Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Fields Are White Unto Harvest

Do you remember the verse where Jesus says to lift up your eyes because the fields are white unto harvest? Well, the Songhai use the same expression.

During the rainy season, the millet was planted and grew strong and tall. During that time, church members went out and weeded the entire field by hand.
But now, the rainy season has come and gone. As things turn dry, the millet plants begin to dry up, losing their green color. The Songhai then begin saying, "We need to harvest the millet because it is white." Now, if you ask me, the plants are brown, but if you look across an entire field, you could use the word "white" to describe it. It is certainly a contrast to the green that we saw only a month ago.

Remember Jeremy and John's hard work of gathering manure and making a huge compost pile? Then we talked about how Jeremy dug zai holes by hand on the church property. Jeremy never got to see the results of his hard work, so this one is for you, Jeremy. We are currently (I use the word "we" collectively, but I haven't done any work so far!) harvesting the millet.

We have hired two women to get threash the millet. This is a huge job as they have to get the millet off the stalks and then take it to an open, windy place to get all the chaff off it. I hope to get some pictures of this within the next month.

Continue to pray for us as we work towards bringing in a harvest here. At one point, we thought the harvest had begun. Now it seems like we're still digging zai holes. At any rate, God knows where we are in the process and it is He who sends the rain and the sun. May He provide for an abundant harvest of souls.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Ramadan Fete

Ramadan was celebrated in Tera a week ago Thursday (the
11th). This is always a happy day when the end of the month-long fast is celebrated. Everybody starts getting ready days ahead of time by plaiting their hair, putting on henna, fixing up their house, and going to the market to buy new things. On the day of the fete, everybody puts on their new clothes then goes to the mosque to pray. When they get home the women get busy fixing a huge celebratory meal. The men sit around playing cards, chatting, and listening to the radio. The kids run around, make a lot of noise, get sent on errands to buy spices for the sauce, and generally get in the way. Finally the big meal is served and everybody feasts. Extra food is cooked to give to friends, neighbors, and especially to the poor. Friends eat together and forgive each other for the past year's offenses. Later in the day everybody visits everybody else and small gifts of money, gum, or candy are given to the children.

We do not celebrate Ramadan, per se, but it is fun to watch our friends celebrate. Suzanne went with some of her girlfriends to get henna done. When they got there, the lady was already doing somebody else, so Suzanne had to wait her turn. Then it took hours to do her feet and left hand. It was quite a work of art, as you can see! She also had a matching outfit made, but as she didn't celebrate Ramadan, she didn't get to pick it up at the tailor's until later this week. Our neighbor brought food to Suzanne and me (she was too busy for us to go sit with her to eat). John went and ate with her husband, though.

I also got a new outfit, but it was quite by accident that it turned out to be a Ramadan outfit! I took it to the tailor well before Ramadan and he promised me it would be done by Sunday. Then we were called to Niamey to be with Suzanne during her asthma attack....that was the Friday before the Sunday I was to get the outfit. So I stopped to tell him to just set it aside and I would get it when I got back to town. Well, he just assumed I would celebrate the fete in Niamey and since he had mountains of work to do making new outfits for dozens of people, he just put my outfit aside and didn't work on it. So, when I came back to town, he didn't have it ready, even though a week and half had passed since he said it would be ready!
I've been reading I Thessalonians 4 & 5 where Paul reminds us that Jesus will come back like a thief in the night. We'll be saying we have plenty of time and will be doing other things and with out warning, He will be here. The whole thing with the tailor reminded me of that. He thought he had plenty of time and so he busied himself with other things. Then he was embarrassed when I came back unanounced and he was not ready. What a vivid picture to go with my Bible study! Maranatha! Let me be ready for your return, Lord.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Bunny Rabbit

This is the month of Ramadan. After fasting all day in heat that is now exceeding 100 degrees every day, people are ready to enjoy a little good food and special drinks in the evening. They eat treats like dates and drink special juices like lemonade. People stay up late to enjoy the extra treats and to enjoy each other's company. Children have special games they play during Ramadan.

One of their favorites is called "Tooba-tooba" which loosely translated is "The Bunny Rabbit". The kids fold up pieces of paper then tie them on strings which they tie to their bodies. They like to wear other things like a "skirt" that looks somewhat like a Hawaiian grass skirt. They put coke bottle lids in cans which they smash so that they are shut and the lids inside can't fall out. Then they run around the neighborhood together making all sorts of racket. Everybody is supposed to give them a handfull of millet or a few sugar cubes or a little bit of money. It's a lot like Halloween. How do you like Jumaasi's matching outfit? LOL!

Why "The Bunny Rabbit"? I have no idea! I'm still trying to figure it out. I've asked a few kids why they do it and they just say to get the treats. I need to spend time finding out from an adult if they know the history behind it.

Last year an adult came around with the kids. He's kind of a break dancer in a traditional African dance kind of way. He had a machete and acted like he was slicing his neck with it, turned his eyelids inside out, etc. He drew quite a crowd and was quite the entertainer. Jeremy took this photo.
The month of Ramadan is almost over and life will soon go back to normal, including quieter nights!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Suzanne and her asthma

Last Saturday Suzanne had a terrible asthma attack. There was a youth group activity at a compound a couple of miles away from Sahel Academy. They were going to play Capture the Flag, but Suzanne never got to play. Somebody was burning stuff on the compound and the smoke really got to her. It wasn't long before she was gasping for air. Chad Winsor raced her back to the dorm, speeding along as fast as he could, honking his horn, and running every red light.

She got started on her nebulizer right away. Usually she is over it within 24 - 48 hours, but this time it went on for days. To make a long story short, we finally decided on Friday to come down to Niamey to be with her. We felt like she probably needed some Mom and Dad encouragement.

She has been testing her breathing level with her peak flow meter and doing her nebulizer four times a day and has been put on Prednisone for 10 days. She seemed to turn a corner yesterday afternoon and is doing much better now.

A long time ago Daniel started calling her "Motor Mouth" whenever she would do her nebulizer, so here is our little Motor Mouth.

Helping the Helpless

This is the month of fasting in this part of the world, as I'm sure you know. A friend recently shared these verses in her prayer letter:

"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:

to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke,

to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry

and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter --

When you see the naked, to clothe him....

And if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,

then your light will rise in the darkness and your night will become like the noonday. (Isaiah 58: 6, 7, and 10.

Wow. Those are pretty heavy verses and I'm not sure I know exactly what they mean. I definitely want to spend some time studying them.

But, one thing for sure, we are surrounded by the hungry, the dis-advantaged, and those society looks down upon. We are constantly surrounded by the poorest of the poor and we find it physically, emotionally, and financially exhausting. We often want to just ignore the problems because anything we do seems so little compared to the real need.

A lady came in with this baby one day....not to ask for anything, but just because she was with a friend who had come to greet me. Just looking at the poor child broke my heart. They called her "The dried up one". She is obviously severely malnourished. I asked if the mother doesn't breast feed her and they said something about her breasts were dried up. (The lady holding the baby I think might have been the grandmother.) I think the mother has been sick as well as the baby. I explained to her that she should mash up rice and beans for the baby (she is 10 months old) and feed it mashed up vegetables and peanut butter. One can only hope that she will survive. What could I do? What would you do if you were in my place?

My houselady's son was sick. He gave him a dose of chloroquine for malaria which is prevalent at this time of year. He took the entire course and was still sick. Here he is sleeping on our porch with a raging fever....right in front of the door so we could hardly get in or out of the house. One day she came in and said his feet and legs were itching so bad he had hardly slept all night and he had blood in the urine. So we gave her money to take him to the doctor and then we gave her more money to do the lab work on the urine and then we gave her more money to buy the medicine. It turns out he has bilharzia, a potentially serious disease spread by a snail that thrives in dirty water. What could I do? What would you do if you were in my place?

OK, this one might be a little more complicated? There is a neighbor who has a mental illness. He is related to my houselady somehow...her husband's brother, nephew, or uncle....not sure which. One time years ago before we were careful about locking our house because we live in such a safe area, he came in our house at 4 in the morning and was going on and on about how he wanted to study the Bible with John. At that point we didn't have a clue who he was. We eventually got him out of the house and then the next day we found out that he is mentally ill (we don't know what the problem is). He's been around for a long time, kind of wandering around, sort of living at my houselady's house. Apparently over the summer he became quite violent and troublesome. They tied his wrists together with wire and dragged him off to the hospital, much against his will. There they gave him medicine to help him. Now he comes in our yard all the time to sleep. He just lays down anywhere. Here he is laying on top of his flip-flops and the garden hose, rolling around in the sand. One day he was sleeping in the chair and he leaned too far to the side and fell out on to the ground. He is so drugged out that he just sleeps constantly. The neighbor kids are all scared of him and won't come in the yard if he is there. And they're part of our what do we do? Let him sleep there where it is quiet and no body bothers him? Kick him out since he inconveniences us? What would you do if you were us?

Lots of opportunities, yes! Easy? No! Pray that we can fulfill Isaiah 58 in the way that God wants us to do. Pray for wisdom. Just giving things out isn't always the best thing.