#mygrandkidsarethebest

Here are my 3 ‘things’ for this week.

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Trae and Christi are on a trip and we get to be on grandparent duty.  Given that these guys have a huge family that all adore them, we’re pretty happy that the ‘job’ was offered to us.  It’s been so great to have them all to ourselves (thanks Trae and Christi) and to get to know their amazing and unique personalities.

First let me talk about Judahman. Judah Neal.  He’s the guy that made us grandparents first. He’s 5 and is an awesome kid.  In many ways he reminds us of his Dad. He likes to take charge and is the one ‘in the know’.  He doesn’t miss much, even if you don’t think he’s listening.  He’s responsible and loves organizing things.  If you put the word ‘special’ on something, he will treat it as such.  He’s very sensitive and aware of the feelings of others.  Grampa has given Judah some of his coin collection, including quite a few foreign coins.  This also included a special combination box to put them in.  A day or two later he came and told Grampa he needed to get some of the coins out of his box because he needed them to give to the homeless people.  He does not want others to be unhappy with him – real or perceived. He also has a very silly side which makes for some fun/funny conversations.  He also has a heart for the world.  This week we’re learning about the world’s 7 continents and yesterday he drew on a map where heaven was and then drew lines from all the continents/countries to heaven and told me all people need to go there.  Judah is not a fan of having his picture taken but will cooperate.  He loves legos, building stuff, organizing stuff, helping, learning facts, reciting facts and snuggles. Pretty much the perfect kid.

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Next up, CharlieGirl. Charlotte Evangeline.  She’s 3 ½.  Charlie is equal parts sweet and sass with a bunch of smart mixed in.  She is a princess and loves to be told so.  She gets something locked in her pretty head and changing the subject is next to impossible.  Her picture will show up if you Google ‘stubborn’.  She’s 3 going on 13.  You can have grown up conversations with her (including lots of hand motions and facial expressions) but the next conversation might be calming her after a meltdown (the 3 year old part of her).  She loves hard and well and knows what she wants.  She’s a blast to be with and will melt your heart when she says things like ‘Grama, do you know what I’m going to say to you?….I love you’.  She, like her brother, has a heart for people.  Today when we were out we saw the remains of a bad car accident.  She quickly asked if we could please pray for them, and proceeded to pray from her car seat.  Thanks to Psalm 100 Grama she can quote Psalm 100 and can sing the Lord’s Prayer.  (I’m the Marshmallow Grama – for reasons which I may cover in another blog post).  Charlie is a fan of having her picture taken.  She loves snuggles, hummus, pink flamingos, anything pink and twirl dresses.  A second perfect child.

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That brings us to Dez the Wild Man.  His middle name really is Wilder.  He’ll be 2 this month.  Dez is classic boy.  By that I mean rough and tumble-nothing hurts him.  He can run smack into a wall, get knocked down and jump up and keep going.  He’s also fast.  Very fast.  Like he can disassemble an organized room in 30 seconds flat.  He’s always thinking. Thinking about what he’s going to do next.  Ie. He’s emptying out a box of trains (or putting them back) but he’s not looking at what he’s doing.  He’s glancing around the room to see what’s next and when he spots it he doesn’t walk, but runs to his next destination.  This goes on for 90% of his waking hours.  That may be an under-estimation.  He has no fear.  He stands on the side of a pool and without looking where he’s going, steps sideways into the pool—in the deep end, grinning all the way. He’s not yet 2.  Barriers of any kind were made to be crossed.  Holes were made to be jumped in.  Bugs were made to be picked up.  Dogs were made to be hugged.  Get the picture? Desmond is irresistible and so are his laugh and his grin. There is a constant look of determination in his eye.  He loves tickle attacks, which I think are his version of snuggles.  He’s exhausting and there is relief when he goes to sleep at night.  But at the same time, you’re so happy to see him the next morning (even at 5:30).  He greets the day with a twinkle in his eye, energy, determination and a laugh that will take him far in his life. I don’t know if he likes his picture taken because it’s rare to get a photo of him when he’s not in motion. (There are lots of cute photo ops with him but before you can swipe left, he’s gone).  Dez loves animals, trucks, swimming, laughing, running, teasing, cheese, bananas, and eating in general.  He makes me laugh multiple times a day and is yes, a 3rd perfect child.  Go figure. 😉

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#mygrandkidsarethebest

Therapy Continued…

When I’ve been given an assignment, I usually take it pretty seriously.  Like in my workout videos.  There’s the ‘regular’ workout, then there’s the ‘extra credit’.  I always have to do the extra credit. If you read last week’s post, you will know that I have been given a therapy regimen because after neglecting my blog for 9 months, I was diagnosed with NTTMIP (no time to make it perfect).  I am supposed to write 3 paragraphs about 2 things that occurred in the past 1 week.  aka 3-2-1.  How, I ask, did this week go by so fast?  It’s 10:40 pm and I just remembered that in order to stay within my therapy guidelines, I need to submit my 3 paragraphs today.  So this is paragraph #1.

Friends.  We are thankful to have lots of amazing ones.  (Even the kind that know exactly how to force you to write in your blog).  In this past week we’ve been able to to see several friends – some planned, and some unplanned.  On Saturday we flew from Tulsa to Atlanta to speak at one of our partner churches, Lifegate.  At the airport – and the Tulsa airport is tiny – as we walked to the bench to put our shoes back on after security, who do we sitting there but Bishop Paul Nya and his daughter, Stephanie.  He is a long time friend of our family – going back to days in Nigeria when Neal was a boy there with his family.  He lives in Togo and we haven’t seen him in years, but there he was.  SO much fun to catch up and hear all God is doing through his ministry.  Crazy!  We were even on the same flight.IMG_4817

In July we had a children’s camp in Niger with a visiting team from Capital Life Church in DC.  Kelley was one of the team members that came to Niger from CLC.  You can really get to know people when they ‘live’ with you and we discovered she’d be moving to Georgia to receive a job promotion.  When she heard where we were going to be at Lifegate Church in Villa Rica, GA on September 1st, she told us she’d like to come to the service.  And she did!  Drove a couple hours to be there.  It’s always fun for us to see people on ‘this side’, that have some  understanding of our life ‘over there’.  And she came bearing a gift.  You remember how I must do the extra credit when I exercise? Well we had some great workout chats at my house, and she thought (correctly) that I would really enjoy an exercise ball.  So she brought me one.  I’m resisting blowing it up now, as traveling with it would present a small challenge.  And I’m already under treatment for NTTMIP.img_5097.jpg

Back in the blog saddle

I blog frequently.  But my blog posts have not appeared in black and white since November.  They’re all somewhere in the recesses of my mind. I have a hard time believing that I have been so neglectful to document what many would consider a pretty interesting life.  Today I was given a challenge.  A chastisement really.  First, my very good friend diagnosed me with NTTMIP (no time to make it perfect).  She suggested that this may be the reason that I don’t actually get my thoughts on ‘paper’.  Because I don’t very often have the chunks of peaceful, uninterrupted and clutter free solitude in which to write and make it ‘just so’.  So she has issued me a therapy regimen known as the 3-2-1 challenge.  Once a week I am to write 3 paragraphs about 2 things that happened in the last 1 week.  I have been told that in the early stages of my treatment, pictures are optional.  So this is me, diary from the desert, beginning my treatment plan.  And since I have taken up 1 of my 3 paragraphs with this explanation, only 2 remain…

Though we live in Niger, we are currently in the US traveling to supporting churches and visiting family and friends.  One week ago today we drove from Sioux City, Iowa to Park Rapids, MN.  What were we doing in Sioux City you ask?  I’m not sure I’m allowed to say, since the reason involves happenings that took place more than a week ago.  Suffice it to say, we were on a long road trip and were visiting a Super 8 along the way.  Best part was arriving ‘Up North’ (if you’re from Minnesota you’ll understand that), just in time to celebrate my dad’s 76th birthday! Thats a pretty memorable event since I’m never around for that – living in Africa and all.  Added bonus: Uncle Dave and Aunt Chris also came to the party, and I haven’t seen them in years.  We enjoyed our 3 days with my family, but according to the terms of my treatment plan, I’m only allowed to write about 1 event in a paragraph, and I think I might have already exceeded that….and for me, blogging without pictures is like taking the color out of the sunrise. So pictures I will include.

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Clearly brothers…. Uncle Dave and Dad

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I think one reason I find it so hard to blog consistently is because I can’t decide, from the many things that take place week to week, what to write about.  So I write about none.  So here I am, already in paragraph #3, and down to only 1 more thing to write about.  As I said, we are here traveling to supporting churches, thanking them, updating them, and bringing encouragement we believe God has given to us–to give to them.  We are truly blessed with amazing partners all over the country and I could write about each of them.  But according to my assignment, I will limit this to Life Christian Center (LCC) in Branson, MO, where we were this past weekend.  They have been partnering with us for several years, have sent several teams of various sizes to minister with us, and have a  special love for Abraham’s Place.  Abraham’s Place is a children’s discipleship center founded and led by Pastor’s Koyejo and Lola Amori.  AP is having incredible results and if you’d like to know more about what they do, find them on our website here.  As I said, LCC has a special love for AP.  And they don’t just talk about it.  They do something about it.  They pray for the children, they send them cards and gifts, and they spent the past year raising money to help support this work.  And that’s what they presented to us on Sunday morning.  A series of gifts, that led to a vary large check they gave us to support Abraham’s Place.  We were shocked and overwhelmed and thankful.  And over the top blessed.  But should that really be surprising?  After all, our God does promise to do more than we can ask or even think.  But He still continues to amaze us.

And to my dear friend Patty, I do hope I have complied with the terms of my treatment plan to overcome NTTMIP.

John Allen Chau. He Was No Fool.

8B8F2799-D1D5-406A-960F-1197A67318DCI have so many thoughts swirling around in my head.  We saw the tragic news of John Chau’s death 2 days ago.   Since then, it has been gaining momentum in my heart and mind.  To the point where I can’t sleep (it’s currently 4:15am). The best way for me to make sense of those thoughts is to write them down.  And what better place then my very own blog.

Also, as fellow missionaries, ORU Alumni, and the fact that our son & daughter in law knew John, it feels very real and almost close to home.

Before I go on, let me express my deepest condolences to John’s family and friends.  I have prayed for you often.  The only words I have are to say what you already know – Jesus is the comforter to the broken-hearted. As a fellow missionary, please know that I consider John a hero. And I am fully persuaded that his death will not be in vain.

“Reaching the Unreached” has been our ministry mantra or tag line since our ‘How to Write a Newsletter’ class in Bible School in 1997.

Yep, we’re that old.

But what does that really mean?  “Reaching the Unreached.  “REACHING THE UNREACHED”

What does reaching mean?  How do we reach?  Who are the Unreached? Where are the Unreached?

We have served as missionaries in Niger Republic for over 20 years.  I make that point to give some context to my words.  It truly has been our passion to ‘Reach the Unreached’.  There are several unreached people groups in Niger, and we have been fortunate to see progress made among them. Statistics in Niger are changing.  But that hasn’t come without sacrifices.

I admit that when I hear of someone moving to the mission field in an area of the world that is not unreached, I wonder.  I wonder why God is calling everyone to places that can reach their own nations, and even send missionaries themselves?

My short answer to that ‘wonder’ is that many of the unreached places are uncomfortable.  Hot. Undeveloped. Non English speaking. Far away. Filled with terrorism. Scary. Inaccessible. Just plain hard.

I, as most of the people hearing the news of John’s death, didn’t know him.  So many are weighing in with their opinions -positive and negative.  Which I guess is what I’m doing right now. And I’m sad to see so many who are criticizing him when the Great Commission is clear.  Mark 16:15 does not say, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to those who welcome you.”

John’s death has caused me to look again into the life, ministry and death of Jim Elliot.  Some of the parallels are amazing.  I’m even going to be bold enough to say this.  John Chau: A Modern Day Jim Elliot.

We see things through the lens of our own experience.  Here’s mine.

I have had the incredible privilege of taking the Gospel to people who have never heard the name of Jesus.  It’s pretty awesome.  I have experienced seeing how that Gospel message transforms lives, lifting them out of poverty.

I have had the even more incredible experience of seeing my children take the Gospel to someone who has never heard of Jesus.  But I have not had to see them die for that experience.

Some  say that we, our family, have sacrificed so much to go into all the world and reach the unreached.

But have we really?  We still have our lives.  And what sacrifice am I really willing to make?  Am I willing to lay down my life for another?  Because that’s what Jesus said we should do.  Was Jesus just saying we should lay aside our own comforts, dreams and desires, or did He really mean our actual lives?  Like be willing to die.

An even greater question…am I willing to watch my child to lay down his/her life for the sake of the call?  I’ve wrestled with that. What if my son told us he was called to reach the Sentinelese?  What if we even agreed.  He went, was attacked, but able to make it back.  I’m pretty sure at that point that I would say something like: “I’m proud of you and so thankful you obeyed God.  He brought you back. I’m sure you planted some good seed, and now God will cause it to grow.  Don’t go back again though.”  Because really, am I willing to sacrifice my child for the sake of the Gospel?

Even though there is crazy stuff going on in every nation bordering Niger, we have always felt safe here.  Yes, we’ve faced some things.  Quite a few things. Churches attacked and burned, multiple times. Accidents, sickness, even deaths.  I could go on.  But I can personally testify that in every one of those situations God has been faithful, and not one of them has ever caused us to want to ‘turn back’.

Which is why our experience this past week was so frustrating.  The T. Threat has been ramped up for sure in recent years, and even months.  I could name several ‘groups’ that have infiltrated Niger, but I won’t. We are not fearful, but we do know that we have to be on ‘high alert’ and walk in wisdom and discernment (which is why the prayers of our partners is so crucial).

Back to last week.  We were on our way out to do a water baptism in one of our newer church plants in a village about 1.5 hours away.  We’ve been there multiple times.  There are several police/security checks along the way, and the police usually recognize us and wave us through. At the checkpoint about an hour into the trip, the police stopped us.  They questioned us, asking where we were going.  They knew by talking with us in their language that we weren’t ‘newbies’ in Niger.  They expressed pretty emphatically though, that they did not want us to continue down the road.  We knew that there were security issues near the area we were going, but didn’t think they would be a concern for our brief trip.  The police told us that they were not going to forbid us to go, but would be very stressed if we did, and wouldn’t rest until they saw our faces again.

We had a decision to make.  It’s very rare for us to turn back.  And honestly, if it had just been Neal and I, I’m pretty sure we would have gone on and done the baptism.  But we had some guests from the US with us.  And that puts a whole other bent on the situation.  Being responsible for someone else.  So instead of going ahead, we thanked the police, and went to visit and encourage a church in a nearby village instead.

Not that our situations are even comparable, but here’s the HUGE difference between our decision, and John Chau’s decision to go to reach the Sentinelese in spite of the dangers.  The place where we were going had already heard the Gospel.  We were going to baptize believers.  They even had a pastor there.  So to do something ‘risky’ (I guess some are saying ‘adventurous) could even be considered foolish. Maybe even prideful.

But John was taking Jesus to a group of people that had never heard.  Ever. That is not foolish. Or adventurous. Or prideful. It’s obedience. That’s what Reaching the Unreached really is.

I don’t suppose that everything I read is true, but it sounds to me like John was making a very well-informed, Jesus led decision.  It wasn’t fool-hearty.  It wasn’t spontaneous.  And bottom line?  Go into ALL the world and preach the Gospel.

My experience is one thing.  But what does the Bible say about it?

Look at Peter and John in Acts 4.  They are threatened and told not to speak again in ‘that Name’. They replied, “We cannot help but speak what we have seen and heard.” They return to their friends and prayed.  Not a prayer of protection, but this prayer:

Now Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.

Then they went right back to proclaiming that Name. Reaching.

In Acts 16, while Paul was on his 2nd missionary journey, he is prevented by the Holy Spirit from going to Turkey and the Aegean Sea.  Right after that, he has the vision of the man from Macedonia.  He immediately, without question, went there, knowing it was the voice of the Holy Spirit.

Who are we to say that the Holy Spirit didn’t call John to the Sentinelese?

And what about Acts 20? Paul said the Holy Spirit told him to go to Jerusalem, and also told him that prison and hardships are facing him there.  It didn’t stop Paul.

It didn’t stop John Chau either.  He knew the risks.  But I suspect that he said as Paul did: I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”

I’d only be speculating, but I’ll bet there were those who tried to talk John out of what he was about to do.  Again, look at Paul.

The prophet Agabus tied Paul up and said the Holy Spirit told him that he would be bound ‘like this’ and handed over to the Gentiles. People begged Paul not to go.  After all, why walk into a situation you know is sure to end in disaster?

I wonder if John’s mom begged him not to go.  And I wonder if his answer was similar to that of Apostle Paul:

“Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

And what about the time Paul was stoned. Thinking he was dead, they dragged him out of the city.  He got up and instead of going to the hospital, he went straight back into the city.

Sounds like my hero, John. Ever determined to Reach the Unreached.

The message of the Gospel has not changed. The number of those needing to hear are still beyond our ability to reach. That means that we still have the same job as Paul & the other disciples had.

I believe John understood this and took it literally.  And we’re going to criticize him for it? How long has it been since you shared with someone face to face of the love, grace and eternal life that Jesus offers?  How long…? We are all called.

It’s our responsibility to ‘Go into all the world and preach the Gospel’. That’s not optional, it’s a command.  Just because someone doesn’t want to hear doesn’t negate the command.

What is not our responsibility is to decide for our hearer whether or not they receive the Gospel.  That’s all up to them.  But they can’t decide if they don’t first hear.   How will they hear without a preacher?

The Gospel is the only thing that will bring change to the Sentinelese people. And the point isn’t to change who they are, but simply to present Jesus to them so they have an option to accept or reject His gift of eternal life.

Anthropologists say, ‘let them be the way they are’,  ‘leave them in peace in their ecosystem’. ‘We protect them by leaving them alone’.  Almost like an endangered animal species.  But they are not animals.  They are God’s creation, made in His image.  And if we ‘leave them in peace’, they’ll have no peace at all.  If we don’t reach them, we won’t see them in heaven. And that will be on us. But their blood will not be on John Chau’s head.

Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but it it dies, it bears much fruit.  John 12:24

John Chau’s death is a seed that has died.  I am very excited and confident about what is going to grow from that seed.  I have no doubt that this is just the beginning of a movement among the Sentinelese and all of the islands and unreached people in that region of the world.

Again, I may be speaking presumptuously… but I can see John up in heaven after receiving his ‘well done’ from Jesus.  He’s cheering us on with the cloud of witnesses.  Maybe he found Jim Elliot and said, “Hey man.  Do you remember the time you said, ‘He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose?’ Everyone is talking about that.  And you were right.”

What do you have to lose?

Another Sunday in Niger

So I was just going to post a picture or two on Facebook, but decided I would go ahead and blog instead.  It’s been so long I almost forgot how to open it.

I think I like to write about Sundays.  I’m guessing if I search back some years, I’ll find several posts based around the first day of the week.  Or around other days we have church services.

With 52 churches in Vie Abondante, and invitations to speak in other ministries, we obviously don’t get to every church very often.  And even though the village churches are significantly further then going to one of the churches in the city, (not to mention the ‘road’ challenges), we really enjoy being in the village.  I think that’s because that is Niger.  The majority of the people live in villages.

Today we went to Fera.  It’s a Gourmantche church, pastored by Omar & Aisha.  They’re wonderful.  And they ALWAYS smile like that.

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The trip is about 1.5 hours.  The first hour is on good road.  One of the best roads in Niger, really.  The last 30 minutes make up for the great road preceding them.

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Little guy herding his cow.

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In case one might be concerned for our safety, no worries.  Here’s one of the many police checks along the route.

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Enough of the good road.  Here’s where we turn off into the bush.

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And where we picked up Pastor Omar & Aisha.  I love taking pictures of these two.

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All tucked in…

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And it was here that a couple people in our party had to move to the ‘way back’ cause we were already full when we stopped to pick up Pastor Omar.  You see, as many times as we’ve been to the Fera church, we still can’t make it on our own.  One of the reasons for that is you go a different ‘road’ each time, depending on what season it is.  Rainy season washes out roads.

I’m sure this brought back fond memories for Tobi, cause when he was a kid, his regular seat was usually in the ‘way back’.  He and Pastor Jack were good sports. We had to stop at one point and if Jack had eaten any cookies, he would have tossed them.  Tobi said he was holding his.  Needless to say it was a rough 30 minutes for the back sitters.

But they smiled anyway-in spite of the fact that they are just climbing in for the trip home.

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Rainy season is finished, but there was still some lovely green.  Mostly because the Dawa (Sorghum) hasn’t been harvested yet.

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And this area has THE coolest trees.  The Baobab.  (Bay-Oh-Bab).  It’s even fun to say.  I’ll try to refrain from including every picture I took of them.  They are in ‘bloom’ this time of year.

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Storage for grain.

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Here’s another.  Do you remember it’s name?

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Can’t help myself… Check out the size compared to the motorcycle.IMG_0719 2

Fera is a large village, and the homesteads are in family units, with quite a large distance between them.  When the fields are harvested, you can see your neighbor. Here’s one family home.

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We’re almost there…

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That’s it!  The church.

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This guy is bringing his bench. It’s on his head.

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We’re here!

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Several different people led the worship, ending with Pastor Omar, before Neal preached.  The majority of the people speak Gourmantche, but Pastor Omar speaks Zarma and Hausa and his wife only Zarma. So Neal preached in English, Jack interpreted into Gourmantche, I interpreted into Hausa for Pastor Omar, and Jack’s wife Fati interpreted into Zarma for Aisha. I think everyone was covered.  That blasted Tower of Babel.

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It was a great message, preached with excellence to hungry and receptive hearts.  Faith.  Without it, it is impossible to please God.  And it’s in the heart, not in the head.  You must have hope first. And if there are questions or doubt, that’s not faith.  You believed that Jesus died and rose with faith.  That’s the same way you believe for everything else.  That’s it in a nutshell.

We spent some time greeting the members before we started on our return trip.

This little man wasn’t too sure about Tobi.  But seriously, who doesn’t love Tobi?

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Nearly everyone has a baby. Fast Fact: Niger has the highest birth rate in the world.

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We have Vie Abondante cloth and these ladies are admiring it, making plans to buy some to have outfits sewn.

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Happy faces.

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Time to say goodbye.

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So now you can scroll back up to see the reverse drive out of the bush. Or just move on.

We left at noon, and it was warming up quite nicely.

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We followed this guy until the ‘turn-off’.  =)

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Pavement!

IMG_8500Once we got to the paved road (not without some tummy mishaps), we pulled off as we had some things to discuss with Pastor Omar.

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A site for sore behinds.

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A pretty awesome thing is that on our way from our house to Fera, we pass 3 other Vie Abondante churches.  We drive right through Torodi where one of them is, so even though their service was over, we stopped to greet Pastor Ibrahim and Hawa.

Along the way, there are lots of interesting sites to see.  If I was the guy pushing the cart, I think I’d try and throw it up on that big truck that’s passing by.  (It is over 100 degrees).

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Mosques are everywhere, even fancy ones like the one on the right.

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This is the road that leads to Burkina Faso.  A few more miles and we’re in another country. But I digress.  That’s the reason when we go this direction we have to take this detour around all these trucks. Many trucks. The trucks are held here before being allowed to move on.  As you pass by, it looks like nothing is being done.  People sleeping under their trucks etc.  But something is happening.

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Then there are the speed bumps.  The awful, horrible, obnoxious speed bumps. Multiple speed bumps.  Everywhere.  I don’t like them.

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And here we are.  Torodi.

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There is a well at the church.  After services people come and get water.  It’s a great ministry.

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And a suit to pump water?  Why not.

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Tobi taking a few minutes to ‘settle’ after the roller coaster ride.

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Pastor Ibrahim’s youngest.

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After a quick visit and goodbye’s, we were back on the road again.

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But our trip isn’t over yet.  We pass through a town/village on our way that has a meat and vegetable market.  Jack asked if we could stop so he could get some meat.

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Where’s the beef?

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And this is what I call service.

How about a side of beef?

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It’s fresh.  I promise.

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We had an audience while we waited.

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So yeah, we did end up buying some meat – for lunch. The stuff that was already cooke. And while waiting, we decided we’d go ahead and get some okra too.  When is the last time I cooked okra?  I don’t remember….19??  Talk about the power of suggestion.  But seriously, don’t those veggies look beautiful?

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This guy didn’t look quite as thrilled as I was though.

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On the road again – though officially we never really left it.

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And I’m thankful that I’m not carrying my food home this way.

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Getting closer to the big city.  And where is this little guys mom?

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And here’s how I know that the trucks don’t sit at border control forever.  These guys are entering Niamey, the capital of Niger.

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Getting closer

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Here’s another one of our churches!  Right on the main road.

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Those are water towers.  Almost home.

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Final road.

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There’s our house.

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Our garage.

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There’s our okra.

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There’s our meat.  It’s beef.

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Sunday lunch!

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So. There you have it.  The thing I’ve realized as I’ve been writing this is that even though I’m writing it like it’s something new and different, it’s not.  It’s our life.  There is nothing unique to us about any of these pictures or things we experienced today.  These journeys happen at least weekly, sometimes more.

At the same time, we love it.  We are energized by this kind of stuff.  After all Jesus said in John 4, “My food is to do the will of my Father and finish His work”.  Doing what He’s called us to do is where we get our strength.  Our food.  And let me tell you, we enjoy food – a lot!

That Got Me Thinking…With God

Last night Neal and I got dressed up (African style) and went out. We looked pretty good! On the way to our destination, I commented that it was kind of like we were on a date.  It was a date. A date with about 3000 other Nigeriennes.  It was an evangelistic meeting with a ministry from Burkina Faso, and was organized in conjunction with the churches in Niger.  Here’s just a small part of the crowd.

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Many that came were Christians, many were Muslims, and many came out of curiosity.

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It wasn’t really possible to get a full crowd shot without rushing up on the platform, and as tempted as I was to do that, it may have gotten me arrested – or at least tackled.

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We arrived to our very own Pastor Nelson leading the praise – as only he can do.  And they had those speakers turned up loud.  I should know because we were sitting right in front of them.  After all the preliminary stuff and announcements, the Evangelist arrived.  First came the military escort vehicle, and then his vehicle.  All of the military police surrounded him as he walked to the front row and took his place.  He’s the man in the suit.

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What you may not see are all of the ‘bodyguards’.  Here’s a better shot.

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We were fortunate to sit on the front row so had a birds eye view.  Well, maybe not birds eye, but we had a view.  It was almost fascinating to watch these soldiers fan out in formation as the man of God arrived.  This guy and his ‘gear’ was standing about 6 feet in front of me.

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Now it’s pretty standard protocol that you never take pictures of police, military or government buildings. That’s seriously frowned on around here. So even though seeing the military police is pretty par for the course for us- as we see them around the city most days, I don’t have many pictures of them. (I’ve sneaked a few here and there but that’s a secret). Here, however, everyone had cameras, so I decided to join in the fun and snap away.

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The preaching was being done in 3 languages, unfortunately none of the languages we speak.  So we asked our trusty friend and master interpreter, Habibu, to sit with us and help us out.  Anyone who know’s Habibu, knows that he’s always happy to help out. Clearly.

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However, when the entourage arrived, Habibu looked anything but pleased.  There was even some eye rolling going on.  Then he started counting all of the soldiers out loud.  And pointing.  We had to tell him to stop pointing.  He thought it was serious overkill.

That got me thinking….I’m watching everything going on. All of our senses are involved.  It was hot, dusty, very loud and lots of interesting stuff to look at.  The only thing missing was taste.  But then I realized the dust in the air we were breathing had that covered too.

I understood where Habibu was coming from.  In our ministry, we sort of frown on big titles and positions that make one’s chest expand.  So he could not understand why the man of God needed all this protection.

And I was still thinking.  Here we are in Niger.  A nation where the vast majority of the people claim Islam as their religion.   And here they were. PROTECTING a Christian event.  An event where hundreds were giving their lives to Christ!  I can almost guarantee that every one of those soldiers was Muslim.  But they were committed to protect the man of God, and really, all those attending.  And they themselves, as ‘soldier like’ as they remained, were also hearing the Gospel.  There is no way they could turn off their ears.  I wasn’t kidding when I said it was loud.

Earlier today I was reading in Mark about the camel and the needle and things being impossible.  The disciples asked a question.  “How then can anyone be saved?”  Jesus replies, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

With God.

People are being saved in a place that once looked impossible for Salvation to penetrate. These are Muslim ladies rushing to the front for salvation.

With God.

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The government, in a nation that espouses everything Islam, is protecting massive evangelistic campaigns.

With God.

Hundreds ran to the front to receive Jesus.  I saw it with my eyes.

With God.

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It’s an amazing time to be in Niger.  We have been here for 20 years and have had the privilege to see the growth.  To see the Gospel expand.  To see the local church rise up in authority and boldness, breaking down denominational barriers.

With God.

When we arrived in 1998, we were told that there were probably about 3000 Christians.  Today, there are several hundred thousand of us.

With God.

And those were the thoughts I was having last night as I proudly watched ‘The Church’ in Niger very successfully host a mass evangelistic campaign.

The best is yet to come.

With God.

PS.  If you’d like to see a video of people rushing to the front for salvation, check out my Facebook page – Danette Goodmanson Childs

Continue reading “That Got Me Thinking…With God”

A Sunday Here, A Sunday There

We’re traveling to the US in 2 days.  So right now I should be packing.  Because I haven’t even started.  But I can’t. Because I have to get my thoughts down and I think my blog is the most convenient avenue for me to do that.

Today is Sunday, so of course we went to church.  We are usually in a different church each Sunday.  Neal is often preaching.  Today we went to the village of Fera.  Fera was started because Pastor Omar of Nikoye started evangelizing there.  It wasn’t long before there were new believers needing a church and needing to be discipled.  So Pastor Omar goes back and forth between his village of Nikoye and Fera.  He used to do that on his motorcycle, but we have learned that it is out of commission so now he walks.  About an hour 1 way.  In the hot sun.  With a smile.  Pastor Omar is always smiling.

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And here’s his beautiful wife, Aishatu.  She’s always smiling too.

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So we left this morning  and on our way out of town we picked up Pastor Jacques.  He’s coming to interpret because Fera is a Gourmantche village and Pastor Omar doesn’t yet speak Gourmantche.  But he obviously didn’t use that as an excuse not to evangelize.  We drove on the paved road for almost an hour where we met Pastor Omar and Aishatu waiting for us.  (They walked an hour to meet us there).  The drive (in our 4Runner) to Fera from there is 20 minutes into the bush.  Distance is difficult to nail down, because of the ‘road’ conditions, and direction is difficult too – which is one reason Pastor Omar was with us.  We’ve been several times, but still don’t know the way on our own. Don’t judge, if you saw the place, you’d get lost too.

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Had fun conversation about family as we bumped and jostled along.  We were in Maradi a couple of weeks ago where Pastor Omar’s daughter is part of Abraham’s Place.  I showed them pictures I took of her and told them how she is thriving there.  More smiles.  We talked about the church and its growth.  We arrived to the people gathered and already singing. The church is meeting in a thatch structure right now, but we are building a church there that will be completed in a few months.  The bricks are made on site, and the foundation is in the process of being dug.  And that is NOT an easy job.  The ground is incredibly hard and rocky.  So – just pour water on it to soften it.  Good idea.  Except that water comes from a well, and has to first be pulled up and then carried from a long way away.  In the hot sun.  The church members are helping with that.

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Here are bricks fort the new church.  The current church is in the back right.

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After some lively worship and dancing, the choir sang.  The choir is made up of young girls who are quite talented.  They do choreographed dancing while singing.  The dance moves are not something that you should try.  Unless you want to put your back or neck out.  Or unless you have Gourmantche in your blood.

I love taking close-ups of faces.  Here are a few from today…

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Then came time for my favorite preacher to preach.  That’s Pastor Jacques interpreting for him. He preached a message about ‘Invitation’.  Jesus goes where He’s invited.  It was a great message and the people were very engaged.  At the end they all prayed and invited Jesus into various situations in their lives.  Then we prayed for the sick.

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Then I greeted the congregation and encouraged them to act on what they’d heard.

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At the end of the service Pastor Omar asked Tobi to come and greet the people.  Omar asked Tobi to greet in Hausa so he could interpret for him himself.

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After the service we all shook hands with everyone.  Everyone shook hands with everyone.  Which everyone always does.  We did that outside of the church though, because only the children could stand up straight in most places inside.  Even me- as short as I am.  That made me feel tall, a very foreign feeling…

Outside as we were investigating the building materials for the new church, a dust storm rolled in.  It had been very windy all morning, And finally the dust came.  I had just made the mistake of applying lip gloss.  Bad decision.

Here’s a picture of our drive back home – to get an idea of why lip gloss wasn’t wise…

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We got back in our 4Runner with Tobi, Pastor Jacques, Pastor Omar & Aishatu.  We basically retraced our steps.  When we dropped Pastor Omar, we asked him about his moto.  He basically said it’s not worth repairing and that in fact with what he’s spent on repairing it, he could have bought a new one.  So they walk.  Another hour.  In the hot sun. (Note to self.  Help Pastor Omar get a new moto).

So. Back on the main road we were and we began talking with Pastor Jacques regarding his ideas about new pastors in villages that have believers but no pastors.  When one particular man was mentioned he just kind of laughed.  Neal asked him what was up.  He said basically that that guy wasn’t serious. “Why?” We asked.  Because he wants Nigelec and things like that.  What is Nigelec you ask?  Electricity!  Jacques very matter of fact like said that this man was not ready to be a pastor because he wanted, of all things, ELECTRICITY!  Can you believe it?  The gall of that man.  And there I sat, comfortable in our air conditioned vehicle thinking, “well I darn sure want Nigelec!  What does that say about me?

You’d be amazed to see the hoops we jump through to keep our electricity constant.  In fact that could be its very own blog post.

On our way back, we decided to stop by and visit Pastor Ibrahim and Hawa.  They have been pastoring a church in the town of Torodi for several years.  (It may be interesting to note that they don’t have electricity either).

The service was over but there were still lots of people hanging around.  Pastor Ibrahim and Hawa’s home is right there with the church.  They have the luxury of a well in the compound and people were lined up pumping water.  It’s not open during service, but starts up right after.  It’s a huge blessing for the people of Torodi and a great testimony for the church.

Unfortunately I left my camera in the car when we hopped out to greet.  I regret that, because so much took place in a matter of about 10 minutes that was photo worthy.

Hawa informed us that Pastor Ibrahim was meeting with some people in the church. She called him out.  Ibrahim was happy to see us, and brought out the group of men he was meeting with.  Turns out, they were guys from 4 villages where pastor Ibrahim has been evangelizing.  The villages are from 30-60 minutes away (again, in a proper vehicle), and are places that don’t yet have a pastor.  Ibrahim has a motorcycle with a small trailer so he sends someone from his church to pick them up and bring them to Torodi for service.  Then he takes them back home.

Oh, and yesterday we were told about an attack that was made a couple of nights ago on one of our village pastors and his family.  It was at night but they were still awake so they themselves captured the attacker and brought him to the village mayor.  He said his reason for attacking the pastor was because he doesn’t want Christianity in their village.  They didn’t warrant it big enough news to tell us about it immediately.

So why the play by play of our Sunday worship?   I think its because I started thinking about the contrast of where we’ll minister just 1 week from today, compared to where we worshiped today.

The way we worshiped today is considered ‘normal’ for our pastors and church members here. Just as ‘normal’ as the service we’ll be in next week.  The things are pastors here do and the things they face in order  to evangelize and disciple are considered normal, when in our reality there is nothing normal about it. Perspective.

I write because as I sit here in my electricity filled home I realize again how humbled, honored and proud I am all at the same time, to be serving with men and women like these.  People who consider things like running water and electricity to be frivolous and unnecessary to spreading the Gospel.  When Jesus said go into all the world, He didn’t mean go only where you find Nigelec.

This has been a great reminder to me as we struggle during this hot season.  It’s been a tough one.  We moved into a wonderful new home, but the electricity doesn’t come in at full power.  And then sometimes it’s not on at all. I can’t do some important things like run the microwave and toaster.  And then there’s the heat.  Did I mention how hot the sun was? Some days 112+ degrees hot.  With no relief.  I have an unfinished blog post about how much I detest hot season.  (I may or may not finish that one).

Seriously?

These men and women that we are privileged to work so closely with are really the ones who are daily laying down their lives for the sake of the call….with no electricity and smiles on their faces.

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