Wednesday, May 13, 2015

It's Hot Season again

We have been a little off the radar lately. The counselors with the West African Mobile Member Care Team recommended we take some time out. In the meantime Jennifer has been diagnosed with cataracts. She has been in Canada since early April in order to see the surgeon and prep for the surgery. While she’s been away we have experience the height of hot season and it will continue until the first rainfall.

Giant dust storm. Still no rain.
Hot season is a dusty dry time and this year it has brought meningitis with it. Many of you have probably seen this on the local news. While we were vaccinated before ever coming to Niger, most Nigeriens never have been. The government has tried to provide vaccines for children but the reports I have heard suggest that some have still not been able to be vaccinated. A nurse told me that meningitis usually impacts the young and the weak but this year it appears to strike without prejudice. I was told that a student at the Pastor’s business school excused himself from class saying he had a headache and wanted to lay down. He never got up. I’ve heard similar stories from others. The Pastor has brought a nurse into his school and the church to vaccinate those had not yet received the shot.

Jennifer had her surgery this past Monday and everything seemed to go without difficulty despite the horror stories she had heard before going in. Before leaving the clinic the doctor asked to do an eye exam. Despite the cloudiness in her eyes from the procedure, she appeared to have 20/20 vision! What the final result will be when her eyes finally be when her eyes clear is yet to be seen but regardless she is very happy with her new vision. If only she could finish with those drops…

The night before her surgery the power in the house here started going haywire. Around the midnight I heard the ceiling fan speed up and the air conditioner started making an awful noise. Power irregularities and blackouts are normal for hot season. I started going through the house shutting off everything I could. In one room a light bulb POOFED the moment I switched on the light. When I finally reached the kitchen both the fridge and the freezer were making an awful noise. I powered both down and waited five to ten minutes thinking the situation would stabilize itself but every time I tried the larger appliances they made awful noise. I resigned myself to going back to bed without air conditioning. [Our daytime highs are in the mid-forties and it doesn’t fall below thirty degrees at night.] I woke at five I tried plugging but once more they made an awful noise and I was afraid they had both been fried. I waited until seven and called the technician who fixes fridges and air conditioners.

When he arrived around half past nine I tried to show him the problem I was having and low and behold they both worked fine. I got him to look at the air conditioner that had made all the noise and he figured it might be low on freon gas. He added some gas and told me to run it for half an hour see if it how it worked. I was happy to comply! Around noon I was work in the room (of course I had “forgotten” to shut the air conditioner off) when suddenly the fan started speed up the phone charger plugged in beside went POOF and started to smoke, and the air conditioner started making a racket. I once more ran through the house shutting everything off, mumbling unkind words about the power company. I called my neighbour Jeremy and asked if he was asking problems at his house. He said no but said it sounded like the time one of the breakers at the clinic was going bad and sending surges throughout the building. I called the electrician and when he finally arrived he said the main breaker in the house was shorting and sending 380 volts from time to time through certain phases of the house while shorting others down to about 100. (Outlets here give normally give 220 V like Europe). When he finally installed the new breaker it was almost nine o’clock at night.

The next morning, our worker found the water bill at the front gate. He came to me saying, “Are you sure there isn’t a water leak some place in the house? Your water bill is outrageously high!” In fact, the readings covered a period when we had mostly been away. I asked him to check the meter to see if was turning right now even though all the taps were off. Nothing. “You know there’s water all over the outside wall by the kitchen,” he said. Nope, didn’t know that. I called the landlords plumber who said he couldn’t come until four in the afternoon. When he finally arrived and saw what was happening he said, “Oh we got open this up right away and block this up,” and started hammering away at the wall. He opened it up and found the broken pipe capped and said, “Well, I can’t fix this today. Hopefully I’ll be able to get the materials to fix it tomorrow.” We still have no water in the kitchen.

This morning the light won’t come on in the fridge and the water bottles don’t feel very cold despite sitting in there all night.

I guess its just another hot season in Niger.

Despite the challenges God is good and there are many here who would be happy just have some electricity and a fan that blows everyone once in a while. Pray for Niger and for Jennifer’s recovery from surgery.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Sam and Karim

I’ve had several visitors this week. Monday, “Sam”  showed up with his mother. They are relatives of our night guard who were in town for medical care. The story I’d been told was that they had spent the last month or two in the national hospital but that they didn’t do anything but keep taking his money. They said his cheek had swollen but then the swelling had gone done when a hole opened into his mouth. I figured that this might be a tooth abscess that penetrated the skin on his cheek. I wondered if maybe they were experience some prejudice as foreigners—they are Malian nomads from the north—not always the most popular group since the war in Mali though many of them suffered violence from rebels themselves.
We went to see the doctors at our friends clinic a cooperative run by a local church with Western doctors. I asked them to bring all the paper work from the hospital with them. I hadn’t actually seen Sam’s face until we arrived in the doctor’s office since his head was wrapped with the traditional turban that also covered his face. We quickly realized that this was much more serious than a tooth abscess. The paper work he brought indicated he had been on chemotherapy , and the large gaping wound in his cheek was actually mouth cancer in advanced stages. Sam is only twenty but the doctors were not optimistic about his future. Today he is travelling back to Mali with his mother to see his dad who has been selling his camels to pay for his son’s medical care. I told his mom that I would pray that God would bring him health.
Wednesday night I had another visitor. I first met Kareem in December when he banged on my door one Saturday afternoon demanding a job. He was a hefty looking guy angrily yelling “I need a job. You have to give me a job!” I quietly told him I didn’t have any work for him right now but if he was hungry I could give him some rice. When Jennifer brought a bag of rice he said he didn’t need any food he just needed a job—he needed to know that at the end of the month there would be a salary for him. Despite his intimidating demeanour something inside said this man needs to know that God cares. He told me how he felt despised by people as he went around town, that people treated him like dirt. When I told that wasn’t true, that he was a person of worth created in the image of God, he stopped talking and looked at  me not knowing what to say. Finally, he said, “But you have to come see where I live with my mother and little sister to see how hard things are for us.” I told him that I would stop by the following week, thinking it might be better to take another man along with me. I stopped by the following week and later delivered some cookies on Christmas Eve.
This week Kareem called saying he wanted to talk to me. He arrived in a security guard uniform. Apparently he’d found work earlier this month. He talked for an hour or so, talking about his family and his own uncertainties. His real reason for showing up was to thank me for caring for him when he had made it difficult. That my actions had demonstrated God’s love in ways that he hadn’t seen in others around him. He was very confused about religion and wasn’t able to choose between Jesus and Mohammed (that had split his family) but that it meant a lot to be treat with real compassion by a stranger. Please pray for him and his family.

Please pray for Jenn as she has discovered that she has cataracts. Pray that she has wisdom in knowing how to deal with this situation and that God’s hand would be at work through all of these circumstances.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Picking up the pieces

How do I find the words to express the feelings and the loss of the past week?
The destruction seems surreal and all too real at the same time. Our church and the pastors house was looted, and burned and they lost everything but the clothes on their back and the vehicles that they had with them. It is tragic, especially because this wasn't one isolated incident but happened to numerous pastors and numerous churches across this country.
And yet...
We have much to be thankful for.
It has been beautiful to watch the church come around them and support them in various ways helping with food and clothes and just being there for them. God is at work.
Please pray for the church in Niger that they will rise up stronger as a result of this persecution. Pray for us as we process what has gone on here and help others do the same. Pray for the pastor and his family as they start over again and the many others in the same situation. Pray for the government as they try to respond to what has happened here. Pray for peace.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

It was a two house coat morning

I guess it is all about perspective... for me it was a two house coat morning (keep in mind that both of my house coats are lightweight cotton and all of my pjs are summer weight), however for my sons it was shorts and t-shirt weather (one was only because he didn’t remember that he owned a pair of track pants!). The actual temperature was 14C in the house at 6 this morning when everyone was rushing to get ready for school. Aahh cold season! If it wasn’t for the dust in the air (and basically in everything) it would be almost heavenly. My neighbours tend to disagree with me on that and bundle up in their winter coats and hats. We were even told this week that there wouldn’t be Sunday school because “no one will make it for 9am, it too cold!”

I am sure that if you are reading this from somewhere other than Niger you must be laughing and thinking that we don’t know cold and it is so true. But sometimes cold is relative to how hot it gets, so I’ll bundle up in my two house coats and try to remember this feeling when hot season rolls around next March/April.
Two exciting new developments happen this week: company is coming and we finally have paperwork with the electric company for the new building. It isn’t that they have actually started to connect the building to the electricity (that will probably be weeks if not months away by the time the power line is put through) but we have paid our dues and so they will hopefully start the work soon. We are also looking forward to a visit from our boss and another Canadian pastor as they come to help oversee the first ordination service that we have in Niger.