This morning our hosts attended a wedding in Maradi taking Emily with them. The rest of us stole a few extra winks and organized our stuff for the roughly three-hour drive to Zinder. Compared to the road we spent so much time on last week going to Maradi from Niamey this was a turnpike of high caliber. No pothole slalom to weave through, and at least to my eyes not nearly as much speeding traffic. It was a peaceful ride through surprisingly bucolic terrain. Once again I found myself more surprised by the green I was seeing then anything scraggly, brown or desert-like.
A few things about Zinder: it was the capitol prior to colonization by the French, who moved it to Niamey. Water is far more a premium commodity here than in Niamey. Zinder is also the home of Joel’s family … Ibrahim, who lives in Maradi, grew up in a nearby village as did Isti. Joel’s father served for twenty years as the president of the EERN. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, Joel’s family is in many ways Christian royalty here. His parents are warm and welcoming, very down-to-earth, but their dignity and baring combine to reflect a grace that one doesn’t often experience. Once again my language limitations leave me wanting; to engage with these people in a way that allows real exchange and appreciation for their history and the nuances of their lives. I am hoping that before we leave Zinder Coleen will translate so I can ask Reverend and Mrs. Labo, Irbrahim and Isti questions about their faith and the context here in this 90-percent Muslim country.
Once again we are blessed with a good team, and the gift of meeting these people.