Thursday, August 30, 2012


Sharing, participation, and fellowship - that is one of the definitions for the word community found on The Free Dictionary site.

Even though it's not at the top of the heap, I like that definition because I feel like it describes so well what we experience at Sahel Academy.  We are surrounded by an incredible community of people who are with us at the best of times...
when we witness a baptism.
when we have a field day.
when we prepare a new building.
when we unload a container.
 or when we celebrate a graduation.
But we are finding out that they are not just willing to share in our joys, they are also willing to...
fill an empty sandbag for us.
wade across a murky river for us.
kill a snake for us.
carry a box or two for us.
and even organize an entire displaced library for us.
This is our community and we love them because they are so often a visible demonstration of God's love for us.
Would you pray for Sahel Academy and its surrounding community?  They are weary to the bone.  Pray that God would renew their strength, send encouragement and give them grace for one another as they work together under very difficult circumstances.  Pray that through them, God will communicate his love to a watching world.  

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Necessity - The Mother of Invention

You have to sit back and marvel as you watch things emerge from a crises. 
People find incredibly creative solutions to problems.
I bet you wouldn't dream of transporting a piano in a rowboat.
-Photo Credit to Lisa Rohrick
But they did.
What if you don't have a boat? 
-Photo Credit to John DeValve
Why not try a different type of floatation device to get your things to dry land?
And if your item is just a tad bit larger than a kiddie pool or a rowboat? 
-Photo Credit to Lisa Rohrick
Why not create your own flotation device using a trailer and some empty barrels?
I'm sure glad I work in a community of creative thinkers!

Monday, August 27, 2012


This is my friend Jacques.  Beside him is his wife and squeezed between the two is their youngest daughter.  Jacques cleans my classroom every afternoon and it's easy to get to know him because he loves people.  He is constantly telling me that his coworkers leave him behind every afternoon because they know he is probably somewhere talking to someone! 

Jacques has worked at Sahel Academy since he was a young man.  Every weekday morning he rises around 4 AM and goes together with his wife to a garden beside the river to pick lettuce which his wife then takes to the market to sell.  Jacques continues on to Sahel Academy where he begins the day readying containers of filtered water for each classroom.  After the school day begins, he spends time cleaning bathrooms or washing dishes.  Before lunch arrives he prepares the tables, placing pitchers of water and cups out for the children to use during our lunch hour.  When lunch is over, Jacques takes to the task of cleaning the dishes, washing the tables and throwing away the trash.  About the time those tasks are complete, our elementary students are finished with school.  He then begins sweeping the classrooms and collecting the jugs of water.  It is a full day for him but Jacques does all these tasks with a smile on his face and a willingness to serve.  His desire to serve extends beyond the campus of Sahel Academy to his church where he can be found many times during the week helping out with the activities of the church.  He takes great joy in serving Jesus there!

Jacques loves to serve his family, too.  There is a light in his eyes when he talks about his children.  He takes pleasure in their successes at school and enjoys encouraging them with a little piece of candy or a special treat.  Last year, he was so excited to be able to provide one of his girls with peanuts and juice for a party.  He delights in caring for his family.  Can you imagine then how he must feel as he looks out on the pile of rubble that used to be their home?

-Photo Credit to Jonathan Moore

Jacques surveying the ground where his home used to stand.

-Photo Credit to Jonathan Moore

Nothing left but piles of rubble and the tin of their roof.

-Photo Credit to Jonathan Moore

Look carefully under the armoire and you will see his dog.
-Photo Credit to Jonathan Moore
Jacques is returning daily to feed him because his dog does not want to leave.
Ah!  The tender heart of Jacques.  I know he must be heartbroken to see the home that he was so proud of providing for his family swept away. Please pray for Jacques that he would be comforted by God's love and reassured of his presence even as he and his family face this heartbreaking loss.
The Lord makes firm the steps
of the one who delights in him;
though he may stumble, he will not fall,
for the Lord upholds him with his hand.
I was young and now I am old,
yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread.
They are always generous and lend freely;
their children will be a blessing.
Psalm 37:23-26

Would you like to help Jacques and other families like him?  SIM has established a fund to help both the mission community and our Nigerien brothers and sisters recover from the floods that have devestated the city of Niamey. If you would like to help you can go here to make a donation. Thank you for praying and thank you for giving.

As Seen Under the Bridge

I have a little feature on this blog that I call As Seen On the Bridge.  Perhaps life just slows down a bit as you cross the Kennedy Bridge or maybe it's the traffic but somehow I always seems to notice funny things happening in the midst of dodging donkey carts, motos, pedestrians and don't forget the oncoming traffic!

This post, however, is not a humourous one.  It is a serious look at why this area has been overcome by floods. 

Both pictures are taken of the same half of the bridge but the first picture was taken during a recent January.  December and January are the months in which the Niger River normally reaches it's highest levels.
- Photo Credit to Rachel VanVeen

This next picture was taken on Wednesday, August 22, 2012, the morning after the dikes had broken allowing the Niger River to flow on to both the CBN and Sahel Academy properties.
-Photo Credit to Ray Chamberlain
You can see that the water is right up to and near the middle almost engulfing some of the braces (my non-technical term) below the bridge.  According to Richelle, a coworker at Sahel, there are reports  that a dam upstream has broken and the water is expected to reach Niamey in several days.  Even continued rains could cause the waters to rise.  Continue to pray as efforts are redoubled to salvage what can be salvaged from Sahel Academy.   Pray also for the tens of thousands of Nigeriens who have lost their homes.  This includes several of the workers at our school.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

I Can't Wait

Thursday morning when the devestation of the flooding in Niamey was kind of beginning to sink in, I had been out for a walk and listening to this sermon by Crawford Loritts.  He was talking about the importance of the altars that people like Abraham and Jacob built.  The following were some of his thoughts:
  • Altars are built to mark spiritual milestones in the lives of believers.
  • Altars mark the fact that we worship.  Building them is meant to deepen our worship.
  • Altars are intended to pull us away from self-reliance.
  • Altars remind us that the journey is not about us but about God and the story he is writing.
  • Altars declare the glory and presence of God to a watching world.
  • Altars are intended to keep us moving. In the Bible, you remember to go forward you don't remember to relax.
  • Altars declare God's faithfulness.
  • God wants us to become his altars because it's not so much about the building of stones as it is about the building of lives.

The day before God had reminded me of the history of Toccoa Falls College, the college where I earned my degree in Early Childhood Education.  In November of 1977 the campus of Toccoa Falls College was devestated by a flood that killed 39 people. Today it is a thriving Christian Liberal Arts College.  The same God that brought life out of complete devestation at TFC can bring life out of complete devestation at Sahel Academy.

I never thought of it before but the Toccoa Falls memorial pictured above is an altar - a visible reminder of how God took an impossible situation and brought new and vibrant life out of it.
Today, as I was getting ready to face the day, the thought crossed my mind that one day there will be a place, an altar or memorial of some sort where we as a Sahel Academy staff are going to be able to gather our students around and remind ourselves of the faithfulness of God.  We will remind ourselves of how we leaned into him in the face of overwhelming questions and of how he faithfully, step by step revealed the story he was writing, a story that will declare HIS glory and presence to a watching world.  Honestly, I know it may be a long ways off but I can't wait for that day! It's going to be amazing!
Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.  
One generation will commend your works to another;
they will tell of your mighty acts. 
Psalm 145:3-4 

A Day Without Laughter is a Day Wasted

“I have seen what a laugh can do.
It can transform almost unbearable tears into something bearable, even hopeful. ”
-Bob Hope
So what do you do when life and ministry as you've known it changes forever?  Well the Niger missionaries are beginning to pick up the pieces and as they do that they are finding reasons to laugh.  These are some of my favorite pictures and comments coming from facebook so far.
What the gazebo is completely submerged?
For those of you who don't know, there used to be a gazebo to the right of the court but it was torn down a couple months ago. 
 Hence the humour!
-Ruth Wong
Talk about a backed up toilet!
-Lisa Rohrick
This one is funny!  But it's also pretty serious, too.  Those who are helping to salvage things are wading through sewage and other nasty stuff so please pray for protection for them.
This guy didn't survive the flood.
-Lisa Rohrick
Brian, our school director, treats the audience to a very quiet version of Handel's "Water Music".
-Lisa Rohrick
-Lisa Rohrick
No caption needed on this one!
- Baayan
Another watery request - Funny!
But my favorite one because I am a teacher....
We don't believe in the "No Child Left Behind" policy!
-Ruth Wong
This girl knows how to find laughter in the midst of a difficult situation.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sahel Academy - Before & After the Flood

Today my body is here in South Carolina but my heart is definitely in Niger.
Niger River Flooding map.jpg
This picture shows the Niger River - the dark blue being the normal path of the river and the light blue being the areas that are flooded.  You can see the little yellow arrow pointing to the campus of Sahel Academy which is now a part of that flooded region.  Incredible efforts were put forth by the staff, students and community to prepare the campus but sadly, on the evening of Tuesday, August 21, 2012 a part of the wall surrounding the campus gave out and the Niger River rushed in.
Before leaving Niger I took some pictures of the campus.  So I thought I would use those along with the many that have been taken by people in Niger just to give you a Before & After idea of what things look like now.  (After photo credits go to Steve Schmidt, Ray Chamberlain & Cathy Bliss)

We begin at the gate.
Most of the time you would follow the road from the entrance down to the left of the white wall which is the back wall of the sports court.  Today the method of transportation is canoe.
This is our sports court.

Pictured here is the dorm.  The picture on the bottom left shows the same side as the Before picture.  The picture to the right shows the front of the dorm and part of the playground area. 
This is the elementary building where I spent the last three years teaching lots of delightful little First & Second Graders.
On the top in the middle is the Before picture showing a view into the Dining Hall, High School, Library and Teacher's Lounge buildings along with our beloved patch of grass - site for almost all significant events including eating, hanging out and even graduating.  These areas seem to be under the deepest amount of water.
This is a view down the corridor between the dining hall and high school. 
Looking back toward the playground area in the picture on the left, you see two picnic tables.  In the picture on the right, you can only see the tops of those tables.
Here you see the one year old administration building.  It was just last year at this time that we were working hard to get the classrooms ready for students.
This is the only picture of the inside of a building so far.  It's the welcome area of the administration building.
These two pictures show before and after views of the area of campus where the wall broke.

Finally, heading back down the road towards the entrance is our workshop area with lots of storage containers.  The water here also looks quite deep.
One thing you may have noticed in my before pictures is that there aren't alot of pictures with people in them.  I must have gone around at a time when no one was around which is unfortunate because if there's anything that stands out about Sahel Academy, it's the people.  When I picture these grounds they are filled with staff who love and invest wholeheartedly in their students, students who are growing and learning, national workers who are faithful and a larger mission community that prays and supports us in so many practical ways.  And so, I'm going to leave you with a little video that was created to show just that!  This is Sahel Academy.
By the way, if I come to see you and share about Sahel Academy, you may have to smile and nod politely as I show this video because I am stealing my own thunder and putting it out for everyone to see. I just feel like some of us might need the encouragement of it's reminder.
(Photo credit - Ray Chamberlain)
1 Peter 2:6
"See, I lay a stone in Zion,
a chosen and precious cornerstone,
and the one who trusts in him
will never be put to shame."
We may not understand but we are trusting!
SIM has estabilished a fund to help both the mission community and our Nigerien brothers and sisters recover from this tragedy.  If you would like to help you can go here to make a donation. Thank you for praying and thank you for giving.

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