Monday, May 12, 2008

Monday gathering

Today we moved our Monday gathering to a new place. We used to meet on the Bezer Home compound, but due to the construction of our new Vocational Training Center, there was no room left for us. So we packed up our tent and headed out the back gate to the beautiful rocky hills. This is also part of Mashiah Foundation's land. It's completely undeveloped, and we actually like it that way for now. We will have room to expand whenever the Lord leads us.

It threatened to rain this afternoon which would have sent us scurrying for cover. But thankfully the storm clouds passed us by. The weather got quite cool though. Women pulled out extra sweatshirts and stocking caps for their children.

Esther David, the matron of Bezer Home, is pictured above. She recently attended a special training for those who take care of people with HIV. Today I asked her to share the knowledge that she learned from the workshop. She gave basic tips about caring for babies, providing good nutrition for children, etc. Esther's Hausa is sprinkled with English here and there so I generally caught the gist of what she was saying. One thing she told the women is that they can actually eat the backs (skins) of the potatoes, that it's actually very healthy. The women just shook their heads at that.

The rest of our time today was devoted to auditions for our 2nd Women of Hope album. In 2007, we produced "I Must Go with Jesus" as their first album. We have had modest sales both in Nigeria and in the U.S. All of the songs are in Hausa with a few verses sung in English. I really feel that the CD captures the hope and joy of the women. I never tire of listening to it. Well, now we're ready to do the 2nd one.

Today I announced on-the-spot auditions. First I told the women that if they auditioned, they were telling me that they are ready to speak out and to let their faces be seen. I was quite shocked that 33 women tried out today! It was great to see some new people get involved. We are planning to do 8 songs: 6 in Hausa, 1 in Igbo, 1 in Yoruba. These are the three major languages of Nigeria. We will primarily sing Hausa songs because that is the dominant language of our region. I'm planning to have a different lead vocalist on each of the 8 songs. I'm looking forward to to our "choir practices" this week under the mango tree where we will continue to narrow our selection of song leaders.

Oh yes, I think I also got the title of the album today: Women, Come & Sing. A woman named Elizabeth always sings that song. I never knew what it meant until I heard the translation today. Many of the women have testified that their spirits are always lifted when they come to our Monday gathering for prayer, Bible study, singing, dancing, and plenty of laughter.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Plan B is often better!

Last year I wrote a newsletter about going from Plan A to Plan G in one day, and how it's just best to enjoy the ride. I wish I could learn to heed my own advice before I get my nose out of joint.

Since our sewing program has expanded so much, we can no longer fit inside a building for our large group gatherings on Mondays. So I decided that we would sew a canopy that would seat 150 people. Never mind that I didn't have a pattern and had never sewn on vinyl-tarplike material before. But that's a story for another day. The canopy is not perfect, but it has been serving our purpose very well for the past few months.

Our Monday large group gathering was to start at 1 p.m. today, and the canopy was not up. I went to find out why and was told that the builder was marking lines for the foundation of the new vocational training center. Our canopy center pole anchor happens to be cemented right in the midst of some of these lines. What can we do? The sun in scorching hot. All of these ladies are standing around wondering where we're going to meet. There is no place big enough to contain all of us. I met Sarah and told her to make a choice: under the mango tree, inside the uncompleted clinic building, or maybe we could all squish in the Bezer Home living room. She refused to be disturbed by the last minute change of venue, and quickly made everyone feel at home under the mango tree, the baby flame trees, and on the rocks. However, I sat at the back by the cement wall, silently pouting that nobody told me I wouldn't be able to use the canopy today because they would be marking lines.

It didn't take long before the Lord showed me that this place was even better. Sarah was standing in the middle, sharing from the Bible; the women were seated all around her, a bit helter-skelter due to the large rocks, but it was beautiful. I never would have believed that 60+ of us could gather in this area and all find a bit of shade. It was such a gorgeous setting with the mango-laden branches nearly touching the ground. The baby flame trees provided just the right amount of shade.

While Sarah was speaking, some of the ladies in the back by the compound wall started screaming and running. I stood in my spot scanning my eyes for what the problem might be. I thought perhaps it was a bee. It was actually a 2 foot long snake, about an inch in diameter. Once the ladies recovered from their fright, a couple of them took off their shoes and started beating the snake to death. For years Bayo has been telling me that there are snakes on the land. I believed him, but I had never seen one myself until today. The ladies had a good laugh after everything was under control.

You know, it's good to have a change of setting once in awhile. I just want to be more welcoming of it the next time it surprises me.

The Pregnancy Bible

Yesterday a brand-new father came up to me after church and vigorously pumped my hand saying, "Thank you SO much for that pregnancy bible you gave us! It helped us so much." He and his wife were married in June 2007 and gave birth to a baby boy in March 2008. This is absolutely the best thing that can happened to newlyweds in Nigeria.

They had visited us in our home in August 2007. Bayo, who is much more observant than I am, had noticed the new bride covertly spitting into a hankerchief while she sat in our livingroom. He later nudged me and asked me to give her my standard pregnancy book which I always try to have on hand. They were very grateful for the book. I didn't see them again until yesterday in church.

Back in 2000 when I was pregnant with Tobi, a fellow missionary named Dorothy Ardill gave me a copy of What to Expect When You're Expecting. She said she usually picked some up at garage sales in the U.S. and brought them back to Nigeria for expectant moms. She didn't even want me to give it back to her; she said I should just pass it on to someone else when I was finished.

Dorothy's kindness to me has blessed many other people as I took up the challenge and began scouring garage sales, used book stores, and my friends' bookshelves when I was back in the U.S. To date, I'm sure I've given away over 50 copies. I never ask for the books to be returned. I want the books to get out into the community and to be used and re-used for years to come. Numerous friends in the U.S. have helped me collect pregnancy books over the years. I just checked my stock--I'm down to only 3!

I'm happy to give out any type of pregnancy book I get, although I prefer the What to Expect books because of their simple month-by-month format as well as their question-answer format. In general, these books are not readily available in Jos. The average Nigerian woman does not have a book to refer to during pregnancy. They are always thrilled when I give them the book. So many have commented that it helped put their fears to rest, and they didn't have to run to the doctor for every little symptom.

For a number of years I have given out diaper bags (from the U.S.) as part of a new baby gift. A young mom in my parents' church in Minnesota really took this on as a ministry of her own: Allison started collecting diaper bags and sending them to Nigeria. I've probably given out over 50 of these as well. New moms love to have an attractive diaper bag. Diaper bags are available for sale here, but they are quite costly as they are usually imported. I have often bought diaper bags for 99 cents at the Goodwill near my parents' home. It appears that many of them come from formula companies and are probably even given away free in the hospital.