EERN Church Outreach to New Areas: Rickshaw Taxis - January 2017 Update

Niger

Dear friends and partners,

As I was driving on the main road out of our city through the scrub-filled desert toward the Bible school where I would teach that morning, I was surprised to catch a glimpse of a small yellow three-wheeled taxi driving towards me on the open road in the distance. I tried to reach into my bag for my camera before our paths crossed but settled for a safer two-handed grip on the wheel as I glanced at the driver’s smiling face and the unique blue flowered cloth insulating his back window as I looked in my rear view mirror. It told me what I was hoping for; I was finally seeing the practical application of all the prayer, giving, planning, and footwork of the rickshaw taxi project I’d been involved with for the last year with our partners in the Evangelical Church in the Republic of Niger (EERN).  

This type of rickshaw taxi has now taken over the streets of our city because they’re a more comfortable and culturally appropriate way of transportation for women than the once prevalent motorcycle taxis. But I was excited to see the blue flowered cloth in the back because I knew specifically it was one of the six taxis that the EERN had bought as part of an evangelism and development project. The project’s aims are to provide jobs for youth from the church that have little opportunity, to use the profits to buy property for evangelists to live on, and to provide assistance to these pastors in the form of things like business loans.  I recognized the taxi because I’d seen it sitting for a month at the national office of the EERN while the president of the church worked through the legal and mechanical issues of getting it on the road. And then I’d been at the training for drivers where their pastors came to lay hands on the taxis and pray for the work they’d be doing. So when I recognized it on this road finally, I was relieved, knowing it had already been a long road with a lot that could go wrong in the process. I was also exhilarated to realize it was on its way to breaking into this rickshaw niche in an innovative way, driving people to an important clinic about a half an hour out of town, something only more expensive car taxis would previously do.  

                                   Aciwasa

                                  Aciwasa

We’ve lifted up the early stages of this project before as a way of sustainable work and evangelism in our partner church, but now we want to share with you more of the story of the initial difference it is making. This rickshaw project is especially making an impact on the drivers, like the man who goes by the nickname Aciwasa. His name means something like “joker” in the sense of both cards and being lighthearted with friends. He’s a 35 year-old youth (the definition of youth extends into the thirties in this culture), who is married with two children under the age of three. As a teenager he was studying to be a Muslim religious leader like his father. But through a combination of events he became a Christian instead. His story includes one of his religious teachers pointing him to the value of the teachings of Jesus, a Holy Spirit moment near a well where he felt a spiritual connection to the story of the baptism of Jesus, and the openness and encouragement of the youth group in a church he started visiting.  

Now Aciwasa is the youth leader at his church. His only income used to be driving people occasionally on his motorcycle. But with driving this rickshaw he’s now making enough that his family can afford to have his wife finish teacher’s school and pay for the child care costs. Aciwasa plays worship songs in his rickshaw as he drives and reports he gets a lot of comments from riders that they’re glad to meet a Christian because they know they’re a positive influence in their country. One women who made a comment like this left an expensive cell phone in his taxi, and after he went through the trouble of calling some numbers to find whose it was, he ended up locating her husband and getting it back to her. The whole family was amazed that the cell phone wasn’t totally lost and that Christians are the type of people who will do this for others.  

The rickshaw project has been a big encouragement to the whole church, as well. At worship services the drivers were singled out and prayed for as the church gave thanks to God for the opportunities he’s providing among them. One EERN leader who wasn’t part of the planning was surprised at the response, momentum, and benefits that the rickshaws were bringing, and said that he couldn’t see it before, but can now see how even something small like six taxis can be a big blessing that will continue to grow. Pictured below is a gathering of pastors and
drivers, praying over the taxis.

In its first six months, the rickshaw business is doing very well generating funds for helping evangelists with outreach plans, sustainable businesses, or special needs. EERN President Kadade has supervised and produced the report of income and profits for this first period, which came out slightly ahead of the figures we projected! There are still some kinks to work out, like how to keep the taxis on the road more when the drivers are sick or have family commitments, but the good results are largely due to good stewardship of funds and faithfully following the plan. This gives us good confidence for continuing to invest in this and other projects with the EERN leaders.

We’re so thankful for the congregations and individuals who have supported this project of the church, and for the collaboration of The Outreach Foundation (along with its ongoing partnership with Presbyterian World Mission). We are grateful for your support and financial investment in what God is doing in Niger and invite you to continue to be part of sharing the Good News along with our partners in the EERN!

Peace be with you,
Michael Ludwig

Read more about EERN Church Outreach to New Areas: Rickshaw Taxis by clicking HERE.

THE NEED
Outreach is seeking $10,000 to help the EERN expand this creative project.