Tuesday, June 12, 2012


One of the on going discussions Elgin and I have had since returning from Niger is why, if we think reflecting and blogging is such good thing to do for our relationship and our faith, we don’t continue the practice when we are at home.

This new blog is an effort to keep the reflecting, processing, and blogging going for us.

Recently, on one of my morning walks, I found myself blogging in my head.  On this beautiful Minnesota spring morning I was walking in a picture perfect neighborhood looking at all the colorful spring flowers, the manicured, watered, lush lawns, the attractive homes with picketed fences – well you get the idea.  I began to contrast the perfection, the cleanliness, and the orderliness I was seeing on my walk with anything but perfect vistas in Niamey.  Ugly black plastic bags, sandy, orange ground, and no landscaping of any kind is not as attractive as a residential neighborhood in Edina.

As I was contemplating the differences and admiring the Edina landscape all of a sudden I heard through an open window a very angry woman – I am assuming a mother – screaming, yes screaming, at her children.  Her screaming completely destroyed the serene image I was seeing and I realized in that moment that I never heard that kind of an outburst toward children in the 6 months in Niamey.  Maybe it is just too hot to add a hot temper to one’s day but the incident gave me pause. 

I have been struck since being home that we go to great extents to make sure our homes, cars, and clothes look well cared for, that everything we have looks put together and neat. We pay a lot of attention to the “outside.”  I know I do.  How I look, how my home looks, how my car looks – I think the culture that I have bought into here puts an emphasis on the “look” of things.  This is not all bad, but I wonder - Am I just trying to look good on the outside in order to hide the not so put together me on the inside?  Am I using things like my home and my car to cover up the imperfections in my life?  And from whom?  Others?  God? 

I thought about how in Niamey, appearance of one’s self or one’s surroundings was not important.  Oh, the women dressed well but not extravagantly.  It seems to me, the people of Niamey, weren’t trying to pretend they were anyone other than who they were.  They didn’t pretend to have it all together or seem to worry about what others thought.  Now granted I didn’t speak French so I may have missed something in the translation.

I thought about how I like a clean, neat home and I can accomplish that by putting (okay, stuffing) things in drawers or closets – places I hope others won’t see. 

Why do I need to look like I have it all together I wondered?  Am I afraid to let others see “me?”   
One of the things I learned in my last Beth Moore bible study in Niger was that I am who God says I am.  I know I am a sinner in need of God’s forgiveness and redemption.  God knows this about me too.  So I want to “give up” any illusions of being who I am not and be the person God created me to be. 

Anyone interested in helping me make my drawers and closets look perfect?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Oh My!

Sally and I have just subjected ourselves to a mind-blowing experience.  We left Niger after six months and returned home on March 10th.  Two weeks later we were at Disney World.  I don’t think anyone else in the world has been exposed to this degree of mental, physical, social, cultural, and theological change in such a short period.  The differences between Niamey, Niger and Disney World are like night and day, black and white, and hot and cold.  Let me explain:

Start out with colors.  Niamey is monochromatic – orange.  There are other colors but there is one dominant color.  You get used to it and your mind adjusts but you still see a lot of orange.  At Disney World there is no one dominate color, there are greens, and whites, and silvers, and if you look around, you can see every color that was found in Joseph’s colorful dream coat.  This added stimulus is hard for two old people to absorb.

Next is temperature.  It was in the upper 80’s at Disney but a cool breeze and shade in many places made it quite comfortable.  We had a days being outside without sweating.  Did I happen to mention that in Niamey it gets very hot?  Like 30 degrees hotter this time of year and then it cools down to the upper 80’s at night.  Can you imagine how hot that is? 

Trash.  In Niamey there is trash everywhere.  In Disney there is no trash, anywhere.  No black bags either.  What do people put things in?  They have people with brooms sweeping things up.  Neatness and cleanliness is a hallmark of Disney but it is not a big deal in Niger.  Grass and pavement is easier to keep neat than sand, dust, and plastic bags.  The contrast is stark.

Dress.  In Niamey they wear clothes.  The men wear long pants and a shirt and the women wear beautiful and colorful dresses.  (Actually, their dresses are the only color around.)  At Disney the sky’s the limit.  We went from Disney to Siesta Key for the next week and I have to say the people at Disney were at least clothed, the people at Siesta Key were as close to naked without being naked as you could get.  The people in Niamey would be offended by our dress… and for good reason.

Water.  There was water everywhere at Disney.  There were big fountains, lakes, streams, rides on water, and of course, drinking fountains all over.  In Niamey we had to take our water bottles with us at all times, seems you never know when you might want some water and you only get some if you brought it with you.  Dehydration is one of the greatest health worries we would encounter.

Flowers, grass, greenery.  Disney had flower arrangements everywhere you went.  At Epcot they had hills with flower displays and floating flower islands in the lake.  The only flowers in Niamey are bougainvilleas, and only if you water them every day, no grass, and only a few bushes, none of which were trimmed in the shape of animals or people.

Food.  There is every food imaginable at Disney and some that isn’t but in Niamey there is so little food and so few choices.  At Disney ou can eat every thing your heart desires and not worry about getting sick in Niamey you don’t eat street food unless you are looking for the fast acting Niamey Diet program.

Stuff.  There was so much “stuff” at Disney.  People had carts, cameras, everyone had a phone, food, toys they bought, and who know what all.  In Niger people aren’t into stuff.  They don’t have places to put stuff so they don’t acquire things, and that’s easier to do because there aren’t things to acquire.  Then they don’t throw things out either.  They repair, reuse, or find new uses for things.  Well, that’s not true of everything.  The black bags they just throw on the side of the road.
People.  If the size of people at Disney were classed the same as shirt sizes most would be an XL leaning toward an XXL if not XXXL.  In Niger they, most people, are small to medium.  Obesity is not a problem in Niger; almost everyone is thin.  They look good.  The people at Disney were not attractive; they were fat and acted fat.

Time.  In Niger we had time for everything, time for naps, time for prayer, and time for people.  At Disney we had to hurry from one place to another.  There just wasn’t enough time to do everything.  How sad we've let ourselves get into this mess.

Entertainment and pleasure.  Disney is the poster child for family entertainment and they try to give you a pleasurable experience in every way they can think of, and they do.  Disney is good.  There is very little entertainment in Niger and no signs of people seeking pleasure of any kind.  If you want to do something fun in Niger you have to make your own fun, no one is going to make it for you.  So the kids are playing soccer in the streets, men meet and talk long the side of the road, and women are often performing some chore while chatting with each other, enjoying each other.  Disney’s focus on entertainment and pleasurable experiences is not bad but it sure is different.  Our observation is the people in Niger were happier than those we saw at Disney.

God.  The Bible talks about it being harder for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God than it is for him to go through the eye of a/the needle.  Disney is the land of the rich man.  All the things, stuff, trappings, and activities we have in the United States keep us from God.  We have to be busy working to acquire and have all of the stuff, we have to keep busy to do all the fun things there are to do, and we have to keep busy to keep up with the Jones’.  The whole time we were at Disney we were too busy to do our devotions or to read Jesus Calling.  In Niamey we had plenty of time to do devotions, to reflect, to pray.  It wasn’t that we made time; we had time.  Then five times a day the Iman reminded us, that it was time to stop and pray.  There was no Iman at Disney.  It was easy to focus on God in Niger and if felt good to do so.  Here it is easy to focus on other things, and it doesn’t feel good.

It is going to be hard to keep God top of mind here in the USA.  We will have to work hard to make it happen.  Not just to make time for God but to have time for God.  In Niger it was just part of the day. 

A rich man does have trouble finding the Kingdom of God, maybe the poor man had a leg up on us.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

We Are Back

We are back.  We are very glad to be home.  We have missed Minnesota and all that goes with it but we are leaving a lot behind. 

On our last day in Niger, Sally led the prayer time and gave out invitations to everyone at the center (Muslims and Christians) and we had the biggest attendance ever - 28 people came.  They have never invited everyone (Muslim and Christian) to a Christian prayer time and we think they wondered how that would work but we think it was great.  Sally did a message based on Ecclesiastes 3, on “Time,” and ended thanking everyone by name with an individual message about how that person made our time in Niger so wonderful.  She did just a great job and they loved her. 

When Sally was done, they turned the tables on us, Ibrahim, the director, gave a speech about how disappointed he was, at first, that we didn’t know French and were so old.  He wondered what good could we do?  Then he said some real nice things about how we communicated without knowing the language and helped in so many ways.  We have felt so bad not being able to converse in the language so it was nice to know that we were able to relate without it.  All in all it was a better “finish” than we even dreamed of.  What verse is it that says God will give you even more than you hope for?  Well that was definitely our experience Friday.  We didn’t really accomplish anything specific but God blessed us with wonderful relationships and connections beyond language or age or things in common.  It has been a language of the heart and as we reflect on the day, our hearts are over flowing.

What we have experienced here is like the pictures we have tried to show of the traffic and road conditions in Niamey.  A picture just misses – you need to FEEL cars, motorbikes, donkey carts, and camels all coming right at you at the same time.  You need to feel the heat and the dust.  And most of all, you need to experience the people, their joy for living, and their contentment.  You can’t capture those feelings in a camera.

So we know that trying to put this experience into words for others to understand will - just miss!   
Our plane left at 2 am – flying to Casablanca where we had a 6 1/2-hour wait and then the long flight to JFK and finally arriving in Minneapolis – at 9pm on Saturday, March 10th.  Six months is a long time and yet at this moment he seems like it just flew past. 

Thank you for your interest, your concern, and your prayers for us and for our time Niger.  Whatever you did worked and we are so thankful for the support from all of you.  They had said at the beginning that home support was very important to the assignment and they were right only we came with for more support than most people come with and were blessed because of it.

Again, thank you!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

It’s a very small world

Let’s put Niamey in context.  It used to be that if you wanted to refer to a place that was “no where” or out in the boondocks you called it Timbuktu.  Well, Timbuktu is a more-worldly city than Niamey.  Niamey is an expensive, impossible place to get to.  There is no tourism in Niamey and it is not included on any Touck Tours, cruise lines stops, and all the information about it on Travelocity is 10 years old.  Niamey is not high on many American’s radar screen.  Yes, there are a few here but percentage-wise, the number in Niamey if far right of the decimal point.  That said, let me tell you three stories about how closely Niamey is connected to life in the US and Minnesota.

First, Sally and I have wandered up the road to the American Rec Center for dinner a few times.  I need the walk and she needs the chocolate milkshake.  We have also rented videos from them and as a result, have gotten to know Lindsey.  Lindsey runs the Rec center.  She was a former Peace Corp Volunteer in a village and has found a boy friend here so she is still in Niger. 

Lindsey, we find, is from Lincolnshire, Il.  In my conversant manner I happen to pass on that my brother and his wife live in Lincolnshire.  Why I volunteered this little tidbit I don’t know.  They live there but they are in an apartment complex, are not socially engaged there, are in town less than half the year, and there are over 6,000 people who live there with a few million more in the surrounding area.  Lindsey gives me an “Oh, that’s nice” response. 

A few days later Lindsey is talking to her uncle, who also happens to live in Lincolnshire, and because the conversation had to be getting a little slow mentions that she met a couple in Niamey who have a brother living in Lincolnshire named Manhard.  Turns out he not only knows them but he works for them.  He is a civil engineer and has worked for Manhard Consulting (my brother’s engineer firm) for 10 years.  The Manhard crowd gets around.

Second, when Sally and I were camping our way in Florida last year and found ourselves considering going to Niger, we were using Janet Hagberg’s Lenten series on Teresa of Avilla as a devotional.  (Janet is a friend at Colonial Church and we have had many points of contact with her through the ages, and if that sounds like a long time, it is.)  Her main point was that God is Enough and we ended up using that as our “theme” for this trip.  You might say, Janet’s series is to “blame” for our being here.

So we come to Niger and life goes on.  I preach at church one Sunday and use Bob Guelick’s Sermon on the Mount book as my main reference.  (Bob was teaching minister at Colonial Church, a good friend, and member of our Koininia Group.  He also wrote a book on the Sermon of the Mount while teaching at Fuller Seminary that is still used as a major reference today.)

This last Sunday, our last Sunday here, the sermon was on faith and the preacher used as his reference a book by Janet Hagberg and Bob Guelick (they co-authored a book on the Steps of Faith while Bob was at Colonial) He had slides of their material and refered to them and their book several times as really helpful to his faith journey.)  You might say that God used Janet to call us to Niamey and by having Janet at the end of this time feels like confirmation that even though we still aren’t sure why we are here, God is!!  So we began and ended our journey with Janet.  And in the space of 2 months, Bob Guelick’s name and his words have been on slides in this small English speaking church held in a school lunchroom in Niamey, Niger.  The Colonial crowd gets around.

Finally, this may show how little Sally and I know about missionary work, a while back we were working in the Center’s library here applying some of the things we learned in college, law school, and business school.  We were dusting, sweeping, restocking the books, and generally making the place more usable.  In the Christian book section there were a number of books (15+) by a guy named John Piper.  We had never heard of him.  One of the SIL people was in the room with us at the time so we commented about this author.  She was aghast.  You have never heard of John Piper and you are doing missionary work in Niger?  Where have you been?  John Piper is to missionary work and missionary theology what Rubik is to cubes.  Everyone one has read John Piper.  He was even given as much time in church as Bob Guelick. 

To make our lack of missionary education more apparent was the fact that John Piper is the minister of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis.  Surely we have heard him preach?  I mean, weren’t you on your Churches Outreach Committee?  The Sally and Elgin crowd are quite narrow in their thinking.

Three coincidences that remind us that home is not so far away.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Getting Closer To God

I’ve often thought about how I would summarize what we have experienced on this adventure.  The time here has been so stimulating that narrowing it down to one thing gets you thinking.  Something I've always wanted to do but didn't know how to even get started.  Well I've learned a thing or two here about the subject.

So hold on to your chairs, but I have had a breakthrough in learning that allows me to say with certainty that... “The way to get close to God is to get closer to God.” 

I have often heard the phrase that God wants all of me not just part of me.  We have been reading “Jesus Calling” each day and she pretty much says the same thing, i.e., live in His presence.  Take Him with you. 

Nice concepts but I have always struggled with the “what do I go do?”  What does it mean for me to really follow, to really obey, to put my trust in God, to not follow the ways of the world but to go God’s way, to be in peace with Him, etc.  Does it mean to become a monk?  Does it mean to sell all I have and move to Niamey?  Does it mean no more chocolate?  What does it mean to “really” give your self to God?

I've come to know it means more than just my asking Him into my heart.  This is a crucial first step but it is only a step.  There’s more than going to Church to sing my heart out, hear something I will forget to apply tomorrow, and feel good inside.  I’ve been there Sunday after Sunday and it just doesn’t fill the bill of turning my life over to Christ.  My heart yes, but not my life.  It’s a necessary, essential part to be sure, but it doesn’t satisfy the idea of making God the active center of your life.  There is too much life outside of church for that to be “all there is.”

I think it means more than a personal retreat where you "get in touch with God."  As good as these times are they don’t last.  Mountain top experiences, like going to a Young Life Camp, are the best but as we always said, “You have to come back down at some point.”  The retreats and camps are experiences, great experiences, but they aren’t letting God run your day to day life.

God has given Sally and me a gift.  He has put us in a place, under totally unusual circumstances, given us time to reflect, and shown us a brief glimpse of what it means to be God’s.  Don’t get me wrong, I said glimpse.  I don't have any where near the whole picture but we have learned things here.  Let us try to share them with you.

So, what do you do if you want to get closer to God?
1.     Be in a place where you are with God.  That certainly doesn’t have to be Africa, it could even be a place of hurt and sorrow, but it does have to be a place where you take God with you.  It can be anywhere.  You can’t get closer to God if God isn’t with you.  No matter where you go, make it a habit of bring Him along… literally... everywhere.

Our coming to Niger was a totally different experience for us, not because we were in a foreign place but because we believed God brought us to Niger.  We were here on His agenda not ours.  That fact changed the whole picture.  Each day we wondered, what does God want us to do today?  We could ask that question because we didn’t know what we were going to do.  What we did was up to God, not us.  And did He deliver.  He has taken us to places we never dreamed of going.  At home we often find that our activities are so programmed that God has to get on our schedule. 

I pray that God will give us the freedom to do what He wants us to do when we get home, not what we want to do.  And I ask Him to help us consciously make a habit out of bringing Him with us 24 hours a day, everyday. 

2.   Be in a place where the circumstances are fresh and stimulating.  Actually the circumstances don’t need to be so different it is the way you look at them that needs to be fresh.  I don’t think God can act very well when we are in our rote ruts.  When everything is familiar, comfortable, and expected then it seems God is too. 

Things are so different here.  Our antennas are buzzing.  We are bombarded with the weird, odd, and unfamiliar.  We can’t speak the language, we don’t know the customs, and we aren’t in control.  Since we can’t do things ourselves, we have to look to God.  This is a great position to be in.  As I think about coming home I don't want to fall into my old thought patterns.  I want to look at everything in a new way and to do that each day.  

I pray that when we get home God will help us see situations, every situation for that matter, in new ways.  Help us to see people, parties, shopping, everything with fresh eyes.  Maybe even from God’s eyes.  Get us out of our mental ruts God.  Give us new eyes.  Train us to use our brains to see, think, and react with God’s view of the world.

3.   Be in an stimulating place where you have time to reflect.  Before you move on to the next thing, where was God in the last thing?  If He was with you then where was He?  What did He do?  If you don’t reflect, maybe He wasn’t there, but you know He was there because you brought Him.  So find Him.

Our unusual place here has had us constantly asking why are we here, what were we doing here, and what are we going to do next?  Trying to get answers to these questions kept bringing us back to God.  Reflecting on your life, looking for God, and expecting Him to take you in new directions is fun.  Taking time to reflect is not a burden: it is life in the fullest.  It is God’s way of drawing us closer to Him. 

Lord, stay in charge.  Let me see you at work in our lives.  Let us not get so busy, so ingrained in everyday life, and so in control that we can’t see You.  Make finding time to reflect a top priority for us because it gives us life.

4.   Be in an unusual place where you have time to reflect so that God can teach you.  God can’t teach you or be with you if you aren’t in a place where you are listening.  There are some places, some people, and doing some things that just keep God silent, out of the picture.  Don’t go there.  Don’t go to places of the world; go to the places of God.  This doesn’t mean churchy stuff, but it does mean going places that you know are places God would have you go.

Our life here has been so God centered.  We each have Bible study every week, Sally goes twice most weeks, we have prayer time every weekday with the staff at SIL, we listen to sermons Sunday morning and go to church Sunday night, we read Jesus Calling every morning and spend hours of each day reflecting on how God acted in our day.  We have had a Day of Prayer, a morning of prayer, and have prayed for safe travels for everyone who has arrived or left the Center.  We live at a Bible translation center so everyone is “into” the Bible in some way or another.  And then most important, we are among people who have given their lives in service to God.  We live with their faith, their commitment, and their ability to find God’s grace in all of life.  If they didn’t have it, they couldn’t possibly live here.  All this helps us build a habit of being with God.  All this churchy stuff doesn't mean that God isn't teaching us when we are out in everyday life too.  But living with it for 6 months has really helped keep Him foremost in our minds. 

I pray that we will not fall back into the ruts that keep us away from things that help us get close to God.  Keep us in prayer, in the Word, and with others who are seeking Him as well.  I know God wants us out in the world and I know He gets to pick the places we go and He gets to go with us but He also gets to prepare us before we go too.

      Getting closer to God is simply, and I use the word simply on purpose, building the habit of getting closer to God.  Being intentional.  The magic is in the working on it, not in the achieving it.  Getting closer to God isn’t one big decision.  It isn't a second conversion or a transformation.  It is the formation of new habits and new thoughts.  Working on it day to day is worth it because you know there is more to life than what the world has to offer. 

The way to get close to God is to get closer to God.  OK, maybe we don't know how to get closer to God but it sure seems like we've got some things to work on that we didn't have before.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


It’s Almost Coming Home Time
I’ve been thinking a lot about “time” as it was about this “time” a year ago that we received an email from Wycliffe Associates about the possibility of coming to Africa for six months.  I have to say that at that “time” being gone for six months, gone from home, seemed like a very “long time” to us.  And now here we are – almost time to go home.  Has it really been six months?

This opportunity to come to Niamey, Niger, also seemed like a “window of time” for us.  We are, we thought, too old for doing this - but if not now, when?  We would say the “time seemed right.” 

We all receive the same amount of time in that 24 hours is 24 hours whether you are in the United States or whether you are in Africa.  Time is funny though.  There are times when time moves really slowly – like if you need boiling water right this minute, it seems to take such a long time for it to boil.  Sometimes time seems to stop, like when there is a crisis or bad news.  Time seems to fly when you are having a good time and you say, “where did the time go?”  We have certainly had times when time moved very slowly but now as we get close to going home it feels like – Where did the time go?  And we are praying all our planes are “on time!”

It is said that time can heal.  Taking time to rest is good when you are sick or have bad knees, like Elgin has right now.  For him it is time for a shot in his knees.  And the truth is time isn’t the healer – it may take time to heal but time doesn’t heal.  

We talk about how we spend time.  How much time do we have?  Or how much time will it take?  What time do you need to . . . go to the store or any number of other things?  Sometimes we ask, is this a good time for . . .?  Other expressions of time - now is the time - the time is coming -time marches on.

There is also Africa time and Minnesota time.  I can say for sure that time seems different in Niger than it does in Minnesota.  Time moves more slowly in Niger (see Elgin’s blog on waiting.)  The pace here is slow, much slower than the pace at home.  Actually I like “time” here and am wondering how I will adjust to the faster pace – where every minute needs to count for something – when I get home. 

Sometimes we experience that it is “time for change.” 

The Bible refers to time in many ways.  Creation is described in segments of time (days).  Events occur in time and even a person’s age gives things context.  And as Ecclesiastics says:  “There is a time for all things under heaven.” 

I guess this was our time to come to Africa.  We are grateful we were given this time and grateful that it is time to come home.

So thinking about our time here and time at home I have tried my own rendition of the Ecclesiastics passage.
There is a time for hellos and a time for good byes.
There is a time for bon jour and a time for au revoir
There is a time for French and a time for English.
There is a time for Africa and a time for Minnesota.
There is a time for new friends and a time for old friends.
There is a time for Nescafe and a time for Starbucks.
There is a time for sandals and time for boots.
There is a time for sand and a time for snow.
There is a time for hot and a time for cold.
There is time for a slower pace and a time for a faster pace.
There is a time for sand roads and a time for interstates.
There is a time for Merci and time for thank you.

But there is always time to say thank you God for this “incredible time.”

Monday, February 27, 2012

Tea Time

Tea time is big in Niamey.  Every workday at the center, morning and evening we see men gathering for tea.  Why just the men I am not sure but on the center it is definitely a men’s activity.  

The "Men's" tea time.  The black plastic bag is required.
Well on Friday, Mary took me to a home of a West African, for tea.  I guess we could call it a ladies tea.  We took Mary’s house help, Dalia, with us because the lady doesn’t speak French or Hausa or Zarma.  She speaks Fulani and we needed Dalia, who does, to translate for us.  Also I will be referring to her as the lady as I don’t know her name.  She is Ali Musair’s wife.  That is how she was introduced to me.  Mary who has known her for several years does not know her name either.  Guess that is just the way it is. 

This was not a tea party of china cups, silver tea service, cloth napkins, silver spoons, and scones.  This was an authentic West African tea party and what you get is green chai tea.  Actually Mary brought the tea that Dalia had purchased for this occasion in the local march.

The tea party was held in the lady’s home.  The lady is Tuareg; that means she belongs to a nomadic people group of West Africa.  Evidences of the Tuaregs are all over Niamey.  They produce the nicest leather and silver items that expats like me like to purchase.  Actually their craft/art work is hung in many homes, restaurants, and office buildings like the dentist office I frequented.   
Ali Musair brought his family to Niamey from Mali several years ago after a severe drought drove them to move to the city.  The lady explained that while she wants to preserve her culture she is actually happy to be living in the city and not on the move all the time and not so much at the mercy of the water supply for their subsistence.  Living in the city is easier she said and their children can go to school. 
Looking at pictures of themselves on the iPad
We may have been in Niamey but you would not have known it.  The family home is in a walled compound like all of Niamey only on the inside of their walls were three or four woven dome shaped straw homes with no electricity and no running water all built on the orange sand that is everywhere here.  This family purchases water sold in big plastic containers.  The lady goes to the marche a couple of times each day getting just enough food for a meal as there is no place to keep unused food. 

We removed our shoes when entering the home (even though the floor inside is the same orange sand.)  We sat on woven mats on the floor; as there are no chairs or tables.  We were wearing our pagnes (African cloth clothing/dress.) 

The lady made tea in a small metal teapot that she placed on a bed of charcoal held by a little wire “grill.”   She placed the tealeaves directly in the water.  Making tea this way took much longer than my heating a cup of water in the microwave. 

After a long while she began pouring the tea into small juice like glasses (a little bigger but not much bigger than a shot glass) and then she would pour it back into the teapot.  She did this several times.  And she would pour the tea by holding the tea pot shoulder height into these tiny glasses – I would have had tea everywhere but the glasses.  I was told the Tuaregs have pouring tea contests – like pouring from the back of a camel into these tiny cups!!  
Pouring tea.
We were given a first cup with lots of sugar.  The first cup is quite strong but I managed to drink it.  When we finished she rinsed the glasses in a tub of water and redid the whole procedure until we were finally given a 2nd cup which actually tasted better as it was not quite as strong but still had plenty of sugar.  

I was told that this tea is quite addictive but that the adults all drink this tea at least once every day.  I guess that is much like my coffee drinking habits.
The two children of the family were also there.  They were so adorable and so well behaved.  They were like most African children that we have been around - quiet and in the background.  They do not interrupt or whine or cry or fight or ask for tea or ask for anything.  Amazing! 
Anyway, I felt privileged to have shared tea with these ladies and to experience the living space of this family. 
Mary and my new friends
African hospitality is so warm and welcoming.  This lady for example was completely present to the moment – as if she had nothing more important to do than spend a whole morning having tea with us.  It was a special morning to be sure.