Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The greatest resource

The teachers sit in groups creating learning songs and stories.  They laugh, they wonder, they dance, they learn. Their songs are varied.  Some well polished, some haltingly sung, some on topic, some loosly connected to the topic they were given.  Each song, though, original, fulfilling its purpose.  I ask them after they have presented their songs, “What is the greatest resource your classroom has?” 
“The teacher,” one teacher stands, an understanding smile on his face.

“Say, ‘I am’ when I ask the question.” I tell them and I repeat the question. These teachers, working in a system where they are all teaching multiple grade levels, in the second language of the children, with few “classroom resources” are the best resource their classroom has.

This group of teachers, coming from village areas, were very interactive, bright, and excited.  Knowing they are facing many unnamed challenges, they were eager to learn and become even better teachers. What a joy to be part of the training team, encouraging these teachers who are believers in a part of the country where they are a minority.

I thank God for this opportunity!   Please pray for them as they return to their allocations.  May they be able to put into practice the teaching methods they’ve learned in these three days.   May they go with the confidence that they are a rich resource to make a difference in the lives of their students.


Once again, the great joy of giving someone Scripture in their mother tongue put praise in my heart.

He waited for 2 hours while we discussed final issues at the end of the first three days of training, and then as I found the cord I needed to transfer the Scriptures to him.  That didn’t work, so we tried two other things before finally, the Xender app had it moving from my phone to his. 
When finally it was downloaded onto his phone, I said, “Let’s just listen to make sure it’s there.”  This is really just to give me the pleasure of seeing the face of the one to whom God’s word comes in his heart language. This time was no exception.  The first words, “Oh my God.”  He said in reverent amazement. “This is wonderful. I’m so happy to have this,” dancing in his chair, his feet jumping on the ground.

Praise God for the joy of sharing his Scripture.  Praise him for how powerfully and effectively His Word works in each of us who has the immense privilege of hearing it in our heart language and understanding it.

Monday, August 20, 2018

The North

We have traveled north to a big city to partner with another organization who is training teachers.

It took us about 6 hours to get here. The landscape, architecture, activities, and dressing all changed as we moved North.

Guinea fowl eggs! Boiled and sold on the roadside! A yummy, healthy snack we all enjoyed. 

I, Christy, will be mostly observing the first training for a group of 30 teachers, and then jumping in to teach tomorrow, Tuesday, on creativity in the undersourced classroom. A different group of teachers from a rural school will join us on Wednesday for a second training.

We're so thankful for a little get away with the family, seeing a part of the country we've never been before, and spending time with God's faithful here who have a vision for reaching this city of 6 million with the love of God.

Please pray for a good connection with the others in the training, both facilitators and classroom teachers.  Pray for safety and health for our girls, and rest for Zach, though he'll be spending a lot of time with our little ones over the next 5 days.

On our way to church

At the gate of the church, we met one of the administrators I'll be teaching with this week.
In church a man with long tribal markings on his face sat next was from Chad. He beamed when I started speaking to him in French.  We shared three languages in common!
Toward the beginning of the service, Lydia was hungry.  Since we had been seated on the men's side of the church, I felt more comfortable heading out.  We went to the Sunday school classrooms, where I lead the class because the teacher had not come that day.  Thankfully 3 other adults, one a  teacher from other classrooms was there to help with Hausa, the mother tongue of many of the children. Little girls wore eyeliner on their eyebrows and around their eyes.  Some had a mark between their eyebrows. So beautiful to be with God's people in a different part of the world, yet sharing the same message, "God loves children, and he invites you to come to him."
I taught them the song that God's Power had written in Jos for our children's Bible study. We also sang it in Hausa.
What a great first day!  Mariama summed it up as we strolled to dinner, singing loudly an original song, "Today is a fun day! Today is a fun day!" We all joined her dancing down the road. 

A Fallen Tree

I cringed, my stomach started to turn, as I heard the chain saws and glanced out the window periodically to see the big beautiful log being hacked at, sawed at, ripped apart to make firewood.  Do I, Christy, formerly Watkin, have anything against chainsaws or firewood? These are sounds of my childhood of yards being beautified and fires crackling.  But this, my friends, was a Baobab tree, 60-70 years old, standing in my front yard, removed because it was inconvenient.

When I read "The Little Prince" 12 years ago, I loved the baobabs because they were being tenderly taken care of.   When I first tasted the chalky, melt in your mouth fruit of the baobab that we (numerous Cameroonians and my MK student) had made fall after many failed attempts balancing awkwardly on strangely balanced boulders in the remote north of Cameroon, I loved the tree for my experience with it, for the sweet taste the thought of it brings to my senses.  I loved it for its bristling shape jutting up into the North African landscape.  I loved the baobab in my front yard for all it reminded me of, and all that it represents.

To see the tree lying there on it's side and slowly becoming chunks of wood to be burned and forgotten brought tears to my eyes.  I prayed that I would understand these tumultuous emotions. I don't want to make little things big or big things little.  I want my perspective on the world to be formed by my Creator and close to his way of seeing things.  What came to mind?

Earlier in the week, I sat in the reception area of our office, looking at the list of 510 languages while the devotional time was finishing.  That pesky water faucet in my eyes sprung a leak as I imagined so many speakers, not being able to hear God speaking their language, and not realizing the value of the language to communicate with God.  The urgency to get the Word to them before they abandoned this treasure for a language that would never communicate to them as deeply, and probably not even to their grandchildren the same way their own language would swept me up in prayer, picking at random the names and reading them up to God. Maybe that is the baobab for me.  It represents the languages of Africa, uniquely African, that people think are in the way of progress.  People think the baobab hinders cars from moving freely, and people think their language hinders them from being educated and prospering. What they forget is that the baobab will never grow there again, as their language will never rise again once they have stopped speaking it to their children for the sake of equipping their children for the future.  What kind of future will it be?  The life, vibrancy, Nigerianness of their culture will be stripped away with the discarding of the language just as my yard will now be missing the fruit, greenness, and the beauty of the baobab.

Now that the tree is down, I thought maybe we could find a way to use the wood, to re-purpose the tree. I know nothing of the quality of the baobab wood, but surely something beautiful could be made of it. That is part of what our department does with language too.  We try to help people think of how they can use their language in new and creative ways to connect with God. How can they take their language, which has been strictly used in home and market environments, and bring it into the body of Christ where they can connect deeply with the Most High as they connect with those around them at home and in the market.

These are my lessons from the baobab, now only a memory.

Please pray for the thousands of people represented by the hundreds of numbers who need to understand the purpose God has for their "baobab," their language.
Pray for the Scripture Engagement department as we help people to enjoy and engage with Scripture in their language.
Pray for all of SIL Nigeria as we strive to help language communities have access to God through His Word in a language that speaks to their hearts.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Orange Hat

Trip one.


Opening Day!

The Orange Hat, a library and resource center for families in our area is officially open!  This is a dream come true!  The prayers at the opening reminded me that when you invest in the life of a child, it's an eternal investment. The name comes from two books that my partner in crime, Mary Jane, and I love, A Hat for Ivan and The Orange Splot.  In a Hat for Ivan, Ivan is asked by his father, the hatmaker, "What do you really love to do?"  and in The Orange Splot, Mr. Plumbean says, "My house is me, and I am it.  My house is where I like to be and it looks like all my dreams." May the Orange Hat be a place where:

1. Children discover what they love and are good at
2. They come to know how build their "house" on Christ so that it looks beautiful like their dreams

Friday, August 10, 2018

A Vapor in the Wind

The Bible refers to our lives as a "vapor." (James 4:14)  My fragility, the limited time to make impact for the eternal, my wisping weakness whispers to me from this verse every time.  Nate and Kirstin were but a vapor, their two weeks with us rushing by, like the steam escaping from a kettle, yet their impact was immense. They were more like the fragrant vapor that rises from an essential oil ring; healing, pure, refreshing, remembered with joy.  They ministered the Nigerian missionaries in our group by staying in their homes, seeing their ministries on the field, and participating in every day events, affirming their calling and reminding them of the unity in God's family, of the global church.

This fact takes my mind off of the littleness of man and places it on the biggness of God to take but a vapor and allow it to have the impact of a strong wind.  What a God! This is the first time that this verse has not made me want to crumble into the arms of God, but to glorify him for making our vaporous lives so full of blessing, meaning, and impact. 

Today, Nate and Kirstin left for Abuja with Zach. 
Here are some highlights of their time with us.

I have had a dream of recording some of the many Scripture songs.  Our Vernacular Media Services team allowed 7 children to come in and record.  Kirstin got to witness the patience and perseverance this kind of work takes!

The Orange Hat, a library and resource center for children and families opened on the 31st with a prayer and singing! God renewed our vision for this ministry as we prayed together that this would be a place where children can find themselves and take their community down a new road!

Nigeria has a lot of internally displaced people.  Here some children who have recently be relocated from the IDP camp are writing a Scripture song.

Nate and Kirstin, along with Zach and other colleagues made it to the top of Gog and Maigog, not an easy thing to do.

We had a "love feast" where our Nigerian missionaries came with their families for a time of fellowship with Kirstin and Nate. What a joy it was.

Lydia enjoyed the fellowship too with Aunty who is practicing funny faces for her own little one coming soon!

Nate and Kirstin participated in a 5k run in our neighborhood.  The top 3 boy and the top 3 girls will be going with me to market to buy new shoes!

Zach celebrated 35 years with a pinata made by Daso, me, and Mariama. (It was supposed to be for Daso's party in May)

It was decorated with painted paper from pendulum painting which we created at Mariama's birthday in July!

The first day of The Orange Hat brought over 40 children who had registered.

Bye auntie!  We'll miss you.  Tonight when they called to say "bye" from the airport in Abuja, Mariama said, "I want to talk to Uncle Nate." and she told him all about the night we'd had. Such a sweet connection. They will be missed. 

Please pray for Kirstin and Nate as they travel through the night to return to the US by Saturday. Pray that they will be able to process all they've learned and have joy in it all.
Please pray that their first sharing time, on Wednesday evening at World Gospel Church, will be a blessing for all who come and also bear fruit for the Kingdom as they share the stories of our Nigerian missionaries!

Sunday, August 5, 2018

A Visit

We have visitors.  They have now spent 7 days in Jos, and have had a big impact on us and others.  Today Kirsti and I sat across from a Nigerian missionary and SIL colleague named Pelumi.  She is due with her first baby at the end of this week.  A recent graduate of TCNN (Theological College of Northern Nigeria) with her masters in Bible Translation, she shared her powerful testimony with us. She wanted to be a lawyer, but, like so many students, the university she applied to, chose her program for her…linguistics.  She kept the admission while still trying for law.  By the time she got the entrance to the law school, she had come to love linguistics.  After graduating with her first degree, she served her country in the Youth Serice Corp as all graduates are expected to do.  She served with the Christian “Corpers” for one year, learning about how there were many people in Nigeria who didn’t yet have the Bible in their language like she did. (She is Yoruba, her people had the first Bible translation in Nigeria done in the 1800’s by Samuel Crowther, a former slave).  She found out about SIL Nigeria from another Corper, who had roomed with Zach prior to his 1 year service and is also now a colleague with SIL as well. When she told her parents, it took them 6 months to accept that she was going to go and study Bible translation.  She kept telling them, “I’m going to Jos to study Bible translation.” The turning point?   One day before she needed to leave to study at TCNN, friends gave her the amount she needed to go, and she bought a bus ticket for Jos.  Through this provision, her parents’ realized that this was God’s will for her, and they have been supportive ever since.  
My eyes were filled with tears as she finished her story.  She told it with such passion, and it blessed my heart, drawing me to love this dear sister even more.  I thought of when I first met Pelumi, that year of her service (2013), as a new graduate, leading thousands of Christian young women.  I did not know then that some day we would be colleagues, that she would walk through many struggles on her way to becoming a Bible translator, marry, and be awaiting her first child in the next five years.
We are so thankful for Kirstin and Nate who have come to meet our Nigerian missionaries, encourage them, bless them, and hear their stories to take back with them.  Please pray for them as they each are staying now with their second host families.  May God bear beautiful fruit through their time here, leaving our Nigerian colleagues with a sense of surrounding love coming to them from their brothers and sisters across the seas.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

A War Song Revisited

The leader for the translation project walked up to me beaming, “This activity has accomplished everything I wanted to say.  I can put my computer in my bag and go home now.” We were only an hour into the four hour program.  Praise God for meeting the felt needs of this tireless worker who is striving to see his people reached through understanding the Gospel.

Presenting their finds on language use in the church and what needs to change. 

Zach led an audio Bible studies for the pastors who weren't from the area. The feedback was very encouraging as they saw the need and importance of audio Bible studies. 

Thankfully, the meeting arranged to help the local Pastors know how they could use the translated Scripture had even more in store.  Four men worked together before the meeting began that morning. Even the busy chairman of the District Church Counsel was involved.  I had asked them to sing me a traditional mourning song.  I hoped they could sing the beautiful words from 1 Peter 5:10 about suffering to the tune of a traditional mourning song.  One of the men, Mr. Peter, who is known as a great musician said, “I don’t think I know one.”  I wasn’t sure if it was because mourning songs were considered something Christian’s shouldn’t sing, he wasn’t old enough to know them or some other cultural reason, but I did know that if Mr. Peter didn’t know it, there was little hope I was going to get a mourning song in time for the meeting.  He said, “Let me go and talk with the chairman,” and as he went to discuss with the chairman, someone else told me, “Only women sing mourning songs, and the men just come and comfort, men can’t cry.” He helped me understand the women sing and cry at the same time, singing of heroes that have died, as they grieve this new loss.  OK.  New plan.
 I walked in the room where they were having a lively discussion in their language about singing the mourning songs and questioned, “Do men sing war songs?”
 “Yes!” they answered.
“Ok, let’s make it a war song, then.” In two minutes the chairman was singing a war song, everyone repeating the resounding “Oooohhhh, Ooooohhh” in between every line.  Their bodies swaying slightly. 
“Is there a dance to this?”
“No, because the men sing it when they are returning from war or from hunting. They just walk.”
Then Mr. Peter inserted the new verse from 1 Peter 5:8, just two verses before the one about suffering which we had originally planned to set to a mourning song tune,
 “Your enemy prowls like a roaring lion” 
“Ohhhh, Ohhhh”, the men chanted deeply in harmony,
“Seeking who he can devour,” Mr. Peter sang
“Ohhhhh, Ohhhhh”  came the answer. As they sang, they got louder, their smiles broader, their faces more radiant.

Two hours later I introduced the song to the group, and then Mr. Peter and the others stood up to sing.  They began, and a beautiful thing happened.  All the 70 men present responded with “Ohhhhh, Ohhhhh”, phones came out to record, the room came alive, and when I said, “Stand up!” They all stood enthusiastically, in unison, swaying, left arms raised…”Ohhhh, Ohhhh.”  The song ended with,
“Remember our brothers around the world are suffering”
“Ohhhh, Ohhhhh,”
“Just as we are suffering”
“Ohhhhh, Ohhhhhh”
“So stand firm.”

Everyone applauded.  They had acknowledged the grief through a war song, that they are suffering but they should stand strong.
Mr. Peter said, “We should do this with all our traditional songs that our people sing!”
Ah, yes, the vision was cast and caught, felt and experienced.

Please pray for the Rigwe people, especially these pastors, as they consider how they can use the translated Scripture to impact their language community with the wonderful Gospel that speaks to people in any circumstance, through the ages!

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...