Friday, October 28, 2016

Chosen and Beautiful

Tonight we had our final meeting before the big start of “Beautiful Me” tomorrow, Saturday, October 29, with 12 new girls and their mothers, ranging from ages 10-12 (tweens, as a book I’m reading calls them).  These girls come from vary diverse backgrounds.  Some are “housegirls” brought from villages to work in the city, and their “mothers” are the ladies of the house where they’re working.  (This is a very common practice and, in some cases, even expected.) Some of them are granddaughters who are living with their grandmothers. A couple are orphans who will come with an Aunty, older sister, or grandmother.  We have girls who read far beyond their grade level and girls who can’t read or speak English at all.  We have mothers who speak Hausa and their mother tongue, but don’t read and mothers who are highly educated and speak multiple languages, including English.  As leaders we said we are “excited” and “hopeful.” 

Please pray that in this year (we have the program 1x a month), these girls will believe and be sure of these statements:
I am beautiful,
I am created and loved by God,
I am made to love God, myself, and my mother/daughter,  
God makes me pure in Jesus and I can live pure in Him.        

I have had many opportunities to know these girls through Bibles study and literacy classes.

Because of Daso, I get to be a "mommy" and be challenged to love my daughter well in her tween years!

On the right, Miracle looks unsure, but in reality she is vibrant and delightful!

Nandir visits our home regularly and always brings with her extra doses of energy.

Asabe is one of our sweeties who attends school with Daso this year.  We have enjoyed watching her grow in wisdom and beauty over the last 4 years. I'm always touched when I see the little girls in my big girls.  This smile and her laugh on her first tire swing ride was priceless!
In the singing and dancing, games, demonstrations, the story of Esther, and the "date" outside in our compound, we pray that God will speak to both the girls and the mothers of their worth in Him and their need for each other. 
God has put together a dynamic team. On the left above is Aunty Mary Jane (Daso in the middle is a participant in the program with her mommy (me) this year), on the right above is Aunty MaryAnn, and to the right with her contagious smile is Aunty Margaret.  Pray that God will unite us and give us vision. 

Thank you for praying.  We know God can do anything, and we are believing him for some miracles tomorrow!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

We're ready

"So David gave the water to God, he poured the water out on the ground as an offering to God." 

We sit in a circle on benches in the shade of a tree retelling the story of David and his mighty men.  On the ground is a spiral of about thirty local objects which help us to remember the details.  We recount how David was longing just to taste the water from a well in his hometown, which was occupied by enemies.  We relate how three of his close friends (his nephews in fact) slipped quietly in and risked their lives to bring him some of this water.  And finally we tell the climax, of how David pours out the water to God, the only one who is worthy of it.  All of this we do without anyone opening a single Bible.  After retelling the story a few times, each of us can tell the whole story without leaving out any important details.

Here, under the tree, it is easy to imagine how God could use this purely oral method of retelling the stories of Scripture to bring his good news to a people that are still less than 2% Christian.  We have driven two days by car from Jos, and waded across a river and ridden motorcycles to get  here.  We sit with educated Nigerians who have given up well-paying jobs and families far away to be a consistent fragrance of Jesus in this place.  They speak of the power of storytelling, and love the memorability of the method of storytelling we are thinking of bringing.

In a blog post just before the trip titled Get Ready! I asked you to pray for God to speak to us and for unity.  We came away from the two language areas with a great peace in preparing to send a team to the first language, but felt it is not a good time for us to send a team to the second.  We felt a great unity in these decisions between myself, the Americans who came from the US just for this trip, and all the Nigerians who are daily involved.  Thank God for how he is directing all our hearts in the same way!

We also asked you to pray for Jesus to use this to prepare the way for his story to be told in these lands.  We talked nearly non-stop throughout the seven days of the journey, and sensed a great deal of peace in every detail we discussed.  We feel ready to invite four Americans to come and join us for three to four years in this special task.  They will learn the local language and work with local people to craft a series of stories to tell the Good news of Jesus to people who have probably never heard it before.  Sound exciting?  Please pray for God to prepare and send these people.  Might you be one of them?

[Post Script:  The story referenced at the beginning comes from 2 Sam 23.  However, we experienced the story the same way an oral-preferenced community would: without even opening a Bible.  You can listen to a recorded version of the story here: Elite Forces.]

Friday, October 7, 2016

A beatiful blurry mess

With Zach on the road in remote villages without network, our days pass in a bit of a blur.  Kind of like this, which was taken as I tried to snap Mari painting, and she chose that moment to stand up on the picnic table, so my finger pressed the "capture" key as my other hand plunged to make sure she didn't tumble off.

Yep, that pretty much sums it up! A beautiful blur, with people I love present, in the picture, but everything a bit out of focus.  Mari first had raised bumps like hives all over her body (I've not posted those pictures), then a chest cough and head cold that resulted in 3 days of fever. 

We stayed home from children's Bible study yesterday, Thursday, so Mari could rest and recover.

She did rest, as her daddy does...artfully.

 Zach was home for Saturday and Sunday before he set off again, so we went on an adventure...exploring our favorite places in the compound where we live.  Each person gave a hint and the others had to go and find the place.  When we found it, we were rewarded with a sugar cookie and koolaid. This is my favorite, high on a big rock, level with the full crown of the frangipani trees!

Monday was a holiday, so a friend invited us to go swimming!
 One of Daso's favorite thoughts to share these days sounds like this, "Isn't it amazing...when Mari's my age, I'll be 20! Can you believe it? It feels like it's not that far away." The new mommy in me wants to say, "It may seem that way, but it is a VERY, VERY, VERY long way away! It makes me want to sing..."time slips away just like hourglass sand, sieze the d---a---y, pr--a--y for strength from God's hand, that nothing will stand in your way...sieze the day, lai, di dai di dai, lai di dai di dai dai dai." 
Please pray with me that we can seize these moments together, enjoying Mari's growing vocabulary and confidence in step taking, Daso's constant curiosity and expanding world, all of our journey's with God, and these precious days in Nigeria that will never come again.  We also have four children that have just started school at a Daso's school from our former neighborhood. Two of them recently lost their daddy, and a third is growing very fast into a young woman. Please pray that God will provide wisdom as I, Christy, aim to bring the community around these young people who need encouragement and support from those around them.  May he also provide strength as new commitments always demand more energy than I realize, and sacrifice on the part of our children. 

Thank you for standing with us in prayer...what a joyful, stretching journey this is!

Those waves

I asked you to pray for a training I was going to do...the training that made me feel like I was jumping into deep water.
God is faithful to his Word...those waves will NOT overcome us! Here are some pictures of the joyful experience I had coordinating a workshop with about 20 participants from the Irigwe language community.  The hope is that from this training, they will each go with the New Testament in Irigwe on the audio player and facilitate audio Bible studies as they were trained to do.
Auntie Victoria, the sister who helps me in my house, was one of the participants.  Here she is listening to God speaking Irigwe, her language.
"What do we learn about God?" the participants said in Irigwe as we all did the motions together.  In an attempt to make the course all oral, we didn't give out the 6 questions they were to ask during the Bible study, they memorized them with motions. An excited buzz filled the small room as a group they could say each of the questions from memory.

My colleague, Janet, helped facilitate the training, which was done primarily in Hausa and Irigwe.  "May God fill up Irigwe land with the knowlege of his glory, as the waters cover the earth!" She declared after reading the verse with them.  No doubt when Janet shared, that she has vision and passion for this work!

I asked people to come and represent different stages of Bible translation throughout history, starting with the Greek translation of the Old Testament through to the first Nigerian translation, Yoruba, done by a former slave who had been sent to Sierra Leon and ending with "You are part of this rich history in Irigwe land, you are part of a determined, faithful people who want to hear God's word for themselves, in the language that they best understand."

Janet helped them to prepare themselves through discovering the "Why" of having listening Bible studies. She shared three Bible study scenarios and they determined the goal of each of the groups...discipleship, evangelism, family spiritual growth, etc.

Each participant practiced leading a listening group with their fellow participants.

At the end we presented them with the audio Scriptures in Irigwe on an MVP (MegaVoice Player)
We praise God!  So thankful to have a team of saints praying for me!
Please continue to pray that the participants make use of what they have learned, and that their enthusiasm doesn't fade!
The excitement and passionate faith of these brothers and sisters encouraged my heart...I'm so thankful for this experience, and for the courage to wade into the waves. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Get Ready!

“Get ready,” I (Zach) woke up this morning with these words on my mind. Although I’m traveling for a week today, I wasn’t thinking about the normal preparations, packing my bags, filling my water bottle, double checking my travel documents.  I felt like God was saying to me “Get your heart ready.” I went to our prayer room and uh opened my uh phone to Psalm 51, which I have been trying to memorize. “Have mercy on me Oh God, accordning to your steadfast love…” Today we begin a two day journey to a village where there are very few Christians. Two visitors have come to see if this will be a good place for four new storytellers (yet to be recruited—would you like to be one?) to have their first experience in serving God in Africa.

I don’t know what form opposition might take, but I know that this morning, my heart sensed I needed to be ready in my inner being.  Please pray that I would listen to God’s guiding as we discuss with Nigerian brothers and sisters in the field.  Pray that we would be unified in purpose and that Jesus would use us to prepare the ground for his story to be told in this land!

Get Up!

I watch in wonder as my 14-month-old rise once again from the concrete tennis court outside our home where she enjoys hoisting herself up by the wobbling tennis net, and then landing heavily after a few minutes.  Almost every time she stands, she looks about to see who has witnessed this great feat, and is rewarded with an applause and verbal affirmation that she is indeed spectacular.
"When do we lose our ability to keep getting up?" I asked my husband one day while we watched Mari as most watch their most enthralling favorite series on TV.  With such zeal, excitement, and pleasure, she gets up, and inevitably, falls down!

Why does she do it?  Why don't we?

I've come to the conclusion that Mari, like so many of us, is spurred on by those around her.  The 2 year old that buzzes by makes her squeal with pleasure, and the 10 year old sister zooming around her on her bike makes her dizzy with the possibilities of what tricks she may some day perform.  She is inspired by what she sees, and motivated by the triumphs of those around her.  She is aware of them, tunes into them, and allows them to drive her forward, despite her own ability to measure up.  Oh, and don't underestimate the unbridled enthusiasm and pride of her doting parents.  We see her, we know her, we rejoice in her every effort to become great, as I imagine we will do until the day we die.  No one can convince me that my little girl is anything but magnificent, and I let her know it.

Why don't we?  I think we stop looking to be inspired.  We forget to be in wonder of the victors around us, those with challenging stories and overcoming spirits.  We overlook the extraordinary faithfulness of ordinary people that we encounter every day, and therefore cheat ourselves out of hearing and being inspired by their walks of love for God and others.

So, how will I become more resilient?  I asked two friends I see regularly for how God has been touching them lately as a spark to my own heart and a way of spurring myself (and hopefully them in the sharing) to carry on.  I'm allowing myself to hear and feel deeply the sorrows and vitality of a friend with HIV, a widow who can't pay her child's school fees, a friend living in a two-room flat with his growing family, and a colleague who fears entering public transport after being thrown from a vehicle.  I also pray that I will look for opportunities to spur on my brothers and sisters in this rocky walk of faith.  Of being the loving Father's voice to them that sees their efforts and applauds their strength to rise again.

Pray that we can can be faithful to get up, and help others to do the same! 

Collaboration, vulnerabity and trust

From Tuesday through Thursday, leaders of 24 Bible Translation organizations have gathered to discuss how we can work together more intenti...