Community in Niger

I’ve finally done it. I’ve taken the plunge. I’ve joined the world of bloggers. You’ll have to forgive my ‘site’, but I’m still working on it. I really don’t know what I’m doing, so not even sure how it looks. I have been very lazy in my journal writing for a very long time. I’ve written it in my head dozens of times. And now that so much time has passed, I’m very annoyed that I haven’t done it. I’ve missed writing about so many great (and I suppose not so great) things. I continue to be amazed at how many people were interested in my journaling, and have asked why I haven’t been writing. So, I’m trying something new. I thought maybe if I used this format, I’d be more committed to my writing. I was actually inspired by my friend’s blog site – thanks Patty.

There’s no way I can catch up with all I’ve missed, but maybe as I write, past things will come up. But for today, I want to write about community.

I live in Africa. There are many misconceptions about life here. But one thing I think most people understand is that community is a way of life in Africa. By that I mean people’s lives revolve around each other. Not just their families, but their entire village. In Niger, a good majority of the people are born in their village, live there, and die there, never having gone further than the nearest market – on foot. Most ‘Westerners’ first response to that would be to think how tragic it is. But I’ve driven or walked through many of those villages. Though most of the people have been through at least one tragic event, tragedy is not what you see on their faces. They are smiling faces. Women laughing and chattering around the well as they pull up their water. This is where information is exchanged. I guess I can call it like it is – gossip! They pound their grain together – 2 pestles pounding rhythmically in the same mortar. They make the work look easy – even fun! Everyone knows everything about everyone. The good, the bad and the ugly. The men sit under trees weaving, playing cards and yes, gossiping. Children are everywhere – they are running, teasing, rolling old tires with sticks and making ‘cars’ out of tin cans. Baby naming ceremonies are huge events, with most of the village attending, as well as people from surrounding villages near and far. Same with weddings. But those who live in the developed world and visit a Niger village can see only what they consider to be sub-standard living conditions. They have to pull water from a well by hand, they cook outside over an open fire, they have their babies in their mud homes, they live in temperatures greater than 110 degrees much of the year – with no electricity to even run a fan, they eat from a community tray – with their hands! But if you look beyond all of this, you will see happiness on the faces you look at. This is their life. There is no doubt, they face much tragedy: most have had a baby or child die, disease is common, hunger is common, education is lacking-if not non-existent. I could go on. But in all of that, they have each other. The whole village is there to help them, and to just be with them in the situations they face. And then they go on. These things aren’t the reasons their lives are tragic. We are working to help them improve their living situations, but the biggest tragedy is the fact that most of them don’t know Jesus. (We are working to change that too!) Where will they spend eternity? Their life on this earth is short compared to that!

Today we had a wedding in a village, uniting the children of 2 of our pastors. It was wonderful. But the bride cried during the ceremony. She cried the entire 30 minute drive we took to her new husband’s village, and cried (sobbed, really) as the village ladies came by to greet her. You see, she grew up in her village. Spent all of her life there. Hannatu and Yahaya were very much looking forward to getting married, as they had been ‘promised’ for more than 2 years. But today, reality hit home. Hannatu was leaving her community. And it was hard. I was sitting next to her on the mat covered dirt floor, pretty much at a loss for words, as the women came to see her. I told them that she was sad and they should encourage her, as they understood how she was feeling. Many of them were transplants themselves. One lady said to me, “Don’t worry about her. She’s not sad, she’s really very happy.” What was I thinking? A new community has already begun!

12 thoughts on “Community in Niger

  1. walnutshademom

    This is Patty leaving you a comment. Looks great so far! I will try to answer the questions you emailed me, but may not have time to get back to it for a day or so. Life calls, you know. = )

  2. r47hen

    Love that the journal is back!! Keeps me connected and the kids informed. Love the Name of the blog too!! In our prayers always!!!! xoxoxoxo

  3. Karen Edwards

    Welcome to the world of blogs! Was great to read – but everytime I read one of your newsletters or blogs it makes my heart ache to be back…still we’re counting down the time!

    Looking forward to the next installment

  4. Cherie

    Hi Danette,
    You’re ahead of me, this is actually my first time to even visit a blog let alone make one. It was great only too short, your writing is so interesting, God gave you a talent. I am looking forward to reading more.

  5. Sampson House

    First off, the journal is great. Its always good to put your thoughts down sometimes. Second, the life in Africa is mis-understood, especially if you have never been their. As an person living in America, it makes me feel spoiled, and at the same time, grateful. I remember when our (Mission) team had first came back to the States from Africa, I was so grieved within my spirit. It was just an Airport, but I felt like we were at an Amusement Park. They say that its culture shock, but i felt like it was more than that. I felt like we really don’t have true happiness in America. I love the nation that I am in, and it has made me who I am, but you really don’t know who you are until all of it is gone. I have told many people, “Those that do love God in Africa need Him like water, they will die without Him.” It should be like that all over the world. Anyways, so as I said before, its good to put your thoughts down sometimes.***Sorry if these things are meant for short comments, I don’t know what I’m doing either Danette.****

  6. Sarah

    Hey Danette! I love reading blogs. Scott and I have been saying we need to start one too.
    I totally agree about life being misunderstood in Africa. One of my favorite things about driving around was watching how happy people seemed in their daily lives.
    Love you guys and miss you!

  7. Danette,
    I am so glad that you are going to continue your journal,I love reading about life in Niger. I learned alot about collectivist communities going to Africa, it really is amazing. Who would have known that years later it would help in psyc., oh yea God knew! Thank you for sharing:) We love ya.

  8. Debby Stanke

    I just loved reading your journal. Please continue to send them to
    me. It is so precious to see how God is moving around the world,
    and reading these journals help me to direct my prayers more
    accurately- not just for your famliy- but for the nation as well.

    The world of bloging is very new to me also, (so new I have to
    admit it’s my first time) I am believing God that this will get to
    you, LOL!
    Love you so very much,

  9. connieweis

    I am so glad the journal is back. I know it takes time, but it also keeps us connected to Niger. As you wrote about the faces it brought back memories of those wonderful people we met in 2002. Gosh, has it been that long? But I will never forget them, they have left footprints in my life and on my heart. This is wonderful. I will send the link to all the ladies in my Bible study at work so they can read for themselves. Thanks for starting the journal again. I’ve missed it.

    Love yall

  10. Haley

    i really enjoyed this! please add me to your list of people to receive the link.
    i don’t think i was on it before. the reality of community is so rare here in the US.
    it was awesome to see how community is everything in Niger. that was one of the first
    things i notice while there. thank you for writing about it. it’s such an important
    aspect of God’s Kingdom. it will be awesome to see more people in Niger receive Christ
    AND live that lifestyle of community. powerful. hope you are doing well! love, haley

  11. Southside Church

    Dear Childs, thanks for including us on your blog list. Will share with church. Brings the needs of your people closer to home. Looking forward to hearing more. Your Southside Family

  12. tina kravet

    i can just picture the village in my mind. the people of niger are still in my heart since our trip in october. i am praying that i return to africa with the church, only this time to nigeria in march. hope to be back in niger in october.

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