Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Sitting on the Floor


I had been saving seats next to me in the crowded auditorium when I realized my friends weren’t going to make it.  So I told the usher to allow two of the people outside to come in and take those seats.  Two well dressed women came and sat next to me.  You have to understand, this event of Nine Lessons and Carols at the international school was one of my first experiences here in Jos when I came to visit Zach before we were married.  It’s so precious to me that I just melt into my seat and revel at the lights and the people singing my favorite hymns (even if they do it with the British tunes).  This year each of the readings was even done in a different language! Languages mixed with Christmas?  It was the best!  

During a very touching song, as tears just started to spring into my eyes, the women I’d welcomed into my space started talking.  I gave them a “look,” and turned my rapped attention back to the song being performed.  These women didn’t stop talking!  I mean, my twins were wandering and clamoring on my lap, but they are three years old!  I was indignant.  I shot them another look, and with a loud sigh, I moved and sat heavily on the step in the isle. I felt so justified in my annoyance, balancing on the brim of anger.  But at the next reading, I had to release it. 

“In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together;

 the leopard will lie down with the baby goat…

Yes, a little child will put its hand in a nest of deadly snakes without harm.

 Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,

    for as the waters fill the sea,

    so the earth will be filled with people who know the Lord. (Isaiah 11:6;9)

In this culture to have a guest, which is what I am here, sitting on the floor is not really acceptable.  I invited these women to come and sit with me, to enjoy the beauty of that moment together, side by side, but they were distracted and refused, and drove away the guest in their midst to a place of dishonor.  It struck me how unChristlike my response was.Thankfully when he, a visitor in our world, found himself driven away and dishonored by those he’d invited into his own beauty, he loved, moved closer, and then he died for them.  

This season calls me to a new level of not being offended, of loving because Jesus loved me first, taking the humble position of criminal and rejected one in my place.  If the knowledge of the LORD is to fill this place as the waters fill the sea, it will need to start with me!

Incense and Sorrow


Ishaya sat unsmiling at the back of the room.  I wondered if he understood what was happening. Most of the 36 participants from 8 different languages were participating quite well in the Lessons from Luke Trainers Training.  I wasn’t sure how to reach the few like Ishaya.   The second day we assigned each language the task of writing a song to one of the memory verses from the curriculum.  After 15 minutes, we all gathered to hear the original masterpieces. 

Ishaya was transformed as he lead his group singing in his language. His eyes danced, he raised his hands in praise, his contagious smile mirrored on the faces gathered around.  Wonder captured me at the power of those living words sung in the language of the heart. Auntie Blessing, who has trained in many trainings with me said, “That was our best concert yet!”  Since our average training is done in English, I am convinced that the beauty of that moment was directly linked to the eight languages that echo through the days and experiences of the participants. The languages that they speak to their children, at traditional weddings, in the markets, the languages that draw them together as a people and, in that moment, the languages that is drawing them closer to God.  

After the celebration around the Word with their original songs, we had a time of prayer.  The faith they expressed in unified prayer was the backdrop to the requests raised.  Inexpressible past and ongoing grief, pain, and trauma that their communities have experienced was lifted up with shouts and Hallelujahs!  That mingling of  joy experienced when singing in their language, the grief and trauma shared, and the faithful response of these brothers and sisters in fervent prayer was truly a sacred image of heaven. “The smoke of the incense, mixed with the prayers of God’s holy people, ascended up to God from the altar where the angel had poured them out.” (Revelation 8:4) 

A week after this three day training, I revel in the precious opportunities of celebrating God, preparing to help children know him, and exploring how their languages can be used to make that happen with these dear brothers and sisters.  

Please do continue to lift them up as they communicate the need to share the Gospel with their children in their heart language in an ever changing linguistic scene where language communities are living together in towns.  May they use the curriculum they’ve translated to disciple children in truly understanding that call to discipleship.  

Sunday, October 29, 2023

The Weeping Savior

I stood with tears streaming down my face as the person acting Jesus wept, pleaded, and surrendered in the garden of Gethsemane during the Mark drama yesterday afternoon. When I took up this project three months ago, I knew it was going to be impactful. 
But yesterday when I looked out at the faces, the gutteral groans of Jesus echoing in the room, the tears flowing down many of those faces, I knew that I would never think of my Savior and his sacrifice for me the same again.
I took on many different roles including the woman with the alabaster jar, the blind Bartimaus, the wife of Jairus, and the Angel announcing the Risen Lord. I connected with each of them. And felt heavy with desperation, driven by love, and overflowing with thankfulness. 
This is part of the team starting rehearsal on Wednesday. The one learning Jesus is on one foot. His name is Mike.

The Mark drama is the gospel of Mark in 90 minutes. We will be presenting it twice with a new cast in the next week. Please pray for that cast. Pray for the person being Jesus that he will learn all of his parts, and that they will deeply stir his soul. Pray that each of the other cast members will draw close to Christ as they learn their parts. The drama is only rehearsed for two days before the day it’s presented. So it’s a very intense time with each other and with the Lord.

Pray for our director, visiting from the UK, who will be training me to direct the Mark drama. That she will have health and strength. We are praying that this can be a new way of bringing the good news to Nigeria in different languages. We pray that those coming will catch this vision as well.

The Kid’s Team

As we waited for the doors of the lunchroom of the retreat center to open, I asked Mariama, “Who said that Jesus is the son of God?” She said “the Pharisees.” I asked her when the Pharisees had said that because I wasn’t sure if she was right. She said, “Jesus told the paralytic that his sins were forgiven. Then the Pharisees said, “only God can forgive sins.” So, Mommy, she explained to me, they were saying that Jesus was God.” I later asked Lydia and her friend Elizabeth the same question. They listed five different characters in Scripture that said Jesus was the son of God. I have lead the children’s retreat the last two years and am in awe of the amount of work that has gone into ministering to these sweet souls so loved by God.

I praise God for the team that he brought together to teach our children. They have two more days together. I pray our children will deeply understand who, where, why, and but what of Jesus being the Son of God. Please join us in prayer for this team and our children.

My sister-in-law, Kirstin, teaching the Memory verse scripture song. I’m so deeply blessed by their ministry to our children. So thankful for their sacrifice. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Victories and challenges

Twice a year, I get a chance to just sit back and listen as our staff give updates on victories and challenges they are facing as they progress in learning about languages, developing alphabets, training teachers, and translating the Bible. It is so moving to hear of breakthroughs mixed with serious challenges. Back in March and April, I jotted down notes of things I saw God doing. Thank God with me for these things!
Over the years I have had the opportunity to sit with many pastors and hear about the challenging choices they make. Often the people in their church come from several different languages, language communities, leading pastors and/or church leaders to perceive that a language of wider communication is the only available choice to bring unity for most church activities. Regrettably these can become instead languages of “wilder confusion” for many in the church—often the majority—especially women and children. I heard of many churches that have chosen to do the Bible reading in the newly translated Gospel of Luke in their language. In another language, people are requesting entire mother-tongue services. Praise God for this gift of understanding!

Sharing good things God has done

In many areas, we heard about challenges with kidnapping and insecurity. These realities make it difficult for people to meet together—a key part of effective work. In one of these places a special Bible study was prepared to go along with the recently translated book of Jonah. People had Bible studies from this book in January. I can only imagine the impact of God’s mercy on the wicked Ninevites will have had on these small groups. Praise God for his mercy and compassion!

Staff think and plan together
One of the sad experiences we have faced is that often in churches—the very place where we should expect God’s love—we hear statements of hate from one people group against another. How are these people supposed to know God’s love if not through us, his people? I have seen in one individual after another express openness to accept this wrong and a willingness to change. Thank God and pray for more love! At the same time, we hear of over 500 audio Bible study groups happening in one of these people groups that has received hate. Thank God for his Word that speaks!

Our experiences encourage each other
In different areas I have heard about challenges people have in reading because of complex tones or the subtle meanings of small words. I heard stories of progress in studying these complex issues. In many places I also heard about churches and government schools teaching children and adults to read in their own language. Praise God for this gift that should bring deeper learning and change to many areas of life!

We will get to meet again soon and share about the joys and struggles. Please pray that God will encourage our hearts and use this coming together to open doors in places where colleagues may feel “stuck”.

Friday, September 1, 2023

Live Their Lives as Jesus Did

 Today was the last day of the holiday Orange Hat.  We had around two hundred children (half of them at a time) coming daily for the last five weeks.  I am so weary, but so thankful.  So very thankful. 

This week the verse that they learned in song was: 

"But those who obey God's word truly show how completely they love him.  That is how we know we are living in him.  Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did." 1 John 2:5-6

We have talked about how they can know that they are forgiven.  Last week they learned how the Spirit testifies to their inner being that they are God's children.  This week, is the "living like Jesus lived" in the power of the Spirit.  As I move around the community, seeing the children near their homes and with their friends, I am able to ask them one question and they know exactly what I'm saying, "What would Jesus do right now?" They smile knowingly after slapping someone on the back or shouting at a small child.  It's been a super special challenge for me too, remembering that I am empowered by the Spirit to live my life as Jesus did every moment!  How thankful I am for God's grace when I fall short. 

 Tomorrow is our closing program.  We will spend an impactful hour and a half with the families and neighbors of our children.  They will do their dramas, display their artwork, sing their songs, and dance their dances.  Please pray that the message of what we've learned will ring clearly in their hearts as they enter a new school year.  Pray that the families will be impacted by what they hear as God's image in these children is clearly displayed. 

Learning about biodegradable products and composting!

Opening with our Scripture songs!

Art class

Some of our lovely teachers! They fill me with such joy.

My children really learned to take part.  Answered prayer!

Culture day!  The backdrop are 14 different cloths of 14 different tribes of Nigeria.

Pictures by group.  The children from the Idoma tribe.

My friend Abigail came to celebrate with her children.  They are Irigwe.

Each group came and danced in the center of the field.


Wednesday, August 9, 2023

A Pause

To throw myself upon God and his grace has been something that I've not been entirely good at.  I spend a lot of time serving others in this season of my life.  My family, the Orange Hat children, the Bible study children all have never ending ways that I can love and give to them.  I can start to think that feeling worn down or dizzily running around is God's best for me because it's my reality.  


My husband has built in a "pause" for our family every 6 weeks where he takes a long weekend.  This last weekend we went to Miango Rest Home about 40 minutes from our home. While there I read this passage: 

"He will tend his flock like a shepherd, 

He will gather the lambs in his arms, 

he will carry them in his bosom

and gently lead those that are with young." Isaiah 40:11

This passage coupled with others like, "come to me...learn from yoke is easy, and my burden is light," and "Those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again.  It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life," carry undoubted promises of God's tender heart! And you. I don't have to accept over business as God's best for me.  God wants me to be full too.  That is so humbling, and I want to increasingly learn to throw my tired self upon his full and abundant grace.

I pray you experience his shepherding heart today.  His leading you, refreshing you from the source of his Spirit deep in your soul, and the sharing of your heavy burdens. Please do pray that for me too.

Orange Hat Holiday

 "I'm made in God's image and so are you, 

The Bible says that this is true! 

Let me see you!

Woop, yup it's true!" 

The children at the Orange Hat marched around the room, each having their moment in the door for us to see the reflected beauty of God in them. 

From the floor and indoor bathroom that was completed by a VBS in the states, to the 12 volunteers that commit their time to the children in our community, I have seen God's hand in the Orange Hat Holiday program.  

Speaking of hands, our first week we learned that each of us are written on God's hand, and we wrote our hands on the palm of a huge hand on the wall.  So precious to have our local artist saying to each child, "God has written your name on the palms of his hand.  He won't ever forget you," before painting their name onto the huge hand. 

Each has a place on His hand.

Making a community map.


This week we are focusing on our community, Hwolshe. Please do pray for these young people as they learn about their own potential, part, and purpose in their communities.  We will have a closing program on Saturday, September 2.

Thursday, July 6, 2023

Why translate when languages are dying?

“A language dies every 14 days.” This is a bold and concerning claim found all over the internet. Why should we translate the Bible if people are no longer speaking their languages? This reflection used to bother me as a young language surveyor. It is true that languages do die for many reasons. I have even visited some communities in Nigeria where you struggle to find anyone who speaks the heritage language. But as I have dug into this statement deeper, I find that this statement is actually totally mistaken, not based on real data, but mere guesses. So what is the truth and what does it mean for us as we translate the Bible?

Mariama overlooks a neighborhood in Jos

In 2019, I was deeply encouraged when our international Chief Research Officer, Gary Simons shared a poster that corrected this misunderstanding. When I was about five years old, I first met Gary Simons. I was more interested in playing with his children at the time. After becoming a language surveyor, I began to appreciate not only this man’s thoughtful faith, but also his insightful analysis of data about languages. In this poster he shares the data: only about nine languages die each year—or about one every 40 days. More languages are dying in the Americas and Australia—where many of the cultures were based on a threatened “hunter gatherer” lifestyle than in Sub-Saharan Africa—where agricultural practices have made a stable environment for maintaining culture. I observed that this is also true in Nigeria—as I travel all over Nigeria I meet youth and children, participating in the agriculture-based lifestyles, and still speaking and preferring their language for many parts of their lives.

A river crossing from my survey days

However, all over the world, as people move to cities and intermarry with people speaking different languages, many people are not passing their languages on to their children. It is hard to predict what will happen to languages in these situations. Sometimes people who have moved to cities realize the value of their heritage, and therefore work harder to stay connected—including frequent visits back to their home area. They may also support language-related work with their time and money.

Mariama visits a village where I did survey years prior

So if a language shows a hint that some people are abandoning it, is it still good to invest in Bible translation? Although the question can get quite complex, I have come to two fairly simple conclusions. If a significant number of children and youth are still speaking the language, it is probably worth investing in longer-term investment. Also, even if most children or youth are abandoning a language, if there are some people that still speak and value their language, perhaps some smaller investments such as oral Bible stories or smaller portions of Scripture could be completed quickly enough to benefit the people still speaking the language. Even if a language is very much alive, having some verses of Scriptures available quickly can help!

Mariama and Lydia visit a village for Scripture Listening and Reading groups in 2019

What about developing languages that are dying with alphabets, dictionaries or recordings of their language? Often when a language is dying it reflects a significant social change for those people. Some communities are ready to let some of their heritage identity go along with their language, while others choose to value and work to preserve it. Sometimes with a little effort—recordings and words of encouragement—we can show Christ’s love by helping a group remember this gift God has given them—their identity and history.

I am grateful that Nigerian languages—and many languages around the world—are not dying as fast as some have guessed. Even when languages are dying, usually the people who speak them aren’t—and this requires great wisdom to know how to serve these people.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

"We will take all the lessons."

After traveling for 2 days straight, I arrived from Cameroon at 2:20pm.  Something was happening I just didn't want to miss!

I arrived at the office at 2:30 to see the end of the first day of a training for a group of individuals from six different languages who will go and train others to teach children using their language. I had wanted to come back for the first day to help facilitate, but there were no flights into Jos on a Wednesday.

I walked in on a session about how to learn a Bible story, and was overcome by emotions and gratitude.  The three individuals that I trained to do this training were engaging, fun, and professional.  They had rapport with the participants, and mastery of the materials.  

 In the evening I called one of them to tell me what they wanted me to do today, and she said, "We will take all the lessons." I was both disappointed and thrilled at the same time.  This is what I've been praying for!  I love teaching the curriculum "Lessons from Luke."  It's dynamic and encouraging to see people empowered to engage children in Scripture.  On the other hand, as humbling as it is to say, listening to them in the other room right now, they are in many ways better equipped than I am to do it!

So please pray for them as they continue to train others!  Please pray that they will continue to have creativity, strength, and inspiration. And praise God that he has provided this answer to prayer to have people who can carry on this training in a dynamic way! And praise God that he orders even the flights of airplanes or uses our mis-planning to do a greater thing.  If I had been here, I probably would have in many ways taken over, but he's doing a new thing!

Noroh, Chris, and Blessing

Learning the story

Engaging children with Scripture songs!

Friday, March 10, 2023



A friend planned a morning for my girls, 

Shocked at the stop as my world whirls,

A friend with a "saloon" I called next, 

Come at 8:30 I saw the text, 

 Now here I sit for hours on end, 

Beautiful women working their hands, 

They worship, share posts, sing, laugh, 

A cross-section of society on familiar path. 

Their work is meaningful, intense time, 

Women relaxing, guilt free, it's not a crime. 

We're pampered, loved, renewed, 

Leave shining and tired, hair knotted or sewd.

They're doing for me what I cannot do, 

They're giving me a pause, a new look too. 

Now strangers will stop me, delighting in my braids, 

I'll make new friends, reveling in the difference it made, 

To identify with my hosts in this enriching tradition, 

Of weaving, being, beautifying in our daily mission.  


Thursday, January 26, 2023

Missed the Train!

I hate missing the train!
 Today I missed the train. I had planned a day in Chicago with a dear friend I met 10 years ago, also a new bride living her first year of marriage in Nigeria. My anticipation of a sweet fellowship long missed made me tingly with excitement!  My husband stayed up late one night to get me the train ticket that left this morning right from Holland, MI at 6:49am and my mother got me there with time to spare. 

Why did I miss the train?  I was buying water from a vending machine.  The stupidity of it all, the pathetic scene I made running alongside the barely moving train begging the conductor to "please, please let me hop on" (Afterall, that's what they do in all the movies) makes me flush...and I don't get embarrassed easily. 

As annoying and disappointing situations do, it made me think.  I pack my life full of "one more thing while I wait."  Wait for what? The waiting IS the thing that I'm doing!  Am I missing the train for a little sip of water?  Am I forfeiting the way to get me to a life of refreshment, community, and ultimate joy because I can't stand to wait? 

I recently went to tea with my sister-in-law, another opportunity not to be missed as this will be the last outing we had before she gets married.  The night before we planned our 6:30am get away.  Ironically, it followed a discussion with the family about how hard it was for us to get time early in the morning to be with Jesus. 

A picture of a time I didn't miss the train to Chicago...because I drove.

In the morning, I shook my head as I realized that I can get up when I want to! Apparently, the getting up and making time for Jesus isn't the problem.  Jesus will love me if I get up early to be with him or not, but do I love him enough to do it anyway? 

"Don't be hard on yourself," I can hear people saying. But there's a time we have to ask ourselves if we are missing the train...the big, transporting, restful experience of walking with Jesus while we stand outside a vending machine waiting for a sip of...what? While we pack one more thing into our already stuffed journeying lives. 

Lesson learned. 

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...