But, that seems to create more questions than it answers! Like, "Where is Togo?", "Will you have to learn a different language?", "Why did you decide to go there?", and my personal favorites, "Is that one of the places with Ebola? Or terrorists? Aren't you worried about your safety?"
Now, I am hardly an expert on Togo. In fact, I've never even been there. I probably learned about it back in ninth grade geography, but even then, it was lumped in with all the West African countries and I remember absolutely nothing about it from that. My first real knowledge of Togo came from hearing about it from some of the missionaries who live there, and that has only happened since last October. However, in that short time, I have already come to love this little African country that I have never seen, and I have tried to learn all I can about it, so in this blog post, I will attempt to answer some of your questions.
Where is Togo?
Togo is in the western part of the continent of Africa, where it curves out into the Atlantic Ocean.
It might be a little hard to spot on this map, because Africa is a HUGE continent and Togo is a pretty small country. Its land area is 20,998 sq. miles, which makes it just a little over 1/3 the size of our home state of Michigan. (Michigan's land area is 56,809 sq. miles). The U.S. state that is closest to its size is West Virginia, at 24,230 sq. miles.
(Sources: World Atlas, 1KeyData)
Will you have to learn a different language?
Yes. The official language of Togo is French, so we will spend some time in language school learning French before we move to Togo. However, even after we learn French we can expect more language challenges, as many of the Togolese (people of Togo) speak native African languages. Ewe is the language most commonly spoken in the area where we will be serving. So, we will probably have to learn MORE than one different language!
(Sources: World Atlas, WikiTravel)
What is the weather like in Togo?
There is a lot of conflicting information about the weather in Togo. Some sources say it's humid and tropical, while others say the weather is that of a dry savanna. As far as I can tell, the reason for this is that, despite being a very small country, Togo actually varies a lot in climate depending on where in the country you are. One thing all the sources agree on is that Togo is hot! The temperatures average in the 80s most of the time. Also, the area we will be living in is apparently the most humid area of the country. I generally hate humidity and extreme heat, so this will probably be a challenge for me, but right now as I write this in cold, dry, January in Michigan, it actually doesn't sound that bad.
(Sources: World Atlas, Wikipedia, Encyclopedia of the Nations)
What is the landscape like?
Like the climate, that depends on where in Togo you are. In the south, by the coast, there are lagoons and mangrove-covered swamps. To the north, there are flat grasslands. In the middle, there is a hilly, wooded region. The hospital at which we will be working is located in southwestern Togo, in the mountainous area near Kpalime.
(Source: World Atlas)
You can see what the landscape in that area looks like in the photo below.
|Photo Credit Francois Jake Green, via Wikimedia Commons|
Is there Ebola in Togo?
The Ebola virus was in the news a lot last year. The panic over it in the U.S. seems to have died down, but in West Africa it is still a very real problem. According to the CDC, it is still widespread in three West African countries: Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. In those three countries alone, there have been over 21,000 reported cases and over 8,000 deaths in the last year. Obviously, no one wants this epidemic to spread, and hospitals everywhere have been on high alert, watching for Ebola-like symptoms and rushing to isolate anyone who has them. The good news is that this seems to have worked; three other countries in West Africa have had cases of Ebola, but all three (Nigeria, Senegal, and Mali) have managed to stop the spread before it became an epidemic in their countries, and they have since been declared Ebola-free. While Togo is in the same general part of Africa as these countries, there have not been any reported cases of Ebola in Togo, and we hope there never will be! The hospitals there continue to be on alert, however, and we pray that the epidemic will be stopped in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia.
Are there terrorists in Togo?
No one has asked me this question, but Seth says it's one he gets frequently. Lately there has been some African terrorist activity in the news, and some of it is uncomfortably close to Togo. (Nigeria is in the same general area, and its terrorist attacks have been featured in the news quite a bit in the last year.) However, Togo as a country is considered low risk for terrorist attacks against foreigners. Like many African countries, it has seen its share of unrest, but that was usually political and directed at the Togolese government, not at foreign missionaries.
(Source: HTH Worldwide)
*As a quick side note, I would like to point out that, while neither Ebola nor terrorism are immediate threats in Togo, it is still not considered a "safe" country by American standards. However, we trust in God, and while we will (of course!) take reasonable precautions to protect ourselves and our children, we know that doing what He has called us to do is more important than being concerned about our personal safety.
Why are you going to Togo?
There are at least two different possible meanings to this question. You could mean, "Why aren't you staying in the U.S.?" or "Why did you choose Togo, specifically?" In answer to the first possible meaning, both Seth and I have nearly always felt called to work as missionaries overseas (I hope that we can write some blog posts about our lives and the influences that have brought us to this point, but that will have to wait for another day). While we didn't rule out serving in the U.S. entirely, Seth has always said, "I want to go where I am most needed," and it soon became clear that need was in Africa, in more than one way.
First of all, there is medical need.
|WHO Density of Physicians Map and Charts|
I'll let that sink in for a moment. That's a lot of medical need.
Secondly, there is spiritual need.
We believe that true spiritual freedom can only come through knowing and following Jesus, and many people in Togo have never even heard of Him. Here in the U.S., there are churches almost everywhere. We can talk about how the church in America is failing, and how people here are spiritually lost, and that is all very true, but if people here are really seeking God, there are definitely a lot of places they can find Him.
|IMB Unreached People Groups Interactive Map|
(Sources: ABWE, Wikipedia)
This interactive map is a great resource for learning about people groups who have little or no exposure to the gospel. If you look at it, you will see that there are some groups of people even in the U.S. who are considered "unreached," but the groups are much more densely clustered in Africa and Asia.
So, those are the main reasons we are choosing not to stay in the U.S. We have always believed we should go where we are needed, and we feel we are more needed elsewhere.
However, you may be wondering why we chose Togo, specifically. Basically, the medical missions program we are a part of offered us a few different choices, and Togo seemed like the best fit for us. That sounds outrageously simple, and it didn't feel that simple at all, but that's what it boils down to. There was a lot of praying and questioning involved, not to mention the revelation of some pretty crazy connections to Togo that we didn't even know we had! But, this blog post is already really long and, with all the research, has taken me about a week to write! So, I think we'll save those "crazy connections to Togo" stories for another day.
I hope you enjoyed this flood of Togo information! If you have other questions about Togo that I didn't address, please let me know in the comments.