Saturday, January 30, 2016

Home Again

After our visit to the States for Christmas, my parents and I arrived to Niamey late on Saturday, January 9th.  The next day, I took time to rest, welcomed by a cool morning, sunshine warmth.  A definite change from Pittsburgh.

Monday, there was a lot of work to do.  A week of work, and one day to do it all!  By God's grace, the planning and preparations all got done.  And I was ready to teach on Tuesday.  Of course, the 6 hour time difference made the first week of teaching a bit challenging.  I lay awake all night Monday, unable to will myself back to sleep.  The following weekend brought much needed rest.  I enjoyed my new hammock in the shade of African palms.  (Thanks, Chad!)

Since being back in the classroom, fourth grade has kept busy!  We made pet rocks to go with our geology unit.  We exploded a coke bottle after talking about volcanoes.  And thanks to Jacob and Amy for the "Insta-Snow," we had a snow day!  Students who have never seen or felt snow before were able to get a glimpse of the white magical flakes.  We finished a book called "Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle," ending with me dressed up as Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle herself!  We've continued to learn about how to research.  Some of the students commented on how much they felt like their parents or college students as they looked through books and encyclopedias to record information in their note books.    We still have a raffle every Friday, which the students so look forward to.  And we continue to pray to start every morning, and now end the day with a "high and low" of the student we prayed for.
There are a lot of changes on Sahel Academy's campus.  My dad has been involved in the construction of the new elementary wing.  The foundation is laid and walls are up!  A team from the States came to replace the roofing on the dorm.  And just this past week, we watched as another team and about 100 Nigeriens poured concrete for the new covered court.  After about 14 hours of hand mixing concrete, filling and dumping wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow, and carefully smoothing it all by hand, the court was finally done!

It's good to be back in Niger.  And I am grateful that I didn't completely miss cool season while I was in the States.  The brisk mornings and breezy afternoons are such a blessing.  I have enjoyed meals with family, brunch with neighbors, and game nights with friends.  We even went to the French Cultural Center for an evening of classical guitar!  An afternoon of kite-flying with a student and her family and an evening of tossing the frisbee with housemates are a couple more blessings.  As I adjusted back into the routine of life in Niger, my gracious housemates cooked for me and even did the dishes!  I am overwhelmed by the generosity and love of the community here.  I am looking forward to another semester together!

My housemates and me (Naomi, Lisa, Julie, Hannah)

Being Stateside

After returning from Urbana, the Lord knew what I needed.  I had just enough time to see a few good friends before feeling ready to return to Niger.

Being back in the States was good, and I had kept busy enough up to this point to not really think about the transition of cultures.  But there were a few things that reminded me that I was no longer in Niger.  For example, when I needed to run errands, I didn't think twice about getting in the car alone and going where I needed to go.  I knew how long it would take me to get there and I could count on the store to be open.  Drivers actually stay in their lanes.  There are no bush taxis or motos zipping in and out of traffic at their leisure.  Oh, peaceful American driving.

Hot showers, soft tissues, cuddling under big comforters, and fires in the wood burner were a few simple pleasures.  I enjoyed peanut butter oreos, real milk, and delicious venison.  We ate out at the Olive Garden for my birthday, and I had shrimp and chocolate cheesecake!  And I definitely made sure to find a Chic-Fil-A before returning to Niger.  Costco has everything you'd ever need in one store.  I could drink water from the tap, go outside without being stared at, and attend a church service in my own language.  Yes, home brought a few reversed-culture-shock experiences, but nothing too extraordinary.  Home will always be home.

I was able to see friends that I might not be able to see again for awhile.  I visited professors at Grove City and of course, stopped by the Outlets.  I ran errands in Cranberry.  I went to the mall with a good friend.  I visited neighbors and mailed letters.  The family celebrated Amy with a baby shower.  My time at home was full, but rich.

My mom had a night with some ladies from church - what a blessing.  We talked about living in Niger and my mom was able to share her story and struggles.  They prayed for the both of us, showing us what it means to be a part of the body of Christ.  A long-time friend and neighbor offered to help with some last minute shopping - how helpful and so generous!  God is good to provide.

While my time at home was wonderful, I thank God that I felt ready to return to Niamey when it came time.  On January 8th, my parents and I went to the airport for a long day of traveling.  We made it to Niamey late on the 9th, greeted by good friends.

From one home to another, the Lord is good and He is God.

Blue skies, clean air, sunshine...ah!


While I was at home this Christmas, I had the pleasure of attending Urbana Mission Conference in St. Louis, Missouri for the third time.  The day after Christmas, my parents, Chad, and I packed up the truck for a 10 hour road trip.  While others might groan at such an endeavor, road trips are a blessing to me.  I love being on the road again with family.  Mom and I chatted in the back seat, we listened to whatever music was playing on the radio in each town we passed, and took the occasional pit stop for snacks.

Although this was not my first Urbana, I was feeling a bit uncomfortable to begin.  Why was I here?  I already knew my call.  But the Lord continued to open my heart and mind.  My good friend Abby Cline and her fiance Stephen roomed with my parents, brother, and I, which was a special treat.  To be able to process and share life again with such a good friend was life-giving.  I also caught up with a few others from Niger!  Rachel, a good friend and old housemate, was there, as well as my future housemate, Julie!  A former Sahel student was there representing CIU, and another single guy wanting to minister to the Fulani in Niger was there!  It was truly wonderful to make so many connections.

Through seminars, Bible Studies, quiet times, evening sessions, worship, and conversations with friends and strangers, I learned some important lessons.  I was reminded of the purpose behind missions - JESUS.  David Platt warned us to be committed to Jesus before committing ourselves to missions.  Francis Chan reminded us of the beauty of living under the authority of Christ.  In Bible Study, we discussed how the body of Christ needs each other.  And after talking with friends, I realized that it's ok to not know or understand the future.  I am in the palm of Almighty God - there is no better place to be.

God is good.  We headed home after a loud and eventful evening of New Year's Eve worship, grateful for all that the Lord had done and will continue to do.

Abby Cline, Abdoul Bala, Rachel Gillner, Hannah Knox


Time at home this Christmas was wonderful.

I was able to be with family - the entire family - for a total of 5 days.

We made the most of it, emailing a schedule of events before my parents' and my arrival.  Which means that even though my parents and I landed late Saturday night, we got together Sunday afternoon for game day snacks to watch the Steelers play.  No time to lose!  Grandma brought a cake so that we could celebrate my birthday all together, as well.  After a year and a half of separation, it was great to be reunited...and pick up right where we left off.

Amy is halfway along in her pregnancy and boys will still be boys.  My brother threw grapes to each other to see who could catch the most in his mouth.  Incredible.  But it's things like these that make me smile and know that I'm home.  Things like playing ping pong in the basement, listening to music turned up too loud, and just eating dinner together warms my heart.

The next night, we got together again for pizza from our favorite restaurant and to watch a Christmas movie!  After much debate, we settled on "It's a Wonderful Life!"  Thanks to the unusually warm weather, my brothers and I went for a hike with Jacob and Amy's dog Annie Wednesday afternoon.  The woods' crisp air, smell of pine trees, fallen leaves, bubbling creek, yellow was all so good for my soul.  The rest of the family met up to go bowling that night and we met back at Jacob and Amy's for hot chocolate and games.  Even though we are all grown and living in different places, it is easy to have late night chats among siblings.  I am so grateful for each of our own experiences and how we can still share life and joke together.

On Christmas Eve, we celebrated Christmas with a huge ham dinner with some of my favorites!  Sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, cheesy potatoes, crescent rolls, cranberry sauce...mmm!  And of course, pie for dessert!  What a treat.  We shared gifts around the Christmas tree and cleaned up for the candlelight service at church.  It was our last night all together for at least a few months.  I cannot describe to you how full my heart was to be with family again.

And on January 8th, my parents and I packed up to board another plane, on our way to Niamey.  Until we met again!