Thursday, December 31, 2015

If 2015 was a . . .



Celebrating our last meal in 2015 with cauliflower, chicken, and apples!
Have you ever played the game “iMAgiNiff. . .”?  In this game you draw a card that asks you to imagine if one of the other players was a store, or a name, or a vehicle, etc. which would it be?  The game gives you six choices to choose from.  On this new years Eve, the big player on our minds is the year 2015.

If 2015 were a store manager which store would it be?

Zach: Home Depot. Christy’s Dad and I fixed up our house, including a new rain water-catching system (this required a few trips to the market equivalent of Home Depot here).

Christy: Home Depot. Because together Zach and I have built a home and a family, we are under construction, and we have to keep going back and finding out how to do this thing, we have to keep figuring out how to equip ourselves, our hoe, our hearts, our worldview, for the challenges of parenthood, and living in community.  Sometimes you have to break down in order to reconstruct.  I feel like that is what we are in the process of doing.

Zach: I knew your answer was going to be deeper and more holistic than mine.  What I was thinking at first was something more like Ralph’s Pretty Good Grocery, but that wasn’t on the list.

If 2015 was a female name, which would be best?

Christy: Olga. When my sister and brother were younger they would go up to each other and grab each other around the neck and say “Olga!” “Shmolga!” and they would kiss each other grandly and heartily in the air three times!  I feel like this year has been a year of a lot of saying Hello to a lot of people we have missed and missing memories like that with people that are familiar.

Zach: Summer.  Partly I chose it as a joke, because there is no summer in Nigeria (instead we have rainy season and dry season).  But really I chose it because the name Summer makes me think of warm and friendly people and times of rest.  This has been a year of seasons of busy-ness working hard with good friends, but also seasons of rest, both planned and unexpected.


If 2015 was a special vehicle, which would it be?

Christy: Parade float.  Birthing a baby in Nigeria has put me on a sort of stage every time I walk through the streets, or everythime I exit my gate, it is one greeting after the other.  “Hi Mariama” “Where is her hat?”  Wave-Wave, Smile-Smile, Coming in close, “Wow I like your shoes!”   “Wow, she is fat! Are you doing baby friendly (i.e. 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding)?”  “Did you birth her here?”  “You will give her to me for my son” “She will not go back with you, Oh!”  And my parenting is on show all the time.  People wonder at the baby crib in my living room and wonder where I got it.  There are surprised I don’t bathe her morning and night.  They are surprised I carry her on my front and allow her to nurse as I walk along—and wonder why I don’t always carry her (the easier way) on my back.  My response (that makes even the most serious critics smile):  Ina da nono a baya?  (Free translation: Can she nurse on my back?)   And finally applause when I am carrying her on my back.
Zach: Tank.  Although I would prefer to answer Parade float (because of the great celebration surrounding Mariama’s birth) or Ice Cream truck, because of our two girls (one of whom is a sweet-tooth),  this year has been significant in that I am coming to realize, and perhaps even accept, that life as a Christian is a Spiritual battle.  I have always believed it in some sense, but this year I have been learning a bit about what it means to stand firm in my faith—both for myself and others around me.  Sometimes the adventure and hard work of clinging to Christ and shining his light in this world is exciting and invigorating—a challenge I am grateful for.  Other times, I remind myself that one day this struggle will be over and we will all go Home to celebrate and rest with our Father forever.

If 2015 was something to sit on which would it be?

Christy: Lap.  Through our children, I am learning about what parenthood from a Father’s or  Mother’s point of view looks like, which helps me to know how my heavenly father feels about me and how much he loves to feel about me.  (See my devotional for teenage girls with further reflections on this.  It is designed as a booklet, if you print it front and back.  See also devotional, part 2)

Zach: Sit ‘n spin.  We’ve been in Michigan, Indiana, France, Nigeria; a couple, parents of a newborn, parents of two;  worked on Scripture Engagement, worked in our neighborhood, worked on partnership development, and I’ve worked at learning how to help others get their work done (administration).

If 2015 was a punctuation mark, which would it be?

Zach: Parentheses.  From around April to October my primary role was something completely different than I expected.

Christy: Question mark.  It led me to asking lots of questions.  Some of which I am still asking. 
I ask questions of administrators about my role,
I ask questions of parents about how they raise their children,
I ask questions of Google about some strange phenomenon with my child like a pulsing head,
I ask questions of husband like our future, raising our children, what he wants to eat for breakfast,
and lots of questions of God for what is this season in my life supposed to look like, or is there no supposed to?  Is it true “He never does the same thing twice” (as Aslan says to Lucy in the Chronicles of Narnia . . . somewhere)

When you don't hear from us . . .



It has been about a month since I last wrote a post. I wish I had written more often, but what do you think and pray about when you pray for us at times when you haven’t heard from us
recently?

If I were you, at first I would keep on praying for the most striking prayer request that I prayed for last time I got an update any time it came to mind.  Then, it starts to feel repetitive, so I pray less and less.  The busy world around me catches my attention and other pressing needs of immediate life takes my attention, both for prayer and action.  I assume I’ll get another update, soon, especially if there are any pressing needs.

But the reality is that when I should write the most, sometimes I don’t manage to write anything at all.  Maybe I am so busy that I keep saying “I’ll write a prayer update in the next couple of days.”  Or maybe I am feeling a bit down, and it is hard to come up with the right words to inspire faith-filled prayer.   Or maybe I’ve become distracted from the things that are most important—like prayer . . . and prayer updates.  Of course, at these times of silence, I need prayer all the more!

I don’t need, or expect, all of you reading this to commit to pray for us every day.  But some of you have told me that you do pray every day, or once a week, or otherwise regularly for us.  For those who do, here are some ideas for prayers (and actions!) when you don’t hear from us.

Pray:

  • For wisdom and Christ-like humility at home, in our community, and at work
  • For courage and hope to keep on pressing on, regardless of whether I see the fruit of my work for the Lord
  • For focus, to keep on working for the Lord, not to be tempted by distractions.
Contact us!

  • Write us and share about your own life (including how we can pray for you)
  • Ask how you can pray for us today
  • Call us to greet!  In Nigeria I have learned the joy of a phone call just to say “hi”.  It doesn’t even have to last more than two minutes.  If you use Skype or Google Talk, you can call our Nigerian phones us for quite reasonable rates (and we don’t pay anything!).

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Asabe is home!

After 6 nights in the hospital, Asabe was sent home yesterday looking happy and healthy.  Thank you for praying. A lightness swept over me as I left the hospital yesterday.  Praise God!  More about the daily visits and the experience later.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Purity Olympics

What do you get when you have:
4 mother daughter teams
Dance competition
Finger "Sword Fighting" competitions that illustrate our fight for purity
Powerfuly Scriptures that show us how to fight
A Scripture scavenger hunt to neighborhood shops
and
A prize so two mother/daughter teams can have a special mother/daughter date?

Purity Olympics! 

Our "Olympic teams" ran from house to house, gathering momentum as we picked up the teams.  Later in the evening, when the winners had been announced, we gathered to close the evening. 
In the middle of my living room, the group of mothers and daughters stomped rhythmically while we chanted: 

"Bunzubo, Enye ba, enye ba (Yoruba war chant)
My body's for the Lord
I'm a woman of the Word
I'm gonna fight, fight, fight for my purity
So I'm beautiful
Like God wants me to be!"


Please pray for these girls who God has laid on our hearts.  God has given me a beautiful team of 3 ladies who love, pray for, and plan with me for fun purity events.  This was our 7th monthly meeting, and we don't have a good way of knowing if change is happening, if concepts are being grasped.  We want so much for these girls to know they have a choice to follow God in his loving, freeing guide for life-giving relationships.  We want them to know how high, deep, wide, and long the love of Christ is for them, that they don't have to go looking for it anywhere else but they can trust HIM to provide love in his way and in HIS time!  Please pray for their mothers , that they will fight with their girls for purity, and that as a team, they can be victorious and free to love their world!

Praying for Asabe!

Today we got the bloodwork done in preparation for Asabe's operation.  For those of you who do not know Asabe, this journey started 3 years ago when I tried to take her to the hospital, and the family decided to take her to the village to be treated instead.  When we returned in February this year, Asabe told me that her benign tumor had grown again and was painful to her.  So, for the last 7 months, we have been working through the medical system to get this taken care of.  Now, on Wednesday, Asabe is scheduled to have it removed.  This is not the first time she has gone through this procedure, so please pray with us:

  • That they will get all of the tumor and she will not have any regrowth. 
  • That the doctors will have wisdom of how to do it.
  • That we will be able to find a good environment for her to recover in.
  • That God will grant her total healing. 
  • That if the second tumor on her head needs to be operated on, it would be apparent and there will be no complications. 
  • That her family will pay her school fees so she can go to school second term, healthy, happy, and ready to learn! 
Thank you for praying with us! 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Etiennette Nkoro

Twelve weeks ago we introduced you to Mariama Saratu Etiennette Nkoro Yoder.  Above you see two Etiennettes: Mama Gado and my Cameroonian sister Etiennette. Etienne (Stephen) in the Bible was a man full of the power and the Holy Spirit who was chosen by the newly formed body of Christ to care for the needy.  "He is still on the throne,"  Mama Gado said one day as she entered the kitchen on the SIL campus in Cameroon.  I had been praying about asking this regal woman, who I only knew as Madam Gado, if I could live with her family in order to improve my French.  That morning, she was shining, and all the employees in the kitchen greeted her with love and admiration.  I felt confirmation in my heart, and went to her office later that day.  When I proposed the idea of me living with them, she said unsmiling, "I will discuss it with the family."  I left feeling nervous and embarrassed that I had asked.  That was the last time I ever entered her office without receiving a shining smile that radiated love because the next day she said, "Yes, we would like to have you,"  and I became their daughter.  For a year and a half the Gado family loved, trained and supported me. We pray that Mari will become all that her name means as Mama Gado has embodied the meaning of her name.
Mariama and her namesake are getting to know eachother.  Mommmy Dogari took care of Zach in her home for 2 years.  Zach is the same age as her son, Benjamin, who passed away suddenly the year before Zach came to live with her.  She is a gracious, loving woman who has housed many young people, 3 men while Zach was living there (Dogara, pictured below, shared the room with Zach while they were living with Mommy Dogari).  She never asked anything from him, but she has gotten a lot of love back and now a granddaughter who bears her name.

So Many Things To Love

In a Keke
The news is spattered with scary news about Nigeria.  However, if I were to watch the news that is broadcasted around the world about this country, I would probably not recognize it as the place we call home.  Some of you reading this may have negative images or words that come to your mind when people say, "Nigeria,"  so I thought I would write about a few of the things I love.  I will do this by sharing some short stories about things that have happened just this morning.

  • Daso cut up sweet bananas, pineapple, and watermelon to take for her school snack.  Children here do a lot of work, and she did it so joyfully.  By the time I got up she had already bathed, made her lunch, gotten dressed, and packed her school bag.  I love that we have fresh fruit grown right here in the country.  I love that children learn to be independent while still being very interdependent! 
  • We were all ready to go to school early, and decided to get food on the way instead of making breakfast.  We walked onto the muddy street in front of our house with the floppy umbrella we have yet to replace.  We met "Biggie na Slimmie", the pop artist who makes Ramen noodles with eggs under a tin shed on our street, smiling and ready to serve at 6:30am.  This is the local "Denny's" with a tilty counter decorated with a huge vinyl  poster of an unusually serious "Biggie na Slimmie" with a microphone in his hand looking at you while you slurp your noodles.  Everyone who passes either stares unashamedly or greets cheerfully.  I love the irony  nature of everyday experiences, and the flamboyant colors, sounds, smells, and cultural friendliness. 
 
  • I went with Daso to meet her ride this morning.  It was sprinkling and cold.  The large, friendly woman in the small motorized "rick-shaw" moved her purse so Daso could sit on her lap to save us paying for her seat.  We arrived at the junction where another parent picks her up and stood under a make-shift shelter constructed with recycled wooden posts, and covered with a holey tarp held on by worn out tires.  I think during working hours it is a "vulcanizers" spot, but when we are waiting for our ride, it protects us from both the sun and the rain.  Our ride seemed to have forgotten us, so we climbed another keke and went to her school, forgetting her lunch behind.  When I got to the office, Zach told me that the ride had come after we had left, found her lunch, and taken it to her.  I love that people make do with what they have.  I love that we can walk to the junction, but if we need to, we can also get public transport.  I love that people care enough to pick up a little girls lunch that she had carefully cut up for herself and take it to her. I love that I am part of a complex system that is made more simple through content exposure and experiencing it from the inside.
  • The taxi driver that picked us up agreed to take me back to old airport, picking passengers along the way.  He laughed about Daso's food and said, "When I was a child, we walked two hours to school, and didn't take any food with us.  I did that for six years."  He continued to explain that in Nigeria, the "people who have plenty take the water from the stream and carry it to the river instead of putting it in the well for the people." We picked up two small children clad in plaid and their "auntie" on their way to school down a very winding road through narrow streets lined with shops. When they entered they greeted, "Good morning, ma." I strained to hear the taxi driver explaining to me that the economy is hard, and you work and go to school only to struggle to have enough for your family.  Right after saying this, the children and their auntie reached their destination, and the little boy handed him 80 naira (40 cents), the driver then gave him back 20 naira and said "You gave me too much," and we went on our way.  Shortly after that we picked up an old woman with a bucket in her hand probably on her way to collect food for her pigs.  I think she probably would ride for free.  Another 30 feet we picked up one of our co-workers and we smiled at our meeting in a keke on this rainy morning.  When I was getting out I handed him a big bill to make change and he said, "How much of this is mine?"  I bet he would have taken less than I gave him.  He smiled and said, "I know you from seeing you around this junction, you were pregnant, but now you have a baby." I love that a stranger shared a childhood story with me.  I love that he knew money is hard to come by, but he didn't want to take anothers share.  I love that old women in worn cloth and young men like my colleague in a sharp office ware ride down the same roads in the same vehicle and greet each other warmly.  I love that though you may not know someone, you are known.  I love that with all the things that make us different, there are ways to bring us closer to those around us so we don't always have to stand at a distance. 
  • I had to walk a short distance to get to the office.  I didn't mind, but was feeling a bit tired from the unexpected journey all the way to Daso's school.  One keke going the opposite way came to a stop and the driver greeted, "Hi!" I recognized him as Paul, the keke driver who took us to school yesterday afternoon to pick Daso up.  "Hi Paul!"  "Where are you going?"  "Just up the road."  "Want a ride?" He asked.  "Sure!" Turning his keke around, he opened the floppy back door for me.  We went the two minutes up the road, and he let me out, turned around and drove back in the direction he had been going. I love that so many Nigerians give what they have to give.  I love that I am learning to accept what others have to give without being feeling guilty for taking because it blesses all of us. I love that Paul, a young man in a rough neighborhood, has qualities of a gentleman and inspires hope in me for his generation.
  • When I got to the office, Mari was wet, and I was frustrated that the shops weren't open for me to find her pampers to change.  My cloth diapers have been on the line since yesterday morning, and are still wet.  Despite her wetness, everyone wanted to hold her and said it was the blessing of having a baby.  She smiled charmingly at everyone, and laughed during the prayer time (at which point Zach asked me to take her out.)  When she was crying loudly, they offered to hold her, quiet her, and then she drank until she slept with Auntie Grace rubbing her back.  I went to put her on my chest in the carrier, and two other aunties ran to my aid in putting it on. I love that my daughter is being raised in a community that loves her and rejoices over all her developments as any family would.  I love that I can breastfeed my baby in public without anyone thinking anything of it (in fact, it is encouraged every time she cries).  I love that people help me when I need help without being asked.  
 I don't know what other experiences I will have today that will make me rejoice in this place, but I do hope that you have a new picture in your mind of Nigeria, one that replaces any negative messages you receive because God is doing good things too!  He's knitting us into a community, speaking to people in their inner beings, putting kindness in the hearts of strangers, providing us a home in a foreign land, and building his church in Nigeria.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A new director--Tom Crabtree!



On Nigeria’s 55th anniversary (that is October 1) our group got a new director!  Last week Wednesday we celebrated the transition with cake and prayer.  Please join us in prayer!  Here are some details to help you:

Tom (left) receives a picture of the group from Ian (left)
Thank God for all he did through our outgoing director, Ian Hollman.  He arrived in Nigeria about a year before I did, so I have had the privilege of seeing eight of his nine years of leadership of our group through several transitions.  Under his leadership our organization has transformed from scattered individual expatriates, each working independently, to a unified organization including both Nigerians and expatriates working together with a common vision.  Thank God for his years of dedicated service, his care and posture of listening before moving.  Also thank God for his family who have supported him through those years.  Ian will still be living in Nigeria, working as an Africa Area director, a role he started a couple of years ago.

Praying for Tom and Robyn
Please join us in praying for Tom Crabtree as he takes up the leadership of SIL Nigeria.  Pray for wisdom and courage as he takes up the leadership of this organization at a challenging time.  Personally, I think that Tom is perfectly prepared for this role, not just because of his years of cross-cultural leadership experience, or his gentle but clear direction, but because he is taking up the position in humility and looking to God for help.  Thank God for these gifts! Christy and I met Tom and his wife Robyn the same year we met each other (2010).  We loved them from the beginning, and were so thankful when they joined our group that year, and are praying not only for them to lead the group well where God leads, but also that this time will help them to grow (and not wear them out!) as they lead.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A Family Day!

What  do you get with 40 children, 15 adults, worship, dancing, Bible drill, animals, and a Nigerian version of a pot luck?  A family day at the Wildlife Park in Jos...and a very long Saturday.  At our last meeting it was decided that we all needed to have a fun time together to build community, and this is what was planned.  We are thankful for the leadership of some Godly men in the neighborhood who led us in activities that fit the goals of our neighborhood and many servant-hearted mommies who served food and added joy.






Monday, October 5, 2015

Do you have...

 We didn't know what to expect when we joined our colleague at his church two Sundays ago.  He was sharing about his work with SIL Nigeria, and we were there to support him and share audio Scriptures.  Zach had gotten up early to load the lightstream (a cool device for sharing media quickly) with audio Scriptures and a sampler of 15 languages to give to people on their cell phones.
 After the service we filed out of the auditorium that contained at least 600 congregants, and I imagined that we would be too late to get set up and share Scriptures with anyone.  We shuffled to the side of the main exit, and settled ourselves down with the lightstream ready to go!  Our colleague started shouting in the middle of the crowd, "Free Audio Scriptures over here!" and before you knew it, we had about 15 people gathered around.  We started asking them, "What language would you like your audio New Testament in?" The most exciting moments for me were when someone would say hopefully, "Do you have the Bible in..." and we could say, "Yes!"  After giving out about 30 NTs in over 5 languages we were splendidly tired.
Mariama was part of it all too, of course, and Daso watched what was happening though it wasn't until later she understood what we had been doing!  She was so excited that we taught her how to use the lightstream so yesterday, she shared the Scriptures at the church we visited, and I attended to Mariama and fielded other questions.

We have already gotten positive feedback of people listening to God's Word on their phones.  Praise God!  Please pray for more opportunities to share, for strength on the weekends, and for fruit to be produced in people's lives. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Strategic Prayer for Scripture Enagagement



Finally!  Our Scripture Engagement team gathered together yesterday for the first time since April.  (Read some of the previous posts on the Scripture Engagement team to see why.)  We did a SWOT analysis—that is we identified our strengths and weaknesses, and also opportunities, and threats as we consider our strategy as a team. Then we developed a list of things we want to pray for so that our part of God’s mission will go forward—things we can’t do on our own.

Will you join us in praying for these things which we can't control, but we hope God will do?
  • Clarity and direction for us as an organization as our Nigerian Missionaries look for new Ministry Partners to pray for and support them financially.
    Related to this, pray for each member of our team to have all the ministry partners and the full support level they need.
  • Courage to step into opportunities, even if we don't know exactly how it will all work out
  • Direction and unity in deciding anchor projects--that is communities we will develop relationships with over the next two years.  (More on that as it unfolds.)
  • More people to join us in the work--In Scripture Engagement, Arts, and Vernacular Media services. (Maybe sometime next year?)
  • Good health for us and our families (a number of us have been sick lately)
  • Unity in vision
  • Opportunities for training for our staff
 Thanks for praying.  Let's see what God will do!

You Is Not You Without Me

 "He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.  Through him you believe in God, ...