Monday, August 4, 2008

To Ouidah and Back

by: Katie Wanless

We have seen some pretty amazing things here in Benin. We stayed in Ouidah, which is the original slave port of West Africa. They have the monument of "The Point of No Return" (the last place slaves set foot on land). Their orange dirt roads are lined with people wearing brilliant colors and patterns. The women and girls carry everything for sale on there heads. The girls are usually working for a family who has bought them as slaves.

Most people in Ouidah practice voodoo. Our tour guide through the history museum was also a voodoo priestess. This village has never seen or heard of VBS. But God is good. This scraggly team of 9 Americans (all who speak caveman French) led 70 faithful volunteers from Ouidah for 4 days of VBS.

Day four of VBS in Ouidah. Jesus is our Savior. 1800 children packed in to the auditorium. Songs of worship (in French) flowed out of their lips, while their hands danced to the gestures. Each child made craft of streamers and ate snacks of pretzels and goldfish. Outside under the trees games of Tug O’ War, Duck Duck Goose and local song and dance were played with sounds of laughter.

I had a young girl slowly approach me. She was carrying her items for sale on her head. She was young and the same age as the other children playing in the yard, but she was working. Most likely she was bought to work for a family. And not just out selling things, but to cook and clean while the rest of the family is sleeping. Her name is Neta (or it sounded something like that under a soft spoken voice). She reached out her arm and wiped it on my arm as if to dip it in whipped cream. She smiled in astonishment and looked at her friends as to try it themselves. My cheeks were hurting from smiling so much. She went from being afraid to approach me, to touching my skin to see what it felt like, to hugging me and holding my hand. I suddenly had a entourage (the kids with who could not join the play because they had to work). For a moment the kids with no shoes and work on their head smiled like a child free to live. They smiled like children, they laughed like a child, and they were loved like a child.

To top off the day the mayor of Ouidah came out to close the ceremony. A podium was set up, couches were set on the stage, national and local television stations lingered. After his political speech over 2000 people followed the mayor and our team of 9 down the streets of Ouidah. The children were singing praises, as the neighbors stood out their doors to cheer and watch and listen. It was a spectacular site to see. This is the first time Ouidah has seen something like this. It was beautiful.

The next day was the Independence of Benin. After a local parade the mayor invited us to his house for lunch. All the government official, the town king and high figures sat with us. I thought it was strange that we were so honored. It showed me how much the mayor believed in the vision of Sanctuary of Moses.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Why am I here again?!?!

By: Sandra DeJean

Several months ago one Friday morning Ms. Carmen Morris of Sanctuary of Moses in Benin, West Africa asked me to come lead a children's program in one of the cities there. I accepted. But after months of preparation, some painful vaccinations, a move to another state, and 20 hours of travel time to get here I started to lose focus of what brought me here in the first place.

Those close to me these last few weeks have lovingly called me the "VBS queen." I must have come to Benin 'cause I'm one of those adults that don't want to grow up and just have fun all the time, right? While I do wish EVERY week was VBS (unless I had to plan it, of course) and firmly believe it is one of the best methods of outreach for children (and adults), that's not the reason. Or even the fact that the ministry of the Sanctuary of Moses is an awesome work that will change the lives of so many children and families here in Benin is not my reason for being here.

Yesterday, we had some down time and went to a local marketplace. There, I found my answer. While other team members were bargaining for lower prices, I sat at the vendor next door and there she was. Little 11 month old Erica put everything back into perspective.

The moment I saw her I loved her! I was reminded that Jesus looks at us all no matter how old we are or where we are in our relationship with Him and loves us (I think of the rich young ruler in Mark 10:20-22). He loves Erica and put that love in my heart. He loves the children of Benin and has put that love in my heart. He did that the moment Carmen asked me to join her on this trip.

Actually, I realize now that on that Friday morning while on the phone Carmen, God asked me to join Him in Benin.

And that's why I'm here.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Preparing for Ouidah

By: Katie Wanless

While listening to Carmen prepare us for the sights and sounds we will experience in Ouidah, I, Katie, was struck with the reality that this week I will be face to face with the children that have been in slavery at one point, children who are at risk for being sold and some who will ultimately be sold. I have no idea the hurt or pain or sadness I am going to feel. This is not something one can emotional prepare for. Then it hit me. The things I am going to feel is just a glimpse of what God feels when he looks at His children knowing the pain some of them suffered while in slavery to sin, knowing that many people are at risk for staying there and knowing that some people will never come out of their slavery to sin. God's heart morns for his people and yet smiles at the fact that there is HOPE. He is hope. Christ is HOPE.

God loves these forgotten children in Benin.
God loves the lost and weeps for their return.
God loves His children and hurts for their pain, and smiles because of the hope of Jesus set them free.
God loves you!

"But now that you have been set free from sin and have becomes slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Romans 6:17-18

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Welcome to our Blog!

Greetings and welcome to the Sanctuary of Moses blog! Our hope is that this space on the web could be of use to communicate the wonders we've seen, the blessings the Lord has brought to us, and how we could invite you to be a part of the Lord's work in Benin, Africa. Blessings to all of you!