Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Update on Christmas

Well here's the scoop on the gas situation because we have had a few concerned well wishers. The day after I wrote the blog last week, I went to worn a friend about the gas shortage. She responded with the fact that she had two electric hotplates that I could borrow and her husband who is the science teacher at the boys school mentioned that he had an extra gas tank in the science lab that I could borrow and replace. God is soo good and thanks for praying for us!

Here's how our Christmas went for those who were asking:
Christmas Sunday we went out to the main street by our house to get breakfast. Chenchea is a deepfried ball of beancurd dough that looks a little like a Timbit (or a donut hole for all of you unfortunate people who have never experienced Tim Hortons). The locals will frequently buy a piece of bagette and place these little balls inside then pour a little oil and a tomato and onion sauce over the top (oh and I forgot to mention the "piment" --hot pepper powder). But for the sake of the kids we brought a bowl for the chenchea and had the bagette separately. It was amazing how fast the chorus of "I'm not eating that!' changed to "This is good!" (especially when they got to add cinnamon and sugar instead of piment and tomato sauce). Dave had a good chat with some neighbours while I was picking up breakfast, there are always lots of people along the street there, especially in the morning and evening. One of them even complimented me, but saying that my Zarma was better than Dave's. I just laughed and said "uhuh", because he has a much better grasp of the vocabulary and structure. But maybe my pronunciation is better.

On Christmas Eve I baked coffee cake to take to some people to wish them a Merry Christmas, but it turned into a bagel and coffee cake delivery when Dave came back with 50 bagels instead of the 15 that I had thought that I ordered (another long story about communication break downs in foreign languages on cell phones!). We later delivered to an Algerien merchant friend that was missing thier kids for "Tabaski", a Togolese merchant friend and our neighbours. I also cut Ben's hair (I think that was mom's Christmas present) and constructed candy cane ornaments with the boys while the cake cooled. (I'll try to add a picture, but Cole was too shy to get in it.)

Christmas morning breakfast consisted of "Fruit Loops" provided by friends from Canada via Dan Sheffield. The boys and I ate them while Dad tried to wake up. Then we opened presents and I spent the rest of the day cooking. Cole had asked for "a real pizza" for lunch--which means a thick pizza crust, pepperoni (or the closest equivalent we could come up with --in this case a beef sliced meat with piment) and lots of cheese (cheese is expensive here so the restaurants use it very sparingly and there is no such thing as delivery!). But, I also had to make rolls, potroast, salad dressing and ice cream to take to a friends house later that evening for dinner. In between all the cooking we got to talk family on the Lawrence side, we are still waiting to talk to the Wrights tonight (we missed them when we were out for dinner). Oh and tonight we have also been invited out to a Nigerien friends house to visit for Christmas.

We hope that your Christmas was good too!
PS. If you are on our mailing list to receive our quarterly newsletters and didn't receive something in the last few days. It means that we have a problem with your e-mail address. If you would like to have that fixed you can either e-mail us (out address is on our prayer cards/bookmarks) or post a comment on our blog sending us your e-mail address (we monitor the comments so the address doesn't need to show up on the blog, but it will get to us). Thanks!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Urgent Prayer Request

Hi All!
If you get a minute to pray for us this week we would really appreciate it.
Here is our situation we just ran out of gas for our stove, which wouldn't normally be a cause for prayer, but we have had a few complications. When Dave went to get a replacement he was told at 8 different places there hasn't been gas tanks available in Niamey for the last week. There is some sort of problem with the supplier. That is the first problem which wouldn't be so bad, but the next two days are "Tabaski" a big Islamic holiday in Niger where EVERYTHING is shut down. That means restaurants, street food, markets, etc. So I can't even go out and buy wood and a cooking pot to cook out in my yard like many of my neighbours do. So you can pray that our electricity will hold up for the next little while (our neighbourhood has a tendency to have long power outages the last one was from 11am until 8pm a little over a week ago), so that I can make do with my electrical appliances or find favour with my neighbours. I confess that I would rather be invited to join in their feast rather than be an imposition. It will be really interesting to see how God uses this situation for His purposes and His glory. It definately isn't the way that I would plan to spend Christmas!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Strategies and Answered Prayer

Last week we had a visit from Dan Sheffield, the global ministry director for the Free Methodist Church in Canada. It is always great to see him because he is not only our boss, but our mentor and a friend from home. Not to mention that he was able to deliver many gifts from friends and family, a much appreciated plus! (Come to think of it, he does bear a resemblance to Santa.) In between various meetings, and things that needed to be done we had the opportunity to work on the details of our job description. One of the things that came out of that discussion falls under the anacronym “BELLS” , which stands for Blessing, Eating, Listening, Learning and Sending. This is part of our weekly tasks, so for the “blessing” we are to find a way bless one person with in the church and one that is outside of the church each week, “eating” is similar we are to eat a meal with a believer and a non-believer. With “listening” we are to spend an hour block of time a week in listening/meditative prayer where the goal is to hear from God. “Learning” refers to an hour a week where you study God’s word with a small group or in a discipling relationship. “Sending” isn’t quite what it sounds, but refers to the fact that when God sends us to do His work, He not only prepares us, but He goes before us. So by “sending”, we are to spend time journal writing each day in order to record where we have been seeing God working. All of these become interrelated, so that our blessing, eating and learning are all directed by what we see God doing and what we are hearing him say to us. So you can be praying for us as we start to try to put some of these new disciples in place in our lives and maybe you could try to put these disciples in place in your lives and ministries too!

I had a great opportunity to see God’s hand at work this week in an answer to prayer. I have been praying about an accountability partner and a cultural helper and when I talked to Dave about my options, he suggested a Nigerien friend of mine. I really wasn’t sure what she would say because it is really counter cultural for a Nigerien to ask the difficult questions that you need an accountability partner to ask. So, I asked her to think about it and pray about it and get back to me. But, instead she replied that she didn’t have to because she had been asking God for just that and had thought that her Nigerien friends would think that she didn’t need that or that she was thinking like a white person because she wanted that. God is so good! You can pray that I am able to disciple Hajara through the accountability process and that she would be able to adapt it to a Nigerien context and that she would disciple me through adapting to Nigerien culture and hold me accountable.

Even as I was writing this last paragraph I had another answer to prayer. Dave and I had decided earlier this week to set aside Thursday night as a time to have people into our home to eat with us so that it could become part of our routine. However, this was the last week of school and we had a lot “extras” going on so we didn’t have an opportunity to invite someone. But that was ok because God provided. Another Nigerien friend arrived just as I was ready to pull supper out of the oven and so we invited her to eat with us (that is a very common experience here, or at least Nigerien hospitality means that if someone is visiting and it is time to eat, you share what you have). When I had suggested that if we set aside a day for having people in it would be easier to be consistent with this discipline I hadn’t expected God to provide such a clear starting point. Please pray that we would be able to make this apart of our regular routine so that the boys are able to get used to it. I think they can get a little frustrated by the language barriers when there is company, but hopefully this will help to overcome that too.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Language learning has helped us to figure out more of what's happening around us. Two years ago Jennifer had a bizarre experience at the market with a 'beggar' who started singing “Merci, merci, merci,... (Thank you, thank you, thank you...),”at the top of his longs and shaking a rattle. When he finally 'cornered' her, he started shoving long metal spikes up his nose. She eventually managed to escape.

In our language class, our teacher was explaining three basic kinds of traditional 'medicines'. One was chaka safari which is the medicine protects against the soul eater—I have no idea what that they are supposed to do, but I'm guessing it's bad. The second is what Jennifer experienced at the market—guru safari, that is metal medicine which makes one impervious to the effects of metal. People who sell the medicine apparently will go around with saws, knives, and yes, long spikes, showing people that metal can't cut them or make them bleed. (Apparently some will accept using your knife if you offer one, while others insist on using their own...)

The third medicine I ran into yesterday: gondi safari. I was getting the tires fixed on Ben's bike, when a young guy came along carrying a viper. Another gentleman came and took it out of his hands for a minute or two, and so I asked, “Ifo no ni te nda ni gondo?”-- “What do you do with your snake?”. “Would you like it he asked?” I pictured Jennifer for a moment when I told her I'd brought home a viper and quickly answered, “No thank you.” The second man said, “He can sell you medicine so that even if you pick it up it will smell the medicine in your skin and it won't bite you. If one ever does bite you, you won't last five minutes. Would you like some?” A tempting offer no doubt but I think I prefer the testing that typically happens with major pharmaceutical companies. “No thank you,” I said once more, and with that he dropped his viper into a sack and put it back into a bowl on his head. It was a rather odd ensemble—western t-shirt and track pants with a baseball cap and topped off with a calabash bowl containing a poisonous viper .

Language learning still has its ups and downs. This past week Dan Sheffield, our Global Ministries director, came to visit, and we were invited to share in a local church service. Since there was no one to translate from English into French, I served as the primary translator for Dan as he preached with another gentleman then translating into Zarma. By God's grace that actually seemed to work—except when I accidently translated into Zarma instead of French!

The following Tuesday we went to the airport to drop off Dan's luggage, and ended up with a flat tire. A taxi and his friend took me and the tire to a tire repair guy. In hopes of avoiding outrageous prices I used my little bit of zarma on the technician. The taxi driver and his friend then asked me, “Do you know Hausa?”
I said, “No, why? Are you Hausa?”
“No, we're Zarma—it just sounded like you were trying to speak Hausa.”
So much for my Zarma—I guess I still have a ways to go.