November 2001 Benin Report - Chownings

October and the first part of November was a very eventful time for us.

My mother died of renal failure on October 18th. We were fortunate enough to get on an airplane for the States the same day. Thank you for understanding our need to be in Denison, Texas for the funeral and to be with my father. We arrived on Saturday morning and the funeral was on Monday. You may think that missionaries, like ministers, have a lot of experience with funerals. Well, that is true to some extent, but just about all of my experience with funerals has been in an African context. Helping my father decide on a casket (and liner), burial plots, flowers, and scheduling the services was a challenge. Wes, Naomi's husband, and the Park Avenue congregation were very helpful.

We had originally planned to spend only two weeks in the States. However, four days before our departure date we noticed that my father was having some severe difficulty swallowing, especially in the morning. It took another week before he could have some tests run. The doctors discovered that his esophagus was constricted, they were able to dilate it during the same testing procedure. He seems to be doing well. In the meantime, Sabena, the airline we held tickets on, went bankrupt. After a trip to the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport and many phone calls, we were finally able to leave, ten days behind schedule.

The group of visitors from Homewood who came to visit us was a real blessing. From the moment we picked them up from the airport to our abrupt departure for my mother's funeral, they showered us with love and revived us. We will enjoy the many gifts and Christmas presents of special food treats, magazines, books, and notes for many months. Rick Kaufold especially ministered to our family. He helped us deal with many of the emotions and situations with which we have been struggling. He also encouraged the Aja churches he visited. We had left for the States only two days after Don and Elaine Hill arrived at our house, but we had already benefited from their godly spirits.

New congregations were planted in the villages of Kanvihoue (Kahn-VEE-hwey) and Nyanginihoue (NYA-ngee-nee-hwey). We also began preaching in a village called Maibi (MAH-ee-bee). Christians from the Kansuhoue and Kadahoue congregations come with us to share the Good News with their friends in this village. Many middle aged and older people have attended.

Leadership training continues well with the two groups of evangelists. Twelve evangelists are now working with their apprentices. They each have a goal of planting a new congregation and equipping their apprentices. Many of them have already begun preaching in the new villages. The growth of the church among the Aja depends on Aja evangelists planting most of the congregations from here on out.