“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
(Acts 1:8 NRSV)
After many months of preparation, and a few very long flights, we have finally arrived in Niamey, Niger. Niamey is not quite Timbuktu, but in the same neighborhood; Timbuktu is in Mali which borders Niger and benefits at least from some name recognition; most people have never heard of Niger and if they think they have they are usually wrong – “No, not Nigeria, Niger.” Coming from Jerusalem, a place everyone has heard of (even if they sometimes think that it is a mythical/biblical city and are surprised to hear that it really exists), this is a dynamic that we will have to get used to. Then again, I think there is much about Niger that we will have to get used to.
We have come to work with an organization called CURE International, which does great work. Their website is http://cure.org/. CURE has hospitals all over the world, and their newest hospital is the CURE Hôpital des Enfants au Niger, right here in Niamey. It has been open for close to a year, actually the one-year anniversary is this month, and they have already treated many children. Julie and I are both very excited about joining the CURE team here and about being here in Niger.
For me (Josh), coming back to West Africa after such a long time away from it has conjured up a strange cocktail of emotions. On one hand, Niamey does seem very much like the end of the earth; even just our drive from the airport to the hospital revealed how much of a dry, hot and poverty-stricken place Niger is.
On the other hand, however, there is so much of it that is familiar to me, the smell of burning trash, the easy smiles from everyone you meet, the brochettes (or meat skewers) we ate last night when we were welcomed by some of the hospital staff. In many ways, Niamey already feels like home, even though I have spent less than 24 hours here.
Our flight here from Paris was headed for Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso after it dropped us off, and part of me wished that it would have stopped there first so we could have seen it, at least from the airplane. Ouagadougou was a place that I often visited with my family, growing up in northern Togo. But there will be a time and a place for walking down memory lane, for now it is good that Julie and I are starting something totally new together. We have come to a place where there is great need, and we cannot wait to start trying to be a blessing to the people of Niger.