Sunday, May 31, 2009


I've been a bit scarce on this blog lately. My days are jam-packed with travel details. Too much to do and way too little time.

David, who has been counting down the days for about 2 months, actually said today, "Can we leave in 5 days instead of 2 days?" The reason is that he can't find a couple of the toys that he wants to use when playing with their Imaginext castle which is stored at Grandma & Grandpa's house. Since it was causing that much anxiety, I decided I would help him sift through his toys tonight. We found two more pieces; still have two to go.

Lily will not be traveling with us because we do not have all of the adoption paperwork and the subsequent passport. Try explaining that to a 3-year-old.

When Bayo was in Abuja, Lily heard me ask Bayo on the phone to go to the Embassy and pick up David's passport. She took the phone from me and said, "Daddy, get my passport in Abuja before you come to Jos." If only it were that easy.

I'm trying to do a few things that will make her time here a bit special. For example, she's starting pre-school in our home this week. The woman who was the assistant in David's preschool class works half-days in our home. So she will be teaching Lily this summer. Lily is thrilled to finally be starting school. We have the space all set up. I'm even having a school uniform sewn for Lily. That's a very big deal here--unnecessary in our case, but it makes it special for her.

Months ago we had seen the possibility that it would come to this. So we made arrangements for Bayo to travel to the U.S. in April/May. Now the boys and I will go and Bayo will stay behind with Lily. It's not ideal, but it's the best we can do considering the circumstances.

Will Lily ever be able to travel with us? Yes, I firmly believe she will. We are still trying to find our way through adoption paperwork, but I am certain that it will come to pass in due time. We appreciate your prayers for this situation.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Happiest People in the World

I recently came across an interesting news tid-bit: According to a 2003 survey of people from 65 countries, Nigerians appear to be the happiest people in the world. Romanians came in 65th.

Just the other day Tobi gave me his own anecdotal evidence of this theory. He said when his Nigerian friends fall down and get hurt on the playground, they just start laughing and then continue playing. He contrasted that with some other boys who fall down and really make a big fuss out of it.

When our American friend Emily who has grown up in Czech visited us, she was absolutely amazed at the general happiness of people whom she saw along the road on the four-hour drive from the airport to Jos.

Life is hard here, but people still find joy in living. Suicide is almost unheard of.

I think it's safe to say that most Nigerians have been cheated in one way or another, but instead of getting bitter and remaining angry for a long time, they let it go.

Nigerians are constantly joking with each other. The women I work with are always telling stories in the Hausa language, and then cracking up with each other. To me it seems that stories are always funnier in Hausa.

I love it when visitors come to Bezer Home expecting to see end-stage AIDS patients, but instead they are met by laughter pouring out of the upstairs rooms.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy 50th Bayo!

Bayo turned 50 today!

Everyone says he doesn't look it. And I guess having young children makes him seem young.

We just celebrated in a pretty low-key way. The day was completely jam-packed with various activities so there was no need to add any more excitement.

Every Monday our women meet for a time of fellowship. Today we said good-bye to Jeanette Wilkinson, fondly known as "Mommy Jeanette." For the past five years she has taken her day off from hostel parenting to teach our women various sewing skills. Jeanette and her husband will be returning to Australia next week. In the midst of our send-off party, Bayo walked in to say his own good-bye to Jeanette, and 80 women regaled him with a hearty rendition of "Happy Birthday!"

Later we went out to eat with some good friends. Bayo's birthday present to himself was a nap on the couch at 8 p.m.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Being Albino in Africa

I knew an albino girl in college. I probably wouldn't have even known she was albino if she didn't tell me. She was just a girl with really white hair and white eyelashes.

Being albino in Africa is a little more obvious. It's hard to be a 'black' albino. Being albino has its own physical problems such as having extremely sensitive skin and poor eyesight. The albino males I have seen are almost always wearing a cap to protect their facial skin from the harsh sun rays. Many of them have skin problems on their arms and face due to over-exposure to the sun.

As a point of reference, Jos is about 10 degrees north of the equator so it's very easy to get a sunburn here. I really try to avoid the sun between 11 a.m. til 3 p.m. because I can burn in about 10 minutes. I'm fair-skinned, but I still have more protection than an albino.

I visited with two albinos in the last two days, and I was struck by their eye problems. The first albino would only make brief eye contact with me; she would not hold my gaze (well, that's cultural since she is younger than me). I noticed that her eyes did not track together; in fact the two eyes seemed to turn outward--just the opposite of cross-eyed. I saw the other albino reading a book with one eye about an inch off the page.

Surely some of these eye problems could be surgically corrected, but I'm sure it would be very expensive.

A few months ago my friend Ann (from Wisconsin) opened up my eyes to a way to minister to albinos. She put out a group email asking for donations of sunscreen for the albinos. Wow. I had never thought of that. What a great idea! Most of us have more tubes of sunscreen than we will ever use. We donated a few. Later Ann attended a meeting of the albino group (they have a name, but I can't remember it) and presented the sunscreen. They were so grateful! There is a little bit of sunscreen available here, but it's extremely expensive and most can't afford it.

Bayo asked me to keep a few tubes of sunscreen in my car and give it to the albino lady who lives on the road to Bezer Home. I kept my eyes open for a good month before I finally saw her fetching a bucket of water one day. I stopped the car and gave her the sunscreen. She said thank you and curtsied with a full bucket of water on her head.

This past week she traced me to Bezer Home. She wanted to know if I had a job for her so she could earn some money to further her education beyond high school. I told her I would keep her in mind if anything comes up.

Later I mentioned this interchange to Bayo, and he immediately responded, "Let's find something for her. These people are so marginalized." That's something I'm only vaguely aware of, but I would like to learn more about how life is difficult for albinos beyond the physical issues they face.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Establish the Work of Our Hands

Today a friend saw my blog address on our ministry brochure and asked where "Establish the Work of Our Hands" comes from. I realized that I've never written about it here.

Just before we married in 1996, Bayo and I agreed on the two verses below as our "life verses" for our marriage and family. We have prayed these two verses nearly every day of our 12 1/2 years of marriage. After family devotions in the evening, we pray about various situations and then our family of five prays these verses in unison.

"May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us~yes, establish the work of our hands. (Psalm 90:17) One thing we ask of the Lord, this is what we seek: that we may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of our life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple." (Psalm 27:4)

It has been exciting to see how God truly has established the work of our hands over the years. We have discovered that God's plans are always far better than anything we could ever dream up.

Clothing Sizes Part II

Well, I've had lots of interesting comments on my last post! It is possible that the two shirts I mentioned were youth sizes, but the dress and this sweater seem more like women's clothing to me.So my young model put on the Size L sweater. If that's size L, then I'm in trouble!

Actually, I think tighter clothing is more acceptable these days, but that doesn't mean that I'm comfortable wearing it.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Clothing Sizes

What's happening to clothing sizes in the U.S.? Bayo just came back from the U.S. and brought me some shirts and dresses. I've been a size 12/14 for years. The clothes he brought for me ranged from size 14-18, and all of them were WAY too small.

I should have put the shirts on 3-year-old, stocky Lily. I'll bet they would have fit her perfectly. But I've already given them away so I won't be able to do that. I'm planning to give the dress to a Nigerian friend who is about a size 7.

I'm quite sure I haven't changed (still wearing the clothes I bought in the U.S. two years ago), but I'm positive sizing/style has changed in the U.S.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

New Life for Your Wedding Gown

Do you have a beautiful wedding gown hanging in your closet that you don't know what to do with? Please consider donating it to the Women of Hope. As part of sustaining the ministry of the Women of Hope, we are going to be renting out wedding gowns.

Weddings are a very big deal in Nigeria. Brides want to look their absolute best. We know that we definitely have a market for wedding gown rental. Currently we have five wedding gowns that we have purchased from second-hand stores in the U.S.

The ladies I work with had a wonderful time trying them on. They are all dreaming of the day they will wear one.

Here are a few specs on what we're looking for:
* gowns from the last 20 years that are still in good condition
* no plunging necklines or completely open backs.
* we also need veils and any other accessories.

Most of the wedding gowns we have are size 5/6. We could really use some that are larger. You can contact me by clicking on "View my Profile" and then clicking on my email. I will be in the U.S. this summer and would love to bring a lot of wedding gowns back with me.

Tell your friends. Get the word out! What a great way to get some more life out of that beautiful wedding gown. Your gown will be a blessing to many women in Nigeria as well as a blessing to this ministry.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Making Lily's Hair

When I first came to Nigeria, I was puzzled by how my students changed hairstyles and lengths every few weeks. I just didn't get it. Then someone clued me in that most of it is fake hair.

We do Lily's hair once a week if we're just plaiting her own hair (braided to her head--cornrows or a variation). We try to do it on Friday or Saturday so it will look nice for church--that's really important here.

This week we used attachments (fake hair). Lily went with me to the market and looked at the types of hair to choose from--there are at least 50! She wanted to buy blonde attachments so she could be like Mommy, but I think it looks better to use just a little bit of blonde as a highlight . However, I did let her get purple attachments! When Esther braided her hair, she used two sections of black and one section of purple on each braid. It's a purple-black and it actually looks really nice. You can't see it in the picture--you have to see it in just the right light. This hairstyle should last her about 2 weeks. An adult could possibly keep it for 4 weeks. Lily has to wear a stocking cap at night to keep it from getting messed up. By the way, Esther (in the above photo) is wearing fake hair.

Lily is amazingly patient for a 3 year old. This particular style took about 4 hours. I'm told it's a bit painful--I've never tried it myself.Later in the day, we put the rubber bands in and that took another hour--she fell asleep during that procedure.

This is one of my favorite styles on Lily. Every hairstyle has a name. When you make individual braids that come off the head, that's called "Bob Marley." The little cornrows framing her face are called "babyface." I guess I could call this style the "double bob" since it's Bob Marley done like a bob. I often request the "babyface" style so her hair is not hanging in her eyes.

Over the years I have learned that black hair and white hair are extremely different. Black hair is very dry. Women are always putting cream or vaseline on the scalp between the braids. They also put oil directly on their hair regularly. My friends are shocked that I wash my hair every day because it's so oily. Black hair breaks very easily. It is very rare to see a black woman whose natural hair is shoulder-length. The women I work with always cringe when I cut my hair. They would never cut their hair on purpose. Black women get a perm to straighten their hair--and they cannot get their hair wet when they have a perm. During the rainy season, it's common to see women wearing plastic bags on their heads when a rain suddenly comes upon us.

One day I hope to learn how to make a few simple hairstyles for my daughter myself.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wrapping Up

I'm involved in wrapping up all kinds of loose ends these days. Besides that, I'm also starting some major projects before I travel. When will I ever learn? There is just so much to do. For me, part of the key is just starting, rather than thinking about all the things that are yet undone.

I ended up writing 39 emails today. That's pretty amazing considering that we only had about 2 hours of electricity today. At least the compound gen was on for another 2 hours, and our own gen was on for another 2 hours. Besides those power supplies, I'm extremely grateful for the inverter Bayo installed which runs off a truck battery. My computer battery is now at a continual 1%. It always amazes me that the HP Total Care Advisor says that my battery condition is "Good." I can operate on the power from our battery/inverter system almost all day. I can even use the printer on the inverter. Life is good!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Beyond Maintaining

The other day a friend asked me, "So when you travel out of the country, do you shut down the sewing center and the shop?"

I responded, "I work with a very competent staff. They will handle everything beautifully while I am gone."

Surely they will face some challenges, but they will work through them, and be better off because of them.

I know they can maintain our current training program and our shop while I'm away, but I've challenged them to go "beyond maintaining." At our staff meeting we came up with more than a dozen challenging things they can do in my absence. They really caught the vision and got excited about everything they can do if they really put their minds to it.

Here are a few of the things we came up with:
*Get our downtown shop up and running
*Make progress on our new building for the Self-Sustainability Program (SSP)
*Start our dry-cleaning business
*Start our wedding dress rental business
*Do the video for our new album and plan for its release in Nigeria
*Figure out a way to get constant electricity for our sewing center
*Get all of 12 SSP staff members to be able to type and be computer literate

Over the years I have realized that there's no virtue in saying: "If I want it done right, then I guess I'll have to do it myself." As a missionary, I have no business saying that. My job is not "to get the job done" but rather to come alongside others, build them up, seek out their own ideas, and work together with them to get the job done. This latter approach takes a lot longer, but it is SO rewarding in the end when people think for themselves and take pride in figuring out a challenging situation.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Changing the Story

Well, we just finished the graphics for our new album, Changing the Story. The picture below is what the CD will actually look like. I am sending the master sound track and the graphics to the US tomorrow for replication. Hopefully the CDs will be available for sale by June 1.

The woman on the CD has been living with HIV for more than 6 years now. Currently she is taking care of 12 children and 3 women who live in Bezer Home. She has found strength and dignity in the midst of HIV.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Hope for Fatima

My able colleague Sarah has taken matters into her own hands with Fatima.

Yesterday Sarah decided that staff devotions would be held in Fatima's room. What a great idea! It helps to get Fatima more involved with people.

Sarah leads a Bible study with the women in the sewing program from about 9:30 til 11:00. She decided that they would meet in the parlor (living room) of Bezer Home and Fatima would join them. She assisted Fatima in walking from her bedroom to the parlor. Fatima sat in a comfortable chair during the entire Bible study. Afterwards she walked back to her bedroom with very little assistance.

I have recently seen improvements in other areas of her life as well. She is now bathing more regularly.

This morning I told Fatima how proud I am of her. I asked her when she was going to walk again. She said she was just waiting for Sarah to come and get her.

Sarah is great at encouraging people and refusing to allow them to wallow in self-pity.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What's for Breakfast?

Hey kids, do you want corn flakes or corn flakes for breakfast? Those are our only two choices for cold cereal produced in Nigeria. There are about 10 types of cold cereal imported from Europe that are 3-4 times the price of the local cereals. Once in a great while, I splurge and buy one of the imported cereals.

I sure can't complain about the price of the corn flakes though:
Good Morning Corn Flakes: $2.29
Nasco Corn Flakes: $1.66

When we travel to the U.S., we prefer to eat cold cereal almost every morning. Our hosts always want to make big, delicious breakfasts for us, but we really prefer cereal just because we don't have much cereal variety here.

These are our usual breakfasts in Nigeria:
Hot cereals: acha (a local grain); wheat cereal; Golden Morn (a corn cereal); oatmeal
French Toast
Yogurt (homemade)
Banana muffins

I know the kids are going to be overwhelmed when they see what a cereal aisle is like in the U.S.!
(In case you're wondering, those red things in the blue bowl are hibiscus flowers that David was trying to revive.)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Marriage & Money Matters

A young woman met me after our fellowship time. She said, "I want to see you."

I said, "Here I am." Obviously she meant in private, so we moved away from the crowd a little.

She said, "The bank has the wrong phone number for me. They always send a text to my husband's phone every time you deposit money in my account for my work."

"Well, you two are married. You don't have any secrets from each other do you?"

"I just don't want him to know when I have money because then he always wants to use it for the house he's building."

"Oh, are you building a house? When did you buy the property and whose name is on the property?"

The husband purchased the property shortly after their wedding a few years ago. He used the money the couple was given to make the purchase. Amazingly, the wife's name is not on the property. I was dumbfounded when she told me her husband put his own name and his brother's name on the land.

I'm a firm believer in joint accounts and open discussions about money matters in marriage, but that's far from the norm here. Generally a couple comes to an agreement about who will buy food and pay school fees in a family. But beyond that, they do what they want with their money. Women are horrified at the thought of dumping their salary into a joint account. Sometimes they are afraid that there will not be enough money to feed the children for the month if they do that.

The property issue: this is a sad, but very common case. The husband is not necessarily trying to get his wife out of the picture any time soon. It just means that in the long run, if anything happens to him, the house will go to his brother.

I've never been able to understand how a brother is closer than a wife. It's extremely common for a man to name his brother as his next-of-kin instead of his wife. In some tribes, if a husband dies, leaving his wife a widow, his brother often takes possession of the house and property. There are some Nigerian tribes who do not follow this line of thought, especially if the marriage has produced children who will inherit the property.

My husband and I have joint accounts and joint property ownership. It would never occur to us to do any differently. To us, it's even a symbol of our marriage.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Sunday Memories

Sunday mornings are usually a bit lazy around our home. We prefer to go to the 10 a.m. service rather than the 8 a.m. service. When the kids woke up, I told them I'd make pancakes for breakfast, but then I started doing something on the computer...and it was 9:45 by the time I got off. So they had to have cornflakes instead of pancakes. Tobi was quite put out. He said, "Mom, why were you wasting time on the computer?" Yeah, sometimes I need a reminder like that.

Well, the 10 a.m. service starts anytime between 10-10:30, so we left the house at 10:15. As we reached the church, it became apparent that the first service was not out yet; there were no parking spaces and people were sitting outside the auditorium listening to the service. After asking around, we discovered that there was only one service that started at 8:00, and it was going long. I was sick the Sunday before which is probably when they announced that there would be just one service the next week. So we just came back home and had home church.

We've had home church a few times in the past, and the kids really like it. Tobi read and preached from II Samuel 9 about David's kindness to Mephibosheth, Saul's crippled grandson. Lily led the singing, and David prayed.

After our home church, I decided it was a great time for the boys to clean their room which had recently turned into a disaster area. I have discovered that it doesn't work just to tell kids to "Clean your room." They are easily distracted as they are cleaning. They just start playing with the toys they are supposed to be putting away. So I sat there with them and gave directives. I set a time limit of 20 minutes. Tobi was positive they could not finish in that time, but they did.

Then we went off to a nearby hotel to swim. It was sunny, 85 degrees, and we had the whole pool to ourselves! It's been really fun to see the kids develop their confidence in the water recently. After about two hours, it was time to go. As Tobi was drying off, he said, "It really feels good that we cleaned our bedroom before we came swimming." Yes! If only we can build on this breakthrough.

After a short stop at home, we went to Bezer Home to celebrate the 10th birthdays of two of our children who live there.

When we got back home, I took two thin camping mattresses outside and put blankets and pillows down. We've only done this about three times before, but David absolutely loves it. It's really incredibly peaceful to watch the clouds in the sky and read books to the kids. I made a comment about it being similar to camping, and then the kids decided they wanted to build a campfire. So for the next half an hour, they worked on their little campfire. When it was time to light it, I decided it was a good time to teach Tobi about matches. He had never lit a match before. He probably used up about 50 matchsticks trying to perfect his technique. Their campfire never went beyond the crumpled up newspaper. I think their twigs were just too wet.

Later after the two youngest went to bed, Tobi and I finished watching WALL*E from the place where I fell asleep the last two nights. I really enjoyed the movie. I think I could make a lot of comparisons between it and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.

I like to make sure that Sundays are fun family days. I can tell that the kids really enjoy it and notice it. Tobi has started talking about Sunday routines. I love building positive memories for them.

Oh yeah, we had pancakes for supper.

Friday, May 1, 2009

May 1

May 1 is a holiday in Nigeria: Workers' Day. I guess that's kind of like Labor Day in the U.S. This year it made for a 3-day-weekend, but that is not always the case since they actually take May 1 off--unless it falls on a weekend, then they will honor it on a Friday or a Monday.

The ground is really starting to green-up around here. The picture of Lily was taken today in the same place where I photographed the boys on April 1.

This morning I went out shopping with a couple of friends. While they were looking for shoes, I went to the bulk food market. Wish I had had my camera along--it's certainly nothing like Costco or Sam's. My main purchases were a 50 kg (110 pound) bag of flour; 50 kg (110 pound) bag of sugar; and a 25 kg (55 pound) bag of milk powder. Yes, it's possible to buy in much smaller quantities, but I actually save a lot of money and time by doing it this way. I especially save a lot of money on the milk powder. I use these three ingredients every day so it's really nice just to have them on hand.

After our separate shopping excursions, I met up with my friends for a Coke at the only restaurant in Jos that serves ice. It was really nice just to sit and chat.

Later in the afternoon, I took the kids to Bezer Home because I had to put a cloth covering on a photo album for a customer who needed it for a program tonight. Normally the women in our sewing program do all the work, but we had had a last minute change so I just had to do it.

I decided to brighten up Fatima's day so I pulled the car up directly under her bedroom window in Bezer Home. The master copy of our latest CD is in the car stereo. I opened all the car doors and blasted the music for her. When I went inside to see what she thought of it, she was thrilled. The music is new to the Bezer Home kids so they all came outside to listen.

There were a few people working on various projects upstairs, and they all enjoyed the music as well. In fact, the man who was servicing our sewing machines asked where he could buy a copy.

When I went downstairs to see what Fatima thought of the "concert," she was just lying there totally engrossed in the music. As I was talking to her, a song came on that has a powerful part spoken by four HIV+ women. This was her third time hearing the song, but she didn't want to miss one word of what was said. She asked when she's going to get her own copy. I told her, "When you get up and dance!"

Let me finish a story from last week. Last Friday when I went to get Fatima to go for our walk, she was completely ensconced in her blanket with her face to the wall and complaining of stomach pain. So...we haven't had our walk yet.

After I got home, the women on our compound got together to discuss two chapters from Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver. Our discussion focussed around having a teachable heart and experiencing God's extravagant love. This is such an excellent book. Weaver really digs deep to bring out some great spiritual truths. It's also been great to intentionally spend some time with my neighbors and gain from their insights.

I heard some great news today: the Canadian woman who was kidnapped in Nigeria on April 17 has been released! This is really an answer to prayer. For more info, you can Google this topic.

The kids and I watched the movie WALL*E tonight. Lily and I zonked out midway through--not because it was boring--sleep was just more of a priority.

I'm hosting a community garage sale tomorrow morning at Bezer Home. There are about 10 families who will be selling various items before they go on furlough. It should be a wild, crazy morning so I better get to bed!