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): http://nomadfoundation.blogspot.com/2009/09/foods-ravage-agadez.html

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