30 May 2008

Swim Meets and Water Polo Games

As she has the past few years, Richelle taught a swimming/water polo unit to the students of Sahel Academy. At the end, they celebrated with some "competition time." Several parents came out to cheer on their kids, and frozen Koolaide popsicles were a nice treat afterwards on such a hot day. Enjoy all the pictures from an afternoon at Niger's "Piscine Olympique d'Etat!"

27 May 2008

A worthwhile read

When you've got a few minutes, head over to Bring the Rain to read "The Past and the Pitcher." My heart was touched...

A Weekend of Firsts!

Last weekend was a busy one - but in a good way! It was a weekend of firsts.

1) Jonathan was invited to his very first birthday party - with a bunch of other little 3 and 4 year olds (I think it was one brave mama...!).

2) Anna went to a spend the night birthday party, for the first time - BY HERSELF! In other words, neither of her two big sisters were with her. That is a huge step for our most timid child. She cried just a few minutes when I dropped her off (she said she was nervous), but once she started playing with all of her friends, she had a blast!

3) Brendan played his flute with the Sahel "orchestra" as accompaniment to the congregational singing for the first time. It is exciting to see him begin using his gifts and talents to serve the Lord.

4) We have our first 11 year old female in this family. Rebekah Joy turned 11 on Sunday. We celebrated her birthday eating brochettes and fries at one of our favorite restaurants with another family (Rebekah's choice). And the meal was topped off with a yummy cake (from a mix that Grandma Betty sent - which was much appreciated, as it is hard to get motivated to cook from scratch with the present heat indexes), and several birthday gifts.

Now, we just need another weekend to catch up on our rest from the previous one!

22 May 2008

Some Samples from Brendan's Art Class

SELF PORTRAIT - done with a mirror.


Don't forget to check out Brendan's poll in the side bar - he's wanting to find out: "What's your favorite kind of bird?" And the above sketch is a huge clue to how he responded!

Safely Home

I recently finished reading a book that has definitely entered my "favorites" club. Here is a little excerpt...

"Is it hard for you to trust a God who makes his servants suffer?" he asked.

"Zhu Yesu is a ferocious lion. His claws are sharp. The fact that the Lion became the sacrificial lamb does not mean that he ceases to be the Lion. He is not a tame lion, Ben. His ways are above ours. The gods of our imagination never surprise us. Yesu does. For he is far greater than what we imagine -- that is why he can fill the hole our man-made gods cannot."

"The lion on your table -- it is a symbol of Yesu?"

"You are figuring out many things. My American roommate is not so dumb as he looks. Only kidding! The lion is a common Chinese figure, so the PSB does not know that when we look at the lion, we think of him. The lion's hand is upon a ball. That ball is the earth. The world is in the Lion's paw. Not even the dragon can take it from him."

"But if he's a lion, how do you know he won't ... eat you?"

Quan thought for a moment. "I would rather be eaten by him than be fed by anyone else."

After reading Safely Home, by Randy Alcorn myself, I began to read it aloud to Brendan, Rebekah Joy and Nadia. We hope to continue this over the summer... I'm also looking forward to the discussions I'm sure will come as a result...

21 May 2008

Almost Wordless Wednesday

Tim likes to go on line and look at Google Earth satellite pictures of different places in the world - since that is about as close as we are going to get to traveling there - at least at this point in our lives. The two photos above are satellite images of first - our neighborhood (our concession is lightened), and second - our house, also lightened. We can tell the picture was taken after we'd moved in because of the some changes we made to the property. You can even see the 5 mango trees in our yard (all of which have produced fruit this mango season!).

19 May 2008

Some things do change...

One of those vivid memories I have of living in Niger our first year is the day I was walking to catch a taxi with the kids, and actually seeing a fire truck. It wasn't more than two blocks from the house and we'd heard the sirens, but we'd assumed that it was the escort for one of the government figures. It wasn't - it was the siren of an actual fire truck. And the truck itself was on fire. Now, granted, we didn't know all of the circumstances, but it didn't give me a whole lot of confidence in the city of Niamey's fire fighting ability to see that the only fire truck I'd seen within a year's time was on fire before my very eyes...

Since then, I can't say that I've ever seen another one in the 7+ years we've lived here. Theoretically, I figured they existed - a friend told me about her daughter's school field trip to see a fire truck and meet the fire men - but last night, Tim actually saw one in action. It was an old truck. It didn't have all the fancy equipment one might see on a fire truck elsewhere. The fire men needed much bigger flashlights to actually see what they were doing (thankfully, the moon was quite bright last night). All in all, quite a bit different from what we'd expect back in Michigan, but he was pleasantly surprised.

The home of missionary friends caught on fire last night. It is amazing the amount of damage that can be done in a cement block house by fire - but since the ceilings are often dropped and made of wood paneling, once that catches on fire, it can be difficult to stop, especially with minimal equipment (one high pressure hose, no ladders...). The fire spread quickly through the ceiling space, following electrical wires down into the cement walls, and turning closets into infernos.

Today, we are praising God that our friends are safe, and we were thankful to see the quick response to their need, even in the late evening, from the local fire force, US Embassy and Marine personnel, and the local missionary community, as well. Please join us in praying for this family - especially one of their little girls - the fire began in her room, and she has basically lost everything, and as they begin the painstaking job of restoring their home.

Picture from Fire House Designs, 2002.

18 May 2008

Sticking Out All Over

I'm reading a book right now entitled Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver. I'm about half-way through the bible study and thoroughly enjoying it - but read through the following section today and I thought I'd share it...

The story is told of a young boy who approached an evangelist after a revival tent meeting. "Excuse me, sir?" the little boy said politely. "You said everyone should ask Jesus into their hearts, right?"

"That's right, son." The evangelist squatted down so he could look the boy in the eye. "Did you ask him in?"

"Well, I'd like to," the boy said, shuffling dirt with the toe of his shoe before returning his gaze to the evangelist. "But I got to figurin'... I'm so little and Jesus is so big -- he's just gonna stick out all over!"

"That's the point, son," the evangelist said with a smile. "That's the point."

"The leaders saw how bold Peter and John were. They also realized that Peter and John were ordinary men with no training. This surprised the leaders. They realized that these men had been with Jesus."
Acts 4:13 (NIrV - for young readers)

Another One of those "Little Things..."

Brendan and I went grocery shopping yesterday - and splurged just a little bit. Look what we found - on sale (meaning $4/box instead of $10...)

We bought two boxes and we finished them this morning for breakfast. We don't often buy cereal here - good stuff (like above) is horribly expensive and the brands we can afford to buy on a regular basis either turn to mush immediately in milk or the kids just don't like them. So we eat oatmeal, breakfast breads, toast and peanut butter, shortcake and milk, yogurt. omelets... So a box of cereal for breakfast is a huge "special" treat!

What made it even more wonderful, at least for me? The type we found had all sorts of dried up little red fruits: cherries, strawberries - and my absolute favorite - RASPBERRIES, a treat that I ususally only have when back in the States.

To top it all off, my wonderful gang (well, at least they are this morning), saved many of the raspberries for me as a belated Mother's Day gift, just 'cause they know how much I love them.

Yep, often it really is just the little things that can totally change our perspective...

11 May 2008

What's a Reputation?

Yesterday was Ladies' Bible Study at church - and although it was quite hot, we had a good turnout of 7 ladies! We continued working our way through the book of John, starting with this reminder of why the book of John was written:

"and many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name." (John 20:30-31, KJV)

Yesterday, we looked at two of Jesus' encounters, first with Nicodemus and second, with the Samaritan woman at the well - but we looked at those two events from the perspective of what we could learn about presenting the Gospel message to those around us. It was quite encouraging as we read through the two passages and the ladies commented on what the Holy Spirit was showing them individually as far as things to do or not to do as they shared God's message and the plan of salvation with their friends, neighbors and acquaintances. Several points were mentioned (some of these were brought out by the ladies and others were principles I'd seen in the two passages and prepared ahead of time).

1) There is not a single formula or method we can follow to present the Gospel message that is guaranteed to be effective every time we use it. We are responsible t.o share the message, but it is the Holy Spirit who changes hearts. We can see in these to instances that Jesus uses different methods to speak to each individual.

2) When we share the Good News, we must make sure we get beyond telling our own personal story to sharing the story of Jesus. In other words, testimonies can be effective tools, but it is Jesus who is the only Way, the Truth and the Light. Another application, particularly true in the culture here - it is not polite to directly approach people, but rather to talk around the issue for awhile before gently approaching the main point. However, we can't wander all around the outside of the Gospel message without ever confronting people with what the Bible says about salvation and the Kingdom of God.

3) We have to enter situations where we meet and interact with people who don't already know Jesus - and then be bold enough to share the message of God's love.

4) We need to keep in mind the purpose of our conversation and not get sidetracked by debates, arguments, or questions that lead away from that goal.

5) We need to meet people where they are. As a Pharisee, Nicodemus was concerned about the coming Kingdom and truth, so Jesus referred to both repeatedly. The Samaritan woman came to the well looking for water, so Jesus used the image of water that would quench thirst permanently to capture the woman's attention.

6) People need to see their sin, their inability to fix things in their own power and strength, and thus their need for Jesus. Jesus told Nicodemus of his need to be born again - a physical impossibility. Water that would lead us to never thirst again, in the case of the Samaritan woman, is also an impossiblity, humanly speaking.

7) People must decide what they are going to do with Jesus; thus we must prayerfully confront with that, or a similar question. But at the same time, we cannot force someone to place their faith and trust in the Lord.

As we finished up this part of the Bible study, it was neat to hear them share that they felt God had a particular message for them about the importance of evangelization and their role - that was the second study on sharing the Gospel they'd had that week, as Pastor had spoken on the same topic earlier. None of these woman believed that this was a chance coincidence. Please join me in praying that these ladies are encouraged and continue to be challenged to share their faith and the message of salvation with those around them.

However, as we were closing, I mentioned that I had one more thing I'd like to share with them, something that I had prayed much about over the course of the week, because I had been so personally convicted about it. These principles about sharing God's plan of salvation, while both good and timely reminders for me, were not something "new" - and so I started praying that God would show me something personal to take from studying these two passages of Scripture. And the Holy Spirit very clearly drew my eyes to the following~

Nicodemus came to Jesus in the night, probably because as a Pharisee, he was concerned about what others would think - his reputation. The Samaritan women came to the well at midday, the hottest time of the day when very few others would be out, because of her reputation. She didn't want to hear the whispers and see the glances that reminded her of what others thought of her. But the Bible also speaks to us about Jesus' reputation.

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who... made himself of no reputation... (Phil 2:5-7, KJV)

If you analyze the word "reputation," it comes from the Latin prefix "re" which means to do over and over and over again, one time after the other and the Latin verb "putare" which means to call to account or to consider carefully.

So, what is a reputation? It is what the public, in general, thinks of someone. It is notoriety for a particular trait or aspect (here, part of my "reputation" is that I'm the white lady with 7 blonde haired, blue-eyed kids). It is a good name or honor brought to the family because of specific behaviors and attitudes. It is a value or honor placed on or given to one by another - due to position, wealth, intelligence, etc. In our legal system, a person's reputation can be admitted as evidence in a court of law.

Yet if I want to have the same mind as Christ, I'm to make myself of no reputation. My actions and my behavior are not to be based on or determined by what I think others expect, on making others happy, or pleasing and feeding my ego as a result of others' responses. What I do, what I think, who I am should be determined by the character of the One I seek to imitate and follow.

There is a huge difference between my reputation (what others think) and my character (the person God is making me to be). The word character comes originally from a word meaning an instrument used for marking by making sharp cuts, engraving. God is in the process of engraving on my often hard and stubborn heart the image of His Son and His character. Thus, I'm to make myself of no reputation as I allow God to develop my character into one that pleases Him and brings honor and glory to His name, as He engraves His laws and the character of His Son on my heart.

Picture of Jesus and Nicodemus came from Christian Cameos. The painting is entitled "Jesus and the Woman and the Well," 1536 by Garafalo Benvenuto Tisi.

Update on Earlier Prayer Request

Thank you for your prayers for our friends. We've seen God's hand working in their situation, but know they would continue to appreciate your prayers.

As of yesterday, part of the family was still in Ghana. The young girl's eye problems seem to be straightening themselves out, but she has gotten sick with something else and is not in a good condition to travel, so she and her mother are waiting for her to get a bit stronger before returning to Niamey.

Father and son (who was in the accident) ended up evacuated to Europe, where they are still waiting to see if surgery will be needed to make sure his collar bone heals properly.

And their youngest boy is still here in Niamey, staying with his grandparents - but all this upset to his normal life has been a bit traumatic for him, too.

Keep on prayin'!

07 May 2008

Prayer Request

Please join with us in praying for one of the families with whom we carpool. Monday, their daughter was taken to Ghana for medical consultations (CAT scan) due to complications from malaria that seem to be affecting her vision.

Then Monday afternoon, their son was in a motorcycle accident - banged up pretty badly and broke his collarbone.

Thinking about this from the perspective of a mama - I can't imagine: 2 children in the hospital in two different countries, limited communication...

I know this family would appreciate your prayers.

Wordless Wednesday - Cassette Tape Distribution

04 May 2008

Animals Speak French, Too!

The underage Wright gang wants to see if you knew that animals "speak French..."

See if you can match the following animals with the sounds that they make!
cow (vache)

horse (cheval)

cat (chat)

dog (chien)

rooster (coq)

hen (poule)

duck (canard)

bird (oiseau)

donkey (an)

lion (lion)

owl (hibou)

oua oua

Work it out and leave your response as a comment - we (Brendan, Rebekah, Nadia, Anna and Victoria) want to know if you figure it out!

02 May 2008


I came across a lovely blog page last weekend. I had stayed home from church because I have not been feeling well, so I was spending some time reading. The first "page" I read was entitled "Feeling for His Face," and it really spoke to me, partly because Elsie Mae is a "face feeler." When she needs comfort, she needs to be able to touch my face - not see me, not necessarily be held, but for me to stoop low enough or move in close enough that she can grab ahold of my nose, put her fingers in my mouth, finger the contours of my neck, stroke my cheek, often twirling my hair close enough that she can use it to stroke her own cheek...

So when I read what Ms. Voskamp wrote:

I know my own nightmares, day terrors, desert hallucinations that pursue across the sands. Waking to the everyday gifts, the common miracles, daily graces, this is my way of feeling for His face, my way of knowing He is pressed close.

I read Him in syrup melting down into stacks of pancakes, in the heavy breathing of slumbering children under old quilts, in the moss curling around old trunks down in the woods. A monarch lights on the clump of coneflowers by the picket fence, we linger after the noon picnic in the surprise of Indian summer, cold water runs from my tap. These are the graces, the magnanimous, munificent gifts, that I daily seek to run my fingers across, feeling for His face.

In my common deserts, I have found the daily discipline of fingering for Him in small things, in giving thanks for all that is, reveals the contours of Who He is. This waterfall of little grand gifts unveils the features of His countenance, the gentleness of His heart.

...the topic of gentleness jumped out at me all over again. Spirit gentleness is choosing to see God, or "feeling for His face" when we cannot see because of the tears, as we trust that what He is doing is good whether we understand or not - because He promises He will be there.

As I continued to explore this particular blog page, I came across another entry, entitled "More that Dies..." As I read, I thought to myself, "This, too, is what gentleness is all about. It is about me dying so that God can make me alive. Will I allow it or will I fight it?" It is put much more eloquently on the linked blog page, however:

But his words echo through the rest of my day, revisiting me here tonight in a full country church, us womenfolk talking of hanging out lines of laundry, working up sleepy gardens, and the countryside wafting with the smell of sweet manure.

“More that dies, more that lives.”

Out into the falling dusk, these church folks slowly spill, frogs of the church pond filling the night with their croaky chorus. And we all mingle under the shy stars twinkling, the air pungent with death, and I look at these people, a body of believers, a people called to live new life.

But the daily death comes first. The more that dies.....

The more He lives.

Scripture Drink:
"Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the cross with Christ,
a decisive end to that sin-miserable life...
What we believe is this:
If we get included in Christ's sin-conquering death,
we also get included in his life-saving resurrection...."

Lord, my dying today may not smell pretty. But it is necessary for the new life You want to grow in me. Where can I die today? The more I die.... the more You live.

Two more beautiful word pictures of gentleness... which I pray will continue to encourage and challenge me.


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