Life Among the Songhai in Niger

Songhai women and children

George and Megan Lane* serve as church planters among the Songhai [song-GAHY] people in Niger. Around 99% of the Songhai are Muslims. While this creates a barrier to the gospel, the Lanes have discovered that the Songhai people are very welcoming and will sit and listen to their stories of Jesus. Because most people in this culture do not read, the Lanes use storying to share the gospel.

The Lanes are church planters, so they share the gospel with anyone willing to listen, including children. They say that the children are grateful for hearing God’s Word. Singing songs, playing games, and coloring are all special treats among the Songhai children because they love to learn, and they don’t have coloring books or crayons at their homes.

The Lanes’ experience in Niger is that while ministering and living among the Songhai is challenging, the Songhais’ hospitable culture opens doors to sharing God’s love.
 

Ministering to the Songhai

Because Niger is an extremely poor country, the people have many physical needs. Food is often scarce, and medicine and health care are restricted. People often die from easily treatable diseases due to lack of medicine or an inability to pay for the medicine. The Lanes have helped by sharing food and providing clinics with medication for malaria.

The Lanes report that while the physical needs are great, the spiritual needs are greater. They have to keep in mind that their main objective is to preach the gospel. Mr. Lane says, “Instead of giving them food that will not last, we bring them the Bread of Life. And instead of giving them clean water that will not last, we bring them the Living Water!”
 

Living with the Songhai

The Lanes share that it is exciting but challenging to live in a different culture. Learning the language and nuances of the culture can be difficult. They experience physical exhaustion due to traveling and ministering in the extreme heat. Another challenge is the rejection that they face. Discouragement occurs as it often takes years to see the fruit of their ministry. When they face discouragement, the Lanes pray that God will help them remember the reason they are there and that He will help them see the lostness of the people. To combat spiritual fatigue, the Lanes stay in the Word. Mr. Lane testifies that, “Our daily time with God strengthens us like nothing else can and we need to be spending time with Him consistently so that we can make Him known to those around us.”
 

The Culture of the Songhai

The Songhai culture is extremely hospitable. While their nation is one of the poorest in the world, the Songhai care for one another so well that no one is homeless. The Songhai share all of their resources. They are willing to drop everything they have planned to welcome visitors, even when the visitors are unannounced. Visitors are always invited to sit and eat. People greet one another with 3 to 5 greetings, “How is your health? How are the children? How is your work? How is your home?” Mr. Lane talks about how even the children learn hospitality at a very early age: “It surprised me that even the children already have this sense of sharing and hospitality learned, and they practice it. If I give a cookie to one child, instead of just keeping it and eating it all by himself, he will take it home or take it to his friends and share with them. They will gather around it and the child I gave it to will break off little pieces to give to the other kids (there may be 10 kids sharing one cookie).”
 

A New Songhai Believer

The Lanes are encouraged when they see even one of the Songhai turning toward Jesus. They tell of a young believer who is only 14 years old.

“A” has only been saved a few years, but he is growing rapidly in his faith. He shares the gospel with some of his friends even though they don’t accept it and mock him some for it. He does not have electricity at his home, so when it gets dark there isn’t really anything he can do. But he has the New Testament on an audio device so he listens to that from nightfall until he goes to sleep.

He knows the Bible very well! He can quote from memory many parts of the Bible. Since he doesn’t have the Old Testament on audio (and he can’t read very well yet) Megan has been teaching him the book of Exodus. After teaching about Moses and the burning bush and how the voice from the bush said “I AM”, Megan flipped over to John 8 when Jesus says that he is the ‘I AM’. As Megan was reading in Zarma, “A” was pretty much quoting the whole chapter from memory.
 

As you teach Mission Friends® about the ministry of the Lanes this month, take time yourself to pray for them. Pray for their health. Pray that the Lord will continue to increase their strength and their understanding of the Songhai culture and the Zarma language. Pray that they will see the fruit of their ministry and be encouraged.

“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:16–20, ESV1).

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1Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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