24 July 2011

So much, really, so much more...

"ba... bo... ga... go... ma... mo... na... no... ya... yo... fa... fo..."

So far, these are the syllables she's mastered...

and we are getting ready to add the "u" vowel next.

It is hard, painstaking and tiring work for her nearly 70 year old eyes as we hunch together on a woven plastic mat, opposite sides of a small tea table under a straw lean-to, sharing the shade (and relative coolness - as coolness is always a matter of perspective) with numerous relentless flies.

And all of this because she desires to be able to read God's Word, all by herself, for as many years as the Lord keeps here in this world, this life.

She is an amazing woman!

I wish I could introduce you to this incredible woman in person! She is just the neatest lady! I've spent anywhere from 45 minutes to a little over an hour with her every weekday for the last month, and my life has been immeasurably enriched. It isn't easy for us to communicate - but a definite upside to these literacy classes is that my Zarma language abilities are improving rapidly. I still only understand a small percentage of what is going on - but I am finally capable of expressing myself and communicating ideas... in a very limited sense, of course. We stumbled across the word for chameleon the other day (I knew what it was because there was a picture right beside it :-) and she started telling me how she didn't like them... their eyes never look in the same direction at the same time and that the cultivators and gardeners are the only ones who can bear them.

So then I told her how my tribe, on the other hand, LOVES chameleons - finding them both irresistably cute and fascinating. Elsie Mae found a super tiny one down in the gardens the other day... must have been newly hatched, and the kids played with it for at least a half hour before they finally released him to run and hide from all the unwanted attention.

I think she found that both horrifyingly and amusing... and so I proceeded to tell her another chameleon story, the story of Harley, our just-having-arrived-in-Niger-pet-chameleon... Here's the abbreviated version! Tim was riding home from the studio on his motorcycle as an old man riding a moped approached him from the other direction on a dirt road wide enough to be a four lane freeway. Suddenly the man swerved towards Tim, spilling off his bike and ending up sprawled on the road. The only way for Tim to avoid him was to ditch his bike. As he helped the old man up, he discovered the cause of the accident. The older gentleman glanced down. Tim followed his eyes and still clutching tightly to the handlebars of the moped clung a rather large, very black (i.e. angry) chameleon Tim promptly dubbed Harley. No one was seriously hurt, bikes were dusty but still functioning, so Tim helped the Harley change bikes and brought him home to our house, where we discovered that chameleons don't live well in cages, but will stay in your garden for a long time if they have lots of places to hide from dogs, cats and birds!

But, back to Mamata... that's my friend's name, by the way. Have I told you that I think she is just beautiful?

Reading skills are coming very, very slowly... but she is learning. I pray daily that the Holy Spirit will open her eyes and strengthen her memory so that with in the next few weeks, she will be able to, at least haltingly and slowly begain to decode written texts... particularly "Irikoy Tira Hanna!"

She was thanking me the other morning as I was leaving her yard... She always thanks me profusely and reminds me to thank Tim for allowing me to drive to her neighborhood every day and spend this time helping her. However, I feel like I should be thanking her... She has entrusted this little piece of her education to me, she has opened her home and concession to me, she works hard, is ever welcoming, is patient with my halting Zarma and she has let me really see first hand what it means to be a "light set on a hill" in a very dark community. Sometimes it hard to accomplish much during our class because every woman in the community who walks by her concession must poke their head in to greet her - always with much laughter and clear delight. People clearly bring her joy. I love watching her with her grandchildren - they obviously adore her and know that her bark is much worse than her bite.  She sacrifices much to be at church almost every time the doors are open because she knows that is, at least now, where she will receive spiritual nourriture. She has suffered so much in choosing to follow Jesus, and yet she radiates the joy of the Lord.

The thought crosses my mind that I should tell her all of that... I'm not giving nearly so much as I'm receiving. I wonder if she has a clue that she is actually mentoring me. I tried to tell her... but I don't think my Zarma is good enough... yet.

Please pray that the Lord would continue opening her mind, her intelligence, her memory... that he would help her persevere in this task and that soon, she will be reading "Irikoy Tira Hanna" for herself.

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