Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christmas Party ... Songhai Style

For Christmas this year, we decided to have a Songhai Christmas party for all our believers & their families. Since most of our believers are fairly new in the faith, we knew that they have never celebrated Christmas ... & since most are the only believers in their villages, they wouldn't even have anyone to celebrate with this year. 
Our believers come from a Muslim background where they have 2 huge holidays they celebrate every year. When they accept Christ, they leave their former way of life including these holidays. One believer told us, "I left my old life & the holidays I used to celebrate. I want to know how to celebrate the holidays that Christians do."

So we thought this would be a great opportunity to celebrate the Christmas holiday with them & give them an opportunity to be around like-minded Songhai. We usually only invite believers in to Niamey when we have conferences or discipleship seminars but we asked them to bring their families for Christmas & many of them did.

We started Christmas Eve out with killing & roasting a sheep ... it's a very traditional way to celebrate a big event here (weddings, births, holidays, etc). Biba & her team of helpers cooked all day to have enough food for the 50+ people that would be there. We ate, we sang, we watched the Jesus film & we celebrated the birth of Christ with our Songhai brothers & sisters. 

On Christmas morning, we took all the believers & their families to a local church to participate in their Christmas morning services. In America, it seems that we are so quick to get through these kinds of services so that we can get home & be with our families. Here, their families are their church. There was absolutely no hurry that morning. The service "started" at 9 & ended with a meal around 4 pm!

We all said, "See you later!" to the sheep!

Don't ask me why. This is just Mark Phillips & his craziness.

For those of you who ever came to our house in Ayorou, you might recognize these 2 girls. We were so glad their brother, who is a believer, brought them in. We had not seen them in over a year!

Cephas cooking up a pre-dinner snack for the Songhai team.

Everyone lining up at the "HUB" for the Christmas meal

The believers' children were so precious! They loved having a big celebration meal & getting their own plate of food!

Who knows this guy?!

After dinner, Randy brought everyone inside the "HUB" to sing some songs & watch the "Jesus" film.

Of course, he had 2 little helpers to lead the music!

And I got to hold Ibrahim's baby all night long!

Izzy was SO happy to be back with her best friend Nafissa!

Christmas morning at church ... the kids row!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Volunteer Testimony (FBC Hurst, November 2012)

I thought that my trip to Africa would be about building relationships with the wives of the believers that are there on the Mehana Road. What I found out was that this trip was about building my relationship with God in a way I never imagined. There were so many obstacles that got in our way from the very beginning and it seemed like they just continued one after another, but through it all, God gave me peace. You are probably saying to yourself, "Great!", but this experience is completely foreign to a girl that has the middle name of "worry, panic, then beg for help." I have a huge phobia of traffic (yes, even in the DFW area)! As long as I am driving, everyone will still be my friend/ relative when we arrive at the destination. But this crazy, lawless, round a bout traffic in Africa, was not even making me anxious. Then it hit me! God has been taking care of me!

At night I would read the Bible. The first night, we didn't have luggage or our books to use to witness. The passage God had given me to read was the time when Jesus was calling forth his disciples and he said to them to take nothing! Well, we had nothing to take or use the first day in the village but God had my back.
I had always been fortunate to grow up in a Christian home. Witnessing wasn't something I really thought that I needed to do since everyone that I was surrounded with we're already Christians. As I got older, I realized that there were opportunities, but I figured someone else would come along and witness to them. At least that is what I thought. Then I went to Africa, down the same Mehana Road that many other groups have been to. My thought was well, maybe some of the women, somehow, haven't heard the gospel story. But, I mean, there have been so many trips made by our church, it couldn't be possible.
We came to a village where a woman and her children were working in the shade. We approached her and asked if we could tell her a story. I thought, sure she wants to sit and talk. So, we shared the love that God has for her and the sacrifice that was made for her and all man kind. When we were finished, we asked her if she had any questions. She answered "how can I have questions about something, when this is the first time I have ever heard this story?". WHAT??? Really??? We talked to her some more before we left and she said she will think about our story. The seed had been planted! God was building the relationship with her through the story. He was building a firm and much stronger relationship with me. 

I never thought the day would come when I could say that I was apart of witnessing to a person who had never heard the gospel before!!!! God has my back! Everyday he is with me - all we have to do is pray, have faith and do what he asks! Even if it means to go across the world to Africa!!!

- Alicia B

Weekly Prayer Focus: NLTS students

As you saw in a recent post by Mark, our first class of the NLTS (Niamey Leadership Training School) has finished their first of 12 courses in a 2 year program. These believers learned a whole lot in a little time! The first course dealt strictly with the Old Testament. 6-8 hours of classes for 5 days in a row & studying about the Old Testament non-stop (plus memorizing a verse a day!) ... it makes my head hurt just to think about it!

But these men are eager to learn & grow & plant churches in the villages where God has placed them. As they are back into their "routine" of life in their villages, would you pray that they would be ever aware of the lostness that surrounds them? Would you pray that everything they learned & memorized would propel them forward with boldness & excitement to preach the Word with every opportunity they meet? Would you pray that they would continue to grow in their love for the Lord & their faith in Him? And would you pray that when (not if) the persecution comes, they would stand strong & cling to the One that has saved them & called them?

The task they've been given is not an easy one. They can't roll out of the village in a 4x4 truck when persecution comes. They can't hop on a plane & go back to another country when life gets tough. They can't drive to the nearest Christian bookstore & pick up a book on "how to survive persecution" when their faith is faltering because everyone has rejected them. And most can't even call on their nearest brother in Christ to share a cup of tea (or 3!) when they feel like they are the only one in their village who believes ... because the reality is, they ARE the only one. Their nearest brother may be a 4 hour bush taxi drive away & they don't have the extra resources to even take a trip like that.

So will you pray for our friends & your brothers in Christ? You may not understand their life on a day-to-day basis but you cling to the same God when life starts to falter & you pray to the same Father when all hope seems lost. You know what it's like to need encouragement in the daily grind, so will you pray that our brothers would receive it too? Will you pray that they would be a light in the darkness & stay faithful no matter how black the night may seem?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Volunteer Testimony: FBC Hurst Garden Project (September 2012)

In September, a team of four came from First Baptist Church (Hurst, TX) to conduct garden & water purification projects along the Mehanna Road. Having never done something like this before, we were a little timid of how it would go. This is not only a new concept to us but also to the Songhai who have been planting their gardens in the same manner for centuries. 

The basic idea of these garden kits is that you fill a 5 gallon container with water. The container is then connected to a drip house which is either planted underground or runs alongside the rows of crops. The water slowly leaks out throughout the day & the containers only need to be filled twice a day. The crops are consistently receiving water & the ground stays damp throughout the day, producing better crops.

The current way of gardening consists of retrieving water from the river with watering cans & dumping the water onto the crops. This version uses more water & more man power due to the multiple trips to the river throughout the day because the sun dries up the majority of the water before it can be soaked into the ground.

While we were skeptic that the Songhai would think we were looney with our contraption, they actually understood it! They watched from afar as the first kit was being assembled. They then were amazed as they saw how the containers were filled once &, hours later, the ground was still damp. They even said, "Our children can now work the gardens without messing up the crops!" 

The onlookers went from observing to learning how to put the kits together to doing it by themselves without any help! In a few villages, the Songhai decided to use these kits for the entire community. Instead of it being a personal garden, they decided to use them to create community gardens!

As seeds were being placed in the ground & these Songhai men & women were learning a new way to water & grow crops, seeds of Life were also being placed in their hearts. We pray they will learn a new way to water & grow what has been planted in their hearts & minds.

"I was moved when the water begin to flow out in droplets onto the ground at exact place and they saw how this could benefit them on an ongoing basis to help grow food. They would dig with their fingers into the soil and see what was happening; they knew that water is life. I have a new and much more appreciation for the believers on the road and what a challenge it is to remain faithful in the face of opposition and even families turning their backs. I was moved to challenge my own faith to be bolder where it is so easy." - Ron R

Friday, December 7, 2012

First Class of NLTS

It's such a strange and awesome feeling to see something through to fruition after such a long time.  As I shared in an earlier post , we've been dreaming of the HUB for 3 years and now it's here.  Besides that, we've just completed our first class of our NLTS oral theological education program.

NLTS is where our leaders (who live in the bush and are almost all illiterate) will come 6 times a year for a week at a time over the next 2 years.  They will receive training geared towards oral learners that will help them as they lead and start churches all across Songhai lands!

I've been wearing my "Happy, Happy, Happy" T-shirt that Parx bought me for my birthday all week as it seems to sum up how I'm feeling!  I told someone "I just can't stop smiling!"  It's truly been an awesome week as we trained 17 men from 10 different villages and have now sent them back out.  The HUB is being used how we always dreamed it would: as a launchpad!

As I look at this picture of all these men I can't help but think of you. So many of you have faithfully prayed for these men and their villages.  Some of you were the ones who shared with these men, some were there when they believed.  Some of you took those initial steps in discipleship with these men and some of you have come and fanned the flame.  The point is that you've been such an integral part of this journey and we are forever grateful!

We were also blessed to have Living Hope here who came and helped teach this first class.  I shared with the team that some missionaries (at least in our part of the world) never get to be a part of what they've been doing this week: discipling a room full of believers who have a heart to reach their people with the Gospel.  It's not because we have a great strategy, it's not because we're super-faithful, it's because in God's Sovereign plan, He has chosen to call the Songhai people out of darkness. 

The first course we offered at NLTS was Old Testament Survey.  In 9 lessons we covered the Old Testament and how it was pointing to Christ on every page.  

At the closing session we had a presentation to all our first class attendees and those who helped make this week a possibility.  

Cephas got a case of some local energy drink to help keep him working so tirelessly!

Randy got a bottle of milk and some honey.  Let me explain.  The day before the conference began Randy said he felt like Moses.  He went on to describe how he’d led us to this pinnacle moment.  So much work, so much prayer, so much effort had led to this very point.  However, as Randy reflected back over the journey he saw some flaws in his own life and wondered if God would allow him to see this through.  In other words, as he stood atop the mountaintop peering into the promised land he was afraid that this was as close as he’d get and that he, like Moses, would not be the one to lead the people just when it’s starting to get good!

And so I gave Randy the milk and honey to remind him, he’s not Moses, he’s Joshua.  He has faithfully been serving in every role he’s ever been in.  He’s had faith when no one else did.  He’s listened to God.  And now, he’s taken us into the land and it’s time for him to enjoy some milk and honey!  

The guys all received a certificate of completion for the course, a box of tea, and some work gloves.  The first item is obvious but the last one, maybe not.  I started the class out on Monday morning with an example.  I told them that when I lived in Ayorou, Ibrahim showed me how to farm and I went with him almost everyday and learned how to plant, grow, and harvest millet.  I told them that even now, I own all the tools necessary to farm. 

And then I asked them “but do I have any millet?”  They all laughed and said “no.”

“Why not?” I asked them.

It's because I'm not farming they explained to which I responded that they were absolutely correct.  Knowing how to farm and even having all the tools you need doesn't mean anything if I don't put them to work.  I then explained that these classes were not just about acquiring knowledge (although knowledge is good).  These classes were not just about understanding the tools needed to harvest and farm (although they are helpful). I told them that if you want to have a harvest you have to put your knowledge and your tools to work.  Hence the work gloves.  I told them that you put on these gloves when you’re about to work hard.   I told them that they were about to work hard as we send them back out into their mission field. 

Each member came and received his things and then shared with the group the person or people that he intended to share with once he returned home. 

Thank you for praying for us, our ministry, and the Songhai people! 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Volunteer Testimony: LHBC (October 2012)

What a hard, desolate and desperate place Niger is! It is terribly hot and dry and dusty. It is dirty and poor in ways you can't describe or even believe is possible until you see it firsthand. It is hard to imagine why anyone would come here for a day or a week, let alone do what the amazing missionaries here do and pick up their families and live and work here with the Songhai people in an effort to bring Jesus to this lost part of the world.

Yet just when you think your heart is going to break with sadness over the conditions and poverty of this place - a face will pop up next to the bush taxi window and a beautiful, but oh-so-dirty child with a glorious smile will beam at you just because you are here and you look different. Then a walk down a dirt path in a village that hasn't changed in hundreds of years will find a woman working away in the blistering sun drying okra - tossing it in charcoal dust to darken it. Stop at her house and her wonderful tradition of hospitality and graciousness will cause her to stop what she is doing to exchange greetings and offer you the best and only seat in her one-room mud hut with dirt floors and no water or electricity. Her kitchen is a fire outside and the bathroom is a hole in the ground at best but most often it is a nearby field.

But what is more wrenching is the absolute spiritual poverty of entire communities.That is when you realize that the only true and lasting thing you can do while you are here is to give them hope in a Savior who loves them and who longs for them to call on Him and cast all their cares on Him.

 "It is difficult not to allow the immediate needs of such an impoverished people to overshadow the God-created spiritual need for Him within each of us, " wrote team member Marti C. " It has become even more important to me that the saving grace I have received be offered to His beloved people everywhere."

This week a team of five from Living Hope Baptist Church spent the week sharing from the book of Mark. There were two men - Todd C, the team leader, and Josh G. Their mission was  to meet with believing men and pour into them all they could from the Scriptures in five days. The men they met with were illiterate believers so the only way they could have knowledge of the Bible was to literally repeat it over and over again, picking the verses apart piece by piece until they knew the stories by heart but more importantly, understood the concepts and applications behind the Scriptures. This was made all the more challenging because everything had to be interpreted through the wonderful translating of Cephas who diligently translated the words from English to Zarma and back again.

The women on the team - Peggy P, Marti and Donna S - were to do something similar by discipling some women who had recently accepted Christ as their Savior. But while the men were able to stay in one place most days and teach, the women went out into the villages on the Road to Karma. The missionaries in Boubon worked hard to set up times for them to meet with these believers. Sometimes it worked out but many times the schedule had would change and then change again. But each day the team was able to meet with a few village women; some new believers but also with many who knew nothing of Jesus. They shared stories of Christ's baptism, the healing of the lame man and the feeding of the 5000. As they talked other women would come see what was going on. Some would sit for a bit, others would just say hello and move on.

And always the children would come. They came to listen to stories of Jesus Walking on the Water or Jonah and the Whale or Noah's Ark. It did not matter what story it was, they would sit for hours patiently waiting while the women told stories in English that would be translated to Zarma by the amazing Beba. They loved the pictures in the Children's Bible and would gather around excitedly to have a peek.

One time the women were sharing with a precious little mama of four who lived about a mile outside of the village. She spoke a different dialect than most which meant that she and her children would listen while Peggy, Marti or Donna tell a story, then Beba would translate to Zarma and then her son would translate it into her dialect. The process was slow but in Africa no one is in a hurry so it worked.

"To see the children's eyes light up at the sound of Bible stories is unforgettable," Peggy said.

Going into the villages meant seeing firsthand how hard the lives of the village women and children are. The women work hard from before the sun comes up to way into the night to preparing food, hauling water, drying vegetables for later and much more. The children are left to the village to be cared for and often tiny naked toddlers wander the streets unattended. There is little time for love or a soft touch or a tickle. That is why the children were so drawn to Peggy, Donna & Marti. They hugged them, sang songs with them, rocked babies and prayed over so many sick, sick children.

"They have no idea what love is which is why it is so important that we share Jesus with them. It is the only way they can know true love," explained missionary Susan S.

The highlight of the week was when one woman accepted Christ as her Savior on Saturday. Sydney* had heard the Gospel from previous teams but it was this team that got to hear her make to be the decision to follow Jesus.

"To hear that young woman pray the sinner's prayer" was such a privilege, Peggy said.  "I am forever changed."

"This has been a hard week - there were times when I was just overwhelmed and moved to tears because nothing I could physically do would make a difference in the lives of these women and children, " wrote Donna. "Then I would be reminded that I am sharing an eternal hope and offering them a chance to know the Great Physician and the One True Comforter and that is enough."

And while the women of the team were ministering to different women and children each day, the men had the opportunity to really disciple a group of about five believing men. They taught on the authority, power, the calling, the passion and servant hood of Christ. For the first time taught on what it means to be a Godly husband.  This was radical new ground as the Muslim influence in the area has caused many men to believe their wives are not capable of understanding something as deep as Scripture and have no interest in sharing even if they did.

"We taught what it really means to love their wives as themselves. To care for her and put her needs before their own," explained Todd.

Josh and Todd spent many hours around a tea pot over scorching hot coals that Songhai men use to brew their bitter tea sharing over and over what it meant to be a follower of Jesus.  They also witnessed to a man who wanted to be saved but was too afraid of the consequences.

"We witnessed to a man and had him read John 10:27 himself. We then asked him if he heard His (Christ's) voice and he said 'yes.' However out of fear of persecution he is not willing to make a profession of faith."

But most of the men Josh and Todd shared with were eager to hear and learn. They had many questions and would ask the team members to repeat things over and over until they got it right. Every day it was a new study and every day something new was discovered.

"My mission experience in Niger can be summed up in one statement," Josh wrote. "Look beyond what your eyes can see. If you can remove all the things that your eyes are distracting your mind from, you will begin to see God at work, and if you are prepared, God will allow you to be part of His work."

The overwhelming sentiment of the team is that this week has been a challenging privilege. It has been an honor to share the name of Jesus with some who have never heard it before.  It has been joyous and heartbreaking but mostly it has been transformative in ways that are yet to be realized.

"I will never be the same; my life is changed from the experience of this week, Marti wrote at the end of the week. "By the Holy Spirit's power may this also be true of those whose lives have touched mine."

Sunday, November 18, 2012

News from Gomer: November 2012

Dear Friends,

I hope this finds you all well and happy in the Lord our God. We are doing well and are happy in all His ways.

I want to take this time to thank you all for your continuous prayers, your enduring love and faithful support for all we are here to do for the cause of Christ. Even when I am slow to post our request for prayer, I know you are praying. Thank you so very much.

The past few weeks have been busy, we have had so much to do getting the house ready, we had a team come and then follow-up from the team, then to having to do some work on the truck and getting a couple new tires. Combine all that with just trying to go around and see our people, sit with them and have good moments building relationships, and the time has gone by so swiftly.

We Praise God for our new home. We are finally moved in and starting to feel truly at home. Many of the Onion guys have started coming to visit, they are starting to feel at home and enjoy the new Songhai Hu (Songhai House). We are able to provide them with a place to shower and clean up, a place to wash their clothes and use the restroom. We always have Nescafe coffee and Lipton tea on hand, bread, maybe apples when we can and other food items to help them stave off hunger pains from a hard days work. We have a place they can come and rest if they need too. We are able to come and have some time to learn English, speaking, reading and writing. Please join us as we seek to use this new place for the Glory of God, that through this place He will be magnified and exalted before these young guys. Here in the new house we are actually able to do a little more discipleship work than at the old house. The guys accepting Christ need some time to grow and experience Christ before they are subjected to harsh persecution, they need a time to try to understand what it all means to them to be called a Christian. Here is a good place to do so. Please pray that as God has brought us here, we will be faithful to seek His will in all that we do here and that many will come to know Him as Savior and that as they do, we will allow the Holy Spirit to move through us to teach them all things according to God's own words. Pray that here many will gain strength and courage in Christ. Pray that God's love will overflow from this place, that many will go out to share the wonder of new life in Christ.

Please continue to pray for our little English classes. The team came and did a four or five day program and that has created a resurgence in the desire to learn. Mitch* really likes working with these classes and the guys all love him very much. The classes take a lot of work, they require a lot of time and energy. Please pray that God will send loving people to help us out through teaching. The classes are very important to the Songhai and they are grateful and happy for the opportunity to learn. We are praying that God will send us some Christian help through the Expat community here in teaching. Please pray that through these classes it will lead to learning of God's word and love.

Please join me in praying that maybe next summer God will send a couple of college aged young men to help us here in Accra. The new house is actually at the Church of the Nazarene Conference Center/Guesthouse and therefore we could host a couple young guys for a much reduced price for housing. They could come help us with sharing the Gospel through cassette, Jesus video and micro chip distribution, they could help us with our English classes and they could be a big part of helping us to build relationships. The young guys coming need to be in prayer and know this is God's will for them. It will not be easy, it will be a lot of going out to walk many miles, and invest in many lives, it will be hot, the food is not what they are used to at home in the states, the stress of cross cultural living can be great at times. Add in the fact that the sights, sounds and smells of life in an African Urban setting can bring storms of emotions and stress they have never experienced in the States and it can be hard here, I know, I live it everyday. But I also know that being in God's will is rewarding and everyday is life changing. I know these young men would grow in their Christian life and in their walk with God. Their outlook on the things of this world would be forever changed and their understanding of the world God said He loves in John 3:16 would also change.

Please continue to pray for Mitch and his family. Barbara is doing well. She is busy with running the home, tending to little O and M, running her little provisions shop and being a good wife. Little M is doing well, he got a new soccer uniform and new soccer "boots" and so he is happy. O is growing so fast, she just cut her first little tooth and she likes to use it on anything she can fit into her mouth. U is doing well in school also, she is first in her class. U is 14 years old now and really starting to look like a young lady, and so the young boys have started to notice this also....pray that she will live by the strict moral code Mitch has set before her. She seems to really seek God and she likes to read Bible stories and attend Sunday school and such, keep her in your prayers. Pray that this whole family will one day be united in ministering the Good News of Jesus to many people, tribes and villages.

Please continue to pray for me, that I will always seek God's will in everything we do here. Pray that God will grant me knowledge in the ministry, wisdom to use that knowledge correctly and courage and strength to carry on His ministry. Praise God, He keeps me and sustains me through times I don't always understand, but in the end I always see His hand upon it all.

Pray for the Onion guys, that God will continue to touch their hearts and show them His Love and mercy. Pray that many will accept Jesus as Savior. Pray that they travel back and forth to the homes in Niger they will take along the message of Christ to share with family and friends.

Praise God for His love and kindness.

Praise God for our new Home. Pray that here many will come to know Christ as Savior and that from here many will carry the message of Salvation to family and friends. Pray that God will raise up some to be teachers, Evangelist, missionaries and pastors.

Pray for our English Classes that God will use them to further His words in the hearts of the Songhai and many more.

Pray if it is God's will that maybe a couple young men can come and help out for a few weeks next summer.

Pray for Mitch and his family that God will continue to touch their lives, and that He will put up a wall of protection around this family as they too seek to know God's will for them. Pray for boldness in proclaiming Christ as Savior and bold desire in sharing His Love.

Pray for me as I seek to do God's will here everyday and in every way in all we do.

Pray that God will move mightily among the Songhai and that many will accept Jesus as Savior.
       God Bless and keep you all.
       In His Service,

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Weekly Prayer Focus: Mehanna Rd & an UPDATE

First of all, we cannot thank you enough for praying for the Songhai continuously. We know that many, many of you have been praying about the "HUB" house situation. Well, I come to you with a humble and JOYFUL heart to announce that we have a house!!!! The contract is signed & we move into it in a few weeks, just days before our first week of classes. Thank you SOOOO much for praying for this to happen & this dream to be fulfilled. Randy had a vision of this "HUB" over 2 years ago & after 2.5 months of trying to make it happen, it is finally coming to fruition!

Also this week, we have a team here from FBC Hurst, TX. It is our first all ladies team & I am so excited about doing ministry with them this week along the Mehanna Road. We will be targeting women & children as we have NO female believers along this road. Please pray for good health & restful nights for this team of 5. Pray for boldness to share & many, many opportunities to do so. Pray for open hearts & ears of those who will hear the Greatest Story EVER told this week. Pray that His Sheep will hear His Voice & that many will be called to salvation in Christ.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Weekly Prayer Focus: the "HUB" ... again

I know we just asked you to pray for the "HUB" a couple of weeks ago but we are asking for you to pray once again. As stated in the last post about it, this location will be the center of much activity & ministry for the Songhai team & our work with national partners & mature believers. It will not only be a training grounds for our nationals that partner with us in ministry but it will also be the only oral theological education school in our region as we seek to train our illiterate brothers to grow in their knowledge of the Word. We also want to use this location for developing ministries in Niamey such as ESL, literacy & children's programs.

We, as a Songhai team, feel strongly called to develop this location. The only thing that stands in our way is an actual site. We've searched for 2 solid months for a house to rent but have been met with resistance for one reason or another, sometimes even because of our faith.

Will you please pray that we would find a house THIS week? Our first round of classes begins the first week of December &, while we could meet somewhere else if need be, we would love to be in our new location by then. Will you also please pray that everyone involved would have wisdom as we seek the place that God has for us?

Thank you!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Weekly Prayer Focus: Gorom Gorom

There is only one small pocket where the Songhai are found naturally in Burkina Faso and it is surrounding an area called Gorom Gorom.  We have made several trips there in the past few years and this past February we saw some of the first Songhai coming to Christ in the surrounding villages.

There is a great missionary who has lived in that area for 25+ years.  He and his family were evacuated by military a few weeks ago as it was discovered they were the target of an impending attack. 

Pray for peace in that area.  Gorom Gorom sits in the same position as Ayorou does in Niger:  right on the Mali border. 

While we have hope that God can work a miracle in this region, the current outlook is dreary at best.  Pray that God would open a way for the missionary effort to continue in Gorom Gorom.  Pray for God to give this missionary family a sense of direction as they will not be allowed to return for at least another 5 months. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

October 2012 newsletter

Dear Prayer Partners,

Thank you so much for praying for us this last month! It was quite a busy month that consisted of having Mark's parents visit for 3 weeks, saying goodbye to some dear friends that we've served with for 2 years, hosting a team from our home church & welcoming a new family to Niger (serving on the Hausa team). We felt like we hardly sat still but, amidst all the busyness, we have seen God's provision for us & the Songhai & rejoiced in what He is continuing to do here. Thank you to all of you who sent encouraging words to us last month as we shared with you our struggles of feeling we were under attack from the Enemy. While this is still a very dark place to serve & the Enemy is still roaming like a lion seeking to devour, we have felt the Lord's peace & joy in the midst of it all. Thank you for praying for our believers & for the Songhai to be a people who become known for worshipping Jesus versus a false god. It is our prayer that this nation will become a Light in the darkness & we will continuing praying to that end until He returns. Thank you for faithfully praying alongside us!

that ALL may know HIM,

Mark & Parker <><

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Weekly Prayer Focus: The "Hub"

Almost two years ago, God laid on Randy’s heart to develop a central focus point for ministry in the city.  It would be a place of discipleship and training.  Now we stand on the edge of this vision becoming a reality. 

We are going forward with what we’re calling the HUB.  It will be a house that Cephas and Biba live in and coordinate ministry from.  It will open the door for tons of ministry options here in the city as well as offering a training center for our believers from outlying villages.

We will also be kicking off our first go at theological education for oral learners in a 12-course curriculum we’re calling NLTS (Niger Leadership Training School).  This will give our illiterate believers some intense theological training to assist them as they lead outreach groups or churches in their villages. 

We are so excited to be standing on the edge of so much possibility.  However, we have not been able to secure a location.  From people refusing to rent to us because of our faith (even in the capital city!!!!) to people jacking up the price when they see our skin we have looked at over a dozen locations in the past 2 months only to come up empty.

Please pray we’ll be able to secure a location ASAP.  Pray that as we do find a location, the HUB will become what we’ve always envisioned:  a launch pad for ministry!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

30 Day Prayer Meal

At the end of Ramadan & the 30 Days of Prayer project, the Songhai team gathered together to pray for the Songhai & feast on some meals prepared from these recipes. We had a great time of fellowship & celebrating all that God did through the 30 Days of Prayer project!

Some of our prayer partners in the States also gathered for their celebration meal that weekend. You can find their pictures below, too! 

Thank you again to everyone who participated in this project. We know that some of y'all did this on an individual basis & could not gather for a "celebration meal." But we are so thankful for your commitment to pray for this Songhai, especially during the 30 days of Ramadan. We were amazed at how perfectly prayer requests lined up with events that were happening among the Songhai. Your prayers were powerful & effective!

First Baptist Church Franklin, KY
(that display you see in the background is available to any Southern Baptist church for use from the IMB)

They had plenty of souvenirs to display from their recent trip here

They went above & beyond the "recipe cards" & even made traditional tea!

They also kicked it up a notch & ate with their hands!

Thank you FBC for praying for us & the Songhai!

September 2012 newsletter

Dear Prayer Partners,

Thank you so much for another month of prayer support. We know that we could not do this without you! Thank you again to all of you who participated in the 30 Day project last month. We enjoyed hearing your stories & seeing your pictures of your final celebration meal! And thank you to ALL of you who prayed so fiercely for the flooding crisis. God is continuing to answer your prayers through receding waters & aid being given to some of those in need. Still, there is devastation that remains & many are without homes. Please continue to pray for this situation.

In addition to the requests listed in the newsletter, we'd also ask that you pray for our team this month. It seems that the Enemy is trying to find our weak areas & attack us & the ministry we do among the Songhai. Please pray for protection of our minds, peace in the midst of any circumstance & a complete reliance on the One who has called us here. We have been so blessed to see so much fruit in the ministry among the Songhai over the last 2 years & so many seeds sown. We know the Enemy is trying to choke out some of those seeds (like in the parable of the seed sower) with "weeds" & it can become quite heart breaking to see believers turn away from the faith or just remain stagnant in their faith. Pray for those believers & us as we continue to minister here.

If you are not on our newsletter list but would like to receive it via email, please leave a comment with your email address.

Friday, September 7, 2012

News from Gomer: September 2012

Dear Friends,

Thank you for your prayers, your love and support. We are doing well here and we pray you are well also. As I come to you today we have many prayer requests. 

Here in Accra it has been unseasonably cool these past few weeks, so many of the guys have colds. We had a good rainy season here also, but that brings the mosquitoes, which bring malaria. So far we have not seen much malaria and we pray we don't see any. One young man came this morning to get some anti-itch cream and he showed me his back, he has about 40 or 50 mosquito bites from falling asleep with his shirt off. Based on averages he is a prime candidate for malaria, please join me in prayer that God will keep him malaria free, he goes by the name Bill. We are seeing an upswing in skin rashes due to the cool air, they don't get to air their clothing out as much when it is cold and so they get a lot of bacterial and fungal infections. Pray for health.

Pray for our little schools. The onion market school has outgrown the room we were using and so we decided to build another. It has been a fun and challenging experience to go through. I helped the guys with the material and they have done the work to build it. One Bissa man named Victor has volunteered a lot of time to come and be the Superintendent for the building. Pray that this new school with more space will be used to glorify Christ, that God will dwell within the walls and that any who attend will feel the truth tugging their heart. Pray that by learning to read and write it will spur people to read the "Irikoy Tira Hanno", the Bible.

Pray for our little school in Nima. We are having a few issues we are working through to be able to provide the best education we can to the Songhai in that area. Pray that God will give us all wisdom to make improvements as we need to, to best help the students.

Pray for our next Songhai team from New Orleans First Baptist as they prepare to come and do a 5-day English language workshop for the students in both Nima and in the Onion market school. We have been talking to the guys about this and they are getting excited to be apart of it. Timing can be a rough issue here though with all the work schedules and activities of daily life. Please pray that we can get the timing right so we can assist the greatest number in the most needy areas and that through this opportunity we will affect many in the name of the Lord. Pray that these days will be filled by the Holy Spirit and that God will use this time to talk to many hearts and that many will come to know the truth of Jesus. Pray that God will work through Joe, Yvette and their team while they plan, prepare and come to share with us. We look forward to them coming. 

Pray for the Songhai families in Niger. Where we have had a cool comfortable time here, the rains have come to Niger and after years of drought, after being caught in the grip of famine, now the problem is flooding. Many areas have experienced flooding that has washed away farms and crops, washed away homes and grain storage buildings compounding the problems. I have not been able to talk to Wyatt, but some of the guys told me yesterday that his father's house collapsed from the rains. A few of the guys have told me of flooding in the family homes and farms. The Niger government is saying little more than 40 people have died due to the rains and flooding and that more than 100,000 homes have been damaged and/or destroyed. As a result we are seeing many more young guys starting to show up in Accra. Usually they don't return from farming season till late October and into November, but they are already coming this year. One trend we are seeing is younger guys showing up in the market area. We are seeing kids as young as 10 and 11 years old showing up. The families can't care for them and the food is in short supply so they send them here with an uncle or brother to try to get work in the markets so they can fend for themselves and also maybe send a little money home to help the family. Pray with us as we try to see what action we can take to help them. We want to make a positive impact on them and also share the Love of God with the whole Songhai community during these hard and trying times. 

Please pray with us as we are working to get into our "hu teji", new house. The work is taking some time and I am kind of bouncing around right now, but it is God's design and all has been good. We are looking forward to getting settled in and starting to minister out of the new place. Many of the guys know the area and are excited that we are able to be close so they can come eat a little food and drink some Nescafe and Lipton tea. Please pray that as we get moved in we can truly minister the Gospel and also start a good discipleship class for the ones coming to accept Jesus as Savior. Pray that we can use the whole facility to show the Love of Jesus. The house and land is owned by the Church of the Nazarene and we are praying that we will come to be good friends and that we can help them in many ways also. The property is home to their Guesthouse and conference center. They are a small group and have had a hard time using and maintaining the property. Right now they only use the center about three weeks out of the year and have about three teams come during the year. We want to pray about the ways we can help them with this property. It is a good place, well located and could be used in many ways to impact many people for the Lord. Pray God will give us wisdom and resource to do His will in this. I will send an update and some pictures of the house soon also. 

 Please continue to pray for Mitch and his family. Barbara and the children are all doing well, a slight bout of the cold for all but they are getting better. Their son has been going around with Mitch and me a lot lately and that has been a lot of fun. Their daughter is growing and getting stronger. She likes to smile and so we call her "smiling baby". Their eldest child is doing well and looking forward to school starting on Monday. She has been top student in her class two years running now. Barbara is laughing a lot, her and Mitch have been laughing together and are growing closer each day. Continue to pray that God will provide a wall of protection around them as satan hates to see family harmony and will do anything he can to destroy a good and growing relationship. Pray that Barbara and the whole family will continue to grow in Christ's love and understanding. Pray for Mitch to continue to grow in his desire to share Jesus and to be a bright reflection of the Light of the world. Pray for Mitch's aunt, she is not feeling well and the family is very concerned for her right now. She is in Kumasi so it is hard for Mitch to go be with her and the family. Pray for God's will to be done. 

Pray for health for the people here during this time. 

Pray for our little schools, that God will use them in great ways to reach-out to the Songhai here. 

Pray for the next team from New Orleans First Baptist as they prepare and come.

Pray for the families in Niger as they endure hardship upon hardship. 

Pray for us as we seek ways to help the families in Niger and also the people who are here affected by the hardships in Niger. 

Pray for our new house that we will use it for the work God has ordained for us to do through it. Pray that we will minister in many ways from the new location and that we will be good friends with the people of the Church there. 

Pray for Mitch and his family that they continue to grow in Christ and that they will all have good health. 

Please continue to pray for me that I will always and only seek to do the will of God who sent me here. Pray that in all things I bring glory and honor to Him. 

   Thank you and God bless you all.
   In Christ,

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Weekly Prayer Focus: Flood Victims

It's been a while since we've been able to do a WEEKLY prayer focus. After our 30 days of Prayer during Ramadan, I had planned to kick off the weekly prayer requests again but then the flood came & we focused (& are continuing to do so) our efforts & our minds there. Thank you to everyone who has prayed. The Lord is continuing to hear your prayers!

Biba's family has returned to their home as the waters have finally receded enough to pass on the roads. The river is continuing to recede. Two weeks ago, there were places where all you could see were the tops of the trees & now you can actually seek the trunks of those same trees. It really is unbelievable to see how much it's gone down!

But there is still much work to be done & much prayer needed. Some of you who've visited us in the last year have been to a certain village & camped out at a certain man's house for a day or 2 of discipleship. His house was not even right on the edge of the river but because the river crested over the levee that was in place, the waters came all the way to his house & it fell under the pressure of the rising waters. His "house" is now a mat, a mosquito net & the very small amount of personal possessions he owned.

Please pray for our believers who have lost everything. Pray that God would provide for every one of their needs. Pray that they could cling to Him as they seek to rebuild their lives. Pray that they would be a light to their village as they put their hope & trust in Him. Pray that God would draw many to Himself as a result of their testimonies.