Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sad news

I have some sad news to share today. We have been away taking courses but while we were away their was a serious accident on building site. We have been building with a special kind of compressed earth brick. The bricks are very dense and insulate better against the Nigerien heat. However they are also very susceptible to water and need to be treated with a special coating or covered with a layer of cement to prevent them from dissolving. A little bit water is not a problem but a lot can be disastrous. I spoke with the architect in May about this since the bricks had not been covered yet and rainy season was about to begin. Not only that, the top floor had not been entirely roofed in but was waiting for the cooling tower. The architect had originally intended to put the tower in earlier around January or February but had shifted to installing the wiring instead. When I spoke to him about this, he said he wasn’t particularly concerned because Niger doesn’t get a lot of rain to begin with.

While we were away their was a huge rain storm that started around 10 PM and didn’t stop until 5 or 6 AM the following morning. The guard who lived on site to watching over the workers equipment had been living on the main floor with his family. Around 8 AM he noticed some of the bricks near the ceiling starting to crumble and realized what was about to happen. He called his wife to grab their small child and get out while he got the workers out of the building. When the others were out he himself went out and found his wife standing alone. He asked her where their three-year-old was and she replied that she was still sleeping inside and didn’t want to disturb her! He chewed his wife out and then finally went back in to retrieve his daughter. He threw the child over his shoulder and was about to step off the front porch when the building came down on top of them both.  One worker had remained stranded on the roof of the building but managed to stay on top of it all as it came down, receiving only a few scratches and bruises. The guard and his daughter did not survive buried under the rubble.

Our architect was kept in police detention as a result of the deaths. A preliminary inquest was done to ascertain if the foundation had been properly laid and the initial response is yes, it was dug into an appropriate depth. The architect was known to have had a positive relationship with the guard, so his extended family declined to press charges and he has been released. I spoke with him yesterday for the first time since our return over the weekend. He felt that two things had happened to bring about the situation. First he admitted that the lack of roof had allowed a large quantity of rainwater to collect in the interior of the building. He also felt that the electricians had perhaps significantly weakened certain bricks by cutting into them to run some of the wiring. This observation was based on the fact of where the bricks initially began to crumble and how the building fell in two stages (the front went down first followed by the back end).

I have visited the site where our building once stood. The first floor ceiling and the roof which were made of cement are still more or less intact though bent and twisted but the rubble of the bricks are scattered all around. They even knocked down some of our outer wall and the neighbour’s house that was connected to it.

Our architect has communicated his intention to rebuild and replace what has been lost despite the fact that he has no insurance. When I visited him yesterday, the strain of this ordeal was clearly written on both his face and the face of his wife. The fact that people were killed in this accidence remains with him and he has not been able to sleep. Moreover, the whole affair has been on local television news including an interview with him about the bricks he has been using to build. (We were not the first to use these bricks; he has already built a couple of homes, including his own, as well as a hospital for another Christian organization—all of which are still standing).

The first job over the next few weeks is to begin to clean up the mess, which may not be easy. In the mean time we will be reconsidering our building plan. The architect is concerned about the negative press that his bricks have received and would like to make some changes. I have suggested a structure where cement posts hold the weight of the building with perhaps the red bricks functioning as insulation rather bearing the load of the building. Connected with this of course is the public perception of our property in the neighbourhood.  To rebuild exactly the same building may not inspire confidence and safety among the neighbours and community we would like to reach.

We invite you to pray with us for this building project and the ministry initiative that it represents. We know that God is able to take our tragedies and our failures and use them to accomplish his will and mission. We invite you to pray particularly for our architect who is not only a brother in Christ but a church planter, with his own congregation. Pray also for the grieving who have lost loved ones.  We also would appreciate your prayers for Jennifer and I. We have both been taking courses this summer and have assignments yet to complete. Jennifer is actually still in Germany as I write completing her last classes before her return on Saturday.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Cooling Tower

Things continue to move forward at the house and we hope to see the last of the roof go on soon. The are starting to work on our "cooling tower,"  that forms almost a third floor. The picture shows the grating they're starting to put in for it. It's intend to allow the cool breezes caught by the tower to drop down into the house and let hot escape upwards. We intend to put clay pots with water up there to help humidify, cooling it further as it drops down into the house.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Insufficient for the Task?

It has been an intense week with lots of power cuts and friends leaving the country (unfortunately both are just facts of life here). In fact I am writing this at 3am simply because the power is finally stable and I can’t sleep. We are told that the power cuts are due to work on the lines and we are grateful that they have been way better than a year ago at this time (when we were lucky to have an hour or two a day), but it is still frustrating when you are trying to get work done and you can’t. Our situation is also complicated by the fact that when the power is out for extended periods of time our water is cut (because the water tower needs electricity to power the pumps that keep the water pressure going), so it gets to be a vicious cycle.

We have had cause to rejoice in hearing that at least part of the team will be coming in August! Thanks to those who have been praying about this. Please keep praying for them as they have to get their paperwork together and have lots of decisions to make.

Please pray for Dave as he tries to finish up his marking for the bible school and preparing for the student’s defense of their final papers, in addition to getting ready to take a couple classes himself this summer and his usual jobs (like taking a turn preaching this Sunday). Pray that he would be able to make the most of his time and focus on the task at hand regardless of the circumstances.

Please pray for me that I would be able to get accomplished what I need to for the courses that I am taking this summer and be able to balance that with the needs of family and ministry.

Please also pray for the great people that are ending their time of ministry here:  that God would be directing them to what He has in store for the next stage of their lives. They will be deeply missed and it is hard to say goodbye.  Pray for the gaps that they leave behind that others would come along to fill them. Pray that others would come to work alongside us. We recognise that we are insufficient for the task, but thankfully God supplies all our needs.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Obstacles or Barriers

So many times in life we face difficulties and most often those are the defining moments in our life. Will we choose to rail against God, have a pity party, or see those situations as one more growing experience? I think I usually fall into the "all of the above" category, but thankfully God is always faithful to see me through.

What I find really tough is knowing when the obstacles that are coming my way are just that: obstacles for me to over come or barriers that are God's way of saying no, this isn't my plan for you. We are supposed to be having a team coming this summer but they have been facing problem after problem and trying to know whether this is another hurtle along the way or God's way of letting them know that they need to reconsider. It is a tough call and one that they will have to make for themselves. I have found that when the obstacles boil down to fear, then that usually isn't God (based on 2 Timothy 1:7). Not to make light of fear, there are things in life that deserve a healthy dose of fear and should be taken seriously, but scripture tells us that that is not how God operates. More often than not when I get caught up in fear it is someone else that is playing with me, not God. Philippians 4:6 & 7 is usually how I deal  with those issues: giving my anxious thoughts to God and looking for his peace. Will you pray with me for this team that they will know what God has planned for them and that He will direct them in His perfect peace?

Thursday, May 29, 2014


The last full week of classes before the regular exams had a few unexpected surprises that came with it. There were two days when the school closed down because of university student protests that got out of hand. You would think that this would be a good thing for us (the time off not the rioting!) because we would be saved the one hour round trip to school; that we could sleep in and take life at a slower pace. But, no... it just so happened that Cole was writing IGCSE exams on both of those afternoons so even though school was closed he had to get in there to write his exams, thankfully God took care of us and although we saw signs of the commotion all around town and a number of burning tires we didn't run into any problems on the road. Instead of being able to use my day off teaching to mark and do some work around the house, I had three extra bodies to manoeuvre around and meals that needed to be timed so that the commute across town could be done. I must admit that I did appreciate the opportunity to sleep in, even if my body doesn't know what to do with that and gets up anyway. We are truly grateful for the number of people that prayed for our safety at the time and to God for answering those prayers.

This week Ben has started his final exams and Cole will have his 13th and final exam next week. They would appreciate your prayers.

We were told this week that there might be some complications for the remainder of the team coming in August. I am hoping and praying that they would be able to come, it would really mean a lot to us (even just to see faces from home) but I am afraid that God might be closing that door for some reason. Please pray that God's will would be done in these circumstances and that the building project would move ahead whether this team comes to help or not.