31 March 2011

You blink... and they become…

...it's one of those love/hate relationships...

Me hating the fact that it goes so fast,
that my time with each one is limited,
that I forget, mix up priorities and then miss something precious...
that there is no magic brick to place on heads to at least slow down the process.

So I seek to delight in every moment –
not only the sweet ones,
but also the savory or bitter or salty ones –
even the hard ones and spoiled ones...

simply because it is a moment WITH,
a moment that still belongs to me,
before they become…

Yet I also find myself intrigued by who God is growing them to be.

So at the same time, I’m loving the watching,
the participating,
in His maturing and ripening of these little ones
into bigger and finally mature ones.

I’m ever amazed that He chose to share them with me and my husband.

It is a priceless front row seat
as He uses us,
and this life He’s called us to,
in making each one into a unique chef-d’oeuvre…

...flourishing them, 
and often, in spite of me,
because He is the great I AM. 
Each one is not only becoming,
but is already counted,
 a precious masterpiece of His.

(While we can claim most of the the great kids and young people in these photos as part of our tribe..., we can't claim them all... although we DO take them on loan from their parents every chance they give us!)

29 March 2011

Amazing reads...

One advantage to living in an international community is exposure to things I might have never otherwise heard about. Recently a friend loaned me a book another friend had loaned to her, and no joke... I read it in a few hours in a single sitting. Last week, she passed along a second book, by the same author...

Again, same story! My Seventh Monsoon and No Ordinary View, by Naomi Reed are both award winning books in Australia, recounting the author's experience and the lessons the Lord is taught (and perhaps continues to teach) based on her tenure as a missionary living, serving and raising her three boys in Nepal. She lives an extraordinary life in what may seem to many, unimaginably difficult circumstances, sustained by an extraordinary God... but she writes and shares in such a real and authentic way - her struggles, her situations were much the same as my struggles and situations... just set against a different backdrop. I love the fact that as I finished the books, I was thinking, "I'd love to sit down for a cup of tea with her and just listen to her share her heart, the same way she shared her thoughts in these books... she seems like such a real person." (Not to mention the delight of listening to an Aussie accent!)

In the My Seventh Monsoon, Ms. Reed writes about parallels that she sees between seasons of the year, seasons of life... and particularly, the seasons that God walks her through as He does His work in her life, all against the backdrop of her mission work in Nepal. No Ordinary View continues where the My Seventh Monsoon leaves off, and both read like an adventure book crossed with a devotional as she shares the wonderful, the beautiful, the hard, the profound, the unfathomable things that God impresses deep within her soul.

I was hooked from the opening pages of the prologue, so I thought I'd share (from No Ordinary View) this small excerpt to pique your interest...
"Have a look over there," I said, pointing  to huge mounds of discarded dirt beyond the wire fence of the camping ground. "Rubyvale is an old mining town and it's well-known for its sapphires. And see that sign -- it's pointing to a working mine and some old miners' cottages." I watched thei rheads turn, but their expressions didn't change. So I increased my own cheerfulness. "We can go there tomorrow and look for sapphires."

Whether it was the appeal of the sapphires or Darren's timely arrival with the sausages, the subject changed and soon they were throwing the footy to each other near the barbecue area, laughing at the way it bounced off the dry ground.

Then the following day we joined the fossickers. We met up with a tour group and were taken all the way down an old disused mine. The stairs were rickety and the tunnels were long and damp. Jeremy kept stopping to look behind him and I kept bumping into him in the patches of dim light. At one point our tour guide stopped and began to explain the appeal and value of the gemstones. Then she turned off her torch and asked us to look in the direction where she'd been pointing. At first, it was merely darkness, the darkness of a tunnel twenty metres below the earth, a place where the sunshine had never entered. Then, slowly, as our eyes focussed, we began to see a line of sapphires, as blue and as brilliant as the sky way above us. Within the darkness of the tunnel they shone. They stood out amidst the mud of their surroundings. Their facets gleamed, almost incongruent in an otherwise earthen wall. It was, strangely, a completely unexpected sight. At the Whitsundays, on a tour of the Great Barrier Reef, we had expected beauty and had found it. But in Rubyvale, we had not particularly expected beauty and yet found it, in the darkness.

Later that morning, we bought a bucket of earth that had been extracted from a working mine and we took it to a table and a nearby water trough in order to search through it for the same kind of gleam... As I hunched over the wooden trestle, staring at the dirt and thinking about the treasures that might be hiding there, fragments of a long-forgotten conversation came back to me. Two years earlier, I had been walking with Gillian across the ridges near our home town of Dhulikkhel, Nepal. It had been pouring with rain and the sound of it splattering on our parkas and pelting through the nearby corn crops almost drowned out her words.

"The thing is," Gillian called across to me, "when the sun is out and the day is bright, everyone wants to walk. When the sun is out, walking is easy."  I peered through the stream of water that was running down my fringe and made vain attempts to redirect it from my chin. Gillian wiped the water from her face and continued, "Walking in the sunshine might be nice, but you don't find the treasures."

She told me of a time when she had been walking through the Canadian Mountians in pouring rain. She described the noise of the rain and the feel of being alone with the elements. Then, she told me about turning around and seeing a cougar right in front of her. "It stood there, stock still and I knew that it was the most beautiful thing that I had ever seen: him and me in the pouring rain." Gillian turned and smiled at me again. "You don't find cougars in the sunshine. You find them in the darkness."

That morning in Dhulikkhel, Nepal, I had returned home, rediscovered dryness and read from Isaiah 45:2-3;
"I will go before you and level the mountains. I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places. So that you may know I am the Lord, the God of Israel who summons you by name."
 I had sat there on the back porch of my home, stared at the clouds and wondered about treasures... (pp 7-9)
As I read, I was encouraged and challenged. Ms. Reed allowed many amazing as well as normal every day life circumstances to be filtered through the truth of God's Word, and then listened to her Lord and Savior as He spoke jewels to her... whether in Nepal or back in her home country of Australia. She was infinitely richer as a result and her willingness to share here experiences of God's grace and gleaming treasures from His Word has left me wealthier, too. And I absolutely loved how she returned to this topic of "searching for sapphires" at the conclusion of the book.

My Seventh Monsoon should be available via amazon.com May 1. My Ordinary View can be ordered, too - but is expensive as it comes all the way from that land down under...

Believe me when I say that I'm working to get my hands on copies for my own personal library! These are books I want my kids to read...

28 March 2011

Multitude Monday - 1000 Gifts ~ Vanity Wars

Read this quote last week...

"Do not depend on the hope of results... [Y]ou may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth... of the work itself." ~ Thomas Merton

...and have been thinking about it ever since. Posted it as a fb status... Still thinking about it... particularly relative to my roles as
  • wife
  • mom
  • friend
  • missionary
  • teacher...
as well as how it relates to other things I've been reading.  (This is a total aside, but somehow, the more I read, the  more that stack on my nightstand grows rather than shrinks... Do you ever have that problem?)

So often, I feel a failure and think of myself as such because so much of me is wrapped up in results... and in receiving reward and recognition for having attained some particular ambition... in the acceptance of others and their acknowledgement that my contribution, that I, am valuable. Do those around me perceive me as
  • a serving, virtuous and faithful wife?
  • a consistent, gentle and loving mother?
  • a gracious, encouraging and loyal friend?
  • a missionary living with integrity and impacting my small slice of this world?
  • a teacher inspiring students (and maybe even other teachers) to grow and learn?
I  must ask myself: Is this cleverly disguised vanity? Or do my ambitions line up with the plans, the future and hope God has for me? Am I a failure if I obey, seek and follow God but still don't achieve those goals? Are my goals even biblical, if there is any question whether or not I'm seeking the Lord and His glory... or a bit of the spotlight for myself

As I've reflected and prayed through this the last week, several verses have come to mind:
  • "He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you. But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8)
  • Thus says the LORD, "Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? For My hand made all these things,Thus all these things came into being," declares the LORD. "But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word." (Is 66:1-3)
  • Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you. (Phil 3:13-15)
  • But the Lord answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:41-42)
  • But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (1 Tim 1:5)
Yes, I'm still searching for a yardstick to measure my success. I'd be better off learning to focus on obedience and remembering that God has already hard-won the only success that truly matters... While this side of heaven, I'm not ever going to completely get rid of the me and I'm not sure that I believe THAT is what God wants,(another post, for another day)... I just keep thinking of the words of a song that I remember from high school: "You're so vain. I betcha think this song is about you..." And choosing thankfulness for these vanity wars that the Lord has called me to wage because He continually uses them to show me just how much I need Him.

this week's gratitude list:

#922 that God patiently teaches me the same lesson over and over and over... reinforcing my need to draw near and abide continually in His presence

#923 good books

#924 other missionary stories because they always challenge and encourage

#925 leftover brochette meat for an easy and yummy Sunday meal

#926 our doctor who was willing to run by the office... and then wait a bit... to see my little one on a Sunday afternoon

#927 finished prayer letters

#928 clean water

#929 an unexpected and long block of time when I could do nothing but read

#930 vacation afternoons at the pool

#931 a pool that has stayed cool, even though the air temp is heating up rapidly

#932 sipping iced DECAF coffee concoctions

#933 dry season Bible school graduations where my hubby is the commencement speaker

#934 anticipating a poured cement floor for our new house

#935 being back in my own bed and the super sound, deep sleep that brings rest

#936 God's convicting Word

#937 peace and freedom that comes from confessed sin and the resulting forgiveness from the only One who can truly pardon

#938 feeling like I've really been listened to and heard

#939 faithful examples living all around me

#940 finally settling on the verse to study for this week's ladies' Bible study... and knowing it was what God wanted because it wasn't even on my radar yet fits so perfectly

#941 long, blonde, gentle curls blown by the fan and tickling my face as my sick one snuggles beside me at night

#942 thinking I had finished with script writing... then being asked to help refine and direct and teach others who want to see radio drama used comunicate the best news of all

#943 much needed encouraging comments and letters from most surprising and unexpected places...  God's provision and faithfulness knows no bounds!

#944 the above reminding me that I can't demand that God or others meet my expectations... my expectations must be held lightly while the ones rooted in God's Word must be clasped tightly and held close... just another one of those "is-it-all-about-me?-vanity-wars" that God uses to mold and shape me.

27 March 2011

Spring, 2011 Prayer Letter

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,
always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all,
in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.
For I am confident of this very thing,
that He who began a good work in you
will perfect it
until the day of Christ Jesus.

(Phil 1:3-6)

As we sit down to write this letter, our hearts are filled with praise and thanksgiving!

We are thanking God for additional space that so many of you helped to make possible! We wait only on the arrival of a few cartons of sound isolation tile as the final detail for the recording booth; even so, the studio addition is in use, recording radio programs.

We owe a HUGE debt of thanks to Larry and Pam Macklin from Calvary Baptist Church in Midland, Michigan. Larry has a background in IT and electrical engineering. They traveled out for a week, braving heat, disease, dust and threats of political instability to finish wiring the new studio sound panel. Pam helped Richelle tremendously in her daily activities around the house and also in ministry at Sahel Academy.

The large studio has likewise seen lots of recent activity. This room, usually reserved for recording choirs and live music groups, this past month hosted a seminary module from the Tri-M ministry and 2 modules of the Evening Bible Institute. These classes are normally held in our mission office, but while our new office is “under construction,” we are delighted to see the room used in this way, and we are eternally grateful to Steve and Julie Nunemaker for their continued commitment to Niger and the training of godly men and women to lead the church in this land. By the way, builders placed the trusses on the office this week! Next fall, Tri-M and IBBS classes should take place in our new and improved field office!

We’ve also been thankful for a visit from Tim’s dad, Gene Wright. He spent most of the month of March with us, getting a taste of life in Niger, visiting the different ministries with which we are involved, enjoying and entertaining his grandchildren and working in the studio finishing details on several projects for Tim. He left this past week, and it just hasn’t been the same place since. If you doubt the truth of that, just ask Elsie Mae and Mary Michelle!

Current studio projects include language tracks for the evangelistic film “The Godman” in Zarma (99% done) and Fulfulde (recording begins soon). Please pray, in particular, for the Fulfulde version, for the revision of the script and the recording process. The Fulfulde Christian community in Niger is not very large. We need God’s guidance, directing the producers to the right people and the right voices for this film. These films have the potential to reach thousands with the clear message of the Gospel in their mother tongue and heart language.

We do have a few financial needs related directly to the studio. Ministry funds raised as a part of our support provide for a percentage of studio operating expenses. We receive funds from the EBM Niger field and charge minimal studio fees for outside projects. With these monies, it is a challenge every month to keep the books in the black. Typically, we have to bring out extra funds from our personal support account to finance any special needs.

With that said, we have two programs available to the studio for which we will soon need to purchase airtime:
  • One of these programs is Thru the Bible, a French version of the well-known radio program by Dr. James Vernon McGee. Several years ago, we tried to receive this program via satellite, but due to our location relative to the transmitter, never met with success. We can now download it directly via internet and then prepare it for airing on local stations. It is a Monday thru Friday, half-hour program which takes the listener through the Bible in 5 years. With minimal production costs (primarily audio CD purchase), we are convinced it would be an effective investment in both time and money to air on one of our local radio stations. Stations here in Niamey have the potential of reaching at least a million listeners! However, before we decide to engage in the distribution of this program, we need to know that others will be behind it with their prayers and giving. A tremendous and serious need in Niger and particularly within the church is consistent, comprehensive and reliable Bible teaching. This program is be an effective tool, providing teaching and access to the Bible that many in this largely illiterate country do not have. Not only is Thru the Bible readily available, we believe it is the right program. Purchasing ½ hour of airtime per day, five days a week, will cost approximately $300 a month or $3,600 per year. Would you or your church consider undertaking this project with the Niger Radio ministry?
  • The second program is Sheep Tales. Sheep Tales is a series of 36 ½ hour radio programs that will air once a month as a feature of our regular French program called “Words of Life” Scripts are now in their final revision, and we would like to soon begin recording this program in collaboration with a local Christian radio theater group. Financing is required to help with the actors’ honorariums and taxi fares. We are still in the budgeting phase, and will try to have some firm numbers available by our next prayer letter. We ask all of you who read this letter to take these two programs before the Lord in prayer. Pray that His name and His Word would be lifted up here in Niger, and that many would hear, believe and accept His plan of salvation.
“I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat;
I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink;
I was a stranger, and you invited Me in;
naked, and you clothed Me;
I was sick, and you visited Me;
I was in prison, and you came to Me…
Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine,
even the least of them, you did it to Me...
[and] to the extent that you did not do it
to one of the least of these,
you did not do it to Me.”
(Matt 25:35, 36, 40, 45)

The Goumanche village of Pencangu is located approximately 15 kilometers east of Makalondi (the last city before leaving southwest Niger and entering Burkina Faso). It has a population of close to 450 living in several family compounds. Most are farmers raising millet, sorghum, corn, beans and peanuts during the July-October rainy season. Some have goats or sheep which they raise to sell for family needs during the “famine season,” which comes after their food stock has been depleted.

After the rains end, they draw their water from small, muddy pools that collect during the rains and/or from shallow 3-5 meters deep ground wells that they regularly dig. Both sources of water are unclean and unhealthy, leading to dysentery, worms and sometimes, for the young and weak, death.

One of the bush churches where Tim regularly teaches is in Pencangu. Recently having called a pastor (who is shared with other nearby Baptist churches), it is growing in both number and maturity. Church services take place on Sunday morning and three evenings throughout the week. Although most of the people in the church are illiterate, the pastor and elders teach them from the Bible and other Christian literature available in their language.

Shortly before our family began our year of home assignment in July, 2009, the church leadership approached us about helping them finance the drilling of a well for the village. A deep, drilled well would provide a clean source of water for the people of Pencangu, as well as others in the area. It would eliminate the need to haul water by bicycle and donkey carts from other wells many kilometers away. And it would allow the church to demonstrate tangibly to her neighbors that God is concerned about the real physical needs of men, and that He empowers His church to help address and meet those needs. Please contact us if you would like to participate in the provision of a well for this village.

Thankful to be serving our Lord together with you,
Tim, Richelle,
Brendan, Rebekah Joy, Nadia, Anna, Victoria, Jonathan,
Elsie Mae & Mary Michelle Wright


Who I wish I was hanging with today...

Unfortunately our littlest pipsqueak has been fighting a fever for the past two days, so I'm on nursing duty. I miss these gals when I don't get to see them, though.

I'm thankful for my friends, Rabi and Amina!

This week, I'll be preparing for Bible study this coming Saturday.
Please bathe this time the Lord gives to spend with the ladies of our church in prayer.

I'm not sure just yet what verse, but we'll be looking at
a single verse,
word by word,
just as we did with Phil 4:5 last time.

Pray that they remember their "homework" and that they begin to gain the confidence that God will speak to them... that He longs to speak to them...

26 March 2011

Construction Catch-up...

Music provided by EBM-Niger Studio: "Je chanterai à l'Éternel"
Many of the photos were taken by Larry Macklin while he was out visiting.

25 March 2011

Mulling on... Musing over...

"I fought the temptation to tell my son how I felt about his choices, to punish him with my anger and frustration, but I was silent. In a rare moment of clarity I felt my gaze go beyond the moment, beyond the disappointment of right now to a wider view. There in front of me sat a boy who carried his birth mother’s sins in his brain and body. I could see the future stretching out before us and all the labels he would likely wear: throwaway kid, failure, loser, screw-up. It pierced me through..."
"Raising your own flesh and blood is this exercise in seeing how dirty your flesh is — and how direly you need the blood of Christ."
"As a woman, it has been hard sometimes to work within the greater community group. I am a oddity to them. It boggles their mind to think that I might be educated and competent and run a business, teach etc. I am not the typical stay at home quiet mom they are used to. And i think for many reasons that is good. Women here need people to encourage them, model a healthy balance and their rights, and to fight for their own freedoms and to give a good example. But I also know it is something I need to be aware of. I cannot lead the men’s group forward in development. And yet no women come to the community meetings. So frustrating to want to work with them and yet find they hide away their women. It takes a very long time and a deeper level of trust I think before the community on a whole opens up their 'jewels' in women to outsiders."
  •  "Just Trust?" (Remember saying... or thinking... "I'll never tell my kids to do something just because I said so?" That's what I was thinking of as I read this.)
 "My friend told me about a sort of war of words he had with God while praying earlier today. God tells him, 'Trust Me. Trust Me. Trust Me.' Just that, over and over again. Finally my friend got worn down and said, 'Okay, trust you for what?'

'Nope. Just trust Me.' "
"Thinking I merit reward is a slippery place to stand, but often I plant myself wobbly knees shaking in that very spot..."

24 March 2011

~ French Cruellers ~

The last Saturday of the month is dedicated to donut design...
It is our new-to-us-this-term family tradition.

We enjoy donuts.
Not all the time... not even too often...
we can't just drive to Tim Horton's or Dunkin Donuts when we get a hankerin'.
That meant I had to learn how to make them.
A lot of work and a lot of fun,
last month I finally made my most favorite kind of donut:

The recipe claimed to be exceptionally easy...
So I started with great confidence and expectations
...and I had no clue!
After all, what was a "pate à choux?"
and I like to think I do passably well in understanding French!

Maybe it will be the next time around...
Although not impossible, I certainly wouldn't have used the words
"exceptionally easy"
as a description...
but maybe that was just me
until I figured it out, and Tim helped me assemble the cookie press, that's for sure!

But they DID turn out and they were...
They are still my favorite!
And unlike a lot of the other donuts we've made,
they taste better after cooling off, sitting for a bit -
except not many lasted that long!

I figured I'd wait a few months before I
"did a repeat"
which is what the kiddos call a recipe they want me to fix again.

But, it is that time.
Saturday will be our donut morning.
I'm thinking these look pretty good.

How about you?
Anyone want to come and join us?

I aim to serve some donuts in between 10:30 and 11...

Just let me know you are coming so I make enough.


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