Brittany Breedlove is the program development officer in the Samaritan’s Purse Niger office.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4, ESV).
Lately God has been teaching me a lot about finding joy in Him rather than in my circumstances. He taught me a lesson on this difficult principal last week when I was visiting beneficiaries from the Samaritan’s Purse emergency flood response in Madaoua, Niger.
Although Niger is located in the Sahel Region of West Africa and has a dry, arid climate, flooding is not an uncommon problem. It typically only rains during three or four months of the year in Niger, but during those months, it rains hard and often causes flooding.
Due to torrential rains on August 21-22 last year, many communities throughout the Department of Madaoua experienced devastating flooding. Homes, farms, food supplies, livestock, and even lives were destroyed.
“All of our houses are built out of mud, and the problem is that the mud that we used is not very strong,” said Nassirou, whose family was affected by the flooding. “When the rains came and didn’t stop, our houses crumbled.”
A total of 193 households (1,894 individuals) were identified as flood victims. Families whose homes were destroyed were living in empty classrooms at local schools with other members of the community, or in temporary shelters. They were in desperate need of basic necessities and household items that were ruined in the flooding.
Samaritan’s Purse responded to the immediate needs of these victims by distributing kits of non-food items and food. We distributed mosquito nets, blankets, mats, Aquatab tablets for purifying water (plus brochures illustrating proper usage), soap, 10-liter jerry cans, 20-liter buckets, and large tarps. Additionally, Samaritan’s Purse provided each family with a sack of rice.
Beneficiaries were able to use the tarps to build temporary shelters and protect them from further rain. The mosquito nets helped protect the families, and specifically young children, from malaria during its peak season. Soap, buckets, jerry cans, and Aquatab tablets allowed the families to improve their hygiene in the midst of stagnant flood waters. Samaritan’s Purse taught them how to properly use the tablets to treat their drinking water to decrease and prevent diarrheal diseases.
Fatima is a mother of five whose house was destroyed in the flooding. She is very thankful for all of the materials and aid that she received; however, she said that the most important impact the project has had for her family is that it has helped improve her children’s health.
“My children used to have worms in their stomachs, and I would always see the worms in their stools,” she said. “Since we have started using Aquatab to treat our drinking water, I have stopped seeing the worms and my children have gotten better.”
Patience and Perseverance
Although the project brought much-needed physical relief and change to these 193 families, the thing that struck me the most was the flood victims’ outstanding attitudes and unwavering patience and perseverance.
Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world, and these rural populations didn’t have much to begin with. When their houses and possessions were destroyed in the flooding, they literally lost all that they had; some even lost their loved ones. To further compound the problem, the flooding hit at the worst possible time of the year: the hungry season. This is the time of the year when families have exhausted all of their food stocks and are just trying to make it by on whatever they can before the next harvest.
Yet, despite all of these setbacks, the families still carried on with smiles on their faces. When asked about the horrible events that had recently occurred, the common response is that patience is the only solution to the current problems.
Communities and neighbors rallied together to take in the flood victims. Nassirou and the seven members of his household were welcomed into their neighbor’s home to sleep and invited to borrow anything that they needed.
They did not allow this incident to send them into depression or cause them to lose hope. They refused to let these unfortunate circumstances take away their joy. They took this tragedy in stride and accepted it as a simple fact of life.
This made me really stop and think. If they can maintain their joy and persevere through a tragedy far worse than anything I have ever experienced, why can’t I? The silly things that often put me in a bad mood are nothing compared to what these families have gone through.
Through these beneficiaries, God has taught me to take one day at a time and to try to find joy in the small, simple things of life. I can rest assured knowing that even through the hard times and trials my Lord is in control and has a plan for my life. Knowing that I have a Savior who loves me and died for me is more than enough to fill me with joy each day.