Friday, September 26, 2014


It's not about me.

A much-needed Skype conversation with my brother the other night reminded me of this truth that I seem to forget over and over again.  I am so selfish with my time especially, and even fool myself into thinking that my devotional time with the Lord is about ME.

I must remember that I am blessed, not for my sake, but for the sake of those around me.  I am filled so that I might be poured out by the Lord and used in others' lives as a light.  Oswald Chambers puts it this way, "If we believe in Jesus, it is not what we gain but what He pours through us that really counts.  God's purpose is not simply to make us beautiful, plump grapes, but to make us grapes so that He may squeeze the sweetness out of us" (My Utmost for His Highest).

This sounds simple, but it's been quite difficult for me.  Being "squeezed" is uncomfortable, and I would much rather choose when, how much, and where I am to be poured out than to surrender to God's purposes.  I want to be selfish.  I want to hide from people when things are hard.  My natural reaction is to keep the blessings for myself.

But I've tried that.  I have allowed my circumstances to affect the condition of my heart.  The attitude of my mind has been unhealthy because of the pride and selfishness that I practice on a day to day basis.  And I am finding that hoarding goodness corrodes character.  Selfishness and pride inevitably result from trying to keep the good things that God gives to oneself.  I am guilty of this time and time again.  What we think will make us happy actually causes hatred and irritability because we refuse to hold it with an open hand.

Giving things up.  A servant's heart.  Holding life with an open hand.  This requires humility, generosity, and trust.  I don't want to lack these things anymore.

Lord, may I be poured out over and over again.

Monday, September 22, 2014

In the Classroom

This morning we talked about "turning the other cheek" (Matthew 5:39).  When you have to explain these kind of phrases to seven year olds, it really makes you think.  How do you concisely explain such meaningful concepts to such young minds?

And just as I'm thinking these questions, God shows up.

Our "Morning Mat Time" conversation continues:

"But how can you forgive someone if they haven't already asked for forgiveness?" piped up one of my students.  Huh.  How do you make it make sense?  What am I supposed to say to convey that its about the attitude of the heart.  It's about...what is it about?

Without hesitation I responded, "That's exactly what Jesus did on the cross."  I don't even know where my words came from.  "Jesus forgave everyone before they ever even asked!  Before you were even born!"  To which one of my students questioned, "Even before you were born, Miss Knox?"  Haha. "Yes.  Even before I was born.  It was about 2,000 years ago that Jesus died on the cross."  "Whoa...!!!"  I smiled at their childlike awe.

Yes, my friends.  About 2,000 years ago, Jesus not only forgave you of your sins, but rescued you from your sinful nature.  What an incredible thought.

And I continue to find myself humbled by the comments and simplicity of my second graders.

While I understand that some theological principles are quite advanced for such young minds, I also wonder if we sometimes over-complicate Christianity.  Doesn't Jesus call His disciples with just two words:  "Follow me."?  (Matthew 4:19).  It has me thinking, if I can't explain it to a second grader, maybe I'm missing the real truth.  Following Christ, while not an easy task by any stretch, is beautifully and miraculously simple.  I want to be simple like my second graders.  To trust and love like a child, without reservation.

The Bible compares God the Father to a Shepherd.  May Jesus be my Shepherd, and yet only if I choose to be like a sheep (Psalm 23).

Food for thought :)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Visit to the Village

The thought of driving in this country is quite possibly the thing I dread most about life here.  While many of the main roads are paved, aggressive driving is the only kind of driving here.  So I will wait to get behind the wheel for a bit and rely on others to help me get around.

For the first time this past week, I relied on the wheels of a taxi to help me get to where I was going.  I was with two other young ladies, one who knows some Zarma (a local dialect) and another who knows French.  We were venturing out to find a new friend of my roommate, a young lady who lives in a nearby "suburb" (i.e. village) on the outskirts of the city.  She is trying to learn English, hoping to someday go to the States for an education.  We chatted a bit with the taxi driver, who was very gracious (even after we made a wrong turn).  When we reached our destination, he refused to take any money!  One of God's many blessings:  my first taxi ride was free.

We finally found our friend and the four of us walked through sand dunes and corn rows to get to her house.  The taxi would never have made it through the sand, so we met at the street.  The day was hot, but it was absolutely beautiful.  I think I miss the "country," even if it is all beige and blue.  It was good to be away from cars and lights.  I soaked in the view from where her house sits at the top of the hill.  A small hut stood next to a cooking pot over smoking coals at the entrance to her house and small goats meandered.  We sat in the shade of her backyard where they are growing beans, and we chatted in French, English and Zarma.  Of course, I could only really understand the English and parts of the French, but the fellowship was sweet.  As this young lady shared her faith journey of knowing Jesus, I couldn't help but think of our meeting as, what my mom would call, "a divine appointment."  It was so random, yet so reflective of God's sovereignty.  Her story, told in broken English, is inspiring and challenges me to have the same kind of boldness.

At the end of our time together, we met her father and mother.  Her father was so grateful for our visit.  He said that they do not know many Christians and it was a blessing to have us at their home.  Please pray for this family, and others like them, as they face rejection by many for their faith.  What an eye-opening experience for me.  The Lord used it to give me perspective and to remember the reality of where I am living.  It is easy to forget this reality when I live day to day on Sahel's campus, in a kind of "American bubble."  Please pray that I am guided by the Lord in all areas of ministry, whether on or off campus.

Walking together through the sand to our new friend's house.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

September's Start.

Can you believe it's already September?!  It doesn't quite feel like it here since the weather is still so hot, but tea-drinking must commence regardless!

The beginning of the week came with little warning...weekends seem to fly by so quickly.  On Monday, September 1st a new student joined our second grade class, so I now have 15 students (which is about twice the size of some of the other classes here!).  He is from London and speaks excellent English (with a British accent!).  Adjusting to having a new student made me feel like I was rewinding the progress I had made with the others concerning established routines.  But by about Wednesday, he was catching on and things went along quite nicely.

Every Monday after school, we have staff meetings at Sahel Academy.  On the first Monday of each month, we celebrate staff birthdays.  So we feasted on delicious chocolate cupcakes, pineapple, bananas, and Coke!  Happy Birthday to anyone who had a birthday in August or September!

Tuesday began the first weekly after-school beginners French lessons for any Sahel staff who desire to learn!  We went over numbers, letters, greetings, and introductions.

On Wednesday after school, I went to an orphanage with some of the high school students.  Each week a group of high schoolers puts together a few games and a little message for the thirty some orphans ranging in age from about 4 to 16 years.  It was really neat to be able to witness the ministry and relationships that have been built between the local orphans and students of Sahel.

Wednesday night, my roommate made dinner and we had company!  Steve and Mikki Schmidt have been in Niger with SIM for over 20 years.  What an incredible legacy they are leaving.  It was fun to get to know them more while eating delicious food.  (Rachel pulled out a chocolate pudding packet she brought from home!  Since you can't get that here, it was a nice treat!)

I have been meeting with a godly woman and good friend after school on Thursdays.  What a blessing it has been to be able to talk with her about school, teaching, life, questions, etc.

Friday after school, Amanda (another teacher at Sahel) coached me through the making of a skillet (eggs, potatoes, veggies, meat) for the TeachBeyond brunch the next morning.  And what's nice about living on campus is I was able to easily go back to my classroom and finish planning for the next week.  Friday night, I watched some TV shows with friends, baked/ate cookies, drank coke from a straw, and snuggled!  A good start to the weekend!

On Saturday morning, TeachBeyond staff at Sahel met together to have brunch. There are only 5 of us, so it made it nice for conversation.  As I sat there eating and chatting with these new friends, I thought to myself, "This would never happen in the states...a young couple in their late 20s, a fresh out of college single lady (that's me), a retired Doctor who is teaching high school science and math, and an elementary principal...all eating brunch together!"  It was delightful :)

Afterwards, we went fabric shopping!  I must admit that being in the market is a bit overwhelming and my intuitive roommate treated me to ice cream/milkshake afterwards.  I am so grateful for the people that have been here to help me transition and process all that living in Niger entails.  It was so good to be able to talk with her about all of the cultural changes and frustrations I have been having.  We came home afterwards and watched the second softball game (they play every Saturday).

What I failed to mention thus far is that I was able to skype my entire family over the course of the week!  I didn't intentionally plan for that, but it was SO NICE to connect with my brothers (each on a different night) and my parents.  Saturday I skyped with my mom and was a much needed meeting, as I was feeling quite homesick.

So, life in Niger continues.