Our first team of the year has come and gone. It was a whirlwind trip but as I look back I know many, many seeds were scattered, are taking root, and have already begun to grow.
Twelve people arrived at 2am on Monday, Feb 15th from Church of the King in Mandeville, LA– their 3rd trip to Niger. Once you experience this nation and what God is doing here, you just can’t stay away— in spite of the crazy roads, crazy drivers (myself excluded, thank-you) the heat, the sand and the occasional coup d’etat that takes place – complete with gun-fire and explosives. We wanted it to be exciting for this group, as it was their 3rd time to Niger. No run of the mill sameness around here! And we ordered up triple digit temps for the occasion as well. We leave nothing out.
Since they were a medical team, the first day was spent organizing meds and counting/bagging pills. We also had a welcome dinner at our church, so they could meet our pastors and the interpreters they’d be working with all week. That was fun. The next day we were out the door at 7am, on our way to Tamou, one of our newest village churches among the Gourmantche people. It was a nearly 2 hour trip some on good road, some on more exciting road. Neal, Dad & I drove, as well as a member of our church that volunteered himself and his vehicle. We were a regular entourage. Pastor Sule was ready for us and we began seeing the first patients before 9:30. A very unique aspect to this team was the fact that we not only had medical docs, but we had a vet and people to treat the animals as well.
The villages we visited were places where we have churches established. The purpose of the ministry was to be a blessing to the village and use it as an opportunity for evangelism.
The system went something like this: We would arrive and the pastor would already have given out 50 numbers and taken names. We would set up the nursing station, the doctors exam ‘room’ and the pharmacy. We would start with the first patient and they would be seen by one of 3 nurses who would talk to them about their problem and take vitals. Then the patient would be sent to the doctor who would examine, give a diagnosis and write a prescription. From there, one of our volunteers would take the prescription to the pharmacy and the patient to ‘evangelism’ where our resident evangelist/pastor would share the Gospel with them, pray with them and invite them to the church in their village. After that, they would return to the pharmacy to pick up their prescription – even if it was just vitamins.
Preparing all aspects of an event like this takes lots of time and effort. So in addition to the planning Neal & I and Mom & Dad (my in-laws) did, we were so proud of all the volunteers from our local churches that helped to make it possible. They went with us to help with interpreting and in any way necessary. In fact we had so many wanting to come and help we didn’t have room for them all. That was a great encouragement to us!
It should be noted here that the team not only paid all their expenses to come and while they were here, they paid for all the fuel used to go to the villages and they brought all the meds used for the clinics. Huge blessing!
This was repeated for 5 days. Over 100 people were seen every day, and many more heard the Gospel while waiting. Countless animals (mostly domestic cows, sheep and goats) were treated for worms and given vitamins. And I do mean countless. The animal clinic was set up in a separate area, and those bringing the animals (mostly children) received the Gospel message as well. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of that – I don’t know where my head was!
This is clinic Day 5
These people were all waiting to see the doctor.
Day 3 was ‘Coup d’etat Day’. We had gone out as planned to Baleyara for the clinic. Baleyara is also almost 2 hours outside of Niamey. Things were moving along smoothly (as can be expected when you are working with 3-5 languages at any given time in 114 degree temps!).
It was getting close to ‘quitting time’ when Pastor Moctar received a call that there was gun-fire and explosives in Niamey – and a suspected coup was underway. We should leave immediately so we could get home before dark and before the city shut down. Not a bad idea. As we started packing up we were also trying to see the last patients that had been waiting all day. Unfortunately we had to turn a few of them away. We were advised to wait outside the city until gunfire stopped. By the time we arrived to the outskirts of town things had quieted down and even the police check points waved us through. We had been in touch with Tanika and Tobi and there were safe in ‘lock-down’ at school. The military had successfully captured the president, but they didn’t kill him and for that we were grateful. He had gone against the nation’s constitution, and it appeared that he was looking to make Niger a dictatorship. Reports are that the military is planning on holding elections, fixing the constitution, and returning to a democracy. Certainly a point of prayer. But back to our team. Everyone was great. We weren’t able to make our scheduled trip to the sand dunes that evening because of a 6pm curfew, but that was lifted the next day. The decision was made to go on – after all, they didn’t come all the way to Niger just to sit around and play Wizard! (Though plenty of Wizard was played) We continued as planned, and the dunes were the only thing we didn’t do as planned. The next villages went great, with no problems at all. If you don’t know there had been a coup, and if you hadn’t seen the holes in the wall /door of the presidential palace, you’d never know anything was out of the ordinary. And except that one day, even flights were on time. We believe this is because of prayer!
Medical care in Niger is seriously lacking. That’s why this is such a powerful outreach. Seeing the physical needs in the villages can be heart-wrenching and can stir up lots of emotions. I was helping to interpret for 1 woman who had a very sick baby. Likely malaria, among other things. Very treatable. A mother is a mother whether she’s living in a palace or in a mud hut. She came and needed help for that baby. What struck me is that if we hadn’t have been there, there was a real possibility that that baby could die. It made me realize how I feel when one of my children is sick. I’m willing to do anything to make them better. But I have options. Certainly I have prayer – which is my first choice. Then I can determine symptoms and treat them with medicine I have. If I don’t have it, I can go to the pharmacy and buy it. If necessary, I find a missionary doctor to help. And if that’s not enough, and it’s serious, I can buy a plane ticket and get to where more appropriate medical care is. But this lady, with the same desperate look in her eyes for help had very few options. She likely didn’t have money for medicine even if some could be prescribed. That day, our doctors were her hope. And she was prayed for. Neal went out to that same village Sunday following the clinic and one of the doctors was with him. He saw that baby sitting on her mama’s lap as healthy as can be. Now that just feels good. And I’m not all about feeling, but I do appreciate a good feeling when it’s there!
Also in Tamou were 2 orphan children whose mother’s had both died in childbirth. We’re not sure where the fathers were. People were helping as they could, but these babies were seriously malnourished.
Here I am with one of these precious babies and one of the ladies helping to care for her. She’s 5 months old.
Ben, the Pastor on the team, left some money with Pastor Sule in the village to buy the babies some milk. When we went back to the village on Sunday, Pastor Ben left 2 cases of formula with Pastor Sule to help take care of the babies. We believe this can be a great opportunity for the village to see the church rise up and begin to help care for these sweet children.
We didn’t stop with just village ministry or coups. In the one week the team was here, we took the team to see the giraffe, went shopping on rip-off road, swam at the rec center and went on a boat ride to see the hippos on the Niger River. I use the word ‘boat’ loosely.
Here’s Neal, the mayor of the village, Pastor Sule and Pastor Nelson.
This type of outreach also strengthens out testimony in the village. The leaders in all the places we went were all very thankful for what we were doing and came to see (and some to be treated). Now it is the work of our pastors in those places to continue to water the seeds planted.
Tobi never gets tired of visiting the giraffe.
This one was 1 week old.
Neal hanging out with waiting patients.
What a fruitful week. Thank you Church of the King!