niamey youth baseball

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Something very special is happening around here on Saturday mornings.  Last weekend, I got to tag along with my camera.

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It all started with my Sammy boy who asked and begged and wouldn’t stay silent about his desire to play baseball. In this community, the adults play softball, but there just wasn’t a whole lot out there for a boy who wants to build his skills.

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And so, for the love of his son and the love of the game, my amazing husband stepped up.  And stepped into a gift and a calling that has followed him from Massachusetts to Virginia and now to Niger.

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It’s kind of difficult for me to put into words how I feel about this awesome thing that began with my husband and my son and is becoming a blessing to so many boys and girls.  Proud doesn’t quite do it justice.  Beautiful, might be better.

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Right now we have about 15 participants between the ages of 6 and 8.  Each missionary kid has been asked bring a local friend.  We’re turning down older and younger kids because that would require more volunteers.  We are waiting for God to send us the right people to help out. And we know he will do it in his time.  Pray with us for the growth of Niamey Youth Baseball.  May it bring Him glory!

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I’m calling on God

Oh friends.  Dave and I both feel that we really owe you- our supporters, our loved ones, our readership- a giant apology.  2013 was not a banner year for us in the realm of blog posts and update emails.  We really strive to do better.  In some ways I feel that I have so much to say, so many stories to tell, that I can’t organize my thoughts.  Much has happened since I last visited this space.  We had a lovely Christmas with my mom and sister.  It was lovely because they were here, but at the same time many of us were was fighting sickness.  For me this turned into four days in bed. Their visit was just not long enough (we love having them around), and that was amplified by the time I felt was wasted by myself, in my room, miserable.  But they were total champs and really did save Christmas for the boys and for all of us.  Yummy food, amazing presents carefully wrapped, stories read by the tree.  It was beautiful.  I am thankful.  We said our goodbyes the very next Saturday.  Because I was able to rest and feeling better, Dave convinced me to go with him and the boys (I was going to stay home) on our annual camping trip to Park W.  But on our way out of town, we dropped Mohammed off with our friends at the orphanage (per their request).  It was sad to say goodbye, but also it has been really good to have some time with “just us”.  The camping trip was just what we needed.  It’s always great to get out of the city.

And so, with that update out of the way, I would like to tell you about the trip out of the city that Dave and I took last week.  After getting the kids off to school Dave told me that he was hoping to get out to the village to try and figure out if the plot of land he was currently considering for Restoration Village was owned by the guy trying to sell it or if it was owned by the government. Having not been out to this village for several years, I saw my opportunity and asked to ride along.  “Just to see it, hang out, and take some photos,”  I said with a smile.  And so we did.

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A truck full of onions. Where are they all going?

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I love driving across the country side in this beautiful place we call home.  Every single time I feel the overwhelming blessing of my life in this land full of people and places that are so different from where I came from.  This trip was even more exciting because we were headed out to the spot where we hope that things will start.  We saw our friend who pastors here as we pulled into town.  He was expecting us and waiting by the main road.  He took us to the house of the chief who was going to show us where the man lived who knew about the limits of the land we were looking to buy.  As we drove through the village I was floored by its beauty.  My secret dream is to live in the village some day.  By the time we drove through the village and past the land we were there to find out about, the chief was pretty sure that it was government land and that we would have to look somewhere else.  Upon finding the man with the info, it was decided that they should all drive around and scout it out.  And they were all men.  So, I was left with the ladies.

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Armed with my camera and every thing I ever learned in a Zarma language lesson, I sat and tried to find out about these women.  It was so. much. fun.  We laughed and played and after more than half an hour I was invited into one of their homes.  These women whose reality is so different from mine.

 

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Salamatou with her beautiful smile and playful spirit is more than a girl. She is a fifteen year old bride. She is shy about her status of wife. I was so thankful that she has the support of these other women in the village.

And so this week I am beginning to settle into the new year and seek God for guidance about the habits I need to form and the things I want to focus on for 2014.  The thing that keeps coming back to me is that with my whole heart, I desire to see our ministry begin.  I desire to interact with these people in the village.  I desire to have a little plot here to build a house for a mama and her kids.  As we drove the streets of this village my heart overflowed with prayer for the things I hope will happen here- lives restored, schools made strong, ministry to the community, farming projects, and HIS NAME glorified.  I want the season of waiting to be over.

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Moussaodou is five and has special needs. His joy is infectious and his curiosity was a bit difficult to contain. He was REALLY interested in my camera.

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Today in my Bible study I read through Acts 2 “Those who call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” and was reminded by a friend what it means to call on God.  From Strong’s Concordance:

CALL –
1. to put a name upon, to surname
2. when the name of one is named upon some one, i. e. he is called by his name or declared to be dedicated to him
3. to call something to one (cf. English to cry out upon (or against) one); “to charge something to one as a crime or reproach; to summon one on any charge, prosecute one for a crime; to blame one for, accuse one of”
4. to call upon, to invoke; to call upon for oneself, in one’s behalf – anyone as a helper, as my witness or as a judge, i. e. to appeal to one, make appeal unto
5. Hebraistically – to call upon by pronouncing the name of Jehovah; an expression finding its explanation in the fact that prayers addressed to God ordinarily began with an invocation of the divine name – I call upon (on my behalf) the name of the Lord, i. e. to invoke, adore, worship.

Immediately I thought of this song that my kids learned in Church.  It says, “I’m calling on.  I’m calling on.  I’m calling on God.  I’m calling on God.”  And I am.  I’m pronouncing the name of Jehovah, my provider, on my behalf as my helper.  I make an appeal to Him to do this thing that He has put in our hearts.  To build this village.  To minister to these people who are HIS people.

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Pray with us for these men who are helping make our dream a reality. RIGHT to LEFT: Dave, the chief, the pastor, a boy, and two village men.

Three times this week, I have been reminded of Isaiah 58:6-9

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.”

You see, friends, I know that this thing that God is putting in our hearts is a glimpse of His heart.  He loves the widow and the orphan.  He wants us to love the naked and the hungry.  And so I pray that in His name and for His glory this will be the year- even the month- that we see this thing get its wings and take flight.  Would you agree with me in this prayer.  Would you pray for these doors that keep shutting (the land was not for sale this day) would fling open?  Would you pray that the time become now?  Would you pray that the widows we have approached with this idea would be filled with the desire and equipped to care for those here who need mamas.  Would you pray that this village and these people get overwhelmed with the blessing of neighbors who love God and love each other.

I’m calling on God.

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a new adventure in love

He looks up with dark eyes, searching me.  We share a silent secret, him and me.

This moment I have shared with each of my children, and even some of my friends’ children, is precious and magical.  The sweet bonding that happens while you hold, and feed, and care for a baby blesses the spirit in ways that are unexplainable.  With my friends’ children, though, it was mostly an isolated incident.  With my own children it was a bonding that was shared hour by hour, day by day, and the weeks turned into months and into years of loving each other.

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It’s strange to have this daily beautiful encounter with my new little love.  He did not grow inside me.  In this way, he was a rather a fast surprise.  We had one week to prepare our hearts for his arrival in our home, but before that the conversation between Dave and me had already started.  I believe it was about two weeks before Mohamed came home to us that Dave asked, “Do you think you and I could take a child long-term with no promise or hope that that he or she would ever be truly ours?”

It was God who placed this question on our hearts.  He gave us the time to wrestle with it, ponder it, sit on it a while.

Outside, the midnight air is finally turning cool.  It is just Mohamed and I on the sofa.  I pray over his life, over the unknown.  I think about my “own” children and how much of their futures are unknown to me.  Yet somehow, I feel safer with that.  For Mohamed, the future is a scarier place.  And I pray some more.  It is not my job to rescue him.  His Keeper does that.

I don’t know how long this moment will last.  And as we bond, I am trying to prepare my Momma Heart for that loss.  Because it is impossible not to love him with all of who I am.  As we begin to know each other, and trust each other, and think of each other day in and day out.  As I dress him in my children’s clothes and feed him with their bottles and put his bed (and his little life) right next to theirs, it is then that he starts to feel like one of us.  And this is, in large part, why he is here.  Because we were all made to be in families.  Because God created us to have these bonds.

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Because I have seen the other babies who rock in their cribs and hit their heads on walls and floors and cushions to soothe and stimulate and make peace in their brains.  Because NO ONE deserves to start like that.

And I pray for those who do.

This door that God has opened for our family is full of complicated emotion.  It is also full of a deep sense of peace that we are doing something good and something right.  Love is a risk, but it’s always worth taking.  I know now that Mohamed will not be the last baby we care for in our home.  I pray that as I walk this road, others will begin to understand that they can too.  No matter where you live there are children that need fostering.  I believe that God is working on some of your hearts, and I believe that, just like in me, He has been for a while.

It’s a risk worth taking.  Join us in this adventure of love!

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He makes all things new

If there is one thing I know to be true about our life here, it’s that things never stay the same.  When we are asked by friends, “What does your typical day look like?” it’s hard to answer.  Things are never the same two days in a row… or two months in a row… or two years in a row. I love this about our African life.  It’s always new.  I’m never bored.  It reminds me of a promise that God gives us in Revelation.  Right after He wipes every tear from our eyes and takes away mourning, and weeping, and pain and death.  It says, in Revelation 21:5 He who is seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He promises me that the mourning and weeping will end and all things will be made new. And so it is here, for us, this week. IMG_4888We have had what has felt like a long period of waiting.  At times we have felt frustrated and discouraged.  We have held on to hope.  And we feel like we are beginning to see some light.  Doors are beginning to open for us in ministry.   One of these doors began to open two weeks ago.  We got a call from a friend of ours who runs an orphanage here in Niamey.  This man and his wife have worked hard for many years caring for orphans.  They are going through a frustrating season, and they have a lot on their plate right now.  He told us that there was a baby whose mother had died and who needed help, but at the moment their facility couldn’t take him.  Would we be willing to foster him on their behalf for a little while? Last Wednesday, was gotcha day for us and Mohamed.  And we are so glad.  Sure there have been a few sleepless nights, some poopy diapers, and some tears, but with the hard work there has been total joy.  He is something sweet and new for our family.  We don’t know how long he will be with us, but we are thankful for every day. This morning Dave had planned to take a trip out to the village to visit with some regional leaders about land for our project.  This would be the second meeting in a conversation that looks really promising. In the middle of the night, though, Nata woke up with a fever.  So, this morning we decided to bring Nata and Mohamed to the village with Dave to visit a clinic there.  Today just happened to be baby vaccination day out there, and we had a baby that needed vaccinations.  And a big boy that needed to be seen by a doctor. IMG_4734 It was only my second time to visit this place, but again I was encouraged to see what a difference they are making. As Dave took Nata to the lab for some tests, I sat and talked to a doctor and some nurses about “my” baby.  They asked me if I wanted them to make a declaration of his birth so that he could have a birth certificate.  Then they asked me what I wanted to name him.  And THEN a woman in the next room went into labor and they all left giving me some time to think about all of that.  I began to pray.  If I got to choose the name for this child, what name would I pick?  I was reminded of how many times in the Bible God delights in changing someone’s name.  Isaiah 62 says “you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow. 3 You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. 4 No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married. 5 As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.” Turns out I didn’t need to give Mohamed a name today.  And I’m glad.  But I was also happy to have a moment to pray over this sweet little gift of a boy that we have been entrusted with.  I thought of Moses, who was born a slave, but raised in a palace and led his people to freedom.  I thought of all the ways that God is continually redeeming my life.  And I wondered about all the things he has in store for little Mohamed. There is one thing I know for sure… He makes all things new. Please pray for Nata.  He was diagnosed with Malaria and also has an infection.  Please also pray that God would continue to open doors with the regional leaders Dave met with today.  We are encouraged and hopeful. IMG_4872

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only You

“Take my heart.  I lay it down at the feet of You who’s crowned.

Take me life, I’m letting go.  I lift it up to you who’s throned.

And I will worship You Lord, only You Lord.  And I will bow down for You, only You Lord.

Take my fret, take my fear, all I have I’m kneeling here.  Be all my hopes, be all my dreams, your all my delight, my everything.

And I will worship You Lord, only You Lord.  And I will bow down for You, only You Lord. ” -David Crowder Band

I have been searching my heart this week.  The Father is gently bringing my attitude into His crucible of refining fire.  It started with a conversation I had with a dear friend about our identity in Christ.  As she poured out her heart to me, she said something that struck such a chord in my spirit, that it left me with goosebumps.

“I want Christ to be my whole identity.  Not what I do or where I live.  I want HIM to be who I am.”

Later in the week I read a convicting article titled “The White-Savior Industrial Complex” written by Teju Cole, who is an African that immigrated to America.  Mr. Cole’s words shocked me both because they are true (sometimes even true of me) and they describe something so ugly.

“One song we hear too often is the one in which Africa serves as a backdrop for white fantasies of conquest and heroism. From the colonial project to Out of Africa to The Constant Gardener and Kony 2012, Africa has provided a space onto which white egos can conveniently be projected. It is a liberated space in which the usual rules do not apply: a nobody from America or Europe can go to Africa and become a godlike savior or, at the very least, have his or her emotional needs satisfied. Many have done it under the banner of “making a difference.”
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This is a tricky balance for me, and I think it is for most people who consider “ministry” their full time profession.  We are here to serve.  We want to make a difference in the lives of women and children here.  We focus on this every day.  My prayers are centered on it, my thought life, my time and energy.  Somehow, however, I have to draw a line in my heart.  Because really, it is not I who am actually to do the ministry, it is actually Christ.  It is not the people here who I actually serve, it is Christ.

I know that I am here because He called me.  May I serve Him in humility and without the ugly side of ego that wants to take the glory, the credit, for myself.  Instead of wanting others to acclaim me, may others see Him at work in me and acclaim Him.  May His name be lifted high.

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And then I got this note from a childhood friend…

“Hey Hope! I was thinking and praying for you guys last night. I just thought I’d write and try to spread some encouragement to you. THANK YOU for choosing to serve the Lord with your life, dreams, time, energy, finances, family & your everything. I’m sure there are many places that you’d rather be if it were up to your flesh, like being with your family or your friends back home. I’m sure some days are just really tough. I’m sure some days you wonder if you’re on the right path. I’m sure some days you think about how much easier it would be if you just chose a life like everyone else. I wanted to thank you for saying NO to all the other things that try to distract you from the most important things. Thank you for allowing God to burden your heart for the lost, so much that you would travel to a foreign land just to see God’s name be glorified and souls come to know His blood. YES, it is worth it. There is nothing else in life more worth it. Thank you for going for the kingdom of God, for shining a light in the midst of darkness. Just your presence alone there changes things, even if you never were to open your mouth. Stand strong, my sister. Keep the faith and press on! Every bit counts. Every prayer, every gaze to heaven, every smile you give. It all counts. What you carry within your very being has the power to raise the dead. And stronger is He that is in you than he who is in the world.”

His love leaves me speechless.  I am standing in a room alone with Him.  It’s just Him and me.

Niger Sept 2008 243

 

 

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise’ you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out an my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.  You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

Search me, Oh God, and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

-Psalm 139

 

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