We completed our second (of 12 total) class of NLTS this past week. The class was all about Spiritual Formation as we discussed topics such as Bible Study, Prayer, Fasting, Spiritual Gifts, and Stewardship. We had 17 attendees who represented 11 villages. Jody and Randy taught early in the week and then a team from Living Hope finished the teachings.
It was an incredible week of learning and fellowship and from day one there was just a sweet spirit among the believers. They are growing and they are realizing more and more how to lead their churches or outreach groups back home. They are learning more and more that they can still grow and learn and teach others even though they cannot read.
It was so awesome to see God’s sovereign hand even more visible this past week. When God gave us the vision for the HUB and NLTS we could go virtually anywhere in Niger we wanted. Now, however, as our country has become a less safe place, the need for a central launching pad here in the capital is a necessary part of our ministry!
We gave our teachers a goobo (Songhai wooden cane). This is a vital tool for shepherds as they will use it to keep their flock on the right path but also to defend their sheep from enemies. I gave them these to remind them of how they’ve sharpened these leaders into stronger and more qualified shepherds.
I also told them a story an old believer here once told. He said that his walk with Christ was a journey and that he wanted to move forward along the road. However, sometimes a snake came out in the road. If you have nothing in your hands, i.e., a goobo, you have no option but to turn (and run!). But if you have a goobo, you can kill the snake and continue to move forward. "So what is the goobo?", I asked the man. "The goobo is God’s Word, it is our weapon and if we don’t have it, we can’t move forward in our journey with Christ!," he replied.
I told these men that in teaching these believers this past week, they have given them a goobo. A goobo that will allow them to kill any snakes that come in front of them and I reminded us all that we live in a land full of snakes!
I gave all of our attendees a Niger soccer jersey and told them as I handed them their gift to “Soak your jersey.” This is a phrase here that soccer coaches will tell their players. The idea is to go play hard and, therefore, sweat and get your jersey wet. The theme of the week was disciplines. And disciplines take work and practice. We reminded them that knowledge isn’t enough and tools aren’t enough. We must work with them or, in other words, we must soak our jerseys!
Thanks for your prayers for these men and this ministry. Again, many of you were the first to take the Good News to these brothers' villages and maybe even these men themselves. Many of you were there when they took their initial steps in the faith. And now, many of you pray for these men daily as they try to shepherd their flocks. Pray that they’ll be able to defend against snakes. Pray that many will believe as they take the Gospel to their people. And pray that they’ll soak their jerseys!