Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Guest Writer: Jay Mowchenko

Hello everyone, Jennifer asked me to write an entry for their blog while we were living with them, and of course I could not refuse her. I am Jay Mowchenko, Lead Pastor at Weyburn Free Methodist Church (in Saskatchewan, Canada for you international folks). I am here with my family – wife Marilou, daughter Keisha and son Josh. We’ve been here in Niamey, living with the Wrights, for almost 10 days now.

            It’s been an incredible learning experience for our family – enduring the relentless heat (40 degrees celcius – which the people here always delight in telling me is the beginning of their “cold season”!), seeing a Third world country up close and personal, hearing the Muslim call to prayer 5 times a day, and spending time with a community of people who have given their lives to help and reach out to others with the love of Christ.

David, Jennifer, Cole and Ben’s hospitality has been incredible – they have made room for all four of us in their home, basically shut down their own schedule, given up their rooms and privacy, fed us, and been our personal tour guides and interpreters for the whole time. 

In the midst of a million “ah-hah!” moments, one surprise that stands out for me is that there’s a fairly large contingent of international people here in Niamey: diplomats, aid workers and missions people. Because of this, there’s actually quite a few opportunities to “hide” from the reality of living in Niger. There are people who speak English; there’s restaurants, air conditioning, television, and English church… all ways to try and “hang on to home”. And some people do. But not the Wrights.

David, a natural introvert, is, against his nature, constantly looking for opportunities to visit and make friends with people on the street - especially in their neighbourhood. Everywhere we go, he is greeting people in one of the 4 languages they are learning (French, Zarma, Houssa, or Tomajek). He never keeps a conversation to “just business”, even when we are “in a hurry”. David always takes that extra time to ask how people are doing, and chat a bit about their lives. He’s been incredibly adept at including me in the conversation – using me as an excuse to spend more time connecting.

As diligent as Dave is at stretching himself beyond his comfort zone, Jennifer is a marvel! I have LOVED seeing her in action in the marketplace! She can bargain with the best of them in several languages, and has fully embraced the “game” of getting the best deal. I love watching the shopkeeper’s face as she switches from French to Zarma and makes a funny comment to one of the inevitable onlookers!

Even as they participate in a couple different congregations, and are mentoring several local leaders, they are also intentionally developing a “kindness evangelism community” – a relational network of local friends and service people that provide a context for them to show the relational love of Jesus.

Travelling around Niamey with the Wrights has shown me that you can be a “missionary” (physically leave your home country and serve God in a foreign land) without becoming “missional” (making the most of every minute, every ounce of energy, to share the love of Jesus with the people around you). And by doing so, have shown me that you don’t HAVE to be a missionary to be missional, either!

As much as we admire the Wrights for their obedient decision to serve God in Niger, I admire them more for their constant decision to serve God with every moment IN Niger!

I need to publicly thank them for putting up with us for the last week-plus. For patiently enduring my whining about the heat, our melt-downs inspired by jet lag, our demands for food and translation, for giving up their bedrooms and privacy, for cramming more and more into your already busy schedule, and most of all, for your unfailing kindness & patience in all of it – THANK YOU.

We’ve learned and gained so much from being here, I couldn’t tell about it all if I tried. I would say instead, “You need to come and see for yourself – just give David and Jennifer some time to recover from us, ok?”

From Niamey,
Jay Mowchenko

Thursday, November 15, 2012


The Building

Last week we paid a visit to the building site and the architect who is overseeing the construction. He was happy to show me a geological report of soil samples confirming that our property could sustain a two story building. This can be a serious problem locally since there are no designated garbage dumps. I have talked to others who told me that they had to dig a few metres deep just to get past the old garbage in order to lay good footings. (Basements are virtually unheard of in Niger).

Bricks in Niger are generally hand mixed with a shovel, and then shovelled into a mold. They are left to cure in the sun for three or four weeks before being used in construction. (I don’t know how long is really necessary but that’s what I’ve been told).  The bricks for the cement foundation are now ready to be used and work has begun for the special bricks we’re using for the building.

We have decided to build with compressed earth bricks. We are told that they are the more environmentally friendly option. They require slightly less cement but are formed using a hydraulic press. These bricks are mixed using a red soil called laterite and some people refer to compressed earth bricks as the reds bricks because of the distinctive color. Red bricks are not only slightly cheaper but because of their density they do not retain the heat like regular cement bricks—a real benefit in Niger!

Please pray that God would continue to oversee the building project here and that progress would be made in the construction. Also pray that the beginning contacts that we are making with our future neighbours would bear fruit. Jennifer was "christened" by a neighbours new baby the day that we visited.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Prayer and Changes of Plans

Andrew Murray wrote, "All the powers of evil seek to hinder our prayer life because prayer, by nature, involves conflict with opposing forces. May God give us grace to strive in prayer until we prevail."

I have noticed that there are some days that nothing works out as planned and they turn out great. Then there are other days that nothing turns out as planned and they are just really bad.

This last Thursday was one of the ones that turned out pretty good. I thought that I would go to a mom's prayer meeting for the school but I found out that they were meeting at the elementary school (shortly after dropping off our neighbour's kids there)--the problem was that I didn't have time to go back because Dave had to get to his class. So, I went on with him and we were both surprised to find out that the bible school was having a special prayer meeting for the persecuted church. It was not the prayer meeting that I thought I was going to be apart of but it felt like I might have been in the right place anyway. I was also able to get 2 hours of uninterrupted time in on my school work (I had brought it thinking that I would have an hour to wait for Dave's class to end).

Unfortunately, I find that there are a lot more of the other kind of days here in Niger where nothing seems to go right. I like to beat myself up and say that they usually happen on days that I haven't spent enough time in prayer and devotions. (Saying things like "I should have gotten up earlier to pray today"). Thinking that I would have a better attitude to face the situations if I had, but I sometimes wonder if it isn't the impact of the spiritual dynamic that is playing itself out around us. More prayer is always needed, but beating ourselves up instead praying is just another distraction technique the enemy likes to use to bring us down.

Please pray for visitors that are coming in a couple or weeks. The weather is still really hot (high 30's) and our mechanic has yet to find a replacement compressor for the air conditioner in our vehicle. I also ran into another snag this morning when I went to fill my crock pot with supper. The box it was in had fallen and the ceramic pot had broken. This wouldn't be a big deal in Canada where you can find them all over the place, but they are really hard to find here (ours came from our first trip to Ghana) and ones from Canada don't work as well here because the transformer splits the power level regardless of whether it is the full 220V or only 180V. (North American appliances require 110V). Oh well, I guess I will have to re-think my cooking strategies for dealing with the heat.

Also, please pray for Dave's accountability partner, Steve. He's just flew home because of vision problems. His insurance company was unresponsive to his concerns, and he has lost vision in one eye from a detached retina. He is having surgery tomorrow in Nebraska in an attempt to repair it but has been told the optimal period for restoring his sight has passed.