Angol Tabor

Hello friends, family, and interested readers! (It’s a long post, and pictures are at the end. ;))

Since we last communicated with you so much has happened. We have felt God’s blessing and his presence in so many different situations. And we have loved our time in Hungary! Here are a few of the highlights:

God blessed our travels, and we only experienced some mild discomfort during our flights. (We experienced the non-parent side of the crying/screaming baby from Pittsburgh to Paris. Abby had some stomach pain when we got into Paris. And Stephen had sinus issues which led to some kind of severe pain on the descent into Budapest. And about an hour into our time in Hungary, we were totally fine. God is good. 🙂

We hit the ground running once we landed in Budapest. Our dear friend Anna picked us up from the airport, and then we joined her in serving at a refugee shelter. After Abby got to hold a Nigerian baby and Stephen was a jungle gym for an African-Hungarian boy, we continued on to Kecskemet. When we arrived at 9:30pm, our amazingly gracious hosts welcomed us with fresh fruit and sweet treats. Hungarian hospitality is the best! Rozsa and Peter have been a blessing from God in how they have welcomed us and cared for us.

On Friday, we went to Kecskemeti Baptista Gyulekezet. For Stephen, this was his first visit. For Abby, for me, I was coming to one of my homes. I got really excited when I began to recognize the street and when I saw the sign, “Baptista Imahaz.” I was beaming when we pulled up to the front doors. After 4 years, after spending only a total of 4 weeks in this place, it still felt so much like home. I was excited and eager to enter the building, and then we walked down into the basement, the lower level of the church where most of English Camp planning, performing, singing, dancing, testimony-giving, and Gospel-preaching happened in past years (and this year). I couldn’t hold back my tears. It was so beautiful and overwhelming to realize that God had brought me back. And then I was even more overwhelmed to have my wonderful husband and my dear friend both comforting me and offering shoulders to cry on. 🙂 Thankfully my tears didn’t last long, though: we had God’s work to do. 🙂

And we had an amazing team to work with! God miraculously provided just the right number of English teachers for this year’s camp. He even gave us some fellow Clevelanders—a family of four who has been serving in Hungary for four years—and a fellow African American who was originally from Flint, Michigan, and probably at SVSU the same time as Abby’s mom! Isn’t God amazing in how He works?! Our team was made even better with the God-ordained gift of cross-cultural unity. But we’ll get to that later. 🙂

Angol Tabor was an incredible blessing from the Lord.  We had approximately 60 students aged from 8 years old to 83 years old. (Zsuzsa-neni had been a teacher for about 50 years, and she was such a blessing!)  Here is what the daily schedule looked like:

  • 9:00-10:00 – staff prayer (Such a rich, blessed time with Americans and Hungarians. It is a taste of Heaven to pray in different languages with no translation. Our God hears and responds to us all, and we still felt so united.)
  • 10-11 – First class session
  • 11-11:30 – Big group time (worship music, testimony, encouragement from Pastor Samuel, sharing the Gospel)
  • 11:30-12:30 – Second class session
  • 12:30-1:30 – lunch
  • 1:30 – 4:30 – sports/one-on-one
  • 4:30 – 5:00 – snacks
  • 5:00 – 6:30 – Gospel sharing afternoon (worship music, a Gospel message, a testimony—one day, there was a skit from four Hungarian girls from the church. They dramatized the story of the Prodigal son, and it was so moving. Another day, we watched the movie Do You Believe? in English with Hungarian subtitles; a great movie, and a good way to learn more Magyarul!)

Of course, I (Abby) could go on and on about the blessings and the God-moments throughout the whole camp. And truly, I’d love to talk with you more when we get home—in Ohio July 8, and up in Michigan sometime later in July. Just let me know. 😉 For now, I’d like to share two important aspects of the camp that were impactful to us, and the students.

  1. One-on-Ones
    • One-on-ones were both a new addition and a key highlight of English Camp this year. The purpose was to have the teachers available to the students for whatever they would prefer, whether that be conversation practice, answering tough questions, simply practicing colors with a game of “I Spy” (that was Abby’s first one-on-one).  Anna created a schedule and students could sign up for 30-min blocks of time, with the teacher of their choice, to promote and stimulate more opportunity to grow. Stephen had some great conversations, but he spent most of his time outside playing foci (soccer) with the boys. Abby, however, had at least 2 days that were booked solid with one-on-one conversations, mostly with young women from the camp. I feel so blessed to have had these conversations. I had a couple of tearful ones. At least 2, maybe 3 times, we ended the conversation with prayer. God humbled me and spoke through me, and allowed me to follow the example of several women who have mentored and poured into me. It was a blessing to be sure.
  2. Stephen’s class
    • Here’s the best part about being “the writer” for us: I get to share Stephen’s successes without being the least bit embarrassed. 🙂 Stephen did an excellent job teaching his class. He had a rather challenging, but awesome, group of 13-14 year olds. His students were reluctant to speak English and very eager to chitter-chatter in Hungarian. There was also some friendship cliques in his class. After Monday, he was a bit frustrated that his lesson plans didn’t turn out the way that he had hoped. (#teaching) Stephen was so humble and persistent and creative in his lesson planning through the week, though. And by the end of the week, he had his students actively participating in charades, catch phrase, Pictionary, and Fishbowl, completely in English (or at least mostly). His class confirms what we all knew: Stephen is the best teacher of the world. 🙂

We would love to tell you more, but it’s so much more fun in person. So please ask us about any of these things when we return:

  • How Stephen learned to play soccer-four square
  • How Abby and Stephen got to lead a Girls’ Chat and a Man Chat—and how differently those went
  • How we survived the Kecskemet hail storm
  • How God clearly spoke through Stephen’s testimony on Tuesday
  • How Tunde and the kitchen ladies immensely blessed us
  • How the Holy Spirit told Abby to give her Bible to Mirella, and how Abby obeyed
  • How Anna then gifted a new English Bible to Abby
  • How Stephen impressed all the Hungarian women and men as being an excellent, godly man and husband. (Best quote, in hesitant English, from the lovely Eszter: “Abby, where did you buy this husband?”)
  • How Abby and Stephen practiced counting in Hungarian
  • How God blessed us with inspired connections and encouragement and His beautiful Church
  • And, best of all, how 8 students raised their hands to commit their lives to Christ!!

It is a little strange to realize now that English camp is already over. I hope that Stephen and I will continue reflecting back on all the ways that God blessed us and worked in and through us during those quick 5 days.


Since last Friday, we’ve had a lovely holiday. Friday evening, we went into the city center in Kecskemet for Kurtoskalacs (a doughy, delicious pastry cooked over coals so that the inside is soft and the outside is glazed—aka delicious!) and gelato and great company. Saturday we joined the Gateway Christian Fellowship church plant again to keep learning about Jonah and to worship with people from 7 different nations. Sunday, we attended Danube church, an English-speaking church in Budapest that reminded me so much of the Niamey English Worship Service. We even had a time for Hello’s and Goodbye’s! Sunday afternoon, we journeyed to Vac to spend time with some refugee men from Afghanistan and Iraq. Then Monday, we drove to Tihany and Balatonfüred, two towns on the lovely Lake Balaton, for our true vacation. We had some funny, some frustrating, and some blessed adventures there, all seasoned with lovely, deep conversation between Anna, Stephen, and me. And today, we spent time actually at the Lake (yes, Mom, it did get me excited for Pentwater), then went to an Adventure Park (zip lining and rock wall climbing!), and finally returned to Budapest for some ginormous burgers before crashing at a friend’s apartment.

So yes, it has been rather busy, but it has also been so good. And, unsurprisingly, Stephen is a boss at international driving. Our next few days will be in Budapest, then we’ll return to Kecskemet Thursday evening before leaving for France on Saturday. We’ll try to update more before then.

We so appreciate your prayers. Truly, we felt God at work at English camp. Thank you for partnering with us from across the ocean. One of our new favorite Hungarian phrases is Hala Istennek (pronounced Ha-la Eesh-te-nek). It means “praise God,” or “Thanks be to God.” And that’s how we feel right now: Hala Istennek.

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Settling back in

I think the biggest difference is that I’m no longer doing homework for Cedarville. I can’t lie: it is wonderful to not be doing Cedarville homework right now. 🙂 There are many other differences between my time at Sahel last fall and my time right now, but the lack of Cedarville assignments is definitely an obvious blessing.

The people have changed. This community will forever be a revolving door of comings and goings. I had the chance to say goodbye to many people last December, but there are friendly faces that left before I returned. The friend groups and dynamics have altered slightly compared to last fall. Certain students have switched classes or gone on home assignment, giving our discussions and conversations in class a different vibe. Beyond that, though, people just change. We mature and grow and digress and stumble along through various experiences that impact, affect, change us.

I’ve also changed. I can’t always tell the difference between “faking it til I’m making it” and genuinely having confidence in the classroom, but I’ll take either approach at this point. With no Dietrich to back me up on teaching choices (except that he’s still great about responding to my emails) and no Jenn to bounce ideas off of (again, save through email), I have to gain some independence in the classroom. I will say, I’m learning to enjoy having my own space to teach, to facilitate discussions, to encourage collaboration and learning. I love listening to and engaging in conversations about Persepolis and religion, Nervous Conditions and racial equality, Silas Marner and the complexity of human character. I still have so, so much to learn about teaching, but I’m deeply grateful to Sahel for trusting me to teach, prepare, instruct, educate their students. I missed the young adults that I get to teach, and I’m so happy to be reunited with them.

“Becoming more adventurous”

Last summer, when Stephen and I had only been dating for about 2 months, he gave me a remarkable gift. He presented me with a stack of envelopes and gave me instructions to open one envelope every other day for the duration of his time working at the Christian summer camp Skyview Ranch. Each picture included a chalkboard sign describing something that he appreciates about me. (I know, right? He’s so great. :)) Those even-numbered days were a constant highlight through last summer.

In one of my favorite pictures, Stephen is hanging upside down on a set of monkey bars, his legs hooked on one of the bars. He’s sticking out his tongue, his hair is listening more to gravity than to him, and he’s holding the chalkboard that says that I am “… becoming more adventurous.”

Granted, he was partially mocking me in this picture, referencing past conversations that we’ve had about risk-taking, being brave, and seeking adventures. But I’m realizing that for me, becoming adventurous connects closely with listening to the Holy Spirit. You see, I hate failure. I’m a recovering perfectionist, and I sometimes can’t handle not succeeding. It’s an issue, for sure. So for me, listening to the Holy Spirit, being willing to make a fool of myself, and trying something new are all intertwined.

Here’s what this means for me right now:

  • I used a sewing machine for the first time to hem a small headscarf—more like a big head band. (Kathy owns a sewing machine. :))
  • I went jogging—twice. The second time, I initiated it. I’m finally trusting God enough to ignore my non-constructive self-talk and just start working out.
  • I also attempted cartwheeling. I’m a 23 year-old girl who has never learned how to cartwheel. I’m still learning, but at least I’m trying.
  • I played volleyball in the pool with some boys at the American Embassy Rec Center. I’m assuming that they were Nigerien. They were probably middle school-aged and we passed and set the make-shift volleyball in the pool for a couple of hours.
  • This morning I ended up leading the teaching of a Kids’ Club in Kwarateji, a village just outside of Niamey. I was visiting with my friend April, another Sahel teacher, and the Nigerien believer leading the club asked if I wanted to teach the lesson in French and have him translate into Zarma. Talk about praying for the right words from the Lord! We talked about Cain and Abel and how sin requires a payment of death. Then we connected the Old Testament sacrifices to Jesus’ ultimate, final sacrifice for us. Why is it that I’m sometimes bolder about my faith in French than I am en anglais?

At least in the small things, I think I’m learning to be brave.

Sahel life

May is upon us, and school is getting busy. In some classes, I’m struggling to figure out how I’m going to fill every class that we have left. In other classes, I’m really struggling to finish up the units that we currently have going. Some of my students have taken at least 2 of their IGCSE exams. I have 5 more exams (papers) to prepare my students for. Each course has between 2 and 3 separate exams/papers that students must take. After next week, my 9th graders will be done with their English exams. Hallelujah!

Speaking of the amazing 9th grade class, they successfully completed their 4th Movie Night fundraiser last Thursday! They did an excellent job, and I’m so grateful for my co-sponsor Rachel and all of the 9th grade parents. We had a great time preparing and serving loaded baked potatoes while families from the missionary and Sahel community came to watch Big Hero 6. It does feel good, as a pseudo/stand-in class sponsor, to have this event over. More than that, though, it feels wonderful to have worked with such a great 9th grade class!

Another huge praise: we sent the yearbook to the printers!! Granted, I don’t have a hard copy yet, and that will make me feel much better when I can actually hold our finished yearbooks. But once again, I’m feeling so proud of and grateful for the yearbook staff this year. I’m also really grateful for Dietrich who helped them to get so much done during the first half of this semester! Thank you for your prayers for this task.

We have 3.5 weeks of school left. What?! How did that happen? Didn’t I just get here? Time flies when your “first year of teaching” is actually a fall semester of student teaching and then less than 2 months at the end of the school year.

Also, please keep in mind and in prayer the needs for Sahel Academy for this upcoming school year. We still need a 4th grade teacher, a high school English teacher, and math and science teachers for middle and high school. Additionally, the school really needs a new director so that the Administrative team does not have to carry that weight of responsibility. Thank you for praying with us and for us. We’re praising God and waiting expectantly to see how He is already planning to fill these needs.

God speaking

I’m trying something new in my journal. In a conversation that I had with Mrs. Morris a few weeks ago, she mentioned that sometimes she writes in a journal in one color of ink for her thoughts and prayers, then a different color of ink for what God tells her. I thought about that quite a bit. I’m relatively consistent with my communications with God in that I talk at Him a good amount. I tell Him my anxious thoughts. I praise Him from time to time. I tell Him my fears, hopes, concerns, petitions. But how frequently do I seem to really hear from Him?

I’m starting to write in cursive when I feel like I’m hearing God’s words. (Yes, my wonderful elementary teachers at Grace Christian School did teach me how to write in cursive.) I don’t mean to be pretentious; I’m not getting specific messages from God. I’m not hearing an audible voice calling to me in the wee hours of the morning. “Yes, Eli, I’m here.” I just mean that I’m trying to quiet myself a bit more than usual so that I can receive whatever passages or phrases from Scripture God is trying to remind me of. I’ve also been reading Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot, which has been both encouraging and challenging, reminding me to truly wait on the Lord. It’s a slow struggle for sure, but I get the feeling this is one of those good struggles.

Prayers

  • Pray for 9th and 10th graders taking their IGCSE exams in the upcoming weeks.
  • Pray for 11th and 12th graders taking AP tests.
  • Pray for and end to the meningitis outbreak. Pray for quick, effective treatment for those who are sick.
  • Pray for my family back home, for good health and great time with the Lord.
  • Pray for Stephen and me, that we will continue loving each other well while also living presently where we are.

Praises

  • The yearbook is at the printers!
  • The Movie Night was a great success.
  • We’re making it through hot season. 🙂
  • God pursues us, and He is so, so good.

In One Month– In Two Weeks

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.

God’s Provision

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!

SIM Orientation

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.
  • Packingpackingpacking.
  • 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.

Learning to be Adventurous

Before I left for Niger, Stephen and I would talk about my lack of adventurous spirit. Actually, Stephen would listen as I lamented my pathetic avoidance of adventure. We’d take small moments—my willingness to teach riding lessons or to walk through Pentwater by myself—in order to affirm my miniscule steps toward adventure. Per usual, he had more faith in my ability and my tendency for adventure. Consequently, for Stephen and for myself and for other friends, family, prayer supporters, readers—here are some ways that I’ve learned to be adventurous.

  • Playing softball at NUTS—NUTS (Niamey Universal Tournament of Softball) is a weekend-long tournament where softball teams from Niger and Burkina Faso come together to play a distinctly American sport in a distinctly African context. Well, at least the climate is distinctly African. I sweated my way through 6 games over the 3-day tournament, and I loved it! If you are unaware of my typical disdain for all things athletic, I can explain it in this way: the failure-fearing perfectionist in me rarely allows myself to try new things in front of an experienced audience. I guess softball in this missionary community is an exception. I had a marvelous time, and even though I was exhausted at the end, I’m still so glad that I played!
  • Traveling out to Galmi with minimal plans—Granted, “minimal” is totally a matter of opinion. I knew how I was getting there, how I would get back, and where I was staying. (Wow. The trip was completely planned. How was this adventurous…) I had the chance to travel the 7-hour drive to Galmi, a town east of Niamey in more south-central Niger, over the past few days. There’s a mission-run hospital out in Galmi, as well as a one-room day school. I got to travel with some great people both on the way there and on the way back. And God gave me some beautiful moments of true restfulness and vacation while I was away. I had no idea how much I needed an escape. So, after 2 and a half months in Niamey, I finally traveled farther east than the airport!
  • (Finally) speaking more French—I spoke with the young father who came to the doctor’s house at 9pm to get more medicine for his baby with croup. I spoke with the bus driver when we had zero clue as to why the bus stopped and half the passengers exited. I spoke with the man selling cell phone credit, assuring him that my friend really did want dix mille, not deux mille (10,000 vs. 2,000). I spoke with the SIM driver as he took me back to Sahel, asking him if “traffic” is the meme mot in French as it is in English. It’s more accurately translated to “circulation,” for those who were wondering. Finally, after over 2 months in the amazing francophone country, I’m becoming braver in my use of French.
  • Peeing behind a bush on the drive to Galmi—enough said.
  • Taking a tour of the hospital at Galmi—Like the softball bravery, this means more if you know me. As background, you should know that I have passed out for the following reasons: having my blood drawn, superficially lacerating my pinky finger, seeing the blood from a horse’s leg injury, having a splinter removed from my finger, pinching my hand on a barn door. I am literally what you would call faint of heart. But I didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to see the Nigerien hospital. So I warned my friend to walk behind me, just in case. I focused on not focusing deeply on any of the sights or smells I encountered. I essentially allowed myself to get an overview of the hospital without being overwhelmed. Also, God’s grace and his miracles are both very, very real. Pray for the hospital at Galmi and all of the amazing work that they do. It’s a busy place with more sickness, life, death, and unanswered questions than there are doctors or hours in the day. And the work that they do in the name of Christ and the Gospel is beautifully compelling.
  • Giving and receiving life stories—To be honest, this is one of the areas where God was already working in me before I came to Niger. I love hearing other people’s stories, especially when it’s another believer describing God’s grace, goodness, and presence in his or her life. I also enjoy sharing my story, even if it means opening up and becoming vulnerable for the conversation. Here are some highlights
    • A sweet divorcee who shared her pain and her wisdom from the shock and disappointment of the end of her marriage. She came out to Galmi for a few weeks to help in the hospital.
    • An impressively young doctor with a brilliant capacity for learning languages, performing surgeries, and loving people. Of course, she’s also a great cook.
    • A fun, sarcastic, loving family that rediscovered part of their past and part of their heart as we toured the Galmi compound and hospital.
    • A deep-thinker nurse who is also in a long-distance relationship, learning to process the reality of death while also asking the tough, essential question: what does the Gospel look like in Galmi, Niger?
    • A short-term-most-likely-turning-long-term missionary working with children’s ministry in Maradi, discovering how he might fit into God’s kingdom work in West Africa.

As a sidenote, a majority of these amazing people are from Australia. It’s basically required that I visit Australia at some point in my life. Probably Tasmania, specifically. I guess I’ll just have to be adventurous again. Oh darn.

God’s teaching me other ways to be adventurous. I’m trying cooperative learning activities with my 9th graders. This might only make sense to other teachers, but essentially I need all 9 of my students to effectively work well in multiple groups. It’s a challenge, but it’s also been great to remind myself of something; I need to keep high expectations for my students. In order for me to expect my students to be brave and adventurous in the classroom, taking risks and choosing to truly engage in learning, then I need to be willing to take risks, too. I need to trust them with cooperative learning and hold them accountable. Because they can work together, and they can learn more when they do. I also need to work on the essay that I said I would write with them. Right now it’s about control and safety and the man at the Chinese restaurant who warned me to be careful in Africa. I’ll post it when I finish it. (There, now the Internet will hold me accountable.)

When it comes down to it, my bravery and my willingness to be adventurous isn’t what matters. (Surprise! It’s not about me. Again.) Adventures are fun because when I escape my comfort zone, I’m reminded of how weak and broken and fragile and futile I am. I see that I am small and incapable of teaching. I see that I can’t conjugate a verb for the life of me. I see that I still have biases and prejudices and fears that I wish weren’t part of me. And I’m reminded, again, that I need Christ.

Day 1 of the SIM orientation was yesterday. One of the comments from our discussion about spiritual life here in Niger is that we cannot ignore our dependence on God. In my American context, I could probably go a few days without truly communing with God. I would be moody and cranky and altogether obnoxious to be around, but I could survive. Here? I’m a hot mess of mostly hot and messy emotions, insecurities, fears, insufficiencies. When everything is new and different—I think we used the word “unfamiliar” this morning—I cannot pretend to have it all together. And because of how Jesus and the Gospel work, that is beautiful.

So three cheers for adventure! And four cheers for God’s reminders that my ability to be adventurous comes solely from my confidence in Him. What a great and mighty God we serve.

Requests for prayer

  • Motivation and diligence in working on planning, grading, and completing the edTPA
  • Being present here—As I get closer to my departure date, I’m starting to think more about being home. It’s already bittersweet, and I still don’t want to leave this place. Pray with me that I make the most of the time that I have, loving and living well in this place, here and now.

Reasons for praise

  • This week of break has already been so restful and rejuvenating! I’m so grateful for the time to travel, sleep, read for fun, and hear other peoples’ stories.
  • Remember how I’m still healthy? That’s pretty amazing.
  • Day 1 of the SIM orientation, learning about SIM and Niger and the dominant religion here—it’s been amazing and eye opening.
  • God has given me some really great conversations and opportunities to verbally process recently. I thrive on that, and He’s been gracious to provide me with these chances.
  • Safe travel to and from Galmi.