Saturday, August 31, 2013

Not Again!

Picture taken 18 August 2013
Picture taken 30 August 2013
Sunday, August 18 as we drove to and from church we took some pictures of the river and of the CBN compound, in commemoration of the flood that devastated our CBN compound and Sahel Academy as well as the neighborhoods near the river.  We were heard to say something like, "The river is low enough, there's no danger of flooding this year." I even wrote a blog  just a week ago comparing last year and this year.
18 August 2013
30 August 2013
 Thursday it rained hard from about 8:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.  John measured 1.7 inches of rain in his rain gauge (I'd like to know what the official measurement was for the day.)  This was a huge storm and so the river received the run-off from a large network of streams and wadis that drain into the Niger River.

Thursday morning the river was 542 cm and by 8:30 p.m. it was 590 cm.  Around 6 p.m. I was still at the office when Jon, our Interim Director, told me that he had just gotten a phone call that the dike north of our riverside properties had been breached.  He called a Crisis Management Team meeting for later that night.

It was decided to work through the night (they called it quits around 2 a.m.) to fill in the drain holes.  On Friday they worked all day to build up the berm around the gate at Sahel and to finish filling in the berms that had been built inside both campuses.  The work on the berms is almost completed, but there was some work still being done.

By yesterday afternoon, the river was up to 615 cm.  Just to put it in perspective....last year's crest was 618 cm. We feel that we have shored up everything the best we can and that we are in a safe position with our berm in place.  I also wrote a blog on the berm that you might want to look back at.  We do not expect either of our campuses to flood like they did last year.  We will get seepage because of the proximity to the river, but we should be able to handle that with pumps.

This morning the river was down to 601 cm.  But the river is finding its way down its natural flood plain and is coming around pretty close to Sahel.  Today teams worked on putting sandbags around some of the neighbors' houses, trying to prevent them from losing their houses again this year.

Please pray that the river will not rise any higher.  Pray for the Nigeriens who will/already have lost their houses in the flooding.  Praise God for bringing us through last year and for giving us an engineering team and then two engineers with the wisdom and skill to put a berm in place.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Five Minute Friday

LAST (with pictures from 2012 and matching pictures from 2013 taken from more or less the same spot)
Last:  adj or adv -- the person or thing after everyone or everything else; the most recent or the one before the present one
August 2012
August 2013
Last:  adj or noun/pronoun -- the only one or part that is left

Last: adj -- the most unsuitable, unwanted or unlikely
Last:  v -- to continue to exist

A year ago we had become part of the Niger River.  Flood waters had overcome our two river-side campuses.  The clean-up and emotional processing had just begun.
August 2012
August 2013
Last year was a difficult year. No doubt about it. For me personally, I put in a lot of extra hours....and my involvement was just a tiny fraction of the whole effort of clean-up, recovering, and reaching out to those around us.
August 2012
August 2013
At this time last year, we were looking at the last of truckloads of stuff being moved off the campus.  We were looking for houses for people and for dorm students as well as buildings to use as school buildings.
August 2012
August 2013

I hope it is the last flood we ever have!  It comes in last on a list of fun events and pretty high up on a list of stressful events. 

But I hope the memories of how God worked and how He brought us through will last in our minds forever.
August 2012
August 2013

 He has indeed brought us through to a place of abundance.

Now, set your timer friends, clear your head, for five minutes of free writing without worrying about getting it right. These are your people. The poets, the mothers, the bloggers, the writers, the pencil and paper artists. Let’s do this.
1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

More about Flood Recovery

This past year both Sahel Academy and our Bible School campuses have undergone major amounts of work.  As you remember, both campuses were flooded, resulting in the need for clean-up and restoration.  As anybody who has done renovations knows, repairs on on thing often reveals the need for repairs on something else.  So the work on the campuses has resulted in not just cleaning walls and replacing damaged furniture, but also in replacing some septic tanks, re-wiring buildings, re-roofing two buildings, and repairing the telephone system.  The dining hall at Sahel Academy was re-roofed, the ceiling raised, the outside stuccoed, and was renamed Hope Hall.  You can see it in the center right of this picture.  

There is still a lot to be done....inside Hope Hall the kitchen is still gutted, the electric isn't working quite right, the sound booth isn't finished.  This house on the Bible school campus is another one that ended up needing extensive work beyond the damage caused by the flood.  As you can see there is still a lot to be done here, but at least the roof is back on now.

One of the major aspects of restoring these campuses to their proper use has been the building of a berm on the river sides of the campuses.  We have security walls surrounding both campuses and they did much to hold back the water, but they could take the pressure of the water only so long before caving into the force of the water.  Thankfully the entire wall didn't come down, but enough fell to open the floodgates, so to speak.

So, a berm has been built to reinforce the wall.  A missionary who had to evacuate from another country due to the political situation there was able to come and give us eight or nine months of his time.  What a great example of God using a difficult situation in his life to turn it into something good!  He has been the perfect person to oversee this job.  Not only that, but his wife has been teaching so we've benefited from her talents as well!

We recently spent a fascinating evening with this couple, listening to him talk about the construction of the berm.  I'm no engineer but if I understood correctly, the wall will move to a certain extent when the ground around it contracts or expands.  Normally that's ok, but when water pushes against it, it is forced to move too much and down it goes.  

So the berm will support it.  Basically the berm is a shorter wall built inside the security wall, then filled with dirt.  I don't remember all the reasons why, but you can't just fill it with any old kind of dirt....again, something to do with contracting and expanding.  If you fill it with laterite (is that a French word or do you understand what I mean?!), it absorbs the water when it rains and then it expands, filling in all the gaps nicely.  But then in the dry season it contracts leaving big gaps.  You also can't use most of the dirt around here because it is clay and it will do a similar thing.  So, it has to be sand.  

They actually used both laterite and sand.  So, the laterite surrounds the edges of the berm with the sand in the center and some laterite on top.  If you want the real explanation, you'll have to ask our resident engineer! I obviously have little idea what I'm talking about! 

The flood we had last year was a 100-year flood.  None of us who have been here 20+ years have ever seen either of those campuses flood (yes, we have some areas that get very wet and soggy, but not a bona fide flood).  Perhaps there will not be another flood for another 100 years.  But should there be another flood, this would protect our properties from receiving the debilitating damage we got this year.  And we sure don't want to take our chances!

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Community and Good-byes

When I was a kid growing up in Nigeria, the highlight of our week was when the mission plane would come in.  It brought mail, supplies, and new missionaries and visitors.  It also took away missionary families who had become like family to us.  It carried us kids back to boarding school; took sick missionaries to better medical care; flew away with missionaries going on home assignment but who would return; and transported missionaries back to their home countries, never to return again.  The plane brought joy and it brought tears.  
The mission station of my childhood seen from the air

Each arrival of the plane was met with anticipation.  When we were home from boarding school or the year that we were home-schooled, our parents would use the plane as the reward.  "If you get your chores done or your school work done, you can go up to the airstrip to see the plane come in."  That was very motivating!  We'd work hard until the plane buzzed the station, then jump on my dad's motorbike or into the station van with him and away we'd go.  Arrivals brought joy.  Departures brought sadness.

Years later and missionary life is not much different.  In February we were visiting on one of our more isolated stations when the mission plane landed.

 Just like when I was a kid, all the little MKs (missionary kids) were out at the airstrip waiting for the plane.  It carried somebody in for a meeting, delivered mail, and brought in some grocery supplies from the big city that can't be purchased in the "bush".  There were warm greetings, smiles, joy.  Then two short-termers boarded the plane to return to their home countries.  

Prayer for the trip
The departure brought prayers for their voyage, last-minute photos, and sad hearts.

This constantly saying good-bye is the down-side of missionary life.  Last night we shared dinner with a new missionary and a one-year-on-the-field-so-far missionary who asked how we deal with the constant good-byes.  I have to admit it's really hard.  When we are away from our blood relatives, other missionaries become family, so it hurts to say good-bye.  Leaving our own family in the US is even more painful.

I think there are several things that get us through.  These include:
1.  Knowing we will see our friends and family again in heaven if not on earth.
2.  Recognizing that God has called us to be a family and to support and encourage each other.  We must get involved with new arrivals, loving them and bearing their burdens with them, even though we know that we're going to be saying goodbye to them before long.
3.  Having friends from around the world is great....wherever you travel you have a couch you can crash on and a tour guide at your disposal.
4.  There is so much to learn from having friends from a variety of cultures and countries, so take the time to learn!
5.  Admit that it's hard and don't be afraid to shed a few tears.  This is difficult for me ... I hate good-byes and I hate tears, so I just don't want to go there.