an everlasting stream

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water.

i’ve been drinking water as my main daily beverage for a very long time. i am very conscious of how much water i drink every day. i’ve been known to carry a 32 oz water  bottle with me everywhere, every day. it’s not a habit i started to prepare for this season in Africa.  in college i did a lot of personal study on health and nutrition, and water was always main focus point for me. we’ve heard many times before that the human body is made up of 70% water and that we should be drinking at least eight 8-oz glasses of water per day to keep our bodies properly hydrated and functioning. i take that very seriously. in fact, it is a rare occasion that i drink anything other than coffee or water, and my preference is to have 12 oz of coffee and 128 oz of water daily.

(source)

nothing quenches my thirst like water. when i am hot, parched, have been working hard or just been running, i seriously enjoy a cold glass of water. i love the taste, which surprises many people who think water tastes like nothing.

but water does have taste. a lot of that taste depends on where you get your water. when i lived on the mountain, my water was pumped into my house from an underground, spring-fed well. mountain spring water tastes good. i used to work with a woman who would come to the mountain with empty gallon jugs and fill them with spring water. it was that good.

in the city, we filter our tap water. city water is treated in a plant somewhere that kills naturally occurring bacteria found in a lot of water sources. sometimes you can taste the chemicals used to treat city water. i like to swim in chlorinated pools, but don’t like to actively taste chlorine when i’m drinking a cold glass of water.

.  .  .

here in Niger, i’ve experienced a few different kinds of water. various villages and burroughs in the city. i’ve drank filtered well-water here at the mission compound, i’ve washed my hands in a sink of my friend’s across town. i’ve showered with the cool, sporadic trickle of the shower in dosso. i’ve drank tap water in restaurants and from a plastic bag of “pure water.” i’ve driven across the river and watched as people bathed or washed their crops at the river’s edge.

here, access to water is quite relative to status, wealth, and geography. we at the compound have the privilege of having had a well dug that operates much like that of the one i had on the mountain. the well is treated and pumps water into our buildings here, and it rarely fails. on the occasions that it does, we still have access to the city’s supply of water. we have enough water for cooking, bathing, watering the grass and plants, mixing cement, and washing dishes and clothes on a daily basis. i still fill up my 32-oz bottle 4-5 times a day from my filtered faucet. i have water whenever i need it.

across town, my friends rely on the city supply. which can sometimes be shut off without warning or reason. they keep large backup jugs of water just for those occasions. when the water works, it comes out of the faucet the color of weak English tea, but it surely doesn’t smell like it. most households with this kind of water also have filtration devices that are vital for those of us who are not acclimated to the bacterias found in the water here.

still, in other parts of the city that don’t have water lines run to them, you can find hand or foot pump wells that have been dug or built by NGO’s from around the world. households share these wells and because of the ease of use, even children can access them safely.

further out in the bush, things become quite different. entire villages might have 2-3 wells that serve 300-500 people. it’s at these wells where i have met some very strong women. they have the upper body and core strength of competitive athletes simply from spending their mornings hauling buckets of water 80 ft. from the bottom of the well. after they have collected all the water they need for their daily activities, the women help each other place their jugs, tubs, pots or buckets on top of their heads. they then proceed to walk upwards of 300 ft to their homes, babies strapped on their back and water atop their head.

.  .  .

water.

at home, i take it for granted. here, my eyes see too much that my heart can’t un-see.

i’ve decided i want to tell you about water here. i want to show you what it looks like daily for these women. i want you to be able to share in a tiny bit of their experience. this is your introduction. over the next few days, i’ll be sharing pictures and stories of my time so far with the women at the well. i’ll share about what melanie has been discovering as she tests the water sources here for Ecoli and fecal coliform bacteria. i’ll be drawing comparisons of life here to Biblical stories taking place at the well. we’re just going to spend some time discovering what the LORD gave us when He gave us water and what it means in our lives.

Rivers of Living Water

	On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.
 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”

(John 7:37-38 ESV)




 
(chris tomlin- all my fountains)

come to the table made

i had a special request to see the kinds of food i am eating while i’m here. so i’ve been trying over the past 2 weeks to photograph my cooking and eating experience. so, if you’re interested in food, photos, and few words, this is for you! :o)

as is customary now, whenever we visit with bisarra, she likes to prepare food for us. this is what she makes every day for the children at school. it’s a dish called “windi bundu” and it consists of coarse rice flour (basically the consistency of cous cous), moringa leaves and spices. check out the link to learn more about moringa leaves and their health benefits. it is something i’m learning much about and it’s pretty intriguing.

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once the moringa leaves are cooked and the rice flour steamed, she mixes those together with spices- tonka, which is a pepper here, and various other things that i don’t know of :o)

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oil, onions and peppers are added as well and then mixed together to finish the dish.

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IMG_1644it’s one of the first local foods i had back in february, and i really like it! now i know how to make it and plan on doing so at my house. which will be a little different cooking techniques, but hopefully the same results.

 

here’s a dish i make often for myself: curried lentils and potatoes. also have become pretty adept at making flour tortillas and “fake naan” which you can see here :o)

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i’ve been making these muffins quite often, and they serve as a great breakfast or gift to share with friends. there’s always some combination of veggies and fruits: zucchini, carrots, apples, bananas; as well as hempseed powder, moringa powder, dates, and local nuts (have no idea what kind) for some added health benefits. muffins aren’t really what i would call “healthy,” but i try to cut the sugar because of the natural sweetness of the dates and add some other plant proteins and then i feel better about making, eating and sharing them :o)

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last week, my friends came back from their time in their village and brought back tomatoes from their friend’s garden. the tomatoes were SO GOOD. and i haven’t had tomatoes here because they’re all imported and super expensive. so these were a treat. we decided to make fresh salsa and since we didn’t have any chips, we made some! we used flour, so they’re not your traditional corn chips, but honesty, food tastes better when you make everything from scratch. i’m learning that for sure.

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here’s a meal i make once a week and eat for non-consecutive meals. my official name for it is ratatouille with meat. ha. because it’s basically the same ingredients.

browned ground beef with garlic and onions:

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freshly bleached and chopped veggies:

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add tomato paste, water and spices:

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pour over rice and top with homemade crackers:

IMG_7797i make one big pot and it lasts a long time. and tastes pretty good!

these are dates. i learned how to eat them in the dried state like this: bite in half, check for bugs, take out the pit, eat.

IMG_7816i also learned how to soften them and use them in my breads and muffins. can you believe i NEVER knew what a date looked like?? i’m now working on my very own larabar recipe because i should be able to figure it out, and they are the only “energy/bar” thing i eat at home anyhow. i’ll keep you posted, because my first attempt was a failure. :o)

and finally, my homemade crackers. the first batch were slightly in between “saltine” and “hardtack”, and these were a little thin… so i’m still working on that recipe as well.

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so, there you have it. a little glimpse into my culinary foray here in niger. :o)

 

 

(shane & shane- i miss you)

my heart, o take and seal it

the past few weeks have been very full and very satisfying. God has shown me much this fortnight. clearly He’s causing me to reminisce about learning british slang :o)

to the point.

i’m going to share some photos from my week in Dosso and briefly share some updates. it was very good for my soul to be back in Dosso with the girls. we visited with the families i met last time I was here and it was a beautiful thing to hear “Zeinabou!!” as we approached on the road.

*i suppose i should mention here that when i came back in February, April gave me the choice of my Zarma name. Gomni literally means grace, and Suuji means mercy. we are aware that those words do not hold the same meaning, but Suuji sounded more like a name, so i chose that. except that when we visited the first house, the daughters wanted to give us our Zarma names, and so they chose their own names to give us, hence my name in Dosso is Zeinabou. and here in Niamey, i am Suuji.

i spent the week reconnecting with the women and children i met last time: snuggling babies, getting peed on a few times, practicing language with Bisarra, sharing stories from the Bible and talking about the differences between it and the quran.

we also drove out to a few villages to visit and allow Melanie to test some wells for Ecoli and other bacteria. i’ll be sharing photos and a whole story about that soon enough. i recognized faces and was surprised by my brain’s capacity to remember names simply because i had taken hundreds of portraits. i never expected to remember so many, and now am thankful to God for writing their names and faces on my heart.

some exciting updates:

– a friend and i have decided to travel to Dosso once a week to work with April and the girls, and we are beyond thrilled. my supervisor just gave me the go ahead, so i’m very excited about the opportunity.

– i’ve been able to help at a kids club across town saturday mornings with a other missionary organization, and that has been wonderful. the fellowship with the team is much needed, and i’m getting a lot of Zarma practice in. also i just love being able to help kids hear about Jesus. it has become a big highlight of my week.

– i also decided to invest in another kids club here in my part of town saturday afternoons, and this week i was blessed to prepare the learning aids and craft projects thanks to Nicole (April’s sister) and the supplies she left at April’s. it has been affirmed more than a few times that these are the areas i need to be serving while i’m here, and it’s been so good to be used and to serve in this way. in two weeks, Kimberly (who leads the kids club in Goudel) will be at a conference. and i am praying right now that i will be able to prepare and learn enough Zarma to lead on my own in her absence. will you pray with me, that God may give me fast learning and comprehension so i can present the story and understand the kids that week.

– i’ve volunteered to host and lead a bible study for missionary kids, so i am able to teach and disciple while i’m here. it looks like it will be for an age group a little younger than i’m used to, so please pray that i am able to be a good and effective teacher to the girls who attend. i am excited for his opportunity to use my gifts, and in english no less! i am hoping to also get the girls involved in reaching our community here, as many missionary kids are not super involved in their parents’ work.

– i’m also in the process of volunteering to held lead worship at NEWS, our Niamey English Worship Service. it’s been a blessing to attend Zarma church in the morning and then have fellowship and worship in the evenings with other missionaries. i learned they have a rotation for leading worship and speaking, so i volunteered to join a group to sing. i am thrilled at the chance to sing again, because i do miss being with my STC worship team.

– last update. i plan on getting a bike very soon. this will be important for many reasons, but the one i’m most excited/nervous about is the chance to visit the Goudel area during the week so i can make good connections and invest more in the Zarma church and kids there. this is a big step outside my comfort zone because of my lack of language proficiency, but know it is what i am supposed to do. so you can definitely be praying for that!
and now, photos to let you see a little bit inside my life right now. :o)

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little nana. i was very excited for the chance to see her again this week. good snuggle time :o)

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April, Bisarra and myself. she gave me the best, most welcoming “homecoming,” and it was so great to share more of Jesus with her and for her to help us speak Zarma. keep praying for Bisarra, that she continue to be as open to the Word as she is. i know one day soon she will trust in the saving love of Christ.

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Zeinabou, Aness and Bibiya snuggle up with April. they love her SO much. it melts my heart.

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here, April reads a summary of the New Testament to Bisarra and fields many great questions. we help her understand why not all christian’s marry, the difference between the quran’s story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac and the Bible. a very blessed time of sharing.

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Bibiya likes to share my glasses. he’s a sweetheart and a goofball.

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Aness. eyes and a smile to melt your heart.

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Bibiya, fast asleep. he definitely fell asleep in 30 seconds. sitting in my lap one minute, the next slumped over headed to naptown.

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Melanie and April sharing part of the “creation to Christ” story in Zarma. Aness was engrossed 95% of the time.

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at kid’s club in Goudel this week we taught the story of Creation. we made telescopes so the kids could spend this week looking around to see all the things God created. they’re going to report back to us all the things they discovered. :o)

 

God has been revealing much truth to me recently. stay tuned for those thoughts… :o)

 

	Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall 
not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to 
you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives 
me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have 
come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 
And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all 
that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will 
of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should 
have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

(John 6:35-40 ESV)

(come thou fount)

Name above all

part two…

 

i’m currently reading “east of eden.”  i’ve not been able to put it down. when i’m not working or reading my Bible, i’m pouring over the words of steinbeck. it is a beautiful marriage of prose, philosophy, sociology, history and storytelling. it’s what a great novel should be.

i have been knocked over by many things as i’ve read the pages of this book. many things i could talk about here, but i want to focus on 2 really important ideas from the chapter i just finished. if you’ve never read the book, fear not, i’m very against unsuspectingly happening upon spoilers myself, so i’m not going to share much of the story or content.

 

the context: a few of the characters open up an old Bible, one that was handed down to the wife of one of the men from her mother.

number 1.

“this one has been scraped and gnawed at,” he said. “i wonder what agonies have settled here. give me a used Bible and i will, i think, be able to tell you about a man by the places that are edged with the dirt of seeking fingers.”

it’s a very simple text that elicits immediate personal reflection. as soon as i read that, i stopped and thought about a few things. the first, selfishly, being what would someone deduce about me if they picked up my Bible to read? what would my markings and scribblings and highlighting and notes tell them about me?

i didn’t have an answer for that, because immediately i began thinking about something else.

what are the actual possibilities of this scenario playing out today? with technology making it rare to read an actual paper Bible, will people begin passing down their phones and ipads with highlighted material or thoughts, giving their ilk windows into their lives and relationships with God?

can anyone truly know and understand someone else’s relationship with God?

it should be true that our lives be a reflection of Christ in us. Scripture tells us that as we live, people should be able to see Christ, see the work He has done in us, see that we are examples of how He lived and how He cared for others. but that doesn’t necessarily mean people will see all of our struggles, our doubts, our personal prayers that sometimes go unsaid that only Jesus knows. those things are often not reflected in our daily living, unless we are committed to total transparency with other believers. and even then, are we ever truly, completely transparent with anyone other than Jesus?

maybe it’s true that the worn, tear stained pages of our personal Bibles can lend a small insight to the scripture we hold or held most near and dear to our hearts. perhaps, if someone were to peek inside and see my many highlights, circles and underlines in the Gospels, they would see clearer my desire to understand Jesus as a human living on this earth so that I could better follow His example. but truthfully, I hope that this would be evident in how I live, and my current desire is for my life to be a reflection of what I know to be true in Scripture. that I would not leave highlights, scribbles and underlines as a way to preserve a memory of what I thought “most important” in my walk with Christ, but that those highlights, scribbles and underlines would be a reinforcement to what you see in my everyday walk.

because I’m an old soul, i relish the idea of passing down my Bibles for others to potentially understand my own story a little better. the historian in me thinks it is an interesting notion of legacy, and i’m now intrigued to find out if my own family has anything that would allow me new insight.

and I suppose now I’m just thinking about the many people who have recorded much of their lives in conjunction to their reading of the Word. How many journals and diaries and prayer books have been filled by saints who are desperate to know more of God. and how thankful i am for people who have thought to publish some of those writings for all of us to share in the wisdom and understanding God has blessed people with throughout history.

 

number 2.

“this one has been scraped and gnawed at,” he said. “i wonder what agonies have settled here. give me a used Bible and i will, i think, be able to tell you about a man by the places that are edged with the dirt of seeking fingers.”

we cannot have writings, meanderings or reflection without first seeking to understand. so what i love about the visual here is that it speaks so much about the life and action of a pursuant relationship.with the dirt of life on our hands, we continually go back to God’s Word for truth, comfort, peace, understanding. we seek after questions AND answers. we seek to know more about Jesus and His ministry on earth. we seek to understand both God’s wrath and His compassion for His people. we seek solace in the words God offers the enslaved, the marginalized, the poor and thirsty souls.

we seek.

and we seek with hands dirtied by lives of sin, covered in grace. it says so much about who we are and who God is.

we seek with life’s dirt, and we find God’s grace. and mercy. and sovereignty. His goodness and His faithfulness.

 

at this point in the book, three men are talking about the story of cain and abel. they are trying to understand. and they each have a different approach to reach that understanding. ultimately, they don’t agree on an understanding of the story. but they do agree that it is a story of us all, in some way. and i think about how often i read the Bible and am left without understanding. i used to become annoyed by that. but through my own sanctification process, God has shown me that i don’t need to understand it all, and in fact i will never completely understand everything God has ever said or done. that’s not the point of this life or relationship. the point, i think, is in the seeking itself. because it’s in the seeking where we find complete rest and satisfaction simply in knowing God.

 

 

so, here’s to the pages of the millions of Bibles, edged with the dirt of seeking fingers. and because of where i currently am geographically, i am praying for millions more to have the chance to seek after God with their dirty fingers of life on those pages.

 

 

Praise Him all you sinners
Sing oh sing you weary
Oh praise Him all you children of God
We lift high His glory
Shown throughout our stories
We praise Him as the children of God

Hallelujah, Name above all, simply to speak Your Name is praise…

 

 

(all sons and daughters- rising sun)

You are forever

i’m going to do a quick update to share about how life has been over the past week or so, but that’s not the main purpose to the story tonight. we’ll get there soon enough.

but first, a quick recap.

  • i finished my first full week at the office and it went well. bills, inventories, expense reports, check-ins and check-outs. feeling grateful that God is using my long season of experience at skycroft to help me feel very at ease here. it is a blessing to be confident in day to day tasks because it allows a great contrast to the moments i am drawn to say “ok, Lord, i am praying my way through this one.” as evidenced by the next story…

 

  • yesterday as i was working in one of the apartments, one of the gardeners came to get me. he used hand signals to tell me what he needed. only i didn’t quite understand until we arrived at the location he and his fellow worker had been laboring. when we got there i saw the man on the ground with a towel over his foot, and i immediately knew this was not going to be routine. he uncovered his foot to reveal his big toe hanging on by just a small sliver of skin. the tree limb they had been cutting down landed hard and fast on his toe and did quite some damage. the squeamish in me nearly took over, but instead i called for our “do-it-all” guy who really runs the place, and he took the gardener to the hospital for a toe removal. yes, a toe removal. i’ll be sure to discuss the medical care situation here in niger soon, but that will have to be another day. in an instance when i don’t know the correct line of action, prayer is the best line of defense AND offense, and i exercised that gift a lot yesterday.

 

  • taking a taxi by myself is proving to be a fun challenge, now that i know how not to get ripped off. not only is it a challenge, but saturday morning the taxi driver and i had a little bit of school on my way to kwara tegui kid’s club. he helped me with zarma, i helped him with english, and we had a very nice child-like conversation about school, animals and what america is like.  i’m thankful for the basic language skills i have to get me where i need to go around here, but even more thankful for patient nigeriens who are kind to me as i learn.

 

  • it’s no secret that i love children; teaching children, playing with children, photographing children… so saturday was a wonderfully full day of kid’s clubs here in the city. i was so thankful to join asia and charles in the morning, to sit with kids and learn with them as they were taught a clear message of who Jesus is and what He did for us. and then to be able to join kimberly here in goudel as she started her club back up from a summer break… well, it just felt like the beginnings of finding my ministry footings here; outside the guest house, that is. i am thankful for the opportunities to work alongside these missionaries, and i am using this week to prepare for future work with them. i am only as useful as my language skills will allow me to share and teach, and i want to be very useful here.

 

  • i am thankful for new friends who invite me to dinner and conversation about teaching and curriculum. i am thankful for new friends who go to the store for me, help me cook and make it fun by hosting our very own cooking show. thankful for conversation about books, youth ministry, seminary knowledge and theology. thankful for trivia and flashcards on a saturday night.

 

  • i’m feeling thankful in general. grateful for the time in the Word that has been so refreshing for my soul. grateful for the album that plays on repeat as i cook and bake and experiment with local foods, because it echoes all that i am reading and learning right now. grateful to God for taking me here and forcing rest upon me. i woke up this morning feeling foreign, and not because i am in a strange place, but because i feel rested. i don’t feel overwhelmed. i don’t feel too stretched. but there is a HUGE part of me that feels very wrong because of that. i don’t feel busy enough. i don’t feel like i’m doing enough. and it concerns me that maybe i have built this life of “doing-doing-doing” for myself, so much so that i no longer feel like myself if i’m not being pulled in 30 directions. so, perhaps more than anything, i am grateful right now to have the time and capacity to sit with God and work these feelings out with Him. for Him to show me the correct balance of service and sanctuary. that’s my heart right now. and i’m focusing and resting on God’s Word through john, “for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart and He knows everything.” (1 john 3:20)

 

i think this recap is just part one. and i can only leave you with the scripture that has been running through my heart and mind since i read it last week, and i’d be a fool to say any more…

 

	Every word of God proves true;
		he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
	Do not add to his words,
		lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.

(Proverbs 30:5-6 ESV)

 

 

 

(all sons and daughters- hear the sound)

Yesu ya ay Faabako no.

it’s been a week, and oh what a week it has been. :o)

 kwarategui

 

april, melanie and terra arrived to the guest house last saturday afternoon, and they had my luggage in tow. we spent the rest of the day running errands and mapping out the city. april has been great at showing me the best markets to go to, quizzing me on which roads to turn for where i’m going, and showing me good landmarks to use for navigation. i’m getting the hang of the city, road closures and roundpoints included. she has made sure that she gave me as many tips about Niamey as she could before she headed back east. i am enormously grateful for that.

on sunday we attended a Zarma church, met a few other missionary families, and had great conversation over lunch about what the next 4 months hold for each of us. since melanie and terra will be joining april, they had less to figure out about navigating the Niamey roads and markets. their ministry opportunities are tied to what april has been working on for the past year and a half, and they will be able to begin this week.

but we were all blessed to go to language school together, which turned out to be such a fun challenge. i love language. i love words. i love learning new languages and cultures. really, i just love learning in general. so going to Zarma school was so much fun. our cawandiko (teacher) is smart, very well educated, jovial, kind, patient, and strict.

 ibro

after day 1, we were barely allowed to speak english. challenge accepted. :o) we had fun speaking in very basic, elementary sentences and by day 2 (8 hours) we could each tell our basic testimony and what we know and believe about Jesus. i would say that’s a win.

i’m still getting used to the way they talk about money here, which is very confusing. but i believe with some practice i should catch on. (but i will also be learning the french system, just to be safe.)

i feel confident in my ability to fearlessly practice with children who will laugh at my speaking mistakes but will hopefully help me learn. there is also great opportunity to speak to our employees here at the guest house who have already been so gracious with me as we occasionally speak 4 languages in order to communicate our intended messages. i am reminded many times a day of the importance of clear communication. with God and with others. from God and from others. praying for a brain that absorbs language speedily and a mouth that can form words to communicate clearly. thankful for a God who hears even our deepest groaning of the spirit, when words fail us.

 

 

 

yesterday, after a very sweet time of worship through Scripture and song together, the girls headed east and i was thrust into an uncomfortable sense of alone. not loneliness, per say, but i easily recognized the reality of what their leaving meant. i really am going to have to get around this city on my own. i can’t always rely on someone here who has a vehicle. i really will be cooking meals for myself and working my schedule around my office job. these things are not at all foreign to me. in fact, these are things i do with ease at home, on a very regular basis. but walking to the grocery store from my city house is much different than finding the right market after turning down the correct dirt road here.

and while the girls are gone, and i will definitely miss their company, laughter and fellowship, i am surrounded by wonderful people who are looking out for me, offering to take me to English church every Sunday evening, and who are very happy to invite themselves over to a meal i will cook :o)

not only that, but i truly and honestly sense the prayers that my church family, friends and blood-family  are lifting up on my behalf. i may be fairly alone here, but it’s hard to feel lonely when i feel the presence of peace.

 

so. week one. i’ll leave you with some general tidbits and ways you can continue to pray. until next week :o)

 

  • i’m dog sitting for a little over a month starting tonight. she’s a good guard dog. looking forward to spending time casually walking the compound with the pup.

 

  • today my kids back home started school, some of them their SENIOR year! i’ve been praying for them all day.

 

  • technology can be such a blessing. i think i’ve already noticed that i feel blessed when it works, and yet if it doesn’t, i am equally content. it’s a very freeing feeling not checking my phone until i get home to see if the internet is functional.

 

  • i do ask that you be praying for other opportunities for ministry here. there are a TON of things i can invest in, but i want to have guidance first, because i can easily fall into the busyness trap of my (former) life and overbook myself to exhaustion here. (it sounds tempting, but i’m fighting the urge and remembering that part of my purpose here is for breath.)

 

  • still need a bike. :o) waiting for a friend to get back here and help me navigate the market :o)

 

 

	Commit your way to the LORD;
		trust in him, and he will act.
	He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
		and your justice as the noonday.
	
	Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
		fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
		over the man who carries out evil devices!

(Psalm 37:5-7 ESV)

 

 

(Jesus is my Savior)

 

Great is Your Faithfulness

so, i’ve been here a month, now.

 

wait, it’s only been a week and some change?!? this time has really flown by and it feels like bleaching fruit, dust storms and power outages are just a normal part of daily life.

but the week has been full. and it has been good.

before i get to my first week, i feel the need to share how i got here, because it is a story of surrender. you’ll have to check back for updates on my first week in Niamey.

 

originally, when i committed to coming to Niger for 5 months, our plan was for me to live with april so that she could finish out her Journeyman tour in her town, with the ministry she had begun. i was working on learning Zarma and coming up with ideas for my assistance and involvement in her outreach there. i was extremely excited to be fulfilling a long-term dream and calling of mine to do evangelical foreign missions- something i knew God had for my life since i first heard Him tell me in 2005.

a few months ago, the personnel here experienced a bit of a shake up and the baptist mission guest house was in need of a manager. after i read the initial email april sent me, the email discussing the critical need for someone to come take care of this compound, my heart sunk. i knew almost immediately that i was supposed to offer my service here. but, in all honesty, i did it as an act of obedience, not of desire.

i had hung up my conference center/hospitality management keys over a year ago. i was done booking rooms, making housekeeping inventories and settling bills with guests. i had put my time in. i didn’t need to worry about employee payroll anymore or about resetting the internet. i was done with that ministry.

but it seems as though God had different plans for me. today i officially started my service as temporary guest house manager here in Niamey. and while i was very reluctant to take this assignment, i am very excited to serve the missionaries and volunteers here. this is not new for me. after working up the ranks and serving for 14 years at Skycroft, i am quite adept at guest services and hospitality management.

and now i have another opportunity to organize (stop laughing, douglas), develop operational systems, oversee compound improvements and provide clean respite for missionaries and volunteers alike. i have the opportunity to plan guest house activities, cook meals for people when they return from serving out in the bush, and practice language learning with the staff that work here. so, i am excited. i’m excited that the Niger team has opened up their arms to welcome me and allowed me to easily become a servant with them. and i am in constant prayer that i stay focused on Jesus first, and the work second. it is essential.

it’s not what i expected when i initially told God i would come here and serve for a few months. but, then again, how often does our life’s path take a few roads we didn’t expect? my own life is a testament to that. there have been roadblocks and forks. dead ends and swiftly moving freeways. unexpected curves and plenty of joyrides.

and now God’s path for me has led to a new city. a city i am excited to bike around and learn its intricacies. it has led me to a brave adventure of learning a very foreign tongue and being forced to use it as i navigate the city on my own. it has led me to an awakened sense of my desperate need of a life of constant prayer. it has led me to once again trust in the faithfulness of Jesus.

 

so. though not the path i would have planned to get here, i am ever thankful that i am here.

 

	For you make him most blessed forever;
		you make him glad with the joy of your presence.
	

(Psalm 21:6 ESV)



(jeremy riddle- sweetly broken) 

our Living Hope

i’m in Africa.

 

i’ve been here for just about 24 hours now and i’m not mentally firing on all cylinders just yet. blaming it on travel-brain. or something of the sort. but i’m here and getting somewhat settled.

and i’m thinking through various ideas and ponderings, which i’ll try to make sense of.

  • a flight delay in washington gave me time to chat with a Mexican girl who is going to be spending the next 2 months in Kenya volunteering in an orphanage and an Albanian man who lived in Frederick for a few years but is on vacation to visit family back home. he says the thing he missed most about Frederick was Brewers Alley. i didn’t have enough time to clear that one up for him, but we were able to talk a little bit about why we were going to be living in Africa for a few months, as he was pretty shocked that we were both doing something he thought was “really crazy to do right now.” i know many other people are thinking the same thing. as the girl and i were talking through broken English and Spanish, we kept coming back to the same answer: we want to do something. we can’t do everything, but we can do something.  we can all do one “something,” and that makes everything a little better. it just so happens that my “something” means living and working in Niger for 5 months (whatever this may look like) and her something meant working with kids who are dying from Malaria. but we all have one something we can, should, and need to do.

 

  • as i was preparing to leave for Niger, the question i was asked most involved one word, a word that is on the tongues of almost everyone in the world: Ebola. i talked about it using numbers: “only 3 countries are affected, Niger isn’t one of them.” ” i’ll be 5 countries away from where it is.”  “the mortality rate is 55%.” “the 2 Americans in Atlanta are so very quarantined. it will not cause an outbreak in the US.” “50 more CDC workers are going to increase protection and aid.” etc. etc. but tonight i talked to a missionary who had to leave Liberia because she isn’t a medical worker. tonight i watched her fight back tears because she couldn’t go home and she can’t do anything to help the people she loves. and then i was harshly reminded how when we talk just using numbers, we desensitize and distance ourselves from the reality that almost 1,200 mothers, sisters, fathers, brothers have died because of this virus. countless more people are left orphans, widows and widowers. tonight i was reminded that people choose to do brave and scary things every day just because they have a deep care and concern for humanity in general.

 

  • i’m (finally) reading the book/pamphlet “Lord, Teach us to Pray” by Andrew Murray and i realized (actually, truly realized) that during this time here i have to slow down. i have to listen. i have to be still more, be moving less. and part of me (the part that some would argue has attention problems) is nervous about what slowing down will mean/do in my life. i’ve been feeling for years that i had to simplify. slow down. get less busy. because busyness does not equate to productivity. and maybe it’s very naive for me to just be understanding this now, but i have a feeling God brought me here to slow me down a bit. and that feels uncomfortable for this fast-paced girl.

 

  • i taught myself how to bleach fruits and vegetables today. that sounds weird.

 

  • i need to find a bicycle.

 

	Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;
		bind them around your neck;
		write them on the tablet of your heart.
	So you will find favor and good success
		in the sight of God and man.
	
	Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
		and do not lean on your own understanding.
	In all your ways acknowledge him,
		and he will make straight your paths.
	Be not wise in your own eyes;
		fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.
	It will be healing to your flesh
		and refreshment to your bones.
	
	Honor the LORD with your wealth
		and with the firstfruits of all your produce;
	then your barns will be filled with plenty,
		and your vats will be bursting with wine.
	
	My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline
		or be weary of his reproof,
	for the LORD reproves him whom he loves,
		as a father the son in whom he delights.

(Proverbs 3:3-12 ESV)

 

 

 

(bryan & katie torwalt- Holy Spirit)

a peace that lasts forever

in one month i’ll be on a plane heading east, over the Atlantic to a temporary home in Niger. lately i’ve been asked the question, “are you prepared for your trip?” and more often then not, i respond with a simple, “prepared in my heart, but not physically yet.” but if i were being totally honest, i would tell you that every day i have to rely on Jesus’ peace to feel prepared for this experience.

i pray for peace every time i think about my kids meeting for Bible study without me, my sister making coffee for one every morning, missing the moment when zoey says her name with a “z” for the first time, missing jack jack’s transformation from tiny wrinkled creature  into a baby that looks like a tiny human, my girls going to their senior year homecoming dances…. and the list goes on. i pray for peace because i know this is part of my journey, to spend these next few months in Africa, but it is still difficult to think about life moving forward without me.

it’s naive for me to think that i’m just putting my life in Maryland “on hold” for a few months because that simply isn’t possible. life will move on here. my students will struggle through AP classes and college applications. my family will spend time together and make new memories that i won’t share. my church will sing on without me and my small group will bear each others burdens as they continue living life together. and these thoughts bring an anxious weight to my chest, and a fear that i’m going to miss too much to be gone so long…

but it’s in these moments of anxiety when God reminds me that none of those things are truly mine. He has allowed me to share a part in all of those communities, experiences, challenges, moments; but they are His. and because they are His, i don’t need to fear that i am missing anything at all. because He has asked me to be a part of another community, experience, challenge and moment that is also His, for such a time as this.

 

and so i surrender to the trust that is like quicksand, allowing it to claim everything i think is my own, because i know that it will give me life. freedom. peace to walk with Him where my faith has no borders. where i can truly sink into His mercy and grace for my life. and i can know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that He is readying me for this new journey, this new season in my crazy, adventure-filled life.

and i will cling to this peace that lasts forever, that is beyond my understanding. and i will be excited to hear about how my kids are growing spiritually, how zoey is growing physically, how God is working in and through my church, how my family is growing and changing… and i will be excited to share how God is using me, growing me, sharpening me, molding me, teaching me. for such a time as this.

my heart may have to be reminded every day of His peace and His plan, but i can say that it is ready for this journey. wherever it may lead.

“grace, mercy and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and in love.” 2 john 1:3

 

PRAY: peace for my family; confidence and leadership for emily, who will take over leadership in Tracer; discernment for my students as they pray for their roles in gifts; open doors for faith conversations every step of this journey, even before i step foot in the airplane; boldness and courage for myself.

 

 

 

 

(hillsong- sinking deep)

a road leading to freedom

i should have written this months ago.

but the truth is that i knew the story wasn’t ready. it wasn’t finished.

it’s only begun…

 

in february i took a trip to visit my dear friend April, who is serving in Niger as a missionary with the International Mission Board. my plan was to go visit my friend who i missed and love dearly. my plan was to visit another continent and do good work for 2 weeks. my plan was to come home with another foreign mission trip under my belt.

aren’t our plans funny?

i had arranged this trip when i was working for the Baptist Convention of MD/DE. in fact, this was a fairly new job,  and i was still getting into the swing of my position. as quickly as i swung in, i was told i would be swinging back out. i found out i was losing my job a little over a month before i was slated to leave for Africa.  not only was this unexpected change shaking up my financial situation, but it was shaking up every aspect of my life. i allowed myself to grieve and worry for a day or two. and then i decided that God was faithful and i was going to boldly walk down the path He was laying before me, whatever it turned out to be.

so, to Niger i went. i went with a heart wide open; for change, for a new word from God, for leading and guiding from the Spirit that always happens when i’m at my quietest. i went only with the  expectation to see God move in ways I hadn’t seen before.

Niger is different than any other place i’ve been. i had a feeling it would be. more than ever before, this trip was about people, not a location. before i left, a friend who had lived in Niger for a summer said to me “no one moves to Niger because it’s beautiful and exciting and filled with opportunity. you have to feel called there to make it, but it’s tough.” and i took that little piece of knowledge with me, packed it in my backpack knowing i would need to refer to it when i arrived. he was right. Niger isn’t a tourist destination. it’s not a place to live if you’re looking to make a quick investment or nice retirement property. it’s dry. it’s overwhelmingly underdeveloped. the landscape is flat, sub-Saharan, aquatically and arboreal challenged.

all of which made it that much easier to see the true beauty of Niger and the true reason i was there: the people. it was exhilarating to meet every person i met. to smile and laugh with them, to share what common things we could.  i listened to every person i met, even if i couldn’t understand the words they were speaking. i intentionally looked at each person the way i believe Jesus sees them- as a person made in the image of God who deserves my love and care, able to do that only because of the Spirit of Christ in me.

i fell in love every day. with moments, with little smiles and little laughs, big bright eyes that held lifetimes of stories in their tiny frames. i fell in love with stories and the people who shared their lives with me for 2 weeks. i was pouring out and being fed, and it was truly refreshing and i felt at ease…i knew before i left that my story there wasn’t over.

i’ve been on mission trips many times. i’ve always left those places feeling refreshed and feeling a connection to the people and the experience. but this was different. this time i felt like i was at home. uncomfortable at times, with growing pains, but it felt right.

 

which brings us to current time. the time in which i am making preparations to place my current life on hold to go back to Niger. to serve with April for a few good months and help her finish out her term as a 2-year missionary. to help her love people, teach them about Jesus’ saving power, sing songs with them, create art together, learn new agricultural methods to improve health and nutrition, help kids get needed medical attention. to show everyone we meet the road to freedom- Jesus Christ.

it’s funny that i have been dreaming for many years of the chance to be a foreign missionary. i had been resolve to the path my life had taken: full-time ministry jobs here in the US with the freedom to take short trips when i wanted. it’s funny that something that at first swept the rug from under my feet has actually opened a door of possibility and opportunity to my own road to freedom. the freedom to be led “where my trust is without borders”  and where i am able to boldly follow God’s gentle guidance in my life. in a million years i never would have seen this coming. not the way it came about, not the steps it took to get me here or the speedbumps i encountered in the daily quest to trust God. but it happened, and the time has come for me to walk a new path.

 

so, i’m going to Niger in August. i don’t have a lot of information other than when i’m leaving and where April will be picking me up. aside from that, i am waiting to hear from the LORD about what He specifically wants me to be doing while i’m there. i know i’m going to love people and point them to Him, using whatever abilities God wants to use through me.

 

what i do know is that many people have asked me how they can contribute to my trip. i will be living and volunteering in another country for 4-5 months. it’s up to me to cover my trip and time over there, so as you can imagine, even though it is not an expensive place to live, there are costs involved. my wonderful church is going to be collecting donations for my mission to Niger. if you would like to contribute financially, you can send a check made out to:

 

Summit Trace Church, memo: Grace’s Africa Mission

3886 Roundtree Rd Unit 2

Jefferson, MD 21755

Your donation will be tax-deductible and will go directly to my plane tickets, language school, ministry supplies, food , major medical insurance and utilities while I am living in Niger. if you are able to help send me to Africa, i would love to have you as a partner in this journey.

above all, i am  grateful to the many people who have shared my excitement for this opportunity, who have committed to praying for me and the people I will be working with. i cannot begin to understand this life i have been gifted with, but i am ever grateful for it and will continue to live every moment eager to make the most of it. thanks for reading and being interested in my journey. thanks for praying for me and thinking of me. i am blessed and undeserving, but so very thankful.

i will be sharing my journey here on my website, so if you feel like keeping up with me while i’m overseas, keep checking back here! all of my stories from the field will be tagged “niger” so you can easily find the newest face and adventure i’m sure to share.

ay sabu. i am thankful. :o)

 

 

(the church at brook hills- we are the body)