Dave pulls up to the side of the road. I hop out of the passenger side door and into another world called “Petite Marche”. I am looking for fabric to give a friend for her birthday. As my family waits in the car, I walk past an alley way filled with bras and a booth of hair care supplies. I dodge the sludge and step into a stall with breathtaking African print fabric hanging from ceiling to floor.
“Mate arang go!” I greet the shop keeper hoping that the Zarma greeting will work like a magic code for “I’ve been here a while. Give me a good price.” The men begin to chuckle and talk quickly in the local language about the white lady who speaks Zarmasani.
I gaze at the beautiful fabrics before me and try to think carefully about which would be best for my friend. I’m distracted by the bartering that will soon commence (in a language that uses numbers based on 5 and not 10). I’m ashamed that I still haven’t mastered this system. I first learned it more than 2 years ago. Math is not my thing.
I ask the shop keeper the price, and he tells me in Zarma. I didn’t catch the number. I ask him again in French. He says, “7,000 francs.” Deal. I think this is a good price. I tell him I’ll take it (6 yards for about $15 USD.)
Then I notice a little girl sitting in the corner of the stall. She looks sad, and I greet her in Zarma. She says nothing. “She must be tired,” I say to the man in French. It’s about one in the afternoon, and I notice her forehead is covered in sweat. “No, she’s not tired, she’s sick.” He replies. And then I feel the Holy Spirit say, “Stop for this one. “ I ask if she has Malaria and he explains that he knows it’s not Malaria. It’s something else.
“Can I pray for her?” I ask. He smiles at me.
“I am a Christian, and I believe that that Jesus Christ can heal your daughter.”
“You can pray for her,” he says.
I sit beside her, and ask if it’s ok for me to touch her. As I lay a hand on her sweaty shoulder, I begin to pray that Jesus will heal her little body, take away her fever, give her peace, and that this family will know the love that he offers to them. It’s a simple prayer. I start in French and switch to English when I get frustrated at my inability to express myself clearly. The moment is over just about as quickly as it started.
I thank the man, grab my purchase, and hop back in the car.
Life is moving along, here in Niger. October is always hot, and I usually feel a bit disconnected as I read about autumn in my homeland. Recently, I felt God pointing out to me how important it is to Him that I “Stop for the one.” This is an idea, or a movement, prompted by a video I recently watched about how God is calling us to take time out in our busy lives to see the individual and their needs. Some days I am better at this than others.
Dave also had the opportunity to help someone who was sick this month. He noticed a boy that recently moved to our neighborhood and suffers from a severe deformity. Dave offered to take the boy to the hospital in hopes that they could figure out what was wrong. Long story short, this boy has been suffering from tuberculosis in his bones for most of his life and was never diagnosed. He is twenty-one years old. Now that he has a diagnosis, he is receiving free treatment provided by the government. While this is a blessing, he is also enduring a new problem. There’s such a stigma about disease, that his diagnosis is causing problems within his family. They want him to leave because they are afraid.
Fear is such a strong thing. It’s almost hard to put into words.
I have been thinking lately about the threat of Ebola. Will I be afraid to stop for the one if this sickness that is now thousands of miles away comes closer?
There has been lots of news lately, and it all seems a bit like a “virtual reality” to me. My friends in the US are dealing with an avalanche of fear led by the major media outlets. I’m not hearing the constant worry here, as we go about our lives in the Sub-Sahara. Those issues feel kind of far away. People where we live are aware and cautious. We are all left to wonder, watch, and wait and see what happens.
When I am asked if I am concerned about the risk of Ebola to my family, I don’t know what to say. Do I feel there is a risk? Yes. Do I feel that my risk is greater than if I lived in Virginia? Maybe. Am I afraid? No. Not even a little. I understand that “risk” is a factor playing into all of our lives. What makes one place safer than another? Statistics, I guess. >
One thing that helps me not to worry is an understanding of just how large this continent is.
>When we decided to move with our family to West Africa, I knew we would face the threat of scary diseases. That’s something that I laid down in front of God a long time ago. We see people here every day whose lives have been greatly effected by illness and disease. I believe, however, that God’s invitation to live the “Great Adventure” far outweighs the risk. I know that I could build for myself a plastic house surrounded by Clorox Wipes, but I don’t know if that house would protect me anymore than the cinderblock house I live in. My faith does not come from my location. My faith is in The One who makes the weather, has the power to heal disease, and who created me in His image to love others in His name.
Does that mean that we will never leave if this thing spreads across borders and enters our city? No, it doesn’t. But to leave this place and leave this people would break my heart. Our West African neighbors really do need help to conquer Ebola. If we do not help them, the threat will turn to us.
“There s no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” 1 John 4: 18