31 March 2008

A Night at the Club

Easter Sunday night, we took the kids to watch a horse jumping competition at the Equestrian Club just down the hill from our home.

We stayed long enough to watch three of the competitions - Advanced riders on young horses, beginning riders on mature horses, and our personal favorite...

...a contest where each jump is assigned a point value and riders have a time limit in which they try to rack up as many points as they can-

by carefully choosing their jumps.

Our girls were delighted and entranced by the whole process, especially the many beautiful horses they saw throughout the evening.

The boys, however, did not demonstrate quite the same fascination.

What is it about these beautiful and majestic creatures

that just melts a little girl's heart?

29 March 2008

Look Out! You MIGHT be IT!

Brines of Comfort Joy Design...tagged me today with Seven Random Facts. It is Saturday, grocery shopping is all done, I've got a few minutes, so why not? I'll play!

Here are the rules:

1. Link your tagger and list these rules on your blog.

2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.

3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.

4. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Seven Random Facts

1. One of my dreams is to go to Greece with my hubby for our 20th anniversary.

2. I was, once upon a time, a pretty good swimmer. Butterfly was my event and my senior year of high school, I was the state champ.

3. I grew up in Oklahoma. I used to think it was cool to catch tarantulas and scorpions (without actually touching them, of course). Then, we'd take the scorpions, throw them into water where they'd curl up and sting themselves. Now, I think that is just yucky and stupid... "Did I really do that?"

4. I hate to run, but my first year of college I ran 6 miles every night through the rolling mountains of central PA to try and stay in shape.

5. I'm terrified of flying - in airplanes or otherwise. That makes travel back and forth between W. Africa and N. America a bit of a challenge. In fact, I'm secretly (well, I guess no longer) jealous of the missionaries who used to have to go by a slooooow boat.

6. Québec City, Québec, CANADA is my MOST favorite place I've ever lived, partly because I've convinced myself that I love snow, cold and winter (as long as I have the right clothes... SMILE). Or maybe that has more to do with the fact that it is about 104' sitting here typing at my computer, under a moving fan, at this precise moment... and it is even worse outside.

7. Raspberries have to be the absolute most wonderful fruit that God created. Unfortunately, I don't get the opportunity to eat them very often while we are here.

AND now, it is my turn to tag some folks!

  1. Jen at Niamey Wrights
  2. Trish at Sowers4Pastors
  3. Danette at Diary from the Desert
  4. Beth at The Bee in Beth's Bonnet
  5. Angi at Choice Central
  6. Shannon at Maxwell Family Scrapbook
  7. Natalie at Bringing on the Rain

28 March 2008


In our Bible study homework this past week, we've looked at both kindness and goodness -

God's kindness tenders His goodness (and aren't we SO thankful that He is good, all the time), so that He does not only what is good for us, but He does what is hard and good for us and in us, tenderly and nurturinly... that is one of those "think I'll chew on that thought for a bit," as is typical of most of the Beth Moore Bible studies in which I've participated.

However I missed our weekly meeting/video session due to a seminar I was invited to attend. What was amazing was how those same two themes - kindness and goodness - seemed to come up in our seminar, even though the seminar was about devleoping a Biblical standards and a philosophy of teaching in the classroom (there are the beginnings of a Christian ed movement going on among believing teachers working in both public and private schools here in Niger). It is always amazing to me how God synchronizes the things He is teaching us, no matter from what direction they arrive.

One of the thoughts that has lodged itself in my mind is: Can I show kindness, defined as "tender concern, a desire to treat gently," towards the Eternal One? Are my interactions with Him characterized by a "grace which pervades the whole nature, mellowing all which would be harsh and austere?" Obviously, as a fruit of the Spirit, this sort of kindness, divine kindness, can only be manifest in me when my life is submitted to the moment by moment leadership of the Holy Spirit in my life.

What do these reflections have to do with a seminar on educating, especially in a secular system with expectations that secular requirements will be met? The man who led the seminar (and it was so exciting/encouraging to see that the attendees were almost entirely Nigerien believers active in the field of education through a variety of venues) challenged those of us attending with the following Scripture passages:

I Cor 10.31: "...whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God."


Matt 22.21,22 "...Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's." When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.

I think when I heard these two verses - different pieces from the whole counsel of God's Word brought together for the first time - I felt a little like I'd been run over by a truck. The verses in Matthew, I'd only ever thought about in the context of my obligation towards and submission to those governmental authorities that God had placed in my life. I'd never considered the implications of the other half of the verse...

...that in all situations, I'm also to give to God what is His due - glory - a correct estimation of who He is and what He has done.

In this seminar, the challenge was not just to teach to the very best of our abilities, mastering our subjects and teaching methodology... to not just meet governmental standards... to not just invest in the lives of our students by loving them and loving learning... but most importantly of all, to give the glory to God:

  • when teaching about the water cycle of evaporation, condensation and rain;
  • when teaching about how and why plants are the foundation of all food chains;
  • when teaching that the measure of all three angles in a triangle will always measure 180'; and
  • to continually recognize and acknowledge that all wisdom and intelligence comes from God.

The presenter was clear that glorifying God in this way would come with a cost - no doubt about it. But to not do so is disobedience. To not do so could hinder a little one from coming to God which has serious consequences (which, might I add, could not be considered good or kind). And those were just a few of the examples given.

The thought from which I could not escape (and I don't know if it really makes sense to anyone but me), however, was that choosing to accept that cost, whatever it may be, and giving God the glory in each and every situation, is just a little way to demonstrate back to Him the fruit of His Spirit: treating Him gently, tenderly and reverently - realizing that it profoundly touches His heart to have His glory unashamedly proclaimed.

27 March 2008

Never a Dull Moment

One of my friends here in Niger and I frequently email back and forth throughout the course of our day, and today was no exception except that the topic of our conversation was a little out of the ordinary.

Jonathan comes running up to me as I'm working on the computer, trying to send pictures files to someone who had requested some photos from the baptism/communion service we had last November with the Baneira church group. He's rather excited, squealing in a very high pitched voice: "MAMA! MAMA! Hewelp me! HEWELP ME! Bud...BUD!"

I turn around to find his face and hands covered in blood. He's obviously bleeding somewhere, but the source is not evident. So I scoop him up and off we go to the nearest sink (the kitchen, in case you were wondering) to see if we can clean him up a bit and determine what has happened.

Several minutes later, I've determined that Jonathan has been playing with blue masking tape that he's found somewhere, probably left laying around by one of his older siblings. He's been chewing on it (pretending it was gum), and I extracted a few pieces that he'd gotten stuck in between his teeth. He also decided to shove a small piece of said tape up his nose and then, in his efforts to remove the tape, gave himself quite the nosebleed.

Unfortunately, he'd only managed to massively irritate his nose - while not removing the piece of tape, as the piece of blue tape was clearly visible (well, it was when I held his nose in just the right angle under the flourescent kitchen light).

Thus, you now have the scene that prompted the following email conversation between my friend and I:

Richelle: have either one of your boys ever shoved something up into their nose that you can't get out? any ideas of what to do?

jonathan has shoved a piece of tape up into his nose – at least I think it is still in their because I think (or I'm imagining) that I see the blue from the tape – and he's complaining that there is something there. but he's messed around enough that he got a good nosebleed started. that's stopped, but even just touching his nose to try and look in makes it start again…

My friend: close the empty nostril and blow hard! tweezers? it will be funny when it's out.

Richelle: actually, I think he's pushed it far enough up that I can see it in both nostrils, so which one do I close?

I'm not laughing… yet...

my friend: oh goodness... sounds like a baba job.
(Note - "Baba" is the name Jonathan uses for "Daddy.")

Richelle: *not laughing, but smiling*

After which, our conversation became much more mundane - like the best price we've seen/heard of for 50 kg bags of flour in several weeks.

Just in case you are wondering - I never saw the blue tape leave his nostrils, but he says that it is no longer in there and I can't see it when I find that exact angle under the kitchen lights - so we are assuming (and hoping) it has exited...

  • and EMAIL!

And, we (as in our whole family... probably my friend's family) ARE laughing about this now!

Studio Business

Tim has been busy at the studio this week - check out our ministry blog page for more pictures, music and video.

25 March 2008


...don't ya think?

And although he's no doubt one by default...

...after all,

he's surrounded by ALL those SISTERS...

we think he qualifies...

...on his own merits!

Ok, I know we aren't exactly objective observers, but don't you agree:

He sure is a cute one, isn't he?

21 March 2008


Another market photo by Ilby, a French volunteer who worked in Niger for a few years.

I'm going to try something I've not really tried before - writing on a particular theme on a particular day of the week. This particular subject is a theme that is near and dear to my heart right now, as I'm participating in a Bible study written by Beth Moore, Living Beyond Yourself, which is a study of the fruits of the Spirit. We are well into the study - I can't believe how quickly these 10 weeks are slipping by. Last week, we studied patience. Patience is one of those qualities we all KNOW we need more of, but very few of us REALLY want to go through the disicpleship lessons necessary that result in God demonstrating His patience through our lives... or at least we joke about not wanting to...

I've been mulling much over the following, from this Bible study. There are two primary words in the New Testament that we, who speak English, associate with patience:

  • Endurance/perseverance - or patience in circumstances, motivated by hope.
  • Forbearance/longsuffering - or patience with people, motivated by mercy and demonstrated by NOT judging and forgiveness. It is this second type of "patience" that is spoken of in Galatians 5.22,23, when we speak of patience as a characteristic of the fruit of the Spirit.

It is this difference that I've been meditating on and praying about, maybe because I'm continually seeing realizing just how true it is. I can persevere through circumstances because I know, in the long run, that circumstances are temporal and I have a hope that someday, they will cease. And while I don't have to, I can do so in my own strength. I just grit my teeth and keep on keeping on. I cannot, however, forbear and be longsuffering with the people around me, especially in difficult circumstances, unless the Holy Spirit is the one directing my thoughts and actions. I think that I can sometimes, maybe even often, act the right way, but I know and God knows that my thoughts and internal responses to trying people are not what they should be... and that they only will be if I am patience due to His might and His power working in me and through me.

Shopping at the market (hence the above picture) is one of those time that I see this so clearly. When in the States, I can walk into a grocery store, grab my cart and wander through the store searching out the items on my list, check out using the automated checkers and never have to deal with another person. It is not one of my favorite things to do, but I can survive it and I know it is necessary. Shopping in Niger is a whole different ballgame. We do have some grocery stores - but there will always be people with whom I have to interact: the guard at the door, the butcher, the guys stocking the shelves who've taken all the carts so I have to hunt one down before I can use it, the check out lady who wants to go through all the customary greetings and wonders how Elsie Mae is since I've not brought her into the store for several weeks, and the bagger who expects his tip for placing my purchases exactly where I told him I didn't want them... Then, there are the fruit and veggie stands where after you select your produce, you must check and make sure that they totaled everything correctly and barter the price down at least a bit because that is just what is expected... Or the shack around the corner from the house where you've always got a running account going because they never have the right change - and all of that has to be arranged when all you really wanted was to buy a few tablespoons of salt because you ran out before the end of the week... And finally, the full-fledged market experience, where little boys follow you around wanting to carry your packages for you or wanting you to give them a small "gift," the vendors who accost you to try to get you to look at what they have to sell, the never ending price debate game (and it is much more intense in the market), the fact that you are the only "foreigner" shopping that morning - so everyone wanders around to take a look, and of course, trying to understand and be understood in the strange mixture of French and Zarma that I resort to most times I'm at the market. In this last situation, I can muddle through the circumstances and the obvious interactions with people in what appears to be a pleasant attitude and good humor, and do so in my own strength. However, if I want my thoughts and internal responses to be pleasing to God, even a simple thing like buying groceries has to be done, filled by the Spirit.

And all in all, that is just one more little reason I'm thankful to be working and serving here in Niger: I'm dependant on God to even do my grocery shopping the way He'd want me to do it.

And now, after all that, I'm off to do my grocery shopping for next week... ;-)

19 March 2008

Wordless Wednesday

Photo by Ilby, a French volunteer working in Niger.

$$$$$ ????????s

One of the faith building aspects of life here - at least this term, has been trusting God to provide when the dollar is plummeting in the international economy - especially relative to the Euro. On top of that, prices in Niger are rising - even prices for staple items like flour, sugar, rice and milk.

But, inspired by a friend's blog, I thought I'd give you a few price comparisons - and then you could join us in thanking our Lord for His provision - which sometimes borders on nothing less than miraculous. At times, I truly feel like the widow who's oil and flour never ran out when she chose to honor God and feed the prophet first. I buy groceries on Friday or Saturday of every week, once a week, spending our entire budget allotment... yet the refrigerator still seems quite empty and I ask myself: "How in the world am I going to feed this family of 7 growing children on that for the next 7 days?" Yet we haven't gone hungry and sometimes, even have a little extra for treats like milkshakes at the Rec Center. Just about a year ago (last March/April) we roughly figured on an "exchange rate" of $100 = 50 000 CFA (our local currency). Today, we can figure on a rate of $100 = 41 000 CFA. Put another way, what cost us the equivalent of $20 last year now costs us $24, because the same amount of US $ just doesn't go as far. When we first came to Niger, back in 2001, $100 = 72 000 CFA. So, as you can see, there have been some rather significant changes. And what do we actually pay for some different items? Here are just a few examples:

  • Gas is over $6/gallon. If we want to fill up the Land Cruiser, it costs well over $100. Even filling up our little Toyota Corolla is way too much.
  • A friend bought 2.5 lbs of cheese to make pizza for her son's birthday party - and paid $34 for the cheese.
  • Last week, I tried to find a 100 lb bag of sugar (we tend to buy in bulk). After talking to a couple of different merchants, what would have cost us $42 a few weeks ago will now probably cost us $57.
  • The price of milk has doubled over the course of the last year. When we can find it in town, we buy powdered milk in a 50 lb bag, which will usually last our family about 10 weeks. That works out to nearly $17/week on milk - which we use primarily on cereal or granola, to make bread and to make yogurt.
  • Flour, too has shot up, from $.35/lb before Christmas to a current price of $.46/lb.
  • A 2 lb jar of jelly costs nearly $6.
  • 2 sticks of butter cost $1.80 - $2.20.
  • 1 liter of corn oil costs $3.50 - $4.
  • 1 lb of ground beef is approximately $3.
  • The very cheapest box of cereal (a generic and small box of corn flakes) is $2.50 - unfortunately our kids don't appreciate it because it turns soggy immediately in milk.

Fortunately, there is still a good variety and abundance of fresh produce!

If I sat here and looked at all of this and wondered, "How in the world are we going to do it?" I would become depressed and anxious. Thankfully, He is faithful; we have seen how He has provided in incredible and unimaginable ways, for our children's education, our Land Cruiser... and now we are literally seeing Him provide our daily bread each week. It truly is a privilege to be in this situation of dependance on our Lord!

The painting above is: 'Prophet Elijah and the Widow of Sarepta' c. 1630 by Bernardo Strozzi

18 March 2008

Exciting Change!


at least our gang thinks it is pretty exciting.

When we first arrived in Niamey, summer of 2001 - there were exactly 4 varieties of bottled soda available: Coke, Sprite, Fanta (orange flavored) and Youki (a pineapple flavored drink). These, of course, come in the glass bottles - we pay a deposit and then return the case with bottles in exchange for a new case with full bottles. If you look carefully behind the sign in this photo, you can see what those actual cases look like. :-)

I can't even ever remember that system as a little girl in the States.

Our family doesn't drink a lot of pop, so we refill the case once every six weeks - two months, and Tim went to do so last night. Guess what he found...

There are two brand new types of soda (and I know they've been around for a bit - but not too terribly long): strawberry Fanta and grapefruit flavored Fanta!

Sometimes, it really is the little things that can make our day!

16 March 2008

Breakfast & Blessings

Recently, IF the 4 "big" girls are ready for school and have their room picked up BEFORE their ride for school arrives, we've been letting them walk around the corner and buy some of the local street food that one of our friends sells each morning. These "beignets" (or donuts) are made from a bean flour, fried and served with a spicy tomato sauce and mostly everyone in our family enjoys them - although the amount of preferred spicy tomato sauce varies from individual to individual.

One of these days, I want to sneak around the corner and get a picture of our four blondies lined up in a row, watching her fry the beignets (still working on getting batteries in the camera, AGAIN!), as several friends who've seen the girls as they drive by on their way to work say that it is definitely a Kodak moment.

But, I'm not only mentioning this because I think it would make a cute photo op... but because I'd like to share a special bit of testimony.

My friend, the lady who makes these donuts, is the mother of the little gal (who is almost exactly Jonathan's age) we'd asked many to pray for, just a little over a year ago. Her mama came to our home late one Sunday night after church, carrying her very sick, precious and beautiful little girl in her arms. About a year previous, the little one had been diagnosed with menengitis and malaria at the same time. As a result of brain damage, probably from the menengitis, she now had hydrocephalus and needed surgery right away, or the growing pressure from the fluid accumulating around her brain would lead to death. We began to pray and ask the Lord what He might have for us to do, and we saw God provide in an amazing way for this family. He provided funds for the surgery and we were able to help with transportation to and from the clinic, meals while this little one and her mama stayed at the clinic, making runs to the pharmacy to purchase medications, providing filtered water during her time of recovery, etc.

What especially touched my heart was how God provided such clear, step by step leading - He never showed us His whole plan, all at once, but He always revealed just the next step, just when it was time to take that step. We had several friends question the wisdom of helping this family, especially African friends, for chances are that this child will never be "normal" and will always be a "burden" to her family. But with the peace that only God can give, we knew we were following His will...

Just a few days ago, this little girl and her mother came by the house, again late at night - it was nearing 10 p.m. I had already crawled into bed and I must admit that my attitude was less than stellar as I dressed and headed out to the gate where she was waiting for me (she didn't want to come into the courtyard, have the dog start barking and wake any of our little ones who might be sleeping - I did appreciate her consideration :-) ). I walked out, filled with a sense of duty and responsibility and fearing that she had gotten sick again - certainly not considering the privilege I have to serve my friend or the biblical principle of rejoicing with those who rejoice...

She had come by precisely for that reason - she was rejoicing and she wanted someone to rejoice with her! While we've received scattered negative comments, she has faced criticism for not simply allowing Allah's will to be done, instead approaching the missionaries (and our God) for help. Many of her neighbors do not understand her love for her handicapped child, see only a burden... a child who will never benefit their family.

She came by to tell me that a local organization was funding a wheelchair, fitted specifically for her daughter. But then she also wanted me to hear something: Her little one has finally started to speak! She isn't saying much, but her mama had tears in her eyes as I listened to that beautiful child say over and over "Ay nya, Ay nya!" (My mama, my mama - in Zarma) as she smiled and laughed, leaning in time and time again to kiss her mother.

Please continue to pray for my friend, her precious daughter and their family. I'm so thankful for how God is using them in my life - and I pray daily to be an instrument of His, in their lives.

FYI - the picture of the lady above is not my friend - I don't have a recent picture of her, and as mentioned earlier in this post, I don't have batteries in my camera. But the quiet strength, love, care and concern for her baby... and the baby's trust in her mama (see that sweet little hand), made me think of my friend as soon as I saw it. This photo was taken by Finbarr O’Reilly

12 March 2008

Promised Pictures

Here are the pictures I promised from the retreat - I also have some fun stories to share, but that will have to wait for another day!

10 March 2008

A Weekend Away-

Last weekend, I had the opportunity get away... to a ladies' retreat... here in Niger... without ANY children... You know, this is the first time that I've gone away, leaving Tim and the tribe, in maybe forever. I've been sitting here racking my brain to see if I can recall another time, and it seems like I've always had at least a nursing baby, if not 1 or 2 other children tagging along. This time it was just me - 2 whole days. I had been anticipating this weekend for probably 6 weeks.

Yet as I pulled out of our courtyard, driving our Landcruiser packed with ladies and all of their weekend necessities, and headed for the retreat center (a place called Siloé) about 20 km outside of Niamey, I was thankful for this escape... and I was also thankful that I had on my dark sunglasses so that no one in our laughing, cheerful group could see those unsubmissive tears that stubbornly refused to mind and stay put, just like my kids!

Right before leaving, I'd gone back into the house to say goodbye to my gang while Tim finished strapping all of the luggage down to the rack on top of the Cruiser. Brendan and Anna were busy on a computer game - they were almost too busy to even notice I was leaving. Rebekah and Nadia were back in their room, bemoaning the fact that they'd probably have to spend lots of time watching Elsie Mae and Jonathan instead of doing what they wanted to do. Jonathan was fascinated watching his dad climbing all over the Cruiser and wanting to give it a try himself. Tori had a few tears - when she thought I was looking. When she thought I was busy, she was planning out the videos she wanted to watch. They all gave me a hug and kiss, told me they'd miss me but that they were looking forward to watching movies with Daddy or playing computer games... maybe riding the horse.

It was saying goodbye to Elsie Mae that triggered those tears. She was sound asleep on our waterbed. I laid down beside her for just a moment to hold her. In her sleep, those sweet little arms reached up and around my neck, she smiled and then giggled softly. Finally, she sighed and snuggled in, her nose touching mine, whispering, "Mama..." She still smelled like the sand she'd played in outside most of the morning, the moussaka that she'd devoured at lunch, and the yummy baby soap that I'd just used to wash her... to try and remove all of that dirt. If it hadn't been for the carload of ladies all waiting on me, I might have changed my mind right then and there.

But I didn't - I carefully unlocked her chubby fingers from behind my neck, snuck a goodbye kiss from my hubby, pulled my glasses down to hide my eyes, hollered at the kids one last time to behave, hopped on up into the driver's seat and off we went.

It was a fabulous retreat - I'll post some pics and talk about that more on a different day: lots of laughs, tears, challenge, reading, praying, singing, friends - both old and new - and especially some much needed UNINTERRUPTED alone time with the Lord. But I think the very best moment of all was when I pulled up to our gate, arriving home after returning several other ladies to their families. I immediately climbed out of the car figuring I'd have to pound on the door to get someone's attention to come out and unlock the door so I could come into the courtyard to open the gate and then pull the car into our courtyard... Opening the car door, I immediately heard cheers, hands frantically working to open the big gates, clapping and lots of squeals and screams: "Mama's FINALLY home!" As I climbed out of the car a second time, I was envelopped in arms from all directions. Even Brendan walked out to give me a quick hug. Jonathan came running and Tori grabbed ahold of my leg and wouldn't let go.

Elsie waited on the porch. She let me pick her up and hug on her - even hugged back. But then she had one thing on her mind. As I set her down, she grabbed my hand and led me back to the bedroom where she made it quiet clear that it was time for her to cuddle and nurse.

No doubt about it, the best part of leaving is coming home again! And it could never have happened if I didn't have a wonderful husband who is an incredible daddy and who was willing to make it happen for me - and the house even looked pretty good when I got home!

03 March 2008

Lovin' on Pop-pop

Several months back, I posted on how as a little girl, I was very reluctant to kiss my pop-pop, only doing so after much persuasion.

Therefore, we found it hilarious when visiting with Nana and Pop-pop back in January that Elsie Mae just loved to give her pop-pop kisses. Every time we turned around, she had crawled back up into his lap for cuddles and kisses.

Nana and Pop-pop seemed to think it was pretty funny, too.

02 March 2008

Just TOO Sweet!

The past few days have had a few of those precious parenting moments, so I thought I'd share.

Friday afternoon, as we sat down to eat lunch, Jonathan asked if he could pray. And for the first time, he prayed a "comprehendable" prayer - I could understand every word he said. His prayer went something like this:

"Tank you God for Mama -n- Baaba.

Tank you for Beka, Nahnah, Anna, Toe-rie -n- Baby.
Tank you for big bro Brenbren.
Tank you God for you.
Tank you for YUM YUM!!
Wuv you.

A good part of Sunday morning I spent sitting outside behind the church after Elsie Mae's patience for sitting quietly during the sermon had run out. I shared the rickety wooden bench with another lady and her little girl. Actually, the lady is an older Gourmantche grandma who is caring for her granddaughter, Salamatou, since the mama died when Salamatou was born. Little Salamatou is about 6 weeks older than Elsie Mae, but due to malnutrition and a general lack of food, she is much smaller than Elsie. Her grandmother does the very best she can for this little one, begging food and accepting whatever work she can find, just to buy an enough food for the day.

These two precious little ones had so much fun this morning as they played together. They chased around old cookie wrappers that had blown into the courtyard with the wind, collecting them up and handing them back and forth to each other. They twirled in circles until they got so dizzy they'd fall right over. They chased each other around with squeals and high pitched screams. They tried to balance on their heads an old phone card one of the girls found and picked up. Part of an old soccer ball was laying in the corner of the courtyard, so the girls and I kicked that around for several minutes. And they both took lots of turns running up to Salamatou's grandmother, arms open wide for hugs, kisses and the sometimes tickle.

You know, I didn't get to listen to the sermon or participate in the Lord's Table this morning, but the Lord used that time sitting with Salamatou's grandmother and watching our two little ones playing together to encourage my heart. Living here, my heart physically hurts as I see all of the hurt, illness, poverty and need. I wish I could "fix" it. But I can't and I sometimes beg the Lord to show me how and where He is making a difference. He showed me a glimpse of that this morning. Elsie Mae and Salamatou didn't look around them and see all of the impossibilities, frustrations and discouragements amidst an overwhelming number of things that "just aren't right." Instead, they saw opportunity for fun, laughter and love. They didn't look for what they didn't have, but simply enjoyed and shared, without reserve, that which was available. And in the process, they brought a beautiful toothless smile and tears of joy and laughter to a sweet and tender grandmother who sacrifices daily in ways I can't imagine just to find a little bit of milk and millet for her precious child to eat. And through those two toddlers, God reminded me that there is no time or place where He can't, if I will let Him, direct my mind towards those things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.


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