The MP partnership in Niger began with a shipment of clothing, shoes and bicycles from the Burlington, KY, First Church of Christ in October of 2006. After sending two more shipments in 2007, Roger planned a visit to Niger in March, 2008, along with his 17-year old daughter, Joy, a junior in high school. On the middle Wednesday of the trip, Kwame Yeboah-Mantey, Director of Niger Christian Mission (now called First Church Impact Mission), informed us that we would take a 70-mile trek to Donumoro, a remote tribal village. Leaders from the mission had been traveling there each week to share their lives and the Gospel since 2005. Joy and I would be privileged to be the first foreign missionaries to share the Gospel in Donumoro. We prayed and headed north out of Niamey, the capital city, at 6:45. In the states, a 70-mile journey may take a little over an hour.
At 10:00 a.m., our driver in the rented SUV was going a bit too fast considering road conditions (maybe 25 MPH) and we hit a gigantic pothole. The impact blew the rear left tire off the axle and sheared off the bolts. We slid safely through the sand into a thorn bush, and Roger looked at Joy and said, “Let’s put on our hats and sunscreen and seewhat God has in store for us today!” As soon as we got out of the car, we saw about 40 shepherd boys, ages of about 5 – 17, hurriedly coming over to see why a motorized vehicle was in this region where camels and donkeys represented the normal mode of transportation. The breakdown had divinely occurred within 150 feet of the area well. We decided to hold an impromptu Vacation Bible School.
The first hour was “craft time” where we took photos of the boys. The young men were enthralled as Joy snapped digital photo after photo and showed the images to the boys while I took Polaroid group photos. They had not seen photographs before so this was very exciting. The second hour was recreation time as we pumped up two rubber balls with smiley faces and played soccer and taught the boys to spin a ball on their finger. While the drivers were still trying to repair the vehicle, hour three became teaching time. With the help of our interpreter, we took the boys under a shade tree to share the Gospel. Roger took them from Genesis to John, from creation to the arrival, death, burial and resurrection of Christ. At the end of the hour, he asked a simple question, “Have any of you boys ever heard about Jesus?” They returned a blank look which indicated “No”. With gratitude to God for allowing a divine interruption to the day, we boarded the car at 1:00 and headed the last few miles to Donumoro.
The entire tribe was waiting patiently, dressed in their absolute best. The men sat in the middle of the large shade tree in the center of the village with the women gathered on one side and the children on the other. They all listened intently as Roger sat in their midst and taught for an hour about “The Power of God’s Love”. After the teaching time, we went to each hut to hand out a personal care packet with lotions, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc. (and counseled them to use toothpaste on the brush and not lotion) and take a Polaroid photo that we dressed up with a Bible verse and left for each family. As afternoon was winding down and believing it had been a glorious day, we said good bye to the chief. His reaction caught us by surprise when he pointed his finger at Roger and declared, “You talk about the power of God’s love. Allah does not love us; your God does not love us: four of our children died over the winter because of starvation! We need maize and millet.” The normally boisterous and talkative Roger wanted to go to the nearest hut and cry. But, he simply said, let’s pray! A simple prayer was offered in faith as Roger lifted his hand to heaven and cried out: “God, in the power of Jesus’ name, provide corn for these people!” Roger and Joy made the return trip to Niamey in the 107-degree heat and vehicle without air conditioning, not thinking about personal discomfort but about helping to alleviate suffering and poverty in Niger.
They returned home in early April with the memories of D-Day (Donumoro Day) permanently etched in their minds. Four days after arrival, MP held our staff meeting at Roger’s home (we only had home offices at that time). Operations Director, Jim Smelser, informed Roger that we had problems. The container shipment for Zimbabwe that had been approved by their government and provided by IDES and Bryantsville Hunger Relief was sitting at the port in Durban, South Africa, and ready to be destroyed. The Zimbabwe government would no longer allow the cargo to enter. Jim asked if I knew anyone in Africa that was able to receive 44,000 pounds of corn! Still emotional from the recent trip, Roger yelled out, ‘Yes, Yes, Yes I do!’ The entire staff then heard about the saga in Donumoro! We immediately decided to see if we could get through to Kwame Yeboah-Mantey, NCM Director in Niger, via a cell phone connection. Kwame answered and Roger asked, “Do you remember what we prayed for in Donumoro ten days ago?” Kwame replied, “Of course, we prayed for corn, and we are waiting for God to provide!” Roger offered a follow up question. “Are you able to receive a shipment with 44,000 pounds of corn?” The immediate and heartfelt reply of “Hallelujah!” obviously meant “YES!” We are rejoiced and praised God together for His amazing provision.
Arrangements were made that day to transfer the corn from Durban to the port nearest Niamey. The shipment of corn arrived; a large distribution was made to Donumoro and other needy villages. Orphanages in Niger also received this much-needed food source. And, best of all, the first four men in Donumoro converted to Christianity that summer as the result of a corn miracle. God meets physical and spiritual needs – all praise to Him!