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!


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


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.