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There Is No Greater Thing

A letter from Claire Zuhosky serving in Niger

May 2015

Write to Claire Zuhosky

Individuals:  Give online to E200517 for Claire Zuhosky’s sending and support

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With the start of the new year there have been many ups and many downs, as is the way with any journey, new points of reference along the way bringing you to a place of contemplation, the desire to boil life down to its bare essentials. When you lose everything that this world has to offer you, when you come face to face with your worst nightmares, when you are an alien to the world around you, when all the dross has burned away, what remains? What truths sustain the purpose of your every breath? My reflection has brought me to the words from one of my favorite worship songs, “Knowing You”:

zuhosky_1505-1

All I once held dear, built my life upon
All this world reveres, and wars to own
All I once thought gain, I have counted loss
Spent and worthless now, compared to this
Knowing you Jesus, Knowing you
There is no greater thing

It happened very suddenly and all at once. March 15, 2015, came and went with a marked impression. All that I had come to possess in this world of seeming value was decimated to ash and smoke. This fire came into my life with a taste of finality; it did not even allow me the decency of a good fight. I arrived at the scene too late to be of any help. Because I had the only key to my bedroom, they were not able to force entry for some time, and by then the fire had devoured its fill. The chaos of those moments, waiting to be permitted to view the damage, receiving vastly different reports on its severity, and being hit like a sucker punch to the gut with the realization I had lost my most precious possession, photos and videos of my deceased mother. In one of those videos taken before my mother’s death from complications due to Huntington’s disease she spoke into the future, into my future, the one thing she wanted me to remember all my days. She said, in a manner of speech that only those who had been with her through each stage of her illness could understand, “I love you and just remember that God will always be taking care of you.” It was this loss that made my tears flow freely. I could not stop them even if I wanted to. As someone who has never had control of my tears, I took comfort in knowing that a vulnerable witness is a lasting one, and allowed my soul the space to grieve.

I was so grateful for my brothers and sisters in Christ who stood beside me during this time, offering words of encouragement, helping point my gaze to something bigger than this circumstance. In a calming voice speaking the little English he could, my friend offered these words to me: “Don’t worry, God is changing the circumstances.” I was also told of how my Muslim friend, a man I buy pop from on the corner, who tries valiantly to teach me a little Hausa each time I am there, had jumped the wall and tried to assist with putting it out when he saw my room was on fire. Sometimes you never know the connections you have made until circumstances like these make them self-evident. This connection was what I had come to Niger for, why I had given up so much to place my feet in this place of mission—a connection between a Christian and a Muslim, that fragile connection from which so much perspective can be shared, when peering into each other’s lives makes the Light shine through all the cracks.

zuhosky_1505-2When the heat of the fire dissipated enough for me to finally view my room, it was definitely an all-consuming experience of loss: a loss of possessions, a loss of security, a loss of memories, a loss of personal history. Loss—that bittersweet companion of life. I am no stranger to its devastating measures, having lost my mother piece by piece as she battled courageously to remain relevant in her own life and relationships due to an unforgiving disease that turned her body and dreams crooked. How is any life to be measured? If my life was to be summed up by all of this ash, what weight could it possibly hold? How does anyone rise from these ashes? How does anyone walk on such a tumultuous ocean? The one thing that kept my heart from being anchored forever in a sea of self-pity is knowing the promises that have been made to me and the King who has made them. If it were up to this Fire, it would have me believe that all is lost. However, there is a greater and more merciful Writer at hand, one whose heart desires to see me prosper. Therefore, in this time of uncertainty of not knowing exactly how the Lord will move in these circumstances, I know in my soul God is not finished with me yet!  Greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4).

So I rest in the words spoken to me last by the Lord from Matthew 6:25: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?” Prior to the fire, that very morning in church, I had “incorrectly” read this passage of the Bible thinking it was where the French translator had directed us; my heart’s reaction to reading it was a deep conviction that I did not truly know what it was like to live this passage, especially not like my Nigerien brothers and sisters do daily, hourly, minute by minute, and second by second. Not like so many of them who lost their own houses, personal possessions, and churches in the beginning of this year, when extremist Muslims sought revenge on innocent people due to the French magazine illustrations.

Without a doubt it has been amazing to see the hand of God through this process, and I know it will be used to glorify the Lord. This experience has brought scriptures to life for me in a new and intense way as I look to the Lord for everything I need. It has also given me a new appreciation for my context as I know on a new level what it is to live in Niger without anything but your community. It’s all dust and ashes, but one thing still remains that keeps you waking up each morning and keeps you connected—the Spirit of God, in your heart, in the body of Christ, and in each sincere cry of prayer!

As things stand now, I am continuing to take French classes preparing for my next level of examination B1, to be taken between May 16 and 24. After some time of searching, I have found a house that I like very much in Maradi. Once it is finished the landlord will contact me to discuss renting it, and my hope is to know if I am moving in by the end of the month. I will begin teaching computer classes in English, until my French is sufficient, and teach English language classes because it has been identified as a pertinent skill for youth to have English in order to obtain higher paying jobs and further their educational opportunities. In terms of recovering from the fire, I have been working closely with Presbyterian World Mission, and they have been able to provide help in a number of ways, including some insurance coverage and potentially a Pastoral Care Grant. However, I now know that the loss is greater than the coverage that is available. If you are interested in helping in any way, here are some ways that you can give:

  • You can give to my general sending and support with Presbyterian World Mission by contributing here: https://www.presbyterianmission.org/donate/E200517 (or using the
    “Give” link below). These gifts help cover the costs for the support that I am already receiving.
  • You can give a donation to assist with the Pastoral Care Grant. You can contribute online here: https://www.presbyterianmission.org/donate/E864021/. Just please include in the memo line that the gift is for Claire Zuhosky.
  • I can receive personal gifts valued at $100 or less to help cover the replacement of what was lost. Please email me at cez108@hotmail.com if you would like more information on this option.

Prayer Requests:

  • Please pray for the youth of Niger, that the Lord would guide each of them in His plans for their lives, that ministry opportunities among Muslim youth would open up, and that God would allow the seeds of faith to grow and blossom at this time.
  • Please pray for permanent housing for me to be finalized.
  • Please pray that I may fully recover from the fire: financially, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. That the Lord would work through this event in ways that only He can so that all glory and honor would go to His name.
  • Please pray about the financial shortfall of PC(USA) World Mission. For more information on World Mission’s current financial status and ways in which you can aid please visit  http://bit.ly/1cgHkGj

Your Sister in Christ,
Claire Zuhosky, M.Div.
Youth Center Development Specialist
The 2015 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 133


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