We are Tim and Janice Phillips. We are Partnering with parents by caring for their children while they are at school. This is where we will update you about our life in Niger, West Africa and the children in our care.
A week ago, a Saturday, we were all going through our normal routines around town. The Seniors were on a campout outside of town and the rest of us were just hanging around campus, playing, reading, sleeping or whatever we were all doing. Around 11 am, we were notified that some things were going on in town. I thought, this is Niger, it will pass in 30 minutes. This time of year, the university students march around town in protest to the government. So naturally, I thought it was finished.
Then, the first report of the oldest baptist church in town was burnt. I thought, oh, oh, this isn't normal. The protesters have often thrown rocks, burned tires, and caused some mayhem, but they have never burned buildings of the government and especially not churches. But, today was different. As we sat safe in our compound and the military police began to assemble all up and down our road, we heard church after church was either burned or looted. Around 55 churches in all plus several French owned bars, schools, were destroyed. Most of the contents were burned inside each church and school. Fortunately, few people were killed since they did this on a Saturday. However, at least 5 people (identified as terrorists, not Chr*st**ns) were trapped inside these churches throughout the city and were killed.
The pictures you see on this post are pictures taken by myself or others in some different churches. Many have asked why did this happen? Well, I am not sure. Since we live in a predominantly M*sl*m country, and people criticize them, even from a continent away, they respond in kind. Yes, this was a bit extreme, but it happened. Since last Saturday things have been calm. But, there are still threats and rumors that target people like us and the Chr*st**ns living in this country.
There have been several cool stories emerge from all this. First, our seniors coming home from a camping trip had one of their vehicles break down. If they were not delayed, they would have driven right into the "mob". Since they were delayed, they were able to get to another m*ss**n*ary's house and hunker down until it was safe to come back to campus. While they were waiting, they heard the looters come down their street to the church around the corner and heard the cries as they burned that church. Needless to say, they had a lot of time on their knees in prayer. Their faith became very real all of a sudden.
Secondly, the believers here seemed to almost be rejoicing in this suffering because it has made their faith stronger, and more resolved to furthur the k*ngd*m. Thirdly, the church pictured below was not burned because of one lady who stood her ground and forbade them to burn it. They could not get the door opened so they bashed the wall around the door to get in. They wanted to burn the church and the house behind it, but this lady stood up at the door and said that they cannot burn it. If they wanted to pull everything out and burn it, but not inside the church. When they pressed on, she told them that they would have to kill her first. They backed down at that point and pulled everything outside and burned it. The church lost everything but the building. The pastor's home was also spared.
Some of these pictures that are shown taken by a colleague here show a cross in the ashes and a piece of the B*bl* that did not burn. Just a reminder that that we are protected by the ultimate protector and that the church can be burned, but not destroyed. I pray for Niger that people will come to know G*d through this suffering. Persecution became a very real thing here for all Chr*st**ns here. Many people are counting this a privelege to go through this. They are counting it as Paul did who counted suffering for Chr*st a good thing. I see it as privilege to watch G*d work the way only He can. We got a front row seat watching all this happen! I wish you all could have watched this, but since you can't, I hope these pictures will help you understand better.
We are so thankful to the thousands of you all over the world who formed prayer chains and held special meetings just to pray for Niger. I know it was those prayers that gave us hope and G*d answered in mighty ways. G*d is good....all the time.