Wake-up call is at 5:45am. Because Niamey is so close to the equator, the time of sunrise and sunset does not change drastically throughout the year, meaning it is quite dark at that time of the morning all year round. Rolling out of bed at that hour is never easy, but it is worth it. Soaking in the grace and love of Jesus each morning is the best (and only) way to start each day. Waking up early also allows me to eat the most important meal of the day...homemade yogurt and granola. Many meals here are made from scratch, which can be quite laborious. But my yogurt-making-disaster days are over and I have perfected the process. And I have learned to truly enjoy making my own combinations of granola...it's different every time!
I have been blessed this year to live on a compound very close to school. And I am grateful to be borrowing another missionary's bike for the time being. It is a simple one gear bike with a basket on the front. I have been nicknamed "Mary Poppins" by the dorm dad as I pedal along in my long skirts and dresses. If I had a small dog to put in the basket, I think I'd feel more like Dorothy.
I get to school around 7:00am. I am working on making it a habit to pray for my students individually before the day starts. I can't think of anything more important that I can be doing for them. The God of the Universe cares deeply about these little ones and I trust Him to take better care of them than I ever could. God equips me for each day as I prepare the classroom...turn on lights and fans, open windows, fill the cooler with ice and water. Students flood classrooms at 7:25am. I greet them at the door, ready for a hug, smile or an occasional handshake.
One of my favorite parts of the day is in the morning during prayer time. It's important to me that these students learn to start the day right at the feet of Jesus. And I am so blessed by their prayers. Each morning we pray for a different student. They have the chance to give any prayer requests that they might have and we usually add a couple as a class. Volunteers pray for each request. Students have off for Tabaski, a M*sl*m holiday in which hundreds of rams are slaughtered and roasted all over Niger in celebration. We talked about it in 4th grade and added it to our list of prayers. The depth of understanding these students show in their prayers is amazing: "Lord, I pray for the people of Niger who are celebrating Tabaski. And Lord, I ask in your Name that you show them that they do not need to sacrifice animals anymore because, Lord, you came and died for our sins on the cross...." They prayer for each other with the same fervor. Praise God. I have a couple students who will not come to school the day after Tabaski because of the beliefs of their families. Please pray for these students and their families to know the Lord Jesus Christ personally.
We stay busy in 4th grade; our schedule changes daily, depending on the special classes that they have that day, including art (taught by Mrs. Knox!), music, French, library, and P.E. The day ends around 2:30pm and students are picked up by parents and drivers. My afternoon consists of grading, planning, copying, and meetings. I also enjoy French lessons every Tuesday. I was encouraged at the start of the year when I was not sure which French class to take, beginners or intermediate. The French teachers (for the students and teachers) insisted that I was intermediate! I must know something!
Before heading home, I take a quick run on the track (a dirt path) around campus. The skirt goes back on and I pedal home on my bike. It has been nice being so close to my parents since they live on Sahel's campus. Occasionally, I stop by their house to say goodnight :) Dinner at home with my two housemates usually consists of rice or pasta and veggies. We are blessed with a wonderful kitchen, making it easy to enjoy cooking...aside from the heat, of course, created by the combination of weather and oven. Some things that I have made this year that I never made before include chicken soup, lasagna, taco soup, pizza, and fajitas! Remember, everything is from scratch here!
Every evening is different. Occasionally, my roommates and I entertain guests for dinner. Monday nights, I lead a Bible Study with some junior girls. It has been a blessing to continue with the same group from last year. This year we are starting our study by reading through John Piper's The Dangerous Duty of Delight. Please pray for these young ladies who are pursuing the Lord the best they can. Pray that God gives me wisdom and the right words for their many questions.
Each day is full and I find myself ready for bed in the evening. Though I am exhausted at the end of the day (and sometimes at the start of the day), I find strength in the joy of the Lord. I am learning the importance of the split second decision I make every morning, consciously or subconsciously: I must choose joy. An attitude of thankfulness gives me quiet perspective. Taking time to talk with people and really hear them brings me life. I forget that occasionally, and then I find myself complaining, always thinking ahead to the next task as if each day is a race. The Lord quiets my soul. I am learning that life is made up of ordinary days. God is teaching me again to live fully present. Each moment is packed and I so often wish it away by thinking of the next thing to do. My thoughts are rarely on the present moments. But it's when I take life moment by moment that I am most satisfied in the Lord.
God has been good to me. I let Him remind me of that daily:
1. Late night thunderstorms.
2. Dozens of hugs from students, daily.
3. Christ-centered conversations.
4. Good food with good friends.
5. All-nighters with high schoolers.
6. Sunrises over the river.
7. Lush green gardens in the middle of the desert.
8. Packages from good friends whom I miss dearly.
9. Skyping with a friend who is a new mom!
10. Dinner and games with mom and dad.