Dear Dad,

After a very brief battle with cancer, my precious dad moved to his heavenly home on Saturday, August 1st at 3:18pm, with his family by his side.  This is the letter I read to him  when we celebrated his life on August 8th at Eastside Church in Park Rapids, MN.  It only touches the surface of the memories and what he meant to me.  May we all strive to leave a legacy like this.

  Don Goodmanson                                                                                                                          August 20, 1943 – August 1, 2020

Hey Dad,

Well, you’ve had a few days now to get used to your new home.  I’ve been told there are mansions, but I can hear you saying thanks, but you don’t need something so glorious.  But what you would be jazzed about is a really cool fishing boat and a lake that actually has fish in it!  Fact is, the Bible says we’ll be rewarded according to our works. And I’m quite sure your new fancy digs are part of the many rewards you are receiving.

I’ve gotta be honest.  We are REALLY missing you here.  Especially mom.  Oh, we’ll be ok, but Dad, it really does hurt.  We’ve all wondered how in the world people handle this grief without knowing Jesus. Because He truly is our strength.

Today I took a Kayak out on the lake.  It was a good time to reflect – of course my thoughts all turned towards you.  I  thought about how much I have always loved being told how much I look like you. You’re absence has left a huge hole, but I am so thankful for the countless memories we have to fill that hole.  Our memories, and those of others too.  One thing we have enjoyed so much is hearing from everyone we talk to (and I mean everyone), how you touched their lives. Even your mail lady! The stories bring tears, but we love hearing them nonetheless.

I thought back to when I was a little girl and you worked for the school – I think it was Edina.  You came home from work around 5 o’clock.  I remember looking out the window most days, waiting expectantly to see your car turn the corner and drive up to the house.  I would run to the door to meet you, and even after a long day of work, we’d play.  You liked us to walk on your back (though I later learned what you really liked was the relief when we got off your back!).  You would lay on the floor while we stood on your hands and you’d lift us up tall.

I remember, even before any of us fully knew Jesus as Savior, praying before we ate our dinner each evening, and before we went to sleep at night.

Do you remember the time you spent an entire night walking through fields in a sub-zero Minnesota winter trying to find my horse, Lucky?  We found him at sunrise, then had to walk him even more, so he didn’t get colic.

Remember when you and mom took my dog, Joey, to the vet – once because he had heartworm, and once because he’d been shot with buckshot? Because you all knew what he meant to  me, you made sacrifices to help him get well.

And what about the time my best friend, Nadette, came up to the lake with a cast on her broken leg and we wanted to tube?  You figured out how to protect her cast (sort of) with a garbage bag and took us tubing together.

Then there was the time you visited us in Niger.  I remember when you and I were walking through the market in one of the hottest and most undeveloped places on the earth.  You said to me, ‘Danette, I would have never imagined you living in a place like this.  I’m so proud of you.’  Then you bought a pair of flip-flops.

I know lots of singing goes on in heaven.  Lots of worship.  It makes me wonder if our ‘voice’ lessons finally paid off.  Remember when you and I sat at the organ, and I tried to teach you to sing?  It didn’t work.  However, I have a sneaky suspicion that you’re hanging with the best of them up there now.

Memories – I could go on and on.  And sacrifices…well I’m sure there are many I never knew about.  And now as a parent and a grandparent, I understand that.  But dad, you made them with joy.  And without a second thought.  Because that’s who you are.

This last week spent with our family has truly been a gift.  And I know you loved every second of it.  I can assure you that mom and each one of your children, your grandchildren and your great grandchildren treasure the moments with you.  They were so special.  In spite of a weakened body, your joy and silly humor shone through – all the way to the end.  One of the things I want to ask you when I get there is what you saw just hours before leaving us.  Marcia, Brian and I were singing to you and suddenly you pointed up and started smiling and laughing out loud.  You’re whole face lit up.  What did you see?

I’m guessing you saw Jesus.  And dad, because you saw Jesus and chose to follow Him so many years ago, I am following Him.  Yes, I had to make a choice to follow Him, but you and mom led me there.  I clearly remember the day I made that choice. I was 7 years old.  We went to church, and I went to children’s church.  That day in December, 1972 I responded to the invitation to follow Jesus and I remember walking to the front of the church.  I then remember coming home and sitting on your lap and telling you I had a secret.  “I asked Jesus in my heart today”, was my big secret.  You were so happy for me.

But Dad, your legacy is no secret.  I can’t fully express your impact on my life.  And there is really no way , this side of heaven, to measure the impact you have had on countless other lives.  (But Jesus knows, thus your rewards and awesome fishing boat). The friends you have in this community are pretty incredible.  But none of them can stop talking about what both you and mom have meant to them.

So you have gone to join the great crowd of witnesses.  I know you’re cheering us on while you keep heavens gates and lawn in tip top shape.  I can’t promise no tears on our end, but I can promise that I will continue to run the race that is set before me with perseverance.  And I will fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith.

Dad, thank you for the legacy.  It will continue til Jesus returns.  You are loved beyond words and missed beyond measure.

Your favorite daughter, 😉

Danette

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What If….

What. In. The. World.  Daily, I find myself shaking my head.  What is going on? Since March, since our world was turned upside down, every day seems to bring something more ‘shakeable’.  I don’t need to repeat it all.  That’s been done til I feel like exploding.  So what do we do?  What is the solution?

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The other day I was chatting with someone and she said, ‘Jesus is the answer’.  And immediately the Andrae’ Crouch song popped into my head and I finished the phrase, kind of like we Christians do when someone says, “God is good”.  “All the time”.  Repeat.  “Jesus is the answer – for the world today.  Above him there’s no other, Jesus is the way.” I found the 1973 song on Spotify and have been listening to it.  The lyrics of the verses are pretty appropriate too.  You should check it out.

So ultimately, Jesus is the answer.  For the whole world.  Not just for Americans.  Not just for white people.  Not just for black people.  Or brown or red or yellow, as the well-known children’s song reminds us – “Jesus Loves the Little Children…”.  But I fear, just writing these words, some might feel that I’m being racist.  Or maybe not.  I really don’t know.

If I’m being totally honest, I’ve never given much thought to ‘White Privilege’.  Maybe because (right or wrong) I’ve just never considered one’s race or color to be relevant.  I think I’ve seen things like my 6 year old grandson, Judah has seen them. He’s always had a very diverse group of friends.  After a recent conversation his mom had with him about kindness, respect, racism etc, he asked her a question.

“WAIT, so mom… I get all this but, I haven’t ever even SEEN a white person before.  Have you? Or a black person.  All the people I’ve ever seen are just different types of tan-is and brown-is.  Where do the white and black people live?”

Where do they live indeed?  I guess I would be one of those that claims to not see color.  Because I really don’t.  But I’ve recently learned apparently that is wrong too – to NOT see color.  I remember one time, years ago I went to pick something up at the dry cleaner.  The clerk was really rude to me, so when I got back in the car I told my waiting friend about the frustrating experience.  She saw but didn’t hear the conversation through the window.  After I finished complaining and we had driven away, she said something really interesting to me.  She said, “You didn’t mention that it was a black lady that waited on you.  Most people would have made a point to say that it was a black person.”  I replied, “I don’t even remember what color she was, I just know she was rude.”

Those kinds of things have happened multiple times.  When someone will ask me – were they white or black, and I won’t be able to remember.  Could this be because I’m not the most observant of people?  Perhaps.  But I don’t think so.  But what I’m now realizing is that probably that question – “were they black or white?” is inappropriate.

I don’t want to keep on rambling here, because that’s what I’m doing.  I’m trying to put into words what I think and feel.  But those thoughts are still in the rambling stage.

One thing I’m sure about though, is this.  Jesus is the answer – for the world today.   I can prove it.

The other day I was minding my own business, doing my daily Bible reading plan.  It was Romans 12.  I’ve read Romans 12 countless times.  If you’re a Christian, there’s a good chance you have memorized vs. 1 & 2.

I urge you brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God- this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.  

Right?  You know this – though you probably know the King James version better…  It gives us some good instruction for today – especially this part “Do not conform to the pattern of this world…”

But then I kept reading.   What if all of us, regardless of our race or religion, applied these principles? Check out the rest of Romans 12.  Apostle Paul is writing.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.  This is simple.  Don’t be proud.
Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,  Check this out!  We are ONE body – but we all have different functions!
so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others  We belong to each other.  We need each other!
We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.
If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach;
if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.  In other words, whatever you’re good at, just do that! Even if you’re not a Christian.  Do what your good at.  Don’t do someone else’s job.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Right? There is a place for hate – when we’re hating evilness.  And there’s plenty of that going on right now.  And notice how he says “CLING to what is good”. I picture  holding on to something with all I’ve got.
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Seriously.  If we all did that, imagine where we could be as a world today.
Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  I get the feeling that we are supposed to do what we do with all of our heart.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. This verse has really been my mantra since March.  Just like it did for millions of others, the COVID plague messed with us big time – not the sickness, but the results of it.  So I have had to make a decision to be joyful in hope (because I have many things to hope for), patient in affliction (because this has been an affliction) and faithful in prayer. Do we ever need to be praying!  Have I done this daily with all my heart?  Nope.  But I’m  trying! 
Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. It’s been pretty cool to see this happening.  In spite of quarantine.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Couldn’t have said it better myself.
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.  Do not be conceited.  You notice he didn’t say live in ‘melody’ with each other?  Harmony is parts – alto, soprano, etc., working together to make a beautiful sound. 
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.  This can be tough when so much evil and things that aren’t right are happening.  Notice, though, he didn’t say not to do anything about the evil, but that we shouldn’t repay it. And in the verse above, he said we should hate it. Evil I mean.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” [4] says the Lord. Easier said then done, wouldn’t you agree?  But lets focus on living peacefully and leave the revenge to God. That’s not our job. 
On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”  When my kids were little I remember teaching them Proverbs 15:1.  A gentle answer turns away wrath. But harsh words stir up anger.  When someone is mean to you, have you ever tried to do something nice in response?  Give them the benefit of the doubt? Repay them with good?  Because more often than not, a gentle response will put out the fire.  Or at least turn it down.  And burning coals?  What’s up with that?  Well back in the days when keeping your hearth fire alive was a necessity, if your fire went out, you were in trouble.  If this happened, you would go around the town carrying a container on your head, asking for hot coals to rekindle your fire.  Putting coals in this container would benefit you, and fulfill your need.  So no, don’t go around throwing fire at people, instead help fulfill their needs. 
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  We are to use good to fight evil.  Overwhelm with kindness. Give it a try. You might find an ally in your enemy.

Jesus is the answer for the world today.  June 11, 2020.

 

Prayer: Please Don’t be Weary

I’ve been thinking about the Sido (Almamy) story alot since I wrote about it a few days ago.  Neal shared the testimony in church on Sunday.  For history sake, let me mention here that we are in the days of the COVID-19 lockdown.  The world is locked down. But we finally got to have church this past Sunday for the first time in 2 months.

So Neal shared the story in church.  He asked if anyone remembered Sido from 2008.  Several did and smiled and nodded as Neal began to recount the details.  Then they clapped when he got to the part that Sido has returned, has apologized and is still following Jesus.

If you didn’t read the previous post…in a nutshell, Sido, a Muslim, was radically saved in our church in 2008.  He started attending discipleship school and withstood some pretty serious persecution.  But one night, temptation overcame him, he stole the church money and some property and fled to a neighboring country.  Last week he re-connected with us.  It’s been 12 years! He came and through tears apologized for what he had done.  He was still following Jesus, had never returned to Islam, but was carrying guilt all these years.  We had a sweet time of forgiveness and prayer and left the meeting encouraged.

I decided I wanted to remember it all, so began writing a blog post.  While writing, I started to remember more details about Sido.  Honestly, things I would have completely forgotten had I not written them down.  I did a keyword search on ‘Sido’ in my blog and sure enough, found the complete story.

When Neal shared the story on Sunday he made the point that God will forgive – no matter how long ago the sin took place.  There’s no statute of limitations on forgiveness.

But the thing that has stuck with me is the power of prayer.  In all 4 of the blog posts written about Sido, I asked people to pray for him.  In the first post it was to pray for him as a new convert.  The next was about some specific persecution he was facing.  The last post was sad, giving details of his deception and disappearance.

In all of those posts, I requested prayer for Sido. But here’s what I’m wondering.  Was I really expecting people to pray? And beyond that, was I really expecting God to answer?  I’m certain that Neal and I prayed for Sido in the early days of his disappearance, but as life continued on and other newer things were happening, prayer for him dwindled, and then stopped. Because I know if I had still been praying for him, my memories about him would have been much clearer than they were.

All that to get to the point of this post.  We should never give up on prayer!  I’ve encouraged many with Galatians 6:9 – Don’t be weary in doing good, for at the proper (due) time we will reap a harvest IF WE DO NOT GIVE UP.

In other words, if we don’t see results right away, don’t give up. I’m the one that needs to hear this right now. I’m very familiar with God and his prayer answering ‘ability’, for lack of a better word.  I’ve experienced Him answer countless prayers.  But I have to be honest here.  There have been moments during the time of this Plague (Coronavirus), that I’ve had my frustrations and questions and have asked God if He’s really hearing my prayers.  Because frankly, I’m not seeing results.  At least not the results I want.  For example, today, May 20th, is the day that we had planned to take our 2 oldest grandkids, Judah and Charlie, to Disneyland.  But here I sit, still in Niger. Nowhere near Disneyland with my sweet grandkids I might add (But I did get to talk to them on FaceTime yesterday). It’s 143 degrees.  Not really, it was only 107 today.  Power has been out much of the day.  (Thankfully we have a generator). I’m actually kind of excited though, to see how God will redeem this time, because I know He will.  Of that I am sure. And that’s another post.

I could allow my thoughts on prayer to ramble on this keyboard, but I think what I’m trying to say is that God has not forgotten.  I may forget.  You may forget.  But He will not forget.  He has heard, and he will not forget. Neal & I prayed for Sido.  Perhaps some people who read these posts 12 years ago whispered a prayer for him.  God heard those prayers.  We’re seeing the fruit of those prayers…12 years later!

Which begs me to ask myself – what other prayers have I prayed that I’ve forgotten about? What about you?  Every month I write a ministry newsletter and ask partners to pray for specific things.  I need to be reminded that when those prayers are prayed, God is hearing them and moving on our behalf and behalf of the people we’re praying for.  Prayer is like seed sown.  Some seeds grow quicker than others.  They will produce a harvest.  Don’t stop praying. Don’t be weary.  Please.

Here’s Sido, a discipleship school student in January, 2008 and the picture I took last week, May, 2020

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Disappointment is real, but there’s more to the story!

Have you ever had something disappointing happen and then time passed and you kinda forgot about it?  We’ve all had that happen. At least I would  assume so.  However I’m pretty sure that all the disappointments surrounding Covid-19 aren’t going to be so quickly forgotten.  But I digress….

We’ve lived in Niger for nearly 22 years.  Some 12 years ago, a young man named Sido came to the church and gave his life to Jesus.  Though his family did everything they could to entice him to return to Islam, he refused.

Side note:Just as I finished writing this post, I suddenly had a memory return – that I had written in  my blog about Sido before.  So I checked, and sure enough, I have 4 blog posts from Feb – April 2008 telling the whole story. But I didn’t remember until I read it myself. (Don’t get on my case….it was 12 years ago!!) Does anyone remember Sido? I’m including the link at the end of this post that will take you to those 4 posts if you want more details of the story of his salvation and subsequent betrayal.  The amazing thing is that people really must have been praying for Sido as I asked.  It took 12 years, but he’s back!

Pastor Abdou was the pastor of that particular church and we worked closely with him.  Abdou took Sido under his wing, gave him a place to live at the church and basically took care of him.  Sido began discipleship school and proved to be a good student.  He was faithful and Pastor Abdou began giving him responsibilities in the church.

About 3 month’s later, on a Friday morning in Bible School, we discovered that Sido had left.  Following the previous evening’s service, Sido stole the church money, cell phones and then he stole Pastor Abdou’s TV.  It was heartbreaking.  A huge disappointment to Neal and I, and an even bigger blow to Abdou, who had been directly discipling and caring for Sido.

He was gone.  He couldn’t be found.  He didn’t want to be found.

Fast forward to last week. Pastor Moctar – who didn’t know anything about Sido’s story from 12 years ago, called Neal to ask if he remembered someone named Sido.  We both had the same response – yes, I remember that name from the past….  Ahhh, yes, it’s coming back now.  The young man who committed to follow Jesus but then stole church money and disappeared.  But I honestly couldn’t place his face.  I only remembered the name.

Here’s Sido’s side of the story…

He came to the church, was drawn by the message and made a decision to leave Islam and follow Jesus.  He went home and made the announcement to his family.  They were less than thrilled. Pastor Abdou was gracious and basically took him in.  He started discipleship school.  He started helping in the church. He was making friends. Then one night, after an evening service, ‘something’ came over him and he made the decision to take the church money.  It was about $150. He also took cell phones from a few of his fellow Discipleship school students.  And then, knowing that Pastor Abdou wold be in the church, he went to his house and took the TV. He snuck back to his home and went to sleep.  At some point during the night, someone came and stole the money from him.  When he woke up, it was gone. Having nothing, but too ashamed to return to the church, He sold the TV, then fled to Burkina Faso, a neighboring country.  He found a ‘job’ at a bus station so he could eat.  He was basically homeless so he slept at the station.

In spite of the guilt he was feeling, or maybe because of it, he knew he still wanted to follow Jesus.  He eventually found himself in a large church in Ouagadougou, the capital city of Burkina Faso. He was able to put the past behind him and again, the church leadership took notice of his faithfulness and gifts.  He began in a Bible school there, and was put through media and technology training.  He was there for 8 years.

But still, in the back of his mind, and more in his heart, were the things he had left unsettled here in Niger.

To be honest, we had long since forgotten about it.  We were very disappointed when we heard what Sido had done, but it wasn’t the first time.  We plant and sow and reap and pray.  And sometimes what we reap dries up or is stolen away.  We prayer for him, but we just kind of figured he was playing a ‘long con’ of sorts.  Though his prize of $150,  a used TV and cell phones didn’t seem like much of a win.  Whenever possible, we go after someone who wavers and try and rescue them.  We have given multiple chances to people.  Some of those people that were given chances are leaders in the ministry today.  But Sido- he just disappeared. God knew where he was.

In 2016, Sido returned to Niger.  He wanted to make things right.  He wanted to find us and apologize.  He was still feeling convicted because of his behavior. He got a contract with a TV station here, using the skills he had learned in Burkina. He attended church with a friend. Finally, 4 years after returning to Niger, Sido got serious about finding us.

Sido is on Facebook. That’s how he came across Pastor Moctar and discovered that he was a Vie Abondante pastor.  So last week he reached out and Pastor Moctar agreed to meet with him.  It was then that he told the story.  Moctar contacted us and said Sido wanted to know if we’d be willing to meet with him.  Of course we would!  We were thrilled to hear that he was still a Christian.  Surprised, but thrilled.  Pastor Moctar informed us that ‘Sido’ isn’t even his real name. When he first came to the church in 2008 he wasn’t sure what to expect, so he ‘borrowed’ his friend’s name.  And it stuck.  

So yesterday we met with Almamy.  Through tears he explained that for all these years he has been carrying this guilt and has been so ashamed.  He went to our house 2 different times but couldn’t bring himself to knock.  He didn’t know that we had moved to a different part of the city so he wouldn’t have found us there anyway.  He finally gathered courage to contact Pastor Moctar. He started by thanking us for all we had done for him and then He apologized for what he had done.  He was so ashamed and embarrassed by his actions that he could barely look us in the eye.

We told him that we hold no offense, and that we forgive him completely.  And we explained that on our end, we just figured he was one of those on whom the seed fell on rocky ground. But that we were SO thankful that he was still walking with Jesus.  In all these years, he never returned to Islam. That’s a miracle. Our meeting ended with joy. As you can see here. And no, I’m not an angel, that’s just the sun.  =)

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Moving forward I’m not sure what Almamy will do.  He has been too ashamed to come to one of our churches, but I’m praying that now that he has received forgiveness, that he will take the step to come.  God clearly has a call on his life, but Almamy will have to choose to obey that call.

Oh – and Pastor Abdou – who had really invested a lot in Sido Almamy? We called him right then and there and Abdou was so excited when he heard that Almamy was still walking with the Lord.  He took Abdou’s number and was planning to make a call himself.

And that’s the rest of the story.

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Click here to read the story from 2012.  The 4 posts start with the most recent, so you’ll want to start with the last one.

Please continue to pray for Almamy.  And let this be an encouragement to you.  Do NOT get weary praying for people/things.  Be patient.  God is hearing those prayers.  If you don’t believe me, read this post again!

India Finale’ November 2019

Where were we?

Right.  Headed to our Beach Resort.  Turns out it really wasn’t on the  beach, but it was near the beach.  If you had a room on the 2nd floor and you stretched and leaned, you could see the beach.  Our room was on the first floor, but right next to the swimming pool.  Which was very lovely.  And the beach was less than a 15 minute walk.

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Our room is straight ahead.

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Here’s our room. It’s the only picture I took – as we were getting ready to leave.

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I have mentioned how much we love Indian food.  But too much of a good thing….

After 10 days of eating curry and Indian spices for breakfast, lunch, dinner, tea and snacks, our palettes needed a break.

A breakfast buffet was included, and had plenty of Indian options (which Neal actually did partake of), but they also had ‘continental’, or just a plain old omelette.   Here we are eating breakfast on the day we left, headed to church.  Fruit, toast and tea.

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We ate a few other evening meals there, and they were lovely.  Those oranges were grilled and they were amazing!

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….but our favorite thing is finding the off the beaten path hole in a wall places.  Which we did.

We walked to the beach and found a whole line of holes in the wall.  It was hard to decide which one to pick.  But hey, we were on vacation so we had plenty of time to check them out.  We (Neal) really loves seafood, shrimp in particular.  I do too.  But probably not as much as he does.  So anytime we can find seafood is great.  And when we find it cheap, well, we ‘stock up’.

Each off the beaten path place was wanting our business and this particular spot  actually brought out shrimp for us to see.

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I know, right?  Talk about the fresh catch of the day.  And when I say off the beaten path, that’s not really what I mean.  There was no path.  There were loads of fishing boats and tide pools and it was either walk through them into the unknown, or walk around them.  We walked around them.

That was just our exploratory trip though. Our plan was to be back for dinner.  Which we were.  Yum. Double yum.

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Here’s the beach from our table.

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We were there over our American Thanksgiving so we decided to try another establishment.  Note to self, when you find something good, stick with it.  This is the route to the restaurants.

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Neal of course ordered shrimp again.  Same ocean, right?  I think these were the babies of the other guys.

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I decided that I’d branch out and get fish. Not the best decision I’ve ever made.  But it made for a memorable Thanksgiving.

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I have no problem being served a whole fish.  The disappointing thing to me was that the ‘menu’ read, “Fish in garlic butter sauce’.  We verified that it was not curry/indian spice.  Of course language was a challenge.  Instead of garlic/butter it was some sort of extremely salty curry/indian sauce.  But the fries were good.  The good thing about getting a disappointing meal is that you are always going to eat again.  Usually in just a matter of hours.  So all was not lost.

It was dark and rained on our walk back to our room. Check out all those fishing boats.

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During our time we mostly just laid low and hung out at the pool, but we also wanted to see what ‘Mahabalipuram’ was all about.  So we hired a tuk-tuk for $20 and he took us to all the  local attractions, including a really great spot for lunch (shrimp).

Here’s our tuk-tuk and our driver.  He was great.  Took us everywhere, and waited til we were done before heading to the next stop.

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It was an extremely humid day and coconut water is known to be very hydrating.  And I love coconut.  So….

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There were quite a few touristy things to do, and I can’t remember names of all the places and statues, so here are just some random photos.  It wasn’t that hot, but it was incredibly humid so we were soaked the whole day. Our desert bodies are not used to that much humidity.

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Neal has a coin collection and he has given part of it to Judah, our oldest grandson.  So when he saw this guy selling coins, we had to stop and look for coins for the Judahman.

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We climbed up into a couple different lighthouses.  Here’s the stairway to the one with the red top.  I’m not claustrophobic, but after that, I could be.

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I do remember the name of this – Butterball.  It seems that no one can figure out why or how it’s perched there like that.  It really cannot be rolled down the hill.  I know because I tried.  It really is a mystery.  Of course there are some tales that tell the story…

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We had a fun morning, but were ready for some more shrimp.  Mr. Tuk Tuk knew just the spot.  We of course told him that shrimp minus the curry needed to be on the menu.  This is where we ended up.

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It was a happy ending.

And how do you ignore all this color.  I now own the jeannie pants the shopman is holding. $3.

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Time to go home and first dry off, so we could get in the pool and cool off.

We thoroughly enjoyed our down time, and loved seeing another part of India.  Next stop was one more Sunday.

The pastor picked us up at the resort for the 1 hour drive to the church.  We were presented with more beautiful shawls.

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And fruit and shoeless feet.

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Neal preached a great message on the spirit of faith to a really receptive crowd.

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Then got to be part of a baby dedication and communion.

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We were served an amazing lunch of biriyani (one of my very favorite Indian dishes).  The kitchen (and Pastors home) is attached the the church, so we were getting wonderful wafts during the service.  Made me realize I was once again ready to eat Indian food. This is the only picture I got of it though.

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We would be returning to Niger next, but had a 2 night stay in Chennai – close to the airport.  If I remember correctly, the drive from the church to our hotel was about 2 hours.  And it was raining when we left the church.  And the car was parked on the other side of the field, because of the mud.

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So off come my shoes again…

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We got in the car relatively dry and began our journey.  From this lovely jungle…IMG_4761

To this concrete jungle.  Chennai has an incredible amount of traffic.

 

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I booked a hotel based on its price and proximity to the airport.  Boy were we surprised.  Pleasantly. It was huge and beautiful and $60/night!  It even had a washer and dryer.

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There were a couple restaurants in the hotel and they were great!

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Also, are really awesome gym and a gorgeous swimming pool on the roof.

No pics of me working out, but here’s the pool.

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And the view from the roof.

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The next day we decided to walk to the beach and find another ‘hole in the wall’ for lunch.  After all, you can see the beach from the roof.  How far could it be? What we didn’t count on was the crazy traffic – I don’t scare easy, but walking on these roads was, well, almost terrifying.  Pedestrians definitely do not have the right of way.

This was a less traveled street.

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We were hungry but we passed by this place — decided it didn’t qualify as a hole in the wall.

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We found ourselves walking alongside the beach, but it wasn’t really a very lovely walk because along the beach was a slum.  Very sad.  Such poverty smack in the middle of a prosperous city. I wasn’t comfortable taking pictures there.

We walked and walked and walked and found no places to eat.  We kept going a bit further, thinking surely there’d be something ‘up ahead’.  Nope.  We were so hungry.  And we had literally walked for miles.  Tuk Tuk to the rescue.  We didn’t want to walk all the way ‘home’. Here’s a couple of snaps from that drive.

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We ended up having lunch back at the hotel, and it was quite enjoyable. As you can see.

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All good things….. It was time to leave.  We’d been away from home for a month, first in Uganda, then Kenya and finally India.  We loved it all, but it’s aways great to get home.

One more drive in the craziness of Chennai traffic.  The airport was just about ½ hour away.

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Got to security, found our gate and got some Fizz before the long journey home!

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India we love you and we’ll be back!

 

 

India, cont…. Nov 2020

I ended my last post talking about Pastor Dass, Ruth and their boys Gideon and Joseph.

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They are the ones who arranged all of our ministry for this trip to India.  Pastor Dass picked us up in Bangalore.  He invited the pastors for the conference and organized their food and sleeping arrangements.  He was even ‘caught’ serving food from time to time.  And Ruth. I had to be careful with her.  One time I mentioned that I’d like to find a hair barrette similar to one she had.  Off to the market we went to find one. Then there was the time I made a comment about how beautiful her saree was.  She was about to go into her house to take it off and give it to me.  Oh, and what about the time she brought tea to our room (she did that 2 times/day) and she noticed all of the unmentionables I had washed that were hanging decoratively all over our room.  She apologized profusely for not washing our clothes, which she had intended on doing.  What?  Then there was the interpreting, the meals….I could go on.

What a family!

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After the Sunday services, we had a road trip planned to Chennai for another 1-day pastor’s conference that would start on Monday.  I can’t remember how long the total journey was, but I think we left around 2pm.

First stop though, was to visit some land.  We’ve actually been to this land before, but the exciting news this time was that progress was being made.  A Bible school was being built.  And it already has its accreditation.  Neal praying on the land. I know that one day soon we will have the honor of teaching in this school.  And let me just toss this out here – I never know who might be reading this. If anyone is interested in helping to get this building up, just let me know!

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Now for the road trip….We drove up and around and down a mountain.  There was some cool road construction happening too.  It was a beautiful drive.  But oh my – talk about turvy-curvy.  I was risking the contents of my tummy when I took these pics.

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There were several reasons we went over the mountain rather than just around it.  One was to eat at this restaurant.  Tandoori chicken! Pastor Dass knows how much we love Indian food.  This is the city we ate in.

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As you can see, we consumed before any pics could be taken.  Here is Gideon with the leftovers.  Wait, there are no leftovers.  (The Sprite was to help my troubled tummy).

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Darkness was starting to fall while we were eating.  Here’s the view from the 2nd floor restaurant.

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Next stop was dessert.  Well, tea.  But it was like dessert.  Tea is literally served everywhere – this is India after all.  But not this tea. This tea is special. Pastor Dass also knows that I really like tea.  He told me about this particular place days ago, letting me know we’d get tea there on our journey to Chennai.  And we surely did.  I don’t know if it was the power of suggestion, or if the tea really was that good.  I think the latter.  And it obviously wasn’t the atmosphere, because it was delivered to us in the car. Bottoms up. (Check out the sweet little face right behind me).

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Another reason for taking the mountain road was because of a stop in a particular town along the way.

It was dark when we arrived.

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Pastor Dass told us about it, and said we’d enjoy shopping there – that they have lots of leather.  Well sweet Georgia peaches as my friend Patty would say, did they ever have leather!  The whole city was about leather.  By now it was dark and we still had some road ahead of us before we arrived in Chennai, but I could have spent some serious shopping time here. They had shelves and rows and floors of Coach purses and other brands too, and when I asked if they were ‘real’, I discovered that this is where they are made!  Because of the time and the hour we didn’t get to go into the market where they were actually made, but oh my.  Now I have never, ever cared about the brand of a purse.  It’s just not my thing.  I do have things I want in a purse and can be pretty particular (picky), but the label has never mattered.  I wasn’t planning on buying a purse on this trip but while we were in Kenya I said to Neal that the bag I was carrying was starting to look pretty bad –  embarrassing.  So yes, I got a purse.  A lovely, black leather, COACH purse.  We didn’t get any pics of the shopping excursion – I guess because I was too overwhelmed.

But I wasn’t the only one overwhelmed.  Neal did some shopping too.  He is notorious for his pickiness over shoes.  We can be at a mall or shoe store in the US and he can try on 20+ pairs of shoes and find nothing suitable.  Not kidding.  But here, in a small town somewhere in India (I can’t remember the name), he found not 1, not 2, but count them – 3 pairs of really awesome brand name leather shoes in less than 30 minutes.  Shoes that he liked. Shoes that he wears.  I also got a pair of leather sandals.  So in less than 30 minutes we scored 4 pairs of leather shoes and a COACH bag for less than $100.  Well worth the turvy, curvy road we took to get there.  Here’s a quick snap of my shoes and purse.

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Dinner, tea and shopping done.  Onward to Chennai.  Honestly, the rest of the journey is a bit blurry.  But I think we arrived around 10:30pm.  All of us were ready to sleep. We were staying at a huge retreat center that could serve groups large or small.  We were given this pretty cute chalet type room, complete with AC.  You can see Pastor Dass to the left of ours.

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After a good night of sleep, we awoke to a lovely morning. It was raining however, and would delay the start of the meetings a bit.  We went to nearby restaurant and had our breakfast – one of our favorite things.  Dosa.  Well, and tea of course. And Ruth’s lovely smile.

And finally, our ultimate reason for coming.  The pastor’s conference.  We loved teaching them and they honestly seemed to enjoy it as much as we did.  Either that, or they’re really gracious.

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These pictures might look just like the pics from other conferences to you, but they are different to us.  What was the same is the hunger and joy that these leaders had in response to our teaching.  If you can’t tell, we had fun!

It was now November 25th, and the last meeting of a ministry trip that began in Uganda on October 31st.  Before returning to Niger, we planned a few days ‘stopover’ at Grande Bay Resort, near Chennai.  It was less than an hour from where this last meeting was held.  Pastor Dass and Ruth drove us there, then went out and bought us some snacks to have during our stay before they began their journey home.  The sweetest, I know. When the pastors heard we were still going to be around for a few days, we were asked if we could come and preach in one of their churches the next Sunday.  Why yes, of course we could!

And this is where Part 2 will end.  Part 3 will appear soon, complete with pictures of our mini vacation.

 

India Part 1 November 2019

Time to head back to November 18th, 2019.  It was a different world then.  We could travel then.  We were on a month long ministry trip and I didn’t finish ‘journaling’ about it.  I stopped in India.  Well, I did write about our trip home from India, but didn’t write anything about our time there.  We did so much that it has felt overwhelming to tackle it all.

The interesting thing is that we were supposed to be in India again last week – April 2020.  But due to the very rude #COVID19, our plans, along with those of the rest of the world, got ‘adjusted’. So we’re still here in Niger – the home sweet home I was longing for in my earlier post about our journey home from India. For the record, I love my home. But I’m ready to get going again.

Back to November 18th.  We left Nairobi in the very wee hours on a 5 ½ hour flight to Mumbai.  Took 3 hours to claim bags, go through immigration and recheck bags.  Then a 2 hour flight to Bangalore where Pastor Dass was waiting for us with a smile.  Then was a 2 hour drive to Kolar Gold Fields (KGF) where we’d spend the week.

Here’s the Bangalore airport, the drive, our lunch stop, and our entrance into KGF.

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Our hosts were Pastor Dass & Ruth, of Dominion Harvest Ministries.  We’ve been to India several times and they are not just great hosts, but friends.  Love this family.IMG_6963

Before I write about what we did there, I want to show you were we did it.  Pastor Dass and Ruth have done an amazing job growing this ministry.  Well, we all know God grew it, but not without the faithfulness of this family.  They have believed God for every Rupee used to establish the ministry.  And much of it takes place in here:

This is the front of the church.  I don’t know the square footage of the property, but I can tell you that every nook and cranny is used.  Their house is the right side of the church.  And the rest of the things you’ll see is all taking place under this roof.

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And here’s the back.  As you can see, the 2nd story is being built.

IMG_0816One of our favorite things to do is to teach pastors who will then teach others.  And that’s what we were here to do. First up was a 3-day pastor’s conference.  About 130 pastors came from regions all over India.  All of them stayed in the facilites pictured above.  All the food was cooked and eaten there as well.  Oh, and we stayed there too – in quite a roomy guest room complete with AC.

Here’s the before shot of the conference hall/church/school.  Today it’s set up for the Pastor’s Conference.

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Culture in India – no shoes inside the church.  This is the back entrance.  More shoes at the front. The floors are very clean.

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Indian culture is very honoring.  Thus no shoes in church.  Or from what I can tell, in any building.  Also to honor us and show appreciation, at every ‘event’ we were given flowers and draped with shawls.  Those flower ‘necklaces’ are beautiful but their amazing smell surpasses their beauty.

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Here are various pictures of us teaching and the pastors graciously receiving.

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And the food.  This is where it was cooked.  Those are meatballs.

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And this was how it was served.  Three times a day!

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Here’s where everyone eats. Look at the organization! (Our room is the middle one on the left.)

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We appreciated so much the way our teaching was received with such joy and hunger.

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After the pastor’s conference finished we had a 1 day women’s meeting for women in the local church and surrounding community. Love pouring into these ladies, who so earnestly pull it out of you.

I really enjoyed my message =) and having Ruth, Pastor Dass’s wife next to me interpreting was pretty awesome too.

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If you haven’t noticed, another cultural difference is sitting on the floor.  It’s not required, but from what I observed, it seems to be preferred.

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And then there’s the Primary school.  Dominion Harvest runs a school with about 140 students.  These children come from disadvantaged homes and are provided with scholarships from the ministry, in addition to some meals. It’s not just an outreach to the children, but to the families as well.

The school also takes place is the same space as everything else.  It’s quite amazing.  I was able to visit the classrooms while they were in session.

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All the children meet outside the compound each morning for prayer.

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The church serves as a multi-purpose room for the school during the week.

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There was a big program for the parents and we got to be a part of it.  Pastor Dass addresses the families and introduces us.  With more flowers!

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So fun…. The majority of these children come from Hindu families so it’s really a privilege to share the Gospel with these families.  Well, it’s a privilege to share the Gospel anytime, anywhere. Am I right?

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Each class had a special song/dance and Bible memory.  And they were ‘color-coded’  by class. The cutest thing ever!

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There was a pretty fun game too…They chose a group of Dads to come forward and they were each blindfolded.  Then a kid would walk by and each dad would feel the hands of the kid – trying to identify their own.  All of them were able to do it! I immediately shoved my hand into Neal’s to ask if he would be able to identify it blindfolded.  I’m going with yes.

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A special meal – Biriyani – was served to everyone there.  And this wasn’t staged.  That pot of rice is so massive it really did take 5 guys to carry it!

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That was Saturday.  Next came Sunday. Same building, new group of people.  But equally receptive.  Traditional Indian worship is very different from American worship, and also very different from West African worship – the 2 styles I’m quite familiar with.  Not to mention  the lyrics.

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It’s a classic example of not understanding a word of what’s being sung, but completely understanding the passion and the anointing.

My favorite preacher preached a powerful message on ‘The Spirit of Faith’, one of his favorite topics.

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Following the service, the youth have another service and I was asked to speak at that. Again, such a privilege to speak into the next generation.

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Let me mention here.  Pastor Dass & Ruth have 2 incredible sons.  They are fully hands on in the ministry, all while attending school.  Meet Gideon and Joseph.  Servant leaders who while helping their mom and dad with everything going on, were at our beck and call for any need – real or perceived. And to top it off, look at how handsome they are.

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Well, it’s not over, but I need to stop for now.  I will complete the journey in my next post.  And because of #covid19, I really have no excuse now not to get er done. Well, except for our tortoise trained internet.  Let me just tell you – uploading all these pics was not a small accomplishment.  But it sure feels good to have this done, whether its read by anyone or not.

 

From My Initial Perspective #covid19

Frankly, it’s hard to know what to say.  Or how to say it.  Or maybe nothing at all needs to be said since there are so many other voices.  But since this blog is my history of sorts, I decided I wanted to document my version of what is happening now. Because down the road, it’ll be a ‘blip’.  Not forgotten, but a blip. This is my initial perspective.  I wonder how it might change in the days/weeks/months to come… But you can be sure of one thing that will never change.  God is good.

You know the “I walked 2 hours in the snow uphill to get to school” story?  This will be the story kids today tell their kids/grandkids.  When they were locked up at home and couldn’t go to school and had a mean teacher.  ‘The Big C’.  I heard someone ask if it would be ok to call it the ‘Kung Flu’.  Being honest here – I laughed out loud at that one.

I can’t exactly remember when I first heard of the Coronavirus.  I’m pretty sure it was some time in December and I think the only reason it registered as anything at all is because we have a missionary friend living in Hong Kong who was at risk.  But other than that, I figured it would pass and didn’t really give it space in my brain.

Until last week.  When we were informed by a Facebook post that all visa’s to India were cancelled.  What?  We have a visa to India.  Leaving April 2nd. We have a ministry trip scheduled and from there moving on to Philippines for more ministry.  Then to Dubai for a couple day break before arriving in the US April 20.  And in the US we have a very full 2.5 months traveling from the East Coast to the West. Surely this will be over quickly.

And do you have any idea how many hours I spent with our ridiculous internet setting up our travel and all the details that includes between April 2 and mid June?  Anyone?  I don’t know either, but the amount of time spent was even more ridiculous then our internet service.

But at this point, does that really matter?  Perspective is a powerful thing.

Our schedule is messed up.  Along with millions of others.  But…

We know Jesus and His faithfulness has been proven in our lives over and over again. This will be no different.

We’re healthy with strong immune systems.

We live in a part of the world that right now has only 7 cases.

Since I’m staying at home, I can drink as much water as I like without worrying if I’m going to be somewhere without a toilet of some sort.

I can still talk to my grandkids the way I always do – FaceTime. Aren’t they the cutest?!

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It’s the beginning of hot season here and by that I mean: IMG_2601and hunkering down at home means I get to spend most of my day guiltlessly in my room where we have an AC.

I cannot remember a time in my nearly 22 years living in Niger where I wasn’t planning something, executing a plan, or both.  We were supposed to start a pastor’s conference today for our pastors in this region.  Canceled. We’re still planning to do it at some point, but for some reason I’m having a hard time finishing my prep for it.  Funny thing though, is that I would have been done a few days ago if it actually was starting today.  Motivation is waning.

I have a running list of things that I’ve said I would do if I ever had uninterrupted time with nothing else to do.  Where did I put that list….? I have got to find my motivation hat.

I know God is good. Have no doubt.  No one will convince me He caused this.  And when I look at the big picture, I know His plans and purposes will prevail.  He will turn what the devil meant for evil to our good. And I’m not just saying this because it’s what a good missionary, a good Christian, should say.  I truly believe it.

But that still doesn’t make the loss not real.  I think I’m dealing with it like one might deal with the 5 stages of grief.

  1. Denial.  “That Facebook post about India being closed is fake news.  I’m sure of it.  I should go ahead and start packing.”
  2. Anger.  “This is SO annoying.  I’m not afraid in the least.  I’m annoyed.  I’m mad.  How could this happen? What do you mean they canceled our visa?  I paid for that visa and they can’t stop me from coming!”
  3. Bargaining. “Well, maybe they don’t want us in India, but the Philippines won’t be that extreme.  And just in case we can’t make it to the Philippines, I’m sure Dubai will take us.  After all, much of their economy is dependent on tourism.  I already have our hotel booked.  We just need to get to Dubai, then we can get to the US. Closing airports?  Pfffffff!
  4. Depression.  I’m not depressed.   We have lots of meetings planned in the US with our partners, who we love to see.  And we have some great family time planned with each of our kids and a really exciting memory-making Disneyland trip planned with our 2 oldest grandkids.  They’re very excited, and I’m more excited than they are.  Then our daughter is coming back to Niger with us in June with our grandbaby, Levi to visit for 6 weeks. During that time, we have a children’s camp and youth camp planned with teams from the US.  If we have to cancel some or all of the above, I’ll be sad.  Really sad. All while knowing God is faithful and He sees the big picture.  Which brings me to #5.
  5. Acceptance. I’ll be honest here – It’s Wednesday, March 25th, 2020 and I’m still holding out that we’ll be in the US on April 21st and be able to visit the people and churches that are planned, and everything that goes along with those visits.  And I’m expecting to go to Disneyland with my grandkids on May 20th.  When all this went down, I was in bed partly praying, partly working to get to sleep and this is what came to my mind. In Joshua 10, God held the Sun for Joshua for a full day. Or He kept it daylight, or he stopped the earth spinning.  Whatever He did, it was big.  And He did it because Joshua, one of his children, asked Him to.  And I’m one of His children.  And I’m asking.  If He stopped the earth from spinning for Josh, he can certainly open Disneyland by May 20th for Danette.  That may sound selfish, but He loves me enough to do that.  And I also thought of this: Shadrach, Meshach and Abendnego told the King – ‘our God will deliver us……..but even if He doesn’t.’   So you see, the only acceptance I’m at is that God will deliver us.  But even if He doesn’t, you will never convince me that He is not good and that He is not faithful

Let me just add one more note about perspective.  I realize that my personal prayers and concerns regarding this worldwide pandemic are very miniscule.  But God cares about them.  I understand that if I move the magnifying glass off me and mine, a seriously  hurting world jumps into focus.  I live in a place where though the infected count is still small, if it spreads, the potential for hundreds, even thousands of deaths is real. But that’s what is so amazing about our God.  He is equally aware of our little issues, and is well able to deal with the big ones too.  All at the same time.  Let’s pray.

What a mighty God we serve.

Something Fishy

Last Sunday we drove out to Torodi, a small town about 45 minutes from us, to worship with our church there.  Neal preached a great message on relationship. Shiwana, one of pastor Ibrahim’s assistants, has a fish business.  In the desert.  It’s quite remarkable.  Several of us have been involved in helping them get the business going, from helping to purchase land, and drilling a well on the property.  One cannot raise fish in the desert without water.  Well, I guess one can’t raise fish anywhere without water…

Shiwana, Margaret and Lois

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The property, where Shiwana lives with his wife Margaret and daughter Lois, is just a few kilometers outside the town, in the middle of what looks like nowhere.

See what I mean?

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I was here once before, when they were first getting started, but that was more than a year ago.  If I was amazed then by what could be done in such a desolate place, I’m not sure how to describe what I saw on Sunday.

We took the curve in the road and this is what I beheld.

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Well first, I beheld this.  Our well drilling rig.  This is where it lives when not in use.

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And then this…

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Not only are they growing fish, they have planted a garden in the sand.  Check it out!

IMG_1053IMG_1058IMG_2076Wells4Wellness partners with Vie Abondante and they not only drilled a well, but put in pipes, a tank and solar panels to pump the water.  In the desert.

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The pump brings the water to the tank, where it is then controlled by the piping.  It waters the gardens, and gives the fish a place to swim.

This is where it all started, and what I saw over a year ago.  These tanks are used for grow the fertilized eggs.  You can see the water is being pumped in to the 2nd tank. Shiwana and Margaret also live in here.  They just happen to have a few large aquariums in their house.

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I don’t understand the whole process, but Shiwana is an expert .  As the fish grow, they are moved into different tanks.

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Neal is getting a crash course on raising fish.

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There are several layers of opportunity here.  From raising the starter fish for others who want to start their own fish farms, to raising fish to eat, to smoking the fish so it can be taken to markets further than the nearby towns.  The food the fish are fed is not available in Niger. I guess they’re hoity-toity fish. Shiwana has to go to Nigeria to get their food.  Which he sees as another opportunity.  If he can get the equipment and supplies needed to make the food, he can also sell that to other potential fish farmers.

I was walking through the garden with Margaret and Lois and realized that this is a picture of what can happen when the Gospel penetrates the spiritually dry places.  Places like Niger.  A place where it seems impossible for anything to grow.  I thought about Jesus with his disciples when he was telling them that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the Kingdom of heaven. (By the way, there was even a camel nearby providing a great illustration for my thoughts).  The disciples asked Jesus, ‘who then can be saved?’

Jesus:  With man this is impossible.  But with God, all things are possible.  All things.

These desert and desolate places can flourish.  They can grow stuff and provide food and look beautiful.  What an incredible picture this is.  The harvest is real. Sowing in places like this may take a bit more effort, but the fruit that remains is real. And we have seen the impossible become possible. People are being saved. They are becoming mighty in the land.

Isaiah 60:22 comes to mind.  The least of you will become a thousand, the smallest a mighty nation.  Niger, a mighty nation.

Back to our farmer.

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I’d love for you to pray for Niger – as the impossible becomes possible and it becomes a mighty nation.  At the same time, please pray for Shiwana, Margaret and Lois.  Pray for provision for them to be able to expand this business.  To become ‘a thousand’. There is huge possibility here.  They need bigger tanks to be able to grow more fish.  There is also a huge opportunity for Shiwana to mentor others, who can then start their own fish farms in other regions.  But it takes time.  Growth takes time. But with God, nothing is impossible. Nothing.

Niger, a mighty nation.

Our Brother, Pastor David Mporampora

Tomorrow we will have been home for exactly 5 weeks since our last trip.  So it’s been that long since my last blog post.  I’m slipping…..but here’s me, getting back on the wagon.  It seems I am the most consistent writing when we are traveling – mostly when I’m at an airport or on a plane.  Which I haven’t been, well, for 5 weeks. Thankfully I did manage to get our December ministry update written so there’s that. If you’re interested, you can find that here: December 2019

I still plan to blog about our time in India, and I did attempt to upload those photos, but our doggone internet frustrates me into quitting.  I know, a lame excuse.  But another hindrance has been some very sad events, which I really want to write about before anything else. But writing about sad things isn’t my favorite, so….

The first stop on the trip I referred to above was Uganda.  It was such an amazing time that I wrote 3 posts about it, the first one being on November 2. ‘Niger to Uganda’ You may remember that we went there to spend time in ministry and fun with our long time friend, Pastor David Mporampora.  And when I say long time, I mean he’s been friends with this family since the 1970’s.  He was choir director at Church of God Mission when Neal lived in Nigeria.  He considered Neal’s parents his own.  He sang at our wedding over 30 years ago.  And finally, he visited us in Niger in April last year, and then he invited us to visit him and we began planning right away.

Fast forward to November 1st, 2019, our first time to visit Uganda.  While in Niger, Pastor Dave had been bragging about what a beautiful country it was, as we laughed about the contrast between Uganda and Niger (aka desert).  We were in Northern Italy early last year and I’d decided then that it was the most beautiful country I’d seen.  But after visiting Uganda, I’ve decided Uganda and Italy tie for first place.  Just my opinion.

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We had an incredible 9 days with Pastor Dave, including a fantastic mix of ministry and fun.  (Seriously though, we consider ministry pretty fun).  Lots of details and pics in my Uganda posts.  We continued to stay connected while in Kenya, and Dave asked us to begin preparing for our ministry trip there in 2020.  Next, we were in India.  While in India, on November 26th, Pastor Dave sent us a message letting us know he was praying for our ministry in India, and asking for prayer as he was sick.  Checked in with him the next day and said he was doing a little better.  Checked in on the 30th and got no reply.  On December 1st, we got a message from Uganda, saying that Pastor Dave needed serious prayer.  He had been rushed to the hospital when he was found unconscious in his home.  We communicated daily from that point, even as we were traveling home to Niger.  We were able to see him and pray for him on a video call from Niger on December 5th. Thursday.  More communication, keep praying, things are getting better, he’s not doing well, more tests being done, etc etc.  Monday afternoon we were decorating our Christmas tree and at 2:39 we got a phone call.  Pastor Dave had just passed. (For those wondering, his death was a result of diabetes and complications).

On November 9th, we stood circled in front of the airport in Entebbe, Uganda, Dave praying a looooong prayer to send us on our journey.  None of us having any idea that he would take his final journey to his well-deserved reward 1 month later.  December 9th, 2019.

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I’m not an overly emotional person.  I don’t think I’d even be described as emotional much at all.  Neal cries during a movie much more than me.  But man, this has been such a shock.  Honestly, it’s hard to put this in words right now because it’s still so new, and because for some reason the words on my screen are blurring….

When I think about all we experienced during out time in Uganda – all thanks to Dave, I feel sad.  But I’m writing about this to encourage myself.  Not to be sad, but to be thankful.  Thankful that after so many years, we reconnected with him.  He opened the door to Uganda for us.  Thankful that we saw firsthand the impact he had on so many people.  Not just a few people around him, not just hundred’s of people in his city, but thousands of people in his nation and around the world. On our last day there, he took us to the market to buy us gifts. The same man that changed the course of thousands of lives, insisted that he buy my mom and dad a gift.  No, he didn’t know them, but as he said, ‘you’re my sister so I really want to get something for your mom and dad to appreciate them for having you.’

I could go on, but I’m going to leave it at that.  I can’t see anymore.

Pastor Dave, we love you, we honor your life, we are grateful to call you brother and we rejoice (sadly) with you in your new home. And FYI, when I get to heaven, I want to stand next to you in the choir.

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