Fruit The Remains – Reminiscent Thoughts

In my last post I intended to write specifically about my reminiscent thoughts during Campmeeting.  However, I went off on a very long tangent about our car breakdown on our way back from Diffa in October – so it wasn’t really about camp meeting at all.  I will now attempt to remember and record  what was going on in my head during Campmeeting weekend…

We left on a Friday morning and completed our journey uneventfully in under 9 hours.  (The uneventful part is what got me off track in the last post).  We had dinner with the Jorgensen’s and were then off to the first meeting.  It was so much fun to just ‘show up’.  Our Vie Abondante Pastors had done a great job and all the groundwork was done.  People were in from the villages, they were all registered, sleeping arrangements were made, seating was all set up, lights were lit, food was prepared for the hundreds gathered there,and sound and instruments were ready.  The only thing we had to do was help put up the banner.  And that’s only because we brought it with us.  I found myself just looking around grinning at the gathering crowd.  Of course I loved seeing all the children in from the villages that were part of kids camp,  held in this same place.  Most of them had on their camp shirts.

I’ve already written about the events and speakers of Campmeeting.  You may remember the theme was ‘Fruit That Remains’.  But looking around at all those people – all those children – it really got me thinking.   Is my life producing fruit that remains?  Because if it’s not, what’s the point?  Really.

I may have been feeling somewhat melancholy partly because I was a bit under the weather.  That always puts me in a pensive mood.  As great as the evening was I felt worse as time went on.  I was somewhat suspecting I might have malaria but since I didn’t have the typical symptoms (severe headache, high fever), I kept ignoring that.  To be honest, I’d been feeling rather ‘yucky’ for a few weeks.  That’s probably why I just kept going – yucky became my new normal.  Maybe it’s because Maradi was colder, or maybe it was the long journey, but I definitely felt extra yucky.  I knew Dani (missionary colleague) had malaria testers so I went to her place after the meeting.  She pricked my finger and sure enough the little tester showed up positive for malaria.   In Niger, Malaria is one of those things that is par for the course.  It’s not that we expect to get it – as we believe we walk in divine health – but it does show up from time to time.  As terrible as it is (one of the leading causes of death here), it’s not all that ominous if treated properly.  The reason so many people die of malaria is either because they can’t afford an effective treatment ($6-$10), or their immune systems are non-existent because of malnutrition (which is also a financial issue).  Since we are in Niger long term, we have chosen not to take any prophylaxis (preventative) just because of possible long term side effects.  So we are always on the ready to treat for Malaria if symptoms arise – even if we can’t be tested.

Well as I said, I didn’t have the typical malaria presentation.  I’m kind of weird that way though.  I’ve actually tested for malaria 3 times and every time the test is positive.  There have been a couple of other times I treated for it without being tested because I actually had the ‘normal’ symptoms and was in bed.  The times I’ve tested positive I was just not feeling right and I went on like that for awhile…weeks.  What I need to do is test when I’m healthy to make sure I test negative!

Anyway….back to Friday night.  Positive test – start treatment.  ‘Treatment’ sounds complicated but it’s easier than a course of antibiotics.  It’s just 2 pills for 3 days.  Went to bed.  Felt worse on Saturday morning but was determined not to miss the meetings.  After all that is why we made that 9 hour journey!  And I really dislike missing out on stuff that everyone else is experiencing.    Apparently I looked worse as well – judging by the comments and compassionate (pitiful) looks people were giving me…Made it through the 4 hour meeting and was glad I was there – even if I was thinking about a bed.  Went back to our room at the Jorgensen’s where we were staying and slept.  I really wanted to go to the evening meeting.  Neal highly recommended I stay home.  I thought maybe if I just got there, I could sit and enjoy what was going on, even if I couldn’t participate much (in our church – participation is required!).  Departure time 15 minutes and I still hadn’t made up my mind.  Neal left the room, ready to go.  I suddenly made a decision to go.  I began getting ready – putting on my camp meeting clothes – and it was during that process that I realized the fever must really be affecting something in my brain if I thought I could  go to the service.  I was sweaty and out of breath by the time I got dressed and had to sit down.  What was I thinking?  Neal walks back into the room and sees me sitting there, dressed,  and says, “You’re going?”  I just said,  ‘No, I just felt like getting dressed so I could be there in spirit.’  Then I told him he was right and that as much as I hated it, I’d stay home.  The main reason for my decision (other then feeling like I was going to pass out just by the act of getting dressed) was because I was the first speaker for the next morning, and I wasn’t going to miss that!  The hardest part was when everyone was leaving and I was left at home – alone.  I decided to do what I never do by myself – I watched a movie!  It felt funny at first knowing everyone else was in church, but it passed the time and kept my mind off of, well, whatever.  Why didn’t I just sleep you ask?   The ‘treatment’ affects people differently but for me – there’s some insomnia involved.  Nice, I know.  Feel cruddy, can’t sleep.  Thus, the movie.

The troops returned with reports of a great meeting – even without me there- and  off to sleep we went.  And I was actually able to sleep.  Sunday morning I woke thanking God that I was feeling much better- not 100%, but much better.

My message for that morning was ‘Preparing the soil’.  I started out with Psalm 127 – Our children are a heritage from the Lord.  A heritage is something precious that is passed down.  I even brought a beautiful silver teapot that had been passed down to us from Neal’s Grandparents via his parents.  Now Tobi is wondering if he’s going to get it!  When we consider our children as precious gifts, we need to care for them accordingly.  And part of that care is preparing their soil to be able to receive and grow good seed.  A seed is a seed no matter how you look at it.  If you plant a seed in good soil, it will grow.  But that same seed planted in bad soil won’t produce anything.  So we have to make sure the soil (heart) of our children is good!  That was the overall ‘gist’ of my message.

Neal and I have been talking about being generation minded for quite a few months now.  It’s really been on our hearts.  Maybe because we’ve been in Niger for quite awhile.  Or maybe it’s because we’re getting older and realize the time to make our life count is getting shorter with every day.  Or maybe it’s simply because of the command Jesus gave us when he told us to go and bear fruit – fruit that remains.  John 15:16   Well all that talk got me missing my kids.   We  have 3 of them – but 2 are now in the U.S.  Being in Maradi always makes me miss them more because that’s where they grew up.  Now that the youngest is nearly 13, I’m wishing we would have had more.  Because they are our seed.  Our fruit.

Neal and I began reminiscing about our kids because we really were missing them.   The fact that I had malaria didn’t help.  That always makes me a bit melancholy. I almost felt myself wanting to get panicky because Tobi is growing so fast. Being in Maradi, we talked about our days living here, when the kids were little.  Though they are great kids, they were not without challenges.  But those challenges could always be met with prayer and God’s Word.  And that’s not just a ‘pat answer’… it’s the truth.  The older the kids got, the more we realized the power of prayer in their lives.  We were thinking about the amount of time they consumed, that they sometimes made us crazy, and sometimes they made us downright furious.  Then Neal said – ‘But our kids were fun.  Even during those times.  I can’t imagine life without them.’  And it’s true.  We would be different people today if we didn’t have these treasures that had been gifted to us.

So now we are working on transitioning to a new phase in our life.  I don’t want to mourn the loss of childhood but I want to embrace with joy what my kids are becoming.  I rejoice in seeing them walk out the plan and purpose for which God created them.

And if anyone is wondering about our kids…

Tobi is 12 and is an amazing young man who loves people and loves God more.  He even has his own page on this blog.

Tanika is a wonderful 20 year old sophomore at Oral Roberts University.   Her unique personality includes both compassion and a tell-it- like-it- is truthfulness. She draws both children and adults and is  studying Special Ed/Early Childhood Development – she was made for this!

Trae is a 21 year old new graduate (this month) of Oral Roberts University with a degree in International Community Development and a minor in Business.  He was married this past summer to the amazing and beautiful Christi Dunagan (now Childs) and together they are pursuing God’s plan for their lives.  (Another reason to rejoice – I wanted more kids, now I have one!)

Enjoy your children as the treasure they are!

More Campmeeting, but I digress…

I’ve already written about Campmeeting.  It was a great weekend of ministry and fellowship.  But now I feel like writing about my reflections during that time.

We left on Friday morning at 7 for the hopefully 8 or 9 hour journey.  Any longer than that, it means there was an ‘issue’.  Usually either personal vehicle, another vehicle or road related.  And since our last several trips have turned into time/money consuming issues, we were really believing God for the best.  We were holding our breath… Our last roadside experience was a frozen gear differential.  Our 4Runner sat motionless on the road while we played Uno in the bush, waiting for help.   Our Mechanic in shining armor came to our rescue (from 140 miles away, chauffeured by Jonathan, our missionary colleague.  He recognized the problem from Neal’s description and though we thought we were gong to have to be towed (and that experience would be worth it’s own post), he brought the part and tools (well, most of them) needed to fix our vehicle right on the road.  While we all waited.  And even though it was dark when it was finished, it was a much better alternative than Jonathan’s Toyata Prado pulling our Toyota 4Runner over in the dark on a road that one ought not be traveling on at night.  We know.  We’ve done it.

Here are the guys, making the best of it.  It doesn’t even look hot.  Take my word for it, it was! We’re just good at covering it up.

You can see the stranded 4Runner  here.  At least we were by some shade.

No movement at all was the best way to combat the heat.

We were waiting for a few hours, so we had to follow the shade and re-set up camp across the road.  Nothing like a game of ‘BUSH UNO’  to pass the time.

We were pretty thankful with our decision to buy all these hand woven mats from our Fulani friend in Diffa.  Who knew?  If you look closely, you will see a couple of ladies walking by on the road, carrying grass (animal feed) on their heads.

Jonathan arrived with Muritala, our mechanic.  He and Neal had to drive to the next village for a few supplies – gas, plastic bags…Don’t ask me,  I’m not a mechanic.

The work begins.



as the sun begins to set.

Guys return with the ‘stuff’.

It was beautiful, but darkness was upon us!


Here’s the offending part.  The gear differential.  This little thing prevented our vehicle from moving 1 inch.  Reminds me a little bit of some advice given to us in the Book of James – something about a bit and a horse and a ship and rudder…

Darkness indeed came.  But Jonathan had his trusty torchlight and the repair was made.

We left Diffa at 7am and arrived in Maradi at 10pm.  A 9 hour trip morphed into a 15 our trip.  We always say – ‘It could have been worse’.  In spite of the frustrations, there are quite a few benefits we can find if we really look!  If nothing else, it gives me something to write about!

This post started out to be my reflections during camp meeting.  Somehow, it took a turn.  I’ll reflect next time.

Vie Abondante Campmeeting 2012

Last weekend was our annual Vie Abondante Campmeeting.  For those of you who don’t know, Vie Abondante is the name of this ministry and it means ‘Abundant Life’.  We’ve been having these camp meetings in various shapes and forms since 1999.  It’s a time when believers from all 30 of our churches across the country gather for fellowship and teaching.  For many of them, it’s the only time of the year they see believers from other villages.  It’s a great encouragement because they can see that though the church in their village  may be small, THE church is not small.  They are not alone in their decision to follow Jesus no matter the cost.  And oftentimes, that cost is more than you or I could even imagine.  They are also encouraged and their vision expanded as they hear testimonies about all the things that are going on in the nation through Vie Abondante.

Everyone ‘lives’ at the Maradi church compound for 3 days.  They take turns cooking, sleep very little (wherever they can find room), talk a lot, encourage each other and just have an old fashioned good time.

Each year a theme is chosen for the camp, and this year’s theme was:

Fruit that Remains

You did not choose me but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit…fruit that will last.  John 15:16

This is an encouraging time for us as well, because it allows us to see the growth of the ministry.  When we first started the camps in 1999, the missionaries would make trips back and forth to the villages to bring people to and from.  It was a huge undertaking, planning all the meals and making arrangements.   Things have come a long way (and grown)  since those days as now we have some great leaders and pastors that do all the preparation/planning and the campers come on public transport.  This year camp was held in Maradi, in the middle part of Niger.  That meant that many traveled as far away as a 10+ hour bus journey both from the east and the west.   In vehicles like this…

On roads like this…

I don’t have a picture to see how hot that journey is….you’ll just want to take my word for it.

We usually have guest speakers come both from the U.S. and Nigeria and they share the speaking times – and we’ve had some powerful guests over the years!  It’s always amazing how even though the speakers have never met, the Word they bring is harmonious.

This year, however, we decided to make it a family affair.  Neal organized a schedule that included all of the leaders and Executive Council as speakers.  Twelve in all.  I loved it!  Our camp theme was ‘Fruit That Remains’.  A topic that is near and dear to our heart at the moment.  If we don’t have something that will remain, what are we even doing here?

We arrived on Friday (after our own 9 hour road trip – in our air conditioned vehicle) to camp registration already completed.  Pastor Hasimu and his leadership team did a great job.  We brought the banner and here’s Neal helping hang it.  That’s about all we had to do as far as on ground preparation.  As you can see, Neal is ‘supervising’.

I wish I could include a video sound bite of each of the speakers, but I can’t.  So pictures will have to do.

Rev. ‘Daddy’ Ron Childs (my dad in law) started out the first night.  The night meetings were held outside, and the morning meetings were in the church.

Praise and worship time is always a highlight.  These are Gourmantche believers worshiping God with all their heart.

First up on Saturday morning was Rev. “Mommy” Childs. (my mom in law), giving examples of fruit that remains: Mark and Timothy.

Ginger Jorgensen, director of the Vie Abondante Primary School in Maradi,  brought a great testimony about the school and it’s fruit.

Everyone brought a different piece of the puzzle as to how to have fruit that remains.  Here’s Jonathan Bowden.

Carol Belec one of our primary school teachers, asked the question – ‘what kind of fruit are you?’

Following Carol, there was a dancing ‘break’.  Anytime is the right time to dance before the Lord!

Pastor Moctar was up next – he’s one of our national leaders. He’s on the right.  Pastor Abdu is interpreting.  The language groups represented were Hausa, French, Gourma, Zarma and English.  So lots of interpreting was required.

During the morning meeting, there was also a mini children’s camp going on for the kiddos.

Delfin and Johnson lead these services.

Sweet boy…

First up Saturday evening was Rich Jorgensen.  He focused on the fruit of love.

Then the choir sang.

 Pastor Hashimu, the camp director ended the night with a message about laying a good foundation.

All the time is the right time to dance before the Lord. This happens to be  Sunday morning.

I was the first speaker up on Sunday and my message was about the importance of preparing the soil (heart) to receive the seed.  Here, I’m using a silver teapot we inherited to show that our children are a heritage from God.

Children’s services continue…

The Bitty Bowden’s, Isaiah & Anna joining right in the fun.  And let’s be clear, they are not tomorrow’s missionaries, they are missionaries today!  They really are as adorable as they look.

Erin Grove, a teacher in our Primary School in Niamey, shared a great testimony – children’s lives are being changed.  And yes, she is as sweet as this picture makes her look.

Pastor Zabeiru encouraged everyone with a power-packed message.  The campers were inspired by his boldness.

More choir

Don Powell’s message was about the process of bearing fruit.

A cool, colorful photo.

Adorable young lady.

Pastor Nelson – sometimes we have to fight (overcome the giants) to get to the fruit.

 Times of prayer.

Grace – the bittiest Bowden (and youngest missionary) with Dani, her mom.  She’s cozy!

Sweet times of consecration before the Lord.

The children sang at the final meeting.

Neal preached the final message – ‘Passing it on to the next generation.’

Outside crowd.

All our pastors and their wives were prayed over.

Then the pastors in turn prayed for all the people in attendance.

Another camp, marking the end of another year is over.  We had an uneventful (thankfully so) 9 hour journey home on Monday morning and all the campers returned to their respective homes on Monday as well.  But whether we traveled from near or far, everyone was returning home encouraged by the fellowship and challenged by the message.  Am I bearing fruit?  And is it fruit that will remain?

What about you?

You did not choose me but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit…fruit that will last.  John 15:16