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. 

Technical difficulties know no boundaries.

Even though I live in one of the most undeveloped countries in the world, I have a cell phone and I can surf the net.  And I have found that technical difficulties have no limits.  Early this week it appeared that we picked up some sort of nasty spyware virus.  Not really sure how those things happen, but happen it did.  Long story short, we made it much worse by trying to get rid of it.  Basically invited everyone and their adware brothers to help themselves to our computer.  We are using AVG but apparently it wasn’t up to date.  At this point we tried to update it, but that was made impossible by all the junk.  We felt that the easiest fix was to save everything off and wipe out our hard drive, reinstall the operating system and start again.  Neal did that.  It take at least 5 attempts to reload, because the computer kept shutting off.  “Poof”, the screen would go black.  We’re finally up and running.  Now the task of getting stuff protected.  First, tried to download the free version of AVG, which is what we used before.  For some reason their was an error and it wouldn’t work.  Next step, purchase the upgraded version.  About $80 for 2 years.  Paid for it with Paypal.  A few hours later while waiting for our license to download we get an email saying our payment was rejected.  Rejection is never fun.  Placed a call to the US to find out why.   We don’t know and “there’s nothing else we can do” we were told.  So we tried to pay with our mastercard direct.  Again, rejection.  Next step, check mastercard.  Now I’m wondering if there was some foul play with our credit card since we invited so many uninvited visitors in.  I first checked MC online.  Nothing suspicious.  Just to be sure, I make another call to the US.  (Unfortunately ‘toll-free’ doesn’t apply in Niger!)  Not only is there no problem or suspiscious activity, there hasn’t even been an attempt to charge our card, let alone a decline.  Huh?  Next call is to AVG.  Again we are told ‘there’s nothing else we can do”.  Up to this point, we’re still not virus protected.  Of course we had to reinstall AOL, hoping we effectively saved off our filing cabinet.  AOL started up.  I start using it.  I attempt to write an email by pulling up an address.  It won’t appear.  Pull up address book.  It’s empty.  Empty!  I try not to panic, knowing that AOL’s address book is kept online.  But after following every tutorial, my address book is still empty.  In the meantime, we are also working on our non-internet connected desktop.  Neal printed something and the colors are not working right.  Not good.  While in the US, we did much research and made the decision to buy and bring back an HP Color Laser Jet 2600n.  Sounds impressive.  It’s very nice, makes for great newsletters.  And compared to the cheap printers we were using, it worked wonderfully.  We could get a newsletter printed front and back in about 2 hours.  As opposed to 3 days.  I’m not exaggerating.   We paid the excess baggage to bring the very heavy printer, and have done 1 newsletter on it since being here (we did 1 in the US).  Colors were low, and black was empty, so we decided to replace all 4 toner cartridges.  First time we tried to print – no magenta.  Whaaaaatttt????  Not to worry – I went against what is natural bent of searching for a bargin, and bought the printer direct from HP, feeling like if there was to be a problem, unlikely as that would be, it would be easier to remedy.  I began the troubleshooting process for this, which led me to online live help.  After a zillion steps and questions (remember that our connection is quite slow so this is taking considerable time), I’m taken to a page that says my product ‘is not eligible for live help’ (there’s nothing more we can do), but here’s a list of products that are eligible.  I scan the list and right there in black and white is my Color Laser Jet 2600n.  Next thing is to make another phone call.  After a zillion more questions, I get a live person.  He begans quizzing me, strangely asking me all the same questions I’ve answered for the recording.  Guess they’re wanting to make sure it’s not a prank call.  I explain the not eligible thing and he says he’s never heard of it saying that before.  This isn’t a good sign.  Then he asks me whether I want to email my question, or continue to wait on the phone to get help.  I mistakenly told him that I was calling from Africa so he would understand why I wanted to know how long the help ‘que’ was.  “Oh, you live in Africa?  Let me put you on hold for just a minute.”   Was he checking to make sure he was vaccinated or couldn’t catch malaria over the phone?  Why does the ‘Africa’ word change things?  By golly, I’m an American, with a product purchased in America!  Mr. Helpful finally returns.  He tells me that to get help I’m going to have to speak to Mr. Helpful in Africa.  I kindly (I think) explain that I don’t want to have to call another African country – it will be very expensive.  I have a special calling plan to the US that is only about $.30/minute.  Do you know what he said?  “There’s nothing else I can do – you have to call that number or send your question via email.  “Thanks for nothing,” I tell him. (not so kindly, I’m afraid). 

 Back to my address book – the next day.  One of the tutorials tells me to do a ‘quick repair’.  Who are they kidding?!  I begin the process.  Oh, if you don’t have AOL Quick Fix, you have to download it.  Not sure what else to do, I sign in to download.  It asks for my screen name and password.  I enter the info and get a message back that says my screen name and password don’t go together.  I keep trying, (yes, correct info) until I get a message that says – Sorry, but you can’t have access to this program right now.  I navigate my way – reluctantly – to AOL’s live online help.  I am stumped!  After another series of questions, I am finally connected with Manny, who says he is looking forward to helping me and hopes my problem will be solved soon.  At this point I feel like Manny and I are best friends.  He told me to go to AOL online and make sure my contact list was there.  As I was doing that, I looked to see if Manny had given any more instructions.  All I see on the screen is “Help session expired”.  At this point, I’m about to expire someone!  Anyone!  I’m staring at the screen wondering how one goes about re-creating an address book when an email pops in.  It’s from Manny!  What a guy!  He says he’s sorry , but we got disconnected.  Ya think?  But he had enough info to see that the version of AOL we installed was 9.0SE, but we needed 9.0VR.  Who wouldda thought those 4 letters could cause such havoc! He sent me the link to download which I did.  I took 3 hours, but no matter- my address book is back and in tact!  Thank you Manny.  I emailed him back to let him know all is well.   The printer is still an issue.  I may call again but this time not let it slip that I live in Africa.  I’m sure I’ll get a different operator.  And the worst I can be told is “There’s nothing more I can do”.