Wednesday, July 18, 2012

30 Days of Prayer for the Songhai

Some of you may know (& some may not) that the Songhai Team is doing a "30 Days of Prayer for the Songhai" project during Ramadan. A few people have contacted us because they knew about it but couldn't find the prayer guide on our blog. I wanted to make sure that everyone was aware of this project but also to let you know that you will NOT be able to find it online. We are not using pseudonyms in the prayer guide so that our prayer partners can be very specific in praying for people & villages. For that reason, we will not post it online. But you can email us & request a copy & we will be glad to send it to you.

If you're unsure of how it works, here's some information about Ramadan & the instructions from the prayer guide ...

Understanding Ramadan

We, the Songhai Team, want to say thank you for your commitment to the Songhai. The Songhai are largely still living in darkness with the majority of Songhai men, women, and children never meeting a Christian and never hearing about Jesus. However, in these past few years, Light has begun to burst through the darkness as we are seeing more and more Songhai come to faith in Christ as God continues to extend His grace and mercy to them.

The Songhai, while still tied deeply to their animistic roots, would almost all claim to be devout Muslims. Part of that means they fast during Ramadan. Ramadan is a 30-day period in which Muslims around the world fast from sun- up to sundown. It is supposed to be a time of showing submission to Allah and seeking his will. Towards the end there is what is known as “The Night of Power” when they anxiously await a sign/vision from Allah.

Ramadan, or Meyhaw in Songhai (literally “tied mouth”), is a very public event. Most of the conversations in the village center around the subject of how fasting is so difficult and painful. Our believers will stand out even more than usual during this time as those around them, filled with an unusual religious zealousness, question and scold them for not fasting.

The odd thing about Ramadan here is that most of the people participating in the fast will actually gain weight and eat better during this time than any other time of the year. Each night they will reward themselves for their faithfulness during the day with kool-aid and ice (two luxuries they rarely indulge in) and sauce with meat (another luxury rarely purchased). Fasting here is not done out of love or a desire to be closer to their god. Instead, it is a painful and public show of submission.

We are inviting you to commit to pray and fast for the Songhai during this season. Time and time again we’ve seen firsthand the power of prayer. It is our desire to have an army of prayer warriors praying and, should you choose, fasting for the Songhai during this time of spiritual searching. We pray that God would speak to them in visions and in dreams as He calls them out of darkness into His marvelous light! Thank you for committing to join us in this season of prayer for the Songhai. Thank you for your partnership in the Gospel!


Essentially, we are asking you to gather your friends or family together & commit to pray for the Songhai during the month of Ramadan. You will use this guide as you pray for specific items each day pertaining to the Songhai or our team. At the end of the month, we are asking that you would gather together as a group & celebrate this time of prayer with a meal using resources from the IMB.
We, as a Songhai team, will also be gathering together on this day to do the same. It is our hopes that many groups from across the States & the world will join with us in one massive voice of prayer for the Songhai!

  1. Gather a group of friends (family, Bible study or Sunday School class, small group, work, social network) & commit as a group to pray for the Songhai during the month of Ramadan (July 20 - August 18) 
  2. Distribute this guide to those in your group
  3. Order the “Flavors of Africa” FREE resources on (booklet & recipe cards) to use at the end of the month
  4. Reference this prayer guide each day, beginning July 20, to pray specifically for the items listed for that day
  5. Accountability is key: hold your group accountable (through emails, phone calls or texts) each week to remind them to daily pray for the Songhai 
  6. Plan your Celebration Meal for August 18 with your group & decide which recipes to prepare (from the recipe cards provided with the Flavors of Africa resources)
  7. Celebrate the end of your 30 days of prayer on August 18 with a Celebration Meal, enjoying delicious dishes from Sub Saharan Africa & praying as a group for the Songhai, as many other groups from across the world do the same

July 2012 Newsletter

Dear Prayer Partners,

We hope all of you are enjoying your summer in the States!! We hear that most of y'all have had our kind of weather lately!! The Lord has blessed us with some great rains this year & we are so thankful for the cooler days where it gets down to 90 degrees!! Brrrr! : ) In all seriousness, thank you for praying for every aspect of our lives & ministry among the Songhai ... from our health, to our children, to our individual ministries, to our volunteers, to the weather & the crops of our Songhai friends, to the growth in faith of our new believers & to the salvation of many Songhai to come. I know it sounds redundant from newsletter to newsletter but we truly hope you know just how important your prayers are to our family & the Songhai ministry. We pray that God would show you that in some way & encourage you as you continue to faithfully pray for the Songhai each month!

We are also so thankful for the many of you who have joined with us in our "30 Days of Prayer for the Songhai" project for the month of Ramadan. We cannot wait to begin this journey with you in just a few days (July 20!!) & then celebrate with you in August as we look back & see what all God did during that month. Thank you for not only committing to pray for the Songhai for 30 days but also encouraging your friends & family to join with you. If you have not signed up & would like to join us, it's not too late. I'll be more than happy to send you the prayer guide today! Just email us & let us know!

Thank you again for your prayers & support!! We hope this month's newsletter encourages you as you will see many "praises" in it of all that God is doing among the Songhai as a result of your prayers!

that ALL may know HIM,

Mark & Parker Phillips <><

Weekly Prayer Focus: Tera

Please be in prayer for the town of Tera this week. Tera is a Songhai market town that is situated on the southern banks of the Niger River close to Burkina Faso. A church was started a few years ago but has fluctuated up & down with its commitment to meet & growth in the believers' faith. However, a few months ago, the Songhai Team held a discipleship conference for believers & over 30 men, women & children attended. These men & women desired to grow in their faith & become a Light to their community.

This week, the Songhai team held another meeting with the believers to train them in E2E (a set of key stories that works through the Bible with each one pointing to Christ). While they expected only four men to attend, TEN showed up. With this tool in their hand, these men are now equipped to lead someone through the key stories from the Old Testament all the way to Christ's death, burial & resurrection.

Please pray for these believers as they have been burdened to carry His Name to their friends & family. Pray that they would not only grow in their faith & wisdom of His Word but also in their boldness to share with their community. Pray that God would use these men to be a Light to the Songhai. Pray that they would remain strong in their faith & unified as they are persecuted & ridiculed because of their faith. Pray that the stories they learned would be embedded deep into their hearts & minds (as most of them are illiterate & cannot reference a book to remember the stories). Pray that many would hear the stories & know this to be Truth & the One True God. Pray that many would come to faith through hearing the Word & through the testimony of the believers.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Volunteer Testimony: FB Hurst (June 2012)

Preparing for this trip, especially knowing we were doing food distribution, I knew my heart would be broken from what I saw. There is nothing you can really do to prepare yourself for what you are going to see and going into the trip I decided not to have any expectations really of what was going to happen. This allowed God to be revealed to me in many ways that I would have not thought of otherwise.

I expected to be sad most of the time seeing the babies and mothers suffering from malnutrition and it did break me down inside, but God also showed me another huge thing while I was there. He showed me that you don't have a degree in theology, read two or three devotionals everyday, be the most studious Christian or even own a Bible to believe in the Lord. Although as Christians reading the Bible daily and doing devotionals help you grow in your relationship with the Lord, the faith and belief we saw in the new believers we baptized was pure faith and belief. They didn't have to memorize verses, go to church camp, and they couldn't tell you what famous theologian said what, but I guarantee you they could tell you that something inside of them was being called to something greater and that Jesus was working in their hearts and minds.

Overall it was awesome to be with my new brothers in Christ and share food around the common bowl and assess children with them. It was an unforgettable experience and I'm looking forward to seeing them again soon!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Volunteer Testimony: Mark Reeves (summer intern)

In my mental picture of the Biblical narratives I read about Jesus, I picture something like Niger. The desert, the animals, the poverty, the oppressive weight of a centuries-old religion. Even if Boubon isn’t quite first-century Jerusalem, it seems much closer to it than 21st-century Louisville.
Thus, when I see the donkeys pulling carts into town, I imagine Jesus riding one of them triumphantly into Jerusalem (cf. Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19, and John 12). It is hard to ride a donkey triumphantly. Living in close proximity to donkeys helps remind us of how odd a Messiah Jesus is, a king “coming to you…humble and mounted on a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9). Even the chief of Boubon has a Toyota, but the King of Kings would enter a town like Boubon on a donkey.
Therein lies the revelation: despite living in what appears as a more ‘Biblical’ setting, Jesus still doesn’t quite fit in with the Songhai. Jesus’ simultaneous humanity and divinity, the scandalous injustices of the cross and God’s grace, the notion that God cares about people…all of these are foreign concepts in an environment where millennium-long Islamic domination has superimposed a works-based salvation onto a magical worldview seeking power to control the unpredictable course of life.
In this sense, Boubon is very much like first-century Jerusalem, where the Pharisees rested on their works and the crowds hoped for a material miracle. Children and any enterprising bystander mob around white people hoping for an economic miracle in the form of a ‘cado’ (gift) – seriously testing my mental commitment to “let the children come” (cf. Matthew 19:14, Mark 10:14, Luke 18:16). Men scoff and parrot rote Islamic apologetics to discount the reliability of the Bible and the divinity of Christ, trusting in their prayers and alms to enter heaven, just as the Pharisees rejected Christ’s divinity during his lifetime and defended their traditions specifying rules for every area of life. Each evening, as I walked against the current of men piously and publicly streaming toward the mosque for prayer, I thought of Jesus’ words about the ‘hypocrites’ who “love to stand and pray in the synagogues [or mosques] and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others” (Matthew 6:5). Jesus’ words to the Pharisees could easily be repeated to the Songhai of Niger: “you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27).
And yet, before we sit back in self-satisfaction that we are a faith community much more righteous than such ‘backward’ and ‘oppressive’ ‘Muslims,’ let us remember Jesus’ warning against the Pharisee who, “standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even this tax collector [or even those Muslims]’” (Luke 18:11). The distance between the environments of the United States, Boubon, and first-century Jerusalem may be great, but the distance between each of them and righteousness is equally vast. Let us not be caught in self-righteousness, but cry out to God as the tax collector did, whether we come from a Muslim background in a west African village or from a wealthy Christian background in an American city: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (v. 13). In Niger, the Gospel reaches those humble enough to be open to it; we too might remind ourselves that “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).
Even as Christ affirmed and affirms those humble like little children before him, Jesus did not come to bring peace to Niger or the USA. Nonetheless, in Niger one feels closer to what Jesus does bring, that is, “a sword,” attacking the very foundation of the community in its legalistic regulations, where following Christ means abandoning father, mother, son, and daughter (Matthew 10:34-35; Luke 14:26). Those brave enough to follow Christ here truly “fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” more than “those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (Matthew 10:28). People struggle to acknowledge Christ before men (vv. 32-33), and many who seek come at night like Nicodemus (John 3), or “for fear of [their families and their neighbors] they [do] not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the [community], for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God” (adapted from John 12:42-43). Perhaps we too need to examine ourselves to see if we are following Jesus, or conforming to an increasingly unfashionable but still socially acceptable club. Perhaps we need to recognize the radicalism of what we profess to believe, and accept the sword that Christ is bringing to our works-based thinking or other falsehoods.
Let us join our brothers and sisters among the Songhai in surrendering our love from the glory that comes from man, our fear of those who kill the body but not the soul, and our timidity about confessing Christ openly that we might together deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Christ (Matthew 16:24).

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Weekly Prayer Focus: N*

Please be in prayer for village N* this week. We recently had a team ministering in this village for a few days last month. Going into the village, we did not know of any Christians that lived there. A couple of years ago, Randy & Susan had visited this village & found no one interested in hearing the Gospel. Last month, after being in the village for just a few hours, we had been able to share with 3 different groups of people & learned that there is one believer in this village.

The believer in this village has been following Jesus for 20 years & has shared countless times with people in the village but has yet to find someone that will trust in Christ as their Savior. Although we found people willing to listen to the Gospel & some even asking for a Bible, we also did not find anyone that was willing to count the cost to follow Christ.

Recently, we also added 2 new national partners to the Songhai team. After much prayer, it was decided to send them to this village to partner with the lone believer there in trying to evangelize this village. We also knew that this believer, who's lived in this village for 5 years by himself, needed some encouragement & community with fellow believers.

Please pray for Adam*, the believer in this village. Pray that he would continue to be bold in his witness & share the hope he has in Christ with any & everyone. Pray that he would remain strong in his faith & continue to grow in His knowledge of the Word. Pray for Christ to be his Rock when he is persecuted or ridiculed for his faith.

Pray for J* & Y*, the 2 new national partners. Pray that as they are ministering in this village 3 or 4 days each week, they would find people who are willing to listen to the Gospel. Pray that they also would be bold in sharing their faith. Pray that the life they lead would be such a stark contrast to those around them that it would be obvious their joy & peace comes from the One True God.

Pray for the village. Pray that His sheep would hear His voice. As it's happened over & over again, pray for those that are seeking to have the boldness to make their way to these 3 Christians that live among them to seek out the answers to their questions. Pray that the Light would enter the darkness & that many would come to salvation in Christ.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Volunteer Testimony: FBC Hurst (June 2012)

On Sunday we visited Y* and KK* to meet with the Majors at the clinics & explain the food distribution effort. Both Majors were very receptive & very appreciative of what we were doing & gave us their full support. We camped at the clinic in KK Sunday night. Monday, we held an assessment clinic at KK to find young children (2 years old & below) that were malnourished. Hundreds of women & children began arriving shortly after sunrise. We weighed & measured babies & infants all day long & there were still women and children waiting in line when we finally had to break camp & head back to Niamey. Here are the stats from Monday:
  • Assessments performed: 352
  • Malnourshied children that qualified for food aid: 158
  • Severely malnourished children: 34 
  • Overall, 45% of the children assessed were malnourished. Of those that were malnourished, almost 22% were severe).
Tuesday was one of those days that I wish everyone could experience. We distributed food assistance to 154 needy women/familes with malnourished infants. Then we went down to the Niger river & baptized two new believers. Then we had a short Bible study on the banks of the Niger river with the believers & new believers from KK. The Bible study would have gone longer, but a really big sand/rain storm came up quickly & we had jump in the vehicles & high-tail it out of there.

Here's the back story on the 2 new believers in KK: There were three believers in KK & they recently led another man to the Lord (i.e., within the past two weeks). It's pretty awesome that Songhai believers led another Songhai to the Lord. On Tuesday, we found out that this new believer wanted to be baptized. The second new believer is the brother of David*, one of the 3 believers in KK. On Sunday, we had a Bible study with the believers in KK under a shade tree & this man sat in on the study along with our bush taxi drivers & several other men from the village. On Tuesday, that man accepted Christ & he was also baptized at the river. One of the Songhai believers performed the baptisms.

On Wednesay, we went to Y* to do our second assessment clinic to determine who will receive the food aid. We saw some truly heart-breaking sights. A few children were so malnourished it was surprising that they were still alive. We saw one girl that was a year-and-a-half old & weighed 11.9 pounds. I almost lost it. I can't even type this without tearing up. Here are the stats from Y*:
  • Assessments performed: 348
  • Malnourished children that qualified for food aid: 178
  • Severely malnourished children: 50
  • Overall, 51% of those assessed were malnourished and 28% of the malnourished were severe.
After an emotionally tough day, however, Mark told us that as we were packing up to leave, a couple of the men that do some work at the Y* clinic said that they wanted to believe in Christ & be baptized. Such an incredible thing.

We conducted the food distribution in the village of Y* on Thursday. The food truck got stuck in the sand trying to drive into the clinic compound so we improvised on the distribution logistics and everything went very well. While we were doing the distribution, Randy (member of the IMB Songhai missions team) got to spend time with one of the local men who expressed a desire to believe in Christ and be baptized. Cephas (local missions partner and translator) got to spend time with the other local man who expressed a desire to believe in Christ and be baptized. Both men reaffirmed their desire to believe in Christ and be baptized but they both expressed concern about being baptized on the same day as the food distribution ...because they didn't want the villagers to think their motive was to get food. I thought that was very discerning on their part.

After we completed the food distribution, we had a short time of encouraging the believers and saying our goodbyes. On the way back out, we stopped at KK and said goodbye to David* and his newly-saved brother.