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iPhone was lost but now…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Danette iphone

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.

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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.

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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.

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The sun is behind us this time.

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The open road.  Sort of.

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

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This is the 2 lane road that crosses the country.

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Overloaded trucks.

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Often turn into this…

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

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

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

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

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

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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?

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

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And to be on our way.

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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!

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

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

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

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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.

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

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

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

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More water being transported by the beast of burden.

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Following trucks also causes this problem.

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

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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!  =)

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The ladies bathroom.

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The ladies exiting the bathroom.

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

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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!

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Yep, my handsome husband/chauffeur loves them too.

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

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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.

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

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

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

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Another town, another mosque.

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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.

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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?

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

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

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More positive signs of road work.

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

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More onions for sale.

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Fuel stop.

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And it’s full service!

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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.

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

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This camel really is owned by someone.

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So are these cows.

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

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

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The road smooths out some, and with full bellies…

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This is what happens.

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

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

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More onions!

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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.

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These little boys are just having fun in their cart.

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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.

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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!

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

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Yet another overturned truck.

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

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

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

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Another one!

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

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

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Dosso city gate!!

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Yep – there are even traffic lights here!

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

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Horsin’ around.

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Standin’ around.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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This one is a bit fancier.

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Mango trees!  And they’re starting to bud.

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The area around the mosque is kept quite clean.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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I like taking pictures of tractors.

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The top of the van is loaded with goats.

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

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Water tower.

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

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Outskirts of Niamey.

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

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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.

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Niamey city gate!!

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The airport is off to the right.

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

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Construction is always going on in this growing capital city.

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Getting busier.

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

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

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Getting close to the new overpass.

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

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

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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).

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

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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.

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A carton of ramen noodles was one of the gifts.

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Thanks for the memories.

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Sukala heading into his home.

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Continue on to our home.

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

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Our gate.

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Home Sweet Home.

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Unloading…

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Guess she missed her pillow.

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More stuff to unload!

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

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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.

Missionary Journey to Nigeria – Part 8 ‘Final Days’

My last post was about our last Sunday in Nigeria.  After that, we had 5 more days before beginning our journey back to Niger.  Here’s what those days looked like.

Neal continued his last week teaching missions at ANFCBII.

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This is the road he took every morning to get there.

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The entrance.  The Bible School is on the same campus as Benson Idahosa University (BIU)  We didn’t have a chance to be involved there as they were in exams, but we hope to next time.

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Bible School classrooms on the right, University at the back.

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into all the world…

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This is also part of the Bible School.  Mostly offices.  There is a large auditorium at the back.

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Neal in the office where he spent time between classes.

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This is one of the foundations of the school.

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The Hausa class.

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French class giving Neal a gift.  During the last class, one of the students was so moved he took off his watch and rushed up while he was teaching and put it on the pulpit as a gift.  Neal was so touched.

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The students were great and so grateful for all they received from Neal’s teaching.

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The French interpreter.  Yes, that’s sweat.

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The Hausa prefect.

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Neal was blessed to preach to all the students at once in one more chapel service the day before we left.

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You may or may not understand Neal, but you can understand the reaction of the students!

He’s talking about being in position.

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He even loosened his belt!

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See and hear for yourself.

This was kind of a cool effect.  I noticed a mirror in the back and could see the front of Neal whenever he walked by it – which he did a lot.  So I decided to see if I could get a picture of it.

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I can see him from the front and back at the same time!

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The students were so responsive and cheered when Neal started and finished.

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At the end of the chapel, the faculty, staff and students prayed a powerful prayer for us!

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Then we went out for lunch to what we’ve been told is the nicest restaurant in Benin City.

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Neal & I with Rev. & Mrs. Andrew Daniels.

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It was good and we were hungry!  Can’t imagine why since we’d been eating 3 squares a day…

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This is where we ate them.  Breakfast.

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We also took some time while here to tour the Church of God Mission (CGM) international offices.  Beautiful!

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Archbishop Benson Idahosa, who now resides in heaven.  God used him to change Nigeria, Africa and the world.

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His wife and partner is the presiding Archbishop and continues the legacy of this incredible ministry.  We are so thankful to be part of this family and so appreciative of how they have hosted us so graciously in their home – even in their absence.  Next time we hope to come when they’re around.

Archbishop Margaret Idahosa (Mama)

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Their son, Bishop Feb Idahosa, is the President of Benson Idahosa University.

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Tobi and I chatting in Mama’s office.  OK, this is posed.  But it could have looked real if one didn’t notice the snicker on Tobi’s face.

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The International Office is 4 stories high and has pretty cool architecture.

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This is Pastor Blessing.  He remembers Neal’s family.  He gave us our tour.

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This is IMG_1324some of the staff from the publication department.   Fun people!

From the top floor of the offices I was able to get some good pictures of the whole complex.   This is Faith Arena – the church.

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Yes He is!

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The Buildings at the back of the photo are just part of Faith Christian Schools.  Another arm of this ministry.

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View from another side.

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One of the busses and the generator house.  The electricity is off more than it’s on so a generator is pretty standard equipment.  We were thankful for that!

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Back on the home front….I mentioned that we changed rooms and would include photos of our new diggs.  Here they are.  Here it is.  It was very comfortable.

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From the other end…
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We had lots of space.  Which was so nice.  One thing that is challenging to me with all the travel we do is not having much space.  I’m not very neat and do better when everything can have a place.  This was wonderful for my organizational addiction.   It doesn’t look particularly neat right now, but that’s only because we were getting ready to pack…

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And of course there was a lovely bathroom!

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We also took a few trips to different markets.  As you know I live in Africa.  Niger to be specific.  So an outdoor market is not an unfamiliar thing to me.  But I discovered that being a foreigner in Nigeria is much different than being a foreigner in Niger.  In Niger there are so many NGO’s (non-profit organizations) that I am only one of probably hundreds of westerners here.  So seeing faces other than African in the market isn’t that remarkable – especially here in the capital city.  That combined with the personality of people here (friendly but passive) you will find the experiences in the two places are as different as hot season and cold season.  Now consider the bold, aggressive, take charge Nigerian.  He or she is confident that you want to buy what they have to sell.  You are a target because you stick out like a white crayon in a box of colored ones.   If you’re me, you probably look like you don’t know where you’re going.  Not a good look in a market.   Our group was 6 in number, 1 of us being officially Nigerian.  I was looking for cloth.  Lace to be exact.  Lots of people sell lace.  And every one of them has a better quality then the person next to them.  To the untrained eye they all look the same…beautiful.   So thankful Augusta was with us.  After looking, finding and purchasing some lace, the other members of our group were interested in looking at soccer jerseys.  After all, Nigeria had just won the African Cup – and we were there to see it!  The jerseys weren’t in that market, but across the street.  So our small band of white crayons started very conspiculously making our way.  However there was some lace that I saw that I didn’t buy and I kept thinking about it.  We continued to walk the other direction.  I knew I would be kicking myself if I didn’t go back and get that cloth so I informed the others of my plan.  Augusta graciously said ‘OK, lets all go back in’.  It was hot and very sweaty and our time was running short. I didn’t want to waste any of it.  I assured her that I’d be fine on my own and that she should continue on with the others to the next destination.  She showed me where it was (across several ‘lanes’ of traffic on the 2nd floor of a large 2-story building) and the plan was if I didn’t see them there that we’d meet at our car.  Off I head back into the market. I’m pretty directionally challenged so thankfully the place we had been was pretty close.  Down one alleyway past seller after seller, turn left, more sellers (all wanting me to buy and telling me so), take a right – yep, more sellers and more offers to ‘just look’, another left, and now to find the lace I remember seeing hanging somewhere on the left.  Or was it on the right?  Keep in mind my directional issues.  You must understand, there are 100’s, no, 1000’s  of pieces of cloth hanging in the stalls.  I spotted my lace!  In spite of being proud of myself I attempted to maintain a calm ‘not caring if I really get it or not’ demeanor so as not to cause the price to go up.  You’d be proud.  I was.  I almost walked away.  But I did get my cloth and I did manage to make my way out of the market without getting lost – even though I came out a different way than going in.  I ‘threw my face’ across the street (that’s Nigerian English for turned my head, or looked) to see if I could see a gaggle of tall white guys + Tobi.  Couldn’t be that hard to spot in the midst of so much bright color.  Not to be seen.  So rather than make my way across the sea of people and their goods, I decided I’d just head to the car – through a different sea of people and goods.  That’s when I started to feel, well, it’s hard to describe.  I wasn’t at all fearful.  But I felt so obvious.  Like everyone was staring at me – wondering what this white lady was doing by herself in their market.  And I’m pretty sure I wasn’t imagining it.  I was the focus of attention for many.  I’m sure there were many thoughts going through many heads as I’m seen making my way through the people and ropes and gutters to get back to our car.  It was so different than in Niger.  I don’t really think twice in the market there.  Sure I get approached by sellers there in hopes that I’ll buy something but it’s different.  In Niger, I’m a dime a dozen so to speak.  But in Nigeria, I think I (we) really were a novelty.   I then began to think about it.  It occurred to me that other than the few foreigners that were there working with Church of God Mission, I realized that I had not seen one single white face since we’d been there.   Not one.  Then I began thinking why that was.  And I came to the conclusion that Nigeria doesn’t need foreigners helping them.  They are more than capable of leading and developing their own nation.  That doesn’t mean that it’s always being done the right way, but it’s not for lack of ability or resources.  That goes hand in hand with my theory that all of Africa and probably the remaining unreached world could be reached if Nigerians made a decision to do it…

But, I was talking about the market.  Anyway, I literally stood out like a sore thumb as I waited by the car for the other foreigners to arrive.  People were pleasant enough, of course greeting – but with an edge of ‘whatever are you doing in our market?’  I tried to call Neal but of course his phone was in the car – where I was standing.  They finally arrived after I’d sweated a couple of buckets, soccer jerseys in hand.  And because of Neal’s expert driving we were able to drive out of the crowded market without incident.  Quite remarkable really.

I took these pictures as inconspicuously as I could with my phone while I was waiting.

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Unloading the bread truck.

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From that market we headed to the silver man – he had some pretty stuff.  One of the benefits of living in Africa – jewelry design.

Danette with silver guy

The day before we left, I made sure to get some pictures of new friends.  Tobi had a blast with these two – Osassu and Osagie.  They are 2 of Archbishop Margaret’s adopted children.  Fun guys!

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Osagie really was quite the ham.  I think they enjoyed hanging with Tobi too.

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This is an incomplete group of guests and staff at the house while we were there.

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These 2 guys are from Tulsa and were there when we arrived.  They were on a short term trip and were involved in various aspects of the ministry – churches, university, hospital.  Michael and David.  Again, Tobi had a great time with them as well.  Kind of like having 2 big brothers!

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This is Stephen.  He was invaluable to us and our ‘go-to’ guy for whatever we needed.  Such a sweet servant.

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We were blessed with a gift from the University – we love souvenir type stuff.

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Even though soccer was usually played on Saturday mornings, I think this impromptu game was for Tobi’s sake – since we would be leaving the next morning.

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The drive (aka running track) is around the permitter of this field / home.  I reached my goal of running 3 miles before we left.   This was my view and my final run.  Well, this and the soccer match.

Sunset while running

Didn’t take pictures of packing up.  It would be nice to be home but we were feeling a bit sad about leaving.  We’d had such an amazing time.  I guess that’s how it should be though.  Leaving on a high note – wishing there was more.  And we certainly didn’t want to wear out our welcome.  God had truly blessed us and we believe there will be fruit that remains from this journey.

The next and last post about our trip will be the journey home…which is where we are now.

Missionary Journey to Nigeria Part 7 – Sunday

So, Sunday.  Our 3rd and last Sunday in Nigeria.  At least for now.  The first 2 Sundays we were in churches here in Benin City – Miracle Center and Faith Arena.  We were able to get in touch with a long time friend Rev. Matthew Okpebholo who insisted that we come to his church in Uromi.  He’s the overseer of all of the churches in the Ishan area.  That would be Sunday #3.  We were more than happy to oblige!  We arrived there on Saturday to visit and if you read my past post, that day is very well documented.

Rev. Matthew is not only a pastor.  He is a Bishop – elect.  He is a business man.  And not just any business man.  A very hard working one.  It was  such a blessing to be around him.  He is an amazing testimony of God’s faithfulness.  This is a man that has proven God’s principles.  He has been faithful, is an extremely generous giver and practices what he preaches.  And God continues to bless him.  He has built a beautiful church, as you will see.  And this is the first church I’ve attended in Africa that has air conditioning.  I wasn’t sweating in church.  That is notable.

In addition to a beautiful church full of beautiful people, Rev. Matthew has built a beautiful home.  This is where we spent Saturday night.

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One of the sitting rooms.  Pictures of their 6 children on the right wall.

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Dining room.

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Another sitting room.

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I forgot to get pictures of our room, but it was equally lovely.  So in case anyone was still thinking we have been ‘suffering for the Gospel’ on our mission trip, think again.  We have been well taken care of wherever we’ve been.

After a great night, we were excited to get to church on Sunday morning.

On our way…(it was just down the road apiece)

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Archbishop Benson Idahosa Cathedral

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The church was dedicated in 2000 and has been growing ever since.  Tobi has developed an eye closing habit for pictures – maybe because he has to pose for so many!  He’s such a good sport about it.

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This is the lobby area.

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ItIMG_1141 enters into the church.

This is the children’s hall – it’s on the 2nd lIMG_1143evel.

Neal & I with Rev. Matthew – Tobi’s there too, and some other pastors.

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The choiIMG_1171r.

Neal is being introduced.  Rev. Matthew is talking about how we live in Niger – in the desert, where no one wants to go.  He is saying that Neal’s parents are still there working – and everyone cheered.

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So Neal got up and of course greeted them all in Pidgin which as always hits the people first with shock, then awe as they see this big white man sounding like a real Nigerian.

Neal is giving testimony of the honor he received in Emu the day before – about the traditional chief’s robe he was given.  He is saying how Daddy will want it, but he will tell him that he has to come back here for  himself and get his own.

The preaching begins…

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Such a fun crowd to speak to.

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Again, IMG_1186constant motion.

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The church is both big and beautiful.

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Beautiful architecture.

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Love the slope.

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Rev. Matthew was so excited about the message he stood up and helped Neal preach some of it!

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Praying for the people.

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I hope no one gets offended by this, but I thought it was a beautiful picture.  When Neal was done, Rev. Matthew came up and also wanted to pray for the people.  Neal’s message was about being mindful of the next generation.  So Rev. Matthew told of how he has noticed that sometimes when he prays for women, they hold their breasts.  They do this because whenever they receive prayer, they are also thinking of and wanting prayer for their children.  So he said, “As I’m praying for you, hold your breasts and pray for your children.”  Now I know how this would sound in an American Church, but it was so normal here.  No pretenses, no one twisting things into something they’re not.  Just a back to the basics way of having a point of contact for your children.   That’s what you see here.

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It was youth Sunday – which happens 1 Sunday a month.  So all the youth were called up to be prayed over.

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Here we are with Rev. & Mrs. Matthew Okpebholo.  They have 6 children and 8 grandchildren.

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After the service — the parking lot.

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There are 3 story buildings to the right and left of the church – being utilized for all different ministries in the church.

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This picture reminds of what Rev. Matthew said to me as we were chatting after the service  — Referring to Neal he said – “You have a great man.”  My reply?  “I know.”

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It was another fruitful day that brought us great joy.

Missionary Journey to Nigeria Part 6 – Today was incredible!!

We have had an incredible weekend.  It was so amazing that I will have to dedicate one post to Saturday and one post to Sunday.  I have included tons of pictures and even video – as pictures alone can’t tell the story.  We made plans to visit the town of Uromi and the village of Emu this weekend.  That’s the area Neal lived in when he first came to Nigeria – the bush.  We left at 9am for the 2 hour journey.  Can’t hate the drive with scenery like this!

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Uromi has 13 Church of God Mission (CGM) branch churches.  Amazing progress!  Here’ the first one we came across.

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Arriving in Uromi.

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Rev. Matthew Okbebholo is a long time family friend and the leader of all the churches in this region.  He visited us when we lived in Michigan and ministered in our church there.  He arranged for a couple of his pastors to take us around to visit Neal’s old stomping grounds.  We were first met by Rev. Godspower, who I remembered from our visit here in 1991.  Love to see that fruit!  He’s a regional pastor, is now married and has 2 children.

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While catching up with him, Rev. Asuelimen and his wife Christiane arrived to ‘escort’ us.  What a great surprise.  He was a teacher in the school Neal’s Dad taught in when they came to Nigeria in 1977.  That’s actually how they got into the country back then – with the government as a teacher.   Neal immediately remembered him.  He immediately reminded us that Neal’s Dad had married them.  He now has 5 children – from 14 – 25 years old.  Right after asking about Neal’s parents, he asked about his sisters, Sarah and Julie by name.

Our first stop was at the CGM church he is pastoring.

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Here’s the inside of the church.

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Next stop was to visit the old ‘temporary’ school.  It still carries that name for identification – since a new school was built.  This is where Neal’s Dad started as a Chemistry teacher.

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This was his classroom.  The door to the right is where Neal would work on his lessons while Dad was teaching.

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The very room Neal sat in as a 12 year old boy doing his school.

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The journey continues – deeper into the bush.

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This the ‘new’ school site.

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Can you imagine going to school with the jungle for a playground?

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Rev. Asuelimen giving us some history of how the school was burned down and is now being rebuilt.

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The journey continues… Neal was shocked at the development.  ‘Paved’ roads and electricity – neither of which were available in 1977.

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We press on to find Neal’s house…. Check out the solar street lights.

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There it is!

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The house Neal lived in 36 years ago.  In the middle of the jungle.

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Here Neal is explaining how the house seemed so much bigger when he was a kid.

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The family living there graciously let us look inside.

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One of Tobi’s ‘wonders’ was “How did Grama live here?”  Then he said, “Well, she was younger then.”

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Neal pointing out where his room was.  Though there was no electricity, they had a generator that ran from 6 – 10 every night.  Tobi’s question for Dad was, “Didn’t you get hot sleeping without even a fan?”  My our kids are spoiled!  =)

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Here Tobi and Neal are talking about the house.

Just before we left there was a rousing chorus of one of the songs Neal learned when he lived here.  I knew it too because he’s been singing it for years.

Now the drive to the river where Neal used to walk or ride  his bike.

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Here the road is being widened.  A lot.

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You can see the bridge/river in the distance.

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Closer

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Neal showing Tobi the road they used to use.  It’s pretty rough – and looks so small in the midst of such dense jungle.

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The small road is off to the left.

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The last picture we have on this bridge is of Neal  holding a 10 week old Trae and  a village of children walking with us.  The picture is poster sized and hanging in our dining room – it’s a classic.  A few years have passed since then…

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River in the background.  I’m just seeing how tall Tobi is – and I’m wearing heels.

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The river is always a source of life – and as I thought about it represents eternal life.  After all these years the same river is still flowing.  No wonder Jesus used rivers as examples.

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Bamboo is everywhere.  And so useful.  We’re sitting on a bamboo bench.

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On the road again — on a search to find the homes of Neal’s childhood friends.

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Here Neal is expressing how amazed he is by the deepness of this ravine.

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It really was deep.  Guessing 100 feet?  Photo can’t do it justice.

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Here’s the ‘bridge’ to cross it.

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Heading further into the village.

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While walking a woman saw us and ran up shouting Neeya!  Neeya!  She was so excited to see Neal and asked about his mom and dad and sisters by name.

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In fact check it out on video!

Here we’re visiting the home of Neal’s friends.  They weren’t there, but their dad was still there and of course remembered Neal.

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Here’s IMG_0992Neal and his friend’s Dad.

When we were leaving, Neal was noticing a type of tree that we have in Niger – but SO much bigger.

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The generosity of Nigerians is seen again when before we left this home they cut down 2 big banana stalks for us to take home.  They are yummy!

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Tobi looks like he’s about to take on these bananas…or maybe use them for a weapon!

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Moving on, bananas in tow.

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The jungle makes me feel so small!  I so enjoyed walking through this village and visiting with such vibrant people.  I really love being around Nigerians, but the people in the villages  – well, they’re just real.  Hard to explain except you experience it for yourself.

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Along the way I ‘found’ this beautiful baby – check out those eyes!

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Another Mom of one of Neal’s friends.

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She was so sweet!

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She was lovin’ her some Tobi!

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See for yourself.

At end you can hear this man say ‘na dis be you piking?’ when he points to Tobi.  He’s asking ‘is this your son?’  Neal replies – ‘Yes, this is my 3rd child’, and you hear everyone say ‘ahhhhhh’.

Rev. Asuelimen told us at the beginning of our adventure that we would end up at the Emu church that Neal attended – the church where Neal’s Dad married he and his wife Christiane – the couple that now has 5 nearly grown children.  Here’s the signboard for the church.

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I vaguely remember him saying something about fellowshipping with some people there but had forgotten that when we finally drove up to the church.  It was about 2:30pm.  I thought we were going to see the church and take some pictures of them in front of the church they were married in.

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So imagine my surprise when we heard singing.

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And then saw all these people emerging from the church, all smiles.  It took me a second or two to realize they were singing to welcome us.  Wow!

Beautiful music.

We walked into the filled church – many  had been waiting since morning for our arrival.  It was quite a humbling experience as they ushered us to the front shaking our hands and hugging us.  Pastor Asueliman then explained that they wanted to have a fellowship as the people wanted to honor us.  Some had been there when Neal was a boy and remembered Neal and his family. Which got me thinking.  At first I began to wonder how they could remember Neal, since he’s obviously changed just a tad since he was 12.  But then I thought – how could they not remember?  I suspect there has been no other white family living in that village before or since they were there.  They made an impact.  The family of Ron & Jerry Childs has made an imprint in that village that will never be forgotten.  Their testimony continues.  And it was so incredible to see especially in light of the word Neal has been preaching in the churches here – being ‘Next Generation Minded’.  What a picture of that they are.  As I’ve said before, everywhere we go Neal’s parents are mentioned.  And people don’t just ask how they are.  They tell us specific things that they did or taught them that they still remember or live by today.  Now that’s fruit that remains!

I just happen to have a few pictures of ‘the old days’ – of the seeds being sown.

Check out this family picture – right here in Emu!

Ibviadan, Emu

And a picture of the church.  Some of these people were probably with us today.

Ibviadan group

Ron & Jerry Childs (Dad & Mom)

Ron & Jerry

Dad in his office.

Ron in his office

Mom in her office.

Jerry in her office

Mom preaching.

Jerry preaches

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Graduation ANFCBI

Rev. Andrew Daniels (current director of the Bible School), Archbishop Benson Idahosa, Rev. Ron Childs (former director of the Bible School).

Andrew, Idadosa, Ron

Baby dedication in Faith Arena.

Baby dedication

Dad in front of Faith Arena with Archbishop Idahosa.

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In the bottom picture the man on the right of Dad  is Rev. Omobude, whom we visited last week.  Here he is on Neal’s left.                                                                             IMG_0869

Omobude, Idahosa, Coker

Praise in Lagos conference

Ron & Jerry in BC

What a legacy!

 

 

 

 

To Dad’s left are Archishop Idahosa and Rev. Coker, both who were at our wedding in 1989.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now. Back to today…

First they asked Neal to preach.  Which he happily did.

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When he finished, the three of us sang a song for them in Hausa.

Then they explained that they had a gift, a very small gift that they wanted to give, to help us remember them.  Here they are opening it in front of Neal.

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This was no small gift!  It was the traditional wear of a chief – a beautiful woven blanket.  And I mean beautiful!  They draped it on Neal (it’s traditionally worn without a shirt under it), but we opted to be a bit untraditional and leave his clothes on.  They said he was their honorary chief and that he had to come back.

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What an honor!!!

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Here is Neal’s response.

As if that wasn’t enough, the children had also prepared a traditional dance for us.

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Here’s a quick clip so you can see for yourself.

They asked us to pray for them, which we did with great joy.

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It was such an incredible and unexpected time.  I noticed my cheeks were sore. For a quick second I wondered why, then I realized it was because I hadn’t stopped smiling.

After the prayer time there was a major photo shoot outside.  The pastor even brought a photographer!  He used my camera to take some pictures too.

First was with the Pastors.

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Then the children.

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Then the youth.

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Then the women.

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Then the men.

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These men wanted to be sure we got a picture of them because they knew Mom and Dad would remember them.

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This is Rev. Asueliman and his wife Christiane, the Pastor and school principal who was married in this church by dad.

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This is Pastor Paul and Margaret, the current pastors of this church and organizers of this amazing program.  SO sweet.

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This lady is the same age as Neal’s sister, Sarah, and remembers playing with her.

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This is her adorable baby, Francis.

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Then there was Tobi.  He was somewhat of a celebrity.  And it’s hard to say what he thought about it, but all the girls wanted pictures with him.

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All of them.

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Especially this one…

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It was time to leave and many goodbyes and God Bless You’s were said, with promises to return.  On our way Asueliman took us by the house he grew up in.  It really has a cool colonial feel.

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It was time to return to Uromi to prepare for Sunday morning.

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One thing I haven’t mentioned is how humid it is for us.  Coming from dry season in the desert we were constantly dripping.  But it was a good drip.  However we were thankful that Asueliman stopped for some refreshments on our way back – he insisted we get some drinks. I was just going to share something with Tobi or Neal but he shoved a carton of juice into my hand.  I must say, warm and all, it was incredible!   Nothing like rehydrating after a hike through the jungle.

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It was such a pleasure to spend the afternoon with a new friend.

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We arrived back to Uromi before dinner time.

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Check out our diggs!

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More on that next time…

Missionary Journey to Nigeria Part 5 – More ‘What’.

Our time here continues to be amazing.  On our 2nd Sunday here Neal was invited to preach in Faith Arena.  What an incredible privilege that was.  Yet another dream come true.  And if anyone thinks church isn’t fun – think again.

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The choir was amazing – and also fun for Neal to see as he used to be a member of that very choir.  Even saw some of his choir friends – still singing.  The choir is on the right.

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Neal began by greeting the people in Pidgin English.  The people came unglued – to see this big white guy speaking like that…

For those who would like to hear a white guy speaking Pidgin…here’s a video.  It’s about 1 minute long.  He starts out by saying “I just dey happy for my belly oh.” He’s greeting people in the choir, talking about how he’s grown (I now get body), and at the end says “I got married I get wife now oh.”  That’s me. =)

One thing I noticed while taking pictures of Neal preaching is that he’s always in motion.  Hard to get a clear shot!  Here’s a few.

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Video screens and lots of fans.

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Tobi seriously enjoying the service.

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We were so impressed with the service and how so many people were involved it.  From announcements to worship everything flowed.  And after the service, so many greetings.

This is Brother Henry.  He was the choir leader when Neal was in the choir.

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This is Abies Garuba, a good friend of Neal’s Mom.  She was so happy to see Neal.

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Rev. Okhuoya and Rev. Akioya.  What a joy!

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More friends.  Everyone wanting pictures!

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Everyone was asking about Neal’s parents – Ron & Jerry Childs.  They left a mark that could be seen and heard.  And so many commented on how much Tobi was like his Grandpa.

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This lady we remember from the last time we were here and she came to greet us.

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It was a great, memorable and fruitful Sunday.  We’re continually amazed and God’s favor and blessing on us.

It wasn’t all about being in church and bible school though.  We had some time around the house getting to know some the other guests and the staff here.   Here Neal is chatting with Haruna – one of the staff members at the house.  He’s from the North and speaks Hausa, so that was fun.

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Each Saturday Tobi played soccer with his new bro’s Osasu and Osagie and some of the other guys around the house.

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Tobi and Osasu

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Tobi and Osagie

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We’ve also had opportunity to visit friends.  This man, Rev. Dr. Omobude is a long time family friend and now President of PFN – the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria.

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Such a gracious man and even though he was obviously very busy,  had an office packed with people waiting to see him and was traveling to the U.S. the following day, he made time to visit with us.  Years ago Neal was assigned to his church and did some of his first preaching there.

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Before we left he gave us this incredible gift basket.  Again – blessed!

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Another blessing was rain.  Beautiful rain.  Something we haven’t seen in months.  In case you’ve forgotten, we live in the desert.  So when we heard thunder, then the smell of rain, we of course stopped everything and ran outside to see it.  And feel it.  Gotta say I’m loving the tropics!  This was our Valentines Day.

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We’re feeling pretty blessed!

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Next entry will be about our amazing weekend to the ‘bush’.

Missionary Journey to Nigeria Part 2

So.  Thursday.  We were thankful to have arrived at our hotel in Abuja and after an attempt to get fuel we decided to wait until morning – the lines were unbelievable.  I was more than ready to get out of a sitting position.  What I wanted was to be in a horizontal position.  We had to unload everything as it’s just not a good idea to leave things inside a vehicle overnight lest anyone think we left it there for the taking.  We tucked in for the night and enjoyed dinner at the hotel.  On the menu for Neal and Tobi was pounded yam and vegetable soup with goat.  Now I’m sure when I say ‘vegetable soup’ one might think fresh (well probably canned) veggies chopped up in a beef broth with leftover pot roast.  Or  something along those lines.  Au contraire mon ami.  Nigerian vegetable soup consists of what might be described as greens – lots of them –  chopped up and cooked in oil and spices.  Very spicy spices.  And a few other things.  Just the way we like it.  The thing you gotta love about Nigerians is they don’t even question whether you want it spicy or not. Not even if you’re a kid.  It just comes that way.  They are proud of the way they eat and you should be too.  Neal and Tobi were in heaven!  I opted for rice and a similar spicy red stew.  Also got a side of eggs for some protein – which were of course  cooked with freshly chopped habanero peppers.  Steam was coming out of my ears and we were all sniffling.

Tobi had his own room and enjoyed it – wasn’t sure what he’d think at first.  But he warmed up to the idea and then decided it was pretty cool.  Usually when we travel and stay in a hotel, we all cram into one room.  This time a friend of ours made the reservations for us – AND paid for the rooms.  We are blessed!  Not only did he pay for the rooms, he put down credit for us to eat.  He wanted us to eat well so he gave way more than we could eat at dinner and breakfast combined.    He’s a Nigerian that learned of our ministry when we were living in Diffa and would send support up from time to time to Diffa — to the church there.  We’ve been in touch with him since and he’s been such a blessing to us.

We asked  for breakfast to be ready at 7am and were pleasantly surprised when they called our room at 6:55 to say it was ready.  We, surprise surprise,  had spicy, spicy eggs and tea for breakfast.  I created a bit of a scene when I inhaled one of the peppers and it went down ‘the wrong pipe’ as they say.  Wrong is right!  Unbelievably painful.  Neal and Tobi could do nothing but sit there and watch me writhe and choke for about 10 minutes.  Fortunately no one else was eating breakfast…

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We learned the night before that it would be wise to ask our taxi man to come back and lead us out of the city.  The ‘hiccup’ could be whether he would come on time or not.  We were thinking (based on experience) that ‘on time’ would mean 30 or more minutes late.  We asked him to be there by 7:30.  We (by we I mean Neal and Tobi) packed the car before breakfast so  after I finished choking we went outside and to our surprise Mr. Taxi Man was there waiting for us.  Gosh, we are just being blessed all over the place!  We explained to him that we needed to get fuel, knowing he would lead us to the best place to do that.

Not being used to lines for gas, this is where we got in the cue.  There were 6 lines I think.

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We waited for about 15 minutes.  You can see the gate like structures near the road.  They go down the road in one of the lanes for several hundred feet.  That’s where you line up for your fuel.

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Neal was talking with the gas man about the cue and was told that this was in fact no cue at all – but a bit later and in the afternoon it would be backed up for a mile or more.  Once again, we were counting our blessings!

Thought this was a cool tree as we were driving through the city.

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This is about where Taxi man left us.  It was a very well spent $12 and on top of that, we made his day!  Fortunately we were leaving the city while the traffic backed up in the other direction for some serious rush hour.  Pretty impressive road systems though!

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Cool building – probably a mosque.

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Now there’s something familiar…

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Not too long before we were once again down to 2 lanes.  But pretty decent roads!  The challenge was getting by truck after truck.

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Tropics!

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Hard boiled eggs – snack time!  One can find a variety of items for sale on the side of the road.

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Riding can wear one out!

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Another familiar site… Those cows probably came from Niger.

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A mosque on almost every corner….

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But the churches are built on The Rock!

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There were so many crashed vehicles on the side of the road.

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At leIMG_0514ast every 5 – 10 miles.

I just got photos of a few.

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I’m convinced they were left there as a warning…

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Lunch in the city of Auchi at Mr. Biggs.  Mr. Biggs serves Nigerian Fast Food.  It is quite yummy.  Except for the chicken sandwich.  That’s not Nigerian and it’s not yummy.  Tobi and I both got one and had to go back and get the spicy chicken.  Now that’s more like it!  We are loving not having to travel with all our food and water for an entire journey, knowing there will be food to eat along the way.  Good food!IMG_0517

Even more tropical!  Lovin’  all the green!!

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They have quite an impressive compound.

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Palm grove.  Gorgeous!  And so foreign for us desert dwellers.

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Those are some serious logs!  Wasn’t real comfortable hanging behind him for too long!

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Getting closer.
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Benin City!  We have arrived!

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We arrived in the outskirts of the city at about 3:00.  Even though things had grown and changed drastically, Neal could find his way to the Miracle Center Compound where he lived and where the Bible School used to be.  We couldn’t quite make our way to Faith Arena or to where we were staying but Bishop Feb & Laurie Idahosa had made arrangements for us and we were soon settled in to our home for the next 3 weeks.  Which is where I’m writing from now.

Next post will be about our time here thus far.  It’s been great and has brought back so many wonderful memories for Neal.

Fruit The Remains – Reminiscent Thoughts

In my last post I intended to write specifically about my reminiscent thoughts during Campmeeting.  However, I went off on a very long tangent about our car breakdown on our way back from Diffa in October – so it wasn’t really about camp meeting at all.  I will now attempt to remember and record  what was going on in my head during Campmeeting weekend…

We left on a Friday morning and completed our journey uneventfully in under 9 hours.  (The uneventful part is what got me off track in the last post).  We had dinner with the Jorgensen’s and were then off to the first meeting.  It was so much fun to just ‘show up’.  Our Vie Abondante Pastors had done a great job and all the groundwork was done.  People were in from the villages, they were all registered, sleeping arrangements were made, seating was all set up, lights were lit, food was prepared for the hundreds gathered there,and sound and instruments were ready.  The only thing we had to do was help put up the banner.  And that’s only because we brought it with us.  I found myself just looking around grinning at the gathering crowd.  Of course I loved seeing all the children in from the villages that were part of kids camp,  held in this same place.  Most of them had on their camp shirts.

I’ve already written about the events and speakers of Campmeeting.  You may remember the theme was ‘Fruit That Remains’.  But looking around at all those people – all those children – it really got me thinking.   Is my life producing fruit that remains?  Because if it’s not, what’s the point?  Really.

I may have been feeling somewhat melancholy partly because I was a bit under the weather.  That always puts me in a pensive mood.  As great as the evening was I felt worse as time went on.  I was somewhat suspecting I might have malaria but since I didn’t have the typical symptoms (severe headache, high fever), I kept ignoring that.  To be honest, I’d been feeling rather ‘yucky’ for a few weeks.  That’s probably why I just kept going – yucky became my new normal.  Maybe it’s because Maradi was colder, or maybe it was the long journey, but I definitely felt extra yucky.  I knew Dani (missionary colleague) had malaria testers so I went to her place after the meeting.  She pricked my finger and sure enough the little tester showed up positive for malaria.   In Niger, Malaria is one of those things that is par for the course.  It’s not that we expect to get it – as we believe we walk in divine health – but it does show up from time to time.  As terrible as it is (one of the leading causes of death here), it’s not all that ominous if treated properly.  The reason so many people die of malaria is either because they can’t afford an effective treatment ($6-$10), or their immune systems are non-existent because of malnutrition (which is also a financial issue).  Since we are in Niger long term, we have chosen not to take any prophylaxis (preventative) just because of possible long term side effects.  So we are always on the ready to treat for Malaria if symptoms arise – even if we can’t be tested.

Well as I said, I didn’t have the typical malaria presentation.  I’m kind of weird that way though.  I’ve actually tested for malaria 3 times and every time the test is positive.  There have been a couple of other times I treated for it without being tested because I actually had the ‘normal’ symptoms and was in bed.  The times I’ve tested positive I was just not feeling right and I went on like that for awhile…weeks.  What I need to do is test when I’m healthy to make sure I test negative!

Anyway….back to Friday night.  Positive test – start treatment.  ‘Treatment’ sounds complicated but it’s easier than a course of antibiotics.  It’s just 2 pills for 3 days.  Went to bed.  Felt worse on Saturday morning but was determined not to miss the meetings.  After all that is why we made that 9 hour journey!  And I really dislike missing out on stuff that everyone else is experiencing.    Apparently I looked worse as well – judging by the comments and compassionate (pitiful) looks people were giving me…Made it through the 4 hour meeting and was glad I was there – even if I was thinking about a bed.  Went back to our room at the Jorgensen’s where we were staying and slept.  I really wanted to go to the evening meeting.  Neal highly recommended I stay home.  I thought maybe if I just got there, I could sit and enjoy what was going on, even if I couldn’t participate much (in our church – participation is required!).  Departure time 15 minutes and I still hadn’t made up my mind.  Neal left the room, ready to go.  I suddenly made a decision to go.  I began getting ready – putting on my camp meeting clothes – and it was during that process that I realized the fever must really be affecting something in my brain if I thought I could  go to the service.  I was sweaty and out of breath by the time I got dressed and had to sit down.  What was I thinking?  Neal walks back into the room and sees me sitting there, dressed,  and says, “You’re going?”  I just said,  ‘No, I just felt like getting dressed so I could be there in spirit.’  Then I told him he was right and that as much as I hated it, I’d stay home.  The main reason for my decision (other then feeling like I was going to pass out just by the act of getting dressed) was because I was the first speaker for the next morning, and I wasn’t going to miss that!  The hardest part was when everyone was leaving and I was left at home – alone.  I decided to do what I never do by myself – I watched a movie!  It felt funny at first knowing everyone else was in church, but it passed the time and kept my mind off of, well, whatever.  Why didn’t I just sleep you ask?   The ‘treatment’ affects people differently but for me – there’s some insomnia involved.  Nice, I know.  Feel cruddy, can’t sleep.  Thus, the movie.

The troops returned with reports of a great meeting – even without me there- and  off to sleep we went.  And I was actually able to sleep.  Sunday morning I woke thanking God that I was feeling much better- not 100%, but much better.

My message for that morning was ‘Preparing the soil’.  I started out with Psalm 127 – Our children are a heritage from the Lord.  A heritage is something precious that is passed down.  I even brought a beautiful silver teapot that had been passed down to us from Neal’s Grandparents via his parents.  Now Tobi is wondering if he’s going to get it!  When we consider our children as precious gifts, we need to care for them accordingly.  And part of that care is preparing their soil to be able to receive and grow good seed.  A seed is a seed no matter how you look at it.  If you plant a seed in good soil, it will grow.  But that same seed planted in bad soil won’t produce anything.  So we have to make sure the soil (heart) of our children is good!  That was the overall ‘gist’ of my message.

Neal and I have been talking about being generation minded for quite a few months now.  It’s really been on our hearts.  Maybe because we’ve been in Niger for quite awhile.  Or maybe it’s because we’re getting older and realize the time to make our life count is getting shorter with every day.  Or maybe it’s simply because of the command Jesus gave us when he told us to go and bear fruit – fruit that remains.  John 15:16   Well all that talk got me missing my kids.   We  have 3 of them – but 2 are now in the U.S.  Being in Maradi always makes me miss them more because that’s where they grew up.  Now that the youngest is nearly 13, I’m wishing we would have had more.  Because they are our seed.  Our fruit.

Neal and I began reminiscing about our kids because we really were missing them.   The fact that I had malaria didn’t help.  That always makes me a bit melancholy. I almost felt myself wanting to get panicky because Tobi is growing so fast. Being in Maradi, we talked about our days living here, when the kids were little.  Though they are great kids, they were not without challenges.  But those challenges could always be met with prayer and God’s Word.  And that’s not just a ‘pat answer’… it’s the truth.  The older the kids got, the more we realized the power of prayer in their lives.  We were thinking about the amount of time they consumed, that they sometimes made us crazy, and sometimes they made us downright furious.  Then Neal said – ‘But our kids were fun.  Even during those times.  I can’t imagine life without them.’  And it’s true.  We would be different people today if we didn’t have these treasures that had been gifted to us.

So now we are working on transitioning to a new phase in our life.  I don’t want to mourn the loss of childhood but I want to embrace with joy what my kids are becoming.  I rejoice in seeing them walk out the plan and purpose for which God created them.

And if anyone is wondering about our kids…

Tobi is 12 and is an amazing young man who loves people and loves God more.  He even has his own page on this blog.

Tanika is a wonderful 20 year old sophomore at Oral Roberts University.   Her unique personality includes both compassion and a tell-it- like-it- is truthfulness. She draws both children and adults and is  studying Special Ed/Early Childhood Development – she was made for this!

Trae is a 21 year old new graduate (this month) of Oral Roberts University with a degree in International Community Development and a minor in Business.  He was married this past summer to the amazing and beautiful Christi Dunagan (now Childs) and together they are pursuing God’s plan for their lives.  (Another reason to rejoice – I wanted more kids, now I have one!)

Enjoy your children as the treasure they are!