So, we were on our way at sunrise – tooling down the road together in 2 land cruisers and a bus, which we thought was close behind. We thought. We got a call from Trae some time later – and discovered that all our rushing around at the airport was for naught. The bus was still sitting in Niamey. I won’t go into the reasons for the delay except to say that the bus did not even leave Niamey until 10:30am. This is Africa.
Meanwhile, our vehicles were getting along fine. We may have had a flat tire but I really can’t remember. We have them so frequently they are just sort of par for the course. Especially when our tires are old. However, 11 bladders, one of them pregnant, can pose some challenges. They may not agree, but we felt like we were being pretty merciful when we’d stop within an hour of a request for a bush. Thankfully, since it was rainy season, finding sufficient coverage was relatively easy. Relatively speaking. When it’s just our family traveling, we require synchronization of bladders and try to make only 1 stop during the entire trip. Once we did it with no stops – a record!
After much bumping and swerving and stopping, we finally arrived at our destination at about 4pm. Still no sign of the bus people. The Jorgensen’s had a meal prepared for us so after about 30 minutes of recovery time (you can only understand if you have actually made this trip), we enjoyed a wonderful meal of cous cous and vegetable stew. Still no bus people. We prepared for the alumni meeting, which was to begin at 7pm. I enjoyed being back in Maradi again, in spite of the recent challenges we had faced there. The service started and again, you have to experience praise and worship here to fully understand how great it is. The team members began their ministry time and now I am beginning to get a little bit concerned. Where are our bus people (including 2 of my kids), and why haven’t we heard from them? I stepped out of the church several times to call before finally reaching them. It was about 8:30, and they were just getting into town. Pastor Rich offered to go and pick them up so they arrived at the church just about the time the meeting was getting finished. No recovery time for them! One of the reasons the trip took so long is because the bus stops so frequently for prayers – the people get out to do their Muslim prayers. Several times during the trip. That, and there’s picking people up and dropping them off. And this is not your ordinary greyhound. This is a non-air conditioned vehicle with more seats per square foot than the average ‘non-african’ bus. I rode in it once – all of me and my 5’2″ frame. The seats were so close together that I was not able to bend forward to pick something up without my head hitting the seat in front of me. In other words, I had to lean forward with head stretched back while stretching one arm down and towards the side – which would then cause me to lay in the lap of the person next to me. All I could do for our ‘bussers’ was offer my condolences, and tell them I understood. And remind them that they now had a pretty cool story to tell. They were great about it all.
We got our troopers some food and everyone was pretty quick to find their beds that evening. I got things ready for the next morning’s breakfast and was off to bed, realizing I was so tired because I had been up since 2am.
We slept great because Maradi is cooler than Niamey. And I think everyone else rested well too, in spite of the fact that temps were well above what is normal for them. The alumni meeting continued that morning and though I didn’t get to attend, (kitchen duty) I heard it was wonderful. The former students were greatly encouraged by the God-inspired messages brought by our team. And the alumni meeting is always a time of encouragement for us, as it gives us opportunity to see how the ministry has grown, and how many believers have been discipled.
We had lunch, and then our mercy kicked in so we decided we would give the group some down time. They had, after all, been on the move for 6 straight days. We took them to the ‘Club’ (again, got to see it to believe it), where we swam, relaxed, rode camels (we know some people in a nearby village and ask them to bring their camels for some photo ops) and ate dinner. That night a rousing game of cards was played. I didn’t play, but I know it was rousing because of the noise coming from a table of very ‘expressive’ people, Neal leading the charge.
The rest of the week would prove to be busy and very exciting. More to come…