Around the world, organizations that care for orphans and children in distress have discovered a model that works. They split their large congregation of children into smaller groups reflective of the size of an average family in the local country. Then they find women in need- widows or those abandoned- and pair them with these groups of children. In this way, they create a family unit for the women and the children. The “mothers” sign a contract, making a commitment to their children until they reach adulthood. These women are able to help their children learn and grow while ensuring their connection to the local culture. Each family is grouped with several others to form a village. Many villages include a school, a clinic, a common area for playing together, community gardens, a multi purpose room, and church.
Organizations who have implemented the “Village Concept” are seeing an amazing trend. By creating community for children and women, they naturally build the support groups that both the adults and the children need to heal and grow. The children within these villages are well fed, well educated, and well loved. Because of this, these kids are becoming leaders who are now actively shaping the landscape of their communities. They have been given the life skills they need to succeed in their culture and because of the kindness and affection that was poured into them, many have chosen to help other needy kids- sometimes even within their own organization.
This is what we want to do.
We want to create a place here in Niger that speaks hope into the lives of Children who have none. We want to help Christian women who have no one to care for them by giving them a good home, opportunity for education, vocational training, and children to love. We want our community to focus on sustainability- with space to farm and grow livestock. God is at work in our hearts, and we are seeing him open doors for us to make this dream become a reality.
The story of our dream is interwoven with the story of Rachid. His story is bringing a depth and purpose to our calling. The more we know about his life (and others like him), the more we are inspired to action.
While these two stories play out, our lives are full of ups and downs. Excitement, hope, disappointment, and frustration overwhelm our hearts as we follow this path that we believe God has set before us.
I want to give you two examples of the roller coaster ride we’ve been on this week.
On Sunday night Dave felt the Lord tell him that we should speak to a couple that work in our circle of aquaintance here in the missionary community in Niamey. Their children are in my classes at Sahel Academy. A few hours after Dave told me that he wanted to meet with them, he brought it up again, “I just feel a strange peace about it. Like God has a plan for us that involves them.”
The next day, Monday, I was working at Sahel and I spoke with another friend of mine who works closely with the couple we wanted to meet with. I explained a little about the situation and why we wanted to speak with them. She was excited and inspired by what I told her, but she was sorry to tell me that they had flown out of the country the night before. I was disappointed. We are leaving Niger in a couple weeks, and would not be able to meet with them in person for many months. “I guess we will have to put it all in an email,” I thought.
A few hours later I got a call from my friend letting me know that the couple had not left Niger. Due to a lightning storm we had here the previous evening, their flight had been cancelled and they would not be leaving until that night. I arrived home from school and explained this to Dave. He called the couple and we were able to meet with them that afternoon before their flight left. They listened intently to our dream. They are interested. They want to hear more. We are excited to see the hand of God at work.
For many weeks now, we have been looking at land on which to build the village. There is one particular stretch of road outside Niamey that we have always loved. It runs next to the river. Every time we pass down that road, we talk about how beautiful it is and what an awesome place it would be to live. So, as we started to dream about the village, we thought of this land.
Dave has gone out several times with a friend of ours to look at different sites along this road. Saturday they spent several hours and found a parcel that Dave was very excited about. On Sunday afternoon, he took the boys and I out to see it and take pictures of it. It’s not to far out of Niamey but is a fairly rural area. I stood there and prayed that if this was the spot he wanted for the children we would minster to, that he would make it happen. I again felt God’s peace and he spoke Jeremiah 29:11 to my heart… “I know the plans I have for you. Plans to give you hope and a future.” As I stood there on a hill overlooking the river with the wind blowing across my face, I was encouraged that he knows each child by name. He cares for them now and wants to bring peace and security to their lives.
This morning was the court date for Rachid’s adoption. Dave woke up early and went in search of Rachid’s birth mother so that she could be present at the hearing. Finding her took a bit of searching, but eventually he was lead to the village where she lives. Her hut is literally right across the street, 200 meters from the hill that I was standing on yesterday afternoon. It turns out that Rachid’s birth mother is actually related to the owners of the land we would like to put our village on.
His eyes are on us. His truth remains- yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
This morning we faced another delay in the court with Rachid’s adoption case. We are frustrated and disappointed again. In the midst of this, I am thankful. Thankful for the words that God spoke to my heart yesterday. Thankful that they are still true today. Thankful that it is God’s job to order Rachid’s steps and not my own. Thankful that I get to know Rachid and love him.
Trust in God can be so emotionally driven. I need the truth to remind me to hold steadfast. God’s plans are so much bigger than me, so much more than I can see. I depend on him each step of the way to light my path. I have a flashlight and I’m wishing for a flood light, but I know he will light the way.