Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Showers of Blessings in the Sahara Desert!

There shall be showers of blessing,
This is a promise of love,
There shall be seasons refreshing,
Sent from the Savior above.


Showers of blessing,
Showers of blessing we need,
Mercy drops round us are falling,
but for the showers we plead.

It may seem silly to talk about showers in a desert during the dry season but the showers of God's grace and mercy during this last trip to Niger were plentiful!!  My dear sister Ruth sent the words of this precious hymn to me on Day 16 of my trip....two days before I left. What perfect timing to reflect upon all the goodness and kindness of the LORD!!
Was everything perfect at the hospital? No!
Were there obstacles to to the patient care? Yes? Unexpected infections and illness of staff surfaced which slowed the work to a halt.  There were challenges on all fronts.
So how can I say that I experienced 'showers of blessing'? 
Sometimes the blessings come disguised as problems.....there is a wonderful song about that by a Christian,  I believe is named Laura Story. I heard her testimony at Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church in Birmingham. We expect blessings to be manifested in a perfect, pretty life....no struggles or problems.  What I learned afresh and in a deeper way was that the LORD is ALWAYS with us. He is ALWAYS ready to reveal His power, love and goodness. Sometimes we have to look hard and may never understand His ways but He is there. He is the God who is I AM....I AM....I AM...."I am always with you, I am always loving you, I am always forgiving you, I am always keeping my promises, I am always giving wisdom when you ask for it, I am always giving peace that passes understanding, I am always keeping your mind guarded....."

It seems the sooner we learn to lean on the LORD in the midst of our struggles, the sooner we recognize the evidences of His real presence. We may not understand the problems, storms or dry spells in our lives but I can testify that clinging to Jesus Christ is the only way to make it through...believing His promises!! 
I experienced showers of blessings as I had fellowship with dear missionaries in Niamey! 
The reality of their daily walk with the LORD was evident. Their honesty, their transparency and their genuine love of the LORD JESUS CHRIST was such an encouragement one like me! Oh how I love each one of them. These are a precious family to me as we shoulder together in the proclamation of God's kingdom and saving grace.
On my last evening in Niger, I experienced showers of blessing in the desert as I went to the dunes for fun times around a campfire and under the stars. The beauty of God's creation filled all of us with Thanksgiving and joy in being connected to the LORD and each other through Jesus' sacrifice.  Joy!!!
Aunty Maureen with the Negrini family...love these kids so much!

Liz and Julie with me in the middle....precious sisters!!

Josh and Julie with dear Leon....celebrating one year as a family!
Chuck and Liz....precious new and dear friends! Next year in Jerusalem....!

Anne and I are enjoying the sunset and spaciousness of the dunes.

JF started the fire better than a boy scout! We were so impressed.

Angele and I have become very close over the past three years working together. I am so proud of her accomplishments with the nursing staff at CURE. She has sacrificed her health to serve abundantly to proclaim the good news!

You would think you were in Kentucky with the ATVs! We were afraid they would take away the dignity and repose of our picnic, but thankfully, they stopped for a long dinner!

What a beautiful sunset! The glory of our Great God and His Creation is evident in these showers of blessings in the desert!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Faces! Precious and loved by me....even more by the LORD!!

My buddy Eyal with an M&M which is a rare treat!

Sweetness personified!

Such love---these are my precious kiddos chez Negrin...missing two others!

Djbrill is posing as he teaches me how to fold the various drapes for the OR

Ichacou goofing around with the mop!

Yes, very goofy!

Angèle with one of her famous salads! Love that face!

Happy 39 again, Brenda! Fun times!

Darling, little girl....just wanted to be held!

Anne, my wonderful hostess and sister in the LORD!! 

Faces! Everyone here is so dear to me in different ways!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Balm of Music

There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul.
Some times I feel discouraged,
And think my work’s in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit
Revives my soul again.
If you cannot sing like angels,
If you can’t preach like Paul,
You can tell the love of Jesus,
And say He died for all.

Liz and Chuck Kopp brought their music and loving concern to the patients waiting to have their wounds dressed.

This dear little one wanted to snuggle and cuddle.....so precious!

Music and songs with Liz, Chuck, Josh and Julie Kopp helped amuse and soothe those waiting in the clinic.
The above hymn was sent to me by a dear friend this morning. Little did she know the significance that it would be to us today as we went around greeting, praying, singing, dancing and encouraging patients and caregivers today. As I looked at the faces of the little ones with burned hands, crooked feet, cleft lips and palates, I saw stress, distress and deep sadness. Oh, that we could make everyone better with just a little salve or balm!
What a joy to have the privilege of imparting encouraging words and truths in songs this morning.....

What a privilege to have grown up in a Christian home where I learned these songs and hymns that teach truths about our GREAT GOD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST! What a privilege to encourage others today with singing! Go ahead.....sing praises to the LORD! Today,  as you sing; may you bring truth and comfort to someone in need of God's marvelous saving grace.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Life Saving Classes at CURE NIiger

Jesus told her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this Martha?"  John 11:25, 26 NLT
God created everything through him and nothing was created except through him.  The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. John 1:3-5 NLT 

These words from the Bible and many others related to God giving life swirled through my head this week as I began to give CPR classes to all the non-medical staff at the hospital.  It has been so much fun! The staff are so pleased and proud to be included in these training sessions. I can only handle a maximum of 6 at a time so the classes are repeated over and over. Each time I lead these classes I am reminded that these techniques are a common grace like medicines to help people. Yet, I know full well that 'our times are in his hands'....I cannot give life or resurrect it, only God can do that. At the beginning of each class I prayed with the staff asking the LORD to help them understand and succeed in practicing the techniques of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). I also prayed that each one would know the LORD who gives life, sustains life and gives the life eternal. The men and women who were in each session were delightful! We worked hard together and laughed and laughed. My French is not wonderful but the classes were so patient and attentive to explanations. I am excited for next week for more classes. Here are a few pictures......
Adult mannequins are ready!

Infant mannequins are ready!

Sefi from housekeeping practicing CPR

What a wonderful, enthusiastic class!

These three male employees were great students and learned quickly and very well.

Women wanted me to have a baby on my back....it's just a mannequin!
Look how precious these men are in learning the techniques for a choking baby? What joy!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday--catching up! What's going on in Niger?

The rhythms of life in Niger are so different to my life in the USA:

  • The regular call to prayer five times per day....it can be very loud depending where one is situated (this reminds me-Am I praying regularly?)
  • The early morning greetings on the street and at the hospital (my mornings are often alone at home-never seeing anyone!)
  • The hospital routine has a rhythm of its own that is familiar and satisfying for me....patient rounds, staff devotions, prayer rounds, departmental work....some days in the ward, the classroom, the Spiritual Center, the operating room...paperwork! (Different from housework, travels...)
  • The rhythms of nature in the desert-sunrise, sunset, dust storms, heat during the day, cool at night....lizards skittering up the wall, lizards skittering along the walkway....
  • The road outside the hospital has a rhythm of donkeys, camels, taxis, trucks, pedestrians....laughter, shouting, begging, selling, silent movements of men, women and children slipping by....
King Solomon in Ecclesiastes talked about life rhythms....he observed that many of these are futile.Yet he wisely observed in 
Ecclesiastes 2:24, 25 
There is nothing better for man than to eat, drink and enjoy his work. I have seen that even this is from God's hand, because who can eat and who can enjoy live apart from Him?
Ecclesiastes 3:1ff
There is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven;
a time to give birth and a time to die;
a time to plant and a time to uproot;
a time to kill and a time to heal;
a time to tear down and a time to build;
a time to weep and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn and a time to dance;
a time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
a time to embrace and a time to avoid embracing;
a time to search and a time to count as lost;
a time to keep and a time to throw away;
a time to tear and a time to sew;
a time to be silent and a time to speak;
a time to love and a time to hate;
a time for war and a time for peace....

He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also put eternity in their hearts, but man cannot discover the work God has done from beginning to end.... 
What a joy that the rhythms of life, in Africa or America may, at any moment be interrupted by a new rhythm...new songs!

Songs of salvation
Songs of the redeemed
Songs of joy
Songs of celebrating our Great God
Songs of forgiveness
Songs of healing

What is the rhythm of your life today? Does it make you dance or sing for joy before the LORD?
Who will you invite to join the dance?
Who will you invite to join the song?  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Why are so many children born with disabilities in Niger?

This dear little boy is 16 months old. He was born with cranial and facial malformations as well as all fingers and toes are fused together.  His mother brought this precious one to have the fingers and toes released so that as he grows he will be able to feed himself, work with his hands and walk normally. The fused toes are a problem as most people here where thong type sandals. Our surgeon at CURE Niger is very practical in helping each parent in understanding the probable course of a child's disability. Parents are offered appropriate surgery for their children and realistic results.
What remains for many parents, patients, nurses, doctors and the ministry of health are the questions....why or how did this disability occur?  It is the same worldwide, when a child is born with a disability the natural questions are how? Why? Could this have been prevented?

In John 9, Jesus was asked a similar question by His disciples. They assumed that blindness from birth,  in a man, was caused by personal or parental sin. They were trying to rationalize and justify the condition that the man was experiencing. Isn't it the same today.....we try to rationalize a condition in terms of the world that we understand, whether it be medical, scientific or theological? Even as Christians we try to put God in a box and try to explain everything as if we understood His ways.
I am so glad that Jesus' response to the disciples' question was very simple yet very profound. John 9:3 says, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," Jesus answered. "This came about so that God's works might be displayed in him." We don't have to have all the answers!! We can trust God's character and ways.
Each precious child that comes through CURE Hospital gates is affirmed as God's creation. The restorative surgeries display not only a surgeon's skills but demonstrate the wonderful love of the LORD Jesus Christ. The wound care provides more than physical healing. Each encounter with the child and caregiver is an opportunity to demonstrate, the love of the LORD Jesus Christ. This love profoundly affects those who come here. Those who have been marginalized due to disabilities receive acceptance. Those who have been rejected are welcomed. Those who are wounded emotionally and spiritually receive a comforting balm derived from the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Oh, I know there are physiological, environmental and genetic factors which seek to explain why a child is born with physical challenges.  None of these explanations satisfy, so I must rely on God's character of faithfulness and goodness. My prayer is that somehow, some way, God's works will be displayed at CURE each time a child comes to us!!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Precious Children at CURE Niger

This gal with me had her nose reconstructed after part of it was destroyed by infection..all smiles now even with arms splinted to prevent her touching the wound and reinfecting it. Love my babies! Please pray for them!

These three children were quite a team as they used their splinted arms to swat flies off each other...true cooperation!

Miss C with her splints to prevent poking at skin graft hidden under her head dressing...so adorable! So many of our patients have been burned and require frequent surgery as they grow.

Ibrihim is about 11 years old and recently had his cleft lip repaired...upon discharge to the hostel, his mother dressed him in his 'Sunday suit'!! (Splints and all!)

Grasshopper Pie Never Tasted Like This!!

Yes, these are the real deal folks!

Yohann and Elodie fixed these for our dinner on Sunday evening...a sweet couple from France serving the LORD!

That's me eating a grasshopper...they kind of grew on you...I ate several!

Many years ago, I remember some missionary friends Mark and Deb Fairchild and their children Jake and Hannah gave me a book called something like,  "Eating Goat Parts for the Glory of God"....I thought about that as I ate my grasshoppers. However, I like my sister Ruth's grasshopper pie better :)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Niger-Day 2 Musings & Barrier Busters

My dear team of nurses gathered on Friday morning to hear Angele's testimony and official announcement that she is leaving at the end of January. Angele clearly explained the gospel and the way that God led her through His Word in the Bible, the Holy Spirit and godly counsel, It was a powerful message. Angele lives with integrity and passion for all people...patients, caregivers and staff! God bless your next step, Angele!! We also got to meet Elodie the next Nurse Manager for CURE Niger. It was a double blessing!

Barriers...everywhere you are in Niger, one experiences barriers!! There are many barriers for security at the hospital.  On the home front there are barriers on windows and doors for protection too.  I must say that I do not feel unsafe here at all. Perhaps the barriers give a sense of security...being hedged in?

However, the barriers that are not material are the ones that are the most difficult to get through. What do I mean?
  • barriers of language....French and many tribal languages
  • barriers of culture...European, Canadian, American, Nigerien, Mali, North Africa...
  • barriers of economics....poverty and wealth
  • barriers of clothing.....uniforms, burkas and various African costumes
  • barriers of education.....educated and uneducated, professional, laborer etc.
  • barriers of position....nurse, doctor, taxi driver, security guard, kitchen worker, patient
  • barriers of religion....Muslim, traditional religions, Christianity and denominational divisions, too!
What can one break down these barriers? How can one have a coming together of people when there are so many seen and unseen barriers to relationships?
  • opening doors-hospitality
  • shaking of hands to greet one another even if I don't know the words
  • conversation in my broken French...any effort on my part is rewarded with kindness and respect
  • food...nothing breaks down barriers like free food!
  • understanding, acceptance and honest inquisitiveness
  • sharing similarities like motherhood and care for children, grandchildren and the elderly
  • playing a game.....cars, pitch and catch, tag, dollies....
  • mutual projects....a task, a nursing skill.....building, operating, fixing, cleaning
  • communicating...with words if necessary!
  • giving gifts
  • art and music 
These are barrier busters that I have seen which open the door for relationships to develop over time. It is easy coming from the USA to want to blast in and breakdown the barriers in our efficient way.....after all aren't we so intelligent and have the answers to most world problems....or at least we throw some supplies and money at the barriers and hope that all will be well?
You know me, it is my desire to develop relationships and partner with people to obtain and sustain a mutual goals with respect to nursing education and patient care. In this sense, I am trying to break down barriers every day at the hospital here in Niger. It is normal in every culture to have barriers to break down to facilitate working relationships. Some obstacles for coming together are harder to break down than others. It is such a blessing to be received joyfully and respectfully in spite of these many barriers.

The Bible talks about barriers that are humanly speaking impossible to break down. In the book of Ephesians the apostle Paul speaks of a wall of hostility between two people groups...the Jewish People and Gentiles. The great gap between these people was closed by the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. His death on the cross broke down the barrier between Jewish and Gentile people. More importantly, Jesus Christ bridged the gap, broke down the barrier between sinful people and Holy God. This is true and wonderful reconciliation at its finest!!

For Christ Himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in His own body on the cross, He broke down the wall of hostility that separated us....He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in Himself one new people from the two groups....Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross and our hostility toward each other was put to death. He brought the Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from Him, and peace to the Jews who were near. Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done.  (Ephesians 2:14-18)
This fuels my passion! Please pray for God's strength to do this work His way and for His honor....to make His name great at CURE!! 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Serving with joy in Niger-Day 1

I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued to extend faithful love to you.

Jeremiah 31:3

Today I observed something very sweet. I was unable to capture it on camera, so I hope to describe it well enough for you to have a picture of it in your mind.  Since my last visit, a mirror has been put up in the ward so that the children who have plastic surgery can see the results. Etched on the mirror is the above verse and these words....This is the face of someone whom Jesus loves! It is so sad that it is in English and not French yet the sentiment is translated by the Christian nurses for the patients.

A little later this morning, I saw a young man on his knees trying to see his face as the mirror is hung low for the little ones to see what they look like. This man had received cleft palate and lip surgery. According to the nurses, his face was completely transformed. I tried to observe him inconspicuously as it was so delightful to see this young man who was obviously thrilled with his new appearance. He kept touching his face and patting his head perhaps to reassure himself that the image was truly his own. It was totally precious to watch.

This man's face was transformed by surgery. He delighted in the new person he saw reflecting in the mirror. What a sweet illustration of what the Lord Jesus Christ does in our lives, by His grace.  Our ugly sinful lives are transformed by His work on the cross. The transformation is only possible at the hands of our Great God and Savior. The power and regeneration of the Holy Spirit truly makes all things new!! The Love of God is everlasting and continues through the good times and the bad ones too.

Sometimes we look in our physical mirrors and we note grey hairs, wrinkles or other features that we see as undesirable. A day at a spa or beauty parlor may give us some hope of improvement. Many turn to plastic surgery for youthful transformation....we know even that will not last forever.

Isn't it great to have a loving Great Physician who transforms us on the inside, too? He transforms our minds, our emotions, our motivations, our spirits so that we are increasingly a reflection of our LORD JESUS CHRIST!

Those of you who know me, know that is my longing as I serve the LORD. I long to look into the mirror of scripture and see less of me and more of our great GOD. It is His image I long to see and not my own.

So glad that I can look into the mirror and know that my face...wrinkles and all are loved by my LORD who is ever faithful. He is faithful to bring me to this country, this hospital and these dear people.  I get to see first hand His precious loving care. My Heavenly Father is ever faithful to bring life transformation from the perfect image of God found in the person of Jesus Christ.

One day, for those of us who belong to the LORD , we will be complete and like Jesus. Until then, we are given the privilege of reflecting His likeness those around us. My prayer that we would all the a 'sight for sore eyes' in a world of sin's ugliness. May we bring healing to the people whose paths we cross day by day.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Forever Friends

Bonding in the OR

I am sitting in the airport lounge in Paris writing this little blog. As I checked my email, I see that I will be picked up at the airport by my dear sister in the LORD Angele. We have such a good time together serving the dear little ones and mentoring the nurses. Angele loves the LORD so much and it is infectious! I cannot wait to hear all the news, to go on rounds in the morning and hold the little ones in my arms.  The birth rate in Niger is very high. I have heard that he average number of live births per woman is 7!!! Wow...that's a lot of babies to love! Consequently, many of the nursing staff are either pregnant or just delivered a baby. As the oldest one at the hospital, I am the 'grandmaman' to all of them. Angele has a high honor.  She is regularly asked to name babies or attend baby baptisms....even the Muslim people have a ceremony called baby baptism. I have heard several explanations of this ceremony. Apparently the baby's name is given at this ceremony. Often a favored relative or close friend is asked to give a name for the little one. Angele has named quite a few babies. She usually picks Bible names that have strong meanings.
Please pray for Angele today as she carries much influence within the hospital and community. Pray that she would have wisdom and direction for her next step upon completion of her contract with CURE in January 2014. Pray for favor in finding her next posting!
Paul and I would love to see Angele come for a visit to Kentucky. She is interested in visiting the USA to practice and improve her English......in Kentucky?? Haha!
Angele is one of those forever friends!!! This may be the last visit to Niger where I get to work with her but I have a feeling we will cross paths again and again.

And the King will say, I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me. Matthew 25:40

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Leading with integrity and skill for God's glory!

Angle is the nurse manager who is completing her 3 year assignment  in Niger. Thank you Angele!!  In this picture we are preparing to go to a village clinic. We love working together.

And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.
Psalm 78:72

It is with bittersweet anticipation that I return to Niger next Wednesday, November 6th, 2013. It is hard to believe that the CURE Hospital in Niger is more than 3 years old! It is a great joy to be returning to a country and a people that I love. It is also a little sad that my dear sister in Christ Angele will soon complete her assignment with CURE Niger. She is 'graduating' to her next calling to serve the LORD. What a gracious and precious sister Angele is to me!
When young people in their 30's are so passionate about the LORD and His kingdom purposes, my faith is strengthened and encouraged!
When I visited CURE International Headquarters yesterday, I was struck by all the wonderful gorgeous young people who were enthusiastically serving the LORD. Like Angele they were committed to doing their best to serve 'the least of these' around the world. ( I digress)

What I shared with several yesterday is my prayer and blessing for CURE International Staff at their Headquarters.  This morning I share the same for my dear sister Angele.

Angele has been like King David, the king who was called to be a person after God's own heart. She has shepherded many within the hospital and without. Angele has a heart to lead people to excellence in their lives. The way she leads is with integrity....truth, honesty and complete transparency. Her life is one that exemplifies sacrifice and loving concern for others...her patients, her nurses, her friends and family members.
Angele is leaving behind a group of nurses that who have improved clinically and developed professionally as a team. Thank you, Angele!!
Yes, indeed, Angele used her skillful hands to lead and bring healing to many boys and girls.
She would say, 'Gloire a Dieu' or Dieu 'Merci' For those who may not understand....Glory to God and Thanks be to God!

My prayer requests as I go are simple:

Never wavering in my response to God's call
Integrity in all that I do
Gratitude and Guidance in daily work
Energy, Enthusiasm, Encouragement to serve staff and patients
Reliance on and resting in the LORD!!

Thank you for praying for me as I go. Please know that I am so thankful for the supportive work that prayer is to this journey.
I will have the joy of meeting the up and coming nurse manager, Elodie. There will be classes to teach. There will be meetings, demonstrations, mentoring, auditing, encouraging, challenging greeting, organizing, singing, laughing, trying to communicate in my quebeqois French. Most importantly, I will be called to share the love and light of Jesus Christ to bring healing to these dear people!