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Niger River Flooding: Saving the Stuff

"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

(All photography on this blog post by John DeValve)

Tuesday night as I wrote, water was beginning to gush into both the CBN (Bible School) and Sahel Academy campuses.  A wall had fallen on both campuses.  All the sandbags and hard work seemed to be for naught as water began seeping into buildings.

Two houses and part of a third on the Sahel campus are fairly dry.  Two houses on the CBN campus are dry.  All the other buildings have water in them.

On Wednesday the Sahel Academy staff met to pray and to weep together and to encourage each other the best they could.  They made no plans, just met together before God's throne.

On Wednesday John and I worked hard to get a house ready for colleagues arriving Thursday morning.  The original plan was for them to go into the other half of our duplex and take their time getting their own place set up.  But we suddenly needed the duplex for one of the families living at CBN, so we needed to scramble to get our friends' place ready so they could move directly into there.

On Thursday our director called me and several others into his office to start accessing the situation as far as housing.  As we made a list, we saw that we had 53 adults and children who suddenly had no place to live.  That's not quite right....many generous people have opened their homes and nobody is out on the street.  But many are in tight quarters with no place of their own.

We learned on Thursday that the Niger River Basin Authority has told us that with the dikes broken and nothing to hold back the river, Sahel Academy and CBN campuses are now part of the river.  The river will not really begin to dry up until March or April.  It will go down a bit, but will crest again in December or January.

That means Sahel Academy and ESPriT (the Bible school) will need to find other places to meet.  Our church no longer has a meeting place.  Child Evangelism, Emmaus Bible Correspondence School, and Navigators all had offices on the CBN compound.  We need to find housing for 53 people, including 18 dorm kids with their dorm parent family of five and the dorm assistant, which we want to keep together as a group.  

On Thursday John and several other missionaries went to ESPriT, the Bible School, to try to rescue library books.  The school director and many others were there with a canoe. Books were loaded on the canoe and then rowed to the gate where they were loaded into vehicles.  They were then transported across town to the SIM office where they were stored in an empty office.

Friday morning started with a time of prayer at the SIM Office.  We spent a good hour praying for those affected by the flood.

On Friday I met again with the Director and others to try to identify housing.  As one man on the committee said, it's like trying to put together a puzzle, but the pieces keep changing shape.  We are praying hard that God will provide the housing we need.  

Meanwhile the Sahel Academy board met to define the approach they need to take in the next few weeks.  By faith we are aiming to reopen school on September 17.  Where?  We do not know!  In the afternoon the staff met again to hear about the board's meeting.

On Friday John helped again at ESPriT, moving books out of the library.

On Saturday I went with two others to look at six houses.  One we can definitely just cross off our list as the cost is prohibitive.  Another one would take a lot of work as it doesn't really have a kitchen and the bathrooms are ridiculously small.  We've gotten leads from other missions on some possibilities as well.

John worked so hard, along with many, many others on Saturday. They went to Sahel Academy and waded through foul water with canoes to evacuate the books from the Sahel Academy library.  The bookshelves and much of the classroom equipment was moved to a Christian school across town who is temporarily loaning us their facilities for storage.

I wish I could feature every single person who has done something to help during this disaster.  The minute I would start, I would for sure leave somebody out.  It is just amazing how God's people have gathered around each other to help, to encourage, to spend exhausting hours in the sun and in foul water,  to do what needs to be done without complaint.  Many have worked behind the scenes and you don't even see them in pictures, but they are working hard.

A neighbor's house that fell
We would appreciate your continued prayers.  This week we are already looking at more rescuing of equipment from Sahel and of more house hunting for those needing housing.  Honestly, many of us are tired and some are walking around with very stunned looks on their faces.  One family has already had to move four times in a year and will have to move a 5th time before this is over. One of our Nigerien workers told me her house fell and another said extended family who lost their house have moved in with them and their house is also leaning and may go the next time it rains.  

As soon as we have a Project number where you can donate funds I will let you know.  These funds will cover loss of equipment, helping to cover the increased rent those who lost housing will now have to pay, restoration of the property when we are able, and helping Nigerien colleagues and neighbors.

"We went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance."  Psalm 66:12