We woke to rain. Not an everyday occurrence during rainy season, but normal enough. It looked kind of like this. Quite nice, really.
We had just finished 2 weeks of kids camp, and the plan was to take the 9 member team to visit and minister in the church in Tamou. We were to be there at 10am, which meant an 8am departure, just to be sure we arrived on time. We didn’t expect the rain to change our plans, but Neal called Pastor Sule just to be sure they were still expecting us. “Yes”, was his answer. So, we piled into 3 vehicles, and loaded boxes of food to take with us as well. We were on our way. We get to the outskirts of town where there is a police check (a rope across the road). Neal was in the lead, I was 2nd, and Trae brought up the rear. Normally, the police just drop the rope for us and we coast by, waving. By the time I reached the rope, Neal was already out of site. Suddenly, the vehicle directly behind me swerves around my left and stops in front of me, forcing me to stop as well. And stop I did. The driver approached and I put down the window. He began rambling in French, which I don’t speak, so I stopped him and he continued in Hausa. Apparently, when I drove past him our mirrors touched and his broke. This was news to me. This is the first I’m seeing his vehicle, and I’m pretty sure if I would have been close enough to another vehicle to ‘rub mirrors’, I would have noticed. He brings the police over and gets them on board. Points to a ‘mark’ on my mirror where we hit. Finally, my big, smart strapping son gets out of his vehicle and comes to check things out. I let him continue the conversation which now takes place in both French and Hausa. In the meantime, Neal calls me and wonders what is taking me so long. What indeed! I explain and he chuckles. Yep. He chuckled. I failed to see the humor and he then tells me that he is the one who touched mirrors with another vehicle. We’re driving look-alike Land Cruisers. He said that they passed each other at the rope and admittedly there wasn’t a whole lot of room. But Neal stayed on his side of the line – the other guy crossed over and mirrors touched. Ours ‘bounced back’. His broke. That’s his story anyway. So Neal turns around. Meanwhile, I tell Trae what his dad just told me. So he goes back with this new information and says to the man something like ‘do you swear on your life that this is the very car that hit you? In front of these police, is that your story?’ His answer was a resounding ‘YES’. He was sure. Now Trae, armed with the truth (and yes, I’m sure he enjoyed this part) explained that in fact it was not this car, but the car that actually hit him was on his way back. The man was frustrated- Trae said he thought he was going to get punched! Here’s Trae with the ‘victim’ and the police.
It’s still raining.
Well, we’ve lived in this country long enough to know that the only way we were going to keep moving to our destination was to admit fault and agree to compensation. Neal called our mechanic to find out how much the repair would be. He was told between $10-15. Neal offered the man $20. He did not agree. What he did agree to was taking our number and making plans to connect with him the next week to take his vehicle to our mechanic. This wasted some time, but because we always leave some wiggle room, we would still be on time. Keep in mind our team of 9 is observing all this and admittedly wondering if we are even going to continue. Continue is our middle name. Off we went. Neal, then me, then Trae.
We’re not driving with 2 car lengths between us, but we’re all checking to make sure we can see each other most of the time. My phone rings. It’s Trae. He has a flat tire. Not a huge deal – we’ve probably changed literally 100’s of flats over our years in Niger. Neal came back. It’s still raining. In fact this is becoming an unusually long rain.
It wasn’t too difficult even in the rain because we were on pavement.
Neal takes a turn.
Trae takes a turn.
And I decided I needed to make sure it was being done correctly.
Erin & Sassan are wondering if this is really worth it! Check out the little Fulani audience we have gathered…even in the rain.
This is the small Fulani village we were next to. The rain does a lot of damage to the roads.
We had some ‘helpers’. Their raincoats are rice sacks. Cuties.
I gave them a few bags of rice before we went on our way.
With all those great minds, the tire got changed, and we were on our way. Some still wondering if we were seriously going to continue this journey – we are now going to be pretty late for the scheduled service. This is about the halfway point. Still raining…
We soon left the paved road for the laterite (clay) road which under normal circumstances is a pretty solid road. However, it had now been raining for several hours and we soon discovered that looks can be deceiving.
This is shortly after we veered on to the laterite road.
As we are slip sliden’ away, I begin to wonder if all the slipping is just because of the muddy road, or if I am having a tire issue. Turns out, it was a tire. We stopped to check and discovered that the back tire is completely flat. At this point we are alone because at the last stop we had Trae move to the middle because he was now traveling without a spare. We, meaning myself and our trusty team members, get out and assess the situation. I removed the jack from the car and we tried to put it in place to lift up the car. It was very muddy so the jack just kept on sinking. We were trying to get ahold of Neal and Trae but we were in an area with no signal. We just had to trust that they would notice that we weren’t behind them and they’d come back. And they did. But not before Trae’s vehilce did a complete 360 on the muddy road. People pay big money for this kind of driving! On Neal’s way back, he drove over to the right side of the road and here’s where ‘looks can be deceiving’ comes in. He was going to stop the car on what appeared to be solid road. However, this is what it actually was.
First things first. It was raining and we were full of mud but we had to get that tire changed. (Neal took his shirt off just for the pictures).
Finally, with lots of effort on everyone’s part, and a fair amount of brain power, the tire got changed. But now we had this to deal with.
Why the worry you may ask…isn’t this a big 4WD vehicle? Well, yes, as a matter of fact it is. However, the 4WD feature on said vehicle is currently out of commission. No problem though, because as the Jamaican’s like to say ‘We don’t have problems, we only have situations’ (insert Jamaican accent here). It seems that we have ourselves a situation. Even though I knew all it would do was get us more covered in mud, we all (our trusty team is still with us!) tried to push our way out. It wasn’t going to happen. A truck drove by and even stopped, but he, nor we, had any rope or chain or any type of paraphernalia with which to remove our vehicle from the mud. Huhhhhh. What to do. At this point I know some are secretly thinking ‘when we get out of this ‘situation’, surely we will turn around’. But me, and I know Neal were both thinking: there is no way at this point that we will not get to our destination. The enemy has tried (and failed I might add) on too many occasions to stop us. You think he’d learn. What an idiot. While some might think the opposite, we were now quite confident that this trip and scheduled meeting was a God thing. You will never believe what came driving down the middle of that muddy road.
I wondered if I was having a mirage.
As soon as the driver saw us he stopped, got down, didn’t say anything, took a chain out of the bucket, hooked it to our bumper, pulled us out, stopped, unhooked the chain, got back up and was on his way before we could even ask if he could help us.
We literally were covered with mud, as well as the floor mats we used unsuccessfully to try to keep the mud off of us. Fortunately, there was a small ‘pond’ nearby that we were able to rinse off in. It was better than nothing. Seriously.
It would be of interest to note here that while all of this was going on, one of our team members who will remain nameless was getting quite sick on the side of the road, if you know what I mean. I won’t put any pictures of that. Frankly, I’m sure she was thankful for the ‘rest stop’ we’d just had.
So, once again, we are on our way. At this point we don’t know how late we’ll be. And little did we know that 5 minutes down the road our next adventure lurked. Another deceiving road. You think we would have learned… Neal entered first and I was close behind but as soon as I saw him sinking in the mud I quickly threw my vehicle into 4WD and gunned it around him, up and out of the mud. Trae was right behind me and saw us both and stopped, just as he started to sink. The people in his car were able to push him backwards out of the muck. So for the second time today, our vehicle with the broken 4WD is buried to the axle in muddy road. Here you can see the car I was driving way in front, and Trae’s vehicle is behind. It also is painfully clear from this photo that there is an alternate road up to the left, which is where we should have been….But in our defense, we were feeling pretty single focused and were looking straight ahead.
Trae is laughing here. Actually, we all were. It was at the point now that we had to either laugh or cry. We all walked to the car to help push and were literally sinking to our knees in mud. I was wondering what the chances of another caterpillar appearing to pull us out…
God doesn’t work the same way all the time. This time, a nearby village all came running (and I do mean most of the village), and unfortunately I don’t have a picture of it, but that village pushed the car out of the mud. It was pretty impressive.
Finally, 4 .5 hours later, and more than 2 hours late, we arrived.
The rain has stopped but it’s still wet. Here the team is making their way to the church, to see who remains for a 2 hour late service.
These girls were waiting.
Here are some more people who welcomed us…
Check out the baby’s hat – the rain makes it chilly – relatively speaking…
This was inside the church…
And this was outside the church…the overflow.
We were all thrilled to be there!!!
The team did what they came prepared to do…and ended up ministering to a group of 220 people, who wouldn’t have been there earlier – because of the rain. We were right on time!
These are the people who couldn’t fit inside.
What message would we have spoken to these if we had decided that some rain and mud were too much of a bother?
Is this a face you want to disappoint?
And we got to deliver food. There may have been people that didn’t get to eat if we had decided that a rainy day was a nice day to sleep in and rest. After all, we had just finished 2 intense weeks of children’s camps….
Here’s Neal with Pastor Sule and Tieba, his interpreter.
Unloading the food.
And we got to see these cool velvety bugs that come out when it rains.
Pastor Sule’s wife prepared us some food and were we ever thankful! We were hungry after a journey like that!
But all too soon it was time to go. Goodbye’s were said.
Our trip home was uneventful. If you don’t count the fact that we were all thanking our God for giving us the determination to move forward, even when circumstances don’t look favorable (or comfortable). We have long since learned that in our own strength, we can only do so much. But it takes strength that comes from God to say as Paul said in Philippians, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize…” That prize is the harvest of souls. Souls just like these.