In Niger

In a message dated 1/11/2009 2:11:17 P.M. Central Standard Time, behargrave@aimint.net writes:

As I write I am hearing the imam call the faithful to worship from the closest mosque. Our three day program for Homeschooled Missionary Kids here in Niger is finished – Wow – It went so quickly! The children we worked with were from 5 – 11 years. Their parents’ passport countries are Australia, Korea, England, Canada, Singapore and the US. They work in Niger, Burkina Faso, Benin and Ghana and are involved in church planting, agriculture, theological education and support services. Many of the local people in this part of the world are from other religious backgrounds. The climate is hot – conditions harsh – Challenging places to minister… It was so good to be able to bring support to these folks. While Debbie, Joanna, James and I were working with the children, a great team was working with the parents enabling them to do a better job of educating and raising their kids in this part of Africa. Thanks to many of you for enabling me to do this important work!

We have been served well by the local missionary community – transporting, feeding, exchanging money – wow – missionaries have really gone out of their way for us.

Today was spent relaxing…

Actually an unbelievable day thus far! We left at 7 AM to go look at giraffes about an hour from town. I almost didn’t go as we saw giraffe quite frequently when we lived in Northern Kenya – but I love giraffes and also the group here – so decided to go –

The first giraffe we saw had two legs and hooves sticking out – yes, she was in the process of giving birth!!! Our guide, who has done this work for twenty years, said that he had never seen a giraffe give birth! – Mama hid from us for a bit when the actual birthing happened – but then we found her about a half hour later with her new calf! We watched mama licking the calf as he made wobbly attempts at standing – but unfortunately, we needed to leave before he/she got completely on his feet – This was certainly a first for me!

camel_ride Next we went to a campsite where those of our group who had never had the opportunity to ride a camel got their chance – and the rest of us relaxed under some mango trees enjoying a picnic of shish kebabs over a fire… A boat ride followed on the Niger River viewing hippos. Now many of my colleagues are shopping – but I opted for a shower and chance to catch up with you all! In an hour or so we will go to the weekly English worship Service at Sahel Academy –

Tomorrow, we will provide an in-service for Sahel Academy and its students. The team who worked with the parents will be doing some training with the staff of the school. Joanna and I will be part of the team working with the Sahel elementary school students. This time I will be helping with the program, not in charge of it which will take off a bit of the stress.

I appreciate your ongoing prayers as we have two more very full days – Joanna is not in top notch shape physically and is resting right now… A couple of other staff are also not feeling well. Now am hearing an exuberant Christian worship service with drums in the background…

God bless – Love – Ellen

October 2008

October 22,    2008

Hello Friends!

During our time in Kenya, Bob and I tried to keep you all updated with how God was working in our lives on a regular basis. We realize that since we have been stateside we have become more and more infrequent in our correspondence. We are going to make an effort now to do a better job! We so appreciate your prayer, interest and financial support!

To start off, I want to give a brief update on the preparations for my trip to Niger in January. As of this writing, God has now provided $2100 of the $2700 needed for my plane ticket! Praise God and thanks to each of you who have contributed toward this trip and those of you who are praying! What an encouragement!

With each e-mail we hope to highlight one aspect of our ministry.

Hospitality –

One of my, Ellen’s, main responsibilities here at ECHO is hospitality – I am responsible to see that our guests are received well, made to feel comfortable, etc. We run the ECHO Guest House, so some of the visitors stay in the house in which we live. In the past couple of years, housing has increased on the ECHO Campus – this means that some of the visitors stay in other housing. Therefore, houses need to be cleaned, people need to be picked up at the airport, meals need to be cooked – and time needs to be taken to listen and – well – whatever! This “work” is done in conjunction with a couple of other staff members and a host of volunteers.

I’d like to highlight some of the visitors that we have had during the month of October. Last week we had on campus the HACC (Health, Agriculture, Community and Culture) Course. Here is a brief synopsis of the course from the ECHO website…

HACC – Health, Agriculture, Culture and Community workshop

Many common health problems around the world come from unhealthy behavior. Motivating people to make behavioral changes is difficult because the roots of behavior are in culturally determined beliefs and values. The arena for promoting behavioral changes is in dialogue about the cultural values and beliefs that underlie behavior. An understanding of cultural anthropology and the practice of cross-cultural communication is essential for successful motivation of changes in community development, and behavior related to health, nutrition, and agriculture.

The biblical view of reality provides fundamental principles of health and healthy behavior and gives core cultural values important for community development. The Global Health Training Program at King College in Bristol TN in association with ECHO, offers a biannual five-day workshop to train health and community development professionals on how to help people improve their own health and nutrition. The workshop brings together biblical principles of health and agriculture, cross-cultural methods of communication, and skills in establishing relationships that facilitate behavioral changes for the improvement of health and nutrition. It is excellent preparation for an inter-cultural ministry of transformational development.

Most of the participants in this course are medical professionals who are in the support raising phase of their preparation to be career missionaries. It was so exciting to be with these folks who have passionately committed their lives to serving Him cross-culturally. Most are giving up the opportunity to work in very financially lucrative fields to serve the least of these – a real inspiration to us!

Last week’s participants will be serving God in Rwanda, Cambodia, China, Papua New Guinea, Philippines and Togo and with the International Mission Board (Southern Baptists), Reach Global (Evangelical Free Church), Church of the Nazarene, ABWE (Association of Baptists for World Evangelism) and local churches. I was privileged to be responsible for their meals for the week and one couple stayed in the house with us. Such stimulating conversations!

We now have visiting a woman from Uganda who works in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda as a grassroots women’s trainer, overseer of several schools, HIV/AIDS counselor, and house mother for 30 girls. She is here for a week with a couple from here in Southwest Florida that are members of the board of the organization she works for.

This next week we will also be hosting a gentleman who is going to Kenya along with his wife for a two year assignment with MCC (Mennonite Central Committee) and a young woman who has just graduated from Fuller Seminary with a degree in Intercultural Studies. There was also a young man here for two months who has just left. There will also be a couple from a church in Ohio who will be scouting things out before bringing a work team from their church this spring!

Next week ECHO will be hosting volunteers from the Christian Farmers Association who will spend a week working on the farm. I have all work teams to our home for one Thank you meal during their stay, and will be doing that on Monday night the 27th of October.

This is just a sampling of the folks who will actually be staying on campus – Bob is also involved in their time here in many ways – Next week we will plan to feature his role in these visitors lives!

Thanks again for all you mean to us!

Ellen & Bob