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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