Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Spot Cleaning


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:

And this is the blog of an American woman with the Rotary Club who witnessed the floods and its aftermath (she has pictures):

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.