Sunday, 28 December 2008

The Shepherd And The Star

I laid there on the ground in the dark and stared into the night sky. There was no moon this night, and there was only one star. It was the brightest star I had ever seen. I wondered if maybe there were no others because this one was so bright that it didn’t allow me to see the other stars that were really there. I won’t ever know.
I laid there and thought to myself of how unreal the feeling that I had was. The animals were sleeping just a few feet away but they continuously made their animal sounds. The breeze was warm and I didn’t have a cover over my body, only the clothes that I had worn that day. Voices were carried from a distance as the wind blew slightly. The voices were speaking a language that I didn’t understand. With every big gust of wind I could feel dust cover my body and I would close my mouth and eyes to keep it from getting in.
As I felt the warmth of the air on my body and the hardness of the ground below me and as I tasted the dirt in my mouth and smelt the animals nearby and as I listened to the voices from a distance, I looked deep into the black sky for something more than was visibly there.

I felt like a shepherd.

Now I know that the shepherds didn’t follow a star to find Baby Jesus, but I do know that I hadn’t ever imagined feeling like someone else like I did that night. I pictured the sky filling with angels and thought of what my reaction may have been. I wonder if the shepherds were the only ones able to see the angels or if the glory of the Lord that accompanied the angels could be seen from miles away… I wonder what the stable looked like that Jesus was born in. I can’t even imagine. I thought “surely there is something here that may resemble a stable” but I have yet to see anything that may be even remotely similar to what a stable in Jesus’ day may have looked like. They don’t house their animals here and I have never seen them in pens or corals. Only tied up.

My mind thinks a lot when I’m in the bush and have nothing else to do… This is only one of those many times…


My Christmas went very well and I celebrated it with Susan and Melissa, my teammate and supervisor. Melissa’s brother was here from America for the holiday and it was nice having a new face around. It was the first time in my life that I’ve opened my gifts on Christmas morning alone. It was weird but ok.
My favorite gift this year was a CD set of “GT and the Halo Express”. I was SO excited when I opened it up that I grabbed my camera and tried my hardest to capture my thrill with snapshots to show my family! For those of you who don’t know what “GT and the Halo Express” is I will explain. The closest thing that I have to compare it to is “Adventures in Odyssey”. They are children’s CDs and GT (for short) sings all scripture. The first CD in the pack of seven starts with a brother and a sister that are preparing for a scripture memory contest and the brother just can’t get the verses down. All of the sudden there is a loud noise in the closet and out walks an angel. The children are scared and before too long a second angel appears. They introduce themselves as Good Tidings (GT) and Guardian. GT and Guardian explain that they want to help them learn Bible verses the Heavenly way – by singing them! Guarding tells Michael, the younger brother, “that once you’ve learned the song, you’ve learned the verse!” The Halo Express band is brought in with many instruments from heaven and they begin playing and learning verses.
My sisters and I grew up on these tapes and I have been keeping my eye out for them for quit some time. I mentioned it to my mom a while back that I wanted the set but she said that they were really expensive. BUMMER! I looked online a few times and couldn’t even find them (limited internet access) and just thought that all hope was lost, until… Christmas morning!
When Susan and I got to Melissa’s on Thursday I was playing one of the cds in the kitchen and singing away as I made the pie crust for the chicken pot pie. Later at the dinner table I told the others that I loved the movie “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” which is a musical and also a Christmas gift that I got from my sister Naomi. I went on to say that I always like to drive alone because I can blare my music and sing really loud. It was then that Melissa’s younger brother told me that I’m the type of girl that he makes fun of in the states! We all got a great laugh out of the fact that he did not like the GT cd that I played and sang to while I cooked, he hates musicals and thinks people that sing in their cars are crazy!

I want to share with you all the most exciting news of my last few months here…
I had the opportunity to visit a NEW village last week! It’s a village that I’ve never been too either. The village has Hausa and Fulani in it and the population of people there is over 80, 000. There is a Pastor from Nigeria working in that village to reach the Hausa people and he only speaks Hausa and English. Although Fulani speak Hausa and Fulfulde, he is targeting the Hausa. He told the Fulani chief that he had heard of a white woman in a nearby town that spoke their language – Fulfulde. The chief and his wife were very excited and said that they wanted to meet me. The pastor there also told them that I was a Christian and would like to talk to them about Christ. The Chief was VERY happy to hear about this. The pastor tracked me down and found my house the week before Christmas and asked when I would be able to come and share the plan of salvation with these Fulani people. I told him “Tomorrow works great for me!” He came the next day with a friend and we took motorcycle taxis back to his village because I didn’t know the way.
A couple of hours later we trekked to the Fulani Chief’s home (The village is HUGE) and found only three young girls there. We were then told that everyone had gone to get others because the white woman was coming to talk about her god. A few minutes later over 20 men, women and children all gathered on the ground around my chair and listened as I introduced myself, told my testimony and then shared Jesus Christ. These people were sitting on the edge of their mats the whole time! They told me later that evening that they are all ready to follow a different road than the one that leads to Islam. They asked when I was coming back and if I would share more stories from the Bible. They wanted me to stay and keep talking all night long, but they had convinced themselves that I was cold, tired and being eaten by mosquitoes. All three were true but I would have stayed for days had they let me.
All of this was in the dark so I didn’t get to see anyone. The next morning I went back to greet them all and meet them “face to face”. What a wonderful blessing these people are. They gave me a very warm welcome and a good size plastic coke bottle filled with fresh milk – the best gift that the Fulani can give.. Many of them have never seen a white face and many of the children were so scared they refused to come into the compound.

I am SO excited to see what the Lord will do in my last four months of being in Niger. There is nothing that I want more than to see salvation come to the Fulani people. It would be glorious to see it happen in my time here if the Lord wills.
• Please be praying for the people of the ML village. They are eager to hear and learn about Christ. Something that I have never seen from any Muslim here.
• Please pray that their hearts will be open and they will see the Lord in and through my actions and that I would speak Truth into their lives (1 John 3:18).
• Please pray that as I plant seeds here that the Holy Spirit would water them and that we would see fruit come out of the work in ML.
• Pray that we will have many new sisters and brothers in Christ soon!
• Pray for me that I would be bold in sharing the gospel and that I would not hesitate when the opportunity comes to tell them about Christ.
• Pray AGAINST spiritual warfare and ask that God would grant me wisdom and grant the people understanding.
• Pray that Satan would have no room in this village and that the Holy Spirit would make himself present there.
• PRAY PRAY PRAY FOR SALVATION! I believe that I may have found not only one Person of Peace, but many!

May the Lord bless you all as you walk into the New Year. Thanks for bathing me in prayer and caring for me as you do. I love you all so much.

Karissa will be here in 17 days and I can’t hardly sit still I’m so excited! Please pray for her as she prepares to come. This last week there was a young girl that came to me and ask me to teach her English. This is a great opportunity to share the Word of God. Please pray for her heart and that the Lord would be working in this situation. I’m hoping that between Karissa and I we can not only teach her English, but also the love of Christ.

I’m going to call it a night. My family in America is gathering today for Christmas with my mom’s side of the family. My grandmother (my dad’s mom) is there also. I just got off of skype with them and I got to SEE them through the video! This is the first time since I’ve been overseas that this has happened. I have been able to video with my cousin Stephen but this is the first time I’ve been able to see everyone. It was a blessing and there were MANY tears on my side.

Until next time!

P.S. I was reminded this week of why I never put up pictures with sticky tack. The air is so dry and it’s so hot here that the pictures just slide off of whatever I attach them to. I walked into my room today and below where my pictures hang was my open dresser drawer… with my mom hula hooping inside!

Friday, 5 December 2008

Seasons

Last Friday night I got on a plane and headed to Dakar, Senegal. I went for the region wide ReNew conference for all West Africa, IMB personnel in their first terms.
I landed about six hours late and then stood in line to go through immigration for about an hour. I waited with about 1,000 other people and was later told that this is the time of year that all the Muslims make the trek to Mecca. They can go anytime, but I guess that this is the most popular time of year to go. The airports reflected that so I'm guessing it's true.
I slept a lot of Saturday while the other Journeymen did their own thing. That night we went to Hamburger joint and it was so good! It was called Steers and I think I've eaten there before, maybe in South Africa, but I'm not sure. Then my friend, Alyson, reached into a deep freezer and pulled out ice - cream bars for the two of us! How convenient!
Sunday, I led a session on Language Learning where we all got together and talked about the ups and downs of what LL involved. We debriefed on that subject and it was good to hear what others had to say about how they learn, what things work for them, etc. It was a great time to bounce ideas off of each other.
The rest of the time we covered other topics like: relationships, supervision, CPM (Church Planting Movement), Stresses on the field, Ending Strong, etc. The "Ending Strong" session was good because it helped me to see the little time that I have left and how I can make the most of it.

The CPM session was really good for me because it opened it my eyes to not only the need in West Africa, but the need worldwide for missionaries. While we were talking about it a thought rushed through my mind "How can I leave?" "How can I not come back?" There are so many people that need to hear and no way to know about a relationship with Jesus Christ unless they are told. Why shouldn't I stay? Or at least come back? The Lord reminded me that even those in America need to hear and a life that accepts Christ is His child just the same - no matter where they are from. He gave me a peace about where He is leading me next (America) and just prodded me to stay tuned to His voice and ready to follow when He leads.

I took my camera to take hundreds of pictures and my batteries were dead. GO FIGURE! I hated that. But others took many pictures, so maybe if I can get my hands on a couple of them I can post them on here.

I flew back to Niamey on Wednesday and am headed back to Kondike in the morning. I talked to K yesterday and told him that I would be back today and when I didn't show up by noon he called. I felt bad for not letting him know sooner that my plans had changed. "K, I'm sorry I forgot to call you and tell you that I'm not coming until tomorrow!" He was worried for just a second and then realized that I was ok and said that he would see me tomorrow. I love how these people take care of me. They are always checking in on me and making sure I'm ok. They always want to know where I'm at and where I'm going and when I'm coming back. I am loved, I am dearly loved. I can't believe that I only have a few more months here. I dream about the day that I walk into the arms of my family again, but I dread the day I say goodbye to my family and friends here.

In the past, during the process of hellos and goodbyes, I would get discouraged when I would have to leave or watch someone else leave not knowing if I would ever see them again. Since then the Lord has taught me that relationships are for seasons. Some of the seasons last a lifetime and some only last a little while. But the season that you walk through with those people will forever change who you are.
I pray that I'm changed for the better because of the seasonal relationships I've been blessed with. But more than that I pray that those around me have been changed for the better because of the Jesus in me. Because without Him, my life would be in vain.

I don't think I've informed my blog readers about the good news! My friend, Karissa, (whom I wrote about in my last blog) is coming to serve as a volunteer here for six weeks! She will be here in the middle of January and she leaves at the end of February. I'm looking forward to being in the bush with a friend and allowing her to help me with ministry. We have been praying about this for months and the Lord has led her to pursue this and I believe is preparing the time that she will be here as well.
Please be lifting Karissa up as she is graduating from college this next week. She has a busy holiday schedule and then she'll be coming here. Pray for guidance and direction and clarity as she packs and gets ready to come.

This blog is about all I have time for at the moment. If Susan's internet works in a few days you may find another blog.
Love you all and thanks for your support.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Mouse

There were things eaten that I didn’t eat and little turds left in my kitchen drawers that I didn’t leave there… I have a little “demon” in my house (maybe more than one) that chewed into my last package of Blueberry Poptarts. I’m now on the hunt and out for blood. This little mouse has caused me more grief in the last couple of weeks than ever before. I was packing yesterday for Niamey and Senegal when I heard him (or her) chewing on something in my clothes drawer. I went and sat in front of my dresser and opened the drawer as fast as I could. Nothing. I opened the bottom drawer. Nada. I pulled the drawers out and set them on my bed and still came up empty handed. I had a little handbag in-between my dresser and the wall and I knew Mouse had to be somewhere. So I pulled the bag out and away from the wall quickly. Mouse scrambled to get away and ran over my foot and out my bedroom door and into the room across the hall. I got up and closed my door and the door across the hall and went to get K to help me find Mouse. Even with K’s help we did not succeed in the capture of Mouse. We couldn’t even find him. So…
K had gotten me some demon medicine a few days ago at the market and I used it like K told me to and Mouse left my kitchen and apparently went to my room. He didn’t eat the poison and K says (literal translation) that Mouse “has a head” or he’s smart. I agreed. When I was at Melissa’s over the weekend she told me to put the poison in peanut butter and then Mouse won’t be able to smell it and he’ll eat it like he does all my other good food. Well, I have a hard time justifying giving Mouse MY peanut butter but I guess if it will kill him then it’s worth it. I don’t need nor do I want little Mouse Juniors all over my home.


I’m sorry about not blogging when I said I would. I tried several days to get on the internet at Susan’s and every time I tried it didn’t work. I’m in Niamey now and am able to blog for a little while until I head back to Konni next week.
I’m spending Thanksgiving in Niamey with other IMB missionaries and then Friday I’m flying to Dakar for a short – term personnel meeting. I will be able to get together with many other Journeymen and a few married couples as well. I will be able to see Sara and Katy from Nigeria too! I haven’t seen them since July when I was in Abidjan. Melanie and Kav, who were also on my team in Nigeria, have both ended their terms. Kav is doing another term in a different region and Melanie headed back to America a few weeks ago and will begin seminary in the Spring. So it will be just me, Katy and Sara and I’m really excited about this reunion ☺

America
I was sitting on the Delta plane Wednesday, September 11th and still trying to run everything through my mind. “Anna, are you really going to America?” “Will you really be with your family in less than 18 hours?” (even as I write this, I’m getting choked up). I had other emotions running through my mind as well, “Grandpa really won’t be there when I get to see everyone.” “Is the reason I’m flying home really for a funeral?”
All of it seemed too surreal and like a dream and nightmare all at the same time for me to believe it until I landed in Atlanta, Georgia. My Aunt Amy and her family weren’t going to be able to make the drive to Missouri from South Carolina for the funeral. But I had talked to Amy the day before and she said that there was a possibility that she could drive from South Carolina to Atlanta for my four hour layover. But there was nothing set in stone by the time I left South Africa on the 10th.
From the air America was beautiful. Everything that I remembered it being. But once I landed I felt like I was walking on air. I was nervous and hungry. I didn’t know if I should wait outside for Amy or just go to my next gate. I made my way to a pay phone but realized that I didn’t have any change. And I know that my South Africa rand coins wouldn’t work. I opened my little folder with my travel papers and extra moo-lah in it and found some American dollars. I put them in the exchange machine and waited. It ate my money. I tried a different one. It ate my second dollar. I only had one left and tried for a third time. Finally I got four quarters. I went to the pay phone and followed the instructions. I was putting my fourth quarter in when I realized that it wasn’t going all the way. In my frustration I forced it and knew at that time that the pay phone had eaten my third dollar. I don’t remember what happened next, all I know is that somehow I exchanged a larger bill and got more quarters. I just wanted to talk to my family! I followed the instructions again and within seconds the phone was ringing. My 14 year old brother, Luke answered the phone and I began to cry slow, desperate tears. My hands were shaking and I felt like if I spoke then I would wake up from this American dream. I tried to collect myself and I asked for Mom. She got on the phone and the only thing I could say was, “Mom, I’m in America!” We talked for a very short while and I ask if she knew if Amy was coming or not? Mom confirmed that Amy was on her way! I got off the phone with Mom and called Amy’s cell phone. She was about an hour and a half away from being with me! The plan was for her to pick me up outside and then we were going to go to breakfast.
I found a plug-in outlet and sat down with my computer on the floor. I had to do something to keep my mind off the waiting. I started the movie “Braveheart” and soon realized that I was being looked at/watched by every person around. It couldn’t have had anything to do with the fact that I was sitting on my African wrap skirt on the floor and not in one the many open seats nearby (there were no plug-ins near the seats) and the bottoms of my feet were covered in what looked like a solid, black tattoo. It was really just henna. I didn’t care. “Let them look” I told myself as I tried to focus on the movie.
A few minutes before Amy was supposed to be there I packed up my computer and headed outside. My watch and cell phone (that didn’t work in America) were both still set on African time so I continually asked people walking by what time it was. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t way too early or way too late. Nope, I was right on time. Before too long I could see Amy coming my way and she was waving at me frantically with a huge smile on her face! I picked up my backpack and ran toward her van as she put it in park and jumped out for a good, long hug. Oh, how wonderful it felt to be in the arms of family. We were both crying and I didn’t want to let go for fear that if I did she would disappear and I would find myself hugging a tree in South Africa… (haha) But our embrace ended and we were still both there. We jumped into the car and made our way through traffic to McDonalds.
Once inside I had a little bit of trouble figuring out what I wanted because there was so much to choose from! I’m used to having a menu of Couscous and sauce or rice and sauce with onion rings or fries. But we ordered and found a seat in a corner. Amy took my picture of my first meal back in America.

We knew that we didn’t have all day so we tried to pick what was the most important to talk about during the little time that we had. How do you do that when you’ve not seen one another in over a year and you only have an hour?! But between Amy and I we didn’t have trouble finding things to talk about. I showed her a lot of pictures from here and my house and my people. It was fun to show someone in person and not just over my blog. And it was fun showing her because she’s never been here and I was able to see her expressions and here her questions about the photos, etc.

The time with Amy was all too short and it felt like we had just said hello when she dropped me off and I had to say goodbye. There was so much that I wanted to share with her and so much I wanted to hear about from her and we just didn’t have the time. We had a teary goodbye and I didn’t want to let go. But I waved and made my way inside as she maneuvered her van back onto the road.
I got myself checked in, to my gate and on the plane with no trouble. Once on the plane the whole idea of being back in America was real. I had just had breakfast with my aunt and was hearing English and speaking it to everyone around! THAT was amazing by the way! But on the flight I was feeling anxious about getting home. In Atlanta Mom had said on the phone that we were going straight form the airport to the funeral home and I laughed at her. “Mom, you must not know what I look like right now! You have to let me shower and change my clothes.” She had just been teasing and was planning on taking me to Granny’s house first anyway. Granny and Grandaddy’s house is near the funeral home so it made it easy. She told me that her and Daddy were going to be leaving in a few hours for the airport and they were excited about seeing me. As real as it felt to be in America it was still unreal!
I got to St. Louis and I couldn’t get off the plane fast enough. My whole body was shaking and I just wanted to run. I got through the gate to the waiting families and I looked around. I didn’t see Mom and Dad. I walked to the baggage claim and they weren’t there. “Maybe they got the airline mixed up…” my luggage came and still no parents. I propped my backpack and my suitcase against the wall and I just prayed as I paced and looked out the doors. I kept telling myself to be calm but every once in a while this small pitiful cry would leave my lips and my heart just ached to be with my family. I was so close to being with them! I looked one way for a few seconds and then the other… that’s when I saw my mom walking toward me and she had tears in her eyes and a smile on her face. I let go of my luggage that I had been carting around by that time and it fell over and hit the ground with a loud bang. I didn’t care. I was with my mom. The hug lasted a long while and I savored how it felt to be so close to her; it was almost more than I could take. I was so happy! Mom and I talked back and forth through tears about not believing the moment and how good it felt to be each other’s arms. I ask where Dad was and she said up the stairs waiting in the car along the sidewalk. I jetted that way after my mom and we headed up the stairs. “Mom! Where is he?!” I didn’t recognize any of the cars and I couldn’t see in the windshields very good because of the sun. “Right there, Honey!” She pointed to the red car pulling quickly toward us. I was already emotional and then seeing my dad about put me over the top. He jumped out and I fell into his arms and again let the tears flow. Dad wrapped himself around me and held me close. “You’re home, Baby. You’re home.” We got in the car and Mom sat in the back with me. Everything about St. Louis was the same. Nothing had changed or moved or anything. It was the same as when I left it. But it did feel different to be back. I don’t know what I expected things to look like and I had no idea how I was supposed to feel in the midst of the moment. By the time we got to Festus I was ready to see my sisters and brothers. We pulled up to Granny and Grandaddy’s house and all but Lettie was outside jumping up and down and laughing and waiting their turn for a hug. I wanted to hold them all for so long but there are so many in my family! Grace, Abbie, Naomi, Luke Phoebe, Lily and Levi were all there. I gave good hugs to them all and then repeated them. Words can’t express what it felt like to be surrounded by so much family. Granny was taking pictures until I made my way to her and hugged her and then Grandaddy (or vice a versa, I can’t remember the order of the hugs, you wonder why with so many people to give them to☺).
I showered and changed and PUT ON MAKEUP and then I straightened my hair! I hadn’t worn makeup like that or straightened my hair in over a year. A few of the family had already left and the younger ones asked to stay until I was ready so they could go with me. I think that Grace drove and drank up all that I could of everything around me. We got to the funeral home and my older sister, Lettie, was at the door with my nephew Tucker. He was so fat! He was 3 ½ months old when I left in 2007 and now at 1 ½ years he looked so different than before. I had seen some recent pictures but they don’t do justice to real life sometimes. I hugged her and all my cousins (but not Tucker, he wanted nothing to do with me) and I was looking for Theo, Tucker’s older brother. Around the corner he came and I got on my knees and held my arms out and Theo gave me a wonderful hug! Not too squeezy, not too light, but JUST perfect! Lettie told me later that they had been practicing and talking to Theo about a good hug since I had been gone for so long. Thank you Lettie!
I walked into the other room and saw my grandma from a distance. I had to keep myself from bawling right then and there. When I left America last year I wasn't sure if I would see her or Grandpa again. I walked to her and tapped her on the shoulder and she turned and asked who I was. “I’m Anna, Grandma. I just got off the plane from Africa. You remember when I left last year?” Recognition filled her eyes and she gave me a bug smile and placed both her hands on my cheeks and said, “My Anna! My Anna! It sure is you isn’t it?” It was a wonderful reunion with her. I also met up with my Aunt Sis, Uncle Loyd, Aunt Karen and Uncle Charlie, my brother-in-law, Ted, and my cousins Linda, Eli, Jaime, Lacie and Bobbie.
The henna on my feet turned many heads that night and into the next day as everyone around wanted to know why my feet were black. Many people thought that the henna was a substitute for a pair of shoes, which is not the case. It’s simply a sign of beauty for the women here. Had I known that I was going to head to America from South Africa I wouldn’t have done my feet. But there was no turning back then. The henna would be wearing off a little bit by the time I left but until then I told the story of my henna about 124 times. It was amazing to me how many people noticed it, but it was hilarious how many people wanted pictures of my feet!
The next day, Friday, was the funeral and two of my friends from school came to spend the day with me. My dad had to run an errand before the funeral that afternoon so he took me to Panera (St. Louis Bread Co.) in Festus where I met up with Dana and Karissa. There were hugs and more hugs and lots of talk as we visited and showed pictures and stories. The time went fast and we headed to the funeral home where the funeral took place.
The rest of the day was filled with family and visiting. After the funeral and burial we went to my cousin Eli and Jaime’s home to be with family. I said goodbye to Dana and Karissa (which was so sad!) and stayed with family for the rest of the evening.
It was a blessing to be with them all. I showed pictures to Granny and Grandaddy and Tucker and had a good evening of laughs and remembering Grandpa.

More on America is to come and I'm trying to get more photos up but the internet has decided to slow down at the moment.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

A year and a half!

Today marks my one and half year! I am leaving Niamey as I type. I will be back on in about a week and a half with a "real" blog. I think that I'm going to Melissa's house in two weekends so I can celebrate my birthday!

I will be posting soon!

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Giraffe Pictures

While I take my time in getting up the latest blog (I'm really tired after a ton of travel and last minute things in S. Africa) I'm going to post giraffe pictures for you guys! I'm also putting up a picture of Emily who lives in Abidjan. She's the one that took care of me during my much too long layover in Abidjan on my way to S. Africa...

How cool is that!

This is me with the giraffes

Me and Susan with the giraffes. Pretty good photography skills going on here... I put my camera on top of the termite mound and turned the timer on! You can see the termite mound in the picture of me with the giraffes.

This was taken when we were back at the truck and the giraffes were doing their own thing. This was also the time that the man was trying to talk to me in Hausa and to Susan in French...

This is Tara and Emily. Tara is on the left and she's the Journeyman who's house I moved into when I moved to Niger. She ended her term in Niger in March and went to Mali. Her term in Mali ended in August.
Sweet Emily is on the right and is living in Abidjan. Thanks Emily for helping me get out of Ivory Coast!


Another blog is coming soon - stayed tuned!

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Keep reading! One of the two posts below is for YOU!

This will be an interesting day of blogging. As I write I’m not even sure how it will turn out. There is so much that I want to write about and a few great stories that I have to share… but, there are some people out there that don’t appreciate the longevity of my blogs (I’m talking about a SPECIFIC Journeyman who’s name is Daniel) and would rather have a overview of the happenings in my life rather than the entire story in detail.
So for those of you who love to read the details and those of you who don’t – you’re both in luck! I’m going to give a “shorter” blog that talks about the last few weeks and then I will give a “longer” one that goes more into detail. I will be posting them at different times so stay tuned for both – I am spending the rest of my evening writing so hopefully you will have them to read by tonight. I will be writing the shorter one first.

So Daniel, if you’re running out the door but have 4 minutes, then you should sit and read. All the others out there that have nothing to do tonight and want to read funny, sad, and interesting things, grab a cup of hot chocolate and settle in on the couch because you’re in for a treat tonight!

Monday, 13 October 2008

Short Version

The last blog that I wrote talked a little bit about my time at home and the reunion that I had with my family.
I’m going to start this blog before I left from Niger on September 6th.

I was headed into Niamey at the beginning of September to prepare to head to South Africa. Susan was driving and we were almost to Niamey when I spotted giraffes on the side of the road! I had my camera nearby and we pulled over and jumped out. I did a short video and then we took some pictures as the giraffes just stood there! It was so neat to see them in “real” life! I will post pictures on the other blog.

I had my ticket to fly to S. Africa for the morning of the 6th. Susan took me to the airport and I flew away. I landed in Abidjan, Ivory Coast where another Journeyman picked me up and I spent the day with her for my long layover. The rest of my travel time was ridiculous. I added another country to my list to travel through and it took me about a day longer to get to S. Africa. All because my original flight from Abidjan to Accra, Ghana didn’t exist.

Once I was in S. Africa I made a trip to the grocery store where my stress level was taken to the max and I left without buying ice-cream! That afternoon I went to see the doctor for my knee and he took x-rays but said that I needed an MRI. The doctor was unable to pinpoint the problem. I had the MRI the next morning and was still struggling from the complete lack of sleep from my travels in the previous days. That Tuesday night I got a phone call from home that my grandfather had passed away.

Within 12 hours I had help purchasing a ticket and getting myself to the airport to catch a flight to America. I was met at the airport in St. Louis by my parents and I thought that I was living in a dream!

Over the next few days at home I did many different things which included, a girl's night out with my mom and the five oldest girls in my family, motorcycle rides, time with my grandma, a Cardinals game, visits with out of state (and in state) family, Settlers games, a drive in movie birthday bash for my younger sister, sleepovers with my nephews (they didn't last very long), long walks and a couple of nice dinners out.

I left America and headed back to S. Africa on Sunday the 27th of September. I made it back without any problems. I started physical therapy the following day and have been doing that ever since.

I have done a few different and fun things since being back in S. Africa. I have gone on a Safari, gone to a “Lion and Giraffe Park”, shopped at the mall, eaten at a Wild Game Restaurant (!) and visited with my friends Paul and Kimber and the Berry family, all who I went to FPO with (and I went to Italy with Paul).

I take walks often with Dean and Donna, two wonderful ladies that the Lord has blessed my time with while I’m here. Someimes we walk two or three times everyday.

That brings me to right now and I have finished my therapy and am waiting on my tennis shoe soles to come back. I gave them to the therapist and she is putting pieces on the arch part of them so that they will help support my feet better.

Diagnoses on my knees: my kneecaps are in the wrong position. Meaning that I don’t need surgery but physical therapy is a must. Right now my plan is to return to Niger this Friday.

Thanks for reading and have a great night!

Five Countries in HOW MANY HOURS?! (the long version)

I said goodbye to the chief’s family and my friends and told them that I would be back at the beginning of October. Boy, was I in for a surprise!
Susan and I always have a good time on our Niamey drives. We laugh and carry on and talk about “our people” and all the different things that are going on in our villages. We left Kondike early on September 4th for Niamey where we would spend the next couple of days. I was headed to South Africa and Susan was going to Abidjan for a Church Planting meeting for a few weeks.

Well, on the road to Niamey, there is a section that you are able to see giraffes on, but mostly during the rainy season. I had seen one when I was with the others on the drive into Niamey when all IMB missionaries were leaving for ADVANCE in July. But I wasn’t fortunate enough to see him for any longer than a second or two because we were in a hurry to get to the capital city.

On this particular drive we were going through giraffe territory and I mentioned how cool it would be to see some giraffes. I fished out my camera “just in case” and Susan and I continued being Chatty Cathys. Within about a minute of retrieving my camera I looked over and saw a couple of giraffes in the distance. “Susan! Stop the truck! I just saw giraffes!” She slams on the breaks and we got out and locked the doors. We couldn’t see them from the truck at that point but by golly I knew they were there! We ran out into the bush a little ways and stopped when I spotted them in the near distance (oxy moron?). I immediately turned my video on my camera on and did a small clip before turning it off and taking some snapshots. They were SO COOL! It was so unlike any giraffe that I had ever seen in a zoo. These were much taller and, well… this was real life! I ask Susan to take a picture of me with them and I did the same with her. We were careful not to get to close because we didn’t want to scare them off. There was a huge termite mound right there in front of us and I put the camera on the timer and set it up there. Susan and I ran toward the giraffes to get in the picture. “Take One”, Hmmm….. it got one of the three giraffes but only our backs. “Take Two”, BooYa! Success! It turned out great! Susan looks so excited and I’ve got this “oh, my goodness, they’re really giraffes!” look on my face ☺

We started back to the truck only to find a man on a motorcycle pulled over and writing our license plate number down. “Oh, great.” I said. Turned out that the man spoke Hausa and French. There was a Fulani boy standing nearby watching the three of us. The man started talking to us in Hausa and all I got out of it was that there was a problem and the police were on their way. Susan and I exchanged glances and wondered what it was all about. I told the man that I didn’t understand what he was saying, so he tried talking in French. Susan knows a little French but amazingly, she played dumb (which I didn’t know until we were back on the road a minute later). The man asked in Hausa what I spoke and I told him “Fulfulde”. He motioned the young boy over and asked him to translate. The problem here was that the young boy spoke a different dialect of Fulfulde that Susan and I did. Now the man thought that I was lying to him and kept pointing to my camera and the giraffes that were now a little ways across the road. Susan made the comment that we should get going and I rolled up my window as the man told me to wait because the police were coming “right now, right now!” I waved at the man and said “Sai anjuma!” (“Until later!” in Hausa). He just waved us on angrily.

Susan and I couldn’t figure out what the problem was but we knew that if they really needed to get a hold of us that they could find us with the license plate number. No biggie that we were both leaving the country for a few weeks! Later, after thinking about it, we realized that the man was a driver for the giraffe viewing trucks. You are able to pay a guide and pay for your camera and go out and take pictures of the giraffes. All we can think of is that he got upset that we hadn’t paid and had used our camera to take pictures without paying for it. As far as I know they haven’t contacted the mission AND I have great pictures and a video!

Once in Niamey I did some running around and saw a few of my Fulani friends from the JAPCYN group. Friday night I packed up my things and made sure that I had my tickets. During that time I realized that I had forgotten my credit and debit cards. “I’m traveling internationally through many different countries and I don’t have a credit card?!” I was just a little upset with myself. Truth of the matter is, I haven’t used my cards since I went to Italy in April and have only used my debit card ONE TIME in West Africa and that was when I was in Senegal last year for ADVANCE. They just slipped my mind.

The next morning I dressed myself in my new green dress from the tailor and Susan took me to the airport. My first flight was to Abidjan, Ivory Coast and I got away on time and my flight was uneventful.

The night before (Friday night) I had talked to my friend, Emily, who is a Journeyman and lives in Abidjan. She had the day off and agreed to pick me up at the airport for my 9 hour layover.

I didn’t have to collect my luggage because I had a connecting flight to Accra, Ghana, that I was going to catch at 9pm that night. From Ghana I was going to catch my last flight to South Africa at about midnight. That would have put me at the airport about 7 am the next morning (Sunday).

Emily and I met up with another IMB couple and we had lunch. After that we went back to her apartment and talked for a few hours. I changed my clothes to a pair of jeans and a t-shirt knowing that I had a longer flight from Ghana to S. Africa. I wanted to be a little more comfortable. Then I took a nap while she did other things and we left a little later for a light coffee and doughnut dinner before I had to catch my flight. Once at the airport she told me to run in and make sure that my flight was on time. I ran in knowing that this was West Africa and they have things under control! No worries! YEA RIGHT.

To my surprise (not really) my flight wasn’t on the screen and it was supposed to be leaving in the next hour and a half. “Hmmmm” I thought. I ran back outside and told Emily that I didn’t see it. She parked the car and came in with me to help me figure it all out. I would have asked someone myself about it but I don’t speak French and I knew that I couldn’t communicate effectively with my unique dialect of Fulfulde. We got to my airline office which was open, praise the Lord! and she began talking to the lady behind the desk. Emily had to show her my information and the verdict we got wasn’t pleasant. The flight that I was scheduled to take NEVER existed – ever. Emily got all the information that she could before calling someone to help us out. The lady told us that there was a flight leaving for Accra a little after midnight and that I could take that one. Ok, great. But by the time I get there my S. Africa flight will already be in the air. Oh, boy. The non-existent flight stress just got worse…

Emily worked with the lady and found as many different options as she could. Some of which would take me through a couple of other countries before I would reach my final destination. There was another option of going to Accra the next day and waiting until Monday morning for a flight to S. Africa. That would have been fine with me but I would have missed my doctor’s appointment that I had scheduled months ago. We left the office and we used a pay phone to call Mark. He is Niger’s Business Facilitator and he’s the one that had got my tickets for me in the first place. Emily talked to him and filled him in on the whole deal. Emily and I made our way back to her apartment knowing that we had a few hours before I could catch the soonest flight… and we waited.

Someone (Emily or Mark) called Gary, the Business Facilitator for the Ivory Coast. He came to the apartment to help us figure things out. I called the Guest House in S. Africa and told them I wouldn’t be there in the morning but would let them know my new flight schedule when I got it. I called way late my time and they were an hour ahead of me… so I woke up Nancy and Stan, the Guest House directors, and I felt so bad! Nancy said that she was happier with me waking her up than her going to the airport in the morning and not finding me.

***So by this time I’m getting a little antsy. My fingers were tingling and I couldn’t sit still. I also couldn’t help but feel bad about the situation – even though I couldn’t change it and it wasn’t my fault. Gary was with Emily and I and it was already 10pm and poor Mark had gone down to the travel agency in downtown Niamey to figure the mess out. When the guy at the travel agency got there to let Mark in and look up my flight information, he had grabbed the wrong keys from home and had to go back and get the correct ones. So everything was taking a little longer than we had time for! I was getting nervous even though I knew that I couldn’t change anything. The Lord continued to remind me that He had already gone ahead of me and knew that this was going to happen before the creation of Adam!***

Mark told us that he would call when he figured something out on his end. Gary called anyway. Mark said that they were trying to get me to S. Africa by Monday morning but that meant a complete re-routing of my travel plans. That’s okay, right?! I’m flexible!
Mark asked if there was anyway that I could get on the flight to Accra a little after midnight. It was a tad after 11 by this time and I didn’t have my luggage. I’m not sure what they were planning to do with it since the flight they were supposed to put it on was never there in the first place. But anyway. Gary and Emily and I headed to the airport while Mark tried to get things taken care of on his end.

Here’s where the big stresser comes in…

Mark was trying to get me a flight from Accra, Ghana to Lagos, Nigeria. Then from Lagos I was going to get on a flight to S. Africa. But they didn’t want me leaving Abidjan without everyone knowing my flight schedule, especially myself. I didn’t want to get to Accra and not know for sure if I was going to Lagos or not. So in the mean time Emily and I went on an Anna’s luggage search. Emily works in the media department for West Africa and knows many of the airports here inside and out from traveling so much. She knew exactly where to go to get my luggage. The man that we had to get through would only allow one of us to go. She couldn’t send me because I spoke no French and she couldn’t go in fear that they wouldn’t give her my luggage. She was sweet and kind to the man (without being inappropriate) and he let us both through. She led me through a maze of doors and walkways and finally straight to my luggage. It was sitting with a few other bags next to an office that had a lady working in it. Emily explained the situation and the lady let us go with my luggage. We went back to the office to find Gary talking to Mark. I waited. I paced. I prayed. I laughed at the sense of humor that God had putting me in this situation knowing that He had it all taken care of when I was wondering where in the world He was?!!!! Emily and I had a few nervous laughs over the whole situation and she said that she had an extra bed if I needed to stay the night.

Gary got off the phone with Mark and said that Mark was buying me a couple of new tickets and that I needed to be ready to go when they showed up in the system. The lady behind the counter worked with us and waited with us while we watched the screen for my name on the new flights from Accra to Lagos and Lagos to Johannesburg to come through. They never showed up. By this time it’s pushing midnight but the lady told us not to worry because the flight personnel were all eating. Ok, yea, great, that makes me feel so much better that my flight is leaving in a few minutes, I’m not checked in yet and I have a feeling that you don’t REALLY know where my flight even is!

Emily made sure that the lady knew that I didn’t speak French and the lady let her know that she would take care of me. A few minutes later she told me it was time to go. We still hadn’t seen the information come through but we trusted that Mark had gotten it and I would get my connecting tickets in Accra. I said goodbye and thanks to Gary and Emily and I was off.

Once I got through the first passport check that got me to the room where I was supposed to check my baggage, the lady disappeared for about 10 minutes. Oh, my goodness! There was nobody at the checkout counter (probably because every other person on my flight was already checked in and was ON THE PLANE!) but within a few minutes the lady was back and so was another worker. They got me checked in and I ran through the rest of security to my gate. There were three other people sitting there. “Yup, I knew it. I missed my flight.” I waited for someone to come to the counter so I could ask. It never happened. It’s 12:30am at this point and every once in a while a few more people trickle down to my gate. By 2:00 there was a plane that came in. It was mine. I got on and we were off. It was a short flight, which I was happy about. I knew that I had about a 6 hour layover in Accra before I flew to Lagos.

We got off the plane in Accra and walked into the airport where we were all going to fill out the customs paper. All the passengers entered this huge room that was completely dark. It was about 3:30 in the morning and they didn’t have the lights on – holy cow – West Africa…

The lights came on and I got in line after mine was filled out and ready to go. Once I got to the window they asked me, in English, for my Ghana visa. “I don’t have one, I’m in transit” I told them. The man looked at me and asked where I was going. “Lagos.” Then he looked through my passport and made a note to me that my Nigerian visa expired less than a month ago. “Yes, I know. I’m going to be in transit there too.” Then he looks at me with an ‘are you kidding me’ type of look and asks to see my tickets. I knew it! I knew that someone would ask for something that I didn’t have. I smiled, “Well, Sir. You see, I don’t have them. But I’m going to get them from the airline office here as soon as they open.”

By this time there are several other people listening and almost laughing at the crazy white girl who is traveling through Ghana and Nigeria without a visa for either and no proof of a connecting flight to get out of Accra. The man asked me when my flight for Nigeria was supposed to leave and I told him 9am. He told me at that point that I had to wait for the transit office to open and that would be around 7. He told me that I had to sit over in the corner nearby with my luggage that I didn’t have at that point. He kept my passport and told me to go get my luggage. When I came back he led me to a chair and told me to wait for the next three hours and he kept my passport. He said “Come and find me at 7am when the transit office opens. I will be in room two and I will give you your passport back then” Hmmm…. I was exhausted at this point and didn’t even care. I just wanted to lie down and there was a man in the chair about five feet from me snoring away with his neck in a position that would have had death close to my door. He looked so uncomfortable! I sat for a few minutes before the sleeping man woke up and just walked away – random. So I moved over to his chair behind a desk in the middle of the walkway/corner that they put me in. I pulled my wrap-around-skirt from my backpack and put it around me and I laid my head on the desk. I was almost asleep when an immigration worker walked over and said “what are you doing sleeping behind this desk?!” Oh, boy. More drama. “The other immigration worker told me to stay here until the transit office opens at 7am because I’m in transit to Nigeria and I don’t have a Ghana visa.” “Give me your passport,” he demands. “I don’t have it. You’re immigration friend took it from me and he’s in room two,” I replied. The man smiled and then asked me if I wanted a mattress to sleep on while I waited? “Are you serious?!” I asked in shock. “Yes, I have one for you, I will bring it out.” Sure enough, a couple of minutes later he brought me a small mattress. He moved the desk and positioned it just right so that it was in between the wall and the desk. Then he took the stray chairs and lined them up at the end of the desk and mattress so that people walking by wouldn’t be able to see me well. He told me to sleep good and walked away. I put my suitcase at my head and my backpack under the desk. Lying on my stomach I was asleep in no time.

Sometime later I woke up to “hey, you, what’s you’re name? Hey, girl, what’s your name?” A little louder, “LADY, WHAT’S YOUR NAME?” I looked up and saw two more immigration workers standing about six feet from me. I could see the sun coming up outside and I was cold. “What?” I asked groggily. “What are you doing here sleeping on the floor?!” the Ghanaian asked. I glanced at my watch ‘6am – an hour and a half of sleep’ I thought to myself. “I’m waiting for the transit office to open.” I wasn’t quit awake yet and I was now going off of about 12 hours of sleep in the past three days (the lack of sleep in Niamey before I left for Abidjan was my fault but none the less, I was like a walking zombie). The man looked at me and said, “Where’s your passport?” What is up with every person that walks up wanting to see my passport when I don’t have it, when I can walk through security checks with it ready to show and they could care less to see it?! “I’m sorry, I don’t have it. The immigration man in room two took it and will give it back at seven when the transit office opens.” The other man wasn’t saying anything but looked at me like ‘you’re crazy’. The first guy looked irritated and waved me up “well, get off the floor, you can’t sleep here!” No way! I was agitated at this point and said “look, the nice man down the hallway gave me this to sleep on until the transit office opens and I’m tired!”
“Get up off the floor and give me that mattress! There are going to be people coming in from flights and they can’t see you sleeping here behind this desk. Here sit in this chair.” He motioned me to the chair and I declined his hand to help me up. I was not going to give him the pleasure of touching me, even if it was just my hand… He asked to see my tickets and again I went through the story of how my flight didn’t exist so I came on the next available one. I told him that I was going to Nigeria and from there headed to South Africa. I explained in detail why I didn’t have my tickets because they didn’t show up in Abidjan by the time I needed to leave. But I assured him that I would get my tickets when I was given my passport and allowed to leave “the corner”.

I moved to the chair and tried to wake up. A few minutes later the man that gave me the mattress walks down the hallway and sees me awake and sitting in the chair. “Where’s your mattress, Mam?” I told him that there were two other immigration workers that woke me up and took it away. He looked irritated but didn’t say much. He asked what I was waiting on and I told him “the transit office”. About 7:00am the man that took my mattress came and told me to come with him and that he was going to help me get my tickets. Out of all the men that I had dealt with in the last couple of hours, he was the one that I didn’t want to have help from. He was about my age and his commanding attitude was getting to me a little bit. He said “go down to room two and get your passport and come back here and we’ll go get your tickets. (It was about 7:15am and the transit office still wasn’t open yet). What could I do. I walked down the hallway and peaked my head in the door. There were about five immigration workers sitting in there with one of them being a woman. As soon as she spotted me she looked at the man with my passport and said “Hey, your girlfriend has come to see you”. AHHHHHH. I ignored her and the smirk that the comment put on the man’s face and I asked him if I could have my passport. He put up a fuss because the transit office wasn’t open and he wanted me to sit until the people came. I had tears ready to overflow from the stress of the multi-personalities within the immigration workers. I didn’t realize it at the time but I think that I raised my voice with the man. “Sir, there is a man down the hall that wants me to come with my passport so that we can get my tickets. I only have an hour and forty-five minutes before my flight leaves and I have no ticket and my baggage still needs to be checked!” He handed over my passport after verifying that the man I was going with wouldn’t let me out of his sight.

The young man walked a little too close to me the whole time. He took me outside the airport and carried my passport the whole time. I looked like someone in trouble to everyone watching…

We walked and walked and walked all over the place. I’m pretty sure at one point we weren’t even in the airport parking lot. Finally after lugging my luggage and carry-on for what felt like a mile ling hike through airport territory, we came to the check in counters and airline offices. He stood nearby and watched with a smile as I got my ticket and showed my “new immigration friend”. I was saying a prayer of thanks that the Lord allowed everything to go through and that I had my ticket to Nigeria. But they couldn’t give me my ticket from Lagos to S. Africa until I got to Nigeria.

I went to check in and the immigration man that was with me – the same man that woke me up and took my mattress away from me – gave me his “official” card with his name and title on and ask me to call him when I got to S. Africa so he would know that I made it okay. I smiled “thanks, sure.” I took the card and I’m not sure where it went after that but I can assure that he did not get a call from me…

I weighed my luggage and my passport was looked at by a couple of really nice workers. “Can we please see your connecting flight ticket from Lagos to Johannesburg, please?” Great, just what I need. “I’m sorry I don’t have it with me. I will get it in Nigeria”. They exchanged looks and then the man said, “we can’t legally allow you to check in until we see verification that you are a transit passenger. It wouldn’t matter if you had a valid Nigerian visa but it’s expired.” I’m guessing by the kind way that the man and woman treated me they had had a full nights sleep the night before, unlike a couple of immigration workers I had already dealt with.

So at this point the only thing that I can think of to do is get a hole of Mark and ask him to email it to me. The check in workers told me where the internet room was and I headed that way. I had my backpack on and I carried my suitcase up a huge flight of stairs to the second floor where I collapsed into a chair. My knees were killing me and I was running out of time. I got there and ask if I could use the internet and the guy working there told me it was one Cedi (Ghanaian money, it’s pronounced CD) for 30 minutes. I didn’t have any Ghanaian money! I asked him where the exchange desk was and he told me I had to go outside and around the corner, down the walkwa… I was gone. I ask people along the way until I was led outside and pointed to a door a ways away. “Go in there and then to your left and you’ll find the desk.” Guess who is at the door? The immigration man that took my mattress and gave me his “official” card so that I could let him know that the little white girl he had the pleasure of helping was okay. “What are you doing here? You’re supposed to be checked in and going to your gate”. I wanted to say “what are you doing here? You’re supposed to stay with me and not let me out of your sight until I get to the gate!” But instead I explained the situation to him kindly. I didn’t have time to waste. There were about 18 workers standing there, not working. Maybe they were all on their morning breakfast break at the same time. They told me that I couldn’t take my luggage inside and that I had to leave it with them. “Fine” I said. I found the desk and you wouldn’t believe what the two ladies there were doing?! They were exchanging shifts and counting all the money. The lady getting off the clock was in a great mood. The lady walking into her shift I cannot say the same for. I stood and waited and finally about 15 minutes later the lady asks how she could help me. I explained that I needed to exchange money to get on the internet and didn’t know how much I should exchange. She said that I wouldn’t need very much because the exchange rate was 1 to 1, so I gave her two 5s. While she was counting up other money I was an idiot and asked how much I could get if I exchanged cfa (my money in Niger). I wanted to get the most out of it for sure. She said that I could get five more Cedi from the cfa. So I forked over the cfa and asked for the dollars back. I got a HUGE huff and an eye roll from the lady and she said angrily “you are my first customer and you’re already causing problems!” I quickly asked her to just do the dollars and she said “no, I have the cfa, don’t worry about it.” She took her time and by now I only have about 45 minutes to get checked in and get to my gate after I get a hold of Mark and get my itinerary printed for my next flight! Anna! Don’t freak out!

The man that was watching my luggage outside peaks his head in the door and asked what was taking me so long. I assured him I was coming. She took her time again and by now the first lady is back again. To make this long story about the exchange lady shorter, she got mad again because she didn’t have the right change and so we exchanged money from cfa to dollars again and she gave me the 10 Cedi as I should have originally taken.
I flew out the door and down the walkway to get my luggage. When the man asked again what took so long (over 30 minutes to exchange 10 bucks?!) I told him that the lady wasn’t having a good morning and that we needed to pray for her. He laughed as I ran.

I made my way back up the stairs to internet room with all my things and forked over the Cedi. I got online and emailed Mark. Then it hit me that Mark may not check his email this early on a Sunday morning. I asked the guy if I could make a call? “Sure you can.” I forked over the two Cedi and whipped out my cell phone (that doesn’t have service anywhere except Niger) and I found Mark’s number. I had one minute from the time that the boy started dialing – not from the time Mark answered the phone. “Hello” I heard 32 seconds into my one minute. I talked FAST “Mark, it’s Anna, I’m in Accra and they won’t let me check in until I have proof that I’m leaving Nigeria. I need you to email me the itinerary please. My flight leaves in 40 minutes!” we hung up at the one minute mark and within minutes I had a scanned copy of my itinerary. “I hope this works!” I ran back downstairs and when the man and woman saw me they let me bypass all the others. “Great! I need to keep this one and you have to give one to the people up there when they issue you your tickets.” WHAT?! I only had one copy! They told me that I could check in and bring them another one once I got my ticket.

I was given my ticket and also handed a little card that had some numbers on it and something about a lounge. I didn’t have time to read it. Back up the stairs and to the internet room a third time. Before running back downstairs I paid the internet guy for the copies. He had forgotten to charge me for the first one. While he was getting my money I met a guy from New York checking his email. He didn’t say much except “get her the money fast, she’s gotta go”. I thanked them both and left in yet, another hurry.

I gave the workers the other copy and ran to go through security. Once on the other side I had about 25 minutes and I was hungry. So I went to this little restaurant and bought a bowl of fruit with the few Cedi that I had left. I sat there until I heard my flight called a few minutes later. “Whew! I barely made it this time too! Thanks God!”

I was in line to board the plane and there was a guy and a girl in front of me. Both looked Nigerian but spoke in perfect English with no accent at all. I wanted to ask them where they were from but didn’t get a chance. Maybe I didn’t get a chance on purpose – it’s kind of tricky to do that here sometimes. Because if I were to ask and they were from America they may think “um, yes! What the heck are you thinking? That I’m a crazy Nigerian?” But the flip side would be “Right, just because I don’t have a Nigerian accent you assume that I’m not Nigerian”. So I didn’t say anything.

I got to the gate and showed my ticket and passport. The lady checking them saw the little card that I was given when I checked in and she asked confused “why didn’t you go to the lounge?” Huh? Lounge? What the heck are you talking about lady? I was so lost. “What?” I asked. “The lounge? Why didn’t you go?” I was being pushed forward and just turned around and walked down the terminal to get on the plane. The flight attendant looked at my ticket and said, “good morning, your seat is 4B, first class, right there” and pointed to the seat just a few feet away. FIRST CLASS! That’s what the lounge ticket was all about!

Bummer that my flight to Nigeria was only about 45 minutes long. The shortest flight I had was the one in first class. Just my luck!

I get to Lagos and boy did it feel good to be back! I couldn’t believe that I was really in Nigeria! How I longed to be outside the whole time! But that’s ok, I was about to sit for the next 13 hours in the airport and dream about sunshine.

All the passengers took a bus to the entrance of the airport and while we were riding I decided to ask the couple where they were from. “Here” they answered with smiles and a showing of their passports. I made a comment about their lack of accents and they agreed. We got to talking and I found out that they were brother and sister and had both been in and out of America their entire lives. They had both been to college in America and had business degrees and crazy, random minors and I was shocked at all this! Their dad lived in Ghana and their mom lived in Nigeria. They had just come from a long visit with their father.

Once in the airport I was waiting for an immigration escort and the guy and girl walked up. They said how good it was to have met me and asked what my plans were from there. I told them that I was in transit and would be leaving in 13 hours. “Oh no!” The sister said. “You don’t have a visa do you?” They felt really sorry for me for some reason. Not that I looked like some pitiful, pathetic, un-bathed, white girl that had been traveling for over 24 hours just to get to the country DIRECTLY below where she left from in the first place! The sister dug into her wallet and pulled out 500 Naira (about $5). “Here’s this so you can at least buy yourself something to eat and drink!” Oh, no. A pity gift from an actual native of Nigeria. I felt so dumb. “No, no. I’m ok really.” She looked at me and gave me ‘the eye’. “Our parents are loaded, don’t worry about it and have a great rest of the day!” I was barely able to thank them before they were gone. Funny encounter…

Then I was led by a BIG, Nigerian immigration man to the transit office where he took my passport and told me to wait in the South African Airways lounge until 6pm when I would go with him to get my ticket. “Ok, Anna, sleep is right around the corner – maybe. Just find the lounge and then take it from there…” I couldn’t find the S. Africa Airways lounge for the life of me! Finally after asking 83 different people and being led in the RIGHT direction I found it all closed, dark and locked up. I’m laughing at myself at this point. Why not make the bad situation that could be worse, funny?! It was hilarious to me! So I went back to the nice, HUGE immigration worker and I told him my problem. He told me to go to the Virgin Nigeria lounge, because that’s what I flew from Accra. Ok, sounds great. I walked up this full flight of stairs and was kind of unsure as the where the entrance was. So I asked a guy that was mopping the floor. He smiled at me and said, “it’s just right there” and pointed around the corner. “Thanks,” I said and turned to walk away. “What’s your name?” I turned around and smiled “My African name is Hawa and my American name is Anna” I said. “You have an African name?” He gave a little surprised laugh (although I’m not sure what he was surprised or laughing at, because I’m a pro African liver and a magnificent traveler among West African countires! Haha!) and he then he grinned really big and with a head nod he said “I like the face!”

I like the face? What?!

“Thanks” I mumbled and turned to walk away. Once in the lounge I was treated like a queen. One of the ladies walked me around the corner to a big couch and I laid down and was out in less time than it took to say “goodnight”. I wasn’t afraid of oversleeping because I had about 12 hours. Although I knew I could sleep that long if given the opportunity. When I woke up a few hours later the lounge was significantly fuller than when I went to sleep. I stumbled to the restroom while people watched me like I was drunk. I felt like I’d been hit by a train. On my way back to the couch I talked to the lady and told her that I needed to leave the lounge in time to get my ticket and get checked in. She assured me that she would help me keep track of time because she knew that I was tired. I asked her if I could have some water and she got a bottle out of the fridge. I told her that I only had 500 Naira and asked how much it was. She just smiled but didn’t say anything. How poor and clueless did I really look that these people were just handing me things?! I was thinking “well, ok. At least I tried to pay her.” I went back and drank the water and fell asleep again.

I woke up about 5:30pm and went to ask for something more to drink. I got a coke that second time. I asked her how much it costs? She looked at me and smiled “Mam” she said softly, “this is the airline transit lounge and it doesn’t cost anything to eat or drink here. It’s all included in the price of your ticket.”

I felt like an idiot. I know that many of you are now laughing at me but I had never done anything like this before!

I got something to eat and finished my coke and was out of there a little before six.
I found the immigration/transit office with no problem and the same man was there with my passport to help me. But he seated me between two of three guys that were sitting on the couch in the office. The three of them were getting yelled at for causing a ruckus over something. I tried to pretend uninterested even though they all knew that I was listening.
The immigration man led me to the S. African Airways office that took us way to long to find and I got my ticket. After that he led me straight to the security point where he watched me until I was through. He was a nice man. Much better than those in Ghana. Except for the mattress giver, he was my favorite.

So here I am over two hours early for my flight and already sitting at the gate. I was cold so I pulled my wrap-skirt out and put it around my shoulders. There was a man sitting in the chairs across from me and about 10 seats down. There was a little bench next to my chair with a seat on the other side. A Nigerian guy a little older than me came and sat right in the that seat. He looked in the mood to talk. Not me! I just wanted to write in my journal and talk to Jesus. That was it… but the guy next to me had different plans. He talked to me for the two hours about religion and leadership, politics and authority. He was a Free – Thinker and told me that he believed in the survival of the fittest and about how everyone is their own god and has to watch out for themselves. I shared the scripture story from Adam and Eve to the ascension of Christ. He said “that’s great but…” At that point the Lord allowed me to see that the Muslim sowing field that I live in in Niger is no harder or different than anywhere else in the world.

I boarded my last flight and headed to Johannesburg from Lagos. I sat next to a little girl about 11 years old. She wanted to lean her seat back so badly but I just reminded her that we had to wait until the seatbelt light went off. She drifted in and out of sleep a few times before reaching down into her bag. She pulled out a well-used Bible and opened it to the middle of the book of Psalm. She was done reading by the time the light went off and not long after that the stewardess brought out food. The little girl bowed her head and prayed before she ate.

After dinner I helped her lean her seat back and she fell asleep with her earplugs in, listening to the movie she had left on in front of her. Later on when we were both awake we made small talk about her family. Her dad lived in Nigeria, where she was from, and her mom lived in S. Africa. She hadn’t seen her mom in over a year and was going to be with her for the next two weeks. An ache went through my heart as I thought about how I knew how much she missed her mother...

I asked her about the Bible and if she knew Jesus. She answered with a confident “yes, I’m a Christian.”

That little girl was such a huge encouragement to me. I sat with tears in my eyes as I thought about her innocence. What a blessing to be a child and to feel that the love of Jesus is so simple. When really it is, but then thoughts of the Free – Thinker from earlier in the evening came to mind. The lives of the lost were heavy on my heart that night.

I made it to Johannesburg and got my passport stamped with a fancy sticker. Once I got to the baggage claim I waited until all the luggage was gone only then to realize that it had been lost. I have been traveling internationally for over six years and this is the first time I had ever lost a piece of luggage. I got the claim number for it and was told it should be there by Wednesday morning.

So, after two days and five countries from start to finish, I was finally in S. Africa. My big bloop for the morning was on the ride from the airport to the guest house and I spotted a truck with several men in the back. I asked Stan, “Hey is that your South African bush taxi?” His answer was kind but I could tell he wanted to laugh, “No, Anna. That’s a work truck and they pile all the workers in the back and drive off for the day’s work.” I just sat there, baffled.

What day was it again? And where the heck was I?

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

A Taste So Sweet

Many of you know that I traveled to South Africa at the beginning of September for some doctor's appointments on my knees. The travel time from Niger to S. Africa was supposed to take about 24 hours... instead I traveled through 5 countries in 43 hours from start to finish before I made it there. I was tired and worn out and my knees hurt terribly but I made it in time for my appointment that early, Monday afternoon. The next day I had an MRI scheduled. I got that done and was able to see a little bit of Johannesburg before I went back to my room at the Baptist Guest House to call it an evening. The evening that I thought was going to be spent sleeping was interrupted by an email and many phone calls to family and friends that night.

I opened an email from my mom that night that said she had tried to call me in my room and it wouldn't go through. She told me in the email that my Grandpa Vaughn (my dad's dad) had been taken to the hospital that morning and wasn't expected to live through the day. Uncontrollable tears raked my body as I quickly dialed my mom's cell phone number and waited for her to pick up.

The rest of the evening was spent praying and calling others in the states to pray for my family and my grandpa. By about midnight that Tuesday night nothing had changed but the whole family was there with Grandpa just waiting and cherishing the last moments they had with him. I made my way to my bed and told Mom that I would call sometime in the night to check on the things. I set my alarm for 3:30.

I could hardly sleep knowing that I wasn't there with Grandpa. One of the things that kept going through my head was "I really did say my last goodbye on July 18, 2007 when I flew out of America." The only person that really knew it was the last time for my grandpa and I was the Lord, but I praise Him for making that day sweet.

My sleep was heavy and restless but I woke up quickly when my alarm went off in the middle of the night. I called Mom from my skype phone and she picked up after a couple of rings. I could feel something was different but I couldn't pin point why. I had wanted to be there in hospital that day so badly, just so that I could be with my family and not have to do this alone... I didn't really know how I felt about all this, I wondered if I would have felt differently if I were at the hospital. But I had a deep ache in my heart and an emptiness that I couldn't seem to fill. I wanted to be near those that loved me. I wanted to be with those that knew Grandpa and I didn't want to have to grieve alone. Only the Lord knew what was about to happen. There was sadness in Mom's voice as she told me that Grandpa was gone. At that time I knew why I felt different. Even from a world away the Lord was comforting me in the midst of loss in a way only He could. As I sat and cried and wondered if it would work out to go home the emptiness faded and I was filled with hope. Hope that said that no matter where I spent the next few days, in S. Africa or America, it would be all of the Lord.

Well, He provided for me to be able to come home from S. Africa to be with my family during this time... I left Joburg that very day and made it to St. Louis, Missouri by 1pm the next afternoon, (Thursday the 11th of September.) I was met at the airport by my mom and dad both of whom I didn't want to let go of once I was in their arms. It was a beautiful, blissful moment!

All of it went so fast from the time that I got the email to the time that I was driving down Interstate 55 that I hadn't had a chance to take a breath at all. My parents took me straight to my other grandparents house where I was welcomed by my sisters Grace, Abbie, Naomi, Phoebe and Lily and my brothers Luke and Levi and of course my mom's parents Granny and Grandaddy! What a reunion! I showered quickly and we all headed over to the funeral home where I was met by my older sister Lettie, her husband Ted and my nephews Theo and Tucker. As the Fulani say when they are happy "my heart was sweet!"

The rest of the day was a blur and the following day was the funeral. It was good to be home and in the midst of my family and those that I love so much. I only have a few days left to spend here and wanted to update you all before I got out of America and nobody knew!

I am leaving this Saturday to return to S. Africa and finish up my medical appointments on my knees. After that I will head back to Niger to finish up my last 7 months or so.

Please be praying for me as I travel and get back in the groove of African life. Pray for me as I say my goodbyes again that it will be a reminder of why I left in the first place. Pray for my family and I as we remember Grandpa and all that he meant to us and the love that he showed us everyday. He was one of a kind and will forever be remembered.

The last day that I ever saw my grandpa I thought that I would not make it through the morning without a major breakdown. The Lord kept me strong. I had gone to visit him and Grandma with my little brother Luke and had asked Luke to video tape me with them, not knowing if I would ever see them again. Grandpa loved to play his accordion and of course he had it out that morning. I ask him to play Happy Birthday and a Christmas song for me. Both of which are on my video tape from that day. For the rest of my life my family and I will be able to sing a Christmas Carol with my Grandpa on Christmas Day. And all the while we can imagine him playing his accordion for a host of angels and the Savior of the World! The words "Joy to the World" can be translated "Joy in my Heart" right now - because I know that my grandpa is with Jesus!

Thursday, 4 September 2008

A little bit of photo life...

We were in Abidjan for ADVANCE and Me and Melissa took Ruth, Rebekah and Deborah out to the mall


This is the day we went to the beach. Me and Katy, we lived together in Nigeria - I miss her SO much!


4th of July water fight with my team at Melissa's house!
yes, we had some that were THIS big!

Kind of scary I know!

Melissa's dog, Jake, was in on all the action!

Mike and Jennie's daughters made cupcakes and they were so good!

Mike was "the napkin head"


Me and Fati were sweeping and mopping my house - it was so dirty!


This was my hair after I took my braids out last week!

I was at a gas station with Melissa and saw this calf leading the kid around :)

This guy had a bigger load than he should have had and it was way off balance

This was a van bush taxi loaded down with chickens...

up close

This guy fell asleep while he was driving... (Actually I'm not really sure how he ended up on the wrong side of the road in the water but...)

Me and Melissa

These are two little boys that Susan and I met when we were on the road going home from Niamey a couple of weeks ago. They were passing by with their donkey and stopped to watch us as we had our lunch/stretch our legs break from driving.

This is Melissa and I having a milkshake at a Lebanese restaurant in Niamey. We were watching the Olympics at the same time. We got a kick out of the the cups they gave us our icecream in!

This is a motorcycle cart that we saw in Tuss
This is Melissa, Me, Sawyer (in the middle in yellow and green with the white headtie), Jessica and Daniel.


More pictures and a blog coming soon!

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Shomog's Leader

Sarah and Jessica were two Journeyman that lived and worked with the Sokoto Fulani in Niger. Their town, *Tuss, is about 6 hours from where I live in *Kondike.
Sarah and Jessica’s terms ended last January and they said goodbye to their villages and headed home to America; Sarah to Seminary and Jessica doing a third year with the IMB and working with a church doing recruiting for WA in Louisiana.
During Sarah and Jessica’s time here they had volunteers that came to work with them last summer. One of the guys that volunteered for the summer was a member of the church that Jessica was apart of for her one year of service in America. As Jessica and Daniel got to know each other the Lord began leading them in a new direction towards a relationship and they are getting married in November. But because Journeymen aren’t allowed to date while serving, she had to resign from her position. They have a desire to come back to WA and serve as career as soon as they can be appointed.
This summer Daniel came back to work with the Tuareg people near Niamey leaving Jessica in the states. He lived in a village for almost three months until last week when Jessica and another girl, Sawyer, from their church in Louisiana, flew over to do a mission trip in Tuss. Melissa and I were both in Niamey during that time because it was right after ADVANCE. We picked them up at the airport the same night that we took Mike and his whole family to fly out for their six month stateside assignment.
Daniel was really excited about seeing Jessica since it had been almost three months! They are really cute together too!
Jessica, Daniel and Sawyer left on a bus for Tuss early last Wednesday morning. Melissa and I headed to my house and Melissa stayed the night with me and headed home to *Danji.
I took a bus on Friday to Melissa’s house and her and I left on Saturday morning for Tuss to be with the others for a couple of days.
Monday morning we got up and the five of us headed out to *Shomag planning to visit with the people. If they chose to let us… and so here goes the story…


There was a *Hausa1 man that lived in Tuss that had become a Believer when he heard the gospel from missionaries living there a while back. He spoke pretty good English and found out about Jessica and Sarah living in Tuss.
One day Hausa1 came to Sarah and Jessica’s door. He told them of a village called Shomog that had Fulani men that were meeting and worshipping with a *Hausa2 man. Hausa1 wanted the girls to go and meet with these men.
The Hausa2 man in Shogom had accepted Christ a few years earlier when missionaries came and shared Christ in his Hausa village. This one particular man learned Fulfulde and began sharing Christ with the Fulani in Shomog just next to his Hausa village.
The girls agreed to go and check it out and were excited about what they would find once they got there.
Jessica and Sarah left one day for Shomog with Hausa1. The girls wanted to meet the men that were worshipping. In Shomog that day 17 Fulani men made open commitments to follow Christ. They said that the man they had been worshipping was who they wanted to follow and change their lives to model. Hausa2 from the town next to Shomog went with them and the girls did Storying Trainers For Trainers (ST4T) with the men. The girls had been trained to do ST4T while in America. (It’s almost the same thing that Alyson taught my group while we were at ADVANCE.) 12 out of the 17 men were baptized right away! The others had been saved and baptized a couple of years earlier when Hausa2 had shared Christ with them.
They continued to do discipleship with the men, going through the book of Luke. On occasion Mike would go with the girls out to Shomog as well. The girls then lived in the village for days at a time and for a long time the women in the village were not involved with any of the teachings, storying or discipleship. They were friends outside of the discipleship group but not included in it. A while later a few women started coming and accepted Christ but had not yet been baptized. The week that the women were planning on being baptized something tragic happened…
There was a married couple that had both accepted Christ. The man was one of the five that had been saved a few years earlier when Hausa2 came to their village and shared Christ with them. This Fulani man became the “leader” for all the new Fulani Christians within Shomog. Leader was strong in his faith and committed to Christ and the stories within Scripture that were told to him.
Leader and another Believer left for Lagos, Nigeria to look for work. While the two men were down there Leader got sick and didn’t have the funds for medical care. They thought it best to begin their trip home because he wasn’t getting better. They were almost home in Hausa2’s village when Leader died leaving his pregnant wife and four children behind.
When someone here passes away the people bury them right away in the town or on the road where they died. But the Hausa people in Hausa2’s village refused to allow Leader to be buried in their village. They said that he was a dog because of his faith in Christ and a Fulani so he didn’t deserve to have a proper burial. At that point a few men from Shomog took him back to his home to be buried there.
Soon after Leader’s death the 16+ Shomog Believers began doubting their faith. The men and women alike said that they didn’t want to follow anymore because of the way Leader was ridiculed after his death. They realized how they were viewed in the eyes of others and didn’t want to be treated like that. They also said that since the girls weren’t giving them food and items they weren’t getting anything out of it. The villagers ask that Sarah and Jessica not come back to the village ever again.
Heartbroken the girls honored the desire of those in Shomog until the end of their term last year. They returned to tell them goodbye and let them all know that they wouldn’t be back.
The people in Shomog gave them the cold shoulder and they were not welcomed by anyone. Anyone except one Muslim man and a lone widow that had grown to love Jessica and Sarah. Brokenhearted and suffering over the death of her husband the widow welcomed Jessica and Sarah with open arms.
With prayerful hearts for the people of Shomog, Sarah and Jessica left Niger not knowing if they would even see any of those people again.
Yesterday, the five of us piled in Melissa’s vehicle and headed to Shomog. We had spent a good amount of time on Sunday morning in prayer for this trip and then again on the road out there. What would we find? How would we be treated? Would we be spoken to or run out of the village that Sarah and Jessica had invested so much of their Niger lives in?
As we pulled up a few people from all over came and welcomed us with beautiful smiles and kind welcoming words. One of our first greeters was a little old lady that didn’t even reach my shoulder. Then we were welcomed by identical twin sisters in their 70’s or 80’s.
Jessica was then taken by the hand to a nearby hut where an old blind man used to live. When Jessica and Sarah had first come to Shomog the old man could see but developed such bad cataracts that by the time the girls left he could see nothing at all. The people informed her that they had taken him to the hospital and he had been given surgery and could see! Sure enough, the old blind man was walking around when we got there he greeted Jessica with a warm handshake and big smile.
The people were friendly and open but Jessica wanted to find out if they were following Christ or Islam. She was hesitant to ask in front of any others so she kept quiet until we got back in the car with one of the previous Believers. He was going to take us to the field that his two wives were working it so that Jessica could see them.
She leaned forward from the backseat and ask the man, “Who’s road are you following now?” His reply was, “I’m not worshipping anyone in any form and neither are the others.” Shocked, Jessica asked, “As if there is no God at all?” He sat silent for just a moment and answered with “Yes. We left the road of Issa”.
“Why?” Was all Jessica could think to ask at that point. The Fulani man then answered, “because we didn’t like it and we wanted to walk away.”
The conversation ended then and I sat back and went over all of it in my mind again and again. What would make people walk away from something like that? Their faith appeared to be so strong at one time, so would the death of Leader cause them to back away and let go of the only thing that was stable in their lives?

We all left with heavy hearts over their lack of faith, but had a reason to smile because of their warm welcome. There are no missionaries at all living in Tuss at this point. Mike and his family will be back in January or February. Please pray for the people of Shomog that they will turn back to Christ and desire to walk down His road as Leader did.