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Grieving the Loss of a Colleague

Alou was a man who worked faithfully at our SIM office for over five years.  I probably worked more closely with him than with most of my other Nigerien colleagues.  It was his job to get everybody's permanent visas or to renew visas, to do background checks, to get driver's licenses, and to pay water and electric bills as well to advocate with the water and electric companies when something was not right.  I worked closely with him because every missionary at some time or another would need Alou to do something for them.  Together Alou and I would look at the passports of the new arrivals to see when their visas would expire.  We would also work together to find out who wanted to get a driver's license.  Many of our missionaries don't speak French so I was often the go-between, explaining to Alou what they needed to have done.

Alou served each person with a smile.  He was busy all the time, running from one government office to another.  He saved each of us hours of time that we would have spent running from place to place ourselves.  He never complained.  He had a passion for Jesus and longed to see his family come to know Jesus. He was faithful to attend devotions and prayer meetings.
Alou is the man in the white shirt in the center.

Two weeks ago he had traveled to another city on mission business.  While there he got really sick and was put in the clinic where he tested positive for malaria.  He may have had an ulcer, too.  He was so sick that he couldn't really travel back home, so the SIMAIR plane went up to get him.  He was sick all that next week, part of the time in the clinic and part of the time at home.

A week ago Sunday John and I were showing a visitor to Niger around town.  We were in that area of town and I said, "Hey!  Let's go visit Alou."  We turned around and went back and had a visit with him.  He was short of breath and said he was in pain and had gone to the clinic in the night.  They told him to come back on Monday morning. We are so glad we went to visit and to pray with him because that was the last time we ever saw him. 

Monday he went to the clinic and was re-admitted.  I don't know much other than that he had some tests done and they were waiting for the results.  They said it was a "heart condition".  

Friday morning (yesterday) we were having prayer meeting at the office.  At the end one of our employees, the janitor, opened the door and asked to speak to the Assistant Office Manager.  She came back in the room and said, "Alou is gone."  We couldn't believe it.  We all started crying and sat back down and prayed some more.  Then we tried to figure out what to do.  All the "Big Bosses" were gone.  One of them was on his way back from the central part of the country, one in the US, and one on vacation.  The Office Manager who was on vacation came in right away.  He organized to shut down the office and took everybody over to the family's house to sit with the family which is how we do it here.

While Alou was a Christian, his family is not.  His pastor is out of town and couldn't get back until Sunday afternoon at the earliest.  The family wanted him to be buried that day (Friday) as is the tradition. Our Office Manager did an amazing job of negotiating between the church, the office staff, and the family and finally reached an agreement to have the funeral on Saturday afternoon with a different pastor officiating.

This afternoon we all met at the morgue and then drove together to the cemetery.  The procession was long and I was really touched to see how many lives he had touched and how many people came.  As we stood in the hot sun, the pastor gave a good message, explaining how we don't pray for his soul to be saved like the predominant religion does. Once a person is dead, it is too late for that. Alou knew he was saved and we know where he is.  He explained how you can choose where to go after death, but that the only way to heaven is through Jesus. Then the thwank, thwank of dirt being shoveled onto the coffin and it was over.

It's so hard to believe he's gone.  That we'll never again see his cheerful face in the office.  That he'll never again come into my office to tell me that he got the needed paperwork done for somebody.  That I'll never again hear him having a very loud phone conversation in the office next door or laughing in the hall.
Alou is in the back row, third from the left.

Thank you for your faithful life of service, Alou.


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