Sunday, February 21, 2016

Rainbows and S'mores

This past week was the first full 5 day teaching week at Sahel for a couple weeks.  The first week of February, we had a Professional Development day.  The second week, we had Field Day.  Though change is nice, it was good to have a full 5 days in a regular routine for the first time this month.

Fourth grade has started a few new things, including a read aloud, "Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nihm" and a unit on "The Land Down Under," Australia!  The students have enjoyed attempting to speak in Australian accents...which ends up sounding more like an American south, West African, and British accent all in one; which I suppose is just as impressive, and quite entertaining!

In art class with Mrs. Knox (that's my mom!), elementary students worked on adding color to the library!  Fourth grade was the first class to put their handprints on the rainbow mural.  After praying with the students, Mrs. Knox clearly explained the rules and they darned themselves with smocks.  The painting went smoothly, like a well-oiled machine.  Mr. Knox helped clean off each student's hands outside with gasoline and soap.  It was a great success, and other classes have added their handprints, too!  Red, orange, yellow, green, and purple.  Next week, first grade will add blue and then the mural will be complete!
I got to leave my hand print, too!

Mr. Knox helping some 4th grade boys wash off the paint.

For just a moment, I need to brag on my mom:  It has been a pleasure and privilege to watch my mom interact with the students, showing them what art really is and how it can glorify God.  Every project allows the students to connect art to Christ!  (And she is not too shy to try big projects!)  Before bringing each class to the library, she prayed with them, allowing the Holy Spirit to guide her words:  our handprints and fingerprints are all unique, made by our creative Creator who loves each one of us!  I am so proud of my beautiful and talented mother.  And I get to be her daughter!

To end the week and begin the weekend, the senior class put on a class fundraiser...a family camp out!  It was great to see many families from the community come to fellowship as one big family.  Teams entered a relay race.  We enjoyed board and card games in the "Game Lounge."  Families gathered around the campfire to hear stories and sing camp songs.  Tents of all shapes, sizes, and forms popped up all over the field.  I set up my hammock between the soccer goal post and a nearby tree!  Though hot season is upon us, the evening was quite cool!  The net protected me from mosquitoes, but I was not properly prepared for the cold! In the morning, we all enjoyed an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast!  Great job, seniors!

My hammock and mosquito net!

Praising God for a restful weekend and looking forward to another week at Sahel!

Side note:  Presidential elections are this weekend.  Please pray for peace.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Spiritual Emphasis Week and Field Day

This week was eventful at Sahel Academy!

Monday began what we call "Spiritual Emphasis Week."  Both elementary and secondary students had the privilege of listening to and learning from the Roche Team, a group who ministers to children in Niamey.  Nate Bramsen spoke to the secondary students for an hour each morning about the lies of Satan.  Elementary students enjoyed worship, skits, and messages based on the life of Joseph.

For the elementary students, a new part of Joseph's story was brought to life through humor and drama each day.  And each day, a connection was made to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I was impressed by the students' insight.  On the second day, Joseph was betrayed by his brothers when they threw him into a pit and sold him into slavery.  Nate posed the question:  who are we in the story?  A fourth grader raised her hand and said, "We are the brothers."  Wow!  Just like Joseph's brothers betrayed him, we have betrayed Jesus.  Our sinful nature put Jesus on the cross.  And each day, God's forgiveness, grace, and redemption was spoken as truth for these young hearts.  At least 3 students received salvation, and a handful approached the team about assurance of faith.  Praise God!

What an amazing gift to have the Roche Team come to Sahel and speak Truth.  I am so grateful to be able to teach in a school where the name of Jesus is boldly proclaimed.  Please continue to pray for students in both elementary and secondary as they search their own hearts and respond to the Holy Spirit's convictions.  May they be filled with boldness as they challenge each other to live out the Gospel daily.


At the end of the week, Sahel enjoyed a day of track and field at Niamey's Stadium!  All 160 students, along with staff and many parents, came together to run, jump, and throw.  The weather stayed nice and cool throughout the morning, and even the afternoon was not too hot.  K-12 was divided into four teams:  The Blue Ninjas, The White Cobras, The Orange Tigers, and the Green Dragons.  It is always neat to watch the younger and older students connect, cheering each other on at their various events.  Praise God for no injuries and an overall beautiful day!


On another, more personal note, I experienced some sickness this week.  Wednesday after school, I came down with a fever.  I am grateful for Sahel's willingness to find substitute teachers.  A kind parent filled in for me Thursday.  While I am not 100%, I am on the road to recovery.  Thank you for your prayers.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Field Trip

Fourth grade went on their 3rd field trip last week.  Our geology unit in science has us talking a lot about rocks.  So what better way to learn, than to simply go hike some big rocks?!

Students made pet rocks
to go with our geology unit!
Early Wednesday morning 11 students and 8 adults loaded up into cars and drove just a few minutes to find what Nigeriens call the "Three Sisters," three rocky plateaus, begging to be climbed by curious children.  What a delight to walk hand in hand with the fourth grade girls, giggling and story telling along the way.  The boys couldn't help but chase ahead to climb to the top first.  The dads chatted and meandered along, helping keep watch.

The class discussed erosion and weathering, watching for natural gutters where water had washed away the stones.  Students named and identified the 3 types of rocks - igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic - and their properties.  I have never seen children so acutely aware of the rocks around them!  They frantically gathered rocks in hopes of finding a unique treasure.  Pockets were full and heavy by the end of our 2 hour adventure.  We hiked two of the "sisters" and returned to school before 10:00 am.  

God blessed me with such a wonderful time.  I had been sick all week, not quite feeling up to a trip off campus.  But it turns out, an early morning hike is just what I needed.  The cool morning air and breeze at the top of each plateau was food for my soul and the opportunity to have fun with the students was a nice change of pace.  Thanks to all the dads that joined the excursion!  11 students and 8 adults - almost a 1:1 ratio!  I am so grateful for these incredible parents.

Fourth grade with Miss Knox at the top of the first "sister!"

Under Construction

Sahel Academy is currently undergoing a couple additions on campus - the new elementary building and a covered sports court.  Watching the gradual progress of both projects makes me feel apart of it in some way, though my dad has played a much more significant role in the overseeing of these two major additions to Sahel's campus.  Yet, it is exciting to see the foundations being laid and the walls going up "kana, kana," in Zarma, "slowly, slowly."

SIM Director, Steve Schmidt; SIM Head of Construction,
Chad Winsor, Sahel Academy Director and Principal, Bev Farrer 
In October of 2015, a ground-breaking ceremony was held for the new elementary wing!  In order to prepare the spot of land they are using for the building, workers chopped down trees - by hand.  With just an axe, I felt like I was watching Paul Bunyan!  When they were ready for the ceremony, one of the smallest (and cutest!) kindergartners helped turn the first shovel of soil (more like sand).  All the elementary students and teachers gathered together to pray over the start of this exciting project.  Praise God Sahel Academy is growing and in need of new rooms for the elementary school, K-5.  When it is finished, it will be a two-story building with about 6 new rooms.  They hope to finish by June.

Pouring and smoothing the concrete by hand.
Last Thursday, January 28, was the big night for the covered court.  A team of men from the States came to help prepare the grounds for this huge project - demolition, dump trucks, jack hammers...every guy's dream!  The new court is the size of 3 high school sized basketball courts combined.  While you can probably imagine this process in the States requiring large cement trucks with funnels for pouring (15 loads, to be exact), we do not have such resources in Niger.

Workers lined up with their wheelbarrows of concrete!

Starting at 4:30pm on Thursday afternoon, about 100 Nigeriens helped hand-mix 130+ yards of concrete - over 40 tons of sac concrete, plus sand and stone.  Men filled wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow with fresh, wet concrete ready to dump and refill.  After 14 hours of non-stop pouring, the cement for the court was done!  Coming to school to see it finished the next morning was a treat!  What an impressive and unique experience.  The court remains covered in water to help with the curing.  The students are looking forward to having such a spacious place to play!

We are so grateful for the men that have made these projects possible for Sahel.  It is a blessing to Sahel families, students, staff, as well as the larger community to have such facilities for learning and recreation.  Praise God!