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Fofo! Christmas!

Fofo! Christmas!

Fofo! Merry Christmas!

One of Niger’s national languages is Zarma. Like many languages in the world, Zarma has many multipurpose words. Fofo is one of those utilitarian words. It is not a new online acronym. It could be an abbreviated recipe for a Mediterranean fruitcake (figs, oranges, falafel, and olives), but sadly it is not. In Niger, fofo is typically used as a greeting, but it can also be a farewell, and in certain circumstances it could be employed to communicate regret. Further, it is commonly used to express thankfulness. No other time in my life has more greatly embodied the range of those emotions. So, I’d like to say, “Fofo.”

During this time of celebration and giving thanks, I am reminded of so many people whose prayers and financial donations have enabled me to maintain the life that I live. Faithful supporters and a judicious budget mean that raising and managing my missionary account is not a fulltime job. As a result, I have been able to focus on other priorities, while also establishing new contacts and connecting with my existing network of allies.

Well, time is a relentless master. Apparently, this is only my second update this year, after one that I sent in April. So, this one will be… a bit longer. We arrived in Oklahoma toward the end of May, and it feels like yesterday. On our journey, we spent (intentionally) two days in New York City. We waved at the Statue of Liberty, saw the Bull of Wall Street, took pictures of the Empire State Building, and walked about five miles along Rockaway Beach. Our stay in the Big Apple also included a volatile encounter with inebriated persons, but we survived.          

Certain events altered our original plans, and we have been in Oklahoma since our arrival. A few months ago, Mikey passed the GED test. He is currently working part-time at KFC and plans to join the army in January. I will remain in Mustang until he completes boot camp and then receives a permanent track. Much of my time has been spent trying to prepare him for this next chapter in this life. My goal is to return to Niger in April or May, though I have not yet begun the process of purchasing plane tickets. I may do some traveling, but I am also pondering trying to be back in Niamey to help with end-of-the-academic-year duties. I would appreciate your prayers as I schedule my return.

I work closely with a Nigerien pastor named Boureima. He visited this summer, and I translated for him at a handful of churches. Three of these churches were new connections for me, and they represent future potential. The Bridge Mustang chose a Christian agricultural school in Niger to be the recipient of funds raised during VBS, and Pastor Boureima was very grateful.   


A few years ago, I wrote a Christmas sermon that I have preached multiple times in both French and English. It’s sort of an odd message for Christmas. But who wants to do things the way everyone else does them? Anyway, the message is founded on a Christmas passage, but it focuses on Elizabeth.

Luke 1:6 declares that Elizabeth was righteous in the sight of God. This judgement upon Elizabeth’s life came while she was barren, while she was dealing with the stigma of being the aging wife of an aging priest but having no children. Verse 25 indicates that Elizabeth had soaked in the ridicule from others. The disgrace that she felt didn’t come from God. Elizabeth declared, after she had conceived, that God had shown her favor, but she had received God’s favorable judgement long before. Her shame was fully terrestrial; God had appraised her life and found her righteous.

However, God had a plan, and it happened that God’s plan included a baby for Elizabeth, but her use in God’s plan didn’t raise her value. Perhaps, somewhere in the fateful events of those following moments and years, she discovered that she was valued even before becoming pregnant and that she would have been valued in God’s eyes had she remained barren the rest of her life. There were most likely several women in the radius of the first century Jewish world, judged righteous in God’s sight, who never gave birth. History will never know their names, but heaven does.

As the story unfolds, Elizabeth becomes a safe haven for Mary (Luke 1:39), who was also most definitely being accosted by societal shame. Elizabeth may have been the first person to fully believe Mary’s story of an angel visit and a virgin conception. Elizabeth and Mary were brave, faithful women whose lives would lead them into great heartbreak.

One of the things that the Christmas season should do is to make us reevaluate how we determine value. The world, and often most Christian institutions, judge value based upon tangible, visible assets. We often use the preposition through to describe difficult situations. But John the Baptist was beheaded, and Jesus was tortured and crucified. Sometimes, Christians die of disease and are victims of violent crime. Often, as Christians live in a sinful world, they must deal with daily difficulties that will only improve in eternity.

Elizabeth believed that she needed a baby to be valued in God’s sight, but her righteous way of life deemed her valuable to God, with or without a child. Earthly social constructs of success never, on their own, bring about God’s favor. Elizabeth’s community poured shame upon her. Christians today must guard themselves so as to be sources of life, instead of death.


Merry Christmas everyone! And Fofo!
There are no videos this time, but here are several pictures.
The top photo is taken at the Niamey airport. A few of Mikey’s friends were there to say farewell.