A Sunday Here, A Sunday There

We’re traveling to the US in 2 days.  So right now I should be packing.  Because I haven’t even started.  But I can’t. Because I have to get my thoughts down and I think my blog is the most convenient avenue for me to do that.

Today is Sunday, so of course we went to church.  We are usually in a different church each Sunday.  Neal is often preaching.  Today we went to the village of Fera.  Fera was started because Pastor Omar of Nikoye started evangelizing there.  It wasn’t long before there were new believers needing a church and needing to be discipled.  So Pastor Omar goes back and forth between his village of Nikoye and Fera.  He used to do that on his motorcycle, but we have learned that it is out of commission so now he walks.  About an hour 1 way.  In the hot sun.  With a smile.  Pastor Omar is always smiling.

IMG_3822

And here’s his beautiful wife, Aishatu.  She’s always smiling too.

IMG_3780

So we left this morning  and on our way out of town we picked up Pastor Jacques.  He’s coming to interpret because Fera is a Gourmantche village and Pastor Omar doesn’t yet speak Gourmantche.  But he obviously didn’t use that as an excuse not to evangelize.  We drove on the paved road for almost an hour where we met Pastor Omar and Aishatu waiting for us.  (They walked an hour to meet us there).  The drive (in our 4Runner) to Fera from there is 20 minutes into the bush.  Distance is difficult to nail down, because of the ‘road’ conditions, and direction is difficult too – which is one reason Pastor Omar was with us.  We’ve been several times, but still don’t know the way on our own. Don’t judge, if you saw the place, you’d get lost too.

IMG_3825

Had fun conversation about family as we bumped and jostled along.  We were in Maradi a couple of weeks ago where Pastor Omar’s daughter is part of Abraham’s Place.  I showed them pictures I took of her and told them how she is thriving there.  More smiles.  We talked about the church and its growth.  We arrived to the people gathered and already singing. The church is meeting in a thatch structure right now, but we are building a church there that will be completed in a few months.  The bricks are made on site, and the foundation is in the process of being dug.  And that is NOT an easy job.  The ground is incredibly hard and rocky.  So – just pour water on it to soften it.  Good idea.  Except that water comes from a well, and has to first be pulled up and then carried from a long way away.  In the hot sun.  The church members are helping with that.

IMG_3748

Here are bricks fort the new church.  The current church is in the back right.

IMG_3758

After some lively worship and dancing, the choir sang.  The choir is made up of young girls who are quite talented.  They do choreographed dancing while singing.  The dance moves are not something that you should try.  Unless you want to put your back or neck out.  Or unless you have Gourmantche in your blood.

I love taking close-ups of faces.  Here are a few from today…

IMG_3789

 

IMG_3769

IMG_3768

IMG_3736

Then came time for my favorite preacher to preach.  That’s Pastor Jacques interpreting for him. He preached a message about ‘Invitation’.  Jesus goes where He’s invited.  It was a great message and the people were very engaged.  At the end they all prayed and invited Jesus into various situations in their lives.  Then we prayed for the sick.

IMG_3739

 

IMG_3737

 

 

IMG_3818

 

IMG_3796

Then I greeted the congregation and encouraged them to act on what they’d heard.

IMG_3807

 

IMG_3803

At the end of the service Pastor Omar asked Tobi to come and greet the people.  Omar asked Tobi to greet in Hausa so he could interpret for him himself.

IMG_3812

After the service we all shook hands with everyone.  Everyone shook hands with everyone.  Which everyone always does.  We did that outside of the church though, because only the children could stand up straight in most places inside.  Even me- as short as I am.  That made me feel tall, a very foreign feeling…

Outside as we were investigating the building materials for the new church, a dust storm rolled in.  It had been very windy all morning, And finally the dust came.  I had just made the mistake of applying lip gloss.  Bad decision.

Here’s a picture of our drive back home – to get an idea of why lip gloss wasn’t wise…

IMG_3828

We got back in our 4Runner with Tobi, Pastor Jacques, Pastor Omar & Aishatu.  We basically retraced our steps.  When we dropped Pastor Omar, we asked him about his moto.  He basically said it’s not worth repairing and that in fact with what he’s spent on repairing it, he could have bought a new one.  So they walk.  Another hour.  In the hot sun. (Note to self.  Help Pastor Omar get a new moto).

So. Back on the main road we were and we began talking with Pastor Jacques regarding his ideas about new pastors in villages that have believers but no pastors.  When one particular man was mentioned he just kind of laughed.  Neal asked him what was up.  He said basically that that guy wasn’t serious. “Why?” We asked.  Because he wants Nigelec and things like that.  What is Nigelec you ask?  Electricity!  Jacques very matter of fact like said that this man was not ready to be a pastor because he wanted, of all things, ELECTRICITY!  Can you believe it?  The gall of that man.  And there I sat, comfortable in our air conditioned vehicle thinking, “well I darn sure want Nigelec!  What does that say about me?

You’d be amazed to see the hoops we jump through to keep our electricity constant.  In fact that could be its very own blog post.

On our way back, we decided to stop by and visit Pastor Ibrahim and Hawa.  They have been pastoring a church in the town of Torodi for several years.  (It may be interesting to note that they don’t have electricity either).

The service was over but there were still lots of people hanging around.  Pastor Ibrahim and Hawa’s home is right there with the church.  They have the luxury of a well in the compound and people were lined up pumping water.  It’s not open during service, but starts up right after.  It’s a huge blessing for the people of Torodi and a great testimony for the church.

Unfortunately I left my camera in the car when we hopped out to greet.  I regret that, because so much took place in a matter of about 10 minutes that was photo worthy.

Hawa informed us that Pastor Ibrahim was meeting with some people in the church. She called him out.  Ibrahim was happy to see us, and brought out the group of men he was meeting with.  Turns out, they were guys from 4 villages where pastor Ibrahim has been evangelizing.  The villages are from 30-60 minutes away (again, in a proper vehicle), and are places that don’t yet have a pastor.  Ibrahim has a motorcycle with a small trailer so he sends someone from his church to pick them up and bring them to Torodi for service.  Then he takes them back home.

Oh, and yesterday we were told about an attack that was made a couple of nights ago on one of our village pastors and his family.  It was at night but they were still awake so they themselves captured the attacker and brought him to the village mayor.  He said his reason for attacking the pastor was because he doesn’t want Christianity in their village.  They didn’t warrant it big enough news to tell us about it immediately.

So why the play by play of our Sunday worship?   I think its because I started thinking about the contrast of where we’ll minister just 1 week from today, compared to where we worshiped today.

The way we worshiped today is considered ‘normal’ for our pastors and church members here. Just as ‘normal’ as the service we’ll be in next week.  The things are pastors here do and the things they face in order  to evangelize and disciple are considered normal, when in our reality there is nothing normal about it. Perspective.

I write because as I sit here in my electricity filled home I realize again how humbled, honored and proud I am all at the same time, to be serving with men and women like these.  People who consider things like running water and electricity to be frivolous and unnecessary to spreading the Gospel.  When Jesus said go into all the world, He didn’t mean go only where you find Nigelec.

This has been a great reminder to me as we struggle during this hot season.  It’s been a tough one.  We moved into a wonderful new home, but the electricity doesn’t come in at full power.  And then sometimes it’s not on at all. I can’t do some important things like run the microwave and toaster.  And then there’s the heat.  Did I mention how hot the sun was? Some days 112+ degrees hot.  With no relief.  I have an unfinished blog post about how much I detest hot season.  (I may or may not finish that one).

Seriously?

These men and women that we are privileged to work so closely with are really the ones who are daily laying down their lives for the sake of the call….with no electricity and smiles on their faces.

IMG_3822

 

Tamou Guest House. It’s Not the Ritz, But It’s Pretty Close!

I began but never finished the following blog post nearly a year ago…. Why? I have no idea. Right now we’re in another cold season and are looking forward to being at the guest house again next week for children’s camp.

March 16, 2016
Today we went to Tamou. Tamou is our Discipleship Center in the Gourmantche region. The headquarters of the region is the Tamou Church compound. In addition to the church there is a discipleship school, men’s and women’s student dorms, the pastor’s home and we’ve recently built a guest house on the compound so we can spend more time there.

Here’s the church.  The dorms being built (now complete) are to the left.  The Guest House is at the back of the church – the green door at the back right is the entrance.img_0668

You see Tamou is a 90 minute drive (Neal’s driving, so longer if you’re not with him). It’s a pretty remote location without many amenities. So when someone from Niamey goes to teach in the school, it’s best to teach for the whole morning, 4 hours, to maximize your effort, and then drive back. It makes for a long day.

We’ve also done events in Tamou – all day events. And not many people go all day without having to ‘use the bush’ as we affectionately call it. When in Tamou, there is no place to use said bush – not really even any bushes – and certainly no place to rest or have any down time. But it’s a place we love to be, and a place God is moving.

Thus the guest house. Really, it’s a thing of wonder. It’s tucked behind the church and has it’s own wall so is quite private. But if you step outside the door you’re right there with everyone. Best of both so to speak.

The guest house is back to back with the church.

img_0651

Welcome inside!  This was taken as construction was being finished.  The 2 square holes are for trees.  We dug about 10 feet down, removed rocks and fertilized well in advance.  A picture at the end shows the progress of the trees.

img_1189

Neal and I have stayed in the newly built guest house a few times, trying it out, getting the kinks out, before we had our first team visit. That happened in February — last month. We had a children’s camp with a team of 6 from the US. It was WONDERFUL! Better even than we had hoped. That could be partly because it was such a great team. Thanks Bob and Team Christian Life! (Note: that was Feb 2016).

When you walk in (door on left like in above photo) you see the kitchen/common area to the right.  That is where this picture is taken from – the dining area.  From here, you are looking at the 2 guest rooms.  They mirror each other and there is a small veranda in between.  Each has it’s own bathroom.  If you look to the top at the center, you see the roof of the church.  Also, take note of the spots on either wall reserved for planting.

img_1190

And just for perspective, here’s what you see when you walk out that green door. The church is to the right.

fullsizerender

The dining/common area is open, but is attached to a kitchen that can be closed.  The kitchen is where this photo is taken from.

img_1718

And here’s the kitchen- from the outside in….

img_1720

And from the inside out…

img_1722

Like I said, that was February. February is still considered ‘cold’ season. And relatively speaking, it is cold. Like cold enough for me to wear a sweatshirt early in the morning. Of course I’m in a sweatshirt if the temperature drops below 72….you be the judge.

Until right now, March 16, 2016. February was our last visit to Tamou, on account of our trip to India and Philippines. But for pete’s sake it’s only been a month. Where did this heat come from?

This is our first time to stay out here during hot season. We’ve done all we can to make the place comfortable. Because we really enjoy being out here, and we feel that we can make much more of an impact when we can spend more time with the people. More time than just teaching in a classroom setting. But I’m not gonna lie. I really enjoy a real toilet. With toilet paper. And lights. And running water. We even have hot water (though one might wonder why, but when it’s only 72 degrees…) AND, drumroll please—we have air conditioning.

Yep. We’ve outfitted the guest house with AC. It was wonderful during the days of cold season – because the days still get quite toasty – 90’s. And at night it wasn’t even needed.

Here’s one of the the guest rooms – the one on the right.  Picture is taken from the bathroom.

img_1724

And here’s ‘our’ room.  Or the room we use when we’re here.  But it’s also a guest room.

img_1726

You can see from this angle where the bathroom is (white door). It’s a mirror of the bathroom in the other room.

img_1728

And here’s one of the bathrooms.  They’re both the same.  Strangely I don’t have any pictures of it finished.  It looks quite nice.

img_0241

And here’s the veranda between the 2 rooms.

img_2772

Hot season though, that’s the real test. And we’re in that test right this minute. Today, it was 107. So while hot, 107 is still not THAT hot, compared to what will be coming. Needless to say, the AC came in handy. It would be interesting to note that Tamou doesn’t have 24/7 electricity. It’s a ‘town’, but an up and coming one. The town has a large generator that provides electricity from 10am – midnight each day. Except for Wednesdays. Lovely Wednesdays. Power comes on at 12 noon on Wednesday and because Thursday is market day, it stays on straight through to midnight on Thursday. In other words, 36 hours of beautiful, uninterrupted power.(Well, barring any generator issues…) Being the strategists we are, we try to plan our overnight trips to include Wednesdays/Thursdays…

However, so as not to be powerless in Tamou, we also purchased a small generator for guest house usage. Here’s what we now know.

We’re thankful for the generator.

There are 2 rooms for sleeping (each with an AC), and our generator is only strong enough to run 1 AC at a time.

The one AC takes the edge off the heat but isn’t strong enough to properly cool the room during hot season. In other words, walking into a room cooled to 90 feels like an arctic blast when it’s 115+ outside–until you’ve been in ‘cooled’ room for a few minutes and realize you’re sweating.

One working AC is better than none.

If a group of people is staying at the guest house, someone has to make the decision as to which subset of that group gets to stay in the AC room, providing a great opportunity for character growth.

Eventually, we will get a larger generator and install stronger AC’s.

My husband is not only a missionary, a great preacher, and great Bible teacher and a whole host of other things, he’s a great architect.

The Tamou Discipleship Center is amazing. We’re so grateful to those who gave to make it a reality. The guest house really has helped to advance what is happening there. Churches in the region continue to be planted, disciples are being made, and pastors are being trained.

Tamou Guest House update February 2017:
The guest has continued to be a blessing. Not only for ministry teams, for Bible School teachers, but also for the well drilling team. The first Vie Abondante wells were completed recently and the team was able to stay in the guest house multiple times for long periods, enabling them to spend more hours drilling rather than driving back and forth to Niamey (you may remember that’s a 90+ minute one-way trip journey).

The Christian Life team has come and gone- just a couple of weeks ago. We had a successful camp with 225 kids and about 50 volunteers. Neal and I stayed with the 6 member team in the guest house for 4 days/3nights. Why I didn’t get pictures of the 6 of us ladies crammed into 1 room with mattresses covering all available floor space, I don’t know. But what an awesome time we had.

And last, here’s the picture I promised.  Pastor Samuel is helping me show perspective on the size. These 6″ trees were planted about 9 months ago.  Nine months!  And check out the greenery on the walls.  This happened because of the diligence of Pastor Sule, the director of the Tamou region.  He not only waters the leaders and members of the now 14 churches in the region, has faithfully watered our trees 2X/day, month after month.  This is all fruit that will remain!

fullsizerender-2

Victoria Falls — Up high and down low.

Where to begin.  I feel like I’m pedaling backwards – have you ever tried to do that?  It ain’t easy!  We’ve been to so many places and seen so many amazing things since we visited the Ahhh-mazing Victoria Falls in Zambia.  But I just can’t write out of order.  So I’m trying to catch up.

Let’s see.  Where was I?  Ahh yes.  We were leaving Lusaka, Zambia and all the new friends we made there (as well as some old ones), to head to Vic Falls by bus. Not only were we undaunted by the 6 hour bus trip, we were looking forward to it.  Because we knew that it could only improve from the busses we are familiar with in Niger.  And we were right!

Check  out this luxury liner.

IMG_2019

It’s not a great picture of the bus, but you can take my word for it.  I wasn’t sure what ‘facilities’ might be available on the journey, so I decided it best to take advantage of what was at the bus station.  You had to pay to enter – which actually gave me a level of confidence for the condition of the bathroom.  Until I entered…This is what was hanging on the wall.

IMG_0856your nose on the floor?  Really?  And if one was so inclined to do such a thing, were there undercover bathroom police to catch the offender?  Fortunately I didn’t slip as I did my thing. But I was left to wonder why washing my face in the sink would cost me a dollar.

Back to the bus.  As you can see, there are screens on each seat.  But even more entertaining and surprising was the man in the white shirt in front of the bus.  He was preaching!  From what we could figure, that was pretty standard for bus rides.  He preached for about the first 20 minutes of the trip, and then spent a few minutes talking about his needs and then came around and took an offering.  On the bus!  All I could think is that we are NOT in Niger!

IMG_0857We stopped once for lunch and had about 15 minutes.  We couldn’t leave anything in our seats so had to carry our computers with us to the facilities.  This time there were no warning signs about blowing your nose on the floor.  What a relief that was because I wasn’t sure where I was going to blow otherwise!

Here we are carrying all our stuff back to the bus.

IMG_0858The bus was so big I wasn’t able to see much.  But I did manage to snap one picture on our way.

IMG_0861 I think I took this picture close to our arrival in Livingstone.

IMG_2021We were able to book a hotel online and were told that any taxi would know where it was upon our arrival in Livingstone.  They were right.  There were many taxi’s that were more than willing to take us where we wanted to go.  Here this man is convincing us that he can fit all our bags (remember, we have all our stuff for 5 months) into his taxi.  And he could.  Left very little room for Tobi and I in the back seat – but we’re used to traveling like that.  And it was a short trip to our hotel.

IMG_0865After checking into our hotel, we employed our same taximan to take us out to see what we could see.  We only had a couple of days so we wanted to make a plan.  Here we are driving up to where you can take a helicopter ride.

IMG_2023Our taxi driver suggested we visit this place.  It was sunset and was beautiful.  It was on the Zambezi River and was where you could get a big boat for a river cruise.

photoWe made plans to take a helicopter ride over the Falls the following morning and the anticipation of that made us hungry.  Not to mention that we hadn’t eat since lunch on our bus trip.  This is where we ate and not only can I not remember where it was, I can’t remember what type of food it was.  But I’m sure it was good!

IMG_0875The next morning the helicopter place picked us up at our hotel.  Wasn’t that nice of them?  I was excited and nervous at the same time.  Not nervous because I am afraid of helicopters (though none of us had ever been on one), but nervous because of my stomach…

IMG_2024The helicopter was showing some other people around so we decided to do our own looking around.

Check out this tree!

IMG_2031

IMG_2038

Looks like we should carve our initials or something into it!

IMG_2035

While waiting for our turn, we had this view of Victoria Falls.  It’s also called ‘The Smoke That Thunders’.   Any guesses why?

IMG_2025Chillin’  – but why are we facing the wrong direction?

IMG_2029Our helicopter is on the way!

IMG_2030This was a really big day.  We started out by seeing Victoria Falls from the sky, on both the Zambia and Zimbabwe side.  After that, we walked right through the falls, and then we hiked down into a gorge and saw them from below.  It was all incredible. I’m posting lots of pictures because even though the pictures can’t capture it all, I figure the more I post, the more the majesty is seen.  By the way, Victoria Falls is 1.7 kilometers across and is 2/3 in Zambia and 1/3 in Zimbabwe.

Here’s our chopper!

IMG_2044I got to sit in the front.  Sometimes there are benefits to being the designated photographer.

IMG_2047This was a first.

IMG_2050For all of us.

IMG_2049

IMG_2084We’re taking off…The smoke that thunders – spray is thrown hundreds of feet into the air and can be seen for miles.

IMG_2054Getting closer…

IMG_2056Now I’m just going to post a bunch of pictures I took while viewing the Falls from all different directions.  If you think the pictures are amazing, imagine what it looked like in person!

IMG_2059

IMG_2060

IMG_2061

IMG_2063Check out the bridge.  You’ll see this from lots of angles.

IMG_2065Rainbows!

IMG_2068

IMG_2069Now we’re in Zimbabwe.  That’s the town of Livingstone in the background.

IMG_2070

IMG_2072All is still well!

IMG_2071

IMG_2077

IMG_2079This is our pilot.  He takes people up and down on 15 minute helicopter rides all day.  (wonder if HE needs dramamine).  I asked him if he ever gets tired of it.  He simply said, “No”.  Can you figure out why?!

IMG_2081I guess we could consider this a field trip.

IMG_2083Leaving the area.

IMG_2086There’s that bridge again.

IMG_2093Landing.

IMG_2097Back on the ground.

IMG_2111We decompressed while Tobi tried his hand at this xylophone.

IMG_2115Cool silhouette.  Thundering ‘smoke’ in the background.

IMG_2117After our incredible chopper excursion (and I might add 15 minutes up there was quite enough for me), we made our way to the entrance of the park.  Here’s Tobi, ready to go.

IMG_2120I got a few pictures with my good camera, but then we had to put it away.  Fortunately we were advised NOT to purchase the raincoats for the walk through, as it was not possible to stay dry.  I put my camera in a double ziploc in the case, and the case in another bag.

IMG_2122Beautiful, I know.

IMG_2124

IMG_2125Now comes the fun part…Thankfully I had my iPhone in a Lifeproof case so I could take pictures.  But there was so much ‘thunder’ that I mostly could only guess what I was taking pictures of.

IMG_0879

IMG_0881

water on the bridge was ankle deep and this is where Tobi just sat down, threw his head back and shouted, “I LOOOOOOOVE THIS!!!”  It was priceless.

IMG_0885Here’s a few seconds of video.  You can hear the thundering.

IMG_0887I know those look like icicles, but it really wasn’t cold.  I don’t like cold and I especially don’t like wet and cold.  And I was fine.  So it definitely was not cold.

IMG_0888It was hard to even open our eyes!  Every once in awhile a breeze would blow the mist and you could see how close you were to the Falls.

IMG_0894So cool!

IMG_2133We made it to the other side

IMG_2136

Soaking wet but so in awe.

IMG_2138What a cutie…

IMG_2140Or not… Oh, and there’s that bridge again.

IMG_2141Very not cute…  But what was amazing was how just down the path everything was dry.

IMG_2146We happened upon David Livingstone – a missionary/explorer who was the first European to see Victoria Falls.  The town the Falls are in – Livingstone, was named after him.

IMG_2147It’s a huge statue.

IMG_2150Neal is also a missionary / explorer.

IMG_2152The park didn’t have a commercialized feel at all, and there were monkeys everywhere.

IMG_2155Tobi wasn’t too sure what to think of this guy.  Frankly, I wasn’t either.

IMG_2158More eye level view of the smoke.

IMG_2160You can see a glimpse of the Falls on the right.

IMG_2163Did I say uncommcercialized?  We walked along the river for a bit while seeing no one.  And if we wanted to, we could have walked right into it and ‘swum’ down those Falls.

IMG_2168We didn’t want to.

IMG_2181The base of the Falls – or whatever it’s called right before it crashes over the rocks – is right above Neal’s head.

IMG_2177

IMG_2171

IMG_2186Swimming anyone?  That’s living on the edge right there!

IMG_2205More death-defying edge living.  Not really, but it sounds impressive.  It sure would be easy to walk to that edge though.

IMG_2213So we’ve see the Falls and the bridge from the sky, from eye level so now it’s time to have a look from below.  We were hungry and thirsty after seeing such incredibleness and were actually on the search for some food.  But instead we came across a path that led, well, down.  We may not have noticed it except there were a couple of people walking up.  We asked what it was and they said it was a pretty good hike but was worth it.  We then noticed a sign that suggest the hike time, including a warning that one should carry water to drink.  But we, being the amazing people that we are, said “Hmmph.  Who needs water.  We live in the desert.”

So off we went.   And after seeing that kind of beauty, who can think of their thirst glands?  Is there such a thing as thirst glands?

IMG_2217Down we go.

IMG_2218Now we’re looking up at the monkeys.

IMG_2219There’s the bridge again!

IMG_2222We thought it quite nice of them to have put a resting bench on the trail.  It was even more useful on the hike up.

IMG_2225“The splendor of the King, clothed in majesty.  Let all the earth rejoice”, is what comes to mind.  This is a rejoicing earth if ever I saw one.

IMG_2228Wow.  Just wow.

IMG_2231I have obviously been walking behind these guys – taking pictures.

IMG_2232We walked through this!

IMG_2238See?

IMG_2241

IMG_2245I really was there.

IMG_2250Crossing a stream close to the bottom.

IMG_2252There she is again!  We could have bungee jumped off that bridge.  But we didn’t.

IMG_2258That spray is from the Falls – even though we can’t see them from here.

IMG_2261

IMG_2266Basking in the Zambia sun while being cooled by the spray of the Zambezi River.

IMG_2270It was at this point that we again remembered that it had been a good number of hours without food or drink so we decided we should begin our hike upward, so as to not have to spend the night on the river.  I might be a bit intimidated by that.

IMG_2273Remember the thoughtfully placed bench?  We made good use of it.

IMG_2280We made it to the top and saw this bridge – it’s a different bridge.  It was the one we walked on through the Falls.

IMG_2282There it is a bit closer.

IMG_2283That’s the jungle we just walked out of.

IMG_2288I noticed that the path continued on past the entrance to the gorge hike.  There was no food or drink for sale anywhere that we could see close by.  I was tired – we were all tired.  But I didn’t want to miss out on something.  There was uncharted road ahead.  I also knew if we went far to find food, after eating we’d be too tired to come back.  So with tummy’s grumbling and palets dry, onward we marched.  Here’s one of the things we saw.

IMG_2292Another angle.

IMG_2293Zooming in on the bridge we saw there were also train tracks that ran parallel with the road.

IMG_2294We (or so I thought) continued on down the path.  I soon found that I was alone.  I stopped and waited for a minute or two thinking I must have missed something wonderful.  I backtracked.  This was the something wonderful I found.

IMG_2297

They quit on me.  Literally laid down and quit.

IMG_2299

IMG_2300

 

They could have been monkey lunch.

IMG_2303Or we could have made the monkeys our lunch.  I think Tobi is thinking about it.

IMG_2307This guy (or, umm, lady) wasn’t interested in moving.

IMG_2310

Finally got by and they returned to their whatever they were doing.

IMG_2315We had been advised that there was a particular hotel – a very fancy, expensive (to the tune of $700/night expensive) that we should visit.  Maybe just have  a meal there.  We asked around about it and were told it wasn’t too far down the road.  So there we were.  Three tired, hungry, dehydrated American Nigeriennes marching down the road in the sun.  ‘Not far’ was in all actuality not far – less than a mile.  But in our condition, it might have been a marathon.  And have I mentioned that I had been wearing sandals all day?  We finally made it.  We decided that no matter what, this is where we would eat.  The tables were around the fancy pool and we enjoyed sitting there in such a fun atmosphere, trying our best not to nod off.

IMG_2319We enjoyed some live music – helped keep us awake.

IMG_2318Once we were refueled, we decided to go the other suggested fancy hotel to check it out.  We acted like we knew what we were doing and got a shuttle that took us from one hotel to the other.   Fancy it was.

Check out that view!  Those are the Falls in the background.

IMG_2322And with such beauty all around, who could stay tired?

IMG_2321

We thought it wise to get a taxi back to our hotel (me being in sandals and all).  What a day it was.  One that will be remembered forever.  And when I look at these pictures, I can only think of the splendor of God, and how much He must love us to have created such beauty.

IMG_2317The next day we walked around in Livingstone some – bought a few souvenirs in the market, and ate at a local restaurant.  For being home of one of the natural wonders of the world, Livingstone is quite a sleepy little town.  I didn’t even take pictures – I guess because nothing was really remarkable.  Well, except for the Falls that is.

Here’s our hotel room.

IMG_2332And for some reason we decided Tobi needed a haircut before our next trip to Durban, South Africa.  Both the haircut and the sunburn were free.

IMG_2330

Lusaka, Zambia, here we come!

Thanks to the coffee I shockingly enjoyed, I slept not at all the night before our flight to Lusaka, Zambia.  Have tried but not enjoyed coffee since.  I’m a tea person through and through.

Here are more airplane shots – I could probably use the same ones over and over again, but I did take photos on each flight – partly to help me document.   Here we’re leaving Addis Ababa.

IMG_0821

IMG_0824

It’s a direct flight to Lusaka, Zambia.  These guys are big fans of the personal screens.

IMG_0825

Just 3 1/2 hours later we touched down in Lusaka.

IMG_0826

Things are a bit greener here…

IMG_0827

Customs/immigration was relatively simple – as immigration goes.  Visas can be purchased at he airport and we were prepared with cash to pay for them.  We were pleasantly surprised when they returned some cash and informed us that Tobi was free.  The boy was saving us money!

Our plan in Zambia was to be a part of Africa Outreach – a ministry started by our friends Walker and Haley Schurz.  They are fellow ORU grads and they are the ones who helped us settle in South Africa 13 years ago when we went there for Tobi’s birth.  We were only in South Africa for 5 months and the Schurz’ moved from there to Zambia a few years later.  They  are now pastors of Miracle Life Family Church and they started and operate Rhema Zambia – a bible school.  Brandt and Pam Prince joined Africa Outreach recently, and they are the family we stayed with.  Amazingly, they are Agape Missionary Alliance Missionaries just like us.  But as is the MO for missionaries, we’re not home very often – so we had only met these folks briefly one time – back in 2001.  So what a blessing it was for us to get to know them and to stay in their home.  They  and their 4 kiddos were fun hosts. And we had some of the best food!  But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Brandt picked us up at the airport and took us to meet Pam for lunch.  In a Tai restaurant!  We then made our way to their home, met the rest of the family and got settled in our room.  We were quite amazed at how developed Lusaka was.  The Prince’s appreciated our amazement because having lived in the Congo for many years, they felt the same way we did.  Incidentally, Niger and Congo are at the bottom of the pile of developed countries.  So we shared our shock and awe of the ‘niceness’.

Tobi was pretty pleased with our accommodations because they came complete with 3 boys and 1 sweet 2 year old girl.  Here’s Tobi with Austin, Tyler and Ben.

IMG_2015

Juliana gets a photo of her own – she’s adorable.  The Prince’s are in the midst of adopting her from the Congo.

IMG_1973

The following pictures are some of the first we took – the things we were amazed by and made us feel like we weren’t actually in Africa.

Pam goes to the grocery store a lot!  But we’re glad she did because she made some amazing meals.

IMG_0829

The mall.

IMG_0830

It really is a mall!

IMG_0832

Not only were there real toilets -they came equipped with toilet paper!

IMG_0833

Appliance store.

IMG_0834

IMG_0835

Escalators!

IMG_0836

Are we really in Africa?

IMG_0839

Sunday lunch at KFC.  Yep. The real Colonel and everything.

IMG_0841

Our first Sunday we went to Miracle Life Family Church.  We were so encouraged to hear that 90% of the money used to build this church came from the Zambians.

IMG_1848

Pastor Walker invited us to greet the congregation.

IMG_1846

This isn’t a great picture but it’s the front of the church.  It’s a big one!

IMG_0846We arrived in Lusaka on March 7th.  Tobi’s 13th birthday was the next day.  Pam graciously volunteered to make the teen-to-be a cake and told us about a paintball place right down the street from their house.  Paintball would be a perfect birthday gift.  Austin, the Prince’s oldest son had a knee issue so couldn’t ‘paintball’.  Ben was too young.  But Tyler was all for it.  So off we went.  The paintballers and the spectators.

IMG_1789

Tobi and Austin.  Nothing like making a brand new friend and then trying to shoot him!

IMG_1786

This was new to Tobi so lots of instruction was given.

IMG_1790

Even Brandt gave Tobi some pointers.

IMG_1794

Is the helmet really necessary?

IMG_1799

The guy running the show was having fun just watching and instructing our 2.

IMG_1804

They had several different competitions.  And they had the battleground to themselves.

IMG_1811

This is the spectator window from where Neal provided much instruction…And at the end, high 5’s for a job well done.

IMG_1815

I don’t think there was a clear winner, but when it was all said and done, the boys were still friends.

IMG_1816

Pam made one of Tobi’s favorites for dinner, and even a few more boys joined for the festivities.

IMG_1819

Then there was a really yummy cake.

IMG_1821

Our youngest is officially a teenager!

IMG_1826

Then the electricity went out.  We’re pretty sure that was for our benefit – to remind us that yes, we were still in Africa.

IMG_1827

It’s always so much fun to watch people open presents.  Please excuse the wrapping job…

IMG_1831

He’s wearing his Nigeria soccer journey and loved getting a Zambia jersey.

IMG_1833

IMG_1823

IMG_1835

We’re proud of our 13 year old.

IMG_1837

Did I mention how well we ate at the Prince’s home?

IMG_1851

This is just one of many wonderful meals.  Grilled chicken and twice baked potatoes.

IMG_1852

The broccoli was special for Tobi.  He loves the stuff – he’s kind of strange that way – and it’s rare that we get to eat it.

IMG_1854

One of our reason’s for going to Zambia was to teach in the Rhema Bible School there.  Neal taught Bible Doctrines to the first year students, and I taught Children’s Ministry to the 2nd year students.  What fun we had!

Here’s Neal teaching his class.

IMG_5504

IMG_5506

Makes you wanna know what he’s saying doesn’t it?

IMG_5685

I, too, had fun teaching a great group of students.

IMG_5686

They were so responsive and I know they received revelation on how important ministry to children is.  That was my goal.

IMG_5696

I like to teach with lots of object lessons…

IMG_5702

This one used popped popcorn and popcorn seeds.  Any idea what  lesson that taught?  Hint:  what happens when you add heat and oil…

IMG_5722

At the end of the class I had a group of students do a ‘practice children’s service’.  It was so fun and I was impressed.

IMG_0851

In addition to teaching in the school, Walker and Haley invited us to speak at their first annual Rhema alumni meeting.  Here we are together.

IMG_5729

Walker giving the vision of the Alumni program.

IMG_5526

First Neal spoke.

IMG_5590

Then me.

IMG_5616

Then we spoke together.  I don’t remember what was being said here – but it looks interesting…

IMG_5648

Of course a meeting is never complete until we introduce the rest of our family.

IMG_5632

Speaking into these lives was an honor we will always remember.

IMG_5665

The Bible School has chapel services and Neal preached there as well.

IMG_5739

We were also asked to meet with the children’s workers of Miracle Life Family Church.  We had a ‘pre-meeting’ to discuss what they wanted us to cover.  We were amazed at what they already have established.   Everything we brought up they were already doing.  We did meet with them on a Saturday morning and just encouraged them and brought a few new ideas.  But it was truly a mutually encouraging time.

The lady on the left is the Children’s ministry director.

IMG_0844

Many of the students are already pastors and we were invited to minister at Mount Moriah – with Pastor Julius Mwanza.  We were SO blessed!  We walked into the church and felt right at home and the music was wonderful!

IMG_1861

Neal preached…

IMG_1876

IMG_1868

The room to the right is the overflow room.  They could hear but not see.

IMG_1878

It was the Sunday that the children were receiving their Samaritan’s Purse shoeboxes and they had a special presentation.  Every one of these children quoted a scripture verse of their choice.  From long ones, to “Jesus wept”.

IMG_1885

This little guy dressed for the occasion!

IMG_1890

Tobi and I got to help hand out the boxes.

IMG_1948

IMG_1947

IMG_1906

They opened their gifts as soon as they got them outside.  I talked to this sweet girl and when I asked her what she got.  She replied, “There was a letter inside and they said they were praying for me.”   So if you’re involved in Operation Blessing / Samaritan’s Purse and have told someone you’re praying for them — I hope you are.

IMG_1957

Pastor Julius and his family.

IMG_1959

They took us to a great place for lunch – burgers!

IMG_1961

Everywhere we’ve been, Tobi has been diligent to do his school.  He’s had lots of different work areas.  This is his classroom at the Prince’s house.  The boys went to school, we went to the bible school and Tobi stayed at the house and did his school.  Well, except for the day he came to visit our classes and greet the students and hear his Dad preach in chapel.

IMG_1975

Then the boys would get home and rescue Tobi.

IMG_1977

Movie time our last night there.

IMG_2017

We enjoyed spending time with friends – but our time went so quickly.

IMG_1978

Had fun at the Schurz home – volleyball!

IMG_1983

Ping pong!

IMG_2001

Serious ping pong!

IMG_1999

I’ll let you guess who won.

IMG_1997

But lots of games were played.

IMG_1990

The only competing I did was to try and get as tall as Haley.  That’s never going to happen….

IMG_1987

Neal cooked his famous Nigerian rice and stew – minus the pepper.  As always, it was a hit.

Dishing up dinner.

IMG_1992

Walker and Neal enjoying dinner.

IMG_1994

The boys table.  And apparently no one else was welcome to join them.

IMG_1996

As I already mentioned, Walker and Haley are the friends and supporters who hooked us up in Johannesburg when we went there for Tobi’s birth in 2000.  We were so blessed to be a small part of their ministry in Zambia and are impressed by their ministry there – Africa Outreach.  Thanks guys.  We had a blast!  And we’re expecting your visit to Niger.

IMG_2006

And a special thanks to Brandt and Pam Prince who we had so much fun with.  They were the best hosts!

IMG_2009

Our journey thus far has been more than we could have expected (that’s just like God, eh?). Eve though our  time in Lusaka was coming to a rapid close,  we were excited about the next leg of our trip – a bus ride to Livingstone – and Victoria Falls!  Hopefully I’ll get to that soon…because it was truly amazing!

Exploring Addis Ababa

As I mentioned in my last post, we were in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia by ‘force’.  Our goal was to get to Lusaka, Zambia, but what choice did we have but to follow our itinerary?  And since it appeared that we would have a 12 hour layover in Addis, I decided to go out on a limb and see if there would be any price difference if we were to stay, say, a day or two longer.  Turns out, there wasn’t!  Except of course for lodging.  We specifically planned this travel year quite some time ago, which is the reason Tobi is homeschooling this year.  So we can have these experiences together.  So we decided that a few nights of lodging was very worth the experience we’d have.  We were right.

I ended my last post with details of Z Guest House were we stayed, and of our wonderful host, Todd.  Again, highly recommend this place for lodging.

After pizza and our brisk walk, we had a great night sleep.  Awoke to lovely sunshine streaming in, cool breezes, and English breakfast served in our room.  That was wonderful until I poured a steaming hot cup of what I thought was tea – but it quickly became clear that my tea was really coffee.  It was an English breakfast for goodness sake.  Don’t the English drink TEA?!  But ahhh, I thought, we are in Ethiopia, and if memory serves, they are known for coffee.  However, I still don’t like coffee.  Neal doesn’t like coffee.  Our parents and our kids (minus Tobi) drink it with a faithfulness that is to be commended.  I’ve tried to like it.  I’ve been told I will learn to like it.  I’ve had my sister doctor it to what she deemed to be irresistible.  Nope.  Still easily (and readily) resisted.  However, I have become and avid tea drinker.  Especially Earl Grey.  Or Lady Grey.  Or Russian Earl Grey.  I really love the Grey family.  But any tea will do.  As long as there is milk (preferably evaporated milk – learned that in Nigeria).  Love cream too, but try to avoid that.  So I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed when the dark fluid that poured from the lovely TEA pot was in fact coffee.  I was really looking forward to enjoying my tea in the cool morning sunshine.  Todd had been wonderfully accommodating so I decided to go knock on their door and see if tea would be a possibility.  I gingerly tried to explain that if possible, we would prefer tea over coffee (didn’t want to offend an Ethiopian and his coffee!).  He quickly obliged and even apologized, saying they normally serve both tea and coffee the first morning, and then take note of whatever the guest consumed and serve that thereafter.  I got my tea.  I should mention here that there is a reason that I went into such a long discourse over coffee/tea that will be uncovered in my next post.

Following our leisurely breakfast, we hit the road.  We got some basic direction from Todd and were on our way.  The weather was lovely so a walking we did go.

Neal was particularly impressed by the staircase on this school.  He’s always looking at architecture like that.  Getting new ideas for buildings…

IMG_0741

We found it interesting that even though it was pretty cool (cool to me is 70’s/80’s), many people used umbrellas in the sun.  In Niger, where 90 – 110 is the norm, seeing an umbrella would be rare.

IMG_0742

The streets were busy, but there were walkways over them for pedestrians.  It was around here we changed some money so we could pay Todd back for the Birr he lent us the night before.

IMG_0743

We walked and walked and walked.

IMG_0745

And we came across Niger street.  Pretty fun!

IMG_0747

Even though the roads/traffic had a Western feel, the vegetable sellers on the side of the road (well, in the road) reminded me that we were still in Africa.

IMG_0749

From a distance we weren’t sure what we were looking at here.  Was it really a slanted building, or were we just looking at it at a strange angle?

IMG_0750

Nope, it really was slanted.

IMG_0751

For some reason, and I’m not sure why, I thought that Ethiopian’s spoke English. I took a little while to realize that this wasn’t the case.  At first I just thought they didn’t understand my accent.  There were some that had enough English to understand us in a restaurant – mostly.  However the majority didn’t speak English, but Amharic.  Tobi was quick to recognize that that sounded like a language spoken in the Bible.  He was right – Jesus spoke Aramaic.

We walked on.  One of our goals was to find an internet place -which we figured a big hotel would have.  So we were pointed in the direction of the Hilton but after what felt like several miles, we still couldn’t see it.  Shouldn’t a hotel like that be able to be seen from a distance?

We went to the leaning building and asked there – but the English thing was a problem.  By the way, the bottom floor of that building was a car dealership.

We continued in the direction that looked like a hotel of Hilton Status might be.  We stopped at a park and tried our luck with English again and were told that the Hilton was right there – right across the street.  And so it was.  No fanfare.  Not recognizable until we got closer and saw the H – but it was very understated.

We weren’t sure if ‘non-residents’ were allowed in, so we made an inquiry at the desk as to the price of rooms, to appear interested.  I wasn’t interested in staying there, but I was interested in the price – which was if I remember right, about $400+/night.  Made me really appreciate our $80/night sunny place.

This was leading up to the entrance.

IMG_0756

What we were really after was internet.  We had yet to inform family (or anyone) that we had in fact safely arrived.  ‘Z’ has internet and I tried to use it, but I was paying per minute, and I literally sent 20 minutes trying to send an email and finally gave up.  I knew it wasn’t much per minute, it was the pain of sitting there waiting for something to happen that caused me to give up.   H had internet as well, and I can’t remember the exact price, but I think it was about $5 for 30 minutes.  Perfect.  Plenty of time to do what we needed to do.

IMG_0753

News sent to loved ones and we were on our way.  However our feet were expressing their desire for us to use a different mode of transportation so we decided to look for a taxi.  They were plentiful outside of The Hilton, but taxi’s waiting there charged more than twice what a taxi should cost.  We knew that because Todd had told us what to expect to pay for a taxi.  We explained we weren’t guests at the Hilton and that they price of the taxi should be half that.  Mr. Taximan reluctantly agreed.

It was beyond lunch time and the only place we knew of was the place we had eaten the night before.  We asked the taxi man to drop us there (it was amazing how much shorter the distance seemed from a vehicle).   We happened to mention to him that we were going to eat and he informed us that he had just the place.  Fortunately that place was close to where we wanted to be.  And it looked promising.  We excited the vehicle and entered the Museum Restaurant.  We were beginning to see a trend.  We would have missed the restaurant altogether if we had not been dropped in front of it.  Like the Hilton, it was hidden from the outside but lovely inside.  It was an indoor/outdoor kind of place,with  beautiful flowers and landscaping.  The food was lovely too.

As you can see, we are thoroughly enjoying it.

IMG_0760

Since we had just finished a wonderful and re-energizing lunch at The Museum Restaurant, In only made sense that we visit the museum  next door.  It was pretty cool.  This picture is in the shape of Ethiopia.

IMG_0764

There is so much history in this country.  This is one of the Emperor’s thrones.  You can get a perspective of how massive it is if you notice the person standing nearby.

IMG_0766

If I remember correctly, this was the first vehicle driven in Ethiopia.  It was, of course, a Ford.

IMG_0767

Pretty nifty.

IMG_0768

There was a special temporary museum of art from many nations set up.  This was the only picture I got, before I was told no camera’s were allowed.  Bummer.  Some of the art was pretty impressive, some, looked like my kids art when they were very small.

IMG_0769

We were allowed to take pictures from the outside of the museum…

IMG_0771

After the museums, we remembered that we wanted to get in touch with a high school friend of Neal’s that was living in Addis.  We had his info on FB – but no internet.  Out on the street however, we saw an ‘internet cafe’ sign that we decided to try.  We’ve seen many such signs in our neck of the woods (Niger), but they don’t always deliver.  But we decided we had nothing to lose.  So down the street, through a restaurant and down an alley we went, following hand painted signs.  Success!  We came to a small room (very small) with a young man at a counter and about 10 computers.  How much was internet there you ask?  $.50/ 30 minutes!  No kidding.  We successfully found the info we needed to call Neal’s friend.  At those rates, I was tempted to stay and write a blog post!

Our fatigue – I know, that sounds so dramatic – demanded however that we go back to our rooms for a bit.  I thoroughly enjoyed spending some time in our lovely accommodation, with the sun streaming through the windows.  Todd kindly allowed us to use a phone and make plans with Steve and his family for the following day.

We headed back out on foot on the route that had become pretty familiar to a place we checked out that was near the internet cafe.  We were confused at first, because their sign said they close at 5 o’clock.  But it was a pizza place!  What pizza place isn’t open at night?  Made no sense.  So we began investigating.  It wasn’t military time either.  Finally we figured it out.  It was Bible time.  That’s not what they officially call it, but that’s what it is.    You remember in Acts when those in the Upper Room were accused of being drunk and Peter responded by saying, “How can we be drunk?  It’s only the 3rd hour”.  That really meant 9am.  That means that 5 means 11 pm.  And they really go by those times.  Even the taxis.  Though they understand ‘our’ time as well.  They would verify which time we meant.  I found that very interesting…

We can’t seem to get enough pizza, and this one was especially good…

IMG_0777

Don’t worry, it wasn’t really Mouse Pizza.  (I hope)  And I can’t remember what was on it.        They had very memorable fresh pineapple juice too.  It was so fresh, it wasn’t even cold!

IMG_0779

Thus ended our first full day in Addis Ababa.  It was a wonderful day and we were wonderfully blessed and tired.

Next, Day 2.