Wednesday, December 24, 2008
I thought I should bring you up to date on our Christmas celebrations/plans so far. Yesterday I baked muffins, brownies and banana cake all before nine in the morning. It was cooler then and the electricity was working (which isn’t always the case lately). We spent most of the day rushing around preparing for a Christmas Eve party that we are holding tonight for our friends in the neighbourhood (or maybe “the whole neighbourhood”?). That and delivering some Christmas presents to some people who work for us. Oh and did I mention that we also got a zarma class in? The boys were troopers, but got kind of sick of being on the road between the shopping, delivering and our class. Their reward was to go to their favourite Chinese restaurant for supper, or was that my reward?
When the boys got to bed we worked on our own family Christmas—wrapping the presents we brought back with us or one of the Grandmas and Grandpas sent. We expect that today will be filled with finishing the baking for the party and the rest of the preparations. We are having an open house. We will be stringing up our one string of Christmas lights and opening the front gate to any and all of the neighbours that want to come for some cake, juice and Christmas music. Dave has a book with some pictures in it that he plans on telling the Christmas story to the kids and any adults that want to hear. If you are in the neighbourhood from 8ish-10pm stop by!
Please pray that the right people will come; that we will know how to handle all of the kids (without causing a mini riot!); that Dave will have the right words to say and that our neighbours might have ears to hear. Pray also that I might be able to communicate and be a good host in a culture that I am still only learning about. (And that I can stay awake and alert for all of this Nigerien hours tend to be past my bed time! ) We are praying that this may start some dialogue with our neighbours about spiritual things.
Did I mention that when this is all over there is a church service that starts at 11pm and runs until 6am Christmas morning at a church that we have been helping with? (I think we might stop in for an hour or so… depending on how things go at the house).
Merry Christmas All!
Friday, December 12, 2008
This week was Tabaski, the 'sheep' festival as some people call it. It is the Islamic holiday where they slaughter (ideally) a ram as an atonement and remembering the ram that Abraham slaughtered in replace of his son. That means that there were two national holidays on Monday and Tuesday this week. (We are hoping that this is why the electric company has been playing with our power and that things will improve next week). The first day of the "fete" the sheep gets slaughter and roasts by a big fire for most of the day. On the second day you either go around visiting friends and neighbours to share some of your mutton or the poor will go from house to house to collect some of the meat and other goodies. Since we didn't sacrifice a lamb when we had people come to our door we gave them candies. The two older ladies looked at us as if we were a little crazy, but the kids thought it was great. I'm sure the neighbourhood was talking as about the crazy white people again. Please pray with us that our friends and neighbours would come to know the true Lamb of God that has provided for the sins of the world.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Sorry I didn't mention it last week, I was a little distracted with all of Dave's accidents. First he had the car accident and then he had a baseball accident (He was run over at first base and broke his glasses). But the boys' field day went really well. I was really impressed to see Cole finish the 800m race with a crowd from his team and others there cheering him on! Ben was also able to accomplish a few second places in his competitions. Thanks to all of you who were praying I know that it kept the discouragement at a minimum.
Friday, November 28, 2008
I pulled onto the Kennedy bridge—the only bridge over the Niger River in town. Traffic was relatively clear in front of me except for two cyclists hugging closely to the side of the road when suddenly they jostled one another and I saw the full round of a bicycle tire and a rider heading for the pavement. Reflexes kicked in as I swerved and jammed on the breaks simultaneously. WHAM. The taxi on my tail had slower reflexes. The two cyclists stopped and stared at us for few moments before continuing on their way. I checked with the back seat and the boys were fine though a little shocked.
Despite the lineup of traffic building behind me I got out to inspect the damage. I knew that I couldn’t move my car anyway. Local traffic laws stipulate that vehicles involved in a collision cannot be moved until the police come to investigate and determine causes and any faults. My back bumper showed a few scratches and one hole poked in the plastic. (Fortunately my hatch still opens and closes.) The taxi on the hand had crumpled his whole front end—bumper hanging, lights smashed and hood buckled.
Rubberneckers passed slowly by, including other parents who were now returning from dropping off their kids. Eventually an officer showed up to chalk out the vehicle positions so someone could come later to assess who was at fault for any insurance claims. Once off the bridge, the officer took all of our paperwork (driver’s licenses, vehicle registrations, insurance cards) saying he had to get back to his post but that someone else would come to finish the process. And so the wait began.
I took the kids around the corner to school and returned to wait. By 9:30, after hearing the sirens of the president’s cavalcade, the taxi driver and I decided to walk back across the bridge to see if we could find the officer who’d told us to wait. “They haven’t come yet? Well just take the good car up to the station—your paperwork is all there.” At the station we headed for a little office off to one side, surrounded by confiscated scooters, motorbikes, cars and trucks. Inside were six desks crowd into a single room with a little crowd of a half a dozen or more people standing in the little space between them. A man by the door directed us to the main desk in the centre of the room where most of the people were gathered.
“Yes, what do you want?” said the man behind the desk
“We had an accident. We’re here for the paper work.”
“I haven’t seen any paperwork. It’s not here”
“I had it in a clear plastic envelope like this one,” I said, pointing to an empty envelope on his desk.
“I’ve been here all morning and I haven’t seen it.”
“Yes, you did, I remember seeing it come in,” said a man sitting at another desk.
“I’m telling you I don’t have it. Just go outside and wait.”
Obligingly, we headed outside and found a bench by the impounded vehicles. We waited. We watched officers go through their paces in the courtyard. (“Attention. Eyes front. About face… ) After a while the officer from the accident came in and noticed us sitting outside waiting. “What are you doing out here? Just go on in the office, I’ve already dropped off the paperwork. It’s there.”
As we headed back in I noticed the numbers waiting around the desk had doubled to about a dozen or so. “What are you all doing in here?” exploded the man behind the desk. “I can’t work with you all standing around here! Well what do you want me to do?” he said, as those waiting looked sheepishly around at one another. “Well, do you want me to just leave you?... That’s it, I’m going!” and he pushed through the crowd and disappeared across the courtyard. As everyone slowly drifted back out the door, I realized I’d lost my spot on the bench.
At eleven the investigating officer returned once more and saw us still outside waiting. This time he lead us back to the office himself. I hesitated at the door, as I saw him exchange some rather sharp words with the man at the desk.
“What is your license plate number?” asked the man at the desk. “Is it this one?” pointing to a page in big book on his desk.
“Yes, that’s it I replied.” Recorded there was the all the information from my paper work.
“Oh, I did this first thing this morning. I gave your paperwork to the guy who sits in that desk but he’s gone out and I don’t know where he is.”
Fortunately, the officer pulled out his cell phone and made the call, assuring us he would be here shortly before heading out once more. Eventually, the taxi and I visited our respective insurance offices together to make statements before reporting one last time to the police station. I made it home just in time for lunch.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Dave and I have been discussing lately whether the weather change of late in Niamey feels more like fall or spring in Canada. Those wonderful days were there is a chill in the air first thing in the morning that makes you want to wear a sweater (think 25C), but by noon it is quite warm in the sun (think 35-40C), but still cool in the shade. Oh well we can dream of what Canada is like, but I suppose you are starting to see the occasional snow now and the fall colour is gone.
I decided to bring some of my own "fall colour" inside today and to share it with you. I hope it warms your day!
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
It was interesting to watch the other drivers respond to the light though, there were a number of them that didn’t expect to find it operating and nearly charged right into on coming traffic (that is the typical way to deal with no lights, you assume that you have the right of way for at least the first half of the intersection and then keep nosing forward into the second half until you are through!). But luckily, they like us, realized just in time that there was not only a light there but it was working.
Sometimes I think that this is the approach we have to the Bible. Those of us who have grown up in the church assume we know what it says and how a certain passage is going to apply to our lives—afterall didn’t we memorize part of that chapter in Sunday school when we were kids? We think we know how it is going to work, so we ask God to speak to us as we try to fit some bible study into our busy schedules, but don’t really expect that He will. There are times that God will just allow that to continue, but we are the ones that are missing out of the deeper meanings that come from reading and re-reading and listening to what He has to say. Then there are other times that God will use something to get our attention, maybe a sermon, a song or even illness that makes us slow down and realize that maybe life isn’t quite the way we originally expected. I would like to propose a remedy for a dry bible study—get to know a new Christian, or a “future” Christian and talk to them about what you have been reading. It is amazing how the most familiar passages will take on new meaning and the context around some of those passages may surprise you.
Friday, November 7, 2008
Accidents happen, but when they happen here they can bring additional complications. This past Tuesday Ben fell and hurt his knee. The only problem is that at 7 when you fall and hurt yourself you sometimes forget that you are hurt and keep playing. So he went half a day, before he really began to complain and someone noticed that it was really swollen and bulging. Dave got a call from the school that Ben knee was looking really bad and that he needed to go see a doctor. As he was driving to the school, he started thinking about the worse case scenario and what that would look like. What would happen if we had to have Ben evacuated for treatment? When he arrived school the teacher was describing how it was bulging on the one side and that he might need an x-ray, but as she took the ice off she exclaimed “oh, it’s gone!”. The ice had taken care of the swelling and the knee was looking normal again. When he got to see the doctor the doctor told him it was a sprain and that he needed RICE-rest, ice, compression and elevation. Thanks for keeping us in your prayers. We are praising God that Ben’s injury was something minor. However, you can pray for complete healing not only of the knee but of all his concerns because Field Day is next week and he is afraid that he won’t be able to participate the way that he wants to and because of that “his team will lose”. Pray also for Cole because Field Day is always a stressful/ depressing day for him as he faces the limitations of wearing orthotics.
Also pray for an English teacher for the high school for next semester because the expected teacher is no longer able to come. This causes additional struggles for me because I love being in the class room and teaching English, but can’t do that and everything else that I am here to do.
Monday, October 27, 2008
“Bumpy rides” are the norm in Niger. You either have roads that are torn apart with huge potholes (that frequently are filled with garbage—but that is another story) or you have really nice smooth paved roads that have huge speed bumps that arrive on a regular basis or a combination there of. In fact that is the reason we were trying to get the car going in the first place, we had to take the good car in to get the shocks and struts replaced (for a second time since we bought it last spring!).
Sometimes I think that the Christian life is like one big bumpy ride. It is great to watch and cheer when it is someone else going through the pot holes. But when it is you, you aren’t really sure whether to laugh or to cry –or a little bit of both. Early in our time in Niger, someone taught us the best way to negotiate pot holes (especially in rainy season when they are filled with water and who knows what else). They said there are two approaches that you can use. The one is to try to keep your one set of wheels out of the hole for traction and the other is to follow in the tracks of the person who went before you and do it the same way. That is very similar to the Christian life where a big comfort is knowing that you aren’t in it alone. There are others that have faced the same difficulties before you that can help to direct you through them and there is a truth that is firm and solid that will pull you through. But the best part is knowing that no matter how dark the circumstances may seem, it’s just a pot hole in the grand scheme of things. (I have to remind myself of that a lot lately!)
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
This past week we succeeded at doing it again. The boys were off school and we were going to take “some time off” while they were home for a “staycation” (a stay at home vacation, I just learned this term from the internet recently). But that was not to be… We were able to take a slightly slower pace (because we didn’t have to drive the boys back and forth to school across town), but it seems like we did as much work as we normally would in a week if not more, due to many circumstances beyond our control (i.e. a Nigerien friend had emergency surgery, etc.)
I think that the solution is that we need to get away from Niamey in order to have a vacation, the problem is that there are no restful places that are nearby and inexpensive. If you have any suggestions, let me know!
Monday, October 13, 2008
I’m sure most of you have consumed your share of turkey, stuffing and cranberries this weekend. Our Thanksgiving weekend had a slightly different flavour. For the last year or so I’ve been going to the American Recreation Centre on Saturday afternoons to play softball. It’s about as close as I get to exercise and so I do my best to get there before teams are chosen each week. However twice a year, softball takes on a more serious tone. This weekend happens to be one of them—the annual NUTS tournament. NUTS has a double meaning: Niamey Universal Tournament of Softball, and, well, just plain old nuts, because you’ve got to be nuts to play! October is typically the mini hot season—the rains have come to an end but the humidity is still hanging in the air and the temperatures start aiming for 40 C and above. I’ve never actually played in the tournament before, but the American Embassy was short of players this year and so they quickly recruited all the best missionaries. I guess that’s why I got asked to play with the remnant of missionaries. Fortunately the weekend was mostly overcast this year—we even had freak thunderstorms Friday night. Our team sponsor was the French telecom giant Orange, and they provided us each with two free T-shirts as team colours. We predictably finished last but had lots of fun nevertheless.
Between games Saturday morning Jennifer and I received a text-message on our cell phone from a woman that Jennifer has been meeting with on a weekly basis. She’d had emergency surgery the night before as a result of internal hemorrhaging and was recovering at the Maternité Centrale. After lunch we stopped into visit and pray with her. She seemed to be doing well, but local medical facilities still frighten me. Fortunately she has nurses’ training and knows how she should be treated.
After church Sunday we stopped in once more to read a Psalm and pray. While we were there her aunt came in to visit as well and listened as we read to our friend. In the course of conversation we were surprised to discover that we shared a mutual friend with her aunt.
Today we celebrated Thanksgiving in a slightly different manner. There are always certain adjustments that you have to make just because you are living in Niger, for example our turkey consisted of a number of drumsticks roasted instead of the whole bird because that is what we could buy in the market. (I’m not exactly sure what happened to the rest of the bird, but sometimes it is better not to ask those questions). In addition to that, the way we actually celebrated was a little more Nigerien as well (or at least a blend of Canadian and Nigerien customs), instead of inviting a number of people to come for dinner we just fed whoever did come. (And yes one of our neighbours actually showed up at supper time). Then in a more typical Zarma style we sent some of our turkey to friends that lived near by and visited with them. There are still many things that we miss about home especially on days like today, but it was nice to be able to join in the celebration that we knew was happening back at home. Happy Thanksgiving everyone (a little early for my American friends, but the sentiment is still the same)! I hope that you can all find lots of things to be thankful for today.
Friday, October 10, 2008
nerves get overstrung in these climates in a way they never did before, and little things bring a ruffle and jar, and cannot be shaken off again; and a sense of exhaustion come through the body to the spirit, even apart from the consciousness, so vivid at times, that the very air is full of the powers of darkness; and the enemy launches his fiery darts in showers on those who come to attack his strongholds. How many of us have gone through the testing of every fibre of our inner life since we left
My “little thing” this week was cockroaches that have “attacked” me in my sleep—in other words landed on my head while I was trying to sleep. Normally when that happens I flail, jump out of bed and yell for recruits (ie. Dave –who has either been rudely awakened or brought in from another room. Secretly I think that he has appreciated this because I don’t think he enjoys sleeping with them either). I say normally because sadly it has happened about four or five times in the last couple of weeks. However, I think we may have come to a solution. We decided to string up our mosquito nets (which is also helpful for its designed purpose!) in order to provide a barrier from the cockroaches. The down side of this is that now my closet door is permanently open, because Dave ran a string from it to the curtain rod on one side of the bed and a string from the curtain rod to the hinge of the bedroom door on the other side of the bed to hold the net. I guess it is one of life’s trade off’s in order to get a half decent night’s sleep I have to live with a little inconvenience in my bedroom. Dave on the other hand, has to deal with the fact that the mosquito net shortens the bed by a few valuable inches. Maybe we will get a fumigator in during the boys school break!
Please pray for us between Ramadan and the roach situation we have been coming up a little short on sleep and that makes coping a challenge and the impulse to run away very appealing.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
That is what I think that I have been learning this week.
I guess I haven’t really thought about all the ways that you can be humbled before, but this week I have lived a number of them.
I was humbled to learn that the woman who came to teach Ben’s class for the first semester. Miss Campbell is 84 years old! She came out of retirement to fill a need at Sahel, braving a rough climate as an act of faith and service to her Lord. I’m not sure that I will be able to do something so courageous when I am that age. Please pray for her health and strength, especially as the mini hot season is starting.
Language learning is an incredibly humbling experience and this week was no exception. I was told this week by a friend that Dave has a much better French accent than I do (probably because I try to use English words that don’t exist in French on occasion). I sometimes have difficulty speaking French or Zarma when Dave is around too because he is continually correcting me or trying to “help” by giving me words that have nothing to do with what I am trying to really say, another humbling experience.
One of our sons took forgetfulness to a whole new level today. He has worked for three days straight on a project for school (including the Ramadan holiday, Eid al-fitr, when he didn’t have classes) which he finished last night and printed off in colour, only to come home with the project tonight. He forgot that he had finished it and so he printed off another at school! Please pray that this isn't contagious!
Saturday, September 27, 2008
We are in the last few days of Ramadan which means the loud speakers on the mosques have increased in their volume and intensity (the reason for my lack of sleep and the use of coffee and coke). My language teacher told me something interesting the other day. He said the twentieth day of Ramadan is the night of power where people stay up all night praying and reading their Qu’ran, but any time between the 20th and the 30th if a person sees an angel they are allowed to ask for anything that they want from Allah. As a result there is an increase in activity the last few days of Ramadan. In an act of desperation to try to get a good night’s sleep, I tried to counter this the other evening by closing all the windows and using the air conditioner. (We try to save the air conditioner for when it is absolutely necessary during the hot season, to save on costs). However, some insects had decided our air conditioner drain would make a great home and blocked it with a hive. This discovery was made about a half an hour after I fell asleep when I started to receive a shower from the air conditioner when it couldn’t eliminate the condensation the way it was designed. Dave hadn’t gone to bed yet so instead of getting in on the shower he was blessed by a wet pillow.
This morning Dave tried to fix it by sticking his finger in it while it was running. (Mistake!) He still has a finger but the fan inside is missing a couple of teeth. I am truly grateful to say that the air conditioner is being repaired as I type this (but the repairman says that the part he needs to fix Dave’s mistake is hard to come by, but it shouldn’t be too noisy if you keep the fan on low).
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Friday, September 12, 2008
“Non merci, pas aujourd’hui,” I said and closed my car door, and slowly pulled away. His bead necklace was nicely made if a little chunky but not quite my thing. I, initially encountered this street vendor when I got out of my car pick something at the “White Shack”—a little grocery store about the size of a 7-11 corner store. His starting price as I headed for the store was 5000 cfa, a little over ten bucks, and the 500 cfa he ended with about $1.
As I pulled away my mind went back to a conversation I’d had with a young neighbor the weekend before about Ramadan. After a month of daily fasting, there is a great feast and everybody gets a new set of clothes. The day everyone dons their new duds, the streets are filled with people as everyone heads into town to show off their new clothes. Most people seem to head for the Musée near the centre of town, a cross between a zoo, artisan village, and a museum. How many people actually get into the Musée, I’m not sure but I’ve seen the line-up on the fete-day to get in.
My friend suggested a comparison between the fete-day and Christmas. “And your kids, don’t they look forward to getting clothes at Christmas?” He had explained that if someone doesn’t get new clothes, they are too ashamed to leave the house. “Last year, my friend’s father had not managed his money well during the fast and so he had no money to buy clothes for the fete. My friend hid in his house and cried for two days—he was too embarrassed to be seen in the same old clothes. If you don’t have new clothes when you go out on the street, everyone will taunt and mock you.” When I tried to explain that my children would cry if they only got clothes for Christmas, I could see the incomprehension on his face.
I know that the desperate attempt at a sale that I’d encountered on the street was a reflection of Ramadan. The price of everything but food and clothing drops as people become desperate for money so that their families can celebrate and they won’t lose face in the neighbourhood.
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Friday, September 5, 2008
I have been trying to see the call to prayer that is extra loud right now as a reminder to pray that God would reveal Himself to those that are genuinely seeking Him during this month of fasting from sun up to sun down. Will you pray for that with me? Pray that the Holy Spirit will be at work in dreams and visions and divine appointments, especially through this month that is set aside to focus on God for the Muslim people. Pray that despite the lack of sleep the love of Jesus would shine through us in all that we do. Please also pray for a friend that I am meeting with on a regular basis to talk about Jesus. She is hungry to know about Jesus and has lots of questions. My struggle is that she speaks French and Hausa and I know limited French and limited Zarma. I just trust that God is at work filling in the gaps and leading the discussion.
Please also pray for the boys school. The math teacher has been delayed because of finances and is waiting for his visa from the embassy in the US. Dave has been trying to cover 3 classes for him, but will have to give it up at the end of this week because it is interfering too much with what we are here to do. There is also a problem with the music teacher getting enough finances to return this year and needs for a book keeper and a P.E. teacher.
Oh here goes the loud speakers…
Thursday, August 21, 2008
We were especially blessed by the way the team faced all of the difficulties of Niger with grace and style. One even recieved the true missionary experience of being sick while she was here and faced all of the frustrations, disappointments and discouragement that tend to go along with that. It was a reminder that in so many ways we live on prayer here. Prayer for health, strength, safety, traffic conditions and most of all that the love of God would shine through us in all of the situations that we face, good and bad. Thanks to all of you who have been praying for us.
Thanks to the people at Freedom Christian Community for helping to make the trip happen and thanks to the team for ministering to us! --I'll try to post some pictures another time when I have the right computer to work on.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
This is Jenn after she has finally published her newsletter (and dealt with all the problems!). I think maybe Dave needs to take her out for supper!
Thanks for thinking of us!
Thursday, July 31, 2008
On the positive side, I learned how to do the paperwork so that I can trade in my Canadian driver’s license for a Nigerién one, hopefully that will go through without any problems because my international driver’s license has just expired. We were told by a friend that it would take a week to ten days, but when I took it in to the office on Tuesday they told me to come back on Friday. Maybe I just had the right time of year for this. Until then I’ll let Dave do the driving.
Dave has been having some interesting conversations with a neighbour friend recently. You can pray for Moussa. He has also posted on Facebook (although our connection at home is too slow to do much). It has been nice to hear who he has been able to reconnect with through that.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
We have received sad news. One of our friends and supporters, Phyllis Knoll, passed away this weekend. Her husband Rev John Knoll was an encouragement to me when we pastored the Caistor Centre Church. She will be dearly missed. I'm sure the family would appreciate your prayers.
Back at home the electricity situation is improving, though some have suggested there may be a few problems yet. We really only had one evening without power this past week but unfortunately our street must be the end of a line. When the power initially came back on, it ran at less than half strength
--80 volts rather than 220 volts. I quickly ran around the house and unplugged everything and turned out the lights lest they burn out the motors, etc. It remained like that for a few hours but around midnight I checked again and things we're back to full strength.
God is good we give thanks for his faithfulness in all cirumstances.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Friday, June 27, 2008
On my last post I mentioned the “funeral/wake” we visited. We’ve since debriefed further with our language teacher about the funeral process. Traditional funerals are a 40 day process. Within the first three days, neighbours, close friends and family all visit the home to give their condolences—fortunately we made it within the three day time slot. On the third day and then later on the seventh day there are prayers that are offered and then finally on the fortieth day there is a final prayer. During this time the widow is to pull out her braids and remain secluded from all men for the first seven days—she is not allowed to even leave the house, which in this case was one room. After the seventh day she may go out into the walled courtyard occasionally but may not go out into the street until the forty days are finished. After three months she may remarry.
Two days ago I heard a knock at the gate but by the time I got there I didn’t see anyone. I waited a few minutes, looking around, and a shy little boy came around with a bucket and said, “Mama veut de l’eau.” (Mother wants some water.) It was an awkward moment that caught me off guard—our language teacher hard warned us against it giving out water generally because of the headaches it can create. Not only that there is a free, public access well two minutes around the corner—some people even make a business of drawing the free water and then selling it door to door. At the same time, I didn’t want just turn him down outright and so I suggested that if his mother wanted it she could come to ask. (Probably not the right response at the best of times but…)
This evening we were sitting out in front of our gate and our neighbour the marabout (Islamic teacher) came over to greet and chat. A crowd of kids had gathered and were playing in front as well, and in the course of conversation he pointed out two little boys and said, “It was their father that died last week.” Yep, you guessed it, it was the one who wanted water for his mother (who of course was still secluded in her house) and to whom I’d suggested that he send his mother over…
It’s one of those days when you feel like you should have gotten it right by now.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Our guard informed us a couple of days ago that a neighbour had died and that the family had all gone off to the hospital. We noticed the chairs and the people the next day. I knew enough to realize that if I wanted to be a half decent neighbour I had to put in an appearance and greet the family. At the same time I also know that I need to learn the appropriate behaviours for such a setting. Funerals and funeral homes have never been my favourite things. (I know one preacher who told me funerals were his favourite because he was pretty much in control—at weddings everybody has an opinion about who should stand where and what they should say, etc.) I find funerals awkward because I know that generally there at least a few people who are grieving beyond words, and the people who attempt to use words end up putting their foot in their mouth. On the other hand there’s always a few people joking around in the background and the two together just don’t fit. I remember one funeral I led where a distant uncle of the deceased wanted to tell me (the preacher!) dirty jokes to see if I had a ‘sense of humour’.
We consulted with our language teacher as to what should be said at such moments. Here is the brief list of things that are to be said to the grieving:
Fonda tilas!—Greetings to the obligation!
Irikoy m’a yaafa a m’a suuji—May God (literally ‘Our Chief’) forgive him (the deceased) and be gracious to him
Irikoy m’a te alzanna ize- May God make him a child of paradise
The family responds by saying:
Irikoy m’aran no a sufuray—May God give you a reward. (That is for paying your respects to the dead)
To each blessing/wish is responded with an “Amin” (amen).
This morning we got up our courage and went to “greet our obligation”. We greeted the few who gathered in the street and then followed a young man who led us to the mother of the deceased sitting with two other women while the grieving widow was secluded from view nearby. They graciously welcomed us and the mother waved her little hand fan at Jennifer and I to make us comfortable in the heat. We shared our condolences and made some small talk and then took our leave. Back in the street another neighbour and her toddler chatted with us in the street for a few moments. “Tonton, Tanti,” the little one called us—“Uncle and Auntie”. We did our best with our Zarma, since her mother doesn’t speak French and then carried on with our day. Please pray for our neighbours, widows and orphans are all too common in Niger and life that is difficult at the best of times here can be come all the more difficult when you lose a loved one.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
The flight home was largely without incident. We flew with Royal Air Maroc out of Montreal and into Casablanca where the airline put us up for free in a local hotel for our 14 hr stop over. This otherwise pleasant rest was disturbed by the fact that the airplane and its pilot were an hour off of local time, so when we adjusted our watches we set them back an hour more than we should have. That evening the boys were still sleeping when the front desk called up to the room saying we had to leave immediately. I couldn’t figure out why since my watch said we had another 45 minutes before we needed to catch the shuttle back to the airport…. Nevertheless we made it to the airport in good time to catch our flight, ran into a friend on the plane and made new ones in the process.
Now we are here, it’s still hot and humidity has been added to the mix. (Last night I sat on the roof for a few hours watching a thunder storm pass in the distance—a wonderful light show but not a rumble could here—what a tease.) Please pray for us as we get back into the routine and try to pick up where we left off. Today we had our first Zarma lesson since our return—a few cobwebs need to be shaken out. On top of that we have to complete the assignments that came out of our course at home—they’re due the first week of July. The boys seem a little out of sorts as they readjust to the time zone—and a little homesick too. Pray that we will be able to accommodate them into our schedule during the summer break—right now they are sitting through our daily Zarma lesson and similar exciting summer pastimes.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
I did something strange not too long ago. I had been going through a low time you know one of those that makes you kind of forget the amazing things that God has done for you or at least makes you think that they were ancient history. I had heard a speaker at a ladies conference challenge us to ask God to delight in us—she gave us suggestions of how God had done that through nature and little answers to prayer that would seem important to only her. Well, I decided to ask God to delight in me and I really wasn't prepared for what He would do.
We came home to go to our church conference this week (interestingly the theme was one of generous living) and while we were travelling God provided a place to rest in Casablanca and plenty of food to eat. We had friends that blessed us by taking 2 days out of their lives to drive to Montreal to get us and drive us to my parents (the trip home was in the middle of the night because we arrived at 2am). My mom had gone shopping and had warm new clothes for all of us to wear to conference—she even had new shoes for me that fit! My sister offered us her car for the time we are home. Someone brought us a bottle of real maple syrup from St. Joe's Island (liquid gold), another church gave us a bag of things and some money for extra baggage, and a third asked if we had room in a suitcase for some things. But I think the most humbling thing happened before I left, when a little old Nigerien lady came up to me after church on Sunday and said “go with God in His peace” and slipped me some money that she could little afford to give. I was shocked and didn't know what to do with her generosity.
There are people that have told us that they are amazed that we could give up the good life in Canada to go and work in Niger, but we feel like we have done so little in light of the churches that have been sacrificially giving to put us there. Thanks so much. And thanks for the prayers for our safe travel. Next week there are a lot of doctor's appointments lined up for us please pray that things go well especially with Cole's orthotics and Ben's glasses and that they won't be too expensive.
Sunday, May 4, 2008
Tonight we met with hi s “boss” at the English service. Bryan said he was impressed with the church because when he went over to visit this weekend one of the pastor’s showed up with his wife to mourn the loss and pray with him. Before the pastor left, he pulled an envelope out of his pocket and said, “This is from the church.” Bryan has found him a temporary place to live which is next to our old compound at the Bible school. Jennifer is thinking of visiting his wife with some material and taking her to meet one of the one of the Bible school student’s wives who is a seamstress.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance” James 1:2-3
Please pray for Pele and his young family.
Friday, April 25, 2008
Since returning to Niger I have lost 18 pounds. According to my mom's calculations, that should work out to just about two clothing sizes. So, most of my clothes should be hard to keep on right? Well, that didn't work for me—in fact I still have rolls! What happened was last year when I was home I got to work out on a regular basis at the YMCA. So even though I could eat all kinds of “good” things that I can't get here in Niger I was also putting on the healthy kind of weight—muscle tone. Since I have been back I haven't been able to eat junk food, and between needing to drink all the time to keep hydrated and the heat zapping my appetite (a friend’s thermometer broke when it reached 55C the other day), I've lost weight—but I have also lost a lot of muscle tone at the same time. The real problem is that I haven't been able to go to my fitness class for many reasons (it is too far from where we live and the boys have struggled some with all of the transition and have felt the need to spend time at home after school—which has taken priority over my class). In some ways this is really ironic because I have a number of friends who are trying to “get into shape” to go home. They are getting ready to go on home assignment and have realized that this term the Nigerien diet plan hasn't worked for them and they didn't lose weight over their term. So, they are exercising and trying to lose weight and it isn't working —while I am losing weight but not bulk (and they are in the much healthier position).
You know there are so many times in life that we seem to get what we want, only to find out that it wasn't quite what we wanted. Or in the case of my friends, don't seem to get what we want only to find out that God has given us something so much better. It makes me think twice before I give God my requests and makes it a little easier to say “not my will, but yours...”
Thanks to all those that have been praying about our time at home. It looks like the doctor's appointments are lining up well and we received word the other day that the insurance company will pay for part of Cole's orthotics (and every little bit helps!). We still have to work out some details for the seminary course that Dave and I are trying to take while we are home and still aren't sure about transportation while we are home. But God is good!
For those of you that are praying for teachers for the boys’ school, you should check out their website: www.sahelacademy.com there is a list of staffing needs for the next few years that are posted there.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Those Nigeriens that I know that actually celebrate their birthday, probably do so because they have been influenced by those outside of their culture. So, they tend to have a birthday cake and a good meal to celebrate, but I don’t have an incredible amount of experience in this area. The one interesting thing that I learned about the zarma, is that typically they don’t eat together. But, if you are having a celebration of some sort or just eating something out of the ordinary you send a piece to your neighbours to enjoy too. I guess in the villages, market day is this kind of celebration (especially when it only happens once a week).
I guess for me I am planning on delay (or extending?) my birthday celebration, until I go home for conference and can eat at one of the many restaurants that I have been missing and eating chocolate that hasn’t melted in your hands long before it has escaped the wrapper let alone come near your mouth. –Mind you I don’t mind the taste of chocolate even if is has been pre-melted a few times since it escaped the factory. It’s just when the mice at the post office get to it before you that I get turned off.
Thanks to all that were praying for my sister’s family. I have heard that her father-in-laws funeral went well. Please continue to pray for Dave as he leads a bible study for the next couple of weeks in French and for the boys’ school as they are looking for staff for next year. (At the moment there is no one to teach Ben’s class, Gr. 1/2 or many of the high school’s core courses). You can also pray about our transportation needs while we are home in late May/early June.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
This blog was going to be about breaking my water bottle on Sunday. (The bottom just popped right out of it. I had taken it from the freezer, added a bit of water and got in the car to go to church and the heat of the car found the flaw in the bottom). I have been thinking on and off all day about this and how it could make a really cool analogy for so much of life, but instead I think I just need to write about my day.
- This morning my alarm clock didn't go off (someone confessed later that they had knocked it about the day before).
- My devotions were interrupted by an urgent phone call, “You were supposed to send bake goods to school today!”
- The dog dug a whole in the driveway that I tripped in and skinned the palms of my hands and hurt my wrist.
- I sat in my favourite chair, one of the only comfortable ones in the house (one that someone had brought in a suitcase from Canada) and the bottom dropped right out of it.
- Two of my elastic hair bands snapped and I think that I have lost my favourite hair brush.
- Oh and did I mention, that I have been fighting a headache on and off for the last two weeks.
Dave's response was, “obviously, someone has been praying for me!”
The details really don't matter because I have been through them all before in a variety of ways. You see part of what has been happening to me today is that Dave has been asked to lead a bible study at a local church tonight and Thursday and will be preaching on Sunday. It seems that when you are actively involved in ministry, the enemy tries his best to hinder, discourage or interfere where ever possible. Often we think to pray for those who are in leadership or are ministering (which is very important!) , but when was the last time that you prayed for those close to them. Take a minute and pray for your pastor's family this week. You may even want to write them a note of encouragement or do something nice for them. They really need it, especially on Sunday!
Monday, April 7, 2008
For the most part I don't suffer from that typical male defect, and so yes, when we got to the general vicinity I pulled over so my wife could ask someone for directions. Deciding we really were in the right place we pulled over and parked the car—asking a second person for directions—and my wife complains that she can't speak French! The woman she asked said, “Oh I think that's up the street,” and proceeded to lead us to the place. We arrived at the place only to find a line up going right out the front door. We stood at the back of the line for a few minutes when our 'guide' came back said, “oh you don't want to stand and wait here—my cousin does this in another office. Come I'll take you there.”
At that point I began to feel nervous, because often people help you here because they expect you'll give them money afterwards, like the guy who almost pushed me out of the way so he could change my flat tire, or the kids who insist that they were guarding my car while I was shopping. Worse yet are stories of people running scams, like the lady who walks up to white people in the markets saying, “Oh, I'm your neighbour, you remember me? Look I forgot my wallet at home can you lend me 10 000 cfa ($25) and I'll come over and pay you back tomorrow.” (A number of people have actually been taken by her!) All of that happens often enough that you begin to be on your guard with strangers. Nevertheless, my wife took our guide up on her offer and we drove a few blocks over to another building with our friend in tow. I decided to let Jennifer handle this one she was doing so well. I waited in the car for a while but finally got nervous and headed in. I stepped into a room once more filled with people who were waiting to buy vignettes. I looked around and saw Jennifer step out of a back hall across the room with a big grin on her face. She'd met with success. We probably saved over an hour of waiting in line by accepting someone's generosity. We returned our friend to her place on the street and were pleasantly surprised when she turned down our small monetary gift.
As I reflected that night on the experience in my journal I had to ask myself about how I viewed the people around me. I'd been ready a number of times to say, “it's ok, we don't need your help anymore.” My suspicions and fears proved unfounded. How many other people, how many other opportunities have I passed by because I wasn't open to the people that the Lord was putting in our path? A song I used to like when I was a teenager goes, “People are strange, when you're a stranger, faces are ugly when you're alone.” Connecting with new people means getting over our anxieties with strangeness and taking a risk to see who the Lord is putting in your path today.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
The night before I had been talking to the boys about how to deal with their disappointment because one of them hadn’t been able to eat at the place they really wanted to (and it had resulted in a “pout fest” –which is one step above a full fledged “melt down”). We had talked about the choices that we could make when we were disappointed and how they could make things better or worse.
The next morning I had the delightful task of picking up dead cockroaches, (which is much better than killing live ones or picking up ones that you only think are dead, ugh!) in order to get in the shower to clean my feet (which in Niger is a virtually futile task!). By the time I had deposited my eighth one in the toilet, I was annoyed and was starting to construct a top ten things I hate about hot season list. It was as I was scrubbing my feet and realizing that I wouldn’t make it out of the bathroom before they would be dirty again, that I heard my own voice saying a “you can’t always change your circumstances…” so I started thinking about how nice it was to have hot water to wash in and that I had some really nice smelly soap that my sister had sent me and just the fact that I had had the luxury of the time to clean out the cockroaches before I cleaned my feet. It is amazing how an attitude check can turn your day around. Paul’s advice to the Philippians still holds true today.
Thanks to everyone who has been praying about our car situation. It looks like we may have a new car. Well, new to us and the country car—a 1998 Corolla wagon that is coming to us from Milan. We are just waiting on some paperwork and finances. Hopefully it will serve us well and that the air conditioning will continue to function well. I am really looking forward to the occasional escape from the heat!
Monday, March 17, 2008
I am, then, first of all, countryfied, an exile, evidently unlearned, one who is not able to see into the future, but I know for certain, that before I was humbled I was like a stone lying in deep mire, and he that is mighty came and in his mercy raised me up and,indeed, lifted me high up and placed me on top of the wall. And from there I ought to shout out in gratitude to the Lord for his great favours in this world and for ever, that the mind of man cannot measure.
Kidnapped and taken as a slave to Ireland when still a child, Patrick later escaped only to be compelled by a vision to return to the people who had enslaved him.
…there, in a vision of the night, I saw a man whose name was Victoricus coming as if from Ireland with innumerable letters, and he gave me one of them, and I read the beginning of the letter: 'The Voice of the Irish', and as I was reading the beginning of the letter I seemed at that moment to hear the voice of those who were beside the forest of Foclut which is near the western sea, and they were crying as if with one voice: 'We beg you, holy youth, that you shall come and shall walk again among us.' And I was stung intensely in my heart so that I could read no more, and thus I awoke.
Despite misunderstanding and conflict with Christian colleagues and much opposition from local leaders Patrick persevered to establish the church in Ireland. You can read a fairly good translation of his “Confession” here: http://www.cin.org/patrick.html .
Thursday, March 13, 2008
But the other day I had a new experience... We went around the corner and started talking to a lady we hadn't met before. This lady looked like she was in her eighties (so she had to be at least in her late fifties--Niger has a way of aging people!). Anyway, she saw that we had Cole with us and said something that we couldn't quite follow, but it looked like she was suggesting a marriage. She called over her daughter (whose zarma was a little clearer) and said that she wanted our son to marry her granddaughter. We just needed to come by with a dowry. We just laughed.
Luckily Cole doesn't understand any zarma yet because like most eight year old boys he thinks girls are YUCKY! It made an interesting conversation on the way home, as we explained to him why we were laughing. He told us that he wasn't ready to get married and didn't think he would be for a long time! We told him that he was lucky to be Canadian and to have parents that thought that he should choose his own wife and that we would be happy if it didn't happen for a long time. --Don't tell him I put this in the blog he would be upset but it was too good to pass up.
By the way, we sent out our quarterly newsletter this week. If you didn't get it but would like to e-mail us and we'll be happy to send it to you. You'll find our e-mail address on our prayer card of on the FMC website: www.fmc-canada.org
Friday, March 7, 2008
When we first moved into our neighbourhood last fall, an older gentlemen, a plumber for the hospital, pulled up on his scooter, greeted me and welcomed me but then quickly advised me to be sure that I hire a guard. We already knew that was probably a wise plan, though another friend counseled us saying, “A guard is good; a guard and a dog is better; but just a dog is best.” We’ve taken option number two till this point, but have never felt the need to be concerned. This week however things changed. We have a woman who comes to cook and clean a couple mornings a week, and yesterday while we were out she had a visitor at the front gate. He said, “The white people who live here sent me to get the television—you’re supposed to give it to me.” Fortunately, she knew better and sent him on his way. Our language teacher told us this is a typical ploy, and often works with young houseworkers fresh from the village. We shared the story with neighbours as we went out to walk the neighbourhood yesterday and today, and everyone seems to say the same thing: there’s a lot of thieves in the neighbourhood. One neighbour, David who works at the garage where I take my car said, “A dog is good but you need two.” The imam who lives next door said, “You need to talk to the guy around the corner who’s a municipal police officer, he’ll catch him for you.” The Chief of the Quartier’s son who sells vegetables on the corner told us that a thief was in their compound last night and the only reason they were able to chase him away was because the children hadn’t fallen asleep yet and heard him in the yard. I find that the story tends to arouse a strong reaction with neighbours. I must say that I don’t feel overly concerned but whether that is simple faith or simply naïve, only the Lord knows.
(Jenn says: little did they know that our tv is kind of like our car hardly worth the effort!)
Please remember Jenn's sister and her family as her father-in-law is battling cancer.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Monday, February 18, 2008
I am amazed at how it can take so little to make a seven year old happy. Why is it that as we get older we forget to stop and take the time to revel in simple pleasures? I decided to do something about that and to slowly revel in the peppermint patty that Grandma sent me in the package! :)
Thanks for those who have been praying for us. We used Ben's birthday as a opportunity to reach out to some young men that we have been connecting with and invited them over for homemade ice cream. They came and we had a good visit with them. Continue to pray for our language learning and open doors, I struggled to understand a couple of ladies who came to our house last night looking for work and missed an opportunity.
Monday, February 11, 2008
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
It makes you think doesn’t it? Where have your feet been spending most of their time? What are your priorities really? It is easy to let the busy-ness of life take over and direct your steps, so that you find your feet are always on the gas pedal and rarely stopping to visit that friend or neighbour that you have been meaning to catch up with. Or so busy rushing to the next location, that you don’t take the time to ask the store clerk you see weekly (or daily?) how they are doing –or even worse never take the time to really listen when you do ask. Maybe when you put your socks on tomorrow (or in my case, sandals) you’ll take a minute to ask God to direct your steps. You might be amazed at where you end up.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Last week Murphy’s Law of electricity struck us when I was up at 4am writing the blog and getting other jobs accomplished that required electricity before the power went out, because that was the only day in the last two and a half weeks when the power didn’t got out! Dave thought I should do that more often. I figured that it is his turn, but that would just turn into another exercise in futility because Dave is not a morning person.
The other night our neighbours come over to confirm that they couldn’t find any propane in town for their stove. Of course, we run out of propane that night too! (Praise God! We were able to find some the next day—our neighbours haven’t been so lucky, but they have someone working for them that is quite good at cooking over a fire)
This morning I was racing off to school and a meeting only to find as I pulled out the driveway that my tire was flat (of course our compressor had died from too much use, or the dust in the air!). I eased the car around the corner to the guy who fixes tires, only to find out he wasn’t open yet (and we weren’t exactly sure when he would arrive). So we tried a neighbour that we knew who had a compressor. Only to find out that he was sick, so instead of using the compressor he lent us their second car. The problem was that it was out of gas. When we finally got to the third gas station (the first one that was actually open), we couldn’t get the key to work in the lock on the gas cap and had to try to get to the school on fumes. Oh, and did I mention that the cell phone didn’t work the first two times we tried to phone the school to let them know that we would be late. (All before 8am! However, even with all of this I was only 5 minutes late for my meeting and it hadn’t started yet!)
I am so glad that we serve a good and gracious God that supplies all of our needs, gives us the strength to endure and doesn’t test us beyond what we can handle. And I am also grateful for all of your prayers! Thanks.
Friday, January 18, 2008
Thanks to all of you that have been praying for our New Year’s requests. I found out this week that there is someone who will be coming to teach Cole’s class in the summer which is an answer to prayer. Continue to remember Ben who doesn’t have a teacher for the 2008/2009 year yet. Both Ben and Cole are on the recovery from being sick (another item of praise).
I also asked for prayer for peace in Niger with the trouble in the North. Please continue to remember that situation. We had a incident about a week ago where a land mine exploded in another section of town. We are not sure whether it is related or not because no one has claimed responsibility for it. We are not at risk because we live very near a paved road and travel mostly on pavement, but you can pray that God will use this situation for His glory.
Sorry there aren’t pictures the connections are a bit slow, but maybe I’ll be able to add something later from the boys school (if there generator is working!).