African heat tough to handle…

Another entry from my journal from my mission trip to Niger, Africa.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I imagine that at some point, someone will ask how hot it is in Africa. Words have not been IMG_0809 (2)invited to describe the African heat. And since it’s the rainy season, humidity is out of control. The air is as thick as mayonnaise. The life expectancy of an ice cube is 15 seconds. Cokes out of the fridge are boiling within minutes. Sweat drips down my neck. It drips down my back, and little beads of perspiration form behind my knees. Even my toes are sweating. I’d love to lie down but the sheets are too hot. They feel like they just came out of the dryer. It’s so sticky out that my clothes cling to my body as if they would fall off me if they didn’t. As I told Abraham (one of the nationals) today, “I have NEVER been this hot. EVER.” And apparently this is pretty cool for them.

Yesterday was interesting. We returned to the university to do our witnessing. I gave my testimony to a group of three girls. One of them accepted Christ! While Saratou was going over things with the new believer, the other two girls started making lunch. A boy had brought a bag of rice, meat and sauce, and the girl dumped it into a big bowl. Then she cut up some onion and threw it in, and then she tore off pieces of a Baggett and threw those in. She mixed it all together with her hands.

Then, she invited us to eat with them. Now, it is very rude to refuse, so Kaeli and I said we would. Oh- there were also some weird leaves in there. Anyways, it tasted OK, but was pretty spicy. I had about five or six bites. They said that accepting their invitation to eat meant we were friends, and it meant a lot to them that we had lunch in their room. They gave Kaeli and I each a spoon but they used their hands to eat. We were in there for quite awhile having great discussion.

We left when it was time to head back to the bus, and I did NOT feel well. The food wasn’t sitting well with me at all. Since it was spicy, it really made my acid reflux act up, too. Saratou felt so bad. She promised me that everything was cooked. And it was, it just didn’t sit right in my stomach. So, I skipped lunch. Solomon said he was impressed that I ate the food- that it really showed love to try something new and step out of my comfort zone.

I took some TUMS, Pepto Bismal and another Nexium. I also took a nap, so by late afternoon, I was fine. Speaking of naps, I should take one! More later!

10:30 p.m.

Back from the Jesus Film showing. My group this time is Kaeli, Jonathan and Bruce.

IMG_0830 (2)Our new location is in a neighborhood in town. The kids weren’t as photo-crazy as the others. They are still adorable though, of course! Tomorrow is our last showing. We will show all four reels. I gave my testimony tonight and a bunch of the boys remembered my name so they kept chanting it at the end before we left. Then they each HAD to shake my hand before we drove off. They were speaking in Hausa, so no one in my group knew exactly what they were saying!

The exciting news is that three people at our showing accepted Christ!

This morning we got to sleep in for a bit. We didn’t go to the university. Instead, we all met at the office and shared stories about our experiences. One of the girls taught us a song in Hausa. Here are the lyrics:

Zan shaida Yesu koina.IMG_0785 (2)

Ban damu da gargada hanya ba.

Ni zan je, Nez an je.

 Translation:

I will announce Jesus everywhere.

I won’t worry about the journey.

I will go, I will go.

After that, we just had some time for fellowship. I ended up in a circle talking with Kaeli, Shaia, Abu and Adam. Of course, Adam’s full attention was on me. He was trying to teach me Hausa- his native language. I learned a lot about some Niger traditions from Adam. And heDress learned a lot about America from me! He was shocked to hear that if you marry a girl in America, you do not also get some goats.

We got our dresses back today! I don’t know where I’ll ever wear it, but hey, at least I have an official African dress!

Must shower and get to bed. Another big day tomorrow! Only three days left in Niger. I’m so excited to go home, but also don’t want to leave.

Finding Hippos and a Meal for a King…

From my journal of the mission trip with Jesus Film Ministries to Niger, Africa in 2009.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Today was a FABULOUS day! We had cinnamon rolls and banana bread for breakfast and then headed out for our boat rides. The rain really cooled things off last night after a huge thunderstorm, so it was the perfect morning.

Bruce haggled us a good price for the boat ride, and then we were off! In my boat was me, Kathy, Sheri, Zac and Jonathan. The water was pretty muddy and was only a few feet deep. The boats looked really old and were falling apart, but we trusted our guides.4788_103252161572_2999197_n

We went really far in hopes of finding some hippos. I was kind of nervous. Hippopotamuses?! They are HUGE and are NOT nice. And the guides said that they are as fast as horses when on land. Well, we did find some hippos! All we really got to see were their heads but it was still very cool. We walked around on a beach on an island, and we watched the hippos from there and took lots of pictures.

4788_103252191572_6479839_nWe got back in our little boats and our next stop was this tiny little village on an island. We walked around the village. We met some of the people and took pictures of the kids. One little boy just walked up to me and grabbed my hand! He was so cute!

All of the little village kids sent us off when we floated away. There were about 20 of them waving and yelling as we left.

For lunch we went to Angel and Venonce’s home (they run the university Campus Crusade as IMG_0673 (2)national directors in Niger). It was a pretty big deal for them to do that. I guess they didn’t do that with last year’s team! The meal was INCREDIBLE! It was some really weird stuff, but it was also really good. There were a lot of vegetables, some sort of meat (no one dared ask what), and of course all the Fanta we could drink.

Their home was pretty nice. It was gated- like every “real” house here is. They even had a servant!

We talked a bit about the political issues in Niger. It is scary to think Niger could get a new president who will declare it a Muslim country and outlaw any other religions. I don’t even want to think about it.

4975_102900226572_770615_nOur Jesus Film showing was OK. Not many people came but a few accepted Christ! I must remember to pray for this one young man who accepted Christ. He spoke some English, so we talked a little. I was really excited that some of the kids remembered my name! How cute!

Things got creepy when a sand storm started moving in. So when the film finished, we packed up quickly. Even though we did have some scary Muslims chase kids away, at least we didn’t have it as bad as the group that got rocks thrown at them. Crazy! No one got hurt, but that had to be scary.

Experiencing true Niger culture…

Another excerpt from my journal on my 2009 trip to Niger, Africa with Jesus Film Ministries:

Friday, June 19, 2009

IMG_0516 (2) - CopyAbby, Sheri and I met with a guy at 8 a.m. to talk about getting a dress made for each of us. First we picked a style, and then w went to the market to pick out fabric. Abby and I got blue material and Sheri got green and black. When we returned to the guesthouse we were measured. Our dresses should be done by Tuesday!

We didn’t have to go to the university so we went to the Gran Marche (Grand Market). It was huge and crazy. It was their version of a Wal-Mart, only outside. There were sections for shoes, meat, electronics, jewelry, etc. etc.4788_103253781572_1396633_n

For lunch we ate at the Lebanese bakery again. It was fabulous! Most of us had hamburgers, and the fries came ON the sandwich. How weird! We all thought it was pretty funny.

After lunch we went to a few places to buy souvenirs. We did some bargaining, it was fun!

But at 1:30, we had to stop. There was a Muslim “call to prayer,” and since Friday is the Muslim Sabbath,  ALL Muslim men participated. All the shops closed and the town fell silent. The crazy, loud and obnoxious town of Niamey stood completely still. It was creepy. We were the only ones walking around (we had no choice but to find our way back to the van). There were HUNDREDS of men praying in the street. And there we were- the American Christians just going about our business. We couldn’t even get into our van because it was surrounded by men on their prayer mats.

IMG_0545 (2) - Copy

We returned to the Catholic Guesthouse to pack up. We didn’t really know what to expect at the new place except that if we wanted air conditioning we had to pay for it. I know I expected the worst. But then we got here and the place is only a few years old. The grounds are all gated and there are lots of security guards. Our guesthouse has two armed guards – Mohammed and Frank. We got a kick out of that- Frank. The place is super clean, modern, and we have an awesome common area for meals and devotions.

Tonight we went to new locations in new groups for the Jesus Film. I was with Kathy, Zac and Don. Our students with us were Solomon and Adam. This time we were in a city neighborhood. MUCH IMG_0578 (2) - Copydifferent than the other two places. There was a soccer game going on where we were set up. While we waited for it to end I played with the kids. A few of them knew a little English- I was surprised!

The game ended and we started to set up. Lots of kids helped us and kept yelling, “Cinema!” because they were so excited. Then, just was we were to start there was a “call to prayer.” We were just around the corner from a mosque. The students told us that the neighborhood we were in was a very devout Muslim area. We could tell.

4788_103256596572_4237979_n - CopyWhen the “call to prayer” was over, we started the film. There were probably 50 kids there and a few adults. About five minutes into the film, a Muslim woman chased all the kids away! They didn’t want to leave, but she was very scary that they had no choice! There were about 20 people left when she went away. I was very discouraged, and then it got worse. Parents started showing up and very aggressively began removing their children from the crowd.  So halfway through the first reel we had only about six people left to watch.

About 20 minutes later, some kids came back and more adults slowly trickled in. Still, I was pretty creeped out because of how angry so many parents were. I could totally understand where they were coming from, though.  Can you imagine someone of a different religion coming into your neighborhood and trying to preach it to your kids? You wouldn’t be happy either. I just pray we had a positive impact on someone and that at least one person now has an interest in Christ.

New friends at Niger’s lone university

Wednesday, June 17, 2009, 11 p.m.

SO. TIRED.

Bruce told us this morning that now is when the jet-lag will really start to set in. We noticed. Everyone looked like zombies at breakfast. Even the nationals got to the office late. Guess they were tired, too!

Our adventure on campus today was a great one. The first girl we talked to in her room 4788_103259756572_2227864_nwashing her clothes in a bucket. She was very quiet and sweet. I told my testimony and Kaeli did the translation. Then our National (I can never remember her African name!) went over the four spiritual laws with her. And she accepted! She accepted Christ! She read the prayer and asked Him into her heart. I was a little skeptical because it all seemed so simple. Then I realized that as Americans we make everything so complicated and dramatic. All that isn’t necessary!

The next girl we saw was nice and welcoming as well. She was Muslim. She listened and was very respectful but did not accept because of her Muslim beliefs.

The final room we visited was really fun. There were three girls in that room who were super outgoing and friendly. They really responded well to my testimony and even asked a lot of questions. They said they were very touched by my testimony.

Once we got into more about Jesus, the discussion was pretty crazy. They said they have always been told that Christians believe God had sex with Mary to make Jesus. How awful! That wasn’t just something they thought, it was something they were told we actually believe! The girls were so relieved when we corrected them. They didn’t accept Christ, but they certainly were very open and listened to what we said.

We took some pictures with them before we left. It really felt like we made some friends! A few of them even spoke a little English.

Lunch was another interesting concoction. I spent my afternoon free time washing some clothes in the sink and I took a short nap.

For the Jesus Film viewing we went back to the same place. We met lots of new people who were excited about the movie. A lot of people were out cultivating. A lot of naked kids were running around. We saw a very scary guy. He followed us for awhile and it was creepy. He was covered everywhere but his eyes.

4975_102902161572_6749683_nThe kids went crazy again when I pulled out my camera. I couldn’t get good pictures because they literally swarm you to be in the picture. They won’t back up for anything. Then Abby and I whipped out some bubbles. They went NUTS over that. They chased them, tried to eat them, tried to hold them, etc. They loved it!

When the film started, I didn’t feel very well. I got really hot- almost like I had a fever. I was literally drenched in sweat. I felt light-headed too. It was a little scary (knowing medical help was next to impossible if it came to that) but I felt better by the end of the film. Well, we only showed the first half. The second half we’ll show tomorrow.

Tired. Must sleep!

First full day in Africa…

Here’s the journal entry from our first full day in Niger, Africa.

Monday, June 15, 2009, 2 p.m.

Boy did I pass out. I slept straight through until 7 a.m. I woke up once I guess, and was like, “Where am I?” And then I thought, “I’m in Africa!” and went back to sleep.

This morning we went to a nice little breakfast place. We had baguettes and some chocolate pastries. We then had an orientation meeting.

Bruce talked about how lucky we are to be able to learn from the Niger Christian leaders. In some places it’s too dangerous, they can’t blow their cover. We also learned not to give money to anyone (duh). If you do, a huge crowd will form.

After our little meeting we headed across the Niger River to the University of Niamey. There were about 12 students eager to greet us. They made sure to shake everyone’s hands. Some were dressed up in colorful traditional dresses and others were in basic American street clothes.

Inside, when each of us was introduced, they all clapped for us. We sang a few songs, one called “Ton amour Nous Environne.” Then we read Psalm 133.

I can’t get over how much everyone wants us to be happy and taken care of. For example, the preacher welcomed us after we sang and he asked how we were doing with the heat. We all were like, “Oh it’s super hot!” and three people jumped up to turn the fans on higher.

The preacher told us a lot about Niger and its government issues right now. There are eight major regions of Niger. Everyone speaks French and also at least one tribal language (Hausa is the most common).

We were prepped on how to witness at the university. He said almost every student would be willing to listen, but in the end won’t accept Christ because they are Muslim. (95 percent of Niger is Muslim.)

Since we’ll be witnessing to mainly Muslims, we can never refer to Jesus as the “Son of God” because that implies that God had sex with Mary. It is something they are very serious about. Like Jews, they believe Jesus was just a prophet.

Right now there is a huge push from Saudi Arabia to spread Islam to all of Africa. There are five mosques at the university alone.

After our talk we got into teams. I’m with Bruce, Abby and Don. We were grouped with some university students, who took us outside to show us how to set up the Jesus Film, which we will show in villages at night. OK, in the African sun at noon, setting up was BRUTAL. One of the students, Marie, was always telling me to stand in the shade with her. She was so sweet. She spoke very little English. Marie had tribal scars on each side of her face. They were two marks beside each eye.

We were exhausted after setting up and taking down. We were served lunch. Rice and something. I don’t know what it was.

On our way back to the guesthouse we saw tons of goats. They’re everywhere! It cracks me up!

10 p.m.

Ahh- lovely cool African evening. My group for when we show the Jesus Film was in charge of dinner tonight. We made spaghetti. I chopped the onions and garlic for the sauce and I did the dishes at the end.

Just before dinner we had an interesting weather situation. The sun was setting, and the sky looked purple and orange. It was super weird. Well then the wind picked up like crazy and there was a huge sand storm. Sand was flying around everything! It got in our eyes, mouth, nose, etc. Crazy!

Tomorrow is our first official day of “work.” I’m eager to see how all this plays out!

Is this really happening?

My head was spinning when I got home. I couldn’t tell if it was from an hour of zumba at the YMCA or if it was the email I had just received from my friend Janeth in Texas. Either way, I felt like I might pass out.

You see, on my way home from zumba, I got to thinking about how it had been awhile since I went on any sort of mission trip. Sure I’ve started volunteering at the Allen County Juvenile Center (ACJC), but my heart for international missions hasn’t been satisfied since I left Nicaragua in April 2011. I’ve always felt a calling to serve internationally, so I pretty much always have the desire to go.

I got to thinking about my trip to Niger, Africa in 2009 with Jesus Film Ministries. We shared the gospel with hundreds of people in Niger, in villages all across the desert. We also spread the word of God to students at the university in Niamey. For two weeks we were missionaries for Christ, completely immersed in a country that was more than 95% Muslim.

In 2011 I went with my church to Nicaragua where we dug latrines and did vacation Bible school with the children. The highlight of the trip was meeting Mayrober, my sponsor child through Food for the Hungry. It was so incredible to see that the money I spend each month really is making a difference in the community. I definitely was given a heart for Nicaragua after my trip.

Still, my desire to go back to Africa wasn’t gone. And on this drive home Tuesday night, I started to get discouraged. My church doesn’t take any trips to Africa. We go to Nicaragua, Haiti, Turkey, etc. etc., but not Africa. I wasn’t sure how God would work this out.

Enter Janeth. I checked my email when I got home, and there it was- an email from my friend in Texas with information on her upcoming trip to Zambia. She said I should go. Wait, no, God said I should go.

I have prayed a lot in the past few days, committed myself to this Zambia trip, contacted the travel agent, and have officially been posted on the website as a member of the Zambia 2013 team. Wow. This is really happening.

What will we do? We will spend most of our time at Lifesong for Orphans. It’s an organization that provides education, meals, and physical, emotional and spiritual support for orphans. We’ll also spend some time in the strawberry fields where many of the adults work for a living. Sightseeing-wise we will go to Victoria Falls and also go on a safari for a day.

I just can’t believe how God has worked this all out and done it so quickly. Sure it’s going to cost a lot, but I am confident that if God is sending me, He will provide a way for me to pay for it.

If you feel led to donate to my trip, please do. Pray about it, and if it’s something you can afford please contribute either on the website or by sending in a check (donations are tax deductible of course!). No amount is too small. If you can’t afford it, please keep me and the rest of the team in your prayers as we prepare for this journey.