Missionary Journey to Nigeria Finale – Our trip home

Well, this is it.  What a journey it’s been.  Even though we do it all the time it always amazes me when we make a plan, then execute the plan, then go on to the next plan.   We are now home and ready to execute the next plan.  Well almost.  But that’s another story.  On a side note, we know that God orders our steps but we have to take those steps once we hear His direction.  Thus, we make and execute plans.

And now on to our 3 day journey back to Niger…

Just as we were getting ready to leave Benin City on Thursday morning we received a phone call from the Bible School asking if we could stop by on our way.  So with our vehicle loaded we headed back to the school.  We were met by some representatives of the student body expressing their love and appreciation for our coming and for Neal’s teaching.  They handed us an envelope explaining that they had taken an offering for us and wanted us to know how much they had received.  Wow!  We stood there grateful, blessed and shocked.  We know what it’s like to be a student.  After more hugs and goodbyes and promises to return, we had to hit the road.  What a sweet send off.

Leaving Benin City

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Not only are there creative business names – check out this bumper sticker.  It had to have been created by a Nigerian!

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Takes a long time to get through the city.

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A LONG time.

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I think this guy was feeling a bit overwhelmed by the thought of 3 days of this…

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Finally some open road.

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Love these plantations.

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Lots of ‘markets’ on the side of the road.  Would have loved to bring some of that stuff home!

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Lots of curves in these jungle roads.

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That’s one way to look at life… but not fun to be behind him!

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On and on we go.

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Entering another town.

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Thought this was funny.  “Progressive Remedial Class”.

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From Palm trees to traffic.

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Lots of traffic!

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Another interesting business – Islamic Store and Honey Depot.  Really?

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Lunch! The food here was good – well, the rice.  We weren’t as impressed with the chicken and the tables were literally covered in dirt.  Fortunately I travel with wet wipes.

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More markets.

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More trucks.

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More cracked up cars.

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MorIMG_1511e Jungle.

More city.

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We weren’t this packed.

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Some of the ba-zillion trucks we had to pass.

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Now this looked familiar to us.  These Fulani people were probably from Northern Nigeria, and maybe even Niger.

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The guys on motorcycles were traveling with their counterparts on donkeys.

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Cattle!

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This truck was at one of the places we stopped for fuel.  And I can testify that those are some of the best pineapple you’ll ever eat.

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Entering Abuja.  Our stopping place for the Night.  Abuja is Nigeria’s capital city.  The part we were in was quite modern.

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When we were here over 3 weeks ago, we had a taxi man direct us to our hotel.  We took his phone number.  We were able to find him again and he helped us get there again. Yes, it was the same place, and no – we couldn’t remember how to get there.  In fact we told our taxi man that we’d meet him where we did before, only to find out we had no idea where that was.  He found us.

We checked into our room.  It was 4:30.  The journey had taken us 7 1/2 hours.  We felt like visiting the city (at least the part we were in) more than we did when we arrived from Niger.  That’s a longer part of the trip.  Of course we only explored the parts we could walk to, and that before dark.  So that gave us about an hour.  As I said, this part of the city is very developed and modern.  If I didn’t know from where I had just come and where I was going, but had been airlifted and dropped right on this street, I might assume I was in some city in America.  Keep in mind that my perspective is Niger….  Anyway, we spotted a little place called “Chloe’s Cupcake Heaven”.  That looked intriguing.  But I also wanted to visit the grocery store I saw.  There we purchased a few packages of Oreo’s to give as gifts (and to eat- we needed food for the trip of course).  We made our way back to Cupcake Heaven and decided to have dessert before dinner.  Scandalous.   Neal and I both had ice cream – go figure, since we were in Cupcake Heaven.  But Tobi had his eye on a peanut butter cupcake.  Then he had his mouth on it.  He gave great reviews, and the ice cream was pretty delectable too.  I didn’t have my camera, but as always when I don’t, I wish I did.  So, no pictures of peanut butter cupcakes.  Oh – on a side note, while we were in the grocery store, I saw a young white lady.  I specify that she was white because it was the first white person we had seen that we didn’t know in almost 4 weeks.  It was remarkable and we quietly commented to each other – “Hey, look!  A white person!”  Then we saw a 2nd one getting cupcakes.  What a novelty that was.

We made our way back to our hotel, had dinner (more rice and spicy red stew), then made our way to our ultimate goal of sleeping.  While we were relaxing, Neal (who has better hearing than I), heard a sound in our air conditioner.  Not a big deal thinks I, who supposes it’s a lizard.  We like lizards.  They eat mosquitoes.  But he’s not convinced it’s a lizard.  Because he can see little ‘hands’ reaching up and grabbing pieces of wood from the frame around the AC.  Lizards don’t have hands.  Rats do.  Sort of.  Lizards we can do.  Rats, not so much.  We made a call to the front desk to explain our situation.  They said they’d be right up.  I think it was close to 11pm.  Right up they were with with I think was mosquito spray.  If it had been a lizard, he would have taken care of the mosquitoes.  They explained that the place had recently been fumigated.  Good to know.  They sprayed and we thanked them.  The scratching stopped.  We knew the critter wasn’t’ dead, but hoped that he had moved on to greener pastures.

My mind was going way too fast and the wave of exhaustion that wafted over me while eating ice cream in Cupcake Heaven was gone.  The internet at this hotel was so fast and I wanted to take advantage of it.  But I knew I needed to sleep.  After almost 2 hours of working really hard at getting to sleep, I finally got up.  I got some stuff done on our website of all things.  Until 3:30 am.  Then it took probably another hour to get to sleep after that.  At least I wasn’t driving…

Six o’clock came right on time, just as I had gotten into an amazingly restful sleep.    That ended quickly as we got up, repacked the car and tried to eat breakfast but discovered it was just too early to eat.  Taxi man was there waiting to lead us out of the maze we were in.

On our way were we with a beautiful sunrise and lovely view of Zuma Rock.

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This is as far as Taxi Man needed to go.  We stopped on the road to pay him.

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The rock is big.

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So we were able to see it for a long time.

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Quite a long time.

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It looks like there’s a face etched into the face of the rock.

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Here’s a closer look.  It’s upside down.  Tobi noticed it first.

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We weren’t done with trucks.

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Or open roads.
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Or tiredness.

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Or trafficIMG_1554.

Or cities.

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OrIMG_1561 markets.

This is the only picture I got but if you look closely on the right you’ll see a small sign that says ‘Yes Fuel’.   This is because there are loads of fuel stations on the road, but only a small percentage of them actually had fuel.  Thus the sign.

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Getting closeIMG_1565 to the Nigeria/Niger border.

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Thought this was a funny truck.  Grabbed a snap even though it was in line at the border.

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When we were traveling down from Maradi to Abuja on our first day it took us 11 1/2 hours.  We made much better time today and arrived in only 9 1/2 hours.  That thanks in part to the iPad that told us where we were going with a little blue dot.  It was extremely helpful.  We knew where we needed to be and that knowledge combined with the little blue dot and we could see which way to go.  We didn’t get lost once.  And though driving through Northern Nigeria can historically be a big hairy deal, we had no problems.  My Nigerian husband (don’t worry, I didn’t get married again in Nigeria, I’m talking about Neal) is a pro at talking with the police.  One of the police even said ‘You’re the white man that speaks Hausa’.  He remembered us.  So we had no issues at police check points, no one demanding puppies or road rule books.  (see previous posts).

We are not fearful by nature, but we do like to be wise.  And that means at the very least not driving into crowds.  We got to one small city and we could see from a distance that there was a crowd.  But there was no where else for us to go.  People were obviously dressed up and heading somewhere.  The further we drove, the bigger the crowd got.  Neal kept saying, “This isn’t good.  We shouldn’t be here.”  I pointed out that this appeared to be an organized demonstration/event as there were guys in uniforms directing traffic.  Sort of.  So in spite of the excitement and Arabic banners we counted on this being something peaceful.  Maybe a party of some sort….

We were traveling behind a transport vehicle that was packed full of people.  We were in a Toyota 4Runner, but this truck was much bigger than us so the people could look down into our vehicle.   I’m guessing we looked pretty conspicuous, being white and all.  They just stared at us as I resisted the urge to whip out my camera and begin snapping pictures of whatever this was.  Because I was smart enough to know that that is the very thing that could turn an intended peaceful event into something not so peaceful (aka: Riot)  The crowd grew larger and more colorful, and finally swelled at the entrance to a big mosque, which was obviously the final destination.  For them, not us.  We were able to quietly move along.  The whole procession I’m guessing was about 2 kilometers.

Other than that little bit of excitement, our trip to the border was uneventful.  And the border was pretty uneventful too.  They remembered us and asked if we liked their country which we of course responded in the positive.  And it was true!

Tobi and I stayed in the car and I snuck this picture while waiting.  They’re writing down all our passport info by hand.

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Entering Maradi.

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We spent the night with Jonathan and Dani, our friends and fellow missionaries in Maradi.  We had a great meal (chicken enchiladas) and a quick night of fellowship.  They got an earful about our trip, as they were really the first we talked to about the amazing adventure we had been on.  Sadly, I didn’t take any pictures there either.

Fortunately I was able to increase the hours of sleep, as did Neal, and we were on our way to Niamey (home) early the next morning.

Leaving Maradi.

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This is looking more like home.

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Such a stark contrast to where we’ve just come from.

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At least they’re working on the roads…

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Now that’s the Niger I know!

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8 1/2 hours later we arrived in Niamey.

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For now, there are more mosques than churches.  But we can see what can be in a West African country.  If God can do it in Nigeria, He can do it here!  And I believe he is calling the Nigerians to help.

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Downtown Niamey.

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The Niger River in the distance.

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Our gate is straight up ahead. Under the big tree.

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Home sweet home

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We’re thankful that God ordered our steps to Nigeria and back, and I know we’ll be processing all that He did for some time to come.  We so appreciate everyone who spent time praying for us.  Prayer works and we know that is why this trip was such a great success and something we’ll always remember with great joy.  And we believe that there were seeds that were planted that will produce fruit – fruit that remains.

It can be heartbreaking, but the investment is worth it.

The time has come for me to write about something that happened last week.  I have to admit that it is still quite painful.  I probably should have written last Friday morning in the form of a prayer request, but I just couldn’t do it. 

It’s about Sido.  The Bible school student that many have been praying for.  If anyone doesn’t know or remember who he is, you can check out past posts that I have written about him.  Briefly, he is a new convert, a Muslim who came to us, begging to be saved.  He was so motivated and asked if he could please be in the discipleship school this year.  He has been with us for 3 months and has been an excellent student.  He withstood strong family persecution.  I really feel that he has great leadership potential, and that God wants to use him to be a part of reaching the unreached in Niger. 

Last Thursday, Neal came home from classes and mentioned that Sido wasn’t feeling well – and that he had a bad attitude.  Pastor Nelson, our Nigerian missionary that directs the Bible school in Maradi has been with us all week to teach in the school here in Niamey.  One of his ministries is in the area of deliverance.  He ministered in this area to some of the students.  Sido was not one of them, but Neal said it felt like there was an overall heaviness in the class and he prayed for them.

Thursday night we had our first monthly combined service, joining our Plateau and Harobunda churches.  There was special music, and the students did a skit.  Sido narrarated the skit.  It was about the lives of the students who had dropped out of school, and how unsuccessful they were, versus the successful lives of those who finished the course.  (The successful ones started a church in Niamey that now has 20,000 members! – maybe this is prophetic!)  Pastor Nelson preached a great message.  I asked Sido how he was doing before the service and he said he was feeling much better and really seemed back to himself.  After the service I encouraged him to be a part of the choir, as that would help establish him further in the church.  He agreed and said he would come to practices this week.

Friday morning Neal called me from the school.  He told me had some sad news.  Sido had been given a key to the office, as Pastor Abdu has been helping to disciple and mentor him and wanted to give him some responsibility.  Thursday night he took that key after the service, went into the office, took the church ‘bank’ as well as that night’s offering.  He also took Pastor Abdu’s cell phone and one of the student’s cell phones.  There were still lots of people milling around when he left, saying he was going out to buy some yogurt.  We haven’t seen him since. 

It was heartbreaking to hear how he gave into temptation after resisting much greater temptation in the past.  Also very sad was that Neal asked me to print out the picture that I used in this blog to ask people to pray for him so they could give it to the police.  It has become a ‘wanted poster’. 

We made out a police report.  He took $150 in cash, and though that doesn’t sound like a ton, it was a discouragement as it was money the church has been raising to buy a keyboard.

It has really grieved me and we have been praying alot for Sido.  The enemy is really working against this man – because I know God has powerful plans for his life.  We got a phone call from Pastor Abdu after getting home from church on Sunday.  During the service, Sido went into Pastor Abdu’s house and took the TV and many of his clothes.  He uses the TV at his house but it belongs to the Bible School.  That was quite a shock.  Another heartbreaker.  The police are now very angry, and couldn’t believe that he would do it again.  We all assumed Sido had hit the road.  Neal and Pastor Abdu went to where Sido’s family lived.  Neal was shocked to meet his mother who appeared to be a very well put together older lady with good English.  She didn’t know Sido was in Bible School, hadn’t seen him in a couple weeks, and said that though she is a Muslim, has several Christian friends.   Sido wasn’t around.  They told her they were looking for him, but the family doesn’t know what he’s done.  Monday, Neal had to go around with the police and hand out the wanted posters at the checkpoints, and to show them the house so they can look for him there. 

I will admit that I’m really bummed.  Neal is bummed.  So is Pastor Abdu and his wife.  It can really make you wonder about your effectiveness.  But then we encouarge ourselves by looking around and seeing the fruit that does remain.  And we know that the investment is worth it.

Please pray for Sido.  Pray 2 Tim 2:25,26 …in humility correcting those who are in opposition.  If God perhaps will grant them repentance so that they may know the truth,  and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taking captive by him to do his will.

Thank you.

 

Home Again / Baptism

It’s always good to get away – and it’s always good to get home.  We arrived home from our trip to Benin Republic yesterday (Monday) at about 4:30pm.  Though we were met with extreme heat, we welcomed the dryness.  Benin is HUMID!  We had a fantastic trip – I will write more about it in the days ahead.  I don’t want to forget any of it!

We unpacked and visited with Mom and Dad, giving them the low-down on the trip.  By-the-way, today is Mom’s (my mother-in -law’s) bday – Happy Birthday!  The kids crashed early, as we were all thankful to be back in our own beds. 

 Not wanting to waste any time getting into the swing of life, we were up at 6:15, kids were off to school, and I was off to my 8am class. (All the while finding it difficult to believe that only 3 days ago I was playing in the Atlantic).   It was good to be back with the students.  Sadly, 3 of them didn’t come back last week.  We are still trying to figure out their individual reasons.  One of them was a younger guy (Ibrahim), and we weren’t sure of his committment.  This is about the time of the year that those who are coming for a free ride (3 meals a day) and not to be discipled, start to fall away.  We are particularly disappointed that Zaku didn’t come back.  He is an excellent student and a sharp guy with lots of potential.  Sometimes the persecution gets to be more than they can take.  We heard that Ibrahim didn’t even go back to his village because he said his dad would be upset with him (for going to Bible School in the first place).  So we’re not sure where he is.  I’m so thankful that Sido is still with us.  Keep praying for him – and for all the students. 

I asked if there were testimonies anyone wanted to share – since I’d been gone a week.  Aishatu, one of our pastor’s wives stood up and testified that she witnessed to 2 women over Easter weekend.  They said that when she was talking about Jesus they could see him standing behind her.  They weren’t ready to receive.  She visited again, and again, the women could see Jesus.  They came to church on Sunday.  One of the women received Christ, the other one said she wanted to, but wasn’t ready just yet.  Wow!  This is what we’re here for! 

 This past week, Bible School students Sido and Soumana went with Alio, an Evangelist and one of our Bible School teachers, to Karma.  Karma is a village that we are ‘spying out’.  We want to plant a church there.  Neal has visited and talked to the leaders to get their ‘ok’.  We don’t need it officially, but things go better if we can get it.  They witnessed and spent the night in the village.  I think what they said is that 2 people received Jesus!  This is great – and a great start for a church!  Open doors!  We have a pastor ready to put in Karma.  Again, the reason we’re here.  Jesus’ words in John (“My meat is to do the work of my Father”) become more and more real to me as we find our strength in doing what He’s called us to do. 

As soon as classes were over today, we had a water baptism in the Niger River.  There were several students (Sido was one of them!) that hadn’t been water baptised, as well as some church members.  Baptisms are one of my favorite things.  It is such a public display of committment to Christ.  It’s done right out there in the open – the river is a very public and busy place.   People are washing their clothes, getting water for their nearby farms, and many are just sitting around enjoying the ‘coolness’ (this is relative) of being near the river.   Neal & Pastor Moctar entered the water first as one-by-one the candidates walked in to declare to all those around them that they belong to Jesus!  It was powerful and there was much rejoicing.  In fact after all were baptized, they didn’t want to stop singing and praising God!  I wish everyone could experience this…I’m getting bold and attempting to include a slidshow with this post.  I would like to hear if it works…

After the baptism, Neal had his monthly meeting with this region’s pastors.  In fact he is still there now. 

Things are moving forward in Niger – Jesus is Lord!

Bible School

It’s been a good week at the Bible School.  I am enjoying my class on ‘training your children’.  So much of it is new to the students.  They have so many questions so I haven’t followed my notes very closely.  A couple days ago, I wanted to hear from them what they’ve learned and what they have found surprising.  Ben said that he has learned that our priorities should be God, family, work/ministry, & self – it that order.  He said he didn’t know that before.  Umaru said that he realized he hadn’t been showing any love to his children.  That he didn’t spend any time with them.  He said he has started to change that, and his kids have begun to notice.  I taught them that it’s important to teach our children to Word of God, and that they can begin memorizing at a very early age.  I use my own children as examples in my teaching, and mentioned how Tobi started memorizing years ago.  I told them his latest ‘feat’ was Psalm chapter 1.  I was amazed by their reaction – they acted like Tobi was some type of prodigy.  It was quite funny.  Psalm 1 is only 6 verses!  They asked if other children could do that too.  I asked how many of them had been to Koranic school.  More than half the class raised their hands.  Then I asked what they did in Koranic school.  I started to see smiles pop up all around.  They knew where I was going.  In Koranic school, they basically memorize Koranic phrases in Arabic – a language they don’t even understand.  I asked how old they were when they started.  Sido said he was 7.  “So”, I said, “can children memorize the Bible?”  They all began to laugh with realization.  The good thing, I explained was that the Word of God would not return void, so their efforts would produce much fruit!

Here is a picture of Sido for those of you praying for him.  Please continue!

Sido

Break time

It’s Friday again.  The kids are on Easter break this week and next.  It’s nice for them to have some time off, some change in scenery so to speak.  They have kept their social calendars pretty busy between movie nights, swimming at the rec center and Grama & Grampa’s, and sleepovers.  It is nice for us to not to have to pick them up and drop them off at school, but we do still have the same Bible school schedule.  So unfortuantely, not a whole lot of ‘sleeping in’ going on – that’s the kind of image I conjure up when I think of ‘break’.  Sleeping in.  As my family, and anyone else who knew me in my college days knows, I am not a morning person – at least by design.  I am only a morning person by force.  Once I am up and out of bed – even when it’s very early in the morning – I think how nice it is to be up early in the morning, before anyone else.  It’s the waking up part that is so painful for me.  That’s why I don’t take naps.  I don’t like having to wake up again.  It’s like I’m starting all over again in the morning, and why would I want to experience that two times in the same day?  Am I a glutton for punishment?  I think not! 

It’s official.  Tobi is growing up.  The last 2 times we have been out and about and I’ve held his hand – he’s pulled it away.  I don’t think it was even a conscious decision for him.  We were walking down the street, I grabbed his hand, he let go.  It’s happened twice.  Did I mention that?  Well, he is 8 now.  The other night I was putting him to bed (he still likes to be tucked in) and I asked him if he liked going to school, or if he preferred the break time.  Without hesitation he said, “I love being at home and I love school.”  There you have it.  He is a home body, but he is also very social.  Every night when he goes to bed he verifies who is dropping off and picking up the next day.  And will Tanika or Trae be with him.  Then when he leaves in the morning his last words are always – “See you when I get home.”  I’ve realized that that is his way of letting me know that he expects that I’ll be here when he gets home.  He needs me to be here when he gets home.  One particular day he came home and I was in the back (I’m usually at the desk, right by the front door).  When he didn’t see me, I heard him start shouting what I can only describe as a terror filled shout.  “Mom?  MOOOMMM! MOOOOOOOOM!!!!”  I walked out of the bedroom and he was fighting tears but when he saw me he looked at me sheepishly and tried to smile.  When I asked what was wrong he couldn’t really put it into words.  I just told him that if for some reason I wasn’t going to be around when he got home, that I would always tell him and that someone would be here.  But he still reminds me every morning that he’ll ‘see me when he gets home.’

Tomorrow morning we are traveling to Cotonou, Benin.  It’s anywhere between 13 and 16 hours, depending on who you ask.  Of course we’re hoping for the 13 hour version.  Several months ago, Neal was invited to speak at a conference a church there is having to celebrate their anniversary.  It was the 2nd invitation he received from them.  The first one he had to turn down.  This time, we realized that it fell over the kids Easter break and that it would be a great opportunity to make it a family trip.  (Yes, there will be a few sleeping in days!) The meetings start on Wednesday.  About 2 hours from Cotonou (which happens to be a coastal country!), there is a place called Awale Plage – on the beach.  That’s beach – ocean included.  We get our fill of beach living in the desert, minus the water.  That is where we will be staying.  We will go to church on Easter, and from there, head for the beach!  The schedule includes 4 speaking opportunities – Wed, Thur, Fri nights, and Sunday morning.  Neal has asked me to speak for one of them.  I agreed (in a weak moment) and he let the pastor know.  Now, I’m not sure what I was thinking!?  I’m going there for vacation – not to be stressed out!  Neal, who is in his element when preaching before large crowds (we honestly have no idea whether there will be 50 people or 500), I, am not.  I do enjoy it, but there is certainly a fair amount of stress and nervousness I feel.  I have my message ready, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’ll be nervous until I finish next Friday night.  I guess I can believe that those nerves will help me speak to the people exactly what and how the Lord will have me do it!  We’re leaving at 5am – so much for sleeping in!

I’m trying to post a picture of my kids – taken on Tobi’s bday.  If it works, I will write again and post a picture of Sido. 

My kids

Cheese ramblings

Where has this week gone?  My last post was an update on Sido as I was running out the door for the weekend.  That was a week ago!  Not sure why I haven’t written all week.  I usually only feel like writing when I feel inspired.  But the purpose of my blog is more like a diary – to record my ‘life in the desert’.  So I’ve decided I need to write for posterity sake even if I’m not ‘feeling it’.  It’s certainly not as if nothing of interest has happened.  Interesting things happen daily.   So where is my inspiration?  Has the ‘interesting’ in my life simply become ‘mundane’?  I think most would beg to differ!  Take driving down the busy road of the hottest capital city in the world as you have to stop not for a stoplight, but for the camel caravan crossing the congested city streets.  Fulani or Tuareg people relocating their family to a better location to deal with the lack of water and the impending heat.  Not really sure where they are going to do that…

 Here’s something interesting.  Has anyone been hearing all the news of the weak dollar?  It’s a glaring reality to us.  It seems to be dropping more each day.  When we left for the US last April, our $100 was worth 50,000 cfa.  Sound like a lot.  It is, when compared to the 41,000 CFA it is worth now.  But just a few short years ago, that same $100 was worth 74,000 cfa.  It has almost been cut in half – because of the wimpiness of the dollar right now.  Interestingly (yep, there’s that word again) costs here have continued to climb.  Fuel is now over $6/ gallon.  That means it costs us about $240 (100,000cfa) when we say ‘filler-up’! 

Oh, here’s a good one.  Tobi’s birthday was last Saturday.  We celebrated on Friday since I was leaving for the weekend, and it was easier to bring kids home from school on Friday for a party.  Tobi – being properly trained by his older siblings – declared that he wanted pizza for his bday.  His real favorite food is Spagetti – American or African.  He loves the stuff.  But who can resist the influence of “cool guys have pizza for their birthday”.  So, pizza it was.  That meant I had to buy some cheese.  Cheese in Niger is one of those things that makes me cringe when I buy it, but it’s something I’m not willing to give up.  Not yet anyway.  I bought a 2.5 pound hunk of mozzarella cheese for $34.  Nope.  That wasn’t a mistake.  Not a typo.  34 bucks.  But that sufficiently –  maybe not generously- but sufficiently – covered 4 large pizzas.  (Hope I haven’t lost any supporters over that confession, on account of improper use of funds!)  Here might be a good place to add that even considering the boys having a pizza eating contest, there was still enough pizza left over for another meal.  I won’t go into the financial breakdown of the other pizza toppings but will say that Pizza Hut prices don’t really seem extreme to me.   Let me also add that we are ever-increasingly aware of the fact that God is our source.  And He has never let us down! 

 What else.  Oh yes, I mentioned I was gone for the weekend.  One of the SIM missionaries  (Cathy) organized a women’s retreat for whoever could come.  I decided it would be a good opportunity to get to know more of the foreign community here in Niamey so I signed up.  Cathy’s sister does women’s ministry in her church and the church bought her a ticket to come.  Another church provided all kinds of gifts and goodies for us.  It really was a blessing.  The theme was unwrapping the gifts of grace.  They brought lots of fun gifts and blessed all who attended.  I achieved my goal of getting to know a few people better, so will now know who more people are if I run into them when I’m buying cheese. 

Each Sunday evening there is an English speaking service that is held at the school the kids attend.  My very uneducated guess is that maybe 100 people attend regularly.  We don’t go very often, as in our own churches we have opportunity to attend service 4 nights out of the week.  (We don’t go to all of them though).  Anyway, we do attend the English service if any of our kids are involved.  That was the case this past Sunday night.  The school was running the service that night, giving testimony of the ministry trips they have taken this semester.  The school choir sang and Trae and Tanika are both in that.  I was quite impressed.  They have a great music teacher – who incidentally gives Tanika piano lessons.  A side note…Tanika is pretty natural when it comes to music.  But true to her unconventional form, she finds it very difficult to sing the melody.  Any time she sings, she automatically will sing a harmony part.  So she is working on learning to hear the melody.  She is having beginner lessons and we’re both very thankful that I’m not her teacher.  I want her to go by the book.  Play the notes written.  Her teacher does as well, but she’s a lot nicer about how she goes about telling her.  According to her teacher, Tanika is a ‘beautiful girl that just oozes music’.  Ooze away girl!  (Tanika, I know you’re reading this, and you’re smiling right now!)  Back to the service.  Tanika is also on the worship team and it was their turn and her first time to be involved in the leading of the worship.  It’s a group of 5 girls I think, and she did well.   And she had a good time.  Trae was asked to give one of the 3 testimonies from the ministry trip he was on.  He and Tanika were both on the same trip.  They went to a village about 3 hours away.  They built some school classrooms (thatched lean-to’s) and did children’s ministry.  That was his thing.  He came up to give testimony about what they did.  He is very confident but also very casual when he speaks in front of a group.  He started by saying “Can we sing a song?” as he led the group in a chorus of Jesus Loves the Little Children.  Then he said, “I guess you know now what I did in Tera,” as he proceeded to give his testimony. 

 Bible school this week was good.  I started the section ‘training your children’.  Pretty foreign to people here.  I started out with the words God, family, job/ministry, and self written on cards.  I asked different ones to come to the front and order them correctly.  5 people did it and no one got it right.  Needless to say I didn’t get as far in my notes this week as I thought I would!  Sido is doing well.  Last weekend some of his relatives came to the church to tell him they were waiting for his answer (to the temptation of money).  He told them he thought they understood that when he didn’t come they figured out his answer.  Then they tried to shame him into leaving.  Oh, and when I say they came to the church I just mean that they stood outside the door of the compound.  They wouldn’t go inside.  He’s living there now – even on weekends.  But it helps him stay conncected with the pastor.  The relatives in Australia that want him to leave the church haven’t had any contact with him in 8 years.  Keep praying for him. 

I think my rambling has gone on quite enough for one post.  I’m going to go eat some cheese!

Update on Sido – Pray!

I’ve written about Sido a few times.  He was saved about 2 months ago, just before our discipleship school started classes in January.  According to his testimony, after being witnessed to many months ago, he has been tortured in his mind and heart.  He had no peace from that point on.  He had dreams of someone telling him that even though he threw the Bible into the trash, it was God’s word and it was still alive.  He found our church and told the pastor he needs some relief.  He wanted to get saved.  Since then he has been a top student in our discipleship school.   He was living at home, but things got too difficult for him there so he moved into the dorm. 

 Last week, he received an email.  Apparently Sido has family in Australia.  Family that also recognizes he is a talented young man.  They have told him that he has to get out of the church right away.  They are planning on sending him about $3700 to start a business – as soon as he leaves the church.  And as if that wasn’t enough, if he doesn’t want to do a business here, they will send him to Europe. 

 I talked with Sido today after my class and told him I’d heard about the letter and was praying for him.  He thanked me and then said since he didn’t understand Hausa very well, he wanted to get an interpreter so he could tell me what was going on.   He finally said that when he got the letter – he really was confused at first.  But that he has made a decision that he will continue to follow Jesus and turn down the money.  Not an easy decsion, I can assure you.  Please pray for Sido whenever  you think of him.  He is a new believer and persecutions faced here are not easy.  I assured him today that many, many people are praying that he will have the strength and courage to make the right choices.  The hard choices.  And because of that, God will bless him abundantly.  God has a great plan for his life.  Thank you!  And Sido said to thank you!

A little bit of everything

Well, lets see.  Alot has happened in the last 2 weeks since I’ve written. 

 Trae and Neal returned from the softball tournament in Ouaga.  Neither team won.  Neal’s team made it to the semi-finals and Trae’s team didn’t make it that far.  So they didn’t end up playing each other.  But Trae hit 2 homeruns, so that was exciting.  They both had a lot of fun.  And Neal brought back strawberries for me!  Fresh strawberries!  What a treat!

 What else…My class is going well at the Bible School.  I gave a test (in 3 languages!) and most of them did quite well.  Last week I took a day to show them how to use puppets.  It was quite funny, and one of the girls was terribly afraid of the puppet.  She jumped into the lap of the girl next to her when I brought it out.  It took some time, but she got over it and reluctantly ‘tried one on’.  I have divided them into 6 groups and each group is preparing a 20 minute children’s service using all they have learned so far.  We’ll see all those this week.  Next week I’ll start my teaching “Training your children”.  Sido continues to do well.  The persecution has escalated at home though, so he had to move into the dorm with the other students.  Since he lives in Niamey, he was living at home and going back and forth to school each day.  He has asked Pastor Abdu when he gets to start preaching!  Last week he told me he wanted to change groups because they had set a time to practice their children’s service and one of the members didn’t come on time.  He said that he can’t work with someone who is not motivated.  I told him that I wouldn’t change groups and that they would have to work it out -that this was a good opportunity to grow in the fruit of the Spirit.  This is when it really counts!  In church this morning I asked how it was going and he said they are ready.  Because of a bonus question, he got 101 on his test! 

We’ve recently finished up with a 3-person medical team that came from Kentucky.  They were great and saw something like 6-700 people in a week.  This is really a great opportunity for outreach because the people come to us.  Just like poverty, medical needs are rampant and drives people to get help.  Then we can witness to them and pray for them.   Each one.  I think the count was 52 that prayed to receive Christ.  Several of our pastors were there at each clinic and will be involved in the follow up.  I believe the recent medical teams we are having are only a precurser to the hospital we will one day build.

Friday after school, Trae and Tanika went with a group of about 25 other people from their school to the town of Tera – about a 2.5 hour drive out of Niamey.  Then they have to cross the river on a ferry.  It is an outreach trip where they are helping to put up some structures for school classrooms, and do some children’s ministry.  They will be home today.

Neal, along with his Mom and Dad, went to Maradi yesterday for the Executive Council meeting.  Thanks to Mom and Dad for driving, which left me with my preferred vehicle.  In other words, I haven’t had to drive the beloved beamer.  Good thing too, because the AC stopped working again and it’s getting hot!  It’s a short trip and they’ll be back tomorrow. 

 So that leaves Tobi and I here together.  We’ve had a nice weekend.  Yesterday we invited one of his classmates over to play.  Tobi and Morgan are very different personalities but got along quite nicely.  Morgan is a very outgoing confident little guy.  Also very athletic.  Here’s a part of a conversation I overheard / saw.  

While playing with matchbox cars:

Morgan:  I’ll have the 2 fastest cars, since I’m faster than you.

Tobi:  Blank stare that turned into an ‘I get it’ stare and then said “OK”. 

Off they were to continue playing with the cars.  Tobi is very matter of fact about these things.  Every once in awhile I get a ranking of speed levels of he and his classmates.  It doesn’t even sound competitive (but I’m no fool, it has to be!),  just very factual.  Last night we watched the original Charlotte’s Web animated movie from 1972.  It was really good!  I’d forgotten that it’s really a musical.  Tobi had already seen a part of it so he kept telling me what was going to happen.  Wilbur was going to ‘get dead’.  Like death is something you go and get.  We even had popcorn!

Today on the way home from church I asked Tobi if he had any ideas for lunch.  He did not.  I said – how about tuna – because I had some already made in the fridge.  His reply?  Are you ready for this?  Picture fist clenched in excitement and a shout of ‘YES’ as he pumps said fist.  The guy loves tuna!  And hummous, zucchini and hot sauce.  Not so interested however, in things like roast beef and mashed potatoes and gravy. 

I’m afraid (I know I shouldn’t fear) but I really am afraid of the heat that is here – and even more – the heat that is on it’s way.  When we left for the US in early April last year, it was 120.   That’s hot enough for a seatbelt to double as a branding iron.  We have been resisting the use of our air conditioners but last night I finally caved.  It was March 1st for goodness sake.  That’s officially hot season.  Even with our window open and fan on it was still 87 in the room at 11pm.  Tobi has been asking for quite awhile now to use his AC.  We’ve refused the poor kid.  When I went to bed last night, I couldn’t in good conscience use the AC while he remained hot.  It also didn’t make a lot of sense to have 2 AC’s running.  So I moved him into my room when I went to bed.  He was all sweaty…poor guy.  Sometime in the night the electricity went out.  When it came back on, I would have had to get up and turn the AC on again.  I decided to leave it off, (too lazy to get out of bed) hoping the room was cool enough to sleep the rest of the night.  It worked.  We were both comfortable.  This morning it was only 81 in the room. 

There’s always an adjustment when hot season arrives.  It’s hot most of the time, but March and April stand alone when it comes to heat.  I heard of a publication that said Niamey was the hottest capital city in the world.  Niger was also described as having 2 seasons.  Hot, and hotter then hell.  We thank God for the AC’s we have in our bedrooms – and the money to run them.  And we thank him for His son, Jesus, who has saved us from eternal fire!

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!

All in a week’s work

It’s been a busy week.  I teach in the Bible school at 8am.  Fortunately Sahel (the kids’ school) is close to the bible school/church.  I drop them at 7:20.  Anyone who knows me very well, knows that for me to have kids ready and myself ready to leave the house by 6:55am is pretty close to miraculous.  Fortunately for me, (and probably others as well), I only have to do this 3 days/week.  No classes on Monday, and Thursday’s I teach at 10.  I’m teaching a combo class on children’s ministry (in the church), and training your children (in the home).  So many of the students are brand new believers – just out of the bondages of Islam.  That is an exciting thing, but it proves challenging when teaching.  You can’t just say ‘You remember how Moses was called as a child, saved from Pharoh’s slaughter of all boy babies?’  Because they don’t remember.  They don’t know those stories.  So teaching has to be adjusted.  Many of them are like children themselves.  But it’s a wonderful thing when you began to see them change.  That’s why Neal loves the Bible schools some much.  The results of discipleship are tangible! 

This past Monday night was the first meeting of a women’s Bible study I hesitantly decided to be a part of.  It’s a gathering of missionaries from all different churches and denominations.  I have heard Beth Moore before, but have never done one of her studies.  It’s a time committment as it’s at least 2 hours.   Before leaving everyone asked when I’d be back.  “I don’t know”, I said.  When I got back, everyone commented on how long I’d been gone.  I think I was surprised they noticed!  I wondered if during that time they missed some basic necessity – like food!  At any rate, I enjoyed Beth Moore, and I enjoyed the fellowship. 

The first Wednesday of every month, pastor’s wives meet for prayer.  This is open to any ministry/church.  Yesterday there were 13 of us.  It’s an interesting meeting as we communicate/pray in at least 3 and sometimes 4 different languages.  It’s a good opportunity for us to get to know leaders in other churches, and also for the women to be encouraged and to have a platform to give and receive counsel. 

We have been lacking children’s ministry in our 2 Niamey churches.  This afternoon, before picking the kids up from school, I met with the children’s workers to discuss a better strategy.  They all seemed to be on board and ready to move forward.  There are so many kids at both locations – in the area – not in the church.  But I believe we can draw them in.  So I’m praying that these workers will be diligent with what they have, so I can add more resources.  In the past I’ve given the resources and many times they go to waste as they don’t really get used.  I have told them to begin to pray for finances for children’s ministry resources, and to be faithful with what they have now.  I really have an expectation that we are going to have a great harvest of children!

Last night when putting Tobi to bed I told him tell me a story.  He’s really a very simple guy… 

“There were 3 pigs.  They went to church.  They each played a drum.  The first pigs’ drum broke.  The second pigs’ drum broke.  The 3rd pigs’ drum didn’t break.  The first pig fixed his drum with tape.  The 2nd pig didn’t fix his.  Their names were Henry, Ariel, and Ezekiel.” 

I think that sums up his life.  He goes to church, he plays the drum and he goes to school.  Except for Henry, (not sure where that name came from) the other names are kids in his class.  I’m also not sure why pigs were playing the drums. 

Right now Tobi is in bed (school night), Neal is preaching at church, Tanika went with him and will stay for choir practice after the service, Trae is at school with his friend – ‘his’ band is practicing.  So, I sit here alone, an untechnical person in an untechnical world trying to decide if I should face all the technical diffiulcties (more like exasperations – the kind that make you want to say things you shouldn’t) that are happening, (I’ll save those for another post – after they’re solved!)  or if I should do my Bible Study homework….  Which is called “Living Beyond Yourself”.  I think it’s a no-brainer.  I’m pretty beyond myself right now!