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Navigating a New Culture

A letter from James and Jodi McGill, serving in Niger

September 2017

Write to Jim McGill
Write to Jodi McGill

Individuals:  Give online to E200385 for Jim and Jodi McGill’s sending and support

Congregations: Give to D506718 for Jim and Jodi McGill’s sending and support

Churches are asked to send donations through your congregation’s normal receiving site (this is usually your presbytery).


Dear family and friends,

We arrived in Niamey, Niger, July 9th and have been using, abusing, and improving our French and learning where we need to go in town for groceries and supplies. The biggest challenge has been learning to drive in a city that has its own rules of the road.

City roads are filled with carts, people, motorcycles, and animals. Carts are pulled by donkeys and also pushed or pulled by boys and men. Small children dart across streets and in between traffic seemingly unsupervised. Taxis stop whenever and wherever to collect and drop off passengers—passengers who may also be using the taxi to transport their animals and produce. Goats, sheep, and cattle are herded on the road to either find or become food. And innumerable motorcycles are driven against traffic and weave between cars while transporting a mother with carrying a baby in a sling on her back or one, two, or three riders who may each be holding on to a goat or a sheep. Lastly, are the bicycles and the not-uncommon camel—at least the camels travel most often on the side roads.

Outside of the church after a service. The building on the right is the church and the left is a storeroom and pastor’s office.

We are now experiencing the heaviest time of the rains. Although the rains bring cooler weather, they also add humidity to the 95°F temperatures. However, we are so grateful for the rains, as this year looks like the people of Niger will have a plentiful harvest.

Sometimes preceding the rain there will be an amazing dust storm that literally turns a blue sky brown within minutes and leaves everything covered with fine sand. These rain and sand storms bring to life scripture readings about God’s power.

The most recent rains have been torrential and have killed some people and destroyed many homes. Please pray for families affected by these rains as we pray for those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

A photo of the inside of our church, taken the first Sunday we attended. To help make us feel welcome, they asked our daughter Selina to help take the offering. She is wearing a cloth to cover her head.

We are finding our new church community in a newly established EERN (Eglise Evangelique de la Republic du Niger) congregation that is not far from the home in which we are temporarily staying. It was begun this year and has about 25 members. The primary religion in Niger has been and continues to be Islam, and although there are relatively few Christian congregations, we are finding these congregations to be faithful and welcoming.

For cultural, religious, and environmental reasons, most Nigerienne women, Christian and Muslim, cover their heads when they are out in public. Nigerien culture dictates it as modesty is of primary importance and Islam mandates that women wear head coverings but also, head scarves protect women from the heat. During church services, women are expected to cover their heads in some manner to show respect for being in God’s house. It can be a turban or a scarf, but a covering is nearly always seen. During our church service men and women sit on opposite sides of the church, which is how it is in many places, including our church in Malawi.

Chako Cherif, Director, in front of the nursing school which is planning on opening for its first class in a few months.

Our primary focus is language, with Jodi needing a higher level of French fluency to teach nursing students at the new EERN nursing college in October. She has a tutor and she is shadowing and helping in the EERN Clinique Olivia to familiarize herself with Nigerien medical and nursing care.

Although the Hausa language is not the language of the people from the Niamey area, the EERN originated from among the Hausa people and it is Hausa is spoken in the EERN churches. Jim’s work will be more with the rural church areas therefore Jim will be focusing more on learning Hausa. The EERN is expanding beyond the Hausa areas, but the Bible Colleges and new schools and clinics are all within Hausa lands. Jim was able to accompany the President of the EERN, Rev. Mai Aiki Kadade and Issaka Moussa, the head of the Partnership Committee, on a visit to a new school and clinic in Dogon Douchi (about 4 hours east of Niamey).

To combine language and cultural acquisition with work, Jim will begin spending a couple of weeks at a time at Dogon Douchi. He will work with the teachers and the community to try to provide toilet facilities that have the highest possibilities of keeping the older girls in school. A network of experienced Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) practitioners around the world have produced designs of toilet facilities that will need to be adapted to insure the design is culturally appropriate for the girls who will be attending this school. Jim is asking for prayers as he immerses himself to learn this language that is so different from the Chitumbuka he knows from Malawi.

When we left the US, we were asking for prayers for accommodation to open up for our son Michael at the community college he is attending in Mississippi. Well, as it says in Proverbs 16:9, “A person plans his way, but the LORD directs his step” (ISV), and housing did become available at the college but at a different campus than that at which we were looking. So while Michael is currently at college beginning the standard freshman year core courses, he hopes to be able to transfer to the campus that offers his major in the Spring. Jason is getting accustomed to his school in GA and after some IT complications it seems he has everything sorted out for his classes and books.

We thank you for your prayers which are sustaining and guiding us on this path. And we thank you for your financial contributions that cover our sending and support. Without your generosity, we could not be here. Please continue to pray for us, and to give financially as you are able. Please see the gray box below for information on how to make a contribution.

We are so grateful to the many who have been contributing to the work of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WaSH) over the years in Malawi and in Africa. As Jodi and I are shifting our area of work from Malawi to South Sudan and Niger, we would like to share the WaSH Extra Commitment Opportunity accounts for each country, so that you will be able to direct the funds where you are inspired to do so. If you would like to support a particular area, it is most important that the donation be very clearly designated for that area.

  • Donations to WaSH for the Church of Central Africa, Presbyterian Synod of Livingstonia should be designated to E052169 “CCAP Livingstonia Water and Sanitation.”
  • Donations to WaSH for the Eglise Evangelique de la Republic du Niger or for the infrastructure or operation for the nursing school should be sent to E051746 “Eglise Evangelique de la Republique du Niger” – with a specific designation for the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Programme.
  • Donations for WaSH for the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan should be designated through the Presbyterian Relief & Development Agency (PRDA) to E052030 “Presbyterian Relief & Development Agency” — with a specific designation for the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Programme.
  • Undesignated donations to the E862703 “Water for All” account will be used for PC(USA) support of water development globally.

Thank you again for supporting us and the work through the EERN and other partners.

Jim and Jodi

Please read this important message from Jose Luis Casal, Director, Presbyterian World Mission

Dear Friend of Presbyterian Mission,

What a joy to send this letter! As Presbyterian World Mission’s new director, I thank God for your faithful support of our mission co-workers. The enclosed newsletter celebrates the work you made possible by your prayers, engagement, and generous financial gifts. We can’t thank you enough.

After I began in April, I met with mission co-workers and global partners and was blessed to see firsthand the mighty ways God is working through them! Our global partners are asking us to help them move forward with life-changing ministries. Because of your support, we can say “yes” to these creative and exciting initiatives.

I write to invite you to make an even deeper commitment to this work. First, would you make a year-end gift for the sending and support of our mission co-workers? We need your gifts to end the year strong. With your help, we filled two new mission co-worker positions and plan to recruit for others. The needs in the world are great, and World Mission is poised to answer the call to serve.

Second, would you ask your session to add our mission co-workers to your congregation’s mission budget for 2018 and beyond? Our mission co-workers serve three-year or four-year terms. Your multi-year commitment will encourage them greatly.

Our mission co-workers are funded entirely from the special gifts of individuals and congregations like yours. Now more than ever, we need your financial support.

In faith, our mission co-workers accepted a call to mission service. In faith, World Mission sent them to work with our global partners. In faith, will you also commit to support this work with your prayers and financial gifts?

With gratitude,

Jose Luis Casal

P.S. Your gift will help meet critical needs of our global partners. Thank you!

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