The Things You Have

A Letter from Michael and Rachel Ludwig, serving in Niger

May 2019

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It felt like progress worth celebrating when we recently hit the milestone of starting to train some of our Community Health Evangelists (CHEs) to take over the training of other CHE evangelists! In CHE, everyone is supposed to be training their neighbors, but during this Training of Trainers 2 (TOT 2) it was encouraging to see a young evangelist taking to heart the idea we hit hard in CHE, use your local available resources. That is to say, try to work on the problems in front of you with the things you have on hand.

Because we’ve highlighted the concept so much, “use the things you have” has become a bit of a catch phrase for the group that my counterpart, Pastor Issa — from our partner, the Evangelical Church in the Republic of Niger (EERN) — and I (Michael) have been training. It’s a favorite of Hamidou, an evangelist who graduated from the local Bible school about a year and a half ago. Freshly married, he was sent by the regional church to a village not very far away, but across a seasonal river and down a not so frequently traveled road. The church wasn’t able to secure any land in the large village, and the house they arranged for him to rent fell through. He ended up getting a room in someone else’s compound that was literally the size of a half bath in the U.S. at a bottom-of-the-barrel price that he could afford.

But this brought many problems of having to accommodate all the wishes and traditions of the Muslim family in whose compound he, his wife, and child lived. After suffering a lot for the first year there, Hamidou went around to established churches in the region asking for help to buy property. He raised enough to buy a small plot on the edge of the town, and to get the supplies to build a mud-brick exterior wall and temporary hut, ended up selling the motorcycle his family had gifted him for his new work. “Use what you have,” he said with a grimace! Now, to make ends meet for his family, he sells cell phone credit and specializes in covering phones with clear plastic to provide scratch protection. While he didn’t have the freedom to implement as many health practices in his household as other CHE evangelists, Hamidou did give us this larger-scale life example of how he is using what he learned in the CHE training.

Please pray for Hamidou and his wife, as she has had severe problems with possible stomach ulcers for the past six months. This means that he has been doing a lot more care for their new baby than is normal in this culture. His wife’s illness has been frightening. A month ago, when she had to be carried out of the house she was limp like a dead person, but she was able to get help at a nearby clinic, and Hamidou thinks that they’re finally on the right track for treatment.

Another story that inspired me during this training was shared by one of the evangelists who is helping to train his neighbors on cleaning the food containers and utensils that a household uses. A few months before, we had done a simple lesson with the evangelists we are mentoring on how to clean containers and leave them in the sun to kill any leftover germs. During that lesson, we also talked about cleaning utensils and covering food, and for most of the lesson the evangelists provided all the answers about how to remedy these problems from what they already knew or ideas they got from what they had seen people do. I thought the lesson was possibly too simple or obvious, but it was at least making them reflect on the local solutions they could gather for the common problem of dirty dishes or food making people in their families sick.

But at the TOT 2, as we again discussed the idea of using what you have, this evangelist brought forward how he had used the lesson. He shared it with a group of his neighbors, and they were very impressed with the simple things they could do themselves to improve their health and reduce the stomach problems that they all deal with. They even said, “Now we have lots of things we can do with the tools we have around us: we don’t even need someone to come in and give us a lot of money to do ‘sanitation’ in our village!” It looks like “use the things you have” can be an empowering catch phrase.

Prayer is a great tool that we all have within arm’s reach, so we invite you also to continue in “using the things you have” to support us. Thank you for your prayer for our 18-month-old son’s hip dysplasia. Unfortunately, his brace has not brought progress, and it’s not clear how many years we may have to wait to see if he needs a major surgery. Please pray for our family’s strength and endurance as Michael has more and more training and traveling, and Rachel has the challenging opportunity of balancing three very different students’ educational needs in home school. Our partners in the EERN also value your prayers for the initiatives in which we support them: the ongoing CHE training, their reorganization of their Bible schools that will also include CHE in the curriculum, and especially for wisdom and guidance for the newly elected president of the EERN, Rev. Saley Anaroua.

May God help us all in being thoughtful stewards of our gifts, so that we may smile with Hamidou as we’re reminded not to despair about what we don’t have, but to “use the things you have!”

Michael and Rachel Ludwig

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