Colin and Teena Ovenell
FBM - Benin, Africa

December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas from Cotonou, Benin! Our family has experienced more than a few “non-traditional” Christmas celebrations. This year we are at the beach. Family back home are inside staying warm while it is 38 degrees outside. Here on the coast of West Africa it is only 33 degrees…Celsius!

Why spend Christmas 13 hours from home..? We are multi-tasking. The first two days of this week were spent in and out of government offices, dragging the kids along to take care of immigration formalities. Formalities include blood tests, background checks, and a variety of employment records and documentation. This is our least favorite part of living overseas. The children’s 1-year visas should come through without any hassle for a mere $650! Our residency permits are a bit more complicated. Teena and I were hoping for long term residency permits this time around. $1500 each, but well worth the hassle to not worry about immigration for 10 years. Instead, we were given the option of another 3-year permit for roughly $500 each. We felt we fulfilled the requirements for the long-term permits, a minimum of 10 years in country or significant investment in Benin. The officer scoffed at my defense stating that after 12 years, Benin immigration records only indicated 5 years of residency on our part and that investments made on behalf of others would not be considered. I had to laugh as he added, “besides that, you’re not even spending your own money.” While not entirely correct, I realized that he hadn’t given me a leg to stand on so I conceded. No sense arguing with the man who can determine or residency status.

I am reminded again of the investment that God's people make so that we can be present here. I am also reminded of the financial sacrifices that are made so that we can lead the way in developing local churches in this impoverished land. In parting, I was asked why I didn’t consider moving south, learning a new language and investing in his people group. Hmm, maybe it was his way of indicating that we were of some value after all!

Our experience with immigration reminds me of another immigrant, Jesus Christ our Savior. He made his way from heaven to earth and faced a much more hostile world than we will ever know. His experiences with immigration began at birth and his trials continued on our behalf until they finally culminated in his triumph over death. It reminds us that our sufferings are pale in comparison to all that he gave so that we might enter into his glory. We celebrate Christmas on the beach feeling a little bit deflated after yesterday’s immigration experience. But we are mostly humbled that we continue to live and serve the creator of the universe and Savior of the world. Tomorrow we will be back at immigration, your prayers are appreciated!

Our second reason for traveling over the holidays is to pick up Noah Valen from the airport on Friday. Noah will be spending two weeks with us in order to experience living cross culturally and to fulfill a course requirement for Baptist Bible Seminary. We are thrilled to help him accomplish these goals. While the commercial center of Benin offers up the best of shopping and dining experiences in country, it also drains our budget quickly! We are anxious to return home and start the new year with our friends and colleagues in the north. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to each of you as you celebrate the birth of our Savior, wherever and with whomever you may be.

December 5, 2019

Ethan and I have made their way to Niamey once again to sort out an issue with one of our sponsored medical students schooling, change out the tires on the land cruiser and pick up some more supplies. It is hard to believe that our family has already been in Africa for a month! Upon arrival we were greeted by our friends and colleagues, local and ex-patriot, and almost immediately the work began. We were blessed to be able to settle back in quickly thanks to those who took such good care of things in our absence. While there is always a long list of things to repair or improve, it has been relatively easy to slip back into our routines. The kids have begun school again. Teena works busily to keep us all alive and healthy while managing a variety of daily challenges and ministry opportunities. I am back in a routine with a variety of projects and meetings with key ministry leaders and students.

Our first weeks have been somewhat intense, but what a pleasure to have so many irons in the fire, refining and producing ministry tools. We were grateful for Ken Beckley traveling down to coordinate our most recent Old Testament consultation with Bibles International consultant Joshua Hedges. For the first week I split time between the translation team, getting back up to speed on the progress of the project, and making final preparations for the Faith Comes By Hearing recording team from Ghana.

Stephen Agyei, and his assistant Sylvanus, arrived at the end of that week, reviewed the studio space, made a few adjustments for sound quality, and met with our reading team. They selected from our finest readers and began assigning them roles and appointments for reading. The next week we were short our two translators who were working through the text of Jeremiah with Joshua and Ken. I sat in with one of our better readers, from 8am to 6pm each day, with a break for lunch, and provided quality control for the recording team. We review the recordings line by line, word by word for clarity and accuracy. At the end of that first week of recording our translators joined the reading team, both as readers and correctors freeing me up to handle other responsibilities.

In addition to the above mentioned progress we were able to finalize a new addition of our Dendi song book which is currently being printed here in Niamey. We look forward to having this resource to share with our local churches for Christmas in just a few weeks!

Meanwhile, the Marshall family has been preparing for a 9 month furlough. We were able to enjoy 2 weeks together before their departure. We will miss them dearly as they travel the eastern seaboard from Florida to New York, reporting on their first term of ministry. Steve and Katrina Boutrus remain in Boiffo, adjacent to their ministry at the clinic. We are so grateful for a great team of missionaries to partner with. Steve recently reported, “The medical ministry continues to minister to over 400 patients per week: young and old, rich and poor, great and small alike.” The increase in patient load for our small staff has been steady and while we have recently added four new staff members we are praying for additional staff and trusting the Lord to provide another missionary who will be able to share the burden of training staff and preparing for future expansion.

This holiday season we are also grateful for you, and many like you, who uphold us in prayer as we partner in ministry to reach Northern Benin and bring this region the message of our living Savior, Jesus Christ.

November 4, 2019

Just a note to let you know that we have arrived safely in Niger. Those who follow Teena on Facebook will have already been informed! We typically don’t post much on social media for security reasons but you will still hear from us from time to time. Our primary form of communication will be through our prayer letters which we prefer to keep off the web.

All of our bags arrived with us which is always a big relief. We were greeted at the airport by familiar faces from our missionary family as well as officials and baggage handlers who remembered our family from times past. Major renovations had taken place to modernize the Niamey airport.

Our travels were mostly uneventful with the exception of some surprises on the flight from New York to Paris. Ethan began experiencing shortness of breath and didn’t respond to the inhaler that Colin packs along for occasional allergy induced asthma episodes. Teena woke Colin from a deep sleep to discuss looking for a medic to examine Ethan, and Colin passed out in his chair and began falling into the aisle! Teena caught him just in time and held him until he came to, unaware of what had transpired. Two doctors came to assist, thinking that Colin was the patient and were redirected to Ethan when it was discovered that Colin was fine. Ethan came around and eventually regained his breath…we still don’t have any idea what caused the episodes but it would appear that we are both in good form. Again we thank you for your prayers for travel mercies!

We are enjoying the mission guesthouse here in the capital thanks to a number of people who made it come together. Thank you to our mission President Stephen Simpson who promoted the project and saw it through. Thank you to Tim and Janice Phillips who guided the project from start to finish and thank you to our VP and his wife, Chris and Diane Marine for arriving with an incredible work team who set things in order in a very short and remarkable period of time. Finally, thank you to a few of our supporters that pitched in to help with the cost of construction. We are now wrapping up final preparations for our road trip home. We have been warned that the road conditions have worsened since we last made the trip. For that reason we delayed an extra day sorting out some issues with our vehicles tires. It has sure been nice to have our own Guesthouse!

We will have one week to settle in at home before Joshua Hedges arrives to wrap up consultation in Isaiah and begin working through Jeremiah with us and our translators. In the midst of that process we have been informed that the recording team from Faith Comes By Hearing will be arriving to begin recording of the Dendi New Testament. It is going to be challenging to coordinate the two programs at the same time but we believe we have a workable solution! Thankfully Ken Beckley will be present to coordinate the OT consultation. Pray that both important processes proceed smoothly. This morning I picked up some thin carpeting material to finish off sound deadening for the recording studio. It will be exciting to use the studio for the first time!

In other great news…we have been informed of a new printing press that has been made available to us here in the capital. Over 150 French Biblical and Theological resources have been made available to us for the cost of printing. Additionally, the press is available for publication of our locally produced resources, Bible study materials, course work, and hopefully before Christmas a new edition of the Dendi Song book. We may even be able to print future versions of our Bible here in country!

There will be much to share in the months to come as we settle back into the swing of things here in West Africa. Thank you for your prayer and concern for this work of love.

April 21, 2019

This Easter Sunday morning we rejoice once again in knowing that we serve a risen Savior. He is in the world today. We know that he is living, whatever men may say! As this special day begins we are grateful that our family is once again in good health. Teena is almost back to full strength and we are mostly settled in for this time back home. Today we are surrounded by family, preparing to attend the worship service here in our home town of Quincy. We have a great deal to be thankful for.

This next week promises to be a full one as we share with the Awana club in our home church, and Ethan participates in his first ever Track meet. We are also looking forward to taking part in Singing Waters bonfire youth gathering in Cedonia, Washington this weekend. This event has been a highlight of our furlough ministry for a number of years now. Next Sunday we will be visiting Summit Valley Community Church in Addy, Washington to give a report on the ministry and then dropping in to say hello to FBC, Colville for their evening service.

Meanwhile in Benin...our colleagues would appreciate your continued prayers. Dr. Steve fell from a ladder this past week breaking his left wrist. Our team is working through some challenges with regard to our official mission status in Benin, and hot season is at its peak. Today is a special day for our churches back home in Benin as they gather to worship our Savior, who is risen indeed!

Thank you to each of you who upholds our family in prayer. May you also enjoy a blessed day of celebration this resurrection Sunday!

April 6, 2019

Over land, through the air, down the eastern seaboard in a minivan, a week at the beach in Florida with family, meetings and reunions with Faith Baptist Mission in Winter Haven, through the air once again and over the Cascade mountains to our home in Quincy…we’re back!

It is good to settle back in for this time of home assignment. Our bodies are still adjusting to the cooler climate. We have all been a bit “under the weather.” Please pray for Teena who tested positive for malaria the night before last. Thankfully, she packed test kits and several cure options for our return stateside. She is resting in bed and recovering again this morning. The fever and chills have not yet subsided but she is seeing improvement. While malaria and treatment become somewhat routine for our region the non-communicable disease is still of grave concern. It is always a relief to be away from the risk but this time it followed us home.

We have had better contact than usual with the field this time around, receiving mid-night phone calls, lots of text messages and a few e-mails. One concern that we would like to share is related to the Boutrus immigration status and our missions’ official documentation with the government. For the first time, the photocopies of our legal status have come into question. A search is being made in the official government journals to confirm their authenticity. This is another in the long line of ongoing immigration challenges that we have faced as missionaries. Please pray that the government will not have “lost” their copies of our documentation. The original documents were filed more than 40 years ago! Our current copies are legalized photocopies of a very old and poorly preserved document.

We will begin reporting in our supporting churches very soon. In the weeks to come we will be putting together family photos for new prayer cards. Working on a media presentation and preparing messages for our weekly meetings. It is all fresh and exciting for us and our children. Thank you for praying us back home, your continued prayers are always appreciated!