Sunday, October 30, 2011

baby naming

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Savannah Rose!

                   Louise, one of our first friends here in Niger, had a baby. We received an invitation to the Baby Naming Ceremony. Here in Niger, you do not find out what the baby's name until like a week after it is born. Both Christian and Muslim parents follow this custom. We have never been to an Islamic baby naming, just visited during the day after that actual ceremony. remember my blog about Halimatou? Well, Louise and her husband, Aaron, planned and held the naming of their baby girl yesterday at a local Christian church. We went and met a bunch of CURE employees at the hospital and all went together. Everyone got very dressed up and the mood was light and joyful. A short 10 minute drive down dusty walled off streets and we were there. We entered the church and Leron and I were escorted up to the front. Right away, I found Louise. I am just so thrilled for Louise and Aaron. I just love them, they are so great & fun to be around...both helpful and full of joy and always laughing, it seems.

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Louise, Aaron and of course Savannah Rose

The baby is so precious and was sleeping contently in her mommy's arms.
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Aminatou, Louise, Marie and Jocelyn

We greeted them and I just stepped back and enjoyed watching her show her baby to the nurses that came along with us. Loise was part of the group of nurses who work in the Operating Theater. she did not renew her contract because she wants to stay with her baby full time. We miss her, but I respect her decision. Okay...back to the ceremony....In this church the men and women sit on opposite sides of the church, but Hassane gave us a seat and asked us to sit together. We were parked in front of a large oscillating fan, and for that I was quite thankful! 

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Hassane (blue) announcing Savannah Rose

The ceremony was much like a Christian church service in the states. We praised God in song and I loved watching the leaders & "choir" sing, smile, clap and sway to the joyful bright music.
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praying with the parents

Pastor Hassane, who coincidentally is one of our Spiritual Directors at CURE & related to Louise, announced the name and gave a brief message about the meaning of her name. The name.....Savannah Rose! So beautiful and a promise to bring beauty from the plain in Niger! You see, Louise grew up in Maradi, Niger- a town east and close to the Nigerian border. Aaron grew up as a Missionary kid in Nigeria. They have such a heart for Niger and have made their home here in Niamey. Currently, Aaron works for Samaritan's Purse and like I said, Louise was so very helpful to CURE at it's beginnings and was one of our first employees. She traveled around with Leron and I helping find things we needed early on, and then decided to apply to be a nurse when it was time to ire for nurses! After Hassane's Hausa, French and English, Louise and Aaron came forward with the baby and answered a few questions in Hausa. Basically saying that they believed that Savannah Rose was a gift from God and that they would raise her in His ways. Three different pastors came and prayed for the family and it's newest member.  

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The special room, with Hassane and other pastors
Upon being dismissed, we were invited to take a seat under a tent and wait for refreshments. Well, true to form, it was rice & sauce with mutton. Leron and I decided to share a plate, but as soon as we started eating, Hassane's wife came and found us and asked us to follow her. She took us to a special room where there were huge common platters of food. It was a place of honor and fun to sit and talk.I was the only woman for a bit and was thankful when my Dutch friend Afka and her husband joined us. What a happy day. I was so happy to meet Savannah Rose!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Good Medicine

Leron and Jean-Francois performed a funny skit this morning. A few weeks ago, Leron decided he would start team building exercises with the staff. He really thought it would benefit everyone to learn to trust each other and work together. Everyone attended...nurses, accountants, cleaners, guards, finance, cashier etc. So,the first one was all about trust. Obviously Jean Francois had no problem trusting Leron! Today the exercise was all about having fun and a cheerful heart. Leron and Jean-Francois prepared the skit in which one person is the face and feet and the other stands behind and uses their hands to perform basic tasks.
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cleaning up

Jean-Francois bravely volunteered his face. First, Jean-Francois woke up, then did a few stretches and exercised. Time to get ready, he (I mean Leron did it for him)   washed his face, shaved, brushed his teeth and gargled. The point of the exercise was to laugh and enjoy being together.

As if the skit was not enough, Samna, our HR Director, led everyone is a game like “Simon Says”. Very fun to watch!
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Samna explaining the "game"
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Leron got out pretty early...think it may have been a language problem?
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lots and lots of laughing

 The whole exercise was summed up by Leron encouraging the staff with Proverbs 17:22.  “A merry heart does good, [like] medicine, But a broken spirit dries the bones. “ We sure had some good medicine today….I am still smiling just thinking about it! I just love CURE and our staff. From all the laughing today, we should be a pretty healthy bunch.

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Hassane and Leron

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

momentary troubles

Today, I just feel a bit off….. Yesterday, I went and spent some time at a new preschool here in Niamey…we sang, danced, spoke basic French and of course blew bubbles…I just wanted these little ones to feel valued, special…well as soon as I left, I almost got in accident, which is not very uncommon and the driver reamed me out and then while I was still reeling from that emotional feeling I was mocked by a few camera men at the hospital…seriously, It was as if as soon as I gained sight and looked at the eternal and the value of the human life in these children that the troubles and circumstances wanted to blind me to God’s goodness and purposes.

Today, I was hoping to spend some great time alone with God and sure enough…the troubles (more like irritations) troubles were dumped (literally) at my gate. This is like the 10th pile of sand that has been dumped across from our gate.  The house across the street has been under construction over a year and now they are needing to put in a pool…will it ever end? Our alley is narrow enough and this makes getting in and out with the truck a challenge.  Of course Ferdinand knew my displeasure…maybe it was me talking to myself a bit louder than I needed to (I was on the elliptical and had the I pod on). he wanted to make it alright. That is what he desires to do…simply serve and make my life easier. But “no”…this is just a minor inconvenience and a good opportunity to rise above it all. So, I graciously apologized and thanked him and said that there were much bigger problems than mine and I was basically acting like a baby. He just laughed, but really....those aren't troubles!!!!

Really, we see people with all sorts of deformities & handicaps daily, children begging in the street! What bothers me and ruffles my feathers?? a pile of sand…oh my! I have to realize that having Ferdinand here all day….I am in a bit of a fish bowl. Lord, have mercy…he sees lots of laughing and crazy behavior but he sees the bad things too and t he sad times…well, God sees all of that and know the reasons. It is not for Ferdinand to fix or even me……it is for  me to lay it down and let Jesus heal my sight/ readjust my focus to those unseen…. and attend to His business with joy and compassion. I mean really, a pile of sand gets my panties in a bunch? What about the trafficking of woman and children, abuse, starvation all around, homelessness, religious persecution…the list goes on of all the injustice and terrible things plaguing people! Seems as though the issues that generally get me all fired up are those relating directly with my life and the comfort and ease for my own family. Oh, to know the heart of God! Really, I am trying, but it is such a battle to keep perspective…there seems to be sand in my eyes…blurring my vision…distracting me… Sorry so heavy, just readjusting once more….

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)

Monday, October 24, 2011


Hmmmm, what kind of bills…..bird’s beaks, paper money, bills you pay?? Well the third choice is the topic today. You might be asking yourself, if I truly think bills are WONDERFUL?? While I do not think  they are wonderful, I do know they are necessary. Let’s just agree that services cost money and you need to know how much to pay.

Anyway, bills have taken on a whole new life here in Niger. This being the first time we have lived in another country, we had grown very accustomed to direct deposit and by the time we moved from PA, we were barley using the US Postal system to pay our creditors. Keep in mind, here in Niger we have fewer bills that come (and I don’t mean by mail…..someone delivers most bills, think we may get one in our box?) on a regular basis…….. Water, Electricity, Phone/Internet. We do not have checks and cannot use a credit card!

Now here is the twist……today, Leron asked if I would STOP BY Sonitel (phone provider) to pay the bill. Yes, here you have to pay your bills in person, you can send someone else, but someone has to go to the office and pay. So, I go in and hand my bill to the cashier who looked up with a very confused and somewhat concerned look. This is supposed to be easy, well, today I was told that I could not pay the bill today because the “machine” was not working. So, I had no choice but to turn around and leave. But before I left, I did raise the concern that our service would be cut off….they have on more than one occasion just stopped service if payment is not made right on time. They assured me that this was not a problem, however it did not give me much peace as that is the response to so many of my questions here…not a problem, Lady…it will be fine. Sometime it is and sometimes it is not.

So there you have it. Some days I just have to shake my head and remind myself where I live. It is still somewhat surreal to me. These of course are the regular monthly bills. We pay our rent IN CASH to a sweet little Nigerien widow that comes to our house every THREE months loaded down with fruit for our family. She sweetly counts out the LARGE amount of bills because the highest bill is 10,000 CFA roughly the equivalent of 20 USD and then looks up kindly and gives a few bills back. This she says is for our children and is quite humbling. So that is rent, other services are payed usually by our guard after someone drops a bill of for services rendered.....I may shake my head, but it works......most of the time. ;) So, I am not thankful that I have bills to pay, but I am very thankful that I have the wonderful resources that allow me to pay those bills for necessary services such as water, electric and of course communications.....

Sunday, October 23, 2011


I just love water. Peaceful (sometimes), teeming with life, refreshing, relaxing.  Yesterday, Gary scheduled a Hippo Cruise for the whole CURE team. What a relaxing day of gliding on the water and lounging on pillows as the motorized pirogue allowed us to bird watch and see some large hippos.

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It can not be overstated that the absence of this basic resource can be felt immediately. even tough the day was spent enjoying the water, it was not clean water, that we could drink and some would say it is not fit to swim in or bath in. The Nigeriens do and it is integral to their daily lives.The people who are fortunate to have a constant supply because they live by the river also risk home and crop destructions during the rainy season. Most people in Niger have to rely on wells and often have t o travel a bit for water and clean water. As we cruised by, I noticed kids swimming, people bathing, washing dishes, irrigating crops, fishing, gathering reeds and other plant life. Daily life.

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Growing up in rural Pennsylvania, I remember as a kid having outages, usually in the winter. The cold was the issue and I thought myself a bit of a pioneer! It was an inconvenience but not too bad, in retrospect. When we lived in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, I remember one year that the effects of a hurricane left our area without power or water for 3 or 4 days. People were scrambling for generators and we were dependent on candlelight & flashlights as well as water from our neighbors pool for flushing the toilet. The days we were out seemed like an eternity. The kids loved the flashlight & candle part for a little, but they were young and the glow of a “normal” hall light was a comfort at night. It was just our little area though….I was able to do laundry with the help of friends and we bathed at Grandma’s house close by. We experience that a bit here in Niger, as some areas have more reliable power than others, but their water may not be as reliable…no use comparing because we take what has been laid before us. WE try to be helpful and spread resources when we can.  Back to PA….It (the long power/water problem) was in October, so the climate was not an issue, but we did add extra ice to freezers and such. The nice weather also allowed me to cook all my meals on the grill with the extra burner. I can’t help but look back and wonder if it was all in preparation for my current experience. Really, I know I have a long way to go, the heat gets to me A LOT and the dust and all that. I just love looking back through time and see where I have had an opportunity to grow and I have taken the opportunity and when I have not (which is not as fun). Growth is a wonderful thing and it has no end. I want to “thrive and not just survive”.

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Here in Niger, we have experienced unreliable power but have learned to “manage” with it. We are much better off than many neighbors. Yes, have a generator, but the high cost of fuel deters us from using it all the time. We are learning again to reset expectations and comfort level. why do I feel so entitled anyway?? My needs are met and there are so many around me that suffer daily. I know that living here in Niger is changing my thinking at the deepest level. That “entitled” mentality must go. So much to be thankful right here, so yesterday when we lost our water….no complaining, just another opportunity to solve problems and grow and be thankful for what we DO have. That being said, it was back on the same day…….it could have been much worse and a good attitude was fairly easy to maintain. So today, I am very thankful for WONDERFUL clean water and the opportunities to grow everyday!

Friday, October 21, 2011

A mouthful

I was observing a lizard eating a grasshopper. Right now the grass hoppers are EVERYWHERE and the lizards are as plentiful as chipmunks are in Pennsylvania. Anyway, this was a small lizard and the grasshopper was over half the size of it. It took this poor little guy almost 15 minutes to get his yummy nourishment down. I sure wish I could have snapped a photo.
Of course, I got to thinking how this may apply to my life. How often do I “bite off more than I can chew”? Then I  choke it down, not do it well,  struggle until something changes or am rude and hard to understand when I talk with my mouth full!  Well, lately I have been contemplating the things that I need to be doing and choosing the best things instead of choosing every good thing that comes along. I have been spending more time at the hospital and will be spending some time at a brand new Nigerien Preschool. I know that as I lay my life down and allow God to show me His ways and purposes for me, I will change the atmosphere around me! I have to admit, today I started the day a bit blue. It is not difficult to find life here overwhelming. The needs are many and great…I do not have to venture very far to know this.
This morning I had an awesome “run” on the elliptical and just spent time listening to Switchfoot and praying and thinking…what a productive morning. Not much to show for it except the puddle of sweat…but all around, I am better for my nice long wonderful “run”…peaceful  in great perspective. Thanks to that wonderful little lizard for reminding me to take life in manageable bites…..don’t want to get overwhelmed by all of the world's problems. I will do what I can where I am!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


I love to celebrate, whether a birthday or an accomplishment or anything else wonderful. Well, last night we were privileged to celebrate CURE Niger’s first birthday!  VERY WONDERFUL! The Grand Opening last year is still so fresh in my mind…the sheep’s hooves clicking on  the roof of the Cruiser on their way to be prepared for the mes chuoi (sp?)…. the kids even look much younger!
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the kids getting acquainted with lunch
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clickety clack
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in the special outdoor oven

the wonderful speeches, lots and lots of different languages, ribbon cutting, speeches, and introductions of many guests…from America, England as well as Niger.
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Jamilia (nurse) and her baby Hassane
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nurses, Dr Roark and some family members
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our cooks
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everyone lined up to greet
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Leron greets the Lanohas
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ribbon cutting with the Harrison's and the Minster of Ed
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 Harrison's & Lanoha's
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Leron and Andy Groop

Last night’s celebration did not disappoint. A few of our employees rounded up  some local musicians and actors for 3 original sketches. The celebration was kicked off with a brass ears are still ringing a bit… what a joyful atmosphere! I just loved looking around at our employees and guests from near and far as well as some current patients (so great to have Marcia and her team and Maureen)!  many that were intregal parts in our beginnings were not present and were missed but not remembered. So great to see how CURE Niger has grown and changed in a year. New volunteers and 378 surgeries do date! Smiling faces, dancing, eating (this time no sheep...pintade and rice and of course cookies and candy) and joy joy joy! I just LOVE to see the employees with their families and being together! What a WONDERFUL time of celebration!

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Rabi, Amadou and Rabi's some Hassime
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So sweet!
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Jamilia's 2 oldest children
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Hajara and her daughter & niece
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Pastors...Hassane and Josh ( CURE Spiritual Directors last 2 on the rihjt)
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Leron and Abdrahamane
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Samna & Jocelyn
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Drew and Abdrahamane
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Issafou loving on a little one
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Omuar and his daughter
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the crowd
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one of the dramas