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The Day of the Ram

The Day of the Ram


I have successfully settled into life in Niamey. I left on April Fool’s Day; thankfully, the pilot didn’t fly us to LA instead of Charlotte. I was able to spend a few restful days in various European countries as I journeyed back to Niger.

I returned to Niger at a rather odd time, when the activities of both the international academy and the Bible school were winding down. Hot season was also in full swing. I proctored several tests at the academy, taught a two-week course at the Bible school, and spent much time taking showers. I also completed an editing project for Africa’s Hope, a wing of Assemblies of God World Missions. Other than that, life has been relatively slow without Mikey. Speaking of, Mikey successfully completed Army bootcamp and is currently in training to be a radio technician. As I said, hot season was at its face-melting peak when I arrived. Texas recently seems to have tried to mimic Niger’s 112 F ̊. Niger has currently cooled off to highs of about 100 ̊. I did not send the face-melt to Texas and/or Oklahoma.

On Easter, I attended a Latin Mass at one of the many historic churches in Krakow, Poland. I don’t recall which church specifically; people in Poland call Krakow the “city of churches.” I simply found a medieval cathedral and wandered in, and I happened to do my wandering right before a service was scheduled to start. It was a very interesting experience. Along with a small crowd, I was herded by a smiley, friendly monk to occupy the choir stalls that lined the walls near the podium. The stalls (a very good name for them) seemed to have been designed for discomfort. Nobody wants slumbering singers. Since French is a Latin language, I did catch a smattering of words, along with notable biblical names. At the conclusion, we were welcomed to take Communion. Catholic Communion involves quite a bit of communion, and I had no desire to sip from a communal goblet or have a tiny morsel of bread dabbed onto my tongue by a stranger (regardless of how smiley). So, out of respect (and out of ignorance of the system), I chose not to partake. However, Covid may have changed the ritual because they divvied out individual wafers and did not use a common cup. If I had realized that earlier, I might have made a different decision. In the end, I found watching others partake in Communion to be oddly peaceful.

The Muslim world recently celebrated a day that inevitably reminds me of Christian Easter. Eid al-Adha, known in Africa as Tabaski, celebrates the day when God stopped Abraham from sacrificing Ishmael. The older Jewish story presents Isaac as the son being saved, and of course it is the Jewish telling that Christians follow. Almost all other details in the story remain the same. The fact that Abraham lived in a cultural context that venerated human sacrifices probably played some role; but in any case, Abraham demonstrated his faith in God by preparing to offer his son as a sacrifice. However, God manifested his character and stopped Abraham, and then God provided a ram for the offering. The Muslim celebration involves slowly roasting a whole ram that has been placed an ex-shaped wooden brace. In much of the African world, the butchering and roasting takes place in front of homesteads and in the broad spaces of open streets (most of which are unpaved). Another name for the holiday is ” the day of mutton” (like “turkey day”). Holidays like these provide the common person with the rare opportunity to eat meat. A Christian who drives around Niamey during Tabaski will see dozens, maybe hundreds, of sacrificed rams stretched out on crossbeams. The similarity to Jesus is blatant.

The explicit visuals of the Muslim traditions are fully tethered to authentic life. The animal is split open in the yard, wooden poles are driven through the sinews, and hours pass as the meat is roasted. The men take care of the butchering process, and the women cook the organs and prepare the side dishes. Friends and family spend the day talking, eating, and praying. Every Easter, I am reminded of rams flayed open with beams driven through their bodies; and every Tabaski, I am reminded of Jesus flayed open on the cross with our sins on his shoulders.

I am continually honored by your prayers and financial donations as I endeavor to from some semblance of peaceful stability. Mikey and I returned to Oklahoma last June (2022). The months spent preparing Mikey for enlistment were not easy, and I appreciated your encouragement. Thank you so much for your support.

Video 1:
In this video, I drive past a group of people who are slaughtering and preparing rams for the Tabaski holiday. I try to be discreet, so much of the video is of the interior of my car. However, look to the left, and you will see rams stretched out on ex-shaped crosses and being roasted. Look to the right, and you will see a group of men on the ground butchering a ram.

Video 2:
This video was taken from the stage at a Bible school graduation.

The pictures below were taken at the recent graduation for the Bible school where I teach.

The pictures below were taken during the recent Muslim festival called Tabaski.

The pictures below were taken on my voyage back to Niger.

The pictures below are of Mikey. He recently graduated from bootcamp.