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!