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.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Even the sand dollars and sparrows

Three weeks ago this Monday, I left with all the other Niger missionaries for Abidjan, Ivory Coast. We met up with all the other IMB missionaries in West Africa (WA) for our region wide meeting called ADVANCE. It was a blast!
The Niger people were the first ones to get there and ADVANCE (that’s what our conference is called) didn’t start until that Sunday, so we had time to relax and visit with many of the volunteers that were there also.
On Monday Melissa and I went to a store there called ORCA. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I’d heard that it was really nice. I walked in and wasn’t prepared for what I found. It was HUGE! It was really about the size of a large Pier 1 store or something along those lines, but from what I’ve come from, it was bigger than anything I have seen here yet. It had a furniture section, a clothes section, a BOYS AND GIRLS clothes section, a candle isle (!!!), a home décor section, a rug section, a everything section and more! It was truly unbelievable! I bought some fun candles and looked at the rest of the things for what felt like forever. Melissa and I checked out and they gave us a 20% discount that the store was having at that time for some reason. It turned out really good for us because 20% off in cfa is a lot better than dollars! So that made our day
The next morning Melissa and I went with two families to the “zoo” in Abidjan. Altogether we had 6 children and 5 adults (one of the husbands stayed behind) and a bunch of random animals. They had one elephant there that wasn’t in a fence. It was in a large grass area with a deep, concrete gully around it. Cindy, one of the mothers, had brought peanuts with her so we all lined up to feed the elephant. With a handful of peanuts I walked up to him and he sucked them from my hand with his trunk like a wet vacuum cleaner! I was laughing while getting all the muddy snot off my hands when he took his trunk and tried to grab the sleeve of my shirt! I jumped and he blew OUT of his trunk. So I had a few nice, black, snot spots all over my sleeve and back of my shirt – from an elephant… He didn’t get any more peanuts from me! Not to mention that I wasn’t completely thrilled to be that near an elephant after my experience at YANKARI game park in Nigeria last Christmas. If I haven’t told you that story please let me know. It’s a must read!
Wednesday, more of our missionaries got there and a few pre meetings began, so Melissa and I took our Supervisors girls to the mall (yes, I said MALL!) and out for cheeseburgers and ice cream. It was a really fun afternoon.
Thursday I could hardly contain my excitement as the time grew closer for my Nigeria peeps to fly in. I was sitting at lunch with the family that was scheduled to do the airport run for the Nigeria crew and I asked if I could tag along and “help”. They agreed happily I don’t know why I hadn’t thought earlier to ask if I could go. We jumped up from the table and headed out right then.
I was able to meet each and every one of them as they came off the plane and out of the baggage claim. Many hugs and greetings and smiles came from all over the place as I made sure to see every individual there. It was amazing! Seeing my girls (old teammates) was the absolute best! They all had their hair braided like I had mine done last November. I was kinda sad that they didn’t tell me, or I would have gotten it done before going too. When I mentioned that Katy chimed up and said sarcastically, “it’s not our fault that you left the team and abandoned us!” Everyone was laughing about that
The next few days were a blur as everyone was catching up and we were all getting to know the new Journeymen that had come to WA since last year’s ADVANCE. (By the way, I was last year’s newest personnel on the field because I flew to ADVANCE straight from America, so I knew no one, but I didn’t have any trouble making friends that week).
On Saturday many of the singles and a few married couples headed to the beach in the Ivory Coast for a day out before ADVANCE started “for real”. It was such a fun day! I took my ipod and walked down the beach alone in my swim suit and shorts, just me and the Lord. We had some good talks and I serenaded Him with songs (haha! I can’t sing worth anything!) But on my walk I watched the waves for seashells and sand dollars, which I found many of. And the sand dollars have a fun light green color to them like I haven’t ever seen before. I thought about how much the Lord cared for me at that point. If He is willing to add color and life to the sea, where no human being lives, and make it beautiful for us to look at, then how much more does He care about me? (Matthew 6:26)
One of the Journeymen, Krystal, is getting married next Spring after her term ends and she returns to America. She’s having a seashell theme and she collected a huge bag of them while we were there. She was really excited about having them from another country for her wedding reception. It was fun to talk to Krystal and get to hear about life as a fiancé… I wouldn’t know about that (or even having American guys friends overseas) because missionary guys are scarce around these parts for sure. Here’s the story…
Between the ages of 21 and 30 WA has over 50 (!!!!! Yes I said 50 !!!!!) single women serving here with only 2 (!!!!! Yes I said 2 !!!!!) single guys. I’m not sure about you but the ratio seems a little “off” to me. Why is it that there are so many more girls on the mission field today than there are guys? Really if you think about it, it’s not just in our generation that woman have been the majority on the mission field. We do have our Lottie Moon Christmas offering named after a lifetime committed, single woman who chose to live and die serving the people she was called to.
Does all this mean that the Lord isn’t calling single guys?
I am curious about knowing why there are so few guys on the field. I know that some regions have more than others, but the ratios are still WAY unbalanced. I asked one of the two guys in WA why he thinks guys aren’t coming or responding to the call and his response surprised me a little bit, “being a guy, I believe that it’s because guys want the American dream and you can’t live out an American dream in Africa [or anywhere else in the world].” So, if you’re a guy reading this, we (or any other region) would love for you to check out the job possibilities the IMB has to offer. If you are reading this and know a guy who would do good at overseas missions then tell them! I will say that I believe that West Africa is the hardest place in the world to live. And any of the other missionaries that have served here or in another region would most likely tell you the same thing. We missionaries don’t just do missions here. We live in this land and it’s tough. Tougher than I ever banked on. So the people at ADVANCE gave us girls a good round of applause for coming and sticking it out in the most difficult place in the world. Then they gave the guys an applause for joining us! Us girls like to say that boys are sissies and can’t take the life here… (I’m saying a lot of this to motivate you single guys to check out WA and start praying about coming! Just try and show us up… if you dare! You only need 20 seminary hours to serve as career!)
Sunday we started with worship and had Dr. Bruce Ashford from South Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) as our speaker for the week. He did a GREAT job! Him and his wife, Lauren, are fun people with a huge heart for missions and ministry. I have always leaned towards SEBTS over other seminaries and after having lunch dates with them and evening talks with Lauren I’m sold on attending there if the Lord leads me to pursue seminary.
Sunday afternoon we had the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering Auction. This is the day that everyone comes and gets to bid on the items that have been donated. A lot of what was for sale was food items. We had many other things given too though. The way it works is that many of the volunteers brought things over for us to auction off. We get to give the highest price we want for the item being auctioned and all the money goes to Lottie Moon! (I’m at Melissa’s house writing this blog now and don’t have my list of things that was auctioned off, but I will give it to you in the next blog.) To my knowledge the West Africa missionaries raised over $50, 000! That’s roughly around 200 adults! WOW! I will get you the final amount with the list of goodies…
The rest of the week was fun and busy as we all had different things to do in our free time and many people to see and get caught up with. During that week the Lord taught me a lot about my ministry here and gave me a new level of motivation for serving. Two days in a row we had our OS girls lead many different small groups. (For an explanation of a One Story girl – and I say girl because our ONE OS guy finished his term in February – see below). I had Alyson as my team leader and she is a fun, outgoing, 23 year old girl with a huge heart for the people she is serving in Timbuckto, Mali. She began with teaching us the story that OS always starts with when they share the gospel. It’s the story about the demon possessed man that lived in the graveyard. He cut himself with stones and broke the chains and irons that the villagers tried to subdue him in. Jesus came to the shore and cast the evil spirit out of him and into a herd of pigs. The pigs then ran into the water and drowned themselves. When the pig herders ran to tell the villagers what had happened they returned to find the man sitting with Jesus and in his right mind. The villagers pleaded with Jesus to leave their region. As He was getting ready to leave the man, named Legion, or Many, asked to go with Jesus and Jesus said “no”. Jesus told the man to go and share his story with all his family. When he did all the people were amazed with how much Jesus had done for him. (Open your Bible to Mark 5 and read verses 1 – 20 for the full detailed story!)
After Alyson told her true version of the story we had to retell it and act it out. I got to be one of the pigs – it wasn’t easy being an animal that is gross and smelly AND demon possessed! She shared with us the importance of getting into our villages with stories straight from scripture. She encouraged us to work hard on our testimonies and get them down pat in our languages.
I have to admit, being out here alone is hard. Susan lives here in my town with me but we do most of our ministry separately and differently. Being alone and working alone means learning alone. It’s been tough to get out there and be motivated and learn the language – alone. Especially when the people tell you that you can’t speak Fulfulde. Or that you don’t know how to wash your clothes by hand. Or you don’t know how to work because you’re white. Or when everything that you do is compared to what the girls before you did. I will say that Seng and Tara and Danielle left me some BIG shoes to fill when their terms ended!
So I’ve been praying and thinking about how to make my ministry my own apart from what the previous Journeymen here in my town did. We all have different ways of doing things. There were career missionaries in my group with Alyson that have used other tactics for years and have been effective. OS did this mini training with us to give us a new option for sharing Christ. You all remember when I was able to share the story of Daniel in the lions’ den when I was in the chief’s village. I wasn’t prepared for that and I told it anyway. The kids loved it! We still talk about that story to this day. So why has it been so hard for me to get through this and really start making a difference with story telling? I’m not sure exactly, but I know that Satan has played a part in it. I had some Jesus time that week and I was excited and still am about my new ministry opportunities in the same villages that I’ve been going to! I have a new level of motivation and desire to start something new that is my own to these people.

I’m home from the beautiful, tropical country of the Ivory Coast to the hot and dusty desert of Niger. I only have a few short weeks, that are full of visitors coming and going and a couple of trips to Niamey, before I head to South Africa for my doctor appointments for my knees. While I’m there I’m going to be studying my Fulfulde full force and working on my testimony in Fulfulde. I also have a children’s Bible that I will work on translating stories from into Fulfulde. I’ve set goals for my time in South Africa and I hope that you will be praying with me to meet those goals. I want to see the fruits of my labor!
Pray requests:
My dad has a bulging disc at the base of his spine that is causing him consistent pain. He has been home from work for three weeks now and might get to start back part time in a couple of weeks. It’s not bad enough for surgery but there is a section of his thigh that he can’t feel and he often has trouble walking. Pray for full healing.
Continue to lift up my aunt, my dad’s sister, who is undergoing chemo from the liver cancer. Thanks for your prayers thus far on that.
John Piper once said, “to be passionate about missions means to be passionate about Christ.” Pray that my passion for Christ would grow daily so that my desire for missions and love for these people will never end.
Pray that I would not allow Satan a foothold on the negative things that the people here tell me. Pray that I wouldn’t allow doubt to flood in and take over what I know I can accomplish in Christ alone.
Pray as I get ready for South Africa that I will be prepared mentally for the translation that I will be doing.
Please lift up the Fulani that I am in daily contact with. I desire to lead a life of transparency that shows Christ alone and His love for them. They are so blinded to the worship of Islam and lost in the lies of the Koran. Pray that the Holy Sprit would begin work now so that when I come back from South Africa to share more stories with them they will recognize who He is and what He came for.
I will be leaving for South Africa at the beginning of September. My doctor appointment is set for the 8th. Please be praying as I wait for that day and that the pain will subside enough for me to get out to the bush for a while before I leave.
One of my best friends is praying about coming and serving as a volunteer for a few weeks at the beginning of the year. Please be praying for direction in this. Pray for the finances to come through and the details to fall into place if the Lord desires for her to come.

One Story: One Story is a two to three year commitment of working with an unreached people group (UPG, people group = PG) to get the Bible translated in their language to cassettes. Teams of two or three people (all girls or all guys or a married couple) moves to the location of the people group and learns the language. It’s up the OS team to put together a series of about 30 Bible stories that go from Creation to the ascension of Christ. Each story is about four to five minutes long. They work with a few different people in their PG and test the stories for understanding. There is also a person in the leadership of OS that checks all stories for Biblical accuracy. In the end they have a national of their PG tell the stories on cassette. The end product gives them Creation to Christ on a tape in an illiterate culture so all people within that PG can hear the gospel!
Tara and Seng were here as OS working with the Sokoto Fulani. The same dialect of people that I’m working with. I have the cassettes that they worked for two and a half years to finish and I have already started using them in my villages!
OS has seen many salvations come out of the work that they are doing. Including the chief of my village and his wife! Pray that they would be able to see the harvest of their sowing.
Pray for all the OS girls out there right now. Pray that they would learn their UPG’s language effectively in order to translate the scripture into the native language.

I want to say thanks on behalf of all the WA missionaries. Thanks for loving us and supporting us in SO many ways, we couldn’t do what we do without you.