Liking it here

You know, I thought months were longer. When did 31 days become so short? Of course, time always goes faster when I have a deadline, like, I don’t know, all of the stuff I need to turn in to Cedarville for my student teaching internship. But at the same time, I thought that these 4 months away from my family and boyfriend might feel like they’re dragging by. Well, dragging they are not. Zipping past is more like it.

My first month in Africa has been amazing, really. It’s been challenging, of course. I’ve had multiple late-night freak-outs where I’m sitting on my bed, journal open on my lap, pen in hand, trying to think of what else to say as I peer at my own handwriting through tear-filled eyes. I’ve had frustrating days of teaching, wishing that I could sit down with my students and just ask them, “What do you need me to do differently? How do you learn well?” I’ve had multiple conversations with Stephen where all I can say before we hang up is “I miss you. And I know that this is good and we can’t change this distance thing, but it’s still true: I miss you.”

So yeah. Life isn’t easy. And it’s funny, but all my sin and pride and crappy attitude followed me here to Niger. Apparently my sins didn’t get the memo that missionaries are supposed to have a handle on their lives. Ah well. Good thing God’s grace, forgiveness, mercy, and His convicting Spirit “followed” me here as well. 🙂

So, the other day, one of my students asked me pointblank, “Do you like Niger?”

“I do,” I responded, honestly. “I really do.” And that got me thinking (a dangerous pastime, I know). What is it that I like about Niger? So here you are:

Seven Aspects of Life at Sahel that I Really Like

  1. I love this missionary community. Sometimes I feel separated from actual Nigerien life, since I live on the Sahel compound and I don’t have my own car. But the positive side of that is the fact that I am getting so much time with so many interesting, driven, Gospel-loving, grace-accepting Believers. And I am so grateful.
  2. I like teaching. I know that this doesn’t surprise most people, but it always seems to surprise me. I’m actually enjoying the planning portions, too. There are still many times when I feel clueless and scatterbrained, but there are also times when my students come into my classroom before school starts, just to talk. And my day is made before 7:25am.
  3. Sometimes, I like the heat. Seriously. I just have to remind myself of the -15 degree Fahrenheit weather that destroyed all of our Tuesday classes at Cedarville last winter. With that perspective, I understand why Suz would miss this pervasive heat. 🙂
  4. I love that God is still constant and diligent, working in my life. I had a bad attitude after school on Wednesday. I was frustrated and drained and I allowed one not-so-great class to distract from all of God’s goodness throughout the rest of the day. So he reminded me of some verses that I read that morning:

Ezekiel 36:26-27

26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

He convicted me. I prayed for a better attitude. He answered my prayer. Same faithful God whether I’m in Freeland, Michigan; Cedarville, Ohio; Kecskemét, Magyarország; or Niamey, Niger.

  1. I love that I can hang out with young adults/my age people, and I can hang out with more experienced, time-wizened missionaries. (Is that the right way to say it? 🙂 ) In my last year at Cedarville, I attended Southgate Baptist Church, and I had the chance to get to know some wonderful, godly, hilarious women. Most of these women were about 15-35 years older than me, approximately. I love the blessings of friends who are around my age, so that we can process through similar things together. I also am so very grateful for my friends who can share years of wisdom with me. Since I’m living with Kathy and Nancy is right next door, I get to hear lots of stories, learn from lots of years of missionary life, and enjoy a beautiful community. With Mallory, Hannah, and Rachel about 25 steps away, I can also go hang out, listen to 90s music, eat no-bake cookies, and talk about how we have no idea what we’re doing with our lives. It’s a beautiful balance.
  2. I like hearing and speaking French. I need to get braver. But in general, I just really love the language. Even when my students bust out into off-topic French in class, I enjoy hearing it. I tell them we’re parler-ing en anglais, maintenant, but I do like to hear la français.
  3. I love getting to know my students and the other Sahel staff. These kids are great. And truly, I’m teaching mostly young adults, not kids. They are not perfect and they still have all the normal teenager-life-stuff going on. But they’re so much fun to get to know and to learn to teach. I’m so grateful that they are willing to get to know me, even though we all know that I’m leaving in 3 months.

So, that’s a little bit about why I like being here. If I didn’t have lesson planning to do (or sleeping to do, really), then I’m sure I could make it past 7 aspects. For now, though, this is reminding me of what I have to thank God for. And hopefully it’s allowing you to feel at peace about what God is up to and how He’s using me here. Hopefully it’s also giving you an idea of how to pray:

Praising God for:

  • A great first 2 and a half weeks of school
  • Good health and a good memory—I’m taking my malarone everyday. 🙂
  • My students and their families and all of the ministry here in Niger
  • Technology and the ability to communicate frequently with my family and Stephen

Asking God for:

  • Wisdom, creativity, and humility as I prepare to teach and as I actually get in front of my classes
  • Safety for friends (the DeValves) as they finish visiting in the States and then return to Niamey
  • Strength and passion for the believers in Niger
  • Opportunities for me to communicate Christ’s love to my students and my colleagues

Random side notes that will hopefully have pictures soon:

  • I played softball. Yes. Me + sports. It happened. 🙂 And I only bruised one of my pinky fingers!
  • I went with a community outreach group last week to a local hospital to play with some of the kids. We colored and tossed around a ball and attempted to “communicate” between English and Zarma/Hausa with one translator. It was wonderful.
  • I’m teaching 2 of my cooperating teacher’s 4 classes. I’ll pick up class #3 on Friday, then class #4 next week. Gah!
  • I’ve had the chance to show my pictures of my family, pets, home, and boyfriend to some of my friends here. It’s been good to share some home. 🙂
  • Michigan schools will start on Tuesday. We started 2 and a half weeks ago. Talk about a head start on learning. 😉 Well done, Sahel. Well done.
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Let the Games Begin!

It’s been a great first 1 (almost 2) week(s) here in Niamey. It’s also been a relatively busy few weeks. I’ve gone out to eat at three different restaurants, four if you include getting ice cream at Amandine’s. I have purchased some African fabric (although I haven’t taken it to a tailor yet…). I’ve been grocery shopping multiple times. I almost swam in the pool at the American embassy recreational center; it rained that day. I’ve also worn every skirt that I brought at least once. 🙂 (Thanks for helping me pack, Sisser!) I’ve been able to use Viber or Skype to talk with my family and boyfriend back home. I have also learned to cope with the heat. Haha. That last one’s a joke. I’m still learning that. 🙂

And today, I had my first full day of school as a Student Teacher! It was a great first day. The high school at Sahel is on block schedules with a “Schedule A” for Monday and Wednesday and a “Schedule B” for Tuesday and Thursday. On Fridays, all classes meet for only 40 minutes each. Consequently, I only met half of my students today. The other half, I’ll meet tomorrow! But I do have some repeat students who are in an English class with me and in the Information Technology class or the Yearbook class.

 I just want to say a huge thank you to my friends, family, and supporters. It has been an amazing experience so far. I’m loving working with the other Sahel staff members, getting to know them, figuring out what it’s really like being a teacher, and basically doing my own personal case study on being a missionary. And today was just so cool actually meeting the students. There are so many different cultures and backgrounds represented in this student body. It’s a beautiful picture of the diversity and complexity that God creates and that He will have in Heaven.

Not all of the students at Sahel are Christians, though. In fact, only a certain percentage of them come from missionary families. This puts me in the amazing position of being allowed and required to share my faith and God’s truth with a class that is not necessarily full of already-believers. Such a humbling privilege.

A quick summary so far

Reasons to praise God:

  • He is so good and faithful.
  • The Sahel staff- everyone has been so welcoming and helpful and willing to collaborate, which is really cool.
  • I just finished my first day of student teaching!?!?
  • I’ve been able to have some great conversations (via Skype, Viber, and good ole email) with Stephen, my mom, and my sister.

Points for Prayer:

  • For continued wisdom and discipline as I work on lesson plans.
  • For connections with the students. I want to be a good teacher and a good model for them this semester.
  • That I will grow in my personal devotions and prayer time.

Also, as I was filling out a journal entry for my student teaching assignments, I realized that one of the topics would be great for the blog. So, although this is a tad off-topic, here you are:

 What I know now that I didn’t know before:

  • The two s’s in “Aussie” are pronounced like a zed (the letter z). (Thank you, Susan)
  • You can’t take pictures of Nigerien policemen, military personnel, government buildings, or the airport.
  • The Nigerien franc compares to the US dollar at about 500 to 1.
  • The British exams are called IGCSE and occur at the ends of 9th and 10th
  • I should be really grateful for speedy internet in the States. It can be really slow or spotty here. 🙂
  • Cows and goats really do just wander around in some places.
  • African rains are the best kind of rains. Ever.
  • You can freeze almost any food. (Thank you, Kathy 🙂 )
  • I like teaching at a Christian school. I thought that I would feel trapped and stifled at a Christian school. But I love this. I love the staff and the community and the theme this year at Sahel: Kneeling we shine. It’s all about prayer.
  • Peanut butter is only hard to find in Europe. It’s everywhere here. Get with the program, Europe.

I’m sure that there’s more that I’ve learned, but these are the highlights so far. 🙂 Also, here’s at least one picture:

We saw this masterpiece at one of the four restaurants, at Hotel Sahel.

We saw this masterpiece at one of the four restaurants, at Hotel Sahel.

Bonne Arrivée

That’s how she greeted me this morning, with almost more smiles than sounds: “Bonne arrivée, bonne arrivée.” As I sat under the carport eating the hard-boiled egg, blueberry muffin, and banana that my wonderful housemate, Kathy Miller, set out for me, I met Lynlee, Kathy’s house worker. (I’m very unsure of spelling at this point, and I’m only partially confident on the sounds of her name. 🙂 ) We exchanged a few more phrases en français, and it was great! Then I got to pet one of our neighbor’s cats—a very skinny tabby who looks like the “after” version of my cat at home, if my cat ever did a weight loss program. It wasn’t even very hot under the carport, around 9:00 this morning, after it rained yesterday. I’m sure, though, that the heat will be coming. You know why?

 

 

Because I’m in AFRICA!!!

 

Praise the Lord, I arrived safely in Niamey yesterday evening. (For those of you wondering, “bonne arrivée” literally means “good arrival.” Lynlee was welcoming me to Sahel. 🙂 ) My baggage even caught up to me this evening, so that is another huge blessing. In the mere day and a half that I’ve been here, I’ve already felt completely welcomed and embraced. Here are some highlights from yesterday, my first time ever in Niger:

 

  • John and Nancy DeValve personally picked me up from the airport and drove me to Sahel. They basically gave me a driving tour, which was marvelous! And they explained the railroad-down-the-middle-of-the-street. Well, when I say they explained it, I mean that we talked about how it doesn’t make a ton of sense. 🙂
  • Kathy welcomed me to her home, introduced me to the dog she’s taking care of, and guided me through Sahel’s campus over to the staff dinner where…
  • … I had the chance to meet a lot of wonderful people!! And eat some great food. And just sit. Without being airborne or in an airport. Marvelous.
  • Kathy and I took Lady, the dog, for a night walk through the campus. Kathy gave me the low-down on the buildings and a few of the ins-and-outs of Sahel.
  • Then, sleeping. Enough said. 🙂

 

And today has been great. I had the chance to walk around and talk with Dietrich, my cooperating teacher. I finally met Mikki Schmidt face-to-face; she is my supervisor for this student teaching experience. Kathy coached me through making deviled eggs, and then the single women who work here at Sahel came over for dinner here at Kathy’s! It was wonderful. There are 3 other new female teachers this year, two of whom are right around my age. Three of the twenty-ish aged single ladies live in one of the houses really close to mine, too, so that’ll be fun. 🙂

 

So far, it has been so great to settle in and meet some of the other people who help make Sahel the amazing place that it is. The conversations have been encouraging, insightful, and hilarious at times. 🙂 I’m so excited and so blessed to be here!

 

In summary, please praise God with me that

  • my luggage arrived! I could have made the two-and-a-half outfits from my carry-on last for a while, but we’re all grateful that I have more clothes now. 🙂
  • I’m staying healthy so far. 
  • I truly am enjoying this experience. Yes, I still get nervous about teaching, but it is so good to be here. Truly, we all need to praise God for this.

 

And join me in prayer for

  • Balance as I allow myself to settle in while also looking ahead to what I’m going to teach, how I’m going to teach it, and how I’m not going to ruin these children forever. Just kidding. 🙂 But really.
  • Peace as I figure out time for teaching and time for grocery shopping and laundry (another praise, we have a washing machine in the house!) and making meals and normal human functioning things.
  • Wisdom as to how much time I spend here on the Sahel campus and how much time I venture out into Niamey. (No worries, Mom and mom-like figures—I will not be venturing by myself.) It is kind of a mini-English-speaking community here all to itself. As I get busier with school, I’m just not sure how the balance of Sahel life and Niger life will work. Good thing God knows!

 

Thank you for your interest, your support, and your prayers! Oh, and please be praying for all the teachers and students as we prepare for another school year. There are lots of details to straighten out before August 13th. Thanks!!

 

[Also, I’m still figuring out internet here. At the moment my pictures and my internet are not getting along. I’ll get pictures up as soon as I can!!]