Friday, April 22, 2016

Looking for Jesus in the Difficulties of Life

I read a great devotional the other day that reminded me that Jesus Christ is always present in a believer’s life but Satan uses three tactics to keep us for looking for Him in the difficulties we face. Those three “D’s” were distraction, deception and discouragement. I have found this so true over the years. You know that that is true when you are facing what seems like a major crisis/disaster of life, but more often than not it is the little things that tend to get to you the most. They kind of slip under your radar as something that you “need” to take to the cross—
You know the kind of things that I am talking about:
The waist band you are about to slip into goes “crackle, crunch, snap” (in protest of living too long in the desert heat) just as you are about to pull it on
The dog jumps on you with muddy paws just as you are rushing to an important meeting
You catch you favourite shirt (and it rips) on the corner of the chair that you keep meaning to fix and never seem to get around to
Or worse you keep hearing those voices inside your head that tell you “you aren’t good enough”, “you can’t do it”, ”you really messed up and will never be able to fix it”, “your fat, ugly and your mother/wife dresses you funny”... that sort of thing
I started writing this a week ago and at the time I really thought that I was getting a handle on the concept of keeping my focus on Jesus and letting him handle the little things and then I got really busy. I had one of those weeks when everything seems to be booked into the same week and you are running from event to event because there is just enough time to make it and they all seem like opportunities that you can’t miss. This was also coincided with Dave started preaching on 2nd Timothy –renewing your calling, “pass on what you have learned to faithful men” (that you might have a legacy), oh and let me not forget “share in the sufferings of Christ”. I also went to the English worship service that night and heard a great sermon on how Satan tries to deceive us by misdirecting us. (Anyone else notice a theme here...)
Needless to say, I wasn’t too surprised when our power cut out at 3 am and didn’t come back on. What was surprising was that Dave and I had the same response at 5:30 am when we were trying to get ready for school in the dark –“check the breaker”. But it was the source of the issue that really got our attention. As I flipped the breaker on the house and the power came on Ben called me to see what he found in the pantry. The electrical outlet on the freezer had exploded out of the wall. I don’t know if you can see from the picture but the heat of the fire melted the outlet and fused it to the cord of the regulator. The regulator was fried but thankfully the freezer was fine. Nothing else (other than maybe the wiring in the wall and a second outlet) was damaged. We are so grateful for God’s hand of protection on our lives and for people like you who pray for us regularly.
I guess what I am trying to get at, but maybe not communicating all that well because of my hot season fatigue, is that trials and difficulties come to all of us in this world. But you don’t have to face them alone and that can make all the difference

Monday, April 4, 2016

Sahel Academy

Which one is mine?

Library murale
There is a part of all of us that wants to know that our life has meaning an a purpose and that maybe we have made a difference in the lives of those around us (or maybe it’s just me). One of the things that I appreciate the most about teaching is being able to see progress and development in my students. It really helps me to feel like maybe I am making a difference with my life. What is hardest about teaching is that you rarely get to see the long term affect. For the most part you lose touch with those that you have taught and rarely do you get to know that your class had any lasting value to those you have worked with. So, if you are reading this and you have had a teacher or pastor that has really made a difference in your life, my challenge for you is to take the time to let them know that you appreciated them.
Aside from my philosophical ponderings about lasting impact, school has been on my mind for other reasons this week. It seems like every semester posses a new challenge to Sahel Academy (the boys school) and even though we are only into the third day of this last quarter we have already been faced with a number of issues:
Man power is always an issue because Niger is not the easiest country to live in so recruiting has its challenges and as we start the quarter we have additional challenges. We are losing one teacher  that has to go home due to illness, we are waiting on another teacher/principal who is delayed in returning because of health issues and in addition to that our IT person (a former student) was hit by a car while crossing a street on Monday and is recovering from severe blood loss and soft tissue damage (his sister, another teacher at the school, was with him at the time and while she wasn’t hit she has had to deal with the shock of the accident). Please pray for these various people and their families and those that are trying to fill in for them.
As well as the manpower problems we have also had to face some technical issues. Our school server crashed and the IT person was not aware that the back up drive hadn’t been working for the last few months, so a significant amount of data was lost. One of the most painful pieces being that most of the layouts and pictures for the yearbook was lost. This hits particularly close to home as this is Cole’s senior year and he was very involved in producing the yearbook. Please pray that when the IT guy recovers from the accident that he will also be able to recover what has been lost or that the students will find another way to have a lasting memory of their final year at Sahel.
On a personal level we have been having issues with our phone line and have not had internet at our house for awhile, so have patience with us as we try to respond to messages that have come our way (It can be a challenge to find internet in town during hot season when the power is sketchy).
We are quickly moving into the home stretch of our term here in Niger and have already begun the task of sorting and packing in order to move out and head home. This home stretch is always the hardest because it comes at the hottest and most tiring part of the year. Please pray that we can keep it up and make it home in once piece.
PS If you want to find out more about teaching at Sahel check out their website: www.sahelacademy.com
& some pictures from the building:
Supports & bricks for the ceiling

Pouring cross beams
 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

A wedding, an election, a baby and Holy Week or is that Spring Break??

Guess who is behind the paper!

Waiting for a wedding

This has been an incredibly busy week in our house. My plans to get a head start on the sorting, sifting, and packing that goes into moving have not really worked out as I had hoped but I guess that is life and sometimes other things have to take priority. This past weekend started with the wedding I mentioned a little while ago (after four trips to the tailor we all had matching outfits that actually fit!). Although the ceremony started an hour and a half late things wen
t well, the electric company even cooperated and kept the power on for the whole time. Four hours after our arrival the couple were married and starting to enjoy the wedding feast.
 


3hrs old, ears pierced & eyes open
The next day was the final voting for our presidential election and our present president was re-instated for another five year term. As far as we could tell this election went smoothly and without incident (not that we have much knowledge of these things) –other than the fact that the other candidate had to be evacuated for medical reasons just before the election.
In addition to the wedding we had a naming ceremony to participate in. Our house help had a baby girl last week so that means that eight days later there is a big celebration to announce the baby’s name. We were happy to be a part of the celebration that brings in not only family and friends but everyone in the community. By the way they chose Leila for her name.
In addition to all of these celebrations and events we have been remembering the death and resurrection of our Lord and Saviour this week as a family. Taking time to read the stories and follow the events leading up to the cross and more importantly the empty tomb, has been a good reminder of all that Christ has done for us. It is our prayer that you will know a fresh sense of God’s goodness and Christ’s sacrifice this week!



I have a few prayer requests this week. We have discovered that because the architect was financially unable to restore the building to where it was when it collapsed the money that we had left is not quite sufficient to complete it. Please pray that there would be finances in place to at least get the building closed off before we have to leave this summer. Also, Ben received a letter this week indicating that he was chosen to represent his school at the National Student Leaders Conference at one of a number of leading universities in the US this summer. Pray that if he is to go that the finances and details will come together for it. Also, please pray that despite the business of the break that we would be refreshed and ready for the final quarter of the school year as we go back this week.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Investing in People: Glimpses of God’s Goodness

“Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children” Ps 90:16

Investing in people is difficult and costly. It usually consumes way more time, energy and resources than you expect on the front end and I think maybe the most frustrating part is that you rarely get to see the results. But God is truly gracious and every once in a while we get to catch a glimpse of what He is doing. This week was one of those times. We went to visit a friend that we haven’t really seen in a long while—partly our fault, partly his... Anyway, while we were sitting around drinking tea he told us that he had heard recently from a really good friend of ours that had left the country about 7 years ago and that she had been asking about us. I got excited and asked for her phone number because the old one she had given me hadn’t worked for awhile, but before I even got the number in my phone she sent him a text message. He took our pictures and sent them to her through one of his apps and she sent us some voice messages telling us how much she appreciated the bible teaching and discipleship that Dave and I had provided when she had been in Niamey and went on to mention how she was using it to invest in those around her.
It made me think of a poster that I had seen on fb (see above) that read:
“People will let you down—welcome to life. People will also lift you up, save you, love you, embrace you, teach you, guide you –welcome to life!”
My first response to that poster was, “Lord let me be one of those people that does a whole lot more of the latter!” May that be your prayer as well.

Here is the latest updates on the building:
The look of the week: arches forming and stair case going up!


Adjustments needed on the main floor before the roof goes on the second floor


Hand made windows


Have to finish the staircase to help support the roof.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Family

Over the years there have been a number of dinner table conversations in our house that have gone along the lines of: “You know that the people who are seated at this table are some of the best friends that you will have in this life because they are the most constant. They understand you better than most anyone else can because they know your past and lived it with you. Family is about loving and always being there for you because that is what family does.” Sometimes those conversations were followed with the “so you better get over whatever the issue is and start living like it...” (any of you with siblings or kids I’m sure can relate). But more often than not these conversations were the result of dealing with our transient life style and grieving the loss of a really good friend or extended family and just remembering that when everything else in life seems to be changing there are still some constants that you can depend on.


Yes, I bought both!
This week I had a reminder that we are blessed with multiple families in this world. The reminder came in the form of African cloth for a wedding. I need to explain that African printed cloth is sometimes used in a similar way to printed t-shirts in North America; they can be used as a “uniform” that gives you a sense of belonging and identification with a group. When important occasions occur like a wedding you will see a number of people wearing the same cloth, the outfits may be entirely different but the cloth will be the same. Usually at weddings the family of the bride will choose one print and the family of the groom will choose another. I had the unique experience this week of being asked by a member of the groom’s family if I wanted to buy the uniform cloth after I had already been asked (and had purchased) the bride’s family cloth. I was deeply touched, because I have been to a number of weddings where I was seen as the outsider and not invited to wear the “uniform” and here I was not only asked to wear one but both! (This was a young couple in our church that was getting married and the groom’s family had been neighbours of ours long before he started to attend the church.) That was when it struck me that the church is a big family. It doesn’t matter where we go in the world the church is there. And in the church we should be able to find people who will understand us, forgive & love us (with all of our warts, wrinkles & other peculiarities) and help us as we grow and develop into the people God wants us to be. Because that’s what family does.
An example of a "uniform" from a friend's wedding a while back
Praying that you have a special sense of family this week in your church and thanks for praying for the election. The first round of voting seemed to go well the next will be on March 20th.