Monday, October 30, 2006

Mary


Last post was about my cute little neighbor girl. This post is about one of her big sisters. I can't decide if I want to use names on my blog or not. In some ways I doubt if it will matter if I do. But on the other hand, especially in stories like this one, I want to do everything in my power to protect the person from possible persecution. So, I will probably use a code name or initials so I don't have to call the person "she" or some other ambiguous non-name.

So, we'll call this girl Mary. I talked about her some while we were on home assignment, so you might know this story already!

Suzanne and Mary have grown up together and have been really good friends. When I started having kids' club and Sunday School, Mary showed up for every single class. She loved everything that was being taught and I could tell she was really understanding it. Whenever there was a fete (a holiday) on a Sunday, she would come to Sunday School instead of celebrating with her friends.

When we showed the Jesus video in different places throughout town in the week before Christmas, she went with us every single night. When the crucifixion scene would come up, Mary would hide her face or move away from the screen so she wouldn't have to watch it. The fact that Jesus suffered so much really moved her.

Before we left for home assignment, I talked to her about following Jesus. But I said if she followed Him, she need to follow Him and Him alone. She couldn't follow Him and follow her people's religion at the same time. She wasn't sure if she could do that, even though she appears to love Jesus with her whole heart.

While we were on home assignment, she got married. She is about 16. Her husband took her to Ghana with him. I have really missed her since she's been gone and we've come back. Like her little sister, she was around all the time. She helped fill in the big hole Suzanne leaves when she's at boarding school.

Now, just a few days ago....and this is why I am repeating this story...her brother told me that she said she is looking for somebody in Ghana to teach her the Bible.

Please pray about this! She speaks Fulani and Songhai. She does not speak English or any Ghanaian languages. There are many, many Christians in Ghana, but not many who would speak Fulani or Songhai. Pray that she will "run into" a Christian that can communicate with her and can lead her to a full understanding of what it means to accept Christ.

I love this girl and want her to be a part of God's family!

Friday, October 27, 2006

What a Cutie!

This little girl is so cute! She lives right next

door in a round grass hut. She is six years old and is the youngest of 7 children. Her four oldest sisters are all married. Her family is Fulani, not Songhai, but they speak Songhai fluently. She hangs out at my house all the time. If I'm working in the office, she'll sit and look at books. If I'm in the kitchen, she peeks in the door or the window. If I'm taking down laundry, she wants to put the pins in the bag. If I go somewhere, she'll go with me.

One day I was peeling bananas to make banana muffins. She and her sister wanted to know what it was, so I gave them each a piece. You know the face a baby makes when they put a pickle in their mouth for the first time? Well, that's the face she made when she put that banana in her mouth! She spat it out and wiped her sticky fingers on the wall to get the slimy feeling off. She let me know just how disgusting she thinks bananas are.

She bought these glasses one day for about 10 cents. She was so proud of them! I doubt if they lasted long.

She's not very cuddly. I'll try to get her to sit on my lap or to hold my hand if we're walking somewhere, but she won't do it. She likes to be with me, but not THAT close!

This is her older sister who is closest to her in age. She's also cute. They also have a brother...one boy with six sisters!

And this is her niece, who is actually older than her. They live on the same compound, but in a separate hut.

I want to post something about one of their older sisters, so maybe that will be next!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Time to Read

Because life moves more slowly in our small town, I have a lot more time to read than I did in the US. So, I thought I'd share with you some of the books I've read since returning to Niger. These aren't necessarily my favorite books in the world. I don't think any of them have been life-changing or earth-shaking. But if you don't know what to read next, this might give you some ideas.

The Bride Price by Buchi Emecheta. This book takes place in Nigeria and is the story of a girl who dares to fall in love outside of her caste and what happens as a result. And that's all I'm going to say, but I really do recommend this book if you enjoy reading about Africa.

I've read several books by Beverly Lewis about the Amish. This is light reading, but it does make you long for a simpler life.

Mountain Breezes: The Collected Poems of Amy Carmichael. This is a huge book of Amy Carmichael's poetry. She was a missionary in India in the early 1900's who rescued many children from child prostitution in the temples. With this many poems to choose from, there were many I didn't care for and several that really moved me. Here's one that really spoke to my heart as I've been depressed over the believers not attending services.

Not in Vain
(Habakkuk 3:17-18)

Not in vain, the tedious toil
On an unresponsive soil,
Travail, tears in secret shed
Over hopes that lay as dead.
All in vain, thy faint heart cries.
Not in vain, thy Lord replies:
Nothing is too good to be;
Then believe, believe to see.

Did thy labor turn to dust?
Suff’ring – did it eat like rust
Till the blade that once was keen
As a blunted tool is seen?
Dust and rust thy life’s reward?
Slay the thought; believe thy Lord!
When thy soul is in distress,
Think upon His faithfulness.

Though there be not fig nor vine,
In thy stall there be no kine,
Flock be cut off from the fold,
Not a single lamb be told,
And thy olive berry fall
Yielding no sweet oil at all,
Pulse-seed wither in the pod –
Still do thou rejoice in God.

But consider, was it vain
All the travail on the plain?
For the bud is on the bough;
It is green where thou didst plow.
Listen, tramp of little feet,
Call of little lambs that bleat;
Hearken to it. Verily,
Nothing is too good to be.

Robert Whitlow writes books revolving around courts and law. The flyleaf compares him to a cross between John Grisham and Frank Peretti. That pretty well sums it up. They are real page-turners that you can't put down. I'm not sure I agree with his theology right down the line, but they will certainly motivate you to be more involved in serious prayer.

Strong Women, Soft Hearts by Paula Rinehart has also encouraged me. Here, in our situation, surrounded by hurting people with proud, hard hearts, you have to be a strong woman to survive. But to be strong often means that you harden your heart so you don't feel the pain. She shows how we need to be feeling, loving people while remaining strong. A strong woman can also have a soft heart.

Nurse Nancy

Some of my all-time favorite books growing up were the Jungle Doctor books. Being a doctor or nurse in Africa sounded like a lot of fun! When I was a student at Cedarville I toyed with the idea....for about 5 days...of being a nurse. Then I started working evenings as a receptionist at the Campus Health Center and realized nursing wasn't the job for me!

Now, here I am...playing nurse. We live in a country where people can't even afford to spend the $1.00 to go to the dispensary because that means they might not be able to buy food for the evening meal. If it's a terrible emergency, they'll come up with the money, but not if it's a first aid treatment. Sadly, serious situations are often thought to be minor and they are out of control before they go to get medical help. And nobody has a well stocked medicine cupboard with the basics like Tylenol, bandaids, and hydrogen peroxideat home, either.

This little girl whose foot I'm treating came to me with a huge gash on the bottom of her foot. She had jumped into the resevoir and landed on something sharp on the bottom. Her foot was slashed wide open, but she didn't come to me until a day or two later. By then the gash was starting to heal and the skin was dry around the slash. I'm pretty sure she should have had stitches, and I'm no nurse, but I think it was too late by then to do stitches. I asked the mother why they hadn't taken her to the dispensary and she said, "Hannatu! We don't even have money for food!" Wow! What a reminder to be a little more gentle in my approach, like, "When something happens like this, come to us right away so we can give you money for the dispensary."

So I cleaned it good with peroxide and we kept it covered from the flies. She came every day for cleaning and it healed nicely. How do you like all my little nursing assistants?

During that time, a little boy came. His nose was all swollen up and he had a big scab on the side of it. His mother said, "The donkey stepped on his nose." I couldn't help it! I had to laugh...how does a donkey step on your nose. Was he lying in the road or what. Well, yes, he was, but not by choice. The donkey threw him, then stepped on him. I cleaned the scab good, and gave him money for the dispensary because I thought it might be broken. It wasn't broken, but I think they gave him an antibiotic.

Three of our neighbor children came down with mumps. I looked that up in my trusty Where There Is No Doctor and found out that there is no medicine for it and to just give tylenol for the fever and discomfort. And no, they hadn't had all their immunizations even though they are free from the health care system.

My neighbor lady always gets a serious case of malaria every year. I usually give her a treatment of chloroquine, but there is a lot of resistant malaria around. So I got her a treatment of Arsumax and she recovered quickly.

By the way, did you know that malaria still kills more people than AIDS in this part of Africa? An article I read recently said, "Between 700,000 and 2.7 million people die each year from malaria, more than 75 percent of them African children. " (dittosinc.com).

No, I'm not a nurse. No, I don't enjoy nursing. But, how can I not help when I have the ability to do so?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Cinderella's Step-sisters Wear Flip-flops


The footwear of choice here in Niger is definitely flip-flops. They are comfortable, cheap, and practical. I mean, have you ever tried wearing closed -in shoes in sand? It doesn't take long before they're full of sand and that's not very comfortable!


One day one of my friends came to visit me. She and her family are living
out in the bush during the rainy season. She had on some kind of fancy shoes, but she said she was going to take them off as soon as she got outside of town and then walk home barefoot. Her flip-flops had broken and she couldn't walk in fancy, impractical shoes. I asked her how long it would take to get home and she said two hours. The way I figure, that is at least 6 miles if you walk moderately fast and 8 miles if you walk really fast. Imagine that...6 miles barefoot.

What could I do? I thought of all my shoes...brown, black, and white... and decided I really didn't need the nice red and blue flipflops I was wearing. Flip-flops cost not more than $2.00 for a really nice pair or $1.00 for a cheap pair. But she didn't even have that much because all the money she has goes for food. So I said, "You can have these if they fit you." It was rather like Cinderella's sisters trying to shove their feet into the glass slipper. She crammed her foot in and her heel was hanging off the back, but with a huge smile she declared that they fit just fine! I'm sure she had a much easier walk home.

I saw her last week and they still didn't fit, but she was still happy with them!! And guess what? I haven't really missed them!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Picnic Rock






On the last night the kids were in Tera, we went to Picnic Rock. It's not your typical place for a picnic...you know, green grass, trees, a lake, maybe a little playground, picnic tables, and a place to grill your meat. Nope! It's unique....no shade, dry, prickly grass, rocks, rocks, rocks. But it's got a hill you can climb and from the top of the hill you can see for miles. On top of that hill, in addition to piles of rocks, is a cement pillar. It's a mystery in and of itself, but we like to use it as a pedestal on which to make all sorts of poses. Picnic Rock is quiet and peaceful and we always go home feeling refreshed, like we've been able to leave the hustle and bustle of the crowded town for just a little while. It's no wonder Jesus liked to go up on the mountain to pray and to get away from the crowds for awhile.

A Week in Tera


Daniel and Suzanne were home this entire week. It was a great time. They got to sleep in and relax after finishing their first quarter of school. It was also Jeremy's first week in Tera, so Daniel introduced him to a lot of his friends and showed him around a bit. John and I tried to spend as much time with the kids as possible. I spent a lot of time cooking and Suzanne was a wonderful helper in the kitchen. (The boys did KP duty, too! :) )

Suzanne got henna put on her feet. First you put black electrical tape on your feet to create a well-defined line for the henna. Then you put the henna on and leave it for several hours. When you take the henna off, your feet are a reddish color. This red color is then covered up with a special "something" that creates a chemical reaction and turns the red to black. You then have beautiful pitch black feet. Unfortunately I didn't get a picture of the end product!

One day Daniel and Jeremy and co. rented bikes and rode around for about an hour. The bikes are all used and are not in top-notch condition! Jeremy's bike had no brakes and Daniel's chain kept coming off. But, hey! for about 25 cents, you can't get too picky! Tour de France, here we come!

Spirit Week



The week before the NUTS tournament was Spirit Week. And the last day of Spirit Week was school colors day. The day ended with a pep rally for the softball teams. Can you guess the school colors?

NUTS


We were in town last weekend for the annual softball tournament. Sahel Academy had three teams this year...two "social" and one "competitive". Pretty much the social teams are junior high and high school kids and the competitive are men or older teens. Daniel was the captain of the older social team. I tried and tried to get a good photo of him at bat, but didn't ever succeed! Anyway, his team made it all the way to the finals. We lost that game, giving us 2nd place in the Social Division of the tournament. Ironically, it was Daniel's best-played game of the entire tournament. He had two runs to third base and one home run. Unfortunately he was the first up to bat with the home run, so he didn't get any RBI's.

By the way, the title "NUTS" is because that's what the tournament is called...NUTS...Niamey Universal Tournament of Softball (I think). I say it's NUTS because they play out in the blazing hot sun. It is probably at least 115 in the sun. Daniel played one game on Friday afternoon, three on Saturday, at something like 11, 1, and 3. If you know anything about Niger, you'll know that those are the hours when the heat is most unbearable! Then he played two games on Sunday, at 11 and at 4. Thankfully a huge cloud came up during the 4:00 game and gave them a little relief.

The tournament ended with a banquet of Mexican food. Mmmmmm, it was good.

Jeremy had arrived Friday evening, thankfully with no glitches in his travel. I think he enjoyed the tournament, but it was a bit overwhelming to meet everybody at once. Also, it may have given him a false impression of our life in Niger. We probably saw and talked to more English-speaking people in one weekend than we normally do in 6 months!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Giving Gifts

There is a nice custom in this area that says when you return from a trip you must bring your family and friends a gift. If you have just gone to another town for the day to the market, you may bring back some bean cakes or a piece of fruit. The longer you are gone, the nicer the gift you should bring back. So, if you are gone on a long trip for an extended period of time, you would bring back clothes or jewelry.

Since we were gone for a year we would need to bring back nicer gifts. The problem for us is that we know the entire neighborhood and that gets pretty expensive to buy gifts for everyone! Thankfully, my cousin, Jeanne, took us to a really nice thrift shop and I found a lot of good, barely used t-shirts there. Our church, Grace Bible in PA, also has "Open Closet" each year in which people in the church can bring used clothes and household items and give them away to other people in the church and to people living at low income levels. I was able to get some nice things there, too. So, we were able to return with tons of t-shirts for the kids, scarves and nail polish for the women, and playing cards and t-shirts for the men.

The kids were so excited when they got their shirts. One boy even wanted to know if I had taken their measurements before I left since they all fit so perfectly. They tried them on right away and then wanted me to take their pictures. I did until that got totally out of control! Too many kids, too much noise, too much confusion!!! Some of these kids weren't even wearing their new clothes. As you can see, we have some real hams in the group.

Friday, October 06, 2006

A New Fridge

Last term we started to have a lot of trouble with our fridge. It was over 20 years old and we were the third owners. The fan in the freezer that circulated the cold air would not work properly. We were having a repairman fix it every month or so. He finally got it fixed pretty well and it had been working consistently for several months. But we decided it couldn't be relied on any more, so we sold it just before we left. Mike had a fridge belonging to SIM that he was using.

So, the first thing we did when we got back to Niger was to buy a new fridge. With some money we had saved and with some gifts from some very generous people, we were able to get a very nice one. It cost about twice what a fridge would cost in the US. But if we had bought one in the US, then paid the import tax, it probably would have ended up being the same amount. Buying it here had the added advantage of having the fridge run on 220 volts instead of 110 like American fridges do.

Anyway, I am really happy with it. It freezes ice incredibly fast and it's supposed to be a power saver fridge. We'll see if our electricity bill is really any different or not! You can see in this picture of me how hot and sweaty I look. Being able to have a cold drink on a hot day is a wonderful thing!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Daniel and Suzanne in the dorm

Wow! It's been over a month since I disappeared into the land of no internet! Sometimes I miss it, but I suppose it's a big time saver to not have it. Except that when we come to Niamey then we have tons of e-mail waiting that we have to answer....this morning there were 263 messages waiting! Of course some of them were quickly deleted because they were just junk.

Daniel and Suzanne are settled at Sahel Academy and seem to be happy in the dorm. I say "seem" because I haven't seen them for a month! In just a few minutes we will be leaving to go see them at the school. Yeah!

There are 18 kids (3 of them belong to the dorm parents) and three staff in the dorm. It's a big and noisy family. They go to school, have extra curricular activities, and visit friends who live in town, just like any family. Each of the kids have chores they do each week. Here you see Suzanne having a turn at washing dishes. The kids come to the dorm after school, have a snack, and just hang out or study. Then in the evening when it is cooler, they go outside and play soccer, soft ball, volleyball or basketball. And with 18 kids in your family you pretty much always have enough kids to make two teams for sports. You never lack for someone to hang out with, either! What you may lack is a little peace and quiet, but I think they also learn to give each other the space they need.

Every week they have a Bible study and this year they are studying James. Many of the kids have accepted the challenge of memorizing the entire book of James! They also have community service they are involved in. Daniel helps with grounds-keeping and maintenance chores at the school and hopes to get involved in an outreach ministry to Zarma/Songhai taxi men. Suzanne, I think, will be helping at a local clinic.

Academically they are challenged as the level of courses is at an honors level. They just had quarterly exams -- their first quarter is already over!

Pray for all of us as we are separated. I sure do miss them when they're not home, but I'm glad for this opportunity for them to have a more well-rounded academic, spiritual and social life than they would get in Tera.