Saturday, March 28, 2009

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


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.