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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Back in S.A.

Greetings from South Africa, where the weather is as predictable as a Swiss watch.  Which is a big change from the Midwest, am I right?

We've now been here for about two weeks and it's high time that we update everyone.  We left the States on March 27th, after a parade of goodbyes.  I always thought that farewells would get easier...but I was wrong.  So we won't say too much about those except this - If we missed saying goodbye to you, or if it was extremely lame, it's because we were trying a new technique.  If we pretend that we aren't saying goodbye for a long time it lessens the drama, especially for our kids.  We've spoken with many former missionary kids and a theme that stuck out was how hard the times of transition were.  So we tried to make it easier this time.  I'm not sure it worked.

We also tried something new on our flight back.  Our kids are old enough now that traveling with them isn't such a game of roulette.  The most direct route between DSM and Johannesburg is a non-stop Delta flight through Atlanta, running about 24 hours total, depending on layovers.  Unfortunately that one is usually more expensive.  So we find ourselves taking whatever flight is cheapest.  This time it was through London and we had the opportunity for a 10 hour layover.  So to make the most of it we went into the city to see what is so great about Britain.  

But before we get to that I need to share something cool that happened during our layover in Chicago.  We had been given a Flat Stanley by a friend's child.  When we arrived at our departure gate Amber got Stanley out to take a picture.  And as she was doing that we noticed a woman sitting next to us getting out a Flat Stanley of her own...except her Stanley was a girl (which seems like a strange name for a girl, but whatever).  So Amber asked if we could take pictures of them together.  This started a conversation with the lady, which eventually led into an opportunity to share the gospel with her.  She is a native of London who has lived in the Chicago area for the last 25 years.  Her mother had passed away in November and she was returning now to settle up her mother's estate.  Sadly enough, this seemed to be the first time she had ever heard the gospel in any form.  As an atheist she was very polite but obviously wasn't in agreement.  Eventually the conversation moved back to her trip and how hard it would be to close her mother's things out.  
At that point Drake pipes into the conversation and says to her "I know what you should do."  
"What?" she replied.
"You should pray to Jesus to help you."
And he was so earnest about it there was nothing she could say.  She just sat there nodding at him, then said "Yes, you're probably right."
At that we were called to board the plane and didn't have a chance to go further with her.  But I know this, she had an 8 hour flight to think things through.

Once we arrived in London it took us a couple hours to actually find the correct terminal, get our carry-on bags secured, buy tickets on the train and then get to Picadilly Circus.  We had just enough time to take the double-decker bus tour before we had to return.  Here are some of the highlights:
-The double-decker bus, which our kids loved.
-The history, such as St James Palace which was built by King Henry VIII as a hunting lodge.
-Buckingham Palace, the guards, the pomp and ceremony.  We got off the bus to see the front of Buckingham, and there must have been some official State event, because every 30 seconds or so a small group of people would emerge from the palace.  You should have seen the various hats the women were wearing.  High comedy!
-Seeing the main sites, such as Westminster, House of Parliament, the Clock Tower (mistakenly called Big Ben by ignorant folk such as yours truly), London Bridge, Tower Bridge, Tower of London, etc...
-The historical tidbits from the tour guide on our second bus.  He was great and we were sitting right next to him so I got to ask all sorts of questions.  We learned all about the London fire, Oliver Cromwell, the Thames waterfront, Fleet Street, all manner of things...
We wanted to make sure to get back to Heathrow in plenty of time, so we were careful to keep an eye on the clock...actually, that's just a figure of speech.  Because about halfway through the tour we were still moving away from Picadilly Circus so I asked the tour guide approximately how much longer it would be.  He said about an hour and a half.  So I asked him what time it was.  Completely deadpan, with the sarcastic British humor, he says to me (over the loudspeaker so the entire bus-both levels-could hear) "Why don't you turn around?  The most famous clock in the world is right behind you."  Yep, there was Big Ben, not 300 yards away, telling me exactly what time it was.  From that point forward it was easy to keep an eye on the clock.  (Bloody British and their cutting wit!)

The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful.  Our biggest fear was meeting up with my brother Caleb.  He came along to help us but had to take a different flight.  So to our great joy he was there waiting in the lobby of OR Tambo right on time the morning we arrived.

Here is where I have to give a list of so many things to thank God for:
-Caleb's willingness to take time out of his schedule to help.
-Brett and Celita Winson and their willingness to car-sit for us and deliver our car to the airport.
-Tricia Dargie and her hospitality, friendship and love.
-Paddy Winson for caring for our dog, etc...
-Jim and Kim Heffner, who have allowed us to stay in their home for a few months.

In fact, I need to give more information on the Heffners.  This is a family that we met last year.  God has called them to come serve in Welkom, ministering to and discipling young people in the church and community.  I'll need to do another post at another time to fully share who they are and how God has led them.  For now I'll leave it that they have become dear friends and have been used by God to bless us in many ways.  They are hoping to arrive in Welkom in June and we are greatly anticipating their arrival.
The Heffners purchased a home in December in anticipation of their upcoming ministry here.  It was opened to us to occupy until they arrive.  We got to Welkom Saturday afternoon.  Sunday was a great time to reunite with people from church and rest.  Then on Monday we began to move things from our house at RHV.  First item on the agenda was to meet with the Heffner's realtor and get access to the house.  This being Africa we anticipated several hours of headaches trying to get the house and work with the local municipality to get utilities started.  But God spared us.  It took 15 minutes to meet with the realtor, get the keys and get into the house.  And the realtor had already registered the house with the municipality so water and electric were fully functional!

Everyone from The Village was gone for the day at an amusement park in Johannesburg, so we had no oddity in South Africa.  Caleb was an amazing help and we got about 90% of the moving done that first day.  We had to return the rented trailer by 8:00am the next morning, but since we still had a healthy dose of jet lag it was no problem to get an early start.  With so little left to do we were finished by 7:30 and had the trailer back right on time.

Now we're just working to settle in...both to the house and to reconnect with so many relationships.  Of course, that has been the enjoyable part.  

Oh, and we were able to get internet access on April 9th...6 days after we applied with the phone company.  Last time we needed to get phone/internet hooked up it took 6 weeks.  My apologies for this overdue update.  

Until next time, keep looking to Jesus.

Monday, February 24, 2014

O'Tool South Africa Update - Jan/Feb 2014

Dear Supporter,

Greetings from us transplanted Mid-­‐westerners who are enjoying all that winter in Iowa has to offer. It has been a few years since we had the “fun” of snow, wind and icy roads. Of course, the kids are making some great memories in it all!

There has been a lot of activity for our family in the last couple months. As we follow Christ’s call to make disciples there have been many decisions to be made. The two biggest are “Where exactly is He calling us to serve?” and “What gospel organization should we partner with in this disciple-­‐making work?”

After several months of walking through this process in prayer, meditation and counsel, we believe that God has led us to some answers.

1. We plan to accept an offer from Welkom Baptist Church to serve in the areas of evangelism and discipleship, primarily focusing on ministry with youth/young adults and families. In our last letter we shared that WBC is running about 150 in attendance, with at least half of those 6th grade and under. The work we will be engaging in is primarily related to church planting and establishment. While there are a few details to be worked out, there is a lot of work to be done and we are excited to return as part of that!

2. In a process that included lots of internet research, emails, phone calls and even two interviews, we can finally announce that we have been accepted as missionaries with Wordsower International just this week. Wordsower was founded by Jason Nightingale, whom many of you may recognize through his ministry of dramatic recitation of Scripture. The organization partners already with a variety of works including orphan ministry in Haiti, Kenya, Liberia and India, church planting in Liberia and Ghana, and refugee ministry in Ghana.

We appreciate your patience as we have walked through this season of ministry. With our acceptance by Wordsower Intl., they will begin to receive donations for support of our work. For those of you who
have held your donations and are ready to resume support there are several ways to give. Please see instructions in the box below.  There is also a link to the Wordsower Donation page  at the bottom of this post.

Wordsower is a registered 501(c)3 non-­‐profit corporation and donations to support the work are considered tax deductible. Please ensure that you note on all donations that the funds are for the support of the O’Tools. If you have questions or concerns please don’t hesitate to contact us. 

 Donate Online - Specify Donations for O'Tool Ministry

Obviously, there are many more details than we can possibly share in this letter. We would love to speak with you by phone, Skype or email if you would like more information on our plans or the thought process behind them.

Throughout this whole season, regardless of where God would lead, our confidence is that the Gospel is the power of God to salvation through faith to everyone who believes. And as we approach our future we do so knowing that our loving Father is in control and has already established good works for us to walk in. The goal in disciple-­‐making is always to work yourself out of a job. In whichever way He continues to direct our steps we rest in His promise that we did not choose Him, but that He has chosen us and ordained us that we would bring forth fruit...fruit that would remain.

Thank you for your partnership in prayer and financial support over the years we have been privileged to serve in South Africa. By the grace of our Savior may we be granted many more years in service of the King.

Louis & Amber O’Tool 

Click Here to Donate Online (please specify for O'Tool Ministry):

Friday, February 21, 2014

Interesting Olympics

Ever since I was a kid I loved the Olympics...especially the Winter Games.  From my first cognition of the Games in Albertville, then on to Lillehammer, Nagano, Salt Lake City, Torino, Vancouver and now Sochi, the different competitions have fascinated me.

And maybe even more so, I enjoy the stories that go along with the pageantry, like when NBC did a piece on Allied infiltration of a Nazi "Heavy Water" factory in Norway during the Lillehammer games.  When I was doing my paper routes in the middle of winter back then I used to pretend that I was one of the soldiers, even going so far as to carry homemade wooden guns with a homemade removable silencer.  I know, I'm a huge nerd.  Homeschoolers, right!  (Nowadays, if a kid got caught doing that he probably would get in actual trouble which would make some of the intrigue actually real).

Of course, as anyone my age and older would know, the Games aren't nearly as fun anymore.  Partly that's probably due to the commercialization of entire sports.  Maybe some of it stems from the fact that a lot of the American athletes are paid to participate in their sports while many from poorer foreign countries have to be motivated only for love of the game.  But I think the biggest reason the Games don't seem to have the same meaning is the end of the Cold War.  Remember back in the day when we hated the Soviets?  I mean literally hated the Soviet Union.  Those Olympics just seemed like the extension of the Cold War.  Sure, there was the Nuclear Arms Race, the policy of Mutually Assured Destruction, bomb shelters, gas masks, Star Wars (the real one, not the Harrison Ford version), etc...  But when the Olympics rolled around, if our teenage girls could beat your teenage girls on the ice, we win!

Well, now that I've gotten a chance to reveal to the world a glimpse into
how weird I am, I wanted to share an interesting article that I happened to read this morning over breakfast.  Hope you enjoy!

The following is taken from the website and is written by Justin Feinstein.  Due to some other links and content on that website I chose to post it here rather than link to it.  But full credit needs to go to the actual author.

7 Stories You Haven't Heard About the Olympics

by Justin Feinstein


Scoring a perfect 10 is the dream of every Olympic gymnast. In 1924, 22 male gymnasts made this dream a reality in the same event. But this wasn't due to some freak occurrence or heightened level of competition "“ the event was rope climbing, which has since been discontinued.


Basketball's debut at the 1936 Olympics was nothing short of a disaster. Not only were the finals a low scoring affair (the United States snagged gold from Canada in a yawn-inducing 19-8 game), but the conditions were a mess. Part of the problem was Germany's venue: the game was played outdoors. On a dirt court. In the pouring rain! Playing on mud made dribbling and bounce-passes impossible. Things weren't much easier for the fans. A lack of seating forced all (approximately 1,000) spectators to stand and watch in the rain.


As bad as Germany's basketball planning was, the event barely holds a candle to the 1900 Paris Olympics, which were held in conjunction with the World's Fair and spread out over five months. Take the marathon, for instance, which was rife with logistical nightmares. The event was run through the city's active streets, complete with pedestrians and bicyclists. Worse still, several competitors got lost because the course was so poorly marked. Of course, the long race was just one of the many memorable events, including several that would never be seen again. The 1900 Olympics were the only Games to feature such time-wasters as pigeon shooting and swimming through an obstacle course "“ which included swimming under boats.


The first modern Olympic Games were held in 1896 and yielded perhaps the most unlikely champion in Olympic history. A student at Oxford, John Boland traveled to Greece as a spectator to take in the excitement. But a friend on the Olympic Committee had signed him up for the tennis competition. Despite a lack of proper attire, the plucky Boland decided to go ahead and play (in his dress shoes, no less) and actually won.


Margaret Ives Abbott was the first American woman to win a gold medal. Unfortunately, she lived her entire life without ever knowing what she had accomplished. Since the aforementioned 1900 Paris events were spread out informally over several months, de-emphasizing their Olympic status, she simply thought she had won a nine-hole golf tournament in Paris.


The 1904 Olympic Marathon in St. Louis was perhaps the most brutal event in Olympic history. On a sweltering hot summer day, marathon runners took off on an unpaved dusty course, following pace cars and inhaling exhaust. Many runners had to withdraw to receive medical attention, and even the winner, American Thomas Hicks, needed repeated medical care both during and after the race. And by "medical care," we mean strychnine and brandy. Of course, our favorite tale from the Games is that of Felix Carvajal, a Cuban who took "The Tortoise" approach to running the race. Despite stopping to chat with spectators and breaking to pick and eat fruit from an orchard (which made him sick), Carvajal still managed to finish in fourth place.


The ancient Olympic Games served as the basis for our modern Olympics, and fortunately the whole "competing in the nude" thing wasn't the only custom left to history. Athletes that arrived late to compete were fined, with the only acceptable excuses being shipwreck, weather or pirates. Athletes that were caught cheating were also fined, but were allowed to keep their winnings. But married women caught watching the Games got it the worst: they were executed. Of course, that probably had something to do with the whole competing in the nude thing.
And let's not forget three of our favorite Olympic athletes. Swede Oscar Swahn won a silver medal in a deer-shooting event at the 1920 Olympics at the age of 72! In 1904, American gymnast George Eyser won six medals (three gold) despite having a wooden left leg, which is even more amazing. But Hungarian pistol shooter Karoly Takacs taught himself how to shoot left-handed after his right (shooting) hand was shattered by a grenade, and then went on to win the rapid-fire shooting event at the 1948 Olympics. He gets our gold.
Justin Feinstein is an occasional contributor to Besides the Olympics, he also knows a lot about weird medical conditions, New York restaurants and keeping infants entertained. You should read his blog: Guardedly Optimistic.

Monday, December 30, 2013

News From Louis & Amber O'Tool

Dear Supporter,

Normally our updates are filled with pictures and stories of the ministry in Welkom.  God continues to do great and awesome things in the children of Restoring Hope Village, at Welkom Baptist Church and in the community as a whole.  I wish you could personally meet each of the children, young people and families that God has brought into our lives.  After nearly 6 years serving in South Africa we feel we can truly understand Paul’s heart when he shares his desire to visit the believers in Rome.

“For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine.” Romans 1:11-12

Although we have been sent to South Africa to minister the Gospel there, we have found that in the midst of ministry we are receiving exponentially more than we expend.  What a privilege to serve a God who constantly fills us back up.  Our testimony is that you can never out-give God.  And as with Paul, He so often uses the very same people whom we serve to bless us!

The past several years of ministry have brought both blessing and heartache.  But our sovereign God uses heartache to bring about His most precious blessings.  It is in the difficult times that He drives us more deeply into an intimate relationship with Him.  Since He is the treasure of surpassing value, whatever causes us to know Jesus more deeply is a blessing that cannot be measured.

Reading between the lines, you probably can tell what’s coming.  Over the past several months we believe God has led us in a new direction…new to us at least.  For several years we have been working with the children’s home ministry, focusing almost exclusively on orphaned and abandoned children.  We still have a tremendous burden for this type of work, but God has also revealed to us a significant need within South Africa, and especially in Welkom.  That need is for the solid establishment of a Gospel community, of a church family that will be able to minister not only to their own orphaned and abandoned children but to a culture desperately in need of God’s redemption message.

I want to share with you what God has been doing in our life and ministry, and at Welkom Baptist Church.  Throughout our ministry in Welkom one of the greatest challenges has been the lack of a healthy Gospel community - a place to worship, serve, encourage and be encouraged.  While the children we have worked with have received the gospel message, it has been a struggle to find a spiritual family for them outside the walls of the children’s home.  This spiritual family will be vitally important for their ongoing spiritual growth and wellbeing.  This is God’s design for His children to thrive.

Welkom Baptist Church has existed in Welkom for several decades.  Along with the decline of the mining community in the area, the church saw a decline as well.  In 2011 they were down to about 20 people attending and hadn’t had a pastor for about 7 years.  Through a long and complicated process God brought Pastor Joshua Bolaji to the church in September 2011 and we joined in December 2011.  Since Pastor Josh’s arrival the church has grown from 20 people to an attendance of around 150.  However, many of these are either unbelievers or new believers much in need of discipleship. 

Last March we were able to start a youth group at the church.  God has been doing His awesome work in the hearts and minds of many of these young people.  We have seen them go from a fractured group of cliques to a unified group sharing their bond in Christ with other young people in the surrounding communities.  There have been several young men and women step up to take leadership roles and they are becoming active in serving the church body as a whole.  Our study through 1 John has challenged us all in our walk with Christ and with one another.

We believe that God is leading us to focus more directly on the establishment and growth of the church, either in Welkom or elsewhere in South Africa.

The leadership of Welkom Baptist Church have asked me to join in an associate role, along with Pastor Josh, working to spread the Gospel within the church and community.  Our primary responsibilities would be evangelism and discipleship with young families, young adults and youth.  Given the situation of the church it would be very much a church-planting type ministry.

Whether we return to Welkom Baptist or pursue another ministry, it would still be in a “missions” capacity, as whatever work we pursue would not have the financial resources to pay us.  Your ongoing financial support is important for us as we continue serving in the Gospel.

Because of this change in direction our family is in the process of looking for a new supporting agency.  Our work will no longer be under Restoring Hope International.  You may have received a communication from RHI announcing our resignation.  We appreciate the time we spent there and have not made this decision lightly.  On the one hand, we approach these changes with excited anticipation to see how God will work as we abide in Him.  On the other hand, the transition will be difficult as our relationship with The Village children and staff changes.  The leadership of Slater Baptist Church, our “home church”, has been actively involved as we have worked through things over the past several months.  Attached along with this letter is a letter from Pastor Michaelsen on behalf of the church leadership.

For those who have been supporting us financially, we thank you for your faithfulness.  RHI will no longer be accepting or processing our donations.  We ask that you please hold those donations for the time being, and as soon as we have arrangements with another supporting organization we will let you know. 

If you have any questions, please contact us at or 515.203.9700.  We would love to speak with you and clear up any questions you may have.  We appreciate the prayers and encouragement we have received from so many throughout this time.

Louis O’Tool

Friday, November 29, 2013

Meditations - Galatians 1:3-4

"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father."  Gal 1:3-4

I just read this and chewed on it for a couple hours whilst on the airplane from Joburg to London.  One thing that struck me is the question "what does it actually mean to 'rescue us from this present evil age?'"  Is Paul speaking in physical terms?  I don't think so, because the two ways that would be accomplished is either through physical death or Rapture.  And His "giving of Himself" doesn't accomplish our physical fact, that itself is a result of the curse of sin, not the restoration work of Christ.  And if He is speaking of the Rapture, then only saints who are alive to be raptured would be actually included in this referenced deliverance from the present evil age.

A key word is present.  If His rescuing was through physical death it would be rescuing us from the future punishment, not the present evil.  So then how does He rescue us, or what does it mean to be rescued from this present evil age?

To answer that we must first determine what the evil age refers to.  Satan is called the god of this world (2 Cor 4:4), His forces of evil are referred to as the rulers of this age (1 Cor 2:8-16).  As the ruler of this present evil age, His plans stand in direct opposition to the working of God.  Going back to Genesis 3, we see His plan was to convince mankind that they could be as gods themselves, knowing good from evil and exercising control over their own lives.  This brings to fruition an attitude that leads to willful ignorance and "going about to establish your own righteousness (Romans 10:3)."  In other words, this default setting of emnity with God leads to a certain restlessness, a lack of peace.  And in that, we know we need righteousness, so we set up our own code of conduct, our own standards with which we measure ourselves, our own goals to accomplish.  In this is pride manifested in its depths.

Doing this leads us only to discouragement, bitterness and failure.  One, because we can never accomplish righteousness on our own.  Two, because God Himself promises to ensure our failure, as our pride stands in opposition to Him.  Our participation in this present evil world is spiritual bondage.

"But thanks be to God, that though you were slaves to sin you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance" (Rom 6:17).  We are freed from our own selves, to experience victory in Jesus!  He died for all.  So I died.  And my life isn't my's His!  His act of rescuing us from this present evil world is to set us free from our bondage to self, to the works of the law, to the constant struggle to obtain righteousness apart from Him.  He cures our blindness to His glory and we are liberated to live for Him, not to ourselves.  Not to our own perceptions of success, our own struggle for righteousness, our own desires to have others think well of us.  Jesus rescues us from this present evil age!

So, then, if this is what Jesus gave Himself for, we have to ask the very same question that Paul was led to ask.  "This is the only thing I want to find out from you; did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?  Are you so foolish?  Having begun by the Spirit, are you now perfected by the flesh?"

If the Spirit must rescue us, isn't it equally true that the Spirit must keep us rescued?  That He must work in us His life-giving work?  It is for freedom that Christ set us free.  Therefore, don't become entangled again with the yoke of bondage.  Let us rejoice in this freedom, this liberation that Jesus gives us to know Him and to make Him known.  And let us pray for those of our brothers and sisters who do not live according to this freedom.  According to Paul, they are bewitched.  Deceived.  In bondage to the elemental things of the spiritual forces of this age.  Oh, that we may all experience the freedom that we have been blessed with in Christ.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Kamohelo:  "Why did God make sharks?"

Kamohelo:  "Does Mufasa believe in Jesus?"

Revival:  "Who were the first two children in the world?"
Kamohelo:  "Cain and Esau."

Meredith:  "When Jessica grows up…"

Meredith:  "Monica, Drake and I were playing houseparents…"

Monday, November 4, 2013

Makes You Say "Hmmmm!"

Why?  Isn't there a better place for this?  I guess this is so parents can combine two life lessons into one:  Take out the garbage and Look both ways before you cross the street.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Progress on House #3

Here at Restoring Hope Village there is some progress being made on our 3rd Children's House.  It is nearing completion and it is exciting to see this get closer to being ready to receive new children.  There are just a few more plumbing and electrical things to get settled, along with the always aggravating odds and ends that must be completed and seem to take forever sometimes.  Anyone who has ever built or remodeled a house knows what I'm talking about there:-)  

The kitchen:  Still waiting on some final details, including lights and the table/counter that the kids eat at

The bathroom: almost ready, just some final plumbing hookups and some touch up work

The bedrooms:  Waiting on curtains, beds and furnishings, along with those nagging final details


Please pray that it will be ready soon, that we will find godly houseparents to come together along with us, and that God will be preparing the children who will come live here.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Update on Atlehang

Earlier this year we received Atlehang into our care.  You can read more about her background here.  She has slowly been gaining strength, and although she has had numerous health struggles God has blessed her while she has been here.  CD4 count is a way that our immune system is measured.  Normal levels in a healthy person range from 500-1,500.  Doctors really become concerned when it drops below 100.  Shortly after coming here Atlehang's CD4 count measured only 2.  We just received word today that her CD4 count is now up to 150!  We are praising the Lord for her growth!  Continue to pray for her to fall in love with Jesus.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Photo Albums

With these last few months being so crazy busy, and with so many visitors taking so many awesome pictures, I felt I had to pirate some of them.  These were mostly taken from Sam and Holly Walters, Emily Harmsen and Elise Anderson.

Sam and Holly are from Minnesota, which you can tell pretty quickly by their thick accents.  Coming from a large, homeschool family we bonded right away.  They were a blast to have around and were a huge help to the ministry for a couple months.

Emily and Elise, or EmElise were also here for a couple months.  They were great with the kids, helping out at school, with homework and around The Village.  We really enjoyed these two young ladies.

Hope you enjoy some of their shared experiences!