Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Faithfulness of God in the Empty Hallway

Just about two weeks ago, I stood in front of a bulletin board I was decorating thinking about the mountain of work that needed to be done around the school before we would be ready to welcome our students back.  This hallway was a particular concern as it was full from one end to the other of furniture, cupboards, appliances, chairs and who knows what else that had to be moved out of Hope Hall in order for retiling to happen in that building over the summer.  I can't install a kitchen or move a refrigerator on my own and even if I could have, the other building wasn't ready yet.  But I can stress and pine for things I don't have! 

So there I stood thinking about how nice it used to be in public school when the janitors/facilities people just came along and took care of the junk that inevitably fills the hallway in the days leading up to the start of school.  "God,"  I thought, " why can't I be teaching in a school that has one of those amazing people to help move the mountain of stuff and get us ready?"  Almost immediately I felt the Holy Spirit speaking to me, "That would be nice, Beth, but then you would miss the opportunity to trust God to help move the mountain even though it looks humanly impossible."

Convicted, I committed it to prayer seeking to trust God when what I really wanted to do was worry...especially when it was the day before students were arriving and the hallway was still filled! In 13 years of teaching I have never once begun the first day of school with junk in the hallways.  My 14th year is no different except that this year, I see the faithfulness of God in the empty hallway.  He brought the right people along at the right time to do what was needed.  And somehow, little by little, the mountain of stuff made its way back to its rightful home.  He is faithful!

Please do pray with us that God would call someone to the ministry of caring for the Sahel Academy campus.  We want to be faithful with the facilities that God has given us and we need someone who is skilled and knowledgeable to help us keep our campus safe and functioning so that we can better serve our students and their families.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

How to Make a New Friend

Tomorrow is the first day back to school for us here at Sahel Academy.  Back to school always means that there are many new friends to be made.  What better time to get some advice from a Second Grader about how to best go about making a new friend!  So with out further ado, I give you a short "How To" on making a new friend.

1.  First you say hi.  Then shake hands.
2.  I think you should play with your friend if you want to know him better.
3.  Then your friend will have to leave.  But don't be sad.  He or she will come back tomorrow!
4.  Then you can play with your friend after you to to sleep.

5.  Later at school in recess, I recommend you play soccer with him.
6.  You can teach your friend how to spell April, Saturday, January, May, backstroke.  (All words from the Second Grade Spelling book...too funny!)
7.  And that's how you make a new friend.  The end.

There you go, my friends, get out there and play some soccer and spell some words.  Today is a day for making new friends!  And by the way, if you happen to meet and make friends with Xopop be sure you tell him he's got quite the cool name!

Happy First Day of School!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

There is a Mother

There is a mother I know.  She has three children who play nearby on most days.  She sits listening to the happy voices of her children and the varying beats of feet moving by her.  As I pass her, I often think of how I wish I had the words in her language to tell her how beautiful her children are - how they are growing taller and stronger each day.  I want to tell her these things because she cannot see them with her own eyes.  She is blind.

Today as I passed her, she sat alone, her children nowhere to be found.  I wondered again at how difficult it must be for a Mom not to be able to look up and see her children and know that all was well with them.  How, for example, could she come to their aid if just one of those passing by intended them harm?  These thoughts often turn to prayers that God himself would watch over them for her.

My feet walk on.

Suddenly, I hear the frightened cry of a child and the pounding of little feet on pavement.  Her toddler is running furiously and crying out for her.  He has wandered inexplicably far from her and yet, surrounded by a sea of grown up legs, he runs toward his mother's place, absolutely sure that she will be there.

I stop and watch, concerned that he may not know the way, unsure of whether I should help him.  In the sea, one hand reaches down momentarily stopping him but it is not the hand he seeks.  He pushes it aside and continues on as do I, confident that he knows exactly where he is going.

My feet follow the path once more around the stade and there, at the other end, my eyes seek out his mother's place.  She is there.  Resting safely in her arms is her little one.  He is comforted by her whispered assurances and her gentle hand tapping his bottom.  There is a mother.

Dedicated to my Mom and Dad, who, just like this mother, 
have always been a place of refuge and assurance.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Artfully Sharing The Story

Henna is an art form used here in Niger by women to adorn themselves particularly in preparation for a wedding ceremony.  Usually women will decorate their hands or their feet and ankles.  It's a beautiful art form.  I'm not sure how widely embraced it is in the church.  I recently talked with an almost 30 year old Christian colleague who had her hands and feet decorated for the first time which was kind of surprising to me.  Regardless, I love the idea that this art form could be used to share the stories of Jesus with women.  I have some students in my class whose Moms are learning to do just that.  They are practicing on their children who have been coming in and sharing the stories with us.

Here one of my students shares the story of Jesus' birth.  What I love about this is that it came so easy to her because we had memorized this portion of scripture together in class.

 Here one of my little boys got in on the action with a henna design depicting the story of the prodigal son.

Simple enough that even children can use them as a way to artfully share the gospel.  Pray for these moms who are learning to draw these designs that as they develop these skills they would have open doors to share with the women of this country.
If you are interested in a little more of the back story of this idea here's a more professional video sharing just that.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Love is in the Air

Just a month or so ago, Miss Schmidt and I were reviewing our weekly Bible Verse.  It just so happened that the week's verse was Matthew 4:19, "Come follow me," Jesus said, "And I will make you fishers of men." We were discussing the context a little bit and Miss Schmidt then posed the question to our First and Second Graders, "Am I the one that's going to teach you how to fish for men?"  Of course, we all had a good laugh at the silliness of that, knowing full well that it was Jesus talking.  One little First Grade Girl piped up and said, "Yeah, Miss Schmidt's going to teach us how to catch boys!" Since then I've been telling Miss Schmidt she will have to write a little book entitled, "How to Catch Boys."

In January, that little First Grade Girl might have needed such a book but the month of February has been a good one for her.  The marriage proposals have been pouring in, the little boys lining up for the privilege of writing their name beside hers and then today, the first love letter arrived. (All names have been blotted out to protect the innocents.)

My favorite part of this letter has to be the pregnant pause before the "BIG" declaration..."You are the prettyiest girl in class."  I'm equally amused by the last sentence, "and did you know I love you better (than) best friend's name?"  Let me just tell you that these two best friends are tighter than tight so that's a big declaration!

Well, there you have it.  It's February and love is in the air!  We'll try to keep the dating to a minimum though.  After all, it is only First and Second Grade!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

What's a Little Bug Between Friends?

About a month and a half ago, I found this big bug going into a restaurant.  He was deader than a doornail so I decided to pick him up, wrap him in a tissue and put him in one of the little compartments between my car seats.  I planned on showing him to my students when we talked about insects.  We have yet to talk about insects so there he sits all wrapped up in his tissue - at least that's the way it was until this morning...

He happens to be sharing a compartment with my school gate pass.  This morning my friend, Bev and I drove up to the school gate.  Someone was in front of me and someone behind me.  I reached down to grab my pink gate pass and couldn't find it.  Feeling pressured because of the car behind me I began searching a little bit more frantically.  I grabbed the tissue for some reason, thinking to search every possible place the card could have gone. I unwrapped it quickly having completely forgotten what was inside. 

When I saw the bug I freaked out (just a little bit) and yelled, "What is that?"  Being the thoughtful, nice friend that I am I then proceeded to throw the bug away from me and onto Bev's side of the car.  As you can imagine, I wasn't the only one freaking out any more.  Bev yelled louder than me, "What is that???" and started dancing in her seat.  By this time it had registered with me that it was just my dead bug and I was laughing hysterically.  I don't think Bev had the benefit of that knowledge...

However, she is still speaking to me so I say, "What's a little bug between friends?"

Some things to be noted:
1.  This kind of experience will get your blood pumping in the morning.
2.  This might have been the best laugh I have had in a long time!
3.  Bev's crazy eyes are pretty CRAZY!

Monday, November 30, 2015

How to Catch a Runaway Cow

The drive home is never dull and today was no exception.  We learned how to catch a runaway cow - Nigerien style and of course, this being knowledge that you might soon have need of, I am here to fill you in on the process.

Supplies needed:
  • runaway cow
  • four able bodied and fast men
  • two motorcycles
  • two ropes

Step 1:  Get your cow good and angry so that he runs like a crazed maniac, slobbering and sending women and children scampering out of harm's way.

Step 2:  Two men on foot should begin the chase with ropes in hand.  As you get close to the cow, you may either throw your rope with a pre-tied loop around his horns or at his feet with the intention of snagging him.  Don't expect to be successful right away.  In fact, this will probably make your cow more determined to escape.  Move on to step three.

Step 3:  You will need to two friends on motorcycles to zoom up.  Hop on the back as fast as you can and make sure your rope is with you.  Follow your runaway cow onto the main street because of course, everyone - even cows know that you can go faster on the open road!

Step 4:  Have your friends drop you off ahead of the mad cow so that you can lay in wait.

Step 5:  If at first you don't succeed, try, try again....and don't worry this is Niamey, nobody but the crazy North Americans following you will think twice about all this going down in front of their eyes.
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