In Niger, I’m Reminded to Give Thanks

Some people (my husband among them) think God speaks to us in the thunder and lightening of storms. I pooh-poohed the notion until a recent night in Niger, when I heard the loudest, most majestic storm ever. I didn’t time it, but it seemed to go on for nearly an hour (my colleagues the next day agreed). Having spent a few days in Tahoua, meeting people who plan their lives around the three to four month rainy season so they can survive the other nine dry months of the year, my husband has made a believer out of me.

As I listened to the ear-splitting cracks of thunder, watched the brilliant flashes of lightening and felt the power of the wind and rain, I thought about, and then prayed for, the many many people I’d met (and even more I hadn’t) who are benefiting from the support of Lutherans like you.

close-up of two women in Niger
Fatchima Djibo (right), 50, a mother of 6, participated in a cash for work project that incorporates soil and water conservation to respond to the severe drought in the region.

I realized that this was the 18th day of rain — Niger averages 25 days of rain per season; the season peaks in August and typically ends in late September — and that the rain I was hearing would be slowed and captured for growing plants that would later be transplanted. This is part of a cash-for-work program that also helped Malama, Fatchima, Taboulla and dozens, perhaps hundreds of other women — many of them widows — feed their families of eight or more people. But I also realized that, even though the pouring, driving rain that accompanied the storm was an enormous blessing, many families sleep outside. This had to be an unimaginably uncomfortable, even dangerous, night.

women building a stone terrace
Participants in LWR’s cash-for-work program build stone terracing to minimize topsoil erosion, and dig shallow trenches that retain water. They will also plant tree seedlings (grown by participants in another component of the project) behind each trench, which will further protect the soil as they grow.

My 81-year-old mother is currently doing a devotional practice where every hour of her day, on the hour, she gets on her knees to pray the Lord’s Prayer. While I didn’t get out of bed to kneel, as the storm ended and I slipped back between clean sheets and a king-sized bed I ended my prayers by following her example, remembering to say an extra prayer of gratitude for the incredible blessings I have received and for God’s grace.

We ended each conversation with the people we met the same way: asking if there were any questions for us. No one asked whether there would be more support, more funding, more cash-for-work. Instead, we were consistently thanked and asked to share their thanks with you.

One man said “I am no longer poor!”

Another woman said “I can buy my children clothing and pay their school fees!” “I can help other family members and my neighbors,” because “a man who eats alone dies alone!”

And we were told how much they appreciated the training. How proud they are that they can apply what they’ve learned. How they can even create their own ways to improve their families’ and communities’ ways of making a living now and in the future.

The next time I hear a storm, I hope, like my husband, I remember to turn off the television and take time to remember the people I met, to thank God for them and to thank Him for you and the life-changing work that you make possible.