I thought I lost my mind when I first signed up for a mission trip to Niger, Africa. I hesitated for some time before I gave a solid ‘YES’ to the team leader.
The fear of fundraising a mission trip completely overwhelmed me. The idea of leaving my children behind for eight days was hard to stomach.
I had so much insecurity about what people would think. Questions such as “Why do you want to go if you cannot fund it yourself?” or “Will he/she stop being my friend if I ask for his/her financial partnership to Niger?” or “How can you leave your children and husband behind?” were paralyzing my mind. I had to constantly plead for the Lord to help me fight the negative thoughts.
And then, I met many people who have gone to Niger and come back who reassured me that God will open all the doors for me as long as it aligns with His will and His word. So I prayed and prayed.
All I did was pray and send out those fundraising letters, and designed some Tshirts for sale. There were moments of rejection but my team leader and many others cheered me on to keep marching.
Y’all. I was completely blown away by God.
How in the world did I raise $4000 in less than a month? If I said this was not a miracle, I would be lying to myself.
I was surely humbled by the generosity of my friends and family around the world, pouring out their support for this cause. It was certainly unexpected to achieve the target so quickly but it did prove to me that I just need to trust in His provision and His faithfulness.
So on January 23rd, our team (which is also the 103rd team since the first team started in 2001) departed for Niger. As the plane descended into the skies of Niger, the thought of oh-my-goodness-I-am-really-setting-my-feet-on-African-soil-for-real hit me hard. For once, I had to pinch myself to ensure that I was not dreaming.
A few minutes before our plane arrived safely at Niamey’s airport, I started questioning. Out of the 7 billion people on this planet, how on earth did I receive such a privilege to be born into the first world? (Well, I was born into a developing nation before I moved to the first world.)
I mean, seriously, think about it. How am I so blessed while there are more than 60% of Niger’s population living in poverty? How am I so privileged to hear the gospel and to gain a beautiful salvation when there are millions unreached in this world?
As tears streamed down my cheeks, I heard the inner voice saying “Be content and be thankful.”
I nodded as the plane landed at the runway of Diori Hamani International Airport. My time has come.
“Here I am. In Africa. In Niger.”
As we exited the airport, the breath of air in Niger reminded me so much of my homeland (Malaysia). My team leader was on her fourth trip to Niger and she loved the smell of Niger.
In many ways, Niger is similar to Malaysia but I would probably said that their progress of development is approximately twenty years behind Malaysia. The roads are filled with motorbikes (ask any Malaysian on how they dislike motorcyclists with a passion) and they squirm around traffic like worms. My team leader warned the newcomers on the mad traffic and crazy driving in Niger. While the others were in culture shock, I felt like I was at home. If one could survive Malaysian city driving, they could survive anywhere else in this world.
Nonetheless, the remarkable difference was where I saw donkeys and camels muling large loads of trade on the main roads. Now, that you don’t get to see on Malaysian cities’ roads. Although I’m not too sure if the Malaysian rural villagers are still utilizing bulls and cows to carry stuff around.
Oh, did I mention that French is the ‘lingua franca’ of Niger besides eight other official languages such as Hausa, Zarba, and other native languages? English is not widely spoken in Niger and we often had to travel around with a translator. So you could imagine us, especially me, who knew nothing except ‘Merci’ or ‘Bonjour’ struggling without a translator.
We stayed at the LINK Outreach Center (LOC) throughout our stay at Niger.
The LINK’s staff were friendly and we certainly were given a very warm welcome by the Nigeriens. It was comforting and relieving to know that many mission teams have been blessed and well taken care of at the LOC.
We were pampered with homecooked American dishes!
Now if you are interested to see what the LOC looks like, go to this website to check out their photos and rates.
Our very first day of the mission began with a familiar sound of a wake-up call from our neighborhood rooster. It did not bother me at all because I grew up with the natural cocka-doodle-doo alarm every morning back in Malaysia.
Our team then traveled to a local daycare to perform our skit and song, and washed the children’s hands. It was amazing to see how energetic and well-disciplined these precious kids are. They also returned the favor by singing some of their songs as well, which was really endearing.
Some of us “tanties” (a term of endearment kids call women) and I gave baths to a few of the kids. They really enjoyed a good refreshing moment.
I have a soft spot for children, especially girls aged under seven. I hope and pray that every little girl whom I got to hug and love on will continue to be blessed in many ways – hopefully one day they will have a better future.
I do know that many girls in Niger do not have a promising future and end up on the streets when they are teenagers. God-willing, through the many mission trips to Niger, we could raise more and more awareness in helping and educating these sweet girls (and other children).
Did you know that the literacy rate in Niger is only 18% and over 50% of the population is under the age of fifteen?
The lack of primary and middle schools in this nation which is currently considered one of the poorest in this world, had given birth to the “Schools for Niger, Africa” led by one of our church members. This organization helps build and establish primary schools, provides funding for educators and students, and provides very much needed school supplies for the students.
LINK partners with Schools For Niger, Africa to help many of these children who seemed to have no hope of the future so that one day this will help raise them out of their impoverished condition.
After our visit to the daycare, we went to a school with eight classrooms and they were packed with many more well-behaved students.
Every time we entered a classroom we were greeted and sometimes sung to! Once again, I was much reminded of my primary school (my alma mater was built by missionaries too) where there were only ceiling fans, wooden worn-out desks, a huge blackboard, and plain cement floors. I seriously felt like I went back in time.
We asked the teachers for prayer concerns and prayed over each class thorougly. Many of them had asked for the ability for their students to comprehend lessons, good health, and the motivation to learn.
In the afternoon, we went to an orphanage with about sixty children. We started by introducing each team member and telling the children the number of times we have been to Niger.
It had been a long time since I last visited an orphanage and I was just hoping that my heart would not explode – if I had all the money in this world, I would have adopted a bunch of them.
At this orphanage, our team performed a skit about Joseph being sold to Egypt and we also did some dances to the songs ‘Old Church Choir’ and ‘My Lighthouse’. I loved how the children recognizing ‘My Lighthouse’ and joined in to dance with us!
The previous mission teams had taught them this song and it was certainly heartwarming to see the joy in these children dancing to an English song.
We did sticker crafts with the children and took pictures of them which we would bring back to them later in the week. The last few minutes were spent playing soccer and other outdoor games.
We definitely hoped that our presence had lifted up their spirits and touched their hearts that there are many people out there who care and love them.
It was heart wrenching at first for me to know that some of these children were placed there because their parents could not afford to raise them but I knew as parents, we surely hope for the best for our children.
Now, if you have not learned about LiveTen24 which is also a partner of LINK, let me explain to you how joining LiveTen24 can help the orphanages in Niger.
LiveTen24 is built on a concept of living out the exhortation found in Hebrews 10:24 “Let us consider how me may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” The five focus areas LiveTen24 focus are health, water, orphans, education, and microbusiness.
You see, Niger is considered to be a LDC (least developed country) or fourth world country. In Niger, one out of every ten children die before reaching the age of five (based on World Bank’s report 2013) and the people in Niger need clean and potable water in order to sustain life. Many children become orphans through famine and diseases, therefore, orphans must be cared for and provided a safe place to live.
LiveTen24 raises funds to empower ministry partners on the ground in Niger to make a measurable difference in the lives of the people of Niger and 100% of all donations go directly to Niger and the five focus areas.
So both you and I are being challenged by LiveTen24 to consider where we put the things that matter most: time, resources, finances and whatever we value most will define our life.
For $10.24 a month, we can help change a life in Niger. When we join LiveTen24, we enable the projects of improving health, water, orphan care, education and microbusiness keep on going in Niger.
$10.24 may not seem much to you and I. It may be worth two Starbucks a month or a fast food meal but to the people in Niger, it would bless them tremendously.
$10.24 in Niger will buy a baguette a day for a month or 22lbs (10kgs) of rice or 22lbs of potatoes.
In summary, the first day being out in the mission fields has already taught me that we are created to have compassion and love for one another – And we can be the passionate people working together to accomplish great things for God.