Tamou Guest House. It’s Not the Ritz, But It’s Pretty Close!

I began but never finished the following blog post nearly a year ago…. Why? I have no idea. Right now we’re in another cold season and are looking forward to being at the guest house again next week for children’s camp.

March 16, 2016
Today we went to Tamou. Tamou is our Discipleship Center in the Gourmantche region. The headquarters of the region is the Tamou Church compound. In addition to the church there is a discipleship school, men’s and women’s student dorms, the pastor’s home and we’ve recently built a guest house on the compound so we can spend more time there.

Here’s the church.  The dorms being built (now complete) are to the left.  The Guest House is at the back of the church – the green door at the back right is the entrance.img_0668

You see Tamou is a 90 minute drive (Neal’s driving, so longer if you’re not with him). It’s a pretty remote location without many amenities. So when someone from Niamey goes to teach in the school, it’s best to teach for the whole morning, 4 hours, to maximize your effort, and then drive back. It makes for a long day.

We’ve also done events in Tamou – all day events. And not many people go all day without having to ‘use the bush’ as we affectionately call it. When in Tamou, there is no place to use said bush – not really even any bushes – and certainly no place to rest or have any down time. But it’s a place we love to be, and a place God is moving.

Thus the guest house. Really, it’s a thing of wonder. It’s tucked behind the church and has it’s own wall so is quite private. But if you step outside the door you’re right there with everyone. Best of both so to speak.

The guest house is back to back with the church.

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Welcome inside!  This was taken as construction was being finished.  The 2 square holes are for trees.  We dug about 10 feet down, removed rocks and fertilized well in advance.  A picture at the end shows the progress of the trees.

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Neal and I have stayed in the newly built guest house a few times, trying it out, getting the kinks out, before we had our first team visit. That happened in February — last month. We had a children’s camp with a team of 6 from the US. It was WONDERFUL! Better even than we had hoped. That could be partly because it was such a great team. Thanks Bob and Team Christian Life! (Note: that was Feb 2016).

When you walk in (door on left like in above photo) you see the kitchen/common area to the right.  That is where this picture is taken from – the dining area.  From here, you are looking at the 2 guest rooms.  They mirror each other and there is a small veranda in between.  Each has it’s own bathroom.  If you look to the top at the center, you see the roof of the church.  Also, take note of the spots on either wall reserved for planting.

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And just for perspective, here’s what you see when you walk out that green door. The church is to the right.

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The dining/common area is open, but is attached to a kitchen that can be closed.  The kitchen is where this photo is taken from.

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And here’s the kitchen- from the outside in….

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And from the inside out…

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Like I said, that was February. February is still considered ‘cold’ season. And relatively speaking, it is cold. Like cold enough for me to wear a sweatshirt early in the morning. Of course I’m in a sweatshirt if the temperature drops below 72….you be the judge.

Until right now, March 16, 2016. February was our last visit to Tamou, on account of our trip to India and Philippines. But for pete’s sake it’s only been a month. Where did this heat come from?

This is our first time to stay out here during hot season. We’ve done all we can to make the place comfortable. Because we really enjoy being out here, and we feel that we can make much more of an impact when we can spend more time with the people. More time than just teaching in a classroom setting. But I’m not gonna lie. I really enjoy a real toilet. With toilet paper. And lights. And running water. We even have hot water (though one might wonder why, but when it’s only 72 degrees…) AND, drumroll please—we have air conditioning.

Yep. We’ve outfitted the guest house with AC. It was wonderful during the days of cold season – because the days still get quite toasty – 90’s. And at night it wasn’t even needed.

Here’s one of the the guest rooms – the one on the right.  Picture is taken from the bathroom.

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And here’s ‘our’ room.  Or the room we use when we’re here.  But it’s also a guest room.

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You can see from this angle where the bathroom is (white door). It’s a mirror of the bathroom in the other room.

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And here’s one of the bathrooms.  They’re both the same.  Strangely I don’t have any pictures of it finished.  It looks quite nice.

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And here’s the veranda between the 2 rooms.

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Hot season though, that’s the real test. And we’re in that test right this minute. Today, it was 107. So while hot, 107 is still not THAT hot, compared to what will be coming. Needless to say, the AC came in handy. It would be interesting to note that Tamou doesn’t have 24/7 electricity. It’s a ‘town’, but an up and coming one. The town has a large generator that provides electricity from 10am – midnight each day. Except for Wednesdays. Lovely Wednesdays. Power comes on at 12 noon on Wednesday and because Thursday is market day, it stays on straight through to midnight on Thursday. In other words, 36 hours of beautiful, uninterrupted power.(Well, barring any generator issues…) Being the strategists we are, we try to plan our overnight trips to include Wednesdays/Thursdays…

However, so as not to be powerless in Tamou, we also purchased a small generator for guest house usage. Here’s what we now know.

We’re thankful for the generator.

There are 2 rooms for sleeping (each with an AC), and our generator is only strong enough to run 1 AC at a time.

The one AC takes the edge off the heat but isn’t strong enough to properly cool the room during hot season. In other words, walking into a room cooled to 90 feels like an arctic blast when it’s 115+ outside–until you’ve been in ‘cooled’ room for a few minutes and realize you’re sweating.

One working AC is better than none.

If a group of people is staying at the guest house, someone has to make the decision as to which subset of that group gets to stay in the AC room, providing a great opportunity for character growth.

Eventually, we will get a larger generator and install stronger AC’s.

My husband is not only a missionary, a great preacher, and great Bible teacher and a whole host of other things, he’s a great architect.

The Tamou Discipleship Center is amazing. We’re so grateful to those who gave to make it a reality. The guest house really has helped to advance what is happening there. Churches in the region continue to be planted, disciples are being made, and pastors are being trained.

Tamou Guest House update February 2017:
The guest has continued to be a blessing. Not only for ministry teams, for Bible School teachers, but also for the well drilling team. The first Vie Abondante wells were completed recently and the team was able to stay in the guest house multiple times for long periods, enabling them to spend more hours drilling rather than driving back and forth to Niamey (you may remember that’s a 90+ minute one-way trip journey).

The Christian Life team has come and gone- just a couple of weeks ago. We had a successful camp with 225 kids and about 50 volunteers. Neal and I stayed with the 6 member team in the guest house for 4 days/3nights. Why I didn’t get pictures of the 6 of us ladies crammed into 1 room with mattresses covering all available floor space, I don’t know. But what an awesome time we had.

And last, here’s the picture I promised.  Pastor Samuel is helping me show perspective on the size. These 6″ trees were planted about 9 months ago.  Nine months!  And check out the greenery on the walls.  This happened because of the diligence of Pastor Sule, the director of the Tamou region.  He not only waters the leaders and members of the now 14 churches in the region, has faithfully watered our trees 2X/day, month after month.  This is all fruit that will remain!

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Note to Self

Dearest Danette,

WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU?!?!!!??!

It’s been months since your last walk/jog (aka WOG).  You really have no excuse.  None.  You turned 50 continued working out for a short time and then stopped.  You skipped working out nearly all of ‘cold’ season.  For no reason that is legitimate.  So today you decided it was time to pick it back up again.

In the past you’ve never needed someone to work out with, an online buddy or a workout journal to be consistent. In fact you prefer to go it alone.  But obviously something has changed.  So I’m writing you this note for all to see (if they so desire), as a committment to continue – cigaba – swagaliga.  You are going to workout a minimum of 4 times/week, but preferably 5 or 6.  Keeping your word is pretty important to you, so with this in writing, there’s no turning back.

After much contemplation (days & days & days, ok – weeks) you decided that today was the day to start.  Again I ask, WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU?!?!? It was 105 degrees out there.  But if you were going to start anytime in the next 2 or 3 months, those temps (not to mention humidity) will only get worse.

So out you went.  And remember you have witnesses to your craziness.  Neal & Tim saw you.  But they were just as crazy, because they were playing tennis in the heat.  And I think the heat was doing something to the message center in their brains because they continued to play for quite awhile after you finished.  And you wogged for at least 45 minutes.  That’s usually your average.  Not sure of the distance since your running app stopped working – it was too hot in your pocket.

And after you finished, you did your push-ups. (Girl  style) And you will continue to do them. No matter that a few short months ago you could do 3 sets of 30.  The 3 sets of 15 today was better than nothing.  Much better.  Keep it up!

Here are the tennis players.


Now lest you get discouraged or tempted to quit, you took a few pictures to remind yourself that it’s really not that bad…

Here’s your view – at least the downhill side.  Quite lovely.  Who wouldn’t want to jog here?  (What one can’t ‘see’ is each one of those 105 degrees). But we don’t need to dwell on that – not with the beautiful Niger River in the background.


The uphill side is a bit more challenging, but keep in mind the downhill side is right around the corner. The picture just doesn’t do justice to the upward slope.  But remember, this is where you do the walking part of your Wog.  So it’s all good.


And remember the lovely smells you smelled?  You had great opportunity to suck in those smells.  Panting some might call it.  So you got nostrils full of flowery smells.  Keep in mind that most places you go don’t smell nearly as wonderful.  And some places there’s nothing wonderful at all about the smell.  And let’s talk about the butterflies. Well, you only saw one today, but I’m sure there are more.  He was lovely too. 
And you even had a laugh, in spite of your panting.  Remember?  You allow yourself a drink after every 2 laps.  You were greatly anticipating that water as you came around the bend –on account of your throat sticking shut.  But when you reached the place you stashed your bottle, IT WAS GONE!!  You started to panic just a little as you tried to unstick your throat.  Then you looked at the tennis players, and thought to yourself “I’ll bet Tim took your water as a practical joke”.  Yep, your mind went there.  And you didn’t find the humor in it.  But just as you started to accuse him, you spotted the missing bottle.  Right where you left it – in the drainage ditch.


But in your defense, you thought you put it here, just a few feet away.   
Looks pretty similar, right?  AND it was 105 degrees. The synapses in your brain may have been misfiring. Give yourself a break.

Also keep in mind how much you like music pumping into your head.  This is the perfect opportunity for that – without interruption.  And – some of your best prayer times are while on the ‘track’.

So dear self, this is a note to you.  Just in case you forget or think this all a dream.  It wasn’t.  It was real.  You are real, and you will run.  Or Wog. No matter how you feel in the morning.

iPhone was lost but now…

I have an iPhone.  It’s a 4S so yeah, I know it’s old.  But it’s mine and it works just fine.  I got it brand new and unlocked nearly 4 years ago.  It’s served me well in many countries.  And I’m sure it will continue to serve me well – even though it has a very slow response time….  The other day my son Trae was trying to convince us that it’s time to upgrade.  I told him that Dad might (he also has a 4S), but only because his has a cracked screen.

Yesterday Neal and I were out doing some errands.  The errands aren’t a big deal – but getting to them is.  Traffic in Niamey has become, how shall I say, HIDEOUS!  You get behind the wheel and you have to work at maintaining your salvation.   Going out to do the simplest things has become an event. The craziness that ensues is worthy of it’s own blog post.  That said, I decided to make a call while sitting in traffic.  Had an enjoyable chat with Lola, my friend and co-missionary working in Maradi.  She’s always encouraging – which is great considering the traffic.  We finally arrived at our destination  We were going to look at tile for the guest house we are building in Tamou.

We went in to the lovely air conditioned store, greeting the guard as we went.  We found lots of gorgeous tile with less than gorgeous prices.  But we did find one that would be a possibility.  We said thank you and headed back to the car as it was time to pick up Tobi from school.  This meant crossing the river.  That’s a big deal.  We wave to the guard and are on our way.  Within seconds I decide to check for my phone.  I can’t find it.  Think.  THINK!  When did I last use it?  Oh yes – my chat with Lola, just before we arrived at the shop.  That means it should be with me.  Neal pulled over and quickly called my phone.  It rang several times, then just quit.  Unfortunately, we didn’t hear any ringing.  This required further research.  What had I done with my phone?

I thought about it- and realized the most likely thing was that after saying good-bye to Lola, I set the phone in my lap instead of back into my purse.  And if that was true, the next likely thing that happened was that when we arrived at tile mart, I got out of the vehicle and my iPhone fell off my lap – OUTSIDE.  It’s important to note here (in my defense) that the parking ‘lot’ is sand.  You pull your vehicle just off the street (the one full of traffic) in front of the storefront.  So I’m sure my phone just dropped soundlessly into the sand and I went on my merry way, clueless.  I may have even buried it!

We hadn’t driven very far so I rushed back to the tile store to look around.  Nothing.  Except sand.  I explained my situation to the guard who was sitting on a bench with some of his friends.  We communicated using 3 languages, and he finally understood.  I of course knew it was entirely possible that he himself saw the phone and pocketed it, and he also knew that I was entertaining that thought.  He dramatically told me that if he found something like that he would take it in the store.  There wasn’t much more I could do but thank him.  And pray.  Though I did go back into the store – just to cover my bases – and ask if anyone had turned in a phone.  I knew how unlikely that was.  Due to language issues, their first response to my question was ‘we don’t repair phones here’.

The guard was still working on convincing me of his innocence while I walked back to our vehicle.  I actually didn’t think it was him, because any amateur detective could see that his view was of the drivers side, not the side where the phone dropped out.  But talk about a sick feeling in your gut.  Like anyone, I have everything on that phone.  LOTS of information.  While feeling sick, thinking of all that was lost, I also found myself praying.  But it seemed so impossible.  The phone was long gone.  And let’s face it.  The phone wasn’t stolen.  It was found.  By someone other than me.  On the way to get Tobi, we called my phone a few times but it was obvious it had been turned off.  We were now late for Tobi and I figured he had called.    I sent my phone a text message in Hausa that if the person that found my phone called this number there would be a reward.  Of course calling the number would be tricky if you couldn’t open the phone!

We are on our way to get Tobi and Neal was trying to make me feel better.  Which was extremely sweet of him — he could have been really upset with me, since it was my fault.  Instead he was reminding me of the age of the phone, and that when we get new phones we usually just give our old ones away, so just consider this giving it away.  A bit early. See what I mean?  Sweet.  We tell Tobi our reason for being late and he was bummed for me too.  He helped my try and activate ‘Find my iPhone on Neal’s phone, but the cell data signal was to weak to make it work.

We were on our return journey home (believe me, it’s a journey) and were processing what might need to be done, and what I would do for a phone.  While feeling quite hopeless, I said outloud, “God, you know that I have always turned lost things in – whether it be money or stuff.  Now it’s time for my harvest on that”.  That’s it.  And honestly, I went back to thinking whether I needed to change personal info etc.  

We were close to home, stuck in the thick of everything when suddenly Tobi is shoving his phone to the front seat, telling me its my phone calling.  What?  I didn’t realize it, but he had called my number again – even though it had obviously been shut off.  This time ‘it’ answered.

” Uhh, hello?  You have my phone?  Where are you?”

“Yes.  I’m at BIA” (BIA is a bank, across the street from the tile place).

I hand the phone to my husband who has stopped our vehicle in the midst of the chaos around us.  I wanted to be sure I heard correctly.  “Yes”, I heard him say, “We’re coming.  We’ll give you 10,000 for ‘calling’.” (10,000 is around $20)

“No problem” said the voice on the other end.  Of course this was all done in Hausa.

We wondered as we made our way back through the maze of traffic if he would actually be there when we got there.  We would know soon enough.

The hope of recovering my phone made rush hour traffic a bit more bearable.  I began thanking God for such a quick and amazing answer to prayer – in spite of my doubt.

We pulled up to the bank and called my phone again.  Neal and Tobi got out to see if they could spot the voice in the midst of so many people.  Who was he?   It was kind of amusing.  Felt a bit like a scene from a movie.  Any one of the people around us could be the one who ‘found’ my phone.  I saw them walk around a bit more, call again.  Then we see 2 young thugs guys dressed in black jeans and t-shirts.  One of them needed his drawers pulled up – but at least his unmentionables were black as well (and by that I mean his undergarments).

The transaction happened quite quickly.  He held up the phone, Neal took it and handed him 10,000 CFA with a thank you.  Mr. findmyphone and his sidekick walked away very quickly, twenty bucks richer.

We’re pretty sure that our benefactors were watching from across the street to be sure we didn’t bring the law with us before they revealed themselves.  The fact is however, they didn’t steal the phone.  Based on my synopsis of what happened, I lost my phone.  They found it.  Now, given where we were (a well-known area for petty theft, pick-pockets etc), I have little doubt that given the opportunity to steal they would have.  But this particular phone just fell into their laps (and out of mine!).  If you were to ask me to describe what petty thieves looked like, I would tell you to look at these two.

Let me add here that I’ve never felt scared/nervous walking around Niamey.  People are generally quite friendly.  Yet they themselves know that thieves are lurking around.  While I’ve never had anything stolen while on the street, I have had strangers walk up to me and highly recommend that I zip my purse up.  Don’t I know there are thieves around?  We laugh and I thank them.  And try to remember to keep my purse zipped and close to me.

I’m not sure what made those boys turn the phone back on and answer that call.  Was it because they realized that without the passcode they couldn’t even make a call, let alone get into the phone?  I realize that it’s not that difficult to wipe a phone like that, but I’m sure these guys didn’t have the know how. They could easily find someone who did, but not without lots of questions.

Or was it just the Holy Spirit moving in answer to prayer.  He does that.

As we backed out, phone in hand, I prayed for those 2 guys – that they would be confronted with the reality of the Gospel.  I felt like celebrating.  Maybe a bit like the lady and the lost coin.  And wow – this is how Jesus feels when 1 lost sinner turns to Him.  I get it.

Regardless of the reason, what seemed a hopeless situation was turned around by the simple fact that God is faithful!  He always has been and always will be.  And that’s one thing I can take to the bank!

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Josiah’s Perspective of our Red Sea experience.

So to add even more color to this story, I’ve decided to post Josiah’s perspective on it.  Josiah has been here 2 other times with TTC, so he’s not a newbee.  He’s 20-something and is a long time family friend.  We’ve known him since he was 8 months old.  He’s staying with us until December.  I’m rather hoping that the rest of his time in Niger is a little less exciting than this.

As soon as we arrived home late Monday night, well, as soon as he took a shower, Josiah was chatting with a friend telling him about the experience while it was fresh in his mind.  His words are cryptic yet detailed and I enjoyed hearing his take on things.  The response of his friend is even more cryptic, and quite humorous.  Those are in italics.

Josiah’s Journey

Well, it was quite a day. Among other things: It poured rain for hours, a bridge went out, we sank an SUV into a river, and someone almost died.

And I have sand EVERYWHERE.

You know how your feet can move around a bit in your shoes? Not mine. No wiggle room. Sand. My entire body, caked in sand. My underwear had at least a full cup of sand in them.

(Friend D): ahaha wow! is that from being in the river? What happened?

Well, the bridge went out. We had to get home. The water was rising. We watched someone else successfully cross. We tried to cross. Got 1/3 of the way through, started floating. Shortly after we started floating, we started sinking.

Water starts coming in the doors. The car slowly fills. The engine doesn’t die, we try to get some people to push us. No luck. Water in the car continues to rise. Reach back and grab soaked bags from the trunk, at least the ones I could reach. Clutch tablet closely. Water rises. Climb out window onto roof.

After transferring what we could save to dry land, try to push/pull/lift car out of sandy river. There are maybe 30 local villagemen watching/trying to help. 3 or 4 languages being spoken, none of which I understand. As the river washes away the sand behind the car, it tilts up at a steeper and steeper angle. We try to push it, and get it out of the hole. Water is neck-deep behind the car. We keep pushing. We make progress, but the sand keeps collapsing, and the hole pretty much moves with us. Car ends up pointing up at around 30 degrees.

Local dude passes out from the fumes behind the car, gets a lungful of water before anyone notices, stops breathing. Carried to shore. Is unconscious and not breathing for something like 2 minutes. Comes to somehow, walks away.

Car is clearly stuck at this point, at a rakish angle, and completely full of water. Engine is still somehow running.

Danette doesn’t want to get out because if she shuts off the engine, the water will flood up the tailpipe and wreck the engine with sand and such. But she was in the car, and my dad went to try and get cell coverage. Tara, our other American, was watching all the stuff we had saved, mostly electronics, on the shore.

So, picture this:

Danette is sitting in the car. It’s at a 30 degree angle, front up. The water is above her waist. She’s got the window down, one hand on the wheel, and one hand resting on the edge of the window. She was a bit fazed at first, of course, but at this point, she’s smiling, and talking to the group of ten or so locals who have gathered around her window in the rushing water.

Standing just outside her window, it’s about chest high.

Most of the locals prefer to speak French, but she doesn’t know it, so she asks if they know Hausa, the trade language. Some of them do. So she starts sharing what we’ve been doing, that we just came from a youth camp we’re hosting, and how she’d like some hot tea. (It was cold water!)

The conversation continues, and she decides to ask them, “have you ever heard the story of Jesus?”

“Oh, a little bit.”

“Where?”

Some town nearby.

“Well, Jesus is God’s son. I know you don’t like to hear that.” [Muslims don’t believe that God had a son.]

“So, have you ever sinned? Ever made a mistake? We’re all sinners.”

“Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.”

“Well, God sent Jesus to take all our sins, and he died for our sins, and when he rose he took them away, because he loves us.”

The guys around are all saying – “Yes, yes, it’s true!”

“You’re saying ‘yes’, but do you really believe it?”

Islam is all about works.

“You know, when I say we’re saved through Jesus, it has nothing to do with works. You accept his grace and forgiveness through faith.  THEN He gives you work to do.  He shows you His plan for your life.  So, you can accept Jesus, but after that it doesn’t mean that it’ll just be an easy life. There’s gonna be problems. I’ve been in Niger 17 years and I came here with my family to tell others the truth about Jesus and look where I’m sitting right now [in this car]. But when you have Jesus, you have someone to go through the problems with you. And God has a plan for your life.  And what about heaven?  I know that you don’t think you can have assurance of going to heaven.  But you see as believers in Jesus, we have the assurance of eternal life.  In fact, if this car washes away right now and I drown in it, I’ll immediately be with Jesus in heaven.  You can have that assurance too.”

So yeah.

She’s just sitting in this flooded car, in the middle of the river, happily sharing the gospel. Smiling like the sun, as if she’s a queen on a throne instead of a woman covered in mud sitting in a flooded car. It was really something.

(Friend S): that’s insane

She and her husband head up the ministry over here – 35(ish?) churches, 2 or 3 bible schools, 2 primary schools… She’s totally awesome. Oh, and while all this is happening, the sun goes down. Dad’s off looking for help, Tara is covering the stuff, and I’m making sure Danette doesn’t get washed down the river and killed or something. And it gets really dark. And the car is still in the river. And the water is still rising.

So there’s the question – will there be help soon? When do we just abandon the car?

(Friend S): I feel like the most pathetic human being / Christian right now…

Because somehow, it’s still running. Normally it’s unable to push the exhaust out the tailpipe because of the water pressure and your car dies. But for some reason it was still going, even with the tailpipe like 5 1/2 feet under. So what do you do? And then the electrical system on the car starts going nuts. Lights turn on and off, and Danette’s window rolls itself up. She can’t get it to go back down. That’s bad, of course. That’s how people die in situations like this.

So Danette climbs out the passenger window.

And lo and behold, the cavalry arrives. My dad has conjured up a MASSIVE road grader. Which pulls out the two other cars that are stuck with no problem. But then comes our car. It’s further out, and, like I said, the back end is way, way down in the water. They can’t find anywhere to hook the cable to. They try 3 or 4 times, and it breaks each time.

Finally, success.

Once the car is out, everyone wants money. The people who helped us try to push it out early on, the guy with the grader, and probably a bunch of people who did nothing at all. It was bedlam.

Meanwhile, the car finally died as we pulled it out. But the electrical system isn’t willing to give up yet. It’s going absolutely nuts. The car begins to try and start itself. Nobody is doing anything. The key isn’t being turned. But it keeps repeatedly trying to start. This goes on for about 5 minutes, until my Dad manages to disconnect the battery.

A bit later, some  pastors and Danette’s husband arrive. But they don’t have any chains or other elegant way to tow the car. So they take giant springs, run them through random points of metal at the corner of the car and the truck that is towing it, and then through holes at the ends of a metal bar. Apparently they’re still slowly towing it somewhere.

But we made it home, and I finally got to get all the sand off. I have sand in my hair, behind my ears, because when we were pushing from behind the water was so deep you almost went under.

(Friend S): dude… I don’t even lift.

And on the way back, we’re trying to figure out how we’re going to get out to the camp tomorrow, since the bridge is out and our car is useless. And I’m just sitting in the back thinking to myself, “my life is a party.” I mean, it might be a mess, but that’s what you should expect when you’re out here – I didn’t even mention what we did today, that was just the trip home.

(Friend S): soooo uhhh… I filled out a spreadsheet today. yep. that’s about it.. . . that’s insane dude. 

So.  There you have it.  The story from another angle.  And for those who think being a Christian is boring…all I can say is – “Seriously”?

Oh – and a friend who has been here and traveled that road with us during dry season sent me this picture.  It’s the reason we had to drive around on the riverbed ‘road’.

Washed out road dry

Part 2: I don’t need any more stories. I’m good.

The first half of this story can be found here.

The groundwork has been laid.  Or in the case of this story, it is very shaky.  As we were to find out as we entered my Red Sea.  See, it really is red.   Just as a reminder, here’s what it looked like.

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That trooper is Pastor Scott, getting ready to enter the muddy water.

So, the Hilux has come through grinning and we have decided that we too can take the plunge.  And plunge we did.  Literally.

I gunned it, and off we went.  Now my sense of time has been all messed up.  But I’m pretty sure it was a matter of seconds that it felt like we began to float.  Yep.  The wheels had left the ground – or what there was of it.  I kept gunning, I think we were all rocking or leaning forward, willing it to move forward.  NOT happening.

Living in a place like Niger, situations like this while not common, are not unexpected.  And you just sit and wonder, ‘Huh.  What do we do now’?  But I think this is the first time I’ve personally been in the midst of ‘a situation’ (that’s what the Jamaican’s call them.  Situations.  Not problems), that is ongoing – and has great potential for great danger in so many ways.

Amazingly, the engine kept running.  Based on instructions I was given, that was a good thing.  Something to be happy about.  While pondering for a minute or 2 (or was it seconds?), I realized that I felt cold water at my feet.  I looked down and said ‘The water is coming in”.  It was then that I was informed that the water was up to mid-calf of those in the back seat.  No one was screaming.  Everyone was praying, and I’m sure thinking a myriad of thoughts.  As was I.

Like:  It’s going to be dark in about 18 minutes.  Very dark.  Will  we get out before then?  Are we going to flip over in the fast flowing water (rapids) to our right?  I started to remember stories I’d heard of others and quickly dismissed those.  Or –  will I be spending the night sitting in the middle of this lake?  Because I’m not leaving this vehicle.  I will keep that engine running.  And, what about this team?  I’m responsible for them too.  And what about all those helping to push?  What if we do hit ground and we lunge forward and hit someone?    And, we WILL get out of this water and I refuse to go backwards.  We’re NOT going back.  We will only move forward.  All the while praying for God’s mercy, grace and gosh darn we needed His help!

As the car is filling up, I think we made a unified decision that everyone get out.  Except me.  I’d already determined I wouldn’t leave.  There were already loads of people at the sea, and at this point, most of them were surrounding us, and everyone started pushing.  I had it in gear and by golly we were going to make it. And we did – about 50 feet or so.  I think.  That was after much effort. Shouting was going on in probably 4 languages.  We were quickly filling with water and getting heavier.  I was sitting in the driver’s seat with water up to my waist. Because the back was filled with water it was heavier, pushing the front end up a bit. Maybe 30 degrees?  I looked back at one point and the water was up to the ceiling in the back of the vehicle.  All our stuff was floating.  We did manage to get our valuable things out – purses, camera’s, phones.  Except Delfin.  His phone was in his pocket.

So Tara is on the bank guarding our belongings.  Scott and Delfin were looking for some kind of help. Never mind that he doesn’t speak a word of the local language.  We got wind that a tractor was coming to pull vehicles out.  That was a real glimmer of hope as we sat waiting.  Josiah was near the vehicle with me, as well as countless other young men.  I had the window down, and we were just waiting.  Josiah was measuring the distance that the water was climbing up.

As I looked around, it occurred to me that I had a very captive audience.  So I decided it to be the perfect opportunity to share the Gospel.  By this time, darkness had fallen so I couldn’t see the dark faces I was talking to.  But I could hear them.  And they could hear me.  One of them told me he was cold.  Which made me realize I was cold too.  Whatever.  Seemed insignificant.   As I said, Josiah was standing there too, and even though he couldn’t understand the conversation, he did understand that I was talking to these young men about Jesus.  And he found it quite interesting.  Well, I’m not quite sure what he thought, but just that he said he would give $100 right then (and this is a guy who detests spending money) just to be able to have a picture of this scene.  So rather than write about it all here,  in the next few days, I will include Josiah’s thoughts on the whole experience in a guest post.

At some point while talking with these guys, my window went up.  It was down, then it was up.  The water was giving the electrical system a mind of it’s own.  The far back was full to the roof, the back seat was full to the headrests, and water was above my waist in the drivers seat.  I couldn’t get the window back down.  Things were beeping.  Extraordinarily, the engine was still running.  I had that.

Here I am in the drivers seat…

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I don’t see myself as stubborn, but I can be pretty determined when necessary.  But I began to think at this point staying in my running vehicle was stupid.  It was filling up with water, and my window was stuck up.  Scott (I) finally decided that I too needed to come out.  Dressed in a skirt and shirt, I half swam-half climbed out the passenger side window.  There were several hands helping me.  I was surprised at how weak and shaky I felt, but I blamed that on the uneven muddy ground and deep water. The engine was still running!  Scott and one of my new friends helped me to the ‘shore’.  While I was having church inside the vehicle, Scott was finally able to walk to where there was a signal (did I mention that even though I was able to talk to Neal at the mouth of the sea, once I entered there was no signal?) and he was able to make some calls.  Until that time, the last Neal heard from us was that we were going to try and plow through and he hadn’t been able to get us after that either.

Now that we know our people knew what was going on, there was some relief, knowing that help would somehow be on the way.

Meanwhile, shivering, I’m being pushed, pulled and steadied, while walking to the spot where Scott was able to make the call.  I was going to try and reach Neal. Remember it’s a dark night.  And what to our wondering eyes should appear, but some sort of tractor, wonderfully near.  He wasn’t a mirage – and you can only have those in sunlight anyway.  He was the real deal.  In Hausa it’s called a Dandankaro.  Some sort of road grader I’m told.  But his biggest asset was that he was big.  Very big.  As shaky as I was, we felt happy enough to abandon the phone call attempt and go back to the swimming truck.  This was going to be exciting.

Check it out!

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At this point someone decides (probably Scott), that I should go wait with Tara and Josiah while he goes and helps with excavation.  So we climb to the top of sand pile where tons of other people are watching as well.  There’s a village nearby, and I’m pretty sure the Red Sea was providing loads of entertainment for all the men from that village.

Here’s the scene when Mighty Yellow showed up.

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Mighty Yellow first pulls out the yellow van.  Just yanks it right up out of the water.  Happy screams and cheering.

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The blue truck is next.  Same result. More cheering.

My new found friends who are now quite sure I’m bonkers, were waiting with me and informed that as soon as mine was out they were going home. I found out some about them, and were surprised that some were married with children. They also assured me the engine would be fine =). Our turn has come. Scott is in the water with several others tying(?) whatever it was they were using to the bumper.   Second attempt.  Nope.  Somewhere here – I think after attempt #1, Scott got in the drivers seat.

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I’m trying to hold hope up, but it’s receded a bit, unlike the water.  Finally they are able to secure the rope (?) to something after they opened the hood.  After significantly more effort than what was used for the other vehicles, our shiny white 4Runner emerged from the sea.

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So many people were ‘helping’… And amazingly the trusty engine ran all the way until she was pulled out! (I don’t think I’ve ever called my vehicle a ‘she’ before, but somehow it seems appropriate here) Then….she gave it up.  Except for the electrical system. That was going bonkers!  It, and by ‘it’ I mean the electrical system, kept on trying to start the engine.  It was almost comical.  Funny or not, it couldn’t have been good, so Scott was able to disconnect the battery.

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After she was pulled out, the water began to drain from inside.  First I cheered.  And thanked God.  Then it was sad.  I don’t know why.  But to think that a couple hours earlier we were sitting in our comfortable and strong 4Runner, as she was returning us from a day of camp and ministry, and here she was all  soaked with water and sand.  In places where water and sand ought not be.  I guess it’s like anything after any kind of destruction.

I actually don’t remember getting back in the driver’s seat, but at some point I did.  Oh yeah, it was so that we could now be pushed up toward the road, to make towing home easier.

In comes my knight in shining armor.  Drove right by us actually.  I tried to honk but remember the electrical system was bonkers.  He was with Grampa in their vehicle.  The cars wanting to get to the other side were lining up and it was dark, so they went right past us.  But they weren’t going to get far – unless they entered the water.  Neal walks up to see me in the drivers seat and just smiles and says it’s ok.  Then I heard the familiar voice of my friend and co-missionary Lola.  I couldn’t see her  but I heard, “Danette?  Hello.  It is well.  Why don’t you let Pastor Nelson drive now.”  Such a welcome and soothing voice.  I think what I said is, “That would be wonderful.”

Knowing we would be leaving soon, so many people were crowding around – SO many people – telling me how much they had helped and what was I going to give them.  At that point I was so frustrated and spent.  My Knight showed up again and I told him I couldn’t deal with them anymore – please make them go away.  He did, as the team and I quickly got in with Dad.  We were all soaked and covered from head to toe in sand/mud.

From there things moved quickly.  Dad drove us home and Pastor Nelson and Pastor Koyejo and Lola had come in a Hilux and they were there to tow our 4Runner.   It was a great feeling to leave the whole ‘situation’ in someone else’s hands.  

We arrived home at 10:30 pm.  The tow-ers got our vehicle to our mechanic and parked it.  Neal got home after 12.

The hot shower was wonderful, and reminded me of a thought I had while sitting in the middle of the sea: this will be over at some point, and I will get to take a hot shower.  From the time we left Tamou to the time we got home was only 4 ½ hours.  For a drive that takes 90 minutes, we sure crammed quite an adventure in that time!

Our mechanic has taken stuff apart and is assessing and trying to dry stuff out.  Tomorrow we should have more of an idea of the damage.

Now, what are my ‘take-aways’ from this experience?  I think I’m still figuring them out.  But two things come to mind.

First, God is doing great things both among the youth in Niger, and in the Tamou region specifically.  The title of this post is “I don’t need any more stories.” But honestly, if ‘stories’ are what it takes to bring more people to Jesus, bring them on.  So many of our stories come from these trips and times in Tamou, which to me is a clear indication that God is doing great things there.  Even greater than we know.  So do we think it odd that the enemy would be against us?  Not really.  However, we are sure that if God is for us, who can be against us?  Ain’t no Red Sea stopping the Kingdom of God, and it’s not stopping us!

Second, Prayer.  It’s the backbone of what we do.  I’m never really sure that I can effectively communicate its’ importance.  Before these camps, I sent out a request for prayer email to almost 500 people.  The TTC team sent requests to around 200.  That’s a lot of prayer cover.

I don’t even want to consider what could have happened in this situation if we didn’t have that prayer, and I also wonder what could be done if there were even more.

The youth camps were effective and powerful, training up and army for the Lord in Niger.  And prayer for them needs to continue.

And yes, prayer for us.  For our team here.  For all of our families.  For our churches.  For our partners.  For the finances needed for things like vehicle repairs and church buildings and Bible schools.  I could go on.  So if you’ve ever wondered if prayer matters, take it from me, sitting in the middle of the Red Sea, we seriously depend on it.

I don’t need any more stories. I’m good.

We are in the midst of youth camps.  Three of them.  Yesterday was Day 1 of the final camp.  It was out in Tamou where we have a ministry among the Gourmantche.  Over 100 were gathered for 3 days of teaching – growing in the Lord, and taking hold of your destiny.  The first 2 camps of more than 200 youth were awesome.  They were in Niamey and Maradi respectively. (cities 8 hours apart) Great response, great youth, great disciples in Niger.

Here’s a couple pics of yesterday’s meetings.

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Needless to say by this last camp, we were “swagaliga-ing”.  If you haven’t heard Neal’s message on that, it means ‘pressing in or moving forward’.  This camp is a 90 minute drive from our home, and since there is no place to stay out there, the plan was to make the drive back and forth every morning and evening.  We went in 2 vehicles on Monday morning because Neal had to leave camp early to come back and teach in our evening discipleship school.

Honestly, the whole day was challenging.  First of all, it rained all morning.

This is just before the storm.

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Because of the hot dry desert sand,  there is nowhere for the water to go, so it just piles up.  Quickly.

This is the church compound after a couple minutes of rain.

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So this meant that all of our activities had to be inside the church.  And not only did we have about 100 active youth, they are people that are not used to being inside for long lengths of time.  But swagaliga is what we continued to do.

And you know how people talk about the lovely sound of rain on a tin roof?  Believe me, it’s not quite so lovely when it drowns out the  message or the rules of the game you are trying to get across- using 3 languages.

We were encouraged though by those who were diligently working on their pressing toward the mark worksheets, and others who can’t read or write were following along.

As I said, Neal had to leave early.  Which he did – at about 3pm.  By then, the rain had stopped.  Before he reached home, he called me to let me know about an issue on the road.  There is a place where the road is completely gone for a distance of about  30  feet, and the ravine it creates is about  15  feet deep.  Thankfully, there is a temporary road (not sure how long a road can be called temporary, this one has been there for over a year) that goes down into the empty riverbed, and around the bad section of road.  We’ve driven on it countless times.  I’m sure I have a picture of it somewhere…. As I said it is an empty riverbed.  We passed it that morning on dry land.  But then it rained for a few hours.  Neal told me that he had no problem getting through on his way back – even though there was a transport vehicle stuck.  No surprise there, they’re always stuck in something.  He just wanted me to be aware of it – and reminded me that when going through water, you don’t let up on the accelerator.  I remembered that, because I learned that lesson firsthand-and the hard way.  But that’s another story.

The team and I  left 3 hours later – at around 6pm.  Since it hadn’t been raining for nearly 4 hours, I fully expected the area to have less water.  After all the flooded area of the church compound in the picture above was already dried up.

We arrived on the scene.  To this. The expanse of water wasn’t like the Red Sea, but it was probably about  120  feet across.

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Huh.  What to do, what to do.  If I wasn’t driving, I would have twiddled my thumbs for a moment or two.

In our lovely white 2004 Toyota 4Runner was Pastor Scott, Josiah & Tara from the US, and Delphin, one of our ministry team members on ground here.  Pastor Scott and Delphin got out, rolled up their pant legs, and entered the water to see what they could (or couldn’t) see.

That’s Delphin looking at us – probably thinking I was a crazy person…And possibly he was right.

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Yes, those are 2 other vehicles stuck in the rushing water.

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But Neal told me he went to their left.  What neither of us knew, was that rather than seceding  the water level had risen significantly.

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I called Neal and told him what things looked like.  I tried to think like him.  And the Neal I know would go through that water.  And then…a Hilux (a double cab Toyota pick up), came through that water from the opposite side.  He even smiled at me and gave me a thumbs up as he drove by.

That’s all we needed.  If he could do it, we could do it.  I held my breath, I heard other car members praying and I hit the gas.

You may notice my change in pronouns here – to try and spread out the responsibility for my actions….

I’ve been told that I need to keep my blog posts shorter.  So I’m ending the story here.  I will write the remainder in the next post – which I will start right now.

The Seed is in You

I’ve had lots of people ask me when I’m going to add another blog post.  As I’ve said before, I’ve written lots of blog posts – in my head.  But until I make time to write a new one, I’m going to post an article I wrote for Daring Daughters in 2012.  So though it’s 3 years old, it’s still relevant.  And it also answers another question I’m frequently asked.  “How did I know I was called to missions.”

The Seed

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost 15 years!  I’ve been a missionary in the West African country of Niger since July, 1998.   There are two questions I am often asked: Did I always know I wanted to be a missionary? Did I always know God wanted me to be a missionary?  No, and no.  But God knew.  Here’s my story.

“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.  Before you were born, I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”  Jeremiah 1:5

I was saved at the age of 7 and was raised in a Christian home by wonderful Christian parents.  I’ve walked closely with the Lord since but it wasn’t until adulthood that I became  acutely aware of God’s grace.  I used to think that I didn’t really have a ‘story’.  But a revelation while singing ‘Amazing Grace’ changed my mind.  I did have an amazing story.  It was the grace of God that saved me.  He not only saved me from my sins, but He saved me from the powers of darkness of this world and kept me walking in His light all these years.  It wasn’t my personality or my own determination or discipline that spared me from all the world had to ‘offer’.  Simply put, it was God’s amazing grace.  Now, the older I get, the more I see… and the more I see, the more thankful I am for that grace that saved me.

But I wasn’t just saved to be saved, I was called.  So are you. My calling was to be a missionary, reaching the unreached.   But fulfillment of that calling wasn’t going to just drop in my lap.  I had some responsibility.

The seed was in me – as a 4 year old.

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The Bible is full of instruction for our lives.  There are a multitude of passages that talk about the blessings that follow us and our children when we walk in the way of the Lord.

We see in 1 Kings 2 where King David is at the end of his life and is giving instructions to his son Solomon.  Solomon was called to succeed David on the throne.

“Now the days of David drew near that he should die, and he charged Solomon his son, saying: 2 “I go the way of all the earth; be strong, therefore, and prove yourself a man. 3 And keep the charge of the Lord your God: to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn; 4 that the Lord may fulfill His word which He spoke concerning me…”

Solomon’s calling came with requirements:  Keep the charge of the Lord, walk in His ways, keep his commandments…  Then you will prosper and the Lord will fulfill His word concerning you.

 For God’s will and plan to be fulfilled in our lives, we must walk in His ways.

After high school, I attended Oral Roberts University.  My sophomore year I met Neal.  I was a chaplain and he was a freshman on my brother wing.  He came straight from Nigeria, where he was raised as a missionary kid.  He intrigued me.  He was, as I like to describe him, ‘bush’.  He spoke with a Nigerian accent and he thought downtown Tulsa was a huge metropolis.  As the girls’ chaplain I had the responsibility of pairing the brother and sister wings with prayer partners.  I did this by drawing names from a hat, but not before first pairing myself with Neal.  Sneaky, I know.

A friendship began to develop into something more and on our 2nd official date Neal informed me that he was going to be a missionary.  My thought?

“Whatever.  He’s a business major.  Once he gets going in his field, he’ll get over the missions thing.”

It’s not that I was opposed to full-time missions, I just wasn’t awakened yet to my calling.  I had a natural trust in God and a desire to do exactly what He had planned for me.  The seed was there, but it remained dormant.

Our relationship progressed as did Neal’s intensity for missions. I continued to trust God and prayed that if this was the man for me, that an actual desire to do missions would surface.  As an upperclassman I would get frustrated when I would hear my friends talking specifically about their careers, how many children they would have, the type of home they would live in –  all the way down to paint color!  I didn’t have specifics on any of those things – and I didn’t really care about a white picket fence.   All I knew for sure was that I wanted to do what God wanted me to do.   I later realized that if I had predetermined my exact job and house color, it would not have lined up with Neal, and I may have assumed he wasn’t the one.

Here we are at ORU, the seed in both of us. Any guesses to the year? Hint: Big hair.

Neal & Danette

Our love grew and in 1989 we married.  I graduated with a degree in Social Work and Neal, Management Information Systems.  We both got jobs in our fields, while still pursuing ministry.  We found a church home and were asked to be youth pastors.  It wasn’t missions, but it was something that our hands found to do and we were determined to do it with all our might.  It was preparation time.  During our 5 years as youth leaders we sent kids on more than 30 summer mission trips, while patiently (sometimes) waiting our turn.

God continued to lead us and 8 years of marriage and 2 great kids later, the Lord directed us to attend Bible School to officially prepare for the field.  During Bible School we received confirmation that the country of Niger would be our field.

We spent 10 months raising our support and during that time an amazing thing happened.  I was sharing in my mom and dad’s church about how I had recently come across some of my elementary school papers and discovered that I had written a report on the country of Nigeria the same year Neal moved there.  Coincidence?  I think not.  It was a germinating seed.  I told also of a report I had written in junior high titled ‘Understanding Africa’ where I wrote that I wanted to be a missionary in Africa.  I don’t even remember writing it, but my name was on it.   The seed was there.

Later that evening my mom questioned me.

“Don’t you remember the prophecy spoken to you when you were 12?  That you would be a rose, blooming in the desert?”

It wasn’t until she said that that the memory came back.  Mom continued.

“What about the time I found you crying because you couldn’t understand why everyone couldn’t know Jesus?”

I was 7.  The seed.

Our family in 1998, just before moving to the 10/40 nation of Niger, Africa.   Trae, Danette, Tanika, Neal

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Our family in 2001 with Tobi, our new addition.

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The amazing thing about a spiritual seed is that it won’t die.  It’s in you.  Even if you haven’t been pursuing God as you should or are new in your walk with Him, it’s not too late!  God’s seed, His plan for you – it’s in you.  Even if it’s dormant.  Wake it up!   Begin germinating it by pursuing hard after Jesus and by walking in His ways.  In Jeremiah 2:21 God said to the Israelites,

“Yet I had planted you a noble vine, a seed of highest quality.”

You are full of high quality seed!  

Grateful. Humbled. Amazed.

Our churches in Niamey were violently attacked just over 3 weeks ago. In the wake of that, while working to restore, replace and rebuild, Boko Haram rears its ugly head in Diffa – trying to penetrate the Eastern border of Niger where we have another church. I am amazed. I’m not amazed because of the political/Islamic attack of churches in the west, or because of the evil extremists terrorizing the east. I am amazed by the response of the Niger Christians. Humbled, really.

These pictures were taken after the attacks.  After churches were burned.  After homes were looted and destroyed.

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The joy can be seen, but I wish it could be felt through this picture.  It was real.  I know it was real because I was there.

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A few weeks ago we were in Diffa with our family.  We were there to encourage the church.  So many members have been directly affected by Boko Haram and fled to Diffa from Nigeria.  Of course they and their faith ended up encouraging us.

Here’s a link to an article on what’s happening there.

This is Pastor Abdu & Aisha, and their children Caleb, Samuel and Nassara.

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Our son Trae preached a timely message while we were in Diffa (with no knowledge of coming attacks of course).  He preached about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and how Jesus will always be with us in the fire.

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Early this past Sunday morning (Feb 8), we got a phone call from Pastor Abdu in Diffa.  He told us that gunfire could be heard from the church (and their home).  Boko Haram was trying to cross the border over the bridge.  This is the place we used to hang out when we lived in Diffa.

Neal and Tobi looking across the border into Nigeria.

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We used to swim in this river!

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We lived in this town for almost 2 years.

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Pastor Abdu wasn’t fearful, just informing us.  We assured him we’d be praying.  It’s times like these that I’m especially grateful for Facebook.  I know that in a matter of an hour, hundreds were praying.  And that soon multiplied to thousands.

I called Aisha, P. Abdu’s wife to see how she was doing.

She said it was a bit scary hearing the gunfire, (ya think?)  but that she and the kids were doing fine.  She was very encouraged to know that so many were praying.

Later that day a bomb was detonated in a nearby market.  We knew the place.  Though things calmed down during the day, we got another phone call early Monday morning that the fighting went on through the night and was continuing.  Then the prison was attacked.  The prison is right by our church.

We all agreed that it was time for the wives to leave with the children, but we weren’t the only ones with that idea and all transport vehicles were full for the next several days.  I so wanted to go and pick them up myself- but that would have been idiotic.  Once again God intervened and a vehicle was found to get them out.  I still don’t have all the details, but I know they left last night.  I talked with P. Abdu in Diffa this morning and he said that many have left but that things have quieted down.  There is only scattered gunfire.  I then talked to Aisha who was on the road and she assured me they were all fine.  They had made their first destination around 11pm last night and were heading to Maradi today.

Since the attack in Niamey, Pastor Zabeyrou and Salamatou (who is 6 months pregnant) and their 3 kids have been staying with us in our home.  They lost everything – home and church.

Here they are – smiling.  What an honor it is to labor together with them.  Several years ago, they were the pastors of the church in Diffa, so the situation there is very close to home for them as well.

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This morning, when I was talking to Aisha who was still on her journey, I thought it would be a good idea to have Salamatou talk to her too.

That’s when it hit me.  The amazing part.  Salamatou, who is homeless and without her belongings, is on the phone encouraging Aisha who with her children is running for her life.  And they’re laughing.  And talking about the goodness of God.  And thanking me for praying.  Thanking me.  I have no more words.

Except to say how humbled I am to call these two beautiful ladies my friends.

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The blogger (or not) is back. Crunch Part 1

It’s shameful.  I’m shameless.  I call myself a blogger and my last post was May 13, 2014.  Wait.  I don’t call myself a blogger…never have.  But my last post really was over 4 months ago.  Long enough for us to travel from Niger to the US, travel a zillion miles in the US, travel to S. Korea to visit a very special family member, travel back to Niger, host a team from the US in Niger and conduct 2 children’s camps.  Long enough for me to forget how to login to WordPress and forget my password.  And long enough that one of my offspring was actually begging me to write in my blog.

So.  Here I am.  Other than lack of time, I have no other excuse.  And the time (or lack thereof) excuse doesn’t really fly either.  Oh maybe it did at first, but then I just got in the habit of blogging in my head and never transferring it to the screen. Head blogging is so much faster/easier and can be done without any electronic devices.  Imagine anything being done these days without any electronics.  But I’m quite sure the that even as technologically advanced as we are, there is no way that the next generation will be able to extract the blogs from my head once I’ve moved on.  And that’s really my goal in writing.  To record my history.  In my words.  Rambling and all.

So, I could pick from quite a large number of things to write about, since life really has been quite full since May 13th.  (Who am I kidding?  Life is always full!)  But I need to ease back into this slowly, so will only pick one thing to write about.  Because I know that I’m really adept at jumping from one subject to another (aka rambling).

Just over 2 weeks ago, I was leaving Sahel Academy where Tobi is an 8th grader.  The school is about 7 miles from our house.  A reasonable commute most would suppose.  Unless you lived here in Niamey – then you would suppose differently.  But look at that – I’m already getting off my topic and I haven’t even stated it yet.

I left my house at 7am to head to school for the Mom’s in Touch (MIT) prayer time.  It’s there mom’s gather to pray for the school/students/families and other needs every Thursday morning.  After an effective prayer time I was on my way to visit my mom-in-law (MIL, as opposed to MIT).  I had been back in Niger for nearly 3 weeks and had yet to visit them at their place (there’s that ‘no time’ excuse rearing it’s head again!)  Because of construction going on, the roads are all messed up and the bridge is only open for vehicles crossing the river to the Harobunda side.  That’s the side Sahel is on.  The side I don’t live on.   As soon as you cross the bridge, you’re almost at the school.  But leaving – that’s another story.  And a LONG way around.   As you leave the school, the bridge is there – right there – to get you to your side of the river.  But you are not allowed to cross it going that direction.  I don’t really understand why, but then again what do I know about road construction.  Not much.  Except that until it’s complete, it’s a real pain.  That I know.

Here’s the original bridge- to the immediate right.  The one in the distance is the ‘new’ bridge, aka ‘the Chinese bridge’.

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Here’s a better picture of the Niger River.

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So.  I (and everyone else in a motorized vehicle) have to get across the river using the new bridge.  New things usually sound better.  And the new bridge is 4 lanes, not 2 like the original one.  That means more room for camels and donkeys and bikes and motos to cross together with all the vehicles.  That is better.  But in this case it’s not really better, since it spits you out in a different part of the city than you wanted to be in. Downtown.  But alas, without a ferry to drive my car on to to forge the river where it’s close to my house, drive around I must.  (Just yesterday Neal, Tobi and I discussed the idea of building a ferry near us – where we are closest to the river, to get us across.  It would save an exponential amount of time, and the headaches it would save.  And I mean literal headaches.   Unless of course your vehicle sinks into the Niger River.  That would be a really big headache.

Here’s the road to the new bridge.  I know.  It looks pretty nice.  But  shouldn’t have to be here!

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And a cool sunset view.  At least there’s that.

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Back to the new bridge.  I did finally cross it – and as always found myself heading towards downtown.  It was about 9am.  I navigate speed bump road and enter the big circle (Niger loves circle intersections.  My directionally challenged self loathes them).

Speed bump road – the road you enter when you leave the bridge.  I shouldn’t have to be here either.  (As you can see, these pics were  not taken on the day of this incident – as evidenced by dusk/sunset).

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I think there are 5 ‘spokes’ off of this particular intersection.  I needed to go to the one straight across.  I was either stopped or  just starting to move (I can’t really remember) and I hear the sickening sound of a collision.  And that sound was very close to my vehicle.  Darn it!  It WAS my vehicle.  I had collided with a taxi, or a taxi had collided with me.  Both of us had different viewpoints.  Now as much as I loathe round points (circle intersections), I loathe taxis even more.  Not the drivers personally, but the way they drive their vehicles.  It’s lawless.  The collision was at such a slow speed (remember, I’m not sure I was even moving), that my seat belt didn’t even catch.  What I think happened is Mr. Taxi was coming in from my right, but very close to me.  I was stopped and just started to go as he slithered up the right side of my 4Runner, and it appeared (in hindsight) that he was trying to make a U-turn around me.  His back driver’s side door ran into my right front bumper as he was turning.  That was the sickening sound.  My fiberglass bumper cracked a little bit and his door was banged in a bit, but there was no broken lights or glass.  I stayed put inside my vehicle and he got out of his vehicle and came to me.  He wasn’t an unpleasant man as far as taxi drivers go.  We both asked each other what the other was doing/thinking.

Here’s the intersection where it all happened.

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I’m going to stop my story here. Partly because it’s already getting long and partly because I’m hoping to motivate myself t write more frequently than every 4 months.

I will say this – Regardless of whose fault it was, I wish I would have offered Mr. Taxi some compensation and been on my way.  But I didn’t…. And that I will regret for a long time.  But there were some things to be learned…

 

 

Just Another Saturday

It started like any old normal Saturday.

Wait.

Rewind.

What is a normal Saturday?

We don’t have those so let me start over.

It was a Saturday.  This particular one looked to be quite low-key. Neal was in Diffa (a 2-day drive away) and we were looking forward to him arriving home on Tuesday. Tobi had spent the night with Grama and Grampa so I was on my own.  Nice!  My plans were to finish up the class notes for the Roots of Character class I would start teaching Monday, have lunch with Erin, go to Tobi’s soccer game, and pick up a guest at the airport who was going to be staying with us for 2 weeks.

So, I finished my notes.  Erin came over and we had a nice lunch in a moderately air conditioned restaurant.  This is significant since it was very hot outside – 111 by my outdoor thermometer placed in the shade.  So when I say ‘moderately’ I mean probably cooled to 85 or 90.  Which isn’t 111!  We enjoyed our time together (well, I know I did), which is winding down, since Erin will be leaving in June.  Back at my house we continued to chat (while sweating because my house is not air-conditioned –not even moderately).  I told her she should come to Tobi’s soccer game with me, secretly joking, since the only reason I was going was because I had to – being such a good Mom and all.  (I should give kudos to Grampa here too, since he brought Tobi to his game early, and planned to stay and watch).  I told Erin that I was kidding.  No one except blood relatives should have to go sit out in that heat.

Erin left and I went on my way to be at the game for the opening kick.  Just as I left our house, I took note of a few clouds overhead. Wait. Clouds?  Well if that isn’t just a blessing straight from God.  I wouldn’t have to sit with the sun beating down.  Oh, and the boys wouldn’t have to play soccer in direct sun. That’s good too.

As I continued to drive, I noticed it seemed a bit dark.  Then I made a turn and lo and behold this is what I saw.

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I knew right then we had the makings of a great sand storm. And I was in just the right place at just the right time to get some pretty cool pictures of it.

You can see the red cloud gathering – separate from the ‘real’ clouds.

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To my delight, traffic on the road was seriously reduced- another blessing! And, I was able to snap these pics.

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Maybe that’s what the ‘red’ sea looked like when it was parted.

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I love how the sun is shining behind me as I drive into the storm.

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Wonder if the red car thinks it’s being followed…

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Just about to turn onto the bridge.  So is the sand.

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Guess the red car is crossing the bridge too…

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If you look closely, you can see the people on the right – running.  I’m pretty sure they didn’t get anywhere inside before the sand hit.

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Sun still shining on the sand and the dry river – though not completely dry.

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Headfirst into the sand.

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Heading to the school.  There is a vehicle in front of me.

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Right in the middle of it.  That poor guy.

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When I got to the entrance of the school, I thought at first that no one else was there.  Then I saw a camera flash in the distance.  There were 50+ people there.  Here I’m parked and am facing the soccer field.  Those crazy kids!

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I know the feeling though.  In spite of the sand being, well, sandy, it was a welcome change from the unrelenting heat that we’ve been dealing with.  And that’s not just a pretty color of orange.  It’s sand blowing around and getting into everything and everyone.  I knew my house would be a huge mess when I got home (at least I remembered to take the clothes off the line before I left), but it was OK.  I was happy for the change too.  And I don’t think I was alone.

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I’ve experienced quite a few dust storms over the past 16 years, but none as big or long as this.  And the pics I usually get are from inside the storm – the dark orange look.  This time I was able to be on the outside looking in.  And then be on the inside too.  Usually everything gets dark and within 5-10 minutes the sun is shining again.  This baby lasted a good long time!  I ventured out of the car when the ‘bulk’ of the storm had passed.  I almost went into shock over how cool it was!  And I’m not kidding when I say that I got a chill.  It was only for a millisecond, but it was a chill nonetheless.  Even a couple hairs stood up.  And do you know I didn’t sweat one molecule (that I’m aware of) for the entire game?!  Probably the best soccer game I’ve ever been to.  And to top it off, our guys won!

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They waited for about 20 minutes or so and finally started the game, even though there was very low visibility to the other end of the field.  If 111 degrees isn’t going to stop these guys, certainly a little sand won’t either!  Tobi is somewhere in this picture, covered with sand so we can’t see him.

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We left after the game – happy campers.  Tobi quietly rejoicing in their 3-2 victory (I heard him say to himself, “I really like to win”.)  And me, rejoicing that for a short period of time I was sweat-less.  And I saw the proof of that when I arrived home.  When I left, it was 111 outside and 102 in the house.  When I got home, it was a frigid 89 outside and 101 in the house.  The house had some catching up to do.

Thus my ‘normal’ Saturday comes to an end.  Funny thing is, when you live in Niger it really is rather normal.