29 August 2008

Ramadan, the Muslim Month of Prayer and Fasting

...begins soon... as in Monday.

This is a time for much prayer and spiritual searching for many Muslims; we, too, make a concentrated effort to pray that the God of the Bible would unmistakeably reveal Himself to those seeking truth and a real relationship with their Creator... "And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart..." (Jer 29.13, KJV)

If you would like to join us in prayer this next month, please follow the daily updates that will be posted on our minsistry web page. If you do decide to join with us, please let us know by leaving us a comment or jotting us a quick email. As Nehemiah prayed: "O Lord, [we] beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name..." (Neh 1.11, KJV)

Or, you can go directly to the following web page:

28 August 2008

"You thrill me, Lord, with all you have done for me!" (Psalm 92.4)

I was browsing through older photos recently - while we've been in Niger this term, all of our children have grown and changed, in ways that are obvious and in ways that are not quite so easy to put your finger on or to quantify. But I think the child that has surprised me the most has been Nadia...

Nadia's baptism
Spring, 2005
Nadia with her friend, "Bear"
Summer, 2005

It has been just three short years, but Nadia has grown from being a friendly, organized, conscientious, one-volume only (very loud) but tender hearted kindergartener...

...to a friendly, organized, conscientious, only sometimes loud, enthusiastic, studious, tender hearted young "little lady."

Nadia getting ready to ride King
Summer, 2008

Then, this morning at a prayer meeting, the following scripture (Psalm 92) was shared... at least I think it was that Psalm. I didn't make note of it at the time, but the verse highlighted below really jumped out at me...

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to the Most High.

It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning, your faithfulness in the evening, accompanied by the ten-stringed harp and the melody of the lyre.

You thrill me, Lord, with all you have done for me! I sing for joy because of what you have done.
O Lord, what great works you do! And how deep are your thoughts.

Only a simpleton would not know, and only a fool would not understand this: Though the wicked sprout like weeds and evildoers flourish, they will be destroyed forever.

But you, O Lord, will be exalted forever.

Your enemies, Lord, will surely perish; all evildoers will be scattered. But you have made me as strong as a wild ox. You have anointed me with the finest oil. My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies; my ears have heard the defeat of my wicked opponents.

But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon. For they are transplanted to the Lord's own house. They flourish in the courts of our God. Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green. They will declare, "The Lord is just! He is my rock! There is no evil in him!"

(Ps 92:1-15 - Holy Bible, New Living Translation ®, copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust.)

It was the word, "thrill" in this particular translation that captured my attention. This is probably stating the obvious, but consider the following synonyms for the word thrill: EXCITE, DELIGHT, OVERJOY, STIMULATE, ELECTRIFY, STIR... When I looked up the original word translated thrill, I found: probably to brighten up, i.e. (figuratively) be (as in to make or cause to be) blithe or gleesome...

I don't think that lately, I've been allowing the Lord to thrill my heart... I've been more wrapped up in circumstances and busyness, looking forward to things I'm NOT looking forward to, not taking the time to be still before Him, to remember all of the gifts and blessings He showers upon me, upon our little family - EACH moment! Salvation, strength for today and hope for tomorrow, a history of walking with Him and watching Him work and provide, a tender, loving and godly husband, beautiful children who are learning to love Him (like even today, as I was reflecting on how Nadia has grown and changed), His Word that encourages and feeds me...

When I was still just a young 'un, my mother used to fuss at me. I loved to read and would escape away into books, using them to avoid people and doing things that might stretch me or make me uncomfortable. She was called to school by my 4th grade teacher - because I read too much. It wasn't hurting my grades as much as it was hurting my opportunities to socialize. And I can see that the same thing has been happening lately - just on a different plane. He longs to thrill my heart with Himself - and I've had my head down, my nose stuck in my circumstances and my eyes glued to this story that is my life - and in the process, missing out on so much more....

Original word meaning from: Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

26 August 2008

Amazing... the Things I Learn from my Kids...

Victoria has always been a funny and interesting child. She can say the most amazing things that either make us laugh, infuriate or irritate us, or just make us scratch our heads and wonder??? Life is never dull with her around! But this summer, I learned something very interesting from her...

Something she has done, even since she was just a tiny baby, has been to sleep under a light sheet or blanket with just her feet out, and right in front of the air blowing out of our air cooler.* This meant that her feet were never under her mosquito netting. She always insisted it helped her stay cooler. I just laughed, sprayed her feet and ankles with mosquito repellant and thought she was being silly; and - as long as she wasn't being eaten alive by mosquitoes - allowed her to sleep that way.

One evening this summer I was laying down with Elsie Mae in the girls' bedroom, cuddling her to sleep (that is a habit I have - it forces me to spend a few quiet moments with the little ones each evening). It was hot and humid, and since we were on the bottom bunk of a bunk bed and inside the mosquito net, I couldn't feel any air moving... in fact, the feeling was quite similar to clausterphobia - YUCK! Since Elsie Mae is a close cuddler - she usually likes to have her hands on my face and neck as she snuggles - I was not enjoying that night's cuddle... not in the least. Then, I stretched, trying to get a deep breath to ease that sensation of suffocation, and my feet slipped out from underneath the net and right in front of the air cooler.

And you know what? Our nutty Victoria was ABSOLUTELY CORRECT! Just the fact of keeping my feet cooler in front of that only slightly cooler moving air made it much easier and a whole lot morre pleasant to relax and cuddle with Elsie... in fact, I think I might even have dozed off for a half hour or so. Who would have guessed?

So, either Victoria was right... or she and her mama are both a little strange and enough alike (a fact on which others have commented before) that what works for one also works for the other. I must admit, this is not a trick any of our other children have tried... gotta wonder???


*An air cooler is different from an air conditioner (though they are synonymous in the minds of our younger children). Air coolers lower air temperature by adding humidity to the air, and tend to move a larger volume of air than most ACs. When the humidity rises, however, we turn that humidity function off, and just use them as a large fan, bringing in the slightly cooler night time air to make the house bearable enough to sleep.

Interested in Learning More About What We Do?

As a refresher or for those of you who may not be familiar with the nature of our work in Niger, we've posted a short summary on our ministry blog. Just a click will take you to WBTN: Wrights Broadcasting Truth to Niger, and you can read more about what we do.

25 August 2008

Not too long now...

Summer vacation is truly coming to end - and much more rapidly than I would like it. The girls are starting to dig out their French dictionaries and cahiers (workbooks or notebooks) and getting their school stuff organized. I still need to do a bit of work with both Anna and Victoria on their reading and handwriting, but otherwise, we've reached most of our home schooling goals for the summer. And the girls are all excited about school - it has been raining a lot the last 1.5 weeks, which means they've been stuck in the house or on the porch to play... or helping Mama with work around the house. I'm not sure if they are more excited about seeing their friends, getting out of the house or getting away from work!

Another sure sign that school is about to start is the return to Niamey of the kids' Nigerien school friends. During the "long vacation," as they call it, most families will return to their ancestral village to visit with family, often staying for several weeks. Saturday morning, Zeina, Nadia's best friend and classmate since the maternelle, called to see if she could meet us at the pool for the afternoon. Everyone was excited to see her and the girls had a wonderful time playing together, eating french fries and catching up.

This year will be a challenging year for Nadia. We are thinking that she will combine her last two years of French school into one - grades CM1 and CM2 - so that she can take her exams next summer, instead of trying to take them after having been at home in the States for a year. We aren't sure what that will look like: if the principal will want to move her up a class or if he will have her work with a tutor outside of school hours to help her prepare, but it will be a busy academic season for her. On top of that, she learned that her friend Zeina will not be returning to Alliance this year; her family has chosen for her to go to a school closer to their home. So Nadia will not only have a challenging year academically, but - at least at the beginning - a bit of a sad time as she starts back without Zeina in her class. Fortunately, our friendly Nadia always has lots of friends, so we know she'll do just fine!

24 August 2008

Some More about Life in Niger

A fellow missionary who lives and works here in Niamey recently posted the following on his blog - and I thought I'd link to it, just so you'd know that when we complain about it being hot - we really do have reason! And remember: when we want to relax in air conditioning, we usually head to the "Cold Room," as our gang calls it, because running the AC is sooooo expensive!

On a completely different not, one "thing" we've found difficult to understand as we try to comprehend the culture, perspectives and traditions here is the strong pull of community and village life verses the individualism that is so prized in western cultures. On our ministry site, I've posted some interesting articles, written by Nigeriens, that touch on this topic of why/how it is so hard to be an individual, different from everyone else... or from their perspective, an outsider.

Suave and Debonair

Saturday morning is usually my weekly grocery shopping trip - going out only once a week helps me more easily confrom to our budget constraints and requires that I plan a weekly menu. Yesterday morning was no exception.

There was a little difference this Saturday, however. Jonathan had been invited to a friend's birthday party. Since this particular friend lives just around the corner, transportation while I was gone was not an issue. Since Jonathan was just finishing up breakfast as I was leaving, helping him to dress and taking care of his hair, etc., on the other hand, were issues. I made sure I laid out some clothes for him to wear... If I leave picking out his clothes to him, his big brother or his dad, it is usually some sort of outlandish combination which, on most days, isn't really a big deal. But for a birthday party, is seemed a little more important that his shirt at least matched his shorts. I also showed Tim the gift, tape and let him know that the girls would know where to find wrapping paper.

Tim immediately put Jonathan's sisters to work on him. And did they go to work on that boy! Somehow, I think Rebekah was the one with the following brainstorm... They dressed him, put gel in his hair and combed it just so - which means he had lovely blonde curls because I, much to his father's chagrin, keep his hair a bit longer in back (I LOVE those curls!). They made sure he washed his face and brushed his teeth and wore his church sandals instead of flip flops from the local market. I'm not sure, but I did hear some whispering about using a small splash of Daddy's cologne, too. The final touch? The girls cut some flowers from the garden, tucked one into Jonathan's shirt pocket and then tied together a small bouquet for him to give to the birthday girl. I did mention that the birthday girl at this party is one of the sweetest, cutest little four-year-olds in town, right? Too bad Tim didn't have batteries in the camera to take a picture... IF he would have thought of it! :-)

Something tells me that his big sisters have a plan to turn Jonathan into quite the little gentleman! What do you think? I don't think he has a chance!

I wish I could have seen him when he left the house. When he returned as a clown decorated with face paint, sticky candy covering his face and hands, and cake and cookie crumbs down his shirt pocket, I think some of the inital effect had been lost.


Picture of Fred Astair, my epitome of a "gentleman" from my favorite movies when I was a little girl growing up!

21 August 2008

"Do You See Your Calling" - Oswald Chambers

"Separated unto the Gospel." Romans 1.1

"Our calling is not primarily to be holy men and women, but to be proclaimers of the Gospel of God. The one thing that is all important is that the Gospel of God should be realized as the abiding Reality. Reality is not human goodness, nor holiness, nor heaven, nor hell; but Redemption; and the need to perceive this is the most vital need of the Christian worker to-day. As workers we have to get used to the revelation that Redemption is the only Reality. Personal holiness is an effect, not a cause, and if we place our faith in human goodness, in the effect of Redemption, we shall go under when the test comes."

Paul did not say he separated himself, but - 'when it pleased God who separated me...' Paul had not a hypersensitive interest in his own character. As long as our eyes are on our own personal whiteness we shall never get near the reality of Redemption. Workers break down because their desire is for their own whitness, and not for God. 'Don't ask me to come into contact with the rugged reality of Redemption on behalf of the filth of human life as it is; what I want is anything God can do for me to make me more desirable in my own eyes.' To talk that way is a sign that the reality of hte Gospel of God has not begun to touch me; there is no reckless abandon to God. God cannot deliver me while my interest is merely in my own character. Paul is unconscious of himself, he is recklessly abandoned, separated by God for one purpose - to proclaim the Gospel of God."

From My Utmost for His Highest, Jan 31st entry.

19 August 2008

Quick Update on Youki

No, this is not the promised picture of Youki, not yet at least. He's still too shy to stay out of the shadows long enough to get a picture when someone is close to his cage... and we still need batteries for the camera. But this is a picture of a Timneh African Grey, the type of bird that we think he (or she?) is. Youki is still a young bird, as evidenced by the downey feathers still on his chest and stomach, and we are all throroughly enjoying his addition to our family.

We feel he is making great strides, and starting to become comfortable with our family, although removing his blanket, feeding and watering and cleaning the cage still make him quite nervous (and he's not too shy to let us know). He also doesn't appreciate it when taller family members approach the cage, growling to warn us. I was surprised to learn that parrots "growled."

But most of the time, he is comfortable when the girls sit around his cage and read, (sometimes reading aloud to him), enjoys family meal times, when we are all there in the room eating at the table, but no one approaches too closely, when the kids are watching a movie (he especially likes episodes of MacGyver and the light saber swishes on Star Wars) with lots of intriguing noises and sounds for him to listen to. But his hands down favorite is the sound track from "Prince of Egypt," or other theatrical music. Then he sings, squeals, squeaks, whistles and performs gymnastic tricks as he climbs all over his cage, even hanging upside down from his roof.

He also likes to dismantle the straw roof to his cage (maybe he wants more light?), as piece by piece, he's slowly taking it apart. We figured he learned this behavior by watching King, during the time that their sejours here overlapped. King ate the roof (a thatch made out of millet stalks or straw) to his hangar this Spring/Summer... This has nothing to do with the subject of Youki, but we think it was just the challenge of pulling it down plus the fact that we kept some of his feed stored on the roof that enticed King to first slowly dismantle and then rapidly consume his roof. But back to the subject at hand - Youki pulls the silver spray-painted straw out stalk by stalk, plays with it then throws it on the floor. And yesterday, he stuck his head through the top wires of the cage where he'd made a whole big enough for him to peek out. It was quite funny to see his head poking up through the roof and looking around. It could have been our imagination, but he seemed quite proud of himself for all the squeals and giggles this particular behavior elicited from the girls. That dovetails nicely with everything we've read so far on African greys: emotionally, they tend to act like a 2-3 year old, often doing things just for attention or reaction from those around.

We are learning that earning his trust will take time and patience, however. He was not a hand raised baby accustomed to the love and care of people from his earliest days, like the parrots available for purchase in the States. Instead, his first contact with people was probably when he was snatched from his nest, thrown in a cardboard box, shipped in the back of a truck over horrible roads to Niamey, and then tossed in a tiny cage near the little market where we buy fruits and vegetables with nothing more than a handful of peanuts for people to stare at him and kids to poke sticks at him until we bought him and brought him home.

Rebekah is working hard to earn his trust - we all hope for both of their sakes, that day will come sooner rather than later.

Photo of Timneh African Grey copied from the Animal Company web site.

15 August 2008

Down and Through

It was unlike any bridge I'd ever seen. Instead of a majestic arching up and over, concrete suspended hundreds of feet over some wide open expanse of water, it was cobblestone concoction of non-uniformly shaped rocks anchored into a foundation that plunged down and through a small sandy ravine before climbing awkwardly up the other side. In the middle of nowhere West Africa, these curiously strange “paved,” horribly rocky, bumpy portions of a road which perhaps more truly resembled a dirt trail intrigued me. That most travelers never actually used these sections was obvious; the well-worn, sandy dirt trails off to either side of the bridge covered with traces of footprints, cattle and goat tracks, the thin ribbon of bicycle wheels or the wide band left by a donkey cart, as well as the occasional tires of a four by four vehicle testified loudly to that fact.

“Daddy,” a voice piped up from the back seat, “why do they call these bridges when they never even leave the ground?”

I listened for his answer, thankful that I can usually count on one of our kids to ask the questions I don’t want to sound silly enough to ask myself. “Why don’t you come out here with me again sometime later this summer, once the rains have started,” he replied – only a bit distracted as we were meeting head on a group of several remarkably thin cattle, not to mention the goats and sheep scattered throughout the larger animals.

“Cool!” that voice replied, followed by a chorus of “Me toos!” which rang out behind us as several children expressed their interest in accompanying Daddy on an adventure. I silently made a mental note that I also wanted to be along for that trip.

So a few months later, we once again made the same trek. It looked a totally different land: fields of millet and sorghum everywhere, acacia trees blooming, butterflies and brightly colored birds flitting all around. No longer was it a dusty, brown and orange, wide open and scorched desert landscape. The rains had brought abundant green and startling growth, taller than most of our children and which closed in on that dirt trail so that in many places, there was only room for one vehicle to pass (not that we actually saw any other vehicles). As we approached where I thought I remembered that strange bridge to be, I saw nothing… until we came to the edge of the ravine. It was now filled with running water… and no sign of a road or a trail. I grabbed the arm rest; my husband plunged down into the water, which was much deeper than I expected. Looking in the rearview mirror, I could see that it covered the tires of the truck we were driving. Roller coaster squeals and screams erupted in the back seat. “That, kiddos,” stated my husband, “is an underwater bridge. People don’t always have the resources or the abilities to build bridges like you are used to seeing them - up and over. So instead they make the path down and through sure and solid so that we can drive right through the water without losing our way on sandy ground.”

And isn’t that so like the Lord? I’d much prefer a bridge that takes me up and over, where I can rely on what I can see. While I’m not found of high places, especially if I've got a bunch of little ones tagging along, it seems safer, more secure and a lot less messy than plunging down and through, on an underwater bridge that I can’t see but have to trust is still there and in good repair. Yet it is those underwater bridge times that, in retrospect, I can most clearly see Him preparing, persuading, pointing the way, path finding, providing, protecting, pleasing…

“Oh bless our God, you peoples! And make the voice of His praise to be heard, who keeps our soul among the living, and does not allow our feet to be moved. For You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined. You brought us into the net; You laid affliction on our backs. You have caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; but You brought us out to rich fulfillment.” (Psalm 66:8-12, NKJV)

Millet and peanut field, photo from hobotraveler.

Road construction by villagers - the road to Lilato; photo taken by Catholic Relief Services.

Ladies getting ready to ford water, right beside one of these underwater bridges, photo taken by Dan.

14 August 2008


Both of our blogs have received a "new look" today. We want to know what you think. Go ahead... it's easy... please leave us a comment by clicking on the comment link below! Then head on over to our ministry site (the top link in our sidebar, just to the right), so we can hear what you have to say about the new design there, too.

And thanks, in advance. :-)

12 August 2008

It was a sad day last week...

...when we had to say "Goodbye-" to our horse, King.

King is an 11 year old gelding. A few years back, Anna was really struggling with a lot of fear and anxiety, but loved horses. At that time, King belonged to another missionary family who used him to give riding lessons, and we arranged for Anna to take lessons with one of their daughters. We've really seen Anna blossom as a result. When that family decided to sell King a little over 2 years ago, we took advantage of the opportunity to purchase him and it has not been an investment that we have regretted. Anna has continued to make great strides in her self-confidence and willingness to try new things. And that's not to mention that her preoccupation and love of horses and all things equestrian has only continued to grow.

For much of the past two years, we've been able to find folks to continue working with the girls on the horse. However, we've not had anyone to work with them in recent months, the price of feed has increased (along with all the other staples here in town), Tim has had to pick up extra responsibilities again this year, we've just decided that Richelle will be returning to the States for the delivery of this baby, finding time to exercise and give him the attention he needs is scarce and the girls aren't old enough/mature enough to safely do so on their own, we are looking at a furlough next summer and we'd need to find some place to board and people to care for him for the year... for these reasons among others, it seemed a good time to sell him - he's in good health, a gorgeous animal and still worth something. We've mentioned this in our last prayer letter because it was important to us and the girls that we try to find him a good home (i.e. we didn't want to sell him to someone who just wanted to run him into the ground out at the race track).

We want to let all who've been praying for this request that we did find what we hope will be a good home for King. Two young men affiliated with the equestrian club down the hill wanted to purchase him as a gift for their father, and they came to take him to his new home last week.

The girls (Anna especially) are sad, and we all miss his exuberant greeting (or was that a desperate demand for food) when we'd walk by the door in the wee hours of the morning (his stall was where he could look right through the front door into our hallway), but we hope that this will enable us to allow her and Rebekah to take riding lessons down at the equestrian club, with those have much more experience than either Tim or I.

More about Life in Niger

Follow this link to our ministry page to find out about another tradition common here in Niger.

09 August 2008

What do you mean, "We are all broken teapots?"

...that was the question I received as I was finishing up teaching ladies' Bible study this afternoon.

"After all," the pastor's wife (and my translator) continued, "each one of us is sitting here in one piece. Our arms aren't glued on and each toe is still attached like it should be..."

I had to laugh as I went on to explain what I was trying to say - we had just been discussing with some other missionaries this very morning how literal most Nigeriens are, how linear and straight forward there thinking can be...

But I'll have to come back to the comment/question I quoted above in a minute - it won't make sense unless I first share what I taught about today.

It had been 2 months since we'd been able to get together for Bible study: I was sick in May and had to cancel; then in June, I had this particular lesson all prepared, but a huge rainstorm early that morning kept most of the ladies from attending - it was only myelf, the pastor's wife and one other lady - so we decided to pray and wait for the August meeting. I was quite surprised when I arrived at the church - about 10 minutes late and I'm still usually the first one there by at least 20 minutes or so. There were already 6 ladies (we ended up with 10 by the end of the study) sitting around in the courtyard, chatting away, and I was almost overwhelmed by the barage of greetings that met me as I walked through the gate. I was actually dreading Bible study a little bit today; I was tired, it was hot and humid, the bathrooms (we meet outside the church building, right beside the bathrooms) are always odiferous and I was just not feeling very spiritual or close to the Lord today. Those factors combined with the fact that I'd be teaching in French and working through a translator made the whole Bible study thing a lot less than appealing to me today.

However, I dutifully showed up and was totally surprised by the group of women waiting for me - first time EVER in over a year of teaching this group! We went through all the traditional greetings (in Zarma, of course), I sat down and Amina, the pastor's wife, started right off with prayer, announcements and a few items that this group of ladies needed to discuss before singing a song and diving right into what the Lord had led me to prepare for this Bible study.

We are working our way through the book of John, and while the last time we had met, we'd compared and contrasted how Jesus shared the Gospel with Nicodemus (John 3) and the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), drawing out some ideas of what we needed to do when talking with others about the Lord and why He came. While preparing for that study, I became intrigued with the account of the Samaritan woman and decided that for our next Bible study, we'd look into her story, but more in depth, so that is what we did today.

John 4.3-30, 39-42

He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee. And He must needs go through Samaria. Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.

Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with His journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour. There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water.

Jesus saith unto her, “Give Me to drink.” (For His disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.)

Then saith the woman of Samaria unto Him, “How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.”

Jesus answered and said unto her, “If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water.”

The woman saith unto Him, “Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?”

Jesus answered and said unto her, “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”

The woman saith unto him, “Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.”

Jesus saith unto her, “Go, call thy husband, and come hither.”

The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.”

Jesus said unto her, “Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.”

The woman saith unto him, “Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.”

Jesus saith unto her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”

The woman saith unto him, “I know that Messiah cometh, which is called Christ: when He is come, He will tell us all things.”

Jesus saith unto her, “I that speak unto thee am He.”

And upon this came His disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, “What seekest Thou?” or, “Why talkest Thou with her?”

The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?”

Then they went out of the city, and came unto Him… And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on Him for the saying of the woman, which testified, “He told me all that ever I did.”

So when the Samaritans were come unto Him, they besought Him that He would tarry with them: and he abode there two days. And many more believed because of His own word; And said unto the woman, “Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard Him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.”

After I read through the passage in French and then Amina read through in Zarma, I started commenting on some things that had jumped out at me as I studied this passage.

The first thing was the statement that "He must needs pass through Samaria." Why was Samaria such a big deal? I decided to do a bit of research on why there was such an animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans. Here is a summary of what I found out:

  1. After the death of Solomon, the nation of Israel divided into Judah and the 10 tribes of Israel.
  2. Those 10 northern tribes instituted their own system of worship and created their own places of worship, something that clearly went against what God had commanded them with the building of His temple in Jerusalem.
  3. The 10 northern tribes were ruled by a succession of evil kings, who did not seek after the Lord and who engaged in and encouraged the people in idolatry.
  4. As a punishment, God sent the nation of Assyria to conquer them and to remove them from their land.
  5. However, there was a small remnant who remained. The Assyrian king was worried about this remnant, so he sent several foreigners in to intermingle and intermarry with the remaining Israelites.
  6. This mixed group of people abandonned all faith in the Eternal, chosing to worship and adore idols.
  7. Troubled by savage lions, the people asked their then king (they were now ruled by Babylon) to send them a Jewish priest to instruct them in the law and the proper worship of God.
  8. The Babylonian king agreed, so they relearned some of what Moses had originally taught God's chosen people, but they also kept many idolatrous traditions and practices which they intermingled with remnants of Jewish faith and practice.
  9. The nation of Judah, which had also been led into captivity by the Babylonians, was allowed to return to their Promised Land.
  10. The mixed remnant of the northern tribes of Israel (or the Samaritans) offered to help in the reconstrution of Jerusalem, but the people of Judah refused, knowing of their idolatrous practices. This was the beginning of much animosity and anger between these two groups.
  11. It was the Samaritans, led by Sanballat and Tobiah, who were responsible for much of the attacks on Nehemiah and those rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.
  12. Afterwards, the Samaritans decided to create their own temple on what they deemed the true holy mountain, and their own priesthood, totally separate from Jews.
  13. Their land, Samaria, became a place of refuge where religious and political refugees, as well as Jewish criminals, were welcomed. Thus the Samaritan population of those disgruntled with the Jewish nation grew.
  14. The Samaritans refused to accept anything other than the 5 books of Moses (the Torah) as God's Holy Word.

With such animosity, it is easy to see why most Jewish travelers prefered the long route instead of traversing such a hostile land. And, for the first time ever, I could see that there were long-standing, and often valid, reasons that the Jews chose to keep themselves separate from the Samaritans.

But there is more to that statement, "He must needs pass through Samaria." The phrase "must needs" says to me that Jesus felt He had no other choice. One thing that has always intrigued me about the 33 years that Christ walked this earth is the tension that exists regarding how Jesus could be fully God and fully man - at the SAME time! So I ask myself, "As God, did Jesus already know that this woman would come to Him at the well and that this meeting would lead to the belief of an entire city?" Or, did Jesus, as a man, choose to limit His foreknowledge and He was responding simply to something that the Holy Spirit impressed deep within His heart, that it was His Father's will to pass through Samaria, that the Father had an important job for Him there, but that Jesus allowed Himself to be led step by step, as God by His Spirit, so often leads us?"

I have no way of knowing, but I can think of several "must needs" moments in my life, where I felt a compelling deep within to follow a certain path of behavior, say a specific thing. Sometimes I have; unfortunately, many other times I haven't... and I have regretted that choice to not listen for the Lord clearly showed me later that it was His voice, I missed out on the opportunity to obey.

Jesus was "wearied with His journey." What a wonderful glimpse of His humanity. Yet His weariness did not become an excuse to avoid ministry or intimate and profound interaction with another person. It is easy to claim weariness, to use that excuse to avoid ministry opportunities (and please don't think I'm saying that there is never a time to rest, to say "No..."), but in this world of self first, I think it is a careful balance to walk between being available for God's plans, even when we think we are too tired and it is more than what we want to do.

"There cometh a woman..." Have you ever stopped to consider how many women met their bridegroom beside a well? It cannot be coincidence. Zipporah met Moses at a well. Rebekah met Isaac's representative. Rachel met Jacob. And this Samaritan women met the true Bridegroom. When we allow ourselves to be channels of Christ, the living water, we too can be like a well where lost people can meet the Bridegroom.

"Give me to drink." "...How many of us have the idea that Jesus should satisfy our thirst, meet all of our needs when the truth is that we should be searching to satisfy Him. We should now be pouring our lives out for Him..." This quote of Oswald Chambers (not exact, for I'm translating back from what I had already translated once into French for the study) is quite convicting. I know I often come to Jesus so that He meets my needs, and not with the purpose of presenting myself as a living sacrifice...

"How is it that you, a Jew, ask me for a drink..." In the French, it is phrased a little stronger. It is more like "How dare you..." This gives me a whole new perspective on this conversation - that perhaps this woman was defensive, not really easy to talk to, perhaps preoccupied, prideful, sarcastic and/or bitter - not exactly my ideal candidate for a witnessing venture. Yet Jesus persisted, finding bridges that piqued her interest, drew her in to the conversation, and was not put off by what very well could have been a brusque and intimidating exterior.

"I... am He." This passage contains several beautiful "I am" statements by Christ. He was not hiding who He was and why He had come. In this particular conversation, He says that He is the gift of God, the Messiah, the One who stops our thirsting for things that don't ultimately satisfy...

Jesus confronts this woman with her sin and reveals to her what she already knew, but probably tried to keep hidden from the rest of the world - that she was a broken vessel with many cracks, holes and imperfections. But He did so in a way that must have been gentle and noncondemning, for she did not deny the truth and instead, it revealed to her that He was the One, the One who could pick up the pieces of her life and put them all back together in a way that made sense and gave purpose. Her response is to not worry at all about what people think; to drop all that she was doing and head to town to bring back others to meet her Savior.

In summary, I told the ladies that there were 4 key points that I hoped they'd remember from this story found in God's Word:

1) Jesus, as a man, had to choose to listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit to follow the direction of His Father. We, as imitators of Him, are to do likewise.

2) While the Jews had several reasons, some good, to avoid contact with the Samaritans - but Jesus did not. We can all find those with whom we'd rather not mix. Something about them makes us uncomfortable. I see this here among some of the different tribal groups or positional rankings of people, even within the church. When we choose to separate ourselves from someone, we'd best be sure that it is only after clear discernment from the Lord, not due forgiveness we are refusing to offer, grudges we refust to let go, comfort we refuse to forego or convenience we refuse to sacrifice.

3) Jesus was tired, but He did not use that as an excuse not to minister. Regardless of how He felt, He remained open to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

4) This Samaritan woman was precious in God's eyes - and He went to amazing lengths to offer her His salvation - and this is where I pulled out a small teapot that had been broken in to several pieces that I had glued back together. A once beautiful teapot, it was now quite ugly, with rubber cement seams, uneven places, several cracks and holes that could not be repaired, and quite leaky when we tried to fill it up with water.

This idea came from another blog entry I read last Spring, and linked to on this blog: "The Past and the Pitcher." Since these women are mostly illiterate, I'm always searching and praying about ways to make these Bible studies memorable in a visual sense, to give them some sort of a hook that will help them recall truths from God's Word, when they don't have the ability to go back and read those truths for themselves. I felt like this illustration was a perfect one. In coming to Jesus, we must realize that we are cracked, broken pots and that we need Him to glue all of the pieces back together.

As I started way back at the beginning of this entry, the ladies balked at this description of themselves. After several minutes of discussion, however, they came to the agreement that we must see our brokenness and unusefulness before we can recognize our need for the Lord, an understanding that was key to the whole point of this illustration. At the same time, the mere fact that He would spend so much time painstakinly piecing all those parts together is a powerful testament to the fact that we are precious in His sight. As something broken and pieced back together, it is humbling and can be discouraging. I know more than once I've wished I was a more beautiful and whole vessel that I could present to Him, and often wondered how in the world He can use me, or would want to use me, as a part of His plan. But the beautiful thing about a broken pot like me is that while I'm busy pouring myself out, consciously ministering His living water in specific ways that He has directed me, the same living water is also spilling forth through cracks and crevasses, touching other lives and other places of which I am completely unaware. And with that also comes the realization that when overflowing, being poured out and spilling out, I must remain "on tap" at the source, or I will soon run completely dry and then I will be not only ugly, but useless.

God was so faithful - He used this little illustration and I was privileged to be the one who saw the eyes of 10 different ladies light up as they were able to grab ahold of some truth from this passage of Scripture that they could apply to their lives, today. And it was such a blessing when, as I had hoped they would, asked to keep that little teapot so they could display it in the church as a visible reminder to them of the things that God had shown them today.

I know of no other way to end this post than to say that I serve an amazing God, and I'm so thankful and glad to be a part of His collection of broken teapots...

Learning about Lamenations

Take a few minutes to read Ann Voskamp's post at Holy Experience

You will be blessed and challenged...

05 August 2008

Eggs and Hatchings...

Well, yesterday was busy around our house - not only have our chicken eggs hatched (another story, another day), but we also have had another "clutch" of babies put in an appearance - baby lizards (or margouillats, as we call them). The other morning, I was sitting at the computer, working on email correspondance when I heard this high pitched scream come from the living room, "They hatched! They hatched!" followed by several more little girl and big girl squeals. Jonathan's joyful cries soon joined in with his sisters'... but first I'd better give a little background to this story.

Since arriving in Niger, our children have been fascinated by all things reptilian: margouillats (the outside lizards), geckos (the inside ones - yes, they live in our house and as long as they don't fall off the ceiling on top of you during the night, it is really OK), skinks, tortoises, frogs, toads... even snakes (but those I insist on a respectful distance and no handling... yuck!). When Brendan was little, he'd catch lizards and pretend they were knights jousting on the back of his Fisher Price horses. The girls would catch them and treat them as babies in their Polly Pocket homes and accessories - we've even caught them brushing their teeth! Nadia informed us once that the month of May was so named because it was the lizard mating season. And for our children, this fascination with lizards has continued, even though Tim and I rarely notice or pay attention to them any more.




Several weeks back, Tim was leaving the studio and noticed that a mama margouillat had laid a bunch of eggs, right behind the back tire of our car, so he figured he'd bring a little surprise home to the munchkin set. He carefully gathered them up (in the sand where they'd been laid), found a large plastic container and brought them home so we could watch and see if they'd hatch. Several weeks passed... we watched and waited... all the baby lizards outside started hatching and were everywhere... some of the eggs started to dry up... but the kids tried to remain optimistic about 5 or 6 of them... and we continued to wait. Then, I heard that scream the other morning. I think it was Nadia - but they all sound really alike when they are doing that high-pitched, girlie squeal sort of thing!


Out of habit, they had checked their eggs - and found 4 baby lizards instead. In one of the other containers, was another baby lizard. I, personally, find these lizards rather ugly - but the kids all think they are just "adorable" when they are babies. They promptly scurried down the hall to show me - and then they decided to let the babies go so that they could find something to eat. All in all, the girls were quite proud of their success in "incubating" this particular clutch of lizard eggs. Too bad they didn't actually see the critters hatching!

04 August 2008

Life in Niger

Head over to our ministry page if you are interested in learning a little about some traditional religious customs still practiced in this professing Moslem country. It is interesting in that these articles were written by Nigeriens about their actual life experiences.

02 August 2008

Poor Tim!

Thursday, July 31, was a lovely day. We always look forward to the beginning of August - and this last day of July was just a preview of what we hope will soon be...
  • rains usually begin to increase in frequency (from once every week or 10 days to 2 or 3 times a week) - which means lovely summer weather, similar to what you might experience in the midwest in the States with high temps in the low 90s and sometimes days where it hovers in the low 80s,
  • crops of millet and beans all over the city makes our town look like a veritable garden,
  • the sky is often a bright blue with white, puffy clouds formed from evaporation,
  • lots of birds (finches, parrots and other colorful winged creatures regularly visiting our yard and garden,
  • and the herds of animals wandering around actually look content and well-fed.

This particular day, it had rained the night before, so the day started off lovely and cool. A couple of Brendan's friends came over to play games - good guys who are so kind and very patient with all these girls and the younger ones who like to watch (and interrupt) their games. So everyone was having a delightful time. After lunch, Tim played a quick game of Risk with the boys before heading back to the studio; the girls watched TV for a bit and Richelle put Elsie Mae down for her nap... and about 3, the wind started to pick up, the temperature dropped (all the way down to the low 70s), and a storm blew by bringing sand, a delightful breeze... but very little actual rain. The gang of kids all went running outside and started playing tag and other similar games in the lovely cool and we rather quickly decided to forego the planned trip to the pool and enjoy the time out on the porch/in the yard.

A few minutes later, Tim showed up - home very early from the studio. The power was out (we didn't realize it since we were all outside). He figured since he wasn't really able to accomplish anything at the studio without electricity, he might as well come home and enjoy the afternoon with his kiddos... after all, their summer vacation is rapidly drawing to a close. And, he knew that Bren and his buddies were here... maybe they'd get another game of Risk or something going. However, he came to me after a few minutes, a very sad look on his face. Then he said, "You know, those boys would rather chase our girls around the yard than play a board game with me..."

Should we be surprised? Is this a different type of preview, ...of things to come???


"Clouds over a Millet Field" by Steve Mills

Lord of the Rings Risk photo from funagain.com .


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