Sunday, August 26, 2012

update on prayer request

Dear Prayer Partners,

Words cannot express the depth of gratitude we have for those of you who have prayed for the flooding in Niger. We were humbled & blessed by the overwhelming & immediate response of so many of you who emailed to say, "We're praying." Thank you, thank you!

We are sorry it's taken us a few days to send an update. Right now, the situation is really a waiting game. We wanted to email all of you within 24 hours to give an update but it was hard to give an update when we just didn't know the devastation or what the future would hold for this country. But I will tell you this: your prayers are working. For 3 days, we saw dark, ominous clouds that should've brought hours upon hours of rain on our land ... but it did not. We received maybe a total of 20 minutes of rain over those 3 days. I would hold my breath each time I heard the thunder roll & saw the dark clouds & just prayed, "Lord, may your will be done." The river has not receded a significant amount but it has receded some by a foot or 2. God is definitely in the business of still working miracles & He could choose to dry up the river at any minute. And He could restore the crops & gardens & homes & livestock that have all been lost in this situation but He has not. Yet, we will praise HIM still.

Much prayer is still needed for this country. We do not know the long term effects of the flooding but here is what we do know. 90 years ago, this country first started recording the depth of the river. This is the highest the river has ever been ... in the last 90 years. But the worst could be yet to come because the river does not technically reach it's highest point until December when the river crests. The Christian school & dormitory has closed for the rest of the school year. There is 2-3 feet of standing water inside its buildings & they are predicting that it will not recede until January. They need to find a new location for schooling & housing for staff & students within the next 3 weeks. There are over 100,000 homes that were destroyed from the floods & that does not include businesses. Almost 3 dozen people were killed because of the floods as well as thousands of livestock. A few of our believers have lost everything including their homes, gardens & farms.


That is what we know for now. But we also know that we serve a mighty God who saves. And we praise Him still. We ask that you would continue to pray for this country who will see yet another year of lacking & struggle. We ask that you would pray for God to provide above & beyond for our believers. Please pray for their faith to remain strong in Him & that many others would come to know Him as a result of our believers' testimony. Please also pray for the Christian school, Sahel Academy, to find a new location for schooling & housing. And pray that, above all, the Lord's will would be done & His name be glorified & praised.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Urgent Prayer for Niger!

I would never have thought to ask this from our prayer partners but we are asking y'all to please pray for the rains to stop ... for a few days at least! The river has risen to a dangerously high level. So much so, that there are many places that are already flooded & beyond repair.

Last year, the country did not receive enough rains & most farmers lost their crops &, therefore, we have experienced a famine this year. This year, the rains came a little late but, once they came, they fell steady & strong. The rains have been larger & more consistent than anyone can remember in the last 50 years. And it's been all across our region.

Due to this, the river began to rise & swell. In the last few days, the levees have broke & those along the river have begun evacuating. Many Songhai live on islands that are now completely flooded. Many markets are on the river's edge for those traveling by boat to have easier access & those are now flooded. The Christian school in Niamey has 2 feet of water already inside the buildings. The seminary where Cephas attends is flooded, too. Biba's family has had to evacuate their home & they're a mile from the river.

Some of our believers have lost everything - their gardens, their livestock, their homes, their entire livelihood. Because of the steady rainfall & homes that are made out of mud brick, even those that aren't close to the river have lost their homes from crumbling under the pressure. Our hearts are breaking & I'm on the verge of just losing it.

Not this, Lord. Not this. Not after months of going hungry because of no food to losing their homes & their livelihood. My mind cannot process this. I have NEVER been in their shoes. I will probably never be in their shoes. There is no such thing as flood insurance. Where do they go from here?

My heart & my mind HAVE to rest in the fact that God is in control of ALL of this. He can hold back the waters JUST the same as He can open the floodgates of heaven. He can restore lives & homes from nothing. He can turn chaos into events for His Glory. He can draw people to Himself through devastation. He can & He will. He will provide for the needs of His beloved. He will comfort those who are grieving. He will be praised even in the midst of suffering. He can & He will.

Please pray. Please pray for the river to recede quickly. Please pray for no more damage to be done. Please pray for God to provide for our believers & their families. Please pray for Him to bring Glory to Himself through this & that He will draw people to Himself in their desperation.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

august 2012 newsletter

Dear Prayer Partners,

The weather has been unseasonably cool due to steady rains. In our 6 years on the field, we've never experienced a rainy season like this. Our friends & fellow believers, who we all thought would go another year without a harvest, have said that they have crops that are growing & flourishing! This is nothing short of an answer to prayer from so many of you!! My heart is so humbled & full at this moment. We have also been so humbled by the consistent answers to prayer from the "30 Days" project. For those of you that have been participating, we can never thank you enough! This has been an incredible month of seeing the Lord answer request after request & aligning events, in His perfect time & will, to match up with requests that were being prayed for on that exact day. We are continually in awe of Him who sits on the Throne as He hears AND answers the prayers of His people.

Thank you ALL for being so faithful to pray for the Songhai each month. We know that some of you could not participate in the "30 Days" project but please know that we are so grateful for your prayer support each month. As some of you have seen over the last 6 years of praying with & for us, your prayers are so vital to the ministry among the Songhai & God does indeed answer your prayers! Thank you for answering the call to pray for the Songhai & being obedient to do so!

that ALL may know HIM,

Mark & Parker Phillips <><

Friday, August 10, 2012

Volunteer Testimony: LHBC (July 2012)

I signed up for an "arts and crafts with women" trip to Niger. I'm totally comfortable with that. I ended up going to evangelize to women weighed down by the oppression of the Muslim faith.  That is completely outside of my zone of comfort.

I knew I would see poverty stricken children. I hate that, but I know that opportunity does not present itself equitably around the globe. I can accept that and not feel overwhelmed with guilt at the excess that is present in my world. I saw 2 day old babies with infected umbilical cords. I saw running noses and eyes swarmed with flies. I saw too many umbilical hernias to count. I saw children sharing a handul of rice for their mid-day meal. I saw distended bellies. I'm having a hard time with that; my heart hurts and I feel guilty about my overly stocked pantry and freezer.

I knew I would see children without the toys and new clothes my children grew up with. I'm ok with that. My sons didn't have designer clothes and they didn't have all of the latest toys and games. They don't judge people by their marterial goods, and I count that a parenting success. I was surprised to see toddler girls in headscarves playing with naked little boys and children wearing only a tattered pair of panties.  I did not expect to see children playing "jacks" with a pile of pebbles, rolling and chasing old tires, drawing with sticks in the dirt, hacking up rotting fruit with machetes (toddlers), or lovingly carrying a dead baby bird with no head. I'm happy that children the world over will turn unlikely items into a favorite toy. I was pleased to see that much of our American "throw away" clothing gets repurposed.

I knew I would experience sanitary conditions I was not comfortable with and experience new foods. I never expected I would become proficient at squatting behind a bush while a donkey cart drove by.  I never knew how much joy I would feel holding the filthy hand of my little Madjeeto for hours. I admit I didn't spend enough time rubbing my boys' backs as they lay across my lap, like Madjeeto did that day. I'm so ashamed I didn't know what a blessed opportunity that is to deeply pray for that child's future. I never dreamed that after spending an hour picking bugs and chaff out of pounds of rice, that I would enjoy eating a meal of rice, beans, and onions (with flaming hot Tonka seasoning sprinkled on top), from a communal bowl.  Just remember--right hand only.

I knew that speaking the name of Jesus has power. I didn't know how threatening that is to Satan in a village he has claimed. It's creepy how often, when we left the old testament stories and voiced the name of Jesus, the goats in the courtyards all started bleating, the babies began to fuss, little boys started knock-down-drag-out fights, and the Islamic call to prayer would blast from the loud speakers; sometimes all at once.

I knew that, in my USA/ Kentucky/Bowling Green world, encouraging other believers through their struggles and in their faith is easy for me, but sharing the gospel is hard. That's no different in Niger.  But I can now share the gospel from Creation to Christ from memory, with words from my heart, no script. My favorite days were the 2 days we spent in Yourizey Koira where we encouraged and discipled the believing wives of a group of brave believing men.

I knew that many people, in the states, complained about being persecuted for their faith. I learned that they have no idea what persecution really is. I doubt any of them have to find a new place to live before they can be baptized because they know they will no longer have a home after they are baptized. I doubt any of them have gone to bed hungry because store-keepers in the village refuse to sell to them after they have publicly professed their faith.

I knew that I could, by God's grace, push myself to do things I didn't think I would be able to do. I didn't know how hard it would be to sit on the ground for hours on end. My knees, my hips, my back, and my neck hurt, a lot!

I knew that "God's word does not return void." I never knew how desperately I would cling to that promise when women told us they believed what we said to be truth, but their husbands would never allow them to publicly declare that and be baptized.

I knew that folk Islam and social Christianity were both present in our world. I never knew that hearing, "I'm a Christian; I go to church on Sundays," and "I am Songhai; I am Muslim," would sound so similar.

I knew that some of the best conversations amongst women happened when they were sitting, working on household chores together. I didn't know this was a universal truth. I didn't know that our sweetest conversations would occur while sitting on a mat, under a shady tree, stripping basil leaves off the stems. I knew I loved the smell of basil, but I never dreamed how many unpleasant smells basil can cover.

I knew that I signed up for this trip as a step on my path to obedience. I didn't know I would need to be reminded that obedience doesn't mean I'm responsible for the salvation of the people to whom I present the gospel. The Great Commission means that I will speak the name of Jesus to those in darkness. I am obedient by planting the seed. As one wise team member said, "Our goal is not to move lost souls from -10 to 10. Our goal is to move them from -10 to -9." We have to trust that HIS sheep hear HIS voice. I didn't know how clearly you could see in listener's eyes that they are hearing HIS voice.

I knew I would be blessed. I didn't know how blessed and how humbled I would be. 

- Besty M, Living Hope Baptist Church (Bowling Green, Ky)


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Volunteer Testimony: LHBC (July 2012)

My eyes have been opened to see:

The urgent need to GO and share the truth.
That there are men, women, and children that have never heard of the name Jesus.
That you don't have to be an expert in theology to share the gospel.
That sharing God's love can be as simple as a smile, handshake, or a game of peek-a-boo.
That His sheep DO hear His voice.
That God is using the Songhai team to change lives.
That mighty things happen when His name is spoken.
That His light can shine in even the darkest of places.
That persecution still exists and that many believers are shunned by family, friends, and their community.
That although they may be hungry and not know when their next meal will come, their hunger for Jesus is overwhelming.
That  their love for Jesus is far more important than the threat of losing their home or even their life.
That bonds can be created with team members that will never be broken.
That bush taxis and squatty potties aren't REALLY that bad.
That I now have new brothers and sisters in Christ that will forever be in my heart.

- Brandy L, Living Hope Baptist Church (Bowling Green, Ky)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Volunteer Testimony: LHBC (July 2012)

In November of 2010 when my husband was asked to join a team to Niger, I supported him fully.  However, I cautioned him that while I could support him from home it was not my time to go.  We have two small children and at that moment I could never dream of leaving them to go across the globe.   Yet, when he returned I could see his passion and zeal for the Songhai.  I heard him tell about believer after believer who followed God no matter what the cost.  He glowed when he told stories, he prayed fervently over prayer cards for brothers he met around the world, and even led our oldest daughter to pray nightly "for the people of Africa." I saw something different in him, and it was something, I wanted to experience, too.

So,  I sought God's will for this area in my life.  I prayed personally that God would give me a peace about leaving our daughter's.  I prayed he would send help to take care of our children when I was away. I prayed that he would provide financially for my trip. I sought wise counsel from other believers, and other mothers.  I also was in the word seeking His will. 

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 spoke to me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

I witnessed God's sovereignty.  His plan was perfect.  I was weak, yet through Him I could be strong.  From the day, I left our church in Bowling Green for Africa, I have felt the hand of God each step I took. 

Did I cry when I was not home for my daughter's 3rd birthday, and my 37th birthday?  Yes, but I was encouraged by other team members during those difficult times.  And my motherly soul was filled by missionary's children instead of my own.  I celebrated across the globe without my immediate family, yet I was filled.  I experienced a glimpse of pure joy.

God also showed me through my ministry time, He is perfect.  He made divine appointments for our team each day in the field.  He provided eager women to listen to His word.  He provided a multitude of children for us to teach songs, share the love of Jesus. He allowed my ears to hear testimonies of national partners who faced persecution.  Ultimately, he allowed me to be His light in a dark place. 

This trip embarrassed me, humbled me, blessed me, taught me, filled me, and challenged me. I fully experienced walking in the center of God's will.  And all I did to receive these blessings was be obedient.  God is good!

- LeAnn C, Living Hope Baptist Church (Bowling Green, Ky)