hia·tus (hī āt′əs) noun
“any gap or interruption, as in continuity or time”
I have been on an unplanned blogging hiatus. An interruption of sorts, but I can’t really identify what the interruption has been. It’s certainly not because I haven’t had anything to blog about. There’s been plenty – believe you me!
January was the beginning of our new bible school format – modules. Three weeks of classes; Monday- Saturday from 8-12 & 4-6 every day. It went great and all 9 that started, completed successfully. There will be 5 of these throughout the year, then a graduation. I taught “Roots of Character”. A class that can uncover some not so pleasant revelations in your own life… At the end of the month, Tanika had another eye attack for which much prayer went to the throne and like always, God came through. The attack we precipitated by a soccer ball to the face while in P.E., kicked by one of her siblings who shall remain nameless (but he was in her PE class). She is no longer playing soccer – or contact sports of any kind. Then we had some very good friends/ministers come and did tons of stuff with us. They were the speakers for closing of the module. We then took them to Park W, the game reserve in Niger. It’s camping, but tents are provided, complete with cot beds. Not bad at all. Thought it was unseasonably warm for early February (it’s always unseasonably warm if you ask me), the nights were still cool enough for hot chocolate and a sleeping bag – seriously. You get a real feel for what darkness is out there as there is no electricity. The campground is not fenced in but is in an open area, nestled into the middle of some rock formations on one side and the river and some trees on the other. We woke up to monkeys swinging in the trees around us. We saw lots of cool stuff, the biggest being the elephants. And we got pretty close to them too. Good thing it was too hot for them to charge (so I tell myself), because I’m pretty sure they could have outrun us, as close as we were.
We then took our guests on to Maradi for a couple of days for some ministry in our churches there. Then it was Diffa or bust. We have now traveled from the western side of Niger to the eastern side – 2 days drive. Not many visitors have been out to Diffa with us. But they were game. We had a great time. We were there to install a new pastor in the church. The current pastor was relocating toa church in Niamey, and the new pastor and family was an answer to prayer. We have reached many Fulani people in Diffa, but we’ve not had a pastor there that can speak their language. Pastor Abdu and his wife Aissa both speak Fulfulde so it is a great fit. They are not new to us as they have been pastoring with us for a couple of years. The changeover was an emotional time and the whole church, including Pastor Zabeiru, was in tears. That was a good thing.
Lamido, a Fulani king, has been in our church for more than 3 years. We are trying to reach out to his ‘tribe’ but it is challenging as they are nomadic so are never in one place for more than a week or so. While there, we drove out to find some of them – not an easy thing to do. Not sure how many kilometers we went, but it was many more than if we knew where we were going. Understand, we were not driving on a road – not even tracks. Just desert. First we found the well. It was quite amazing. In my almost 11 years in Niger I’ve seen many wells, but I’ve not seen anything like this one. I certainly didn’t expect to see it suddenly appear in the middle of a barren, windy, desert. What a contrast! We were driving along and there it appeared, behind some scrub brush. The first thing we saw though, were the herds of longhorn cows, donkeys, goats and sheep. Apparently this well was built for the Fulani, to provide water for them and their animals. How they find it is beyond me. Maybe they have a GPS. It was a large, round cement structure with 4 wide mouth slanted cement platforms off the bottom of each side. The water was poured from homemade rubber ‘buckets’ into each platform and then drained into nicely built cement troughs for watering the animals. It was a very hot, dusty day and these beasts were ready for a drink. But they all had to wait their turn. It was something to see. Also something to see was how the water was pulled from the very deep well. Two donkeys were tied together and tied to a rope. The bucket on the end of the rope was dropped into the well, and a small child – 6 or 7? had a stick to smack the donkeys forward. They walked and walked and walked until the bucket appeared at the top of the well. The big person at the well would pour the water into the trough thingy and then shout. The shout was the signal for the child to turn the donkeys around and bring them back for another run. This was all done in triple digit temps. This is all done daily. Makes me think twice when the only effort I put into getting water is twisting my wrist. OK, some days I have to fill a bucket from our outside water storage and bring it in when our water gets shut off. But there are no donkeys involved with that.
On to visit one of the Fulanis’ homes. And I use the term ‘home’ loosely. Lamido was in the vehicle with us, directing us and we’re pretty sure he has no clue where we’re going. But he’s having fun. All of the sudden he shouts at us to STOP! Apparently we were driving into someones’ living room. Pardon us. All we saw off to the right was a bush and behind that bush was a bed of sorts. Rather regal looking really. It had 4 carved wooden posts on which was layered 6 or 8 mats. The more mats, the better, apparently. Under another bush were various brightly colored cloths, covering household goods – gourd bowls and spoons mostly. We backed up and, well, parked. No two – car garage here. Not even a bit of shelter from the sun. It didn’t take long before there were quite a few people assembled. Not sure where they came from as I’m pretty sure I didn’t see people as we were driving on our barren ‘road’. The men naturally assembled together on a mat under a tree. Neal and Jack began sharing the gospel with them. Pastor Abdu was there as well so he was able to interpret from Neal’s Hausa to Fulfulde. Sharolyn and I began ‘talking’ with the women. Girls, really – smiling at and holding their babies. I managed to find a Hausa speaker (well, she had a little bit of Hausa) so I had the ladies all sit down (no mats for them) and I began sharing the Gospel with them. Something they had never heard. I was given the preferred place to sit – on the bed. They were so open and when I asked if anyone wanted to receive Jesus, most of them raised their hands. I waited for Pastor Abdu to finish so he could come and pray with them in the language they would understand. That’s what it’s all about. Now, it is Pastor Abdu’s job to start discipling these new believers. We are thinking about a plan to be able to bring some of them into Diffa for a time of dicsipleship.
You know, this is the kind of thing I think of when people tell me that they are so thankful that God didn’t call them to Africa. We’ve even had people say they feel sorry for us, having to live where we do. But how many people do you know get to experience what I’ve just described? How many of you have had the opportunity to share the Gospel with someone who didn’t even know of its’ existence? Don’t feel sorry for us. This is a privelege. There are many that are a part of reaching the tribes and nations with us, but we are the ones that get to be on the front lines – experiencing it first hand! Sure, there are days that the heat seems too much, the people too resistent, the traffic too crazy, and life just too frustrating, but it’s all worth it. Because we are seeing with our own eyes the Gospel bringing people out of bondage, changing their lives. Every tribe and every nation will profess that Jesus is Lord!