Wednesday, January 11, 2017

When the journey is hard

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
Lamentations 3:22

I haven't blogged in a long time. Sure I have several mostly written as drafts, but I just have not been able to post them. I felt conflicted. How do I continue on a blog about the journey of life and yet not address what was shattering and altering. But I couldn’t put it into words. I’m not an eloquent writer like some. I’d much rather sit down over a cup of coffee and talk it out in person. But many months ago I started to write drafts about it, read articles about it – this thing called grief. This fog called brokenness.

It’s hard to explain what it is like. If you’ve lost loved ones through death or broken relationship you know what I mean. It’s hurt- not in a shallow way or an over exaggerating way, but gut wrenching, knee bending, tear inducing tough. It’s nights awake, tears that come unbidden at moments when a memory is triggered, or internal conversations in my head about how to make things better.

The summer of 2015 we suffered losses and hurts. The most obvious and cruellest was on July 12, 2015, when we lost my brother in law Colin and my baby niece Madeline in a car accident. My sister in law and two nephews were injured, but survived. I re-live that day often in my head. The kids and I were in Canada already, and thankfully had spent two days with them just the week before. They were headed down to be with the whole McIver family for a few days. They never made it. I re-live in my head hearing the news while in church and being pulled out. I re-live phoning Paul (who was still in Niger for 6 more days) and the gut-wrenching feelings of working to get him home a few days earlier than planned. I re-live being in the hospital room when the boys were told their Daddy was gone to heaven, I re-live being in the room when she got the call that Madeline would not live. So many hours I play these memories back and weep. I can’t forget them.

We are close to Colin and Leanne. I say are. I can’t speak about Colin and Madeline in the past tense yet. And Leanne and the boys are precious and vibrant and beloved. So many beautiful memories, so much laughter, plans we had made for vacations together, etc. I’ve known Colin since High School when we played basketball together.  I have regrets for all the things we planned to do together but never can, and regrets for all the things they should be able to do with their lives, but never will. Thankfully no regrets on the state of our relationship as nothing was left unsaid, broken or unloved. Love was known and it was good. Thank you Jesus for that.

But the hole is real. In our hearts and I can only imagine the size of the hole in Leanne’s and the boys hearts as we walk this journey with them. I’ll be real, at times I’ve been in that stinky, yet honest, spot where no amount of good platitudes are received well at all. It’s just a horrible thing to have happen. I didn’t want to hear a Christian “thought for the day” about how it’s for the best, how one day we will see the “reason” for it etc., even though I fully know it is delivered in love by people who care. We live in a World of SIN. Bad things happen. There was nothing that their family did to “deserve” this. That’s just ludicrous. I believe this is heartbreaking and God carries us through this, carries us as His beloved to get us through this time, equally heartbroken at the consequences of this World.

It’s been hard being overseas and not directly with our family while we wade through brokeness, this grief. I wonder if they are “getting used to” a physical absence in their house that will still take my breathe away. Not that you can get used to something like that, but that after a year and more in the same space, do they no longer expect at any moment that Colin and Madeleine will come in. Maybe I’m crazy for thinking that. Do they expect them to walk in at any moment? Show up for holidays? Hear their voices turn their heads with anticipation of seeing them? I know life has to go on with new patterns, new schedules, new joy.

But these losses have produced such a season of leaning into God, tearing up at my inability to “fix” things, waiting on His intervention and what might seem like miracles at times. Lost relationship and death of a loved one is the single biggest wound to my heart, me,who is 100% relationally oriented and driven. I can’t make heads or tails of those losses and hurts and they are staggering.

But here is what I have learned this past 18+ months. I’m keeping myself focused on what I know to be true. God is present and He is precious and loving to me.  I’m not allowing myself to get side-tracked by blaming the author of my story. Grief and brokenness is making me a stronger, more self-aware, more God centered (and aware of my need for God) than I was before. And I pray that journey would continue every day in growing and being shaped by our Creator and less of this World and sinful human nature and stink of being broken. It’s shown me the end of my own limits, places where I cannot go, relationships I cannot fix, and times I need to release people/situations to Him who can handle them. I am both more vulnerable and desiring to delve deep into relationship than ever before with people who value our relationship. Don’t waste those moments we are afforded on this earth.

I loved what an article said about grief (seems I read a lot about grief, loss, forgiveness and reconciliation these days). “Navigating through disappointment, betrayal, loss, death, sin, failure, and trials involves heartache. It’s scary and messy. It requires us to feel our way through the sense of loss produced by suffering. The danger in running from it, however, is that it can actually hinder us in our relationship with God, others, and ourselves. In order to truly heal the broken places suffering has touched we must face it. We can't gloss over it, ignore it, and hope it heals itself. It won't. It is work that you have to do."

I’m not sure where you are today but if you’re in the midst of a hard journey, read and believe this;
When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
you will not be burned up;
the flames will not consume you.
Isaiah 43:2

Through the pain of that summer season I pray that God continues to work miracles. To draw me, and my loved ones, closer to Him. He is the healer.

In loving memory

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Update on the Women’s programs- sewing, growing and glowing!

We are almost at the end of this year’s program for the Girls at Risk school ( Our school year ends in June when the rainy/planting season begins here in Niger and some of our girls travel back to villages to be with their families. This is the first year of our second cycle of girls and it has been a great year to really get to know them well. Many of these girls and their families are already connected to our program as they have siblings or neighbours who were with us in the first cycle. I love that we can continue on with the same family and established trust to keep working. It is also evident that we have both a more serious group of girls and invested parents as our attrition rate for this year has been remarkably low, especially when compared with our first year attrition in 2010. I believe the community knows what we are all about and we have proven that and how much we want to partner with them and honour them. All of our staff are also back full time and we employ 6 local women vocational skills and who teach and who cook for the hot lunch program.


We have continued to tweak our curriculum as well although it’s core still remains the same. We have a strong vocational skills focus (sewing, knitting, embroidery and tailoring clothing) and also teach Math, French, health, hygiene, women’s health and childbearing, prenatal and postnatal and moral stories to become respected young women in their own community.

We break some classes into two different groups based on their prior education. We have some girls who are almost totally illiterate and others who have gone up to Grade 6. So for French and Math and business they are separated. But we all come together for the other half for what we call “life skills”.



We also hosted a 2 week batik making class in the end of March where we taught fabric dying and batik making from scratch. So much fun! We had a visiting team from Red Deer here to help with that as well. If you want to read more about the batik weeks you can check out the school blog at:

Batik1 (5 of 25)

Day6 (10 of 17)

This year we area also working with 8 of our graduated young ladies to start a next level group of advanced sewing skills, taking community tailoring orders (which will be the bread and butter of their own shops when they are ready to launch out on their own) and making lots of adorable bags, table runners, aprons and more for the expatriate community which we market internationally.

I honestly love this group of gals. We have been together since 2010 with them now and to see them go from teenagers to young adults, half of whom are married and having babies and transitioning in life, is so fantastic for me personally. I love to come into the room and sit with them and chat, work on projects together, hold their babies while they sew and just to talk and laugh and do life together. We go and visit them in their homes, celebrate their milestones, and have developed deep friendships with some of them. This relational side of the school has always been a huge goal for me.

Sitting and having lunch with our 8 apprentices.

Day6 (5 of 17)

We also host “parties” from time to time when these young ladies come to our homes for events such as Easter and Christmas. We have a big meal and sit and laugh and share stories, etc. We are trusted people to their families so they allow their women to come out and spend time with us. Tuareg women are in general “protected” once they are married with kids and often are just at home in their courtyard. So they also love the chance to go out and get dressed up!


Visiting Miriama in her home. Her daughter comes to school often with her and is such a delight! I love that in this culture you can always bring your child to work Smile Her and Ella are buddies now.retreat-86

In this culture, you often purposefully will wear the same fabric as friends or family. It is done all the time for weddings especially or other special celebrations. It is something that shows “togetherness” and honours the person whose special event it is. I have often has these uniforms made for weddings of friends and we also have a custom made fabric for the girls school that we will all be wearing at the end of this year! (Check back in a month for the pictures!) My best Tuareg friend Miriama had a baby in July and I sewed us these outfits for the baby naming celebration day. In North America you don’t normally want to show up to big events all wearing the exact same thing (unless you are a bridesmaid I guess) but here it is a reason to smile, high five and cheer that you are together in life!uniform-1

I am so lucky to have made good friends here. To step into their culture and language is not always easy, but they are so gracious and I love the time we spend together each week. I bring Ella to many visits with me and the big kids when they are not in school. It makes me smile laugh when Ella is comfortable sitting with them and playing with the cooking dishes, chasing their goats and wrestling with their kids. Bennett plays soccer all the time with their kids and Arielle likes to help with the cooking I love the worldview and big picture we are able to share with our kids.




So that is what we have been up to on the women’s side of the program. A mix of running the school and teaching the girls and visiting them in their homes and mentoring and walking through life with them.

McIvers April 2015-1

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Men’s program update– teaching, building and gaining speed!

I have promised you an update on ministry. Thanks for your patience.

Paul- the Men’s apprentice program and his “fix it” ministry.

Paul’s work at the shop continues to grow each month. It has been almost a year now that we broke ground and were working on creating a shop space from scratch on an uneven, hot, rocky/sandy piece of ground. But in a prime location with big trees and shared space with a ministry partner organization.

The beginnings of land preparation in May 2014


Getting the trusses for the roof up after the land was even and the side containers were in place.


The space is finally covered and the guys are out of the hot sun! The machines are in and now they are building shelving and racks and looking to pour a cement part this summer 2015.

March192015 (3 of 3)

Paul has four full time apprentices in his training program, with various other guys joining them depending on the size of the contract projects they get and his capacity to teach certain skills to larger groups. The 4 guys are all Tuaregs and we are thrilled to see how much determination they have and how they desire to learn and do good work.


After the hands on work part of the day, there are also theory classes taught later in the afternoon. You can see their blackboard in the foreground and their “class” space. They choose to stay at the shop area to learn rather than going to our actual classroom space at the NVOC school so they would not have to waste time moving around. So far it has really worked out great.

March192015 (2 of 3)

Some of the projects they have been working on has to been to refurbish 40+ desks that were burned in a fire at a Christian school and to build approximately 60 new desks that had been stolen so that the school has all their desks again. This kind of practice with repetitive cutting and welding has been great for their learning and the school is thankful for the quality and oversight the shop provides.

shop-142608A burnt out classroom with bent and burned desks

shop-006New desks getting their coat of rust paint before the wooden tops were attached and they were delivered.


Happy kids with their new desks!

schoolday8 (24 of 27)schoolday8 (8 of 27)

Other projects they have been working on include a custom topper for the back of a truck, a custom drill bit for water drilling, shelving units and a truck hitch! They are just looking at upcoming projects of church benches, a new outdoor church building frame with a tin roof, water towers and maybe a whole contract to be the fabricator for a huge radio antenna tower! He has enough interest and clients that they can be picky and take only the jobs that will best benefit the learning of the guys!

So how does it work? The guys get a small daily stipend to be in our program through the normal day in and day out, even if there are no paying contracts. This allows them to stay in the program and yet still provide the necessities for their families. When we have paying clients, their daily rate increases and they sometimes add an extra day of work. So they love getting jobs. Plus they really do enjoy seeing a finished product delivered and the pride of knowing “We did that!!”

Please keep praying for these guys. During morning prayer time many of them are engaging and requesting prayer. Paul is navigating the next steps of starting some more formal storying or bible studies with them. One of them recently asked for an mp3 player with bible stories on it. Two of them are married and can use prayers as they desire to be good husbands and fathers to their children. We want to continue investing in their lives and visiting them in their homes as well. Chantelle loves to spend time with the two wives, both of whom are Tuareg young ladies.

That’s it for now- you are up to speed on the Men’s program! Coming soon- the Women’s side program update!