Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Women, Come & Sing

The Women of Hope came out with their first album in 2007. Now they're busy working on their second album. We hope to finish the recording today. Pictured at right is Esther James, HIV+.

Most of their songs are a mixture of English and Hausa. All of the songs are from the public domain except for two that one of our staff members has written.

I have always loved the music of Nigerian women. The drums and local instruments create such an invigorating sound. Most of their music is call and response with various descants woven throughout.

I'm still trying to figure out how to put a couple of their first songs on Playlist so my blog readers can listen. Give me a few more weeks!

If all goes according to plan, we will be selling their new album in the U.S. this summer.

Right now I'm reflecting on what to title the album. Here are a few ideas floating around in my head:
Women, Come & Sing
Rana Murna ~Day of Celebration
We Thank You, Lord

Their music is a powerful testimony of what the Lord has done in their lives. I never tire of listening to it.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Boys and Facial Scars: Part II

What was I just saying a few weeks ago about boys and facial scars?

David was running through the kitchen tonight and gashed himself between his eyebrow and his eye. This time the offending object was part of a metal latch on a door jamb.

I've already used all of my neighbor's butterfly bandages in previous episodes on David's head, so it was time to make my own from adhesive tape. We did the best we could to pull the wound together. It's not that bad, but it is more than a surface wound.

Why do these events almost always happen at 7:30 at night?

David says he looks like a pirate now. Oh well, he'll have lots of stories to tell when he's older.

Fun in the Sun

We were able to get away from Jos for one day last week for a mini-vacation with our friends, the Tolars. Yankari Game Reserve was our destination. We drove 3 hours; soaked in the warm spring for 5 hours; then drove 3 hours home.

We saw lots of these termite mounds as we were entering the game reserve.

I always enjoy seeing the warthogs, usually followed by their babies. They are very non-aggressive. Amazingly I only saw two baboons from a distance. Normally they are extremely aggressive and pesky. Last November a baboon jumped into our car and stole our bread! Bayo and Jay went on the safari. They said they saw a herd of elephants.

Aaaahhh! What we've all been waiting for--a refreshing dip in the warm springs. Well, maybe it's not so refreshing since the water is a constant 91 degrees F. But it sure does feel good! This is the mouth of the spring. That's white sand on the bottom.

David and Daddy. David can wade by himself further on downriver.

We used to take our Hillcrest students to Yankari. This branch is famously known as "Eric's branch" after it broke while he was trying to jump from it! The park now has barbed wire on the trunk of the tree to discourage other would-be-jumpers. You know, the passing of time blurs events in my memory: was I there or did I just hear about it?

A view downriver. It gets as shallow as 1 ft further down. It's a great place for kids to get used to the water. Baobab trees are indigenous to this region. They are quite a spectacular sight. Here's a baby baobab.
And here's a mature baobab. So we found out that it's possible to do Yankari in one day. We were wiped out by the time we got home, but it was a very enjoyable day.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Worshipping in the Midst of Ruins

Last Sunday we worshipped with the Dogon Karfe LCCN (Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria) congregation. Their church was burned during the Jos riots in November 2008.

After the service, I asked Rev. Elkanah, "When did you start worshipping here again?"
He said, "We never stopped."

To put this in perspective, the riots happened on Fri, Nov. 28 & Sat, Nov. 29. These people went to their church on Sunday morning, not even knowing that the riots were calming down at that point. The first time I left my compound was on Thurs, Dec. 4, and that was to get out of town! These people are incredibly brave and resilient.

Rev. Elkanah's home (the parsonage) was also burned. He and his family escaped without injury. To date, the congregation has raised enough money to repair the parsonage. Rev. Elkanah and his family have been able to move back in. This Sunday, March 29, the congregation is holding a special service to dedicate the new parsonage and also to start raising money for the re-building of their church.

The congregation is fairly small, and they have a big job ahead of them. If anyone is led to give to this project, the contact information is below. The Minneapolis Area Synod is a partner synod with Nigeria, and they are trying to raise funds to help in the re-building of LCCN Dogon Karfe.

Making a World of Difference (earmarked Dogon Karfe)
Attn: Raenay Rock
Minneapolis Area Synod
122 W. Franklin Ave., Suite 600
Minneapolis, MN 55404
For more info, contact: k.perry@mpls-synod.org

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Angels of Mercy

When I checked on Fatima on Wednesday morning, she was the brightest I have ever seen her.

I said, "Wow, you're looking great! And I can see you've already had your bath. I hope you didn't cry during your bath."

"I did. It was so painful. Why do they have to clean me?"

Later, upstairs, I got the whole story from Julie and Esther, pictured at right.

When Esther pulls back the mosquito net from Fatima's bed in the morning, Fatima greets her with a warm smile and "Good morning, auntie."

However, when it's time for her daily bath, her attitude changes. Fatima hates to be bathed because of her open, oozing wounds. The blisters on her thigh have opened up recently. She tells Julie and Esther, "You people are wicked!" However, that is soon forgotten, and she becomes pleasant once again.

Fatima would spend 24 hours lying down in bed if Esther would allow her. Even when she eats, she wants to be lying down. Esther decided that she needs to start sitting in a chair. When Esther put her on a chair, Fatima said, "I will fall! I will fall!"

Esther said, "Ok."

Then Fatima adjusted herself on the chair and sat there for half an hour.

Esther has been the matron of Bezer Home since 2004. She is HIV+ herself and lives in Bezer Home with her three children. She is responsible for everything that goes on in the home. I marvel at how well Esther handles our toughest cases. She has just the right mixture of pampering and tough love for our full-blown AIDS patients. And she does the jobs that no one else wants to do.

Julie, also HIV+, has been our sewing program manager since October 2008. She does a great job upstairs and then helps Esther in the evenings and mornings with Fatima.

When I saw Julie and Esther dressed in their matching outfits, I just had to take their photo. I am so thankful for their ministry to Fatima. We pray that Fatima will recover as much as possible and go on to live a normal life like Julie and Esther.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Older & Wiser Than His 25 Years

One of Bayo's many dreams is to see that the orphan children associated with Mashiah Foundation get a university education.
He saw that dream come true this week.
Mashiah Foundation became involved with Peter and his siblings near the end of 2002. Their mother died of AIDS complications in May 2002 and their father followed in August 2002. Peter, the eldest of the five children, was 18 at the time. He remembers that period as extremely difficult. Not only had he lost his parents, but now it was his responsibility to feed and educate himself and his younger siblings. His greatest concern was their education.
Over the past six years Mashiah Foundation has paid school fees, provided money for feeding and money for their transportation to school. Peter's uncle has also helped them out from time to time as he is able. A relation has taken in the youngest child who has HIV. The four oldest children live together on their own.
Bayo refers to Peter and his siblings as an example of one of our "best practices." Peter didn't just accept handouts, but he really put his mind to work and started small businesses that would help to support his family. He has done shoemaking, sold phone recharge cards, and currently they are raising 300 chickens and selling the eggs. Peter is a very enterprising young man.
Peter now has a degree in Economics. Later this year Peter will go for his mandatory year of youth service. After that, he is thinking about becoming a stockbroker. Peter is well on his way to providing for his siblings and then his own family one day.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

In the Land of the Living

On Monday I went into Fatima's room to greet her. She seemed more relaxed and in less pain than last week. She was actually stretched out on the bed with no blanket instead of being huddled in a fetal position.

Two of the church youth who had cared for her for three weeks in the hospital came by to see her. I am amazed at the commitment of these young men.

Since Fatima has been on the brink of death, we have really been pampering her. We ask her what food she would like to eat, and then we do our best to get that food for her. Over the weekend, she was craving chips (fried potatoes). Esther, the matron of Bezer Home, made them for her. After she finished eating the chips, she stretched out and crossed her legs as a sign of satisfaction.

I bought suya (thin strips of meat coated with spices and grilled over coals) and gave it to Fatima. It was the first time I had seen a real smile on her face. I said, "Are you sure you're strong enough to eat this meat? You know you need a lot of strength to eat this suya." She smiled and assured me that she could handle it. I was a little worried because recently just the aroma of food has been making her nauseated.

I needn't have worried. She ate that whole bundle of meat and was thoroughly satisfied with the experience.

What joy to see life gradually return to Fatima.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Dry Season Brings March Flowers

March is our driest month of the year and amazingly the flowering trees/vines are at their best. It never ceases to amaze me. I'm happy to share with you some of the beautiful views that we have every day in March. The photos below are from my daily drive.

Dry season starts sometime in October. In general we have absolutely no precipitation for November thru March. Once in a great while, we'll have a very unusual rain during the dry months. For example, we had a torrential downpour on Friday, Dec. 5, 2008, on the very day we were worried that violence would erupt in our city again. It was so unbelievable that we just had to conclude that it was a 'God-incidence.' That is the only rain we have had this dry season apart from a small drizzle for about 15 min. last week.

We will be expecting a few rains in April, and then the downpour will really begin in May and pick up speed until August when it will rain almost everyday.

The photo below is how I am greeted everytime I drive into our compound in March. The purple tree (to the left) is the jacaranda. It produces a beautiful purple 'carpet.' We call the red flowering tree the Flame Tree. (I don't know its actual name.) The multi-colored flowering vines in the background and in the photos above are bouganvillia.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Power of Shared Hope

When the HIV virus severely weakened Fatima's body, her family chose to ignore her needs. Neighbors noticed that no one was caring for her. Some youth (singles in their 20s & 30s) from a nearby church began tending to her. Eventually her situation became so severe that they took her to the general hospital. Throughout her hospital stay, it was the youth who cared for her 'round the clock. In Nigeria, a relative must accompany a patient on hospital admission in order to care for their basic needs and feeding.

One of the youth connected Fatima with Mashiah Foundation. Since her family wanted nothing to do with her, the family completed our forms, and 'gave' her to us. When she was discharged from the hospital, we picked her up and took her to Bezer Home which is where we care for women and children affected by HIV/AIDS. She is extremely weak and cannot walk on her own. She weighs about 90-100 pounds and has severe blisters all over one thigh.

On Thursday, five of our Mashiah Foundation staff members in the Women of Hope sewing program went to Fatima's room to meet her. As they approached her bed, they could see that she had her stocking cap pulled down over her eyes. Sarah said, "Are you sleeping?" Fatima responded weakly, "Yes." Fatima appeared to want nothing to do with her visitors. She gave minimal responses to their inquiries about her life and her health. Sarah, as is often the case, saw straight through the situation and said, "Fatima, we want you to know you are welcome in Bezer Home, and we just want to introduce ourselves to you."

"The Welcoming Committee": Nene, Larai, Angela, Nanwor

"I'm Nene. I'm HIV+. You're sleeping in the bed I used to have. When I first came here my legs were so swollen, I couldn't even walk. Look at me now. I'm living a normal life. I've rented my own house and I work upstairs."

"I'm Larai. I lived in Bezer Home for 3 1/2 years. My room was on the other side of the house. I came here as a widow, alone and very sick with HIV, but I got stronger. Later I was able to gather all four of my children to live with me once again. I have a job upstairs in the sewing program."

"I'm Angela, a widow. I have HIV. You see my bed over there? My son and I lived here for 1 year and 3 months. Now I rented my own house. I work upstairs as the purchasing officer."

Nanwor sat next to her on the bed and put her hand on her even though Fatima's leg is covered with about 100 water blisters. "See me? I've known about my HIV status since 2002. My wedding was cancelled because of HIV. I thought I was going to die, but look at me now. I work upstairs."

With new, hope-filled eyes and a strong voice, Fatima said, "So do you want me just to introduce myself or should I tell you my whole story?"The ladies laughed and told her to share anything she wanted.

The power of an introduction.
The power of vulnerability.
The power of shared circumstances.
The power of shared hope.

I have a photo of Fatima, but the time for sharing is not now. We don't intend to make a spectacle of her, but one day I will use that photo when I post her own "before and after" story on this blog. We have a lot of wonderful testimonies of what God is doing in the lives of people who were "quarter to go" as they say here in Nigeria.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

It's Raining!!!

Today was a sweltering day...and now it's actually raining! What a sweet relief. I guess rainy season might be coming a little early this year.

A Different Kind of Childhood

We went for a little hike recently on the Bezer Home land with some of the orphans in Bezer Home. They had a great time tearing up and down the rugged hills, searching for new places to explore. Pictured above are Tobi, 8, and two HIV+ boys, ages 9 & 11. They all tackle life with great gusto. One would not know that two of them are living with a deadly virus. These two boys have both lost their parents to AIDS, and they are both the youngest children in their families. Their older siblings put a very careful, watchful eye on them, making sure they take their medications every day, and accompanying them to the hospital once a month. One contracted the virus from his mother; the other got the virus from a tainted blood transfusion from his father who didn’t know he had HIV at the time. Mashiah Foundation provides a home, love, care, and support for these children.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Dry Season vs. Rainy Season

I really do miss the four seasons from the Upper Midwestern U.S.--autumn especially! I'll never forget the four delicious autumns I spent in picturesque northeastern Iowa. There's nothing better than a bike ride through the rolling hills between Decorah and Bluffton in October.

Just recently I realized that I have subconsciously decorated my living room and family room in autumn colors. We have nothing that comes close to autumn here--and I miss it!

In Nigeria, we basically have two seasons: dry and rainy. Here's a brief rundown of the pros and cons of both.

Dry Season (October-March)


  • Towels actually dry before you use them again
  • Clothes dry on the line within 30 min
  • Bread doesn't mold quickly
  • Can leave the umbrella at home for months
  • Can leave the car window down
  • Hair naturally straightens
  • Internet rarely goes down (no lightning storms)
  • Can buy the best vegetables for the cheapest prices--tomatoes, carrots, onions, cabbage, lettuce
  • Gorgeous flowering trees

  • Lots of static electricity
  • Dust everywhere--I can write my name in the dust on the dining table every morning
  • Cracked heels
  • Meningitis easily spreads
  • Lack of water for many residents of the city
  • Electricity becomes more erratic because there's not enough water to go over the dams
  • Too cold (Nov/Dec--50-70 degrees) I know my Minn. friends are shaking their heads. :)
  • Too hot (Feb/Mar--80-100 degrees)

Rainy Season (April-September)


  • It's beautiful! Easily 20 shades of green vegetation!
  • It's refreshing
  • Love the sound of a rainstorm on a tin roof
  • The sun still comes out every day--it only rains for 20 min to 2 hours usually
  • We can collect rainwater
  • If you leave a slice of bread out for 1 hour it's still bread and not toast
  • Moderate temps--70-80

  • Mud, mud, mud being tracked into the house
  • Always have to leave the house with an umbrella--even when the sun is shining
  • Dashing to bring the laundry in off the line
  • Towels are still damp after 24 hours
  • Internet connections occasionally go down during storms
  • Sickly vegetables--it's just too wet
Near the end of each season, we eagerly await the change that is coming. A few months later, we are longing for the other season!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Stranger than Fiction

One night at the dinner table, Tobi went off on one of his "What if..." tangents. It went something like this: "What if you're married to someone, and they travel and you just never see them again, are you still married to them?"

At that very moment it suddenly occurred to me that I had two stories for him, one from each side of his family tree.

Back in the late 1940s Bayo's mom had been married with one daughter. Then her husband traveled and simply never came back. After about seven years, the village declared that her husband was dead. They did the mourning ceremony, and shortly thereafter she married Bayo's dad. She gave birth to a daughter with her new husband and later gave birth to Bayo. When Bayo was a newborn, her first husband suddenly reappeared! And he wanted his wife back!

Bayo's mother faced a tough decision. She had had a good life with her first husband. But with her second husband she faced a lot of difficulties, mainly because she was the second wife in a polygamous marriage. She decided to stay in the difficult marriage because of her only son, Bayo. If she left her second husband, she would have to leave her children behind because in African context, the children belong to the man. Bayo's dad already had four sons. It is likely that Bayo would not have been well cared for and probably would have died without his mother's care. So, she stayed. Later she had another daughter and two more sons.

From my side of the family, a relative's sister was married to a man who went out on a submarine mission in the 1960s. The sub did not return as scheduled. After a period of months, he was presumed dead. Sometime later she re-married. Her first husband has never been found.

Years ago I watched the Tom Hanks movie Cast Away which deals with this theme. The Hanks' character ends up on a deserted island after a plane crash. Four years later he makes it back home and discovers that his fiancee is married and has a child.

I think Tobi's question is one that we all stumble across at some point in our lives. These situations would literally be our worst nightmare.

Monday, March 16, 2009

This Is Why I Love Adoption

My friend Jenny Groothius, mother of 13, wrote this piece recently in her yahoogroups posting. (Jennysupdates-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. I am posting it here with her permission. Jenny and her husband have 6 biological children and 7 adopted Liberian children. Their 13 children range in age from 1 to 13-years-old. One of their adopted children just had surgery to replace her esophagus with part of her small intestine due to irreversible damage from accidentally drinking lye in Liberia.

Adoption is dear to our hearts. We have a foster daughter whom we hope to adopt. I have never heard adoption expressed in these terms, but it makes a lot of sense to me.
"...Just like we don't really care about statistics. This is why I love adoption. Because we really can't care about millions upon millions of suffering humanity. Maybe in a really vague and general sense, but usually we are too tired out by our own lives to take on the trials and tribulations of, say, entire continents. But we care intensely about the people living under our roof, our babies, our families. If I heard that accidental lye ingestion was a big problem in developing nations causing devastating consequences to the health of countless children.... I would probably think, "That's really sad." But when one of those children is my daughter and she is suffering because of it.....well, the intensity of my concern is such that only the love of Christ constrained me from harming someone who I felt was adding to her suffering by not relieving the pain!

Adoption will make people who were once uninformed and perhaps apathetic suddenly care deeply about things like special education, special health needs, mental illness, trauma-related behavior, and the list goes on. Again, the difference is picking up a paper and reading about abuse, orphanages, war, poverty, disease and thinking, "That's really too bad" or deciding to roll up your sleeves and enter the mess with Jesus, finally coming to terms with the fact that life never has been and never will be about our comfort and convenience. Jesus said "least of these" and whether it's a visit to a nursing home, a prison, an orphanage, or a residential treatment center there are plenty of "leasts" to go around.

I love it that God knows us by name and not by number. I love it that we are adopted and we have an Advocate. A Father and a Friend."

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Introducing Bayo

Well, Bayo and I have been married for 12 years now, but recently I've been looking up friends from 15-30 years ago on Facebook, and they don't have a clue who my husband is. By the way, his name is pronounced Bio (like the short form of biology).

Bayo and I met in Jos in 1995. I was teaching at Hillcrest School, but I wanted to get more involved in ministry to Nigerians. So I went for Sunday outreach with a group called Urban Frontiers Mission (EST back then). Bayo was leading the ministry team to hotels and brothels that housed prostitutes. Our purpose was to share the love of Christ with them and hope that some of them would choose to leave that lifestyle.

I had never met anyone as bold as Bayo. Wow. He loved God with such passion and he had a heart for the people of the world. I was quite swept away. Somehow he was interested in me as well. We dated for a year and married in Nigeria at the end of 1996.

We are quite opposite--not just in looks--but in personality as well.
  • He's a passionate public speaker. While I can hold my own in public, it's not something I would seek to do.
  • He has almost no sense of time--especially when referring to events in the past. I've had to piece together his life and now he asks me for dates of events that happened before we met!
  • He's a real visionary. In fact, sometimes I have to tell him: "Please, no more new ideas today. I can't keep up with you." I have to say that because he's expecting me to somehow follow up with all the details of his new ideas.
  • He's a bit of an inventor. He thinks of things that no one has ever done and then he either does it himself if he knows how or gets someone with expertise to help him carry out his idea. For example, we now have a battery lighting system in our house that is run off a huge deep cycle battery and lights up bicycle headlights in nearly every room. The headlights had to be re-wired to work on the system. I have to stop there because that's as much as I understand. Many missionaries have a battery system here, but I'll bet they don't have bicycle lights in their house!
Regarding being black and white: are we really? I thought we were just different shades of tan. :) Actually we usually forget how different we look until someone asks us about it.

Bayo is an incredible man, and I'm blessed to be his wife.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Phantom Tollbooth

As we were coming back from Abuja (capital of Nigeria) yesterday, I finished reading The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster to my family. It is a thoroughly delightful read-aloud.

Milo is a bored child who doesn't enjoy anything in life. One day a mysterious phantom tollbooth appears in his bedroom, and he takes off on the most imaginative journey I have ever heard of. The whole book is loaded with incredible plays on words and new ways of looking at language. Milo tries to solve a feud between King Azaz of Dictionopolis and the Mathemagician of Digitopolis. Along the journey he meets about 20 other memorable characters.

Five-year-old David loved the book as well as dad. Of course David didn't understand everything, but many times he chortled with laughter as only a five-year-old can. Here's David's favorite line from an interesting character named Canby: " I'm as smart as can be," he remarked in twelve different languages, "and I'm as stupid as can be," he admitted, putting both feet in one shoe."

Eight-year-old Tobi understood most of the plays on words, but some were so subtle that I had to explain them to him. His favorite character was Officer Shrift who was two feet tall and almost twice as wide. He laughed hilariously at the description of Officer Shrift riding a long, low dachshund.

Here's my favorite passage from yesterday:

"But why do only unimportant things?" asked Milo, who suddenly remembered how much time he spent each day doing them.

"Think of all the trouble it saves," the man explained, and his face looked as if he'd be grinning an evil grin--if he could grin at all. "If you only do the easy and useless jobs, you'll never have to worry about the important ones which are so difficult. You just won't have the time. For there's always something to do to keep you from what you really should be doing..."

The book comes to a satisfying conclusion. When Milo is back home, he discovers that he has only been gone for an hour, even though it seemed like days or even weeks. The next day, he can't wait to take another trip via the phantom tollbooth, but it has disappeared from his room. Only a note that says: "For Milo, who now knows the way" is there in its place. After his initial disappointment, Milo realizes that he now has so many thoughts and ideas of his own that he doesn't need the tollbooth after all.

Fantasy is my least favorite genre of literature, but this book is a real winner.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Fresh Eggs

A couple of months ago, the kids started selling crates of eggs to our compound neighbors. We have a colleague who supplies us with the eggs about once a week for 550 naira/crate of 30 eggs. The kids go around to the neighbors and sell them for 600 naira/crate. So they make a profit of N50 or $0.33 per crate. Of the three kids, 3-year-old Lily is the most eager to sell.
The other day a neighbor came by to see if we had eggs, and I said, "Well, we don't have any fresh eggs, but we still have some from about 6 days ago if you want those." The neighbor said, "I'll wait for the fresh eggs."
After the neighbor left, Bayo said, "What do you mean 'fresh' eggs? I've never heard of that in my life. Eggs are eggs."
The next time a neighbor came around asking about eggs, I avoided using the words 'fresh eggs' and just said, "I still have some from last week if you want those." I didn't want to give Bayo another chance to crack up.
Awhile back when we stayed in a guest house, Tobi opened the fridge and saw a container for holding eggs in the fridge. With amazement he said, "Why on earth would anybody put eggs in the fridge?!"
I guess that's one area where we are completely Nigerian. I usually have about 2 crates of eggs at a time, and I always keep them on top of the fridge. I have never refrigerated eggs in my nearly 14 years of being here. Do they spoil? Rarely. We don't clean the eggs (remove the chicken droppings) until just before we use them. I've heard that they will spoil if they are cleaned and then left out at room temperature for days.
I don't have any idea what a dozen eggs costs in the U.S. right now. Let me do a little calculating and see what a dozen eggs costs in Nigeria...$1.60.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Boys & Facial Scars

Two weeks ago David jumped off the back of a livingroom chair and collided with a concrete window sill. He received a nice gash next to his eye for his efforts. I had to run around looking for a butterfly bandage. There was a little too much blood for Tobi to handle. (I don't think he's going to be a doctor!) Now two weeks later the wound has healed so nicely that he will hardly have anything to show for it. My mom would say that's because I applied Melaleuca oil to the wound! She's probably right.

What is it with boys and facial wounds?

Six months ago David had another gash on the back of his head when he ducked down behind a couch too quickly and the concrete window sill got him. It was 7:30 at night, which is dark here. I was not ready to go out for stitches. So we shaved off a patch of hair and butterflied him together. That scar is still visible. Maybe I should be putting Melaleuca oil on that one too.

Emily, a missionary kid from the Czech Republic, was staying with us at the time. She had been telling me stories about her brothers and all their facial scars. One brother had an eyebrow that wasn't stitched together very well. After that her parents learned the trick of supergluing wounds together. I've got to get some superglue on hand!

When Tobi was about 4, he was playing with a slingshot (everyone has one here) and he accidentally let go of the wrong end. To this day he has a discolored patch of skin under one of his eyes.

Now on to their father...when Bayo was a young boy, he was playing in the midst of a dry bamboo field. Suddenly a stalk of bamboo broke off and jabbed him right through his cheekbone, narrowly missing his eye. He has a substantial scar to prove it.

Six months after we married, Bayo was in a pretty bad single car accident. He has scars across his eyelids, between his eyes, and on his forehead. If you didn't know about the accident, you would just think the scars are part of age wrinkles.

I just thank God that in the midst of all these incidents their eyes have been spared.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


One night at the dinner table, the subject of choking came up. I used it as a springboard to teach the kids the little I know about how to help someone who is choking. I showed them the Heimlich maneuver, how to use a chair on yourself if you are all alone, and even how to tilt a baby downwards and how and where to hit them on the back.

I was mainly teaching the kids, but it was Bayo who was really looking at me in amazement. When I finished, he said, "I've never heard of any of those things in my life, and I've never seen or heard of anyone who died from choking."

He continued, "In the village, whenever someone was choking, a woman would stick her hand down the person's throat and the object would come out." I guess the whole idea was to trigger the gag reflex.

I wonder why I was never taught that method? Probably because of fear of pushing the object further down the throat.

As a mom, I'm especially cautious with hot dogs, meat, carrots, and oranges. We generally cut our oranges into sixths with the peel on. Then we use our teeth to pull it off the peel. It takes a fair amount of bulky chewing before it can be swallowed. The oranges here cannot be peeled and divided into sections.

A few years ago an American friend related this story: his sister, a neo-natal nurse, had been attending a Christmas party for medical personnel and their families. A 2-year-old started choking on a piece of hotdog. Those highly trained people did everything they knew how to do, but the boy died right there at the party.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Today when I saw Mary she was radiant! She had put on a little bit of makeup and some jewelry, but it was even more than that. She was hopeful, expectant.

I gave her a hug and asked, "Why are you so happy today?"

She said, "You promised to give me work today."

Mary, HIV+, has a husband, HIV+, a 4 year old child and 16 month old twins. One twin appears to be severely malnourished. We have been encouraging Mary with a one-time handout, food, Bible study, prayer, and basic sewing training. The Hillcrest Service Team even went to visit her in her home on top of a rocky outcropping. They carried a huge bag of raw food items for Mary's family. Mary treks for one hour to get to Bezer Home so she can save her transport money for food.

The first thing she learned was how to embroider letters with the chain stitch. She has one of the finest stitches I have seen. Today, as promised, I wrote out some Bible verses on cloth for her to embroider. She'll be back in a couple days...and I'll have more work ready for her eager hands.

Monday, March 2, 2009

An Open Letter to Chief S.D. Lar, former Governor of Plateau State

Dear Chief S.D. Lar,

Baba, we are saying, "Thank you."

We, the Women of Hope, are profoundly grateful for the audience you granted us today.

For three weeks we have been praying for our visit to you. Today it was finally possible as you are a very busy man. We thank you for the gracious reception both you and Mama gave to our women. I have always heard that you are a 'man of the people' and today you lived that out.

Thank you for your personal concern for widows, orphans and others affected by AIDS. We didn't ask you for a handout today; we asked you for a space for our women to sell their wares. A handout will only last for a short time, but the gift you gave us will live on for decades. Women will feed their families; children will enjoy the love of their mothers for more years; parents will send their children to school; a sense of dignity and hope will be restored to lives once shattered by HIV.

Thank you for welcoming us to use a space outside your compound to sell the products made by women infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS. We pray that our presence in that place will only be a blessing to you.


Mrs. Mary Beth Oyebade
for The Women of Hope