Niger Summer Mission 2011 – Aug 7

Church service in Zinder.  Worship in Zinder.  The risk of seeing something for the first time, far from home is swallowing it whole and thinking it is the best thing ever … or at the very least significantly better than what is done back home.  I spent fourteen days in Germany and by day six felt it would be worth considering a move to live in the beautiful little village with such great bread and postcard vistas.  So … I was in danger of falling in love with a service I could not comprehend linguistically.  And so … I did.

Here’s why: the singing was plentiful and uplifting, and all in Hausa accompanied by a drummer.  First the small children sang a couple songs, then a girls’ choir sang two or three songs, followed by the women.  Like most choirs at home, theirs is on holiday this time of year.  Once again the words were lost on me, but the spirit and the praise, and the obvious worshipfulness, was inspiring.

And from a secular perspective, a trip like this … a worship service such as this morning’s bring to light that in spite of the plethora of differences, at the heart of it we are very much alike.  I didn’t understand a word spoken or sung, but by watching and listening this morning, I felt very certain I worshiped with them.

Not more than thirty minutes from the Labo’s home there is a vast market … not more than 10 kilometers from the village in which Ibrahim and Isti grew up.  This market sold everything from herbs and spices to cistern pots and flashlights; on one side of the market cattle and goats were being sold.  It was a busy, crowded and, in the midday sun, a hot place.  While not the first time our white skin attracted notice, it was the first time we were walking among those who were noticing.  The same five to seven kids followed us fairly consistently.  Bannasare (Ba-na-sa-ray) means white and that’s what they would say as they pointed at us.  It reminded me of how faulty racist thinking is and was in our country.  We see the differences and sometimes the differences are all we allow ourselves to see.  I am not taking issue with the kids’ or the general reaction our whiteness gets … it simply makes me think and grieve for the decades of lost connections (and worse) between blacks and whites in the US.  There was a time growing up in New Jersey where as a child I would point at an African-American as I took notice of their skin …

After returning to Chez Labo and enjoying a wonderful lunch of couscous, carp and fruit salad, we rested a while.  The heat is reason enough to take a break from all thought and movement.  When our rest ended we went to see the Land of Giant Rocks.  Eventually Kara will be posting pictures from our trip and you will get to see these petrified behemoths.  Suffice to say individual rocks were the size of standard backyard pool and would have loomed over a basketball hoop in your driveway.  And there weren’t just a few, there were hundreds around us plus more as far as the eye could see.

The earth is really, really old … and leaning against the rocks, one got the clear sense that we are among its most recent passengers.

Tomorrow: return to Maradi.

  1. Ruth Jones

    Hi Joe,
    Your writing skills make everything you describe so interesting!
    Just today after church service, a woman older than I (yes, it’s possible) asked me what the church services were like in Niger. I explained to her that I couldn’t understand the words but was very moved by their music, both congregational singing and listening to the various choirs and could feel the Spirit moving amidst us. The order of worship seemed to be very similar to what we are used to here.
    I’m reading a book, “American Colonies” by Alan Taylor. He is an eloquent writer. He writes about many things but I especially want to mention his explanation of why and when black Africans were first brought to the West Indies, and then, to the main land of America as slaves. Slavery of the Africans first occurred in the New World in the late 1500’s. My point is that it took over 250 years for a President of the U.S. to declare emancipation of the slaves. Then, it was another over 100 years for blacks to receive their civil rights here, and blacks still face racism. Will there ever be equity among the races?