Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy New Year

I’d like to say this is turning into a much quieter week than the last, but I am not sure that is exactly true. We have been keeping a much slower pace which has been really nice for a change, but I’ve noticed a lot of radios blaring in the neighbourhood and every once in awhile I hear the roar of a crowd. Now the roar could simply be an intense soccer match that has drawn a crowd of observers, but I suspect that it has more to do with the elections that are coming up. There will be municipal/regional elections held across the country next week followed by presidential elections at the end of January. There is however the ongoing possibility of delays as the military government audits the previous government’s books. Please pray for these elections that God will put in place men and women of integrity that will look out for the best interests of Niger.

We will be away next week so I may not get a chance to blog. Dave is going to Ghana to follow up on his health issues and the rest of us decided to tag a long so that we could get a break too. We pray that you will have a safe and happy New Year’s Eve and that it would be the beginning of many good things to come.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

My Christmas Marathon

My Christmas Marathon started last Thursday, I am sure that it probably started long before last Thursday, but I am too tired to think beyond that right now. Thursday (the 23rd), I finished my Christmas shopping, bought groceries, went to the market to get candy for our neighbour kids & my Sunday school class, assembled 52 candy bags, started my dough for cinnamon buns and somehow in there found time to make a few meals for my family. I had decided to make the cinnamon buns to give to my Nigerien friends and neighbours that had kindly included us in their Tabaski celebrations, but I wasn’t really sure what I was getting myself into with a new recipe from the internet that a friend here had kindly introduced me to. It turned out that I had to recruit Dave’s help at a couple of key points because the recipe was quite a bit larger than I expected, but I was grateful that it could be done in two stages and left in the fridge over night. Our plan was to try and do most of our “public” celebrations on Christmas Eve and to lay low on Christmas Day with just the family, but so much for plans…

Friday I got up extra early to finish baking the seven pans of cinnamon buns that magically turned into nine when needed and we even got to eat one! I got ready for the kids club and then returned cloth and money to a neighbour that I was helping with their business besides it was a good excuse to be on the street and let the neighbours know that we were doing kids club a day early because of the holiday. Instead of the regular kids club we told the Christmas story using a picture book. Both Dave and I were amazed at how awed the kids were with the pictures, it is easy to forget that a lot of these kids rarely see books, let alone ones with big coloured pictures. Dave had simplified the story and we had translated it into zarma with the help of our language teacher a couple of years ago. After the story, my house helper helped to line up the kids in an orderly fashion so that we could distribute candy bags on their way out of the gate so that we didn’t start a riot in our yard or on the street. 38 bags later, it sort of worked, I think…. Then we were off to the post office and to distribute cinnamon buns. Somehow Dave found an hour sometime in the day to put the finishing touches on his sermon that he was to preach that night, and we were given two invitations for Christmas celebrations the next day. Church was supposed to start at 8pm on Christmas Eve, but we had been given permission to be late (if Dave was willing to preach at 9:45). We made it on time, but the service started late, so we got to watch Nigerian (from Nigeria, not Niger, therefore in English, Hausa and Yarouba) while we waited. Dave preached and we stayed until dinner was served at 10:30, but didn’t make it through the rest of the service. It was going to continue until 5:30am because the neighbourhood the church is in isn’t the safest at night, so the people don’t want to walk after dark. At home, the boys went to bed and Dave delivered a plate of cinnamon buns to the neighbour he regularly has tea with, while I started wrapping Christmas presents.

After our Christmas morning celebrations with the boys, we went for dinner at a friend’s house that included interactive games and a white elephant gift exchange. We managed to get in a visit to another birthday party that we were invited to too. So much for our quiet day at home, but that was probably just wishful thinking anyway.

I had thoughts of sleeping in this morning, but it’s Sunday and I am not as ready as I should be for my Sunday school class (I am really not as fluent at reading French as I would like to be and it is generally a good idea to know the vocabulary in a story before you try to read it to kids.) So, its 5am the call to prayer will be starting any minute and I will be entering the last leg of my Christmas celebration for this year. I hope yours was good, (that you will forgive any errors that I might have made at this time in the morning) and that we will all find rest when the festivities are finished. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Latest installment of an ongoing saga


My wife says I should update you regarding our health and near future. Our last post stated that there was one more test that could be done here Niger and it was performed last Monday. That was an adventure in itself. It’s called a “myocardial perfusion scan”, and involves using radioactive material being injected into the blood stream in order to take images of the heart’s functioning. Two sets of images are taken, one with the heart under exertion, (like a stress test) and the second while it is at rest. The morning started with a regular stress test, peddling away on an exercise bike that slowly increased resistance while strapped up to an EKG machine and another machine measuring my blood pressure every couple of minutes. (According to the second machine I slowly died during the test as the bottom number which is ideally 80 while at rest slowly dropped to about 27!) The other machine apparently kept track of the necessary data as well, for the doctor complained, “Tu es sportif!” as he struggled to get my heart rate over 160.

After my heart was sufficiently pumping I was sent over to the other machine to have scans taken of my heart. As we were walking out the technician said to my doctor, “If nothing shows up on this initial scan, there’s no point in coming back for the second.” Assuming the best I was relieved to think that this would all be over soon. A few minutes later my doctor was called in to view the finished images. She came out with a worried look on her face and said, “It’s abnormal, you’ll have to come for the next round.” Immediately my mind began to race, “When are they going to ship me out? Whose house will I stay at in Canada? Will Jenn and the boys travel with me? Should they stay so Cole can write his exams? Are we going to be able to finish our term in Niger? What about…?” We had to wait for at least three hours before the next round of scans and on the way home I started to verbalize some of my questions to the doctor. She had earlier said that she figured I had about a 5% chance of getting a positive result—the test was simply a means of eliminating one possibility for symptoms that seemed to be lingering. Like most of my experiences with Nigerien medical care, this test seemed to be an ongoing series of mixed messages. We were still waiting for results from blood that had been drawn almost two weeks ago. They would later prove mildly positive but not in the expected direction; my thyroid turned out to be mildly underactive which accords with my lifelong experience but not with the erratic heart behaviour of an overactive thyroid as we had suspected. To my probing questions the doctor refused to speculate preferring to wait to hear the final results though she clearly seemed concerned.

The second round went without incident. Initially the doctor at the clinic said, I would have to wait until Thursday to get my report. (The following day was a national holiday and who knows what on Wednesday). “But I needed to be able to make plans if I’m to be evacuated!” I responded. “Can you not at least give a verbal report to my doctor so we can make some plans?”
“I can’t bring up the images while the machine is in use and someone else is having a scan right now.”
“I can wait until they’re done.” I replied.
The doctor finally conceded and agreed to finalize his report for the next day. A short while later he came out and said, “You have nothing to worry about, the same abnormality showed up in this test as well.” Slightly confused I got him to call our doctor to explain. She in turn consulted with colleagues in the US, who suggest that this was probably a false positive should be ignored and other avenues pursued.

The week before she had commented, “You know, I think your symptoms would be half as bad if you were in North America, for the simple reason that most of the tests we’ve done in the last three weeks would have been done in a day or two with more reliable results. The longer this gets drawn out, the more your stress levels go up, increasing your symptoms.” Final diagnosis appears to be that this is largely stress related, (there may have been some heartburn and a few other things along the way,) and that I should consult with a counselor for some advice. We are working towards making some arrangements for that, but in the mean time Jennifer and I have gotten sick. Jennifer has run a fever along with a chest cold for the last four days straight. The doctor has warned that the cold going around has turned into a walking pneumonia in a couple of cases. While I’ve not had any fever with my cold, we are actively working to prevent Jennifer’s from getting any worse. Please pray for God’s sustaining power in our lives and ministry.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

We are blessed

I was reminded of that again yesterday morning. On Thursday mornings I participate in a mom’s prayer group at the boys’ school. But this Thursday I was a little bit early so, I decided to use my time to touch base with Ben’s teacher who was on yard duty (she has yard duty most mornings). As I made my way over to talk to her and all during our conversation, I noticed that child after child came up to give her a hug. They were each greeted with a smile and given an encouraging word to start their day. It made me think how really blessed we were to have her come to teach at Sahel. I know that she (like most of us) has had her share of trials and difficulties, but she has persevered and chosen to continue to love and to serve despite them.
There are times when I think that Niger has the corner on the difficult times market, but I know that that isn’t the reality. We all face trials and difficulties of various kinds. But, I am truly grateful that I serve a God that walks with me and sees me through those difficult times, each step of the way and even sends the odd little messenger to pass on a hug of encouragement. I hope that if you are facing one of those difficult moments that God will send a hug your way today.
We have discovered that Dave can do one more test here in Niamey that the doctor didn’t know was available here. Hopefully it will help figure out what is going on with him, even if it only eliminates another possibility. So, hopefully he will be able to do that early next week (there is the possibilities of complications and delays in arranging this test because it involves radiation and they like to be able to do a number of patients in the same day).It is the waiting and the unknown that is the hard part. Please pray that that is the case because Dave’s doctor leaves for holidays the following Monday!
Off to kids club! Here is a picture from a few weeks ago.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Tabaski Part two


This has been a long week. A little over a week ago was the Tabaski holiday, where every family slaughters a sheep, goat or cow to commemorate God’s provision of a ram when Abraham was about to sacrifice his son. The first day is more of a family day as the animal roasts over an open fire. The second day everyone begins to share their meat with family, friends and the poor. We visited a couple of homes where we were given lots of meat to eat and Tamajeq style tea. My last round of tea and meat was around 11 PM with a neighbour. That night it caught up with me—I was up hourly and probably only slept twenty minutes in the night. My insomnia was also
accompanied by troubling symptoms that have followed me on and off for the last week. On Wednesday, our doctor friend threatened that if something didn’t start improving soon she might consider having me evacuated someplace where more extensive tests could be done. I think most of my problems have been gastro-intestinal but some symptoms have made the doctor wonder if we shouldn’t consider having a stress test for my heart. Just suggesting that is a stress test for my heart! (I’ve already had EKG’s on two separate occasions since late August.) There have been days when I just wanted to go home, feeling like questions could be answered and resolved quickly. The truth is, as some of you know, even in North America some medical questions aren’t answered quickly, and treatment can require patience. It’s easy to become focused on ourselves in these moments but I know this has been trying on our family as well—my wife can’t remember when she last had a good night’s sleep.


We are thankful for God’s faithfulness. Last week we received four different gifts of meat—the most we’ve ever received, and perhaps a sign that we are starting to fit into the neighbourhood. The first morning of Tabaski I slept in thinking that all my neighbours would be busy saying prayers and talking their animals off to the mosque to be blessed before slaughter. However I awoke to the dog barking, and my wife saying, “I think someone’s knocking at the door.” I quickly pulled on my clothes but no one was there. Later that afternoon while going out to visit, my neighbour who is a marabout (Islamic teacher) accosted me on the street saying, “Daouda, where were you? We knocked on your door this morning to greet you. Your dog barked but no one answered. There were ten men standing at your front door wanting to greet you but you didn’t come out!” With embarrassment I explained that I wasn’t appropriately dressed to receive visitors which is why I was slow to answer.

Tomorrow is the first Sunday of Advent and I’ve cajoled my “Sunday School” students into doing the lectionary readings and to share a few thoughts on each in the morning service.

Please pray that as we work with the church and our neighbours that Christ’s light would shine through our lives.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Tabaski Part One

Sorry for the long silence, but we were without power for the majority of last week and we were in the process of writing our e-newsletter with whatever amounts of power we could access. It is interesting how God can take a situation like having no power (or water because our water is cut off when the power is off for any length of time) and use it. There were two things that stand out about last week: 1) we were frequently asked if when we come back next time whether we would be moving to Kwara Kano, a neighbourhood made of mostly expatriates and influential Nigeriens—their power is rarely interrupted. 2) we found and frequented a new restaurant.
The questioning was interesting because it was a reminder once again of why we are here and doing what we are doing. We chose where we live very specifically because there were no other churches in our neighbourhood (or for two or three neighbourhoods nearby). We knew that we needed to live where we work in order to build relationships and live the gospel. It would be great to live in a nicer part of town where things are more convenient, but this is where we felt lead to be and where God has been using us so in all likelihood we’ll be returning even if we get to live with limited power and/or water. But, it was good to have the reminder that someone else put us where we are and He is continuing to sustain us despite the difficulties!
When you are afraid to touch your fridge or freezer because the power has been out for so long cooking can become a challenge. We were truly blessed that Grandma had sent us a jar of chunky peanut butter in a recent package because it really helped to take the edge off of breakfast (and bag lunches) when the only options were day old baguette and bananas or oranges “fresh” from the market the previous day (which doesn’t say much for their “freshness” with the heat we usually experience here), oh and of course warm water. The boys survived (and I don’t think they lost too much weight), but it meant that we went out to eat frequently. However the restaurants that have a generator for fans or air conditioning (and the opportunity to recharge your computer) can get to be pretty pricy when you frequent them regularly. So we saved them for when the boys were home from school, and found a new place to eat at lunch that was a step above street food (there was seating and fans when the power was on), but almost as cheap. We got to chose one of the two specials of the day (usually African cuisine) for 1000-1500 cfa (about $2.50-3.50 CDN). In going to the same place a few days in a row, we got to know the man in charge (the guy who yells out the window at the cook and brings you your food) and he gave us a complimentary Fulfulde lesson with our meal the last time. Please pray for this new relationship and that we will continue to seek new God opportunities. We also hope that you will praise God with us for the reminders that He is still at work in the midst of difficult times and that you will see God at work in your daily lives this week, whatever the circumstances.

Today was the end of Tabaski and I have much to write but, I think that will have to wait until next week. However, tomorrow is Field Day which is a day filled with so much mixed emotion in our house hold that I frequently approach it with fear and trembling. For those of you that know my boys (If only through this blog) please pray for them and for safety for all the participants.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Prayer

This past week I had an e-mail from one of our supporting churches asking how they could pray for us and I didn’t realize how timely that request was until the experience of the last few days (that kept me from responding to this until today), so I thought I would share my response with you:

We really appreciate your prayers. The one prayer request that stands out right at the moment is for health. Dave has been having some weird symptoms and a missionary doctor is struggling to figure out what is happening. It seems like sporadically his heart is racing and he is having shortness of breath and stomach cramping. They have run an number of blood tests and are planning on doing an EKG and some thyroid tests, but the labs and things here are not always reliable (in fact tomorrow will be the third time that we have tried to do the EKG—last night they wouldn’t run any of the test and this morning they told him to come back at 4 when the technician would be there, only to find at 4 that the technician left at noon!) He is supposed to go in tomorrow morning, but it is unlikely to show anything unless he is experiencing symptoms when the test is actually being done. I am not sure how to pray—that he is really bad tomorrow and they figure out what is going on or for complete healing. Sorry this is a little on the heavy side, but Dave’s health issues has consumed a lot of the last couple of days.

On a positive note, you could pray for the kids club that is meeting at our house on Saturday’s that God will use the stories and colouring pages to transform their lives and the lives of their families.

You could also pray for property. There has been some money donated to go toward the purchase of property for a ministry centre/church here. We have been searching for a number of months and things are either too expensive or not the most ideal (ie. we thought that we had a reasonable piece of land at a reasonable price, only to find that it was on a garbage dump and we would have to dig through and remove 2-3m depth of garbage in order to find solid ground to build a foundation on.

We know that many of you do pray for us on a regular basis and that means a lot to us. I am reminded daily that I am not adequate to the ministry that the Lord has called us to but as we turn to him he is able to work through us.

And who is equal to such a task?... Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant… 2 Cor 2:16; 3:4-6

Saturday, October 30, 2010

What Dave neglected to mention and other developments

What Dave neglected to mention last week was that while he was busy trying to take care of me last weekend he also ran a kids’ club on our front porch with kids that just kept coming. He asked me to print off extra colouring sheets for the kids while he bounced an 8 month old on his knee, and told the story of Noah. I had just enough energy to print the papers and marvel at how he was managing before I climbed back into bed! But if that wasn’t enough he had been asked at the Thursday night bible study to preach on Sunday because the pastor was struggling with his own case of malaria. So, sometime after the Saturday morning kids club and before his Sunday School class (and in between coming up with meals for our family) he pulled together a sermon for Sunday morning. Thanks to those of you who were praying for him!

I am happy to say that a day or two after my last treatment of Quinine my hearing come back and I am feeling much better than I did last week. I was in much better shape to help with the kids this week which was good because we had another good crowd. Please pray that the seeds we are sowing will someday bear fruit in the lives of these kids and their families. Pray also for me, because next week Dave will be away with Cole (and the other 7/8 grade boys!)on an overnight campout and I will be trying to keep the kids club going on my own with the help of a friend or two.

We also had the additional excitement of a hair salon opening in our front yard this morning. A few weeks ago we had a young woman come to ask if she could “borrow our electricity”. She is a friend of a friend that was trying to start a hair salon in a neighbour’s “shop”(which is really a shack). The problem is that the power in the shop wasn’t sufficient and she had to wait three months for the power company to fix the problem. We were concerned that we would have problems with the power company if we let her run an electrical line from our house, so we suggested that she could use the little shack on the front of our property for three months until the power was put in at her shop. Pray that this will work out for all who are involved. She is a Christian that belongs to another church in a neighbourhood on the other side of town. But my hope is that in helping her out in this way, there will be new opportunities to connect with our neighbours.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hemarize

October is the mini hot season. In Zarma it’s called “hemar”. Usually the rains have stopped by now but the malaria which takes a few weeks to incubate kicks into high gear. That’s why malaria in Zarma is called “hemarize”, literally, the child of “hemar”. We have had any extra long rainy season, giving the mosquitoes extra time to multiply, compounded with lots of flooding giving them extra breeding grounds, and as a result the malaria may be a little worse. We’ve had our brushes with it this year. Cole ran a high fever one evening a few weeks ago. Our doctor friend with whom we car pool figured it was too late in the evening for the lab test and suggested we just treat him for malaria. The 24 hr treatment seemed to do the trick and he’s been fine since. Jenn had the same problem at the beginning of the month with similar results but also had an ear infection didn’t seem to want to clear. She sat on just the borderline of fever for the last three weeks with the earache. We finally wondered if there might be something else involved and Friday’s malaria test proved mildly positive. She’s been on treatment all weekend but the treatment seems almost as bad as the illness, though today she’s seeing some improvement. Ben’s been doing Grade 5 math and spelling but the Grade 5-6 teacher has just been medically evacuated to the US this weekend. She’s been through over a dozen treatments since the end of August but just can’t seem to shake the malaria.
Tonight around 10 o’clock I got a call from our house help. Their month old seemed slightly constipated and to have a bit of a cough. Was my doctor friend available to see him? I was already feeling guilty for the constant pestering we’d been giving her with our own health issues over the last few weeks. The symptoms didn’t seem too serious and I figured it could wait till morning. But then I asked if the baby had a fever. “Well yeah, he seems kind of hot…” Our car is in the garage, (power steering is groaning and probably on the way out) and Gouzoul only has a little scooter. His uncle from Algeria happened to be visiting—he’s trying to sell a nice silver Mercedes he picked up in Libya. It was a nice smooth ride to the 24 hr state run clinic. [When the practitioner on call had trouble pronouncing Gouzoul’s name—his cousin joked that she could just call him “Gazoil” (French for diesel fuel).] Medical clinics here scare me but I think Gouzoul will sleep more peacefully tonight. Please pray for God’s healing and protection through this difficult season, pray also for the school as it attempts reorganize for the missing teacher and finally pray for us that we would show God’s love and grace as we serve others in practical ways.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Giving Thanks

I am very thankful
Not just because we celebrated thanksgiving this week in Canada.
I am very thankful for electricity and all of the conveniences it provides. We have spent the last two and a half days without any and it was a good reminder once again of how blessed we are (& how dependent we are on electricity). It was very nice to be able to sleep under the ceiling fans again last night and not have to worry about the things stored in my fridge and freezer. It is also great to know that I can have a good long shower today, because there is water!! (Whenever our power is out for any length of time we run out of water.)
The night that the power went out we had company over for dinner and as a result created a lot of left-overs. I had been looking forward to using them for a few meals, but wasn’t quite prepared for the long power outage. The next day I had to shift gears and have a more Nigerien response. Here when they have a celebration they usually slaughter a sheep or goat for the party and then send pieces to neighbours and friends (because it is too much to eat at once and not easily stored). So when I reheated my left-overs I took some to my neighbour and she had a good laugh over the “anasara foy” –the white person’s sauce. Please pray that people would see Christ in us as we love and relate to our neighbours.
We are also thankful because our government authorization has been renewed once more after a month long wait. This allows to work in the country and to continue our ministries and is now good for five years.
Please pray for land, we have been looking to purchase land for the mission, for offices and a church. A few months ago we thought we had the right place at the right price but because of circumstances it didn’t go through and since then the price of property in our area seems to have skyrocketed.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Thoughts turning to home…

It is Thanksgiving weekend in Canada. Which brings back great memories from my childhood, many of which center around the Brigden Fair and the Vineland/Ball’s Falls Craft show—aah, I would love to go for a walk in the woods with the falling leaves and crisp, fresh air, but alas! My thoughts have also travelled home over the past little while when we received word that Freedom Christian Community was celebrating their 125th anniversary this past month. We have been so blessed by their partnership in our ministry and hope that their celebrations went well. We are looking forward to being able to reconnect with many of our friends in Canada next year when we come home for our home assignment, but I need to keep focused on the work here and not get too distracted by that yet.
This has been an unusual October for Niger, this past week we have had three rains in the night and the weather has been reasonably cool (by cool I mean 35C for day time temps). I am definitely not complaining about the rain, especially if it keeps the temperature down! It just leaves me with a couple of concerns: the crops and the mosquitoes. I am hoping that the weather won’t interfere with the growing season and crops as Niger has been recovering from famine in many areas of the country. The problem with the mosquitoes is increased here in Niamey where the river has flooded in many areas and left in its wake lots of standing water. I suspect that this may be part of the reason the boys school has been so hard hit with illness. There have been a number of staff and students (as well as parents) that have had bouts of malaria this year. (One staff member has been suffering with it multiple times this year already). Cole has struggled off and on with a fever over the last week, and is running one now. We don’t know if this is malaria but the labs aren’t open ‘til tomorrow morning. Please pray that this week’s school break will provide a time of renewing for those that have been sick.
I am amazed at how so many of the stories from the bible come to life in new ways here. I have a whole new respect for the plagues seeing the mucky flood waters of the Niger, the abundance of so many bugs (flies, gnats, and others besides the mosquitoes) and the frogs that seem to be everywhere some evenings. Please remember us and the families in our neighbourhood as we continue to tell bible stories with the kids. Pray that we would have the language to be effective and that God would use them for his purposes.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Body of Christ


The bible uses the image of a body and all of its individual parts to describe how Christians having varied gifts and talents are to work together for the greater good. This image was brought to mind this past weekend as I was thinking (and experiencing) some of the benefits and sacrifices of how that is lived out. Last Thursday night we went to the church bible study and as we were finishing, Dave was asked if he would drive the members of the team to the village where they were going for the weekend. This came as a bit of a surprise to both of us because we understood that they were taking a bush taxi there. We said that if we could make arrangements for getting the kids back and forth to school Dave would go. So I called a teacher friend from the school and asked if I could borrow her car to get the kids home from school (I offered supper in exchange, but she didn’t bite). She very graciously lent me her car to get the kids home from school. Friday became an extra busy day, we went to Zarma class, picked up the loaner car, went to the bank, gas station and tried to get Dave some food so that he was able to leave slightly afternoon. We were happy to support their efforts in evangelism and thankful for others that were willing to support us in our need.
Dave’s two cents
On Sunday I was asked once more if I would make the trip to pick the team up. I gave up my Sunday afternoon nap to drive all afternoon. On my journey I saw two cars that looked like they had rolled and were in pretty rough shape. When I got home I discovered a third. A wealthy neighbour of ours was in nasty accident on the weekend—broke both thighs as well shoulder and head injuries but is communicating without difficulty. I don’t know the man very well, though I often sit at his front gate having tea with his night guard. He usually arrives home from work around 10 PM or so. We stopped to visit at the hospital yesterday but no one could find him. My friend, the night guard led us to where his wife was waiting. She thanked us for stopping by and invited us to come visit at the house sometime. Later that evening the night guard explained that apparently he’d been taken in for surgery and that no one had been able to see him that day. We pray that he will recover well and that the Lord might use this opportunity as he sees fit.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

We have much to be thankful for!


We have been blessed once again with many answers to prayer over the last little while. The school year has started off great for the boys and I am amazed at how God has been working to bring about growth in both of them. Ben has been blessed with a great teacher for the rest of the year, YEAH! God provided for the repairs on our vehicle after my car accident. The baby that was almost born in our back seat is healthy and growing and mom is doing well too. We even gave away all but one of our rabbits only to find that our single rabbit had become two rabbits a few weeks later! We are truly grateful for all that God has done and want to thank those of you that have been praying for us for being a part of that.
I am also really excited about what He is doing in the church that has affiliated with us. This past Sunday we had a commissioning service for four guys in our congregation that are heading out to a nearby village this weekend. Their plan is to work with a fledgling church there and with a representative from Campus Crusade for Christ to show the Jesus Film and help with an evangelism campaign. The pastor asked the congregation to join together to pray for them on Sunday and asked that all who were able would fast and pray on Wednesday for this team. So, if you are able and would like to fast and pray with the church for this team, I am sure that they would appreciate your prayers, there plan is to take a bush taxi out of town on Friday and be there until Sunday afternoon.
Our efforts are pointless without God’s Spirit at work. It is my prayer that the church will get a hunger for seeing God’s hand at work in their midst and will continue to reach out in new endeavours for Him.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Long Weekend


Last week the boy’s school had a long weekend because of the end of Ramadan. At the end of the month of fasting there is a holiday and in Niger it is a national holiday. After the craziness of the month we were looking forward to the break of the long weekend and considered going away. However, we were invited by friends of ours for “tea” on the Thursday and thought that it was a good excuse for connecting with people. It turned out that tea was really an invitation to join in their celebration meal for the end of the fast and we were the honoured guests. On the way home from there we realized that there was a problem with our car (the kind that requires immediate intervention before you run into major problems), so instead of getting away for the weekend we were grounded at our house. We had already delegated our responsibilities at the church for the weekend so we decided to try something different in our yard. Saturday night we showed Prince Caspian on the street and had a really good crowd despite technical problems. Afterward Dave went to visit a friend down the street to ask if his kids would like to come for a teaching time at our house the next morning. He explained that I normally teach a bible story and had a colouring sheet with my Sunday school class, but we wouldn’t be going to the church the next morning because our car was in the garage until Monday afternoon. He agreed to let his kids come and the next morning when Dave went to open the gate, they were not only there but a large group of other kids too. Dave told the kids that they needed to go home and talk to their mom or dad to get permission to be there because he was going to teach a bible story and he didn’t want to have any trouble with their parents. So a number of them left and another neighbour across the street told us that her kids could come and that she had heard us tell the kids that they needed their parent’s permission to be there (she would be our witness if there was a problem). There ended up being 19 kids that listened to the creation story in Zarma and then spent time colouring a page on our front porch. They were especially happy to take their pictures home with them and we had kids in the street asking us every time that we came and went if we would do it again, “this afternoon”, “tonight”, “tomorrow”, “next week”.
Please pray that God would use these seeds that we are sowing and that He would give us wisdom in how to follow up what we have started and balance that with the responsibilities we have at the church in Kwara Tagui. Please also pray for much needed rest that didn’t really happen on the weekend. Finding a get-away is increasingly more difficult with the Canadian embassy suggesting that travel be limited to the city limits of Niamey and flights being expensive.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

What a night!

This has been a really wild Ramadan for us, but I am hoping that the climax came last night (and that it is all downhill from here!). I am probably not the person to be telling this story, but he is trying to make up for lost sleep right now, so I will do my best and he can correct it later. Dave had been up late having tea with a neighbour (who was really touched that the tea had come all the way from Canada to be shared with him), but thankfully I had gone to bed. At 3 am I was woken to the phone, but didn’t make it out of bed before it stopped ringing. I figured that it was probably some sort of wrong number or they would call again if it was important. So, five minutes later when the phone started again, I assumed it was important. It was a friend who works for us part time, his wife was having a baby and he didn’t know what to do because there were no taxis running at that time of the day. So, Dave went to help while I stayed with the kids. When he got there he found out that our friend had been told this baby was coming hours before and he had told his wife to wait until morning, at which she had stopped speaking to him, so instead of having plenty of time to get them to the hospital Dave was afraid this baby was going to be born in our back seat—he keeps telling me next time I can go to deliver the baby, the only thing that he knew about it was a video that he had watched in prenatal class eleven years ago! Instead of going directly to the hospital, our friend directed us to an aunt’s house to get help, when they arrived there the aunt told him that there was no time to get to the hospital the baby was going to come now (which Dave had been telling him in the car all the way there). Within minutes Dave heard the baby cry from the other side of the wall and shortly after that everyone was cleaned up and back in the car to get to the maternity hospital. I guess they had brought everything that they needed for the delivery except for clothes for the mother and baby, so Dave and our friend turned around and headed back to his house, wondering if they were going to be able to get inside because the lock on the door had broken as they left the house. After fighting with it for awhile, Dave called me again to see if I had anything that would work for clothes (by now it was 5 am) and just as I was responding they jimmied the lock and got into the house.
Please pray for this couple and their new baby (especially that there are no complications because the birth situation was less than ideal!). Also pray that God would be at work in this situation, we have been sharing the love of Jesus with them over the last couple of years. I guess I better go see if I need to clean up the back seat of the car, have a great day!

Monday, August 23, 2010

I am really struggling today. I could blame it on fatigue because our neighbourhood mosque has really beefed up their P.A. system for Ramadan and the local Marabout is either preaching or playing Arabic music until 11pm and then the kids are sent out with pots and pans at 4 am so that people can eat before sunrise.

Or it could be the adrenaline marathon that I have been running for the last couple of months between taking courses, hosting a team from Canada, running a leadership retreat, getting the boys back in school and finishing my course work. (I am too tired to even appreciate that I did well on my courses.)

Or it could be the emotional rollercoaster of dealing with a seventh grader’s anxieties about starting into “high school” (middle school and high school are combined in one building here) coupled with the realization that life is so cheap here if you or someone dear to you has a heart attack the cardiac clinic will admit you to watch you die. (Maybe that is just the reminder that we are all really on God’s medical plan no matter how much we would like to hide behind the wonders of medical science and technology.)

Or it could be the concern of school starting and there still not being a teacher for my fourth grader’s class—we are blessed that there is a temporary solution filling the gap for the first few weeks, but we could really use prayer for the right person to come.

I guess I could really use a vacation but I don’t really feel like I deserve one having let all my regular duties slip while I covered “extras” in the last couple of months. Not to mention, that it really isn’t going to happen anyway because of travel warnings in country and the increase expense of visas and travels out of country.

I can relate to the Psalmist:

Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell. Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise you with the harp, O God, my God. Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him my Savior and my God. Ps 43:3-5

It is so good to know that we aren’t alone in our struggles and that we don’t have to stay there.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

False Alarm

Thanks to all those who have been praying for Dave. After spending the day in the clinic and consulting with our doctor friend the doctor in the clinic decided that the second EKG was fine and that he could go home. So, Dave still has some problems but they probably aren't heart related. It is such a blessing to know that we have friends who care and who pray!

Pray for Dave

Please pray for Dave, he was experiencing some heart relate symptoms yesterday and finally last night he got me up to go to the clinic. The doctor on call told us that we would have to come back in the morning for an EKG because the technician doesn't work at nights. Dave asked what that would mean if he had a heart attack at night and the doctor's response was "c'est la vie". Not very comforting!
He slept well and seemed to be feeling a bit better this morning, but Cole woke up with a fever. He decided to go in for the EKG because the doctor told him it was good to have something to compare it to even if he wasn't experiencing any problems at the time. He assured me that it would ok for him to drive himself because he was feeling ok and it would be best for me to stay with Cole. So, I let him go, but I have just received a call that they are admitting him for monitoring because the EKG has shown something. As I write this I am waiting for a neighbour to come take me to the clinic to find out what is going on-- the added blessing is that the neighbour coming is also a missionary doctor. I will try to update when I know more, thanks for praying! He is in good hands.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Catching Up

Sorry I haven't gotten to this earlier, I thought that life would slow down long before now, but I should have known better...
The retreat went really well, thanks to everyone who was praying. Dave did a great job of handling the preaching and was even able to incorporate a number of interactive sessions. There was a good attendance with church leaders from four different churches involved. The ladies from Brantford did an amazing job, in fact one family was told by their kids that they didn't want to go to a birthday party (that was at least impart for them), they wanted to stay for the rest of the kids program.
I never could have made it through the weekend without Joan from St.Catharines, because she helped with Cole who was very sick for the whole weekend (and most of the rest of the week). If fact as I was writing last weeks blog Dave came in to tell me that Cole was throwing up and had dry heaves. However it wasn't until Cole told me that I was standing in it that I realized that he hadn't made it to the toilet and that Dave hadn't cleaned it up.
Unfortunately after the conference was over the ladies that came to help had some difficulties of their own with traveller's diarrhea, but were able to overcome that and made it safely home on Friday. Thanks to them and all the others that helped to make it possible for them to be here.
I was hoping that things would be slowing down by now, especially because I have a week left to get my assignments done for the courses I took this summer. But I have had some digestion difficulties of my own this weekend and then shortly after we came home from church tonight a friend came to our house looking for help because his one month old baby was running a fever. Please pray for the baby and for Dave as he has driven the family to the hospital as I write this. Also remember me in your prayers this week, I have an incredible amount of school work to get accomplished this week.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Please Pray for us Today

Hi, if you have taken the time to read this today, please take a moment and pray for us. We are running a leadership retreat this weekend and found out two days ago that the main speaker will not be able to make it here. So, Dave is preparing to preach Friday night, three times on Saturday and Sunday morning, with limited preparation time. The rest of the team that made it is preparing to run a kids program on limited sleep (having gone through a 5 hour time change in the last three days). Cole woke up early this morning with diarrhea and fever. So I am trying to care for him and pull all the rest of the administrative pieces together for this retreat. I am truly grateful that Ben is still healthy, pray that he will be able to enjoy the kids program and not feel lost in the busy-ness.

As I write this, I am praising God because I know that whatever happens this weekend will be because of His divine intervention and He will get all of the glory, because there is no way that we will be able to pull this together in our own strength. So, join with us in prayer and be apart of the miracle that God wants to perform in the lives of these church leaders this weekend.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Things look different in the dark

I got up at four this morning because I was going to take my Nigerien friend to the bus station. It had been a short night because we had been at a send off for missionary friends who were leaving the country too. My friend was directing me down what she felt was the best way to the bus station and we were talking a little. I noticed what I thought was the shadow of a large pothole ahead of me and slowed down (mistake number one) to enter the pothole. Within inches and seconds I recognized my second mistake, the darker colour wasn’t a shadow, I was driving into a swamp of excrement that covered almost the whole road and was at least four inches deep (if not deeper in places). I was moving too slow and the sludge was too thick and slimy to plow my way through and so I was stuck within moments. I tried all the usual tricks of switching back and forth to try to gain some ground, but it was no use. Under normal circumstances there would be at least a few people around that would be willing to help me out by pushing , but at 4:30am the street was bare. So my friend and her two daughters that were nicely dressed to travel for the next 24hrs on a bus, got out and started pushing. With some prayer and some pushing we were out of the hole in less than five minutes (I was really amazed! God is so faithful!) and on our way again. As my friend recommended another route that ended up going through garbage sledge, her daughter in the back seat got a little concerned—I think that she was afraid that she wouldn’t be leaving Niger today as planned. Thankfully they made it to their bus on time and were relatively sludge free. I got home and told Dave that I didn’t want to minister to women any more, he said why because you don’t like saying goodbyes. I said yes, that and I don’t like getting up at 4am for bus runs and I really don’t like getting stuck in the back streets of Niger. Oh well, God gives us the grace for each day and I will continue to love and minister to the women that God puts in my path.

Please pray this week for the team coming from Canada, they leave Monday and arrive Tuesday July 27th---hopefully I won’t get stuck in the mud with them too. Pray also for the retreat that they are coming to help lead the following weekend.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I'm a brunette

I guess it comes as no surprise to anyone that sees me on a regular basis, but I have really only just come to this conclusion. You see, I have always thought of myself as “strawberry blonde” because that is what I was growing up and I think even if I look back at my wedding pictures I was still strawberry blonde (I can’t confirm that because I don’t have them with me here). I don’t really know when I started to turn brown, but many would say better that then grey. (No, my brain has not turned to complete mush having gone away to work on my masters and I am getting to a point here). The change in colour was so gradual over time that I never really paid much attention to it and that is very much like our Christian walk. Our goal is to be more like Jesus and we make little decisions daily that may not seem like much or mean anything to anyone else, but are slowly transforming us and changing us. There are the occasional milestones along the way that allow us to look back and say, “Wow, look how far I have come!” There are also those moments when we are really tired and overworked and don’t choose as wisely as we would like to and wonder if we will ever make it. But all the while, God is using the good and the bad to mold us and make us into what He wants us to be.

I had a really great time in studying in Germany. I learned many things, and met many great people. There are moments when I wished that the time would go on and on and then there were moments when I couldn’t wait to get back to Niger. I am still hoping that some of the people I met might give Niger a try sometime in the near future. Thanks to all of you who prayed for me during that time, it did my heart good to know that the boys were praying that –I wouldn’t be too lonely and I wouldn’t get too stressed! I have until August 15 to finish up assignments on two of my courses (the one I finished while in Germany) and so this will be a particularly busy time for me.

We are expecting a team from Canada in a week. Please pray for their health, safety and effective ministry. Also pray that all the details of preparations would come together for them.

The boys’ school is still short on staff for the coming year. We don’t know who will be teaching Ben’s grade 3 / 4 class, or covering the principal’s leave, or art or music. There are others that are planning on coming but don’t have support in place yet. But we have been encouraged to hear that someone might be coming from one of our supporting churches! Please pray for this person that God will direct him through this process and also please continue to lift up the other needs of Sahel Academy through the coming year.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

She’s almost home.

Sunday Jennifer will be back from her classes in Germany. Things have gone relatively well for her so far. She’s completed her coursework for the second class and received a final grade of … 100%! The boys say that Dad’s cooking is okay but too much BBQ. I had hoped to go away with the boys but never made it. Originally I thought we’d make the three day trip to Accra, Ghana. When things didn’t come together I thought we might take some friends to Ouagadougou for a couple of days this week but that didn’t pan out either. Thursday I discovered that it was probably for the best. Driving through town the car suddenly died. I called the garage and after quick inspection it was discovered that the timing belt had snapped… Now if you’re familiar with timing belts you know that generally means rebuilding the motor. Late Friday afternoon the mechanic called. He said that 90% of the time, a snapped timing belt means secondary damage to the motor. My car fell in to the other ten percent—only the timing belt. I’m particularly thankful; not only did they not have to rebuild the engine, if I had taken either of the trips the car would have broken down in the middle of no place in Burkina on a road known to have problems with bandits… Thank you Lord.

The other thing that happened here this week was much more disturbing. Spring rains have been slow coming and the famine is getting worse as livestock that usually are feeding on new grasses are rapidly dying off from starvation. Friday our house-help told us that a young woman from his wife’s neighbourhood had been kidnapped and then butchered as a sacrifice in order to produce rain. That neighbourhood did in fact have a violent thunderstorm this week that included large hail stones. When his wife rode a bush-taxi out to her mother’s home, people in the van were commenting how rain had indeed followed the sacrifice. Our house-help is a conservative Muslim who rejects involvement with the fetishers and was happy to learn that, in fact, hail in the Bible was not a sign of God’s favour but of judgement. In fact the storm had been so violent that a number of homes were seriously damaged or destroyed, including his mother-in-law’s. She is now sleeping in a shelter in the front yard because of large cracks in the cement which threaten to bring the roof down as happened next door. Please pray that good rains will come soon providing food to the herds that remain and to calm desperate hearts that are tempted with desperate measures.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The butcher's counter

I had and experience today that reminded me of an old friend whom I dearly love and respect. I was standing at the butcher’s counter in the grocery store, trying to figure out what I knew how to cook while Jenn is away. The guy behind the counter with whom we’ve chitchatted at various times looked at me said, “You teach music don’t you.”
“No,” I replied, “I have taught math on occasion but mostly I teach theology.”
“Oh, you mean like the Bible.”
“Yup”
“Are you protestant? I have a bible somebody gave me a long time ago, and I like to read it but you know sometimes Jesus says things that I just don’t understand, could you explain it to me?”
I now have an appointment Sunday afternoon to visit him and his wife to talk about the Bible. That unexpected moment took me back to some debates that happened in my former church. When I first started there, our denominational handbook suggested that pastors should make 15 visits a week. (It was changed a year or two later.)None of the pastors I had known made that many calls in a week and the pastors I knew seemed to suggest that it was a ministry model from a bygone era. However some church members figured it was “in the Manual” and ought to be done. After all, Rev. Knoll did it.
At that time, John Knoll was a retired pastor participating in our church. Early on he’d taken me around to meet people in the community, and prayed with me weekly. I appreciated him and still do. During the time that I was wrestling with the issue someone commented to me, “Oh yeah, if John sees someone in the grocery store and says “hi,” he counts that as a visit.” I’ve never asked John how he “counted” his visits but I can see something like that being true. You see Rev. Knoll is someone who always lives “on mission.” I can believe John would have taken notice of a chance conversation at a grocery store, because he is always looking for opportunities that the Lord is putting in his path, takes every opportunity to follow them up. That’s one reason why I respect him.
I know there are times when I’m ready to retreat. I’ve punched in my time card and my shift is over and I want to just check out for awhile. But being a Christian is not a nine-to-five job, and often God puts opportunities where we’d least expect them, including the butcher’s counter at the grocery store. I don’t know where this opportunity will lead but I’m trying to stay, “on mission” regardless.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The weekend from Ouaga...


It’s been the weekend from … Ouaga. (Pronounced “waga”—kind of like Fozzy Bear on the Muppets—‘waga-waga’). It was a last minute impulsive decision to get away for a weekend. Jenn’s going to Germany to study. For a couple of weeks at the end of the month and I’m hoping to road trip with the boys to Ghana in order to find a beach. Thursday morning Jenn suggested we take off after I finishing teaching Friday to Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina. It’s about a 7-hr drive to a little step up the development ladder. The guest house is cheap and we could hideout and read books and maybe watch a DVD on the laptop. Someone had told me there was a new go-karts place in town too. It might be our only time away this summer as a family.
Friday morning Jenn tied down a few loose ends while I taught my class on the General Epistles. After the last of my students cleared out, I pumped up a soft tire and we were on the road. The road isn’t that bad, only a couple of rough spots with pot holes but they seem pretty good at fixing them up regularly. We’d pick up Visas the night before and so the border crossing was relatively simple. I made good time doing 100-130 km/h on the road with the occasional slow down as we came into small communities. The country side got greener almost as soon as we crossed the border. We were almost there, about 20 minutes from our destination and Bessie decided the grass was greener on the other side. Lumbering up onto the road, she seemed oblivious to my horn honking. At the last minute she seemed to clue in that something was coming but instead of stopping or turning around she bolted into my lane as my tires squealed. The cow’s nose caught my front signal light and her horn caught my windshield. My car slid to a stop, and with my side mirror dangling, I looked to see the large bovine lying in the road behind us. I sat there for a few moments not knowing what to do. In Niamey, I’d heard that owners sometimes expect you to pay for the animal if you hit it on the road. (Later in the weekend, a friend told us the local law stipulates that owners are responsible to keep their livestock off the road, and that in fact the herder had probably hid in the bushes when he saw the accident.) A local on bicycle off to the side just stood staring with his mouth open. The cow wasn’t his but no one else seemed to be around. First the head came up and then Bessie, with the wobbly legs of a new-born (re-born?) calf, stood up and lumbered off the road once more.
Saturday we did some light shopping, picked up some books for the church library, and borrowed some scotch tape to patch up the windshield and mirror. We never did find the new go-karts place but instead were directed to an old dilapidated kiddy amusement park where most of the rides didn’t work. Ben decided to try the blow up bouncy house and was having a great time until he landed the wrong way on his foot and started to wail, “I’m paralyzed! Help me! I’m dying!” A cold coke seemed to help the hypochondriac get over his ailments enough to try out the paddle boats.
Monday morning he did not fare so well. Around 5 AM I heard a yell and rush for the toilet followed by the telltales that this was no imaginary illness. After that none of us were sure that we were feeling alright but so far have done alright. Ben however has been “roaring at both ends” as my brother would say, and it looks like we may need to post-pone our trip home a day. At least Jenn was able to buy a pair of “Leo Poldo” underwear that were marked XL, but looked like they might barely fit Ben at a nearby street vender to help with some of the “roaring”.
PS. In hanging running errands in Ouaga today, I noticed a popping noise every time I turned. I popped the hood with another missionary and discovered that power steering fluid was missing its cap and was probably missing fluid as well. I don’t know how long that has been the case but it’s probably better that I didn’t drive home with it in that condition. For that we are thankful.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Sunday Surprises

We had a really interesting start to our week this week, around 4:30 am Sunday morning I woke up and decided that I needed to check that the door to the roof wasn’t locking the kids out. They had decided to sleep on the roof when the power which had been off most of the day still wasn’t on when they went to bed. I got to the door when I thought I heard a hard rainfall, only to realize that it was the shower flowing hard. I took one step out of my bedroom calling Dave while I realized that I was standing in an inch of water. Our water had quit about the time the power had gone off on Saturday morning and Dave had thought that it was starting to come back on in the night. So he had set up the big garbage bin that we use for a water reservoir in the shower to fill, but went to bed forgetting that the tap was on. Some time in the night the water had come on again and had flooded most of our houses (in some places an inch deep), by the time that I discovered it. Dave and I bailed out the house for the next two hours and there was a part of me that wanted to get really mad and blame him for the situation, but all I could think of was “of course this has to happen on a Sunday morning when Dave is going to be training some leaders in the church to teach and preaching in the evening and I am going to be teaching Sunday school!” It must have been the grace of God all around because despite going to bed miserable about the electricity and waking up to a flood the boys were actually in good spirits. Cole even encouraged me by saying “you know mom, with all the water that will be evaporating because of this the rains should come again sooner and we have been praying for rain!” He was right but this wasn’t what I had in mind. Thanks to all of you that have been praying for us through this difficult hot season, it could be easy to get disillusioned and discouraged, but you have carried us with your prayers and we are reminded over and over that these circumstances are temporary.

This was the last week of school for the boys. So it was marked with a special Gr.6 banquet (Gr. 7 is the year that the students move over to the high school building) that was Cole’s farewell to elementary school. They also had an awards ceremony at the year end assembly where the boys each received bible memory verse awards. They are looking forward to sleeping in now that they don’t have to be up at 6am to get to school, but I’m not sure that they are looking forward to the extra chores that they will be responsible for now that they will have some free time. I have the opportunity to start my masters through Philadelphia Biblical University’s satellite campus in Kandern, Germany this summer (I was granted a 50% scholarship!). This is a MS Ed that has a lot of international education components, which I am hoping will help with our ministry here and bible components that I need for satisfying my ministerial candidate requirements. So I will be going to Germany for three weeks from June 18-July11. Please pray that I will be able to make the most of my time there and that I will be able to get the pre-course work and assignments done without too much difficulty. Also, pray for Dave and the boys, they are planning to go on a “road trip” while I am away and are going to see if our car can make it to Ghana and back –hopefully in one piece. Also, please pray for a team that is supposed to be coming from Canada at the end of July as they have been having some difficulties.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Little Reminders of Love

There are times when all it takes is a little whispered, “I love you” to turn your day around. I know some teenagers that that is all it would take to have their heads spinning for days! I think I had one of those moments where you sense God whispering “I love you”. I don’t mean to say that I have joined the ranks of Joan of Arc and I am now hearing voices, but I had one of those coincident that I would like to think was God answering a prayer that I hadn’t made yet.
Last week within a couple of hours of posting about my bug problem there was a knock at my front door and a man I had never seen before said that he was in the neighbourhood and had just finished spraying my neighbour’s yard for bugs and would I like him to do mine too. The timing was so perfect, that I have to believe it was God providing for me and reminding me that he loves me. My bug battles aren’t completely over since my yard was sprayed, which isn’t all that surprising having watched the way the guy applied it! But I did get a better night’s sleep.
How has God been whispering, “I love you” to you? Are you looking for it?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sleep Deprivation and Other Distractions

We are battling with the elements these days and I think the elements may have the upper hand, especially at night. Hot season is still in full swing and our air conditioner is less than cooperative, choosing to rattle and bang at will and without forewarning, but I must say that Dave is getting pretty quick at pressing buttons on the remote in his attempts to tame the beast in the night. If the air conditioner was our only struggle, I think we might have the upper hand, but unfortunately we are also waging war against cockroaches that come visiting. I thought we had them under control last week after a lengthy battle that included spray (designed to kill, but really only useful for smoking them out into the open and slowing them down) and many flying shoes. We did succeed in having a few peaceful nights after that battle, but last night they found reinforcements. I almost slept the first half of the night while they seemed to focus on Dave, but toward the wee hours of the morning he was sleeping and I knew why he had been complaining about the bugs!

Not surprisingly the worst nights have been on the days when we have felt like we were starting to make some progress with our ministry. Friends that we have been working with for awhile have started to ask spiritual questions and we invited someone to come and study the bible with us this afternoon. I am so glad that God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness; with the lack of sleep I am feeling pretty weak and I have the additional task of covering Cole’s bible class this week as his teacher is out of town.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

To Be Free

The other day we were driving down the street and Dave noticed that the police were “collecting” motorcycles again (which happens on a somewhat regular basis when the police check to make sure that the drivers have their proper papers). He suggested that we go home and tell our house helper that today would be a good day to drive around town. About two months ago, we decided that we didn’t want to be responsible for him losing his motorcycle in a similar manner because we had asked him to go on an errand for us. So we offered to pay for his insurance for the year which allowed him to be able to afford to get the proper license plates and things that he needed. The next time that he came to work for us after getting his plates, he was very excited. He said he just wanted to pull over the next time he saw a policeman to show him all of his paperwork because he knew that they were all in order. He had been driving around the city for three years without having the proper paperwork and living with the threat that he might lose his motorcycle. Dave said it was just like what’s written in the Bible:

5This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 1 Jn 1:5-7

As long as our paperwork is out of order and there are problems in our life we treat God like the policeman—always looking for a back alley or hidden back street in order not to be confronted with the problems in our life. But when we come to him in confession and repentance and clean away all the stuff that we’re trying to hide we’re free to come out of the shadows and experience the fellowship that we both desire.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Choosing Joy

You know there are seasons in a person’s life when joy comes a little easier than other times. Well, let me tell you hot season in Niger is not one of those. This has been an especially challenging one with a couple of days when we had no electricity (not to mention the regular interruptions), three consecutive days of +48C (47C in the shade!). I have had to remind myself over and over this week that joy is a decision and that I am going to choose joy and look for the good (this is a real challenge when everyone around you is complaining about the weather and there is a lot of good reason to do so). So, I prefer to think of this as mango season and the mangos have been exceptionally good this year. When the sweat is dripping off every portion of your limbs that extend in any direction what so ever I try to think of it as a weight loss plan—I know that loosing water is not really weight loss, but carting around the sweat soaked clothes that weight an extra few pounds in sweat has got to count for something.
There are also the extra opportunities to relate to those around you because you can’t greet someone without making at least a few comments about the weather or the power. I had the opportunity to make a new friend the other day; we went to a restaurant that we knew would not only have air conditioning but also has a generator (so the air still works even when the power is out everywhere else). There was a mom with a six month old there, trying to do the same thing we were—escape from the heat even if for only a half hour. So we started talking to her about her time in Niger and her plans (she had decided that she needed to head home to France for many reasons) and we told her about what we were doing here a bit. I got to hold and have a good visit with her daughter so that she could enjoy her chocolate cake without “extra help” and then we went our separate ways. I don’t expect that I will every meet my new friend again, but you never know when God will use those small encounters for something beyond what you thought possible and I can at least pray.

Note: I started writing this a few days ago and this morning as I post this I feel anything but joy, but I guess that is where the choice comes in!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Relating to our neighbours


Over the last 48hrs, I think that we have gained a greater appreciation for how many of our neighbours live. During that time we have had very little electricity (approx. 6 hrs, only 2 of which were yesterday!), and very little water because the water towers in town need power to pump the water up the tower in order to get it to our house. We don’t know the reason for the power loss and may never know. But I was thinking as I tried to fall asleep under the smog and sand last night (I would say stars, but you couldn’t really see them) that it did give us an opportunity to have a better understanding of how our neighbours who never have electricity or water live. Although I do not think a temporary inconvenience is the same thing as having to deal with 47˚ C in the shade with no fans, falling asleep to the sound of babies crying, children playing in the street until late into the night and the traffic driving by, did give me a chance to think and realize that it may start out warmer on the roof, but by the time the sun starts to rise it is a whole lot better than being stuck in a cement house with no ceiling fans! I am still debating whether it is better to risk using the air tonight and hope that the electricity holds or going back up to the roof that starts out at 38˚ C but actually feels kind of refreshing by the time that morning comes. One thing is for sure that first shower after two days without water flowing in the pipes does give you a whole new perspective on what abundant living is all about! Hope you are feeling more up for what life has to offer you than this candle that didn’t make it through the heat of the day today.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Celebrating Easter, Travels and Catching Up

This has been a bit of a crazy week, we flew home from France last Friday in time to celebrate Easter here in Niger. We had been in the Black Forest section of France and Germany for the previous week because I (Jennifer) was representing the school board for Sahel Academy at an international education conference. Dave and the boys came along and we all stayed with fellow FM missionaries in France. They got to have a bit of a vacation and I got a change of climate and a slight change of work. Cole even got to celebrate his birthday at an amusement park in Germany while I was in meetings, but at least I got in on a great Italian dinner with them after my meetings.

Easter Sunday was a bit of a whirlwind, there was an open air sunrise service by the river, in place of the English service that we usually try to take in on Sunday evenings. Then we went to our regular Sunday morning service. We decided that we were too old to get in on the young people’s picnic that afternoon and instead went home to prepare for a neighbourhood celebration. We decided to string a sheet across our driveway entrance and show Narnia to who ever wanted to come. There ended up being quite a crowd there and for a couple of days afterward we had people coming up to us and asking us if we were going to do it again “tonight” or “tomorrow”. Including a lot of people that I didn’t even realize had been there watching in the dark.

This week has also been very full with trying to get the school board evaluation completed as well as keeping up (or maybe catching up) with the regular work routine. Please pray that the follow up conversations that we have with our neighbours will be fruitful. Pray that I will be able to get caught up on my regular work load as well as find time to do the extra board work required at this time of year. Pray for Dave as he starts training some lay leaders in the church to help develop their teaching ministry skills and for me as I start to work with the kids and explore some new options for “storying” in zarma.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

We are so blessed

I started out thinking that this was going to be a plea for help and the more I thought about our situation, the more I realized how truly blessed we are. You see our oldest has Asperger’s Disorder a high functioning form of Autism. If he had a more intense form of autism I have my doubts whether we could be here. But not only are we here, but he is doing very well. In talking with a teacher at his school I was reminded again of how God has blessed us and him. She noted that language learning is difficult for ASD students but Cole is doing well in his French class as well as in his other academic courses that are taught in English!
This past week I was surfing the internet to consider my options for continuing education (I have a number of courses that I need to take) and I came across a conference that was being offered at Redeemer University in Ancaster, Ontario. It was a one day seminar for teachers to receive additional qualifications and was all centred around ASD (autism spectrum disorders). When I read about the workshops they were offering I went to Dave and said I want to go home. He commented on the heat and various other things in an understanding way and I said no I want to go home for one day April 10th! Then I explained about the conference. I immediately thought about a friend that taught special education and is very supportive of our ministry here. Before I had a chance to finish this blog (because of various other interruptions) she e-mailed to say that she would take the class for me and send me the information that she gleaned. Praise God! Thanks for all of you that pray for us and our kids on a regular basis. We really appreciate it and a special thanks to Cindy for being willing to give up a Saturday for me!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Wedding Rings & Movie Night

The past few weeks I have taken my work out to the streets, walking our neighbourhood when I can in the mornings instead of using some of my exercise videos. I was hoping to maximize my time and combine getting some exercise with connecting with my community. I don’t know if it has been especially effective on the exercise side, although walking in shifting sand on some of the streets near us does provide some serious resistance even if it is difficult to get anywhere near the speed/heart rate I would like. I am not even sure if the connecting with the community has been all that effective, but I do try to make a point of greeting people along the way and cooling down, by stopping to visit with ladies in the neighbourhood. This week one of my neighbours asked about my wedding ring, (maybe because I was still wearing it while I exercised), so I got to explain its significance. They do not necessarily give and receive rings for weddings here although I have been to a number of Christian weddings here that do. What was interesting is that this was the second conversation that I have had like that in the last few weeks. It is my hope that God will use some of those conversations even if I may not be seeing the actual results.

Friday night we invited a number of Nigerien friends in to watch The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. We had thought about settlng something up so that we could project it on the street in our neighbourhood, but thought that it might be good to get the response of some friends first to see whether they would understand it (because CS Lewis was writing from a very western perspective) and whether it would generate good conversations. We had our answers before the night was even over. Dave got to explain to one couple that CS Lewis was using the Lion to explain to children how Jesus’ sacrifice covered our sin and how his innocence meant that death had no power over him. Please pray for the group that came, that God would reveal himself to them and that they would understand the gift of grace that Christ offers them. Pray also, that we would continue to have good “God talks” with those around us.

On a personal note, we have been told that our renter in Ontario is moving out of our townhouse. Please pray that we would be able to find another renter quickly because we are not sure how long we can afford to make our mortgage payments without a renter.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Education in Niger

The boy’s school, Sahel Academy has been working to get accredited (basically, official recognition for the school) with ACSI (the association for Christian Schools International) and with Middle States in the US. It has been a long and intense process that was started in 2005 when I taught there. This last week was the climax of the process, when we had a team from the two associations come to visit and evaluate the school. This meant a few extra meetings for almost all of us because Cole was one of three students chosen to represent his class for a student group meeting, Dave was involved in a parent meeting and I was involved in a school board meeting, (which may have something to do with why this was posted a little later than usual). A week later than what was originally planned with a much smaller team that had to work overtime to get the job done, we got our results last Thursday. They were going to fully recommend us for accreditation! Praise God! Really this is only the unofficial word, the recommendation still needs to go before each of the governing boards to be fully approved, but we should have the official word as of June. Please continue to pray for the school, for next year we do not have teachers for Grade 3/4 (Ben’s class), Grade 5/6, kindergarten, principal, English, Social Studies, Art or Secondary music. (For more information about the job postings you can check the school website: www.sahelacademy.com or a website that helps to connect teachers with overseas schools that need them: www.missionteach.com )

On a similar education theme, I started a class a couple of weeks ago at ESPriT, the bible school that Dave teaches at part time. I am taking a New Testament Theology class , with the additional challenge of the course being taught in French. I was hoping just to audit the class and work on improving my French, but the teacher agreed to adjust the assignments so that I can do them in English in hopes of getting credit for them with the denomination. I am wondering if I have gotten myself in over my head, but we will see, so far I have enjoyed both the reading and the class discussion (although there are times when I can get lost in the French). Please pray that I will be able to improve my French and learn valuable insights for our ministry here in Niger, while still being able to balance ministry and family responsibilities.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Some days are like that…

Three weeks ago I was working on a blog that just didn’t want to get posted (or maybe written). At the time we were having power cuts on a semi-regular basis that kept interfering with my working on the computer and burned out a transformer in our house. (Interestingly, the regular power cuts seemed to stop about the time that the coup happened). I was going to write this last Saturday, but I had visitor after visitor that were in no particular hurry to leave. The added difficulty to this was I was trying to get some baking done because the boy’s school was to host an accreditation team. Unfortunately, that team was either sent back or not allowed to get on their flights because of the political problems here and never made it. Yesterday I went to write this again, but was interrupted by a number of meltdowns by little boys that belong to our household not to mention class work, bible study, carpooling and a number of other things. I mention all of this because I find it really funny that this is what I started to write three weeks ago:

I had a conversation a little over a year ago with another missionary that told me he didn’t believe in Murphy’s Law (anything that can go wrong will go wrong). His theory was that we as missionaries had faulty expectations, that we had the assumption that things should always run smoothly.


Well, whether I am prone to make those false assumptions or not there is one thing that I think I have been learning through the events of the last few weeks: that many times in life, it is keeping your perspective that makes all the difference. You see while what I was experiencing was simple inconveniences, one of the people that was supposed to becoming for the accreditation visit (from another country in Africa) is the principal of a school where he had a parent kidnapped the day before the coup, and a parent and student car-napped the day after the coup (needless to say, he is no longer able to come for the accreditation visit). I also had a friend who had to head to the US just before Christmas with her youngest daughter that was very ill. She wasn’t able to return when the daughter recovered because she had back problems that needed treatment. When she finally thought she was coming back to Niger to reunite with her husband and other children she discovered that her tickets for the flight were cancelled and wasn’t allowed to leave until a few days later, only to be in the air between Paris and Niamey when her flight was rerouted to a neighbouring country because it couldn’t land here because of the coup.

I guess I am just grateful that my problems have all be relatively mild.

Please pray for the accreditation visit it is supposed to proceed this coming week with only 2 of the original 4 team members (another person was stuck in Abidjan for the better part of a week because he flight to Niamey was cancelled due to the coup and had no way to fly back to Cameroon before then). Continue to pray for us too whenever we happen to come to mind.

Hope you are having a better day than most!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Breaking News

No doubt some of you have heard something of our yesterday’s events here in Niger. Many of you probably haven’t simply because Niger hardly makes into the news in North America. Yesterday the military staged a coup d'etat, storming the presidential palace with soldiers and tanks. Late last night they announced the suspension of the constitution and all official institutions while they attempt to restore democracy. This was not an unexpected move and with the political situation here for the last few months and various people have felt that a coup was just a matter of time. The president seemed to be moving towards a dictatorship, as the European Union, the U.S. pulled out they’re aid support. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had also warned of impending sanctions if the president did not change his course and step down. The prediction of famine/food crisis based on last summer’s harvest did not help.
I think this has probably been more stressful for the boys than for us. We happened to be at home when things started to unfold, with no awareness that anything was happening until friends called. The boys were at school however just down river from the presidential palace where the action was, with machine gun and cannon fire echoing down the river. The school went into immediate lock down. Here’s a blurb from the director that we received last night:


Dear Parents of Sahel Academy students, and friends,
It is 6:30pm local time as I write.
Today, at approximately 1:15 pm the sounds of gunfire and heavy artillery were heard in the city. A campus lockdown was immediately called. The students knew exactly what to do. I am very proud of them and their teachers as to how quickly and orderly they responded.
The director immediately contacted the US Embassy by radio to inform them of the noises that we were hearing and that we had entered lock down…
Lock down was maintained as the noises of gunfire were quite regular. At around 3:30pm, when about an hour had passed without hearing gunfire, we allowed the students to also use the library.
During this whole time the students, the youngest to the oldest, were well behaved, played games, sang or worked quietly.
At around 4:30pm the US Embassy security officer drove to the school campus, having checked which roads in the city were passable, and which roads to avoid. We were given the OK to call parents to come and get their children.
At 6:00 pm the last students were picked up by their parents. All staff are now safely home as well.Please make time to talk with, and listen to your children about the day’s events.


A friend commented, “Our kids have snow days, your kids have coup days”
All of that said, we are not in any danger. The coup had nothing to do with us and we don’t expect it to affect us or our ministries in any direct way. In the mean time the city is under a curfew and the embassy has advised us not to leave the house today or tomorrow and possibly Sunday. Please pray for peace.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Journée Continue

Journée continue is an expression that is used here to explain that you are working through a rest period. Frequently when Dave and I are somewhere in the lunch hour or early afternoon people will ask us where are kids are because most schools stop for lunch and a rest hour and then resume classes in the later afternoon (because of the heat). However, Sahel Academy where the boys go is “journée continue” so that parents only have to go back and forth with their kids at the beginning and ending of the school day. It is also sometime used with businesses, especially during Ramadan the Islamic month of fasting. Because people aren’t eating during the day, they will frequently work through the lunch hour and close their business early.

Yesterday that expression took on a whole new meaning and felt more like “the day that never ends”. I drove the kids to school in the morning so that I could meet with a mom’s group that prays for the school every Thursday. I then had my meeting with my accountability partner. I stopped at the post office on my way through town and then decided that because I was already in the down town area I might as well do some shopping. After about half an hour and three attempts to buy a kitchen clock (the shop owner had assured me that he could fix the one that I liked and that it would only take about 10 minutes to put a new motor into it, but that is another story!), I still didn’t have a clock and decided that I needed to get home. I got home for lunch to find out that my friend had just returned to town (which means that I needed to visit her). So I ate, put supper in the slow cooker and went to do my first round of pick ups at the school. I tried to squeeze in a visit with my friend before going back to the school to pick up Ben from boys club, unfortunately that meant that I was a little late in getting Ben. That gave us just enough time to get home, eat supper and head out to bible study (thankfully the boys didn’t have too much homework). I know that those of you reading this from North America are thinking that this sounds pretty much like a normal day for mom’s taxi service. But while this maybe a manageable pace in Canada, living conditions here mean that we are usually running on about ½ - 2/3rds of the energy that we would normally have in Canada. Thankful it is just Thursday that gets this hectic, but as hot season draws closer I am going to have to do something about it.

Thanks to all of you that have been praying for our health. I (Jennifer) am really glad to be finished up on my last round of antibiotics and Dave was able to keep his voice going well enough to preach last Sunday. It doesn’t seem to have hit him as hard. Please pray for a ministry retreat that we are trying to coordinate for the end of July or the beginning of August that we would be able to get the right people to come to help with it and that all the details would come together.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Humility or Humiliation

It is a fine line sometimes between humility and humiliation. There are two things that have been happening in my life this week that have brought me to this conclusion: my voice and our car. My voice has been giving me trouble this week because of a persistent cold that keeps knocking it out of commission (especially when I need it most). It is a humbling experience to realize how dependant we are on our vocal chords and the squeaking doesn’t really help (not to mention the fact that when you whisper most people whisper back). It is easy to take your throat for granted until it gets really sore and then it is hard to think about too much else. But at least it has given me an opportunity to enjoy some of my herbal teas!

My other humbling experience this week came when the clutch got fixed on our car. With the repairs, the response that the clutch makes to the pressure you put on it has totally changed. In other words it is really easy to stall if you aren’t used to it. There have been a couple of times this week when I have been out (luckily, on my own, so that the humiliation wasn’t increased) and come up to a stop light only to realize that the person in the front isn’t moving even though the light is green. So, I honk to let them know the light has change (this is a very common practice because it is so difficult to see the lights when you are the first in the intersection), only to stall the car just as the one in front of me drives away! Now I am probably over sensitive to this, because in North America that kind of honking would be considered rude (or slightly obnoxious) and then to stall and not be able to move right away is embarrassing. Oh well, I guess there could be a lot worse lessons on humility (and I could always blame the cold!). I suppose that if that is the worst thing that happened in a week that it was over all not a bad week. I pray that this would be the worst you face this week too!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Retreat & Tea Time

This has been a pretty full week. We were finally able to plan and have a short spiritual retreat. It wasn’t the visit to some solitary place to commune with God through nature that I envisioned, (I’m really not sure how well that would work in Niamey). So it was probably more productive just to be in a comfortable place to spend some extra quality time with God and do some ministry evaluation and planning. Thanks to all those people who prayed that it would happen, it made a difference! Who knows maybe some day I get that time in the mountains or by the ocean…

Dave is starting to make “tea time” a regular part of his week. No he isn’t returning to his British heritage! He is spending time in the evening having Tuareg tea on the street with our guard and anyone else who happens to come along. The local way of making and sharing tea here takes about an hour and a half and is always a communal thing. Please pray that he can make the most of the conversations that he has at that time and that God will lead him to other ways to connect with neighbours.

I have been able to visit a bit with friends in the neighbourhood this week, but have been struggling with a voice box that just doesn’t want to cooperate. I have been trying to do all the right things to stay healthy (well maybe not “all” of them—there were a few too many good things that came back with us from Canada for that), but I am still struggling with head colds or maybe it is allergies. It was frustrating when we went to a naming ceremony for one of our neighbours, I could only say congratulations and hope that I didn’t pass any thing on to the baby or anyone else. Hopefully I’ll be able to get back to visit with the baby and mom in the next few weeks.

On more of a personal note…
Fifteen years ago last December, I married my best friend (for those of you that didn’t realize, the day after our open house was our anniversary so you were not only coming to see us and check in on our ministry, but you were also helping us celebrate our anniversary!). This past week he got a little bit older. He had the opportunity to celebrate with family back home, so he wasn’t up for a major celebration (not that Dave is into parties). We were loaned a BBQ from some missionaries that are home right now, so there was BBQ steak! I also made him a carrot cake with cream cheese icing which is a delicacy here because it is not easy to get cream cheese (but we had some treats from home) and had a family celebration.