Snapshot: Shelter (Part One)

One of the most frequently asked questions we receive is “what is your house like?”, or something to this effect. Do we have electricity? Do we have plumbing? What is the roof or what are the walls made out of? You get the idea. For this reason, I thought it would be interesting to share with you about our home, as well as the homes of our local friends around here. I’ll share some photos – and NO, I did not clean my house, so welcome to our real world!

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I finally added some family photos to our living room area! (It only took me about two years to do it.) Hanging things on these cement walls is challenging! It takes a serious drill and special supplies, so some walls remain rather empty.

 

Here are the basics:  Cement walls and tile floors. Tin roof and wood ceilings. Metal doors and windows, with metal mesh netting throughout. Gas oven and stovetop. Fridge and freezer.

Plumbing? yes

Electricity? yes

Actual toilets – with somewhere to sit? yes

Dishwasher? no

Clothes washer? yes

Clothes dryer? no

So you can see, it is rather civilised. (You can throw away your sympathy now!)

When you drive up to our house, this is what you see: the hangar (carport thing) on the left and the house behind. We are blessed to have shade trees all around the house!

 

Our porch is very big, though it is not enclosed with netting so it always has tons of flies and mosquitos. We hope to have it enclosed this year so we can use it more often.

 

Next door is the men’s dormitory for the Bible school – many of the residents are actually students at the Niamey University.

 

Behind our house is the laundry line – a.k.a. “the clothes dryer” – and you can see our one hot water heater and an air conditioner unit on this side of the house.

 

AIR CONDITIONING: Since I just mentioned this all-important feature, I feel I should explain. We have individual AC units in each bedroom and one in the living room. Of course you know that it is very hot here in Niger! We use these AC’s at night, and often in the evening we will use the living room one. We would probably use them all the time except that electricity costs are out of this world here. So, we pick and choose the most needy times and enjoy the cool air thoroughly. 🙂

 

This is where we burn our garbage (on the left) or dispose of compost (on the right). It is located about 10 yards to the side of our house and is shared by one other missionary family.

 

Now let’s move inside…. 

That is our front door and when you enter the house, you are in the dining room. (“Open concept” – ha ha!)

 

There is our cute little kitchen. (The oven is on the other side of the fridge.)

 

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Living room – we bought nearly all of our furniture from departing missionaries. Even the rug! It is an indoor/outdoor rug that works well for a cat-claw sharpener. Hi Shadow. 🙂

 

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Here is the kitchen sick – even with our dish water! (I told you I didn’t clean up). Right outside this kitchen window is our water filter and barrel… I’ll add a photo so you know what I am talking about.

 

Here is where we keep a store of filtered water, just in case there is a water cut in the city. (Gotta love that random cord just hanging there…I have no idea what that is for? Welcome to Niger.)

 

Hallway… (yes I chose the wall color). Lots of sunshine in my house! The back of the house has three bedrooms and one bath.

 

I wonder whose bedroom this is? Take a guess!

 

Here is the bathroom that all five of us share. (Okay, so maybe you can have a little bit of sympathy for us!)

 

So that pretty much gives you a good snapshot of our home. Thank you for enduring the amateur photography, though I hope it satisfied any curiosity you might have had. I will be adding a “part two” with some other types of dwelling here in Niger, so stay tuned!

Now I’m curious – what was the biggest surprise you noticed about our home here? Reply or mail me at nikki.gray@sim.org.

 

 

 

 

Order your Gray Africa t-shirt by May 25!

Hey friends – this whole Teespring thing is new to us, so here is a little update to help us all.

There is a minimum order we need to sell before Teespring will print and mail the shirts – that number is TEN! So, they obviously want to print the shirts in batches. (which makes sense)

They recommend that we pick a date to order by – so that everyone will order about the same time and make it efficient for printing and sending!

For this campaign, please order your shirt by May 25th!

Here is the link to our original blog post about the shirts.

And here is the TeeSpring link to buy your shirt and one for a friend.

Let’s see how this works. 🙂 Thanks for your support!

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Need a new t-shirt?

We recently teamed up with our coffee artist friend, Jon Norquist, to come up with this cool design for a new Gray family t-shirt!

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Jon is an artist who designs using spilled coffee – visit his website to see more! www.coffeeoncanvas.com. When you buy a shirt, you not only help support our ministry, but you get an original work of art.

This time around, we decided to try an online t-shirt company, Teespring, so you can order your size, choose the color, and have it shipped right to your house. Easy!

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I just ordered mine in navy blue. 🙂

Women’s style is $18, Men’s is $20 and kids is $15.

To buy a shirt, use this link: Teespring Gray’s shirt

We definitely don’t do these t-shirt campaigns to raise a ton of money, but it is fun for us to spread the news about the work in Niger, and we do have ongoing ministry expenses so this extra money will help pay for materials for our marriage classes.

Please email Nikki if you have questions, or if you just want to comment about our new shirt design! nikki.gray@sim.org

 

“Let’s talk about getting married!”

We are so thankful to have the opportunity to have this conversation – about marriage – with young people here in Niger. Recently we completed a 6-week class at a small, local church.

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We shared the fundamentals of what God’s Word teaches us about marriage, and we enjoyed the questions and conversations with these intelligent young people who hope to be married someday.

We invited some of our local Christian friends to share their testimonies with our class, to encourage their hearts as they wait upon the Lord for their spouse.

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It is a real honor to be in this place, sharing this important message of love from our marvelous God. Our prayer is that these deposits of truth will help these precious young people make wise decisions for their future, and enjoy marriages full of grace and love that will last a lifetime.

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December is for Women!

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At least it is for our church here in Niger. Every December is a month dedicated to women. The women facilitate special events, special music, and we “run” the church services throughout the month. We even wear the same lovely “uniform”, or fabric, woven with the Scripture from Proverbs 31:30 “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”

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In a predominantly muslim culture like Niger, where women are not cherished as equal human beings, this annual focus is a bright light. Christians in Niger must function counter-culture every day, and this month for women in my church reflects how Jesus Christ truly honors women.

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One Sunday, the women made cakes and special drinks to celebrate everyone’s birthdays

This year we planned a day-long retreat for the young women and the older women. My dear friend back home said to me, “What can women like me over here do to support and encourage your ladies over there?”

I think sometimes you just want to join in on something special, cheering “Go, go, go! You go girl!”

And just like that, a little international friendship was born. Sisters across the world.

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The USA ladies shared their prayers and financial support for the retreat, which was a special encouragement for my ladies group here.

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This is a group photo from our retreat last month.

My friend Marie shared a devotion from God’s Word to get the morning started.

And then my friend Hannatou, who is a gynecologist, taught us about women’s health, as well as what the Bible teaches us about our value as human beings and taking care of our bodies. It was practical and also courageous. These topics are taboo here. Mothers do not talk to their daughters about these things – even here in the city and in Christian families. (I heard about a young girl, only 15, who became pregnant even though she didn’t know how!)

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We were able to have a lovely lunch together, including delicious “capitaine” (fish) and many other delights! It was a special feast.

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It is true, women around the world continue to battle against oppression, diminishment and abuse. It is overwhelming to think about solving that problem! But we can all invest in women right where we live. Remind them there is an undeniable truth about the beauty of being a woman.

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One of our activities this month was to visit a local orphanage, have lunch and share some love with the kids.

When God created the first woman, Eve, from Adam’s rib, He didn’t give her a second-rate life. He didn’t relegate her to be a wallflower on the sidelines. Many people struggle to understand the meaning for words like “submission”, but further study of God’s Word and understanding of God’s heart reveals her importance, her great role here on earth.

This topic – the equality of women – is a core teaching in our marriage ministry here in Niger. We are learning that many of the most fundamental problems arise from this cultural and un-Biblical diminishment of women. I pray that we can continue to share God’s truth and love in a way that breaks through these barriers for women here in our community, and then to the next generations.

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Snapshot: the Niger River, our next door neighbor

Our family lives next to the Niger River. Literally, just on the other side of our compound walls, is about 25 yards of marshy riverbank leading up to the dike which keeps the waters of this principal river of West Africa from flooding our part of the city. And though I have mentioned this river many times, I imagine that most of you don’t know much about this important body of water.

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Photo credit: Deborah Knight. We call these the “pumpkin boats”, for obvious reasons.

The Niger River is the third longest river in all of Africa, coming in behind the Nile and Congo Rivers. (4,180 km or 2,597 mi long) It begins in the Guinea Highlands and flows into the Atlantic Ocean’s Gulf of New Guinea.

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Image credit: wikipedia

The Niger river takes a highly unusual path through West Africa. Although it begins just 150 miles from the Atlantic Ocean, this important source of water flows inland. From there it flows north into Mali and then south through Niger, Nigeria and then eventually spilling into the Atlantic.

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Photo credit: Deborah Knight. These boys are walking through a riverside garden.

There are 36 families of freshwater fish and 250 species living in these waters, 20 of which are found nowhere else on earth but right here in the Niger River. For example, The West African Manatee, which now faces extinction, lives here.

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Photo credit: Nikki Gray. These un-friendly hippos live dangerously close to the city.

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Photo credit: Deborah Knight. Washing clothes in the river is common, though one must be on the lookout for those hippos!

For a country that is 80% desert, this river is a life-saving source of water! Some of you remember the flood of 2012, when the Niger River overtook it’s banks and displaced our family (as well as thousands of others!). That was the first damaging flood in 100 years, though every year, in August and September, those who live near the River’s edge are on “flood watch”.

So that is a little glimpse of our next-door neighbor, the Niger River. I hope you learned something new and interesting!

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photo credit: Deborah Knight

Snapshot: Celebrating some “firsts”

Last week Andy and I had the privilege to teach a marriage seminar at the annual Bible camp for the Tamajaq people group. (I apologize for how blurry the photos are – our friend took most of these on his phone.)

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It was our first time to teach our marriage material to this group of people, and the first time to have our French words translated into the Tamajaq language. [Some of you are probably wondering where this took place – that is a pretty nice room for our seminar! In fact, the camp was taking place next door to this local NGO facility. They were kind enough to share their property with us for this purpose.]

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The seminar started sluggishly, but each day we managed to gain momentum, as well as attendees. The discussion times, in particular, were lively! God’s word is full of wonderful instructions for marriage, and it is always culturally relevant and powerful. For many of these people, it was the first time they had been taught what the Bible has to say about men, women, and marriage.

EOFU4504One other special part of this experience is that was the first time we had another couple as part of our team – our dear friends, S and F who are local christians! (picture below)

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We pray that the truth from the Bible about God’s plan for marriage would be freeing for these couples and singles!

Snapshot: Our Curriculum

“What are you teaching in your marriage class?”

This is a question we have received often these past few months. This past year we have combed through some texts in French and English to help us understand the core principles of marriage found in the Bible. Along with our informal research (conversations) with Nigerien christians, we think we have a foundational, Biblical and culturally relevant series of teachings.

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Of course, our current class is the first*! These four couples are our “guinea pigs”. We are calling it a pilot class, since these four couples have agreed to give us constructive feedback to help us improve the material. (*We have taught a few pre-marriage type classes to college-age groups, but this is our first class for married couples exclusively.)

The course includes six sessions, covering these topics:

  • The beginning – what is marriage?
  • Roles and responsibilities according to the Bible
  • Forgiveness
  • Resolving Conflict
  • Communication
  • Sexual Relations

Here are the main texts we have used, besides the Bible of course!

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The Complete Works of Walter Trobisch. This book by Walter Trobisch is in English so it is the easiest for us to work through! Walter and his wife Ingrid spent many years serving as missionaries in Cameroon, where they focused on marriage, family and sexuality topics.

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La Famille Chrétienne. This treasure was found almost by accident! Our director, as a passing thought, mentioned that he had a family Bible study he used years ago in a village. He found it, and voilà! We love it! Even though it is written for a village context, the topics are divided beautifully. And it is in French, which saves us the trouble of translating.

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Preparation Au Mariage. The Goerz were missionaries in Ghana with SIM. They are now retired and have graciously given us the freedom to use their pre-marriage training in totality. It is already translated to French (they worked in an English context) and is wonderfully thorough!

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Each class includes the teaching from both Andy and I, then the couples find a private place together to answer some questions for about 30 minutes. Finally, to end our time, we enjoy a small snack of croissants and fruit as we talk casually together. We hope to learn as much from them as they are learning from this class!

I hope this snapshot answers the “curriculum questions” for our curious friends. 🙂 If you have further questions, please feel free to email us.

(photo credit goes to our friend S*mana)

 

 

 

 

Snapshot: A new roof!

This project has been expected for many months (since October, to be exact!), and now it is truly happening. Our old house, owned by our mission SIM, was in need of a new roof.

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This will take up to four more weeks. I wish I could describe the actual building process in more detail for those of you who are construction-inclined. All I can say is that it is a slow and steady process, using cement and metal, and a tin roof.

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Meanwhile we are temporarily living in a small one-bedroom apartment on our compound. Yes, five humans and two cats in this little place is *interesting*. (smile)

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Please pray for grace and a good sense of humor while we go through this challenge amidst all of our other activities and responsibilities!

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A post from Ruth: Snapshot of the Baby Home

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My mom asked me to write about my experience at Baby Home. Baby Home is a baby orphanage (run by the government) where some of the middle school girls (and one high school girl) go on Friday afternoons after school. Each person has a selected baby that they play with and hold each time we go. This builds a relationship with the baby and the girl. I started going to Baby Home this summer. I wasn’t sure if I would like it or not. All of my friends enjoyed it, but I was pretty unsure. The first time I went, I held this little girl. She made me want to come back because she didn’t have someone to hold her. She is such a sweet little girl and I wouldn’t have enjoyed my first experience without her. Now I go every week, and I always look forward to going. I hold a little boy, who loves to laugh and is so funny. I’m so glad that I have been able to go and see all of the precious baby’s smiles when we come. Making a baby happy for a few hours makes me happy. It is a blessing to the babies, and to us. Even though the babies are so young, they are getting a full example of Jesus’ love for them. We love them and so does He.

Ruth is 12 and is in the 7th grade at Sahel Academy.

*Note from Nikki: the Baby home does not allow us to take photos inside since the infants will hopefully be adopted someday. (Otherwise there would be TONS of photos here because these little cuties are irresistible!) The babies arrive after being abandoned or brought in by family members. The goal is to have them adopted, and we have seen some of them leave to become part of their forever families! You can pray for these babies, and for Ruth and her friends, that God’s love will penetrate into these precious little hearts through the simple act of holding and caring for them.