A Butterfly Sewing Machine and Hope

Recently I was invited to attend a very special graduation for thirteen young Nigerien women. They weren’t graduating from high school, as you might think at this time of year — it was SEWING school!

Sewing. Knitting. Crocheting. Embroidery.

Life-saving skills for a young woman here in Niger.

Knowing how to sew gives these young women a chance to provide for themselves, freedom from dependence on men or others to take care of themselves, and,  in some cases, their children. Literally, saving lives.

Explosions of joy and singing, speeches and pomp and circumstance, photos taken, tears of  relief, laughter, diplomas dispersed, and the squeals of young girls with new life to look forward to! Phew!

I was a mess of tears. I felt such gratitude at being invited, being able to wriggle in on their shining moment. Conspicuous as usual, (the very few white folks like me simply can’t help it), I wholeheartedly celebrated this triumph with them! “Magnificent!”, my heart sang out for them! “You did it!” My hands numb from clapping. My heart wrung out from sheer amazement at the scene before me.

Four years. Hard work and sincere commitment. All necessary skills taught by experienced Nigerien women, intertwined with Bible studies (though many come from Musl*m homes), and upon graduation they each receive a sewing machine. Their very own.

A very special Butterfly Sewing machine. Hope and Life to look forward to!

I praise God for ministries like this one — giving these precious people a chance at life! To learn a necessary skill for living, and to learn to fully live in the Love of Christ!

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A Dangerous Cup of Coffee

Coffee is only dangerous for me after four o’clock. I am guilty of this foolishness today so I’m up late, already read my share of book chapters, and thinking about getting work done around this “house” …. but my feet are aching so badly I can only sit here are write.

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My feet ache because I spent all day today moving into our new home for the next twelve months – the dorm at Sahel Academy. This large building is empty (except for our family now), with lots of empty rooms and beds, long dark hallways, all silent for the summer.

There are some unwelcome critters too – I just killed a cockroach in the bathroom!

This got me thinking, yet again, about something I read last year in a wonderful book about the life of Lillias Trotter. (She was a missionary from England, who spent most of her adult life in Algeria) I recall her words so often since it applies fittingly to my new life here! I want to share them with you — trust me, even if you do not live in Africa, this will mean something to you! Especially for those of you who are mission-minded about your lives, no matter where you live — I believe this will ring in your heart and bring an “amen” to your lips!

“How many of us have said and sung with all our hearts ‘Anywhere with Jesus!’, but at the time we did not realize all that it meant for us. Indeed at home, and surrounded by all that home means, we could not know. When the test comes we must not forget that ‘anywhere’  means for missionaries something different from life in England, and let us take very good care not to make a misery of anything that ‘anywhere’ brings us. To us in Algeria it must mean sometime or other, Arab food. Do we object to it? And mice, do we mind them? And mosquitos, do we think them dreadful? In some parts it means close contact with dirt and repulsive disease. Yet if Jesus is there what have we possibly to complain of? It means living among a stiff-necked and untrue people and struggling with a strange and difficult language. And yet let us evermore write over all our miseries, big and for the most part very little, these transforming words: WITH JESUS. And then the very Breath of Heaven will breathe upon our whole being and we shall be glad.”

– Lillias Trotter, Passion for the Impossible

I hope that encourages you today! Go ahead — “write” WITH JESUS over any of your current difficulties. Let’s experience the peace and gladness that only the comfort of Christ can bring.

“For in Him we live and move and have our being.” Acts 17:28a

Culture Day 2012

Here are some photos from Sahel Academy’s Culture Day This past Spring. The students can tell you how much effort went into the whole day! Each culture hosted a room, where they shared foods, songs, dances, stories and unique facts about their culture. I hope you enjoy these photos!

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Truth Be Told

Some of my favorite chapters in books are the ones where the author is telling the nitty-gritty, the really hard parts of life. Even in fiction books, I enjoy the storylines where obstacles are present and must be overcome. It’s not that I want others to be miserable. It’s because those are life-chapters I can relate to. They’re speaking my language, if you know what I mean.

I used to think that when I went on the mission field and had a chance to share stories about life and ministry, I wouldn’t just share carnival-like stories, painting a peppy picture of only the lively, convivial aspects to missionary service. No, I would want to share the hurdles, the feelings of timidity, the doubts that come along with it all. Yes that is what I will do, I thought to myself all those months ago!

But, truth be told, it’s just plain hard to do. Not just the living, but the telling too.

Being misunderstood.

Creating fears, rumors, & questions among people I love.

Inadequate verbs and adjectives to describe heart-things, soul-things.

Worst of all, giving those naysayers – the ones who told us not to come (in one way or another) – fodder for self-righteous conversations…”I told you so!” echoes in my mind.

Or even creating the impression that things are really awful, that God is not “in this”.

How did those other authors do it? This telling-the-truth, with honesty and courage? 

Peeling back to the weakness of ministering here is not as simple as I thought it would be. (It’s much more fun to share stories of hippos and chameleons and new cultural excitements!)

Yet this conviction clings to me still – about the truth being told. I want my family and friends to journey with me for REAL, not just for FUN.

So…

There was a little baby lizard in my toilet the other day. It was a speedy little guy – desperately splashing and thrashing to grip the sides of the porcelain bowl! It simply couldn’t climb out of the slippery-sided basin. Finally, I scooped it out with a soup ladle, and ushered it back into the cozy 105-degree heat outside.

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I’ve found I need a good “scooping” every now and then, too.

I’m often drowning. Not every day, but lately…often.

Depending on the day, it might be a slippery bowl of lies, doubts, blame, or fears.

What are we doing here?

Whose idea was this?

How is this strategic for our future?

I’m 40 years old! Shouldn’t I know the big picture by now?

My peers seem so settled in, safe. What are we thinking?

I just want to teach the Bible! Not cook for 18 teenagers! Arg!

Someone! Please scoop me up and help me out of here!

In our family, when we need a good “scooping” (so to speak), we pick the nearest person, grab their hands, look them in the eye and tell them we need some truth. “I’m overwhelmed, I need some truth!” And we all know what to do…start talking Truth and then start talking to God. We each just do the best we can in the moment, telling the Truth of God’s Healing Word. It’s never perfect and might be paraphrased to the best of our memory. But the Truth gets out there and, well, starts the scooping…

For me, lately, these are among the Truths lifting, saving, re-directing my heart.

Matthew 10:39 “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

James 4:13 “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.”

Matthew 6:25-29 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

The truth of Scripture, along with some words of encouragement and some specified prayer, scoop me out to dry land.

So that is how it is! I discipline my mind around the Truth again today. 

Put on those irritating-but-necessary blinders so I won’t look left or right at another person’s journey. And now I’ll take in a deep breath of this hot, dry, land we now call home. And start a new day!

I hope you are having victory in your own drowning moments of life! If you need some scooping, let me know and I’ll send some Truth your way, and I’ll talk to God for you too!

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“If you think of this world as a place intended simply for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable; think of it as a place of training and correction and it’s not so bad.” -CS Lewis, God in the Dock