31 January 2013

January Prayer Update

Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it:
except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.
Psalm 127.1

Richelle was sitting at a staff meeting for Sahel Academy staff recently when the director quoted this verse as a reminder to the staff before he started detailing “lock down drill” plans for the school campus. As this region of the world has made international headlines recently, some of you are probably aware of escalating conflict going on… literally just upriver from here. We listen to military aircraft fly overhead, are stopped at checks where military police search through our veggie bags, and we watch our first grader drag her pink “Hello Kitty” backpack into the school yard, slipping by two heavily armed guards standing next to the door.

We can honestly say we’ve never lived in this sort of a “climate” before; it is unsettling. And so we follow suggested “guidelines:” keep a few more staples in the pantry, store up extra water, keep the gas tank at half full or above, and collect all important documents and papers into a readily accessible place. We alternate routes through town, listen more attentively to sounds on the street, read the news from a myriad of sources, ask our local friends what they are hearing and generally try to be prudent and circumspect. Thankfully, all of these “changes” do not seem to have disturbed or overly worried our children.

However, as the school director so aptly pointed out, we make our plans and do what seems wise and careful, preparing for possible eventualities – but in the end, we must remember that God builds, God keeps…

Lots of other things have also been going on around Niamey. We’ve phased ourselves out of ministry at the Harobanda church, although we still look forward to fellowshipping with our brothers and sisters there from time to time. In fact, we are hoping to have a get together at our house with the church members later this week. Some Sundays, the entire family is thoroughly enjoying listening to the previous week’s sermon preached (and recorded) at our home church, back in Midland, Michigan.

Tim has spent several hours this past month archiving the 2012 radio programs and updating the studio inventory and program listings. We’ve hosted several television recordings of sermonettes in Tamajeq, Zarma and a few other languages. These will eventually be aired on the private television station, Fidelité, operated by the Institute Hosanna. These sermonettes were shot in the large basement television studio and we are very thankful for this large purpose-built room which includes an overhead lighting grid allowing for this type of videography.

The book of Psalms in Zarma has been edited through chapter 44; through chapter 100 has been recorded. We are still recording actor’s lines for the Tamajeq language version of the film The Godman. Please pray for us as we are working on a plan to facilitate the continuation of both “The Hour of the Gospel” (weekly 30 minute radio program in Hausa or French on the government station) and “Thru the Bible” (daily 30 minute radio program broadcast on the private station, Radio Lumière) during our upcoming home assignment.

Richelle has made several visits to local schools scheduled from now until March. Consulting with Nigerian Christian teachers who seek to minister to students with disabilities in the classroom has such exciting potential. Typically, these students never have an opportunity. In those classrooms where teachers have decided to love children with exceptional needs and their families in this way, God is doing some pretty exciting things. Richelle is delighted to have even the tiniest part in this effort… led by a Swiss missionary and Nigerien Christian educators! Please pray that the Lord provides a French-speaking expert in this area to help encourage and stimulate conversation and problem solving among the teachers and administrators keen to participate.

We have two additional items for prayer. Sahel Academy, where our children attend school, is looking for volunteers: 1) work teams to travel to Niamey to help in the clean-up and restoration of the school campus from last summer’s flood damage and 2) teaching and other school staff for the 2013-2014 school year. To find out more information about either of these opportunities, please go to Sahel’s website: www.sahelacademy.com , or take a few minutes and drop us an email for more specific information.

Finally, we have had the privilege of working with the Evangelical Baptist Church of Penchiango during much of our time here in Niger. They have struggled with inadequate church building facilities for as long as we’ve known them. By the grace of God, they received a new well for their church and village this past year, and they are much looking forward to having this well of water in proximity to the church, as well as to the multitude of ministry opportunities it will surely provide for them. 

Over the past few years they have been setting aside money for the construction of their new church building (approximately 30 by 45 feet). We have often remarked about their hands-on attitude when it comes to setting some realizable objectives, and then their perseverance in pursuing their goals. They have now completed the construction of foundation and walls. We have been considering for quite some time helping them with the next phase of construction­ - the installation of metal roofing, windows and doors.

 Our home church has given us permission to try and raise the funds necessary for both materials and labor to install metal roofing on this church building. The approximate cost will be $2,700 USD. If you are interested in supporting this project, please send a contribution to Faith Baptist Mission (address on the bottom of this page) with an enclosed note stating that the gift is for the "Penchiango Church Project."

As always, we are forever grateful for your partnership with us in this ministry.

 All because of Jesus,
Tim, Richelle,
Brendan, Rebekah Joy, Nadia, Anna, Victoria, Jonathan, Elsie Mae and Mary Michelle Wright

29 January 2013

Those "s" words: shhhhhh...

Last week I read a blog post, "The Scandal of the Evangelical Heart," that I've been thinking about ever since. I'd already been thinking somewhat along those same lines, already in the process of writing what I posted yesterday.

That word scandal, in today's language, can mean:


None of those words have a truly positive connotation... although shocking and outrageous are, perhaps, a little less negative.

What about the etymology of the word?
The word comes from the Greek, skandalon, meaning "a trap or snare laid for an enemy." One of its earliest recorded uses was in the New Testament, metaphorically, as "a stumbling block, an offense." It's original literal meaning was "a trap with a springing device" and was composed from two Greek words one meaning "to jump" and the other "to make to stumble or give offense to someone." It was also closely related to the word slander. 
Early in the thirteenth century, the Latin scandalum, "a cause for offense, stumbling block, temptation" is recorded.
In Middle French during the 1580s, scandale meant "discredit caused by irreligious conduct." 
During the 1590s, the idea of scandal as "malicious gossip," originated while its use in the sense of a "person who conducts him/herself disgracefully" appeared in the 1630s.
I find it fascinating that according to the etymological dictionary, the first significant use of the literary ancestor to the word scandal that we use today occurred in the New Testament, and that it referred to the Christ.

As best I can tell, the authors used this word when writing the books that make up the New Testament, and according to Thayer, in those contexts, it meant:
  1. the movable stick or trigger of a trap, a trap stick
  2. a trap, snare
  3. any impediment placed in the way and causing one to stumble or fall, (a stumbling block, occasion of stumbling) i.e. a rock which is a cause of stumbling
  4. fig[uratively] applied to Jesus Christ, whose person and career were so contrary to the expectations of the Jews concerning the Messiah, that they rejected him and by their obstinacy made shipwreck of their salvation
  5. any person or thing by which one is (entrapped) drawn into error or sin
What are some of those verses?
  • But He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's." (Matthew 16:23)
  • “Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!" (Matthew 18:7)
  • ...but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness... (1 Corinthians 1:23)
  • But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished. (Galatians 5:11)
  • Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this-- not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother's way. (Romans 14:3)
  • The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. (1 John 2:10)


  • Blessed is he who does not take offense at Me. (Luke 7:23 - slightly different form of the Greek word)
Biblically, it seems that when an individual first come to Jesus, s/he will be offended by Who He is, what He has done and all that He represents. I've never had a hard time accepting and understanding that because the Bible teaches it. Why then, do I assume that as I continue to grow in my knowledge and understanding of Him, as my relationship with Him deepens, that I would not continue to run into things that offend me and my finite, human sensibilities? 

I certainly find that to be the case... 

and I believe I shortchange myself out of the wrestling with God that ended up blessing Jacob if I simply refuse to accept or admit the existence of that offense...

becoming the proverbial ostrich with my head buried in the sand.

It also seems to me that God doesn't get nearly as upset with me when I find or take offense in Jesus as our relationship grows - as He does when I, in arrogance and pride or in ignorance and foolishness, become that stumbling block to someone else.

I'd like to close with the words to a song that has powerfully ministered to my heart in regards to this question... many years ago and again this past week.

Michael Card

The seers and the prophets had foretold it long ago
That the long awaited one would make men stumble
But they were looking for a king to conquer and to kill
Who'd have ever thought He'd be so weak and humble

He will be the truth that will offend them one and all
A stone that makes men stumble
And a rock that makes them fall
Many will be broken so that He can make them whole
And many will be crushed and lose their own soul

Along the path of life there lies a stubborn Scandalon
And all who come this way must be offended
To some He is a barrier, To others He's the way
For all should know the scandal of believing

He will be the truth that will offend them one and all
A stone that makes men stumble
And a rock that makes them fall
Many will be broken so that He can make them whole
And many will be crushed and lose their own soul

It seems today the Scandalon offends no one at all
The image we present can be stepped over
Could it be that we are like the others long ago
Will we ever learn that all who come must stumble

He will be the truth that will offend them one and all
A stone that makes men stumble
And a rock that makes them fall
Many will be broken so that He can make them whole
And many will be crushed and lose their own soul

28 January 2013

In which I'm charged by a hippo...

At the very end of last year, I finally made it to the Parc W for a combo camping/safari trip. I considered it a major accomplishment, as the last several tries, I've ended up staying home with sick littler ones while my husband took the older kids. It was a great trip - well worth the effort and something I'd recommend to anyone traveling through this part of the world! 

We did have one very exciting-to-the-point-of-scary moment, however.

Friends offered to give us a boat ride (with an outboard motor, thankfully), and were cruising around a large island in the middle of the Niger River where elephants are seen (almost daily), as well as several other different animals. We were looking for elephants and crocodile slides as well as keeping an eye out for hippos; the growth along the edge of the river was thick enough that we were only about 20 feet or so from the shore.

I was in the front of the boat, and we were trolling quietly along, gently reminding the kids to stay quiet so they wouldn't startle any animals that might be there, when out of nowhere, this flash of grey starts running along the shore, parallel to the boat. I pointed at it, but couldn't exactly tell what it was due to the growth along the edge of the river.

Then we came to a small, open place...

To read the rest, please join me over at Missionary Mom's Companion today! 

Thanks to our friend, Melissa Gray, for permission to use the first photograph.

Encountering Jesus - When He doesn't seem to be Who you thought He was...

Do you care about what other people think of you? 

Is your reputation important to you? I know I'm overly concerned about this very thing, even though I wish I wasn't... In fact, if I'm bluntly, brutally honest with myself, I know that deep inside I want others to think as highly of me and see me as I want/imagine myself to be.

That doesn't sound very Christlike... does it?

So, in many ways, it has been a relief to spend much of this past week beginning to study and revisit a man who, just like me appeared to be concerned about and greatly influenced by the opinions of others...
    Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 
     Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. “Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 
     Nicodemus said to Him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things? “Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. “If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? “No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. 
     “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.(John 3.1-21)
This is probably one of the best known and most loved passages in the Bible. After all, it contains John 3.16... which just might be the most memorized, most quoted verse of all time, in several languages. 

Jesus introduces the idea of new birth... or, as some translations say, a birth from above. It isn't the first time God described making things new. Both Ezekiel and Jeremiah, as well as Moses, describe hearts renewed... hearts undivided and set apart in addition to a new spirit given by God; David prayed for a clean heart and a renewed spirit.

Nicodemus came to Jesus in the night, possibly because as a Pharisee, he was concerned about what others would think and how those thoughts might impact his reputation and standing in his community. The Jews and the Pharisees had already clearly come out as against Jesus and did not appreciate what he was teaching and doing. 

If this was the case (because I can see that there might be other possible scenarios), there was still something compelling in a previous and unmentioned encounter between the Lord and Nicodemus: Had Nicodemus seen Him clearing the temple or had he witnessed one of the Lord's miraculous healings? Maybe he was present when John had baptized the Lord? Could he have been one of the Pharisees who had accepted John's teachings? Or perhaps Nicodemus had heard so many accounts and rumors from others describing what they'd seen Jesus do, and he had to meet Him himself? Fascinating thought, the thought that when Nicodemus first speaks, he clearly says "we," indicating something about Jesus had the ruling Jews and Pharisees all stirred up, worried and very curious. Jesus was, in their eyes, doing that which only a man sent from God could do - teaching with clear inspiration and working miracles. This totally messed with their traditions and rocked their boat. Jesus demonstrated the power they had expected in a coming Savior, but he wasn't acting how they thought (and already decided) God or one of his prophets should act... in their minds, those preconceived ideas became more important than the reality before their eyes and they therefore disqualified Him from being the long-awaited Messiah.

That seems to be what was weighing heavily on the heart of Nicodemus as he stepped into the Presence of Jesus. He wanted to know just Who Jesus was.

I understand how uncomfortable Nicodemus must have felt. I know I don't like it when God acts in ways or does things that offend my preconceived sensibilities and that make me uncomfortable. I don't like tragedy or poverty. I don't like war and illness. I don't like people hurt as a consequence of the wrongful actions of others. I don't understand some of the things God allows/causes/uses... go ahead pick your word of choice because at different points in time, I know I've used all of them. I don't like how we glibly and logically explain away hard things, things that in any other circumstances outside of the Bible would horrify absolutely, in an attempt to make God look neat and tidy and comprehensible and in no way unkempt. I get frustrated when we hide behind "God's just too big and too grand for me to grasp it all so I'm just going to go on and accept it..." for isn't the purpose of His Word, His creation, His Son and His Holy spirit to reveal more and more of God to me? But I also think I am wrong to assume, even though I might never voice the idea, that God is going to do and be and act as I expect Him to.

Nicodemus was in a scary place to be... standing before the Lord and saying, "Jesus, if You  are the promised Messiah, You aren't acting like the God I've been studying, the Almighty I've come to know. Why are comporting Yourself in this way?  I'm having a hard time understanding how You can be Who I think You say You are?" What You are doing, how You are revealing Yourself, makes me wonder if I ever really knew You at all?

Maybe Nicodemus is wondering, "I was always so sure I was right. What happens now if I find out I've been wrong?"

I know it is a scary place because it seems like I've been spending a lot of time in that exact same place, asking the Lord those exact same questions the last many months.

What do you do when what God has done/is doing 
just doesn't seem to fit with the God you love and serve and thought you knew?

Do you ever ask the Lord questions 
where you really aren't sure you want to hear His answer?

this week's gratitude list:

(#'s 3542 - 3556)

hard questions, even those ones I hesitate to ask

great 14th birthday party 

chocolate peanut butter pudding

homemade candy corns

school schedule finalized

touching base with some folks I've needed to connect with

my grandparents are doing much better than last weekend

2nd graders excited about writing, staging and performing their very own drama

finally feeling like I've been heard

knowing that sometimes its right to choose to wrestle... after all, God blessed Jacob

reading Wolf Willow

teenage photo shoots and the 100+ pictures that resulted

meeting up with a friend last week that I've missed seeing over the holiday break

music lessons - piano, sax and violin

someone has agreed to take Brendan's senior pics... not such an easy thing to arrange on this side of the water

Posts in this series:

27 January 2013

In which she figures out that turning 14 IS all it's cracked up to be...


If you proceed, you will view many, many photos from Nadia's 14th birthday party, 
mostly taken by a bunch of silly teen girls...

...but they had a lot of fun, 
according to the reports I've heard.

So what is a mama to do when you live in Niger, it isn't even fall back in the States and your girl comes to you and says that what she'd really like for her birthday is candy corns?

This mama googled candy corn recipes and

found one that looked quite doable (even minus the candy thermometer)

Together, Nadia and I made them. 
Then, she and her buddies used them to decorate her birthday cake!

They finished the cake quite late on Friday night and then did the girl slumber party thing.

The next morning, after sleeping in and a leisurely, drawn out breakfast of fresh fried sopapillas and a few chores, Nadia opened her gifts:


This really cool candle-lamp and a much needed hairbrush!

Special letter with the colored pencils she's had her eye on!

Specially made bookmarks for a bookworm!

Clothes, make-up and a few DVDs from her grandparents!

And Mom and Dad downloading season 4 of The Mentalist 
(although more than just Nadia will enjoy that one - 
so it is more like a gift for a chunk of the family)!

We at cake before a made-from-scratch fajita: 
  • tortillas made and pressed by Anna and Rebekah Joy
  • fajita filling whipped up by Mom
  • salsa chopped and put together by Tori & a few friends as well as Dad
  • whipping creme soured by Dad
The meal was complete with a discussion of how these fajitas were as delish as the ones at the Rec Center... where they cheaper or more expensive to buy or to make!

Then the girls did what all girls love to do.

They played dress-up... and had their own photo shoot!

Nadia's friend Rachel


Rachel and Hannah

the birthday girl herself

the big girls welcomed M&M, as she joined in their fun

Achilles, the spoiled monster kitty

Elsie Mae was right in the midst of everything as well

we have a sneaking suspicion that Rebekah was heavily involved in the instigation of both photo shoot and the number of YouTube videos viewed

she's otherwise known as "goat-girl"

(someone please let us know where Tori learned to pose like THAT)

there's an all out movement amongst the Wrightlings to adopt Amelia... they'd even let her brother tag along if he wanted.

I don't know that their parents would be so keen on that one.

Smiley Face

A final posed shot of each of the party-ers:


M&M looking the part of little desert fairy

Elsie Mae is convinced that hanging from a tree is how she looks best these days.

I love it when we catch a genuine Rebekah grin.

Tori... wonder what she was thinking wearing white and playing in the fire pit?



And once again... certainly last but not least...
the birthday girl herself!


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