Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Holiday of Sacrifice

This coming week will see an Islamic "Holy" day celebrated here. It is called Tabask(y) and it commemorates Abraham's sacrifice of the ram provided in place of his son, whom they believe is Ishmael. So everywhere one goes that day, you will see rams being sacrificed and then roasted for the following feast. The meat will be shared among their family and friends, and the poor.

This past week we had to travel several times between Maka and Niamey...and along the road we saw many rams being transported into the city to be sold. Some were being slowly shepherded while others took a quicker route of transportation.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Family

Last week most of the Gourmantche in our area were harvesting their millet and beans. Harvest time is an especially busy time for them, so we were wondering how many would be able to attend a course on "The Family". We knew it wasn't the best time to have one, but with our schedule, it was the only time we could do it and have our colleagues from the States, Steve and Julie, teach it. So last Sunday we were surprised and tickled to see 12 men and their wives showing up for the first session. This was a big sacrifice for them, and by the end of the week, they were so glad that they had come. Biblical teaching on child raising is not often addressed in the churches, so to them, this course was a goldmine. Even Noadiba, her husband and baby Joshua took the course.

Noadiba and Joshua

Several weeks ago, my good friend, Noadiba, had a baby boy. This was her 10th child. This is only her 3rd child living today. In a country where good pre- and postnatal care is rare, 7 of Noadiba's babies have died before turning 5 months old! We would say that that was shocking, never mind the unbelievable pain she and her husband have gone through as each of those children left their arms... It's unimaginable to me, and probably to you too.
Yet this is not a woman who is depressed or bitter. She's not angry at God or anyone else. She's joyful, kind, loving and fact she and her husband are known all over our region as a most faithful family- to Christ, to each other and to their neighbors.
Just after the last baby, Anna, died, I went to sit with Noadiba and even tho I tried to hold back the tears, I just couldn't. In their culture, emotions aren't displayed publicly. She knew my heart, and I expressed my deep sorrow at their loss; she got teary-eyed as well. And then she said something to me that I will never forget, "Joy, I just thank God for the two healthy children He's given me!" I was speechless and humbled at this dear friend's complete trust in the Goodness of her God and her genuinely thankful spirit. It's a lesson I'll never forget.
Well, even though there were no plans to have another child, now little baby Joshua has come to join the family. There is so much joy! When I visited just after the birth and we ooooed and awwwed over the little guy, Noadiba asked me to give him his name. What an honor. And as I prayed over what name to choose, the Lord kept giving me the name "Joshua", after the Jewish leader who lived bravely and obediently for God.
Since Joshua's birth, I have been in consultation with a missionary collegue, a Doctor, and we are trying to make sure that if there is a medical reason for the deaths of the other babies, that we find it in time. Up to this point, Joshua (Yosue, in Gourmantche), is a healthy little baby boy and we are all Praising God for that. If you think of him and his mom, please pray that he will stay healthy. (In the picture below, Noadiba is on the right, and her best friend, Zainabou, is holding Joshua)

Friday, October 22, 2010

WII comes to Makalondi

This past week, one of our Sahel Academy students, Chris, came out to Makalondi to help us out for a few days. It was a treat! We had been given a WII for the Ministry Center, but I had put off trying to hook it up because I'm technologically challenged! I knew that it would also have to be disconnected often in order to connect up the old VCR or the newer DVD players. Chris was able to get them all connected to the TV so that we can leave them all plugged in!!
And better yet, he took the time to show and play the WII with our Center Manager, which means that I don't have to learn it all. But the best fun was that evening at the Center.
We had nearly 20 young men show up that evening to read and hang out (school hasn't really started yet). When the TV was wheeled out and Chris and the manager began playing Mario Cart, the fun began! Each kid was eager for their turn to try driving, while all the others yelled instructions at him between bursts of laughter. The WII is a big hit!...Thanks to Chris.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Opal

This greatly encouraged me where I do....having experienced some difficult circumstances over the past 8 months. I love how God speaks specifically into our lives with a word that only HE can know to give at just the right moment.

""Do you know that lovely fact about the opal? That, in the first place, it is made only of desert dust, sand, silica, and owes its beauty and preciousness to a defect. It is a stone with a broken heart. It is full of minute fissures which admit air, and the air refracts the light. Hence its lovely hues, and that sweet lamp of fire that ever burns at its heart, for the breath of the Lord God is in it.
You are only conscious of the cracks and desert dust, but so He makes His precious opal. We must be broken in ourselves before we can give back the lovely hues of His light, and the lamp in the temple can burn in us and never go out."
- Ellice Hopkins

(Taken from the book "Gold Cord" by Amy Carmichael....definitely a Must-Read!!)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Get-Away Surprise!

Recently Gary and I needed a “Get-away Day”, but the question always is, “Where to go to get away?!” Recently, while traveling to and from the clinic in the bush, I had seen some new flowers beside the path which I just had to have in my garden. We decided to go dig some of them up…and while we were at it, we’d throw in a picnic lunch and see if a cool, shady spot would present itself out there somewhere.
We retrieved the flowers – beautiful fuscia and yellow tiger-lily looking flowers.

After making sure they were in the bucket of soil and well watered, we took off driving to see what we could find in the way of an uninhabited, secret spot under a tree.
Gary finally spotted a tree and when we got out to inspect it, we saw that it had a lot of bushes at the base, but…as he looked through to the other side, we saw that we had found THE perfect spot: a grassy lawn under the shade of the tree in a secluded spot “off the beaten path”. Just what we had been looking for! And God gave us our hearts’ desire!

We spent the afternoon reading, snacking, listening to music and enjoying the cool breeze blowing around us.

We had a short visit by some flocks passing through, grazing as they went, but that was the only visitors. Totally relaxing!

I don’t know when the last time was that we’ve had such a pleasant, unexpected surprise day, but we are certainly encouraged now to try again in the future…

6 Weeks

The last month and a half has been jammed packed with events…some expected and others totally unexpected. Hence a lack of presence on our blog… I keep thinking that maybe one day we’ll get a routine established, but I’m finally realizing that our “routine” is No Routine! Part of that comes, I’m sure, from spending 3 days each week in Niamey and 4 days in Makalondi. Anyway, here are some of the highlights of our not-so-routine life of the past 6 weeks:

Victoria arrived to do her internship. She observed different medical operations here and helped me with various jobs… but mainly she got a feel for life in Niger. She spent 6 weeks with us and we really enjoyed having her.

Our laptop went completely berserk… although everything possible has been tried, it refuses to operate on any system but Linux! At my age, I don’t think it’s possible to learn Linux! So we’ve borrowed a laptop and are using an external hard drive to “get” needed documents, etc. Finding anything becomes frustrating quickly…

Micah was officially adopted by the Banke family. A real miracle when you consider that it actually happened in three and a half months! We kept Micah for Bankes while they took a long-planned vacation in Europe for 10 days, and thoroughly enjoyed having him with us one last time. His mother returned to pick him up and they flew to the States to join the rest of the family. We went through a second parting with Micah…

David, our Gourma “son”, studying in Niamey, took his BAC exam – the exam for all students finishing High School – and passed With Honors! We were all thrilled and have been thanking God! He’s hoping to attend University in the fall and study Medicine…

(shown here returning home, with his mother and sisters)

We got 8 young students off to camp and back. They loved it and came back encouraged!

The clinic was busy this month and we added Pre-natal Check-up days. Due to a lack of good care, far too many mom’s die in or after childbirth in this country! In memory of Micah’s birth mother, (who died after a good delivery, due to anemia,) we began plans for an additional exam and treatment room at the clinic…

We did a lot of traveling in the bush…it becomes transformed in rainy season to beautiful green countryside, complete with flowers

We were in two accidents… both times we were hit by other vehicles…

We visited the giraffes in their home…

We hosted game night in our home…

And that’s just beginning to scratch the surface… Life isn’t slow here, that’s for sure!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Too Many Choices

You can't imagine my excitement recently, when I discovered my favorite flavor of Potato Chips... in Lay's, no less! Sour Cream and Onion!!! Yum! It's hard for me to leave some for Gary...
But then I noticed on the back of the package even more exciting news: along with Sour Cream and Onion and Regular flavor of Lay's chips, we can also enjoy "Roast Chicken and Thyme" and "Mustard Pickle" flavors!! I never saw THAT back home in our supermarket!

Micah's Story Continues

Tomorrow, the 3rd of June, Micah will be 5 months old. For the past 2 months, he has been living with his adoptive family and settling in with them. The process for adoption has been long and often challenging for his new parents, and yet they have handled it with grace and perseverance, continuing to trust God for His strength and patience. (There are still a number of steps to be accomplished, so we would appreciate your prayers that they would be speedily finished.)

During the past weeks, when we come into town each week, Micah’s parents have graciously let him come and stay with us for a day or two…allowing us to maintain our close relationship with him. We have moved into the role of being another set of grandparents to him, being Nana and Papa to him as we are to our other grandchildren. It has been so fun to see him changing as he grows. What a healthy little guy! Over the past month he’s mastered rolling over and even sitting by himself.

In the next month, when Micah’s adoption is complete and other travel documents acquired, he will be moving to the States with his family for the next two years. It’ll be hard to say goodbye!!!, but we know that he’ll be right where he’s supposed to be…in their loving home. I can guarantee you one thing --that I’ll be making sure that my Skype connection works with theirs!

Flat Stanley

Probably most of you are familiar with Flat Stanley. He's a little boy in a popular kid's book, who happens to have a bookcase fall on him, squishing him flat. At first he's dismayed, but then realizes that it may have advantages, as now he can put himself in an envelope and travel to different places on adventures. Well, Flat Stanley came to visit us recently. Our First Grade grandson, Landon Freeman, in Toccoa, Georgia, and his class decided to send out their Stanleys to visit new places this year, and Landon sent his to us. I must admit, I had a good bit of fun with Flat Stanley... helping him visit new places and see interesting things around Makalondi. But the biggest fun was trying to explain him to our Nigerian friends! Some of them just looked at me blankly, others laughed and then some of them joined right in the fun, helping Stanley to have a great time. I've included some of our favorites: Stanley climbs a Baobab tree on the way out to my Clinic village...

...and a puff of wind blew him into a thorn tree. He had to be rescued.

The Health worker's wife gave us some roasted sweet potatoes to eat...filled him right up!
With a full tummy, he was able to help his hostess pound her sorghum....

....and cheer up one of my patients at the clinic too.
Going home, I think he was rather sad to be leaving the village behind...

I'll have to ask our grandson what Flat Stanley thought of his visit to Niger. Landon and his sister, Madison, said that he had the best adventures of all the Stanleys in Landon's class!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Shirts seen at church

You never know what you'll see when you go to church in our corner of the world. But you will surely enjoy the variety:

Matching shirts from Abecrombie & Fitch

Che Guevara at church???!!!

"Finding Fluffy"??? (Naomi and I had to smother our giggles when we read this one!)

And here's one from the recent olympics!
So lest all you folks from other parts of the world think that you have the corner on STYLE, you're wrong! We can compete with the best of you. Bring it on!


I just had to smile the other evening watching these two. If THEY can share, I think there's hope...

Nike is our last puppy waiting to go to our worker, Abdou's, home. He has grown up with our kitty, Snowy, around and they seem to think that they are brother and sister. They play together, wrestle together and sleep together along with eating together. Who would have thought that a cat and a dog would end up being best friends!

The Gift of Gab

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Coping with the Heat

Cool early morning play in his "bed" on our terrace.
Earlier I told you about the battery fan we use when the generator isn't running. That works some of the time. But when the heat is really turned up, like it was last week, we move out onto our terrace. Gary hates setting up the beds every night, so we try to leave them semi-ready for nightly use. Because we don't have a portable baby bed, we put bedding on the table and that's where Micah sleeps. And by morning, it's usually cool enough to pull up the sheet. Works for us.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Blessing Others

A few weeks after Micah came to live with us, I went to do some gift shopping for our friends, who were the speakers for the recent meetings on Revival here in Niamey. The committee had decided that they wanted to give them some African cloth – enough for them to have African outfits made. So Gary and I and Micah went downtown to one of the nicer Cloth stores. Gary left us there and went to do some other shopping. As Micah and I walked into the store, the woman behind the counter came over and asked me if she could touch the baby. I replied, "Certainly" and handed Micah to her. She took him with a big smile on her face and began walking around talking to him. That was great for me because that left me free to walk around and look at all the different fabric and designs. Two of the other saleswomen joined the woman, all vying for their turn to hold the baby. Meanwhile I had finally decided on the fabric I wanted, but they only had a 2 meter piece left. I needed 4 meters. The young salesman talked to the woman and they told me that he would go out behind the store to their warehouse and get me another piece, if I would wait. Glad to do that, I wandered up to the counter where the women had gathered with Micah. One of them asked me his story, so I proceeded to give them a brief recounting of how he came to be with us.

As I finished, the woman placed a piece of fabric on the counter and asked me, "Do you think this fabric is pretty?" I told her I did, and she continued, "Do you think it's pretty for a baby?" I replied that it was very cute for a baby. She responded, "I want to give this to the baby as a gift. I want him to have it." I was so touched! And then she began to cry quietly, and with tears running down her cheeks, she said, "You know, I'm an orphan. I didn't have a mother or a father. It's really hard for orphans in this country. Thank you so much for taking care of this baby. Thanks to God, my mother's younger sister took me in and raised me as her own daughter. But most orphans don't get that. They become the servants of the family. I thank God that you are taking care of him."

(Micah reclining on the fabric given to him as a gift...we will make him a quilt to keep)

Her openness had taken me by surprise and had touched my heart. God then allowed me to share with these 3 women how He was already taking care of Micah. I told them about how we had just the past Sunday at church, with all our Christian brothers and sisters, given Micah back to God and how my dear friend's husband had prayed a prayer of dedication for him. I told them that Micah's uncle had stood with us and joined us in dedicating him and his future to God. The women listened attentively. I went on to tell them that when we finished praying, Gary had told everyone that he was giving the baby his name, which is an important cultural event here. "His name is Micah", he announced (in Gourmantche, we say "Mise"). He explained that Micah was one of the great Old Testament prophets and that he had foretold the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ. He told them that the name "Micah" means, 'Who is like the Lord?!" When the shop women heard this, they shook their heads and told us that this was good. They asked God to bless him (they are most likely M..lim women). We thanked them so much for their kindness and generosity to Micah and to us.

By then our fabric had arrived and we paid. We told them we would visit again, and then me took our purchase and gift and left the store. As we walked out, I looked down at Micah sleeping peacefully in my arms...Gary and I realized: "He already has a testimony! How amazing? He's already being used by God to touch other people's lives!"

Our Niamey neighbor, Jeanne, with Micah

Pastor John and Roberta McGregor with Micah