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New Years Eve: Togo Style

Tim Neufeld (ABWE Missionary in Togo) describes their New Year’s Eve celebration with a houseful of guests and the conclusion of his 63 year quest – looking for the secret to happiness. 

Mango Musings
January 2, 2011

We have been receiving calls for several days now, wishing us a Happy New Year.  Sometimes the call comes and is abruptly cut off, which means that someone wants to wish us Bonne Année at our expense.  Calls are charged on a per minute basis.  So when the phone rings one time and falls silent, we know that someone wants to talk on our nickel.  The idea is that we will check the missed calls box and phone them to see what they wanted.  (The phone company here doesn’t charge for calls received.)  It used to annoy me, but then I realized it means we have friends.  They may be poor friends (financially), but they want us to know they are thinking of us.  And that lets us see how rich we really are, and for that we are thankful.  We will follow their example, and wish you a Happy New Year!  (On our nickel)

Well of course, wishing for something doesn’t make it happen.  How does one have a happy anything?  It’s taken me the better part of 63 years to learn this, but I think I have the secret to happiness.  Look for ways to make others happy.  Think of others before your think of yourself.  Seek opportunities to serve God and then actively pursue them.  It’s what our Lord Jesus taught us, but we seem to be slow learners.  If you are like me, maybe you think it’s a good idea.  Then you start calculating (like me) about how you can do it, without too much inconvenience or discomfort.  After all, we don’t want to become religious nuts without a lick of common sense!  I thank God for a wonderful wife who has often led the way and helped me to serve others when I would much sooner (and naturally) have lived selfishly.  And that’s what made this weekend such a happy one for us.

We didn’t get an exact count, but I think we had 45 people at the house for New Year’s Eve celebrations, and like I often do things, the evening was largely unplanned.  Come on over and we are going to snack, play games, sing songs, and see what else there is to do.  Nogbedji’s apprentices worked hard the days before December 31 to finish their workload so they could come.  Tailors count on New Year’s clothing orders to pay for the three following months when very few people are spending money for anything, let alone new clothing.  The evening was to begin at 7:00, but the kids showed up closer to 8:00.  They came in singing, and the party was underway!  The room was too crowded for games, so we sang (enthusiastically) from the Baptist hymnal.  Béni brought out the choir, and they sang (in unison, since they don’t know how to sing parts, except for the occasional singer who loses the key and sings a half step higher or lower than the others).  What I like about Africa is that you can have absolutely no talent or training, and still sing to others, and our people will give you a sincere round of applause!  Several others were encouraged to sing solo or duet, and we had songs in the Ewe language, as well as in Kabye, French, and even one in Anufo.  We missionaries decided to do one in English, and I asked if anyone knew a song in Hausa or Fulbé (Fulani).  No one did, but we could say that we “sang in tongues” on New Year’s Eve.  Our good friend Marie recited 25 verses she had memorized! (And nobody said or thought, “Boring.”)  We ate the food prepared beforehand and everybody was thankful for African beef sandwiches, popcorn and candy, with lots of Bisap to drink.  Nogbedji got after his kids for pigging out on the punch, but hey, they don’t often get sweet drinks.  Then since there was too large a crowd to play games inside, a group went outside to play Uno while the rest of the crowd stayed to watch Magdalena, the story of Jesus from a woman’s (and Muslim) perspective.  I don’t know if the group outside understood the game or knew the rules, but judging from the amount of noise generated, they had a pretty good time, however they played the game.   I cut off the film a few minutes before midnight and called the outsiders back in so we could close the old year and enter the new one with prayer.  That’s how we closed out 2010 and began 2011.  As the evening went on, the joy at the privilege of being here went up and up.  I started the evening thinking, “Oh man, I’ve got to stay awake until midnight, and I’d much sooner be in bed!”  We finished the evening at 1:30, filled with joy because of the joy (happiness) we saw in those who cared enough to spend the evening with us.  Truly we praise God from whom all blessings flow!

I was hoping to keep this to one page, but here we are on page two.  The Bible study this morning was blessed with lots of testimony given to thank God for bringing people through 2010.  Two testified how their health improved since they came to know Jesus as Lord and Savior.  One gave thanks that while looking for roots and herbs on the hospital property last week, a poisonous snake went right by his feet and didn’t bite him.  One thanked God for salvation and asked prayer for his family to come and know the Savior.  Kareem still needs our prayer.  He is coming over Tuesday morning for a Bible study.  His infant child was deathly sick and hospitalized this week.  We visited the family after our Bible study time and found mother and child home.  Little ones are so vulnerable to the African parasites and bacteria that thrive here in Mango.  Life is a gift not to be taken for granted.  I’ll include pictures taken this week.  Thank you so much for your prayer support and your good friendship.  We thank God for you.

Yours in His service,

Tim & Esther Neufeld

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