Archive for September, 2006

Filed Under (Benin wildlife, General) by Rob on 28-09-2006

Hi again folks,

You may remember the two yellow birds which have been pecking at our windows of late (see post on 5th September). In case you don’t, here’s a different picture of one of them in the rain:


Now, I’ve had a look in the old birdie book and on the net, and am pretty sure it’s a yellow-fronted canary. Have a look at this link for plenty more shots on Google Images:

So, are we all agreed it’s a yellow-fronted canary? It’s certainly a yellow fronted something!!

Bye for now,


Filed Under (General) by Rob on 28-09-2006

Whilst we were staying at Beechwood Court over the summer, I got chatting to a retired Methodist Minister on the subject of prayer. He recommended a book called “Red Moon Rising.”

Now, seeing as prayer and it’s huge importance in Christian service has been a particular enthusiasm to me for some time, I went out and bought the book to see what it was like.

What I read totally blew my socks off – amazing stories of 24-hour prayer meetings sweeping across the country and into many other countries. Wow!

The main author is Pete Greig who had a vision in Portugal of an army marching forth for the Lord. Not long afterwards, he started a 24-hour prayer meeting, where people would sign up for a 1 hour slot so that uninterrupted prayer would continue on a shift basis for 24 hours. This soon developed into 24/7 prayer, where the prayer meeting (taking place in a designated ‘prayer room’ would continue non-stop for a week. The idea spread to many other countries and before long whole denominations (ie the Salvation Army) were committing to pray non-stop for a whole year.

Well, as you can imagine, the results were phenomenal. Here’s what one guy says:

“Our 24-7 week exceeded all expectations. It’s been one of the most
productive (yes – prayer is productive!) weeks I’ve ever known. People
were saved. The lukewarm were ignited and unity made huge steps
forward.” (Ian, UK – quoted from the 24/7 site).

I would encourage you to do three things:

  • Buy the book ‘Red Moon Rising’ and have a good read – it will strengthen your faith and enthuse you about prayer.
  • Visit the 24/7 website, which is as amazing as the book in many ways:
  • Once the above have inspired you, start your own 24-hour prayer meeting and see what happens!

Thanks for reading – now get praying!!



PS I’ve looked on Amazon and there are several books there with this title. The one you want is by Pete Greig and Dave Roberts. Here’s the link:

Red Moon Rising

I’ve also just found a page about Benin on the 24/7 prayer website. Here it is:

Benin info on 24/7

I’ve contacted them about some of the facts, as they still have the old president’s name down. Also the number of Christians quoted should be much higher. Nevertheless, it’s a really interesting page and you can view info on countries all round the world from the site. Happy surfing!

Filed Under (Beninese culture, General) by Rob on 26-09-2006

Last Sunday (17th) I preached at another ADC church, this time it was a ‘posh’ one, as it had a tiled floor and proper rafters holding up the roof.

Once again, the singing was great, with a fab Fon choir singing in the usual call and response way, with much dancing and great drumming. This time, though, there was an intriguing clapping rhythm which the folks managed effortlessly (but which I wouldn’t even thing of teaching to any church I may visit in the UK!!!) Here’s what the repeated clapping pattern looked and sounded like:


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Imagine clapping that one along to the latest Matt Redman song!!!

But as well as the usual Fon choir, there was also a modern choir (otherwise known as an ethnomusicologists nightmare!!) They sung quite well, but for me their rendition of ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’ in English (!?) was a bit of a low point (this is sounding like a Ship of Fools write-up, eh???) What is most interesting is noticing the congregation’s faces as this ‘foreign’ music is performed. Rather than dancing and clapping joyfully, they are all still and almost look bored.

Thankfully, though, there’s no chance of nodding off for long in these churches, as there’s always a ‘prodder’ on duty with a stick to prod anyone who falls asleep. Mmmmm…wonder if that could catch on in the UK.

The only other interesting event in this service was that, whilst clapping along to the complex rhythm of one piece, I actually managed to squash a mosquito which happened (unfortunately for him/her) to be flying between my hands mid-clap!

Thanks for reading. More soon I hope!


Rob et al

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 23-09-2006

Yes, things are looking up – we now have a small, but comfortable cinema not far away!

Now, there is already a cinema over the bridge somewhere, but maybe not too ‘ex-pat friendly’! (though, to be honest, I’ve never been in!) So yesterday, I checked out this new place, which is on the upper floor of our newish ‘Kora’ supermarket. The sound and picture were both very good and the seats were padded, ‘flip up’ seats (like in a normal cinema, but not so much padding!) and were tiered slightly. I reckon it seated at least 60 people and was air conditioned. There are 4 showings daily (3 on Sundays) and entry is 1,000 cfa per person (which is about £1 or $2). Not bad, eh? The films are reasonably up-to-date, too! I asked the manager if they would run films in English and he said, yes, if the only people there were anglophones. If not, he would put English subtitles on with French audio.

If you’re a Cotonou person and would like directions, drop me a line!

Other news…

A couple of ethnomusicology visits planned in the coming weeks – both in northern Benin to record/do song-writing workshops. I’ve ‘bought’ a fast tape duplicator on ebay, but am still awaiting my Paypal verification to be able to pay for it! Once it arrives, it will be a huge help.

Google Earth

Have you checked this out yet? Amazing images of the world from above. Here are the co-ordinates of our place:

6 degrees 21’26.70″N and 2 degrees 23′ 26.88″E – [Click here to view – added by Reggie]
So, you see, we’re quite close to 0, 0 degrees (ie where the Greenwich Meridian and the Equator meet). That’s actually in the Ocean, off the coast of Ghana/Gabon. However, a puzzling thing is that my Google Earth says there’s a KFC and a Burger King at that location, which I find hard to believe!!!

If you have Google Earth, you can find where we live from the co-ordinates. If you haven’t, get it – it’s fab!! Failing that, drop me a line and I can e-mail you the image easily!

You’ll notice we’re near the airport and not far from the coast either. The Senior School is the building across the road, diagonally SE from our house. The other school buildings are further up the same road.

Otherwise, school is fine, the kids are all well and so are we. Mads had a chest infection last week, but it much better now, thanks to antibiotics/inhalers etc. As I know you love seeing pictures, here’s one of Mads taking one:


Finally, we’re looking forward to a visit from our friend Clive Rahn this Christmas – hope you’ve got the flight booked mate!

Thanks for your visit,

Bye for now,

Rob, Lois et al

Filed Under (Beninese culture, General) by Rob on 08-09-2006

Last night, I went to pick up our Landrover from Martin, our Beninese mechanic, who’s been doing a spot of work on the bodywork. His garage is a couple of miles away, so the only way to get there is by zemidjan. Now, on the few occasions I have to prendre zem, I prefer to find one with a motorbike, rather than a moped. About 90% of zemidjans are Yamaha Mate50 or Mate90, but some fortunate zem drivers have actual motorbikes (usually of Chinese origin). The reason I prefer them is that the seat and suspension are much more comfortable and, 9 times out of 10, the driver is a bit more mature and sensible. Alas, this was clearly the 10th time, as my driver was a tad on the crazy side, (unless you think 2 feet is a reasonable stopping distance at 40km/h !!!) Still, it does wonders for ones prayer life…

To get to the garage, we have to go round the infamous Etoile Rouge roundabout, the largest in the city, with a huge red star (only recognizable from above) in the centre (a throwback to Benin’s communist era). Well, going round it in a car is bad enough, but on two wheels you really end up fearing for the welfare of your legs! (If you’ve ever driven round the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, then you’ll have a bit of an idea of what I’m talking about!)

We eventually make it to the Vons Cyclone, which – roughly translated – means ‘Cyclone Street.’ (The noun ‘La VONS’ is specific to Benin and stands for Voie d’Orientation Nord-Sud, although this one goes from East to West!) Martin has done a fab job on the car, welding new bits of metal into two areas where there were holes or damage and respraying them, as well as a few other odd jobs. I ask him for the bill and he says “C’est 15,000 francs” which is £15 !!! How cheap is that??? I offer him £30 and he accepts £20.

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 05-09-2006

Today is the first day back at the English International School.  Madelaine has a new lady teacher, Ruth is with the same teacher as last year and Micah is in Mrs Baker’s class!!  Rob’s still doing all the senior French and most of the school’s music.  We’re planning to put on the show Rats later in the school year and the seniors are doing Gilbert and Sullivan’s: Pirates of Penzance (they obviously enjoyed HMS Pinnafore last year, as this one got the vote!)

Little Birdie…

Over the past few days, two small yellow birds have been regularly visiting our lounge windows (which are mirrored on the outside, so they think there are more birds like them inside!)  Here’s one of the birdies:


 Whilst I’m uploading photos, here’s one of Micah in our new reclining chair (bought from some SIL friends who left recently:


…and here’s Ruthie playing Third Grade Adventure on the laptop:



And finally…

on a slightly surreal note, Madelaine has been further developing her photographic skills by creating this Dr Who display (using a CD box and her own toys!)


..then she really got carried away with this one:




That’s all for now.  Have you read the church visit account below yet?  Thanks for visiting our blog – do leave a comment if you have time.

 Rob et al

PS Gutted about the Crocodile Man.  Our sympathies to his family and we’ll miss his great programmes.

Filed Under (Beninese culture, General) by Rob on 05-09-2006

Yesterday, I preached at the ADC Church in Zogbohoue, a suburb in northern Cotonou, not far from the Stade de l’Amitie (Cotonou’s football stadium). Only a week earlier, we had taken the service at Ampthill Baptist Church and a week before that I’d preached at Park Road Baptist, Rushden. As my experience this week was quite contrasting from the previous two weeks’ services, I thought I’d describe it to you (while the differences are still noticeable to me!)

So, I met up with the pastor outside Radio Maranatha, the local Christian radio station, and followed him on his moped to the church, about 2km from there. The church is quite a large and well-equipped one by local standards, with walls of concrete bricks, which look a bit like breeze-blocks. The roof is made of corrugated iron, held up by a framework of tree branches which, in turn, are held up by half a dozen larger vertical branches (and – of course – the walls!) I say it is well-equipped as it also has strip lights on the ceiling and a few fans (some of which are turning). Like many churches of this kind, it is unfinished. There are six concrete pillars in the centre of the church, which stop a foot or two short of the tin roof, and out of these protrude metal rods. Eventually, these pillars will be extended to hold a concrete ceiling, above which a second storey is planned. Lack of money, as ever, is the reason the several years’ delay on this. The floor is the usual dirt floor – dusty in dry season and muddy in wet and there is a large concrete stage at the front, where I am ushered to sit. As is common in such churches, there is a group of women on the stage forming a ‘choir’ which leads the worship, then several men playing drums. It seems to be this way round almost without exception (although women do play shakers and bells, but never drums in my experience). The worship is lively and I shed a tear as I wend my way through the hundred or so rejoicing, dancing Fon Christians – it’s good to be back and the worship is mind-blowingly moving, especially after two months’ absence.

After the louange (praise songs) comes the adoration (worship songs), which are slower and with more subdued drumming. The collection is also ‘taken.’ In most Beninese churches, everyone processes up to the front of the church, dancing all the way, then they deposit their money into the offering box. This is a shoe-box shaped wooden box about 3 feet off the ground on a one-legged stand. It has two holes in it – one for the collection and one for the tithe (yes, here both are not the same!)

Finally, I am called up to preach and make my way to the lectern to the sound of rhythmic clapping and drumming, which continues way to long.

“Honton miton le, mi fon gangi à?” I say into the microphone (My friends, did you wake well?), which is greeted with applause! (On such occasions, it is common to hear folk say “Yovo se Fongbe”, which means ‘The white man can speak Fon.’) So I launch into the sermon (in French with a Fon interpreter – for now at least!) The PA system consists of a smallish black box on a table, with wires coming from it which are draped all around the walls of the church, and behind the stage. There are two black speakers on the floor near the front of the church and a large ‘loud haler’ hanging out of a hole in the back. About a third of the way through the sermon entitled entendre la voix de Dieu (hearing God’s voice) I felt like I was doing so, as the Heavens opened and some serious rain began beating down on the tin roof, making a huge din. I momentarily stop preaching and say (shout) to my interpreter: “Je peux continuer? Ils vont m’entendre?” (can I continue? Will they hear me?) His response is affermative, so I battle on, now literally shouting short phrases into the microphone. My mouth is so close to the mic that I can taste the metal and I briefly think of how many people’s mouths have also touched this mesh! On cue, the rain stops just five minutes before the end of the message, and I sit down.

At the end of the service, it’s time to sell the Fon New Testaments I brought, along with some small picture/story books (five different ones) and the Jesus the Messiah picture book. In this church, the sales were way above average and I take over £20 (which is impressive as I sell the Bibles for £1.20, and the other items for 10p and 60p respectively). In fact, I sell so many, I run out of some and arrange to return on Tuesday evening with more copies. I recall that this was the very church where, about 16 months ago, I had asked for a show of hands of who owned a Fon Bible. It was the pitifully low response to this question which had initially spurred me on to take Fon Christian literature with me to services and here, months later, these people finally have access to the Word of God in their mother tongue. Please pray for them, that the Lord will speak to them in a new way through this.