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!

What to Study!

“What will you study, Christy?” That is such a good question, I just don’t know how to answer it! At GIAL there are so many great things to study! Zach will finish his masters. I have too much to do to finish mine. I want to study some Scripture Engagement, some World Arts, some Literacy. I want to be better prepared in all these areas because I encounter needs in all of them almost daily. Not only when I go to the village, but in Jos! People read, but don’t understand the Scriptures! They don’t often speak the language they’re reading in well enough to comprehend. Or, they don’t read at all. How can churches be more effective in reaching pre-literate woman, children, and men who have so many cultural and personal barriers to over come! I know this sounds familiar to God’s people all over the world! But God has put me here, and Nigeria has specific needs…GIAL will be a place where I can become prepared to face the challenges. I will study. I will study people, books, stories, testimonies, my own experiences…and I will learn! I want to become a student of what works to bring God’s Word to people in their heart language, written, oral, drama, song, or otherwise.
This is Gloria, who has memorized over 100 verses of Scripture to win her own Bible! Now that is exciting!

Home

We are pilgrims. We long to be stripped of this “mortality so we can be clothed immortal.” We sense our fragility in every challenge we are given on this earth. We are a mist, a “flower quickly fading.” In my life I have often longed to go home to be with Jesus. Not a morbid, desperate plea, but a longing to see Him face to face, and sense that the wandering was over. I still long to see Jesus, but my call to stay here for now seems greater than it has ever before. I feel called to my husband. He is my new home here on this earth. He is the spiritual authority I see Jesus in daily. I still feel fragile, but Zach helps me to allow God to show himself strong in my weakness. He is strong when I can’t be. I started writing this to ask you to pray for us as we head “home” to the US in December for a year. As I considered that word “home” I realized that we are home. At rest in God’s timing, home with each other. Our house has become a place where this idea of “home”, belonging, refreshing, dreaming, and ministering happens. We want others to stay in our house in Nigeria while we are gone, keeping our things there so we have a place to return to. We also want to find a house that can become this for us in Dallas. Please do pray with us, that we will continue to feel at “home” and continue to build “home” wherever we go.

Dutse Mai Rai! Living Stones!

“Do not let anyone look down on your because you are young, but set an example for all the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity,” the children recite with their hand motions. We join our hands together in the center of the circle and one of the children, Victor, cheers, “Dutse Mai Rai!” “Mai Rai!” they repeat their hands rising into the air! They scatter in all directions heading for home, to return the chairs to the church, or to gather my things for me. I (Christy) smile and say a silent prayer. “God, may they indeed be an example to this church. May their singing impact hearts and bring you glory. May they be “Dutse Mai Rai!” Living stones! built together to be a building where you dwell! We hope to make a music video with 10 favorite songs chosen by the children. 5 of them are original songs. These will be sold to the church to raise funds for the uniforms! We want this to honor Jesus and bring joy to the hearts of all who hear it! Please pray that God will raise up these children to love him and fear his name. Pray that God would give them boldness while they sing. Pray that it will not be a performance but praise!

Come Youth!

The first 3-day youth event was held in the town of Jebbu Bassa where 44 youth received a certificate and a transition primer in Kuce. The low attendance made Christy think that maybe this wasn’t going to be what she had in mind, a catalyst for the youth of Kice to love and read their language!
However, at the end of the three days, one of the teachers, Igye Ruth said, “I didn’t think this thing was going to work, but it was really wonderful!” We have to do it in my village. The chief, her brother, agreed, and arranged for meals to be provided for us. Traveling to Zagun, I realized why so few youth had come from the villages. At the end of rainy season, the roads were almost untravelable (creative spelling), and the group pulled into the secondary school 2 hours after Christy was hoping. With no time to set up, we began the program with 2 classrooms, and a growing number of students. By day two, there were around 150 youth, over half of them pre-literate or at very basic levels of being literate. We managed with the two classrooms, but were thankful the next day when 5 were opened up. As in Jebbu Bassa, Christy gave a talk on sex and marriage from a Biblical worldview. The third day around 250 youth gathered for the closing ceremony to receive certificates and books.
Songs in Kuce were sung and the energy levels were high. Not everyone got one due to limited supply and reading levels of the participants, but we pray that those who came were blessed and motivated and encouraged to speak Kuce. On the drive back, the teachers were abuzz, and said, “We have to move around to all of the literacy centers! We can’t leave anyone out!” Yes! They have caught the fire! May God set it ablaze!

Mid-day to mid-day

This is a tentative run down of what a 24 hour period might look like for us. Sorry that smells, sounds, and colors don't transfer well over the internet! Monday Around 12:30pm I write Zach to see if he is available to have lunch! He replies with “Yes!” and we meander around the corner to eat “tuwo” (a ball of starch) and some “soup” (sauce) with our hands from “Madam Calabar’s” restaurant. Madam Calabar goes to the Lutheran church we attend. We greet her, and the youth that work there who also attend our church. 1:00pm We head back to the office, greeting everyone again in Hausa as we did when we went out. Yes, our families are still fine, our work is still all glory to God, our home is as far as we know still fine. 1:30pm Christy heads home from the office after catching up on email, texts with the guys in Kice, and printing some materials for going to the village tomorrow. 1:45pm She walks in the door and gathers the materials needed for doing the activities she brainstormed on the way home to do with the children who will arrive in an hour or so. Zach is again in fullswing at the office answering questions about a report that was written by a colleague before returning to entering the wordlist collected on the last survey. 2:00pm Christy has now turned her attention to dinner. She wants to do as much as she can before the neighborhood children come.
3:00pm Zach’s plan for the afternoon now has to include a meeting on strategy for survey in Nigeria as they try to reach the needs of the many languages in this country. Following that meeting he will meet with various team members to discuss their goals. Christy welcomes the children as they arrive at the house with giggles and eager minds. 3:30pm Christy plays Twister with some children while others play Bingo, and then she transitions them to identifying vowel clusters in the story book she’s reading. Zach is walking through the various brainstorming ideas his team has had over the past weeks, and guiding them in strategy development. He gives them all assignments for their meeting next week where they will make concrete best practices documents for future surveyors. 4:30pm The children just finished making sugar cookies from a recipe they read and followed themselves , and Christy asks them what time it will be in 10 minutes. She is met with blank stares. Oh, dear, we must learn how to tell time! Another lesson commences. Zach is rounding up his meeting and packing his bags. Before he gets to the door, an urgent request comes from a friend to wait for him at the office so Zach can help him to scan a document for a job interview. 5:00pm The children’s attention is broken from their cookies and time and they sprint toward the door to greet Uncle Zaka. They take his bags and carry them into the house happily. 5:15pm We snack on cookies, get hugs, and send the children home. 5:30pm Christy begins to make dinner and Zach reads the current read-alound book we are working on. Then he cuts the onions, and we talk about our days. 7:00pm Dinner is ready and a friend stop in. Thankfully Christy learned to “prepare for the angels” when in Cameroon. 8:45pm Zach walks our friend to the gate of our compound, and Christy takes the dishes into the kitchen. 9:15pm We sleep. Tuesday 5:45am Zach goes running, and Christy keeps sleeping. 6:30am Zach comes home and Christy is heating water for baths and getting out the Bibles for devotions. Maybe we’ll even have time for a quick breakfast! 7:50am all morning activities are rounding up and we head out the door to the office. We probably catch a taxi because by now we are running late. 8:00am We arrive at the office, set up the projector quickly to lead morning worship. 8:35am We’ve praised, prayed with our co-workers, and Christy gets ready to go to Kiceland for a meeting with the teachers. Zach and his team are reviewing the Scripture Engagement survey he wrote following fieldwork. They hope to have it ready for an outside consultant this week.
9:00am Christy is waiting for the car to fill up so she can head to the village. There are already 3 people in the back seat of the Toyota corolla, and 4 is the minimum. 9:15am The fourth has come and Christy and the other 5 passengers are on their way! She drops and gets another taxi going to the town Jebbu Bassa. 10:25am They arrive at JB, and Christy heads to the office. Jokes then devotions ensues, and they commence the debriefing on the last youth training and teacher training, learning new literacy methods and activities. 12:30pm The teachers are tired and need a break. Zach too has to take a break so he can regain focus. Zach goes to the local restaurant, and food is brought for the teachers by the local restaurant. We both eat tuwo with our hands and “soup.”
You want some? Thanks for joining us!

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...