Wednesday, June 19, 2013

What gives my heart joy–a surprise trip to Niger


Each one of us is created differently, a masterpiece made unique by God. One of the most diverse things about us is found in our passions, our heart and our joys. There is such a great diversity about what brings people joy, gives them Goosebumps and stirs their passion. For those of you who know me or have read our blog you know that one of my greatest passions outside my family is the Girls we work with in Niger, Africa. It is a work that feels less like work and more like joy. Less like struggle and sacrifice (most days!) and more like a blessing and a gift. This year away in Canada has been wonderful for many reasons, but I have deeply missed my Girls and our teammates are our work at NVOC. (

Four years of work is just wrapping up this season of our ministry. We did a year of prep and planning and then spent the past three years working with the same group of amazing young Nigerien women as we took them through a three year program of Vocational Training coupled with life skills of health, hygiene, business, etc and a lot of mentoring. We walked a lot of tough roads with them in their times of crisis and deeply bonded and enjoyed these ladies. And now they graduate. We send them out back into their lives, with many shortly getting married, becoming mothers, and hopefully using their sewing machines as well as all they have learned to be the most successful wives, mothers and young women possible. I have seen the impossible occur with tribal/ethnic lines being broken, enemies becoming sisters, bonds being formed and horizons expanded. I am so proud of these girls. And it made me very sad to not be able to be present for their big graduation since it was our year in Canada on furlough.

But God knows the deep joys of our heart. Many of you know we are expecting our third child (a great joy in itself!) and that also means we are delayed returning to Niger another 4-5 or so months than planned. But I am also at the perfect middle spot of the pregnancy when I feel great and am out of the risk of miscarriage and before any risks of delivering in a place like Niger. And as my heart yearned to return I found great blessing from other people. My husband encouraged me with all his blessing (and money!) to come back to Niger to be there for this huge event in the life of my ministry and heart. My doctors gave me full medical permission to fly. My churches encouraged and prayed for me to go. And so….. I did.

I am writing you this blog post from Niamey, Niger. Literally the joy I had today and the tears that run down my face are a testament to God’s goodness in my life. This morning we had the first day of celebrations for the Girls School. When I drove into the courtyard and some of the girls started to see I was there , pandemonium broke out. We cried, there were huge group hugs and embraces and greetings for quite a while. Everyone was so happy I was there with them. In many ways I feel like a mother to these ladies and coming home for this was important to me. My best friend Miriama and I both broke down and cried too and stayed close all day. I felt so blessed to give each young lady their certificate from the Ministry who overseas Vocational schools and to give them their own sewing machine and a start-up kit consisting of items like thread, scissors, rulers, receipt books, and a variety of other start up supplies for their fledgling seamstress careers. Some of them have already taken the next step to start working as formal apprentices with tailor shops to learn more. And this is all the first group of girls who wrote the exam early. The girls who just wrote the exams last week will wait for the results and then we get to do this all again.

I will be writing more this week about the celebrations and reunions here in Niger. We have surprised most everyone and I am enjoying every moment with all these people who are dear to me. If it seems like a surprise to you reading this, be assured it is to most everyone Smile It only happened in the past few weeks to make it happen and we kept it quiet as we waited to see, even at the last minute, if there was any issue at all with the pregnancy and then we would cancel without hesitation. And yes I bought extra medical insurance.

But God is good. I feel great. I was plagued by headaches in Canada and I am headache free here and the heat is not bothering me. My husband is an amazing blessing and has given me a great gift in this and I can’t thank him enough. And my heart is full joy. Rejoice with me this week as we celebrate together all that these Girls have achieved.

When I first arrived to surprise all the Girls.


A huge wave of crushing hugs, being embraced by love.


My best African friend Miriama shows up and sees me.


Lots of hugs all day long


The girls and many parents sitting to hear speeches as we tell the parents all they have achieved.


Our teammate Ace gave a great speech and story and a challenge to the Girls to remember God’s love for them and to use the skills they have acquired.


Posing with their certificates



Posing with her certificate and her own sewing machine and a bag full of sewing supplies to get her business going.certificates_(53_of_55)

I love all the Girls and I am so happy to be surrounded by them. I told my teammates after, it feels like coming home.