Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Over the past number of years I have heard a lot about discipleship, small groups, mentors and many other terms that are basically talking about life to life transference—living your life in such a way that your life becomes a model for someone else. There is nothing really new about this idea. In fact it is biblical, Paul talks about how we are to follow him as he follows Christ.

In our household discipleship took on a whole new meaning a little over a week ago, when the woman that I have been “discipling” since last August moved into our spare room. She had some major problems with her living arrangements and after much convincing she moved into our house. The unfortunate part was that she came with all of her living room furniture and things on the same day that the living room furniture we bought from a friend arrived, so things are a bit crowded. On the positive side, what I thought was discipling, getting together a couple of times a week to study the bible and just to build our relationship has been bumped up significantly with daily interaction, (not to mention that all of our French has improved). She has a job interview tomorrow and the results from that will help to determine whether she will continue to stay in Niamey or move back to the city where her family is from. She doesn’t have much hope of a job in that city because the economic situation is even worse there than here, but this might be her opportunity to share her faith with her family.

Please pray with us that God will lead her at this time and that in this time of intense discipleship His light will shine through us, so that she learns to follow Christ and doesn’t just pick up our bad habits. Please also pray that this would continue to be a good experience for everyone involved and that we would continue to maintain our integrity and reputation.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Timing is Everything!

Have you noticed that even the jobs you enjoy least can go better at the right time? Or how sometimes being late can be unexpectedly good? Expiry dates don’t mean a whole lot here, although I have learned that you need to pay attention to expiry dates on antiperspirant but that is another story…

This week our car went into the garage to be repaired, which meant that I was going to have to take a series of taxies and/or “faaba faabas” (a faaba faaba is the city equivalent of a bush taxi i.e. Toyota minivan) in order to get home from the boy’s school to get to my language class. I can’t say that I was looking forward to the trip, but I wasn’t approaching it with absolute dread as I would have a year earlier. Maybe that means that my Zarma has improved or I have had a couple of good experiences with faaba faabas. I was expecting that the drive home that is normally 20min in a car would take at least an hour, if I didn’t have to do too much walking in the process. So, I walked to the main road. It was definitely the right time of day to make the trip. When I got to there it was a matter of seconds before a taxi stopped to take me to the Petit Marche (this is the main market for produce and various other food stuffs). I walked across the market and found the place where the faaba faabas wait to be filled with people and things. Because we live on the edge of town there are usually lots of faaba faabas that go by on their way out to the villages and I have learned that this is not only the cheapest way to get to my house, but probably the easiest as well. So I went up to the young man that was helping with one that looked pretty full and I asked if they were headed in the direction that I needed to go. He said yes, so I got in and sat on the little jump seat next to the sliding door—the only place that seemed to be left, only to have one other man come along and squeeze in next to the ladies sitting across from me. At that the boy collecting the money stood on the rail by the door and told the driver he could go. I half expected him to kind of stand half in and half out for the rest of the ride. But no, as soon as we were on the road he leaned in over me and a number of the other ladies and did this incredible feat of acrobatics twisting and closing the sliding door at the same time. This closed in all 25 (mind you I think that I may have missed a few babies in my head count) of us in the Toyota Hiace –a van originally built for about 12-15 people including the driver. The boy stood for most of the trip between my knees and the man’s knees that was sitting across from me and collected money from all the passengers. I had to climb out to let others out three times before I got to the right part of town, but it was kind of nice to have an excuse to unfold. I was grateful that the boy understood my instructions as to where I wanted to get off because I had forgotten the Zarma term for “stop here” and no one else had used it before me. Amazingly, the whole trip only took about 40min. I know that it had a lot to do with the time of day, if I had tried it earlier in the morning I could have waited at the market for half an hour for the van to be full enough to leave. In the same way, a year earlier if I had to make the same trip on my own it would have been with fear and trembling, instead with the relaxed joking I had with the ladies that were amazed not only that I was travelling on the faaba faaba, but was speaking Zarma with them (broken though it may be).

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The last week or so has seen a change of pace around or house. We celebrated New Years Eve with the director of SIM and his family out at the “dunes”. The dunes may be more accurately termed “the dune”, a great mountain of sand that rises from a dry river bed just outside of town. Upon our arrival we discovered we weren’t the only ones to celebrate there—a group of French people had come out bringing their own entertainment, and they had already claimed the highest peak of the dune. Settling into a spot lower down we tossed around a football and had a picnic supper as the sun slowly set. The adults stretched out on a mat to watch the stars slowly come out in all their glory in the clear night sky while the children were busy digging holes in the sand with which to bury one another. In the background, traditional Tamajek music echoed from the over the dune where the French had settled in with a campfire.
On the following Saturday, the SIM annual spiritual life conference began. Once again, SIM has kindly invited us to participate in what could be compared to a Family Camp—except that numbers are much smaller and SIM ministries from across the country give updates and prayer requests. The Sunday was marred by an unexpected happening. An Australian man fell unconscious in the shower before the morning worship service. Fortunately the guest house he was staying in also contained 4 doctors from the various SIM hospitals who quickly came to his aid. Later that afternoon it was announced that a CAT scan at the national hospital revealed a large mass on his brain. He and his family have been evacuated back to Australia for treatment. He has two daughters around Ben and Cole’s ages. He managed to make it for the closing service of the conference which was an encouragement to everyone. The rest of the conference continued very positively without incident. However, we received word yesterday that one of the vehicles heading back to the SIM hospital out east had an accident killing a pedestrian and seriously wounding two passengers, one of whom required surgery due to severe head trauma.
Jennifer has been attending a second conference on expatriate children’s education put on by the school here. Educational professionals from the U.S., England and Korea are putting on workshops for parents and teachers, as well as homeschoolers on how to prepare their children for reentry into the education systems of their home countries.

Despite our other activities we had a profitable time reading the scriptures together with Annie for a couple of hours yesterday. Her cousin wants to know when I’m coming over for tea again.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Christmas update.

This morning I am working on the computer by candle light because our electricity keeps kicking in and out and our light in the office won't stay on. I decided that this was Dave's turn to write, but he hasn't gotten around to it, so I am taking part of a Christmas thank you letter that he wrote to fa riend and sharing it with everyone, just don't tell him I did that, ok? I will try to add pictures when the electricity gets a little more steady.

Thank you for remembering us at this Christmas season. We really appreciate your prayers. Christmas Eve we opened our front gate to welcome neighbours onto our front porch for cake and juice. I have no idea how many came but I would guess maybe in the range of fifty. Along with the goodies I recounted the story of Mary and the angels who visited in Zarma with a picture book. For many perhaps it was the first time they heard the story in their own tongue.
This morning I've been working on a bible study for a woman that Jennifer and I have been working with for the last few months. As a child she used to save her lunch money to buy tracts sold by a church in her community. She hid them under her pillow knowing how her family would react if they found them. As an adult she was haunted by nightmares until one night Jesus came to her in her dreams and chased them away. That was about a year ago, and since then she's slowly been looking for a church and Christian fellowship. God put her in our path through our language teacher who said he'd met someone who was looking for some Christians to tell her more about Jesus because she was full of questions. Since then we've given her a bible and started a gradual discipleship process
Recently, a cousin who was living and working out of town gave her his apartment to use for free while she looks for work. (She has nurse's training.) A week or so later he arrived in town sick with Typhoid. He is afraid to go back to the community where he was running a restaurant/bar because the rumour had gone around that the competition in town had used sorcery to chase away his clientele and make him sick. Pray that we will have wisdom to know how to share God's love, truth and power with him and her.