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.