Walking outside after a fresh snowfall is a breathtaking experience. The snow insulates everything in peaceful silence, covering the death, dirt and brown of late fall in a layer of sparkling white that reflects with an almost painful brilliance the sunshine. The two Scripture verses above, comparing the forgiveness and acceptance Christ offers through His birth, life, death on the cross and resurrection to that image of purity, have fresh meaning as we celebrate the forever mystery of the incarnation of Christ. The following words to a “new to us” Christmas song expresses eloquently this incomprehensible truth, for which we are inexpressibly thankful as our family celebrates Christmas in a very different way this year.
Tim has continued to be very busy with work and ministry at both the studio and the office, even as he been the parent to the four children who remained in Niger with him. The kids have been real troopers, too – accompanying their dad to the studio as well as an album dedication and a few other events over the past few months. We are also indebted to friends who helped the girls with homework while Tim was working, invited the gang over for activities or meals, or who included them in special occasions.
In the past two months, they have finished a music album and saw it dedicated. God’s Story in the Fulfulde language has been recorded, edited and submitted. God’s grace was evident during this more intense week of recording as the voice actor, Billo, had been suffering from vision problems and severe headaches. Several Christmas and holiday themed programs have been produced and played on the local and government radio stations where EBM’s regular programming is broadcast. Some of you remember to pray each year for wisdom and creativity as those programs are prepared – now please pray that seeds sown will grow and bear eternal fruit. God’s protection and grace was also powerfully manifested in the life of our studio apprentice. He was recently in a motorcycle accident while taking his little sister to school. Both he and his sister received some nasty scrapes and bruises, but were able to recover at home and are back to full strength. Another huge answer to prayer has been that a portion of the funding for the Hot Wire generator project (seeking funding for a much needed hook-up to a generator which will then enable the studio to continue operating during the numerous power cuts and outages) has been received, and Tim has been able to begin taking steps towards initiating that project.
Richelle, in addition to home schooling, and having a baby, has continued to help with administrative details at the French School via email correspondence with the school’s director. There are approximately 570 students enrolled in 12 different classes this year. Please continue to pray for the ministry of this school, for interpersonal relationships and unity among the staff, for wisdom as they face some new regulations regarding classroom management, for the director who has a heavy load to carry and for the need to find someone who can work alongside him as an assistant principal. A few of our teachers are struggling with some more serious health issues, too, so please remember them in your prayers.
Brendan is in eighth grade at Sahel Academy this year, has grown taller than his mother and is our first teenager. So far, we are really enjoying this adventure of parenting a teen (although we are, admittedly, still rookies). He is a good student, as long as he is taking his work seriously! He played softball in the annual tournament held each year in Niamey, trying out for the position of pitcher. He is a great big brother, and Jonathan has been missing him dreadfully these past few months. Brendan has also been caring for a new bird of prey these past few months - a Lanner falcon – as well as helping his dad and sisters in a poultry raising project our family began late last spring.
Rebekah Joy completed the CM2 class at Ecole Alliance in June, succeeded in passing her exams, and is home schooling this year (although she has had a long Christmas vacation with the arrival of a new little sister in early December). She is becoming quite an accomplished cook and bread maker even though she prefers making cookies. Before returning to the States in October, she began taking horseback riding lessons at the Equestrian Club in Niamey and is looking forward to resuming those in January. She has enjoyed playing basketball with the team at the school she will be attending while on furlough next year. It is hard to believe that in just a few short months, we will have two students in secondary school!
Nadia has had to be the big sister these past few months, helping out a little more than she has had to in the past. She continues at Ecole Alliance, and is presently in the class of CM1. Her teacher is pleased with her progress and her attitude in class. We are praying about whether or not she will take the French exams before we return to the States for our furlough next summer. She has also enjoyed helping raise the chickens and doesn’t mind eating the eggs – although she refused to eat an actual chicken recently.
Anna continues to make excellent progress in school. Although her French abilities still have much room for improvement, her confidence and willingness to participate in class continue to grow. She loves to go and watch Rebekah’s horseback riding lessons and can’t wait until it is her opportunity to have lessons herself. She has almost caught up with Nadia in height and is one of our more athletic children. She is learning more about responsibility and helping with chores and tasks around the house as well as helping to feed and water the chickens. We think she may need glasses, and are hoping to take care of that in the next few weeks.
Victoria has made an excellent adjustment from kindergarten to primary school. And although she can be a complainer, she is a good student and is doing quite well, especially with her French reading skills. She is excited about her new bike that she received as a Christmas present this year and is waiting anxiously for the return of her mama and other siblings in late January.
Jonathan continues to be a delight in so many ways. He is enthusiastic, loveable and lives each moment to the fullest. He is also an affectionate little guy who just loves people and making others smile. He is doing very well with his home school work, working through a kindergarten level curriculum even though he just turned 4 this month. Everyone who remembers Tim as a little boy says that Jonathan is just like his daddy – a comment we’ve heard frequently since arriving back in Midland. Please continue to pray for his speech development and diligence for Richelle as she works with him in this area.
Elsie Mae is a sweet two year old with the most adorable and mischievous smile. She is missing time with her daddy, but has adjusted well to her role as a big sister. She adores Mary Michelle and loves to help with – changing diapers, bringing clothes, putting clothes away, rocking her car seat when Mary is crying, and numerous other little things. She has also loved getting to know her cousins (again). It is amazing how grown-up she seems, now that there is an even littler one in the family.
Mary Michelle is now almost a month old – and the time is flying by. It is fun to have a newborn in the house again – and we are looking forward to the opportunity to introduce her to the rest of her family in a few short weeks. She is an alert baby and seems to enjoy the commotion that is always a part of our lives. She also causes quite a stir whenever people meet her for the first time due to her petite features and size yet full head of silvery blond hair (it looks like we’ve taken her to the salon for highlights – seriously).