In two weeks and two days, I will be on a plane from Detroit to Paris, en route to Niamey, Niger. I can still hardly believe it. The past month has been an amazing, breathtaking, overwhelming journey of watching God provide in so many ways. It’s also been a challenging time of learning about patience and joy, both in formal settings and in my day-to-day struggle. The next two weeks will be a hopefully-not-too-tumultuous transition time. I’ll have a few more temporary “lasts” before I head out, and those can be hard at times. But the ache of a “last” significantly lessens when I already have my return ticket.
I’m fully funded. Wow. It still makes me smile out of both joy and embarrassment. It’s so easy to laugh at my doubts and insecurities once I’m on the other side of God’s provision. In less than a month, God provided more than the $5000 estimated cost for my trip. What a blessing!! He provided through generous, faithful gifts from my family, my friends, and a good number of my parents’ friends. I am so, so grateful. I’m grateful to God for His faithfulness and for His graciousness towards me, even when I was hesitant to trust Him. I’m also incredibly grateful for the love and support that so many people have expressed for me and for this trip back to Sahel. Thank you!
At the beginning of March, I flew down to Charlotte, North Carolina, for a week of training at SIM USA headquarters. SIM is the mission organization that I’m going through in this trip to Niger. SIM has been around since the late 1800s, and its acronym originally stood for “Sudan Interior Mission.” Today, SIM has a presence in around 50 countries, both as sending and receiving nations. That’s right—they don’t just send out of the US. Hardly. International Headquarters are currently in the US, but apparently South Korea is quickly approaching the States as the largest sending country. Clearly, I got to learn about SIM from orientation. 🙂 If you’d like to check out this Gospel-driven, need-fulfilling, prayer-focused missions agency, please visit their website: http://simusa.org/
At orientation, I had about 3 days to receive so much information, encouragement, prayer, good food, and joy from the staff and other missionaries at SIM. We talked about other cultures, about missions and evangelism, about spiritual warfare, and about bodily functions on the mission field. (Missionaries are quite comfortable talking about their digestive systems, at least from my personal experience.) I had the chance to get to know 3 other STAs (Short Term Associates). All four of us women, between the ages of 21 and 24, either are in or are heading to Africa within the year. Two of the girls are doing medical missions and the other young woman is actually going to Sahel Academy for the 2015-2016 school year. God is so good!! It was wonderful to talk with Naomi, the girl going to Sahel, and it brings me so much joy to already know one way that God is going to fill a need at Sahel for next school year.
Orientation was a wonderful time to take a break from my relatively crazy life at home in order to spiritually and mentally prepare for returning to Sahel. I still need to work on lesson plans, finish reading Persepolis, and start a myriad of packing lists, but I thoroughly enjoyed my time in North Carolina a few weeks ago. I also had the chance to have Ethiopian food and eat out of a communal plate, two new and spectacular experiences for me. 🙂
A Few of My “Lasts”
When I got home in December, I wanted to get more involved at Hopevale, my home church. I talked with our Children’s Ministry Director, and I decided to help as a small group leader for 3rd grade boys on every other Sunday morning. It’s been great! I feel like I don’t get to see them that much, since it’s only every other week for one hour. But it’s still been really fun. I think in February we were talking about kindness, and in March we’ve been learning about patience. It’s totally been what I need to learn, too, so that’s been cool. And convicting at times, no surprise. This past Sunday was my last Sunday with the boys, though. As I expected, most of them gave a general, “Okay. I’m not sure how to respond, but I hope you have fun” type of response when I told them, “Hey guys, so this is my last week hanging out with you because I’m actually going to Africa.” But one of my sweet, attentive, hair-gelled-up-in-front 3rd graders really listened. He also gave me a hug before leaving the classroom. I think he even told me to be safe. 🙂 It was just really encouraging and heartwarming to see that to some degree, I apparently have made an impression. I need to remember that “doubting myself and my impact” is actually doubting how God can use me. Because it’s Him at work, not me.
This week and next week will be my last riding lessons to teach. This is a harder goodbye because I’m pretty sure that I won’t be returning as a full-time instructor this summer. I will hopefully still help with camps at Willow Pond Stables, but I don’t have a consistent enough schedule (or life, let’s be honest) for me to recommit to teaching weekly lessons. Please pray for Karen, the barn owner, and for Roxie, the instructor who will both keep her lesson students and add my students to her roster. By the way, she also has a full-time job, so yes, she’ll be quite busy.
Thursday is going to be my last day substitute teaching. Well, I mean, I’ll be subbing at Sahel for 2 months, but this is my last day subbing in Michigan for this school year. I think I’ll actually miss it. 🙂 It’s been such a good fit for me right now, and I’m incredibly grateful that God allowed me to have as many subbing jobs as I’ve had. I’ve been able to stay pretty busy, minus our Michigan snow and cold days. I’ve had the chance to see different schools and classrooms and learning environments and students. It’s been a great way to transition before diving in to my first year as a teacher. And shoot—I don’t have to plan or grade! I know that those are both worthwhile, rewarding parts of teaching, but they sure are time consuming. And I’ve been grateful for the reprieve from those activities.
A Glance at the Next Two Weeks
Let’s be honest: I will not be writing another blog post before I leave. I’m averaging about one a month at this point, and the next 2 weeks will be especially full. Consequently, I’d like to give a little insight into what I’m thinking the next two weeks will hold. While you read, God will be chuckling at my futile attempts to plan my own life. And so:
Abby’s activities for the next 2 weeks
- Visiting friends in Cedarville.
- Going to see an amazing performance of Doubt at Cedarville University. (Insert shameless advertising here: http://www.cedarville.edu/Offices/Student-Life-Programs/Ticket-Information.aspx)
- Spending time with Stephen. Praise the Lord again for his full-time job and his vacation days. 🙂
- Making way too many lists.
- Buying some last-minute surviving-the-desert items.
- Celebrating Christ’s death, His resurrection, and the life He gives with my family, my church, and my boyfriend.
- Praying, and hopefully mostly interceding.
- Flying back to yet another one of my homes. 🙂
I’ll probably post quick updates on facebook, and I’ll definitely try to be more faithful with blogging once I’m back in Niger. Thank you for your readership and your prayers. Have a blessed Easter, and I’ll write again (relatively) soon.