A week ago Sunday, once again sitting outside the church building with Mary Michelle because she'd had enough of the long (and to her, monotonous) Sunday school and worship service time, I was really struggling with my attitude towards some of the things about life and church attendance in Niger that are just hard ... and some of the parts that are just different ... for whatever reason. In particular and top on my list of "complaints" was a church oriented towards adults and men, where women often find it challenging to worship with their whole hearts because they are so distracted by all the little ones running around, their position in this society and the amazing amount of things they have to accomplish each day just to survive...
My attitude was horribly wrong and I threw thankfulness and gratitude out the window for those moments... I made an awful choice regarding that on which I was focusing. I've confessed that and asked forgiveness... and I've consciously asked God to show me the things for which I should be thankful, the beautiful things about His church, His bride ~ for whom He gave His life ~ here in Niger... in particular our little church on the back side of the Niger River (which, thankfully, has not had any issues with flooding as of yesterday).
#388 about 40-50 friends (including a large number of young adult men) who consistently come to church, some walking quite a distance
#389 an older lady in the church, everyone calls her "Mama," and she always wears the most beautiful smile, she always remembers reasons to praise the Lord
#390 our Pastor, who, as Brendan said the first time we ever attended church there, preaches like "he really means it," with all his heart and when you hear his testimony, you know he does because he has sacrificed much
#391 I am grateful for and humbled by his desire to continually be growing and improving, deepening his knowledge of the Holy One and all things required to become a better pastor and teacher of God's Word
#392 our Pastor's Wife - she certainly does not fit the typical stereotype of a previously "oppressed" woman living in this land - she's beautiful inside and out, educated, articulate, passionate and very happy to share what she thinks and believes. Her heart hurts for her people who do not yet know the Way, the Truth and the Life and for those who just hurt because life in Niger is hard
#393 I also delight in how "Tantie" teases and plays with my girls and how they love her right back. Because of her "investment," going to church (even on the days when everything happens in Yoruba and Zarma because there is no translation to French), they have something to look forward to
#394 a grandmother I can never forget and her petite Salamatou who fight for life and their daily existence with a determination to survive like none other, who every Sunday enjoyed their friendship with Elsie Mae and who both greet the world with a ready smile (sadly, we've not seen them since our return to Niger and no one knows exactly what has happened, where they are)
#395 the worship service ~ praise and worship in an authentic African service is like nothing I've ever experienced in the States
#396 a solid cement building with fans, metal pews and "facilities...," rarities for most churches here
#397 a shade tree outside the building for when, after a few hours, our little munchkin decides she can no longer sit still or relatively quietly on Mama's lap
#398 dedicated men and women in the church who use their gifts to serve... be it in the chorale, playing the drums, tambourine or keyboard, teaching, preaching, translating, helping exhausted attenders stay awake and focus on absorbing God's Word or filling the water bucket so there's something to drink on the really hot days...
#399 family, brothers and sisters in Christ who've welcomed us and who allow Tim and myself... and now hopefully Brendan and Rebekah... an opportunity to serve and teach