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!

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...