03 August 2011

Today Niger was Beautiful

I first came to Niger in 2008 for a just-under-a-month-survey-trip.  I had already signed on with SIM and had committed to Galmi Hospital, but since I was starting a new department I knew I had to scope out what was and wasn't available in therapeutic terms.

I'm not going to lie.  As a result of that trip, it took around six months before I even wanted to come back to AFRICA, let alone Niger.  There were many reasons . . . but the main root was fear.
When I finally came to terms with moving to Galmi, I confess, I was content with my decision to go, but I was not 'excited' about it.  Niger is a hard place.  A dry, dusty place.  An extremely poor country.  Niger doesn't host the exotic African allure as places like Kenya or South Africa.  No one comes to Niger for vacation.  Most people don't even know that it's a country . . . they think it's just the northern part of Nigeria.

Having been all over the world before coming to Niger, I knew where I could have been going.  Lush rainforest (OH!!! RAIN!!!  How I miss you!  And FORESTS!!!) . . . breathtaking snowcapped mountain ranges (SNOW!!!!) . . . rich plains of grasslands (GRASS!!!) . . . posh cities (COFFEE SHOPS!!!) . . . eternal coastlines (THE OCEAN!!!!!!).

For the past three years I, when ever I thought of my relocation to Niger, I would say a quick prayer: Lord, please help me to someday find beauty in Niger.

I just assumed that day wouldn't come until the travel restrictions to Agadez were lifted and I could go camping in the Sahara.

But it came.


After only six months.

Riding in the bush taxi from Niamey back to Galmi I was struck at how green the countryside was.  It's rainy season, and while here in Galmi we are REALLY hurting for rain (the millet is barely growing and it's looking like it will not be a good harvest) the rest of the span between us and Niamey seems to be faring a little bit better.  There was even a field that I swear was grass.  I wanted to jump out of the car, kick off my sandals, and run circles in that grass.

Seeing the green patches on the ground contrasting against the brick-red mud compound walls, I almost could bring myself to admit that I found it pretty.

But then it happened.

And couldn't stop myself from confessing that Niger is beautiful.

We were coming upon the outskirts of a small village.  Three woman were stopped, standing on a path that traverses a millet field.  The first was turned back, facing her friends, with a large wooden bowl on her head.  The first friend was porting a baby on her back.

What struck me was the richness of the color in that scene.  The depth of the tones of their skin.  The brightness of the cobalt shall wrapped around the shoulders of the first woman.  The full pallet equally portioned on their skirts.  The boldness of the green growing at their feet.  The red earth on which they were standing.

COLOR and such intense BEAUTY!

In drab, dusty, ugly Niger.  My heart sang with praise . . . my prayer had been answered.


Jenn DeAtley said...

Cool! Thank God for color, vibrancy and a new perspective!

Mamastouff said...

Thanks for painting a beautiful picture for us so far away! Reminded me to look carefully and God will show me something beautiful in everything...

Linda said...

Oh, bless you, bless you! I traveled for work in Niamey for about a week and know how dry and hot Niger can be. I have always marveled at your faith and commitment and tenacity for living and working in such a difficult place.... but little did I know the story you shared today. Now I realize your faith and commitment and tenacity are even HUGER (is that a word? More huge!) than I thought. I know what you mean about waiting and longing and praying and yearning to find beauty in Africa, and bless you for watching for it and for finding it. May God bless you with many more beautiful sights and experiences. I am blessed by reading your blog and trying to imagine your journey. 
Blessings to you,

Kim Hofmann said...

These little encouragements are from the love of God who knows you so very well.  He has to delight in the artists in special ways.  I'm sure He arranged that scene just for you.  He's a pretty good artist too, don't you think!  

Deb. said...

AMEN! Thanks for stopping by Jenn!

Deb. said...

Thanks MamaStouff! Miss you!

Deb. said...

Thank you, Linda!! Your comments are always such an encouragement to me! Maybe someday I will share more of my story of how I ended up in Niger . . . it's a big like Jonah's, just (thankfully) without the big fish.

Deb. said...

Thanks Kim! And, yes, I think He is an AMAZING artist!!

Anonymous said...

Deb! I am almost crying. Did you write this one for me? There is something in my very soul, I think, that glories in the beauty of creation. I feel as if it is healing, even. It leads me to worship God and long for the everlasting beauty of Him in heaven. It is hard to live in a place where you can't see it's beauty.  (I feel like I die a little if there are no trees...)  And can you truly love something if you don't think it's beautiful at all? God allowed me to eventually see the beauty of a certain place I was, and that's when I discovered that I really did love it. So glad that you can see the beauty in Niger, and so glad that you shared.

Deb. said...

Thank you.