Monday, July 20, 2009

This has been the craziest time out in the bush. Every morning Hailey and I pray that God will guide our steps and the steps of everyone on our team. We just pray that we will be sent to the people who are ready to hear what He has to say and that He will use us in our villages. Well this week a young girl and her mother asked Hailey and I to play the preaching at a bread shack right outside the Mosque. So as the men came out from praying they sat, holding their beads, on the benches and listened to the preaching. It was so amazing. I just sat there praying for all the men who kept coming out, just asking God to help them truly hear what He is saying through His word. When the tape was done we prayed for them and handed out more cassettes for everyone. I really felt like crying watching these men listen to God’s word and then when it was over saying it is good! This was just one of the many awesome experiences we had sharing the Bible tapes with the people in our village.
This week we had a volunteer team of 10 mostly college age people come in from Texas. They stayed with Brandy and Kanessa and just went to all the different villages in Kollo with a translator telling people about God. It was so cool because Hailey and I pray everyday that God will send men here to Niger to bring the Gospel to the men. We really believe that if the men are open to the Gospel it will make it okay for the women to be. Sadly the women are very oppressed here and it is very hard for them to choose to follow God if their husband doesn’t. No matter how much we talk to the men about God they will respect it more coming from a man. So this week three men, who are just finishing studying at the Islam school, gave their lives to the Lord. One of the men’s father is a Muslim priest. The persecution is so great here whenever you give your life to the Lord but they didn’t care. Then through Cody’s ministry out in his village 2 more guys gave their lives to the Lord. It was the most amazing 2 weeks. God is really working in this place and it is so exciting to be here to experience it.
The most amazing thing I have got to see while being in Africa happened just 2 days ago. Three of the men who got saved this week and two women who got saved a few months ago wanted to get baptized. It was so great because one of the boys was supposed to go to exam preparation at the Islam school but at the last minute he skipped it and went to get baptized. The service was so amazing. It was in Zerma but we had an English translator, our friend Hauma. Everyone in the room was crying watching these five people go against everything they have ever known and everything against their culture to follow the Truth. When it was over one of the boys gave his prayer beads away because he said he didn’t need them anymore.
Oh so I got an amoeba this week. Basically you get the rhea like you have never known and you are in constant pain. My whole body ached and I really thought I was going to die at times. I went to a German clinic in Kollo and my doctor was a Nigerian man who spoke French. Thankfully Kanessa knows French so she translated for me. haha So I got some medicine for my amoeba, for all the bacteria that is probably living in me, and since I haven’t been sleeping in probably a month I got some sleeping pills, oh and some rehydration stuff and was told to rest. Of course the medicine has awful side affects, it makes you nauseous and tired and weak. Then I went and stayed at Brandy and Kanessa’s house for a few days because there is no such thing as resting in the bush. Oh yah one of the guys from the volunteer team went to Oklahoma State and he made a big deal about me being an Ohio State fan so he named my amoeba Bucky. Haha but I’m feeling so much better now!!!
This American weekend has been crazy. We had the baptism, we went shopping, we went to Hosanna church, and we got to ride camels and ride a boat to look for hippos. Hosanna church was amazing, there were over 13 languages represented and they were all singing and preaching. It was just so cool to see these people who are being persecuted praise the Lord. So the camel ride was terrifying, I went to get on the first camel and well my legs are short and it’s hard in a long skirt so I screamed a little and it scared the camel so he jumped up. Of course I jumped back and the African that was holding my legs almost dropped me. It was so funny. So they decided to have me ride a different camel and well let’s just say this one was worse, once it stood up we realized it was the tallest one. I got up there and my skirt was hiked all the way up to my thighs and then the saddle started to fall off. I was riding with one of the volunteers and we were screaming so loud when the camel (which we named Obama) stood up. I almost started crying I was so scared, I really thought we were going to fall off and die. haha The Africans were freaking out because they thought I was to scared to ride. But it was okay, I decided to suck it up because I knew I would regret it if I didn’t. Well the wooden back of the saddle was pushing into my back so hard that I have a huge bruise across my back. It’s pretty awesome… Then we got in a tiny little boat and road all the way back down the river looking for hippos. I was again freaking out because I thought we were going to fall in the river of death, but we didn’t. When we got back all the Africans that helped me on the camel were asking me if I was okay and how I liked it. They were laughing so hard when I said I hate camels.
God is so good!! This trip has been so amazing. I love thinking back about my expectations and pre-judgments of this trip and just seeing how much bigger God is. I mean I haven’t even seen one snake! haha I can remember multiple times freaking out and crying before I came because I didn’t think I could do it. Well I was right I can’t do it but God can and He is my strength and my everything out here in the bush. I love Africa so much and I love these people so much and I am going to be really sad to tell them goodbye. But I am really excited to come home, talking to Mom the other day and just hearing about life made me really miss home. I have so many stories and things to tell everyone and I can’t wait to come home and tell you all about it.
Please keep my team and myself in your prayers. We are all completely worn out and a couple of us are getting over illnesses. I had Buck, Kanessa has an amoeba (Fred) a urinary tract infection and probably Malaria too, Cody had an amoeba, Brandy had a cold, Mandy has an ulcer or something, and Dani has some kind of illness (we really aren’t sure what yet, maybe an amoeba or malaria). We really want God to use us till the very last second and to continue to use us even when we leave. This country needs prayer and especially the people of Kollo. Please just pray that God will remove the fear these people have in coming to know Him. Many people here know the truth but they are too scared of what will happen to them if they accept it.

Friday, July 3, 2009

one month...

...It's bee a whole month since I got off the plane and almost fell down the stairs from the heat wave. I can't begin to count how many times my teammates and I have said CAN YOU BELIEVE WE HAVE BEEN HERE A WHOLE MONTH?? This has been the craziest month of my's been hard, extremely hard, happy, sad, really sad, scary, loud, dirty, smelly, and beautiful. I love everything about this place, the food, the people, the language, and even the environment. The people in our village crave LOVE. They don't even have a word for love in their language so they have taken the English word for love because they crave it so much. You can see it in the children when no matter how many times you tell them to get out because your going to sleep or eat or take a bucket bath or anything...they just keep coming back. And you see it in the women who stare at you when you just sit with them, you don't even have to say a word, the fact that you would give them your time is all they want. You can see the craving for LOVE in every single person in our village in one way or another. My biggest prayer is that yes we are giving them love but I hope they know it's coming from Jesus and not from us. I hope that when we leave this place in one month the seek Jesus and don't just miss the two white girls who lived with them one summer.

A typical day for Balkissa (my African name) and Jamilia (my partner Hailey's African name) goes something like this: WE wake up around 7 am and go for a 3 mile walk up to the next village and down the main road. We just spend this time praying for our village, our team, our families back home, and asking God to send more people here to minister to these people. We usually get proposed to at least twice during this walk...the men here are crazy. They just want to go to America so bad (they think its full of money and beautiful women). haha Then we walk back and have some Jesus time during breakfast, then we head out for the day. We just start walking and let God lead us to the compounds that want to hear His word. Then when we get to a compound (usually 3-5 houses) we come in and greet the women (they are always sitting in the middle cooking and chatting with each other) and they usually ask if they can hear the preaching on our radio. So we get the radio out and play a 20-30 minute story of the Bible in their language then we ask them if we can pray for them. They always want us to pray for them and usually just walking through the village they stop us and ask us to pray for health, or blessings, or just for money. Then we give them a cassette with Bible stories on it. We have only had 2 women,out of the at least 60 we have played it for, get up and leave. They are all so hungry for something more here. They know we have joy and LIGHT and they seek that its awesome because they are so willing to listen to God's word. Then after we go to three compounds we go back to the house and have lunch and take a nap. Then we go prayer walking up to Zango (the village in front of ours) and we get Laban, this cold liquid yogurt stuff, yes it sounds nasty but its cold and anything cold here is GOOD! Or we get farimasas, a fried bread with sugar on it, also amazing! Then we go back down to the village and we go greet people. We just visit with anyone who invited us into their compound. Then around 7 we come back get our tents and cots out and then we watch Barbara (the French soap opera)! So of course we go sit with all the women and watch them watch it because they are so funny. They are yelling and screaming at the tv. Then Faati brings us dinner, we eat and then go to bed. We are usually asleep by 9 every night. Good sleep is hard to get in our village, we have the tv on, a party house behind us that plays music all hours of the night, a million animals, and some guys that hang out outside our compound that play music and chat. Then we get woken up to the Muslim prayer around 4am every day.

All throughout the day we have at least 5-10 children around us. They always want to hold our hands and carry anything we are carrying. They are so sweet but seriously crazy. They have no rules, and clothes are optional. The only time the adults really talk to the children is to tell them to do something or beat them for doing something they shouldn't. One of my favorite little girls is Nana (around 9 years old) this cute little girl is crazy but she just wants to be loved. Then we have little Charifa (7 years old) she sweeps our yard every day. We asked her why she changes her clothes 10 times a day (in a place where most kids don't wear clothes) she said because she showers 10 times a day, when asked why she said cause im dirty. haha Then we have 6 little boys in our compound ages 1-5 who are hilarious. They used to be scared of white people now we can't get them out of our house. Every morning we wake up to Jabiri (4 years old) standing in our yard just waiting for us to greet him. He is really sick (something is wrong with his ear) so we feel bad and we share our meals and stuff with him. These are just a few of my favorite kids in the village but there are seriously at least 20 between my compound and the next that are ALWAYS in our house and walking around us. There are a bunch of women who we have built relationships with. They are all so funny...they love asking us questions about America and they love when we give them American names.

Hailey and I made a list of things we want to accomplish while out in the bush, so far we have done pretty good:
1. ride a bush taxi (we did this to go visit our teammates village)
2. cook over a fire like the Africans (I got to help someone, but were still working on it)
3. carry water on our heads (we do this all the time and they laugh so hard)
4. ride a donkey cart (it was a cow cart but it still counts)
5. go to the river of death (we did!)
6. ride a boat across the river and not fall in (it was a close call the boat was filling with water the whole time and I got splashed on the back and the hand but we made it across and back) I don’t know if I mentioned why the river is bad but let me repeat: if you go in you will get fungus on your body, you will most likely pee blood, and you will get an infection that has caused people to become paralyzed or die…of course the Africans live in this river haha
7. poop in the bush, the rest of our team does, we are lucky and have a poop hole, I’m not really sure I want to do this one but its on the list
8. catch a baby goat, there are so many goats and chickens everywhere (a kid caught two for us and we got to hold them)
9. catch a lizard (the kids caught it and ties a leash around it and tied it to our fence, we named it Poppy and we let it go as soon as the kids left) haha
10. drink the tea, only the men drink it so you have to be asked to sit and usually its not a good idea because it sets a bad impression (but we have had it twice now…we were playing the Jesus tapes while we drank it if that makes it better) haha
11. try all the foods we can find (we have tried everything you can buy in Zango and anything the village people offer us as long as its hot…that way the diseases are most likely dead)
12. get henna, here they do it all the way up the leg and all over your hand and up your arm (I got it on my hands and feet, Hailey got it on her feet, its really cool but I feel like my hands are always dirty so I have been scrubbing it off) haha
….we are still adding to the list because we have done almost everything on it so far

This is America weekend….yesterday when they picked us up we took this hour long drive on the worst road I have ever experienced, literally we were flying out of the seats and hitting our heads on the ceiling it was so bumpy and there are definitely only seat belts for the drivers in this country haha) then we got to this place and this little African man crawled up on top of our luggage and used a millet stalk to point which way to go. So we just drove and all the sudden we sad 14 wild giraffes. They were so beautiful, we got out and walked really quietly and took pictures with them. We couldn't get super close because they are scared of us but we were really close. Then we drove a little more and found 11 more, this group was a family and they had babies. Then we came back to Niamey, went to the US Embassy and had lunch, watched the News (Michael Jackson died…which we already knew thanks to mom calling and telling me but we were all quite upset. We had our own little memorial with Dani doing the Thriller dance. It’s like double shock finding out anything about America out in Niger…I guess sometimes we forget life goes on without us there.) Then we went swimming…the pool felt so amazing but our bodies are getting used to the heat so it was kinda cold for us…haha Today we are having a 4th of July celebration, this means a cookout at the Zerma team leaders house, I’m really hoping we will have fireworks. We are so lucky the journeymen, Brandy & Kanessa, are so amazing. They take such good care of us and I just love them. They always plan really fun things for us to do and they always make sure we are okay and take care of anything we need. I can’t even describe how amazing they are!

I’m having the most amazing time here. Every day gets a little closer to coming home and seeing my friends and family who I really do miss but it also means one day closer to having to tell my friends and family here goodbye…maybe forever. It’s really sad to think we may never see these people again, they have become family to us.

Please continue to pray for me. I am starting to get comfortable and in a routine and sometimes when I do that I don’t rely on God as much as I should and I never want to be anything but completely focused on Him. Please pray for our team, we had some illnesses last week, Cody and I had bladder/urinary tract infections, Dani and Kanessa had some weird stomach issues, and Tori has been fighting a cold for awhile now. Just pray that God will give us strength to always be able to give 110% to our ministry out here. Also just pray for the Zerma people, they are Muslim, but they know that they are missing something and they are willing to find that thing they just need a lot of help. Just pray that they will always know that the reason we are different is not because we are white and from America but beacuse we have Jesus. Also a man in Cody's village got saved last week so please keep him in your prayers, that is a very difficult decision to stick to here because the culture is so very Muslim.

I miss you all so much!! I have already filled a whole journal with stories about life out here so I can’t wait to come home and tell everyone about it!