Friday, December 18, 2009

God moments part 2


Last week I told you about one of the times recently that God had redirected my path despite my busyness. The two situations that I am going to tell you about this week are times when God met me in my busyness and turned some things around.
The first one happened this past week when we were in Ghana with our director Dan Sheffield. We went to observe and shadow a team from Barrie that are working with the Ghana Mission District to help them move toward their next phase of development. During the day-long meeting I was sent with Loralie from the Barrie team to pick up lunch. Loralie had spent two years in Ghana working with the church and she suggested we get egg sandwiches from one of the ladies that had set up a microfinance business with her when she was there. Unfortunately when we got there Mama had gone to the market and left a young girl minding the shop. The young girl hesitantly started to make the sixteen sandwiches that we needed, but when we realized that she intended to use 4-6 eggs and almost a quarter of a loaf of bread for one sandwich Loralie stepped in and started helping her make the sandwiches. I wish that we would have had a camera with us to capture the moment. Not only to see what we looked like but to capture the expressions on the faces of the people in the neighbourhood that watched these two white women make street food over and open fire with a young girl.
Then the day after Dan returned to Canada I had to take Susan to the lab to find out if the medication was working to thin her blood. She was terrified of the needle and was getting really worked up about it and having seen how much trouble she had had in the past I could understand. I was praying in the waiting room. While Susan was telling the lab technician that she couldn’t go through with it. Just then a psalm jumped into my head, so I went into the room where they were trying to take her blood and told her that I was going to read a psalm to her and that she was going to look at me and concentrate on what I reading while the technician did his job. So, I started reading and I stopped to tell Susan to give the man her arm and then continued reading. About six verses later I said to Susan that he was done taking her blood, but the technician just said keep reading. That is when I realized that there were six other people in the room who had stopped what they were doing to hear me read the scripture (and Susan said there was a little Islamic man that kept peeking his head around the corner to see what was going on). I don’t know how many of them understood what I was saying (because it was in English for Susan), but I do know that the three nurses that had previously taken Susan’s blood (or at least tried to) were all present to hear me.
Neither of these moments were exceptional or earth shattering, but sometimes it is the little things that God uses to touch the hearts of those around us. It is my prayer that God will continue to use these kinds of moments in each of our lives to show his love to those that need it most. And that each of you will become increasingly aware of how God is working in your life, even in the seemingly small things.

PS
Last Saturday, the church that just affiliated while Dan Sheffield was with us had a baptism. At the last minute I was asked to get in the water with them--I'm not sure if that was because it was deep or cold but the water was both--they dropped a table in the pool for some of the candidates to stand on because it was over their heads. It was a privilege to participate. Please pray for the three new believers as baptism sometimes begins a season of persecution.

Jennifer and I are now in Canada for the holidays. Cole is getting new orthotics for his feet, Ben and I are getting new glasses, and we've all been to the dentist. Looking forward to being together with family for the holidays. We've scheduled an open house Dec 27 for any who are interested in St Catharines at Grapeview Church from 2-4 PM.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

God moments


It doesn’t matter how busy we are when we open ourselves up to be available to what God would have us do in any given day he arranges things that we don’t expect. I have had a few of these God moments over the last few weeks despite my hectic schedule.
Two weeks ago, I was taking the woman who was living with us to meet our language teacher so that she could do some language instruction with him while she was in Niamey having medical treatment. Part of the way to his house we were stopped by some friends that I had made at the last wedding in our neighbourhood. They were going to visit the bride, who is a friend, in her new home and invited us to come along. I explained that we were going somewhere else, but that I would like to go sometime soon because I didn’t know where her new house was. Susan, the missionary looking for language lessons, told me that I couldn’t miss out on an invitation like this. So we changed our plans and went with the young girl and older woman. Along the walk we chatted and as is customary here I greeted the ladies that we came across. What I didn’t expect was that the older woman rebuked a number of the other ladies on route for not greeting me back! When we got to the new bride’s home she was somewhere else so the young girl went to get her and we visited with the older woman and a neighbour. After waiting quite awhile we decided that we needed to keep going if we hoped to find our house before dark (and also because of Susan’s condition she shouldn’t sit for long periods of time). As we left we met the bride and the young girl and I apologized that we couldn’t stay longer and needed to head back. So they walked with us some of the way and then the young girl was sent with us to make sure we made it home. Along the way back, we saw some teenagers that were painting their feet with henna. They asked if I wanted mine done too. So, I slipped my foot out of my sandal and let the girls paint my feet. The only problem I had is that for the rest of the walk I had to carry my sandals in one hand and hold my skirt in the other, to allow my feet to dry. What I didn’t expect was the reaction of the other people we meet on the way home, I must have had three different ladies stop me to ask if I was ok, --did I break my shoes, --was I hurt. When I explained that the henna was still wet because we didn’t have time to let it dry (because my friend needed to keep walking for her health), they laughed and wished me a happy new year and I laughed and wished them a happy new year too (Happy New Year or more literally “And the same next year” is the greetings that you use around the time of Tabaski or Ramadan and this was close to Tabaski).
You never know when God will redirect your path and what will come of it when He does. Please pray for these women that I am trying to connect with in my neighbourhood, that God would be using these moments and others like them to reveal Himself to them. And pray for me that I would continue to make myself available for whatever diversions that He would have me go on.
Susan is improving with the treatments that she is on and will be house sitting for us while we are gone. I will tell you about another God moment with her and in Ghana next week while we are in Canada (I was going to put it here, but thing this is getting a bit long) and then we might let our blog lapse for two weeks while we are on holidays—unless some interesting things happen in Canada. For those of you in Ontario, we will be having an open house in the fireside room at Grapeview FM Church in St. Catharines on Sunday December 27th from 2-4 pm and would love to see you there!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Time Flies When You Are on the Run


This has been a really busy week! Just before Dan arrived we had to have Ben’s glasses repaired and a lens replaced. We had been trying to hold out until we made it home, but decided something had to be done when the one lens was not only missing a chip but had finally split in half.

Also just before Dan arrived, Susan the missionary that had been staying with us while receiving medical treatment, decided it would be best to move somewhere else while he was here. Cole’s teacher at Sahel was very gracious and offered her a room. So we made arrangements with a Nigerien friend who is a nurse to administer the medication and check up on Susan especially while we were in Ghana. We also had the opportunity to meet a new set of twin girls that were delivered to Pastor Etienne and Marie. Please pray for this pastor and his family as he works full time and cares not only for these newborns, but a set of twins that are 3, a daughter 8 and another teenage daughter in addition to his responsibilities in the church.

We had meetings with Dan and some church leaders here about the next step toward becoming affiliated with the FM church and then left for a three day whirlwind visit to Accra, Ghana. Dan was meeting with a team from Barrie FMC who is overseeing the mission district in Ghana for the FM Church in Canada. Having worked there for 15 years and with Ghana being much more receptive to the gospel than Niger the church there is much more developed. As a result we were able to get some insight into the process of church organization and development that we will eventually be working towards. It was great to sit in on their discussions and to learn from some of their experiences.


We are very thankful to our friends at SIMair (part of the ministry of SIM here in Niger)who made our trip to Ghana possible in their little four seater plane. Please pray for us as we finish up our time with Dan and as we return to Canada for holidays. Those of you in Southern Ontario may wish to connect with us on Sunday Dec. 27th we will be having an open house. More details will follow!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Recent Events & Prayer Needs



Sorry it has been so long in getting this posted and a lot has been happening so I will try to give you just the highlights.

Field Day for the boys’ school went really well. I was especially impressed with how Cole did. He was even able to “compete” while running the 100m, instead of feeling like he was miles behind everyone else. (Cole thinks he is flying in this picture! The other is Ben and the boys in his class.)

The Sunday after Field Day I approached a missionary by the name of Susan who was in town to help with the medical needs of a friend’s child, to ask if she would house-sit for us while we were in Canada for Christmas. She contacted us the next day to say that she was free from her responsibilities with the child and would like to see our house to see if it would work to help us. However, God had another plan, instead of coming to see our house, I ended up taking her to the doctor to get the results of some tests that she had done. The short version of the story is that she needed to stay in Niamey for treatment and the people she had come to help had to return to Maradi (a city 9hrs. away where she had been working), so she moved into our guest room. Please pray for Susan the treatment that she has been on to thin her blood has not been working and she is waiting to hear from her insurance company to know whether they recommend that she return to the UK for further treatment or whether she will remain and go into the hospital here for treatment.

We are looking forward to Dan Sheffield’s arrival in Niamey on Sunday evening. Please pray that all will go well with his visit, that it will be a productive time and that God will use us to be a blessing to each other during his stay.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fever & Field Day


Fever, fever, go away and don’t come back another day…

That is the chant that has been coming to mind this week. I have been sick for a little over two weeks now and last weekend with all of the craziness of Dave’s classes and a pastor’s seminar, I actually thought that I was starting to get better. Until Sunday, somewhere in the middle of the service we were attending another sledge hammer of fatigue fell. It was so bad that I had Dave drop me off at the house to sleep instead of going out for lunch with the boys. I used to think that I had an understanding of what it felt like to have a temperature in this heat, but all my theory fell apart this time, instead of feeling chills I just thought I was a bit warm. I even went to church in the evening after sleeping all afternoon and it wasn’t until sometime before I went to bed that I had Dave take my temperature, not because I thought I had a fever but “just in case”. Needless to say I clocked the highest temperature that Dave can remember in our time in Niger (with no bone numbing chills to my amazement). In some ways I wasn’t surprised because I am a bit prone to sinus infections—maybe I need to learn a better way to blow my nose. I am happy to say that as of Monday I am on some antibiotics that seem to be helping, or at least I have been able to get a few things accomplished over the last 24hrs, which is a whole lot more than I can say for the day before.

Dave tells me the pastor’s seminar went well, I was healthy enough to do some behind the scenes running, take a picture and be home with the boys (it was the lull in the storm for my cold). Thanks to all of you that were praying for it! You can keep praying for us Cole and Dave seem to be coming down with the cold now too.
Also this coming Friday is Field Day for the boys’ school which takes place in the national stadium. This always seems to be a struggle in our house, it is difficult when you are a competitive ten year old that isn’t very athletic and have to wear orthotics, even if it is a team based competition. Please pray for the safety of everyone involved and for emotional stability in our house.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Haunting

My haunting this year didn’t come Saturday night in the form various trick-or-treaters looking for candy. (Halloween isn’t celebrated here in Niger.) But, I was haunted Sunday morning when I sat behind a beautiful little girl of two or three years old with sad eyes. The Tuesday before I had gotten up from what I thought was going to be a sick day to go to her mother’s funeral. It was great to watch how the church was reaching out and making a difference in this family’s life. There were a number of ladies in the church who were helping to care for the little girl and her older brother and their father got up to testify about how much the people of the church had been caring for him and his family over the past few weeks. That is the church in action and what being a church family is all about.

My heart still breaks for this little girl who will soon have a hard time remembering what her mom looked like, especially because her story is not an unusual one here. I was buying “fadi masa” (a deep fried dough something like a timbit) on the street here the other day and talking to my friend who sells them. She said that she became a widow last January and that she was raising three little ones, the oldest just started to school. She is in her twenties. And she isn’t the only widow with young children on my section of the street. Please pray for these families that have faced tragedy and hardship and pray that God will use us to share His love.

Please remember Dave this weekend. He is leading a pastor’s training seminar on pastoral care and counseling and he is also preaching on Sunday. Thanks to those of you who prayed about my cold. I am glad to say that it hasn’t spread too far with the rest of the family, but I am still having a hard time getting over it. It keeps moving back and forth between my throat and my sinuses. I am truly grateful that I was feeling well enough to go to my neighbour’s wedding last Saturday.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Life is hard

I am sick with a nasty head cold. I thought that I was going to take the day off and spend it in bed with lots of clear liquids and a bottle of Tylenol, but I guess God has other plans. We just found out that a friend’s wife died in the night so I guess I have to get out of bed to go to a funeral this afternoon, hopefully I won’t pass this cold on to someone else there.
***********************************************************************************
That was yesterday—Jennifer is still sick and back in bed. We went to the funeral yesterday. The funeral ceremony was very short followed by a reception at the family home. (I was expecting something a little longer—the last funeral I attended was for a pastor, and it continued for an hour or more with everyone standing around the graveside in the hot sun.) At the reception they hand around a drink that looked like milk and reminded me of Mini Wheats but was made with millet and perhaps sorghum. We shared our condolences and headed for home.
The night before our night guard had said his daughter was sick with a “bouton” under her chin and on the back of her neck. I figured it was the beginning of chicken pox and didn’t think much of it. Last night however, he told us that he’d taken her to a dispensary and they thought she might need surgery. I’m not sure if he misunderstood or not but apparently they’ve given him a referral to another clinic for Thursday. I hope to take her to see a missionary doctor before something drastic happens.
Please pray for Pascal, the widower; he is left with three small children to care for. My heart breaks for him and the children, but at least he has the hope that comes from knowing Christ. Pray our also for Mohammed and his daughter Bakka. She just started school this year and the last thing she needs is to have that interrupted by extended medical treatment.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Antiperspirant Humility

When was the last time you were really humbled.
I don’t mean the feel-sorry-for-yourself, “oh woe is me”-pity-party kind of humility or the most embarrassing moments kind of feelings, but true humility. I sometimes wonder if I even know what the word really means.

I discovered something recently. There are at least two responses that a stick of antiperspirant makes to the extreme heat. The one isn’t really noticeable at first, because it doesn’t look any different on the outside that is, the stick that turns rock hard and is rendered completely useless. It may still smell good and it definitely looks good, but in reality it is useless. I have had a number of sticks do this and I don’t know if it has more to do with the heat or the expiry date, but I know that brand name doesn’t make a difference when it comes to this kind of response. The other option to extreme heat is a more recent discovery for me, I left my antiperspirant in the car with my swim stuff only to find that it had melted and reshaped itself. It wasn’t a pretty sight, some of it stuck in the lid and it no longer had the shape it should, but amazingly enough it still worked or at least as good as any antiperspirant can in Niger!

I guess my point is what kind of humility do we want at work in our lives. The kind that is superficial and may look good on the outside, but is just a different kind of pride that has been turned in or the kind that when the pressure of life turns on, it turns to God and says “I can’t do it without you, reshape me into what you want me to be, help me to submit to your will instead of demanding my own”. The following verse from 2 Chron.7:14 has been playing around in my head this evening (or is it morning):

"if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could do this? It starts with humility...

Sunday, October 18, 2009


It’s a bad sign when you wake up and your feet are already swollen because of the heat (especially when you aren’t pregnant!). It could have had something to do with yesterday being a really crazy day. I spent most of the morning in a clinic with a friend that was following up on some tests. She was told to be there at 7:30am before the rest of the patients start to arrive so she could see the doctor before the line up started. However, the doctor didn’t arrive until 8am—that is ok, because I am starting to get used to the system and came prepared, I had my crocheting with me and a couple of books. There were too many people and too much talking to be successful with the books, but I almost completed a side to a baby cardigan that I am making for one of the many friends that I have that are expecting while I waited. Two hours later there was a quick trip to the market and the post office where I was happy to find a long awaited package from home and some magazines that Grandma sent for the boys. The package was a number of stuffed turtles made by VBS kids in Canada that had messages in a little pocket for kids here saying “God cares and so do I”. I was able to give away three before I even left the post office. The first went to a little girl who was begging there that had sores and bandages on her face. I let my Nigerien friend give her one telling her what the message in the pocket said so that she could translate it into Hausa. It was great to see the smile that lit up the little girl’s face, not to mention my friend. When I finally arrived home I came across a little boy and a little girl who were helping their respective mom’s carry their things home (the ladies had been selling fadi masa and chenchea –a kind of deep fried dough of flour or bean curds). The kids were about three or four and working hard carrying things down the street so I stopped them and gave them each a turtle too and explained the message in the pocket. However, I think I might have cause a problem because when Dave left the house five minutes later to get to a meeting he had there were 15-20 kids and an older lady waiting for him. The old lady said that she had tried to visit me a number of times over the last few weeks and was looking for her cadeau (or gift). I wasn’t sure whether she was looking for a “new years” gift (which is something normally given at the end of Ramadan) or what. So I took a coin that I had and gave it to her—I suspect now that she was looking for a turtle, but I wasn’t ready to start a riot with so many people on the street all watching and waiting. I am hoping to give them out while visiting various people that I have had lots of contact with, when I am more able to explain the message of the notes.
Please pray for Dave this week as he will be travelling to Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina. A friend needs to go there for a couple of days for meetings, so Dave offered to drive so that he could go to the Christian bookstore. He was given a donation by a church in Canada to buy pastor’s resources for the churches we are working with. So I will be single parenting for the first part of this week. Pray also for Niger as the first stage of the election process will be happening this week as well.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Thanksgiving a Little Early

I decided that I should start the Thanksgiving celebrations a little bit early this year. I have something to celebrate today because I got out our quarterly e-newsletter today. The newsletter is generally a much bigger task than I think it should be. It takes a day or two to write and arrange the layout and then usually another to get the thing sent. There are 230 people on the list which doesn’t sound too bad except I have to send out the e-mails in groups of ten or less because anything larger tends to get rejected by a number of peoples’ e-mail filters. I had the additional complication of trying to do the mailer through an e-mail account that is on-line and wouldn’t allow me to paste multiple e-mails at a time. That meant that I got to individually paste each person’s e-mail, the upside is that I had an opportunity to pray for each person individually instead of just praying corporately, the downside is it took a long time. It also didn’t help that the power went off a few times today! But it is done, yeah! If you normally receive our quarterly newsletter and didn’t get it today, that means that I no longer have an accurate e-mail address for you and or you are one of the people that I will be trying again tomorrow with (I usually have about 15-20 reject notices that show up in the two days following a mailing). Forgive me for whining, I really do appreciate all the prayers that are generated by the newsletters.

For those of you that are not from Canada, Monday is the day Canadian’s celebrate Thanksgiving. For those that are, Happy Thanksgiving! In Niamey, they celebrate it at the American Rec Center by holding a baseball tournament. Dave wasn’t going to play this year, because last year his team was in the finals but he wasn’t available to play the final game because it was Sunday morning and he had other commitments. But, a friend talked him into playing this year anyway. Please pray for him, the last few weeks when his team has been practicing he has been involved in weddings and isn’t sure that he is in good enough shape to last the weekend! If they win every one of their games then their first playoff game isn’t until Sunday afternoon, otherwise they will have a game Sunday morning and he will be letting his team down again. Also, pray for safety, the tournament is called NUTS (Niamey Universal Tournament of Softball), but the name fits on more than one level because we are in the heart of the mini-hot season where the highs are over 100˚F everyday and that doesn’t factor in the humidity!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Last Weekend's Wedding


Thanks to those who heard that we were sick last weekend and prayed that we could make it through the wedding. We are feeling much better this week and have another wedding later today.

African TIme Management

I feel like I had my day hijacked yesterday. Interruptions and change of plans are a part of life in Niger, but it is one thing when you don’t have a lot on your agenda and different when you have lots of things planned. Early in the week Dave came to me and asked if we could talk through the events of the coming week because it was going to be a very busy one. So we looked at the calendar and made some plans. Thursday is the day that I have the car to do what I need to. I usually take the boys to school so that I can stay for the Mom’s prayer meeting and then go on to a meeting with my accountability partner. In addition to that, I had made arrangements with a Nigerienne friend to go shopping and had a meeting scheduled for later in the afternoon. Dave usually takes that time to have some extra study time, write his devotional for the bible study that he has been leading on Thursday evenings and I thought that he would really want to guard that time yesterday because he would be reviewing his class notes for Friday morning (this week he starts to teach his class at the bible school again). But no, he decided that he needed to go with me so that he could get some work done for his class on Friday at the school (the bible school is next door to the boys’ school). However, instead of getting the photocopying and things done that he had planned on while I was in my prayer meeting. He got distracted with talking to various people. Now to his credit, part of the problem is that the photocopier at the bible school wasn’t working, but 2 ½ hrs later after I had had both my prayer meeting and my accountability meeting Dave still hadn’t done his photocopying at the boys’ school or anywhere else.

Needless to say, from there on I was about 2 ½ hours behind for the rest of the day, which thinking about it in retrospect is typical for living on African time (however that means I completely missed my afternoon meeting which was not being run by Africans!). African time means that you take the time for people because the relationships are much more important than anything else. So when you show up late for an appointment or have an “African rendezvous” (as my Nigerienne friend calls it, when you make an appointment with someone and they don’t show up) that is just accepted. I guess I am still wrestling with my North American background, because I am slowly coming to terms with things starting late and people arriving late (Dave has helped a lot with that because he has lived most of his life on African time, without knowing it!), but I still have a hard time when I am the one who is late or misses the appointments. It reminds me of some things that I read a number of years ago about time management. I am not sure who the author or original speaker was, but they said that if you find yourself over worked and unable to cope with all of the jobs and roles that you have, you need to stop and ask what am I doing that isn’t God’s will for my life because God promises that He will provide if we are in His will. Often there are many good things that come along that we want to do and that can seem like the right things to do, but if they aren’t God’s will they can become a burden or a distraction from what He would have us do. In this way, my African brothers and sisters have their priorities right because they put people first, but I am still not sure when I have a day like Thursday which was mismanagement/ lack of communication on my part and which was God’s rearranging my will to fit His.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Spot Cleaning

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I have two problems with spot cleaning (ok maybe three…). The most frustrating one is the seeming futility, when you go to the trouble of trying to remove a spot what is most likely to happen is that you end up revealing countless others that you didn’t notice before, but seem to come out in the wash. Then there is the hard work that goes into stain removing. Maybe I just haven’t found the right stain removers yet, but it seems that no matter what you use there is a lot of time and energy consumed in rubbing and scrubbing. I just had a shower before my morning shower this morning, by trying to get some of my whites to pretend to be white again. (Now it was 90+F with humidity before 8 this morning and that has something to do with the sweat bath, but I had streams of salty sweat running into my eyes before my washing machine was half full!). My third problem isn’t exactly a problem it is more of a speculation. I sometimes wonder whether it is the stains that help to hold some of my clothes together.

The same things are true when we are dealing with sin in our lives. God starts working on a major area of sin and we think “wow, I’m glad that is over,” only to realize that there are a number of other little sins that we didn’t notice before that need to be dealt with now. It is also a painful process when God starts pointing out sin in our lives. It means acknowledging our wrong and our need of his forgiveness, surrendering to him (again?) and sometimes it means breaking old habits or ways of thinking. I sometimes think that it is painful for him too, wondering when we are going to fully surrender every area of our lives to his cleans
ing. I think the process has the same results in our lives as my spot cleaning frequently does here in Niger. It leaves behind holes. Holes that allow his love and life to shine through us that those around us , so that they see less of us and more of Him.
We got to do some visiting with the boys because of the holiday for Ramadan and so I thought I'd include some recent pics!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Christmas in September?

We are dreaming of a white Christmas! I know this is either 3 months early or it is 3months late (if you like Christmas in July), but you can celebrate the birth of our Lord at any time right? Besides Christmas has become a theme of conversation at our house recently. I think that is mostly because we have decided to go home for Christmas this year. There are many reasons for this: the holidays tend to be one of the hardest times on the boys to be away from their extended family being one and another is that Cole needs to have his orthotics replaced. He really should have had them adjusted or replaced last summer, but we thought that if we could stretch the time out to a year and a half than it would only be another year and a half until we come home at the end of our term. (It is hard to believe that our term is more than half over.) I hope that we made the right decision on waiting to replace Cole’s orthotics, they still seem to fit length wise, but I am beginning to wonder if they aren’t a little too narrow now. I am also looking forward to replacing Ben’s glasses with ones that hopefully won’t have to be repaired on a weekly basis, although I must say Dave is becoming pretty good at putting the piece back together. I am just not sure whether they break because of Ben’s treatment of them, Dave’s repair jobs or just because they are like many things here—cheap and not meant to last. I suspect it is a combination of all of the above.

We also decided with this trip to make a detour to New Brunswick. Dave’s mom and dad are in Moncton and the boys have been asking a lot of questions about what it is like there because they haven’t been there since they were babies. It makes the logistics of this trip a little more complicated to fly to Ontario and then New Brunswick and back to Ontario, but we are hoping that it gives the boys a little more understanding of their roots, by seeing where their dad spent some of his growing up years and to be able to picture Grandma and Grandpa Wright in their context. (Because Dave’s brothers are in Ontario not too far from where my family is, his mom and dad have usually come to visit us there.)

For now our schedule looks like this:
Dec. 14 about 22 hours in transit between Niamey and Toronto
Dec. 15-17 Doctors’ appointments in Ontario
Dec. 17-23 Moncton, New Brunswick
Dec. 23-Jan.6 Back to Ontario for Christmas and more doctors’ appointments

Please pray for us that all the details will come together, that we will be able to afford the orthotics and glasses and that we will be able to make arrangements for a vehicle especially in Ontario (my parents will be flying home from Florida to spend Christmas with us, but their vehicle will be in Florida!). Pray that this will be a time to rest and relax because we could all really use a vacation. Finally pray especially for the boys, that this might alleviate some of the “family-sickness” that they have been experiencing over the last few months.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Saying Goodbye


Sunday morning before church I was flipping through my bible and Isaiah 49 caught my eye:
He said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, and you will bring me glory.” I replied, “But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose. Yet I leave it all in the Lord’s hand; I will trust God for my reward.” (vv 3-4)
It’s a verse that every pastor has identified with at one point or another, but we’ve both had our moments like this in the last little while.

Later on the way to church, the man I’ve been working with for the last two months just kind of let it drop that he was leaving and returning to Agadez. ”When?” I said, rather taken aback. “Tuesday,” was his simple reply. Since June we’ve been getting together to chat and read the Bible. In July, he was asking questions and wanted to know what else he needed to do to become a Christian. I asked if he wanted to pray with me to invite Christ into his life and he said, “yes,” and so we did, there in the bakery. Since that time we’ve continued to meet one on one, as well as going to church on Sundays and the mid week bible study I’ve been leading at the church. (This is one of the churches that the Brantford team met with last summer, who is interested in joining the denomination.) He has been faithful to come and to participate but nevertheless has questions.

After church I arranged to take him for lunch the following day before his departure. Later in the afternoon, he texted me on my cell phone saying that lunch wouldn’t work because he had too much family to visit before leaving, and asked if I could just help him with expenses for the trip. Sensing that more was going on than I’d realized, I asked if everything was alright. Agadez, where his wife and home are, has been devastated by flooding in the last week. A northern desert town, where there is little rain, it’s filled with mud brick buildings including its famous mosque. Heavy rains in the mountains created a huge overflow, bursting a dam and flooding the city. Mud bricks simply melt when exposed to too much water, and thousands of homes were washed away, along with the market and many other buildings. Thousands are homeless today and with the destruction of the market, food may not be easy to come by. My friend assured me his home and wife were fine but nevertheless many are suffering. Yesterday we bought a couple of sacks of rice and some tea and sugar and to take along with the rest of his baggage to the bus station. We returned to the house for one last meal together and before he went back to the station. The bus leaves in the wee hours of the morning and doesn’t arrive till sometime around 11 PM.

Please pray for my friend. He will face many challenges in Agadez, some economic, some social, and some spiritual. His family is not likely to respond well to his new faith and the month of Ramadan may well present challenges of its own. We will continue to remain in contact with him in Agadez, though we have no idea when or if he'll return.

If you would like to find out more about the situation in Agadez, here is a news report:
http://www.upi.com/Top_News/2009/09/04/Niger-towns-flooded-at-least-2-dead/UPI-45051252038709/

And this is the blog of an American woman with the Rotary Club who witnessed the floods and its aftermath (she has pictures): http://nomadfoundation.blogspot.com/2009/09/foods-ravage-agadez.html

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Another Ramadan

We are in the midst of another Ramadan here in Niger and no matter how much I try to prepare myself for it, I find it challenging. It could be a purely physical thing, with Ramadan comes a lot of late night services broadcast on the loud speakers at the mosque next door. That coupled with the early start time for the boy’s school can wear you out. I suppose the pace that we have been trying to keep could have a lot to do with the physical fatigue too. I am happy to say that the English teacher for Sahel arrived last weekend and relieved me on my temporary teaching job. I am grateful to have her here. Although, I can’t say that I have caught up on my accounting, bill paying, laundry or many other jobs that I let slide while I was covering the English class yet. Nor have I caught up on the sleep that trying to do too much robbed me of.
However, it isn’t just the physical aspects of Ramadan that are draining. It is the spiritual aspects as well. Not to say that there aren’t difficulties and spiritual conflicts that are ongoing here, but it seems more pronounced at this time of year. Maybe that is because my prayers become more concentrated on the Holy Spirit revealing himself to those who are truly seeking God through this time of fasting—or maybe it is that I am getting less sleep, so I might as well be praying (or writing a blog) while I can’t sleep with the loud speaker blaring in my window. But is also all the little things that come along to test your endurance, etc.—like Dave blowing up the battery on our car and breaking the door handle off of the driver’s side door, on the day of the first school board meeting of the year. Or the alarm clock not going off so that you wake up ten minutes before you are supposed to be leaving for school, on the morning of the mom’s prayer meeting! Or all the little lies like that nagging sense that you might as well give up because you are never going to be able to accomplish what you want to, or that you are too afraid to do what you are supposed to, or that I would just be better off teaching because it is the only thing that I am any good at.
Please pray for all of us at this especially draining time of year, but also pray with us that God would use our conversations with neighbours about why we aren’t fasting and that at this time of seeking God that many Muslims would come face to face with Jesus.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

It’s been one of those mornings. Maybe it’s just the week.

I realize that it’s been a few weeks since we posted—our apologies. I had a blog to post a couple of weeks ago but had internet trouble. Our old connection suffered a number of problems, including the offshore cable that was damaged. Unable to download email we have switched services and waited another couple of weeks to get connected—we should have been online a week ago but the technician who came to do the installation did half the job, promising to finish the job the next day. It was a week before we saw anyone again.

In the mean time school has started in again for the boys and Jenn is temporarily filling in one English class till the teacher arrives (tomorrow). She is also the chairperson for Sahel school board and today is their big-all-day-team-building-orientation-for-new-members-meeting. Last minute printing jammed, before loading up the kids in the car but can’t find the keys to unlock it only to discover that they are locked inside the car, pulling out the spare that only unlocks the doors (no computer chip in the key) and the engine won’t turnover. Jenn gets behind the wheel while, Cole takes the dog, and the guard and I push. No luck except that Jenn manages to stop rolling just before the mud lake that’s formed at the end of our drive way. A stranger passing by helps us to push the car back into the yard except Cole loses control of the dog who decides this new guy is a threat and goes on the offensive. The dog is now whining in the shed, Ben is crying because he’s late and won’t get a sticker in his day book and Mom decides it’s a lost cause and will take the kids in a bush taxi.

I think my wife (the English teacher) would call those run-on sentences and put an X beside them. I call it a literary device that lets you feel what this morning felt like. The day (and the week) is not done but with a portable solar panel the car is now running and I’m writing a blog that is long overdue. (The other one which I thought had been saved to the desktop is no where to be seen—I will post it when found.) Last night I met with Annie’s Dad for coffee and heard a little more of his story. Please pray for him. Annie is apparently on the way home from Ghana. The political situation seems relatively stable though that seems to require riot police, tear gas and the military on occasion. We are in no danger.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Electricity and Foolishness

I am feeling kind of foolish this morning and typing as fast as I can, hoping that I will be able to get this posted before the power goes out. Last night we had power for only one hour (between 2-3am). I am so grateful that we have had some rain this week and the temperatures have dropped (it was about 28C last night) so that we could sleep even through we couldn't use our fans. --I still find it amazing how when the whole city is out of power the mosque next door can still find power for their loud speakers at five am, but that is probably because it runs on a car battery or something.
I suspect that we are having rotating power which is why I am concerned about posting this and the biggest problem is that our gas tank is empty and the pumps at the station only work when there is power. Please remember us in prayer.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Election Fever

Coming home tonight I waited impatiently behind two buses crammed with young people hanging out the windows and shouting “Tzartché!” In another week the president will be holding a referendum that will allow him to continue as President for another three years and run for re-election an unlimited number of times. ( “Tzartché” is Hausa for something along the lines of “continuity”) Tensions are building as all the opposition parties have united to not simply present a “no” vote but a boycott of the referendum altogether. International pressure has also come into play to discourage the president in his current attempt to change the constitution. While we don’t expect any this to have any direct impact on us or our ministry, it does reflect the issues that come up regularly in our conversations with our friends and something that is in the forefront of many people’s minds. Many local churches and local prayer groups have made the political situation a major topic of prayer, and we too invite you to pray for the peace and stability of our country. If you are curious to know more details of what’s happening here , googling “Niger Referendum” would probably yield some fruitful results.

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Some Recent Pictures

I realize the last few blogs have been pictureless, so if the internet will cooperate I add a few:

This is what can happen in a half an hour of rain when the ditches are back filled!


Even without the ditches you can have some fun. Unfortunately this only lasted for about a day and we could really use a lot more rain!


Yesterday's bible study. Pray for Dave as he prepares for tonight's.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

I like 6:30 am…

Dave would say that that is simply because I am a morning person but he rarely sees that time of day, except for school days (the kids have to be out of the house by 7am to make it to school for 7:30).
The real reason that I like 6:30 am is that it is the coolest time of the day here in Niger. I learned from a friend that the coolest time in the day occurs a half an hour after sunrise (at least in Niger where we don’t get the nice frosty storm fronts that blow through Canada and parts of the US—although we do occasionally get rain, keep praying for rain!). So, with sunrise typically occurring around 6 that makes 6:30 my favourite time of the day! The only problem that I have with it is the tough decisions that come with it.—Do I stay in bed and enjoy and just embrace the coolest moments that I will find for the day or do I get up and take advantage of the coolness to get something accomplished that I may not be otherwise be able to get done in the day. Aah! The choices that come with summer vacation! I hope that you are finding a few moments to stop and just enjoy during your summer time.
Please continue to pray for Annie’s dad, good things are happening in his life. Pray for Dave also, he is leading two bible studies and preaching a fair amount lately—all in French which is coming more naturally, but still takes a lot more work. Also, please pray for Sahel Academy, the boys’ school is short on a few teachers for the coming year and there are people that we have been expecting that are being delayed because of the global economic crunch. On that note, pray for me also, this coming year I will be the chair person for Sahel’s school board.
As I put the finishing touches on this blog Dave has just brought to my attention that it is presently 29C at 8:15 pm the first time that it has been this cold at this time of day since sometime last February--all that praying for rain finally paid off in two storms that came through back to back last night! That said we could really use more rain.

Treating Mohammed

Sometimes I think I went into the wrong profession when I became a teacher, it isn’t that I don’t love teaching, but there are times when I think I would have been better off becoming a nurse (like my sister and all of my sisters'-in-law). These past few weeks were a prime example. Our night guard (Mohammed) didn’t show up for a couple of shifts, which we suspected meant that he was sick and were planning on going to visit him, but before we could get there a couple of his friends showed up because they were very concerned about him and felt that he needed to go to a clinic. We called Annie, a Nigerien friend that is a nurse to go with us. She told us there was no point in going to a clinic because the doctors were on strike and weren’t working at the hospitals and the clinics would only take the patients that had appointments. When we got there, Mohammed was sitting in a basin of water to ease the pain of two days of diarrhea. Annie recognized the symptoms of dysentery and diarrhea and started him on an IV treatment to re-hydrate him (it was reminiscent of the team from Brantford’s trip last summer where one of them ended up with the same situation). We went back a few times over the next few days to make sure that he was doing ok and still taking the medicine that we had bought at the pharmacy. I know that all the medical professionals reading this are cringing thinking that we help set up our guard on an IV in his hut and gave him medicine without a doctor’s prescription and I would like to let you know that this isn’t our normal practice, but it really isn’t that unusual here. Annie however has done this in the past when she worked as a village nurse for Doctors Without Borders.

If that weren’t enough the day before yesterday we came home to find Mohammed really upset. I guess he had been waiting for us for a couple of hours (he was early and we were out to eat). His wife was ill and he had taken her to a clinic and needed medicine for her (in other words he needed us to pay for it—because we are his medical benefits). He was afraid that she might be dying and so we made the call to Annie once again to come with us. When we got to his house I asked if I could pray for his wife and Mohammed said yes, yes, it’s her stomach. I prayed with his wife while Annie gave Mohammed instructions about the medicine and then helped her take the medicine. It turned out that what Mohammed had feared was lethal was a result of something that she had ate.
Please pray for Mohammed and his family. When he has a concern and we offer to pray for him, he is agreeable, but we aren’t sure whether that is because he really doesn’t understand what we are saying or because he is open to having us pray in Jesus name or just because we are his employers.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Perspectives

We had someone send us an email this week that let us know the city of Toronto had declared an extreme heat alert because the forecast called for 29C and a humidex of 36C. I chuckled because the thermometer in my bedroom (one of the coolest places in the house) was reading 34.4C and I was melting with the humidity of rainy season. Ben had decided to make tacos that morning because it was his turn to cook (The boys were given a choice this summer to learn how to cook or to learn how to do laundry—they both chose cooking. I think that was because they could choose the menu.) So, while I rolled out tortillas he flipped them in the frying pan. I’m not sure who was sweating more, him over the stove or me exerting myself over the rolling pin. We don’t have ceiling fans in our kitchen because our landlord won’t allow them and my floor fan would have been in the middle of the doorway that I had to go through to deliver the tortillas to Ben, so I’m afraid occasionally I added a little salt and liquid to the dough! I started thinking about my friends and family back home that would be complaining about the heat in their homes with central air or while enjoying a dip in their pool or while enjoying a stroll through an air conditioned mall. (Of course they can buy their tortillas and don’t need to make them which takes most of the work out of tacos!) But then my thoughts turned to my Nigerien friend that doesn't have either electricity or water in her house. Her landlord promised water when she moved it but it hasn’t happened yet and the electric lines haven’t been connected to her neighbourhood yet. Or my other friends that are running their entire house (which is probably a bit bigger than mine) off of the equivalent of an extension cord from a neighbours house, so when they turn a fan on the lights dim. They would have their own hook up, but the power line doesn’t quite reach that far and the electric company says that they would have to pay to have a post installed which is way beyond what they can afford. Those thoughts made me realize that I really didn’t have it that bad! It really is a manner of perspective! I hope you are finding a way to stay cool this summer. Me, I just keep praying for rain! Happy Canada Day and 4th of July for those of you in the Americas!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Long Silence

Sorry for the long silence. I have been battling headaches lately. I finally broke down (ie Dave made a phone call) and went to see a doctor. There are a couple of possible senerios: not drinking enough water, a problem with my anti-malarial or sinus problems. It is such a relief to know what the possibilities and options are. It is also such a rich blessing to have doctors with other missions that are willing to take time out of their busy schedule to advise people like me.
While I have been wrestling with these headaches, Dave has been working on the long overdue newsletter. So if you think that you are on our mailing list and didn't receive it or would like to receive it let us know. We have had lots of trouble with e-mail addresses changing over the years that we have been here and would love to keep in contact with you. If you make a comment on our blog it will go to our e-mail so that you do not have to worry about your e-mail becoming public.
Please continue to pray for the political situation in Niger and for our ministry here.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Guest blog: Paul's Thoughts on Niger


Hot season may be over, but that should not insinuate to you that it is no longer hot.

Last night, the air conditioners were left off, but consider that they are normally set at a chilly 27˚C. Having only been here a couple weeks, you might be surprised to find that such a temperature would send me running in the middle of the night for a proper blanket, but the contrast between 27 and whatever we get with the mid-afternoon sun is a rather steep drop. Still, today was a pleasant morning to wake up. At least it was the second time around. The winds, which brought in a dust storm far too early this morning, had settled into a cool and soothing breeze. It looked as though it might rain, but that was just to get our hopes up. Fortunately, the electricity went out for a good portion of the day. Niger wouldn’t want me to forget where I am.
I leave Dave & Jenn tonight (Thursday). I leave them with cereal and peanut butter and other gifts from friends and family. I leave them with electrical problems and plumbing issues and daily challenges with the work that they are doing here. I leave with a mild sunburn and a slight (very slight) hankerin’ for McDonald’s.

PS He didn't really leave as expected when he arrived at the airport last night they told him the flight was cancelled and he would have to go to the Air France office the next morning to get a ticket for the next flight!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Praise and Prayer

“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” 1 Tim 2:1&2
I am praising God that even as I write this the electrician is here replacing all of the fluorescent lights that died with our crazy power and rearranging the electrical lines in our house so that they make the best use of the “three phase” electricity that the electric company has now installed. I am so excited to have a working light in the office for the first time since last October! I think the electrician has replaced 9-10 fluorescent light as well as running a number of wires and a lot of other things that defy my limited understanding of things electronic.

We have been blessed to have a friend from Caistor Centre arrived last week and he has been enjoying our temperamental electricity along with us. (We have gone 2 nights without any electricity at all—forget air conditioning we didn’t even have fans!) Thanks to all of you who were praying for his safe arrival. Special thanks also to all those who sent goodies, I wish you could have seen the expression on the boys faces! You can keep him in your prayers next week as he leaves to visit other friends in the UK.

Most of all I ask that you would pray for peace in Niger and that God’s will would be done in resolving the political situation here.

PS. Since I originally wrote this on Wednesday the “new” disjuncture box that the electric company had installed went crazy and had to be replaced ie. I would go to use the microwave and the gage that registers the input on the regulator would drop to 50V (instead of 220) while in the other room the fans which were set on low would speed up to the point that it sounded like a twin engine airplane was taking off in our living room. Some where in that process, the control panels on both of our air conditioners burned out and are hopefully being repaired tonight. The repair man said “well at least the hot season is over!” And he is right because we have been blessed with a couple nights of rain this week, for which I am truly thankful. It has been a really long and expensive week.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The best things in life are passed on…

I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and I am persuaded, now lives in you also. For this reason, I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you… 2Tim1:5&6
I had an interesting conversation on Sunday with a couple of girls at church. I was admiring one of their outfits and saying that I wished it came in a larger size. Her older sister had been over hearing the conversation and said that it had been hers. So, I told her that I really liked the bright vibrant green of her dress and her response was that the dress was a hand-me-down from one of her cousins in American. I then responded by saying that some of the best things in life are passed down. (In recent years especially, I have come to love hand-me-down clothes—probably because my sister has such great taste!)

I was reading a novel last week that the narrator described their living room as being decorated in the style of “early attic” and as I was cleaning this morning I realized that my house is decorated in the “miscellaneous garage sale” style (with the exception of my living room which has a little “former airport restaurant” mixed in with the garage sale motif). Sometimes that means that I have to put a cover over a chair because the upholstery is absolutely thread bare but at least it means that I have a comfortable chair to sit in, which is a precious (and rare) commodity in Niamey!

As the verse at the top of this entry suggests, the passing on of things isn’t limited to just physical “stuff” and some of us have been blessed with a great Christian heritage. I am thankful for the faith that has been passed on to me by my parents, grandparents and others that have influenced my faith journey over the years. And I guess we never really know what impact we are having on the lives of others around us this side of heaven, but my prayer is that I am living my life in such a way that it is making a difference on others spiritual journey as well. --At least I hope that my boys are learning more than just to be stubborn and that my former students will have learned more than how to write a good paragraph. But there also comes a point at which, regardless of our heritage we have to take responsibility for developing our faith and spiritual gifts by “fanning the flame”. As graduation draws near for Sahel I am reminded that this will be a new reality for many of my former students. I would encourage them and you to “fan the flame”!

As you remember us in prayer this week, please pray for Paul who is coming to visit us, Dave for his extra heavy workload right now, the staffing needs at Sahel (if you would like more information about Sahel try this website: http://www.sahelacademy.com ) and for the government of Niger.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Grace and second chances


I am glad that our God is the God of second chances even though that frequently means that we are called upon to exhibit a similar grace.

Today was not the greatest day in the Wright household and I should have realized that it wasn’t going to be an easy one by the way it started. I had a heated discussion with one of the boys about why I needed to have a light on to eat breakfast that resulted in a hunger strike. Thankful Dave was there to extend grace while I got ready for my board meeting.

As I was leaving the board meeting (that wasn’t one of my finer moments –I kept falling behind in trying to keep the minutes and missed out on some of the discussion), Dave came over to me and said I needed to see what our other son had done. Thus getting dragged into another conflict that I thought I was being called upon to resolve with little or no idea of what was going on (thankful that was a misunderstanding on my part, because I really didn’t need it at that moment and someone else had done the conflict resolution already). But then when I get picked up at the end of the same board meeting (school board meetings take the better part of the day here—so don’t complain the next time your official board meeting runs a little over the scheduled hour that it is supposed to take!), I get to the car just in time to see an all out brawl happening in the back seat complete with tears and fists flying. Dave’s response was to yell which didn’t really help things, but after things cooled down a bit he prayed. I knew that as he was praying God was revealing to him the battle that was going on in our house and individual lives. Most of all Dave’s prayer reminded me of how grateful I am that God extends His love and grace to us regardless of our circumstances.

Please keep Dave in your prayers over the next couple of weeks as his work load has intensified with the course that he is teaching at the bible school and with the church plant that we have been assisting with. Also pray for my contacts with my neighbours, it seems like everyone is having babies these days which helps to provide a natural outlet for visiting at the naming ceremonies. The mothers also seem to appreciate my visiting their homes while they are in their 40 days of seclusion postpartum. Although I have found it a real stretch for my Zarma when there is no one around that can help by translating the odd words that I don’t know. I guess it is another opportunity to learn to “be still and know…” or at least be quiet and just relate. This is a picture of the sweater that I crocheted for my neighbour friend that just had a baby.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Dave's "Harley"

Parental Discretion Advised: (meaning my parents might want to think twice before reading the following.)

It was an ordinary day in the neighbourhood. I was at home putting some finishing touches on my Bible study for the church in Kwara Tagui just up the road while Jenn was picking up the kids. She arrived calling, “Dave come see the car.” With a note of panic in her voice, she explained how on the way home the breaks started giving out. “Take the car around the block to see what you think.” I hopped in a drove around the neighbourhood, testing the brakes periodically. Whenever I touched the breaks the pedal would drop quickly to the floor without resistance but as soon as I pumped it would grab and stop. I’m not a mechanic but it sounded like I was leaking break fluid.

Next dilemma: how was I supposed to get to church for Bible study?
Solution: my parents’ worst nightmare. My motorcycle.


When we were home two years, we received an email from friends in Niger who were selling off their stuff to head back to the UK for good. Among other things was a motorcycle for $200-300. My wife in a moment of weakness said, “Go ahead.” When we arrived back in Niger we initiated the process of getting it “dedouanee”, that is, because it was originally bought by an NGO the customs duty on it had never been paid, and permission needed to be given in order to sell to a non-NGO (me). A year and a half later, when the paperwork was finally in my hands, I set about getting it tuned up and ready for the road. What I had neglected to consider was the fact that it had gas in the engine which had gummed the engine after sitting for that time… After a month or so of it sitting at the mechanic’s shop and few minor mishaps it was finally home. (I have a feeling the delays have something to do with my mother’s fervent prayer life.)

I should let you know that I’ve never driven a motorcycle in my life… The closest I came was on a one week “mission trip” to Bermuda in college (O to be a missionary to Bermuda!). We’d raised enough money for the group to rent motor scooters for twenty-four hours, two passengers per bike. Five minutes out of the shop I hit a car travelling in the opposite lane. Fortunately, no one was hurt (except the scooter and the Scirocco) and I had insurance. I exchanged the scooter for another one but for some reason the girl riding with me always found someone else to go with after that…

Back to Niger. My first time out I needed a neighbour to help me get the thing started and managed to go twice around the block, though when I tried to stop my pants got stuck in the kick start and I just about lost it. I took it in with my neighbour shaking his head and all the children laughing and shouting, “David si wani poporo” (David doesn’t know how to drive a motorbike.) Since that first excursion around the block I’ve taken it once to my language class (instead of walking), but other than that it’s sat in the yard.

So taking my life into my hands and my Bible in a backpack, I started it up set off down the road. It’s a ten minute ride but three quarters of the way there, the foot rests came loose and started to swing around with my feet swing around bumping the gear shift up and down and into neutral. (So that’s where that big screw in the driveway came from!) The church is on the very edge of town and the roads get increasingly sandy and other than stalling in the sand the journey completed without major incident.

After the Bible study, one of the members took a wire (that’s a step up from binder twine!) and secured the foot rests back into place. While the work was in progress, I commented, “A friend told me there used be a lot of bandits in the neighbourhood at night, do I need to be careful on the bike?”

“Oh no, there all gone,” said one person.

“Yeah, there still around,” said another.

“We’ll go with you to the main road,” said another.

“Hey Robert is going down by his place. He can ride with him.” suggested someone else.

Robert said, “I think it’s going to rain, so we should just leave the bike here till tomorrow. Pastor Soter will be here soon with his car he can take us home.”

In the end, they convinced Robert to get on behind me, the brave soul. We headed out and came to the main dirt road without too much trouble. Another interesting feature of my bike is that it still doesn’t have a battery. That means that the head light only comes on while it’s running, and when you speed up it gets really bright but when you slow down… I got Robert home with only one wipe out in the sand but he was very gracious nonetheless.

This morning I managed to get the car to the garage without any trouble. The mechanic figures he will be finished in the early afternoon. My only problem is I’m supposed to have a lunch date with Annie’s step father. She’s given him a couple of books to read about the Bible and now he would like to talk to me about them. I think I’ll catch a taxi.

Thanks to all those of you praying about our electricity. We are pleased to tell you it is working much better now and have even been able to use the air conditioners. We just have to get an electrician in to replace all the things the died while the electricity was playing games with us.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Our two weeks in Accra are almost done. We have had regular meetings with the good people at the Mobile Member Care Team (MMCT) to discuss our family's well-being, particularly Ben who seemed to be exihibiting panic attacks earlier this year. MMCT is an interdenominational team of professional cousellors that services missionaries from across West Africa.We are thankful for their presence here and their experience and understanding in working with missionaries on the field.

After our respective homeworks (math, spelling, etc for the boys, other kinds of homework for mom and dad,) we also had the opportunity to visit the beach, go bowling, and of course shopping. Sunday we paid a surprise visit to the Free Methodist Church here in Accra and renewed acquaintances from our last visit. The rains here in Ghana were also refreshing and even the humidity was bearable in 25° as opposed to the 45° weather we left behind. Tomorrow we will be heading home in the little Cessna airplane operated by SIM to see whether the electric company has arrived to upgrade our service, creating the possibility of using our air conditioners once more...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Garbage


I don’t know about you, but it seems that around our house you never run out of just one thing at a time. You can go for weeks without having to replace something and then it seems like you are replacing everything at once. This was my week to throw out the tube of toothpaste, the bottle of hand soap, the bottle of face soap and three containers of Dave’s deodorant. I don’t know if these things are more noticeable here because they are the remnants of home that we have been using sparingly to make last as long as they can or because there is no recycling program here (other than the kids on the street picking through our garbage barrel) and garbage is a problem that we face every time we leave the house.

I think that as Christians we have a responsibility to care for the world that God has given us authority over and so I tend to spend a lot of time thinking about garbage while I am in Niger. When I am grocery shopping, I ask myself it is better to spend a little more for a container that I can use again for something else, or that has a better chance of disintegrating. I try to remember to use the cloth grocery bags that a pastor’s wife gave me the last time I was home as often as I can for groceries and invent other ways of using the plastic bags that accumulate in spite of my efforts.

I am still trying to wrap my head around composting. I have tried explaining that peelings, etc. are good for the soil and that they need to go into the yard instead of in the garbage, but it seems to fall on deaf ears. I now have two rabbits that help with this because it is easy to say that the rabbits will eat the vegetable scraps and at least that keeps from encouraging mice. But it seems like this is a completely foreign concept to my Nigerien friends—the closest they get is throwing all of their garbage into the streets and letting the sheep and goats eat whatever they find. But then again maybe my neighbours have the better idea because the goats feed on the garbage in the streets and add their own deposits along the way. Then when rainy season comes they will harvest the crops of plastic bags, tin cans and glass remaining from the garbage and plant their beans, which in turn feeds their animals.

We are leaving tomorrow to go to Ghana to visit the Mobile Member Care Team there. Please pray that all goes well with our travel and time away.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Easter Weekend


What a crazy weekend! It started on Friday when we took the boys to school and stayed for the special Good Friday Assembly where the whole school took us through the passion week. They started with the triumphal entry where all the elementary students waved branches and cloaks and laid them down for Jesus to walk on—unfortunately the donkey never got properly detached from the cart to allow Jesus to ride him through the crowd this time. Cole was especially excited because he got to be one of Jesus disciples for that part. Then different classes acted out different portions of the story ending with the staff re-enacting the resurrection.

Saturday we woke up to find a dead bunny in the rabbit cage. Ben and Cole had used their money from good report cards to buy themselves baby rabbits a week ago. Ben’s rabbit had died in the night. So our Saturday morning plans were traded in for a “funeral” and deep conversation about death and the life to come. Ben was absolutely heart broken. When I tried to contact one of Ben’s friends to arrange a play date for the afternoon, it was too late and they were already busy with their Saturday plans—which was maybe for the better because he might not have been the best company.

That afternoon Dave was scheduled to speak at a youth picnic. One of the churches we have been working with had arranged to use someone’s mango grove just outside of town for the afternoon. The few church youth (ie, anyone over fifteen who isn’t married) had been instructed to invite a non-christian friend. Inspired by the morning events Dave talked about death and Christ’s resurrection and was impressed with the response.

Sunday morning consisted of two services. The English service that we usually participate in on Sunday nights had a special Easter service at 7am with finger foods after and then the church that had the picnic the day before had their service at 9am. I had the fun experience of getting to Sunday school with the boys and having the person responsible turn to me and say do you have something prepared for this morning I am just too tired to do this. Dave found it hilarious to look out and find me scrambling to lead a Sunday school program totally unprepared and not only working in one, but two languages that I have limited knowledge of. God is extremely gracious, but I can’t say that I communicated all that well. Hopefully, I at least communicated an interest in them and Christ’s love.

That night at 9:45pm we got a phone call from the woman I had been discipling that had gone back to her home town. She was on our way to our house, her bus was just arriving in town. So, we have a house guest for the next few weeks and she will house sit while we are in Ghana. Please pray that she will have better luck finding work and be able to move out on her own again or that she will be able to get the visa that she wants to visit her cousin in France.

Hope your Easter was a little more restful then ours!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Jenn's Devotional Thought: Names & Relationships

I’ve been drawn lately to Psalms 27. I just love the way that it describes the Psalms desire for a relationship with God. There is some passion here, a desire to continually be in His presence.

I don’t exactly know why but this morning it made me think about my paternal Grandmother and the difference between my sister and I. You see my Grandmother had all boys and my sister was the first Granddaughter. So, we have all of these beautiful sweaters and things that she made my sister when she was little. My mom tells the story of my Grandmother taking my sister for the weekend and telling my mom not to bother to send any clothes instead she came home with a bag of new ones. My sister had a great relationship with my Grandmother. I on the other hand, was named after my Grandmother (don’t ask because I won’t tell—she didn’t like the name either!), but I never had the opportunity to know my Grandmother. She died of cancer a couple months before I was born. The only relationship I have with her is sharing a name and a few photos and some hand me downs from my sister.

I am afraid that too often our Christian walk is the difference between my sister’s relationship with my Grandmother and mine. God offers us a deep, intimate and personal relationship the kind that you hate to leave behind, but instead we opt for a name and some hand me downs.

I hope that you are aware of how much the God of the Universe loves you and wants to know you and spend time with you today. Can you find some time to “pencil Him in” to your week this week?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

"Spring" Break


The boys have been home the last two weeks for spring break. We had tossed around the idea of an escape to Ouagadougou, or Jenn had a friend going east to a place called Goure to visit friends. In the end we stayed home and just slept in a later than usual. Not too late though--morning walk to Zarma classes for 8 AM has kept things moving for the most part. Ben has been asking about tennis for the last few weeks and so we decided to sign up the whole family for an hour of tennis lessons four times over the break. (Yes that means about 15 minutes a person at each lesson, but at 3 pm in the middle of hot season that's enough. As the life guard at the rec centre commented at our first lesson, "Oh so you're the ones who signed up to swim in the sun instead of the pool!")

Hot season has come but the power company hasn't, so we haven't turned on our air conditioners yet. The boys spent a couple of nights sleeping in a mosquito tent on our roof but we broke down and bought a portable humidifier. These days everyone is sleeping in one room in order to share the little bit of cool it passes on. The only problem is it seems to run out of water by 2 AM which might not be too much of a problem if it didn't continue to beep until you do something about it.

With less running around to do we have had a little more opportunity to connect with the neighbours. Please pray that those relationahips will develop into real friendships and the God would be involved in all of them.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Barka
We were invited by a neighbour to a wedding this past weekend. They were assembling the tent on the street and our neighbour came by to let us know that we would be welcome to join in the festivities. I still don’t have a full understanding of how weddings in Niger actually work, but I think that it works something like this. The men congregate at the groom’s house and the women at the brides, for most of the day. I think that there is an early morning ceremony that takes place for a select few at the mosque before this. And there is a blessing that happens at the groom’s home sometime in the morning and lasts for all of 5-10 minutes. Otherwise people sit around talk and eat and listen to music. There are two kinds of music that go with weddings the traditional musicians and the “canned” type that comes from tapes, cd’s or mp3’s. Unfortunately, I forgot that when you go to a wedding you are supposed to have gifts (i.e. money) for the older women and for the musicians (especially if you want them to stop playing in your face) as well as for the couple depending on how you know them.


“Barka” is the Zarma version of congratulations that I think comes from the Arabic “albarka” or blessing (mind you the Zarma also use it in bartering to imply that you want them to make the deal better). We got to use this greeting a lot last weekend at the wedding, greeting everyone with barka—mostly because there are so many people there it is extremely difficult to distinguish family from visitors. But it is the greeting that has been running through my mind over and over this past week. I have been so blessed by so many of you that have commented on my last blog or have sent me an encouraging e-mail and especially by a friend that gave me dried cherries and Tim Horton’s coffee because she had heard of my loss. Thanks to each one of you whether you let us know that you were thinking of us or just said a silent prayer for us. God has richly blessed us and we thank Him every time we think of each one of you.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Survival Mode

Have you ever been afraid to ask God for something not because you were afraid that the answer would be no, but because you were afraid the answer would be yes. You just weren’t sure that you were ready to handle the responsibility—I know that that is a faulty view of God, but it's just where you are.

If you can relate then, it sounds like you have hit what Dave calls “survival mode”. That was me this week. I have been sick and it just depleted me of all of my resources, physical, emotional and maybe even a little spiritual. (You know it is bad when you start to read a book on missionary burnout and depression and it is encouraging.) Now it didn’t help that we also had a couple of good sand storms to blow in a thick layer of dust and sand on everything in my house that I got to deal with. Then my youngest son had a major melt down because he put a disk in the wii and it jammed and he was sure that it couldn’t be fixed until we go home in two years (which is partially right, it will have to go to North America to be fixed)….

So what do you do when you can’t even bring yourself to ask? I guess I come back to “Be still… and know”—which is another difficult one for me, but maybe it is a little be easier to be “still” when you aren’t feeling very good. I am starting to feel better, but if you have any suggestions in this area feel free to comment. I am always open to new ways of renewing.

Monday, March 9, 2009


We came home from church and we knew something was wrong. Something wasn’t quite right in Mohammed’s voice as he took the keys to open the gate for our car. “I think he’s sick,” Jennifer said. “It sounds like he’s losing his voice.” We pulled the car into the yard and started into the usual Tamajeq greetings:

« Matola? » (How are things ?)
« Alharas » (Fine)
« Mani aréwin? » (How is the family ?)
« Alharas » (Fine)
« Mani barrera ? » (How are the children ?)
« Alharas » (Fine)

After I had more or less exhausted most of my Tamajeq, I started, “…and your health?” He drew closer and said “ Excusez-moi patron, but yesterday I took my salary to the market to buy food but when I got out of the taxi… it was gone. The children haven’t eaten today because there’s no food…”

I didn’t doubt his story—he was obviously upset. Most people take their monthly salary to the market to buy a 50 kg sack of rice for the month, if they can afford it. With the little that’s left they will pay the rent, and try and find something to make a sauce to on the rice. Taxi’s which function more like a bus, picking up as many people as they can along fairly fixed routes, are notorious for getting robbed in—people are crammed into little Toyota hatchbacks where they inevitably jostle up against one another.

Mohammed asked for three quarters of next month’s salary as an advance. It wouldn’t have been a problem to come up with the money but I didn’t want him getting that far into debt to me. Jennifer and I discussed it together and decided that maybe the best way was to buy the sack of rice ourselves and give it as gift—and then give a small advance so he could cover some of his other expenses.

The next day we picked up a sack and delivered it to the little thatched hut where he lives with his family. He graciously invited us in for tea. As we sat and waited I watched his children snuggle up to the sack of rice as a pillow or a teddy bear. Friends came in to share the tea as Jennifer watched his wife weaving together plastic ribbon around a twig to make a keychain. She’ll sell them on the street for 100 francs a piece—that’s about 25 cents.

As we talked Mohammed explained that his children weren’t in school because they don’t have birth certificates. Only children born in maternity wards get birth certificates (you have to pay to get into one), and without a birth certificate children aren’t admitted into school. For those born in the bush or at home, an application must be filled with two witness to certify the identity of the child. It costs about $30-$35 and must be done in the locale where the child was born. In the case of Mohammed’s children that would be a five hour trip (by bush taxi) out of town for an illiterate man to fill out paperwork. We are considering the possibilities of making the trip with him… His children are 4 and 7.

Pray for Mohammad and his family that they would see Jesus in us.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Treasures


It’s Saturday, my only day in the week to sleep in, so what am I doing up at 3am? It might have something to do with the fact that it is 33C and this is the coolest time of the day. Yes, the hot season has arrived! But, I can’t complain about the heat, in fact as I write this there is a nice cool breeze coming in my window. I think it probably has more to do with stress and too much work to do. In addition to my regular work—which got a little behind when we had someone staying with us, I have been having to do all the cleaning because the person who was working for me left about 3 weeks ago. But enough whining for one day…
This week, I have been thinking about treasures. You see I found a jar of real cherry jam in the store at a reasonable price (which is a big thing when you haven’t had cherries in two years). So, I bought it and was saving it for when the other jar of jam that we had open was done. Well, one of the boys went looking for something on the shelf and sent my jar of jam smashing all over the kitchen floor. Then the next day the same thing happened to my Tim Horton’s coffee that I had been rationing so carefully—ouch! I realize that these are just things (and because they are edible, extremely temporary). But how often to we put our trust or our expectations in things that can never fully satisfy or at best temporarily satisfy? (And why exactly do we take comfort in food?—but that is another story) And how often do we take for granted our relationships that provide the most satisfaction in our lives? If you are reading this from Canada, think of me the next time you pass a Tim Horton’s and let someone special know how much you appreciate them. Oh, and you have my permission to treat yourself, just this once!
Please pray for our stamina at this difficult time of year and that the electric company will do the work that we need done at our house soon, so that me might be able to use our air conditioners and that we don’t lose anymore appliances or lights than we already have. Also pray for the man that has been visiting with Dave recently to learn about the bible.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Blessings!

It is funny how at times you think that you are blessing someone else and then when all is said and done you wonder whether you weren’t the real recipient of the blessing. We went away for a much needed long weekend this past weekend to Ouagadougou the capital city of Burkina Faso. At the final stop for the border crossing (there are three: one in Niger and two on the Burkina side), the official who had finished the paperwork for our vehicle asked if we had room to drive a soldier to the next major village. Dave said that that would work and we re-arranged things so that he could ride in the front with Dave while I rode in the back with the boys. As we went along we had a good conversation with the officer. He said that he needed the ride back because he had been accompanying some big trucks to the boarder to ensure their safe passage. I guess there is a section of the main road that they have had some trouble with bandits and so he was there for security reasons. When we dropped him off where he wanted to go, we realized that it had been a very smooth trip to that point and wondered if that might have been in part because we had him along.

Please pray for the lady that has been staying with us. She is returning to her home town on Thursday by bus. Pray that she will continue to grow in her faith, that she will find Christian fellowship there, that her family will respond positively as she lives and shares her faith and that God will continue to meet all of her needs (including that of work).