Dear Family and Friends,
If my calendar weren't so convincing, I'd do some arguing that surely another month hasn't come and gone. We're having such wonderful weather at Bondoukou - not too hot with gentle breezes blowing. In other words, a perfect laundry day. This morning I almost wished for four loads of dirty clothes and linens instead of just one!
As predicted, August has been a very busy time for us. I was able to attend about half of the Pastors' and Wives' Retreat. Sadly, not many of the wives were able to come. It is so hard for them to leave their homes and children, even for a short period of time. Thankfully, their husbands are faithful to take many notes. I'm confident that they will share the teaching regarding: the pastor, his family and ministry; the pastor and finances; the pastor's children, etc.
Next on the agenda was the General Assembly meeting of the Ivorian National Association of Free Will Baptists. I served as one of the Mission's delegates. We heard many reports from the different departments and committees. We also spent hours discussing, before reaching agreement on proposed revisions of the rules and regulations governing the Association. I'm not positive that we really finished - guess we'll see, next year! As a whole, I enjoy the business sessions - really! But, I especially appreciated Pastor Samuel Ouattara's opening message, "Being a Source of Blessings". Based on Genesis 22: 15-18, we were reminded of Abraham's faith and obedience and God's promise to bless him and his seed through which all nations would be blessed. We were asked to think of how God has blessed us, then to ask ourselves if we, too, were being a source of blessing for others. I was so touched when several, with tear-filled eyes, told me that I had been a source of blessing for them. They, too, have been a source of blessing for me. And, you. You pray. You give. You've sent me to Africa. Oh, what a source of blessing you are for me! Thank you.
There was another tearful moment during these meetings. Wanting to respect the customs of the Ivorian people, I felt that this would be a good time to "ask for the road", that is, inform the national church of my 2011 retirement. Of course, I still have several months but our friends here don't like "last-minute" information. They will want to have plenty of time to give me a proper sendoff. Once I get all the details worked out, you'll be made aware of them. Thank you for continuing to pray and give as you've so faithfully done down through the years.
Sorry, this is getting rather long. Please hang on just a little longer. I want to tell you about the dedication of the new church building in the village of Kouafo. The Saturday event was preceded by preaching and the projection of a Christian film, on Friday evening. A large crowd came to listen. Many came forward for counsel and prayer. Once they determine how many truly decided to receive Christ, our African brothers will let us know the number. It seemed that the whole village, Christians, Muslims, pagans, etc. came to the dedication. The local chief and his delegation, the regional chief from Gouméré, and a representive of the local Bondoukou government were there to celebrate with us. There was much singing and rejoicing.
There was preaching of God's Word. Verlin Anderson gave an exhortation and greetings from the Mission. I was able to share Jimmy Aldridge's memories of his work at Kouafo. This was greatly appreciated by one and all. A young man from Kouafo, who received Christ through the Free Will Baptist Youth Center ministry at Bondoukou, financed the construction of this beautiful house of prayer and worship. I was greatly impressed by his humility. He was actually hidden away in the crowd, insisting that he not be recognized in any way, that God receive all the glory and praise. May many others follow his example. Please pray for the church at Kouafo. The national church is helping them in their desire to have a pastor.
Well, with several interruptions, it has taken about all day to finish this letter. It is raining. Wow, I'm glad that I don't have to run to the clothesline and gather four loads of laundry!
Thanking you for being a source of blessing,
Alice F. Smith