14 Jul – Welcoming Abraham, one of our scholarship students, back from Niger. He has just graduated with a Bachelor of Theology.
10 Aug – Never a dull moment, a new gap in our wall after a car took a liking to it early one morning.

Dear Friends,

It’s hard to know where to begin as I attempt to unpack the last few months. In reality I could share a number of highlights: the arrival of the Yom Bible, the graduation of seven new UEEB pastors, clear answers to prayer, friends that have passed their baccalaureate (year 12), the publication of Psalms and Proverbs in Beninese Fulfulde, the provision of a car and God’s ongoing protection and care over our team. I’m thankful for each of these moments, as they have sustained me and remind me that God is good and faithful.

However, if I was to stop there it would only be half the story. I continue to be the only overseas SIM worker in our office and the workload feels non-stop. We’ve had to make some difficult ministry decisions and patiently persevere with others. The UEEB French Bible School is growing, but their administration capacity and buildings are not keeping up. There is no clear path forward and I’ve been easily discouraged. Sadly, the national baccalaureate pass rate was only 50%, so not everyone I know passed their school exams. I’ve also been the only one living on our north compound which has felt very quiet at times, though the music coming from a new bar across the road continues to surely test my patience! Throw in a global pandemic and it has certainly been a different year.

However, as I reflect on the harder moments I am also thankful for the way in which they continue to grow and shape me, and keep me clinging to the truth of God’s word. Thank you for your prayers and support which have, without a doubt, sustained and encouraged me over the last few months.

With love,
Sil

17 Aug – Elie unloading one of the first boxes of Yom Bibles in Parakou.
17 Apr – 250 boxes of Yom Bibles in storage.

The Yom Bible is Published!

It was an amazing joy to witness firsthand the arrival of 4,000 copies of the complete Yom Bible in August. For various reasons (team members being pulled away to help with other ministries, time spent over the years teaching literacy and developing other literature), this publication has been a long time coming. The Yom church has waited patiently since the first linguist was assigned in 1951 and the New Testament published in 1985.

We’re so thankful that everything went smoothly with the printing in South Korea and shipping to Cotonou. We had been told to expect at least six months and the final timeframe was just over seven. Thanks for praying! Our business manager in Cotonou did a great job negotiating port and transport fees and a UEEB church member stepped in at the last minute when we had to find alternative transport between Cotonou and Parakou. It was a special moment for Elie, one of my office colleagues, who has worked with many translation teams over the years as an IT specialist. However he is also Yom and this was his Bible – you couldn’t wipe the smile off his face!

The Yom church had been planning a large dedication ceremony, anticipating over 1,000 people at the local stadium in Djougou. However that was before COVID-19 and authorities restricted gatherings to a maximum of 50 people. Not wanting to hold back the Bibles, a small thanksgiving service was held on 29 August to release the Bibles for sale. I had the honour of attending and sharing a few words on behalf of SIM. What a joy to witness the first box being opened and to hear the room erupt in praise and thanksgiving at the sight of their Bible.

Unfortunately COVID-19 travel restrictions prevented Dodi, a SIM colleague who has been part of the Yom Bible translation team since 1977, from witnessing the arrival of the Bibles. She returned to the USA in January for a four month break not anticipating, much like the rest of us, a global pandemic. Lots of emails and photos have been exchanged and at this stage she is on a flight to arrive mid-September (plus 14 days quarantine). A Bible is already waiting for her, the moment she arrives in Cotonou and makes her way to our guest house!

Praise God for his faithfulness and perfect timing and pray that lives will be transformed through the reading and hearing of God’s word in Yom.

29 Aug – opening the first box of Bibles at the thanksgiving service in Djougou.
29 Aug – the UEEB President presenting our translators and their wives (minus Dodi) with a copy of the Yom Bible.

COVID-19 Update

What a year. As I write, I’m thinking especially of family and friends in Melbourne and other parts of the world who are still facing significant disruption and heartache from COVID-19. As of 31 Aug, Benin has officially recorded 2,194 cases and 40 deaths with the majority of cases still in the south of the country. This provides some comfort for our team in the north, but we are also very aware that statistics are no longer being regularly updated, nor are we sure of testing rates. Like in many parts of the world, it’s difficult to know the full extent of COVID’s reach.

It is still compulsory to wear masks in public or group settings and this is followed/policed to a certain extent in my home town. Though it did feel a little excessive to be stopped and told off for not wearing a mask whilst driving alone on a highway! The majority of schools in Benin as well as churches and mosques reopened early June, but are required to have hand washing facilities in place and respect social distance. This is easier said than done in small church buildings or busy markets.

Our first team member returned early August and we closely monitored her experience before opening up our field to other colleagues wanting to return. Currently, each passenger is required to pay approx. $250 AUD on arrival and submit to three mandatory tests: a rapid and throat swab at the airport and then another throat swab on day 15. Last week mandatory exit tests were also introduced. We have up to 11 people hoping to return to Benin and Togo over the next 6 weeks. Please pray for their protection, that flights will depart as scheduled and for patience with quarantine requirements.

We’re starting to see some economic and social impact. For example, a few of the widows in our support group sell food to primary school students and lost their income when schools closed. I’ve also heard that some NGOs have had to cut staff and we’re concerned about ongoing funding and access to certain antiretroviral drugs for HIV patients. We continue to take each day, week and month as it comes and trust in a sovereign God, though I am looking forward to Clara (our Director) returning in October!

10 Aug – Adamu (translator) and Elie (typesetting) celebrate the printing of Psalms and Proverbs in Beninese Fulfulde.
20 Jul – Two speakers, Daniel (pictured) and Jacques, record our first ever radio messages in Sola.
9 Jul – Six students graduated from the French UEEB Bible School in Sinendé (diploma level).
31 Aug – Thank you for praying about a car earlier this year. I’m now the owner of a 2015 Kia Sportage. I’m thankful for friends who have generously lent me their car this year, taking the pressure off needing to find something quickly.

PRAISE & PRAYER

Praise God for answered prayer and the safe arrival of the Yom Bibles. Pray that the Yom people will love and delight in God’s word and never turn from it.

Give thanks that team members are starting to return to Benin and Togo. Pray for smooth travel, protection from COVID-19 and that we will understand and be patient with quarantine requirements.

Pray for the many Weno people living and dying without Christ. Ask for wisdom and patience as we grapple with ministry related decisions. Ask God to raise up a small group of local Christians willing to be trained in storytelling and reach out to this people group.

Give thanks for God’s faithfulness and the support of people around me. Pray for His strength and wisdom as we continue to make decisions and run ministries within the current environment. Pray that I might lead well and rest in God’s peace and steadfastness.