Creekbank Blog

The writing blog of Curt Iles and Creekbank Stories. Our mission: To connect hearts to God by using stories of encouragement and inspiration.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Having a “Learner’s Lean”

Paul had it.* (* keep reading and I’ll share more.)

I want it.


Throughout history, all great leaders who finished strong possessed it.

For simplicity’s sake, I’ll call it the “Learner’s Lean.”

Next time you’re in a meeting—whether it is a business seminar, church, or the local Rotary Club, be observant. You can always spot this learner’s lean among people. It’s the listener who is really listening.


They’re leaning forward.

Elbows on the table.

Eyes locked on the speaker.

Drinking in every word.

Often taking notes, even if it’s on a napkin.


They have a focus that is visible.

A hunger that nearly be touched.

A connection with the speaker that can be felt.


I have the privilege of speaking over 100 times yearly. I can easily recognize the learner’s lean. It’s the person in the audience who is locked on your eyes, head nodding, smiling, and often their eyes glisten with tears.

It is a speaker’s delight to be in the presence of the learner’s lean. They give us energy and remind us that life is truly an ongoing learning process.


Two weeks ago, I experienced this in Africa. Preaching in the church of another culture can be very intimidating. Terms, stories, and ‘world view’ can vary and the speaker is at the mercy of the world.

Not really, when you’re sharing the truths of the Bible with the Holy Spirit’s help (He is the best interpreter of all time.) the message is conveyed. However, it is fraught with emotional land mines due to our tendency to “Americanize” every message.


I preached at New Georgia Estate Baptist Church in Liberia, and was in the presence of a woman with the “Learner’s Lean.” As I shared from Matthew 8 about “Being in a storm with Jesus” this middle-aged woman, perched on the front row, “helped me preach.”


She was dressed in beautiful traditional African headdress and matching colorful dress. Her attention and demeanor clearly told me that she’d “been in the storm with Jesus” and came out on the other side with her faith in Him stronger and proven.


When I quoted (I was too chicken to sing it like any good Black preacher would have) from the song, “Stand by Me”, she helped me finish it.

When this world is tossing me, like a ship out on the sea,

Thou who rulest wind and water, stand by me.


I didn’t get to meet her in the busy moments after the marathon service ended. (Better pack your sack lunch when you attend an African church.)


Later, I was informed that her name was Frances Johnson-Morris, Liberia’s Minister of Anti-Corruption. An attorney, Ms. Johnson-Morris previously served as Minister of Justice (our equivalent of Attorney General) as well as chairperson of the 2006 Liberian Election Commission.


To be honest, there wasn’t anything in her physical presence that said “national leader.” I recognized her as special by her learner’s lean.


It’s a passion to learn and grow.


I wished I could have sat at Frances Johnson-Morris’ feet and learned from her. Knowing Liberia’s tragic recent history, I’m sure she could have taught me much about going through the storm with Jesus.

I could have practiced my own learner’s lean with her.


The Apostle Paul had this learner’s lean, and he kept it until the very end. Look at his closing words in II Timothy 4:13 “When you come, bring the coat I left with Carpus in Troas, as well as the scrolls, and especially the parchments.”


He was writing to his protégé Timothy in Ephesus. The year is circa 65 AD. Paul is awaiting death at the hands of the Roman emperor Nero.


He has fought the good fight, run the good race, and kept the faith. The letter of II Timothy is his farewell address.


In spite of knowing the chopping block and ax is awaiting him in the Roman prison yard, he asks Timothy to bring two items.


One is his coat he left in Troas. Someone asked me, “Why’d he want that coat?” The answer is simple, he was cold. Paul was an old man and older people get cold easily. (Riding with my dad is his final years was like being in a Turkish sauna with a blowtorch in your face. I’d often crack the window just to get a breath of cool fresh air.) it was probably the only coat he owned. Here was a man who’d given up all of the things of the world in following Jesus. He’s at the end of his life and possesses just one coat.


He also wanted his scrolls and parchments.


Here is a man getting ready to step out into eternity… and he’s still got his learner’s lean. These papers are evident of it. He was still learning. Still growing. Still hungry to know more.


I want that.


I heard one of my heroes, T.W. Hunt (author of The Mind of Christ) say, “I’m 75 now, and I believe I’ve learned more in the last 5 years than in the first 70.”


Another one of my heroes, my father-in-law Herbert Terry, is in his mid-eighties. He recently commented, “Curt, I’ve been thinking. I believe if there were some college courses offered in my area, I’d sign up and take them.”


Two heroes with learner’s leans. Still growing. Still going. Still learning.


Learner’s Lean—i.e. a lifetime quest for learning is closely tied in with curiosity.

A desire to know more.


It is most easily defined by reading. This statement is so true: “You can be a reader and not be a reader. But you cannot be a leader unless you are a reader.”

What’s on your bookshelf?


I’ve heard that you can judge a leader’s growth by looking at their bookshelf. This is especially true with pastors. A pastor/leader with an office full of titles twenty years or older probably quit growing twenty years ago.

I love the hunger my pastor has. Benjie Loyd, age 32, has the finest book collection of any pastor I’ve ever known.


I always compliment him on this, adding, “When I see your library thirty years from now, I expect to still be seeing new titles.”


By the way, here’s what I’m currently reading:

Outliers (Audio book) by Malcolm Gladwell. Subtitled is “The Story of Success.” It is a fascinating study on how people succeed. I’m listening to it as I drive. This turns my vehicle into a library.

How People Grow Townsend/Cloud A Biblical study of life-long growth.

This Child Shall Be Great by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, autobiography by the president of Liberia, the first woman president on the continent of Africa.


For me, lifelong learning also involves journaling. I’m in the process of filling up journal #47 and I still have the first one began in 1973.


I find that writing down ideas, sermon notes, thoughts, etc. help me grow. I go back and review them and it helps me focus and grow. I can nearly relive my life by reviewing my journals. (Bill Butterworth’s newest book, The Short List, talks about the renewal and introspection found through re-reading journals.)


The Internet is a diamond mine of lifelong learning. In addition to putting encyclopedia salesmen out of work, Google, Wikipedia, and the Net allows someone in Dry Creek, Doodlefork, or Dido (the triangle of culture I live in) the same access to information as the richest tycoon in Manhattan.


Enough rambling.


My parting words are really a prayer.

Lord, keep a hunger to learn in me.

Don’t let me lose my learner’s lean.

Fill me with a curiosity.

A curiosity to know you deeper.

To learn more about the world and the people in it.

Keep me growing.

Keep me going.

Amen. and amen.


Learning,


Curt

curtiles@aol.com

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Facebook friends

Abrahim Sarnor Student body president at Ricks (Left)
Biomah Sherman (in Dry Creek cap)


One of my jobs in Liberia was helping students with their Facebook pages. Many of them had pages but had been unable to post their photos on their profiles.

By gimping (minimizing) their photos we were able to upload them. Here are some of these friends. If you'd like a friend in Liberia, send them a friend request.

Biomah Sherman boimah1992@yahoo.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000034956671&ref=search


Abrahim Sarnor sarnorabrahim@yahoo.com

Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1841863237&hiq=abrahim%2Csarnor&ref=search

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"Hoping Liberia"

A favorite saying of the teachers at Liberia's Ricks Institute is, "Thanks for coming and hoping us." I thought it was just Liberian/English slang for "helping us."*

But as you can see from this shirt, "Hoping Liberia" is a theme of this school. (Shown is Dean of Students James Blay presenting a shirt to Colleen.)

Hope: it's a fine four letter word. A good word to use for a country recovering from a generation of bloody coups and devastating civil war.

Hope. If a person's lost it, they've got nothing.
Hope. If a person just has a thread of it, they can withstand and endure anything.

Hope. A good four letter word for each of us to adopt.

Hoping others.

"Sharing the hope within us" as Peter stated in I Peter 3:15 "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you the reason for the hope that you have."

I've got hope because I've got a deep confidence in Jesus. He is where my hope comes from.

Hope. It's a word I want to dwell on today.


* On "Hoping and Helping/He'ping: One of Louisiana's illustrious governors was John J. McKeithen. He ran on a platform asking Louisianians "to 'he'p me' make this state better."

It was his motto and is even on his grave near Columbia.


Students in the Ricks Library.

A 'Liberian Library.' I like the way it rolls off your tongue.
Shown are two girls in the Ricks Institute library.

One of our biggest projects was working with the new school librarian, Shammah Varney. (Shown below.)

Shammah is a wonderful and intelligent young man who is committed to organizing and building the school library to benefit both the students at Ricks as well as the surrounding villages.

If you're looking for a good project to latch onto, I'd suggest partnering with Shammah. If any reader has an interest in this (hint, hint librarians) you can contact Shammah at shammah.varney@yahoo.com.

To learn more about the school, visit their website at www.ricksonline.org

"In my estimate the future of Liberia, as well as the future of all Africa is found in the Lord, good education of young people, and the building of healthy families."* -C. Iles

*Come to think of it, that's a good formula for a better future for my own country, the United States.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Wise words from my friend, Edward Pongo.


Hi Curt,
I'm glad you took back with you many things from Liberia, many memories and photos, especially the graffiti (about bread, life and peace) on the wall of a former displaced Liberian. That's how the war was like, from Sierra Leone through Liberia. I'm glad you came and you saw and you felt it. The wounds are getting healed slowly but surely. Creekbank will add our story to the many stories it had told. This is our story, the story to survive, even now. God bless you and the team.
E. Ponga
Ricks Institute, Liberia

Graffiti on the wall of a Liberian Displaced Person's Camp home.

"He that bring(s) bread brings life."

Below it is written Proverbs 17:1 "It is better to eat a dry crust of bread with peace (of mind) than have a banquet in a house full of trouble."


I wonder about the person who wrote this. I wonder about what they'd been through and where they are now. I know two things: they knew what it meant to be truly hungry, and they realized that any food eaten in peace (not the midst of war) is received with gratitude.

I'd love to have sat down with this person. I know they could teach me much about bread, peace, and compassion.

I think about bread bringing life, and I turn to my favorite "Jesus Word:" Compassion.

In Matthew 9:36, the writer says of my Jesus, "when he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd."

Then Jesus said, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.

Compassion. It's my favorite "Jesus Word."
It's a word I need to install more in my life and actions.

It's a word that I don't need to travel to another continent to use. Compassion is just as needed in Beauregard Parish, Louisiana as it is in Africa.

Compassion.
Lord, teach me your compassion.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Monkey Bridges and Cell Phones


This bamboo bridge is over a creek near Liberia's Ricks Institute School. It is nicknamed the
"Monkey Bridge." You can see the laden residents crossing it. They were much faster than we shaky legged Americans.We were taken to the nearby villages of Massaquio and Peterstown. Our guide was Joseph Dennis, financial director for Ricks. Mr. Joseph is shown in front of the only church in the village.
He is talking on his cell phone. The Liberians really enjoyed our story of no cell phones working in "our American village of Dry Creek." Mr. Joseph replied, "Here you can be out in the bush up a coconut tree shaking loose a coconut and your cell phone may ring."

In the end, it is always about relationships.

No matter where you are, who you are, or what you're doing, life's quality is ultimately measured in our relationships. Friends, family, and fellow travelers remain long after the material "things" of life rust, fade, and disappear.

Here is Colleen Iles Glaser walking with one of her new Liberian friends.

If you'd like to read about the most important relationship in my life, click on http://www.whativaluemost.com and type in Curt Iles.

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Sunday, July 26, 2009


This girl balances a tray of dried fish on her head. It is amazing the items that are carried on top of heads in Africa.


The donut girls have arrived. These enterprising girls found us every morning with their donuts.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A visit to the Comfort K. Doe Orphanage Brewerville, Liberia
My sister Colleen with one of the youngest children at the Doe Orphanage.


One of the memorable highlights of our trip was visiting with the children at the Doe Orphanage. Three of the teenage boys (Joseph, Chris, and David shown in background) attend Ricks Institute on scholarship.

The orphanage began during the darkest days of the Liberian civil war. Rev. and Mrs. Doe (shown below) began gathering orphans and taking them in. To escape the fighting, they moved up and down the Atlantic Coast with their children.

They finally settled in Brewerville, a Monrovian suburb near the St. Paul River.





The main building at Doe Orphanage was built by Irish Army Peacekeepers in 2005. I love the Irish proverb, "Praise the young and they will flourish."

These are two heroes, Rev. Doe and his wife Comfort. They are examples of what followers of Jesus do for the hurting and fatherless. Rev. Doe can be reached at htoepeter@yahoo.com.

The road to the Doe Orphanage. The street sign shows that we are at the intersection of "Main St. and Praise St."


How you can help Doe Orphanage: Pray for the children/Pray for Rev. and Mrs. Doe who are very elderly/They have laid the foundation for a school at Doe and need help.




Footprints from Liberia

We'll be adding photos and stories from our trip to Liberia from our trip to Liberia.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

DeDe had an African birthday yesterday (July 14) and received this birthday pineapple from Marcus Perkins.
Flooding caused near Monrovia by last week's rains

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The Liberian flag is very similar to the U.S. flag. The 11 stripes represent the original eleven signers of their declaration of independence. The one large white star with a blue background represents unity.

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Notes from Africa: The Joys of a Bucket Bath

Waste not, Want not. Going green in Liberia




Steps to a great bucket bath:

1. Heat up a tea kettle and pan of water on the gas stove.


2. Pour hot water (carefully) into bucket in tub.


3. Let cool, but not too much. Get your soap and rag..


4. Enjoy a refreshing bucket bath.


5. Put bucket underneath sink and brush your teeth (with filtered water. Do not waste.) Let sink water drain into bucket.


6. Pour water from bucket into commode tank and flush thoroughly.


7. You’ve just used about two gallons of water to take care of multiple needs, enjoying every step of the way.

When you know there will be long stretches of water during a day, you learn to cherish and store it.

It’s amazing how wasteful I am in America. I run tap water the entire time I’m brushing my teeth, flush numerous times daily, and don’t consider things I watch closely in Africa.


I handed one of our guests a second paper towel at a meal and he politely waved me off. He’d never consider using a second paper towel when he is holding one.


The same thing is true with food. Portions are much smaller and nothing is wasted. One of our teacher friends enjoyed eating her chicken bones, getting nutrition out of every bite.


We are fortunate our lunches contain chicken or fish—this is unheard of in Liberia. Rice, beans, and greens are the staples. Even now folks are saving up for July 26, Liberia’s Independence Day. They’ll splurge on food that day and some folks will eat meat for one of the few days of the entire year.


Electricity. You never know when it’s going to be on or off. You learn to enjoy it and plan for when it’s off.


I share these thoughts not to make anyone feel guilty.

Just thankful.


Gratitude is one of the hallmarks of this country, where they have so little. (We saw a taxi whose driver had evidently survived the war. Painted on his taxi was, “Thank God I made it.”

It says a great deal.


Thank God.

I thank Him too.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Alvin Sompon and Abrahim A. Sarnor

Words from the future of Africa.

Alvin's words on Service.

Alvin is a rising senior at Ricks Institute. He is the son of the Ag teacher here. He's been sharing with me about service. Here are a few of his thoughts:

"Service is guiding the younger people to serve the older people of our community. One project we are doing is in the Displaced Camps near our school. (These are people who've not left the refugee camps). We've started with small jobs in taking care of the roads, teaching games to the children.

Service is started with small steps and we move to other communities.

Small steps.

"We cannot do extraordinary things. We can do small things in extraordinary ways." -Mother Teresa.

Abrahim's speaks of volunteering. He is a recent Ricks graduate and the current student body president. Here are some words from him.

"Volunteerism is what we do because we want to, not because we are made to. It is not done for pay.

"We need foreign investors, but we should not depend on them to do what we can do ourselves. Teaching children about morality and doing good is a job we all can do."

Abrahim can be reached at sarnorabrahim@yahoo.com as well as on Facebook.

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Marcus Perkins

Marcus and his Garden


President Obama’s weekend visit to West Africa was big news in Liberia. We only heard sound bites from the BBC radio as we rode in a vehicle.


Our Liberian friends told about the president’s words including phrases like:

"We must start from the simple premise that Africa's future is up to Africans.”


To the youth, who make up the majority of the population, he stated,

"You have the power to hold your leaders accountable, and to build institutions that serve the people.

As I heard these words, I thought about Marcus’ garden.


Marcus is our “house host” at Ricks School. His work-study program is to take care of the guesthouse and visitors. He does it with a passion and joy that quickly catches your attention.

He took me to his garden. It is a patch of corn, peppers, cassava (a root crop similar to sweet potatoes) okra, and beans. Beaming, he said, “I can probably sell my crop for two—even three American dollars and use it to get ahead.


Marcus, age 18, is basically an orphan of the civil war that rages for two decades. He came to Ricks and would not leave, serving as a volunteer and living in an empty dorm.


He was later admitted to Ricks School where his tuition is paid by an American he “does not know.” He is ninth grader due to the years “stolen by the locusts” and working hard to catch up academically. With his attitude and commitment, there is no doubt he will.


Marcus is one point of light of the future of Africa. Our president was right: the future of Africa is in the hands of Africans—especially the youth of the continent.


He, and his garden, are symbols of the future of Africa. A young person with a vision and drive to move forward, anchored in a deep faith in God, realizing his gaining a good education is the key to a better life.

From my vantage point, the crop looks like it’s growing well.


Keep growing,

Curt Iles


P.S. Ricks is regarded as the “best school in Liberia.” Its dedicated teachers and hungry students are wonderful to know.

Their greatest needs:

Prayer

Scholarships for needy students ($750 US dollars per semester)

Work group to come/fund building renovations.

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Good eating at Ricks. This is our wonderful cook each day for lunch, Mrs. Musu. She's cooked plenty of what I call "soul food." We've had collard greens, potato greens, fish gravy (like catfish couvillian), and cabbage with chicken.

This is how Ricks Institute. This is staff housing. Notice the palm trees. The palm nuts are a major source of food for Liberians.

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Kid Magnets in Liberia

We're proud to be members of the Liberian Kid Magnet Club at the Ricks Institute.
The four of us, DeDe, Colleen, Gordy and me, are bonafide "kid magnets" at Ricks School.

Colleen is shown with two students, Patience and Steven. Their father Maurice is a long time French teacher at Ricks. Maurice, a native of nearby Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast).

We've really enjoyed building relationships with the teachers.

Quote of the day from one of our new friends who laughingly told us, "Liberians cry when it rains, and then complain with the sun shines." We quickly told him that is prevalent among Americans too."

I'll say this: They've had a lot more crying than usual. It is rainy.

God is good and is teaching us so much.
Tomorrow we journey into "town." (Monrovia) for supplies and an orphanage visit.

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Wednesday, July 08, 2009


Quote at Ricks Institute from Liberia's president.


Our "house host" Marcus with a captured snake.
He insisted it was a "harmless green snake" but I've too much about Green Mambas to touch it. *See more on on Marcus below.*




“L.T.W.B.T.Y.G.I.”*

* “Leave this world better than you got it.”

It should be the goal of every man and woman who sucks air on this earth. Leave it better than you found it. “Your world” includes your family, every job you’ll ever hold, your church, community/village, state and nation.

If you travel the world, leave behind a trail of smiles, friends, and good deeds.






Notes from Liberia
Wednesday, July 8 (I believe.) We're five hours ahead of CDT-US.


"Rain, rain,
Liberia is your name."

We're here during the rainy season. This area of Liberia gets over 200 inches of rain per year. (This compares to our SW La. average of 50+) It has rained non-stop since our arrival with serious flooding in nearby houses.

We're high enough that it's no problem, but local folks are having trouble.

We're enjoying our new friendships at Ricks School. As always, African hospitality is very generous and heart-warming.

Best of all is connecting with the hearts and smiles of the young people of Liberia. The average life span here is currently 46 years. That reminds us that the future of this country is tied up in the young people. They are the future and hope in this war-ravaged country

Marcus is one of those young people with hope for the future. He dreams of pastoring and helping his country rebuild. Like everyone we've met, he was deeply affected by Liberia's Civil War from 1991-2004.


Blessings,

Curt and DeDe, Colleen and Gordy.

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Sunday, July 05, 2009

Looking at NYC from Newark International Airport
5:30 PM EDT


We’ve arrived in fine form from our Houston flight. At 6 PM, we’ll catch an overnight flight to Brussels, Belgium.


Two highlights of the day:

We left early this morning to see two special friends, Don and Ginny Hunt.
Bro. Don, our former pastor is in Houston’s M.D. Anderson receiving cancer treatment.
It was such a thrill to see him and his famous smile and Christ-like attitude. No hospital bed or disease can take away his infectious joy in the Lord.

Bro. Don had a great deal to do with the missions outlook the four of us have developed. God used him to help our church look outward to a world needing to hear the good news about Jesus.

So to stand in a hospital room with Mrs. Ginny and him was a special moment. He prayed a powerful prayer for our trip that none of us will ever forget.

(L to R) DeDe, Curt, Gordy, Ginny Hunt, and Colleen

We are “taking him on our trip” as we travel on to Africa.
Paul’s words in Philippians 1:3, “I thank my God every time I remember you” applies to Don and Ginny Hunt.

Our next stop was the Houston International Airport. The first people we encountered in line were Terry and Carla Coleman, our neighbors from nearby Longville, La. The Colemans and their daughter-in-law and granddaughter were on their way to Ireland.

They’re going to meet their son Coty who is serving as a journeyman (2 year) missionary in South Asia. (Coty and our son Terry “bumped into each other” last year in India. As they say, “it’s a small world.)

We’ve followed Coty’s service in Asia and were thrilled to be with his folks. We were all on the same flight to NYC.

The Coleman's on their way to Ireland

We’ve been reminded that a mission trip truly begins the minute you pull out of your driveway. There are no coincidences or accidents along the road of serving God.

Pray for Don and Ginny Hunt, Coty Coleman and his family during their first visit in 15 months, and pray for the Dry Creek Four* as we cross the Atlantic and head to Liberia.


*Gordy and Colleen Glaser, Curt and DeDe Iles


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Saturday, July 04, 2009

Special thanks to my friend Joe Chaney for inspiring this scene.


A Good Place, the upcoming novel from Creekbank Stories

Curt's followup novel to The Wayfaring Stranger should be ready later in 2009. We'll keep you posted as we know more.

Set in 1863, it tells the story of Joe and Eliza Moore through the eyes of their son Mayo.

My favorite scene in the book features a group of Ten Mile men floating rafts of the huge pine logs down the Calcasieu River to the sawmills in Lake Charles.

Mayo tells of what happens:



Caleb, riding with Unk out front, said, “I’ve got to get away from that singing, before I drown him.”

They let their lead raft drift close to the shady east bank. Just as they went under a low hanging willow limb, they began hollering. At first, we couldn’t make out their words and were puzzled as they dove into the river. When they came up, I heard Unk, “Wasts. Wasts.”

Unk was hard to understand at times, so I turned to Daddy. “Did he say ‘wasts?’”
“I believe they got into a wasp nest.”

By now, the second raft, occupied by Pistol and Dan, neared the same limb. Dan’s singing stopped abruptly as he and his daddy tried like crazy to steer clear of the limb. However, it was too late as hundreds of angry wasps awaited their arrival. I heard Pistol hollering, “Abandon ship. Abandon ship.”

We laughed as they plunged into the river.

Ben’s raft was next, and he hollered, “I can’t swim a lick. I’m just gonna hang on.” He lay down on his raft trying to paddle with his hand away from the limb.

He took his hat off and fought them off as the raft went under the limb. Luckily, they had spread out, and there weren’t as many to fend off. Seeing the futility of fighting them with his hat, he rolled up in a ball, covering his head.

We could hear his muffled voice praying one sentence, and airing his lungs out cussing the next.
Ahead of us were three rafts, two of them empty, and one manned by a fellow alternating between swearing and entreating the Lord. Three men were in the water and one-my uncle was still yelling, “Wasts. Wasts. Watch those wasts.”

Now it was our turn. Daddy didn’t even try to steer our raft away, instead saying, “Let’s get in the water and hang on the side of our raft.”

Trying to forget about alligators, I eased into the water.
As we floated under the limb, Daddy said, “Look at the size of that nest. It’s as big as a pumpkin.” Hundreds of red wasps were on it as well as swarming around. One popped me on the hand and I yelled. Daddy thought it was real funny until one stung him on the ear. Our yelling and movement attracted a whole wasp patrol on us and he said, “Get under.”

Before I could go under, several stung me, including one right on the end of my nose. I dove under and stayed there until my lungs burned. When I came up, we’d cleared the limb and were out of the cloud of wasps. The other swimmers, now re-boarded, seemed to be enjoying our part of the show.

At the next bend, everyone pulled up to lick our wounds and compare notes. Most of the men had dozens of stings. Pistol got his knife out, scraping bark off one of the logs. He dug down into the tree, scooping up pinesap, and daubed it on his stings. Everyone followed his example, except his son Dan, who spit out his chew of tobacco and began daubing it on his stings.

By now the humor of the situation began to sink in. Dan began mocking Unk, “ Wast. Wast. Watch out for the wasts.”

My uncle smiled, “ I was just trying to warn you fellows.” This was followed by Daddy mimicking Pistol, “Abandon Ship. Abandon Ship” as he poked our leader, “When your captain says ‘abandon ship,’ you know it’s a bad situation.”

Everyone laughed, and we talked about it for the rest of the float, embellishing every word and sting with each retelling. Soon, our encounter even had a name, “The Battle of Wast Bend.”


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Friday, July 03, 2009

Clay Iles in Mali, Africa

Our oldest son Clay just returned from a memorable trip among the Bozo tribe in Mali, Africa.

To read about it and see photos, click on http://www.suemanakomina.blogspot.com/

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Thursday, July 02, 2009


Below is our schedule for this week's trip to Liberia, Africa. While there we'll be working with the Ricks Institute, a school near the capital of Monrovia. We're sharing this schedule so you'll know what we're doing and how to pray for us. (Liberian time is 5 hours ahead of US-CDT.)


We are carrying plenty of school supplies as well as monies to do physical improvements at the school. The country of Liberia, as well as the school, are slowly recovering from decades of civil war. To see a map of Liberia, click here.

If anyone feels led to help with funding for these improvements, let us know.

Curt and DeDe Iles
curtiles@aol.com
dede_iles @hotmail.com

Gordy and Colleen Glaser
glasersc@gmail.com


ITINERARY FOR TEAM FROM LOUISIANA, USA

JULY 6 -22

TEAM MEMBERS: Colleen Glaser, Gordy Glaser, DeDe Iles and Curt Iles (head of Team)

Sunday, July 5 Leave Houston at 11: 25 am/Newark/Brussels (Belgium) then Monrovia

MONDAY, JULY 6, 2009 arrive in Monrovia, Liberia

4:50pm ----------------------------------Team arrival at Robert’s International Airport

In case of any emergency, please call mobile# 06418491 (Mr. James Blay) or 06419860 (Mr. Varney Sherman)

8:00pm-----------------------------------------------Royal Hotel in Sinkor, Monrovia

10:00pm-------------------------------------------------Arrival at Ricks Guest House

TUESDAY, JULY 7, 2009

8:00am------------------------------------------------Breakfast (Each breakfast serves in guesthouse on your own)

9:00am--------------- Walking Tour of Ricks (if weather permits)—Mr. James Blay

12:00pm------------------------------lunch (Dining Hall)

1:30pm--------Classroom preparation/ meeting with Mr. Sherman over schedule

2:30pm------------Meeting with all Elementary teacher

4:00pm---------Walking visit to Massaquio Town and Memeh Town

6:00pm-----------Dinner at Ricks in Guest House (Prepared by Ricks)

Use the evening to relax/ catch up and prepare for the week

WEDNESDAY, JULY 8, 2009

7:30am--------------------------------------------------------Breakfast

(Each breakfast serves in guesthouse on your own)

8:00am-------Assembly, Guest will be introduced Morning Devotion with

Teachers/ elementary student in auditorium

(5min devotion led by a team member)

8:30am----------------------------Instruction begins

First Session: 8:30am – 10:00am

Mrs. Glaser----1st, 2nd and 3rd Grades---Reading and Phonics

Mrs. Iles---- 4th 5th and 6th Grades----Reading and Phonics

(Teacher’s assistants if needed: Mr. Glaser and Mr. Iles or Mr. Glaser

and Mr. Iles will be in meeting with Language Arts Teachers and Social Studies teachers respectively on practical ideas for teaching these areas of studies to students.

10:00 – 10:30am-----------Break

Second Session: 10:30am—12:00pm

Mr. Glaser----1st, 2nd and 3rd Grades---Social Studies

Mr. Iles-----4th, 5th and 6th Grades—Journaling/writing

(Teacher’s assistants if needed: Mrs. Glaser and Mrs. Iles or Mrs. Glaser

and Mrs. Iles will be in meeting with some elementary teachers on the practical ways of incorporating reading and phonics in the elementary classroom. One-on-one tutorial)

12:15pm-----------------------------------Lunch in Dining Hall (Prepared by Ricks)

2:30pm----------------------Possible trip to Duala for Grocery shopping (if need be)

4:30pm-------------------Presentation of the important of reading (a team member)

6:00pm--------------Dinner in the Guest house (prepared by team)

THURSDAY, JULY 9, 2009

7:30am--------------------------------------------------------Breakfast

(Each breakfast serves in guesthouse on your own)

8:00am-------Morning Devotion with Teachers/ elementary student in auditorium

(5min devotion led by a team member)

8:30am----------------------------Instruction begins

First Session: 8:30am – 10:00am

Mrs. Glaser----1st, 2nd and 3rd Grades---Reading and Phonics

Mrs. Iles---- 4th 5th and 6th Grades----Reading and Phonics

(Teacher’s assistants if needed: Mr. Glaser and Mr. Iles or Mr. Glaser

and Mr. Iles will be in meeting with Language Arts Teachers and Social Studies teachers respectively on practical ideas for teaching these areas of studies to students.

10:00 – 10:30am-----------Break

Second Session: 10:30am—12:00pm

Mr. Glaser----1st, 2nd and 3rd Grades---Social Studies

Mr. Iles-----4th, 5th and 6th Grades—Journaling/writing

(Teacher’s assistants if needed: Mrs. Glaser and Mrs. Iles or Mrs. Glaser

and Mrs. Iles will be in meeting with some elementary teachers on the practical ways of incorporating reading and phonics in the elementary classroom. One-on-one tutorial)

12:15pm-----------------------------------Lunch in Dining Hall (Prepared by Ricks)

4:30pm--------------------------Presentation of the important of writing/Journal in

Personal Life (by Curt)

6:00pm--------------Dinner in the Guest house (by team)

7:00pm-----------Screening the documentary, “Liberia: America’s Step Child” in

Guest house

FRIDAY, JULY 10, 2008

7:30am--------------------------------------------------------Breakfast

(Each breakfast serves in guesthouse on your own)

8:00am-------Assembly Morning Devotion with Teachers/ elementary student in

auditorium (5min devotion led by a team member)

9:00am----------------------------Instruction begins

First Session: 8:30am – 10:00am

Mrs. Glaser----1st, 2nd and 3rd Grades---Reading and Phonics

Mrs. Iles----4th 5th and 6th Grades----Reading and Phonics

(Teacher’s assistants if needed: Mr. Glaser and Mr. Iles or Mr. Glaser

and Mr. Iles will be in meeting with Language Arts Teachers and Social Studies teachers respectively on practical ideas for teaching these areas of studies to students.

PLEASE GIVE STUDENTS HOMEWORK FOR THE WEEKEND

10:00 – 10:30am-----------Break

Second Session: 10:30am—12:00pm

Mr. Glaser----1st, 2nd and 3rd Grades---Social Studies

Mr. Iles-----4th, 5th and 6th Grades—Journaling/writing

(Teacher’s assistants if needed: Mrs. Glaser and Mrs. Iles or Mrs. Glaser

and Mrs. Iles will be in meeting with some elementary teachers on the practical ways of incorporating reading and phonics in the elementary classroom. One-on-one tutorial)

PLEASE GIVE STUDENTS HOMEWORK FOR THE WEEKEND

12:15pm-----------------------------------Lunch in Dining Hall (Prepared by Ricks)

2:30pm----------------------Personal time with teachers and students

4:30pm---------------Workshop on preparing a resume for teachers/ some high

school students if available

5:30pm--------------Dinner in Monrovia

SATURDAY, JULY 11, 2009

8:00-----------------------------Breakfast

8:30am----------------------------(Service Project Focus) Assessment of apartments

10:30am---------Trip to Building Supplies store to buy needed supplies

1:30pm----------------lunch in Dining Hall

4:00pm---------------------- Visit to the Comfort K. Toe Orphanage (Brewerville)

6:00pm------------------------Dinner at Ricks (prepared by the team)

SUNDAY, JULY 12, 2009

9:00am----------------------------------------------Breakfast

(Each breakfast serves in guesthouse on your own)

10:30am---------------Travel to Good Sherpard Baptist Church in Cheesemanburg,

Bomi County for Worship Service

1:30pm-------Lunch in the Guest house (prepared by Ricks)

2:30pm--------Sorting out books in Ricks Library for appropriate grade level (in

Library

6:00pm-------------------------Dinner (prepared by team)

MONDAY, JULY 13, 2009

7:30am--------------------------------------------------------Breakfast

(Each breakfast serves in guesthouse on your own)

8:00am-------Assembly--Morning Devotion with Teachers/ elementary student in

auditorium (5min devotion led by a team member)

8:30am----------------------------Instruction begins

First Session: 8:30am – 10:00am

Mrs. Glaser----1st, 2nd and 3rd Grades---Reading and Phonics

Mrs. Iles---- 4th, 5th and 6thGrades----Reading and Phonics

(Teacher’s assistants if needed: Mr. Glaser and Mr. Iles or Mr. Glaser

and Mr. Iles will be in meeting with Language Arts Teachers and Social Studies teachers respectively on practical ideas for teaching these areas of studies to students.

10:00 – 10:30am-----------Break

Second Session: 10:30am—12:00pm

Mr. Glaser----1st, 2nd and 3rd Grades---Social Studies

Mr. Iles-----4th, 5th and 6th Grades—Journaling/writing

(Teacher’s assistants if needed: Mrs. Glaser and Mrs. Iles or Mrs. Glaser

and Mrs. Iles will be in meeting with some elementary teachers on the practical ways of incorporating reading and phonics in the elementary classroom. One-on-one tutorial)

12:15pm-----------------------------------Lunch in Dining Hall (Prepared by Ricks)

2:30-4:30 ---------------------Bible camp with kids from the village and Ricks area

6:00pm--------------Dinner in at Ricks (prepared by team)

7:00pm-----------Movies night with students and community (please bring movies)

(please bring DVD movies; we have a projector)

TUESDAY, JULY 14, 2009

7:30am--------------------------------------------------------Breakfast

(Each breakfast serves in guesthouse on your own)

8:00am-------Assembly, Guest will be introduced

Morning Devotion with Teachers/ elementary student in auditorium

(5min devotion led by a team member)

8:30am----------------------------Instruction begins

First Session: 8:30am – 10:00am

Mrs. Glaser----1st, 2nd and 3rd Grades---Reading and Phonics

Mrs. Iles----4th, 5th and 6th Grades----Reading and Phonics

(Teacher’s assistants if needed: Mr. Glaser and Mr. Iles or Mr. Glaser

and Mr. Iles will be in meeting with Language Arts Teachers and Social Studies teachers respectively on practical ideas for teaching these areas of studies to students.

10:00 – 10:30am-----------Break

Second Session: 10:30am—12:00pm

Mr. Glaser----1st, 2nd and 3rd Grades---Social Studies

Mr. Iles-----4th, 5th and 6th Grades—Journaling/writing

(Teacher’s assistants if needed: Mrs. Glaser and Mrs. Iles or Mrs. Glaser

and Mrs. Iles will be in meeting with some elementary teachers on the practical ways of incorporating reading and phonics in the elementary classroom. One-on-one tutorial)

12:00pm---------------------------------Instructional time ends

12:15pm-----------------------------------Lunch in Dining Hall (Prepared by Ricks)

2:30pm----------------------Personal time with teachers

5:30pm--------------Dinner in Monrovia

WEDNESDAY, JULY 15, 2009 (Service work on expatriate teachers’ housing begins)

8am – 12noon (work on teacher’s housing)

12 noon--------------------------Lunch in Dinning Hall

1 –4pm (work on teaching’s housing)

6pm-------------------dinner prepare by team

THURSDAY, JULY 16, 2009

8am – 12noon (work on teacher’s housing)

12 noon--------------------------Lunch in Dinning Hall

1 –4pm (work on teaching’s housing)

6:00pm--------------dinner (prepare by Ricks)

FRIDAY, JULY 17, 2009

8am – 12noon (work on teachers’ housing)

12noon--------------------------Lunch in Dinning Hall

1 –4pm (work on teachings’ housing)

5:30pm-----------------------Dinner in Monrovia

SATURDAY, JULY 18, 2009

8am – 12noon (Sorting out books in Ricks Library for appropriate grade level in

Library)

12 noon--------------------------Lunch in Dinning Hall

1 –4pm (Sorting out books in Ricks Library for appropriate grade level in

Library)

6pm-------------Dinner prepared by team

SUNDAY, JULY 19, 2009

9:00am----------------------------------------------Breakfast

(Each breakfast serves in guesthouse on your own)

10:00am--------------- Curt to Speak at New Georgia Baptist Church in New

Georgia Estate,

for Worship Service

1:30pm-------Lunch in the Guest house (prepared by Ricks)

Free Afternoon

6:00pm-------------------------Dinner (prepared by team)

MONDAY, JULY 20, 2009

8-10am---------------------------Do some finishing touches on the teachers’ housing

A Day in Monrovia

Visit shops in Monrovia and near US embassy

1pm------------------------Lunch—Mono Lisa in Sinkor

2pm------------------------tour at the JFK Hospital

6:00pm---------------------Dinner at Ricks (prepared by Ricks)

TUESDAY, JULY 21, 2009

Please remind Ricks Staff to confirm all reservation on Brussels Airlines for Wednesday

9-12noon ----------------------------------Bible School with Kids from the Ricks community and surrounding

12:30pm------------------------------Lunch in the Dining Hall

Afternoon---Free time

6:00pm----------------------Dinner in Guest House (prepare by Guests)

WEDNESDAY, JULY 22, 2009

REMINDER: Have Passport/ticket in possession before Departing Guest House

8:00am----------------------------------------------Breakfast

(Each breakfast serves in guesthouse on your own)

9:00am----------------------In-town check-in (luggage will be loaded with passport

and ticket info for Monrovia Brussels Airlines Office)

12:00pm-----------Depart for Monrovia for Lunch at Royal Hotel

2:00pm------------- Depart for the Airport/ via visit at Baptist Seminary/ Firestone/

5:30pm-----------------------------------------------Check-in

8:25pm-------------------------------------Leave Liberia for Brussels

Thursday, July 23 Arrive back in Houston

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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Should her name be Gisele or _____________?

At the bottom of this blog are dozens of suggested names. Select your favorite three (3) and send them to me via Facebook or the comment section of this blog. I'll pass the results on later.

Author's note:
For nearly a year I've been in love with this young Creole girl I've named Gisele. She is a character in A Good Place, my sequel to The Wayfaring Stranger. The scene below takes place at a wharf where English Bayou flows into the Calcasieu River. It's summer 1863.

Mayo Moore, 13 year old son of Joe and Eliza Moore is part of a adventure where a group of Ten Mile men are floating rafts of logs to the sawmills in Charleston. (Lake Charles' early name)

The rafters have stopped due to the serious illness of one of the men. A traiteur (Cajun healer) has arrived to help, and Mayo and Gisele sit on the wharf.

I felt movement beside me and was surprised as Gisele sat down. She put her feet into the water as she rolled her long dress up to her knees.

I felt the touch of her leg against mine and it gave me a feeling that caused me to forgot how to speak a word.. I knew if I tried to form a sentence, something stupid would come out.

She had the liveliest brown eyes I’d ever seen, and they seemed to pierce right into my soul. If someone were to ask me now—as an old man—when I first fell in love, I’d reply that it was while sitting on a wharf near the Calcasieu River at age thirteen.

“May I practice my English?” Gisele said.

“You can practice whatever you want on me” I felt stupid for saying that, but it made Gisele smile. She had the softest voice, and her accent was captivating. In fact, everything about her was extremely attractive and appealing.

“Your name’s Milo?”
“No, it’s Mayo. Mayo Joseph Moore.”

“What kind of name—is Mayo?”
“It’s an Irish name—it’s the place where my father came from: County Mayo.
“But my name—Mayo—is also from a friend of his who drowned in the Mississippi River near New Orleans.” I was surprised at how much my tongue was loosening.

She seemed interested. “Tell me more.”

Pointing toward Daddy who was standing with the other men, I said, “The sandy-haired one is my father. He came to New Orleans from Ireland and became friends with an Irish family named O’Leary. Their son, Mayo, became his best friend.
“A big flood hit New Orleans and Daddy and Mayo got work where the river levee had busted. An accident happened there, and his friend Mayo drowned. It touched my daddy deeply and led to his leaving the city to come to this part of Louisiana.”

“So your name is… uh, special?”
“Daddy says I’m named after a special man and a special place and need to honor both by the way I live.”

“That’s nice, Mayo.” I liked the way she said my name. I scooted a little closer to her, and was surprised as she quickly did the same.

“What is this place called?”
“English Bayou.”
I mentioned how ironic it was that a place where French-speaking Creoles lived was called English Bayou, but I don’t think she understood me.

Looking around at the swamp and bayou, I said, “Your land is beautiful in a different way.”
“What you mean?”
“I love the pines and thick woods of my home, but yours is nice, too. It is beautiful.”

I couldn’t believe what I said next. “And you are beautiful, Gisele.”
She was too dark to blush. “Merci Beaucoup.”
Switching back to English, she said, “Thank you very much.”

“How’d you learn English?”
“I’ve had some schooling at the convent in Lake Charles. The nuns there helped me with English. One of the nuns, Sister Mary Kay, was Irish. She looked like your father—red hair and skin..

She pointed at my arm. “You don’t look Irish.”

“It’s cause I ain’t. I’m half Irish and half Redbone.”


Should her name be Gisele or ________________. Select your favorite 3 names and send them to me via Facebook or comment section of this blog.

Evangeline, Miriam, Liaay, Elizabeth, Charlen, Tee Maire, Angelle Lula Dixie Amilie

Odellia, Olamae, Milicent, Millie, Maya, Camille, Clothilde (Clo-teel) Rosalie, Margarete Olive, Celeste, Cardillah, Cherie, Selanie, Lucinda, Felecia, Yvone, Ginny Nola Gayle (Nollie) Amelia, Telecia, millie, Eve, Ariel, Lucille, Grace, evan, Marcy, Theresa, Thelma, Nellie, Olia Mae, Chloe, Maggie, Anne Marie, Rachel, Sedonia, Marie Savant, Caroline.

My high school friend Aurora (who lives in Boston) suggested consulting a parish census for that time period.

Mary, Marie, Elizabeth, Catherine, Adele or maybe Angelle. I really like the idea of Elizabeth, though.

Adelaide/Adele, Agata, Aimee, Alexandrine, Angelique, Annette, Antoinette, Apolline, Athalie, Arelia, Babet, Carmelite, Caroline, Catarina, Cecile/Cecilia, Celestine, Charlotte, Clemence, Clementine, Constance, Delia, Delphine, Desiree, Dominique, Elizabeth, Emilie, Estelle, Eugenie, Eulalie, Euprosine, Fanchon, Felicie/Felicite, Francoise, ... Read More

Gabriela, Genevieve, Georgina, Elena/Helene, Heloise,

Henriette, Ines, Isabelle, Isadora, Jeanne/Jeanette, Josephine, Julia, Juliette, Justine, Lisette, Louise(a), Magdalene(a), Manon, Manette/Nanette, Marceline, Marguerite, Marie(a), Marianne, Marthe, Martine, Mathilde, Modeste, Monique, Nathalie, Paulina, Pelagie, Perrine, Philomene, Poupon, Sanite, Serafine, Sophie, Suzanne, Rachel, Rosalie, Rosaline, Rose, Rosette, Teres/Thereze, Virgine, Vistoire, Zelime/Zulime.

Mahlia/Malia (french version of Mary), Madeline Adelle (a/k/a Maddie/Maddy or Dell), Theodosia Lapearle (since she hates first name, loves it that her dad calls her Pearl or Jewel),




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