- Take the Challenge (TTC) was a team of 5 extraordinary 16 – 18 year olds that came to teach our youth here how to use drama/mime as an evangelism tool. The results were awesome and lives all around were impacted and changed. Friendships were forged. The Gospel was preached.After they returned home, I asked the team members to answer a few questions I had for them about their experience here. It’s always interesting to me to know why someone chose to come to Niger, and to hear how the experience impacted their lives. I thought it might also be of interest to others to get the perspective of an American experiencing Niger for the first time.Below are the questions and uncut/unedited answers. They are anonymous, but I suspect the reader will be able to tell which were female responses and which male – mostly because of their length.1. Why did you come to Niger?
I am actually not sure what piqued my interest about Niger in the first place. My heart has always been for Asia and coming to Africa had not crossed my mind! But when I learned about the opportunity, I decided that hey, I’ve been to Thailand, Europe, and many times to China so why not Africa? At first, I asked only for more details but the more I learned about the purpose and goals of the trip, the more I felt that this was something I needed to do. ONE of the reasons (and it is partly a selfish reason 😉 ) I had never been to Africa before so I wanted to put another country on my lists. 🙂 But the more involved I got, the more my goals changed. I don’t think I can really fully answer this question because even now, I am not sure of all the reason why I came only that I am glad I did.
Why did I come to Niger? Well that is a very good question! To tell you the truth, I did not think it was possible for a 17 year old Senior in high school to go away from her life, right before her graduation- but for some reason God gave this huge peace about me going there. Of course there were the typical thoughts like “Oh cool, another Third World Country” or “Wow, straight out evangelism! What an opportunity!”, but those things did not make me go, those things just made me want to go! I came to Niger because I felt like God needed me there (whatever the reason may be) and that he would use me! That is one thing He made very clear while deciding whether or not I should attend. In the end, I see that I came to Niger not only to be used, but also for God to show me what He wanted me to learn next. It’s always a great time to learn about what He expects of us on trips like these, cause He dose teach!
I came to Niger because…well, because I felt God calling me to go. Simple as that. I had it on my heart to go on a mission trip to Africa. I didn’t really know that it’d be Niger, but I knew that when I saw the opportunity, that was where God wanted me to go.
I guess there were several reasons I went to Niger. One, was I just felt like that’s what God wanted me to do. There were many confirmations during the process of preparing for the trip (i.e. I almost immediately had the necessary funds for the trip). Also, I wanted a new adventure. I’d done a lot things, but before the trip, I’d never been out of the country or even flown in a plane.
2.What did you love about Niger?
For me, I think I loved the friendly people. Everywhere I went, I was greeted by handshakes and warm smiles. They definitely went out of their way to make us feel welcome. I don’t know, but being on a Mission Trip far from home and family, having welcoming people really makes everything easier.
How do you narrow down love? That is the real question. What happens when you are being used by God and doing it with fellow Christians all over the world? You love the things you do… which is probably why it might be hard to explain everything.
Have you ever had to teach a child how to give a high five? Have you ever been fought over by 10 different kids who want to hold your hand? What’s it like to make someone there smile, who can’t even speak the same language and yet they understand your thoughts. What happens when you see the routine of these people and stand in awe of their lifestyle? What’s it like to see some of these people risk everything they know in order to follow Christ? After experiencing all of these, I came to this conclusion:
I Love Niger, because it is a place that shows that you love God. Some of the people there gave up everything (literally) in order to worship God. It challenges how I see my faith and service to the Lord. I Love that I was able to meet people who actually live in the story books that you read about here in America. You have to actually want to be a christian.
The culture was very different, I mean surrounded by a Muslim people would normally change things. Going any distance, even for 5 minutes there would be some type of mosque with people praying. Many head turbans and head scarfs for men and women. Now I didn’t love that those things were there, but what I did love that because of those things Christians stand out. They don’t go with the flow and you are able to be different just by not going with the flow. It’s a constant reminder of who you serve when you drive by a couple a dozen people bowing done on the ground kneeling before something that is not God. It’s eye opening. I Love to see the contrast and mission right in front of my face, and it definitely was!
I loved the openness of the Nigerians. They always were ready to greet us just as we were ready to greet them. It was so nice to be able to go somewhere that I’ve never been before and feel welcomed.
The children, the freedom in worship, the authenticity and completeness of faith.
What I loved about Niger…well…there were a lot of things I loved, but I think the thing I loved most were the people. They were so joyful and caring. For example, one night I twisted my ankle. One of the nationals noticed and tried to ask what was wrong. Of course they didn’t understand my answer because I didn’t have a translator at that time, but I found one of the translators and when the young man heard what happened he knelt down, put his hands on my ankle, and started to pray for me. Several other nationals (who hadn’t even heard what had happened) also gathered around to pray for me.
3. What did you not love about Niger?
I don’t think there was anything that I did not like. Even the dust and the heat was not so bad (thank God!)
And I don’t think I didn’t like anything. I mean, dirty feet are an annoyance, but it didn’t bug me to my inner core. Ok, well, I guess I didn’t like the electricity going out. I don’t do well in sudden darkness.
The long drive. (Ms. Danette’s driving? Just kidding. )
One thing that I can think that I disliked was when people would come up asking for food or money. It wasn’t the fact that they were asking for it, it was how bad I felt when I didn’t give them anything. Of course I got used to it after a couple days, but I still felt bad for them.
4. What was your favorite experience?
This may sound weird, but the bumpy roads (or lack thereof)! I loved working with the nationals and doing workshop and presenting in the villages but nothing beats driving 60 mph over speed bumps! JK lol. 🙂 But seriously, I loved the drives not only because we didn’t have to wear seat belts but also because it was sort of like a bonding time. At least when the car was a girl car. But getting to meet more REAL LIVE Missionaries (you guys in particular) was awesome! I mean, I know missionaries but I don’t really know any missionaries personally. Like, seeing how their everyday lives are compared to mine.
My favorite experience would be “helping” with pulling the water up from the well. I’m sure I was more of a hindrance, but it was neat. You don’t think water can be that heavy until you pull it up from a rope and it’s tiring! But how many people can say that they pulled water up from a well? Not many. It was super cool!
Village outreaches and watching the people we taught present.
I can’t really pick out one experience as my favorite. I think just the whole thing was a great experience–working with an awesome ministry and awesome people and having fun while we did.
5. What surprised you the most?
What surprised me the most was the weather. I had been all preparing myself for some really grueling days in 110 (or excess of) degrees over and I came their and the weather was in the 80s! O_O
What surprised me the most would have to be the overwhelming amount of kids and teens. I knew that there would be more than I was thinking, but this just surpassed that. Everywhere I turned my head there was either a little kid or a group of teens or a mix of both.
How bearable the heat was.
I’d have to say that how bold the people were; how they’d come up and knock on your window, asking for money or food. Or how bold they were when trying to sell us something.
6. What shocked you the most?
7. After a trip like this, people often say their life has been changed. Has it changed your life? If so, how?
I know definitely I have been changed. But as to what, I am not quite sure. I wouldn’t necessarily go as far to say as my WHOLE life has been changed but I do know there is something different. I still haven’t put my finger on it yet but God will show me and I know that some of the things I learned over there will better me in the future.
I would say that my life has been changed in mainly two ways. One of them is to be more bold in my faith. People have such a fire for God in the churches and it’s something that I’ve always wanted. And the church members really showed me that it’s ok to be bold and to not worry about who is looking and so forth. It definitely encouraged me to get off the back burner. And the second thing that has changed in my life is my perspective on what I have. I remember coming back home and just looking in my room, wondering how much stuff I could live without because I don’t use it. I’ve been more appreciative of the things we have available and have been rethinking my thoughts on what I “need” in my life.
I’m much more inclined to consider missions on a more than short-term basis than before.
I think one way that it changed my life, is that now I have more confidence in teaching and speaking in front of people. Before the trip, whenever I was onstage, I always had memorized lines. I’ve had the opportunity to teach kids before, but not youth or adults. So that, I think, is something that changed: I have more confidence speaking in front of all ages now.
8. How has your adjustment back the US been? Have you faced reverse culture shock?
So far, my adjustment went really well. I didn’t have much jet lag and was over it pretty much in four days. I don’t think I have experienced anything negative about my adjustments back home.
I think my adjustment back to the US went somewhat quickly. It’s definitely weird sometimes when I think back to my time in Niger and what we did and didn’t have. But I guess you just get back into the swing of things naturally. Once, I almost forgot to wear my seatbelt. As for reverse culture shock…I think I had a slight case. It’s hard not to when you get use to something else.
Late culture shock is what I like to call it. Most of the time when the average person from the US thinks of going overseas they believe it will start the moment you step into that new culture (which is very true). But like Mrs. Danette said “How has your adjustment back to the US been?” It’s really after you get home when you see just how drastically different that one other country really is! It’s when your mind is trying to adjust back to it’s normal life and comparing it with what it’s just experienced.
Actually, this trip was one of the hardest to get over being back at home. That’s not because I’m comparing with how little they may or may not have had, it was how very much I have and don’t need and how people at home take advantage so much of what they have. I fall into that category and it challenges me to live a way honoring to God.
US lack of passion is rather depressing. People aren’t completely committed with their whole life. So yes.
My adjustment back to the U.S. wasn’t too bad. The only thing that was hard for me was that the first few days, I felt kind of antsy. I felt like I needed to do something, but wasn’t really sure what. Now, I’ve gotten back into the flow of things though.
9. What is something you have learned?
I learned that wherever I am lacking, God makes up for it. It might not be very profound but it is something I have learned when I don’t think I can do it any longer, God is always there to give me courage to get up and go for it again. I think I can confidently say that I ran the race in Niger. I was exhausted when I came home but I feel that I did my best. With God’s help…
I relearned that God is always there with me and is there to help me. When I or the team was in need of God to do something, He’d always come through. And for some reason, I really noticed that. I mean, I always knew it and have seen God work before, but I guess because I was in a “desperate” state, I saw it magnified, so to speak. I find myself going to God for help more instead of relying on myself. It was like a reality check for me in a way.
I learned many things, but one thing that I think stood out for me is that most of the missionaries I’ve met have always seemed really intense and serious, but it wasn’t that way working with your ministry. There were many times where we had to be serious, but there was also many times where we laughed and had fun. So I guess I learned that you can be missionary–intensely serving the Lord–and having fun while your at it.
And there you have it – “In their words”. Pretty challenging, don’t you think?