This past Wednesday, I had the pleasure and privilege of sharing at one of my supporting churches. The theme for the night was knowing God's love.
I told stories from my 3 years at Sahel Academy, reflections of God's love. I can't retell all of the stories, but I can share a few highlights from my talk, lessons I learned:
1. Gratitude produces joy.
I have Ann Voskamp's book "One Thousand Gifts" to thank for this one. This book challenged me to name my blessings out loud. And in doing so - by being grateful every day, taking time to really list specific things that made me smile - I began to recognize God's kisses from Heaven to me. His love was all around me. In the busyness and distractions of life, we can be really good at ignoring God's love. We refuse to be filled with it, and we can't properly love others without it. In this way, gratitude affected not only my relationship with God, but also, my relationship with others.
2. How can something so hard be so good?
This was a recurring question that came to mind throughout my first year. I was enjoying the culture and enamored by every new site; it was all strange and exciting. I loved meeting new people and was eager to finally apply my 4 year college education. Things were great; things were hard, too. I faced feelings of inadequacy in regards to language, teaching, and just being able to do everyday things myself. Too often, we run from struggle. I didn't realize that the two - challenge and joy - could coexist so beautifully.
3. Our lives are a testimony of God's love to those around us.
I was given the opportunity to share the Gospel with non-Christian students and their families. I can only pray that the seeds planted during my time at Sahel will take root. Our day to day testimony is powerful, if we allow God to be in control.
4. God answers prayers.
There were many times when God answered my prayers during my time in Niger, not to mention all that He did to get me there. I prayed for mentors, and God sent my parents (for a whole year!). I prayed for redemption after teaching 2nd grade in my first year, having felt like I failed. And God gave me the same class as 4th graders two years later. I prayed for housemates, and God gave me friends who became family. I prayed for my students, and I watched them grow in spiritual maturity and character. I prayed for a friend to talk to when I came back to PA, and God sent me a missionary to China.
5. God loved me through my students.
I found joy in teaching after my first year. This was greatly due to the love I received from my students. They taught me what classroom community should look like. They prayed for me. They wrote me the sweetest notes. I felt as though we were all a part of a little club. I already miss them.
Though my time at Sahel Academy and what I learned in Niger is much more complex than just 5 points, I thought this might give you an idea of how the Lord worked in my life for the past 3 years. Praise God!