Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Six Years of Amazing

Alarming. Six years ago I held my firstborn in my arms and wept with unfettered joy.  I went home with my mother two hours later to my father who had been waiting for us by candlelight in our Nigerian home. Two weeks later they left me with this little wonder asleep in my arms. This little person was ours? It was alarming that God would give us, fallible human beings, this treasure to hold, protect, and nurture in his love. 

Marvelous. In her first year, I learned to accept help from every woman on the street as they all corrected how I dressed, carried, fed, talked to, covered, and washed "our baby." I learned how having a child in a community knits you together with that community.

 

 


Attached. In her second year, she said her first big goodbyes 
Cousins.
and lots of hello's to family that didn't really know her yet!  

My grandmother.
 
 

Zestilacious!  In her third year, her sparkliness and zest for life and learning were evident. She introduced her new sister to the world with joy.

 


We saw how she was a vital part of our family ministry and she helped shape it!




Imagination. 

There is no containing her worlds, stories, and explosion of colorful thoughts that have followed her everywhere she goes. 


Naturalist

Mariama has wonderful conversations with the gardener on our compound.  She shows him around our yard, exposing the tender growth or unusual plants that she has recently discovered.  When she was five, she attended a forest school, and her love for nature grew. 



Growth

This sixth year of her life has been remarkable in so many ways!  Tonight at devotions we were sharing times we have trusted God, and she said, "I needed to trust God when I was in America and I was five, and I had to go to "real school" and then I had to stop going to school and stop going to ballet and move around a lot, and there was a lot of change. So, I had to trust God." 





 

On her birthday we were having sparkling juice, and she said, "This reminds me of what I want to do when I grow up." "Really, how?" I asked.  "Aunty Leah (that's my 36 year old sister who has Down Syndrome) loves sparkling juice, and when I grow up I want to teach people like Aunty Leah."  

 

I can't wait to see what the future holds with this delightful human being that God has so graciously given us to steward and hold.

 

 

Saturday, September 25, 2021

I Will Rise

 

Lake Michigan with my four beauties.

I walked as quickly as I could, tears spilling down my face into the bathroom in my church, with the echo of those beautiful words, "I will rise, on eagles wings, no more sorrow, no more pain, I will rise," reverberating in my heart that spilled out in sobs. 

My parents and sister Leah

I spent three weeks in the United States and am so thankful for the time I was with my family as they reflected on the remarkable life of my brother, Josh Watkin. There was more laughter than tears, as I think he would have wanted it. 

I heard this song my last Sunday at church, two days before I boarded the plane to come back to Nigeria.  I'm not sure, but I think what moved me so deeply that Sunday morning, was imaging my brother rising, and me joining him someday. And then comes the final, triumphant lyrics at the end,

"And I hear the voice of many angels sing
Worthy is the Lamb
And I hear the cry of every longing heart
Worthy is the Lamb."  
 
The week before in church there was a song that was sung and I felt so numb to the thankfulness that the lyrics expressed for the sacrifice of Christ. I stood there, arms crossed, feeling like I didn't get it, I couldn't soak in the wonder of his grace in the face of such tragedy.  The song had a line about seeing Jesus "face to face," and I knew that's why I didn't get it...I wasn't face to face with the Giver of Life.   I sensed, "Josh gets it, and he's saying it to me now." Peace washed over me as I realized that on this side of heaven, I do not have the capacity to understand the greatness of God and his goodness.  I looked around and thought, "We are ALL seeing dimly, a shadow, in our closest moments with Jesus, of how radiantly beautiful his love is, his being is, his gaze is upon us is.  Oh, but those who have gone before us get it!"  I remembered looking at Josh's body in the casket.  Still, silent...and empty. So unlike he is now.  It was a shell, and the real, true, vibrant, strong, loving, passionate, gifted man that shaped so much of my life, is experiencing fullness of joy. 
My dad with my nephew and my brother's chainsaw at the family visitation.
 
 I can't wait to rise and meet him and my Jesus in the air, and then to sing that unifying hymn together!  All nations, tribes and tongues, "Worthy is the Lamb."  He has conquered death for all of us, and it holds no sting.  It does hold pain because we were never meant to experience it, but there is no life stealing sting, only hope because our rising still lies ahead!
 


Thursday, August 12, 2021

Translating the Bible without writing anything

 "We are hoping to translate the Bible into 1000 languages worldwide."  

We sat in a circle under the mango trees behind the SIL office.  If I hadn't already heard about this vision,  my jaw would have dropped.  One thousand languages in just four years?  I knew seventy to one hundred of those were supposed to be in Nigeria.  Starting seven new Bible translation projects would be crazy in this time frame, but seventy?  It seemed impossible.

They shared a little more of their plan with us.  These translations would not be written down.  The whole process would be done orally, with audio recordings of drafts and audio recordings for consultant reviews, and audio recordings for community checking all the way up to the final professional audio recordings of the translated Scripture.  This removes the need for developing and finalizing a good alphabet before getting started.

It is not a new idea.  I have been hearing about Oral Bible Translation (OBT) for several years now.  What is new is that in the last four months, I have had three or four different new organizations contact me saying they want to start OBT in Nigeria and want to know which languages they should work with.  With over two hundred languages still left, new ideas, approached with care, are certainly welcome.

I was grateful for the others gathered around the circle representing six different organizations.  Seasoned Bible Translation partners asked critical questions in a respectful way.  Individuals introduced each other with honor, even though we were as different as could be: our organization so focused on detailed academic care of handling languages and the Bible, their organization willing to do anything (yes, pretty much anything) that would glorify God and advance his purposes.  It felt like a little picture of heaven for a moment, with each part of the body doing what they do best.  Thank God with us and pray for even better partnership!


The mango trees behind our office.  A beautiful place to meet, pray and celebrate! Photo credit: Jay Abai.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

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, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God." 1 Peter 1:21

Sometimes pastors will say, "The "you" here is referring to the church, to all of us."  This has, at times, made me want to refrain from making it too personal because I don't want to apply something to myself, or claim a truth that wasn't meant for me in particular.  When I read this verse above, I thought, "He was chosen for me", then caught myself, "no, for all of us, let me not be too self-centered."  Then another thought pushed that one back.  The "You" here is not "You" without ME in it! So, if it doesn't apply to me personally, than it doesn't apply to the body of Christ either because I am part of the body.  You take me out, and the body is just not the same.  I don't think this is self-elevating.  I think it is self-penetrating and God-celebrating!  It touches me deeply to know that Christ was chosen for me before the creation of the world, and I believe in God because of HIM, and MY faith and MY hope are in GOD...along with all my brothers and sisters around the world!  

I listened to a song called "Pieces" by Bethel Music.  I don't agree with all the ideas in the song, but these words did impact me as I searched for God over the last few days: 

"Your love's not fractured
It's not a troubled mind
It isn't anxious
It's not the restless kind
Your love's not passive
It's never disengaged
It's always present"

Our world is broken, and the suffering that people around me are experiencing is reason enough to cry out to God for restoration and healing.  In praying I sometimes feel like God should reach out to the hungry child, the abused woman, the dying baby first before he comes to me, like a queue of need.  I keep moving to the end of the line as I see the needs of others.  I realized, in this time apart, that God doesn't need to choose!  He already chose me, and that means that his eyes are one me, weather my need seems as desperate as the next person or not.  His delight is to bring me to wholeness, and in reaching me, he's not ignoring the dying baby.  He's holding us both.  

To say that we are each included, individually, in the promises and hope of Christ, shows how our God is not only loving and powerful but personal and close. Jesus was chosen for you and me and us! 

Hallelujah! 


Friday, July 23, 2021

DEAD

 


 

I've walked many times through this cemetery with my husband and children.  I always go to the small twin grave, where Edith and Ethel, two baby girls died within 12 days of each other. This time, peering down at the names and dates of two souls, bound in the womb, then reuniting in heaven in the arms of Jesus, was especially moving.  Just walking into the mission cemetery this time brought the weighted reality of our frail humanness within focus, though blurred by my tears. 


The first time I visited the Miango cemetery, I was engaged to Zach.  He showed me the grave of his aunt and told me her story of serving the sick as a doctor, which lead to her catching a fatal disease.  As we left, Zach walked ahead of me, and I paused to turn around and look at the graves of those who had trodden this soil before me.  I told God, "If you can call these faithful ones to live and die here, loving you and loving Nigerians to you, I am willing to live and die here too for your sake and your glory.  In that moment, I felt not only called to Zach, but also to this Nigeria he had grown to love.

Today, 9 years later, I sit in the gazebo overlooking the cemetery, and feel God calling me  once again, to himself, to a victorious death. I sang, 

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In his great mercy he as given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you...In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Though you have not seen him you love him, and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls." 1 Peter 1:3-4, 6-9

That day, when my fiance introduced me to this place, was a kind of dying to other dreams, but in that sacrifice, I have found so much joy and life! I have been given all of these things highlighted above! Christ is my imperishable treasure, and because of him, death, even the daily dying, has no sting! 

 




Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Soul Memory

My signature article of clothing in this season is my apron!

I started really reading my Bible when I was 13.  That was when my mother went out and bought me a Bible, the Life Application Bible, and I loved it.  It was big and red, and soon it was read all over!  I had an insatiable hunger for the presence of God. 

Through high school and college, I had sweet, intimate times with Jesus.  He spoke through his Word, and I responded with song, poetry, eloquent entries in journals now stacked in a back corner in the US. 

 I moved to Africa and had adventures with God traveling as an MK teacher all over Cameroon and CAR. God was my travel partner, my friend, my ever present joy, the Creator of the green hills we climbed and rivers we crossed in canoes or helicopter.  The discipline of being with God, of hearing his voice felt less like a regiment and more like breathing.  Fluid, necessary, natural.    

Fast forward to 2021, a decade later, and at 9pm four of my five girls are in bed.  We have come to retreat together, leaving Daddy to work in the city and have some quiet time after a week of family holiday.  As the time came to retreat, I became anxious.  How do I start?  How do I sit still long enough to hear God speak, quieting my mind to be in his presence?  How ironic that what was once like breathing left me with a tightening in my chest restricting my airflow. 

Yankari...a warm natural spring flows clear from a huge rock! Truly miraculous!


Our family spent a couple of days resting here.

Then a sweet memory floated into my heart like the scent of fresh bread from my little kitchen oven. I had a sense that this was a moment where soul memory would gracefully usher me back to the place where my heart rejoices in the Lord.  Like when I execute a move I learned in soccer practice in middle school (Over 20 years ago) for a group of surprised soccer campers or show Daso how a hand-off (over 10 years ago) is supposed to work on the track with the baton held and extended in my right hand or salsa after two years  without missing a beat...if God made muscle memory so powerfully to flow from our past to impact our present, why wouldn't he now use soul memory, when I most long for a rest with Jesus, to sense his presence, and quiet my heart? 

I think he will, and I am looking forward to breathing deeply in his presence this week.  



Saturday, June 12, 2021

Wherever They Went

Me and Uncle Chris, my friend and fellow facilitator

 "Those who had been scattered, preached the Word wherever they went. 

Acts chapter 8 verse 4, let's sing it once more!

"Those who had been scattered, preached the Word wherever they went. 

To the school? 

Wherever they went

To the market? 

Wherever the went

On the street? 

Wherever they went

To Samaria? 

Wherever they went. 

 

Acts chapter 8 verse 4."   We sang as we learned the memory verse for the demonstration lesson on memorizing God's Word with joy. 

 Thank you for praying for this dynamic group of individuals.  I am always so humbled imagining them in their classrooms, doing what they've been taught, and the children experiencing God's word in new and exciting ways!  They do what I cannot do, go into their villages and many different denominations and train and teach over the years.  They can equip the next generation, the church of today and tomorrow, to build a church that is strong with a deep foundation!  It is truly thrilling.  

Saturday they learned twenty games to help review Bible stories and memorize Scripture.  They wrote their own Scripture songs, and they practiced teaching memory verses in new ways.  They received the teaching with such joy and readiness to apply it! 

Their enthusiasm was contagious as they left, and their final words of gratitude encouraging.   Praise God, and let us pray that they will be like the Acts church, preaching the Word in exciting ways wherever they go. 

Doing the motion for "Freedom to be themselves" the 7th principle for a good learning environment for students.


Friday, June 4, 2021

Teacher Training Tomorrow

I had a fantastic day.  It was full of doing things I haven't had the brain space or capacity to do in a long time! 

We have been praying for an opportunity to do a training with some seminary students on reaching children.  Tomorrow and Saturday I, Christy, will work with a yet to be determined number of students to train them alongside 3 other brothers who have rallied to make this happen.  I was almost trembling with excitement as I made the schedule after our time of review and preparation this morning!  It's so thrilling to think of helping others to be equipped to reach children!

Well, it's past midnight, and I hear a baby crying, but please pray for the facilitators, participants, and the children who will eventually be impacted by this training!  

Thank you for praying!

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Chosen Banquet Prayer Answered

 

Our guest speaker, Emily, had us look at ourselves in our personal mirrors as she read truths that penetrated places with flimsy curtains in our hearts, sloppily constructed to manage twisted messages about who we are hurled at us by a broken world.  Each girl looked beautiful, truly stunning. Glancing around that room, with each of them looking at their own faces, I prayed they could really see what God sees.  There were pensive looks, gentle smiles, some tears and sniffles as they gazed on their own faces. Emily had also decorated the room to make it a perfectly magical place to linger together for those few hours.  We broke the gentle elegance with some raucous dancing at the end, which had us all laughing, clapping, stamping together.  What a joy it was!

Thank you for praying with us.  The night was so delightful, and the mothers of these young ladies continue to say how much it blessed their daughters. 

Our study has continued with Ephesians, with challenging statements like, "Don't let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only that which is beneficial for building others up according to their needs."  We all spent time this praying back to God the powerful and life giving words.  It was a beautiful time together.  Thank you again, for your continued prayers for these growing beauties!  

We will be alternating weeks with the older group "Purposefully Chosen Study" and the younger girls, "Gritty and Graceful."  Please do continue praying for all these special creations as we continue growing together in Christ. 


Saturday, May 1, 2021

Chosen Banquet

"Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.  God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure."

These are some of the life altering words that we have poured over in the manuscript Bible study of Ephesians we are doing with a unique high school group of eight. 

The markers are scattered and we discover the passage as we read!

Tomorrow we are having a banquet called, "The Chosen Banquet" where we will dress up, eat, listen to a guest speaker, dance, and delight in the truth together. 

Please pray with us, that the truth of these words will penetrate their hearts and give them solid identity in Christ as all of them are processing change and loss.  You can pray with me Ephesians 1:4-5:

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ....

May all eight girls and the three of us leading them know we are chosen in Christ before our parents even existed, we were loved.

to be holy and without fault...

May we together know the holiness and purity we have in that position, not in anything we have done except to believe on the Son! 

God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ...

May we feel strong arms of acceptance, warm, full,  and eternal, drawing us to himself

This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure...

May we understand better the great pleasure God has in calling us his own special ones!  

 and 

Ephesians 1:17-19 

"I pray for you constantly, 17 asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. 18 I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.

19 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him."

AMEN! 


Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Mosquito Net Lesson 2 : Velcro Feet


They say the guy who invented Velcro observed a dog with a burr on it.  He obviously had never lived in Nigeria in dry season or he’d only have to look down at his feet! Honestly, who needs to bend down and pick up the stray baby clothes lying on the floor?  One only has to walk across the room, and you’ve collected articles of clothing as you go!  I affectionately call them my Velcro feet.

After I tuck the mosquito net, I pull my legs into the bed for a nights rest, only to realize that the mosquito net has attached itself to my feet.  I kick both my feet, trying to get them to help each other, but more and more net become entangled around my Velcro feet.  I get annoyed, re-tuck, and pull those feet in before the net has a chance. 

 

Prayer house on Zach's recent retreat.







What lesson can one possibly learn from Velcro feet?  “Beautiful are the feet of him who brings good news…” (Is. 52:7). I know this is poetic because messengers running over rough terrain in that time certainly had rough feet.  However, the meaning of it touches me deeply. If the “word of Christ dwells in us richly,” (Col. 3:16) it overflows into our lives, making our presence sweet to those around us who God has prepared to hear this good news.  We are ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor 5:20), bringing that good news, and therefore, we have beautiful feet! 

 



 

However, I think the dryness of this season, which causes the cracked, calloused, dry Velcro feet is a good reminder. When we let our soul well run dry, the negative attitudes, defensiveness, and unkind speech that is scattered around our lives will surely attach themselves to us.  Our feet are only beautiful if they bear GOOD NEWS!

 

My prayer in this mosquito net lesson is that in every season, no matter how parched the situation threatening my soul is, that I will be a bearer of good, sweet, constructive words and attitudes.  That the good news of Christ WILL dwell in me richly, making my feet truly beautiful. 

Monday, March 15, 2021

Mosquito Net Lesson 1

"Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed." Ecc. 4:9 Auntie Jumai and Auntie Abigail (sisters) really do need each other in succeeding to keep our house tidy!
 

We each grabbed a corner of the net and slowly spread it over the sleeping babies on our king-size bed.  We looked at each other surprised and Zach spoke for both of us, “Wow, that was a lot easier that doing it by myself.” 

I don’t know why we were so surprised, but when two people are as different as most husbands and wives are, sometimes we start thinking that it is just easier if we do tasks by ourselves, reducing the need to communicate expectations or methods.  Not that spreading a mosquito net is that complicated, but I think this applies to other tasks in life too. We forget that even in the communicating how we will accomplish something, we build into each other's lives and feed our hearts in fellowship of working together.

 My prayer I bring from this mosquito net lesson is that I can look for and be open to ways we can serve our family together, and truly make the job easier. I pray that I can give Zach the joy of working alongside me with all of his creativity and fun when he IS home, forgetting myself, bringing joy to everyone...and making the job easier.  


These girls are certainly more effective is causing chaos with the two of them. Mission accomplished!  But they're so cute as they go about their work that we can't hold it against them. 

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Fat and Simple

 


Here’s the fat and simple truth: Culture learning is as simple as joyfully and graciously accepting the words, “You are fat!”  and “You are so simple.” What? Does that sound strange?  Well, after 14 years in Africa, those words still make my mind do a cultural calculation.

 

Step 1. You are “fat”  most likely means “You are pretty, you look healthy or you look good!” When told, “You are looking good,” it may mean, “You are fat!” In other words, it’s a compliment, and should be taken as such!

Step 2. Being “simple” means I’m uncomplicated, friendly, easy to get to know.

Step 3. You are fat + You are simple = You are blessed and a blessing

 

Culture learning is a bending of the mind, a receiving and rejoicing in the diversity of God’s world, and often laying aside my own culture to embrace another. The longer I live outside of my home culture, the more I realize how much I don't know and understand (I think that's true of life with God and people in general.)

That's the fat and simple truth of culture learning.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

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 company, have a new name, but the old one is still celebrated every time light returns.

I want to write to thank you, ONIT, for the welcome you gave us on our first night back. The house was peaceful, the children getting zipped safely into their mosquito tents when I momentarily left the room for a second twin.  At that moment, you decided that you'd been generous enough, and the world went black.  If we'd been outside, I'm sure we would have shot our heads toward the heavens and gazed at the wondrous starry host, but alas, we were inside, without a torchlight or candle in sight. (Since we couldn't see anything.)  

And in this moment, ONIT, you did us a great service.  You gave us the terrified shrieks of Lydia who I rushed to and scooped into my arms.  She has forgotten that these blackouts happen and that they only last a few minutes (at least in our compound because we have a generator). Our conversation that you initiated gave great insight as I held my little girl, and it went like this: 

"I can't see you!" 

"I'm right here." 

"But I can't see you!" 

"Lydia, can you feel me?" 

"Yes, but I can't see you!" 

"Am I here?" 

"Yes, but I can't see you!" 

"Mommy will not leave you in the dark.  I will hold you. I love you.  You are safe." 

"It's too dark!  I can't see you!"

My generally joyful, trusting Lydia was so afraid of this darkness you ensued. A darkness she had never experienced before, and which made her question my ability to protect her, to know what she needed. ONIT, you may not be able to appreciate this conversation with my beloved child fully, but it reminded me of myself and my Father God.  You see, I'm going through transition, and very little is in order or straightforward. I ask God to show me himself.  I want to look into his eyes and let his gaze reassure me, but sometimes he just wants me to let him hold me in the darkness.  I cry for him to be more real, when the reality of his presence has never changed. 

All this to say, I was thankful for this moment that the Father used to remind me of his character.  On the other hand, I've learned this lesson now, so no need to continue taking light in the future. 

Your dependent patron, 

Christy 

 

*Pseudonym

 

Six Years of Amazing

A larming . Six years ago I held my firstborn in my arms and wept with unfettered joy.  I went home with my mother two hours later to my f...