Sunday, August 26, 2012

Niger River Flooding: Saving the Stuff

"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you."  Isaiah 43:2

(All photography on this blog post by John DeValve)

Tuesday night as I wrote, water was beginning to gush into both the CBN (Bible School) and Sahel Academy campuses.  A wall had fallen on both campuses.  All the sandbags and hard work seemed to be for naught as water began seeping into buildings.

Two houses and part of a third on the Sahel campus are fairly dry.  Two houses on the CBN campus are dry.  All the other buildings have water in them.

On Wednesday the Sahel Academy staff met to pray and to weep together and to encourage each other the best they could.  They made no plans, just met together before God's throne.

On Wednesday John and I worked hard to get a house ready for colleagues arriving Thursday morning.  The original plan was for them to go into the other half of our duplex and take their time getting their own place set up.  But we suddenly needed the duplex for one of the families living at CBN, so we needed to scramble to get our friends' place ready so they could move directly into there.

On Thursday our director called me and several others into his office to start accessing the situation as far as housing.  As we made a list, we saw that we had 53 adults and children who suddenly had no place to live.  That's not quite right....many generous people have opened their homes and nobody is out on the street.  But many are in tight quarters with no place of their own.

We learned on Thursday that the Niger River Basin Authority has told us that with the dikes broken and nothing to hold back the river, Sahel Academy and CBN campuses are now part of the river.  The river will not really begin to dry up until March or April.  It will go down a bit, but will crest again in December or January.

That means Sahel Academy and ESPriT (the Bible school) will need to find other places to meet.  Our church no longer has a meeting place.  Child Evangelism, Emmaus Bible Correspondence School, and Navigators all had offices on the CBN compound.  We need to find housing for 53 people, including 18 dorm kids with their dorm parent family of five and the dorm assistant, which we want to keep together as a group.  

On Thursday John and several other missionaries went to ESPriT, the Bible School, to try to rescue library books.  The school director and many others were there with a canoe. Books were loaded on the canoe and then rowed to the gate where they were loaded into vehicles.  They were then transported across town to the SIM office where they were stored in an empty office.

Friday morning started with a time of prayer at the SIM Office.  We spent a good hour praying for those affected by the flood.

On Friday I met again with the Director and others to try to identify housing.  As one man on the committee said, it's like trying to put together a puzzle, but the pieces keep changing shape.  We are praying hard that God will provide the housing we need.  

Meanwhile the Sahel Academy board met to define the approach they need to take in the next few weeks.  By faith we are aiming to reopen school on September 17.  Where?  We do not know!  In the afternoon the staff met again to hear about the board's meeting.

On Friday John helped again at ESPriT, moving books out of the library.

On Saturday I went with two others to look at six houses.  One we can definitely just cross off our list as the cost is prohibitive.  Another one would take a lot of work as it doesn't really have a kitchen and the bathrooms are ridiculously small.  We've gotten leads from other missions on some possibilities as well.

John worked so hard, along with many, many others on Saturday. They went to Sahel Academy and waded through foul water with canoes to evacuate the books from the Sahel Academy library.  The bookshelves and much of the classroom equipment was moved to a Christian school across town who is temporarily loaning us their facilities for storage.

I wish I could feature every single person who has done something to help during this disaster.  The minute I would start, I would for sure leave somebody out.  It is just amazing how God's people have gathered around each other to help, to encourage, to spend exhausting hours in the sun and in foul water,  to do what needs to be done without complaint.  Many have worked behind the scenes and you don't even see them in pictures, but they are working hard.

A neighbor's house that fell
We would appreciate your continued prayers.  This week we are already looking at more rescuing of equipment from Sahel and of more house hunting for those needing housing.  Honestly, many of us are tired and some are walking around with very stunned looks on their faces.  One family has already had to move four times in a year and will have to move a 5th time before this is over. One of our Nigerien workers told me her house fell and another said extended family who lost their house have moved in with them and their house is also leaning and may go the next time it rains.  

As soon as we have a Project number where you can donate funds I will let you know.  These funds will cover loss of equipment, helping to cover the increased rent those who lost housing will now have to pay, restoration of the property when we are able, and helping Nigerien colleagues and neighbors.

"We went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance."  Psalm 66:12

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Flooding in Niamey

"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you."  Isaiah 43:2

Floods in Niger.  It seems hard to believe.  It's not totally unheard of....often flash floods occur after torrential rainfalls.  We spent more than one rainy season on long detours around bridges that had been washed out in flash floods.

But this is different.

We have been having an excellent rainy season with quite a lot of rain.  But places north and west that don't always get enough rain seem to also be having an excellent rainy season.  This has left the Niger River, which starts in Guinea, meanders its way north through Mali, and then runs right through Niamey and right past SIM's Bible school campus and Sahel Academy campus, swollen and bursting its banks.  I have never seen the river so high.  In fact, we were told that the measuring pole was put in the river in 1929 and it has never been completely covered until this year.

On Saturday the dike just upriver from the Kennedy Bridge that connects the main part of town to the "Behind-the-River" part, broke. Sahel Academy began filling sandbags to shore up their campus wall. The dike downriver from Sahel Academy was compromised.  People who live on the same road as our two campuses worked hard to fill sandbags to shore up the dike.   

Sunday morning we woke up to the sound of torrential rain on the roof.  It rained for four hours, maybe more (incredibly, I slept through most of it).  Every thing valuable at Sahel Academy was put at least 3 feet above ground.  Temporary homes were found for the dorm kids and all missionaries living on the two compounds.  The principal and school board chairman decided to cancel school for Monday.  Later that evening the neighbors gave up on keeping the dike from breaking downriver.

Monday the dike in front of Sahel Academy broke.  More sandbags were filled.  Not only was water threatening to come in the back side of the campus near the river, but it was also coming in from around the front.  Where the dike broke upriver, the river has backed up into the neighborhood known as Lamorde, circled around and came at the school towards the front gate.  Not only that, it was coming down the road from the other direction because of the breached dike downriver.  A dike was built around the gates of both campuses.  School was called off for the rest of the week.

Tuesday, we once again awoke to the sound of rain on the roof.  It was obvious it was a loosing battle to keep the water off the campuses.  The Bible school got their library books at least three feet up.  Missionaries and married students moved out of their homes. Thankfully the Bible school is not currently in session so there are not as many students on campus as there sometimes are.  Computer equipment was moved off the Bible school compound.  

Sahel students, staff, and parents continued filling sand bags, this time putting them in front of all the doors of the buildings to do our best to keep out water. Before they were done, the pile of sand was submerged and they were filling mud bags instead of sand bags.  The bags were getting heavier and heavier. We helped by moving some of the belongings of a family who arrive on Thursday out of a container where they've been stored.  Sadly, we can't move everybody's belongings because we have no place to put them.  When we left today, the storage containers were still on dry ground.

We have done all that is humanly possible.  We pray that the loss and damage to property will be minimal.  My heart is so sad for those in the neighborhood who have lost everything.  They too moved their belongings out of their houses, but their houses will not be able to be saved. Most of them are made of adobe, which "melts" when it gets wet.  They are also not built on a foundation (didn't Jesus say something about that!?), so they crash down as soon as they get overly wet.  

As we were in the road outside Sahel, loading trucks with vehicles, I heard a crash.  I went around the edge of the neighbor's property where some of our guys were trying to block up holes in our wall.  I asked them what happened and they said the neighbors' house had just fallen in.

Not more than half an hour later two ladies walked by.  I greeted them in Zarma and asked them where they live and if their house was ok.  The youngest, with a baby on her back, took my hand and said her house was the one next door.  She was so sad, but so stoic, never shedding a tear.  She took my hand and we stood there holding hands for a long time.  What could I say?  What comfort could I offer?  She had lost her entire house.

Yes, we've done all that's humanly possible. We leave our buildings and possessions in God's hands.  Even as I write this, I just heard that at a wall at the Bible school and one at Sahel collapsed. The loss is going to be difficult.

"We went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance."  Psalm 66:12 

Make it so, dear Father.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Lost in Translation

Recently I went to a local shop to buy some mosquito burn them slowly and they are supposed to keep away mosquitoes.  Our compound is terrible with mosquitoes (so is our house), especially since this is a good rainy season.  I bought these for our guard to burn at night to help keep the mosquitoes away from him.  I also bought him insect repellent to put on and gave him a pair of John's socks to wear.  In spite of our best efforts, today he has malaria, but I digress.
It's the translation on the box of coils that I thought was pretty funny.  It was obviously translated from one language (which I shall not name) into English using something like Google Translate.  It says:

Lengen micro-smoke mosquito-repellent incense
This product is made of high-grade raw materials, which is used of the latest international technology and advanced spray-paint technology.  (Hmmmm, not sure how spray-paint fits in here.)  No harm to human body and livestock.  It is not easier moisture absorption and mildew but easier to open.  (Huh?)  It is break-resistant, pull-resistant, pleasant fragrance lighting, non-pollution, environmentally friendly products, safe to use.  (Got all that?)  The aged and children are even more suitable to use the mosquito-repellent incense.  (But everybody between 18 and 60 better be careful!) ... Be cautions of safety, firepreventing.  Do not use it near open flames of other heat sources.  Products placed on ventilation shady and cool place, avoid children play.

Well, I'm laughing because I stand guilty as charged of using Google Translate when writing letters in French.  I find it a helpful place to start, then I read over because sometimes I catch things that even I know are wrong or awkward.  But, really, when it comes right down to it, my letters probably read a lot like the back of the mosquito coil box!  I'm sure my French readers have a good laugh sometimes!

Recently somebody sent me something in French and I thought I understood it, but I decided to run it through Google Translate to make sure I was completely understanding.  I had gotten the meaning, but I had to laugh when instead of saying, "Please see Moses in his office", it said, "Please look at Moses in his office."  Look and see are similar and sometimes can be used interchangeably, but I don't think he'd be very happy if everybody came in his office to stare at him!

And speaking of "to see"....think of how many ways we use that phrase or word.  I see something means you looked at it.  To see somebody about something means that you go and talk to them.  But I'm seeing somebody means you are dating them.  And Oh! I see! means you understood it.

We have several missionaries working as translators here in our field of ministry.  All day long they examine original Hebrew and Greek texts and try to determine the exact meaning of the word.  Then when they understand the word or phrase, they have to make it understandable in the local language.  Using the word "to see", for example....The translator has determined that Jesus saw the crowds means he looked at them and saw them with his eyes.  But if he uses a phrase in the local language that translates as Jesus was seeing the crowds, people might get the idea that Jesus was dating them.

As you can see, our translators don't just use Google Translate.  They can't just make a close guess and call it a day.  They spend long arduous hours determining the real meaning, finding the best word in the local language, writing it down, then testing it to see if people understand.  Then it's back to the drawing board for more revising.  I really admire those who spend their days making sure God's Word is translated in an excellent manner so that people can understand in their own language.

The purpose of my blog is to tell about my daily life, not to get involved in controversial subjects.  But while thinking of translation, I just want to share this link to an article concerning one of the controversies in translation right now.  I think it is one of the best articles I've read on the subject.  It's by John Piper and it's called John's Solution.