Our church meets on one of the campuses that was flooded, so we've been having church elsewhere. One of the families in the church has a children's home which includes a large open area. So the church has a tent of sorts that they've erected there where we meet each Sunday. We also have a section in the shade behind the tent where people can sit. The children have Sunday School next door.
It's a bit crowded. And we've learned to avoid the chairs along the right side of the canvas as they get down-right toasty in the sun before the service is over. The chairs are so close together that when we stand to worship, one really can't do much dancing or moving! It's a bit difficult to get your moves on when your chair is crammed up against your legs and your stomach is crammed up against the chair in front of you.
But we're together. And the worship is still good even if we feel a little confined in our expression of worship. The messages lately have been excellent. Maybe it's because I've been trying to take notes more which helps me stay focused. When the message is in French my mind wanders off even faster than it does when the message is in English. The pastor just started a series on The Lord's Prayer and this past week focused on "Our Father". I've been mulling that over all week. It's a pretty important concept here where God is not considered to be a Father with whom you can have a relationship.
Meanwhile, Sahel Academy has rented two buildings for the year and school has resumed. The Bible school has also rented a building and classes will begin soon with John teaching two of them. Both schools are also in exile with the discomforts that come with smaller, more inconvenient locations. But the students are together, school is going on, and relationships are being built.
The missionaries and dorm family who suddenly found themselves without housing have been relocated. Some of them are in places that leave them frustrated and inconvenienced. But no lives were lost and for that we are thankful.
Local families who lost their homes have been helped through rice distribution. However, those living in local schools have had to move out so that the school year can get started. Most of those families are still living in exile somewhere. Next to our school, the family whose mud houses collapsed are living in grass mat shelters that they have built.
The river is going down and the flood waters have receded from both campuses. So how long will we be in exile? It's hard to say, but the river will crest again in December and January, so we hesitate to do much clean-up before then. Once we're sure that crest is over there will be plenty of work to do....cleaning walls, repainting, rebuilding cupboards, ridding the buildings of mold, etc. We also plan to build a berm around the inside of the walls of both campuses to protect the campuses from future flooding.
We are also raising funds to help local families rebuild their houses.
If you would like to help restore and rebuild the campuses and local people's houses, please visit SIM's website and visit our flood project page and then click on "Donate Now". For the latest update on what is happening with the relief project, visit the Niger River Floods Niamey page.
Most of all, keep praying for our church, Sahel Academy, and the Bible school while they are in exile!