If I had to choose a favorite colour, it would be green. But, in truth, I am not a monochromatic person. I like colours. I like combinations of colours. I like a riot of colours. My favorite combination of colours is green and yellow. If you know me, you know I like to wear colours. (After all, the most colourful birds are usually the males of the species.) I also like polychromatic paintings and dislike dark, monochromatic canvases. My favorite era of painting is the Impressionists, where artists explored the play of light and shadow on colourful scenes. My favorite season is the fall, where the colours bleed all over each other in wild profusion, especially in the northeast US and eastern Canada. It is my favorite season, the one I miss the most in Niger even though it is the prelude to winter, my least favorite season. I love beautiful, colourful scenery. I also like colourful people and vibrant personalities.

After living for the past 22 years in a country where everything is usually a drab, monochromatic grayish-orange, I appreciate beautiful places and lots of colour. Sometimes when we arrive back in the US in the summer after four long years in Niger, the green grass and heavily-forested hills hurt our eyes. It is definitely a sight for sore eyes. We have been seared by the hot sun and the glare of the Saharan landscape, and our eyes have grown dim. The green of the US, by contrast, is blinding. We haven't seen anything so lush and green in a long while. Huge lawns and sweeping golf courses stretch to the horizon. Hills are covered with trees in full leaf. Everywhere you look, there are flowers or trees or rivers or hills. I try to keep my eyes open while we are in the US, looking for gorgeous scenes to file in my memory for a time in Niger when everything seems drab, colourless, discouraging, and lifeless.

God has created so much variety in this world, and every place and every country has its beauty. In Niger, the beauty is more veiled, but if you watch out for it, you will find it. It might be a brilliantly-coloured bird. Or it will be a dazzling sunset. Or maybe a flower with a particularly bright hue. Just when I think I can't stand the monochromatic, drab landscape any more, God surprises me with a disply of His splendor, like the sunset we saw on our way home to Tera around Christmas, 2004 (see photo). His reminders are everywhere, and in a country where beauty is not so obvious, it gives you more appreciation for what is beautiful and colourful.

Ironically, people in Niger don't see colours the way we do in America. In the Songhai language, there are only six words for colours, and three of them have been borrowed from French. For instance, they don't distinguish between orange, red, and pink. Flowers are meaningless if they don't serve some utilitarian purpose like food or some necessity of life. People are so preoccupied trying to find the basic necessities of life, they don't have time for aesthetic pursuits. Dirt and garbage are everywhere, and life is drab and colourless for most people.

I want to be a colourful person, always enjoying God's creation and the colours He has put in this world. I want to appreciate beauty, and I'm glad we have many words for colours in English. For my American friends, you've probably noticed I've used the English spelling for the word "colour." I hope you aren't offended by that. They invented the language. It certainly adds colour to our language when we disagree over the spelling of some words. I like to do things differently sometimes. It's part of the colour God has placed within me. Aren't you glad for all the colour in the world?



Change is an unavaoidable part of life, so they say. But it seems like I have been experiencing more than the usual amount of rapid and dramatic change lately. I feel like the world is spinning so fast, I'll fly off if I don't hold tight. Who could have seen these changes coming just four or five years ago?

The mission organization of which I'm a part, SIM, is in the process of changing dramatically. Our old pooling system of support changed to a new, more individualized system on January 1st of this year. After 21 years of dealing with finances the same way, we have to get used to new methods and new ideas. We have several new financial accounts. We have support agreements. We are using a new medical insurer. Taxes will be handled differently. We are responsible for our housing costs and have to arrange all our travel and visa costs. Support levels are much more flexible.

Our financial support base is also changing. In the past two years, we've lost a lot of support, including three key churches. Individuals have picked up the slack, but we are down to just over one-quarter of our support coming from churches. So our support base has become more individual and has spread out geographically. And of the eight churches that still support us, many of them have changed pastors in the past three years, and some have had big changes in membership.

Not only is our financial system and base changing, but the mission is changing in dramatic ways. New leadership has begun to steer the organization on a slightly different course. We want to be able to send missionaries from anywhere to anywhere. This parallels the worldwide trend of missionaries coming more and more from non-western countries. We want to be more flexible and stream-lined. Any organization that is more than 100 years old can easily become lifeless or petrified unless it changes. We also want to focus on key priorities and be less scattered in our focus. Our field office has a brand new administrative structure which is regionally-based and responds more to the needs of the churches.

My life is changing dramatically in personal ways as well. My son will be entering his senior year of high school this fall, and in 2007, we'll launch him off to college (he's still in the process of deciding which one). May daughter will finish high school in 2009. We are returning to Africa inless than three months, and for thosewho know what it's like to move cross-culturally, that is a huge change even when you've done it before. My close-knit family is changing as well, nephews and nieces moving on with their lives, a brother living in Oklahoma (we've been in the US nine months and still haven't seen him or his family), and parents and in-laws aging and experiencing more health problems.

Then the world outside is changing rapidly. Technology is moving so fast, who can keep up with it ? You need to be at it 24/7/365 to understand it. Even doing this blog is a bit frightening for someone who likes to master something before he does it. I don't feel like I understand it as well as I would like. Will I get anonymous and/or critical comments? Air travel is becoming more and more complicated with all the threats. We are more aware of global realities, and yet I think we understand them less. The USA is experiencing a religious shift, one that has huge implications for the church. Our faith is being challenged like never before by neo-Gnostics ("The Da Vinci Code," "The Gospel of Judas"), homosexual activitis, post-modern "toerance," and different worldviews such as those found in Islam or Hinduism.

We are also contemplating changes in our work, changes that will likely remove us from the place where we are currently working and transport us in a few years to another ministry worlds away. I am considering going for a doctorate. And I'm in the process of doing things I've never done before: writing articles for publication, doing radio interviews,

Change can be a good thing, but too much at once can leave us unstable, groundless, and fearful. Where do I go? What is right and true? Is there anything I can stand on that is not moving? Stop the world! I'm getting dizzy. In a world of change and decay, there remains one constant, one steady Rock that I can rely on, and to it I hold tight: Jesus Christ. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I'll conclude with a poem I wrote years ago that always encourages me to keep on in the fight and not let go when the world is spinning. I entitled it "Emmanuel."

He walks before me
To guide me in the right way.
He walks beside me
To guard me lest I stray.
He walks behind me
To goad me into the fray.

His presence is my peace.