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!
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 (www.africastories.org) & 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.
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.
"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 tohow 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"
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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. "
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:
The Songhai kingdom was established around 680 AD (that’s over 800 years before America was discovered!)
There are around 3 million Songhai people stretched across Niger, Mali & Burkina Faso
Most live along the Niger River
Most are subsistent farmers (they grow enough food to live on, not to sell)
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)
Towards the end of the 1400’s, the Songhai were forced to convert to Islam by the sword
Around 1450, the Songhai were at the height of their dynasty & the dominate power in West Africa
The Songhai believe that their is an underwater spirit world in the Niger River where ancient spirits reside & people can visit
Islam is superficially important but spirit possession, magic, sorcery, & witchcraft remain the vital components of their beliefs
Islamic law allows a man to have up to four wives but Songhai men can usually only afford one
The Songhai are 99.5% Muslim
85% are illiterate
Three out of 5 Songhai children will die before their 5th birthday due to illness or malnutrition
The average Songhai makes around $400 each year
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)
If a Songhai man dies, the wife must remain in her house for 4 months & 1 week.
The Songhai have a proverb that says, “A log can float in water for a long time but will never become a crocodile.”
The first chief of Ayorou was a woman
The Songhai survive in one of the harshest climates in the world with heat indexes that reach 150 & little rainfall
The Songhai live in Timbuktu, Mali (yes, it really exists!)
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
The physical care of children is dedicated entirely to the mother of the family
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
Southern Baptists currently have 7 people working among the Songhai
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!
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.
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.
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"!
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!
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.