I Just Gotta Testify!!!

It’s only 70 degrees right now!  That’s not my whole reason for testifying, but it sure is icing on the cake!  Rainy season is here in full force now, so though it’s quite humid, we have been enjoying some ‘cooler’ days.  But this really takes the cake.  Almost need to get out the sweatshirts!

I have blogged so many things in my head since my last post.  But for various reasons, I am just now getting around to putting it down on ‘paper’.

The month of May was a pretty crazy one for our family.  Even before then, in the ministry, crazy things seemed to be happening much too frequently.  And on top of that, financial responsibilities were piling up into a pretty good sized mountain.  I have long since learned however, that mountains can be moved.

We have good medical insurance, so medical issues, including airfare for Tanika and I to Ghana, and for Trae and Neal to Paris were taken care of.  We just had to buy my ticket to Paris.  Our accommodation in Ghana was very inexpensive, so that even fell under our benefit limit.  Paris, however, was another story.  Neal was allowed $80 for accommodation per night.  One might think that could fetch a decent room.  However, when converted to Euro’s the the cheapest room he found was $158 – per night!  He stayed there for one night.  A meal for Neal in the hospital was E30 – $48!  For hospital food!  So Neal trekked around the streets of Paris looking for more ‘suitable’ food.

In the meantime a good friend of ours was sending our prayer updates to her friends.  One of those friends belonged to a church where the pastor was getting ready to do a missions trip to Paris and knew of a kind of guest house there.  That pastor contacted the people at Parole de Vie (Word of Life) on our behalf.  Parole de Vie then contacted Neal in Paris and told him that he and Trae (and me, when I arrived) would be welcome to stay there.  Wow!  The guest house turned out to be an 18th Century 16-room house that was under renovation.  All I can say is that it was a very cool place.  Though there were people coming and going, Rob and Caira basically gave us the run of the place.  I arrived several days later.  We had our own rooms, a kitchen to use and a TV and DVD player.  The charge per night?  Nothing!  And we gained some friends out of the deal as well.

While in Paris, Neal’s parents were holding things down in Niger.  A ‘funny’ sound was heard by Dad in the engine of our car and he promptly took it to the mechanic.   He emailed us with the news that the engine on our ‘new’ vehicle (now 4.5 years old – guess the honeymoon is over) needed to have the engine rebuilt.  To the tune of $2500.  Well then.   Also due, tuition for our kids school.  Huh.  In addition two of our pastors needed motorcycles, among quite a few other ministry needs.

We know that God provides and frankly, in these situations, I know there isn’t a whole lot we can do but trust in Him.  That’s really nothing new.  That’s one of the benefits of missionary life.  Trusting God every month for our ‘salary’.  When Tanika first got sick, Neal preached a message on joy – that it’s not based on circumstances.  Ours was being tested.  And we were determined to pass the test.  Some days I had to actively choose not to worry.

We were amazed at how people supported us with prayer, and also with extra giving.  It’s quite humbling.   We knew God would provide, but when we got our monthly giving ledger, we were astounded – jaw dropping astounded.  There was enough over our regular personal and ministry budget to pay all of our bills–  car repair, school, expenses in Paris, as well as enough extra to buy at least one of the motorcycles!  It’s funny how we expect God to do it, but are then amazed when He does.

That’s enough to build our faith for all the other things that we believe God has put on our plate to do!

So, as you can see, I just had to testify!

Heat adjustment / School’s out

Our bags were packed and we were ready to go by Monday afternoon.  Caira took us to the airport on Tuesday morning.  That was a huge blessing – so we didn’t have to take the metro with all of our bags.  The fact that we checked only 4 bags when we could have checked 6 really went against my grain.  I’m trained to NEVER come back to Niger without all that I’m allowed to bring.  But I did manage to bring back some mozzarella and parmesan cheese, which was about 1/3 of the price we pay here.  Also brought back some cool pasta and gifts for everyone here.

Our flight went really well.  That is until the pretty strong turbulence towards the end that made me lose my cookies.  But it’s so nice to only have one flight – to almost the same time zone.  So there was no jet lag when we got here.  The only adjustment was the heat.  And what an adjustment!  In Paris, I was taking a very hot shower every night to warm up before getting into bed under 3 thick blankets.  In Niger, I take a shower (wish it was cold but the water comes out hot) to try and cool down before getting into bed.  I realized while in Paris that household chores weren’t really bothersome at all because it was so cool.  In fact I looked forward to doing dishes because I would be able to put my hands in hot water, and to folding laundry because of the warm dryer – while wearing a sweatshirt and flannel pants!  I helped Caira make 13 beds and never broke a sweat.  It was almost like a new experience for me.  All work, no sweat.  Cooking was also pleasant.  Never once felt like I was slaving over a hot stove…I enjoyed the heat of the gas fire.  In Niger I have to be careful in my 100+ degree kitchen not to let dripping sweat pour into my cooking.  Just being real!

We have an outdoor thermometer and though I know it’s not actually this hot outside, when the sun passed over it today it read 125.5.  It’s almost 5pm and it’s now 109 in the shade.  But what’s crazy is we have the AC on in our office and it’s still 95 in here.  But when we walk out of this room, we are hit with a blast of heat!  The rain is coming and temps should drop some.  Waiting (not so patiently) for that.

When it’s this hot, I have to remind myself that the vast majority of people in this nation are living without so much as a fan.  So I don’t need to whine.  But being cool (on a relative basis) is not without cost.  Our electric bill last month was almost unbelievable.  We run an AC in the office in the afternoon if we are desperate, and usually most evenings.  We also have AC’s in our bedrooms and use those at night.  Trae carries Tobi into his own room at night when he goes to bed so 1 less AC is used at night.  Other than that we have fluorescent lights, fans, a fridge, a small fridge and a freezer that run pretty regularly.  Our bill?  $850.  That’s not a typo – eight-hundred fifty.  That’s partly due to the weak dollar, and to the increased cost in electricity.  But, we have realized that our effectiveness here is increased when we know that we will get a good night sleep.  So in the big picture, it’s worth it.  That’s what I’m telling myself.

We arrived back on Tuesday at about 5pm.  Trae had a school banquet to attend at 7.  He made that and had a great time.  The next morning was the last day of school and the final assembly.  We all (Neal & I, Grama & Grampa), went to that.  Tobi preferred sitting with us (between Grama and Grampa to be exact), rather than with his class.  The Student Council gave out various awards and Tanika received one of 2 awards for being ‘most encouraging note writer’.  Sounds just like her!  The Video editing class presented the music video’s they had been working on all semester.  Trae wrote the words and music for his group’s song.  Before his accident, they had recorded the song (he played guitar and sang) and done some of the video.  But the rest of his group had to finish it without him.  It was a pretty cool video.  While it was playing Tobi asked if Tanika had a video.  I told him that she wasn’t in that class, that her class was art.  So he asked if they would be showing her art.  Pretty funny.  Speaking of her art though, she did some pretty amazing drawings this semester – including a really nice self-portrait.  She is the one with the creative bent.  We also have good reason to be proud of Trae and to brag about him a bit.  Sahel Academy belongs to ACSI – The Association of Christian Schools International.  The teachers nominate juniors and seniors for the Distinguished Christian High School Student Award.  Trae is a junior and was selected for outstanding achievement in:  Academics, Leadership, Athletics and Christian Service.  We’re proud of him and it will look great on his college application.

Wednesay night Trae went to the Student Council dinner.  Last night was Sahel Academy graduation.  There were 3 graduates and they came in on camels.  It was pretty cool.  Trae’s class is much bigger than that, and it made me realize that his graduation is going to come sooner than I’d like.  Tobi is with me.  On the way last night he told me that he wished Trae was only in 10th grade.  I asked him why and he said because then he’d stay here longer.  Point taken.  As you can see, the arm in a sling hasn’t slowed him down much.  He’s bummed about not being able to play sports though.

School is out for the summer and we have lots of great ministry stuff planned.  I’m so glad that kids are going to be involved with the things going on.  They don’t get a lot of opportunity for that during school because of their academics/activities.

It’s going to be great!

On to Paris and back to Niger!

We arrived back to Niger on Wednesday and my flight was for Sunday night so I had a few days to hang out and get ready to go again. Grama and Grampa were a huge help with that. Our car had a funny noise so Grampa took it to the mechanic. It was something in the engine that we decided needed to be worked on while I was gone. Tobi got in bed with me every night – I think it was more because the AC in my room was cooler than the AC in his room, rather than because he missed me… But it did provide an opportunity to have some interesting conversations. Tanika and Tobi both made birthday cards for me to take to Neal since he’d be having his birthday while in Paris. Sunday morning I went to both of our Niamey churches so I could thank the members for praying and to give updates. I enjoyed seeing all of them. That night Grama and Grampa came over and after saying goodbye to the kids, Grampa took me to the airport. Tobi was already in bed, but kept getting up. I was doing my best to keep from sweating before leaving by staying in the bedroom with the AC on, but gave up when the electricity went out. I highly dislike getting all sweaty before getting on the plane, which is always freezing.

My flight to Paris was fast and uneventful. I arrived before 6am and had to walk what seemed like for an hour to get to baggage. It was 10 degrees Celcius (about 49) when I arrived and I was trying to figure out what Neal meant when he told me it was warm… Finally got my 2 checked bags and made my way out to hopefully meet Neal. He had already come and gone, being directed to a different entrance. I finally figured out how to use the pay phone right at the time he was returning. He answered the phone as he was walking towards me. He had quite a journey to make to get from where he was to the airport. Now we had to make that journey back, with 2 very heavy suitcases and one very heavy carry on. What a journey it was. It wasn’t over the river and through the woods, but it was on the metro, up stairs, down stairs, on the train, more stairs, bus, and walk up a hill. At this point I was glad it was cold. Even after all of that, I never broke a sweat! It took a couple of hours so I was pretty happy to deposit the luggage in our 16th century room.

A pastor of a friend of a friend hooked us up with this not yet operating guest house in Paris called Word of Life. It’s being restored but they graciously offered to let us stay here at no charge, use the kitchen and basically have the run of the place. It has been incredible, and what a testimony to see how God has provided.

After off-loading the bags, we took another journey (one of which I would get very familiar) to the hospital to see Trae. Depending on the timing of all of the transportation types, it takes between 1 hour, 45 minutes to 2 hours. He was at American Hospital of Paris. Quite a nice place. And finally, there was Trae. Laying in his bed, reading. Looked great really. I could see that Neal had been taking very good care of him. They found a place to rent DVD’s (you can get almost anywhere on the Metro’s if you know what you’re doing) so Neal went to return one and I stayed with Trae. I was feeling pretty tired at that point. After Neal got back, he and I went to Pizza Hut to get some lunch. That was about 1 mile each way. Trae’s hospital meal was fine, but for us to order hospital food and eat with him, it would cost us about $50 – each! Trae didn’t mind. He ate his food, and some pizza!

We left Trae that evening with the schoolwork I had brought to him, and his computer. We were expecting him to be discharged on Wednesday, 2 days later. He was ready for that!

Wednesday came and we went to pick Trae up. Came back to our house and got settled. It’s in a really nice area and we enjoyed just walking around. Trae was up for as much activity as allowed. He was still having some pain at the surgery area, as well as down his arm, but he didn’t let that stop him.  In fact, Trae’s doctor all but prescribed our sight seeing.

We haven’t had any plans to visit Paris even though we’ve traveled through many times. But we decided it would almost be foolish to be here all of this time and not see the sights. So sights we did see. I considered ourselves very fortunate tourists. Our hosts, Rob & Caira are American missionaries here in France. They are wonderful. They have been so helpful, but yet we feel free to come and go as we like. Rob showed Neal how to use the metro and maps, and recommended things for us to do. This is really the best way to see a new place. Not from a hotel as a tourist, but living with someone who knows the place.

Before I arrived Neal and Trae went to the Invalides, where Napoleon is buried. We toured a castle, went up to the top of the Eiffel Tower, went to Notre Dame, Sacred Heart, the Louvre, the Arch of Triumph, Champs d’leysees, and saw Paris from a boat ride on the Seine. We got to know the transportation system quite well. It is really an amazing thing. Paris is really beautiful, and the people – well, we were pleasantly surprised by their kindness. We ate in sidewalk cafe’s, enjoyed chocolate e’claires and croissants, and had our portrait drawn – a 19th anniversary gift to ourselves. In addition to all of that, I was able to see Paris from a resident’s point of view. I have never been to an Ikea store, but was able to go with Caira. I was impressed! It was there I learned you had to pay a deposit to rent shopping carts. You got your money back when you returned the cart to the cue. Also went to a big grocery store. I enjoyed seeing many of the same products we have in Niger in our much smaller stores. But they were a fraction of the price here. I am attempting to bring cheese back to Niger with me in our checked bags. It is so much cheaper here. We were able to buy groceries and do some of our own cooking – not something that most tourists have the ability to do. And what a money saver!  It was there that I discovered that not only do you bag your own groceries, you buy the bags. If you don’t have bags, or don’t want to buy them, you unload your cart to pay for your purchases, then you throw them all back into the cart, one by one , and from there, into your car, one by one. It’s good to remember the bags!

One night we wanted to see Paris after dark. We knew it would be a very late night as it doesn’t get dark here until nearly 10:30. But it was worth it. We went up the Arch of Triumph and saw the 12 roads that fork off from there, as well as the lit up Eiffel Tower. It was pretty cool. That put us back to our suburb at 12:30am. No buses run at that time. So we made the 1 mile track at the end of our trip through what is known as ‘the forest’. We became very familiar with the forest, day and night.

On the metros, especially during rush hour, one can be close enough to smell what others had for breakfast as well as see whether or not they trimmed their nose hairs…It’s funny how we can be so close to people, pressed by bodies on all sides, but have no idea even what their names are.

On one Sunday we visited a baptist church with Rob and Caira. It was enjoyable, particularly since they translated for us. They unexpectedly invited Neal to come up and greet the people and share about what we do in Niger.

Through another one of our partners, we learned of another church in Paris – American missionaries. It was through their website that we learned of meetings that were being done by a group called Shekinah Glory. And Kenneth and Lynette Hagin were speaking there. We were encouraged by the 2 services we attended. Yesterday we went to the American Missionary’s Church (Pastor Tim and Vickie Kilstrom) and had a great time. Neal was invited up again to share testimony. It was yet another journey to get there, but was well worth the effort. They invited us to lunch afterwards which we thoroughly enjoyed. Trae also, enjoyed a break from us as he joined the youth for a picnic (McDonald’s) in the park. We went to a wonderful restaurant, actually only my 2nd sit down restaurant since being here. It was Italian and we loved it. It was so much fun getting to know fellow missionaries. We found that we know many of the same people. And Trae made some new friends too. We didn’t get home until 7pm, and Neal cooked rice and stew. We had planned several days earlier to do that for Rob & Caira – wanted them to experience African cuisine. It was a great day!

A highlight for Neal and Trae, I am quite sure, was their attending the French Open. They mentioned it when Trae was still in the hospital and it was just one of those ‘that would be cool to do’ kind of thoughts. But then we started to really consider it and looked into tickets. It was less expensive then we thought. And Neal did have his birthday coming up. He had some money for that so we decided it would be a great idea for them to go. They got tickets for Tuesday and even though it rained most of the day, they still had a blast. On Thursday, Trae had a doctor’s appointment in the morning, which dawned bright and sunny. The plan was to go to Roland Garros, the stadium, and see if any tickets were available for the outside courts. They scored the cheaper tickets and saw lots of their favorites play throughout the whole day. Neal even got hit by one of the balls, and it dropped right into his hand. What a great souvenier – and it was free! Speaking of free, entrance to all of the Museums for Trae was free, and the prices for us were less then we thought. Some days were free for all, and some were half price after a certain time. We were pleasantly surprised.

Back in Niger…Grama and Grampa are working hard and taking great care of Tanika and Tobi. They have had to do all of the end of the year running around and helping to study for exams. On top of that, I’m quite sure they (Tanika & Tobi!) are both spoiled. Grampa makes them chocolate shakes and mango smoothies every day! That’s gotta stop! Don’t really know what we would have done without them there. This really wouldn’t have been possible for us. But now that we’ve been here, we need to come back and bring Tanika and Tobi with us. Paris is an impressive, old, historical city, well worth visiting.

I have to say that we are ready to be back to normal. Whatever that means. We have the doctors ok, confirmed tickets and we are packed and ready to go. We leave tomorrow morning for the airport at 8am. We will be in Niger by 3:30. We all, for many reasons, are ready to be there! But we are thankful for the leaders we have in the ministry that have been able to carry on through all of this, all while praying for and encouraging us.

God is good!

This is long – I’m trying to finish my story.

We have been in France for some time now and I haven’t even written about it yet.  But I have posted lots of pictures of our time here.  And from those, it certainly doesn’t look like we’re here for medical reasons!

I’m going to try and speed this up.  I’m getting to a good part.  Unbeknownst to me, Tanika went to bed Wednesday night after having a conversation with God – telling Him that she believed she would wake up the next morning without a headache, and that she would be able to see.  Because of her faith.  Thursday morning we woke up and said,  “Mom, I don’t have a headache”.  Now anyone who knows me knows I’m not a morning person.  But that woke me up.  So I handed her my Bible and asked her to read it.  She opened it and began reading.  Up close, without her glasses, just as she could before.  We thanked God and decided that we were ready to go home.  Today!  Not so fast.  Not much moves fast around here.  Dr. Isaac called sometime that morning and I told him what had happened.  He said, “See, I told you it was 60% prayer.”  “No,” I replied, “It was 100% prayer!”  I hope I didn’t offend him — him being a doctor and all.  But they really didn’t do anything.  It was all God.  He later picked us up to go and talk to the Ophthalmologist about the CT scan, and have a few other eye tests done.  Her vision was tested exactly as it had been before.  The doctor said that the CT scan was normal – everything where it needed to be and nothing that shouldn’t be there.  He said he did believe she had inflammation of her optic nerve that could have been caused either by a virus or by stress/strain.  Let me make it clear here that Tanika, along with the rest of us, are expecting the complete restoration of her sight.  So we don’t want to let up just because it’s back to what it was.  But we are thanking God for what He’s already done!

Things weren’t able to be pulled together quick enough that day to move us to a guest house, but we planned on that happening on Friday morning.  Thursday night we went again to our friends house, and also made plans for a pastor friend of ours who had just returned back from Nigeria to pick us up at the guest house on Friday and have lunch together.  Tanika and I had our tea and went to bed.

On the home front…Plans were being made to get Neal and Trae on Thursday night’s flight to Paris….

Here’s a funy side note—When it looked like Tanika and I would be going to Ghana, we realized both her and Trae’s passports were expiring a few days from then – while we’d be in Ghana.  We had new applications filled out and pictures ready, but hadn’t gotten ourselves altogether yet to get them to the American Embassy.  Neal talked to an embassy friend who put us in touch with someone who may be able to help us.  This was a Saturday.  He told us that it would be possible to get an emergency passport on Monday, but at this point it looked like a possibility that we’d leave Saturday night or Sunday.  He told me he really didn’t think it was possible to get the passport on the weekend, but he’d see what he could do.  That process started at about 3pm on Saturday.  By 7pm, Tanika had an emergency passport that looked every bit like a regular one.  We thanked the guy profusely and he just kept telling us that’s what he was here for.  Almost as if we were doing him a favor for letting him do this.  What a guy!  As it happened, we didn’t leave until Monday, so Neal and I decided to meet Trae at the Embassy during his school break that Monday morning so we could get his turned in before we forgot.  It was a quick procedure but I remember saying something to Trae how it’s a good we’re doing this, but it’s not as if he’s going to need his passport anytime soon.  That evening he was hit by a truck.  Wednesday or Thursday Neal realized that we don’t have a passport for Trae in possession.  Back to the embassy he went.  They were able to issue Trae’s emergency passport in a couple of hours.

At first, our insurance said there were no available flights to Paris.  Neal’s Dad was not to be deterred and he went direct to the Air France office and discovered that yes, there were available flights.  So he reserved them.  Back to the insurance to give them that info.  Things were finally set and it was confirmed that they would be flying commercially – economy – to Paris that night.  I wasn’t there for the preparation phase, but I know Neal and he is very good at packing.  In fact I’m sure he did better in a crunch than I would have.  They weren’t expecting to be gone long, so didn’t even check any bags.  Just brought 2 carry-ons.  Neal would be carrying both of those, due to obvious reasons.

Meanwhile, back in Accra…

Friday morning dawns and this is the 2nd day in a row we have our suitcases packed and ready to move to the guest house.  Tanika, however, was not feeling great.  She had a serious case of the trots.  “Tanika”, I told her, “You need to get over this quick!  Dr. Isaac is not going to let us go if you’re not well.  Snap out of it!”  We had been in the hospital too long and I was getting crazy.  She continued to make frequent trips to the bathroom.  She was also the color of the sheets on her bed.  And breakfast held no interest.  Dr. Isaac walked in and asked how we were doing.  “Good”, I said – glancing sideways at Tanika, willing her to pinch her  cheeks a bit and smile.  I finally decided I better mention this little issue to the good doctor.  His reaction was exactly as I expected.  “What?” he said.  “How many times this morning?”  “Seven”, was Tanika’s attempted cheerful reply.  It was here that I began to beg.  I thought about getting on my knees.  I explained that this was just a little bug – nothing.  And that the best things was for us to get to the guest house where we could rest.  After all, they had been bringing our breakfast for some unknown reason every morning between 5:30 and 6.  Who eats then?  And the cleaning of our rooms- that starts at 6am.  Just release us and she can rest.  He let me know what a medical fool he would look like if he discharged her and she had to come back.  He would not be responsible for that.  “I understand.  She’ll be fine.”  He reluctantly agreed and did the discharge.  He was the one driving us to the guest house so we walked down with our bags and waited at the door for him to bring the car up.  Tanika starts vomiting right there at the entrance to the hospital.  I hate to admit it but here’s what I said to her.  “Tanika, hurry up and finish, here comes his car!  We don’t want him to see you like this.”  Too late.  He gets out of his car and it is pretty obvious what is going on.  We still attempted to leave, but not before she had to rush to the lobby toilet twice, and visit 2 trash cans on the way.  Dr. Isaac is looking at me like I’m out of my mind, and I just grabbed a suitcase and headed back into the hospital.  We were so close!  They had already stripped our beds so we were readmitted to a different room.  At least we got a little change of scenery.  They re-inserted the IV, drew blood for tests, gave Tanika an injection to stop all her bodily fluids from forcefully escaping, and began rehydrating her.  I called Pastor Theo and let him know that we didn’t need to be picked up for lunch at the guest house.  But he and his wonderful wife came the hospital to visit, and even brought me some lunch.  Tanika mostly dozed the day away, and I went to Pastor Theo & Monica’s house to get some email done.  By that night, she was feeling much better and we had our dinner and tea together, did some reading and went to bed.

Whatever attacked Tanika that day, attacked me that night.  I didn’t sleep a wink.  I was too busy making trips to the ceramic throne.  I was very tempted to ask for something, after all I was in a hospital.  But the last thing I wanted to do was become a patient.  So I prayed and imagined us in that guest house.  Morning couldn’t come soon enough that day.  A different doctor walked in and asked Tanika how she was doing.  “Good” she said.  He then said that he would let Dr. Isaac know and he would begin making plans to discharge us.  We were surprised, but beyond thrilled.  This time it was Alex, the paramedic that transported us to the long awaited guest house.  Very nice place – a guest house of the ministry our friends have in Accra – Agape Gospel Mission.

Next step was to make arrangements to get back home.  This was also proving to be quite a challenge.  I’ve already explained what it would take to fly commercially from Africa to somewhere else in Africa.  We would have to fly from Ghana to Ivory Coast to Burkina Faso before reaching Niger.  It’s about 12 hours – if all goes well with the different flights.  And to have all of them do what they’re supposed to do is not a very high probability.  I had been telling all involved from day 1 about SIM AIR – a mission that could fly from Niamey to Accra to pick us up and take us home.  Dr. Isaac was all in favor of that, as he said he told our insurance company that there was no way he would approve for us to fly commercially the way it would need to be done.  He’s an African so he knows what that would mean.  I was sure thanking God for him!  But the final decision was not his to make.  Frugality won out.  In the end, SIM AIR actually ended up being cheaper than a commercial flight.  And it was a 3 hour direct flight.  That was settled, though they couldn’t come and get us until Tuesday.

Over to Paris…Neal and Trae had a good flight to Paris.  It’s only about 5 hours.  They ate on the plane, then slept, then woke up and they were there.  It was 6am Someone was there with one of those plaques with their name on it, and they were taken to the hospital for admission.  And x-ray was taken immediately.  The doctor later came and put a strap on Trae – saying that if it looked like the strap would hold things in place by the x-ray the next morning, surgery would not be necessary.  Sounded good.  The next morning’s x-ray came and it was found that no, the 3 part break was not going to stay in place to heal on its own.  Surgery would in fact be necessary and a metal plate would need to be inserted.  They would have, however, some days to enjoy Paris because the doctor said that due to Trae’s other accident injuries, he would not do surgery until he had been on an anti-biotic for 10 days.  That was still a week away.  And then recovery would be another 3 weeks after that.  In France.  That would bring them home on the Sunday after school was out.  This was a lot for us all to digest.  At this point Tanika and I had been in Ghana for 5 days, Grama and Grampa were with Tobi who seemed to handling everything really well, and Neal and Trae were in France, looking at a month stay.  That would take Trae to the end of the school year.  That was one of the biggest disappointments.  He, as the Student Council President, had been really involved in school all year.  So to have to miss all of the end of the year stuff, including saying goodbye to friends that he’d have no idea when he’d see again, was a major bummer.   We talked to the doctor and explained the above and he agreed that if all went well, he’d release him earlier.  Though I’m not to the end of the story, I can say here that all went well and Trae, Neal and I will be returning to Niger on Tuesday, June 3rd.  Tickets are confirmed.  He will be there for the Senior banquet, put on by the juniors.  That’s Tuesday night.  The student council dinner was supposed to be earlier but I reminded him that he, as president, had every right to change that.  So that will be Wednesday night.  Graduation is Thursday night so he will be able to see his friends.

Tanika and I had a couple of nice days in Accra.  We went to church with our friends on Mother’s day.  I was still struggling with digestive (or something) issues, but was able to make it through the service.  It was in English, and in an air conditioned place.  That was pretty great.  We enjoyed the mild weather, while everyone there was talking about how hot it was.  It’s all perspective!  I continued to keep in touch with everyone through phone, since it was so cheap in Accra.  I have a funny story of one of my attempts to get a phone card, but I’ll have to save that for another time.  I finally decided to take some Cipro for my ‘condition’, and it helped greatly.  We managed to get out of the hospital and were now completely focused on getting home.   Accra is a beautiful city, complete with beaches and shopping malls.  And as much as I love those things and don’t have anything remotely close to them in Niger, I had no desire to do anything like that.  We just wanted to get home.  It was kind of a strange feeling.

Given Trae’s situation, we decided that I would fly to Paris to be with them, and to bring Trae’s books so he could finish his school.  In light of that, I was really counting on leaving Ghana on Tuesday so I could be at home a couple of days and make Thursday night’s flight to Paris.  (There are only 3 flights/week to Paris) I really wanted to be there for the surgery on Saturday.  Really wanted to be there.   I received a phone call on Monday night and that because of the weather, the plane was not going to be able to take off from Niger on Tuesday.  I already had my bags packed again.   Tobi was ready for us to be home, and Grama and Grampa were ready for us to be home.  I was ready for us to be home.  That was a point that I felt really discouraged.  I called Neal to whine to him because now I didn’t know what to do.  This wouldn’t put me home until Wednesday earliest – and how would I manage to be ready to leave again on Thursday.  He assured me that everything would be ok, and that he and Trae were both fine without me there for the surgery.  I guess that was good…  This was one of those points that I really had to encourage myself.  I prayed and asked the Lord what I should do.  I wanted to be there for surgery, but I also wanted to spend some time with Tobi.  God mostly speaks to me through peace, and I felt that the most when I considered staying until Sunday night’s flight.  I would miss the surgery, but I would have 4 days with Tobi and everyone else.  So in the end, that’s what I did.  I was still frustrated that I couldn’t be there with Neal while surgery was going on, and it was nerve wracking waiting for him to call after it was over, but I felt right about the choice I had made.

Tobi really did seem to be doing fine.  I don’t know what we’d do if Grama and Grampa weren’t there for him – he’s just so comfortable with them, and I’m quite sure I will get called ‘Grama’ a lot when we first get home.  He asked a couple of times why I had to go, but that was only after prompting him to talk about how he was feeling about all of this.  When I told him it was ok to feel both happy and sad at the same time he said ‘really?’

Back in Accra, Wednesday morning came and with it our ride to the airport.  Kevin, the SIM pilot was on his way to Accra.  We made our way through the airport and waited for him.  It was great to see him walk in the door.  He explained that we would need to go through immigration, then we’d meet him outside at the plane.  I asked how we’d know the plane.  “It’s the smallest one out there.”  Alrighty then.  Followed his instructions, looked out and saw a tiny plane.  A very tiny plane.  I had never seen SIM’s plane before.  It almost looked like a toy from my vantage point.  I was thrilled with it.  We were going home.  And Kevin and SIM AIR had helped make it possible.  We walked out to the plane and Tanika got in first.  He said I could sit in the front if I wanted.  Of course I wanted – I could pretend to be the co-pilot!  Tanika got buckled in, then Kevin, then I followed him by climbing up the wing and into my seat.  I was suddenly thankful that I had taken the Cipro and my tummy was doing well at this point – this would not have been a very good position to have issues.  I could just imagine…”Ummm, excuse me.  Is there any way you could make an emergency landing?  I need to use the bush.  Now.”  The flight was 3 hours and 20 minutes and it was amazing to see the changes that took place as we flew out of the tropics and into the desert.  Pretty cool.  I had to laugh when I saw Niamey from the air.  Though it’s our capital city there wasn’t much there when compared with other cities we passed over.

We landed and drove right up to the hangar where Grama, Grampa and Tobi were waiting.  It was good to see them!  Tobi was pretty impressed with the plane we rode in.

Tanika went to school the next day and was amazed at how happy everyone was to see her back.  It had been awhile since she’d missed a week of school before we even went to Ghana.  She was so blessed by all the praying that had been done on her behalf.   The teachers were all so gracious in helping her get caught up with all she had missed.

Now I was ready to debrief in Niger, and plan for a trip to France.

God is good and we have the victory.

Where was I?

Today was a gorgeous day in France, but I’ll save that for later. For now, let me get back to my story. I was in Accra, at the hospital, standing outside Tanika’s doctor filled room listening to Neal tell me that my son had been hit by a truck.

I returned to the room and as calmly as I could, explained to Tanika what had happened. She immediately fought tears and asked if Trae was OK before I could get it all out. The doctors – in their infinite wisdom – all assured us that Trae would be fine and that all would be well. As soon as they left, Tanika and I prayed for Trae and the situation as we knew it. And for ourselves. Then we had some tea and toast and went to sleep.

The next morning, Dr. Isaac, the doctor from the airplane came and brought me a SIM card for my phone, along with phone credit. He was a great guy. We immediately called Neal to find out what was happening there. Neal spent the night in the hospital with Trae. The news was that the doctor would be coming to ‘pop’ the bones into place by pushing Trae’s shoulders back. Yikes! Then they would put it in a brace and it would heal. The gouge in his back where the truck hit him was stitched together, and the left side of his body was bruised. There was also a big chunk missing from his heel—he was wearing flip-flops! But they were to be released to go home that day.

Meanwhile, Tanika and I were taken by ambulance to see the ophthalmologist. The vision test revealed that she could see movement and color. The very nice doctor gave her the lovely dilating drops and looked in here eyes every which way. He said he suspected that her optical nerve was inflamed but couldn’t be sure. He wanted her to have an MRI. Sounds good, except that the MRI machine in Ghana was broken. Well, a CT scan would have to do. So that was scheduled for the next day – nothing in Africa moves too quickly.

Back to the hospital we went. Tanika and I sat on the bed, wondering what to do with ourselves. In fact I do believe we were beginning to feel sorry for ourselves. And we felt lonely. We looked at each other and started laughing because we were both crying. I grabbed my Bible – she couldn’t read at this point so was subject to whatever I wanted her to hear. We read some verses, and I read to her from a book we had started at home called “Christ the Healer”. Then we put some good worship music on my Ipod and put on our headphones. We began to feel better, and I remembered that I had the phone number of some missionaries in Accra that we met about 10 years ago, and used to live in Nigeria so are friends with Neal’s parents. We met them that one time – 10 years ago, and haven’t seen them since. I wondered if I should call them. Ten years is a long time. Tanika begged me too. We were bored! I called Donna’s cell number and she answered. I was so glad I did. She sounded genuinely happy to hear from us, and said she was hoping we’d call. She made plans to visit us that evening with 3 of her 6 children. It was great to have a visit from them. And it was a big deal for them to get to the hospital, considering traffic in Accra! So that made our day. Then, to top it off, we got a call from my parents. It was good to talk with them. We were feeling better.

Back on the homefront… I made another call to Neal. (I was the official ‘phone caller’ as we discovered that I could make international calls the cheapest from Ghana). They had had countless visitors, including Trae’s English class from school. (Made Tanika and I just a bit jealous, but we were happy for Trae!) Turns out the doctor there never showed up, even after they went searching for him. The hospital told Neal they’d have to stay another night. So they decided to take matters into their own hands. They heard of a Belgian bone doctor in Niamey so they went and showed him the xray. He said it wasn’t a very good xray, but he didn’t know why they kept Trae in the hospital, that he could go home. He would give him a strap. They checked out of the money seeking hospital against medical advice, (Niger medical advice) and went home.

Tanika and I slept in the Accra hospital, and Neal and Trae were back at home. Tanika and I wanted as many details as possible. We were trying to imagine how Trae was, broken bone, bruised with stitches, trying to sleep. And it was very odd to me that this had happened and I hadn’t even seen Trae yet, but everyone else had.

I realized that it is for times like this that you prepare yourself for battle. You don’t wait until the day of the fight to get ready. That’s all done in advance. But then you still have to choose to use your training. I can’t tell you how often I had to ‘pull down’ vain imaginations and replace them with promises from the word of God. I had 2 kids in hospitals in 2 different countries for goodness sake!

Stay tuned.

Where do I start?

It has been exactly 1 month since my last post. And what a month it’s been! We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve counted it all joy, we’ve been frustrated, we’ve been angry, we’ve been scared, we’ve been lonely, we’ve been in pain, we’ve been happy, we’ve been tired, we’ve been amazed, but most of all we’ve been astounded by the faithfulness of our God. He is good and He never fails.

On April 29th I sent out an urgent prayer request concerning our daughter, Tanika. She was suffering with severe headaches and had significant vision loss. This continued to the point that with the advice of several doctors, we felt it necessary for her to have some tests done to find the cause. We contacted our insurance company and their medical team agreed so they began arrangements to evacuate us. Niger has no ability or doctors to do the exams needing to be done. The choice was made for Tanika and I to travel to Accra, Ghana. On Monday, May 5th, a plane flew from Accra to Niamey to pick us up. At this point Tanika had been having headaches for 2 weeks with no relief. She could basically see only movement and color. She had missed a week of school. The plane was accompanied by a flight crew of 4, a doctor and a paramedic. All for Tanika and I. It was quite a trip. She was hooked up to an IV and several other things to monitor her while in flight. It wasn’t first class, but she was lying down. We landed after a less than 3 hour flight and were taken by ambulance directly to the hospital where she was admitted and I was able to stay right with her in the room. Dr. Isaac kindly let me borrow his phone to call Neal and let him know we had arrived and were settled. At first I thought Neal’s excited voice was out of excitement to hear mine. Once he ascertained that we were in place he said these words to me. “Don’t freak out. He’s ok. Trae’s had an accident and he’s in the hospital. He broke his collarbone and is banged up.” At this point I’m just thinking that I’ve just seen him about 4 hours ago. And WHAT hospital? What hospital in Niger would I want my son in? And what happened? And I really am I’m working on not doing that freaking out thing. And wait a minute. I’m the one with the child that was medically evacuated. I can prove it. I’m standing right outside of her hospital room where all the doctors are around her. How could he have had an accident? This is not making sense. But what I said was “What happened”. You will just have to figure out for yourself how that actually sounded. The next thing Neal said was ‘He was hit by a truck’. At this point I began to realize two things. The enemy was seriously trying to discourage us by attacking our kids, and that God’s hand was definitely on them, and us. This became even more clear as I learned the details of the accident. He was on his motorbike getting ready to make a left turn. There was a taxi behind him that saw him and stopped. There was a truck (Neal described it to me as a Uhaul sized truck) behind the taxi that did not see Trae. He began to illegally pass the taxi as Trae was starting to make the turn. The truck hit Trae in the shoulder, ejecting him from the bike. Trae, realizing he was laying in a busy road, actually got up, took off his helmet and crossed to the other side and then realized that things were not right. He laid back down on the ground. Several people saw the accident and thankfully were there to testify to the police exactly what happened. The accident was officially ruled the fault of the truck driver. Trae doesn’t know anyone’s phone numbers in his head as they were all stored on his cell phone. He doesn’t have his cell phone anymore because it was stolen. But he remembered that he had the number of a friend from school written on his hand. Someone he plays soccer with saw him and stopped – and called his friend’s number. He was actually right by her house when he was hit – he was going there to return her ipod. Anyway, he called her and told her to call his Dad and tell him he had been hit by a truck. That’s what Esther did. She called Neal and basically said, “Trae needs you, he’s been hit by a truck”. Ya think? Then she told Neal where Trae was. Tobi was already in bed so Neal called his Mom and said something like “You need to come and stay with Tobi, Trae has been hit by a truck and I have to go and help him.” Grama and Grampa rush to our house and arrive just after Neal has left. Grampa met him at the ‘site’, as well as Pastor Moctar who helped take care of police stuff. Neal took Trae to the hospital where an xray confirmed a broken clavicle.

This all took place about 1 hour after Neal, Trae, and Tobi saw Tanika & I off at the airport.

To be continued…