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!

Mariama's immunizations

This morning Christy and I took Mariama for her immunizations.  This is her 10 week visit—though she is actually 11 weeks old now—and so this was our third time going for immunizations.  
When we went for our first visit—about two weeks after Mariama was born—to the government facility where Mariama receives free vaccinations, Christy was imagining a sharp, white-halled facility with waiting rooms like we are familiar with in the US.  Since I had been there in 2007 when I received one of my final travel vaccinations—hepatitis B—I knew what to expect of the building.  But both of us were in for a participatory lesson in how infant vaccinations work here.
First there were the questions of what vaccinations were available.  The night before I read up online about which vaccinations would be given at which age.  The “at birth” vaccinations we gave Mariama were for tuberculosis (TB) and polio.  We later heard that the TB vaccination is not very effective and may cause TB tests required by some in the US to false positive.  Oh well, Christy’s mom assured us it was still good for Mariama to have this one.  (I think she had seen TB firsthand in children in Sierre Leone about thirty years ago.)

Also, I have learned a lot more about Polio in Nigeria.  Nigeria used to have a major problem with polio.  In 2012, the year we were married, Nigeria had more than half of the polio cases worldwide.  However, by the month Mariama was born (July this year), Nigeria was celebrating one full year without any new polio cases.  Thank God with us!  So I guess Mariama is not at high risk for Polio—especially now that she has received three doses of the oral polio vaccination (OPV)

When you show up at the vaccination center you collect a card with a number—a piece of cardboard with a handwritten number—from the stack on the desk at the front of the vaccination room.   If you arrive around 7:30am, you can get the number 5—we have picked up this number twice.  Then you have time to explore the facilities, because the vaccinations won’t start until around 9am or so.

The building appears to my untrained eyes to date the colonial era.  It is a two-story building with a long row of rooms—both upstairs and downstairs all opening directly to walkways outdoors.   If you arrive by  7:30am, there aren’t many people around yet.  Just one or two other mothers with their babies and the staff who have come to open the doors and sweep the facility.

Today, Christy and I entered into the courtyard behind the row of vaccination rooms to wait.  I like the quiet atmosphere with mango trees and a grand old stairway leading up to the balcony of the rooms that face the inner part of the court yard.   Since not many people have arrived yet, Christy and I have time to quietly talk and pray together—just the two of us and Mariama—a luxury we hardly even have in our house these days.  Slowly more women began to arrive.  Some young ladies seize the opportunity to sell baby items: baby clothes, diaper covers, and natural medicines like shea butter and palm kernel oils.  Christy took the opportunity to buy some oils and the diaper covers—it seems we are always running out!
Around 9am suddenly it got dark and the wind started blowing.  Rainy season usually ends this month, and it hasn’t rained for a few days, but we knew it would probably be good to hurry to the front of the building.  It seems our timing was perfect.  Just as we all reached the covered walkway in front of the building, it started to rain.  It was also time to start the vaccination process.

There is a wonderful sense of belonging that comes from receiving vaccinations together with all the other women and their babies.  We waited in the crowd of colorfully-dressed women and their warmly wrapped babies just outside the door.  One-by-one the man at the door called out the numbers, and each woman entered and sat in rows of benches according to number—over thirty of them.  I knew from a previous visit I was not to sit with Christy, so I sat in a plastic chair by the side of the room. 

A woman in charge explained in English and then in Hausa how it worked:  When you are called you receive your vaccination at the front right of the room—I recognized the friendly young man there who had done the vaccinations before.   To the front left of the room is the table of vaccination records, which have already been processed while we waited in the courtyard.   By the right of the room, was the birth certificate desk with a window opening out onto the walkway.   

Speaking of birth certificates, you can thank God with us that we got Mariama’s birth certificate last time.  I cannot easily explain how excited I felt the moment I held that birth certificate—about six weeks after she was born!  While the woman in charge explained which vaccinations would be given where for which age groups of children, I read up on the next step in Mariama’s paperwork—her Consular Report of Births Abroad and her passport.  It is amazing to have internet access right on Christy’s phone, so I could read all the details right there!  It was also amazing how many documents we need.  In addition to the birth certificate I am so happy to have, we also need our marriage certificate, photos of her birth, photos of us, several documents to prove we really did live in the US long enough for Mariama to be a US citizen, an application including a list of the exact dates we have been in the US… and so many other things.  Please pray that we can get all these documents together in a timely way.  Although I know by my own strength I may be able to gather most of the documents, I am afraid of this process taking a lot of time that could be spend on other things, and could easily get delayed.

Since we were number five, it didn’t take long for us to get our vaccinations. Mariama did very well, only crying for a little bit. Thank God for how well Mariama seems to be taking to life. Although (like all babies, even baby Jesus, I believe) Mariama does cry each day, she also shares so many smiles and lovely “talking” sounds. Thank God for the privilege to receive vaccinations for free along with so many other babies in this country. Please continue to pray to God for us and our baby to remain healthy so we can serve here!

Quick update: Mariama is crying a lot this afternoon.  We think she is feeling uncomfortable after the vaccinations.  We think it is just a normal minor side effect of the vaccination, but we still ask that you pray for us for wisdom and for her to recover quickly to full health.

Go Away!

T here were children. Always so many children. Our children are a magnet for other children and so everywhere we go, they follow us giggling...