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?”