Sunday, April 26, 2015

Tests, Soap, and Mangoes.

Welcome back!  My good friend Abby is back from the States!  She is one of the amazing people I met last semester at Sahel and had to say goodbye to in December.  She finished her student teaching and went home to Michigan.  A turn of events brought her back to Sahel to teach English for the last couple months of school!  What a blessing it is to have her as a part of the community here again.  Please pray for her as she is recently engaged (congrats!) and stepping into these classes quite quickly.

For grades 2, 4, 6, and 8 Terra Nova testing was this past week.  Every morning, my second graders worked hard on this standardized test for anywhere between 1 and 2 hours!  I am so proud of them for working so well on this test!  While testing in the mornings threw our afternoon schedule off a bit, it gave us an excuse to relax and take a break on Friday...lollipops, games, Veggie Tales, and recess!

But don't worry!  We are still getting lots of work done in the classroom!  With only one more month of school, I am working hard to fit everything in!  Every morning in second grade, we begin with prayer.  Many of my students' prayer requests had to do with traveling or leaving Niger.  A few of them will not return next year.  While young children are often quite adaptable, these transitions are monumental for them and their families.  Please pray for me, my students, and Sahel as we do our best to close this year well and finish strong.  Pray for the goodbyes and hellos, transitioning from one culture to another.

This past Wednesday, I started studying 1 John with my sophomore girls' Bible Study.  We are using the SOAP method (thanks, Pastor Chris Gibbs!):  Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer.  We are diving into just one chapter at a time.  In chapter 1, we focused on "walking in the light."  But how can we walk in the light if God is light?  We are sinners, so far from any sort of god-likeness.  And yet God's love reaches so much deeper than our worst sins.  What an incredible gift that we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to walk in the light, covered by the blood of Jesus so that God sees us as his children, pure and clean!

Hot season is upon us, which means the temperature reaches triple digits by 10:00am easily.  The upside to hot season, is that this also means it is mango season!  While the mangoes in our backyard are not quite ripe, there are mangoes on just about every fruit/vegetables stand in the market!  My roommates and I have been enjoying mango smoothies on the daily (almost!).

Please pray for Niger.  While Sahel Academy is still open, many schools have shut down for the week due to the meningitis epidemic.  For details, visit: 

In an effort to remain grateful, here is a list of things that make me smile or cry :)

1.  My second grade girls, singing at the top of their lungs, every word of the songs from Frozen on the playground.
2.  Second grade jokes:  Why are a teacher and a train different?  Because a teacher says, "Spit that gum out!" and a train says, "Choo, chooo!"  hehe :)
3.  Mango smoothies...mmmmm.
4.  Hotwheels cars in the classroom store, making an 8 year old's day.
5.  Skype dates with friends when my day is just ending and hers is just beginning.
6.  Neighbors who bake fresh chocolate chip or peanut butter cookies and ask you to test taste...duh!
7.  The look in a second grader's face when you read a really good book and their eye's are glued to you.
8.  A classroom, newly arranged and freshly cleaned!
9.  Sleepovers with housemates...every night.
10.  Mentors who listen and ask good questions.
11.  Surprise emails from friends I've lost touch with!
12.  Laughter.
13.  Pictures.
14.  God's plan for my future...I have no idea what it is, but I get psyched and nervous all at the same time just thinking about it!
15.  Supporters who pray for me, give financially, encourage me, send me packages, email me, and skype!  Could I be any more blessed?!

Thanks so much for your support, for praying and for keeping in touch!  You are a blessing to me.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Washing Feet

Living in Niger gives one a new perspective on what it might have been like to live during Bible times.  Sand, dust, dirty feet, camels, market, donkey carts.  I read scripture in a new light.  This past week, my second graders and I did a reader's theater using the story of Jesus washing the disciples feet (John 13:1-17).  And let me tell you, after having lived in Niger for 8 months, I have a new appreciation for what Jesus did.  By the end of the day, my feet are filthy!

Before reading the passage, we discussed the setting.  Jesus and his disciples are celebrating Passover, a holiday to remember when the Israelites were saved from the angel of death who would "pass over" a house if they used lamb's blood on the doorpost.  Jesus and the Twelve are eating and lounging when Jesus takes off his robe to wash his disciples' feet.  What?  Jesus, King of Kings, doing the job of a servant!  When he gets to Peter, Peter refuses to let Jesus wash his feet.

Jesus said, "Unless I wash you, you will not belong to me."

I asked my students, "Why do you think we need Jesus to wash our feet in order to belong to him?"  I was blown away by their answers:

"Jesus is in Heaven and Heaven is clean.  We cannot come to Him unless we are clean too."

"During the Passover, they used a lamb's blood to save them from the angel of death...kind of like how Jesus washes us to save us."

"Jesus died to wash us clean."

What deep spiritual insight from such little ones.  I learn from them everyday.

I passed out mustard seeds the other day (you'd think I was passing out pounds of candy - they were ecstatic!).  We observed just how small it is in our hand.  Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move."  (Matthew 17:20).  My faith seems small compared to the faith of some of these second graders.  What beautiful, child-like trust they have.  I want to be more like that.

God, increase my faith.

"Immediately the boy's father exclaimed,
 'I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!'"  Mark 9:24

Friday, April 17, 2015

SIM Education

I have truly enjoyed the many opportunities to serve in Niamey, not only at school, but also outside of Sahel Academy.  One of the activities I enjoy most happens through a branch of SIM called SIM Education.  Every month, my housemate and I attend the kindergarten trainings that SIM Ed. holds for local Nigerien teachers in Niamey.  I help out in any way possible - coloring, sweeping, painting, gluing, doing paper mache, or playing games.  There are usually about 30 ladies who come to these trainings to learn how to teach better, while making resources for their classroom.  

One week we used paper mache to make vegetables.  We talked about different activities you can do with them using colors, texture, taste, guessing games, etc.  At Christmas time, we helped build nativity scenes out of toilet paper rolls and fabric!  Another training involved shapes, textures, and colors.  What do you do when you don't have a doll house for kindergartners?  You make one out of wood and cloth!  SIM Education staff is incredibly creative and innovative! 

This past week's theme was transportation.  Rachel and I led a station in which the women had to use recyclable materials to make a mode of transportation.  We used Pringle cans, bottle caps, toilet paper rolls, brochette sticks, cereal boxes, and coke bottles to inspire creativity.  How interesting it was to discuss the different modes of transportation in Niger!...donkey carts, camels, cows, bush taxis, motorcycles - much different than Pennsylvania!  

It is such a blessing to get to know these women and laugh with them!  SIM Education is a great motivation for me to learn French better.  I would love to be able to speak more fluently with these women!  SIM Education also goes into these schools to help teachers individually.  What an amazing ministry SIM Education has with the public school teachers in Niamey - teaching the Gospel through education.  Pray for transformed lives as these teachers touch the lives of little ones in a very dark country.  Pray for staffing for next year as 3 of their 5 teacher trainers are leaving at the end of this school year!

Lucia oversees and directs SIM Education
and does an AMAZING job! 

Paper mache vegetables we made!

I helped the ladies use puffy paint one week.

Miriam has spent the last year working with SIM Ed.
The colored shapes are hand made with wood they cut and painted!

The last training we did - modes of transportation
out of recyclable materials!


Friday, April 10, 2015

Easter in Niger

Being away from family during the holidays is never easy.  There were no Easter traditions this year.  And yet, despite the lack of Easter baskets, chocolate, egg-dying, and a sunrise service, this Easter was made special by the people and new celebrations.

Easter morning, my friend Miriam and I went to church to help everyone prepare.  Miriam used the car to transport chairs and mats to the Easter service location.  We were having church in a mango grove!  It was absolutely lovely.  Though it was hot, the shade offered respite.

Service started at 10:45am and ended around 2:00pm.  The youth sang special songs and the children performed a dance and a play.  After the sermon, it was time for lunch.  We ate chicken in a delicious sauce with baguette.  One pastor asked me if I could eat it all...I didn't think I could, but it was so good!

We chatted and ate in the shade of the mango trees, sipping cold ginger bissap.  Miriam and I walked around the garden and along the dike taking pictures.  Many of the church's youth went for a swim in the river to cool off!  What fun!

I left around 4:00pm and they were preparing brochettes for dinner!  The party was not over!  But my African Easter morning was over and I prepared to celebrate a more "traditional" Easter with some teachers from Sahel.  We ate delicious ham and potatoes, deviled eggs, salad, bread, and broccoli...and ice cream for dessert!  What a lovely way to spend Easter with friends.  I came home that evening and was able to Skype with family as they prepared to have Easter dinner!  I am so thankful for technology that allows my brother in Texas, me in Africa, and the rest of my family in Pennsylvania to all talk to each other at the same time!

Praise God, He is risen!  While I missed family this Easter, I did not miss the commercialism surrounding this sacred holiday.  It was refreshing to focus on the truth of the Gospel and to be away from the bunnies, baskets, and eggs.  I am so thankful for the power of the cross and the implications of the resurrection!

Miriam and I eating lunch under the mango trees!

A Visit to Maradi

What an incredible blessing to be under the care of a God who knows exactly what we need right when we need it.  This past week, I had the privilege of visiting some amazing people and good friends from home.  Our time together was worth every minute of the 10 hours it took to get there!  I am so grateful for this family and their complete openness in having me in their home for 4 days.  And it was so fun to tell everyone that Rachel actually used to babysit me :) neat it is that God knew we would both be coming to Niger at the same time and that we would both need this encouraging time together.  God is sovereign!

I left Sahel's campus Tuesday morning at 5:00am with a student from the dorm and her dad. They graciously gave my roommate and I a ride out East to a city called Maradi for a bit of Spring break.  Speed bumps, naps, desert sand, sparse green, yellow flowers, coke on the way, lunch in the truck, stories, testimonies, a stop in Galmi to see friends...and after 10 hours of road, we arrived in Maradi at 3:30pm.

During my visit, we stayed quite busy. Up with the sun, I spent the morning reading, children playing in the yard, Rachel feeding the chickens and making breakfast.  Much of my stay, the sky was overcast, but it brought a bit of rain for a couple mornings!   I was welcomed right into their routine, helping with school in the morning; math, reading, Hausa.  I loved spending time with the kiddos, reading hours of Peter Pan and playing games.  Rachel was a wonderful cook and prepared a few Nigerien dishes I had never eaten before; a porridge-like dish called kunu and small fried pancakes called kossi!

We enjoyed  a couple visits to the neighbor's house.  What a pleasure it was to meet the beautiful children.  Since I don't know Hausa, the local dialect, I couldn't communicate except through laughter, giggles, hugs, and smiles.  We brought a bit of candy for the family and I played games with the girls.  Such joy!

 We went to the bush for an afternoon.  Michael and Rachel gave the young school girls dresses that a supporting church sent them.  The sun was hot and the sky was clear this day.  The shade and breeze provided a bit of relief from the heat.  The women went about their daily business, grinding millet and corn.  I had my first experience trying to mash the millet, and let me tell you, it's not an easy task!  They skillfully throw the tall pestle in the air, clapping their hands before catching it and pounding it directly into the large wooden mortar!  Amazing.  We toured the school a bit and the kids played on the playground before leaving.  Luckily, the car didn't get stuck in the sand!

After visiting other missionary friends - cuddling the newborn kittens and sitting on the porch swing with their 9 month old - we had a movie night...Kung Fu Panda!  We attempted to make popcorn, but I think the kernels were duds, because they burned before popping properly.

On Friday night, we were invited to a Seder dinner by an SIM missionary couple.  What a neat experience!  It was wonderful to be with such wonderful people to celebrate and remember the power of the Gospel.  Everything we ate was symbolic and scripture was read throughout the night to remind us of the significance of the celebration.  (If you'd like to read more about it visit this website:

Saturday morning, Michael drove me to the bus station for a 10 hour bus ride back to Niamey.  We left the station a little before 5:00am.  I nestled into my seat to sleep and only 20 minutes later, the bus stopped.  I opened my eyes to find passengers gathering their mats for call to prayer.  Only in Niger.  We continued our journey with frequent stops, picking up other passengers.  Soon our bus was full and I found myself seated next to a large Nigerien woman.  No AC, a bus buddy taking up about half of my seat and a child puking in the seat behind me made for an interesting ride.  But I made friends with the girl across the aisle; we are about the same age.  She offered me some of her lunch and showed me the toilets (which are really a hole in the ground).  We attempted to communicate in my broken French.  As I sat looking around me, I realized that I was the only white person on board, and quite possibly the only Christian.  Pray for Niger.

I arrived home, picked up at the station by some good friends, around 4:00pm.  It was a long 12 hour journey, but I made it!  Maradi's slow and quiet pace of life contrasted Niamey's quick hustle and bustle.  It was a true break to be with friends who felt like family.  I am so thankful for their willingness to host me!  I can't wait for our next visit!