A Letter from Jim and Jodi McGill, serving in Niger and South Sudan
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Barka da salah Paska! Joyeuses Pâques! Happy Easter!
Although our family was divided physically during Easter with Jim, Jason and Michael in Atlanta, and Selina, Salome, John, Joseph, and I (Jodi) in Niger, the joy and significance of Easter was exuberantly shared by all of us with our Christian families in those places. We pray that you, our family and friends, were able as well to celebrate the resurrection of the Christ.
Our Easter day in Niamey began with a brief one-hour English sunrise service on the Niger River. Afterwards, the family and I went to our EERN Bobiel congregation for two hours of singing and dancing, followed by people sharing their stories of God’s grace and an impassioned sermon by our pastor, Pastor Sani Hassan. We were also fortunate to be able to share the day with the Ludwig family, PC(USA) mission co-workers in Maradi, Niger, a 10-hour drive northeast from us. After the service, there was lunch prepared by the women of the church. Just like in probably every other church in the world, women began working Saturday to prepare a special meal to honor our Lord and share His love with each other.
Beginning at 5 p.m. Saturday, I spent a few hours with the women doing the meal preparations. They started in the evening, for that is when the temperatures are beginning to drop and the women have passed their remaining family and work obligations on to others, and because there is no refrigeration. The parts of the meal that can be cooked ahead of time have to be done early enough so people can go home at a reasonable hour, and late enough that they won’t spoil before the morning.
When it comes to the actual cooking, the women must wonder how our family has not starved to death since it seems I do not know anything about cooking — the Nigerienne way. Whenever the women are cooking for a church event, I am either relegated to fetching water or stirring the pot like the children, or standing around feeling incompetent. So, for the Easter meal, I chopped onions and tomatoes and peeled and sliced potatoes. I tried to help with the garlic, but without utensils it took me too long to open a whole garlic into its cloves and then remove the end and take off the outer layer. I did gain a tiny amount of stature when I was able to show the women how to more easily use the potato peelers that a woman had brought along in addition to the knives they are accustomed to using.
As has been mentioned before, I teach Medical English at the Ecole Nationale de Santé Publique. I just recently finished teaching the second term of English to the Laboratory Science class, which I have enjoyed so much. The students are eager to learn and willing to try. The classes get long, as they meet from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., but the students strive to participate — even in 110° F heat. The experience of teaching them will help me when I teach English at the nursing school. It was truly encouraging that at the end of the course they asked me if I would be teaching them again next year.
Since Jim could not come back to Niger, Niger came to Jim. Ouessini Dan Karami, who is Jim’s EERN supervisor, and his wife, Hannatou, were in the U.S. for two weeks. Hannatou is the head accounts person for the U.S. embassy in Niamey and was called to Charleston for a training, and Ouessini came along for the ride. The training took place over the Easter weekend, so Jim and Jason drove from Atlanta to collect them to spend the weekend together in Decatur. They visited the Martin Luther King Memorial, attended a Mark Twain play at a local university and celebrated Easter together at our very socially active U.S. home church. One of the actors in the play was Farris Goodrum, a high school schoolmate of Jim’s from boarding school in the DRC and a former PC(USA) mission co-worker to Brazil. Pastor Tom Hagood and his wife, Susan, were able to get to know Ouessini and Hannatou as the Hagoods hosted them, Jim, Jason and Michael to a wonderful Easter dinner. Afterwards, they drove back to Charleston so that Hannatou could continue her course Monday morning.
While Jim’s trip to the U.S. was recommended for recuperation and monitoring, he had the privilege to participate in a Washington DC gathering of faith-based and community organizations involved in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH) in health care facilities; to present the WaSH and health work of the EERN and the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan to churches near Mission Haven in Decatur, GA; to visit the Louisville offices of the PC(USA) for a couple of days; to assist Michael and Jason in moving to Florida in preparation for further studies; as well as to visit with family. The unexpected return to the U.S. has been a blessing in many ways, but it is time to be reunited with family and friends in Niger.
Jim plans to return to Niger May 11. We would like to say again how grateful we are for all of the prayers and support we have received from brothers and sisters all around the world. The love shared during this time has been humbling, and very much appreciated.
May we all remember the love shown to us during Easter and reflect that in our encounters with others.
Jodi, Jim, Michael, Jason, Salome, Selina, Joseph, and John
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