Visit to a Deaf School

Yesterday, I (Ryan) got the opportunity to go visit a Deaf school here in Ouagadougou. Let me share some of my experience with you.

Fulgence, my French tutor had some contact with the school, called Centre d’Education et de Formation Intégrée des Sourds et des Entendants (CEFISE), which means “Center for Integrated Education and Formation of Deaf and Hearing”. He had arranged for us to go and meet the Director-General, Thérèse Kafando. Madame Kafando was very gracious, and very anxious to tell us all about their school.

CEFISE has three locations in Ouagadougou, serving over 3,800 students in total. At the location where we visited, they had over 500 deaf students. Their philosophy is to promote integration between Hearing and Deaf, so that no one is left out in any situation. We found out that Andrew Jackson Foster, the legendary Deaf missionary from America, also worked in Burkina Faso; he established the first Deaf school here, too.

After meeting Mme. Kafando, she took us to meet Pastor Rafael Ouedraogo. Rafael is the school chaplain, as well as the school’s audiologist and resident hearing-aid technician. Rafael first got into work with the Deaf when he was teaching Sunday school, and two deaf children showed up, and no one could communicate with them. He said he has been earnestly praying for God to send more people to Ouagadougou to minister to the Deaf, and he was almost tearful as he said that it seems like God has answered his prayer by sending us here.

While we were talking with Rafael, he was speaking French, but also signing in Burkinabé Sign Language, which looks a lot like American Sign Language, but adapted for Burkina Faso, and dependent on French rather than English. It was a challenge for my brain to process both sets of language input at the same time, but I was able to keep up!

After chatting a bit, Rafael took us to visit his lab, where they have a soundproof testing chamber. Fulgence got his first-ever (abbreviated) hearing test! We also saw Rafael’s work-bench where he fabricates hearing-aid molds for the children.

Rafael giving Fulgence an on-the-spot hearing test


Then, he took us to meet the school psychologist, who is deaf, and the speech therapist, who is hearing. This week is the school testing period before summer holidays, so we were not able to talk to any students or visit any classrooms, unfortunately.

Both Mme. Kafando and Rafael expressed their gratitude for the work God has placed before us, and welcomed me warmly to their school campus. Rafael also said that he is going to try to get us invited to a wedding he will be performing in July for a Deaf couple!

All in all, it was a mentally challenging, but very rewarding visit; hopefully I will get to visit CEFISE again in the future. Please pray for the school, the students, and Rafael and all who seek to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to the Deaf in Burkina Faso!


“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away”

L-R: the grieving father, Aline, Aline’s husband, Esther, the grieving mother

Today, I (Ryan) had an sad, but enlightening experience. Our housekeeper, Esther, has a daughter, Aline, who works for two of our fellow missionaries. This past weekend, Aline’s husband’s older brother and his wife were bereft of their infant son.

We do not know all the details. All I was told is that the child became sick in the night, they took him to the pediatric hospital, were told to take him to the main hospital, and there was nothing to be done for him. Within the night, the child was dead.

Today, Esther and Aline came to our house, with our colleague Molly in tow. After a little ironing out of some miscommunication, they loaded me and Molly on the backs of their motos, and we took off to go to the bereaved household to offer condolences.

We were not sure what to expect, but when we arrived the bereaved parents were there, and Aline’s husband. They greeted us, gave us seats in the only shady corner of the compound, and gave us a drink of water, as is the custom here. As the family sat together, they conversed in Mooré (the local language), with occasional comments to us in French. They even tried to teach us a few phrases in Mooré!

As you can see in the photo above, according to Mossi (the local ethnic group, who speak Mooré) tradition, after a child dies, the parents shave their heads for four days of mourning. When I saw their shaved heads, I thought of the biblical practice of showing one’s grief in the same way. It is interesting to see how God puts His marks on every culture in every place.

While this was a sad occasion, it was encouraging that the grieving father quoted by heart the words of Job 1:21 “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the Name of the Lord.” I do not know if the child was baptized, but the Christian faith of the family was evident, as was their trust in God. They received gladly the blessing of “La paix du Christ soit avec vous!” “The peace of Christ be with you all!”

We ask for your prayers for this family as they grieve, and as they continue to care for their two older children also. The peace of the Lord abide with you, also.

On the Road Again!

Guess what?!

We are moving – again!


I (Ryan) have been given a new job title and reassigned to a new location. My new job is as Regional Deaf Ministry Facilitator for West and Central Africa. This means that I will visit our partner churches in this area and help them to identify and develop opportunities for Deaf ministry in their communities. I will also teach courses on Deaf ministry and basic sign language at the Centre Luthérien d’Études Théologiques (CLET) – the regional seminary in Dapaong, Togo. A third part of my duties will be to be available to teach theology courses at the CLET and/or offer continuing education programs as requested by our partner churches in this region.

In order to make this work possible, we need to learn French. In order to learn French, we are moving to Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. We are going to be leaving our house in Accra about this time next week, Lord willing. Once we settle in Ouagadougou, we will study for a year there, alongside our fellow missionary Molly Christensen. Then, Lord willing, we will move to Dapaong, Togo, to take up the new work set before us.

This is a time of much transition and turmoil, for us and our children, for our fellow missionaries, and for the national churches and pastors alongside whom we serve. Please pray for us! Pray:

  • that our transition from Accra to Ouagadougou goes as smoothly as possible
  • that our language learning process would be blessed by God
  • that these exciting new opportunities to serve would prove fruitful and build up the Kingdom of God
  • that our children would adapt and adjust well, and that we would have the wisdom to guide and lead them in the best way
  • that our support network would keep growing, so that money worries do not inhibit our learning

Thank you all for coming along on this wild ride we call missionary service! Please pray, but also please stay in contact. We love to hear from our friends and loved ones in the US, and we can make contact with you, one way or another.

Changing Toothbrushes

New toothbrush heads!

This morning, we changed out our toothbrush heads for new ones.

Why is this a big deal? It is a big deal because it means that today marks three months since our first full day in Ghana. And what a journey the past three months have been!

Different sources speak about and visualize the cultural adaptation cycle differently. Some see it as a valley between peaks. Others see it as a scatter plot or a jagged line, like the stock market graphs. Others see it as shifting shades of grey along a continuum. However you want to visualize it, the cultural adaptation cycle is real, and there is no way to escape it, except to go back to our home culture (which we aren’t planning to do anytime soon).

So… a few thoughts about the past few months, and an eye toward the future. Continue reading

Thank You, and Please Help

Ryan's installation by Bishop Fynn

Ryan’s installation by Bishop Fynn

Thank you to all of you who have faithfully included us in your prayers. Thank you to all who have welcomed us into your congregations, schools, and homes. Thank you to all who have given one-time gifts, and those who have made pledges of ongoing support. Thank you, because without all your support and encouragement, we would not be able to do the work that the Lord of the Church has called us and placed us here to do.

We are grateful to God for the support He has given us through the members of His Church in order to get us this far, and we trust in His fatherly, divine goodness and mercy to provide for all of our needs of body and soul.

However, as instruments of God’s goodness and mercy, we need your help.

As you can imagine, moving to a new country and setting up a new household is no small endeavour, neither personally nor financially. We are grateful for the provision that has allowed us to do this, but we also face the reality that these expenses have depleted a great deal of our position budget for this fiscal year. These expenses include:

  • Travel costs: Airfare, visas, immunizations, etc.
  • Rent: In Ghana, standard procedure is to pay two years’ rent up front at the start of the lease.
  • Appliances/Furnishings: Stove, refrigerator, generator, etc.
  • Family vehicle: It is extremely difficult to find a trustworthy used vehicle, so we have ordered a new vehicle to transport our family. Import costs add a fair bit to the cost of any vehicle here.

To be clear, all these such expenses have been covered by the funds already raised before we deployed. We thank you for helping to provide these gifts for us. However, that has significantly depleted our budget for the rest of the fiscal year. This is why we need your help.

As of the last report we received from St. Louis, we are 27% funded for Fiscal Year 2017, which ends 30 June 2017. The minimum expected funding is supposed to be 28% by this point, but a suggested comfortable margin would have us 53% funded by this point in the fiscal year.

How can you help?

  • If you would like us to Skype into a Bible Study, chapel service, or meeting, please contact us, and we can try to set it up.
  • If you have not yet given a gift to support the Lord’s work in Ghana, please prayerfully consider joining our network of partners in the Gospel.
  • If you have given a one-time gift, please prayerfully consider making a pledge to give a recurring gift, whether yearly, quarterly, or monthly.
  • If you have already pledged your ongoing support, please prayerfully consider whether you could make a special extra gift to help offset these large set-up expenses.

If you would like to support us financially, please visit and click “Give Now”. You can also call the LCMS Donor Care line at 888-930-4438 and speak with someone who can help you over the phone. If you prefer to mail your gift, you can make checks payable to “The LCMS” and mark “McDermott – Ghana” in the memo line. Checks can be sent to:

The LCMS + PO Box 66861 + St. Louis, MO 63166-6861


Mission Central + 40718 Hwy E16 + Mapleton, IA 51034

Please also check out our YouTube channel for videos introducing us and our work, which you can feel free to show and share with those who might be interested.

Finally, please continue to keep us, and all our missionaries, in your prayers. We thank God for all your encouragement and support, and we enjoy hearing from you!

[update: Post edited 21 Oct 2016, to clarify a few points. We are not in danger of being sent home anytime soon.]

Welcome to Africa!

Disclaimer: The following post is not about the happy-go-lucky missionary life. Some things are hard. If you are troubled by this, please pray for us!

Last week was a whirlwind, in more ways than one! We conducted interviews with several candidates for housekeeper and for Twi language consultant/teacher. After a lot of work with the interviews and writing contracts, we have engaged a housegirl and also a Twi teacher.

But the major drama of last week was electrical in nature. Wednesday morning, the power went off. This is no major catastrophe here; it happens, and you manage.

However, the issue came that the voltage monitor on the house (which prevents excess voltage from coming and damaging our things) burned up and malfunctioned. Several visits from the electrician did not solve the problem, and we lived by running our generator twice a day from Wednesday morning til Friday night. Continue reading

Green Light!

green light

We received not one, but two emails this morning informing us that we have officially received the “Green Light” to proceed toward deployment to Ghana!

As you probably already know, we received word that our scheduled deployment date is 10 August. That is still the plan. What happens now is that we can go ahead with securing tickets and filing visa applications, and all the myriad other details that have to be ironed out before we leave the USA.

If you want us to come visit you, or you want to visit us, before we leave, please contact us sooner rather than later. The summer’s itinerary is set in broad strokes right now, but we can work with you to see how much we can do.

Thank you to all those who have been supporting us with your prayers, encouragement, advice, and financial gifts! We will continue to need all those things, as we finish up classes here at GIAL, travel around the country, continue building our support network, and get done what needs done before deployment.

“Rejoicing in the fellowship of all the saints”

As you may have seen on our Facebook page, our friend and fellow missionary, Pr. Jacob Gaugert, departs from Dallas today. We will miss his presence here, but we pray for his safe travels and fruitful journeys, as he makes his way eventually back to his home in Togo.

In the last few weeks, I have been wrestling with a sense of being “left behind”. On one hand, we have left a lot of things and people behind on our journey thus far. On the other hand, many of those with whom we entered this process are already in their respective fields of service, while we are still stateside in training. This makes for a certain sense of isolation.

However, in the past few days a petition from the Litany in the liturgy of Evening Prayer keeps coming to my mind, and has shaped my prayers lately: “Rejoicing in the fellowship of all the saints, let us commend ourselves, one another, and our whole lives to Christ our Lord.”

This is a great comfort to me. I can’t stop the progress of time, or control the journeys of others, or myself right now, but I can rejoice in the fellowship of the saints, and I can commend myself and others to the loving care and gracious protection of our Lord. Flowing from this thought, I can rejoice in the liturgies, hymns, prayers, and Sacraments of the Church, knowing that these things bind me to those who are physically separated from me, since these all flow from and back to our one Lord Christ.

So, while I miss those who are not with us in the flesh, I rejoice in their fellowship in the Church of God. And I rejoice in the fellowship of all those faithful people who are praying for, encouraging, and supporting us along our journey. Finally, and most importantly, I rejoice in the grace of God given in Christ, which binds us all together.

And I once again ask for your prayers, as we persevere through the next few months of classes in preparation for service in Ghana. Oh, and if anyone wants to come visit us here in Dallas, you are welcome!

A Lesson about Planning

A fellow missionary was visiting recently, and I asked him what it is about missionary culture and thinking that makes it okay to tell people to run headlong toward the mission field without knowing basic things like what your job description is or where you and your family are going to live. That led us into a discussion where this friend described how he has come to view life on the mission field. His thinking went something like this:

I get up in the morning, have my breakfast, then have coffee and read my devotions while I listen to the birds. Then I go through the day, getting done what I can. At the end of the day, I do not dwell on what I did not get done, but on what the Lord was able to do despite the changes and challenges of the day.. Because sometimes you have no control over what you can or cannot get done.

That is not a direct quote, but a summary of the conversation.

The interesting thing, I reflected later, was the lesson this friend taught me, not only with his words, but with his presence in my home. I had been about to work on a project when he came to collect something from me. Then I invited him in for a chat. Then we started chatting. Soon, it was time for him to go home and me to go to bed. I had not touched my project, but I had learned an important lesson with respect to our future life on the field, and we had enhanced our relationship by that visiting time. I had failed to accomplish any work on my project, which would only have benefitted me; I had succeeded in enriched this friendship.

Thank God for friends whom He sends to us at such unexpected times to teach us such invaluable lessons! May God enrich each one of us with godly friends to be an encouragement and support, to comfort and to rejoice with us!

“You’re so brave!”

I can’t count the number of times in the last six months or so that someone has said to me something along the lines of “You’re so brave!” for moving to Ghana. Sometimes I feel like the person is talking to someone else, like when you look over the shoulder of the person in front of you while you’re talking to him. What is brave about me? I have no blinking idea. Am I brave? I don’t know. I certainly do not feel brave the vast majority of the time. To be honest, this whole enterprise scares the bejeebers out of me more than not. Let’s list a few of the things that make me nervous/scared about moving to Africa:

  • Leaving family and friends on the other side of an ocean
  • Big bugs
  • Tropical diseases
  • Spotty electricity, water, and internet
  • Horrendous traffic
  • The threat of persecution for the Faith
  • Flying internationally with four small children

Right now, sitting in New Mexico, having been on the road for almost a month, just the idea of the 1000-mile drive home makes me question my sanity some days. I certainly feel a lot of things, but brave is not really one of them.

I just came across a quote from Gen. George Patton (under whom my grandfather served in WWII), that I think puts it well:

If we take the generally accepted definition of bravery as a quality which knows no fear, I have never seen a brave man. All men are frightened. The more intelligent they are, the more they are frightened.

I really, honestly, do not know whether I am brave or not. People tell me that I am. I think that my wife is, more so than myself. But I cannot say for sure that I am brave.

What I know I am is two things: 1) a woefully inadequate man, husband, father, and pastor; and 2) a forgiven sinner who, by the grace of God, has been called and empowered to be each of the things that I, as #1, can’t be on my own.

So I suppose you can tell me I’m brave, if you want to. But I’d much rather hear that you’re praying for me. Because the prayers of the faithful will accomplish much more than one so-called brave man ever could. And it is much more encouraging to know that we are in your prayers.

PS: For those of you who say to yourself, “I could never do that!”, just do it! I’m not in this gig because I’m brave or whatever, but because it’s what the Lord set before me, and the work has to be done. That’s about the sum of things. I know it’s the Nike slogan, but really, “Just Do It.”