Friday, September 1, 2023

Live Their Lives as Jesus Did

 Today was the last day of the holiday Orange Hat.  We had around two hundred children (half of them at a time) coming daily for the last five weeks.  I am so weary, but so thankful.  So very thankful. 

This week the verse that they learned in song was: 

"But those who obey God's word truly show how completely they love him.  That is how we know we are living in him.  Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did." 1 John 2:5-6

We have talked about how they can know that they are forgiven.  Last week they learned how the Spirit testifies to their inner being that they are God's children.  This week, is the "living like Jesus lived" in the power of the Spirit.  As I move around the community, seeing the children near their homes and with their friends, I am able to ask them one question and they know exactly what I'm saying, "What would Jesus do right now?" They smile knowingly after slapping someone on the back or shouting at a small child.  It's been a super special challenge for me too, remembering that I am empowered by the Spirit to live my life as Jesus did every moment!  How thankful I am for God's grace when I fall short. 

 Tomorrow is our closing program.  We will spend an impactful hour and a half with the families and neighbors of our children.  They will do their dramas, display their artwork, sing their songs, and dance their dances.  Please pray that the message of what we've learned will ring clearly in their hearts as they enter a new school year.  Pray that the families will be impacted by what they hear as God's image in these children is clearly displayed. 

Learning about biodegradable products and composting!

Opening with our Scripture songs!

Art class

Some of our lovely teachers! They fill me with such joy.

My children really learned to take part.  Answered prayer!

Culture day!  The backdrop are 14 different cloths of 14 different tribes of Nigeria.

Pictures by group.  The children from the Idoma tribe.

My friend Abigail came to celebrate with her children.  They are Irigwe.

Each group came and danced in the center of the field.


Wednesday, August 9, 2023

A Pause

To throw myself upon God and his grace has been something that I've not been entirely good at.  I spend a lot of time serving others in this season of my life.  My family, the Orange Hat children, the Bible study children all have never ending ways that I can love and give to them.  I can start to think that feeling worn down or dizzily running around is God's best for me because it's my reality.  


My husband has built in a "pause" for our family every 6 weeks where he takes a long weekend.  This last weekend we went to Miango Rest Home about 40 minutes from our home. While there I read this passage: 

"He will tend his flock like a shepherd, 

He will gather the lambs in his arms, 

he will carry them in his bosom

and gently lead those that are with young." Isaiah 40:11

This passage coupled with others like, "come to me...learn from yoke is easy, and my burden is light," and "Those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again.  It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life," carry undoubted promises of God's tender heart! And you. I don't have to accept over business as God's best for me.  God wants me to be full too.  That is so humbling, and I want to increasingly learn to throw my tired self upon his full and abundant grace.

I pray you experience his shepherding heart today.  His leading you, refreshing you from the source of his Spirit deep in your soul, and the sharing of your heavy burdens. Please do pray that for me too.

Orange Hat Holiday

 "I'm made in God's image and so are you, 

The Bible says that this is true! 

Let me see you!

Woop, yup it's true!" 

The children at the Orange Hat marched around the room, each having their moment in the door for us to see the reflected beauty of God in them. 

From the floor and indoor bathroom that was completed by a VBS in the states, to the 12 volunteers that commit their time to the children in our community, I have seen God's hand in the Orange Hat Holiday program.  

Speaking of hands, our first week we learned that each of us are written on God's hand, and we wrote our hands on the palm of a huge hand on the wall.  So precious to have our local artist saying to each child, "God has written your name on the palms of his hand.  He won't ever forget you," before painting their name onto the huge hand. 

Each has a place on His hand.

Making a community map.


This week we are focusing on our community, Hwolshe. Please do pray for these young people as they learn about their own potential, part, and purpose in their communities.  We will have a closing program on Saturday, September 2.

Thursday, July 6, 2023

Why translate when languages are dying?

“A language dies every 14 days.” This is a bold and concerning claim found all over the internet. Why should we translate the Bible if people are no longer speaking their languages? This reflection used to bother me as a young language surveyor. It is true that languages do die for many reasons. I have even visited some communities in Nigeria where you struggle to find anyone who speaks the heritage language. But as I have dug into this statement deeper, I find that this statement is actually totally mistaken, not based on real data, but mere guesses. So what is the truth and what does it mean for us as we translate the Bible?

Mariama overlooks a neighborhood in Jos

In 2019, I was deeply encouraged when our international Chief Research Officer, Gary Simons shared a poster that corrected this misunderstanding. When I was about five years old, I first met Gary Simons. I was more interested in playing with his children at the time. After becoming a language surveyor, I began to appreciate not only this man’s thoughtful faith, but also his insightful analysis of data about languages. In this poster he shares the data: only about nine languages die each year—or about one every 40 days. More languages are dying in the Americas and Australia—where many of the cultures were based on a threatened “hunter gatherer” lifestyle than in Sub-Saharan Africa—where agricultural practices have made a stable environment for maintaining culture. I observed that this is also true in Nigeria—as I travel all over Nigeria I meet youth and children, participating in the agriculture-based lifestyles, and still speaking and preferring their language for many parts of their lives.

A river crossing from my survey days

However, all over the world, as people move to cities and intermarry with people speaking different languages, many people are not passing their languages on to their children. It is hard to predict what will happen to languages in these situations. Sometimes people who have moved to cities realize the value of their heritage, and therefore work harder to stay connected—including frequent visits back to their home area. They may also support language-related work with their time and money.

Mariama visits a village where I did survey years prior

So if a language shows a hint that some people are abandoning it, is it still good to invest in Bible translation? Although the question can get quite complex, I have come to two fairly simple conclusions. If a significant number of children and youth are still speaking the language, it is probably worth investing in longer-term investment. Also, even if most children or youth are abandoning a language, if there are some people that still speak and value their language, perhaps some smaller investments such as oral Bible stories or smaller portions of Scripture could be completed quickly enough to benefit the people still speaking the language. Even if a language is very much alive, having some verses of Scriptures available quickly can help!

Mariama and Lydia visit a village for Scripture Listening and Reading groups in 2019

What about developing languages that are dying with alphabets, dictionaries or recordings of their language? Often when a language is dying it reflects a significant social change for those people. Some communities are ready to let some of their heritage identity go along with their language, while others choose to value and work to preserve it. Sometimes with a little effort—recordings and words of encouragement—we can show Christ’s love by helping a group remember this gift God has given them—their identity and history.

I am grateful that Nigerian languages—and many languages around the world—are not dying as fast as some have guessed. Even when languages are dying, usually the people who speak them aren’t—and this requires great wisdom to know how to serve these people.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

"We will take all the lessons."

After traveling for 2 days straight, I arrived from Cameroon at 2:20pm.  Something was happening I just didn't want to miss!

I arrived at the office at 2:30 to see the end of the first day of a training for a group of individuals from six different languages who will go and train others to teach children using their language. I had wanted to come back for the first day to help facilitate, but there were no flights into Jos on a Wednesday.

I walked in on a session about how to learn a Bible story, and was overcome by emotions and gratitude.  The three individuals that I trained to do this training were engaging, fun, and professional.  They had rapport with the participants, and mastery of the materials.  

 In the evening I called one of them to tell me what they wanted me to do today, and she said, "We will take all the lessons." I was both disappointed and thrilled at the same time.  This is what I've been praying for!  I love teaching the curriculum "Lessons from Luke."  It's dynamic and encouraging to see people empowered to engage children in Scripture.  On the other hand, as humbling as it is to say, listening to them in the other room right now, they are in many ways better equipped than I am to do it!

So please pray for them as they continue to train others!  Please pray that they will continue to have creativity, strength, and inspiration. And praise God that he has provided this answer to prayer to have people who can carry on this training in a dynamic way! And praise God that he orders even the flights of airplanes or uses our mis-planning to do a greater thing.  If I had been here, I probably would have in many ways taken over, but he's doing a new thing!

Noroh, Chris, and Blessing

Learning the story

Engaging children with Scripture songs!

Friday, March 10, 2023



A friend planned a morning for my girls, 

Shocked at the stop as my world whirls,

A friend with a "saloon" I called next, 

Come at 8:30 I saw the text, 

 Now here I sit for hours on end, 

Beautiful women working their hands, 

They worship, share posts, sing, laugh, 

A cross-section of society on familiar path. 

Their work is meaningful, intense time, 

Women relaxing, guilt free, it's not a crime. 

We're pampered, loved, renewed, 

Leave shining and tired, hair knotted or sewd.

They're doing for me what I cannot do, 

They're giving me a pause, a new look too. 

Now strangers will stop me, delighting in my braids, 

I'll make new friends, reveling in the difference it made, 

To identify with my hosts in this enriching tradition, 

Of weaving, being, beautifying in our daily mission.  


Thursday, January 26, 2023

Missed the Train!

I hate missing the train!
 Today I missed the train. I had planned a day in Chicago with a dear friend I met 10 years ago, also a new bride living her first year of marriage in Nigeria. My anticipation of a sweet fellowship long missed made me tingly with excitement!  My husband stayed up late one night to get me the train ticket that left this morning right from Holland, MI at 6:49am and my mother got me there with time to spare. 

Why did I miss the train?  I was buying water from a vending machine.  The stupidity of it all, the pathetic scene I made running alongside the barely moving train begging the conductor to "please, please let me hop on" (Afterall, that's what they do in all the movies) makes me flush...and I don't get embarrassed easily. 

As annoying and disappointing situations do, it made me think.  I pack my life full of "one more thing while I wait."  Wait for what? The waiting IS the thing that I'm doing!  Am I missing the train for a little sip of water?  Am I forfeiting the way to get me to a life of refreshment, community, and ultimate joy because I can't stand to wait? 

I recently went to tea with my sister-in-law, another opportunity not to be missed as this will be the last outing we had before she gets married.  The night before we planned our 6:30am get away.  Ironically, it followed a discussion with the family about how hard it was for us to get time early in the morning to be with Jesus. 

A picture of a time I didn't miss the train to Chicago...because I drove.

In the morning, I shook my head as I realized that I can get up when I want to! Apparently, the getting up and making time for Jesus isn't the problem.  Jesus will love me if I get up early to be with him or not, but do I love him enough to do it anyway? 

"Don't be hard on yourself," I can hear people saying. But there's a time we have to ask ourselves if we are missing the train...the big, transporting, restful experience of walking with Jesus while we stand outside a vending machine waiting for a sip of...what? While we pack one more thing into our already stuffed journeying lives. 

Lesson learned. 

Live Their Lives as Jesus Did

 Today was the last day of the holiday Orange Hat.  We had around two hundred children (half of them at a time) coming daily for the last fi...