I can’t keep quiet.

I’m not much into discussing controversial stuff on Facebook or on my blog – or at all for that matter.

But the recent Planned Parenthood stuff, well, I can’t keep quiet.

Except I have no words. Only tears. I see the videos and read the articles and am almost speechless as I’m taken back to when our daughter was born at 24 weeks. She looked like the baby in this photo.  Those could be my hands.  She was born on August 7, 1992.

This baby girl was born in Feb. 2007 after just under 22 weeks in the womb. (AP File Photo)

Here I’m holding a 2 month old Tanika – she’d already changed our lives.

Tanika baby

There are countless people in the world whose lives would be different today if Tanika Childs​ wasn’t a part of them.  Not to mention the direct and indirect impact she will have on people over the course of her life to come.


So that makes me ask, “What are our lives missing today, what is my life missing today because of the 1000’s of babies -100’s of 1000’s of people – that have been murdered?”  And as I think, I realize that my thoughts are even selfish.  I feel like I’ve been ripped off.  We’ve been ripped off.

But what about those babies?  Torn limb by limb for the sake of convenience and yes, for profit.  Why are we more concerned for lions and underfed puppy dogs then we are human life?  I can’t wrap my head around it.  I don’t want to.

And Moral Compass? How about we just start with what God says about all this? I’m picturing Him right now standing, not sitting on His throne, but standing, looking down and weeping.

God deliver us.

Jesus Thinks About Me

This is an article I wrote over a year ago, but never ‘published’.  The family information is outdated, but the message remains the same.  I’ve added a family update at the end.

The other night I caught myself thinking about my children….again. And I began to realize that my thoughts turn towards them multiple times a day – without me even realizing it.


Trae, my oldest, is married to Christi – which blesses me with another child to think about. They are teaching English in South Korea and are expecting our first grandson in a matter of weeks. I’ve already spent lots of time ‘thinking’ about him!

Trae and Christi

Tanika is just finishing her junior year of college, studying special education.

Tobi lives with us in Niger and is almost done with 7th grade. He attends an international mission school in the town we live in.

I appreciate that I’ve seen where each of them are living life right now. It helps me when I’m missing them to picture them where they are.

As I lay in bed thinking about my offspring, I realized that I wasn’t really thinking about them, I was praying for them. And I do that often. And then I heard the Lord whisper to me,

“You think your thoughts turn towards your kids a lot? You have NO idea. You – you’re my kid. And you’re always on my mind.”

Then Psalm 139: 17,18 popped into my sleepy head.

How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with You.

And here I am thinking that I think about my kids a lot!

God’s thoughts towards me cannot be numbered. I live in a desert, so I can tell you from first hand experience, grains of sand cannot be counted! NOT possible.

Neal & Tobi in sand

As I see Tanika in her dorm room or standing in line at the salad bar, and I picture Trae and Christi leaving their cute (tiny) apartment to get on the bus that takes them to their job and the classroom they’ll be teaching in, or I see Tobi playing soccer with his friends, Jesus sees me. Me! He knows exactly where I’m living my life. The creator of the universe spends time thinking about me!

And more than that, He’s praying for me. Romans 8:34 tells us that not only did Jesus die for us and return to life, but he is sitting at God’s right hand….interceding for us! As a Scottish friend of mine says, ‘Have a think on that’! Jesus himself, praying for me!

Why do I think about and pray for my kids? Because I love them. Why does Jesus think about and pray for me? Because He loves me. And I love him – because He first loved me! I hope you’re following my logic here.

The Bible says, if you love me, you will keep my commandments. So that got me thinking (guess I’ve been doing lots of that recently) about how I could show Jesus my love. The answer is pretty straightforward.

By keeping His commandments. There are multiple scriptures that talk about this. Here are a few:

  1. Jn 14:15 If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.
  2. Jn 14:21 He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me
  3. 1 Jn 2:3 And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments
  4. 1 Jn 5:2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.
  5. 2 Jn 6 And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it.

But I particularly love I Jn 5:2 –…. His commandments are not burdensome. He wants us to succeed in obeying Him.

Hausa Bible

He’s not expecting something impossible from us. One of the main reasons He wants us to keep those commandments is so He can bless us.

Now let me go one last step with my thinking. What are His commandments? Well, as a missionary the first thing I think of is the Great Commission.

Probably the most well known version of the Great Commission is Matthew 28:18-20

The Great Commission

…18And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19″Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

The Bible is full of examples of both God’s heart for the lost and His instruction to us to reach them.

village church

And His heart cry is clearly shown in the Gospels. In Matthew 23 Jesus is preaching to his disciples and to the crowds. He preached this message just a few days before he was crucified.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.”

Isn’t that how we feel when our children face danger, discouragement or difficulty? Or when we see them walking a destructive path? We want to protect them. To gather them to us and shelter them. It grieves us when we have the answer to their problem and they reject it. It can cause us to shed tears.

Do we shed tears over the lost?

2 girls

Jesus was weeping over the tragedy of the missed opportunity of salvation. Their answer was walking right there among them and instead of receiving him, they crucified him. This hurt his heart.

In Luke 19 He starts to weep as he approaches Jerusalem and says almost the same thing He said in Matthew 23.

Why was Jesus weeping? He was weeping because He is not willing that any should perish. The Bible clearly says this.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Pet 3:9

church praise

He was thinking of me. He was thinking of you. And He expects us to think of, no, to reach the lost. He’s given that responsibility to us. He wants us to finish what He began. Honoring and loving Jesus by obeying His call to reach the nations is something He has equipped us to do.

Are you thinking about the unreached? Are you weeping for the lost? Are you reaching them? Are you rejoicing when they find salvation?

Danette & lady

If you love Jesus, you will obey his commandments.


Trae and Christi have our precious 1 year old Judah Neal Childs, and have just announced officially that #2 is on the way (major happy dance here).  They are living in Baton Rouge, LA and are working for Pastor Larry Stockstill and Bethany Church.


We were hoping to take the little guy with us…


Tanika has graduated from Oral Roberts University with her degree in Special Ed/Elementary Ed and will be going to Nigeria to teach school in Benin City Nigeria in August.


Tobi is getting ready to start High School at Sahel Academy in Niamey, Niger – he’s an awesome kid.  Here he is with his nephew.


Clearly, we are blessed.

A Journey Through the Desert

We’ve made the trip between Maradi and Niamey, Niger over the last 15 years countless times.  Literally.  But I don’t believe I’ve ever dedicated a blog post specifically to the trip.  So here goes.

Niamey, the capital of Niger, is located in the south-western part of the country.  The majority of the population also lies on the southern border, known as the Sahel Region.  Not many people live up in the north, because that’s the Sahara Desert.  So this journey takes us about halfway through the country, from West to East, along the Southern border.

Niger Map

We once completed the 388 mile road trip  in 6 hours 45 minutes.  That was years ago. And I know that’s not going to win the Indy, but when compared to our longest time…. What was our longest time you ask?  Well that’s up for debate.  Do you count the trip with the 6 flat tires?  Or the one where the front tire actually flew off the vehicle?  Or what about the time the whole thing seized up and we had to leave our vehicle on the road and take public transport the rest of the way home? Or how about when the brakes went out and we had to completely turn around and go home to get them fixed and leave again the next day?   I could go on.   But I won’t.

This particular journey was just a couple of weeks ago.  We went to Maradi to celebrate the New Year.  Tanika was home visiting and hadn’t been in Maradi in a few years.  Since she spent nearly 9 years of her life there, it was time for a visit.  But I digress.  This is about the actual road trip.  Besides Neal and myself and Tanika in the vehicle, Tobi was of course with us, as well as Sukala and his new wife Rakkiya.  So the 4 of them were pretty cozy in the back seat. But the fun made up for the squishiness.  I think.

The road is always in various stages of repair and since we’ve lived here has never been completely good.  By that I mean there has always been a significant section of road that is in bad shape.  And I mean really bad shape.  Right now it’s the portion between Guidan Roumdji and Birnin’ Konni, closer to Maradi.  I can’t really say the actual distance, but it takes about 3 hours to get through it.  It shouldn’t take that long.  Fortunately, it is being worked on.  I’m trying not to notice the part of the road that is starting to deteriorate which will soon become the next really bad section.

Most of the rest of this post will be photos, most taken on our return trip to Niamey from Maradi.  But a few pics are actually from the trip to Maradi from Niamey.  Like this one.  This is the Niamey gate as we are leaving the city.  The sun is coming up.  We are driving toward the sunrise.  Pretty, but makes for a couple of squinty hours, even with sunglasses.


And now here we are on the other end.  Leaving Maradi, January 2nd, 2014 – the Maradi city gate.  We left at the same time as we did in Niamey 4 days earlier, but sunrise here is earlier.


The sun is behind us this time.


The open road.  Sort of.


All 6 of us, ready for the long journey.  Again – sort of.


This is the 2 lane road that crosses the country.


Overloaded trucks.


Often turn into this…


No potholes!  And fortunately these cows/carts were on the side.  Often, we share the road with them.


Here’s one way to move your goods across the country.


Check out the camels on the left.  Another mode of transportation.


There are countless small villages along the road.  All with their own speed bumps – usually 4 or 6 of them!


No, we weren’t off-roading.  This was a detour of sorts.

IMG_2781Hopeful signs of road construction.


On a journey like this, one does not like to hear unfamiliar noises coming from any part of the vehicle.  A couple of hours in, we heard such a sound.  And it wasn’t a good one.  First thought – a blown tire?  I can’t really describe the sound except to say it was loud and sounded like kind of a big deal.  We slowed and stopped with no problems (except for the sound).  Sukala jumped out and immediately saw the problem, which turned out not to be much of a problem at all.  The bull guard came loose/off.  Wonder how that happened?


It was a quick job to pick it up and pack it inside.


And to be on our way.


Lots and lots of trucks on the road today – both directions.  A railroad system in this country would go a long way to saving the roads!


Beggars often stand (strategically I might add) near the potholes where one is forced to slow down.


These donkey carts are pulling water that has been pulled up from a well and poured into the yellow plastic containers.


And these donkey carts are pulling what we call zanna – fences made from millet stalks.


This is the time of year that dry season farming is done.  There is no rainfall to speak of, but it is done in areas that can be irrigated.  These are onions growing.


Getting close to a town.  Various sized bags of onions being sold on the right.


Tight squeeze.  The trucks really are road hogs.  But check out the palm tree!


This is the town of Madaoua and the building on the right is the main mosque there.


More water being transported by the beast of burden.


Following trucks also causes this problem.


This little yellow sign is telling us that we get to do more off-roading ahead.


Time for a pit stop.  Boys on the left side of the road, girls on the right.  I’m guessing Tobi and Sukala didn’t know I took their picture!  =)


The ladies bathroom.


The ladies exiting the bathroom.


And now that the bladders have been relieved, its snack time.  Fried locusts!


I’m not kidding.  These guys really love them.  In fact it was a request Tanika had when she got here.  Tobi looks like he’s enjoying these bugs way too much!


Yep, my handsome husband/chauffeur loves them too.


Not me.  I’ll stick with fried fish.  (Thanks to the last team that was here!)


When homes are made out of the ground they are built on, they can be pretty hard to spot.  As can be seen (or not), by this village in the distance.  The white structure that can be seen is the village Mosque and is located in the right, front part of the village.


Some sections of the road are quite nice.  And what a view!  You should see it during rainy season.


This hill is steeper than it looks, and not everyone can make it up – even if they think they can…


This appears to be a temporary cement mixing factory…  We had to wait for the donkey cart to pass.


Another town, another mosque.


This is Galmi Hospital.  A hospital that is run by SIM, a mission organization that has been working in Niger since the 1920’s.  They have served thousands and thousands of people using medicine and the Gospel.  I actually had surgery here when I was pregnant with Tobi.


One of countless cell towers erected in the middle of nowhere.  What stood out to me was the dish covered in red dirt…Anyone got a hose?


This man is carrying a generator on his head.  Good thing, cause there is no electricity in site!


Another generator – This one will be used to run a pump to irrigate this field.


More positive signs of road work.


Getting close to another town – there are even road signs here.


More onions for sale.


Fuel stop.


And it’s full service!


This is not Quick Trip, but there are lots of things that can be bargained for – Tanika and Tobi I think were buying bread.  And check out the King Tat candy bars being held out for Tanika to consider.


Once again, thanks to our previous team, we also had M&M’s to snack on.


This camel really is owned by someone.


So are these cows.


We’re almost to the end of the bad road, but there are a few stray bad spots.


This man is carrying 20-gallon plastic containers – quite valuable they are.


The road smooths out some, and with full bellies…


This is what happens.


As long as the trip is, we can always be thankful that we’re not traveling like this!


Some villages put up speed bump signs to warn you of the impending obstacle.  That’s what the sign on the right is.


More onions!


This is a section of road that was repaired a couple of years ago.  There’s water here most of the year, but I have no idea the source.


These little boys are just having fun in their cart.


Islam, the predominant religion in Niger, is required to have beggars because they have to ‘give alms’.   So  as sad as it is, seeing beggars of all shapes and sizes is part of the culture and landscape of this nation.  This man is camped out at a speed bump, asking for those alms – or anything one wants to give him.


A church!!  There aren’t many as you make your way across the land, but there are many more than there used to be.  And they will continue to increase as we stand on God’s Word that He is giving us every place we put our feet!


This is a market place.  But it’s not market day here so it’s empty.


Yet another overturned truck.


This is one of the many, many busses we pass that transport people between cities.


For some reason tractors always make me laugh when I see them tooling down the road.


The people you see walking are students.  It’s noon, and the schools are out.  They will go back at 3pm.


Another one!


The mosques are usually the only thing in a village that gets a coat of paint.


I was kind of impressed by the artwork on this truck.


Dosso city gate!!


Yep – there are even traffic lights here!


This station looks pretty much like the first one.  We typically have to make these 2 stops for fuel, which is about $6/gallon.


Horsin’ around.


Standin’ around.


This station actually has a locked toilet that as far as I can tell is reserved for foreigners.  It flushes and has running water.  BYOT.P.  Unless of course all you need is the plastic tea kettle conveniently located.  As nice as it is, this isn’t always the best plan though,  because as opposed to the ‘bush toilet’ where everyone can go at the same time, this is a one -umm, ‘seater’,  so takes more time.


I took this picture because it’s the town of Birnin’ Gaoure, and we (Vie Abondante) have a church in this town.


This is a common way to carry babies, even on motorcycles.  There are 3 people on this one.  The little guy is tied to his Mom with a piece of cloth.


As we get closer to home, we have the option of getting fresh chicken at a ‘drive-through’.  We turned down the opportunity though, as it was a bit too fresh for me.


This mosque is made of mud hasn’t been painted.


You know those transport busses I mentioned.  These passengers got an  unplanned break.  They’re probably waiting for another bus to come and rescue them.


This one is a bit fancier.


Mango trees!  And they’re starting to bud.


The area around the mosque is kept quite clean.


I don’t know what’s inside this truck, but the all those things hanging off the sides are plastic teapots – like the kind in the fancy bathroom.  These are very common in this culture, because the Muslims pray 5 times a day, and they go through a ritualistic washing process before every prayer time.  That’s one of the main things they use these little kettles for.


Firewood is being loaded onto this vehicle.  It will likely be taken to Niamey and will be sold.  So I guess you could say this is the warehouse.


Same thing here, and believe it or not, they are going to add the firewood to that load.  There is always room for more stuff.


Getting close now.  This is the entrance to the ‘giraffe reserve’.  By entrance I mean the place you go and pay and pick up a guide.  By reserve I mean that the giraffe are protected, but as far as I know not really followed that closely.  We rely on the guides who rely on their good or not so good tracking skills.  Some are definitely better than others.   You drive your vehicle into the bush with the guide on the top, armed with a stick.  We’ve done it tons of times and it really is a pretty cool experience.   Not today though.


I like taking pictures of tractors.


The top of the van is loaded with goats.


Pretty impressive section of road.  It’s all about perspective…


Water tower.


Village well in the foreground, but hard to see unless you’re looking for it.


Outskirts of Niamey.


This is called the Peage.  This is where you pay your road tax.  You know, to help pay for road repairs and stuff.


I snuck this picture a little closer.  That’s one thing I didn’t get pictures of that are a major part of this journey.  All the checkpoints.  Not a good idea to have your camera out at these.  A checkpoint is essentially a rope that crosses the road, that is often hard to see.  But that’s ok, because you can pretty much expect them in every village.  And there are 2 types.  Sometimes they are together and sometimes separate.  One is simply checking that you actually paid your road tax.  The other one is a police checkpoint.  More often than not they just wave you on, but sometimes they want to see your papers, and sometimes they just want to chat.  Especially if they discover you speak Hausa. Over the years, I have found that almost always the people at these checkpoints are very friendly and they smile a lot.


Niamey city gate!!


The airport is off to the right.


Airport entrance.  You can see the air traffic control tower on the left.


Construction is always going on in this growing capital city.


Getting busier.


This young man is selling boxes of kleenex.  The Grand Mosque is in the distance.


There it is as we drive by.  This is the main mosque for Niamey.


Getting close to the new overpass.


Going under the new overpass.  It’s really quite fancy.


I really like those carpets on the left.  They’ve been displayed there for quite some time.  I wish someone would buy them!


Some might find this sweet or productive, but for some reason it drives me crazy!  There are several intersections in town where these little guys sneak up from behind with their squeegees and wash your windows, uninvited.  They always startle me because they just appear, even when you’re looking for them!  I think the thing that annoys me is that even if you tell them not to smear your windows, they never listen.  (And to their credit, they actually do sometimes clean them).


A bike and a car meet unexpectedly.  Unfortunately a common occurrence.


We have arrived at Sukala and Rakkiya’s house.  Unloading their stuff.  They are both from the Maradi area, and this was their first trip their since their wedding.  So they are unloading gifts they were given.  Well, that and the bull guard.


A carton of ramen noodles was one of the gifts.


Thanks for the memories.


Sukala heading into his home.


Continue on to our home.


Our road.  Our gate is right after the big tree down on the right.


Our gate.


Home Sweet Home.




Guess she missed her pillow.


More stuff to unload!


Our Christmas stuff was still there to welcome us home, but that will come down in a few days.  I think.


So, there you have it.  A trip through the nation of Niger!  It’s not for the faint-hearted.  But much can be learned about the country and the culture as you journey across this vast and beautiful desert land – especially if you have a breakdown.  Which thankfully, we did not.  This time.

Unprovoked Miracle

Each of our children are unique.  One of the unique things about Tanika is that ‘things’ seem to happen to her without explanation.  It’s been like this since the day she was born.  (Who can explain surviving all odds and living against doctor’s ‘recommendations’, except it was a bonafide miracle?)  Had I been writing this blog back in 1992 there would surely be many posts of these unexplainable instances.   This entry is about one such time.

It happened on a Thursday a few weeks ago.  Tanika came home from school with her left hand/wrist wrapped in an ace bandage.  Of course I asked right away what was amiss.  She said with all the detail of a teenager, “I hurt my wrist.”  Is that so.  I stubbornly waited for more information without asking for it (this may be where she gets her stubborn streak).  She finally caved and began to explain that she was straightening out her arm/hand and rolling her wrist, the way one does when one is feeling fatigued from writing (note she is not left-handed).  Suddenly something kind of ‘popped’, and her wrist started swelling and was paining her (please excuse my incorrect grammar, but it seems so much more efficient to speak as an African would and change the noun to a verb).  She was given ice packs to keep on it and swallowed some Tylenol.  When she came home the swelling was gone but the pain wasn’t.  There really wasn’t much of an explanation as to what had happened.  Really no event that instigated the pain.  We figured it couldn’t be broken and that it just needed time to heal itself.  By Saturday morning things were no better.  In fact, it seemed that she couldn’t turn her lower arm so as to position her thumb to point up.  And her wrist looked a bit twisted.

I avoid local doctors here like I would avoid a beehive.  (The reasons for that would be a topic for another post).  However, we thought maybe an x-ray was called for.  And I wasn’t even too sure about getting that done.  Trae had an x-ray when he broke his collarbone and when a trained osteopath from Belgium (he works in Niger) first looked at it he said it was a bad x-ray, but that it looked like Trae would only need a brace.  That was until he saw Trae in the flesh and saw a piece of his bone sticking out.  That’s when he said – “no, this will need surgery.”  Thus I was not very confident in getting an x-ray.  We called the Belgium doctor but it being a Saturday, couldn’t get him.  So we called one of the ‘better’ hospitals to find out about an x-ray.  It seemed that they too couldn’t be bothered on the weekend.  So at that point, there wasn’t much more we could do.  We decided to wait until Monday to see what route we would pursue.

Sunday we went to church as we always do.  I sat on the front row like I normally do, next to Tobi the drummer.  Tanika was sitting with a friend a couple rows behind me.  During the praise and worship a ‘thought’ popped into my head.  It wasn’t something I had even been thinking about, so I know it wasn’t my thought, it was the Holy Spirit.  It would be really great if Tanika’s wrist was healed during the worship service while she was praising God.  Hmmm.  That was a great thought.  I didn’t say anything to Tanika, but just prayed that God would touch her and left it at that.  We had not had any discussion about this whatsoever.  I didn’t dwell on it or even pray really hard.  I just continued singing.  Within 5 minutes Tanika walked up to me.  She had taken the ace bandage off her arm and was holding it up.  There were tears streaming down her face.  I have to be honest – my first thought was that it was really hurting her and she needed it to be re-bandaged.  The music was pretty loud so she had to get right in my face.  She hugged me when she said ‘my wrist is healed’!!  I asked her what happened.  She said she was just standing there singing and first her wrist got cold, then it go hot.   Then she felt like taking the bandage off and she was able to move it all around.  It was truly a miracle!  She went up on the platform and told Neal what had happened and gave her testimony to the church.  Wow!

I’ve seen lots of cool things while living in Niger these past 10 years.  But how wonderful it is when God does a miracle like this for one of our own children.  “Un-provoked” so to speak.  She said she hadn’t even prayed about it – wasn’t even thinking about it.  God just did it because He wanted to delight in her.  And He wanted her to know His power.  And He wanted her to know that He is Almighty God, and nothing is too big or small for Him to do for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.  And you should know that  He is no respector of persons – what He did for her, He will do for you!

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!

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.

Another installment

Tanika wasn’t allowed any breakfast due to the upcoming CT scan, so I fasted with her. Unfortunately our ride didn’t come until 10:30. Traffic in Accra is atrocious but we were in an ambulance van and Alex, the paramedic that was on the plane with us, couldn’t resist using the siren to get though it. Tanika ended up having to lay down for the trip. We arrived at the specified location and were ready to get the test done with. What we were told is that they were sorry, but the machine broke down that morning. I must admit I felt like I was reaching my limit. This was, after all, the reason we came to Ghana. Specifically for this test. And we just wanted to go home. But again, I reminded myself that God is good and He was going to work this out for our good. Fortunately, Alex had some clout (as did we, as Americans) and the director came down and told us they were working on it. At one point they got it working for the neck down. We didn’t think Tanika needed to be scanned in any of those areas. They kept working on it. Finally, at around 3pm, the nurse walked out and said “you’re next”. As if we had just arrived and were waiting in line for our turn. I must admit that around 2pm, Alex convinced me to eat something small so I didn’t end up a patient. Tanika, trooper that she is, said she didn’t mind. Or maybe I thought that’s what her growling tummy was saying. She went in for the test and I had a great opportunity to share Tanika’s testimony with Alex. He’s from Peru, trained as a paramedic in Germany, working for this German Company in Ghana. He’s just a kid. 23. But really a nice guy. He actually started the conversation by telling me what a nice person Tanika was. He asked me lots of questions and I was basically able to share the Gospel with him. He smiled and nodded alot. Tanika was done about 40 minutes later and we were on our way. We realized that hospital lunch had long been digested, so Alex suggested we stop at the food court in the mall. In Ghana? A food court? It really was. We got chicken sandwiches and ice cream. That evening, our old/new friends picked us up at the hospital and brought us to their house for dinner. That’s when I was able to send my first email update. It was very encouraging to see for myself the prayers of our partners and friends. It’s hard to describe at a time like this what that really means. Back at the hospital, I read to Tanika from Matthew. All about the miracles Jesus did. And we found a consistent theme with many of them. It was because of the faith of the person in need of the miracle that Jesus healed them. “Your” faith has made you whole. I had really been feeling that Tanika needed to begin to take ownership or responsibility for her miracle. Ask God to really give her a revelation. A ‘know that she know’ moment. She was very aware of all the prayer going forth on her behalf, but now she needed to dig in her heels and believe for herself. We had our tea and went to bed. Back in Niger…. Talked to Neal throughout the day. He took Trae to see the Belgian bone doctor. That doctor looked at Trae and told them that he would need surgery. The xray he looked at the previous night was not a good one. He also said that although he could do the surgery, that he would not recommend us having it done in Niger. He didn’t trust the anesthesiologists or any of the other support staff. Infection risk was extremely high – particularly in this heat. So…we again contacted our insurance. They were not going to believe this! By we, I mean we. Both Neal and I were in touch with them – as they were looking into Ghana as well so they were communicating with Dr. Isaac – our Dr. Isaac. Donna, our missionary friend said the same thing about Ghana as the Belgian doc said about Niger. Support staff not likely up to par. And getting to Ghana on a commercial flight was kind of like getting to Kansas from New York via California. It only took us 3 hours on a direct private flight – but they weren’t considering that for Trae. So that’s what was in the works. Figuring out where Trae would be evacuated to. It was looking like Paris – as that is only a 5 hour commercial flight – direct. He was at home, and we talked several times – in between his busy visitor schedule. I still couldn’t believe that my son had been hit by a truck and I’d yet to see him. I continually reminded myself that God is good and victory is ours. More tomorrow.