Friday, November 10, 2006

An "Only God" Story

Now, here's one of those "only God" stories! A lot of people would say we were lucky, but I believe in the providence of God.

On October 16, we had a flat tire. We can't remember, but apparently the lugs hadn't been tightened very well when it was changed. We drove like that until October 31, when we returned to Tera.

We got to the ferry in plenty of time to get on without having a long wait. Sometimes, like in this picture, we have to wait a long time because the ferry can only take about 12 normal sized vehicles. But, on October 31st one of the four or five vehicles in line in front of us was a huge truck (a semi-size). He got on with about 2 other vehicles and there was no room for us. We didn't really want to get on with him anyway! So, we had to wait another hour for the ferry. It's hard to wait because there is no shade there and you are parked on blazing hot tar that radiates the heat of the sun. It's also frustrating because it only takes 5 minutes to cross the river!

We got on the ferry and were crossing to the other side. On the ferry, you park in the middle and then on both sides there are railings with benches behind them for people to sit on. Well, a bunch of guys were leaning/sitting on the railing right beside our truck. One of them says to John, "Your lugs are loose". He got out and checked and sure enough! Wow! That was a scary thought.

When we got off the ferry we went just a little ways down the road and then changed the tire because we still had the spare on. To do that, we had to unload a lot of the weight off the back so the jack wouldn't break. Changing the tire is a dirty job, and takes a fair bit of muscle work. It wasn't long before the change was made and we were back on our way.

But just think....I believe God had us miss the ferry we wanted on purpose so that we'd be on with a "random" guy who "just happened" to know enough about cars and tires to recognize a problem when he saw one. The average citizen wouldn't have a clue. All of this did make us get home late, but at least we got home safe and sound!

My next post will be on or around December 12 because I won't be in Niamey again until then. Make sure you check John's and Jeremy's blogs. They've both updated this week and both are excellent. John's is and Jeremy's is

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A Virtual Tour, Part VII

Well, that's our little house. It's only 1,161.875 square feet. But we all love it. There are a lot of happy memories in this house.

I realized I should have written this in reverse order. So, scroll down to "A Virtual Tour of Our House" and start there and read backwards!

These pictures make it look all so quiet and peaceful. But it's seldom quiet! We usually have a minimum of 5 kids playing in the yard. I'm not sure why they think it's the playground, but they do. And we don't least not until they start fighting. Other people come and go and it's more like Grand Central Station on some days than peaceful and quiet. At least our bedroom is quiet as we usually keep the windows shut in there.

So, Natalie, does it match up to your dreams? Mike and Alesha, are you homesick and when are you coming back?

The lights are on...come visit. Actually, the lights aren't always on. About a month ago, right before Jeremy came, we had three days of power cuts. The first day it was off 22 hours, the 2nd day it was off 15 hours, and the 3rd day it was off 5 hours. I think they were repairing something, and it was probably worth it because it has worked pretty well since then.

Y'all come, now!

A Virtual Tour, Part VI

This is our bedroom. And our office. Fortunately it's a big room because we have tons of furniture in here! In the far corner is a computer desk and a regular desk. Move around the room to the right is a small bookshelf and then a large one. Next to the bookshelf is a dresser and then a small table that was a sewing table, but since I don't sew that often, it's now a desk for the laptop computer.

Hey! Who's that handsome guy that keeps getting in my pictures?

In the middle of the room is our bed. It was a queen size waterbed, but, after developing a hole for the umpteenth time, we just have a double mattress on it. Near the bed is our air conditioning unit. We slept outside for years, but because of John's allergies and the difficulty of getting a good night's sleep outside due to noise and light (you can read by the full moon here), we finally broke down and got an AC so we could have a more controlled sleeping environment.

The wall to the right of the door is covered with cupboards...again no closet in this room, either. One has computer, stationary, and other paper goods in it. The large one is our linen closet, our medicine cupboard, and our clothes closet. This is the size of space John and I both have to hang our clothes. It encourages you to keep your wardrobe down to the minimum! Neither of us are hurting for things to wear, so I think it's a good thing. And then there is the file cabinet.

Both Mom and Dad Hall and Mom and Dad DeValve have slept in this room and I'm sure they recognize it, though I have changed the curtains since they were last here.

A Virtual Tour, Part V

If you're in the hallway facing the bathroom, Daniel and Suzanne's room is to the right. We only have two bedrooms, so they've alway

s had to share a room. Suzanne's bed is in the foreground and Daniel's is in the background. They also have a bookshelf, a dresser, a little table, and the little desk where John is working. When they're not home we use their room as an extended work space. But now Jeremy is here and so this is his room. He sleeps in Daniel's bed and uses the little desk for his computer. We also brought another dresser from Niamey for him (seen in this photo). There is no closet in this room. There are two windows, so it's light and airy. Notice the cement floors, Joanna! This one is even two-toned because it needed to be repaired and the cement turned out to be a different color and texture!

A Virtual Tour, Part IV

From the living room, you go through this little arch -- a feature unique to our house! There's a little hallway there and we have a cupboard where we keep our games and puzzles. This is also our "hall of fame" where all our family and relatives pictures are hung.

This hall leads you straight into the bathroom. To say that you can see it all in this picture says it all! You can turn around in it, but not much more! That is our shower curtain to the left. It's about big enough to stand in...turning around or bending over is questionable! You can see the toilet and the sink and there is a little cupboard for the towels. Everything else is in the window. Because we live in a mud-brick house, the window sills are about a foot wide and make good storage places... if you don't mind if the stuff being stored gets dusty!

A Virtual Tour, Part III

From the kitchen, you go into the living room/dining room. Or you can get to it through the big double doors on the front of the house.

The table is just to the left of the door from the kitchen and this big dish cupboard is to the right. Displayed on this cupboard are photos of our parents, our siblings, and all of our nieces and nephews.

The sitting area is straight ahead. We had a carpenter make these chairs, but he didn't do it exactly as we wanted. So, they're a bit short in the sit and very straight up and down and not exactly comfortable! The brown chair is one we had borrowed from the mission to have in Mike's house. It's so comfortable we kept it in our house for him to use while we were gone. And now we've got it "for Jeremy". When he leaves we'll have to give it back, I'm afraid.

You can only see one bookshelf in this picture, but we have a total of four of them in our living room! Guess what we like to do!!

A Virtual Tour, Part II

This is the front of our house. The awning thing over the porch helps keep the house somewhat cooler as the front gets the afternoon sun. Pre-awning days you couldn't step out on the porch barefoot in the afternoon or you'd burn your feet.

The smaller door to the right is the kitchen door and that's the one we use the most. As you come in you'll see the stove to your left along with a little table where my microwave sits. Yes! A microwave. I love it. It's perfect for heating leftovers. Of course, it all depends on whether or not the electricity is working!

To your right behind the door is a big barrel where we keep a 100-pound bag of flour. I also have a 100-pound bag of sugar in a barrel in the storeroom. My sink and my window on the world is also to the right. On the left just beyond the little table is the door into the living room and then my fridge. At the end of the room is a bank of cupboards where I keep a month's supply of tinned food and other things. I also have a little desk there where I can plan my menus and keep my cookbooks.

On that desk I have an interesting collection of Coke cans that happened quite by accident. For one thing, I love drinking Coke. But I saved one of the little ones off the plane once just because I thought it was cute. Then the next time we flew, the Coke can was written in Arabic and I thought that was cool. Then my brother gave me a Chinese can and a Korean can. I also have a French can. So, they're not just any old can...they have to be in another language.

On any given day you'll find me spending a lot of my time in the kitchen. Everything is made from scratch. I make my own bread. Here I am making English muffins. My favorite cookbook is More With Less, put together by the Mennonites. I've learned alot about cooking from my Mennonite sisters! Another favorite is an old 1950's Betty Crocker cookbook. Both of these books use basic ingredients and don't call for a mix of this or that or strange ingredients. Sometimes cooking is a challenge because ingredients are limited. John says I create meals ex nihilo (out of nothing). At least I have a dishwasher! Her name is Maimouna and she talks to me. I bet that's more than your dishwasher can do!!

Virtual Tour of Our House

When you come in our gate (I forgot to get a picture of that!) straight ahead you see our house with a big blue water tank or "chateau" as they say here. This is for water storage because a good part of the year we are without water or have very little water. To your right, upon entry, there is an outside bathroom, which is just a hole in the ground. When water has been really scarce, we have used that so we can minimize water use. But at the moment we are using the inside toilet. Hallelujah!

To the left is this building which houses our office/classroom and a store room. I spend a lot of time in the classroom as that's where I do all my teaching and most of my studying. The teen guys like to hang out in there, too, studying and doing homework.

Here you can see what it looks like inside. We have lots of French books people can borrow, Bible correspondence courses people can take, picture books kids can look at, and videos and DVDs to watch. It's also where we have most of our classes, as I said above.

This is a picture of my desk while studying for a Sunday School lesson. I've got going at one and the same time, the English lesson, its Songhai translation, a Zarma Bible, an English Bible, and a Zarma dictionary, as well as the notes I'm making. I'm not too confused, really!

And this is what happens after all that studying. Kids come and hear the Gospel message. This day, though, Suzanne was teaching. What a natural. I have a weird accent and a limited vocabulary. She (and Daniel), however, speaks like a native.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Death of a Child

Another little child has died. About a month ago the daughter of a believer in Tera died and the same day the daughter of a believer in Doumba died. This one belongs to D-- and H--, Christians in Doumba. She was 7 months old. The parents had been taking her to the dispensary since October 22. She got shots and medicines, but her fever kept coming and going. Then she couldn't have a bowel movement and her little tummy swelled up. They went back on Thursday and got more medicine. The nurses finally said if she wasn't better by morning they should take her to the hospital in Tera.

On Friday morning a Doumba guy came to our house around 6:30 a.m. I said, without thinking about why he might have come 5 miles on a bike so early in the morning, "Wow! You got up early." Then he told me D-- had sent him to tell us that their baby had died around midnight.

D-- and H-- had her in bed between them. (This would be the normal sleeping arrangement as a nursing infant always sleeps with his/her mother.) The next oldest child kept asking if she would get better. I didn't understand if he was kneeling by the bed, or was on the floor beside them, but he finally fell asleep. When the baby died H-- told D-- to go outside with the baby so that thelittle boy wouldn't be afraid if he woke up. At dawn when the neighbors got up to pray, they told them the baby had died and they went to bury her (only men go to the burial).

All of this the mother told me with dry eyes while she cleaned millet to make for supper. Oh yes, she was sad and, yes, she will miss the baby, but death amongst children seems to be just part of the routine here.
The medical system is so pitiful. The doctors and nurses do what they can with what they have. But I dare say no lab tests were ever run on her. Maybe it was malaria, maybe not. Maybe it was something else. Nobody will ever know. Nobody will ever demand to know.

This acceptance of the death of children is so hard to fathom. And yet I find myself just accepting it as the parents and grandparents accept it. It happens so often, you find you cannot grieve as maybe you should.

This is my friend H--, but the baby is not the one who died. This is the baby before that one...the little boy who knelt by his parent's bed while his sister lay dying. The girl in front of her is her big sister. She was so tired of having all brothers and was so glad when her mom finally had another girl. Now she is gone.

(Thanks, Mike, for the photo.)