"Be merciful to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. [...] But I trust in you, O LORD; I say 'You are my God.' My times are in your hands.... Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD." Psalm 31:9, 14-15, 24
I continue to process the events of about a week ago. It's God's Word that keeps me grounded. Questions seem to go unanswered, but they are readily replaced with Peace.
The first week of classes went well, but Friday afternoon came as a relief. Readjusting to the early mornings, introducing a new student to the class, and getting back into the swing of things after a long 3 week break left me quite ready for a weekend. Friday night was full of excitement as my new housemate just got engaged! Friends and I went to the "after-party" to help celebrate. We had a girls' night sleepover watching chick-flicks, waking up in the morning to have hot pancakes. No sooner had we eaten the pancakes when we started to get word of some unrest in town.
Six churches burned.
I began to pray as I put essentials into a "go-bag," passport, cash, meds, change of clothes.
Many singles and families living in town came to Sahel's campus or to nearby houses for safety. We played "musical houses" that night in order to accommodate. By Saturday night, we had word that over 40 churches were burned, destroyed, vandalized.
Sunday morning was quiet. All those staying on campus gathered in the dorm to worship and pray. And while I did not feel fear or hysteria, I was deeply troubled, heart heavy. And how can I carry on my life as normal, plan for another week of school when disaster leaves almost all the churches of the city in ruins?
While little activity was reported Sunday, school was cancelled Monday as a precaution. Praise God for a day to sit and process. Initial shock of the entire situation gave way to lament and tears. And yet story after story of God's faithfulness:
Two teachers took the senior class on a camping trip. As they packed up to leave Saturday morning, the van wouldn't start. Little did they know that the delayed start to the morning kept them from entering town when the protests began. They made it back to town safely that afternoon, sheltering with a family near the edge of town until things calmed down a bit.
My new housemate and others were just outside of town leading a weekly kids ministry when everything started. And it "just so happened" that a lady they know from the embassy and a couple military men were present, providing the entire team of about a dozen safe transport and a place to stay for the rest of the day and through the night.
A friend's house was attacked, but the neighbors jumped the fence in order to put the fire out before it could spread and destroy anything. The same thing happened to another.
Some report that nearly 70 churches were destroyed. A pastor boldly stated, "They missed the real church." How true. God's people are the church.
Tuesday morning came and school resumed. Ready to face the day, I interrupted our regular routine by talking with my second graders about what happened over the weekend. Almost every single child had a direct or indirect connection to the events. The class was silent as they intently listened to one another. One's grandparents' house burned, everything gone. A couple others' families evacuated their houses to hide out in safer places. Some students' families are facing pressure from their sending agencies to flee the country. A student's father's shop was attacked twice. We discussed words like persecution, and talked about how to respond. The students volunteered answers about how to love and forgive those who had been a part of the protests.
We finished by forming a circle to hold hands and bring our requests and praises to God. Theses little ones took turns asking God for protection and for changed hearts. They praised God that only buildings were burned, that we still had a school to go to, and for God's love for us. The tragedy of the weekend was very real, but those moments of talking together as a class were like beauty in the ashes.
I am so grateful to God for his provision and peace. Just a week before at NEWS (Niamey English Worship Service), we heard a challenging message about whether or not we really believe that "The will of God is the safest place to be." My notes from that Sunday read, "Do I trust God? If I can trust Him with my eternity, can't I trust Him now on earth?" The Lord knew we needed to hear that message. Read Matthew 10:16-20 for context.
All in all, the mission community is a bit shaken. The aftermath has affected so many homes, families, churches, and even schools. Please pray for peace. Pray that God's Kingdom would be furthered because of the unity of the Body. Pray for strength and especially the safety of pastors and their families. Pray for wisdom for leaders. Pray for the students who are continuing to process (some lost everything, others found out their home church burned down, and many were shaken). Praise God that only buildings were destroyed and that He is sovereign over every detail.
A M*sl*m leader came to a missionary friend and said, "I hope that you do not treat us the same way that we have treated you." There is a powerful testimony to be had in God's love and forgiveness. Thank you for praying for Niger.
|Photo Credit: Danette Childs|
"Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken." Psalm 62:1-2
Sahel Academy's website: http://sahelacademy.com/2.0/caring-for-students-in-difficult-days/
If you would like to contribute toward rebuilding what has been destroyed, please follow the link and use the information below. May you be richly blessed as you give.
Go to: https://web.simusa.org/Give/projects.php
Go to: https://www.sim.ca/project-donate-p8250.php?PJID=304&pdm=category&n=Unlisted+Project
Project name: Niger Persecution Relief
Project number: 97308
|Photo Credit: Danette Childs|