Today, we are sharing the last part of our site visit.
To catch up, you can watch our site visit video here, read Part 1 of our recap here, and read Part 2 here. Part 3 covers our time at ABWE’s hospital in south Togo. And today recaps our time with the Ward family in Kpalimé and the Afolabis in Lomé before flying home.
When we left the hospital compound on Thursday afternoon, we drove with Andrew and Mary and their three kids back to their house in Kpalimé. Andrew is our team leader and we really loved getting to spend more time with him and his family.
In Kpalimé, ABWE works with several different ministries: a school for the blind, a Bible training institute, and an aquaponics ministry. We were able to see all three ministries in action! But I’ll get to that in a minute.
After arriving in Kpalimé on Thursday, we settled into the guest house… and it started pouring down rain!
The rain cooled things down considerably, and on our way to the Ward’s house for dinner, we saw this beautiful sunset:
Dinner, hanging out a little bit, then back to our home-away-from-home (pictured above) for a quick FaceTime session with our girls back in Alaska:
On Friday, we had breakfast in our little guest house. And, looking around the comfortable, simple home, I told Allen that I could finally see our family living in Togo. It was really in Kpalimé that we were settled in a house, able to pull together our own (simple) meals, relax together, and just be. It made me feel really excited and happy!
Anyway, Andrew took us on a tour of the campus. First stop? The blind school, called The Village of Light! Read more about it here.
Students come from several countries to learn at this school. The teachers instruct in reading and writing Braille, trade skills, and follow the same curriculum seeing kids learn, just modified slightly. For example, all students in Togo have to learn about the country’s geography. At the blind school, they had 3D maps of Togo with geographical features made of different materials and textures. Students learn geography by feeling the maps on the walls. Anatomy and physiology are taught in a similar way: different materials and textures represent organs, blood vessels and arteries, muscles, bones, etc. You can see what I mean in the pictures below.
Students at the school live on the campus and only go home during breaks. We saw the dorms where they sleep (pictured below) and the chapel where they attend Bible studies. Earlier this year, the kitchen on campus was destroyed by a fire, so the students currently eat their meals on the porch of their dormitories. Work is underway this summer to rebuild and teams are going to Togo from the States to assist in that work.
Our next stop in the tour was the aquaponics program. In two separate areas, fish and plants are grown in a symbiotic relationship, both proving nutrients and support to the other. You can learn a little bit more about it here, but the goal of the program is to provide a sustainable food source to the students at the school and an income – the fish and produce are often sold for a profit! Anyway, here are some pictures. They were planting strawberries and growing celery while we were there.
The boards in this last picture track the meat and produce outputs from the ministry.
After saying bye to our fishy friends, we walked over to the Bible Institute. Class was in session, but we peeked in anyways #rebels
At the time of our visit, a man was visiting from the States to teach. Small world fun fact: he was on our flight when we landed in Togo the week prior and we met him briefly at the airport!
Students (usually pastors and pastors-in-training) travel the the Institute for a week at a time to learn a particular subject or book of the Bible. While on campus, they live in dorms (below) that share a communal kitchen and restrooms.
And finally, we wrapped up our tour at the gift shop. The students at the blind school learn to make things that are then sold at a gift shop. We found some wonderful things there – they make bowls, jewelry, stuffed animals… These chairs were all lined up outside the shop, waiting for their woven wicker seat to be added. They reminded me of all the rocking chairs lined up outside Cracker Barrel, so I made Allen take my picture.
Andrew helped carry our bags of coffee to the register to pay when we were done shopping. What a pal!
Y’all, we are not even to lunch time yet. What a day!
After lunch and a short rest, Mary took us to the market to get a few things for dinner and to look at fabric.
While the rest of the market was outside, winding through streets and down dirt alleyways, the fabric was all in the upstairs of a big warehouse-type building:
Allen picked out some fabric for a shirt and I got some for a skirt. Everything was so beautiful. You basically just point to the one you like, they pull it down for you, and you buy it. It usually comes in 2 yard increments, sometimes more and sometimes less. Generally, the higher it is on the racks, the more expensive it is.
We shared about another experience in a Togolese fabric shop in our May newsletter, if you missed it!
After returning to Andrew and Mary’s house, we started prepping for dinner. On the menu? Fufu! Fufu is a starchy dish usually made from yams that is served with soup or stew. The yams are cooked and then pounded until they reach a consistency similar to a sticky, dense mashed potato.
Allen got in on the pounding…
And then I did, too.
It tasted mighty fine, if I do say so myself.
We spent a little more time in the evening with the Wards before heading back to finish packing and prepare to leave. Here’s me, Mary, and Hudson!
Saturday morning, Andrew was outside our guest house at about 5:00am to head to Lomé with our driver. It was about a 2 hour drive, and the sun was rising right as we approached Lomé.
Andrew was flying back to the States for a class at ABWE headquarters, so we dropped him off crazy early in the morning then went on a hunt for breakfast. We ended up at a guesthouse in Lomé, where our driver knew the owner. We feasted on fresh bread, eggs, fruit, fresh-squeezed orange juice, and coffee!
Next stop: the Afolabi’s house! We spent the day with Honoré, Kim, and their three kids, cooking food, talking, resting, and getting ready for our flight back home in the evening. It was so relaxing and fun…
And then about an hour before we had to leave, Allen spiked another fever. We stopped at a pharmacy on our way to the airport to get him some Tylenol, but the trip home started with him just wanting to sleep, me nagging him to drink water, and Hudson teething.
We had a quick stop in Niger again, then a layover in Paris.
Before landing in Seattle, Hudson messed through all the clothes we had with us… so we went through Customs in Washington with Hudson in nothing but a diaper, socks, and a blanket. We quickly bought him a onesie at the airport, but good grief. We were a mess.
Finally, we touched down in Anchorage, where my dad met us at the airport, helped find bags, and drove us home! It was a long journey, but so so worth it.
And with that, we were home!
Huge thank you to everyone who prayed for our trip, especially when Allen got sick. We could not have made it through the trip without you interceding on our behalf.
Thanks you to our teammates who hosted us, fed us, gave us places to sleep, let us wash clothes and hang them to dry in your house, answered our countless questions, and encouraged us. We are thankful for you and excited to work with you in the future!
Thanks to FLBC for helping cover part of the financial cost of our trip. You blessed us.
And thanks to my mom and dad for giving up some sleep and sanity to watch our girls so we could travel abroad. You have always been a source of encouragement and support and we love you.