A Sunday Here, A Sunday There

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seriously?

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

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Happy Birthday To Me

Today is my birthday.  I apologize if my title is a bit obnoxious, but I do want to remember today and the best way to do that is to get it on my blog.

The day started with Neal bringing me fried eggs on a homemade english muffin with a slice of fresh pineapple.  He didn’t make the english muffins, but he did a great job frying the eggs.  And I really do enjoy the simple pleasure of breakfast in bed.  Particularly because after a night with the AC running in our room, it is the coolest room in the house!  After breakfast, Neal, Trae and Tobi went to a softball game at the school.  Tanika stayed home and made me a peanut butter cake – yep, homemade, right down to using peanuts ground into peanut butter in the the open market.    Then I almost talked myself out of doing my workout but thought better of it and made the right choice – like I’m always telling my kids to do.  Working out is somewhat time consuming.  Not so much because of the workout (I do between 43 and 52 minutes each day) but because of the time it takes to cool down afterward.  If I shower right away – as anyone who comes near me wishes I would do- I just keep right on sweating for the next hour or so.  So I have to stop sweating first (not an easy assignment given our relatively high temperatures) and then take my shower.  But now I’m going down a rabbit trail.  Back to my birthday…

The guys came home and we got ready to go to a nice French restaurant for lunch.  One might be surprised that Niger would have a ‘nice French restaurant’.  It really is.  Niger was colonized by the French, so they do have some influence.  It was great to have my in-laws with us as well.  Ya know, I don’t really like the term ‘in-law’.  It sounds so cold and impersonal.  I would just say Mom and Dad, but then those who read this and know me would be confused and think that my parents were here.  That would have been great too…  So just to be clear, we had lunch with Neal’s parents.  It was really nice to have them around on my birthday.  It’s been many, many years since I’ve been with any parents on my birthday, so it was really nice to have some around to help celebrate.  I will also remember this birthday as one I had to share with the end of Ramadan – a huge Muslim holiday signifying the end of a month of fasting.  It was busy everywhere.  No shops/stores/markets  were open but the roads were way crowded with vehicles and people and animals and many other various and sundry things.  But again – a rabbit trail.

After lunch, we came back home to enjoy cake and open presents.  Mom and Dad gave me some cloth and a beautiful bracelet that I had been admiring at our gold/silver guy’s shop.  When I opened it I commented on how much I liked it, and that Neal doesn’t like getting me jewelry so I count on mom and dad for that. Tanika got me some really cool wire picture holder thingys that I haven’t seen around here before.  Trae printed out and is going to bind for me many, many pages of songs with chords so I can practice them on the keyboard.  I had hinted about wanting that.  Tobi then handed me he and dad’s gift.  It was a combo effort on the part of them both.  What was inside?  Another beautiful silver and gold bracelet with a matching ring.  Jewelry!  Bite my tongue!  Tobi made sure I knew the ring was from him, and told me exactly how much he spent on it.  (Dad had to kick in quite a few bucks too).  I was really surprised that he went with jewelry and he has such good taste.   I might stick up a picture up of my new jewelry but I don’t want anyone to get jealous.   They are both silver/gold but different styles that really look gorgeous together.  So – kudos to them all.  What wonderful gifts.  I am blessed.

Later we went to the American Rec Center and had a chocolate shake and just hung out in what is lovingly called ‘the cold room’.  It has a great AC, and Armed Forces Network TV.  Back home we were going to play Blokus, a brain challenging strategy game but opted instead for a game we haven’t tried yet.  That game proved to be not at all challenging so we chose the much more stimulating task of watching TV.

When I was putting Tobi to bed he brought up my age.  I might as well just get it out of the way.  I’m 43.  Now, I know I can hear many of you saying something along the lines of “she’s not really that old, is she?”  Right?  I know that’s what you’re thinking….  Anyway, Tobi asked me if when I’m 50 if my skin will look like Grama’s.  I reminded him that Grama is almost 70 and has very nice skin.  He said, “I know she does, but will it be white and brown together?”  I said I didn’t know.  He asked why that happened.  I told him it was changes that take place as you get older.  “Like a disease?” he asked.   Of course I told him no.  I said like me – you can see some wrinkles around my eyes.  Now this is precious.  He said “Really?  Where?”  while  examining my face from a distance of about 2 inches.  He claimed he could see no wrinkles.  I don’t think he was trying to be sweet, he just couldn’t see the wrinkles.  I didn’t point out that we were sitting in very reduced lighting.  What a wonderful end to a wonderful day.  I am blessed.  Did I already say that?