Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A 2012 Gourmantchema Wedding

This past Saturday we got to attend two weddings on the same day…and that's quite tricky out here where a wedding is a 24 hour event!  We claimed "old age" and were able to bow out of the second wedding celebration around 5 pm.  I think by that time, everyone was exhausted, even the bride and groom!  But the first wedding was while the day was still fresh and it represented so many contrasts, that I knew I just had to tell about this one. 
The first wedding was out in the village where we lived when we were learning the Gourmantche language and we wanted to "immerse" ourselves in it.  Our language teacher took us to his village and arranged for us to "camp" near his family compound.  Ever since those weeks spent living with our Gourma family, we are adopted "Family" to them.  So this was a family wedding and of course we were going.  
The trip to the village is always interesting, since the paths through the bush change all the time, depending on the seasons and the cattle or donkey carts traveling them.  We were worried that we may not be on time since we were arriving at 9:15 and the wedding was supposed to have started at 9.  Well, when we drove up, all fears were put to rest.  There were no people at the church and our "family" welcomed us into their compound to come and visit with them.  After making a tour of the huts to greet "the old man" and "the old woman" (our "parents") we went over to greet the women who were busy preparing the food for the meal after the ceremony. 
After oooing and ahhing over the humongous pots of sauce and rice sitting atop fires, we were ready to head for the church to get seated…we knew it would become crowded quickly.  While we were visiting, the groom came by in his everyday clothes and greeted us and even chit-chatted, in no hurry.  But he was beaming with a grin as big as possible!  Finally he went off to get ready.


As we were leaving, the Father of the groom came after us and insisted that we return to the groom's hut to eat!  Nothing would do but to sit with our friends while the ladies brought us steaming bowls of rice and sauce with goat meat.  (Remember, this is 10 o'clock in the morning!)  It was delicious and after enjoying the visit and meal, and thanking our host, we made our way to the church. 
The wedding was going to be too big to be held in the church, so the villagers had constructed a vast "hanger" from poles topped by grass mats.  We would all sit on benches under it.  And as the time began to pass, more and more people arrived and we began to be more and more numerous on the benches!  Pretty soon there was no room to move.
After singing for 30 minutes, accompanied by a drum section and 3 instruments of African origin, the choir began to sing.  

(It hasn't even become crowded yet...this is during the singing time, with the choir up front, middle)

The choir was well into 20 min. of singing when I was told that the Bride and Groom were ready to begin their wedding march from the near-by compound.  I inched my way through the crowd and over to the compound to get some pictures.
All the men had come to this compound to accompany the Bridal Party to the church.  They were standing around waiting for the Bride to come out and the march to begin.  I stood with them…and we waited.  In the sun.  

Finally, they emerged and I was struck by the sight.  We were in a remote bush village, animals nearby and huts all around us and out walks the Bride in a white wedding gown!  And the Groom comes out in a black suit that looked as good as an Armani suit!  The contrast between two cultures and two worlds was striking at that moment! The past and the present collided! And then I noticed that her veil was made from a sheer curtain with lace on the edge…and I was impressed with their improvisation. 
They formed a line and the older brother began the slow step march, while the rest of the men brought up the rear and we all sang the songs as we walked together to the church.  At different times, the procession would just stop and sing, and after awhile, it would continue. 
Eventually the wedding party arrived at their seats in the front of the congregation where the marriage ceremony would take place.  There was a sermon on marriage, there were choir songs, there was the exchange of vows, and there was prayer.  


(L to R - Maid of Honor, Bride, Groom, Best Man, and Brother/Leader)


But we didn't get to see all of that, because we had to leave when the bride and groom were seated.  We had to get to the second wedding back in Makalondi. We made a quick exit in our truck and managed to make the second wedding. Two of our "kids" who had grown up in my kid's club, and then youth group were getting married, so we couldn't miss that!  
Two beautiful weddings, western style in Gourmantche culture...even their world is changing.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Delicious Oat Bars with Dates, Walnuts and Applesauce


Ingredients

  • 1 cup finely ground old-fashioned rolled oats (1 and 1/4 c. oats = 1 c. ground)
  • 3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light-brown sugar
  • 8 tablespoons (1 sticks) unsalted butter, softened (or 1 1/2 stick butter and no applesauce)
  • 1/2 c. applesauce
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cups walnuts (5 1/2 ounces), toasted and chopped
  • 1 cup dates (5 ounces), pitted and chopped
  • Vegetable-oil cooking spray
Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together ground oats, flour, 1 cup whole oats, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and allspice in a large bowl; set aside.

2. Put brown sugar and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Mix in applesauce, eggs and vanilla, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.

3. Reduce speed to low. Add oat mixture, and mix until just combined. Mix in walnuts and dates.

4. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Spread batter evenly in dish. Scatter remaining 1/2 cup whole oats over top. Bake until golden and a cake tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack; cut into bars.

You'll thank me for this recipe!

Better NOT Let Them Eat Cake!

It's often quite an experience over here when I decide to try a new recipe I've seen in an American magazine.  Most of the time, I have to make some substitutions or even MAKE one of the ingredients (like sour cream or ricotta cheese…).  Sometimes the recipes turn out great and other times we call it a "miss".  Well, I had quite the experience the other day!

Earlier I had seen a recipe for Oat bars in an old Martha Stewart magazine of mine, and it had dates in it as well.  The first time I made it, it was just yummy!!  And one thing we can get easily here is dates.  Gary loves dates. I decided that it was time to make it again!  I had all the ingredients on hand.  Along with dates, it also called for walnuts, which I bring from the States, and a good amount of Brown Sugar (from Nigeria) and nearly a whole stick of good French Butter.  (Definitely not the healthiest bars around!).  The Oat flour and oats made up most of the "flour", but it did call for 3/4 c. of wheat flour.  No problem.  I got out of my freezer, a new 1 kg. sack of flour that I bought from my local "grocer", opened it and measured it out into the ingredients.  Towards the end, I measured out 1 c. of my precious walnuts, toasted them and tossed them in the batter.  Into the oven it went…


Later when I took it out, I just couldn't resist cutting a small corner out to taste it and see how it had turned out.  Delicious!  Really!  As I went about my work though, I kept feeling a gritty taste left in my mouth.  And it just wouldn't go away.  So I began to wonder… I asked Gary to try a piece and see if he agreed about the grittiness.  He did.  We began to think through the ingredients…dates, walnuts, oats…none of which were gritty.  I grabbed my flour container and tasted it.  Oh My!  Not only was it gritty but it was also bitter.  Gary tasted it.  We couldn't believe it…it appeared to be the powder for Painter's Putty!…what we call "mastique" here.  We couldn't be sure, but we realized that whatever it was, it was Not flour…and therefore we couldn't take a chance and eat the bars!  



How disappointing!  The next morning I showed it to our helper, Abdou, and he took the powder back to the shack where he bought it and the owner agreed that it wasn't flour….but it really wasn't his fault because it had come to him in his order from the city. So the 3 bags I had bought were useless….unless we decide to patch our walls before we paint again! 
So as not to endanger anyone's health, Abdou cut the cake up in pieces and threw it down an outdoor latrine.  It killed me to see all my ingredients be thrown away!

A few days later I asked Abdou to go and buy me another kilo of flour and he asked if he should find another shack to buy from.  I told him "no" because it wouldn't likely be a problem again.  So he came home with the flour and later that evening I began to make the Oat Bars AGAIN.  I started to sift the flour (we always sift the flour here because there are often weevils in the flour).  Lo and behold, I began to see lots of brown "residue" left in the sifter….it looked like sawdust!  As I looked closer, I saw that it was probably chaff from the wheat…and there was a whole lot of chaff!  I just couldn't believe this!  Out of that kilo sack, I had nearly a cup of chaff sifted out.  When I showed it to Gary, he just said, "We need to buy flour in Niamey", and we will, but…I'm not sure that it won't happen there either.  


Anyway the Bars turned out so delicious and we're certainly enjoying them!

Monday, October 8, 2012

What's in a Name?

"Do you know what the real meaning of 'Makalondi' is?", I asked David last Thursday, as we were driving out to the clinic.  "I've heard several "meanings" but the people I asked were new." 
David replied that he Did know the meaning, because of the way that stories are passed down through families among the Gourma.  His dad had explained it to him when he was a child. 
He began by explaining the real words that make up 'Makalondi'.  Because the village is located in a low valley, he said that years ago there were Monkeys that used to live in the area.  The word for monkeys (plural) is "Mamii".  There was a big tree in the area that had a hole in the trunk, and the word for a "tree with a hole in it" is "Lonli".  They called that spot, "Mamilonli", and over time and with the arrival of other peoples, the name evolved into "Makalondi". 
Interesting!

So then David asked me, "You know what my village, Hanlonli, means (where the clinic is located)?"  I knew it had to at least involve a tree with a hole in it!  I was right!  There is a tree, and David has seen this tree when he was young and his father pointed it out to him.  It's a tree that produces a little dark fruit about the size of an acorn.  The fruit are called "Hana".  So, "Hana" and "Lonli" became "Hanlonli".  Hana fruit on the Tree with the hole.  Ok, good enough.

Now David asked me, "Do you know how the village of Koulbou got its name?"  We had just driven through Koulbou.  "Nope", I replied. 
"Well, there is that very big Baobab tree we just passed in the middle of the village and every year it bears its fruit, which we call "Monkey fruit".  One year there was a very bad famine and so everyone in the village began running for the tree to try and get some fruit before the other villagers could get it. 
There wasn't enough for everyone, so from then on the village was called "Koulbou".  'Koulu' means 'next to' and 'boutibou' is 'tree' (the shortened, 'bou' is used for "it"- to refer to the tree). 
So the village name means, "Stay next to it"!!  Isn't that Great?!!

At that I just had to laugh as I imagined people jostling each other, trying to stay next to the tree and guard their spot!  
You have to love the history lessons here!

A Lavender Suitcase

Last Monday I received a huge surprise. 
On Tuesday morning at Coffee Time in the office, I was excited to announce my surprise to my friends and colleagues.  So I got their attention (which is hard at coffee time!) and then I announced, "I have some exciting news…Yesterday I was given a lab in a suitcase for my clinic!  Those cost over $5000!"  I was excited and nearly jumping up and down.
As everyone began talking and asking me about it, I looked across the room at Nancy, who looked confused, and was asking Beki, "A Lavender suitcase??… that costs $5000??"  Beki told her, "No, it's a Lab in a suitcase." to which Nancy was even more confused and wondered out loud... "why would anyone put a dog in a suitcase?"!!!

At that point I realized that I hadn't explained my gift very well!  Others helped me explain and we had some good laughs.  The truth is, I'm very excited about this wonderful gift to our rural clinic! 

All too often, I see patients who really should have some basic blood work done in order to make a definitive diagnosis.  But more often than not, when I explain that they will have to go to the city to have blood tests done, they never go.  The distance and cost is just too much for many of them, and the problem of lodging while in the city is another.  Often in the past several years I've wished for and prayed for a way to be able to do some simple tests there in the bush. 

Other times it would be a lifesaver, as in the instance of our expectant moms.  Since anemia is a chronic problem for most of the population, it only gets more pronounced when a woman is carrying a baby, often resulting in a mother's death during or shortly after birth.  At our prenatal clinic we put every mom on vitamins and iron, but we have not been able to check their blood to make sure that it is adequately strong.  Checking the Hemoglobin and Hematocrit in the blood would really help!

On Monday I received word from an organization which works in Niger, that they would like to help me by purchasing and bringing me a Lab-In-A-Suitcase in two weeks!  What a huge Surprise and a huge Gift!  This suitcase contains the equipment to do a number of lab tests which will help me to know how to more effectively treat our patients.  Praise God for bringing us this resource just as we are opening and using our new treatment room!  God bless the organization, which chose to bless our clinic and the people of our area!

So a Lavender Suitcase turns out to be a medical Laboratory! 
No Lab puppies in a suitcase!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Choosing a Wife!

Last night Gary and I had the pleasure of hosting 7 of our 8 students for supper in our apartment here in Niamey.  Schools are starting over the next 2 weeks, so most of our boys from out in the Makalondi area have arrived back in the city for their next "annee scolaire".  Most of them live together in the dorm, but two live with family, so we thought that it would be a good idea for us all to get together once a month for a meal so we can catch up and make sure everyone is "thriving". 
They love the popular Chinese meal here of Nems Chinois and Cantonese Rice, so that was the surprise hit of the evening, along with the chocolate cake.  There was alot of talking and laughing going on around this table!
It was great to be able to spend time catching up, but also discussing/debating the "subject" of the evening: Choosing a wife.  That certainly was interesting!  It was encouraging to hear the guys list the qualities they would look for and the spiritual depth.  They asked Gary and I alot of questions and really paid attention to the "words of wisdom" we gave them, but more importantly to what words they find in Proverbs.  As we prayed together at the end of the evening, it was so beautiful to hear their hearts being expressed to their Heavenly Father.  What a super bunch of guys we have been privileged to be "mom and dad" to these past 13 years!

I wonder what next month's subject will be!

From L to R: David (3rd yr. medical student), Matthew (3rd yr. Business), Yumanli (Junior H.S.), Mayimba (1st yr. Business college), Jeremie (Sophmore H.S.), Humbo (Senior H.S.), Dieu Donne (Senior H.S.)

A Scenic Drive

Last Thursday, in spite of a big rain in the early morning hours, I finally made it back out to my clinic.  The trip was not without it's challenges - feeling the truck slip & slide out of my control in the mud, losing the "road" in the water, and getting bogged down in the mud!  (For that last one, I had to put it in 4WD and get out in reverse…then go forward a different way).  All of these little scenarios get my heart racing because I really don't want to get stuck out in the bush with truck problems and little-to-no cell phone coverage!  I'm not worried about my safety, because every person that comes along is always ready to help.  I just don't know how Gary would get out to where I am to fix the problem. 
So I thank the Lord with all my heart that He has always helped me to get to and from my clinic without getting stuck somewhere.  

This is the the rainy season…  driving out to the clinic will take me alittle longer, about 45 minutes.  These are some of the sights along my way...

As I leave home, most of my route will be lined by millet and sorghum fields.  To me this is the prettiest time of year, when there are prolific shades of green all around.  The dry bushland comes to life!

Gourma beehives beside the road.  The Gourma are known for their excellent honey!

Driving through the spill-way this week wasn't too bad.  Several weeks ago the water was so high that it flooded everything for 300 m. in both directions.  I couldn't pass. 

Arriving at the lowest marsh where I tend to get bogged down in the mud.

Sometimes the "road" is so narrow, I have no idea what I'm actually driving over.


I pass my favorite trees, Baobabs, which have leaves on them during this season... (I call this one "The Family"- if you look closely at the trunk, "dad" is holding "child", with "mom" on his right)  I know I have an active imagination...

...and pass one of my favorites that recently fell after hundreds of years.


And then I arrive through the millet fields around the clinic and see our solar panel set up.  Awwww... I've arrived.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Puoba is a Dream Come True!

On one of our first evenings back home in Makalondi, we were sitting in our "lawn chairs" in our yard around sundown, when we heard a motorcycle pull up to our gate.  It was our Gourma friends, Ounteni and his wife, Puoba.  We've known them for a lot of years now and they had come to welcome us back.  Ounteni has been a fellow garden-lover and we exchange seeds and advice…and he often brings me fresh milk from one of his cows.  Puoba is one of my Health workers at my bush clinic and several years ago, completed the Women's Health Course I taught.  It combined basic discipleship lessons with basic home health practices. Since then they have become strong proponents of putting what they've learned into practice.

When we asked them where they were coming from (it is now dusk and they have a long ride home yet), they replied that they'd just come from the village of Ufuanou, about 7 kms from Makalondi.  Puoba began to tell me that she'd just finished teaching a health lesson there to 35 women.  She pulled out her ledger and showed me all the women's names who are following the course.  She showed me how tattered her lesson papers were from when she took the course with me.  I couldn't believe what I was hearing!  She was taking the training I had done with the women and going to a new village to teach those women!  Now I was eager to hear more. 

She told me, "You really need to get these lessons printed into a book, because you can see that my pages are falling apart!"  I had to smile.  She was so right.  Then she went on to tell me that she'd already taught the health course in two other villages, one with 50 women and the other with 55!  She was so excited, telling me how much the women love the training.  Ounteni jumped in and told about how please the villagers are that now the women can take better care of their families!  Puoba added, "...and I have about 15 more villages to go teach in!"



This was better than winning the lottery!!  I was hearing how one of my trained health workers was going from village to village to pass that training on to other women, WHILE I WAS BACK IN THE U.S.!  Her husband was driving her on his motorbike to enable her to be able to do it.  This is monumental!  I remembered a meeting with our Gourma church organization over a year ago when a Pastor asked me to come do the training in his area, but I had instead recommended that one of my women be the teacher.  Now I was seeing that they had taken the initiative and made it happen!

Praise God!  This is the kind of happening that makes me want to just jump up and down and laugh myself silly!  The health training was not only being used by the women in their own compounds and villages, but now we have our first woman going out and training others!  That's Exciting!!!

Before Puoba left, she asked me when I'm going to begin the Level Two Health Training… I guess I better get on it quickly!

Foot-Washing

When we're living in Niamey, which we've been doing a good bit of lately due to the flood, we occupy a small apartment above our mission office.  It's a one bedroom flat with a tiny kitchen…but I don't mind that at all.  I've begun to love small kitchens.  And the apartment is a roomy enough space for Gary and I.
The one convenience that I do miss, is not having any access to do laundry…no washing machine and no place to hang clothes up to dry.  So recently I remarked to a group of my friends that I was going to put a big basin of soapy water in our shower, then get in and step up and down on the clothes with my feet….and mimic the action of a washing machine.  One of the ladies in the group is Korean, and she looked at me matter of factly and said, "That's the way most Korean women wash their clothes.  It works better than hand washing."  Well, that was all the qualification that I needed. 
Since then, I've been doing my "feet washing" and our clothes are nice and clean.  I'm still trying to figure out how to dry the clothes without hanging them all over every piece of furniture in our place! 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Flooded


Since the first year we arrived in Niger and worked at the school for Missionary kids, we have often walked on the dike beside the Niger River.  In our early years here, we would take our boys and dorm students on walks or bike rides on the dike.  I fast walked on the dike many a morning trying to take off unwanted pounds and stay healthy.  I don’t think we ever thought much about the reason for the dike being there b/c it seemed like a fixture that doubled as a "road" for so many other reasons, like the men washing clothes in the river, women carrying basket loads of vegetables on their heads to the market in town, and other workers headed to their jobs.  We would watch every year as the river would rise and we'd note how many meters it came up to.  And then we would watch it slowly recede in the new year until the cattle could walk across the riverbed.  Year after year it repeated it's cycle with little change.  Until two years ago…and then up river, the dike couldn't hold back the overflowing water and we watched it creep up and wash out whole neighborhoods.
And then this year, the dike broke in several places and mass flooding hit everyone on that dike side of the river.  Our school and Bible School compounds and other businesses and neighborhoods BECAME the Niger River, according to the Niger River Basin Authority.  The River cut a new channel and so many people lost their homes, possessions, properties, and gardens. 
The ramifications are massive!  Salvaging and moving out belongings, finding new homes or living in schools or under the sky, finding a new way to make a living, cleaning up and staying healthy in the process… In so many ways it is just overwhelming for so many people….where do you even begin…or continue? 
When I thought about that, it reminded me of a song I just recently heard and loved….and now I sing.  It's called "Overwhelmed" by The Followers and here are the words I love from the chorus:
            Forgive us, for the days that we've strayed
            When we're overwhelmed and we look up and we'll say
            Glorious, Beautiful Jesus, we are weak so be our strength!...
            We… are… OVERWHELMED by Your love (repeated several times)
I'm reminded that nothing here on earth is lasting strength… not dikes, not homes, not jobs…nothing.  Only Jesus can be our Strength that keeps us from being overwhelmed by events, and yet overwhelmed at the same time, with Jesus Himself!

Lina's Miracles

This is a picture of my friend, Lina, who was badly burned the night I arrived back in the country.  I didn't know about it until 2 days later, when she lay close to death in the E.R. of the National Hospital.  Her big brother, David, is one of "my" boys, is in Medical school here, and was working his first day of clinical experience in the emergency room, when his sister was brought in.  When he brought us to see her, I quickly saw that without a touch from God, Lina would not live through the night.  But God did touch her, and sent us miracles along the recovery road, tangible evidences of His love and compassion for this 15 yr. old high school student.  Today, just over a month later, Lina is healing nicely, has a big "fan club" among the families of other burn patients, and is always thanking and praising God.  Lina's Dad is my Head Health Worker at my rural clinic, and he has stayed with her the whole time she's been here in the hospital.  That has meant that his wife and daughters have had to cultivate their fields of millet, corn and sorghum.  Thankfully, other believers around them have come to pitch in and help them with the work.  We're not sure how long of a recovery still has to be made before Lina and her father can return to their village… what's so remarkable is their contentment and patience and joy through this whole trial.  It's obvious that Jesus is their refuge.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Our Doggie, Leah

I haven't been on much to blog since we left Niger at the beginning of February. There's been so much going on here - between visiting with family, traveling and visiting churches and friends, and working, that it's alittle harder to make myself sit down and write. However, my heart is often back in Makalondi at times throughout my days here. Especially after talking to our guard yesterday.

Before we left Makalondi, our faithful dog, Leah, had been suffering from a chronic illness which affected her energy, appetite and general well-being. Leah is like a member of our family and has been a wonderful companion to us living abit remote in Makalondi. Over the past 12 years there she has also stopped burglers from coming in our yard (2 times) and killed over 15 snakes, most of them deadly. She is such a good doorbell too, always barking when there is someone at our gate, and becoming their "best friend" when they enter. She has also joined us in the evenings when we sit under our big tree in the yard, walking around to each of us to get her "fix" of love pats. We've joked about her being our "needy" girl. The long and short of it is this: Leah has been a real gift to us from God for our time in the village.

Leaving her behind was pretty difficult and each of us spent abit of time loving on her and talking to her before we got in the truck. She knew we were leaving and she was sad. We feel better that our worker, Abdou, is there taking good care of her, but we hate to hear that she is not doing well.

For the past 7 months I've had her on medication to see if she would improve. After talking to Abdou yesterday, it is clear that the medication is no longer working. We have decided to put her to sleep to spare her any more suffering. Needless to say, we're very sad to loose our Leah and it breaks our hearts to think of returning to Makalondi and her Not being there to greet us and live with us. But I am also so very very thankful for all the years that we were blessed to have Leah! She has been a loyal, loving companion and a wonderful gift from God to us...

Monday, January 30, 2012

Esita and Miriama

This morning was my last time to worship with our Church family here in Makalondi for 6 months. (It's always mind-boggling to me to think that I sit here snuggly with the women this Sunday and next Sunday I'll be sitting in my church in Georgia!) But this morning was a little more special.
What do you think that these two Jewish women had in common - Miriam and Esther. Two women from different periods of Jewish history...a nomad and a queen. What on earth did they share and what importance is that to this Sunday morning?

After church had finished and I stood up, a young mother seated just down the bench from me, tapped me on the arm and pointed to her newborn baby, asleep in her arms. I made over her and the mother handed her to me. A beautiful little girl all curled up in my arms. I went on outside to greet friends and tell others good-bye and visit with still others. Later I went inside to hand baby back to her mom, and I asked her, "What is her name?" A little discussion arose with Dama, a more mature woman...who then explained to me, "She wants you to name her baby."

Wow, what an honor. Since I wouldn't have the benefit of several days to think and pray over it, I breathed a prayer asking the Lord to give me a special name for this precious baby. The Lord brought Esther to mind, and the reasons for which I like it. I told the mother that I had chosen "Esita" and proceded to remind her of the story of Esther, in brief. I closed by telling her why I like, and chose, the name. As I stood to leave, Dama said, "You can't go yet...you need to name her sister too!" I looked at the woman beside the mother and she was holding Esther's twin sister! Now my mind was racing...whom else from Bible history did I admire? The Lord brought Miriam to mind. And for the same reasons. So I explained that I had chosen "Miriama" for baby sister and the special things about Miriam.

As God gave me those two names, the qualities that struck me about both women, was their courage and their influence. They weren't perfect women, but they allowed God to use them, and they learned to trust Him with their lives! And as a result they were indispensible to His plans for the nation of Israel...Women of influence and power, who in their courage and dependance on God, brought salvation to His people and Glory to His name! What wonderful qualities to pray upon these two new little Gourma girls... What plans does God have in store for them? How will they impact their own people and bring Glory to His name?...

Mom and the friends were all pleased and we had a little celebration over the two little girls. I kissed each of them on the cheek...the next time I see them they'll be 6 mos. old and more active! What a privilege to have a part in their lives!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Superhero Benjamin













My little Grandson, Benjamin, is really into being a Superhero these days...and one thing he really really wants is a Superhero cape and mask. Somehow our Christmas order got messed up and Ben didn't get that gift from Nana and Papa. So Nana decided to just make him one and I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out. An added gift: I get to hand-deliver it to him in about 1 week! It'll be fun to watch him open the gift and use it for the first time.

Friday, January 20, 2012

1000 + 11 Gifts

The internet has been a bear lately…in Niamey as well as in Makalondi! And once we’ve become dependant on it, it becomes one more burr in your waistband in an already challenging place to live. We’ve all tended to bemoan our fate: can’t get emails, can’t send emails, can’t use skype, etc. and the few days we have to work at the office just grinds to a halt. More than that, I ache to be able to get FB or email updates on my High School best friend who is leaving this life and going to Life with Jesus. I feel frustrated.


So we’re doing a book reading/study on "1000 Gifts" by Ann Voskamp, and even from the first chapter with it’s Crushing story, I realize that I can choose to live in frustration, or I can remember to do what God’s Word urges us to do: to be Thankful in all circumstances. So I’ve begun to take time to reflect on my daily gifts from God…and they are so numerous, I can’t even begin to list them here(....at least a thousand!) They are part of my worship from a heart full of gratitude for the Life God has given me…here…every day!


I’ll share just a few of my recent Gifts:



  1. I was able to get a note to my girlfriend, Brooke, in time for her to be able to read it and know my heart for her before her final hours!

  2. I will see Brooke again one day and we’ll have more adventures together

  3. Visiting baby Jean Marie (a boy, I discovered), and having him sit on my lap and watch him grab at his feet and reach up and pull my glasses off – he is SEEING!

  4. My new clinic room is nearly done…the floor will be poured in the next two days, and then we get to move in.

  5. Hearing the men behind the building today listening to The Way of Righeousness; knowing that they are there, not for medical help, but just to listen to the Words of Life!

  6. These cold mornings, with a cup of hot tea, just visiting and worshipping with Jesus.

  7. Hot Fari Masa (like donuts?) with Spicy Squash sauce, fixed for me by my friend, Nuadiba, because I got hungry at clinic today - YumJ

  8. The way that Gary made sure I had hot water for my shower this evening!

  9. My nine healthy grandchildren and one on the way…what a gift each one of them is!

  10. The anticipation of seeing my children in a few weeks, and my parents and my siblings!!

  11. Laughing with my SIM colleagues – they are my “family” here.