Wednesday, February 25, 2015

ENGAGE!

Twenty students gathered for their morning session on ethnographic research and ethno-arts.  I had been invited by our colleagues on Tuesday morning to share about SIL Nigeria and Scripture engagements.  To stand in front of young men and women who have a passion to be missionaries in their own country was very humbling for me.

After they danced and sang energetically...
I had the job of keeping the energy high while sharing about how they could ENGAGE the communities they are serving with the Word of God...with Christ.

Storying: "We had gathered again, on that day of Pentecost.  Many people were in the city that day.  Jesus Christ, our Savior, who had gone back to heaven 40 days ago told us to wait in Jerusalem. So we did.  I don't know how to explain what happened while we were praying in that place...there was a wind...the promised Holy Spirit had come..." I began.

Drama:  Zach and I did a skit on Scripture Engagement...the same skit we had done many times this summer in front of American audiences.  What a different experience when one man came later and said, "I understood very well what was being said on the audio Scripture you played...you do you speak that Efik?"

Trauma Healing:  I shared the story of a friend who had been raped when she was 19, went from relationship to relationship after that.  My eyes blurred as I remembered her tears, and said, "Some of you have experienced deep pain.  The people of your community have experienced pain.  If they cannot receive the gospel, maybe it is because they need to know Christ as their healer first."

Scripture Listening Groups:  Zach shared with them a passage of Scripture in English and then asked questions to help them see how they can reach non-readers with the Gospel through oral Bible studies.

Ethno-arts: Then we shared a song I had written, with our colleague Peter playing the African drum beat for me, from that passage (2 Timothy 2:8-90 that declares, "But God's Word is not chained!"

The challenge to them was:  Engage your communities with Scripture, allow God's unchained Word, Christ, to touch and change hearts!

Here they are making the motion for "Engage!"  that we did in class.


Bible Translation Again? Casting vision..

"You want to tell me about Bible translation again?  What about the people dying, the terrorism happening in this country!  Why are you wasting resources on Bible translation?" said my colleage, John, in the skit we performed to drive home how Bible translation can equip the church to respond to terrorism in Nigeria on Monday night.




I had arrived in the office at 10am where I found out the one who was supposed to present that same Monday afternoon with John was sick with fever.  I spent a few hours before the presentation pulling together answers to the questions he was going to fire at me during the skit including, "The people can't read, how will Bible translation help them." and "Using different languages in the church divides the church!" and "English is the most powerful language, if you say "In Jesus name" in English, the Devil really is scared."  The next hour was spent unfolding the case for Bible tranlation and it's impact on the church.  We revealed the history of ancient churches that stood firm in the face of Islam because they had Scripture in their language.  We discussed how Christianity teaches people to respond in love, to give grace, and to pray for your enemies...to understand this message, is to becomes strong in Christ.   We reminded the believers that Christianity is a translated religion and how God wanted people to understand and know him, so he translated himself, in the person of Christ Jesus. 

I felt totally ill-equipped to present that evening, but God did a wonderful thing.  One man stood up and testified, "I have been in church my whole life.  Then I heard Ephesians from the audio Bible in Mwaghavul, my language.  I had never understood it like that.  The Bible talks about God's people, the Jew, but I knew I was not Jew. I heard that because of Jesus, the the Mwaghavul man and the Jew have become one.  That never made sense to me before as it did in my language."  Praise God.


These two young men stayed after, with many others, to locate their language on the map.  John even gave them the audio translation in their language off of his computer!  What a beautiful evening!



Part of Her World


Walking with this precious woman, being part of her world, has had so many rewards.  I have learned so much about Nigerian marriage, parenting, spirituality, and struggle from this friend, Benedicta.  After being here three weeks, she was finally able to travel back to Jos to visit us and see her son, Philip, who we had the privilege of naming when he came into the world 20 months ago. 
Since then, her life has fallen apart, but her faith, her desire to heal, her resiliency, takes me down a path of trusting God for the impossible, of fighting for love, grace, faith, and forgiveness.  Thank you, dear sister, for all I learn through our friendship.


 Besides being a missionary, like Philip in the Bible, it looks like Philip is learning the importance of tea breaks and quick, to the point phone calls that Nigerians are so good at!
Philip liked my glasses.  He looks smart, doesn't he?  He is. 


Friday, February 13, 2015



Praise God for warm reunions!  These pictures represent only a few of the literally hundreds of people we have been reunited with over the last week.  It is soooo good to be loved!  Thank God for the family we have here!

Touchdown

I love sitting next to the window on the airplane.  Christy does, too, but she arranged for me to have a window seat.  I am often filled with wonder as I consider a two-fold marvel: first the mere fact that I can fly and then the vastness of the world God has made.  In populated areas it is amazing to see houses, cars, and roads, which seem so important when we are down among them, shrink in scale.  Then town after town goes by as if we are merely passing houses, each like a small world to those living in them.  And God knows each of them.  Then we pass over the Sahara desert.  A vast land, completely uninhabited, but which, if only it had regular rain, could contain millions of inhabitants.  The black mountains of the Sahara begin to feel like friends, I have passed over them so many times.

When I hear an announcement that we will soon touch down, I look out the window again.  First I see a large lake--I think I have visited villages by that lake a few years ago.  Then as we descend, suddenly the city of Abuja comes into view.  I cannot quite identify the streets and buildings as they rush by; Abuja is a fast-growing city.  However, it all seems so familiar.  How can one capture in words the images that rush by in an instant?  Dusty streets (it is dry season), familiar cinder block construction, unfinished buildings (where people invest their money in building stage by stage), the large African style lorries (trucks), then people walking along streets.  Each sighting brings back feelings associated with so many memories here.  Travels with friends, hospitable strangers, challenges overcome, difficulties managed... the feelings all rush back and catch me by surprise.  I have been away from Nigeria for fourteen months.  Can it be that I have forgotten?  This place, too, is home.


 Thank God with me for his kindness in making Nigeria my home.

Food

I, Christy, complained a bit about the food when I first came to Nigeria from Cameroon.  It all seemed to have a similar flavor. Honestly, I never thought I'd get so excited about sakwara (pounded yam) and "soup" (sauce that you scoop or dip your yam into).  Surprises of surprises, I about wanted to hug the cook upon my first yummy bite. (No, it's not because of baby Yoder.)  I actually missed Nigerian cuisine.  My husband never agreed with my evaluation of the food, so he always looks like this when he eats sakwara...it's his favorite.

Inspired

Releasing ourselves to inspiration and it's impact on us is sometimes challenging, not so?
Needless to say, I was inspired.  My husband told me about this place years ago, before we were married.  He painfully reminded me of my words then, a flippant disinterest at seeing what, upon returning to Nigeria a year later, inspired me.  The German woman and her Nigerian husband who started this school 7 years ago have a vision that finds children walking down this beautiful hall with wood fired brick and cheerful curtains every day.
 It has children playing on this carefully, thoughtfully, and ingeniously built playground.
It had me longing to hit the ground running because only God knows what we can "build" as we walk with him, and are part of meeting the needs around us.  I pray I am becoming someone who allows myself to be inspired by the lives and faith of others.   

The "scape"

 If you've ever been to West Africa, there's no way to describe or picture the striking and contrasting beauty that captures you.  Maybe it's just because I'm pregnant, but I tear up just looking at the above picture...I was crying IN the picture.  These women keep our office clean, the tea out at tea break, and the sheets in the guest house sparkling clean.  Victoria, on the right, was also my house help and close friend as I walked into marriage and through the first year and a half.  Seeing these humble, joyful women reminded me of so many things I LOVE about Africa.  The warm embrace, the charisma that marks each happy moment, the remembering that colors each reunion, and the unfettered love.  These women love me, and I love them.  Shi ke nan! (That's it!) 
Dust is everywhere in Jos now.  Harmattan (sand off the Sahara) leaves a thin layer everywhere, not to mention we're in the middle of 7-8 months of dry season.  Yet these flowers bloom, the trees behind are still green, and under the mountain in the distance flows fresh water that is bottled for human consumption. 

The "scape" of Nigeria, from the people to the land, is resilient and truly beautiful.  

Cactus Wall

Coming back to Nigeria, I find the old habits or friendships that made me tired, I want cut out or discontinue.  Sometimes this includes not answering phone message from people who used to tire me as they asked for things or "encouragement" in the form of money because I didn't want them to like me for the wrong reason.  Boundaries are good, but when I saw these cactus walls that are distinct to our area of the country, I thought, "I don't want to build cactus walls in my life that scratch people when they get close, and keep me "protected" behind them." 

Today I almost made the mistake of not showing hospitality because I had built a wall against someone.  I had someone who, in the past, only came when she wanted money, sent away. I couldn't bear it, so I chased my friend down as she went toward the gate of the compound.  Since she is deaf I had to run right up to her, and when I touched her shoulder, she turned and started jumping up and down.  She embraced me, and in sign told me she was so happy to see me, that she had missed me, and worried I wouldn't come back.  Her joy at seeing me tore down the wall I had built to keep myself "safe."  We drank tea together, and she shared some photos with me.  She told me I was beautiful now, but before I wasn't. "Thank you," I signed back.  Did she ask me for anything?  Yes, twice, but I was able to keep my boundary without my cactus wall. 
Is this the only time I've had to learn this in the last two days?  Nope...
A mother and dear friend fell on her knees before me when I gave her school fees for this semester for her daughter ($40).  I met today with a grandmother who's grandchild has a growth that isn't being taken care of (though she refused my help 2 years ago) she said she has no reason to not let me help this time.  The shoes I brought for the children of my neighborhood did not all fit, but I gave them the one's that did, and did not allow myself to ache over what I couldn't do.  15 children gathered around me when I visited a home today, and I was sure they had seen the gifts I had given to the other little ones.  Without wondering what they wanted from me, I hugged each of them. I walked into a shelter for a maternity clinic where women who did not share my language smiled broadly at me.  I blessed their children and asked God to bless them.  It was awkward.
My life may not be as "safe" without a spiny barrier, but I believe it will be more full.  Not to mention that God rejoices when his children are obedient, and he said, "Don't forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some have entertained angels unaware." (Hebrews 13:2) and "When you did it (gave a glass of water, etc) to the least of these my brothers, you did it to me." (Matthew 25:40) I don't have to be afraid of being taken advantage of, God can handle my heart, I just have to extend the love he's given me to share, and not hide.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Paris On the Way!

As I walk with my arm looped around Zach's through small shops, cafe's, and flower markets in Paris, I am overwhelmed with thankfulness that this is where God has brought us.  Not just to Paris for a few days, but to this marriage, where we find a true partner and friend in each other, and where we can serve together with a people we love.  We are so thankful.  We chose two sites to see and spent the rest of our time resting, praying, preparing our hearts for continuing on.




My very own flute playing statue at the Louvre!





The Seine River ...this may be Notre Dame on the other side, but we aren't sure.  It looked more like a lovely castle to us.





French Bakery!  We had dinner in this little cafe.  Quiche, salad, fresh baked bread.  Yum!  All things we don't eat much in Nigeria (well, the bread we can get, but now French bread). We also bought Kiwi and grapes!  Fun to eat them now, but know we won't probably miss these things too much once we're in Nigeria since they have good food too!





Some beautiful tower near the Seine River.  We got there right when they turned on the lights and felt the show was for us.

It has been so fun to get to know the city a bit as we walked the streets, took the metro, and joked with good-humoured Frenchmen.  Maybe someday we'll stop in again, but tomorrow we're on our way to Nigeria!  Goodbye Europe! 

Refreshing

It has been a while since I read Peter's first letter to the churches (aka 1 Peter).  I had forgotten how refreshing I find this letter.  Somehow, after reading it so many times I could almost recite it, I began to think I didn't need to read (or say) it anymore.  Check. Done.  Move on.  Yet, coming back to this letter I find that again it fills me with hope, and sets my heart and my eyes on eternal treasures.

Thank you, God, for our brother, Peter, and how you changed his life, and how now through his letter, you change ours.

  
This is just what I was hoping for in Paris.  A day to sit and just be to thank God for so many good things he has done in this past year (see previous posts) and to look forward to what he will be doing as we return to Nigeria.  Thank you God!

Tourists

We don't recommend carrying 300 lbs of luggage through Paris.  However, if you're moving to another country, and have to bring gifts along, it makes for good (or funny later) memories! The little machine I am happy standing in front here was just the beginning.  First, I stood there, ready to walk into the little doors, when two young African guys walk up to the other side talking on their phones.  They take a look at me, loaded down with baggage, and walk right in to go through before me.  Nice. When I finally pulled my 150 lbs in, doors shut behind me, there was a voice that repeatedly said the same thing that I couldn't understand while people looked at me.  It was so funny I almost started to cry (it's the baby) and finally understood the word "Sortez" which means "get out." So, I pulled my luggage back out, my red bag fell on the ground as the doors opened to welcome me in for round two.  I ignored the bag, put in my ticket, which this time the machine accepted, and then forged my way out of the other side.  Zach handed me my bag over the glass wall, and it was his turn. Every gate is meant to shut behind you, but most people aren't 5 feet long, so our bags got caught every time.  Thankfully, 2 other very kind older African men helped us get our bag off the train.

Zach said later he was trying to pull a "Christy" (feeling relaxed in a rather stressful situation).  It worked.  We got our bags off the train with the help of our African friends (I told them I was pregnant so I couldn't lift the heavy bags-- A line someone told me to use often and without restraint, and that made them happy to help.)
After one last stressful struggle with a glass door that included an older Frenchman who stood with our stuff on one side while Zach held open the door as it tried to squeeze shut, and my red bag kept falling off as I tried to shuffle it through, I left Zach with his load in a median and went to the guest house so I could help him better.  See, at one point Zach had been trying to get me through a door with MY luggage and as he pulled mine, he tumbled over his red bag which had sneakily fallen behind him. Landing on the floor, he quickly scurried up...I'm sure no one rushing by us to load the train noticed.  Not funny, but kind of funny.  Needless to say that red suitcase has not been the same since so the brilliant stack of suitcases just wasn't cooperating any more.  
On my way to the guest house, I met a woman who said she'd help me.  I started speaking French to her, assuming I wasn't saying things right, and she said in Spanish, "Are you here for the women pastors conference?" Honored, but "No" I said, confused because I thought I was in France and I was pretty sure they spoke French in France.  Turns out she was staying in the guest house, too, and was from Argentina.  After making a big fuss again about being pregnant and needing help getting up the stairs with my luggage, I returned and found Zach happily watching people pass by, and around, him. 

Well, needless to say, we made it to the guest house, together, with all our luggage, thanks to all our little helpers along the way!


The Big Bye.

A lovely snow in Detroit to send us on our way or try to hinder us.  Amazingly, our plane was not deterred (nor the pilot), and off we went after a 2 hour deicing!  Here I am with my little sister, Leah.
 Mom, Dad, Zach, Leah, and myself right before we go through security.  Daddy got us to the airport with plenty of time to spare!  It took us over 5 hours in the weather...going 45 down the interstate!
Zach asked me what I'd miss about Leah tonight as we reflected about our time in the States.  What is there not to miss in this beautiful face? She's so delightful in so many ways.  From making trips to the bathroom in the airport to going to Arby's for curly fries, she giggles at the simple prospects in life and reminds you all along that you are loved, one of her favorite people, so happy to be with you.  Oh, Leah, I'll miss just about everything that makes you, you! 
 So many happy moments over tea, talking at breakfast with mom this time around.  Leaving with little baby in my womb making the tears flow freely (I never had an excuse before) made this time a hard one!  Everyone changes so much when I'm gone.  If they'd all just fall asleep for a couple of years like in Sleeping Beauty, that would be nice.  On the other hand, as they change and I change, we have a more dynamic time returning and rediscovering how God's working in each other's lives.  Reminds us this earth is not our forever home, but that we're getting closer to it...where we never have to say goodbye, in a place of divine beauty with the One we treasure for eternity!

The Lord's Prayer for Neighborhoods

You can use the Lord's prayer to pray for your neighborhood, or to join us in praying for our neighborhoods.  I like to pray based on weekdays (but of course you can pray through this any way you like!):

Monday: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name

Father, you reign in heaven, this neighborhood belongs to you.  Let the people in this house know your awesome holiness, righteousness, and unending unfailing love.  Let them know your almighty power, your bountiful goodness, your creative authorship of this world and salvation, your demonstration of power in this world through miracles like the parting of the red sea and the feeding of the five thousand, your eyes which range throughout the earth to strengthen those who are committed to you, your faithful love, your gentle grace, your humility as you washed the disciples feet, your immense omnipotence, your j... (continue through the alphabet!)

Tuesday: Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven

Lord, you are king over all kingdoms.  Your kingdom is not of this world.  Please let the people in this neighborhood know your will and do it.  Let me follow after you and do your will.  Father, is there anything I do which is against your will?  I am sorry for these forgive me in Jesus name!  What is your will for me today?  I give myself to you.  Please do as you please in this neighborhood, because what you please is always good . . .

Wednesday: Give us today our daily bread

Father, please provide for the daily needs of the fathers in this neighborhood.  Give them strength as they go to work to work with integrity.  Please provide all that the families need to eat, for their schooling.  Heal their sickness.   Please take care of the mothers . . . the youth, provide them not only with their physical needs, but also with their need to do something useful, give them the employment they need . . . the children . . . .

Thursday: Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us

Father, thank you so much for taking away all our sins in Jesus name.  Please forgive our brothers and sisters of sin, even as you have forgiven me.  Forgive us all for seeking after earthly treasure, rather than heavenly treasure, for not trusting you as we should when we need help. . . . Thank you that each sin you have already paid the penalty for.

Friday: And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil

Oh, God, please guide our friends in this neighborhood on paths that please you. For those who are stuck in bad patterns and addictions, please set them free.  Considering the many temptations that distract, please renew our friends minds' with your truth.  Please protect our brother's hearts from the small, almost imperceptible sins.  Uproot them now before they grow into bigger problems . . .

You can take my stuff, but . . .

Tomorrow we set foot back in Nigeria.  I started this post in December, with just the title.  However, today I have been thinking about its theme again.  We are traveling with about 300 pounds of things.  They aren't really that valuable... clothes, gifts for friends, some electronic "toys" which we use to get our work done more effectively, like the camera I used to take this picture or the laptop I am writing this blog with. 


At times, my mind wanders.  What if, somehow, we lose all our stuff.  You, know baggage goes missing, between airports; someone decides to play Robin Hood and thinks that I am rich--and decides to help me with this load; one can imagine all kinds of scenarios.  Oddly, I am less concerned about losing the stuff as losing all the pictures which remind me of so many people and experiences.  Once Christy had a laptop stolen at knife-point and along with it many pictures and journals.  Of course, I make back-ups and take precautions, but I sense at times I go beyond careful to obsessed.  "You can take my stuff" I find myself saying, "but don't take my back-up hard drive."  Am I really willing to "give myself away" as one song says?  Please pray with me as I struggle to give myself fully to God.

Neighborhoods we pray for

Christy and I have been desiring to grow in prayer this year.  (We asked some of you to pray about this.)  One of the ways in which God answered that prayer was through a book called Why Pray?  We are learning to see prayer are the first and most important work we do.  We are learning to pray first, before doing anything.  We would love to have you join us in prayer. The great thing, is you can pray anywhere and impact places far away!  For several months now, Christy and I have been praying regularly for four specific neighborhoods. 

Hwolshe
This is the neighborhood where Christy and I lived for a year and a half.  We have good friends there including a young couple with a child, and a small group of children.  We have seen homes broken through poverty, alcohol, and lack of commitment in marriage.  Most of the people profess to be Christians (many Catholic, but also many from various protestant denominations including pentecostal ones), and we know sincere believers who are growing in God in this neighborhood.  Some prayer starters are: God thank you for chosen ones in Hwolshe . . . let them shine brightly . . .please bring healing to marriages . . . take away the destructive selfish forces of alcohol . . . provide all that each family needs . . . especially for orphans and single mothers and their children . . . let the truth of your word rest.

Gidan Ragu ("House of the Ram")
I used to frequently walk through this neighborhood on my way to work.  Some parts are quite different from the neighborhood where I live now, having narrower streets and houses built in a different style more closely together.  We have a friend who lives in this neighborhood, and have been praying for God's blessing on the neighborhood since early this year.  Some prayer starters are: Lord, thank you for these people's contentment with what they have . . . please provide their daily needs . . . please let your light of truth shine bringing hope and healing . . . please embolden your children who live in this neighborhood to forgive those who have wronged them.

Our mobile home park, Dallas, TX
This is where we were living for the past year.  Most of our neighbors are students or people working to support the work of Bible Translation and minority language development internationally in one way or another.  Others commute from nearby neighborhoods to work here.  On the center we have a mobile home park, a retirement home, a guest house (which also serves as a student's dormitory), and various duplexes, and other multiplex housing situations.  Some prayer starters: God thank you for establishing this center . . . it belongs to you . . . please renew vision by your Holy Spirit for your work. . . please bring complete unity to each of the different organizations and departments . . . provide all the needs . . . please send more workers, thank you for each of our brother's and sisters of all ages.

Friends, Colleagues, and Neighbors of Building the Kingdom Community Church
This is this church where Christy and I now attend.  We have started walking in the neighborhoods surrounding the church, just to pray.  Also, because of the church's recent "Each one reach one" initiative, we have decided to start praying for co-workers, friend, and family of the church members.  Some prayer starters:  Father, thank you for the amazing miracles you have done in the lives of members of BKCC . . . thank you for Pastor Vic and all the other ministers who assist him . . . please give the choir unity as Christy and Zach lead it . . . let Christy and Zach quickly learn and worship you through Gospel songs and let the choir learn other songs . . . let all the music be focussed on Christ for your glory . . . let the people living in neighborhoods around BKCC know your daily provision . . . set people free from the bondage and deceit of sin . . . bring those who don't have church homes into fellowship with the body of Christ, where you best please!

Thank You Power Company!

I wrote this when we first arrived...I'm getting used to things happening at a different pace.    Dear ONIT*, I know you, my local power...