I spent this evening out under the stars looking at life through a different lens. And I don't even know where to begin to describe to you what I saw. Tonight was the beginning of the food distribution amongst the flood refugees who have lost their homes. People who have lost everything and have no place to live but in a local school. With no real solution past today to their situation.
"This is life in Niger. This is what they know, it's not new to them."
To show their ID to random people and have their name written in a notebook
To then be given some form of proof that they have been counted that can be redeemed at a later time
To wait... was it all for nothing?
To wait for hours listening for their name to be called
To watch the soldiers keep the peace as the distribution of goods takes place
To receive a sack of rice or other goods to be taken to their family
To know no hope
I wrote earlier that over 4000 families were living in the schools near where I am staying. But these are not just 4176 families that were counted. These are people, with stories, hardships and dreams. These people are not just a number or a statistic, they are individuals exactly the same as you and me. They each have a name. But even more than me now knowing their names (Moussa, Ibrahim, Mohamed, Haoua, Ramatou, Issoufou....) Jesus knows each of their names. He knows even the number of hairs on each of their heads. He loves them - exactly as much as He loves you and me. And He desires a relationship with them. How quickly we forget that just because we may not share a language or we don't know the cashier at walmart, that they are less loved or important to Christ?
As I looked out over the crowd tonight, I couldn't help but wonder - who has ever been presented with the gospel or ever even heard the name of Jesus? How can we share that with them? "Be my hands and feet" Christ says. The local Nigerien believers did just that tonight. They have put in the long hours above their normal lives and jobs to follow through with each step of this project. Joyfully sacrificing for their neighbors who are now without.
There are so many things here in Niger that I could never begin to put into words. My thoughts even are so jumbled as I write this. But I do know that we serve a loving and just God. Regardless of our opinion of Him or what seems just/unjust to us, He remains the same. His character is never changing. I know that I will never understand why good things and catastrophes come and go as they do - but I am comforted and at peace because I know that the Father of all creation, who put the stars in their place and named each one, knows my name, knows your name, knows their names. And He will always stay the same. His Word is sure and perfect and His promises will always hold true.
Go step outside and look up at the stars tonight. The same stars that I and these refugees are under, remember the sovereignty and love of our God, and stand in awe of Him.
His love endures forever.
May our work be by faith, our labor motivated by love, and our endurance inspired by hope in Christ.