Processing and Pondering Or How is October already over?

I was just talking with Hannah about whether or not we cried much when we were little kids. I mean, my parents probably remember better than I do, but I don’t recall being an especially tearful kid. I don’t know when the transition happened. Maybe it was when I began seeing more of the pain and destruction in the world. Maybe it was when I began to see all of the disastrous pride, selfishness, and sin in my own life. Maybe my hormones simplpy decided to take over my life and overflow my tear ducts.

Regardless of when it happened, I’ve somehow become a bit of a crier. In fact, that’s one thing that I’ve done consistently well here in Niger: cry. 🙂

But please don’t assume that I want to be on a plane heading Stateside. On the contrary, a few of my recent cries have centered on the paradox of wanting to be home while really, desperately not wanting to leave this place or these people. Other times, I’ve cried from feeling overwhelmed or simply at a loss. Truly, I don’t always know why I’m crying. For me, my tears seem to signify a few very significant recognitions:

  • I’m weak.
  • I’m imperfect.
  • I don’t have the answers.
  • I still, always need saving.

God has been reminding me of these truths, along with many other less depressing-sounding realities. He is all-sufficient. Maybe, someday, eventually, I’ll live as though Christ is all that I need. For now, I say it, I believe that I believe it. But I’m clearly re-learning this life-altering truth: God loved me when I was still a sinner, He loves me now, and He is all that I need.

I guess in the same way that I needed to do some re-teaching for the Theme and Organization lessons in my World Literature class, God needs to re-teach me about His sufficiency.

In other news and since we’re all mostly interested in the happenings and goings-on in Niger, West Africa, here are some specific situations where God has been humbling me and proving himself faithful:

edTPA: Accomplished

The edTPA is done!!! Last night around 2am Niger-time, I was fighting the temptation to quote way-too-important quotes in slightly irreverent ways: “It is finished.” Or “Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, I’m free at last.” (While I resisted the temptation last night, I clearly did not resist the temptation just now. C’est la vie.) Due to the support of wonderful Cedarville professor and Sahel colleagues, the prayer and patience of so many friends and family members all over the world, and they grace of a works-in-the-details Savior, I submitted my final assessment for my undergraduate studies. My other obligations for student teaching include: being observed at least 1 more time; teaching moderately successfully for the next 4 weeks; generally not ruining students’ lives. Due to God’s faithfulness and his sovereignty regardless of the outcome, I’m learning to trust him for those final responsibilities. And I’m feeling soooo good about being done with the edTPA. 🙂

Hippo sighting

I got to see hippos. Yeah, it was really cool! Mostly, though, riding in a boat on the Niger River was truly wonderful. A couple of weeks ago, a group of about 9 of us Sahel staff/missionaries and visiting family members went on a guided Hippo Tour. We ended up seeing about 6 hippos all hanging out together in the middle of the river, a very safe distance away from us. 🙂 The hippos were big and a little intimidating. The time on the river? A beautiful, peaceful, breath-taking view of river-life in Niger. Pictures are on facebook, although they hardly do the trip justice.

Alambaré Outreach

A week ago from right now, I was sitting on some wooden benches in the Nigerien village of Alambaré, after eating a meal of peanut butter and jelly on baguettes with 11 of my students and 3 other adult supervisors. Sahel students go on weekend-long outreach trips to Alambaré at least once a semester. While we were there, we played with the kids from the village, told them Bible stories (the students spoke in French and the local pastor translated into their tribal language), and enjoyed a weekend away from Niamey, sleeping in tents or in the open. (I was in a tent, although apparently outside the tent was pretty nice, too: not too many mosquitoes and gorgeous stars.) Although I did not anticipate the fact that I would be an impromptu leader for the Alambaré trip, I had a great support system and we had a really awesome weekend. I loved spending time with the kids in Alambaré, hearing the Gospel presented in 3 different languages at least 5 different times throughout the weekend, and seeing our Sahel students really step up and step out of their comfort zones. I’m still processing from the trip (which will not surprise many of you), but I’m also undoubtedly glad that I went on it.

A mini-Cedarville Reunion

About mid-October, I had the chance to sit down and talk with one of the missionary couples here at Sahel. Of course, I get to enjoy many spontaneous conversations with a lot of amazing missionaries here in Niamey, but this was a more of a planned event. I had seen some similarities between Stephen’s and my story and Coach and JJ’s story. (He’s the PE teacher and the softball coach; naturally that has become his first name.) Both Coach and JJ attended Cedarville, studying to be teachers. Coach played soccer at CU. JJ currently teaches middle school English and helps coordinate all of the new middle school, partially due to her capacity for organization and long-term planning. (Yeah, I’m not sure why I see similarities between this really great couple and Stephen and myself… Bazinga.) Kathy invited their family over and we had a great dinner with Coach, JJ, and their 4 kids. Then the kids walked back home—they also live here on campus—and we just sat and talked. About life, missions, support-raising, teaching, married life, waiting on God’s timing, knowing God’s will, trusting God completely, etc. We just sat and talked, 3 Cedarville alums and my wonderful roommate chatting about life until about 11pm. Of course, I then started on lesson plans for the week, but the nighttime work session was totally worth the previous time of enlightenment and idea-exchange. And encouragement. I sincerely hope that I can be at least minimally as encouraging to others here as they are to me.

Thinking of Hungary

I helped to FSL last Thursday. That’s right. You may have heard of ESL, but have you ever thought much about FSL? French as a Second Language. I, a second-language French speaker, got to help teach French to Zarma-speaking Nigerien women last Thursday, and it was so much fun! It reminded me a lot of my time in Hungary teaching English to Hungarian speakers. I don’t know any of their native language and I’m basically trying to somehow impart at least some French to them. Of course, when I taught English in Hungary, at least I feel pretty confident in my English-speaking. But still. I liked the flexibility, the vulnerability of language learning, the risk-taking and smile-sharing that happen when nobody is that great at French. I went with the fourth grade teacher at Sahel, and the two of us worked with about 10 young women who attend a sewing school here in Niamey. They may or may not be literate in Zarma, and they are at various stages of literacy in French, the language of the government and the educated here in Niger. Unfortunately, I’ll only have 2 more Thursdays when I can help teach French. But I’m already looking forward to those days.

Afraid of the lasts

I’m going to be a mess. That’s funny. I’m already quite a mess. All I have to do is look at a calendar and I start freaking out. Here’s the issue: sometimes November looks like the longest month ever and I don’t know how I’m going to last or what I’m going to teach or how I’m going to stay focused here instead of just thinking about getting home and seeing my family and seeing my boyfriend and being done with student teaching.

Other times?

Other times November looks painfully, frighteningly, unreasonably short. I still have souvenirs to buy. I want to see the giraffes. I really don’t want to exchange this weather for snow. And I’m not ready to say goodbye. To this place, this school, these people. And how many lasts am I going to have? My last day at church. My last day teaching yearbook. My last time seeing friends who don’t teach here at Sahel. My last time talking with each of my students. I don’ t know how to legitimize my sorrow and my reluctance to leave without becoming a self-important drama queen. I don’t know how to honor God through this process. Which is probably why He has me here, huh?

The last few months have been so brilliantly amazing while also feeling like a rather “normal” possibility for how life could be. The next few weeks are terrifying and daunting and going to come whether I’m ready or not. Because I won’t be ready, and I don’t have to be.

What Hannah reminded me of earlier this week:

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.

Exodus 14:14

What God reminded me of just now:

And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them.

Isaiah 42:16

Ways we can praise

  • God’s faithfulness and patience with me
  • The edTPA is done!
  • I still have a month left, thankfully. 🙂

Ways we can pray

  • That God will keep watering the Gospel seeds that Sahel students helped plant in Alambaré
  • That I will finish well—with student teaching and with my time here in general
  • That I’ll keep learning what God’s teaching me
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