Sunday, 15 February 2009

He Need Us Not

Writings from Karissa...
Haba! (an expression used here similar to “holy cow” in America)… Where to start my dear family and friends?

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. HE guides me in paths of righteousness for HIS name’s sake… Psalm 23:1-3

Maybe this passage would be a good place to start. This probably was not the passage I would have thought my heart would need while I was here in Africa but the Lord has used it to humble me and still me in moments of discontent…

On January 28th a team of four from Perryville, MD came to Kondike (Anna’s hometown) to serve and continue building relationships with the people here and in the surrounding villages. This team has come here twice a year for the past four years. Anna and I had a blessed time getting to serve with them while they were here. Our translator and driver for the week were both Muslim men that the team uses each time they come. We are praying that these men might come to know Christ through the presence of these believers in their lives. Jay is a man from Nigeria that has a heart for the people here and worked with us as well. He was able to translate and already has relationships with many people here. He reminded me very much of the apostle Paul and his presence was invaluable.

There is a village that Anna had been invited to a couple months of ago because the Fulani, her people, had a desire to learn about Christ. She was able to share with them truth and the Gospel. As the team was here, Anna shared this with them and the team told us that they had been to that same village years ago and yet the Lord had not really allowed them to share and build relationships like the other villages they had been to. After hearing of this open door, the team got very excited about the opportunity to go back and share more with them.

It was on the afternoon before we were going to this very village that my heart began to struggle in discontent. There was a married couple from the team that were going to be sharing some Bible stories with the people and I wanted to share a story as well. I was trying to figure out my place within this group and had it set in my mind how I wanted to serve the Lord that night. When it didn’t seem that this was the way things were going to work out, I became frustrated. I wanted to share truth! I wanted to DO something…Wasn’t this a good thing? Wasn’t this why the Lord had brought me here? Being still and waiting on the Lord’s timing went against my heart. As I called out to the Lord, He gently brought me to Psalm 23. This Psalm was His answer to me that day. He stilled me and brought me to a place of surrender and willingness to do whatever HE wanted. That night I helped hold up a corner of the story cloth as others shared stories from the Old Testament. And it was a pure joy… The Lord is funny isn’t he. The Lord has had to humble me time and time and time again since I have been here and I am so thankful. I don’t know what you all are praying for me over there but keep them up. I would have been very disappointed to come back to America the same as when I left. The Lord disciplines those he loves. I am his daughter and have definitely experienced His faithful love since being here.

Many months before I had decided for sure the Lord was leading me to Niger, He spoke to me Isaiah 55:5… Since I have been here, he has reminded me of Isaiah 55:8 which says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts”. It is this truth that He has been teaching me to me to believe…

Last week Anna and I and a couple of other girls that serve here were able to spend a couple nights in a safari park… He had our very own tour guide and armed guard… We didn’t see any lions but did see an elephant, antelope, crocodiles, cranes, deer… It was precious time being in God’s creation. Oh yeah, and I got to swim in a pool! This was also a pure blessing.

The Lord has also brought about the opportunity to teach English to an 18 year old girl here in town. You can be praying that the Lord would bless my relationship with her and use it for His glory.

Thank you again for all your prayers. They are so needed. Please be praying for Anna and I this next week and a half that the Lord would give great wisdom and discernment how He would have us spend our time. Pray that my spirit would be yielded to HIS guidance. Pray that I would fully support and encourage my sister in Christ (which was my main purpose in coming). God Bless and see you all soon!!!

Writings from Anna...
Here we are, almost two full weeks into February and I feel like Christmas was yesterday. I feel as though the New Year has gotten away from me just like my evenings with Karissa seem to fly! Just about every night her and I will look at our watches and it’s around midnight or so and we ask ourselves “what happened to the last four hours? What were we doing?!” The evenings and nights have been good for us because we are both more night people than we are morning people, although some say that her and I are “all day” people… We are able to work best in the evenings after dinner and often have our best conversations and times with the Lord then. I have also seen myself fall into a much more regulated pattern of many things since Karissa has come. I eat three square meals a day (if you count cereal for dinner every once in a while), I am consistently in bed after midnight (haha!) and my workout/running schedule has been wonderful for me to keep up my physical activity. Another big thing is that when Karissa spends time with the Lord, so do I. When she first got here we didn’t want to leave one another’s sight so we forced ourselves to have our quiet times at the same time so we could be together more. I was teasing her the other day saying that when she first got here I wanted her near all the time, now that she’s been here a few weeks it’s ok if we are in separate rooms for a while doing our own thing… but now that she’s leaving in a couple of weeks I want to have her near all the time again!

All that to say I LOVE KARISSA! She has been a true blessing to me and the Lord has taught me a lot in her time here. We have bounced scripture back and forth and sought the Lord through His word and I feel as though she has been my iron that Proverbs talk about in chapter 27 verse 17 “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” I had forgotten what it was like to have consistent accountability. I had forgotten was it was like to be loved by a friend in a tangible way. She has continuously been encouraging and loving, patient and kind. Gentle with her words and her heart is so soft to the leading of the Holy Spirit. I praise the Lord for the friend I have in her.

The Perryville team was so fun to have around. There were two ladies and two men. The pastor of the church, Pastor John, always comes and then will bring two to four people with him every time. There was a married couple, Michelle and Jack, Pastor John and Akiko who is from Japan. Akiko was the cook for the week and has a gift of mixing ingredients together to form delightful tastes for the tongue She made me want to lock her in my kitchen until I leave!
Saidou was our Muslim translator from Niamey area and we also had Jay whom I’ve talked about before. Jay is the man who led B to the Lord last month. And then the driver was with us as well and his name is Yahiya and didn’t speak English or Fulfulde. So we all had fun learning new Zerma and Hausa words in order to include everyone in the conversations.

The team was able to go to four different villages during their time here and one of those villages more then once. Every year the team has a gathering on Sunday mornings for the few believers that we have and anyone else that wants to join. This year my favorite day of their trip was the Sunday gathering.

We had made arrangements beforehand to go and pick up our believers in two different villages. One of those villages being my village where my Fulani family lives. I wanted the whole family to be able to come but wasn’t sure how that was going to pan out knowing that there was work that had to be done. I went out with Saidou and Yahiya (in Yahiya’s bush taxi that the team rents every year) to my village to pick up those there. The chief wasn’t around because someone had died in Nigeria and he had to leave to be with the family. But Dez came with two of my older brothers and one of my younger sisters! There were four from my family that made it! All of them are believers. Last year we only had the chief from my family. So this was a large increase to the amount of people from the trip the team made here last October. We loaded everyone up, including three other people that are friends of the family, one of them being a Hausa guy, and we took off. I felt that I was helping run the bus ministry for the day! We stopped alongside the road at the other village and picked up four more people that were waiting. Two of which were my two believers from that village (a man and a woman from different families), one was the chief and the other was a friend of them all. We got back and Yahiya dropped me off at my house so I could drive Michelle, Akiko, Karissa, Fati and Belki over to Susan’s while Yahiya and Saidou took the “bus” full of people to Susan’s. Akiko and Michelle had prepared the drinks for the day (a ton of ice tea) and deviled eggs and I had asked Aissa, Altine’s wife (Susan’s night guard), the day before to cook a meal for about 30 people. I asked her to make it for that many because I wanted to make sure that we would have extra incase we needed it. She had agreed happily and that Saturday Akiko, Saiduo and I went to the market with Aissa to buy all she needed for the meal. Aissa made a wonderful rice meal with a vegetable and meat tomato base sauce. It was so good!

After I dropped the ladies off I went to find B. I had told him about our meeting and he said that he wanted to come. So I drove to his work and told him that it was time for church to start. He took large pieces of cardboard and covered his table of tea making supplies, grabbed his purple sock cap that he wears religiously and hopped in the truck. When we got to Susan’s I was amazed at the amount of people that were gathered for church that morning. My heart rejoiced! We had over 30 adults and several children including Yahiya’s wife and young daughter that had come to my town for a couple of days.

We took turns telling Bible stories and after each story was told there were two questions asked. 1) What was sweet about this story? 2) What was not sweet about this story? These questions got the people’s head turning and we had many speak up with answers that were very appropriate, showing us that they understood everything in the story and for our believers, that they trusted that the story was true. My two older brothers, Gary and Doo both spoke up at different times with truth in all they said! I have known that they professed Christ but had never really heard them talk openly about Him. This is a huge step for Believers here and I was very proud of them to say the least!

After the service was over and the meal had been eaten we all loaded up in the “bus” again and Saidou, Yahiya and I took everyone back to their homes. It was a long and exhausting day but… So worth it to see people from four different nations come together to glorify the Lord and hear stories from His Word. It blessed me beyond what I am able to express with words. The Lord is so faithful in all He does.

I want to just take a paragraph and love on the Perryville team – They were amazing! They did nothing but love on Karissa and I and blessed us beyond measure. They were fun to have around and we had a great mixture of hilarious personalities that made everyone one to look forward to everyday. But above all else, they love Jesus and that shined through all they did and in every conversation we had. They were gracious and helpful, giving and kind and I’m so thankful for all of them! Not only those on this trip but the two teams that have come before as well. I just want to thank you all by name – Pastor John and Pastor Chris, Michelle and Jack, Cathy and Scott, Akiko and Brandon, Saidou and Yahiya – Thanks for bringing so much joy to my life!

Karissa and I made our way to a really cool safari park for a couple of days of rest and fun. I would say that the two days we were there were more fun than restful but we had a great time. Our gun holding security guard was a Tuareg man that grew up around Fulani people so he spoke Fulfulde. Our quieter but funny tour guide was a Zerma man (I think) and spoke a little bit of English. So between Karissa and I and Melissa and Emily and the two guys we had a good time and were able to appreciate the creation of the Lord before us. And to top it off, Karissa and I swam in a pool that made the trip even better! Just to let you know, Emily is a career missionary not too much older than I am and is working with the Tuaregs past Niamey toward Burkina Faso. She’s a good friend and I always enjoy her company

The Lord has been good in teaching me a few different things these last few months. One of those things I am going to share with you now…

I have kind of been struggling with this for the past few months and just this last month has the Lord really revealed Himself to me through it and taught me the lesson that He has desired that I take from this struggle.
I have been dealing with having to leave Niger when things have just seemed to pick up a bit. B is saved and I have K and Fati that live here for me to share with and encourage. I have found the M village where the people want to just listen to stories from the Word and hear more. My language is getting better everyday and I am so comfortable with this town and all my people around me – why would the Lord ask me to leave when it would be so easy and beneficial to stay? What would I do elsewhere that would compare to what I could do here for the kingdom? There’s work here to be done and people to be discipled and so many others to tell. And one of the biggest kickers for me is that there is no one coming to replace me…
The Lord, trough scripture and others around me, has revealed that He doesn’t need me. Period. His word never returns void and His faithfulness will endure forever. His mercy and grace will be lavished on those that He wills and in the end He will be glorified regardless of if I’m here through it all or not. He doesn’t need me to expand His kingdom or to take the Word of the Lord to the world. I am simply allowed the beautiful grace of the Lord to be spilled over on me to even have been able to be here for such a time as this. He will do what He desires to do and He doesn’t need me to do it.

Please be in prayer for B. He is so anxious to learn and grow and my Fulfulde dialect being different from his makes it hard to communicate at times. Pray that the Lord would work through this barrier and that B would benefit greatly from the times that Karissa and I meet with him.

Pray for the young girl that Karissa is teaching English to. She has a sweet spirit and a desire to learn. She was supposed to come for her second lesson this week and didn’t show up. K often sees her on the road because his work at the bus station in the mornings is very near her school. He hasn’t seen her these last couple of days. Pray that before Karissa and I leave for Niamey that we would be able to connect with her. Pray that Karissa would have great opportunities to share Christ with this young girl.

Pray for me as I am getting ready for vacation in Central Asia! My girlfriends, Mallory and Jana, serve there as Journeyman and I will be with them for about 10 days. Karissa and I are flying out of Niamey on the same flight to Casablanca, Morocco and then we will split ways there. Pray that my time in Central Asia will be refreshing and encouraging to Jana and Mallory. Pray that we would experience the Lord’s presence as we get together and love on each other during the few days that I will be there.

Pray for my ankle because it has started to bother me a bit during my runs with Karissa. It has never bothered me before but it’s begun to flare up a bit and is often painful just after we run. We did a much shorter run today and I ended with lots less pain. I’ve been icing it a few times a day these past three days and it seems to be helping. But that would all I needed – to have myself back in the doctor’s office because of my ankle…

Pray for Karissa and I as we spend these last 11 days together. Pray that the Lord would bless it and we would soak up one another as we praise Jesus for bringing Karissa here these last few weeks.

We love you and appreciate your faithful prayer support to us. We are more than excited to get back and share what the Lord has done here! Not only that but also the pictures that we are not able to upload as we wish…

We are headed to my village tonight and will sleep there for two nights. We will be back in my town on Tuesday. Pray for our time out there that we would be an encouragement to my family out there and also have opportunities to share new Bible stories with them.

Love you all!

Rakiya and Hawa

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Anna and Karissa for all your stories. It is neat to hear both of your perspectives. It helps paint a fuller picture of what God is doing there Niger. Anna thank-you so much for having Karissa come and of course all the time and energy you put into getting her there :). Karissa I am excited to hear more of your ministry face to face! Love, Kathy (Mom)

Anonymous said...

It is so good to read about what you are doing there! I know the Lord is using you there and look forward to that day in heaven when we will more clearly know how it all fit together.

Karissa, I miss you and will be glad to see your smiling face again. But I am very glad that you are serving the Lord there in whatever ways he shows you.

With love,
Kendal (dad)

Tom Pflederer said...

What an amazing experience you are having, and what a blessing you must be to Anna. Hard to believe that you are already near the end of your time in Niger. I can imagine you are already trying to process everything and to understand everything you have seen and heard. We're looking forward to hearing more about it in person. Tom and Connie

Dana said...

ohhhhh... tears are coming down my face. the lord has been faithful to bring you to mind everyday. to remember to pray... has brought you closer in my heart. i miss you more than i ever thought i would but the lord is good about using that to spur me on to pray.

my heart longs to be there with you. but my heart also rejoices to read about what the lord is doing in your lives. praise the lord that he is all about transformation!! redemption. love. sharpening us and refining us. he is so faithful. and resourceful!! he will use the craziest of things and places to teach us more about who he is. and i love that about the lord.
i absolutely cannot wait to hear the stories face-to-face. and i will listen until my ears literally won't work anymore. which, hopefully, will never happen. :)

Youth Al said...

Praying today for you. Thank you for the word pictures, and taking us along on the journey. Look forward to hearing more. God's Word definitely does not return void!

Rachel said...

Thanks for the update! Love you guys and praying for you!
Rachel

Megie said...

Dear Anna- I can't believe how long it's been since I've written. I am so sorry about that but, please know that you are in my daily thoughts and prayers.

It's been so busy around here sometimes I don't even know what day it is.

I hope everything is going well for you.

Take care until next time:
Philippians 1:3 "I thank my God everry time I remember you."

Anonymous said...

Loved reading your blogs; what an awesome God we have and how wonderfully He has been using both of you to convey His love and truth. Would have written earlier but couldn't figure out how. Love you and we pray for you almost every day!! Karissa, have a good trip home--see you in Florida! Love Grandma & Grandpa