Sunday, August 24, 2014

august 2014 newsletter

Hello Prayer Partners!!

Thank y’all so much to all of you who sent kind words regarding our “issues” with our computer/electricity last month or empathizing with me on homeschooling or just saying that you were praying for us. We always appreciate the words of encouragement & are so thankful for all of you who pray so faithfully for us & the Songhai! And thank you to the many of you who have already sent invitations to us to come see you while we are in the States next year. We will be based in both Kentucky & South Dakota for the majority of our stay & will try our hardest to fulfill as many of those invitations as we can & as travel allows … especially with 3 young ones in tow!

Thank you again for your faithful prayers for our family, our team & our ministry among the Songhai. We are eternally grateful for them as they are so, so vital to everything we do here!

that ALL may know HIM,

Mark & Parker <><

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

hello, hello!

Hello Prayer Partners!! We are SOOOO sorry that it has been well over a month since you have heard from us. I am here to offer an explanation because I'm sure there are a few of you who've wondered why we didn't send out our normal monthly newsletter in July. So for those of you interested, here it is ...

On July 4, we said, "See ya later!" to our teammates, the Foxes, as they headed to the States for their stateside assignment. We decided that we'd take the next week as "stay-cation" because it was our last week before I started homeschooling Isabelle in first grade. On July 11, we welcomed 2 of our best friends who had come to visit us for 2 weeks. One was here to do water purification education with the Songhai people as part of his master's thesis & the other came simply to be a wonderful friend & give this mom a hand as I started homeschooling Isabelle. On Monday, July 14, we started our school year & I was so thankful that I had an extra set of hands to help me because homeschooling is not for the faint of heart! On Saturday, July 19, I turned on our computer to work on a project & quickly realized something was not right. After trying to troubleshoot it for well over an hour, we came to the realization that our hard drive had crashed. While we did have most of our files backed up, we did not have our 972 email contacts (that's y'all!!) backed up. I was sick to my stomach as I realized we had NO way to get in touch with you!!

After a week of trying more & more things, we decided that our only hope was to send our iMac back to the States to be repaired. But being the tenacious (that's what our friend called me; my husband calls it stubborn) person that I am, I decided to keep trying up until the day our friends left & would need to take the computer with them. Finally, with just hours to spare, we were back up & running. We joked that Apple should hire me because I restored a crashed hard drive in Africa! Ha!! But, really, it was just a HUGE blessing from the Lord that it was restored without having to either send it back or pay for it. We spent the next few days getting our computer back to it's working order with all our files (& emails!) where they belonged & I sat down last week to send an email similar to this one only for the power to cut. So now our nemesis was not the computer but the electricity! We spent the better part of last week with 3-4 hour power cuts throughout the day & night. When we finally thought all was well again, we had a huge thunderstorm on Thursday (which was a blessing because of the rain & the cool temperatures that came with it) but lightning hit our house, struck our phone line & shorted out our modem & wireless router. By Friday, we were thinking, "Can anything else happen or break this summer?!"

So before anything else does happen, I am sitting down & sending y'all an email!! Again, we apologize for the lack of communication but we know that so many of you are still faithful to pray even when you don't hear from us &, for that, we are so grateful. I know that some of you have also been concerned about us in terms of what's happening in other countries in West Africa with the Ebola virus. We are safe & it has yet to reach Niger's borders. Please continue to pray for those affected & for it to be contained quickly.

Also, you may be wondering why in the world I would start a school year in the middle of July. Well, as you all know, we will be heading to the States in mid-December for an 8 month stay in the States. I know that our traveling schedule will be very hectic as we will try to see our family (who is spread out over 5 states) & many of you & your churches who have faithfully prayed for us. So as you start planning your 2015 calendars, please think of us. We would LOVE to come see as many of you as we can & visit in your churches to speak about all that God is doing among the Songhai! If you are interested in having us come, please have your pastor, missions pastor, SS teacher (or whoever plans these things in your church!) email us as soon as possible. We really hope that we can see some of you face to face to thank you personally for all your prayers & what they have meant to us & our family!

And unless some other bizarre incident happens in the next 2 weeks, we will back with our newsletter in mid-August!

that ALL may know HIM,

Mark & Parker <><

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Volunteer Testimony: LHBC (June 2014)

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.”
-       John 6:47-50
            Along the banks of the Niger River, fields of millet struggle against the heat and the hard earth. The Songhai/Zarma people spend the majority of the season striving to cultivate these fields, praying fervently for rain that is so essential to their livelihood. From village to village, the Songhai welcomed us into their communities and homes, a reflection of the proud and hospitable culture they have maintained through their rich history. However, one theme remained constant within our conversations: prayers for rain.
            While not ignoring the physical needs in Niger, God is tugging on the hearts of His children among the Songhai people. He is truly sending His rain and preparing the way for a great harvest of believers. God reveals His sovereignty in all things. In every interaction, He proved that He was making a way that we could not understand or pride ourselves in, demonstrating at every turn that His sheep hear His voice. He worked every situation for His good, opening up encounters, conversations, and situations in a big way. Individuals were seeking us out with a true and genuine thirst for the redemptive story of Christ.
            Throughout villages along the roads to Gaya and Tera, we saw the gospel story told to many people who had never before heard the name of Jesus Christ. Some of those who heard believed, and many others were left with a calling towards further understanding of the message. In almost every village we encountered, people encouraged us to persevere, to not grow tired in our sharing and to return to explain the significance of Christ’s sacrifice. At other times, we were met with a degree of adversity among the Islamic leadership within the villages, but God consistently opened up avenues for conversation and deeper relationships in spite of this.
            God is moving among the Songhai people, and this past week of sharing with those who do not believe and discipling those eager new Christians who do is a testament to this. He is speaking to His children within Niger, revealing their sin and, most importantly, their need for a savior. As the week ended, we were able to see the fruit of His labor with a recap of villages who had not heard who had been reached, believers who were established within villages once unreached, and the constant effort of pulling local believers together to form church bodies within villages. However, there is still a deep need for obedience among international and local believers to spread their faith and answer Christ’s call for the church, which alone has the power to change communities. And just as the millet fields continue to rise, pray that God continues to send his rain among hearts of the women and men of the Songhai people.
- Ben H, Living Hope Baptist Church, Bowling Green, KY

Friday, June 27, 2014

Ramadan Prayer Guide

The Songhai team has come up with a prayer guide for Ramadan, which begins tomorrow. This guide has the name of 30 villages (one for each day of the Ramadan holiday). In each of these villages, there is at least one believer who will be experiencing Ramadan this year for the first time as a Christian. Essentially, this means that this believer will not celebrate a holiday that they have normally celebrated for every year of their life up to this point. More than any other time of the year, it is during this time that our believers are "set apart" from their community. While everyone else is fasting from food & water from sun up to sun down for 30 days in a row, our believers will continue to eat & drink. It may be hard for you to understand but this holiday & our believers' choice to NOT celebrate it is a BIG deal. While it does "alienate" them on some levels & brings persecution on others, it also is a great time for them to share their faith & explain why they are no longer celebrating this religious & cultural holiday.

So, if you would like, you can pray for these villages & the believers (whose names are being withheld) in them who will not be celebrating Ramadan for the first time in their life. It's a sometimes scary & lonely road to step out on their own as they take that first bite of food while everyone else sits by & stares. Pray that as everyone else is closing their mouths to fast for these 30 days, that our believers will open their mouths wide & be bold to proclaim the name of Jesus to their friends & family. Pray that this holiday would be a time where the believers take a deeper & firmer stand in their faith & not turn back to their former religion just because they are afraid of standing out. Pray that God would use this time in their lives to grow them in their faith in ways they'd never imagine.

*This prayer guide is a 4x6 card. Feel free to print it out & post it on your fridge, stick it in your Bible, tape it to your bathroom mirror, or just use it however you desire.

Friday, June 20, 2014

June 2014 newsletter

Dear Prayer Partners,

I cannot believe that we are already 6 months into this year!!! In another 6 months, we will be writing our newsletters from America while we begin our stateside assignment! Each month as I sit to write down all that has happened over the last month, I am always so humbled & amazed at all the Lord does each & every month among the Songhai. The Psalms speak so many times of recounting the wondrous deeds of God. And that's exactly what these newsletters feel like ... recalling all of the WONDERFUL things that God has done through your prayers!! We cannot thank you enough for your faithful prayer support for us, our Songhai believers & the ministry among the Songhai here in Niger!!

Again, I had to do a 2-page newsletter because there was just SO much to write about & praise God for! This newsletter really is just one huge praise after another. We hope that you will feel VERY encouraged as you read through all of the ways your prayers have been answered! I did not mention 2 things in the newsletter but they are definitely worth mentioning here ...

1. Ramadan begins in 8 days. If you aren't familiar with this Muslim holiday, do a quick Google search & read about it. Last year at this time, there were 30 new believers that were going to face this holiday (& not celebrate it) for the first time as a follower of Christ. This year there are 157 (ONE HUNDRED FIFTY SEVEN!!!!) NEW believers that will face this holiday as a follower of Christ & no longer a follower of Mohammed. Nothing else in all the year will make them stand apart from their former religion as them not celebrating this religious & cultural holiday. Please pray for these men & women to remain firm in their faith during these 30 days & faithful to Christ.

2. Jody & Sarah Fox (& their 3 girls) will leave Niger in 2 weeks after serving the Songhai team for 3 years. Their plans (& ours!) are for them to return January 2015. Please pray for them as they wrap up their ministry this next week in Boubon, say goodbye to their friends & pack up their house that has been their home for the last 2.5 years. It will be a HUGE transition, especially for their girls, to move back to the States & your prayers for them would be greatly appreciated.

Thank y'all again so much for loving on us & praying for us!

that ALL may know HIM,

Mark & Parker Phillips <><

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Weekly Prayer Focus: Discipleship Training for Women

Please be in prayer for the Discipleship Training for women that will be happening starting today! You may remember a prayer request about this in January. Unfortunately, in January, none of the women we invited were able to attend. We were afraid that this type of teaching for our female believers would never happen due to the demand & responsibilities placed on women in the Songhai culture. But the Lord knew that January was not the time & this month is what He had planned all along.

Starting tomorrow, 14 women will be traveling to Niamey to attend the FIRST EVER discipleship training for women. We are so excited!! Considering the total number of female believers among the Songhai we work with, 14 is like 75% of those women!! We are beside ourselves that the Lord is bringing all of this together & we cannot wait to dig into the Word with these women!

Pray with us for the Lord to use this time for His glory & reknown. Pray that these women would grow deeper & deeper in their relationship with the Lord, in their knowledge of Him & His Word & in their love for their Savior. Pray that the walls of defense that these women have built up after having been immersed in a male-driven culture for so long would break down ... that they would see their worth in their Heavenly Father's eyes, they would know His love for them & that He would soften their hearts to Him. Pray that they may be able to stay focused & attentive during the lessons & retain all that they are learning. And pray that they would take His Name & the story of His salvation & love to their friends, family, children, husbands, etc in their villages.

May 2014 newsletter

Dear Prayer Partners,

We hope this finds you all doing well & enjoying nice temperatures in the States. We are actually experiencing a "cool" day today in Niger. It is below 100 degrees!! It's 99 to be exact. But it's still below 100!! We had a nice, big rain on Sunday evening that keep sprinkling into yesterday morning & the cloud cover has stayed around for another day. Our Africans friends say it's cold outside!! We are just enjoying a few days without sweating! Ha!! : )

Thank y'all so much for praying for us through this last month. We are so very grateful for your prayer support for our family, our team & the Songhai people. We are also so very grateful for your gifts to the IMB that keep us here on the field & allow us to do what we have been called to do. We never ever take for granted that your giving allows us this opportunity to minister among the Songhai & we never ever take for granted that your prayers are what sustain us. Thank you.

For the first time in our newsletter history, I had to make a 2-page newsletter! There's just so much to tell & so much going on that it wouldn't fit all on one page. But I was also able to include a few pictures for your viewing pleasure. : ) Thank you again for your love & prayers & support!! We are so blessed by each of you!

that ALL may know HIM,

Mark & Parker <><