I have always loved being part of groups of women. Living in Niger, building relationships with local people is one of our major goals during this first year, so I knew that finding the groups of women would be an important way for me to culturally integrate.
Our church has a group of women who meet on Saturdays – they call themselves “Les Femmes Vertueuses” (which means, “the Virtuous women”), taken from the well-known passage in Proverbs 31 in the Bible.
This group was really intimidating for me to join, mainly because my conversational French was still so terrible last summer that I simply didn’t think I could do it! But deep in my heart I just knew I was supposed to go, as if it was an open door from the Lord for me to walk through. So I swallowed my pride and fear, and I went.
What I found was a beautiful group of very eclectic ladies, who all desire to be excellent as wives, mothers, and daughters. Some are well-educated and well-dressed, and others are poor and simple. Some are outgoing and some are shy. Some have pain on their countenance, while others seem indefatigable.
They are usually at least 30 minutes late – even the leader of the group! – (though they won’t change the starting time). Our meetings include singing songs in both French and Hausa, sharing a bit from God’s word, and praying. These ladies are champions! They’ve been patient, kind, and opened their arms to allow me to be part of their special group.
One major milestone happened in August. We had been practicing the same song quite a bit for a few weeks, and one day the ladies started talking about “the wedding”. I came to find out that we were going to sing this song at the wedding! Wow! And I found out that we needed to have special outfits made to match (husbands’ outfits too! See photo), and that they really wanted me to sing one of the solos.
Wait, what? I am not afflicted with false modesty when I say that my singing days are over, at least in the solo sense! I was not looking forward to this! I tried to get out of it, but they were so excited and I think they really wanted me to feel “in”, so I said yes.
(Picture above is our last-minute rehearsal before the wedding)
Well, the wedding just happened to be the wedding of the decade in Niamey! About 400 people were there! (That is a huge wedding around here!) I was really scared! But I just prayed for courage and WENT FOR IT. (You can view the unbearably long video here if have nothing to do for 8 minutes! My part in the song doesn’t happen until about 2/3 through…)
This wedding experience truly broke through the proverbial ice in my relationships with the ladies. Now, they affectionately call me “la Blanche” (the white woman), and I am part of the choir. My conversational French has grown leaps and bounds as well!
Last week, the ladies asked Andy and I to teach one night of their two-night “Annual Celebration of Women”. The theme was “building healthy families” and it was truly an honor to receive this invitation. (The other speaker was the president of all of the Christian churches in Niger!) We shared the basic principles of building a healthy Christian marriage, and everything went so well.
I am amazed. I look back on this experience – breaking through my fears, following through when I felt led to do something, and seeing the rewards – and I am truly humbled. Courage and obedience are a powerful combination.
Is there something YOU have been hesitant to do? Why not step out and trust those deep-down instincts, and perhaps God has some surprise blessings for you!