A Letter from Jim and Jodi McGill, serving in Niger and South Sudan
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Dear friends and family,
Often when we return to the USA for our interpretation assignment, we feel like outsiders of what is supposed to be our home culture. During the pandemic, however, we have felt more commonalities than differences. Zoom worship services and meetings, while opening up the ability to participate and share with people from within and outside the USA, do not meet the intangible need for in-person contact. Virtual schooling, while attempting to maintain educational standards and structure, is not working well for many, including our children. Limitations on outings, social gatherings for holidays, or the simple act of sharing a meal or a cup of tea with a friend remind us again of missing the direct interpersonal physical interactions.
Additionally, the vitriol of political ads and political messaging bears witness to an immoral waste of $15 Billion spent during this election period while people worldwide suffer food shortages, famines and face multiple health challenges. These changes and social concerns leave us feeling simultaneously disconnected yet remarkably connected in new ways. They also leave us feeling worried and anxious for ourselves, the USA, and people around the world. A friend from Niger sent this to Jodi, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” (Psalm 56:3), an important and peace-giving reminder.
In the past months, the COVID-19 infection rate has increased in Africa, including in Niger and South Sudan. Yet, it is hard to know the actual numbers as testing is extremely limited. Certainly, the virus has not had the same impact as it has had in the USA, and we are praying that the trend of elevation in the rate of cases will reverse quickly. Johns Hopkins University researchers and other experts hypothesize that the higher percentage of young people in the population (60% are under the age of 25), the unfortunate experiences they have had of coping with other epidemics, possible resulting in cross-immunity from similar viruses, and the fact that many activities take place outside could be reasons for the lower rate.
A Community Health Evangelist (CHE) pastor is being transferred to Toulouware, about 25 kilometers outside of Niamey. We expect to work with that community to establish a WASH in Health Care Facilities program, which we hope will be a model for similar health care facilities. The presence of a pastor trained in the gospel and CHE’s health components, including WASH programs, will have a significant impact in this Muslim community. He will introduce a full WASH program that will include manual drilling, Household Water Treatment, improving latrine building, and latrine usage.
Funds have been received from a Chick-Fil-A program called “Schools for Niger” to build additional school blocks and a staff room at the EERN School in Niamey. Additional funds have been received to allow another school block to be built at the EERN school in Dougondoutchi that is adjacent to the new clinic. This is the school that has a Menstrual Health and Hygiene latrine to give the girls the hygiene assistance and privacy to help them to be able to stay in school during the time of their menses.
The EERN University has added ten students to its first-year class. Five are studying nursing, three are studying medical biology, and two are studying community development. The number of nursing students has doubled! The first-year nursing students are entering their second year and have taken the first-year students under their wings. Although everything was halted for several months last year due to the governmental restrictions to contain the spread of COVID, the school has now resumed full operation. It is disappointing not to be there in person to help teach classes and supervise the students, but the school’s vision is progressing, and Jodi is in regular contact with them.
It might seem that nine nursing students or one well or one CHE pastor are very small steps, but the church, because of God’s faithfulness and His eternal promises, has a long-range view on the work it undertakes in His name, and we can never foretell the impact that will have. Out of the blue, Jodi recently received these messages from two Malawians. A young woman wrote, “I would like to extend a token of appreciation for helping me out with my school fees the time I was stranded and picked to go to Kamuzu College of Nursing… I am now a graduate, and I work for Ekwendeni Mission Hospital…” A young man we knew when we were living at Embangweni 20 years ago wrote, “I got to know you when I was nine years old… through that, I developed an interest in school…I am Hospital Administer for David Gordon Memorial Hospital at Livingstonia, and it is because of the exposure during the time we used to come and play at your house…” God’s work is not ours. Their words remind us all to remain steadfast and faithful to His call, and He will work wonders that we could never foresee.
As always, we are grateful for your prayers and support for us and our partner churches. We are blessed to be able to serve God in Niger and South Sudan, and previously in Malawi, because of your support. We are sincerely and humbly grateful.
Jodi and Jim
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Tags: Jim and Jodi McGill
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