14 December 2015

Why I'm Not Afraid to Live in Niger

One of the questions maiguida and I get asked the most as we travel around speaking and visiting is "Is it safe in Niger?"

"But what about terrorists??" and "Aren't you afraid??" and "Why would you give up the safety of America??" and "If something happened how will you protect yourselves??"

Most of the time I want to respond by pulling out my smarty-pants phone, googling "NEWS" and clobbering the asker with headlines of the violence rampant in the US . . . but instead I play the diplomat and explain that where we live in Galmi is currently peaceful and quiet, but we recognize the risks associated with the region at large and trust the Lord with our lives.

But the reality is, as disciples of Jesus, we gave up our safety/rights/freedom/lives when we "took up our cross and followed."

17 November 2015

I'm a Glutton for [Cross-Cultural] Punishment

I guess it was not enough that I live and work cross-culturally, so I had to go and marry a man that not only is of a different nationality, he comes from multiple cultures as well!

You see, Maiguida grew up in Niger, but his family is actually European.  So while he ate with a knife and fork at home, he's a complete natural when it comes to the Nigerien tradition of sharing a common plate and using one's right hand to consume a meal.

He is comfortable holding his wife's hand in public . . . and also walking down the street, hand-in-hand with a man.  Because in the West, hand holding is a romantic act, but in Niger it is reserved for close friends of the same gender.

And while he is a natural cultural-chameleon, there has been one very surprising cross-cultural nuance that we have come to discover about each other in the short time we've been married.  And we're struggling to get past it.

15 November 2015

Status Update

I am well aware that it has been [far] too long since my last post.

But there is good reason for that.

And it's not what many of you will think.

I got married about a month ago . . . but that's not why I haven't been writing.


Rewind that!

Deb. you did WHAT!?!?!?!  And you didn't tell us?!?!?!?

03 April 2015

Lessons on Palm Sunday

I started treating M. on 12 December 2013.  At the estimated age of 40, she had been sent to us after having a severe stroke which left her unable to move her right side, walk or speak.  

We worked together regularly for five months, and each time she had a check up with her doctor, she and her husband and her sister would pop by the gym to greet us.  

By the time she plateaued in therapy, she was walking by herself with the use of a hemi-walker.  She was able to do a good amount of her self-care on her own, and had figured out how to navigate around her aphasia.  I was impressed at how much we were able to communicate despite the limitations of her mono-word vocabulary.

The stroke had affected the portion of her brain that is responsible for expressive language, and while she understood everything we said, M. could only respond with the word “yes”.  She would change her tone or facial expression to convey her meaning. 

I loved when M. came by to see us.  Her face was bright with joy despite her difficulties.  No matter how difficult a task was, she persevered.  And her appreciation came across loud and clear in her “YYYEEEESSS!!”

05 March 2015


I'm not sure if it's just me . . . or if it's cross-cultural living in general, but each day seems to be full of hiccups and speed bumps and continual changes-of-plans.

Today I was supposed to take a flight back to Galmi (an hour an a half-ish trip) after spending a week in the capital doing a workshop on facilitating trauma-healing support groups.  But the flight got delayed to later in the week which meant I was on the bus (a seven hour bumpy and exhausting trip).

So, when life hands you lemons, make . . . a photo essay.

01 February 2015

A Shepherd Needs His Shoes

Using an inner tube and foam from his mattress, our
patient rigged up a 'shoe' to cushion his steps.
A few weeks ago, I saw a young man -- maybe 16 or 18 -- limping through the hospital.  I was walking behind him, analyzing his gait pattern.  On the left foot, he wore a DarcoShoe which we had given him a while back.  His right foot wasn't visible as the leg of his pants encircled what remained after a midfoot amputation.

I didn't think much more about him, until a couple hours later he and his father showed up at our gym.  He didn't want the Darco any more . . . the wound where they had removed his left big toe, was all healed and the wedge of the sole made his limp worse.

Walking, for this young man, isn't just a form of transportation . . . it is his source of income and identity.  He's a shepherd, and his life is spent roaming the wide open spaces of Niger, leading his sheep and goats out to pasture.

As we asked him some questions in order to best gauge our intervention approach, he began to sling a little rubber disk around the ring finger of his right hand.

'What's that?' I asked.

'My shoe.'

'Where'd you get it?'

'I made it myself.'

17 January 2015

Niger in the News

Niger has made the news again.  This time in response to the happenings in Paris.  Churches and the private homes of many Christians in the large cities across the country have been burned.  Please pray the peace of Niger!

To read one report of the violence across the country, click here.