Most orphans don’t have curly red hair and freckles…

orphan – (n) a child deprived by death of one or usually both parents

My entire life I’ve feared the death of my parents. No one has supported me more, loved me more, or taken better care283670_3138899200926_1422215904_n of me. The thought of one of them passing used to bring me to tears. It was also something that kept me from serving overseas where God was calling me, but I’ve found a peace within the last six months. I’ve had 32 amazing years with my parents. That’s much more than many people get.

In four days we leave for Zambia where we’ll be working with Lifesong for Orphans. My heart is already breaking for these children who have lost both parents, usually to HIV/AIDS. Can you even imagine? As if survival wasn’t tough enough in a place like Zambia, they have to face the world as orphans.

Not saying it’s any easier for orphans in America, but at least orphans here often have other family members that can take them in. Zambia has a life expectancy of around 49 years. There usually aren’t older family members to take care of the orphaned children.

Our typical view of orphans comes from movies like Annie. Wow did I love Annie, her curly red hair and freckles when I was a little girl. I listened to the soundtrack so many times that I wore out the tape. The movie also led me to believe that all orphanages were run by women like the alcoholic Miss Hannigan.

Luckily, that’s typically not the case. That’s definitely not the case at Lifesong for Orphans, where their motto is “Bringing Joy and Purpose to Orphans.” The people who work for the organization have dedicated their lives to making someone else’s life better- the orphans.

God couldn’t have been more clear in the Bible about how Christians should treat orphans:

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James 1:27

7980_3138908681163_1818934831_nThere are many, many more verses in which God addresses the fatherless and how we should help them. Maybe that’s by sponsoring an orphan, visiting orphans, or financially supporting missionaries and mission trips… there’s something you can do to help.

I’m so glad Lifesong for Orphans brings the message to the Zambian orphans that they do have a Father in heaven who loves them very much. I can hardly wait to give them hugs with hopes that they’ll feel God’s love in the midst of my embrace.

Photos courtesy of Janeth Ibarra.

What you might be shocked to know about my trip to Zambia…

Two weeks from now I’ll be flying over Africa somewhere, headed to Zambia where we will serve God at Lifesong for Orphans. What’s really awesome about this trip is that Janeth, one of my best friends, will be going on the trip as well! But there’s something you don’t know about our friendship.

Let me tell you about Janeth. Janeth is amazing. Although just a young grasshopper, she doesn’t mind being friends 488122_3188445239546_496056400_nwith an old woman like me (she’s 24 and I’m 32). Never once has age stood in the way of our friendship. She always makes me laugh, and since we became friends almost a year and a half ago, she’s been there for me whenever I’ve needed her.

Even though Janeth is in Texas and I’m in Indiana, she’s managed to be my rock this past year, especially when I had my heart broken. Her advice and prayers got me through some pretty rough times.

What I love about her the most is that she’s such a Godly woman. She is so spiritually mature for her age, and I have learned so much from her beautiful heart for God and her passion for humanity and the earth in general. She is, quite simply, one of the most amazing people I’ve ever known.

Janeth is also the reason I even know about the trip to Zambia! The day she suggested I go was one of the coolest things ever. I’m so excited to serve God on this trip and to do it with one of my best friends.

Here’s what you don’t know…

Janeth and I have never met.

I’ll let that sink in for a moment.

No, we didn’t meet on FriendFinder.com (is there such a thing?), or some sort of Christian website. We met right here, on WordPress.

A few years ago I had a blog that none of my family or friends knew about. It was very personal, and for some reason, lots of people found it interesting. Janeth was one of those people. She followed my blog, I followed hers, and one day in February 2012 I posted a comment on one of her posts. She sent me an email with the subject: “Hi from Texas :-)”

We were both going through some heartache at the time, and her words in that email were so comforting and helpful. She was very open about her relationship with God, and what she was going through. Little did I know that a little more than a year later I would be going to Africa with her.

532521_3195916786330_513696476_nWhat’s weird to think about is that GOD knew. He orchestrated this entire friendship. I have never been so sure of anything in my entire life. God has used Janeth in a major way to help me grow as a Christian. I believe He’s used me in the same way for her.

Janeth and I will meet for the first time in London when I meet the rest of the group going to Zambia. We’ve text and Skyped before, so we’re definitely not complete strangers. Like I said, she’s one of my best friends! We talk pretty much every day!

I know plenty of people will find this all rather bizarre, and that’s OK. I think it’s all pretty awesome that God would use someone so far away to help transform my life. Just one of the many amazing things He’s done for me!

This verse definitely sums up my friendship with Janeth:

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

Thank you, Janeth! Can’t wait to serve God together in Zambia!

It’s not about the giraffes…

When we stepped out of the Niger airport into the hot African sun, I was brought to tears.

I’m in Africa, I thought. I’m really in Africa!

I spent the next two weeks in awe of God’s beauty in Africa that managed to shine through the poverty and suffering. Everything I did, I realized I was doing in Africa.

I’m brushing my teeth in Africa!

I am eating breakfast in Africa!

I have a headache in Africa!

We did some amazing things while I was there. We saw giraffes and hippos in their natural habitats, we toured government buildings, we took boat rides, and we ate at fabulous restaurants. It was all a big part of my first African experience.

But I’ll be honest, I was pretty caught up in being in Africa, and not caught up in the work God sent us there to do. It was 2009, I was in a job I hated, in the middle of a terrible relationship, and getting away was a big focus of my trip to Niger.

Don’t get me wrong, I saw God do some awesome things in the middle of Muslim villages and neighborhoods while we were there. But I think what was missing was that human interaction. I don’t speak any tribal languages. I don’t even speak French! Not only that, but we were with different people almost every day. No real connections were formed.

I leave for Zambia in less than three weeks, and things are drastically different for me now. It’s not about the giraffes. It’s not even about Africa. It’s about our mission: to show Christ’s love to the people of Zambia. More specifically, to show it to the beautiful children at Lifesong for Orphans.

When I look ahead to this trip, my heart gets so excited about meeting these kids and getting to know them. Many are orphans because their parents have died of HIV/AIDS, and many of them carry the same fatal disease. I want to love on them all I can while we are there. I want them to know that I love them, and God loves them.

521785_4406504770273_1281097728_nI’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited about seeing Victoria Falls and the safari we are taking. It’s not uncommon for mission trips to have a few days built-in for sightseeing, and naturally I am stoked about seeing more of beautiful Africa. I’m not a crazy person! But I realize this time that it’s not about all the things we will see. It’s the things we will experience and share with the wonderful people of Zambia.

My friend Janeth is returning to Zambia for the second year in a row. Look at this picture of her, her friend Liz, and a bunch of the orphans. Is it really any wonder why I’m so excited to meet these kids and do what we can to help them out?! This time it’s not about the giraffes. It’s about showing God’s love, and I simply cannot wait to do so.

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.

Picnic in the African desert

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Entry from Sunday, June 21, 2009 journal from my trip to Niger, Africa

We split into two groups for church. It was incredible to see a room filled with African IMG_0723Christians. They even had a choir- their songs were great! They had drums, a guitar and a keyboard. The youth even did a skit!

There were some other white people there. Some were visiting like us and others were missionaries long-term or taught at the Christian school nearby.

The sermon was, of course, in French, so we were taken to a back room where someone translated for us.

The afternoon was pretty cool. We met up with the nationals at the office and divided into two vans to travel to the village of (?). I ended up next to Adam in the van. He’s so sweet. He was pointing out a lot of things we passed and explained them. I can tell he likes me. He even asked if I had a boyfriend. Then he said he was surprised I didn’t. He flirted a lot- so I kind of kept away from him when we got to the village. It took almost two hours to get there.

IMG_0733When we arrived, we all sat on mats under a mango tree. We had a picnic- ham sandwiches and pop. It was nice to have ham (and mayo!) because every night at the Jesus Film showings we have peanut butter and jelly on baggetts. We are so sick of that!

After lunch and a lot of good fellowship, we took a group photo. I’m excited to get that!

Then we heard from some people in the village. They didn’t really have a religion before- just DSC00613 (2)tribal stuff. I guess the Jesus Film mission has really been working with this tribe. Many people have turned to Christianity because of it! Even the tribal leader accepted Christ. They want a church, because right now they meet in a straw shack. It was only two years ago that the Bible was first translated into their language. That’s crazy to me! Very sad. I thought the Bible was in EVERY language. All the church men from the tribe had huge tribal scars on their faces. That was weird.

Most of us slept on the ride home. This is all so exhausting.

When we returned to the guesthouse it was around 7 p.m. We put some frozen pizzas in the oven and just relaxed. It was nice and cool outside so we ate out there. We ended up talking for hours about the most random things- from church, to gay guys, to No Child Left Behind, to “John and Kate Plus Eight.”

Since there was no Jesus Film showing, we were in bed before 11 p.m., which was nice. As Bruce said earlier, “Thank you Jesus, we don’t have to show the Jesus Film tonight!” That’s been a pretty big joke since then with our group. But really, we needed a rest. We aren’t at our best if we’re exhausted.

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.

Meeting Mayrober

His picture jumped out at me right away. His giant brown eyes couldn’t be ignored, and I knew he was the one for me. “Mayrober” was his name, and he would be my sponsor child from Nicaragua.

That was a few months before I went to Terrencio, Nicaragua on a church mission trip, and many of us felt led to 200745_10150105570821573_4972463_nsponsor a child from the village through Food for the Hungry. All I knew about Mayrober at the time was that he was five years old and liked to draw. My heart danced when I got my first drawing from Mayrober, and I could hardly wait to meet the little guy on our trip.

When the day came that I would meet Mayrober, I was a little nervous. OK, I was horrified. For four months he had been a piece of paper, a beautiful picture of a child who lived worlds away in poverty. What on earth would I say to him? I knew some Spanish, but not a lot. There would be a translator, but still, what do you say to a five-year-old living in poverty? He doesn’t have a favorite television show or cartoon character. He doesn’t follow a basketball team or play video games. But aside from all of that, I was excited beyond words. Others in our group had met their sponsor kids the day before and had awesome stories about how the kids jumped into their arms and thanked them for writing and sponsoring them. I was so excited for my “moment” with Mayrober!

207828_10150151374481573_3642730_nWhen we arrived at Mayrober’s home he was sitting in a plastic chair outside. Their home was like a hut- it had some sort of roof made of random materials and a couple of walls made of sticks. Mayrober’s mother stood behind and the translator introduced us all. Mayrober didn’t jump into my arms, he didn’t even smile.

Mayrober looked at me like a scared child looking at Santa. He just looked at me and didn’t even blink. It was like he was trying to figure out if he wanted to cry or run away.

“Hola Mayrober!” I said. “Como estas?”

He just looked at me.

I looked at the translator and he said something to Mayrober in Spanish. He still just sat there, but his mom tapped his shoulder as if to say, “Answer her!”

He whispered a tiny, “Bien,” meaning he was doing well.

That’s how the next ten minutes went. I would ask a question, he wouldn’t resond, his mom would make him, and he would have a one word answer. 215199_10150151374606573_4561465_n

I wanted a picture, but Mayrober was afraid. His mom had to pick him up and put him beside me. I went to put my arm around him and he leaned away from me. It was official: my sponsor child hated me.

When I got back to the bus where everyone on our mission team was waiting, they were so excited to hear about my experience. I told them how terrible it was, and they tried to make me feel better by saying he was younger than their sponsor kids, that he must just be really shy, etc. etc., but I was still heartbroken. On the drive away from the village and back to Managua, I got tears in my eyes wondering why things went so poorly.

A few days later was the final day of Vacation Bible School that we were leading in the village. I was assigned the job of helping the kids make paper bag puppets. We had crayons, pipe cleaners, googly eyes and all sorts of things the kids could glue on their paper bags. Seems like a simple craft, but these kids looked like they had never seen or done anything so fun and amazing. They were in heaven making their puppets.

With only about 20 minutes left, I saw Mayrober walk into the “classroom.” He saw me and kind of smiled but then noticed that all the seats were taken… except one at the front of the classroom, right beside me where I was hanging out glue sticks.

207426_10150151390566573_1671953_nThere were three or four of us helping in the room, and I’ll be honest, the moment Mayrober got there, all my attention was on him. I was glad I remembered the Spanish words for eyes, nose, mouth, face and hair so I could help Mayrober decorate his puppet. After each part of the face he would look at me like, “What next?”

It was my happiest moment of the trip, to be sitting next to him, helping him make his puppet and seeing him smile.

He hung around with me even after the puppet-making class. Everyone was to go over to the village church after activities, and Mayrober walked with me. I knew it was the perfect opportunity for a much better picture than the one we’d taken a few days earlier. Sure enough, Mayrober had no 216075_10150149305886573_3381294_nproblems giving a big smile as I put my arm around him for a picture. We were buddies now, and he knew there was nothing for him to be afraid of.

You always see these kids on television, the ones who have no home, barely any food and live in poverty. I can’t vouch for other organizations, but I can say that Food for the Hungry is legit. The money you pay for your sponsor child helps the entire community.

I also learned that the money is only half of the impact you can have on a sponsor child. They love hearing from their sponsors back in the US! I’ve gotten endless drawings from Mayrober, and I love writing to him. Food for the Hungry takes care of the translation both ways.

Meeting Mayrober was one of the greatest experiences of my life and I will continue to support him for as long as the program allows (until he is 18). I write to him, support him, and pray for him. While things didn’t start off the best between us, I am so happy that we eventually got to spend some time together and that he was genuinely happy to meet me.

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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.

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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.

Jesus Film in the Fulani village

Another entry from my journal when I was in Niger in 2009:

Saturday, June 20, 2009 – 3:15 pm.

As usual, we went to the university to witness. I found out that there are almost 12,000 students and only enough women to fill two dorms. So, our time is spent in those two places.

Our first room on Thursday we met with a girl named Amina. She was pretty nice, kind of shy. A male friend of hers came in and I was afraid he might be Muslim, but he wasn’t. They 4788_103259756572_2227864_nlistened to my testimony and Saratou (our national) presented the four spiritual laws. They had a lot of questions and seemed really interested. The guy actually seemed more interested than the girl. They didn’t make a decision. The guy said it was a very important decision and that he needed time. So, we left him with some information. I felt good about what we accomplished!

The next room was Jamila. She had a room to herself. She was very pretty and had nice clothes. It made me wonder about her story and where she came from. I gave my testimony, Kaeli read the four spiritual laws and Jamila accepted Christ! This time I could really feel the Holy Spirit. I think Christ will do great things in Jamila.

It really made me think about the stigma attached to Christians in the U.S.- that we’re all weird or that loving Jesus isn’t cool. These people don’t think that. I’m amazed at how quickly they accept Jesus. Then I realized, many of them have never even heard of Jesus until we bring Him to them. I forget that while Americans often know about Jesus, they don’t accept Him, while many African people haven’t even heard of Jesus.

We returned to the office for lunch. OK. Let me vent for a moment. Lunch is GROSS. We have same weird stew every day, it’s just always poured over something new. On Thursday, it was couscous. Yuck! I ate out a few chunks of meat, but that was it. We are all pretty sick of the same lunch every day.

After lunch we went to the bank to exchange money, and then we rested for a bit before returning to the office.

Let me explain how they pray here. Apparently it is a Korean style of praying. The pastor might say, “We will pray for thanks for what God did at last night’s film showings.” And everyone will pray out loud at the same time. Then he’ll say, “Now we will pray for protection at tonight’s showings.” And we pray out loud again. We’ll pray about five or six times like that and then the pastor will close. It’s odd.

Anyways, for the Jesus Film showing I ended up with the group that really was in a village.4975_102901466572_6106736_n Wow. Talk about a VILLAGE. It was way out-of-town. The kids were totally different from the last place. These kids were filthy. But, they were much more needy and loving. They held our hands and were obsessed with our white skin. They kept wanting to touch our skin. These kids were much darker than the other bunch.

One little girl who kept holding my hand was covered in some sort of skin disease. It looked really awful, but she wanted to hold my hand so bad. Maybe I shouldn’t have, but I felt safe. I knew she needed love and I believed that God would protect me from whatever was on her skin.

4788_103254726572_3645351_nBefore the film we met Steve, the village pastor. He is 29 years old, single and adorable! He was so sweet and knew quite a bit of English. He wanted to show us his house, which he said was close. We walked. It was REALLY far away. At least a mile or two walk in the sand. And we had about 40 kids following us!

I got to know Steve pretty well. We exchanged email addresses. It was weird because he was very modern in his clothes, and yet he talked about the tribe he came from. All the guys in our group from the college were from tribes, too.

The showing (all four reels) went OK. There were a couple hundred there. A lot of people laughed at some of the things Jesus said in the movie. I don’t know why.

After the film we stood in a circle and held hands to pray. As we did, I could feel someone tugging at the flashlight tied around my wrist. Kids were also trying to get into my backpack with held my camera, passport, etc. Just as the prayer ended, my flashlight was gone. I saw the boys sprint off. The pastor felt awful. He said he would get it back but I said not to worry about it. But sure enough, he got it back to me the next day! And the rope that was with it around my wrist was CUT. The kids had used a knife to cut it off of my wrist!

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!