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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.