Sunday, December 20, 2009

West Africa 2007 - Part 4

To view images of this trip go here to Mission Field Images

Rachel: Marlin Dale You're Killing Me Here!!!! Then What???

Dale: So I lined up the well and took the photograph, when the mirror dropped back into place, right in front of me was this big red demonic witch doctor. I flinched and quickly ripped the next frame. I didn’t know whether or not he heard my shutter, if it was in focus or if the exposure was set properly.

When he saw me, his pace began to quicken, he began to wave the machetes violently, I just knew we were going to collide on this narrow trail. Then to my right and behind me I heard a voice say “Dale, lower your camera” I immediately lowered my camera to my side and stepped off the trail into the weeds. As he approached me, I could not see his eyes but I knew I was in the presence of pure evil. I could feel him glaring at me and at the last step he turned and walked around me.

Oh Man, I felt like Barney Fife blowing a big sigh of relief after a confrontation. I just had to look down to make sure my system did not involuntarily void itself before I moved out of the weeds. I turned to see who told me to lower my camera; it was our translator who followed me up the trail. The only problem was, he didn’t speak English. I had just once again experienced the true meaning of 1John 4:4 “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world”.

Martin Luther said, “Christ does not live in the trees or rocks, nor does He live in the bones of dead saints, He resides in the hearts of each and every one of the believers.”

Tomorrow we will celebrate the Birth of Christ, the Hope of our Salvation and in a few short months we will celebrate once again, but this time it will be the Proof of his Love for Us, How can we not serve him?

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

West Africa 2007 - Part 3

To view images of this trip go here to visit Mission Field Images

Dale: The missionary having grown up in this village, turned white and fear filled his eyes. He told me to hide my cameras and just sit still. As I put my cameras in the case, the young men off to my right jumped up and ran out of the village screaming. Then from my peripheral vision, coming towards me I saw this thing, wearing a bright red string like outfit, much like the dilly suits snipers wear. Covered from head to toe and banging two machetes together, it entered the village center. The crack of metal on metal emptied the village and sent a chill down my spine.

As this evil entity moved into the village, you could feel the temperature drop, almost freezing in place those who did not posses the ability run. As we sat there silently, I began to battle internally. I wanted desperately to grab my camera and run this thing down, but at the same time I could not do anything that would, in one selfish act, completely destroy the relationships that took over forty years to develop. I began to wonder why God would put this in front of me yet, not allow me to photograph this very important element of this primitive culture, was this a test of obedience?

Eventually this thing moved on and the villagers began to return, but by then their adrenaline was so high anything natural was completely lost. I looked over at the missionary, he was visually shaken, he hadn’t seen this thing since he witnessed it beating up one of the villagers some twenty years ago.

We had about thirty minutes of light left and the missionary wanted to take me down by the river to see if any there were any activity with the fishermen. We shot there for about fifteen minutes and then we were on our way. As we were leaving the trail by the river, we stopped by the home of a former house keeper of his family, which waved us down earlier. When we approached the front of the house we could see the fear in their eyes and they were locked in their home looking out this window type opening, this thing had returned and was in the area.

I went back to the vehicle and grabbed my camera; the missionary just looked at me, perplexed by the fact that I grabbed my camera. I asked him if he wanted an image of this entity. Shaking his head with a smirk on his face, he said if I could take the shot without upsetting our translator or the other villagers, go ahead, but, he said, just be aware this thing is completely unpredictable and he might attack you, I just smiled back and said, I understand.

The missionary began to carry on a conversation and I was introduced to the family. After a few minutes I began to wander around taking photographs. I walked around to the side of the house and noticed there was a trail, walking up the trail I came across a well. As the light began to fade the well took on a unique look.

When you look through the lens of a camera, the image is upside down and backwards, through a series of mirrors and prisms the image is inverted back to it’s normal configuration, however, when you depress the shutter button, the view finder goes black and you cannot see anything until the mirror drops back into position. So I lined up the well and took the photograph, when the mirror dropped back into place…

Have to run, check back later for the…continuation.

Friday, December 18, 2009

West Africa 2007 - Part 2

To view images of this trip go here to visit Mission Field Images

Rachel: Then What, What???

Dale: Oh, the story. Where was I? Oh, now I remember...

The in country missionary that was to pick me up was delayed by all the construction for the Islamic Summit coming to Dakar in 08. As I’m trying to keep all my luggage secure, my wallet and passport in my pocket and in the midst of the onslaught, I prayed for guidance….yeah, who am I fooling, I was praying GET ME THE HECK OUT OF HERE!!! And then, in the middle of all this chaos, a circle began to open up. The circle grew to about 50 feet in diameter and when I saw the opening, I quickly moved into the center.

Once in the middle, the noise began to decrease and I began to feel an overwhelming sense of peace. Exhausted, disheveled and not knowing what was going to happen next, the lines from an old hymn began to creep into my conscience:

“Under His wings I am safely abiding;Though the night deepens and tempests are wild,Still I can trust Him; I know He will keep me;he has redeemed me, and I am His child.”

As soon as I started to hum this old tune, I realized what had just taken place. I knew God had sent me here for a reason and He wouldn’t abandon me now, so I just waited, I just waited in the center of His circle.

It may have been only a few minutes, I’m not quite sure, but soon I saw the other white guy walking around the airport parking lot, I thought…maybe he’s looking for me? So I hollered at him, he smiled and apologized for being late and we were on our way.

Over the next few days the missionaries were getting more and more frustrated in the fact that every village they had planned to take me into was one by one being closed. Having been through this just a few weeks prior, I explained to them to just relax, let God direct us to the villages he wants me in and do not give Satan the satisfaction of defeating our purpose. One of the friends of a missionary who had helped him a few years ago said that he would take us to his village and would allow me to photograph his family. We spent the better part of an afternoon with his family and came away with some pretty nice images, but I could tell that this was going to be a small part of the story.

The more I experience I get with these primitive cultures, one thing always remains the same, Satan’s playbook. From the SaterĂ©-Maue Indians of the Amazon, to the Tarahumara tribes in Mexico, to the Villages of Africa, the spirit world dominates their belief system. Spirits are in the trees, grass, rocks, animals and everything thing else good, evil or unexplainable is related to the spirit world.

Close to the end of my first week there, we went to a village about twelve hours away. We arrived around noon and immediately went to work. I shot until dark and then we went back into town to download my cards and stay the night. At first light we were back in the village, late in the afternoon the missionary asked me if there was anything else I need to capture before we left. I told him I just wanted to sit in the village center and just photograph people doing what they normally do as if I was not even there.

When we came to the center of the village some old men were about to start drinking a round of tea, a group of younger men were playing a card game. The kids were doing what kids do and the women were getting ready for the evening meal. The older men asked us to join them; I positioned myself as to have a great advantage to capture the whole environment from one position. Just a few minutes into the conversation of how the day was going, from behind me a group of people came running and crying as if they had just seen a ghost. The missionary having grown up in this village, turned white and fear filled his eyes. He told me to hide my cameras and just sit still. As I put my cameras in the case, the young men off to my right jumped up and ran out of the village screaming. Then out of my peripheral vision coming towards me I saw….

To be continued…

Thursday, December 17, 2009

West Africa 2007 - Part 1

My brother Dale sent this Christmas letter to us in 2007. He sent it to us in segments and had me hooked for a week. With his permission I though you might like to read it too but be warned, I am going to give it to you just like he gave it to me and trust me you don't want to miss out on the ending! You can see his work and photos from this trip here at Mission Field Images (click on Index then Africa).

West Africa 2007

Leaving for a couple of weeks is always difficult, the day before departure I’m always trying to pack, some clients are needing last minute images, the church magazine is needing images shot and delivered the same day. As I was leaving the house for the airport, I hit the send button on the last zipped folder of images after working through the night.

Needless to say when I arrived in West Africa I was pretty exhausted. Having only slept three or four hours over three days may have lead to three critical security mistakes I made once retrieving luggage. I carry my camera case and my computer on the plane and check in my other bags. The first mistake was in letting the porter grab my camera case and my clothing duffel bag and run off in front of me, heading to the x-ray machine.

Next mistake was not getting the proper currency before leaving the US in which to tip the porter. When the luggage came out of the machine, he once again grabbed my bags and took me out to an area where large groups of taxi drivers are waiting for arriving customers. Being dragged out to an area of about three hundred people all asking you for money, a taxi ride, use of a cell phone and not taking No for an answer, led to the last mistake. By not taking the proper money and putting it in my front pocket, I pulled my wallet to tip the porter, which is like blood in the water for feeding sharks, I was immediately swarmed and cornered.

The in country missionary that was to pick me up was delayed by all the construction for the upcoming Islamic Summit coming to Dakar in 08. As I’m trying to keep all my luggage secure, my wallet and passport in my pocket and in the midst of the onslaught, I prayed for guidance….yeah, who am I fooling, I was praying GET ME THE HECK OUT OF HERE!!! And then, in the middle of all this chaos…

To be continued,

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

No Matter What

Today was a tough day. It stared with my Dad being admitted into the hospital for abdominal pain. Seeing a loved one in pain and knowing there is nothing you can do is hard. The boys were upset that Grandpa had to go to the hospital and leaving them home to take Grandpa to the hospital is always hard because they are sad and I can't be there to comfort them too. They carry a lot for 8 and 14 year old boys but God is using all this in there lives to shape and mold them into the men He would have them become. Mid-day I received a phone call that a 6th grader in my sisters church was found dead, an apparent suicide. My heart broke for the parents and little sister left today without a son and brother. My mind began to reflect upon the Christmas gifts that were under their tree, the Christmas photos that had been taken, the plans that were made for recitals, the song "Its the most wonderful time of the year" that they will never sing again and my heart broke. Earlier this week I was asking "why" about other issues that arouse in our lives and I had to remember the answer is not always there, we just have to have faith and leave it in God's unwavering hands. Later in the day more details began to emerge about this young man and it was apparent, life became overwhelming for him. He was in trouble at a school, got in a fight with a friend, he thought he lost an $800 instrument (which turned out some kids hid it), he ran away from home and at the tender age of 12 it became to much for him to deal with on his own. I'm sure the pain was to much to bear and the reasoning skills were just not developed. The more I heard the details of this young man's life I began to think, these were just minor things, why did he take such drastic measures? As I was reflecting on what this family must be going through, I began to think about our boys and how thankful I am for them, but I had to ask myself the question; would they feel any different had they been placed in this situation? This young man was raised in a Christian home, he attended a Christian school, he had Christian friends, he attend church, he memorized Bible verses, he went to Sunday School. Then I began to remember back when I was a child and how the smallest mistake would feel like a major ordeal. When we say "drama" about our kids, it is drama because coping skills that are not fully developed. I began thinking about our boys and this evening when I came home from the hospital I swat them down and had a talk with them. I told them the story of this young man and they were in shock at the outcome. God opened the door for me to tell the boys no matter what happens in life Dad and Mom will always love you and we will always be there to support you. We talked about how often when things happen in life they're not as big in reality as they are in your imagination and I referred to the fear of pulling out a splinter, its always worse in your mind then in reality. I reassured them that there is never anything they can't talk with us about. We talked about how we did not know this young man personally but his reaction has not only devastated his parents, family and friends lives but it has affected our lives too. We've told the kids no matter what, we will always love you but this evening it hit home with them. I told them no matter what we will always help you through a situation. No matter what, you can always come to us and we will listen and help you come up with a plan to resolve the problem. Often we think of talking to older kids like this but today this showed me its never to early to tell your children these words. We really work hard on communication but this evening I wanted to drill it into their hearts and minds that no matter what, they can come to us and tell us their problems, their joy, their ambitions, their fears and we will always listen. It was not a fun, fluffy, Christmas story but one that I hope will impact them for years to come. We're going to dedicate two ornaments (one for each of our boys) on our tree to this young man this year and ever year when we pull it out we will be reminded of this story and we will remind them each year how much we love them and how we will always be there no matter what, and when they are grown, and they get their ornaments for their own tree, they can share this story with their children and tell them, No Matter What, We Will Always Love You.

I Corinthians 13:12
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

photo by Dale Stroud at Mission Field Images

Barnes & Noble Coupon

Wow! More Barnes & Noble Coupons! Go here to print 3 great coupons!

JCPenney Coupon

Go here for a $10 0ff $50 coupon at JCPenney! Its good December 7 - January 17! That will be good for some of those after Christmas sales! Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Papa Murphy's Pizza!!!


Did you know we're getting a Papa Murphy's? Yep, on St James next to the new Dunkin Donuts. My little sister lives in MN talks about this pizza place all the time. Its a take and bake pizza that her family loves! I am excited to try it and will look forward to our grand opening!

What is Papa Murphy's?

Handmade fresh.Choose your favorite Papa Murphy's pizza or create your own custom pizza get exactly what you want. Then we'll make your pizza fresh right before your eyes with the finest ingredients.

Home baked great.You take your pizza home and bake it in your oven whenever you are ready. Every Take 'N' Bake pizza from Papa Murphy's is always served piping hot and delicious. It doesn't get any easier!

Now are you excited to try some? I know we are looking forward to trying a slice of the 5lb stuffed Chicago Style Pizza! Yummy!!!

If you already have a Papa Murphy's then you'll want to take advantage of these coupons found here and here. Enjoy! I would love to hear what you think of Papa Murphy's pizza.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Barnes and Noble Coupon

I have a niece that is asking for books for Christmas so this coupon for 25% off at Barnes and Noble is going to come in really handy this week! Hope its useful for you too! Print here

Party City

When its party time I love to decorate down to the smallest detail. Sometimes I can find that unique item at Party City that is the topper of my decorating. If you're planning a party then start your plans at Party City. Go here for a $10 off $30 coupon and maybe you too will find that treasure your party needs!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Christmas Zhu Zhu Blessing!!!

Do you ever find yourself asking "why" when it comes to decisions God makes for us? This week has been full of those for me and I had to realize I don't need to know the answer to that question, I just need to continue to trust in Him. Today I know one of those whys. I am one of those Mommy's that would have a large family had God chosen to give us a house full, but he chose to give us two precious boys. We always wanted more, but since that has not been in God's plan we just enjoy spoiling other little ones, especially little girls. Today I had to laugh because I think God knew just what he was doing when it came to no girls in our house. I think she would be the most spoiled little girl in South Carolina. Not so much by Mark and I (although I am sure we would add our part) but by our boys. This year we are so excited because my sister and her family are coming for Christmas! They live in MN and like all of us have had some trials come this year and financially things have been tough. They had a meeting with the kids and said, "Would you like to go to SC for Christmas with no gifts or would you like to stay home for Christmas and get gifts?" All the kids chose GO TO SC!!! When we told the boys this they were excited that they were coming but sad that they would get no gifts. They both asked if we could take part of their Christmas money to get gifts for their cousins. God has blessed us this winter with a few extra jobs so that wish came true. We called the kids and asked what they wanted for Christmas and it has been fun watching the kids shop for others. When our boys found out their little cousin Taylor wanted a Zhu Zhu for Christmas an all out hunt began (that was after we found out what a Zhu Zhu was!) We found out CVS was going to get a shipment so for weeks we stopped at every CVS from here to Florida even in Indiana looking for a little hamster! We must have stopped 50-75 times, made multiple phone calls and was on every list in town! Then the disappointment came when CVS told us they would not be getting anymore until after Christmas.
Last night we found out if you had a reward card with Toys R Us you could get a Zhu Zhu if you were one of the first 50 people in line! When I told Kyle (our oldest) he was insistent that we get up at 5AM and head to Toys R Us to get a little girl a little hamster! He said, "Mom, I have always wanted to do this and Taylor really needs this to make it a great Christmas for her!" So, this morning before the sun was even up we were off to Toys R Us!!! When we got in the car the boys both wanted to pray and Caleb said, "Lord, please help us get just one!" It was a precious moment and at that point I realized why God gave us boys. This was not about them, this was about them doing for others and they learned the lesson how it is more blessed to give then receive.

God heard Caleb's little prayer and answered it and then blessed us with much more!

God gave us a little pet....

the car that we really wanted and....

what the boys said she needed a blanket and a carry bag!
After getting home Kyle said, "Mom, I can honestly say this was the best morning of my life and I can't wait to see Taylor on Christmas morning!

Its going to be a Merry Christmas for a precious little girl!
We love you Taylor!!!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Its Coupon Day!

Last night I had a wonderful time hanging out with a few friends. We had a great time just doing some Christmas shopping and enjoying being girls! We laughed about coupons and one friend hit a deal of the day which I will share with you soon. There are some great deals to be found and if you match those deals with coupons then you will find a great deal of the day too! Here are a few coupons that you may like to use this week. Happy Shopping!!!

Hallmark - $5 of $5!!! - Make sure to click on the print coupon tab

Friday, December 4, 2009

Michaels Coupon

I'm so excited that I am almost finished with my Christmas shopping. I am always on the look out for another deal so here is another 40% off coupon from Michaels. I am going to look to see if I can get a strand of beads with mine to make a special little girl a neckless. Hope it helps you find a good deal too!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Oh, Christmas STAR!

Every year about this time I like to go on a date with our boys. They write out a Christmas gift list of items they would like to purchase for family and friends, work in a budget, then we are off on a fun date just the two of us. I love it because its one on one time and I always find a treasure in them that I never knew before. This past week was my date night with Caleb our youngest. Caleb is all about the holidays! Its not just Christmas but its every holiday, birthday, he will even make up holidays just to have fun! This year he is especially enjoying the holiday season. As we were working on his list we turned the aisle and there in front of us was a wall of Christmas tree toppers. Now, keep in mind I looked for about 12 years for the perfect tree topper for our snowman tree and when I found a fluffy snowman head tree topper I knew I found the perfect topper! I tried the star, the bow, the angel but nothing was more fitting then the adorable snowman head.
Our Caleb had other plans for our tree topper! When he was 3 he carried the large tree box to me in the living room and pointed out to me that there should not be a bow on the top of the tree because the photo on the box did not have a bow! Then the next year he told me the Angel should not be on the tree she looked scared on top! When I found the snowman head he just laughed and said, "That's not a real tree!" So this year as we were shopping together he saw the perfect tree topper, a STAR!!! When he saw the wall of stars he said, "Now, this is what I am talking about!" We need a STAR for our tree!!! At that moment I had to decide, am I going to put my foot down and say, "We already have the perfect tree topper!" or am I going to enjoy this moment with him and cherish this time and let him find the perfect topper for our tree. Well, we purchased the "perfect" tree topper and he was so excited that we found the perfect topper!
Kyle got into the spirit too and enjoyed helping decorate the tree! He added a Christmas hook to my slipper and added that to the tree!!!

My snowman head has been demoted! He is now a decoration on the tree and has a brother and sister added to the mix to balance him out.

So, a new tradition arrived in the Littleton home this year, and I'm sure when Caleb is married and gone, I will still cherish this little star and I have a feeling my "perfect" tree topper is now a small little silver star on top of a cute snowman tree.