Saturday, September 28, 2013

Playing in Traffic

The last time we were in Canada we had the opportunity to go to a church planting conference to learn more about the process. One of the pieces of wisdom that the seminar leader presented was, "inviting someone to help church plant is like inviting someone to play in traffic". The implication is that there are spiritual realities at work in our world. When someone attempts to do something for God the enemy isn't pleased and that person (and those closest to them) tend to come under attack. I guess this week I feel like I have spent a little too long "playing in traffic".

Dave has been preaching a series at church as a follow up to the church planting conference we had last month. Last week he spoke about the Person of Peace and used an audio version of the scriptures (as a model that there are ways to share the scriptures even if you are illiterate). He also provided some mp3s of scriptures in local languages to a guy in our church who has been the most active in this area. This week he is either preaching on spiritual warfare or prayer walking (I am not sure that it is set in stone yet or not and I may be surprised with what happens).

I guess I have been receiving some of the brunt of the spiritual warfare. I have been struggling physically with sleeplessness, headaches, and dizziness that the doctor is still trying to figure out. (You can pray that my test results would bring us closer to answers this week). On the technical front, it was almost comical the other day when I was trying to print out a test for someone to cover my class and I had four different major problems that went wrong, culminating in a test that was printed upside down and backwards! (Ok, I admit by then I laughed so hard the counter in the office was the only thing that was keeping me up, but I was also pretty dizzy...) What should have taken 10 minutes took over an hour with 4 other people helping me. During this time Dave was listening to the radio in our car, unfortunately he fell asleep waiting and drained the battery on the car so we needed a boost. I wish I could say that that was our only technical problem for the week and that there weren't other problems that we encountered but alas...

However of even greater concern then our woes is the Pastor that we are working with. His struggle this week has been with his business school and paperwork with the government regarding it. Please pray for him that the people responsible would change their minds about this and that he would be able to get all the paperwork that he needs in order to move ahead (his school is supposed to start classes next week!).

Friday, September 20, 2013

Opportunities & Updates

I am praising God that this week I was finally able to complete and send out the newsletter that I started in early August. I had great intentions but God and the electric company/internet company had other ideas, so I am praying that this is God's timing and that it found you at the right moment. If you didn't receive one in your e-mail it means that I either don't have your address or I have a problem with it, so either send me an e-mail or write a comment on this blog (I don't publish comments that have personal information such as e-mail addresses on them).

Notice the road at the back right has become a river!
I was reminded by someone this week that I haven't mentioned the flood since the boys had a "flood day" off from school. The good news is that the water level rose to within a centimetre of where it had flooded the school grounds last year but stopped there and the preventative measures that Sahel Academy (the mission school that Jenn teaches at and the boys attend) and ESPriT (the bible school that Dave teaches at) had put in place held back the waters that did come. The bad news is that the river did flood the dyke in other areas and a number of Nigeriens suffered as a result of the flooding. A number of the gardens along the river were wiped out and that will affect the availability and prices of fresh vegetables for a second year running. Pray for all those affected but especially for those that can least afford it. Pray also that there will not be problems later in the season when the river reaches its peak.

You are officially invited to partner with us in finishing a room in the ministry centre. The exterior work on the building is progressing and hopefully will be completed in the next few months. The next step is to complete the interior so that we can start to use it for leadership training, hopefully establish a new church with neighbours and so that our rent can go towards the costs of the building. But, in order to do that we need people to help finance the work and individuals or teams to come to help see it happen. So if you are interested in laying tiles, installing doors & windows, constructing closets & cupboards, plumbing (or simply installing toilets & sinks), electrical work (or simply installing wall switches & outlets or hanging ceiling fans) or just painting we can find a job for you. This is a ministry project of the FM church in Canada so you can give through the giving streams program of your local church (write the cheque to your church but mark the envelope or comment line "Niger Ministries"). If you are interested in coming, consult your local pastor or church board (maybe there is a group that would like to come together and you will want people praying for you while you are here) and contact us we would love to hear from you! Even more importantly we need your prayers that this process will be safe, timely, glorifying to God and a blessing to His church & the Nigerien people.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Visitor

We received a visitor from our past yesterday. Mohammed had been our night guard throughout our previous four-year term. Unfortunately the relationship ended badly, largely due to my failure to understand the rules regarding severance pay. Most of the problems could have been resolved if I had written out his monthly payslip differently and given him a written letter informing him that his job would be ending at the end of our term. However Mohammed is illiterate and the lack of a written letter given well in advance meant I should have given him an extra month pay for his severance package. In the end I was called before the Work Inspector and made to pay an extra $600 because I failed to specify on his payslip that he was getting a $1 daily food allowance as a night guard. As Jesus said, settle your accounts quickly or the judge will make you pay every last penny.

Since our return we have not heard any rumour of him until this weekend. Apparently he had come to Niamey for a wedding to which our house worker, Gazoul, was also invited. Over the weekend he and Gazoul sat down with a couple of other people to chat. During the conversation he asked Gazoul if he thought he should visit me or not because he felt embarrassed about what had happened. Someone else asked, “Well what did you do?” At first he was too embarrassed to say but finally explained how he’d complained to the Work Inspector. “Oh, that was bad,” one of the others commented. “You shouldn’t go back—he’ll be mad at you.” Disappointed but still hopeful he gave Gazoul a phone number, saying, “If they’re willing to see me give me a call.”

Catching up with Mohammed yesterday we discovered that shortly after our departure he had returned to his native Mali with his family, just north of Timbuktu. They had been alright herding goats and planting rice until the rebellion a year ago. As a light skinned Touareg he and his family were the object of prejudice since the terrorists of northern Mali initially took the guise of Touareg freedom fighters before the movement became radicalized into a religious terror movement.  Mohammed was fortunate that a friend realized what was coming and gathered as many Touaregs as possible and headed south to Burkina Faso where they have been received as refugees. Those left behind in his community have not been heard from since. What he does know is that people were being thrown into sacks and dropped into wells while still alive. His immediate family is safe in the refugee camp in Burkina Faso but he has lost other family and friends in the violence.

Mohammed ended our conversation by asking my forgiveness for what happened with the work inspector. I responded by saying that I also had been wrong in the whole affair and needed his forgiveness as well. Gazoul, who was present for our conversation, seemed to be fighting back tears as we confessed our errors. We sent Mohammed away with some clothes as gifts for his children, letting him know he was welcome to visit again the next time he came to Niamey.

Reconciliation grounds the gospel in reality as we receive those who have been estranged from us, just as Christ welcomes us back to himself. Pray for Mohammed and his family that the love of Christ will find a place in his heart also. Pray also for Gazoul that our actions and the testimony of the Holy Spirit will bring about a change in his life.