A letter from Jim and Jodi McGill in the U.S., taking up residence in Niger
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Dear family and friends,
It is with joy and some anxiety that we look forward to our new assignment in Niger. We are leaving the older twins, Michael and Jason, in the U.S. For all of us, Joshua 1:9 is relevant, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Malawi is the only home the children have really known, so the move to Niger is both exciting and scary. It has been a long time since Jodi and I have used French as our primary method of communication. The work, weather, and cultural environment will be vastly different from what we know, but being part of God’s family will make Niamey home. There are two American schools in Niamey—an American International School and an SIM Mission American School—and after having struggled some to transfer credits from Malawi to the USA for Michael’s and Jason’s graduation and college, the presence of these schools is a blessing.
Often we are asked why we are leaving our home in Malawi. There are several reasons, but primarily it is because we believe that is where God wants us now. Our new partner church, the Eglise Evangelique de la Republique du Niger (EERN), is asking the PC(USA) for assistance in its health and development work, and we have been invited to partner with them. I have been able to take a couple of trips to Niger to meet with our new partners and have seen great potential in bringing skills and connections from our time working in Malawi to this environment. We are excited by these new challenges.
While living in Mission Haven, Jim had opportunities to work with Emory University with its Centre for Global Safe WaSH (Water Sanitation and Hygiene). A good Presbyterian friend and former director of Water Advocates in Washington, DC, David Douglas, had been asking Jim how the African churches might be able to improve WaSH in their Health Care Facilities. Jim knew that Emory had established a survey tool to determine the improvements needed for WaSH in health care facilities, so he connected the SMART Centre and health departments with David Douglas and Emory and had a trainer for the survey come to Malawi to train SMART Centre staff. The survey of the 15 health care facilities run by the Synod has been completed, and the trainer later reported that the Development Department staff she trained was the most competent group with whom she has worked. Emory University is sending a Masters in Public Health student to work with the SMART Centre this summer to conduct a case study for the World Health Organization that will improve the WaSH Improvement Tool. The people that I have been privileged to work with in the Development Department of the Synod of Livingstonia and its SMART Centre are providing the services that will potentially shape how the World Health Organization addresses WaSH issues worldwide. I am proud to have been a part of that work and know that it will continue to grow. Now we can look forward to collaborating with partner churches in Niger and South Sudan in similar programs.
Our friends and peers in Malawi are continuing the work we have been a part of over the past 25 years. Jodi has felt for some time that very qualified nurses and administrators are doing all the work that she has previously been asked to do. It is with confidence that we leave it in their hands.
As a family, we are in the throes of packing for our move to Niamey, cleaning up our temporary home at Mission Haven and physically and emotionally sorting and resorting treasures collected from these two years in the U.S. and our lives in Malawi. We are also thoughtfully sifting through items from both Jim’s and Jodi’s families that are stored in a basement at Mission Haven. We have had conversations with the children about the recognizable and unrecognizable losses and benefits that come with moving between continents every few years. As the children have gotten older and more aware of each move, there are more conversations about what is considered essential to pack. Putting your life into two pieces of luggage means things have to be left behind, given away, or thrown away, and, not uncommonly, possessions may even be lost in luggage that never arrives.
With each three-to-four-year move, we reexamine the importance of “things,” what is necessary and unnecessary, both for basic living needs and for being able to reestablish that sense of home and connectedness with family and friends. Moving is a time for reflection on biblical examples and principals: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21). A time of recognition of how much we may have in comparison to others, a time to say goodbye and plan for the future, and a time of intense prayer.
We pray for patience with each other and say prayers for discernment and understanding as John and Joseph want to take an entire piece of luggage for Legos (which we did carry with us from Malawi); Salome and Selina have 30 pounds each of journals and drawings and important memorabilia; Jodi wants to take kitchen and household supplies and clothes for everyone; and Jim has pounds of WaSH materials. And we pray without ceasing for Michael and Jason as they begin a new phase in their lives and stay in the U.S. while we head off to our new lives in Niamey as a family of six instead of eight.
It has been wonderful to be able to be with many of you and share together what individuals and congregations here, in Malawi, S. Sudan, and Niger are doing both locally and internationally. We learn so much from those we visit and have been truly blessed by all.
We are so very grateful for the incredible support of our family and for the work of our partner church in Malawi, the Church of Central Africa, Presbyterian Synod of Livingstonia. We are also thankful for what will be accomplished through the EERN in providing better health and more opportunities in development. The regret is we have not been able to visit with all who support this work, but we do intend to write to you and include you in our prayers as you include us in yours.
We also pray for future friends. As it says in Ephesians 2:19-20, “so then you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” We offer prayers of thanksgiving that we are part of the family of Christ and therefore have a new family waiting for us.
Our next newsletter will be from Niamey, Niger. We will have the same email address, so please keep us in your prayers and contact us as you can. “Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.” (Proverbs 25:25)
Jodi, Jim, Michael, Jason, Salome, Selina, John, Joseph
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