A lesson in gratefulness

Today Neal and Trae went to Ouagadougou (Wa-ga-dew-goo) For those of you who don’t know, ‘Ouaga’ is the capital of Burkina Faso.  It is also where Sofanwet is being held this weekend.  Every October there is a softball tournament here in Niamey.  The teams are made up of foreigners here in Niger, as well as people from Ouaga.  This past October both Trae and Neal were on teams.  Trae’s ‘Social’ team won the championship, and Neal’s ‘competitive’ team won their championship.  A similar tournament is held in Ouaga each February.  That’s where they are now.  Or they are enroute.  The trip is only about 7 hours, but there are also borders to cross.  They are both on different competitive teams, and it’s possible they could end up playing each other in the finals. 

 All that to say that I had to drive to school today in our beloved Beamer.  Actually, I have to drive it all weekend if I plan to go anywhere.  I’m considering re-arranging my schedule so that won’t be necessary!  Driving it is a real lesson in gratefulness.  First, I feel like I’m in a roller skate.  It’s so close to the ground that motorcycles (dirt bikes) that pass tower over me.  It’s rather intimidating, when I’m the one used to doing the ‘towering’.  I don’t tower intentionally, it’s just the nature of the Toyota I usually drive.  Second, I’m afraid to touch or adjust anything in the car.  But it’s not possible for me to drive after Neal has been in the car without at least moving the seat forward and adjusting the rear view mirror.  Which I did this morning… and while adjusting, said mirror came off in my hand. 

But, I am thankful  it has airconditioning.  No matter that it only works on one speed.  That was a major criteria for us to purchase this vehicle. AC.  So what that we’ve already had to have 4 holes in it fixed, and have it recharged.  It works.  I’m thankful that it’s not overheating right now.  And I’m thankful that when we were getting the overheating problem fixed, another issue (I don’t really know what it was), was exposed and repaired.  I am thankful that I am in a vehicle and not on one of the many donkey carts I pass, or riding a camel in one of the camel trains I have to wait for to cross the road.  (Although both of those tower over me!)  And I’m thankful that it brought to my class this morning.

 It was a good class.  I’m teaching Children’s ministry to both our leadership and discipleship students.  Many of our discipleship students are like newborn babies themselves (in their walk with God).  But what better time to instill in them the importance, no, requirement we have to minister to children.  I’m basing most of my aspects of teaching on the Prodigal Son.  Stories, object lessons, drama’s, memory etc.  About 1/2 of them hadn’t heard the story yet. 

Last Friday the assignment I gave them over the weekend was to witness to 3 children.  This week we have been spending a bit of time each day sharing those testimonies.  They are often humorous, and they show the ignorance (in the purest sense of the word) of the new Christians.  One of them said they asked a child if they had heard of Jesus.  The child’s response was that he was someone who did magic.  So the student discreetly threw a small coin into the sand and then told the child that if he looked over ‘there’ he would find money.  Yesterday we talked about lots of fun ways to learn memory verses.  When reviewing today, one of the students said we could promise the child money if he learned his verse.  I gently corrected them both, letting them know that they will be having a whole course on evangelism this year.  I appreciate their zealousness.

After I closed class today, Sido (whom I wrote about earlier) raised his hand.  He wanted to know if it was possible to pray for someone who was far away.  The ignorance (innocence?) is so touching.  Of course I was able to give examples of how Jesus himself did that, but it also reminded me of an email I received yesterday.  One of our supporters wrote and wanted me to let the students know they were praying for them.  What a great opportunity for Sido to be encouraged, really, for the whole class to be encouraged.  For that, I am truly grateful!

It’s all worth it.

Our computer is restored.  We’re still trying to get anti-virus software on it.  Apparently our connection is too slow for all the needed files to download properly.  But a friend is sending us a CD so that should take care of that.  Thanks Dave.  Amazingly, there is an HP service center here, so our laser printer is at the ‘doctor’.  We should have a diagnosis by tomorrow.  Another friend that visited in October left for us his portable Canon printer.  We just hooked it up and it works great.  Thanks John.  Thanks God, for friends!

 This past week the Jorgensen’s had a team of 5 men visit.  Pastors and evangelists.  They spent most of their time in Maradi, but were here over the weekend before flying home.  All of them are preachers and were ready to minister on Sunday morning.  Between us all, we had 5 vehicles, so were able to take them to 5 of our churches in this region. 

This past Friday, while I was working on the computer issues, Neal came home and asked why I hadn’t told him about the brake problem on the car.  I had been out that morning and hadn’t noticed a thing.  That’s odd, as I’m usually the first to notice the weird noises.  Since it was Friday afternoon, our regular mechanic was closed and wouldn’t open again until Monday morning.  He felt we could manage with it until then.  We also have a 2nd car.  A BMW.  Yep.  You read it right.  Now before anyone starts questioning how we are spending our missionary dollars, let me add that this relic is 20 years old.  Mileage?  Who really knows.  Living in Niamey, we had to have a 2nd vehicle.  I was shooting for a RAV4, but the price tag, even used, was more than we could accept.  So our (his) 2nd choice was a 20 year old antique BMW.  No matter that the door handle remains in your hand when you close the door, or the glove box falls to the floor when you open it, or the interior looks like it’s been peiced together from several other junkyard vehicles, it’s got character, it’s got air-conditioning (sometimes) and the price was right.  I’m beginning to weary of the character issues.  I drive it only when absolutely necessary, and sometimes even ask Grampa to do an errand for me to avoid driving it.  Sunday, there was no avoiding.  We needed all 5 vehicles.  Neal was driving out of town, which meant he would be driving our Toyota.  Which in turn meant I would be driving the ‘Beamer’ as we affectionately call it.  He left earlier than I did.  I was to pick my guest (Mike) up at 9:40am and take him to our Harobunda church.  Neal called me at 9:05.  The brakes were bad – scraping loudly, and could I bring the Beamer for him to take.  Of course I wasn’t ready, but amazingly was able to leave within 10 minutes.  We made other arrangements to have Mike dropped off at the church.  Neal was soon his way to Torodi with his guest and the Beamer.  Mike arrived and I had time to give him a tour of the Bible School before service started.  Just as we’re getting ready to begin, Neal and his visitor appear in the church.  I turned around and there he was.  The Beamer was overheating (can’t say I was surprised) so he had to come back.  We had a wonderful service with a powerful message.  I also got more material during the message for “Tobi’s Literal-isms”.  Now we had to get home.  Neal decided it would be best for him to drive the brakeless vehicle, and I would drive the ‘hot’ one.  It’s about a 20 minute drive to our house.  He also had to drop some people off at our other church – and get our house keys from Trae, which ended up in his pocket in all the confusion.  I began my journey home.  I dropped some people off on the way and was on my own.  I had the windows down – having enough sense not to run the AC when overheating is an issue.  Here’s me, chugging along in and antique Beamer with the windows down – exhaust heat blowing up through the ‘character’ holes in the gear shift.  It was hot.  There was a very loud ringing sound that was rather embarassing, though I don’t really know why it was embarassing.  Most cars around here have very loud sounds of one sort or another going on.  I made it within about 1 kilometer of my house.  Turned off a busy road and during the turn, the engine died.  Character my foot!  When the engine dies, the steering and brakes both lock.  I couldn’t take the car out of the turn and was headed for a pretty intimidating ditch.  The kind that if the front tires would have gone in, the back end would be sticking up at a pretty sharp angle.  I didn’t go in.  Thank God for friends and angels!  I sat there for a minute and did the only thing I could think of.  Start the car.  It started.  I tootled along slowly, made one turn – still going – and then the next.  Breakdown.  But this time I was prepared.  It stopped about 10 yards from our gate.  I didn’t have keys, and Neal wasn’t there yet, so I just sat in the little black Beamer, waiting.  And laughing.  Laughing because while I was sitting there in the road at a very strange angle with several people around wondering what this white lady was doing (laughing), a cart being pulled by 2 donkeys cruised by.  And from my perspective, those donkeys were cruising.  I was going nowhere. 

We  learned long ago and through many experiences that there is an enemy that will do all he can to cause discouragement.  He will try and use many different avenues.  We have also learned that these ‘irritations’ are always times of growth.  It only confirms that the enemy is not at all pleased about the progress that is being made in this nation.  I am declaring here in black and white that we are not afraid of him, and we are not ashamed of the Gospel!  We are proclaiming that Jesus is Lord in Niger and His Word is being established daily. 

Take Sido for instance.  Sido came to the church 2 weeks ago with this testimony.  Last year, some people witnessed to him on the street.  Our Bible school students do street evangelism in the area of the church so it could have been one of them – or even someone else.  He didn’t know.  He did know that he took the Bible they were holding threw it into the street, and then pushed the ‘witnesser’.  He told them the Bible was trash etc.  From that point on, according to him, he has had no peace.  He couldn’t go into the Mosque to pray because he was afraid.  He would only stand outside.  He was having dreams that someone was telling him that he couldn’t throw away this Bible.  That it was still true.  His agony finally drove him to the church.  He told Pastor Abdu he wanted to receive Jesus.  Then he asked about the discipleship school.  We usually don’t receive in such new believers, but Sido seemed very genuine.  He had already spent months wrestling with God, so to speak.  In class, he sits at his table everyday, a look of anticipation on his face,  like he can’t wait for what he will learn next.  On top of that, after Mike’s message on Sunday, he (Mike) had a word from God for  a few of the church members.  He asked Sido to stand, having no idea of his testimony.  He said that God showed him that he was a ‘sent one’.  He mentioned a few other things that I’m sure were amazing to Sido.  To us as well.  It’s going to be great to see how God is going to use this young man as he continues to grow and soak up the word of God.  And we have a front row seat and get to watch it happen.  It makes me wonder how many more Sido’s are out there…That’s why it’s all worth it.