the sun.  They clearly didn’t need ours.  No matter, I forged on and went directly over to the woman I had had the conflict with.  “I’ve brought a bag of mangoes from our tree for you,” I said with as big a smile as I could muster. 
“Non!” was the reply. 
“You’re still mad at us?” I mused soothingly.  Nothing. 
“Come on, you can’t stay mad at us forever.  It will make you sick,” I continued jokingly.
“I still can’t believe you would treat us like that,” was her reply.
“But why?  What did I really do?” I cooed at her.  “Listen, all I want is for us to live in peace and harmony.  Let’s forget this whole thing and move.  Forgive me, please.”  Rather quickly she broke down and accepted my peace offering and smiled. 
     Just then the other sister walked out and started shouting (again) at her sibling for having given in so easily.  I couldn’t help but laugh as I walked away.  Thankfully the women now respond to me when I greet them.  They’re still trying hard to be angry, but they’re at least a little friendlier.  It still baffles me that people can live like this, hoping to gain something by holding a grudge.  Yet they do this to each other on a regular basis.  And the crazy thing is that it works.  People here can’t bear to be ostracized and shunned.  Their status depends very much on how much people around them like them.  For this reason, sadly, most relationships are very superficial and selfishly motivated.  You maintain your connections with people mostly to maintain your status in the community.  If people don’t like you, they gossip about you and then you lose your place of importance or value.
     As Christians it is so comforting to know that our value does not depend on pleasing fickle human beings, but instead on pleasing a constant, loving God, full of grace and mercy, justified by the blood of His Son.  And, in His case, there is nothing more or less we can do to gain or lose His favor.  His love is unconditional.  If only we could learn to love each other like that, what kind of society would we have?  A perfect one, I suppose.  One that’s a lot more like the Kingdom’s, that’s for sure.

Saturday, April 27, 2013


     The finals for the soccer tournament were supposed to happen last Sunday.  Due to a death in one of the Correrah families, we had to postpone the game to Thursday.  Finally the big day arrived, and my team was able to take the field.  We were up against the Baralande players, who happen to be my neighbors, and also the team that tried to play illegal players in some of the previous games. So there was quite a bit of controversy surrounding this team, and we were a little nervous about their fans getting ugly and causing problems.
     Thankfully the game went off without a hitch.  Perhaps it was fortunate that it happened on a Thursday, for there weren’t as many spectators, and people seemed more subdued.  It also helped that Andres had roped off the entire field, creating a barrier between the fans and the pitch, and that he had invited some members of the local police force to attend and supervise.
     Local tournaments here always begin and end with lots of fanfare.  It is customary to hook up a big sound system, blast loud music, and listen to commentaries from an obnoxious emcee.  It’s also important to invite and introduce as many “dignitaries” from the neighboring communities.  Our tournament featured the chef de quartier, the youth soccer director (though there are no youth soccer leagues of any kind), and the son of the local imam.  After several speeches, the most dignified person then kicks off the ball (like the first pitch in baseball), and the game begins.  At the opening match Jennifer was the one chosen to give the kick off.  She was totally embarrassed and confused.  It was great! 
     Thankfully the community elder was present for the finals, so Jen didn’t have to do it again.  And since the tournament was being organized by the church, we also had a former Muslim share his testimony.  Though brief and rather general, it was a perfect message for the occasion.  The speaker quickly told of his search for the true God, having felt the need to have greater assurance for his salvation (something Islam cannot offer).  He then attested to the fact that He found that assurance in Jesus Christ, and he encouraged all the young people to search for God while there was still time. 
     Finally the match started.  Almost right away our team gained control of the ball, passing up the field with expert precision—what can I say?  They had a great coach!  Though unsuccessful, they had several close shots on goal:  Nico hit the crossbar twice on free kicks, Beckham hit the post once, and several shots were either saved by the keeper or went wide.  The opposing team seemed to struggle to contain us, placing several defenders on Beckham, our lead striker and top scorer of the tournament, which left them unable to generate much offense.  They did have several close counter attacks, but they all ended with missed shots, or players off-sides.  Any shots that were on target were easily saved by our keeper.  The first half ended 0-0.
     The second half looked pretty much the same.  F.C. Savanné dominated the ball but couldn’t seem to get it in the net.  F.C. Baralande kept shooting long, desperate shots, rushing back on defense to try to contain our forwards.  Finally, the tension broke when Nico placed a pass right through the middle, Beckham sprinted past a defender, squared himself for the shot, and landed it solidly in the left-hand corner.  The keeper was completely helpless.  GOOOOAAAAL!  Fans and players alike rushed onto the field, and the opposition hung their heads. 
     Though there were still 20 minutes to play, the game was over.  Our team continued to pressure their defense, and their team continued to play frantic offense.  The game ended 1-0, though it seemed we had won by a lot more. 
     Throughout the whole awards ceremonies, our players beamed with joy, ecstatic that all their hard work had finally paid off.  We were by far the most well trained team, and in the end the results showed it.  For me too it was a proud moment, being able to clearly see the improvement of our players and the difference I was able to make in their lives.  Though I wouldn’t let them, originally our players wanted to call our team F.C. (football club) Andrew.  My hope is that whenever they remember this moment, they will remember a loving coach who also taught them about Jesus.  In a society void of positive, male role models, I’m hopeful the impact will go deep, and I’m grateful God allowed me the honor of playing this role.  Please pray for our team, Nico’s friends, that God would reveal Himself to them and draw them into His grace and love.