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  The family information is outdated, but the message remains the same.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.

Full Heart, Sore Muscles

We’re here.  By ‘here’ I mean in the US.  We arrived on June 2 and yes, time is zipping by at warp speed.  I don’t know what ‘warp speed’ is, but I think it’s pretty fast.  Picking us up at the airport was not only Pastor Carter & Laura, but Tanika was with them.  So great to see her.  She is officially a college sophomore!  We had wonderful services at Faith For All Nations Church in League City, TX, and Conroe Christian Center in Conroe, TX.  Both of these churches are awesome partners of ours.  We were blessed by how well we were received and thoroughly enjoyed our time with both Pastors, families and congregations.  Nothing like communicating to people what their support is doing as they commit to the Great Commission.

Tanika sang on the worship team at Faith For All Nations.

Tobi added some rhythm!

Neal preaching.  Nice threads!

This past Thursday, we flew to Portland.  Trae and Christi were there to pick us up.  It was so great to see them.  It’s been over 9 months.  Here are the lovebirds now.  Wedding day:  T minus 4 days.  June 16th.

Though we’ve known Christi for awhile, we’ve not met her family.  At least not face to face.  And when I say family, I mean FAMILY!  There are 9 of them.   So this was the big meet and greet.  Our flight was a late one, so we didn’t get to Mosier (according to Christi it’s not a functioning town) until 11:30 or so.  I think.  I was still trying to figure out jet lag from our international flight so this one put me back a couple more hours.  But what a greeting!  The fact that it was almost midnight didn’t matter a bit.  The family was all up and waiting for us.  When we pulled in I saw Philip – the youngest who is 11 – race through the house and out the door shouting for Tobi.   So sweet.  They were all just as welcoming and there were bowls of hot soup along with hot tea which I was so thankful for for 2 reasons.   It had been 12 hours since we’d eaten, and it was 5o something degrees.  I bit chilly for me.  But I love both soup and tea when it’s chilly.  Their welcome made us all feel so welcome.

Ann (Christi’s Mom) and I have been waiting to meet for a long time.  After all, our kids are going to be marrying each other — it’s time we got to know each other.  We’ve done a lot of chatting over the past year so I feel that I knew that she was a pretty amazing lady and someone that would be a friend.  However,  I must officially say that she has far exceeded my expectations.  Though our personalities are different, we have so much in common.  She is already a great friend and I’m thankful for that.  God has not only provided a wonderful new family for Trae, but a great friend for me.  And He knew I needed that.  We’ve been running together, talking nonstop (according to Trae), and having special times of prayer.  We both know that this wedding is going to be an amazing event.  No – not just an event, but the making of a covenant that will result in the Kingdom of God advancing.  Big time.  I thank God for my new friend.

By the way, here’s where some of our running is being done.

Mount Hood, Oregon

Mount Adams, Washington

These views are all on the same 1/2 mile gravel road.  Pretty incredible and quite different from my normal running scenery on a sandy, hot softball field!  Such a wonderful break.

As for the rest of the family, they’re all just as awesome.  Tobi and Philip have pretty much been inseparable since we arrived.  I’m serious.  I’ve barely had a conversation with him.  But Philip is the kind of kid you want your kid to spend time with.  Caela is Christi’s younger sister.  She’s sweet and capable and so pretty.  Then there’s Daniel – who is getting married 2 weeks after Trae and Christi.  It’s quite fun to have all these lovebirds around.  Mark is 16 and what a talented guy.  And he is so sweet and thoughtful.  Josh is one of Christi’s older brothers and he’s married to Anna.  I’ve really enjoyed getting to know them.  Patrick the oldest has just arrived home from a 4 1/2 month world tour.  So glad he is here too – he’s got some great stories.  Then there’s Jon (Christi’s Dad).  He ties it all together.  I’m so thankful that our son is marrying someone who has such a godly father and mother.  What an example they are.  They are truly a family that takes the Great Commission seriously.  To learn more about what they do, check out their website.  Also for some great books to motivate your family to missions, check out Ann’s books – The Mission Minded Family and The Mission Minded Child.  You can find those on their website or on Amazon.

Christi and Trae have been showing us the sights.  And beautiful sights they are.  I’ve been to 46 of our 50 States.  Until now.  Two of the 4 I haven’t been to were Oregon and Washington.  Check those off my list.  Now been to both.  Only Alaska and Hawaii remain.

Our first 2 days were freezing.  Or at least close to it.  They took us into The Dalles and we went to Hood River.  The fact is, you can’t go anywhere without it being a gorgeous drive on windy roads.  They had planned for us to climb up Dog Mountain.  They kind of eased us into it.  “It’s not too far”, “You guys will really like it”, “It’s not that hard”, “It’s a good hike”, “It’s cool at the top”, etc.  You get the picture.   So off we went.  Nine of us in the Highlander.  Here’s some of us at the beginning of the climb.

We look ready for anything.  It was a crispy 50 something – maybe 60.  Maybe.  But that’s good, because we would be climbing and that would warm us up.

The trail was uphill.  All uphill.  But that stands to reason since we were climbing a mountain.  It was a bit overwhelming at first.  Maybe more than a bit.  Walking at an incline is much more challenging than walking on a flat surface.  In case you didn’t know that.  The overwhelming part was that it was like that for a long ways.  The distance to the top of the mountain was 4 miles.  Uphill.  Did I mention that? Now I’ve been running so was hoping I’d handle it better.  It was tough.  I was breathing very heavily.  The thing I did notice though, was that I recovered very quickly during the rest times.  And my legs were fine.  The higher we got the narrower the trail got, the windier it was, the wetter it was, the colder it was.  But it was beautiful.

Here’s the first rest stop.

Quite lovely.

Check out all that green!

Another rest stop.

This was in our future.

Almost to the top.  Check out those wildflowers!

The top!  Well, almost.  We’re told we could have gone a bit further, but was only worth it on a clear day.  At this point we were in the clouds.  Every once in awhile the wind would blow the clouds away and you could see the beautiful view.

Victory!!  We really were in the clouds.  And it was so windy and so cold.  My hands were so cold I could barely hold the camera.

I just thought this was a cool picture.

This would be a good place to mention that we (Neal & I) were the only ones that seemed to find this mountain challenging.  Christi and Trae graciously traveled at our pace – while the ‘younger set’ bounded up like they were only conquering  small hill.  Here they are on the way down – trying to keep warm while waiting for us.

Climbing down of course was much easier – except for me.  I have knees that act up when I go downhill.  A short distance is no bother, but 4 miles, well, that is a bother.  At least to my knees.  Fortunately though painful, it goes away quickly.  Much more quickly than my sore muscles did.  Here’s a scenic view on the way down.

It was even prettier than it looked.

Another good thing about going downhill – other than the obvious – is that it got warmer and warmer.  I’m pretty sure at the top, with the wind blowing hard enough to carry away a small child, the windchill was probably freezing.

Here’s a view across the road.  There’s a waterfall on the left.

We made it up, we made it down and yes, we were proud of ourselves.  It might be an interesting note that it took and hour in a hot tub for this African girl to thaw out.  And that was quite nice too.

Another big adventure was our trip to Multnomah Falls.  I’m thinking these pictures don’t do it justice, but maybe you get the idea.

Gotta say this hike was a breeze after dog mountain.  It was all uphill, but only for about 1 1/2 miles.  Simple.

Great view.  I mean the river!!

LOVE this picture!

Philip and Tobi – new best buds.

Top of the falls – almost.  The trail to the very top was closed because it was washed out.  Bummer.  But it was still beautiful.  See?

Caela and Tanika – new buds.

It’s a blurry picture, but here we all are.

After the Falls, they took us to a fish hatchery.  Quite fascinating.  Millions of trout and salmon.

That’s where we met Herman, a 70 year old Sturgeon.

Back at the home front, archery was one of the activities.  A poor stuffed teddy bear was the target.

Neal shoots lefty.

The weather was so beautiful, we ate most of our lunches outside.  Ann and Caela in deep discussion with Neal =).

The hot tub was wonderful.  This is what I used to thaw out after our hike up Dog Mountain.  Well, thaw out and ease my aching muscles.

Tobi, Mark and Philip were hired to wash a truck.  I didn’t know it was a paid gig until Tobi excitedly told me his cut was $3.30.

Lots of card playing was done.

Here Neal is ‘helping’ Jon clean the day’s catch, aka tonight’s dinner.  That fish is worth a small fortune if purchased from the store.

So if catching and cleaning the fish wasn’t enough, Jon and Ann created this incredible spread for 18 people.  17 of them were staying in the house.  But why is Tobi the first and only one at the table?  I think he was pretty excited about the fish!

It was an amazing meal.  Artichoke parmesan basil fish.  Wow.

However, it wasn’t all fun and food.  Here Trae and Christi are working in their vows.

Here’s the beautiful Dunagan home, which exudes the life of God.

This morning, Jon took Neal salmon fishing.  What a treat!  And it wasn’t just all about scenery.  Here are Jon & Neal and their 4 King Salmon.  The fish that Jon has been catching is the food for the rehearsal dinner and the wedding.

Packing up all the wedding stuff for the trip to Moses Lake.

 This is making it real!  Well, lots of things are making it real.

As you can see, we are having an amazing time.  The longer I’m here, the more amazed I am by the family that God has provided for Trae.  We were already overjoyed with Christi – but to know her family has been incredible as well.  God has answered our prayers above and beyond all we could ask or think.

It remains to be seen what God will do with these two, but we are confident that it will also be more than we can ask or think.

So— I think it’s pretty obvious why my muscles are sore, but even more obvious why my heart is more than full.  My God is good.

What’s a Mom to do?

I think I’ve decided that having children can be very painful.  And no, I’m not talking about the act of giving birth (though I readily acknowledge that is a painful experience).  I’m talking about the sorrow that accompanies letting them go.  I realize that there is much joy to be had as well, but right now I’m writing about the sad part, so let me have my moment.

Right now, at the very moment these words are being written, our eldest son Ronald Neal Childs III (aka: Trae) is in a jet plane (I assume it’s a jet) being taken from Niamey, Niger to Paris, France, with the final destination of Tulsa, OK, via Mpls, MN where he’ll spend a week visiting my family.   He’s probably still over the Sahara Desert.   How is possible that this cute little guy is already ready to travel alone, and internationally at that?  Was this picture seriously taken in 1991? (Trae, I don’t mean to insult you.  I realize you’ve been traveling alone for several years now…)

I know that this is the natural course of things.  I understand that.  It doesn’t’ mean I like it.  It doesn’t mean I don’t like it either.  For goodness sake he’s already finished a year of university – you think this would be easier.  In fact on the way back from the airport tonight we were talking about how great it was to have Trae around and how sad we felt to see him leave and Tobi asked me if it would get easier.  My answer at this moment?  No.

The thing is, when we said goodbye in January, we made a plan as to when we would see Trae again – Which was less than 6 months away.  So we began planning and counting days and anticipating his arrival.  And arrive he did – at 3:30pm on June 22nd.  Not his birth – his arrival in Niger!  Here we  are at the airport.  And we are happy campers!

Again I ask…how is it possible for nearly 5 weeks to already have gone by?  I’m beginning to believe the theories that time is speeding up.   Of course if I think about all that was accomplished and all that we did in those 5 weeks, well, it seems like it should have been more.

And how can I be sad when I think about all the ways that God has blessed the young man that Trae has become?  Why am I proud of him?  Let me count the ways.  He has made some pretty great choices and God has honored those choices.  He was in the top 10% of freshman academically at Oral Roberts University.  He has continued to develop his leadership gift and has been given several new opportunities this year to use it.  He found a lovely girl (and yes, Christi, I seriously did just describe you as lovely.  You are lovely from the inside out).  He listens to and heeds advice.  He loves his family.  He’s a great preacher.  He chose to spend his entire summer in ministry (which is actually one of the reasons he came to Niger after spending 6 weeks in Brazil & Paraguay).  He’s good looking.  He loves God with all his heart, soul, and mind.  Though I could go on, I’ll stop there in Trae’s honor, because it drives him crazy when I ramble…

So, how can I be sad?  Who wouldn’t be sad when the above described person was with you, and then had to leave?

Here we are at the airport tonight, trying not to be sad, and not being very successful at it…

My writing has become therapeutic and I am beginning to understand that my sadness is pretty much selfish.  It’s all about me.  Oh I’m sure that Trae is sad on some level to leave his family.  But how exciting to think about what lies ahead!  So truly, instead of feeling sad, I should be rejoicing with him for all that God has stored up for his future as he continues to seek Him and His righteousness first.

So, what’s a mom to do?    Rejoice because my firstborn has left the nest?  This I will do, in faith, one step at a time.   I will recognize that God has blessed me with not just 1, and not just 2, but with 3 incredible children.  And that is something to celebrate.  And I’ll  begin believing, in the words of Tobi,  ‘for this to get easier’.  Because I have two more birds that will fly.  And fly they will.  Here’s proof.


I last left off at the Softball tournament in which Trae’s team took the championship, and Neal’s team 2nd place.  Where to go from there?   During the tournament, Trae had a birthday – his 17th.  Not really believing that.  But if I check his birth certificate, I can see it’s true.  We had a big group of his friends gather Saturday night at one of the newer restaurants in Niamey – you can actually get ice cream there.  So that ‘s what we all did.  Winning the tournament then was appropriate since it was his birthday.  Since Trae was in the motorcycle accident, we haven’t had the bike repaired – it’s a very long and painful story – insurance is refusing to pay a cent, even though it was clearly ruled the fault of the driver of the truck.  In the meantime, we all decided that it would be best if  Trae could drive a car instead of the bike.  So he persued getting a license.  Technically in Niger, you are not eligible for a license until you are 18. Trae was 16.  But he ‘looked the part’, so he started drivers training.  Those 2 words can be a bit deceptive.  ‘Drivers Training’.  I think it’s more like ‘Drivers Un-training’.  But I’m not going to dwell on that.  It was a long and very painful process, one in which we had to submit to the powers that be while trying not to spoil our testimony.  But victory was finally had and Trae recieved he license 2 days before he turned 17.

Grama & Grampa were heading for the US and will not be here for Christmas, so we celebrated our Christmas with them in September.  It was quite fun, as their gift to Trae was his very own car!  The idea is that he’ll use it for this year and then sell it and have some money for college.  Works for me!  It’s a 2-door Toyota and it reminds me of my first car – a Ford Fiesta.  My dad lovingly referred to my car as a ‘rollerskate on wheels’.  That it was.  Trae’s car is similar – only smaller.  But unlike a bike, it’s all enclosed and he can fit 4 people in there (sort of) besides himself.  It’s been a great blessing to us, as he is able to take the kids to and from school when we need him to do that.  And he has been willing to do so.  Fuel is amazingly expensive, so that’s been an education for him all by itself.  He’s a good driver and it seems that parents of most of his friends are ok with their kids being in the car with him.  That’s something we told him he always has to be sure about.

OK, what else…I guess since I’m on the subject of Trae, I’ll continue.  He has applied to and been accepted as a student at Oral Roberts University.  He has also been nominated for an invited to campus for the “1st Annual Whole Person Scholarship Competition”.  So he will be in Tulsa the last week of February.  It’s a huge investment, but it will be well worth it if he were to win one of the 25 full tuition – 4 year scholarships being awarded!  So, please begin praying with him for favor even now.  I’m somewhat in denial that I could be old enough to have a kid about ready to enter college, but again, unfortuantely neither of our birth certificates will lie.  Registration is August 14th.  If anyone has figured out how to slow time, please let me know.

In October we had a medical team come for their 2nd year in a row.  We traveled with them to Maradi for several days of medical outreach and ministry.  This was scheduled during our kids Fall break so they could be a part of the team.  Trae and Tanika interpreted for doctors and nurses, Trae helped wrestle cows for the vet, and Tobi worked in the ‘pharmacy’, counting meds.  We then were in Niamey for more village outreach, as we are now working on doing more in this region.

In November we had our 10th annual campmeeting – another trip to Maradi and though it was short, it was well worth it.  Our guest speakers were from the US and from Nigeria – ministering on our theme – Unity: One Vision, One Purpose.  We enjoyed ourselves – especially the part about our pastors taking care of most of the details.

This past week we had 3 visitors from Kensington Temple in London, England.  They were looking to come and ‘check out Niger’ and we offered to show them some of the things God is doing here.  We kept them pretty busy and according to them they accomplished even more than they hoped.  That’s what we like to hear!  We ended up with 2 bonus days with 2 of them though, because Air France would not allow them to fly – they were told the validity of their passports was questionable.  So it took 2 days of running around, again working on maintaining our testimony, but they were finally allowed to leave.  At one point Neal asked me to go to the Air France office because he was so frustrated and he didn’t want to ruin his testimony.  It was basically harrassment and when they arrived home they were told that Air France in Niger had been ‘unreasonable’. Ya think?

This next week we have a Nigerian pastor coming from Benin for both our Maradi and Niamey bible school graduations.  Then, the day after he leaves, my brother Brian, his wife Kim, and our nephew and neices, Jake, Kate and Ellie are coming to visit for 2 weeks!  We can hardly wait.  It’s their first trip to Africa and we are so thankful for the sacrifices they are making to come and be a part of our life here.  It’s going to be a great Christmas!

I really have so much more to say, but I need to stop for now.  And I’m sure you are ready for this novel to be finished for now as well.

I plan to write again soon.

I Can See Clearly Now

Our windscreen a.k.a. windshield was a mess. It got it’s first rock some years ago and that gouge has slowly grown into several cracks. In fact the original ‘injury’ looks like the source, and all the cracks look like rivers flowing out from it. Since then, we have run into a few more rocks, but that wasn’t the final straw. On our return trip from Maradi for children’s camp in June we went through what one could call some ‘rough spots’. There is road repair going on, so there were some suggested off-road detours. That means driving off into the bush. But it’s rainy season. So that really means driving through mud. And the mud is thick and deep so that means driving fast enough to get through. That means spinning tires. And that means flying mud. Everywhere. By the time we got through that mess we had to stop the car to create a square in the window with which to navigate. I was so desperate to see that I even sacrificed some of my drinking water to try and loosen the mud. Why, you say, did I not just use the wipers? I wasn’t born yesterday! They just smeared the mud around. We were only a couple of hours from home and eventually arrived. The white car was completely covered with red/brown mud. Completely. I mean you could no longer tell it was white.  We hosed down the car for immediate use, but the next day I asked our guard to give it a good scrubbing. The guard is a great guy, but only works for us part time. He speaks 2 or 3 languages and we speak 2, but none of those languages intersect. So…communication is done by sign language. I brought out some vinyl spray for the inside of the car. I very demonstrably explained where to use and where NOT to use this spray.  Picture me doing cleaning motions inside the car on the dashboard while pointing to the spray and nodding my head while saying ‘Yes’.  And then pointing to the glass, then the spray, and vigorously shaking my head while saying ‘No’.   Apparently I was not demonstrative enough. He worked very hard all the while smiling but in the end, the greasy vinyl spray ended up on the windscreen. If it adheres to vinyl/leather as it does to glass, sign me up for a case! We used window cleaner, vinegar, laundry detergent, dish soap, scrubbers etc. The film wasn’t going anywhere. It was far worse than the cracks. We have been talking for a long time about replacing the windscreen and this was the straw that did it. We replaced the windscreen.  I can actually see clearly when driving, particularly in the rain and at night. Oncoming headlights are no longer just a blurr. It almost gives the car a ‘new’ feeling. All thanks to a guard named Kashimu.

Something else I now understand. Driving in Niamey is quite an experience. It challenges many of the fruits of the spirit that I’m supposed to be demonstrating. Maybe I’ll write about that some time….Anyway, Trae is working on getting his drivers license and he’s taking ‘drivers training’, Niger style. That’s not supposed to be available until one is 18, but apparently at 16 he ‘looks the part’. He already has his motorcycle license – just had to take a written test for that. For a 4 wheel vehicle license he has to take a written test, drive with someone a couple times, and take a road test. He took the written test long ago. Passed that. He’s been driving with us for some time now – practicing. So he drove 2 times with 2 different instructors. The other day we were out driving and he told me that the driving ‘instructor’ had basically undone everything that Dad taught him about driving. You NEVER turn hand over hand when you’re turning but always keep your hands firmly on the wheel. And the cardinal sin seems to be when you don’t use your blinker properly and often.  But the thing that brought the greatest revelation was this. I have always been frustrated by the fact that people drive down the middle of the road. If there are 2 lanes going in one direction, they literally drive down the center line. I have jokingly commented that they must teach them that in driver school. It’s no joke! They told Trae that he needed to drive down the middle of the road! Noooooowww I understand! I can see clearly.

Team, Tennis, Trae

I have found myself alone, on a Sunday afternoon. I have decided to do some catch up writing – a hodge podge of things that I have wanted to get ‘down on paper’, so decided to take this quiet time to do it. Mostly because I’m thinking I won’t have a chance to write again until our Kansas team returns home. Even though I have finished with much of the preparation, I still have quite a few things to do before they arrive. That takes place this Wednesday at 3:35am. Most of my preparation revolves around food. Since we will be traveling to Maradi and staying in a place with a relatively small kitchen, I have done much of the food prep ahead of time. My freezer is full and I’m ready to go! Almost. It’s at times like this that I wish we at least had the option to run to Pizza Hut, Subway, or Taco Bell. Team Word of Life is made up of 11 team members. They, together with our family of 5, will make the now 10 hour road trip to Maradi on Thursday morning. We will be going in our 4WD vehicle, and Neal’s parent’s 4WD (they are so wonderful to loan it to us for this (and many other) trips). It doesn’t take a professional packer to realize that 16 people and all of their luggage will not be fitting into 2 vehicles. We have informed the team that 3 of their members, along with Trae and Tanika, will be taking public transportation to Maradi. They have informed me that they have 5 members ready to do so. Thanks guys!

Friday starts the annual bible school alumni meeting – they will be ministering in that both Friday and Saturday. Then, on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evenings we will go into villages to do evangelism. We are bringing a generator (which Word of Life bought for us) and will have lights and music, complete with keyboard, bass and drums. We have great expectation for these meetings, and know God will move in a powerful way. The team has been preparing for a year! We will return to Niamey on Wednesday (and I’m assuming that 3 different team members will check out the public transport experience). Trae and Tanika are such troopers, having had to go on public transport for several trips recently. The team will minister in some of our churches here, before beginning their journey back home very early Friday morning. We’re excited for them to get here. They begin their journey to Africa at 3am tomorrow (Monday) morning.

The reason I’m alone right now is because Tanika is at her friend’s house, Neal and Trae are playing tennis with Grampa and a friend, and Tobi is watching them play tennis (and hoping he can get in on a few balls too). Although he really does enjoy watching tennis, both live and on TV, I think part of the reason he went with them is because he is afraid if he stays home with me, I’ll make him read! (which he is finally catching on to).

Speaking of tennis, last Sunday was the same setup. Neal and Trae met Grampa at the court. Not sure if I mentioned it or not, but the day after camp was over, Trae was able to remove his sling. A couple weeks after that, he started some physical activities. He’s not (supposed to be) doing anything weight bearing or contact yet, but he’ll get there. Anyway, they play tennis at the American Rec Center. It, understandably so, is situated right next to the American Embassy. The other side of the Amer. Rec. Center is the French Embassy. Since the tennis court is in the corner of the property, it shares a wall with the French Embassy. One of the above players (who will remain nameless as I’m not sure who it was) hit the ball into French Embassy property. Trae, either because he’s young and in shape, or because he was the one that hit the ball out, went to retrieve the ball. On a side note, one might wonder why it was so important to actually go and retrieve an already over-used tennis ball. That is simply because those balls are precious commodities around here, imported from America with whoever is willing to bring a can or two of tennis balls when they come. Back to my story. No one was at the French Embassy gate, presumably because it was Sunday. The friend they were playing with had also joined Trae. They assessed the situation (really?), and decided the best course of action was to go over the wall. What?!!? Jump over a cement wall, one belonging to France, protected on the top by iron spikes?!? This is the same boy who finished the year with a 4.0 GPA and will attend college in a year. He got over the wall – only using the weight of his ‘good’ arm. He retrieved the ball. While doing so he discovered that his hand was covered in blood. He took off his shirt and wrapped it around the bleeding hand – there was a deep gash on his left hand, straight down from his pinky on his palm. He got that from those pesky metal spikes, put there to keep trespassers OUT. I wasn’t in his head, but I’m thinking he knew he was not in a good place, and needed to get back over the wall. How would it look now for a young, shirtless guy with a bloody hand to walk (from inside) to the other side of the property where there were actual people, and ask if they could please open the gate and let him OUT! That’s what I think went on in his head as he attempted, and succeeded, in scaling the wall using the cut hand only, as he could not put weight on his ‘other’ bad arm.

We decided that though stitches could definitely be warranted, they weren’t really necessary in this situation. We simply poured betadine in the very deep wound, squeezed it together and taped it up. We still had plenty of supplies from his other, rather recent, injuries. What’s another 1 inch scar when added to the rather large one along his collar bone, and the few down his back? He’s a guy. Scars are cool. So I’m told.

As I sit reflecting on this, I almost wonder if this is the same kid that was afraid to get on a merry-go-round or ride his bike down a hill. The same guy that went to Disney world, was picked for a nickelodeon show and when realized that it was possible he’d get slimed said ‘no way’ and left. The guy that was at the top of a zip-line platform and was about to turn around and said to his Dad “You think I’m going to jump off this?”, and his Dad replied “Sure, let’s go”, while pushing him off the platform. Yep, this is the same guy. Only now he’s grown up, is maturing, and it has become clear to me that his confidence has been developing all along. I know he’s developing wisdom, and is becoming all God has created him to be. I am watching it happen before my very eyes.

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!