Friday, April 25, 2008

Weight Loss

Have you ever noticed how some things in life just don't seem fair?
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: there is a list of staffing needs for the next few years that are posted there.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


I received an early birthday card today and it got me thinking, because it asked how birthdays are celebrated here. I am not completely sure about how common this is but a number of my Nigerien friends aren’t sure of their day of birth (they know what season they were born in and what year), but they may not know the date on the calendar. However, a number of my Christian friends have taken to celebrating their birthdays on the day that they became a Christian or where baptized. When I heard that the first time I thought that was a great idea, because what is a birthday for other than to celebrate the life of the individual and what better day to celebrate than the day that the person became alive in Christ and started their eternal life! But, I guess this is still more about a “when” they celebrate instead of “how” they celebrate.

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.
Note: the pictures are of Cole's birthday last month. Because he didn't want a party and there were only two presents we went on a present hunt--that is why his present was in the washing machine.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


You know that it is Sunday when...
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

Car Vignettes

The other day, I felt challenged about how I look at people. It's the time of year when everyone needs to buy a new vignette sticker for the car. It's one of those things that the police look for as they regularly pull over vehicles checking for driver's licenses, up to date insurance, etc. I pulled up to the building where I picked one up two years ago and discovered that the office had moved. A security guard gave me vague directions to the new location and off we went.

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.