Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Hoppin' Good Year!



I'm just realizing that with this amazing internet connection, I can post all sorts of fun things...like videos, for example!  This is the video I showed the chiefs and teachers that gathered to say goodbye!


15 Months!

We made this back in September for a date night activity.  We thought we'd share it with you! 

A Special Gift

"You need to take at least two days when you get back to rest," the Nigeria group personnel director told us as we rushed around checking books back in the library, returning items long ago borrowed, and printing last minute reports and books.

Right. Rest.  At Christmas in the US with our families.  We agreed despite the unlikelihood of us finding a place, space, and time to rest.

We were happy to find that the sun in MI is very kind to travelers coming from Nigeria, and stays hidden in order to give maximal dark sleeping hours.  Despite this favorable condition, we found that our bodies, minds, and spirits were just not able to catch up!  However, we were given a gift at Christmas.  The 24th of December we visited a couple who offered us a place, space, and time to rest.


"We aren't able to go to the world to share Christ, so we bring the world to us," the Mrs. told us. "Once a family coming home from the Ukraine needed a place to stay and we were traveling, like we are this time. They were able to stay with their 6 children and have the house to themselves!"



Today we are rounding up our two day stay at this home filled with love and comfort.  The walls are covered with smiling pictures of children and grandchildren, Scripture, prayers, and touches that speak of a life well lived. From the big screen TV, collection of inspirational books, and wireless internet to a freezer full of yummy food and a timed bathroom warmer, we were blessed in this place.


We are so thankful for this Godly family who generously have given a priceless gift to us this Christmas by opening their home to us. We hope our lives will follow their example; to see the blessings He's given us and offer them back to him, making us a blessing to others, bringing glory to his name.  


A Proper "See You Later"


"You did not have a proper farewell, Christy," Jeje (the project literacy coordinator) explained to me as I recovered on my living room couch from a bad spell of malaria.  'Really?  You think a little vomit here and a little vomit there while driving out of the village on Monday wasn't a proper goodbye?' I thought to myself because the sincerity of my Nigerian brothers and sisters does not lend itself to sarcasm.


We agreed to a short farewell on the following Monday, the 16th at 8:30am at the Chief's palace.  The same Monday we planned to leave Jos and go to Abuja to catch our flight on the 17th.



After a late night of packing, we rushed out the door of our cement block house for one more visit with the Bace commmunity in Jebbu Bassa.  On the way we visited our friend Dogara who was in the hospital and picked up Mama Ruth, a dear sister in Christ and supportive member of the Kuce literacy project.  We arrived around 9:15 to wait for an hour before the Royal Fathers arrived from various villages in their flowing robes and Hausa caps.  When they enter the room you feel their distinguished presence.  As I put last touches on the movie showing the events of the past year in their language, I stole glances at them looking over the books I had placed in their hands as samples of the work.  Some were sounding out the words, tracking with their fingers.  Others were reading to each other and smiling at the stories or artwork found inside the books written in Kuce.



Around 10:15 we began with introductions, followed by talks of several members of the community.  Mama Ruth said she felt I was a daughter from her own womb.  A representative from among the chiefs said that I had listened to the problems in their community and prayed with him. Rev. Victor, who is trained as a literacy teacher, prayed a prayer over us from Psalm 23.  Jeje gave a short talk from Ecc. saying that he did not want my work of this past year to be in vain and encouraging the community leaders to join him in carrying on the work.  Then the Paramount Chief gave an inspiring speech about how he wants to see Kuce taught in the village schools. How he himself as a child was taught by an SIM missionary in the Kuce language at the local elementary school.


Encouraged and spurred on by their enthusiasm, I showed the video of the events of the year, and encouraged them to continue building on what had begun with the outstanding group of devoted teachers.  The teachers were there, and I had them stand.  As they stood, I was overjoyed because I knew that God had been faithful.  I entered this community not knowing anyone, and now I had a group I considered my friends, of co-workers in the task of seeing a literate community in Kiceland.  What a unique gift from the Father of Lights.



 We were then presented with locally grown grains, wooden spoons, and clothes (which we wore for the next 4 days all the way home to Holland, MI including our first day there because our bags didn't arrive with us.)  We changed into the clothes in an adjacent room and I modeled them as I came in to the cheers of the leaders and their boisterous laughter rising.


We ended around 11:30 with taking some of the pictures you see below.  My heart was full to overflowing for all God has done, and praising Him for what is to come in the future in Kiceland. 




Friday, December 27, 2013

Reflections on Christmas in the US of A!

Christmas in the US was such a shock to my system, my leg cramped up after sitting on the floor for an hour and I had to rub Bengay while reclining in the guest bedroom for a spell! True? Well, it was a shock, and I do have a problem with a nerve in my leg, but the two MAY or may not have been related.
What was shocking?...I use such an electrifying term not because it was a jolt to my sensibilities, but because that is the term so many use what referring to cultural differences/stresses. So, do not be alarmed...there are no long term effects, I hope, of these shocking things:

Church. Started at 10am, ended by 11:30. The shock? As I said, it was announced that the service would start at 10am. And it did! It was all in English...our dialect of English! The music was sung at the pace and the tune that we grew up with, so the invitation to "Come let us adore him" felt personal. A testimony to the power of heart music. The message was powerful...have the angels rejoiced over your birth? The angels sang in Hebrew Aramaic, but they may have said "Glory to God in the Highest" in all the languages of the world as well! Long term effect? I hope so!

Presents. Lovely to see all those presents under the tree for the 8 nieces and nephews and at least one for each of us adults! Shocking to see so many presents under the tree for 8 nieces and nephews and for us adults. I'm reminded that we don't have to feel guilty about what we have, but our response to that plenty is what weighs on us or frees us.

Food. My family are good eaters. Yes indeed! The variety was a shock after 2 days of chicken and rice last year in Nigeria! Cheese, meat, apple pie, cream! Long term effect? Probably.

Family. Being known. Building on traditions, seeing how those traditions have morphed over the years as more and more spunky, playful, energetic children have been added to the mix. My Aunt has moved from Texas with my cousin, my nephew brought his friend, my parents invited a couple of friends...the view of "family" is more Nigerian than I remember it being in our early Christmas days. I wasn't the host, but I was part of the fabric of the family. My husband is now woven into that Watkin tradition. Amazing how shared history creates a sense of stability...no matter the noise or chaos level! Long term effect? Yes.

As we spend the next year of our lives in this country, I'm sure we'll have many a "shock." I'm going to call them reflections...it creates more gentle ripples in my brain that way. Thank you for sharing our first year of marriage with us in Nigeria.

We really got into our game of clue. Here we have Colonel Mustard, Professor Plum, and Mr. Green suspecting each other of some grievous crime!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Recorded Text Testing (RTT)

Often surveyors use Recorded Text Testing to measure how well
speakers of one dialect understand a related one. To give you a
feel for what it is like, have someone read this story to you. Stop
at each number and ask the corresponding question. Now
imagine it is in a dialect you only partially understand.

How much do you understand?
Last week I was wondering who would help me with my thesis
fieldwork. I wrote to my friends around the world to ask them to pray
with me. (1) Amazingly, even before I knew who would help, I felt a
deep peace. I got on a bus and went to Cross River State. (2) It was
good I didn’t delay, because the preparation work took longer than I
had expected. Even so, God helped me. (3) By “chance” I met the
same man who told me stories in 2009, so I was able to reuse a test that
we made back then.
Then one morning my wife and her new friend Rachel came to help me
get the tests ready. (4) Even though they had never done the work
before, we were able to very well. (5) They related very well with the
students and made them feel at ease. (6)
Rachel had to leave, but my colleague Uche came that same night. (7)
He has done this kind of work before, and is very good at it. That first
night after Uche came, we were working in one town, and it was getting
late. We decided to just try to go to the next town anyway. (8)
When we reached the pastor’s house it was almost dark, (9) but when
he heard about our work, he welcomed us with open arms. He uses the
local language in his church (10) and we enjoyed sweet fellowship
together. We also worked late into the night. Like that, like that God
guided us until we finished the work.

Questions
1) What did he ask his friends to do?
2) How did he go to Cross River State?
3) Who helped him?
4) When did his wife and Rachel come?
5) How did they do the work?
6) How did the students feel?
7) When did Uche come?
8) Where did they decide to go?
9) Whose house did they reach?
10) What does he use in the church?

Possible answers (some variation may be accepted):
1-pray, 2-on a bus, 3-God, 4-one morning, 5-very well, 6-at ease, 7-that same night, 8-the next town, 9-the pastor’s, 10-the local language.

Because you wrote me the letter

It was late, so we decided not to ride the local transportation (motorcycles) but instead had asked chief Simeon if he could take us to Linus' house in his car.  Chief Simeon was part of a workshop where they were translating the the book of Luke into his language (Nkim).  Traveling with us was a younger Nkim man who was also part of the workshop and would accompany the chief back again.  Christy--as she usually does--started asking questions to get to know them better.  Eventually she came around to asking how the young man got into the work.

"The chief and others invited five people to come from my church, and for five people come from each of several other churches,"  he explained, "It happened that I was one of the few who came.  Later it turned out that I was good with the computer."  He now does much of the typing for his project.

Then I asked the chief, but what about you chief, how did you get into the work?  The chief answered, "It was because of your letter." 

"What letter?"  I asked.

"The letter you sent after you finished the survey work with recommendations about what to do next."

As a surveyor about to move into a new role, I don't think I could have heard sweeter words.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

My very first Ofis field trip (Pidgin RTT)




Often surveyors use Recorded Text Testing to measure how well speakers of one dialect understand a related one. To give you a feel for what it is like, have someone read this story to you. Stop at each number and ask the corresponding question.   This story is told in a mixture of Standard English and Pidgin English by my colleague, Jerry, who works in vernacular media services (VMS) of our group.

My very first Ofis field trip, for Kano, somewhere for Gombe State, abi one village for Gombe State. Na one of they languages wey need Scripture recording for their language (1).  Na three of us go for my ofis. (2) Me, Iliya and team leader John.  We go there, we go there, safe and sound.  We no jam any wahala for road. (3) The people accommodate us well well.  In fact, we dey chop chicken almost every day. (4)  I never really travel go that part of Northern Nigeria before.  I never even know say language like that dey.  Wetin sweet me for the whole trip, for all the recording, for all the meeting the people, for all the work wey we do,  wetin sweet me now, the first time wey I realize how the work of translation dey important. (5) Honestly, na good thing to see how other languages dey praise God in their own culture in their own language.  Honestly, that na my wake up call, because that my first experience, because the whole people come out. (6) Because we do songs, gospel songs, for their language. (7) We think say we go see, maybe a few set of people. (8) Instead we see different choir groups different churches dey come because everybody excited. (9)

1)     Who needed Scripture recording?
2)     How many people went?
3)     What happened on the way?
4)     What did they eat?
5)     What makes him happy about the trip?
6)     Who came out?
7)     What kind of songs did they do?
8)     What did they think they would see?
9)     How did everybody feel?

Answers (there may be some acceptable variation in the responses)
1)     One of the languages
2)     Three people
3)     They didn’t have any trouble
4)     Chicken
5)     How he realized that Bible translation work is important
6)     All the people
7)     Gospel songs
8)     A few groups of people
9)     Excited

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Prayer for God's People

Please pray for Pastor F. and his wife, G. They work in an area of Nigeria where their neighbors speak curses to them and the church is lukewarm. Please pray that God will strengthen them. I have rarely had a moment with a pastor’s wife like this one. She was sweeping the dirt behind her house, and I asked her how it is living in this village. They are not from this village. She said, “The people here don’t love God. People enter the neighborhood next to us, and just disappear! They are never seen again! They told me that I would lose my baby (she gave birth a month ago), and that I would die as well. It is God power keeping us alive. They gave us the land here for the church because they knew no one would come here. Only evil spirits inhabited this land before the church came here.” They have been living in this village for 3 years. Please pray for them. Please pray that God will use them powerfully to speak light into the darkness, and that the will sustain them with his Word.

I Understood All

"How much of the story did you understand?" I asked the secondary student sitting across from me,
"I understood all," she replied confidently
This statement sounds so simple, but it struck me very deeply. I was working through an interpreter to ask comprehension questions. The girl had just listened to a story in her own language, Mgbenege. However, she attends school every day in the very language I was speaking to her, which needed interpretation. She understood all of that story. What more is there to say? Is that not what we desire for our children, our faith communities, the people of God around the world who speak thousands of languages? Do we not want them to listen to God's words and say, "I understood all." I think God wants that too. That's why I advocate for for mother tongue education, for adult literacy, for Bible Translation. That is why I'm in Nigeria.
May God spur us on toward love and good works. Toward loving him and others enough to do the good work it will take for all to understand all!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Borrowed Bible



“What are the three most important activities people in your congregation do that help them gain knowledge of the Bible and grow spiritually?”  I ask the question slowly and clearly, because I know it is a long one.  It is the sixth time I have asked this question today (not counting restating in other words to make it clearer) with the sixth church leader.  I sit on his neighbor’s tiled porch with a small group of women and youth from his church who are listening to our interview.   Among the three things he lists are the Wednesday Bible studies.  This has been a very common response, far more common that the Sunday morning preaching. 

“What languages do you use in your Bible studies?”  I ask.

“Only Ekajuk,”  the deacon answers.  “We don’t usually have as many strangers [that is outsiders] in our Bible studies.”  Although Bible studies are typically not attended as well, I have begun to believe that this is probably one of the most important times for a church to be using the local language.

“Has hearing or reading Scripture cause you to change the way you live your life?”  I ask.  Before coming to the Ekajuk land, we were given the impression that the Ekajuk people may not see the relevance of Scriptures to their lives.  However, the deacon and several members present shared how their lives had been changed by reading the Bible.  One man said he once was “a smoker and lived a useless life”  (here smoking is often strongly associated with a sinful lifestyle) and a woman shared how she used to “curse people anyhow”, but now “I worship my Lord.”  Seeing the joyful smiles on their faces as they shared their testimonies, I couldn’t help but believe these were sincere testimonies of brothers and sisters in Christ.

Later on in the interview I learned that no one in the church actually has a copy of the Ekajuk New Testament, and no one knew where to buy one.  However, there are two people in their church who have learned to read the Bible well despite this. They actually borrow the copy that they are using in their Bible studies.  They must normally use English Bibles, because they say they only borrow the Ekajuk Bible about once every month or two.   I shared with them that a pastor I had interviewed earlier that day sells copies of the New Testament.  I told them how much it cost, and that he only had two copies left, but should be getting more soon.

Please join me in thanking God that these people are reading his Word and being transformed by it.  Ask him to provide a way for them to get several copies of the Bible in their own language.

I wonder what languages will be in the service

The first edition of the
Ekajuk New Testament (1970s)





“I guess I am not late,” I think as I enter the empty church.  I quickly take in my surroundings, typical of village churches I have been in before.  Two girls are at the front of the church decorating the altar and pulpit with green and white fabric, the colors of Nigeria’s national flag.  The building was fairly large for a village church, probably big enough to hold about 200 people.  It was incomplete, built of unpainted sand and cement blocks with open windows and a corrugated metal roof. The wooden pews in the first several rows are simply constructed with a seat and back, but also include a wooden plank in front of each to kneel on.  Further back, the pews are simple benches, each constructed of a plank of wood set on cinder blocks or stones, but still having an extra small wooden plank to kneel on.
I have come to attend the mass in the Catholic church in Winnimba, a small village in Cross River State, Nigeria.  My three colleagues each have gone to other churches to observe the use of Scriptures in other churches as well.  In Jos, the city where we are based, sometimes the first Sunday morning mass starts at 6am.  We thought we might be late arriving at seven in the morning, but it was quickly apparent we weren't.
As I approach the girls in the front, I notice that they are speaking in Ekajuk, the local language.  I ask them in English when the mass will start, and they tell me eight o’clock.  With an hour to spare I sit on one of the low benches in the back and continue to observe.  I write a text to Christy.  It ends with “Young girls r sweeping and decorating all speaking Ekajuk.  Wonder what lgs will b in service.Z”
Frankly, I was not expecting much.  We just finished a survey in another language area where people spoke the local language with each other, but only used Hausa, a language of wider communication, in the service.  We had observed this lack of local language use in about 14 churches, and I was feeling a bit discouraged.
The second edition of the
Ekajuk New Testament (2012)
Around seven-thirty about five older men and women entered and sat in the pews on the front right side of the church.  They began a call and response of prayers in the Ekajuk language.  I wasn’t surprised when I heard the word “Mary” repeated again and again, and recalled the first time I attended a mid-week mass in Cameroon about seven years ago.  There the mass had also been in the local language, Wimbum.  Although the repetition of the prayer would make it easy for me to join in, I didn’t like the idea of praying to Mary asking her to pray on my behalf.   They came to the part of the rosary that I thought was probably “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy,” so I tried to mimic and join in, meaning it with all my heart.  By now there were about ten people who had joined.
After the rosary, most people left for a little while, before the main mass started.  It began with a procession from the back led by a young man carrying a crucifix and two young men carrying lit candles shielded by their hands.  Later I was told that the catechist had been called to go to another church, so the young man leading the procession was the “auxiliary catechist” standing in on his behalf.  I have seen all of this in churches in America before, so what struck me the most wasn’t the fine green and white robes the young men were wearing, or the way they lit candles on the altar.  What struck me was that everyone was singing in Ekajuk.
I continued to be surprised as the all the singing, liturgy and announcements continued to be in Ekajuk.  Then one of the young men read a passage from the Old Testament.  I knew that this had to be read in English, because there is no Old Testament in Ekajuk yet, they only have the New Testament.  Likewise the Psalm with its response had to be in Ekajuk.   But the Epistle and Gospel readings both came from the Ekajuk New Testament.  I looked around and noticed that a few people had come with both an English Bible and the thin red Ekajuk New Testament.  For a village church, where it may be typical for only a few people to own a copy of the Bible, this was quite impressive.  
When the young man got up to preach, he went back and forth from Ekajuk to English.  I got the impression that he wasn’t really saying exactly the same thing in both languages, but that he was preaching on basically the same themes.
Towards the end of the service some of the liturgy was in English, but overall I came away surprised, encouraged and impressed.  There was little chance that these people could have known I was coming and adjusted their service just for me.  We told no one which villages and churches we would worship in.  Later I met the catechist of the church, who happens to be a part of the Old Testament translation team.  Although this means some of what I saw may not be typical of other churches, since he wasn’t even around, I had to assume that what I saw that day was what they normally did.
Over the next five days, I attended morning mass in three Catholic churches and interviewed catechists, pastors, elders and deacons in about twenty churches of all denominations.  Although for various reasons I saw that sometimes the readings were in English rather than Ekajuk I was amazed at how consistently the Catholic church used the Ekajuk language.  It was apparent that they hadn’t just started using it recently either.  Even before the second edition of the New Testament came out, they had a few of the scarce copies of the first edition, and a service book including hymns, liturgy and the rosary in Ekajuk.
This catechist shares his Ekajuk New Testament
with several Sunday morning readers in his church
“I have really seen why survey is necessary,” I say again and again to my colleagues as we approach the end of the fieldwork.  “If someone had asked me about Scripture use in Ekajuk prior the fieldwork, from my impressions based on several conversations in Jos, I would have said exactly the opposite of what we observed.”  I thought because the first edition of the Ekajuk New Testament was hard to find and the second edition only came out last year, that few churches would be using it.  Although several church leaders didn’t even know where to get a copy, every single Catholic church we interviewed had at least one and was using it.  I’ll tell others stories from the fieldwork in other blog posts.

A Multiplier or Diminisher?

I was challenged at the Global Leadership Summit gathering that was held last week (November 5th-6th) where some of my colleagues found ourselves seated for two days with Nigerian leaders from multiple backgrounds and ministries.
One of the most challenging talks for me was on being a multiplier. They said that Jesus was our perfect example of this kind of leader. You see who is around you, right under your nose, those leaders that God has already chosen and placed in your midst. And you don’t try to multiply yourself in them by sharing YOUR visions and YOUR dreams, but you help them to multiply…building on their abilities, giftings, and capacities! Having them dream and innovate.
One mistake the speaker said leaders make is that they are either the “idea man” or the “energetic one” and no one else gets ideas in or can keep up! Oooops! I was convicted of not listening enough or drawing out of those around me what they think. God forgive me for diminishing with my need to share all of my ideas.
Good example: Jesus. Found 12 “uneducated, ordinary men” and began a movement, a gathering of people that the “gates of hell can not stand against!” How? He lived, ate, spoke publically, and did everyday life with them. He challenged them to heal, minister, pray, and live beyond what they thought they were capable of doing, for nothing is impossible with God. He saw in them what they couldn't see for themselves.
My application: God has placed Jeje as the literacy coordinator over the Kuce Language Project. My job? To call out all what God has already put into him, do my best to grow it, and leave it to God! I take so much on myself, but it’s not up to me to make the Kuce literacy project thrive! How prideful of me to have ever thought it was! It’s up to God…100%! Wow, that is so freeing. Freeing to trust God, and to trust what God can do in Jeje and the other 11 teachers who’ve been trained to teach in their mother tongue.

Where did I start? The teacher trainers gathered in my office, and each of them received a piece of paper that had their name at the top. They were instructed to write one of their strengths as a teacher at the top. They all looked at me, and then one said, “It would be easier to write my weaknesses, I know those.” After they wrote one for themselves, they handed around the papers so the others could write on their papers. When they got them back I asked, “What surprises you on your paper?” The three that shared said the strength and then followed it up with, “But it’s not true.” I got the privilege to tell them, “It is true…if they saw it, it’s true, and now you just need to believe the truth about yourself.” What a powerful experience for me to witness them starting to acknowledge what God has placed in them to empower them to do this very challenging task of training other teachers to teach Kuce.

Dreaming Together

“We are going to dream together,” was how I started the meeting with my five Kuce literacy teacher trainers. These are five bright, motivated, and determined individuals who I’m training to be teacher trainers. They wrote their dreams on paper before we wrote them on the board. What I heard and saw moved me deeply. Their dreams are bigger than mine, as it should be. I thought my hopes were big, but to see it in their words, and to pray over them together gave me a longing to pray more earnestly for them. With dreams this big, the enemy must go on the defensive, and our God must rise as our Protector! I pray God would guard these dreams in their hearts, and that the impossible might become reality!

In case you can’t read them: For Bace to know and understand God’s love for them and worship him freely in Kuce. For Ce people to read. To achieve the goal of literacy in Kiceland. That this generation and the next will appreciate God for being Bace. Identify the lost glory and potention of Bace. Kuce taught at home and in schools. To see every village having a trained Kuce literacy teacher. To improve my ability and help my friends. To have God’s message of salvation translated into Kuce.

Caterpillar Attack!

Zach was on survey. The doors were locked, the curtains pulled. I tucked in the mosquito net, one more little measure of security before I slept. With my battery charged lamp on my stomach, I lay down thinking about the day . That’s when I saw it. Crawling hairily and happily up the far end of the inside of my mosquito net was a fuzzy caterpillar. I sat up startled, and watched it befuddled as to how I was going to expect my mosquito net to keep out blood sucking mosquitoes when a humungo, stingy caterpillar could just crawl in at his own will! The fur=sting, and it burns for a LONG time. I wonder how many of us have a security breach in our lives because we think we’ve evil proofed our lives, and yet we are letting life-sucking critters into our hearts and minds. The children’s choir, Dutse Mai Rai, sang “Whatever is true,” a song taken from Phillipians 4:8, this Sunday in church. It’s like God’s holy bug net, a God given filter for our lives to protect us, not restrict us, that we mighty shine brightly and live more freely!

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.” – Phil. 4:8

A Proverb Moment

You know verses like "A rebuke from a friend..." in Proverbs? While Zach hung one of my dresses over a hanger, he commented on how big it was. I jokingly said: “Are you saying I’m fat?” “That is a very bizaare jump of the mind,” he quickly shot back looking at me incredulously. I couldn't control my laughter. He's a Proverbial friend! If only every husband responded to such ridiculous insecurities with matter of fact, truth shining, I think we women wouldn’t take ourselves so seriously and we’d have more fun just being the beautiful women God made us to be.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Malaria and More

God always has much, much more for us than we can ask or imagine. Malaria is one thing, but God had more. Here’s a poem to my husband so you can share with us in the experience. God always has much, much more for us than we can ask or imagine. Malaria is one thing, but God had more. Here’s a poem to my husband so you can share with us in the experience.

Tuesday night you feel tired, weak, you say,
“God may he feel better in the morning,” we pray.
Wednesday comes, I make my Plateau soup,
For the hardworking, editing, teacher group.
A still voice speaks, reminding of a promise made,
Fighting pride, indignant, begrudgingly I stayed.
Thursday, Friday, aching, feverish, weak you,
I serve, change sheets, wash by hand, if only I knew.
That in feeling your trembling all night by my side,
I’d be freer loving you, as I lay down my pride.
You didn’t seem to be healing, I feared, and I prayed,
We read books to distract, soup and lemonade was made.
Loneliness crept in, I wanted you to give back,
But that’s not the promise I made to you, Zach.
What a wonder, something the world just can’t know,
How in trials, struggle, deep trust, the joy will grow!
Saturday, Sunday, you were on the mend,
Night tremors remained, you to the lab we did send.
A different sickness on Monday, God what to do?
He’s so good to us, for he’s making us new.
Tuesday, Wednesday, to the office for part days,
Malaria had done the trick, a miracle of God’s ways.
My love was rekindled, refocused, renewed,
In weakness God showed, bread’s not the only food.
He’s feeding our hearts with pain and healing,
He’s replacing what the Devil is breaking and stealing.
Thank God for malaria, for lessons learned,
For in those times, a fragrant offering is burned.

Friday, October 25, 2013

"It Is Well"

I just came back from tea break. It was extra long because I got into a conversation. My friend had just returned from a conference on member care, and they had learned how emotions have to come before cognition. “You’re being over emotional right now!” Is something I’ve heard once or twice in my life! Either someone has said it to me, or I’ve said it to myself over and over again to where I was ashamed of tears that flowed out of witnessing injustice, the pain of another, hopelessness I see in others or my own sin hurting my loved ones. When my friend shared over a cup of hot Lipton that emotions must come before we can mentally process something, and that is healthy, a wave of understanding came over me.

I saw a naked body lying in the street. My husband, driving for the first time in months swerved around him as I gasped, “I think that’s a body!” We parked and called the guards of a nearby hotel. The rain dampened my dress and ran into my eyes as we walked back to where I thought I had seen the figure in the headlights of the car. “Here he is, I said matter of factly.” Then upon seeing the open gushing wound in his head exclaimed, “Oh, Lord!” A moan and slight movement came from the body as though he were resonating with my cry to my Father. “He’s alive!” I knew he probably wouldn’t be for long, and I desperately wanted to do something to help him. I didn’t dare touch him, afraid that his attackers who had stripped him, cut his back with a knife, and left him unclothed at the bottom of a large bend in the sloping road would jump out and get me. I was afraid that he would somehow turn on me, or that I would be seen as part of his tragic death if I touched him. So I rushed with Zach to get the police. When we returned the boy was dead, his soul had left his injured body and gone…where? What was his name? Where was his mother? I wanted to cry, to scream, to see justice, to hold him instead of stand around looking at him with the others. I had no time to grieve life of this boy known by God, loved.


I had a busy day ahead, a youth event was to commence the next day in Kiceland. So, we went home. However, last night I was going to catch a 3-wheeled vehicle on that same road, and fear filled me. I didn’t want to pass that way alone. Four weeks later, I still wish I had cared for his soul in those last moments. Sung to him, recited Scripture into his heart as he passed into eternity. I hadn’t allowed the emotions to wash over me…I had made a cognitive decision to move on.

“It is well” is a common phrase here. People speak it to each other when a baby is born and no breath is found in his body, when a child dies in a fire, when a single is missing his loved ones in a far away state, when a youth minister takes the hurling stones of fanatics instead of his group members standing outside a church. Is it well? I sometimes want to shout at someone who says, “I’m fine” when pain is screaming at me through their eyes and say, “Stop it! You are not fine, and that is OK. Jesus is in control, yes, but he is also feeling your pain. So you can feel it too."

We need wisdom to help people to grieve, and rejoice as they need to. It looks different in this culture. We need to extend that same grace to each other and to every member of Christ's body. That he may declare over them, "It is Well."

Monday, October 14, 2013

Putting on Weight


I knelt down before the paramount chief one day in his throne room. He asked how I was doing, and I said, "Fine, sir." He looked at me and smiled and said, "I can see, you are putting on weight!" "Yes, thank you, sir, your people are taking good care of me." We all laughed together. If this was an isolated incident, it would be a better story! However, I receive such hopeful praise in the form of "Oh, you are looking good and fat" or "Christy, you get fatter and fatter every time I see you!" at least once a week. It is a compliment, and I have learned to receive it as so. If I was wasting away in Nigeria, Nigerians might feel their country is not being good to me. As it is, they see I am thriving here! Futhermore, they are waiting for the day when I will respond, "I have taken in." (I'm pregnant.) In the mean time, they will have to be thankful that I don't burst into tears at their encouragement. That would be quite shocking to them I imagine! I should try it some time! It might be a great cultural learning moment! On a more serious note, young brides here face a lot of stress after marriage. If they are not pregnant within the first few months, the mother-in-law starts to wonder if there is a problem with her new daughter-in-law, and the family will start pressuring the new couple to start a family or the son to take the woman back. Children are seen as so essential in a marriage that a marriage isn't complete without them. This kind of pressure actually reduces the chances of a young women to get pregnant. Please pray for new couples in Nigeria, and for a deeper understanding of the purpose of marriage. "Leave, cleave, and two shall become one flesh." Shike nan! (That's it!) May the unity before God, the cleaving, become of utmost importance, and may God be glorified in Godly marriages...with or without the blessing of children! May God give US wisdom as well to share be a light in our marriage and share truth as he puts it into our hearts regarding sex, marriage, and children.

Please pray for those women who are barren and live here because the constant questions from friends and families are painful reminders of what is seen a rejection by God, a failure to be the woman she's supposed to be.

Light in Kiceland!

I (Christy) wrote this for our 2013 staff prayer booklet. You can pray and praise with us!

Praise for the Bace,
Speaking their Kuce,
Living in Kice,
Who hunger for Light!

Literacy primers are done,
To the classes may they come,
All praise and glory to the Son!
Who is piercing with his light!

Translation and review,
In Luke, may God see them through,
Experiencing these ancient words anew!
That they may carry your light!

Christy leaves in mid-December,
Training may the teachers remember,
And to the Spirit's leading tender,
As they give way to the Light!

Jeje, the literacy coordinator,
Baba Gideon, project motivator,
Alex Kudu, head translator,
Unity, Jesus, to shine your light!

This year held community meeting,
Youth event and literacy launching,
Taking flight, together praying!
May we trust the Light!

Six Years of Amazing

A larming . Six years ago I held my firstborn in my arms and wept with unfettered joy.  I went home with my mother two hours later to my f...