Sunday, August 21, 2016

30 Years Ago

I know that most people do a big celebration for their 25th and for their 50th while their 30th anniversary is just kind of another anniversary.  Our kids did a surprise 25th party for us in 2011, just before we returned to Niger after two years in the US.  And who knows where we'll be for our 50th??

We have been involved in one way or another with the International Church here in Niamey for about 29 years. Even when we were in the village, whenever we came to Niamey, that was the church we attended.  And when we left our ministry there, the International Church took on partnering with the church we had started in another little village.  So we thought it was only fitting that we celebrate our 30th anniversary with our church here, even though it's a year that isn't usually a big celebration.

John and I gave the church a sum of money and the ladies planned the party. :)  John did ask a missionary lady to make a special cake and John made a cake to bring as well.  But that's all we had to do.  And I didn't even do anything!

At the end of the service we all went outside for the baptism of a girl who had been in our Bible study last year (the baptism pool is outside).  Then when we came back in and when the service was over, the pastor asked everybody to stay longer.  He asked how many people had been married more than 40 years?  No hands.  35 years?  No hands.  More than 30?  Only the pastor and his wife at I think they decided 33 years.  Wow! Only one couple in the entire church married longer than us!!!  No, we aren't fossils, we just have a really young church.  The pastor who spoke today said he estimates that 80% of the church is young and not married and probably under 30 years old.



He told everybody how we met without revealing who we were, although everybody had pretty much figured it out by then (seeing how we are the only old people in the church and all!).  Then we got called up to the front.  The youngest married couple were called up to pray for us (apparently there's an even more recently married couple, but they weren't there). 

 

They had a gift for us (a vase and silk flowers) and then we cut the cake.  The ladies had done sandwiches, drinks, and a variety of cakes.



Afterwards we were in lots of pictures as the choir members were also taking pictures of the girl who was baptized as she had been in the choir.  The Bible study group were also taking pictures since she'd been in the Bible study.  So we all ended up being in the same pictures.

Later that evening, three young people from the church came to visit us.  The two guys and John jammed with the guitar and piano and we had a good time.  Then one of the guys left and we found out that the other guy and the girl are engaged.  They started asking us some really good questions about the secret to staying married so long.  We had a great evening together and it was a fun way to end the day.

Our anniversary actually wasn't last Sunday.  It was on Tuesday, August 16. 

 

Our favorite restaurant is closed on Tuesday, so we went out for dinner on Monday the 15th.  This is a garden restaurant, though you can eat inside, too.  I had a chicken dish served with a mushroom sauce and noodles and John had a stew with mashed potatoes.  Both were perfect.



So, you may ask, what is our secret to staying married 30 years?  Here's what we told our young friends:
1.  Communication is key.  Talk about everything.
2.  Be fully committed.  Never mention divorce, not even as a joke.  Don't keep divorce open as an option if you're going through a rough patch.  Work through the problems you're having.  Get help if you need to.
3.  Be quick to ask forgiveness and be quick to forgive.
4.  Assume the best of the other.  If they hurt you, assume they didn't do it on purpose.  If they did do it on purpose, work it out immediately.
5.  Don't expect your spouse to meet all your needs.  Only Jesus can do that.



No, we don't have a perfect marriage.  As one friend said, "Did we ever consider divorce?  Never!  Murder? Yes."  Just kidding!!!  Marriage is more hard work than romance and lovey-dovey feelings, and from day one we committed to do the hard work.  Praise God, He has kept us from unfaithfulness to each other, from an abusive relationship, or from coldness in our hearts towards each other.  It's only by His grace that two imperfect people can live together in a relationship of love and respect.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Putting in an Appearance at Camp

As you may or may not know, this summer I covered for the Director while he was on vacation.  There were some challenging moments and some fun moments (this blog is about one of the fun ones), and I survived them all, mostly thanks to your prayers, I'm sure.  I know I grew through the experience, but I'm glad the Director is back now!!  Just a few days before he returned, I attended the closing session of a youth camp as his representative.

This particular youth camp is put on my three different church denominations who work together.  It's a great chance for the churches to pool resources and to share the planning for a rather large annual summer event which can be draining when you do it year after year.  This also gives a greater number of possible speakers to address the youth on all sorts of topics.  Since there are no campgrounds here, there are no extra activities like swimming, boating, or team-building obstacle courses, the camp is really a week of intense Bible teaching.   And, finally, it gives the youth a chance to meet other Christian young people from around the city.  This is a huge encouragement to them as many may be the only Christians in their school or neighborhood.  

I should explain that "youth"  in Niger, by definition, is young adult, not-yet-married, so ages 15-30.  Most who attend are probably in the 18-23 age bracket.  Also, even though the camp is planned by three denominations, there were youth there who represented probably up to 10 different church groups.

When I got there, I had to sit up front with the other "important" people, aka non-campers.  And as soon as I sat down I was told I had the opening prayer.  Yikes!  At least I didn't even have time to get too nervous about it ... and praying in public is easier than speaking in public since you don't have to make eye contact!  



They had a lot of "fanfare", which was a marching band.  I assume this band comes from one of the sponsoring churches, but I don't really know.  But how cool is it that one of the trumpet players is a woman?  I have almost never seen female musicians, other than pianists, here in Niger (I've seen two different girls play the jembe [a type of drum] and there are a few instruments known as women's instruments).  I know she is in all likelihood not Nigerien, but I hope the girls looked at her and thought, "I CAN do things that are not traditionally female to do or that might be unique and radical."



The main leader seemed really good at engaging the youth.  The pastor sitting next to me told me that the leader had been up late every night just making sure everything was taken care of and that all details were in place for the next day.  He did a short session reviewing the week.  He would name a speaker and then ask the youth to say in one or two words what that speaker's message had been about.  So he'd say, "Pastor T____" and they'd chant, "Have faith! have faith! have faith!"  They came to one Pastor's name (I've heard him speak and he's one of my favorite speakers because he dishes up steak and solid food, not milk).  He called out his name and there was silence.  Finally somebody in the back yelled, "Beaucoup!  A lot!"  In other words, there was so much from his message that they couldn't condense it down to one word.



I loved the energy among the youth from enthusiastic singing and dancing to chanting the message themes to teasing each other and laughing together.  You could tell they'd had a great week together.



At the end of the closing ceremony, the church who had been in charge of this year's camp brought in the camp flag and passed it off to the church who will be in charge of planning next year's camp. 

 

They will have a committee made up of members of all the churches, but the main responsibility falls to that church.  They will find a location, choose a theme, make sure there is food and lodging for everybody, etc.  Next year the church we attend will be in charge of planning the camp.  I think it's a great idea for them to take turns like that as it allows the churches to take the main responsibility for planning only one year out of three.  It's really great to see these churches working together and I was glad I got to attend in the Director's place.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

July Reading List

Well, friends, this will be a very short blog post because I read only two books in July, but I'm going to include a third book that I finished off in August.  July was a pretty crazy month, so maybe as things settle down now I'll have time to get back to more reading.


There's nothing like a good novel to read when you're exhausted.  I usually ignore what I call "wanna-be" books, that is ones in which a writer is trying to mimic another writer.  So up to now I've managed to avoid all Jane Austen-ish books.  But, I discovered these two books, Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor and Jane and the Wandering Eye, in our lending library at the office and decided to give them a try.  The idea of both is that Jane Austen herself happens to be on the scene of a crime committed and is involved in solving the murder.  The author, Stephanie Barron, actually does a decent job of accurately portraying life in Edwardian England and makes the character of Jane believable.  There are some annoying things like footnotes explaining historical things and vocabulary that the reader might not understand.  I feel that if you don't know what something means, look it up yourself.  This is a novel, not a dissertation.  I also found that the author had so many characters I was getting confused about who was who.  I also thought they started out a bit slowly, so if you feel the same, keep reading and you'll probably find it gets better.  I enjoyed both of these books, but wasn't crazy about either.  I won't be intentionally looking for the rest of the books in the series.

The other book was called Porridge and Passion by Jonathan Aitken.  Jonathan Aitken was a Member of Parliament in England when he lied under oath in court and ended up serving a prison sentence.  Between the time he lied and the time he was sentenced, he ended up going bankrupt and being divorced.  He also came to know Christ.  He was a committed Christian by the time he went to prison, but it was in prison that he really learned what it meant to be in fellowship with others and to pray with others.  Also as a result of his time in prison, he has since done much work to reform the prison system.  I thought this was an extremely interesting book even though I'd never heard of Jonathan Aitken before.

In May my Kindle just suddenly stopped working.  Apparently the battery just completely gave out.  So I ordered a new one and it came with a friend traveling from the USA on Monday.  

It's nice to have it back and I can now finish some of the books I had started.  I got a fun cover for it, too. 

 

It's a touch-screen, so it's a bit different from my old one.  It also has a light in it, so I can read in bed without having to have the bedside lamp on.  And I can read in the car at night on those long road trips we take during home assignment.