Saturday, December 31, 2011

where we've been

The following is a letter I wrote to our Songhai Team as 2011 draws to a close.  I wanted to share it with you as well:

Have you ever noticed that it’s hard to see growth, at least on a daily basis?  To just look at Isabelle I would say she pretty much looks the same as she did this time last year.  However, behind our kitchen door we keep a chart to measure her height.  It is when we compare today’s mark with last years that I see how much she has grown in a year. 

It’s hard to see growth in ministry too.  When you’re in the trenches day in and day out, it’s tough to pause and look back on where you’ve come from.  It’s tempting to think, “We’re where we were this time last year.” 

Now the problem is that we don’t have a spot behind a kitchen door to measure this kind of growth.   That’s why I’m writing this.  I hope to put a couple "markers on the door" of Songhai ministry to be able to see what God has done this past year. 

Here are just some of the highlights:

·      Two villages that had previously had NO believers now have a witness.  Read that sentence again.  Two villages that for their entire existence have not had anyone believe or anyone to be a light now have a Gospel witness! 
·      27 men and women prayed to receive Christ and were baptized!
·      The Gospel was clearly preached in 16 different villages.
·      Two men, both in their 50’s and from different villages share the same testimony: “I’ve been waiting 20 years for someone to tell me about Jesus.”
·      A new long-term unit joined our team.
·      We hosted 12 volunteer teams and 2 summer interns. 
·      We established a three-year partnership with Living Hope Baptist Church who will be sending 4 teams a year to work on “The Road to Karma.”
·      We re-upped our partnership with FBC Hurst as they continue to minister on the Mehanna Road.
·      We established a new partnership with Mount Olive Baptist Church.
·      We created the E2E ministry strategy and implemented it in all our work.
·      We trained and sent out our first short term national partners.

It is clear to see how powerfully God has moved this past year.  Thank you for your faithfulness and your obedience to engage, equip, and empower the Songhai!

Together, advancing the Kingdom of Christ in Songhai lands,

Friday, December 30, 2011

thank you to 2011 teams

We have been reminded over and over in 2011 about the power of prayer.  We've seen God do some amazing things that we just can't explain away with strategy or personal cleverness.  God simply did what only God can do and we were so blessed to have a front-row view.  We cannot tell you enough times how grateful we are for your faithful prayers over the past year.  You are such a huge and critical part of our ministry among the Songhai.

Volunteer teams also play a huge and critical role in our work among the Songhai.  We are continually amazed that God is burdening more and more hearts in churches in the States to come and share the Good News with the Songhai.  So many Songhai heard the name of Jesus for the first time because a small group from the States was willing to come and speak the name of Jesus.

We just wanted to take a blog post to thank you, our prayer partners and the 12 (12th actually comes in tomorrow) short term teams we hosted in 2011!

Thank you:
Living Hope Baptist Church, Bowling Green, KY
First Baptist Church Hurst, Hurst, TX
Emily and Erin - Summer Interns from Living Hope
Trammell Creek Baptist Church, Greensburg, KY
IMB Media Team from South Africa
Mount Olive Baptist Church, Knoxville, TN
Shawn Perry, Blake Richey, and Tom Bardwell
First Baptist Church, Franklin, KY

We are so grateful that you took the Gospel where it had never been before!  We look forward to seeing you again soon on this side of the pond!

The Songhai Team

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Weekly Prayer Focus: Boubon

Please be in prayer for Boubon this week. As you know, the Foxes have officially moved to Boubon & are getting settled into life there. Please pray for them as they walk the streets of Boubon each day. Pray that they would be bold to share their faith. Pray that they would find men & women of peace. Pray that they would begin to form deep, meaningful relationships with a few key people in Boubon. Pray for their children to begin to develop friendships as well as get a grasp of the language. Pray for quick adjustments to life in a village.

Pray for M*, our national partner, who continues to spend time in Boubon discipling the believers. Pray that he would continue to be bold in sharing his faith with others in the village. Pray that he would be faithful to teach the believers the Word & disciple them. Pray that God would protect him as he travels each week from Niamey to Boubon & back. Pray for him as he conducts a Christmas gathering for the first time in Boubon. He hopes to show the Jesus film & read the Christmas story from God's word as well as share a meal with the believers & their families. Pray that ears would be opened & hearts would be changed.

Pray for the believers: Sam*, the first believer in Boubon. Pray that as he celebrates his first Christmas, he would share this wonderful story with his family who has yet to believe. Pray that his family would hear the Truth & understand it & believe. Pray for Zach*, the newest believer in Boubon. Pray for his faith to grow exponentially as he learns more & more of God's Word. Pray that he would also be faithful to share his faith with his friends & family.

Pray that many, many more would come to faith in Jesus Christ in Boubon. Pray that Boubon may see it's first church in 2012.

Monday, December 19, 2011

NEW Songhai shirts!!

The most AWESOME designer Joneo has created some fabulous new shirts for the Songhai team for 2012!! A lot of our volunteers from 2011 took the Songhai logo template to their printers & had shirts made for their trips. It was so cool to see the Songhai logo walking all over Niger last year!

Well Joneo has stepped it up a notch & designed a new shirt for this year! As you all know, one of our founding principles as a Songhai team is that God's sheep will hear His voice. It affects everything we do in terms of our ministry. Joneo & Mark collaborated to put that idea into a t-shirt. We absolutely love how it turned out!

So if you are planning on heading this way next year, print out the instructions (or email us for a PDF file with specific logo sizes) & take them to your printer. Print it on a green shirt, blue shirt, black shirt ... we don't care! Even if you are not heading this way this year but the Songhai have become a huge part of your heart & life, we'd love for you to represent in the States!

The instructions are easy. Print the design, take it to your local printer & ask them to cut it out & print it on a shirt (they have fancy gadgets for scanning it in & getting it on the shirt), pick it up & pay for it when it's ready & then look cool in your new sheep shirt.

Fox Family Prayer Letter

If you would like to also be a part of the Fox's prayer team (specific to their family & ministry in Boubon), please email them (found at bottom of newsletter).

news from Gomer: December 2011

Dear Friends,

I want to thank you for your prayers and support.  It has been two years now since I came to Accra to seek the Songhai.

As Christmas approaches I want to take the opportunity to Praise God for giving us His Son Jesus.  Praise God this little baby came to be our Savior. I want to take this time to also praise God for all He is doing here.

Praise God for healing Darin* and giving him strength.  He told me the other day he felt better than he had in quite some time.  It is good to have him laughing and smiling again.  Pray for Darin*, he is caught between the life, values and faith of a Muslim, and trying to understand and accept that Jesus is the true way to God.

Praise God for our two little schools we have started here for the Songhai people.  We are trying to be a part of the life of the Songhai here in a helpful manner.  We have heard them say they needed education and we have tried to come alongside them and help them create educational opportunities.   Trinity Baptist is running the evening classes in Nima and Youso a Songhai man is running the evening classes in the Onion Market.  Pray that through these classes God will touch many lives. That through relationships formed in the schools, through being able to hear and understand, through being able to read God's word that many will come to know Jesus as their Savior.  Pray for our little schools as we are to seek ways to fund them.

Praise God for the many Songhai friends we have here.  Mitch* pointed out not too long ago that when I first came here, I could hardly find the Songhai, but now everyday they find us!  Praise God that many are hearing the words of God and are being exposed to Jesus for the first time in their lives.  Pray that God will pierce their hearts with His loving kindness and the truth will penetrate their lives and many will come to accept Jesus as Savior and Lord.

Praise God for the Onion Guys.  They have become as family in so many ways.  They come early in the mornings, drink Nescafe, tea and hot chocolate.  Eat bread and sit and talk, take a quick nap, and then go out for a day of selling onions on the streets.  They come back late in the day tired, hungry and thirsty.  They eat more bread, drink more coffee, tea and hot chocolate, they rest up a bit and head out to the places they sleep for the evening.  We laugh together, and we cry together.  They have given me glimpses of the life of being a onion seller from a third world country in West Africa.  God has shown me a greater picture of the depths of His Love.  Pray for the onion guys, pray that they will all one day know Jesus as Savior.

Praise God for the families back in Niger of the onion guys.  I get an occasional call ever now and then asking how is someones son, are they alright, are they healthy, are we helping them be good men.  I hear from the guys of Moms and Dads they miss and long to see again.  I hear stories of home and I see in their eyes the longing to go home for many of them.  Pray for the families of these young men.  Pray that through the work here many of these families will also be exposed to the Gospel and that they will have the opportunity to accept the truth of Jesus as Savior.

Praise God for Mitch* and his family.  They are truly wonderful people and I have grown so very close to them.  I praise God for putting a man and his family like them here to be a family to me, to be a partner in this ministry with me, someone to encourage me, to show me the way sometimes and to help me understand people who are so culturally different from me.  God has used Mitch* to show me so many things, to help me to understand so much and to be a good friend.    Pray for this family, that God will bless them, that as they seek to understand Him better they will be drawn to minister together also.  Pray for Mitch's wife as she is seeking Jesus, as she tries to understand all that is going on inside her heart and mind right now.  Pray for the children, M and U.  Pray for the expected little addition to the family.  He or she is due to arrive sometime in March.  Pray for a healthy baby and a healthy mommy.  Pray for Mitch as he tries to be strong and supportive throughout this time.

Praise God for the H family.  They are Southern Baptist International Mission Board missionaries here and have truly become great friends.  They run the logistics of three West African countries from here and have helped me so much in so many ways.  They helped me get my immigration papers through the system, helped me get housing I could afford, they have done so much for me words can never do them service.  My first bout with malaria Jimmy went and bought the medicine I needed and made a special trip here to bring it too me.  They have helped us in our daily lives and in the ministry, the onion guys all know them.  I praise God for them always.  Pray for them, after 22 years in West Africa, they are set to retire in April.   They will be moving back to the US to care for aging parents.  They and the work they do here will be greatly missed.  Pray for the young couple, the W family, who have come here to fill in for them when they retire.
  • Praise God for healing Darin*, praise Him for healing many of these young guys when they have become sick or wounded.
  • Praise God and pray for our little schools.
  • Praise God and pray for our many Songhai friends here.
  • Praise God and pray for the Onion Guys.
  • Praise God and pray for the families of the Onion Guys.
  • Praise God and pray for Mitch* and his family.
  • Praise God and pray for the H family.
  • Praise God and pray for the W family.
  • Pray for me that I will always and only seek to do the will of God as we seek the Songhai and minister to them.
       In His Service,

december 2011 newsletter

Dear Prayer Partners,

Can y'all believe that it is December?! This year is almost finished! We can hardly believe it, but as we look back at the last year, we are so thankful for all God has done among the Songhai. Thank you for PRAYING! We are MOST thankful for your faithful prayers for the Songhai people & we are in AWE at how many of those prayers we've seen answered first hand. Oh to recount all the things that God has done this year as a result of your prayers!! It has been an incredible year of ministry & your prayers have played a VITAL role in it! Thank you!!

Thank you for GIVING! As you most of you well know, your gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering are what keep us here. They give us a roof over our heads, a car to drive, gas to fill the tank, funds to support our ministry as well as pay our salary! We could not do what we do or be where we are without your gifts! Thank you, on behalf of the Songhai team & every other IMB missionary across the world, for giving to this offering & helping spread the name of Christ to those that have never heard.

And thank you for GOING! We had such a busy year this year with lots of volunteers (& even MORE signed up for 2012!). We are so grateful for the time & resources you sacrificed so that you personally could share His love with the Songhai - with those that have never heard or to encourage those that have made the hard, yet life changing, choice to follow Him. Thank you for also encouraging us with your presence & friendships!

Words simply cannot describe how thankful we are for each of you. I'm almost in tears as I type this because I really wish I could convey just how much we love & appreciate your commitment to pray for a people halfway across the world, so that they might know Christ as their Savior! Thank you. We cannot wait to see all God does in 2012!

that ALL may know HIM,

Mark & Parker <><

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Weekly Prayer Focus: Mehanna Road

Please be in prayer for the believers on the Mehanna Road this week. For the last 3.5 years, there has been a constant Christian presence on the Road; a national partner that has committed his time to sharing the Gospel & discipling those that believe.

The Songhai team has been blessed with 2 national partners (L&A) who committed so much of their time & efforts to the people on this road. Unfortunately, their time there has come to an end. We wish these men the best as one begins a new life with his bride & the other begins a new journey of his own. We are grateful for their many years partnering with us in sharing the Message with the Songhai.

For those on the Mehanna Road who have chosen to believe, however, they no longer these national partners but they do have each other. They have the Word (whether in written or oral form) & they have the lessons that have been taught to them from the discipleship conferences or when members of First Hurst have spent time on the road.

Please pray for these men as they continue to grow in their relationship with Christ. Pray that they will continue in any of the meetings that L&A had begun with them. Pray they will grow into a church. Pray that they will take the torch, so to speak, & be the light in their communities & villages. Pray they will grow in unity & love for one another. Pray that the absence of these national partners would make their own faith grow stronger.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Volunteer Testimony: FB Hurst, Discipleship Conference


    We, a team of three from FBC Hurst, Texas, arrived in Niamey on October 18th to conduct a conference for the believers of the surrounding villages.  There were eighteen men from the villages along with five other believers from the local church in which the conference was held.  There were farmers, fisherman, a metal worker, a merchant, and a gardener, all attending to grow in their faith as well as to worship and fellowship with other believers. The focus of the conference was to equip each man to tell his testimony, present the gospel, and be able to tell the Creation to Christ story.  In addition we sang hymns, prayed, ate meals, played games, laughed and cried together.  The thread that bound us all together is the belief in and a love for Jesus Christ. It was a beautiful picture of the church at work. At the end of the conference, we the teachers were humbled and blessed as each of the believers had contributed from their meager resources to purchase each of us a gift. It is the first time in my four years of going to Niger that I have seen African men, out of love; want to do something for me. We are amazed at how God is working in the lives. We ask that you pray these men will be bold in carrying the Gospel to their villages.  

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Weekly Prayer Focus: Songhai Team

Please be in prayer for the Songhai Team this week.

Pray for the Phillips who will be traveling to the US for vacation for the month of November. We will be visiting 6 states in 30 days, so rest will be hard to come by. We will also be spending time with some of our partnering churches & also doing research in the States to try & locate the Songhai who live there. As many of you know, traveling with 2 small children is not for the faint of heart! Pray that the other passengers on the flights with us will have patience & grace with us as we also try to have patience & grace with our children!

Pray for the Saleebys as they work in Niamey & in villages to train our believers in discipleship & leadership. Pray for wisdom for Randy as he works with these believers. Pray for Susan as she works in Kids' Clubs twice a week in Niamey and as she visits women in the capital city as well. Pray for understanding to hear & ability to speak the language. Pray for God to give both of them opportunities to share His love & His Word.

Pray for the Foxes who are finishing up their last month of language. They will be doing more class time this month (going from classes 4x/week to 5 days per week). It will be intense times of language & longer days but this will be the last push before they move to their village full-time. Pray that their minds will stay sharp during class, they will find times to use their language outside of class, & they will find times to rest amidst their new schedule. Pray also for their girls who are continuing to adjust to their new home & surroundings. Pray that they would also begin to understand & grasp the language & be able to make friends.

Thank you for being so committed to not only pray for the Songhai people but our team as we work among them!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Volunteer Testimony: Blake Richey (video)

Earlier this month, we posted the daily recaps & testimonies of Blake's trip here in September. His wife put together a great video of pictures as well. Feel free to watch it!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Weekly Prayer Focus: Believers - Now What?

Thank you so much for praying this last week for the believers that attended the Discipleship Conference in Niamey that was hosted by First Baptist Church Hurst, Texas. There were about 20 in attendance & they came from all over the Songhai countryside. There came from the Mehanna Road, Tera, Boubon, Ayorou & village ND. They learned about sharing their faith & their testimonies with others, how to share the C2C story & how to be "salt & light" to their communities.

Please be in prayer for them as they have returned home. For some, they are in a village with other believers who meet weekly to study the Word. They have a community of fellow brothers & sisters in Christ. They have unity & fellowship. But for most, they are the sole believer in their villages. They are outcasts. They are persecuted for their faith. They have no one to study the Bible with & no community. When they are around their fellow brothers in a time of intense discipleship, it is a great blessing for them. But it's always hard to return home to "reality."

Pray for God to guard their minds & their hearts; to store within them the promises of His Word that they learned this week; to plant hope & assurance in their hearts; to grant them wisdom & boldness of how to share their faith with their families & friends; and that He would call out others, through the testimonies of these believers, in the village to follow Him.

Pray that the believers would be obedient to share, even when persecution is at stake. Pray they would remain strong in their faith even when it goes far against the norm of the society they live in. Pray they would speak the name of Jesus boldly & often even when they know rejection is at stake ... but doing it so that ALL may hear HIS name!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Africa Stories

The IMB's media team came to Niger to capture the Songhai in story, video & photos in August. They shot hours worth of video, interview volunteers on the field & believers in the villages & took thousands of pictures. All of their work has culminated into three amazing stories, 2 unbelievable videos & a photo gallery of the Songhai people. Please take a moment to visit their site ( & look at what is going on among the Songhai people or to learn a little bit more about the people you pray for each month.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Volunteer Testimony: Blake Richey (September 2011)

I "stole" these journal entries from Blake's family blog. I couldn't pick just one day so I posted all of them here for you to read & enjoy.

Day 1:
"Today was another great day for the Lord here in Africa. We had the opportunity to disciple 7 new believers in the N.D. Village. When we arrived, the believers came up and welcomed us unto the village. Shortly thereafter we found ourselves surrounded by a crowd of nearly 40 people consisting of men, women, and children all there to hear the message we had brought. The fact that several women were there was very interesting. This is usually not the case. They were all very engaged in the message and began to discuss it afterwards. Mark and our translator Cephus questioned these ladies on the fact that they said they do believe what we were saying to confirm the gospel. They did acknowledge this and indicated that one of the other believers would Baptize them tomorrow. This was very encouraging to see this response from so many people at one time. After this time with them, we walked through their village and then on down to the river. When we got there we had another opportunity to sit down under a tree to answer questions and tell a couple of bible stories to the same 7 guys along with some other men that had walked up to hear what we were saying. At this time, we had a couple of guys asking questions which allowed us to share some life experiences as to how we pray and also what we do when a child is born into the world. This was another encouraging time of discipleship as we finished our time in the village"

Day 2:
"Today we traveled to Niamey to Aroyou to spend time and disciple some believers in this village.  The morning consisted of them welcoming us into the village and also learning more about where they are in their walk. After having lunch at a local market, we went out with Ibrahim to work in this field.  It was very hot out there but we all enjoyed our time walking along side out brothers.  Once we got back, Tom and I shared our testimonies with Bouba.  When Bouba was ask to start telling his testimony, he gave us a brief description of when he was saved and then from there started going through the gospel with us.  From Adam and Eve in the garden, to Noah and then to Christ dying on the cross for our sins.  This was amazing because he has not read any portion of the scripture that would tell him this.  He truly has learned from his other brothers along with listening to a radio that is already loaded with the new testament in his native language.  Near the end of the afternoon, 3 ladies walked up and sit down next to Santos. Santos is a believer and has been sharing the word with them. It was at this time these ladies verbally said they believed.  They agreed to be baptized in the morning, which is great.
We ended the day by hanging out with these people as we set up camp for the night.  Tomorrow is already shaping up to be another exciting day, since we will be starting it with 3 baptisms!  We are all looking forward to what will happen tomorrow."

Day 3:
"Our time in Ayorou has come to an end.  We started the day by having breakfast in the village market.  I had no idea what to expect here, but we had omelets which were good and it was an interesting experience. Children would gather around us as we ate, waiting for left overs from our meal. It was humbling.  After breakfast, we went down to the river and baptized two young men that are new believers.  This was great to see these guys make their public profession of faith before their other brothers.  Please pray for "Z"'s family to accept them and his new faith in Christ.  He was fearful that his father would cast him out from the family.  Although, he was fearful of this, he still wanted to proceed with baptism! Later in the morning two of the three ladies from yesterday returned to be baptized.  We loaded the truck back up again and headed down to the river.  This time *Abe* had the honor of baptizing his new sisters in Christ.  Neither of these women were married which Mark and Cephus said was out of the ordinary.  Most women believers are married.  On both occasions we took several pictures with our new brothers and sisters in Christ to celebrate along with them. Before we left for the day, we spent more time with our brothers encouraging them in their faith and letting them know how much we appreciated our time in the village with them.  It is truly amazing to see them share their faith and also their dedication in serving the Lord everyday."

Day 4:
"Today was moving day for The "F" family.  J & S are new missionaries here that will be primary working in Boubon.  This morning we met over the Compound to load a moving truck with their furniture. Once we got everything loaded we begin the trip to to the village.  Upon arriving there, many people in the village came up to greet us.  These people ended doing more than greeting us.  They helped us unload this truck and carry the furniture into their new house.  It almost seemed at one time we had too much help, but we certainly didn't say no. We had planned to spend some time this morning with the only believer in the village.  However, he was really sick today and was not able to visit with us.  Pray that he will be feeling well again soon.  Since we didn't spend time with "S", we went to greet the chief of the village.  The chief wasn't there so we greeted his wife "H", and she was very welcoming.  We really enjoyed our short visit with her.  This afternoon we were craving something that none of us had since we had left the states. That craving was a hamburger, french fries, and a coke!  While eating here at the Embassy we fellowshipped with other missionaries in the area.  Tomorrow we will be heading out for a long day in the villages of Kakassi and Koulikoira. There is only ONE believer in each village.  Pray for them to be receptive to the gospel." 

Day 5:
"Our last day here on the field in Africa we spent our time in the villages of Kakassi and Koulikoira.  We headed out this morning for a short drive.  Along the way we had the opportunity to experience a ferry boat ride in getting over to these villages.  As Mark would say, another item to check off the Africa to do list. It was certainly interesting to say the least.  When arriving in Kakassi we had the opportunity to be greeted by "I" at his compound.  He is the ONLY believer in this village.  To be able to spend more quality time with him, we went out to the field to help him out him some farming.  As we were finishing and walking back to the truck, another guy walked up and started talking with us.  This turned out to be his brother.  So during our time of discipleship with "I" we had the chance to share the gospel with his brother.  He seemed very receptive but wasn't ready to make a commitment either way.  Although, one interesting point was after he finished praying in Arabic, Cephas asked him if he knew what he just prayed.  His answer was NO.  This certainly proves that most of the Songhai truly believe in a Folk Islam and they don't actually communicate with God, they just repeat prayers. Pray that God will continue to work in this man's life.  We felt like he showed up there for a reason, so we remained hopeful at the same time.  After taking a short break for lunch, we headed on over to Koulikoira.  We were going there just to stop by and encourage the only believer in this village.  When we arrived, "D" greeted us and you could instantly tell he was very excited to see us.  He invited us into his compound and while there we had the opportunity to pray with him about his son.  He has not had any contact with his son in close to 2 years and he is very concerned about him.  He feels like he has spent a lot of time and money searching for him and at this point would just like to know if he's even alive. We shared with him Proverbs 3: 5-6 and just encouraged him to trust in the Lord with this situation.  Lastly he let us know that the next time Mark and a team come to the village, he wanted to know so that he could gather some other people around.  These are people that he feels like are very interested in the gospel and could make a decision.  How great this was to hear about such a wonderful opportunity to share the gospel. "

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Songhai "Top 25"

A couple of years ago, before we had the Songhai blog, we did a Top 25 list on the Songhai in one of our newsletters. I thought it'd be fun to post it here for those of you who might want to know an extra thing or two about the people you pray for each month:

Here are 25 things you may or may not know about the Songhai:

  1. The Songhai kingdom was established around 680 AD (that’s over 800 years before America was discovered!)
  2. There are around 3 million Songhai people stretched across Niger, Mali & Burkina Faso
  3. Most live along the Niger River
  4. Most are subsistent farmers (they grow enough food to live on, not to sell)
  5. The Songhai were once all animists (their religious beliefs were grounded in their belief in a spirit world that is comprised of ancestors & other spirits)
  6. Towards the end of the 1400’s, the Songhai were forced to convert to Islam by the sword
  7. Around 1450, the Songhai were at the height of their dynasty & the dominate power in West Africa
  8. The Songhai believe that their is an underwater spirit world in the Niger River where ancient spirits reside & people can visit
  9. Islam is superficially important but spirit possession, magic, sorcery, & witchcraft remain the vital components of their beliefs
  10. Islamic law allows a man to have up to four wives but Songhai men can usually only afford one
  11. The Songhai are 99.5% Muslim
  12. 85% are illiterate
  13. Three out of 5 Songhai children will die before their 5th birthday due to illness or malnutrition
  14. The average Songhai makes around $400 each year
  15. They do everything with their right hand except for one thing. (Let’s just say that they have not taken advantage of the wonderful invention that is toilet paper)
  16. If a Songhai man dies, the wife must remain in her house for 4 months & 1 week.
  17. The Songhai have a proverb that says, “A log can float in water for a long time but will never become a crocodile.”
  18. The first chief of Ayorou was a woman
  19. The Songhai survive in one of the harshest climates in the world with heat indexes that reach 150 & little rainfall
  20. The Songhai live in Timbuktu, Mali (yes, it really exists!)
  21. The Songhai believe that one must not tell someone his or her baby is cute, as it is believed to bring evil upon the child
  22. The physical care of children is dedicated entirely to the mother of the family
  23. A child becomes an adult at the age of 15. A girl will be eligible for marriage at this age if she is not in school. Men marry around the age of 21
  24. Southern Baptists currently have 7 people working among the Songhai
  25. The Songhai are less than 0.2% Christian

I don’t know if you’ve learned anything new about the Songhai or not but maybe one thing you have been reminded of is that they have lived in darkness for centuries; they’ve been blind to the Truth of the Gospel & have yet to bend their knees to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

But there is hope! And we are seeing light breaking through. The veils are slowly being removed. Your prayers are bringing them to their knees! Please do not cease in praying for them!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Weekly Prayer Focus: Discipleship Conference

Please be in prayer for the Discipleship Conference that is being held for the Songhai believers in Niamey. The conference begins tomorrow (Thursday) & runs through Sunday. Pray for the team from Hurst, Texas as well as they study & prepare their lessons for the believers.

Many of the believers that will be here are brand new Christians. The majority are less than 6 months old in their walks with Christ. Pray that they would soak up each & every lesson as they are going to be fed TONS of new information about God, the Bible & their new faith. Pray that nothing would distract them during their time here in the capital. Pray they would grow by leaps & bounds in their wisdom & knowledge of the Lord. Pray they would grow in love for their fellow brothers who will be here. Pray that God would grant them boldness & confidence in their faith & they would have a burning desire to share His love with their villages.

Pray for the team to remain healthy as the heat has picked back up this month in what we like to call "mini hot season." Pray for their minds to remain sharp & for them to allow God to speak through them. Pray that God would give them wisdom as they teach & prepare their lessons.

Update on the Foxes

Thank you all so much for praying for the Foxes' language evaluation this week. Just wanted to update you to tell you that they did VERY well!! This would probably be considered their "mid term" & right now they are on "fall break"! : )

They are heading out to their new home today & we'll spend an extended amount of time there before picking back up on language next month. (I don't want to give specifics for security's sake.) Please pray for them as they get adjusted to living the "village" life. Pray that their language would grow in leaps & bounds as they "put it to the test," so to speak. Pray that God would give them many opportunities to speak of His love & His salvation as they step outside their compound each day. Pray that they would begin to develop deep relationships with the people of their village. And pray for the people ... pray that as the Light goes forth that many would be called out of darkness!

Pray that their girls would adjust quickly as well & that they would find friends in the village. Pray that they would have quality time as a family ... which is sometimes very hard to do while trying to live in a village. Pray they would also have times of rest & refreshment in the Lord.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

october 2011

Dear Prayer Partners,

What a month, what a month!! The new village we told you about last month has continued to grow in numbers of those who have chosen to follow Christ! We are continually amazed at how God answers each of your prayers & that many, many more Songhai are choosing to follow Him. In case you didn't read Mark's recent blog post about this, you must realize that this is NOT the norm. This is the result of your prayers & of God faithfully calling His sheep & them hearing His voice. We are eternally grateful that you have committed to pray for the Songhai. Thank you for lifting them up, as well as our family & team, every day, week or month or however God has called you to pray. Thank you for being faithful & specific in your prayers & asking God to do something bigger than any of us could ever imagine ... to go against the "norm"!

that ALL may know HIM,

Mark & Parker <><

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Weekly Prayer Focus: the Foxes

Please be in prayer for the Foxes this week. They are gearing up for their first language evaluation, which will be held next Monday, October 17. They have spent almost 3 months in full-time language study & have been working hard to excel in the Zarma/Songhai language. They've spent 12 hours a week in classes plus numerous extra hours on their own studying the language & being "out & about" in Niamey attempting to use the language.

They've made great strides & have come a long way in 3 short months! But now's the time to see where they are at & how much more they need. Even though this is just an "evaluation" & not their actual language exam (which will be held somewhere in the first few months of 2012), it's still a stress point to feel as if you're being "graded."

Please pray for Jody & Sarah this week as they try to hone in on their already acquired language skills. Pray for them as they study & prepare for this evaluation which will include them giving their testimony in Songhai as well as simple introductions & conversations. Pray that they would be able to retain all they've learned & that it would come easily & natural to them. Pray that this would not be a point of major stress as they prepare for the evaluation. Pray that they would be confident in what they have already learned. Pray God would give them uninterrupted times of studying this week as they study.

Thank you so much for praying not only for the Songhai people & villages we work among but also for our team & our families. Getting the language is a huge deal here because it's how we communicate ... everything from getting our groceries to telling people about Christ's love for them. It's one of the most stressful times in all of a missionary's career but it's necessary & it's rewarding in the end.

Thank you for committing to pray for the Foxes this week & next Monday as they "endure" their first language evaluation!

Monday, October 3, 2011

not the norm

I've made a comment to our last two teams that I wanted to share on this blog.  Our last two teams have both been a part of 1) new believers coming to life in Christ and 2) discipleship of believers who hunger for God's Word.  The comment I've made to both of these teams is: "There are missionaries who spend their entire career on the field and don't get to see what you just saw."

The point is that this is not the norm, especially in places like Niger.  Especially in places the Gospel has never been before.  Especially in places that are some of the darkest places on earth.  And yet, it's happening.

I wish I could point to a clever strategy or a personal holiness that is at the root but I cannot.  I can simply point to a gracious God who loves the Songhai and is calling many of them to faith and new life through His Son.

I remember being told (before we came to Niger) that we might spend 5, 10, or even 20 years here and never see fruit.  We accepted that and were willing to live that calling out should it be ours.  However, I think at least a part of us held onto the conviction that God's sheep hear His voice and that God has sheep in the Songhai villages of Niger.

So we, and scores of volunteers, have sowed the seed for the past 5 years and, just as Jesus told us, there have been varied results.  But, and we are so humbled by this, we have been able to see much seed land on that good soil.

I wanted to share this with our 2 volunteer teams but I wanted to share it with you, too.  You may have never stepped foot in Songhai land but you're a part of this.  You may have not been the one to share the Gospel for the first time in a village, or baptize a new brother in the Niger River, or disciple a new believer but that does not mean you're not a critical part of all those things.

If we had to try and explain what's happening here I think our best chance would be the army of people faithfully praying for the salvation of the Songhai and our merciful Father hearing their pleas.

We're so grateful to be on this not so normal journey with you.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Weekly Prayer Focus: Ayorou (New Believers)

While Shawn & his team were here last week, they had the opportunity to witness three women & 2 men come to a saving faith in Christ. One of the team members even had the opportunity to baptize the newest male believers while Ibrahim baptized 2 of the 3 women.

Please pray for these new believers in Ayorou. The women are joining only one other female believer in this village. The men are joining a great group of men who have been following Jesus for a while. The men have met consistently over the past year or 2 to study & read together. Pray they take these new believers under their wings & intentionally disciple them in their new faith. Pray they open their arms to them as they leaves behind everything they've ever known.

Pray for the women as they grow in their new faith. Pray for Hamsatou as she now has women to meet with, pray with & study with together. Pray that she grows in her faith as she models for these new women a life of radical abandonment to Jesus. Pray for these women as they embark on this wonderful new journey of their life; pray God would be real to them, pray they would seek out ways to grow in their faith & knowledge of Him.

Pray for the church as a whole. Pray that it would remain unified. Pray that the more mature men in their faith would set aside cultural faux pas & invite these women into their Bible studies. Pray that they would seek ways to be culturally sensitive but also remain faithful to the Word as they meet with these women. Pray that they would see everyone as a part of one body, the church.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

news from Gomer: September 2011

Dear Friends,

I come to you today with some updates to some earlier prayer requests and some new requests for your intercessory prayer.  But first allow me to give a statement of apology for not keeping you better updated on the events and happenings here in the past month.  It has been incredible here the last few weeks.  We seem to go from one situation to the next without a break.  I have been blessed and have seen God at work and that has been worth the little of "hardship" I may think I experience.   God is great, faithful and Loving, praise Him!

First, How is Wyatt*?  Well, he is getting settled in again to life here in Accra.  We helped him build a new Kiosk and get some provisions so he can make a small business to provide for himself.  He is starting to gain some boldness back after seeing that God will provide and sustain him through all.  He is trying to learn how to be a Christian in an Islamic world and that is a tough situation to be in.  He still gets some scorn and ridicule, he gets old friends coming by to chastise him for forsaking the religion of Islam and some that won't come around at all.  He still needs our earnest prayers.  We want him to grow in his love of Jesus and to allow God to grow him into the Christian God wants him to be.  He sometimes has moments of fear and confusion but he is holding fast to Jesus, pray that God will continue to hold him close and that these feelings of fear and confusion will be lifted from him and replaced with love and boldness.

Please also Pray for Wyatt's friends and family, that they will see a change in Wyatt that could only come from a loving God and that they will seek to restore torn relationships with him. 

Pray for Michael*.  He is also going through a tough time as friends come to try to talk him out of what he knows is truth, which is Jesus as his Savior.  He is holding strong but he too is only human and times can get very tough for him as well.  He came to Mitch* and me just last week and was upset because some friends were coming around to insult him and he was not sure what to do in the situations it was putting him in.  We talked to him about loving our enemies as Jesus told us to do and as we talked you could see the eyes light up and he said he knew what he had to do.  He left saying he would just go to his friends and tell them to insult away, that he would love them and pray for them regardless.  Praise God for his desire to learn about Jesus.  Every time he gets in my truck he picks up the Bible I carry and starts to read, he will ask many questions due to his limited reading ability.  It is great to have discussion with him, he is a sweet spirit in Christ.  Continue to lift him up as we try to help him also get settled in to a new job.  He got injured a few months back and the job he had carrying the large onion bags was causing him to much pain and was starting to truly cripple him, so we have been trying to get him settled in the brokering business, so far it has been a little rocky but he is doing ok.

Pray as we (Mitch*, Michael* and I) prepare to go to Niger on the 3rd of October.  We are going to be flying up to Niamey and this is a huge prayer request as it is both expensive and also because it is both Mitch's and Michael's first ever flight!  I will be taking a few little baggies along just in case...  They are both looking forward to the flight, but more over we are all looking forward to reuniting with so many of the onion guys that have gone home to work the family farms.  We are wanting to spend a night in the village to be able to allow the ones who would like to, to come and visit to have a time of encouragement and bible stories and maybe listen to a cassette or two, but we are hitting a little snag there.  Seems we are not really big heroes in the village at this point, since some of the sons came back talking about Jesus and Christianity.  So be in prayer that God will lead us and give us great discernment and wisdom as we go. We also want to go visit with Wyatt's family, please lift this up in prayers.  We plan to spend as much time as we can finding family members of the guys still here in Accra to greet them and bring to them news of their sons.   We want this to be a time of strengthening relationships and sharing more of our loving God, His Son Jesus and the good news of the Gospel.

Pray for a couple of the guys that are wanting us to help them get to Niamey at the same time we are going.  They are trying to configure a way to go talk to a couple people there that are key figures in sharing Jesus with them.  I really want to help them go because these two are just bursting at the seems to ask a few key questions and are just that close to receiving Jesus as Savior.  Pray for these two because they are keeping a close eye on both Wyatt and Michael also, they are watching to see how God protects and provides for them.  Pray that I do the right thing in this, it is a lot of money and I must be a good Steward of God's money. So this is no small affair, especially after you couple it with the cost for Michael, Mitch and I to go.

Pray for us as we go also because Michael wants us to go with him when he tells his father of his decision to follow Jesus.   He is a little tentative about this but says he has to do it and that he believes his father will be happy for him, we will see.  I will be honest with you, I am and am not looking forward to this time.  I know the road to his father's house is long, but maybe that day it want be long enough, I just don't know.  I am praying that God will speak to his father's heart while we are there and he will believe.  Michael's mother died when he was a small boy of only three or four, so he wants us to also go to his Aunt's house to tell her, she is the one who mothered him as a small boy.  Pray for her.

We will be taking and some school supplies to the village where Wyatt and so many of these young guys are from.  First Baptist Weber City in Virginia and Harrison Ave. Baptist Church in Harrison, Ohio have graciously donated several big boxes of supplies to go to the school there.  We are praying that this will give us a great opportunity to share with them God's love.  We really look forward to seeing the looks in those little children's eyes when they see all these notebooks, pencils, paper, pens and so much more!  I really look forward to reading a letter written by First Baptist Weber City explaining why they did what they did.  Love, God's Love.  We hear from many here that kindness, compassion and love draw them to Jesus, not scholar, debate and endless programs of "our god is better than your god!"  All things without Love are but the noise of clanging cymbals.

Pray for all the onion guys still here in Accra.  Life is hard for them right now.  The market is no good, and the Accra city government has been really trying hard to end the street vending these young men are taking part in.  The government is very heavy handed and the guys are scared, but they have no where else to turn to make a living at this time.  They are not happy that they lose more money than they make now due to the government confiscating their onions two or three time each week leaving them broke and barely able to pay for the onions let alone buy their daily kenkey or banku.  Pray for us and them as we seek to help them find and/or create alternative jobs.  Pray that we will have wisdom in this matter and that we will only be of help.  Some of the guys are worried right now because last Tuesday I had left my camera with them and the government guys came and took it. When I asked about it they informed me I would have to bring one of the young guys to the office and exchange him for the camera, so I am looking for a new camera. 

Pray for the city government that they will have a change of heart as to how they seek to put a stop to the street vendors.  Ghana claims to be a Christian nation, pray that they will use Christian values as they create and enforce policy.  Pray for us and the onion guys as we seek to help get them off the streets.  Pray that as we walk through this, we will be a glaring reflection of God's amazing love to all who are involved.  Pray that God will use this opportunity to touch the hearts of the onion guys and the market elders.

Pray for Wyatt as he grows in the Lord.

Pray for Michael as he grows in the Lord and as he prepares to go tell his family of his new found faith in Jesus.

 Pray for us as we prepare to go visit in Niger.  Pray we will go prepared to share Jesus and that God will do great things through us as we go to minister.  Pray that we will use God's wisdom in knowing who to take and share this experience with.  Pray that all who do go will grow in God's love and that this will continue to build on the foundation needed to see the formation of a Christian congregation in these villages.

Pray that the school supplies will be used of God in a mighty way to share His love with the people of this village whom He loves very much.

Pray for the onion guys, the city government, Mitch and me as we seek to help resolve the situation here with the street vending.  Pray that God will give us wisdom, direction and knowledge in all this.  Pray that we will be able to get the onion guys off the streets and into safe productive jobs soon.

Pray for Mitch and his family.  Barbara is expecting!!!  Pray that this pregnancy will result in a beautiful little child born into a Christian family!!

Pray for me that I will have the knowledge, wisdom and courage to face and work through all God has for us to go through.  Pray that I will always and only seek to do the will of Him who sent me.  Praise God for He is able!

Praise God for His love and grace. Praise God for His Son Jesus and the Salvation He offers the whole world, onion guys and all!!

Thank you and God bless each of you.

      In His Service,

Monday, September 26, 2011

Volunteer Testimony: Mt Olive Baptist Church (Sept 2011)

"If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land..." Isa 1:19

When we are obedient, God will reward us with His power, presence, and supernatural blessing... all in His good timing. What an honor and privilege it was to have been chosen by God to be His hands and feet...

The days we spent visiting the villages were some of the hardest days for me... being bold for Christ... walking down the streets, meeting complete strangers, in a foreign land, and the only form of communication were through our translators, Biba and Cephas... So, how do you proclaim the name of Jesus Christ when the only words you know are FO FO, which means Hello.

But God knew we were ready, He knew I was ready, even when I didn't think I was. As the days went on, we were becoming more familiar with the Songhai culture and becoming more engaging and the Songhai continued to be hospitable and receptive.

On Day 1, I had been given my African name, Aissa...which means grateful.

On Day 4 we arrived in this village. I sat down and had the most enjoyable time with one of the ladies in this village. Her name was Aissa. I felt an instant connection with this woman. I was able to talk with her, and about 15 others, about this great God we serve. I sat there, opened my Bible, and began this love story that God had written to me and that I would love to share this story with them as well.

I talked about creation... about the fall and the broken relationship between God and man... and when I got to Noah, I realized that I was sitting in a time such as Noah's time... they were in the desert... we were in the Sahara desert... there was no rain... there was a drought here... and in Genesis it said that "people on earth did what God said was evil and violence was everywhere"... this is true today... and then God asks Noah to build a boat in the middle of the desert... how crazy is that... I continued on to tell them about the sacrifice of the perfect and spotless lamb and the laws... that God said in Deuteronomy... "Respect the LORD your God, and do what He has told you to do. Love Him. Serve the LORD your God with your whole being, and obey the LORD's commands and laws that I am giving you today for your own good" ... I went on to talk about the Prophets talking about a coming Messiah that would right our relationship with God again... and I talked about Jesus, this Messiah that did come... about His birth, His life, His burial, and His resurrection... and I ended with Romans that "as the Scripture says, "Anyone who calls on the Lord will be saved."

The entire time I'm reading this story about God's love for me and His people... I looked up into eyes that were completely captivated by the words of God. I could see the work of God in the eyes of Aissa. She would listen intently to me as I read from this great book, and then she would listen intently as Biba translated. When I finished, Aissa turns to me and tells me... "thank you for sharing this incredible story... I will remember what you said about what God did in the beginning, about the flood, about Jesus... and I will tell everyone else about what you have told me..."

At that moment, I was reminded about what the Bible says in John... about Jesus being the Good Shepherd... "And the sheep listen to the voice of the Shepherd. He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out" ... and Jesus says... "I know know My sheep and My sheep know Me."

The next day, our last day, we visited our last village... Kouli Kwaara... David is a recent believer... His story goes back about 20 years ago when he recieved a NT Bible. This summer, a mission team had come to David's village to paint a clinic... David aproached them and asked them why they were here... and they said with boldness, "We're here to proclaim the name of Jesus Christ." David's eyes lit up and he said, I've waited 20 years for someone to explain this book to me... they shared and David said... "I believe! I want Jesus."

What an honor to have read about his story this summer and then meet him. Sadly, though, David was sick with malaria... there was much sickness here and in many of the villages we visited... cholera and malaria... So, as a team, we circled in front of David's house and prayed for him.

Afterwards, Laura, Biba, and I walked down those dusty streets...praying that God would lead us to His sheep... it was very quiet... Biba said it was very unusual... and like we'd done every day in all the villages we visited, we prayed that God would send the rain, His peace, His presence, His blessing, and health.

We saw the evidence of our prayers... darkness was fleeting... God's sheep were hearing His voice... and the miracle of rain... one day it rained for about 5-10 minutes... another day, thunder and lightning rain on and off for an hour... and another day 2-3 hours of a steady, soaking rain.

His power, presence, and supernatural blessing were most evident...and all we brought was our obedience to pray, to declare the Name of Jesus Christ, and His Word. It was very simple and basic, because the greatest need for all people, not just in Niger, Africa, but in all nations, is the Gospel.

I will end with this verse that God gave me to promise me that He was preparing the way and that He kept His promise....

"Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert." Isaiah 43:19

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

post mission trip

 A friend of ours forwarded this great article on 10 Things to Remember After a Mission Trip from It's a great read & highly practical for trips here.

  1. Your identity is in Christ, not in what you do or have done for Christ. (1 John 3:1)
  2. The greatest need for all people, in all nations, is the gospel; not to become more or less like another culture. There are beautiful expressions of culture in other contexts. There are beautiful expressions of culture in America. There are sinful expressions of culture in both. Be careful not to pit one against another and neglect the gospel which is our greatest need regardless of the culture in which we live.
  3. Be patient with those who know nothing about the country from which you just returned. Patiently endure questions about food and dress and other stereotypical questions.  Think through carefully how you will answer typical questions graciously and in a way that points people back to the gospel and the reason for why you went in the first place.
  4. Even though you have experienced a lot, your knowledge about your host country is not exhaustive. Remember you have only begun to understand their culture. Keep being a learner about the culture that you just began to experience;  not an expert.
  5. This world is not your home––in either place. Fight against the temptation to make your identity in any one culture. We are all away from the Lord, from our true home (2 Cor 5:8,9) and our citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3:20).
  6. Fight romanticism. Your trip (especially if longer than a month) was not all a bed of roses. Take time to journal and remember the hardships of living in a foreign culture. The temptation will be to be to romanticize missions and minimize the difficulties you encountered. Romanticism does not help promote and mobilize people to missions because the hardships are real. Be realistic with others who would consider such a project in the future.
  7. Fight pride. You did not gain standing with God because you lived in a foreign context for a year or a lifetime. We can only stand before God because of the death and resurrection of Christ not because of what we do for Christ. (Romans 8:31 Peter 3:18)
  8. Fight Laziness. As you re-acclimate to life in the States, fight against the temptation to be lazy by neglecting the Word of God and cultivating your relationship with Christ. Relax and be encouraged but be intentional in how you do so in order that you do not fall into sinful patterns of behavior and thought.
  9. Remember to pray for those to whom you ministered. In most cases, you will never see the men and women with whom you spent so much time. For the brothers and sisters in Christ that you met and worshiped with, pray for them as Paul prayed as he remembered them.   (Philippians 1:31 Thessalonians 1:3)
  10. Proclaim the need for the glory of God in the gospel to to be brought to all peoples. Keep the least reached peoples of the world before people who may not know of the need. (Matt 9:38)
 **Taken from; "10 Things To Remember After a Mission Trip" by Jeff Brewer***

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Weekly Prayer Focus: SP & team

Please be in prayer for a team of 3 men who are here this week. These 3 men are from Kentucky & Illinois & are here serving alongside us in various villages. They are starting the week in village "N.D." where they will be investing in the lives of 7 new believers. Next, they will head to Ayorou for 2 days to encourage & strengthen our brothers & sisters there. They will then head down to Boubon to meet with Sam* while also doing a "labor of love" & begin moving some items into the Fox's new house!! On their last day of ministry, they will head back across the river & up to village "KK" to meet with David* for a time of discipleship.

We are VERY excited that these 3 men are here. This is not a "traditional" trip where their time is focused on one village. These are just dear friends of ours (one a long time friend & now 2 new friends) that wanted to come, do life with us & invest their lives into the Songhai. We are so grateful for them & their willingness to serve.

Please pray for them this week as they travel many roads & miles. Pray for their time with each believer - that it would strengthen & encourage everyone mutually, that the times would be uninterrupted, that each believer would grow in boldness & wisdom & that God would add many to their numbers. Pray for the health of the team as the temperatures are high this time of year! Pray for God's name to go forth & for His sheep to hear His voice!

Friday, September 16, 2011

september 2011

Dear Prayer Partners,

Wow! Another AMAZING month of ministry among the Songhai! Doors are being opened, Light is being shone into the darkness, God's sheep ARE hearing His voice!! Words can really, really not express our gratitude for your prayers each month. We ask, you pray & God answers! God is doing amazing things as you pray & come to serve the Songhai. We are so grateful for your support in prayer for us, our family, our team & the Songhai people. We simply stand in awe of a mighty God who is calling the lost to Himself & using us (including you!) as part of His plan. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Please continue to lift up the Songhai as you have done so faithfully every month! And please check out the blog for current prayer requests and awesome testimonies of what God is doing among the Songhai! We can't always fit it all into the newsletter but we've got lots more to share on the blog!

that ALL may know HIM,

Mark & Parker <><

Volunteer Testimony: FBC Hurst (July 2011)

After the death of my parents, people kept saying, "God is going to do something so big and so amazing out of such a terrible thing." When people would say that, I would get angry, hateful, and even more angry at God. How in the world would something good come out of my world being shattered at such a young age? 

I was 18 and had only been home from a mission trip to Russia for six days when all this happened. I questioned everything that I had ever known about God. I couldn't stand to listen to worship music or even touch my bible. I was infuriated by the idea of this God that would do this to me and my sisters. 

Time passed and my heart was softened. I was able to listen to worship music and hold those words close to my heart to help pull me through the hard times. But in the back of my mind, I still doubted the fact that God was going to do something amazing from the death of my parents. 

When the opportunity of going to Africa presented itself, I was excited but nervous at the same time. I couldn't help but question, "Ok, when I come back from Africa, who's going to pass away this time?" It was a stupid fear and no one really understood that anxiety I had about going. Thankfully I was able to push past that fear and go and do God's work. 

I rode with Mark one of the days that we went out to the villages. Its a long drive, so we constantly talked about every topic under the sun. The topic of tattoos came up and I decided to share the story behind mine. It says "Heal the wound" on my back (short for "Heal the wound but leave the scar to remind me of how wonderful You are"). 

We arrived at the village and one group went out to story. They came back all excited to tell us about Dou Dou, a man that had accepted Christ! On the way back to the guest house, we had to wait for the ferry and while waiting, Caroline had told me that Mark talked about my testimony when he was talking to Dou Dou about possibly never seeing his son again (Dou Dou and his son got into a fight and his son ran off). Dou Dou hasn’t seen him since and Mark was able to say, “We have a girl on the team who lost both of her parents in a car wreck and she still loves the Lord. You may never get your son back but, with Christ, we have this peace with us that’s unexplainable!” 

My eyes instantly filled up with tears. It was amazing to me that my testimony had been used in leading Dou Dou to Christ. God was able to use Mark to share my testimony with this man who had only heard about Christ a few times and to me, THAT right there was what people meant two years ago when they said God IS going to do something amazing through this tragedy.

Alicia Brandon

Monday, September 12, 2011

Weekly Prayer Focus: New Villages

Please pray for the new villages that were found last week by the team from Mt Olive. The team spent 2 days entering into 7 new villages along a stretch of road that we had yet to encounter. In each village, the team met the chief & gave him a Bible in his language and a set of cassettes with the Gospel message while also prayerwalking & storying with groups of men & women.

In 6 of these villages, the chiefs warmly received us & invited us to share our message with those that lived there & pray for his village. In one village, after the team storied with a group of men, 2 young men asked to hear more. After sharing the Gospel with them in more depth, the men said they believed & asked what they needed to do next. After hearing that baptism is one of the first steps after salvation, the young men asked to be baptized right then & there! While they were being baptized, one of their friends walked up, asked what they were doing, & after hearing a Gospel presentation himself, believed & was baptized!!

The story doesn't end there ... after follow-up today with those 3 young men who believed last week, FOUR more men believed!! Words cannot express how deeply grateful we are for your prayers last week for these new villages. Lives are changed for ETERNITY because they heard the Gospel & believed in their hearts & confessed with their mouths that Jesus is LORD! Thank you for praying that many would hear & believe! Your prayers were answered.

Please continue to pray for these young men who are embarking on a new life & on a new path. They will undoubtedly face many obstacles & persecution. Pray that they would be strong in their faith, they would become unified as a new family, they would seek to grow in wisdom & that God would protect their minds & hearts.

Pray also for the other villages that heard the Good News last week. Pray that many who heard would not forget the words of Truth & Life that were spoken to them. Pray that many would choose to believe.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Weekly Prayer Focus: Mt Olive team

Please be in prayer for Mt Olive Baptist Church this week as they are serving among the Songhai for the next 7 days. They will be spending time on the Southern Banks exploring villages that have ZERO witness, discipling believers in villages towards the Mehanna Road and encouraging the believers in Ayorou.

The team of 5 from Mt Olive is here on a vision trip of sorts. Our goal this week is to show them villages where there is no current work being done, villages where there are a handful of believers & then a village where there is a thriving church. Pray for them as they see & experience each of these villages; pray that God would burden their hearts for the Songhai that have no access to the Gospel; pray that they God would ignite a passion in them to take His name to those that have never heard; pray that they would be faithful in boldly sharing His name in whatever village they are in each day.

Pray for the villages on the Southern Banks that currently have no work being done among them. For some people this week, it may very well be the first time they have heard the Truth of the Gospel. Pray that eyes would be open, hearts would be penetrated, veils would be lifted & lives would be changed.

Pray also for the team's time with the handful believers they will meet with that live in villages towards the Mehanna Road. Pray that the believers would be strengthened & that they would be burdened to carry the Light to their families & friends that live among them so that a church may be started in their villages & the Gospel would go forth.

Pray for the team's time with the church in Ayorou. Pray that they would be able to encourage the believers by sharing Scripture & testimonies with them. Pray that the believers would be challenged to remain unified despite circumstances & persecution and that they would continue to grow in wisdom & boldness.

Lastly, pray for health & safety for the team. It's still a very hot time of year & the team will be doing lots of traveling & lots of walking. The roads to these Southern Banks villages are VERY rough, so please pray for their safety as they traverse the roads each day.

Thank you for your faithful prayer support for the Songhai team & all our volunteers that serve alongside us.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Volunteer Testimony: LHBC (August 2011)

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  Ephesians 2:10
I like to think of these good works that God prepared for me beforehand as doors. They are doors placed in front of me that I choose to walk through, because I know that God has placed them before me and expects me to walk through them. 

God has been softening my heart to travel to Africa for over 2 years.  It wasn’t until this year that I felt the burden of disobedience if I did not go. God revealed to me that missions is not something you choose to do when you feel like it, but that it is a mind-set...a lifestyle...a commandment!

My husband and I have called Mark and Parker Phillips dear friends for years.  Many emails were sent between Parker and I before she mentioned the possibility of painting with some of the women in Boubon, a village of Niamey.  I was hesitant at first, understanding that there would be language and cultural barriers and also a lack of supplies.  I almost told her no.  Then I realized that my plans lended to little faith in what God’s purpose for my trip was.  I was to bring color into this dark world.  As God created something from nothing, I was about to tell the women of Ayorou and Boubon about His great love for them through a blank canvas and a bible story. My prayer was as they would pick up their brushes and begin to paint that they would understand God is a creator, an artist. In fact, He is the first creator and the first artist. He had everything imaginable and unimaginable at His disposal when he created. It was a palette of raw materials and colors that He used to make what we see around us, what we don't see, and what we haven't seen yet.  He created them in His image, and wanted a relationship with them. 

Many of these women have never even picked up a pencil, yet as we started to pass out the paints and the brushes, we saw smiles start to form on faces that were hard when they first entered the compound.  Then the brushes hit the canvas, and then and there it didn’t matter that they couldn’t speak to me, or that I couldn’t tell them they were painting a tree, what mattered is that I was building a relationship with them.  I was then reminded that God was in control of the paint brush.  Day after day, these women would return, with hopes of creating a masterpiece and hearing a story of God’s faithfulness.  Each day, more and more would share of what they had learned the day before and God still proved faithful.

The one believer in Boubon, Sam*, has a wife who attended our class each day.  She is not a believer.  At dinner one night, Travis Ayers shared with me that when he was there in May, he had never seen her with her head up, never with a smile, and that he witnessed her running into the house with her painting in hand, grinning from ear to ear, with a new found confidence.  I wept.  How could I have ever doubted that because of my own fears and weaknesses that He would not complete His plan.  His light was shining all through Boubon!

As encouraging as our time in Boubon was, it was the picture that God painted for me, in Karma, that will forever be engraved in my heart and never far from my thoughts.  As we sat in a mud hut of this dark, dark village, casual chit-chat ensued between our team, villagers, and translators.  It was then that Stuart Borders asked if he could share the story of Creation to Christ.  By this time men, women, and children were crowded around and we got the “okay” to share.  It was beautiful...Stuart speaking God’s promises, Cephas (the translator), telling the stories in Zarma to the Songhai, and heads nodding all over the room as they tuned their ears to God’s word.  A prayer of blessings was spoken over them,  then a woman spoke from the back of the room.  Her words were, “If you did not come to tell us, how would we know?”  She spoke scripture from Romans10:14 and did not even know it.  It states, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” I wept again.  That should frighten us that there are so many who still have not heard of Jesus for the very first time. We should be burdened to go and evangelize to those in Niger who have now heard and need to make the choice to follow.  We need to teach them to live life taking God at His Word.

I went on this mission trip to love and to minister to others, but most of all I just wanted to love God and to give him back his place as God.  My eyes we opened once again to His faithfulness.  We should ask and expect Him to answer, knock and expect doors to be opened.  I will always take Him at his Word knowing He has never changed.  I will let God be God.