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Newsletter Fall 2012

Dear Friends,

I have been in Niger for several weeks now.  It is good to be back.  Truly, I could not have imagined any better scenario.  Friends of Faith has provided the structure that I need, and my supporters have provided the finances that are required.  My African friends have accepted me into their community, and people I’ve never met are praying for me.  Life is pretty good.

One of the most common questions that I get asked goes something like this: How do you know that you have been called to leave home and live overseas?  I become silent and reflective.  I don’t actually feel at home anywhere; I’m just passing through.  The truth is, I really don’t enjoy living in Niger.  Niger is very, very, very hot and lacks most modern conveniences.  Of all the places on the planet that I could choose from, I probably could have picked out a more enjoyable destination.  I didn’t leave my family and friends for the fun of it.  I’ve often thought that God doesn’t care much about what I want.  God’s desire for me (and every Christian) is that I make disciples.  So, I surveyed my experiences and decided that a location in Africa would be a good fit for me.  I spent 8 years of my childhood in French Africa.  I also lived in Niger for 4 years immediately after college and had established a solid network of both Africans and expatriates.  After two years in the States, I wanted to return to Africa, and Niger seemed to be the best choice.  I don’t know if I am called any more than any other Christian, but I saw a need and thought I could fill it.  That is why I am here. 

 I desire to work with new African Christians.  When I first arrived, I didn’t exactly know how I was going to find new Christians.  I had been in Niger for about a month when I was introduced to Adame.  Adame is a driver for a local non-profit and had been led in the sinner’s prayer by a member of a short term mission team.  About a week later, my main contact in Niger, pastor Boureima, introduced me to a parishioner who had recently become a Christian.  I recently ate dinner with this man, Amadou, and was able to open a relationship with him.  Pray for Adame and Amadou as they grow in their faith and interact with their non-Christian families.

Boureima is the director of a Nigerien non-profit and the reason I am able to live in Niger legally.  Most churches in Niger have no problem finding converts; they have a problem keeping them.  So, we will be launching a new strategy in October.  The strategy basically amounts to the implementation of a cell-group structure.  At the moment, the idea is for small groups of Christians to meet every Friday in various locations around the city.  Non-Christian friends will hopefully feel more comfortable with meeting in a home rather than at a church building.  The cell-group structure also provides a broader surface-area for better discipleship and fellowship among believers.  This change of structure represents a major shift in approach; change is never comfortable.  Pray that this church would be willing to make the adjustments which are necessary for the development of healthy Christians.

I maintain relationships with certain humanitarian relief agencies here in Niger.  On occasion, I offer my vehicle and my French to help with projects.  I am looking into the possibility of funding a small grain distribution event.  A few opportunities for teaching have also presented themselves.  Pray for me as I decide which ventures would be the best use of my time.

Niger fights a continual battle with the Sahara Desert, and I never thought I would see the day when people in Niger would be hoping for the rain to stay away.  But this is the wettest rainy season that Niger has seen in many decades.  The Niger River is the highest and broadest it has been since records were started in 1929.  The flood hit Niamey (the capital and most populous city) the hardest.  Local floodwaters and a broken dam in Mali caused the river to swell.  The dike along the river failed, causing the resulting flood to be quick and disastrous.  In Niger, about 65 people were killed while thousands have lost homes and gardens.  However, we would rather have a season with too much rain than a season with no rain.  This amount of rain is generally good for the fields and should raise the water table for several years into the future.  The flood is the topic of conversation here in Niamey; but in general, life for most of the city has varied very little.

The flood has further complicated an already complicated situation in the country.  In recent months, refugees from Mali and Libya have been taxing food supplies that were already weak.  Political instability in these two countries as well as in Nigeria has caused problems for Niger.  Mild unrest has also resulted from the recent portrayal of Mohamed in videos and magazines.  At the moment, the political and emotional climate in Niger seems calm but stressed.  

Here is funny story.  I recently traveled to Tunisia with a friend who is a senior at the missionary high school.  Classes had been canceled due to the flood, and we decided to take a spontaneous trip.  Tunisia is well described as the Italy of Africa.  It is home to Roman ruins, beaches, and modern infrastructure, but it is still Africa with many of the same quirks.  Ray and I tried to navigate the complicated metro system.  No maps could be found and half the signs were missing.  One day, we were using the metro when we determined that we had gone too far.  The train stopped, and we decided to exit.  I jumped out, the door slammed behind me, and I turned around to see Ray standing in the door waving goodbye.  We hadn’t discussed what we would do if we ever got separated, so I laughed heartily and sat down on the nearest bench to begin reading a book.  Eventually, Ray returned.  Jesus lived in close quarters with his disciples; I wonder if they ever dealt with similar common-life experiences.

Once again, I want to thank all of you who pray and give so that I can work here in Niger.  I couldn’t do it without you!  My financial income so far has been steady, like I knew it would be.  I would also like to say “Thank You,” to a few specific people.  Ken Isom is the treasurer of Friends of Faith and works closely with my budget.  My mother prints and mails these wonderful paper newsletters.  Daniel Woodward built my website for me and occasionally checks up on its functionality.  Dave and Hope Johansson have graciously let me stay at their house here in Niger. Thanks.   By the way, I beleive I have finally found a house to rent. 

The information in these letters tends to be rather general.  If you would like more details about what I am doing in Niger, you can find stories and explanations on my website.  If the information on the website is insufficient, please send me a note using the contact page of the site, and I will reply as soon as I can.