Washed out road dry

Josiah’s Perspective of our Red Sea experience.

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

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

Josiah’s Journey

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

And I have sand EVERYWHERE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, picture this:

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

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

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

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

“Oh, a little bit.”

“Where?”

Some town nearby.

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

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

“Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.”

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

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

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

Islam is all about works.

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

So yeah.

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

(Friend S): that’s insane

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

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

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

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

So Danette climbs out the passenger window.

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

Finally, success.

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

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

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

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

(Friend S): dude… I don’t even lift.

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

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

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

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

Washed out road dry

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

The first half of this story can be found here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here I am in the drivers seat…

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

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

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

Check it out!

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

Here’s the scene when Mighty Yellow showed up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TTC – In Their Words

  1. Take the Challenge (TTC) was a team of 5 extraordinary 16 – 18 year olds that came to teach our youth here how to use drama/mime as an evangelism tool.  The results were awesome and lives all around were impacted and changed.  Friendships were forged.  The Gospel was preached.After they returned home, I asked the team members to answer a few questions I had for them about their experience here.  It’s always interesting to me to know why someone chose to come to Niger, and to hear how the experience impacted their lives.  I thought it might also be of interest to others to get the perspective of an American experiencing Niger for the first time.Below are the questions and uncut/unedited answers.  They are anonymous, but I suspect the reader will be able to tell which were female responses and which male – mostly because of their length.1.  Why did you come to Niger?

I am actually not sure what piqued my interest about Niger in the first place. My heart has always been for Asia and coming to Africa had not crossed my mind! But when I learned about the opportunity, I decided that hey, I’ve been to Thailand, Europe, and many times to China so why not Africa? At first, I asked only for more details but the more I learned about the purpose and goals of the trip, the more I felt that this was something I needed to do. ONE of the reasons (and it is partly a selfish reason 😉 ) I had never been to Africa before so I wanted to put another country on my lists. 🙂 But the more involved I got, the more my goals changed. I don’t think I can really fully answer this question because even now, I am not sure of all the reason why I came only that I am glad I did.

Why did I come to Niger? Well that is a very good question! To tell you the truth, I did not think it was possible for a 17 year old Senior in high school to go away from her life, right before her graduation- but for some reason God gave this huge peace about me going there. Of course there were the typical thoughts like “Oh cool, another Third World Country” or “Wow, straight out evangelism! What an opportunity!”, but those things did not make me go, those things just made me want to go! I came to Niger because I felt like God needed me there (whatever the reason may be) and that he would use me! That is one thing He made very clear while deciding whether or not I should attend. In the end, I see that I came to Niger not only to be used, but also for God to show me what He wanted me to learn next. It’s always a great time to learn about what He expects of us on trips like these, cause He dose teach!

I came to Niger because…well, because I felt God calling me to go. Simple as that. I had it on my heart to go on a mission trip to Africa. I didn’t really know that it’d be Niger, but I knew that when I saw the opportunity, that was where God wanted me to go.

I guess there were several reasons I went to Niger. One, was I just felt like that’s what God wanted me to do. There were many confirmations during the process of preparing for the trip (i.e. I almost immediately had the necessary funds for the trip). Also, I wanted a new adventure. I’d done a lot things, but before the trip, I’d never been out of the country or even flown in a plane.

2.What did you love about Niger?

For me, I think I loved the friendly people. Everywhere I went, I was greeted by handshakes and warm smiles. They definitely went out of their way to make us feel welcome. I don’t know, but being on a Mission Trip far from home and family, having welcoming people really makes everything easier.

How do you narrow down love? That is the real question. What happens when you are being used by God and doing it with fellow Christians all over the world? You love the things you do… which is probably why it might be hard to explain everything.

Have you ever had to teach a child how to give a high five? Have you ever been fought over by 10 different kids who want to hold your hand?  What’s it like to make someone there smile, who can’t even speak the same language and yet they understand your thoughts. What happens when you see the routine of these people and stand in awe of their lifestyle? What’s it like to see some of these people risk everything they know in order to follow Christ? After experiencing all of these, I came to this conclusion:

I Love Niger, because it is a place that shows that you love God. Some of the people there gave up everything (literally) in order to worship God. It challenges how I see my faith and service to the Lord. I Love that I was able to meet people who actually live in the story books that you read about here in America. You have to actually want to be a christian.

The culture was very different, I mean surrounded by a Muslim people would normally change things. Going any distance, even for 5 minutes there would be some type of mosque with people praying. Many head turbans and head scarfs for men and women. Now I didn’t love that those things were there, but what I did love that because of those things Christians stand out. They don’t go with the flow and you are able to be different just by not going with the flow. It’s a constant reminder of who you serve when you drive by a couple a dozen people bowing done on the ground kneeling before something that is not God. It’s eye opening. I Love to see the contrast and mission right in front of my face, and it definitely was!

I loved the openness of the Nigerians. They always were ready to greet us just as we were ready to greet them. It was so nice to be able to go somewhere that I’ve never been before and feel welcomed.

The children, the freedom in worship, the authenticity and completeness of faith.

What I loved about Niger…well…there were a lot of things I loved, but I think the thing I loved most were the people. They were so joyful and caring. For example, one night I twisted my ankle. One of the nationals noticed and tried to ask what was wrong. Of course they didn’t understand my answer because I didn’t have a translator at that time, but I found one of the translators and when the young man heard what happened he knelt down, put his hands on my ankle, and started to pray for me. Several other nationals (who hadn’t even heard what had happened) also gathered around to pray for me.

3.  What did you not love about Niger?

I don’t think there was anything that I did not like. Even the dust and the heat was not so bad (thank God!)

And I don’t think I didn’t like anything. I mean, dirty feet are an annoyance, but it didn’t bug me to my inner core. Ok, well, I guess I didn’t like the electricity going out. I don’t do well in sudden darkness.

The long drive. (Ms. Danette’s driving? Just kidding. )

One thing that I can think that I disliked was when people would come up asking for food or money. It wasn’t the fact that they were asking for it, it was how bad I felt when I didn’t give them anything. Of course I got used to it after a couple days, but I still felt bad for them.

4.  What was your favorite experience?

This may sound weird, but the bumpy roads (or lack thereof)! I loved working with the nationals and doing workshop and presenting in the villages but nothing beats driving 60 mph over speed bumps! JK lol. 🙂 But seriously, I loved the drives not only because we didn’t have to wear seat belts but also because it was sort of like a bonding time. At least when the car was a girl car. But getting to meet more REAL LIVE Missionaries (you guys in particular) was awesome! I mean, I know missionaries but I don’t really know any missionaries personally. Like, seeing how their everyday lives are compared to mine.

My favorite experience would be “helping” with pulling the water up from the well. I’m sure I was more of a hindrance, but it was neat. You don’t think water can be that heavy until you pull it up from a rope and it’s tiring! But how many people can say that they pulled water up from a well? Not many. It was super cool!

Village outreaches and watching the people we taught present.

I can’t really pick out one experience as my favorite. I think just the whole thing was a great experience–working with an awesome ministry and awesome people and having fun while we did.

5.  What surprised you the most?

What surprised me the most was the weather. I had been all preparing myself for some really grueling days in 110 (or excess of) degrees over and I came their and the weather was in the 80s! O_O

What surprised me the most would have to be the overwhelming amount of kids and teens. I knew that there would be more than I was thinking, but this just surpassed that. Everywhere I turned my head there was either a little kid or a group of teens or a mix of both.

How bearable the heat was.

I’d have to say that how bold the people were; how they’d come up and knock on your window, asking for money or food. Or how bold they were when trying to sell us something.

6.  What shocked you the most?

The beggars.

7.  After a trip like this, people often say their life has been changed.  Has it changed your life?  If so, how?

I know definitely I have been changed. But as to what, I am not quite sure. I wouldn’t necessarily go as far to say as my WHOLE life has been changed but I do know there is something different. I still haven’t put my finger on it yet but God will show me and I know that some of the things I learned over there will better me in the future.

I would say that my life has been changed in mainly two ways. One of them is to be more bold in my faith. People have such a fire for God in the churches and it’s something that I’ve always wanted. And the church members really showed me that it’s ok to be bold and to not worry about who is looking and so forth. It definitely encouraged me to get off the back burner. And the second thing that has changed in my life is my perspective on what I have. I remember coming back home and just looking in my room, wondering how much stuff I could live without because I don’t use it. I’ve been more appreciative of the things we have available and have been rethinking my thoughts on what I “need” in my life.

I’m much more inclined to consider missions on a more than short-term basis than before.

I think one way that it changed my life, is that now I have more confidence in teaching and speaking in front of people. Before the trip, whenever I was onstage, I always had memorized lines. I’ve had the opportunity to teach kids before, but not youth or adults. So that, I think, is something that changed: I have more confidence speaking in front of all ages now.

8.  How has your adjustment back the US been?  Have you faced reverse culture shock?

So far, my adjustment went really well. I didn’t have much jet lag and was over it pretty much in four days. I don’t think I have experienced anything negative about my adjustments back home.

I think my adjustment back to the US went somewhat quickly. It’s definitely weird sometimes when I think back to my time in Niger and what we did and didn’t have. But I guess you just get back into the swing of things naturally. Once, I almost forgot to wear my seatbelt. As for reverse culture shock…I think I had a slight case. It’s hard not to when you get use to something else.

Late culture shock is what I like to call it. Most of the time when the average person from the US thinks of going overseas they believe it will start the moment you step into that new culture (which is very true). But like Mrs. Danette said “How has your adjustment back to the US been?” It’s really after you get home when you see just how drastically different that one other country really is! It’s when your mind is trying to adjust back to it’s normal life and comparing it with what it’s just experienced.

Actually, this trip was one of the hardest to get over being back at home. That’s not because I’m comparing with how little they may or may not have had, it was how very much I have and don’t need and how people at home take advantage so much of what they have. I fall into that category and it challenges me to live a way honoring to God.

US lack of passion is rather depressing. People aren’t completely committed with their whole life. So yes.

My adjustment back to the U.S. wasn’t too bad. The only thing that was hard for me was that the first few days, I felt kind of antsy. I felt like I needed to do something, but wasn’t really sure what. Now, I’ve gotten back into the flow of things though.

9.  What is something you have learned?

I learned that wherever I am lacking, God makes up for it. It might not be very profound but it is something I have learned when I don’t think I can do it any longer, God is always there to give me courage to get up and go for it again. I think I can confidently say that I ran the race in Niger. I was exhausted when I came home but I feel that I did my best. With God’s help…

I relearned that God is always there with me and is there to help me. When I or the team was in need of God to do something, He’d always come through. And for some reason, I really noticed that. I mean, I always knew it and have seen God work before, but I guess because I was in a “desperate” state, I saw it magnified, so to speak. I find myself going to God for help more instead of relying on myself. It was like a reality check for me in a way.

I learned many things, but one thing that I think stood out for me is that most of the missionaries I’ve met have always seemed really intense and serious, but it wasn’t that way working with your ministry. There were many times where we had to be serious, but there was also many times where we laughed and had fun. So I guess I learned that you can be missionary–intensely serving the Lord–and having fun while your at it.

And there you have it – “In their words”.  Pretty challenging, don’t you think?

 

 

 

 

TTC & Vie Abondante The Finale. Finally.

I know, I know.  Will there ever be an end to this drama?  Pun intended.

The team is now home – and I’m still writing!  Just so much to say.  Thing is, we’re also getting ready to travel.  We’re leaving tomorrow morning for Benin Republic.  We’ll spend the weekend in Cotonou where we’ll minister in our friend Rev. Joseph Nwobodo’s church.  Then  Monday we’re off to Grand Popo – to the beach!  And by beach I mean the real thing –  complete with ocean and all.  I enjoy sand a lot more when it’s accompanied with a large body of water.  Quite looking forward to getting out of this dust for a bit.  In spite of the 2 day drive on rough roads.  But one thing we’ll be giving up is the dry weather.  It’s hot now, but it’s also dry.  Benin will be humid.  Very humid.  But it will be tropical.  But I digress.  Let me get back to the story at hand…

The youth meeting on Friday was great – and Saturday was just as powerful.

Neal and Scott opening the meeting.  They’re both wearing dresses.

TTC performing King of Hearts

Vie Abondante performing Thank You.

The youth responded to the call to GO into their world with the Gospel.  It was a powerful time of impartation.

Our pastors were very encouraged by the youth.  One of my favorite parts of the day was when Scott had everyone learn the sign language to the chorus of ‘Thank You’ and then he asked everyone to go and thank people that made a difference in their lives while the song was being played.   As soon as the music started, it’s almost as the youth all rushed together as one over to where all the pastors were standing – to say thank you.  A teary moment and one that I believe had great significance.  Here they are.

Then there was a time of prayer where the TTC team prayed for the Vie Abondante team.

The next generation was there to.  This is Bulus and Abigail – children of 2 of our pastors.  They responded to GO as well.

TTC & Vie Abondante.  What a team!!

It wasn’t over though.  Sunday morning we took the team to 2 of our churches in town.  First, it was Vie Abondante – Ali Dan Tsoho

Then it was on to Vie Abondante Maradi to minister with more dramas.  The people loved it – even though we went beyond the normal time to dismiss.

Taylor, Nichelle, and Emily have collected several kiddos they’d like to take home.

At the end of the service, the church prayed for TTC.  It was a special time.

After the service, TTC leaders met with Vie Abondante pastors and youth leaders to talk about how to continue what’s been started.  The training provided tools and now our youth will use those tools and will do greater things than any of us could have done alone.

For lunch, we headed to the French Club.  The term ‘French Club’ could conjure up all kinds of images  – likely none of which are correct as it applies here.  I didn’t get pictures of Neal & Scott playing tennis on the clay court but I wish I would have.  Actually, video (at least sound) would have been even better.  They used to play each other many, many years ago.  Who thought they’d ever play tennis together in Niger!  Here’s where we ate – and you can see the lovely pool in the background.  And it really was lovely.  Too cold for me to go in until I commandeered Emily to work out with me so we’d stay warm.  We did dorky laps.  Sort of.

Now, not just any French Club comes equipped with camel rides.  This one doesn’t either.  But Mainassara, the man who has worked at the club for over 30 years, was able to contact some friends in a nearby village and they brought a couple of their camels over for our team to ride.  If you’ve ever been on a camel before, you know it’s just for a photo op.

Pretty sure Taylor is loving it.

Josiah – and that ‘saddle’ really is that uncomfortable.  And crooked.

Nichelle

Keagon.  Ride ’em —-cowboy?  Check out the guy on the left.  Wonder what he’s thinking…

Look Ma!  No hands!

Emily – really, she’s enjoying this.  I have no idea what’s up with the santa hat though.

And the fearless leader.  I think.

Take The Challenge!  I’m talking about serving God, not riding a camel.

This is the SIM guest house – their home away from home away from home.  One is never too old to enjoy the merry-go-round.  I take that back.  I’m too old for that.  I can NOT spin like that.  But looks like they’re having fun!

Monday morning we packed up for our return trip to Niamey.  It was a long one.  It was without incident, if you don’t count being asked for papers at the police checkpoint and having to return to Maradi to renew our insurance and start out again 2 hours later.  But we made it.  If you want pics of that – refer to the previous post about our journey here.  Not sure which one that was.

Tuesday morning Scott taught 4 hours at our Bible school, while I took the team to the National Mussee.  They saw some cool stuff, saw some crafts being made and did some shopping.  Didn’t take any pictures because frankly, I was tired of carrying my camera around.  We met Scott and Neal to finish up souvenir shopping then had lunch at Chez Chin – yep, a Chinese restaurant.

After that, we took the team to see our primary school.  It’s a great vision and a work in progress.

All too quickly it was time for everyone to pack up and get ready to say goodbye.  Several of our pastors came by to do just that.

Jenga – passing the time before going to the airport for the 12:45am flight.

It was pretty hot… and this was with the AC running – the one you see at the top of the picture above.

Here we all are together.

Some sad faces ready to go to the airport…or not.

Me and the girls.  And what great women of God they are!

This is the temperature on the porch after we got back from the airport.

TTC has arrived home and our team members have returned to their villages and homes.  But no one has returned the same.  God used each of them to effect the lives of each other.  And they have all made an impact on the nation of Niger.  And this is only the beginning.

To God be the glory great things He has done!

TTC & Vie Abondante Part 10

I don’t yet know how many ‘parts’ this saga will have.  But I’m glad I’m taking the time to document much of what is going on.  I wish I would or could do the same for everything that goes on.

After 5 days of workshops and discipleship, the seminar finally arrived.  Youth coming in to Maradi from 17 different villages.  There weren’t as many as were at the Niamey rally because many of them had school on Saturday.  But there was a good group – about 120.

The meeting started with the ‘GO’ drama being performed by the TTC and Vie Abondante team together.  It was awesome!  Here they are outside the church, waiting to make their appearance.

GO!

Neal and Scott explaining the drama .

More drama – the Gospel preached without words.

Josiah brought the message at the first meeting – identity – knowing who you are in Christ.

What one puts on, one must take off.  Not an easy (or painless) job.

Several of our pastors came to support the event.

As can be seen, it wasn’t just youth that came.  There were several children that enjoyed the meetings as well.

As promised, here’s a picture of Scott in his dress.

It was Emily’s turn to preach for the evening session.

Then some more dramas.  The Sin Chair

The Vie Abondante team ministering.  So proud of them!  And the crowd loved to see their peers doing this stuff!

See our proud TTC members giving cues and taking pictures from the back.

Neal and Pastor Hasimu closing the program.

This would be as good of place as any to interrupt myself and the chronological writing style of these posts…

I mentioned a few posts back that the heat was returning in it’s true form. That was on Thursday.  But then the dust rolled in and cooled things way down again.  I didn’t live during the Oklahoma and Texas dustbowl days, but this may have rivaled what it was like.  And it was as dusty inside as it was out, since the glass on the windows are louvres, and they don’t really close.  Even if they did, this fine (and by fine I don’t mean lovely) dust would find it’s way in.  We would wipe tables and counters down so we could eat/write/work etc.  Only to find that an hour later part of the lovely Sahara Desert had sifted it’s way into our living quarters.

This is the countertop 1 hour after being cleaned.  So much for dusting once a week!

Here’s what it looked like outside.  That’s not fog, it’s dust.

But the dust cover did keep things cooler.  So for a change I wasn’t desperate for a shower because I was hot  and sweaty, but because I was filthy dirty.  At any rate, this cool weather was a distinct difference for March.  And that’s been nice, because even though hot season started, it kind of stopped for a bit  – which gives it sort of a delayed start.  That makes it shorter.  And that’s a very good thing.

It took most of today to upload these videos so I want to post them here.  Pictures are great, but the sights and sounds of video – well, those are even greater.  Now someone needs to invent a media to communicate smells too…

This first one was the beginning of one of the workshop sessions.  Praise and worship.  We’re singing about being a soldier of Jesus – I’ll testify of Jesus wherever I go – No one will hinder me – Because I am a soldier of Jesus.  As you can see, understanding the language was not a requirement to be involved.

This next video is more praise.  In the beginning they are reminding the devil that he has no power – sin has no power – sickness has no power.  BUT – Jesus is all power.  You’ll have no trouble seeing when that part of the song starts.

And finally, the well.  The team is doing a drama at the well to ‘advertise’ our meeting that would soon take place.  Here we see how sin separates us from God.  After this, I got into quite a discussion with the women at the well – but I’ll save that for another blog post.

That’s it for now, but next up is Saturday, Sunday, our journey back to Niamey, and the team’s departure.  At the moment of this writing, they are somewhere in the air between Paris and the US.  Miss you guys!

TTC & Vie Abondante Part 9

Thursday was much the same as Wednesday.  The team went to the village of Kwadarawa and had a great time of ministry.  The difference is the heat.  Niger is returning to it’s normal state during hot season.  Still not as hot as it could be, but it’s getting there.  Everyone is coping well.  There are a few sniffles – it’s extremely dusty.  Hard really to describe what the dust is like.

Back on the homefront.  Which at the moment is the SIM mission guesthouse.  Our food is being provided by some Niger ladies who started a catering business called Circle of Hope.  It’s been a huge blessing to have our food not only prepared but delievered right to our table.

Then there’s cleanup.  Girls day.

Guy’s turn.

Crashed.

Then there was the lizard.  Gecko to be exact.  He was in the girls room.  Poor guy.  He was just doing his job, eating the other critters.  But Taylor was not appreciating him at all.  And she was doing that loudly.  Josiah and Keagon to the rescue.  Ok, Nichelle was trying to help too.

I told Jo to just grab him right as I realized that if he did that, the tail would remain in his hand while the rest of him runs away.  That’s what happened here – the tail is wriggling on the floor.

But check out where we find Taylor…  Josiah and Keagon have had victory and they are taking Mr. Geico outside.

March 14 was a big day for a reason other than the workshops.  It was Scott’s birthday.  We didn’t realize it til the end of the day.  But the next day, the team presented him with a birthday drama, sort of.  And a birthday bagel cake.  Again, sort of.  Here’s Scott with his ‘cake’.   Matches are posing as candles.

As stated before, this is a great group of young people.  They truly are spending themselves on behalf of the people of Niger.  The schedule is pretty intense.  Their diligence is producing fruit.  During the afternoon session it was again Keagon’s turn to do the Bible study (your’s truly was also being stretched as I was the only one available to interpret at the time).

We then had the V.A. team members give testimonies of what this training has meant to them.  What an encouraging time!  The theme throughout all the testimonies went something like this:

“When I first saw them do the drama, I didn’t think it was something we’d be able to do.  Then they started teaching us and we can do it!”

“I have really learned that this is a great way to share the Gospel.  I’m going to go back to my village and show the people the crucifixion and resurrection.”

“I used to think it took money to evangelize.  But I realize I can just walk somewhere and do this drama whether I have any money or not.”

There were so many amazing testimonies that were shared and the session finished with a bang!

That brings us to today.  This morning found everyone quite weary, but they began strengthening themselves and each other in the Lord.

Today is the beginning of the youth conference.  The youth will be coming in from villages all around this region.  TTC and Vie Abondante teams will be presenting lots of dramas and the Word will be preached.  The youth are on fire for the Lord right now and we believe that now is their time!

This morning the teams were putting final touches on the drama titled ‘GO’!

And GO-ing is exactly what they will be doing.  Taking the Gospel to their generation and the next.

TTC & Vie Abondante Part 8

We’re still in the village of Tamroro…

They  did one of their mimes right at the well.  Tamroro is a big village and this is the 2nd well we went to.

What a cutie!  And she was working hard.

Neal preparing the group for the drama.

The Crucifixion and Resurrection

This lady was watching from the sidelines.

Happy faces.

This man was really contemplating the message

Sweet kiddos.

Saying goodbye

Our time in the village of Tamroro was effective.  This is actually a village where many – even most – have heard the Gospel.  But today they were really confronted with the reality that today is the day of salvation.  Pray for hearts to be softened.

TTC & Vie Abondante Part 7

On Wednesday morning, we took our team to the Vie Abondante church in the village of Tamroro.  This village has had many seeds planted, and great fruit has come from there.  But there are still so many that need to respond to the Gospel.  The team went ‘in face’.  Here they are right outside the pastor’s house.

On their way to check out the village well.

Any idea how deep that is?

Pretty deep…

Taylor ‘helping’.  We’ll let her think that =)

And Nichelle

The team did some stroll miming to attract a crowd.

It was working.

So much more to show, but no time at the moment.  Getting ready for the road trip back to Niamey tomorrow morning.  These guys have been awesome!

TTC & Vie Abondante Part 6

Before we head to Maradi, I need to comment on the weather.  We are well into the month of March.  March in Niger is hot season.  That means it gets hot.  Very hot.  Not as hot as April, but hot nonetheless.  Into the 100’s.  We prepared TTC thusly.  Imagine our surprise when what I would classify as a cold front came through, returning us to our more ‘winter like’ conditions.  Low 70’s and maybe even dipping into the 60’s at night.  I’m not sure, but it was pretty nippy.  And it’s not just me and my thin blood.  I even overheard a team member or 2 say ‘I’m cold’.  I even saw one of them sporting a sweater one morning.  True story.  It still heats up during the day, but it’s not even reaching 100.  God is truly smiling down on us because I can tell you from experience that doing the type of training and ministry that is going on here now is multiplied times more challenging when all you can think about is how hot you feel.  It makes people cranky too.  Maybe I should speak for myself.  I’d say thank God for the small things, but this unusual weather isn’t a small thing.  So I’m thanking God for the HUGE things!

Monday morning dawned bright and cool and we were ready for the big road trip to Maradi.  Two vehicles and 10 people.  So it was pretty comfortable.  The roads have improved over the years so there is really only 1 section that is bad.  And it’s pretty bad.  But it’s been worse.  Some of the potholes have recently been filled with sand, and that really does help.  If it’s just Neal and I traveling in 1 vehicle, we make the trip in no more than 8 hours.  Sometimes less.  But we are no-nonsense travelers.  Synchronized bladders for 1 but no more than 2 bush stops.  We have to stop for gas but we’re almost pulling away while they are removing the nozzle from the tank.  You get the picture.

The trip went great but with 10 bladders and 10 sets of intestines, some travel modifications had to be made.  We left at 7am, and the plan was to start the seminar at 3pm.  That gave us 8 hours.

Here we are loading up from our house.

One of our stops.  Lots of ‘fast food’ options if one is so inclined.

On the road again…

Some ‘common’ sights.

There are zillions of these speed bumps (and other varieties) all along the way.  Their names were changed to ‘bump speeds’ if we didn’t happen to see them before flying over them.   They really are this hard to see.

Potholes are kind of like inverted speed bumps.

More good road.

Outskirts of Maradi

We’re here!  Maradi ‘gate’.

We arrived into town around 3:30 and went straight to the guest house where we would stay for the week and dropped off our things.  All were happy to have the luxury of a real toilet.

After enjoying an official ‘throne’ we were off to the church where there were about 35 seminar participants waiting.

The team opened with some dramas and then began teaching technique.

‘The Wall’

After a quick but very tasty dinner with the Jorgensen’s and Bowden’s –  Vie Abondante missionaries in Maradi, we continued the seminar from 7:30 – 9:30.  The seminars each started with one of the TTC team members bringing a Bible study.  They all did great and brought encouraging revelation from the Word of God.  Monday was Keagon’s turn.

Then the mime training continued…We split into 2 teams.  Here, Josiah and Nichelle are teaching them how to walk without going anywhere.  Pretty funny stuff.

Tuesday was much the same, well, minus the road trip through the desert.  Oh – and the visit to our primary school.

Keagon Juggling

Sukala and Delfin are some of our leaders in Niamey and they came to Maradi to be a part of the TTC team here.

Walking over to the pre-school.

The kids were giggling at the silly juggling.

The resurrection.  Almost all of these kids are from Muslim families.

The team

Ginger Jorgensen is the director of the school.  Here she is answering our questions before we get ready to leave.

School’s out!

Tuesday evening started out with some awesome praise and worship.  Vie Abondante and TTC together.  No interpretation necessary.

Then it was Nichelle’s turn to bring the message.  Neal interpreted (he’s the guy on the right!)

The students were really attentive.

So were the TTC team members.

Next was the instructional video.  How many people can gather around 1 computer screen?  This many.

If you think this was a long post, you have an idea of what our days are like.

Next:  Wednesday and beyond!

TTC & Vie Abondante Part 5

Lest one thinks that it was all work and no play (though the work was sometimes like play!), let me set the record straight…

A fair amount of food was consumed.

Team meeting recapping the day – including ‘smile time’.

I believe this was an episode of ‘The Three Stooges’

Grabbing a well deserved mid-afternoon siesta

The fearless leader (aka Patty’s hero), doing more organizing

The girls’ room

The boys’ room

The occupant of the unmade bed shall remain nameless, only because I don’t know which one of the boys slumbers there.

Next Up:  Road trip to Maradi.