Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Short term sewing team!

Here at our Niger “Girls at Risk” Vocational Sewing school we are thrilled to be hosting a short term team this week from Rockpointe Alliance church. Currently they are hard at work with the girls. There are 6 women who came to work side by side with a group of 12 girls for the whole week. That means each woman has 2 girls “under her wing” for individual support and help the whole time. They don’t get that kind of help during the year on such a personal level! We are making some awesome placemat and napkin sets which I am loving already! I want to buy them all myself! But the girls are also learning about straight seams, seam allowance, ironing and pinning their fabric. These are all valuable lessons that will help them in this year to come! There are also 3 men who are working with Paul to re-lacquer some desks, paint the blackboards, install some new lighting and other odd jobs to get the school ready to go for a full school year October 1st!

So here are some pictures from our first few days to give you a taste of what we are up to here in Niamey. For more pictures, check out my Facebook album!

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I am a fan of these little pin cushions they made!

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Paul and Jim and Bennett hard at work with the lacquer.

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Two years gone too fast

So today is a very sad day. This morning my dear friend Rebecca left the country of Niger. As many of you who follow our blog know, she has been a staple in our lives here in Niger the past two years! Let me show you a little of the things we did….

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Both Rebecca and I love the Tuareg tea and we went through pounds of it with our friends!

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We celebrated marriages, birthdays, baptisms, and anything else that came up together!

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Goofing around the Grain Aid distribution program the day we also handed out blankets to the families. 20100908-IMG_1724-3

We love having Chapatta sauce together at Miriama’s hut most every Tuesday!

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Rebecca also made excellent friends with many of the young women we work with and get to enjoy spending so much time with. Aminata will miss you so much too!

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And what would I have done if Rebecca had not been here to help launch the “Girls at Risk” school here in Niger? Clearly her help, teaching, support, work behind the scenes and dedication is irreplaceable. We tackled something we felt clearly called to do but that seemed huge and daunting, and we did it!  We will all miss you this year at the school Rebecca! You have left your mark and we can’t wait ‘til you walk through the School doors again.

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So I am sad that she is gone. I shed some tears. When loading photos for the blog I realized that she is in every single month folder of photos. We did so much together. We shopped, went to the tailors, went to church, went out for weekly breakfasts, picked up the kids, visited Nationals, sat in the moonlight, worked out, watched movies, laughed, cried, ranted and raged, napped, took walks, swam with the kids, read stories to the kids, celebrated birthdays, baked, and so much more. Seriously- she has been not only an excellent close co-worker, but my best friend. Ok….now I am making myself cry again.

 

I send her off with joy though. I am excited for what these next two years of study and life in Calgary will bring her. She is getting a Master’s Degree in the same area I have a Master’s Degree in, so that will be fun! She can enjoy the changing weather, lots of coffee shops, parks, family and grocery stores. I know she will be blessed by those of you around her and be a blessing in return wherever she points her considerable energy and enthusiasm. Rebecca is hoping to return to Niger long term in two years- and we can’t wait!

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Back with friends

Here we are back in Niger, just ready to jump into a massive amount of fun/work/excitement/busy-ness/joy with a short term team arriving tonight from Rockpointe Alliance in Calgary, Alberta. More about them in a blog to come!

I got to spend a wonderful day back in the hut of my dear friend Miriama. I go to Miriama’s hut most Tuesdays. We enjoy work, language practice, bracelet making, deep discussions and good “chapatta” sauce for lunch! This past two years Rebecca has often gone with me and sadly this was the last time that will happen since Rebecca leaves Niger Thursday to pursue school in Canada. BOOHOO!!

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Our favourite little boy with the hugest smile!

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Oh so yummy Chapatta sauce to eat with fresh bread.

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While we were sitting there, the clouds in the distance started to get dark an ominous.

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Miriama doing her happy dance- we all love the rain here!

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We went to gather the children from playing with the kids down the street before the rain began.

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And then it started to pour! We were inside her hut and nice and dry! We enjoyed cups of hot tea and talked while the rain fell. The kids couldn’t resist playing outside of course. The played just across from us under the roof shelter (open sides) where they enjoyed the cool air and played games with Miriama’s little brother.

Catching the one drip by the door

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Bennett kept making us laugh with his goofy poses.

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Rain is precious in Niger. It nourishes the crops, beats down the dust and freshens the air. Ah- a perfect afternoon with good friends, cool rain and hot tea!

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Unexpected retreat

Take rest- a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.  ~Ovid

These past weeks were quite unplanned for us. As some of you heard, but many did not, we made a quick trip to Canada. I am sorry that we did not meet with many of you. In my heart I wanted to see so many friends, visit the churches we love and talk to people. But that was not the point of the trip. We took a time of purposeful retreat and we hid away. Outside of our family, we saw very few people. Not that we don’t love you all, but we needed a time of rest and spiritual retreat and refreshment.

So much of our work in Niger involves being deeply invested in the lives of the people around us. When these people are dirt poor and experience suffering and pain, famine and war, divorce and the death of a child, we walk these roads through life with them and support them the best we can. We are learning how to not take these “traumas” as our own. We were again reminded by our National Office that high functioning people who are really involved are at higher risk for burnout and compassion fatigue. Or “chronic secondary trauma” as they call it. So we are on the road to learn how to manage that reality. We are not the type to pull back and avoid the hardships of the life here in Niger but obviously we need to find the way to manage our own capacity to cope as well! We need our own times of rest and retreat to be able to continue to function at a high level, and that break is really hard to get in Niger. Thank you for your prayers and support in this!


Special thanks go out to Judy Wiebe, Briac Defobbis and Kathy Klassen. Without your significant support and help, this trip would not have been possible or as rejuvenating as it was. We love you guys! And thanks to all the others who supported us, lent us vehicles, sat and prayed and listened and took us for meals, etc. And obviously our families- thank you for the joy of just being together!

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A beautiful sight of farmland below us. Good to be home!

_MG_0374First we went to Toronto for 8 days where our National Office is located. We spent time with a few friends and our National team of people. We came away really encouraged and supported with lots of good perspective, support and times of prayer. Thank you to Kathy who welcomed us into her home and took such great care of us and for sharing her puppy Charlie with our kids!

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Then we went to Three Hills, Alberta to be with Paul’s family. We had a weekend with all the kids and grandkids present! What a fun time to reconnect, meet our two new nephews and play together. (Emmett was sick and didn’t make it into this photo)

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I got to spend a lot of time with my sister in law Amy this trip, which was wonderful since she is usually off working somewhere else. I loved hanging out with her!

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We got lots of geocaching in as well

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And of course, we loved the canola fields! One of my favourite things is the fields of Alberta in the summer, especially the bright yellow canola fields. I went for walks there several times and took lots of photos!

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We spent a fun day with good friends at the Zoo.

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I also got to surprise my best friend of over 20 years. Her husband lined up a day free of anything else for her and the family. When she walked upstairs, she saw us standing there and started screaming! Bennett said “why is she screaming? Does she think we are monsters?” Such a wonderful gift of a day to talk all day long and catch up and just enjoy each other’s presence! I also got to meet her new baby boy!

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And the surprises didn’t end there! Even my parents didn’t know that Chantelle and the kids were coming! They thought just Paul was going to be home for a break (which had been the original plan before things changed). So we didn’t tell them! You can see the sheer shock on Grandma’s face when she opens the door to Bennett and Arielle and I ! What a great surprise! It is so rare in life nowadays that you can give surprises of sheer joy, so we jumped at the opportunity!

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My brother and his family were already planning to be up in Red Deer, so we didn’t tell them either! Here is the Grandparents with all the Grandkids.

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Arielle enjoying the lake (photo courtesy of Michelle)

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Chad and Michelle and their kids

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The boys had a blast playing together too. As they get older the common ground grows!

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A new family photo

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So now we are home in Niger, with fresh energy and lower stress levels to get back to work! And a good thing too since we have two short term teams coming, training meetings, and the Fall launch of the Girls at Risk school coming up! Paul is teaching an industrial arts class at the International School and also starting to work with his apprentices. We only have one more year before furlough and the year is looking really exciting and full, and time will fly by!

There are many more photos on our Facebook album, so feel free to head over to Chantelle’s profile and check them out.