Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Rest of the Ghana Story

During my summer break I had two plans: 1. Go to Ghana 2. Go to Kollo. It was obvious that I was going to Ghana to help with a VBS and then to have some vacation time and rest. Not only did I need rest physically, but also mentally and spiritually. Well I had a fun time and all, but I stayed very busy the whole time and never felt fully refreshed. By the time it was all over, I was ready to get back “home”. I never knew I’d get homesick for Niger, but I did. Little did I know that once I got on the plane to go home, God had other plans in mind.
Already I had experienced some tragedies during my trip to Ghana. I forgot my computer cord at home (which I had anticipated catching up with friends and such, I really needed my computer and was devastated!), then I noticed my watch start to slow down until it finally quit (I just got the thing last Christmas! I need a watch! Not that it always helps since I’m often late places, but still, I depend on it), then I left my phone in a taxi (I thought I lost all of my contacts and definitely lost the ability contact or be contacted. I need my phone!), then the final straw broke. While I was sitting on the beach watching the tides go in and out and reading a book, a huge tide came up to me and I stood up quickly (forgetting that my camera was in my lap!) My camera fell and the wave took it away but left it on the shore. It was broken. At first I was in denial, but after I tried everything to save it I had to face the hard truth. My camera was a goner.
So my trip to Ghana was fun, but I suffered many loses of material possessions that I treasured and relied upon a great deal. Now back to the plane. I was so impressed that my bag wasn’t too heavy to check-in carrying the prized items that I bought in Ghana. The lady then told me that the next time I’d see my bag again, it’d be in Niger. I was okay with that. I went through customs, took care of business, did a little last minute shopping (got so Toblerone chocolate J ), waited to board the plane, then got on. I had the whole side row to myself, things were going good. We touched down in Cote d’ Ivore to drop off and load up people, then off we went to Burkina Faso where I had an hour to get on another plane. Do you see the red flags?!
As we’re getting ready to land, the flight attendant told everyone in French and then African English what to expect. Somehow I had it stuck in my head that I would have to go back through customs since I didn’t have a ticket to board the other plane and missed whatever she said. I filled out the customs form and got on a bus to take me to the terminal where I would go through customs and get my ticket and then get on the plane home J. Everyone around me spoke French, and I was hit once again with the realization that I was once again in a place where I can’t understand or talk to people. It was so nice being in a country that spoke English J. But now I was lost. So I went through customs, passed up the luggage belt (since I was told mine would meet me in Niamey), left the terminal and went into the area to check baggage and get tickets. “Wait a minute, there’s a family standing in line from my flight with their checked luggage. Did I not hear the woman right?” I asked the woman if she spoke English, she said her son did. I asked him if I needed my luggage and he said, “Yes.” I ran back out and to the luggage claim. No bag. I asked a guy if he understood English and he did a little. I asked about my bag and he said that it’s on the plane and that I needed to hurry because the plane was about to leave! I ran back to the ticket counter and the family and everyone else that was in line was still there! They were all a bit fit to be tied and speaking loudly in French. “Oh I wish I knew what was going on and why they aren’t letting us on the plane!” I waited a long time, then finally the family started to leave. I asked them why they were leaving, and they said that there was no room left on the plane. They asked if I had a place to stay, and I said that I did. I went up to the counter, feeling very flustered because I had a reserved space on that plane!! Why did I not do this before, I don’t know. I was being considerate of the others waiting I guess. I bumped my way up and showed the guy my itinerary. He asked me, “Why aren’t you on that plane?” I didn’t know what to say, I wanted to be on that plane. Come to find out, all of those people were waiting standby. So when I did see one guy get through wearing a huge grin on his face, he probably got my spot. So now, I’m stuck in an airport by myself, unable to speak the language, without any money, no phone, and really having to visit the Lady’s room bad.
The story gets better I promise, just hang in there.
I went to the Air Burkina counter to see how I could get on another flight. Thankfully the lady spoke a little English. I asked her how I could transfer my ticket to the next outgoing flight to Niamey. She looked it up and the next flight I would be standby (3 days away), otherwise I’d have to wait a week. There are only 2 flights a week that go into Niamey. Aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Now I’m thinking, I need to call Shelley who’s waiting for me at the airport and I need to call the guest house, but I have no phone and this isn’t America where there are payphones. Even if there was, all I had was a couple of coins in cfa. At least I had the number for the guesthouse, but I knew that the guy in charge is in Ghana (I vacationed with him and another friend) and it was a Saturday. I asked the lady if she knew where I could find a phone. She advised that I go outside and I’d find one. Great.
As I left the ticket area, I stopped by the Lady’s room. Thankfully I had just enough money to be able to use it. I thought you only had to pay in European countries! Still, I paid and found a place of refuge. I wept and I prayed. I had been stripped of everything. Now I don’t even have a bag. All I have are the clothes on my back and my backpack. I had nothing to depend upon but God.
“Wait a minute, I have a $20 bill. Everyone loves American money.” I went back to the lady and traded it in for cfa. Not much, but enough to get by. Then, feeling totally reliant of the mercy of those around me, I trekked out to find a phone. The first guy I met was a taxi driver wanting to give me a ride. I told him that I might but that I needed a phone. He took me to a phone card booth where I bought a SIM card and asked him if I could borrow his phone. I called the numbers I had been given before leaving Niamey. I thought they were my friend’s but it turned out to be the worker at the guest house who JUST got back from vacation himselfJ. He told me that if I could get a ride to the guesthouse, he’d meet me there. I used the services of the helpful taxi driver and arrived with great relief at my destination. My rescuer was in his office and let me use his computer to e-mail Niamey and try to contact Shelley. I felt horrible that she’s standing at the airport waiting for me, but I had no way to get a hold of her. I was then given the key to my room and an invitation to go shopping for necessities. I went up to my room, in a quiet place where for the first time in weeks I was all by myself. It was kinda nice.
Then the phone rang. It was my supervisor who lives in Burkina Faso. She told me that I had people all over West Africa worried about me and that she was so relieved to hear my voice. I was glad to hear hers. She told me that she’d call Shelley for me and then take me shopping. I got all that I needed and later reflected on how in the midst of great trial, God took care of everything. And the time I so wanted in Ghana to get spiritually refreshed, I would now have since I have nothing at all to distract me. Also, the fact that the guest house was empty and had room for me was unique because it had been completely packed the week before. I can’t help but think that God set this all up so that He would have my undivided attention. No computer, no watch, no phone, no camera, no bag, no extras, just me and Him. And we did have some precious moments together. I hadn’t felt that close to God in a long time.
James 1:2-3 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.”

Friday, July 3, 2009

End of the School Year

I have not been keeping up with my blog because I get discouraged by trying to upload photos and then having them not come up in order, so I will continue to post most of my photos on Facebook and then do most of my writings on here. I've been here 6 months, and just now finding a system that works.
A lot has happened that I haven't been able to share with you, but now I realize that I can share little things that happen here and there on here instead of waiting for a newsletter. Sorry this is all just now coming clear to me.
So I shared in my last posting that I had the opportunity to visit Maradi, and major city that's 10 hours from here. This was a tremendous trip as it offered me an opportunity to get away and reprioritize life. It was a time of great spiritual revival and I was ready to take on the world when I came back to Niamey! While I was there, I also had the opportunity to visit a leprosy hospital and crop planting project. Both were very neat, as both are meeting the needs of the people and there's many opportunities to share stories and the plan of salvation.
After coming back, the school year continued in full swing. All went well for the most part. A sad moment was when my student from Norway had to return home. I had spent a lot of extra time with her, teaching her english, so as to form a special bond. It was very hard to see her go, but I will see her again this coming school year. So then I got a taste of what it's like to say final goodbyes. Being in this type of ministry requires many goodbyes, as teachers and students come and go quite frequently. It's bitter sweet and you just learn to treasure each and every moment you have with each person.
At the end of the year, I had the opportunity to assist my friend Ruth with icing the graduation cake! It was so much fun and turned out really beautiful in my opinion. We were a little late to the graduation, but that's okay. It was a lovely ceremony. Being that it's a small school, I also had the privilage of attending their banquet as well (which is like their prom). Even though I didn't have any special connections with any of the students, I still enjoyed this very much :) Next year I hope to seek out more opportunities to hang out with the upper classmen.
Wrapping up the year, my students had a swimming party, signed yearbooks, received class awards, cleaned out the classroom, got report cards, and finally ended with an assembly. Then they left. All went smoothly, I was just exhausted by the end! The last day was all that I had hoped it to be and still can't believe that my teaching the grade 1 & 2 class is finished. I'm going to miss my kids very much! At least I will see many of them on the playground and church next year :)
Now for the goodbyes. At church every Sunday, they have a time for hellos and goodbyes. Towards the end of the school year there's always a lot of goodbyes, and it's a time to see your friends one last time. Many times (as long as I'm all prepared for school the next day) the singles will go out to eat afterwards (it's an evening service as many of us attend a local service in the morning). I was able to hang out the last couple of times, as I knew these were my final times to get to be with Kathryn and Mike, both a very treasured friends. I did have the opportunity to spend lots of extra time with Kathryn, which I will hang on to these memories forever. Our last outing was right before I was to leave for Ghana, and she for home. We had planned to get pedicures, but nothing was working out! Just another reminder of where we are :) Looking back, it was a time full of adventure and laughter and I wouldn't have had it any other way. Did I mention I hate goodbyes? I also had to say goodbye to my dear friend Wanda, but I have a good feeling that I'll be seeing her again since her son will be going to the same school my Bryan goes to, which this connection still blows me away.
I will end here and then post about my time in Ghana on a seperate post. So much has been happening!