B. and I went to the capital for a training on an appropriate technology initiative happening in Niger and other west African countries. We found out about it two weeks ago and have been looking forward to it since.
We were thrilled to get to be a part of the movement to improve the lives of disabled Nigeriens and we had high hopes for this trip.
That is until we got on the bus.
Two of B.'s cousin's children made the trip with us. As they boarded first, B. turned back and said 'There are no seats left,' and he stepped back down off the bus.
'No problem!' the driver said, 'There will be room soon!' and we were herded in with the other passengers.
I'm pretty sure having to stand in the aisle of an overbooked bus as it charges down a Nigerien road will cause even the strongest Atheist to pray.
And since we live by prayer, that's what did. I prayed that we would not hit a donkey cart or stray child running across the street. I prayed that the boys traveling with us would not fly through the windshield as they were sitting on the engine box to the right of the driver. I prayed that we wouldn't fall off one of the steep embankments of the new road as we took a curve going ever so slightly too fast.
As the Nigerian pop stars danced in the Hausa music video on the TV screen at the front of the bus my prayers began to migrate from 'Dear God, save our lives. Don't let us die in this bus!!' to slightly more self serving things like:
'Dear God, please keep my headwrap from slipping off my head!'
'Dear God, please don't let the man sleeping with his head against the seat that is bracing my hips wake up to find my butt in his face!'
I was too busy praying to notice the scenario that was forming on the road ahead of us. Two little boys were driving a donkey and his cart down the road. There was no shoulder and they had moved over as far as possible. Bounding down the road towards us was an enormous semi, overloaded and with no intention to attempt to slow down--as if he could have. Our driver would have no choice but to slam the breaks, hope for the best and lurch us all forward.
In that moment I prayed again. Only this time, it very well may have been the most selfish prayer I've ever uttered.
'Dear God,' I whispered 'I have given up so much to move to Niger and serve You by serving the world's sickest and poorest. Please, PLEASE, PLEASE don't let me fall on my face . . . in the middle of this bus . . . in front of all these people!!'