I don't even know how to begin....more things have happened these last 8 days than I could ever imagine. Bush life is really hard. Our house is a mud-brick hut with dirt floors. There is one little window in the back room and one in the front room. We sleep outside at night in our mosquito nets on a cot. The first couple days were survival mode...getting used to everything and figuring out how to live. But now I am actually really excited about it. I love the village life and all the people. One of my favorite things is showering outside...of course the fact that we shower in the same place everyone pees is pretty nasty but its kinda fun to shower outside. Apparently Hailey and I are really lucky because we have a rich lady who lets us use her poop hole and its porcelain! haha There are animals, children, and people everywhere. Oh and I carried a huge things of water on my head...Brandy said she had never even carried one that size on her head!! I am becoming an African!!! haha AND I got my hair braided haha I cried a little because it hurt so bad and Nana (one of the children) wiped my tears and told me not to cry (crying is not acceptable in this culture).
We have a mom named Faait. She takes care of us and makes sure we are doing okay. She brings us a meal at least once a day. Whenever we are trying to get the kids out of our house she leans over the wall and starts yelling at them and they leave. It's funny because we are still learning the language but somehow we can always understand her. She is really patient with us and always takes the time to figure out what we need.
The children here are insane...clothing is optional and they are always covered in dirt. You have to be really tough on them and it's hard but they love us and want to spend every minute with us. It's hard because I would love to spend every minute with these kids...they craze attention and love and I feel like I have so much to give them but they are not our ministry. We came here to minister to the women, in this culture if you spend to much time with the children the adults will think the Gospel is only for the children. Of course we do get to spend time with them each day just not the whole day. There is one little girl Aniffa (I think she is maybe 4) who everyone knows is my favorite...she isn't like the other children. In this culture they are trained to be tough because that is the only way you can survive. She is sensitive and when the other kids are being crazy and obnoxious she is just quiet and waits her turn. Her mom asked me if I wanted to take her to America (it's really common for the mom's to offer us to take their children home) and I said yes but of course I can't. It's going to be so hard to leave her.
Something I never thought I would experience in Africa...I fall asleep listening to a French soap opera every night. My compound has electricity (of course our house doesn't but the others do) so every night they get the tv out and watch it from 8:00pm till like 1:00am. It's so funny but kinda comforting... About 3:00am every night I wake up either to the sound of someone preaching over the loud speaker and then the Muslim call to prayer or the goats that are in our compound yelling. It is the scariest noise...they sound like humans being tortured. The first couple nights we really considered killing them...or at least setting them free so they could run around the village, but now we just laugh.
My partner Hailey is really great. We work really well together because we are similar in some things but very different in others. Whenever I am kinda down she seems to be up and whenever she is down I am able to encourage her. She is having a really hard time out here...she misses home a lot and the environment makes her really sad. It is really depressing but I am so grateful to be in a village where everyone has more than enough food and they all seem to have everything they need. Of course to American standards they don't have much but to African standards they are pretty well off. The supervisors said they put Hailey and I in the Kollo Zerma village because these people have a lot of attitude and they knew we wouldn't let them walk all over us.
The villagers love us...they are so fascinated by us. They are so patient whenever we talk to them even though there is an awful language barrier (which by the way I think we are definitely improving on our language skills). I love telling them about America...they tell me about the things they do like caring children on their backs and I tell them about car seats and strollers. haha It's really funny they love hearing about America. They all want to know if we have a boyfriend or a husband....the missionaries warned us to just say yes we have a "boy that is our friend". haha I really regret not doing that now. Every time I tell them I don't have a boyfriend they start pointing out guys in the village that I should marry. haha I just tell them no I want an American boyfriend and that I don't want to get married till after University...this is usually a good enough answer.
There have been so many things I have had to get used to:
-not having electricity
-always being dirty...even when you shower you are still dirty
-just tell yourself the crunching in your food is seasoning....not dirt like you know it really is
-not having a cold drink...ever
-animals everywhere...they just walk into your yard and hang out
-people always around...you NEVER have any privacy
-nobody understanding English (this is actually nice at times when I want to tell Hailey something and I don't want everyone to hear)
I love it in the bush. I love the people we are working with and I love building relationships with them. The ministry is really hard because they are all so very Muslim in their beliefs. It is really sad to know these people are living for nothing... Knowing this and hearing the Muslim prayer 5 times a day is such a great reminder of why I am here. I know God is using us to reach these people but sometimes I feel like He is changing us more than anyone around us.
Yesterday, today, and tomorrow is our Sabbath weekend. The theme this weekend is America! Yesterday when they picked us up and well all got to be together is was so amazing to see how much we have all changed. Kanessa and Brandy (the journeymen) said they could not believe how much we have all changed in 8 days. God is really working on us and teaching us a lot about Himself and ourselves. So yesterday when we got into Niamey we went to the American embassy and we got to order American food! We all went crazy and ordered way to much food...I got a quesidilla, fries, and a milkshake! We had so much left over it was funny...so we just brought it back to the house for later. Then we got to go swimming! It was so nice...we just stood in it and chatted for 4 hours. It was great to hear about everyone else's experiences and be encouraged by them. Then we came back to the house and had pizza! Then we all sat around and chatted and some of the girls played worship songs on the guitar. It was such a good night...followed by sleeping in a real bed with A/C!!! I actually got really cold in the middle of the night...I must be getting used to this heat. haha Today we got to sleep in and then we are going to the sand dunes for a picnic and to sing worship songs tonight...also today is Brandy's birthdays so we are celebrating that!
God is teaching me so much it's crazy. The biggest thing I have learned is He is all I need. I always thought I believed that and I would sing the songs at convo and say that but I never really lived that way. I always had my family and friends and the comforts around me where I never really relied completely on Christ. This trip has made me realize I have nothing but Him. Being one of only two Christians in an entire village and one of only two people who speak my language or know my culture has been really difficult...but Christ has given me a strength I cannot even describe.
Please continue to pray for my team...most of them are really struggling with homesickness. Also please pray for the Zerma people...they live in darkness and they don't even realize it. Please just pray that God will give us all the strenght to go back out tomorrow and continue or minstry and bring light to this dark place.
I miss you all so much and I cannot wait to come home and tell you all about it...