Sunday, December 26, 2010

Boxing Day

Growing up, I always saw Boxing Day printed on the calendar on Dec. 26, but I had no idea what it was. (My knowledge of history is so weak I probably thought it had something to do with the Boxer Rebellion.) Since I have lived in a former British colony for many years now, I have come to understand that Boxing Day originated as a British holiday, a day when people gave boxes or gifts to one another.

In Nigeria, Boxing Day is a public holiday and has come to be known as one of the biggest visiting days of the year. Typically we don't exchange gifts on Boxing Day, but we do go out visiting one another.

My mom, being so logical, once asked me, "How do you know if you should go out to visit others or if you should stay at home and wait for visitors?" Hmmm. Good question.

After the Christmas Eve bombings in our city which claimed more than 30 lives, we stayed home all of Christmas Day. However, we did venture out to church today on Boxing Day. The day seemed almost normal except that traffic was a little less than usual, but church was full. So, on arriving home, I got out the frozen samosas and spring rolls to thaw. I figured I would just fry them up when visitors arrived. I planned this menu about three weeks ago because I knew we would definitely have visitors--and something must be served. Most people I know would serve rice, but I wanted to be a little different this year. Besides, many times when people have already visited other homes before coming, the last thing they want to see is another plate of rice!

Today was a quiet day at home, the day after Christmas. We read; we watched movies; we napped. But something wasn't right: no visitors arrived for Boxing Day.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Clinic Progress

We have been building a medical clinic for a number of years now. Recently we were able to begin work once again. Here's a look at some of the current progress: 

This is one of the electricians. First he has to chisel the cement wall where the wires will come down into every room.

The masons are doing a lot of different jobs throughout the clinic. They just put in this internal door which will section off one wing.

 Here the masons are plastering the outside of the building. They are also doing plastering in the inside.

This lorry brought a load of ceiling panels. (That's Bezer Home in the distance.)

Here the ceiling panels are being installed.

More to come later!

Christmas Eve

I have missed this blog! I love writing and reflecting and sharing. Unfortunately our internet goes off when the power goes off, which is the norm around here. So I'll write while I have power to do so. We happen to be having our "Christmas Electricity" right now so I'm taking advantage of it.

Last week I realized that we have made it through the last few months of the 2010 without an incident in our city. Well, tonight, immediately following the Christmas Eve service, we heard that a few bombs had gone off in various locations around the city. We have not had bomb incidents before. Generally we just have rioting. We really don't have details yet, but a number of people were killed in the explosions.

It was disappointing to cancel our Christmas Eve dinner plans, but we needed to be home. I was able to whip up a decent Christmas Eve dinner for our family and our two guests. I won't mention what the kitchen looks like at this point.

I'm anticipating that we will be homebound for a few days at least. Christmas in Nigeria is associated with lots of visiting, but that may go by the wayside this year.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Orphan Sunday

A father to the fatherless
a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families.
Psalm 68:5-6a

In honor of today being Orphan Sunday and November being National Adoption month, I want to dedicate this post to the orphans around us. In Mashiah Foundation we work with orphans and partial orphans 365 days a year.

Pictured are five precious girls, each with her own unique story.
One comes from an intact family.
Another received an intact family through adoption.
Two have mothers but no fathers.
And one lost mother, father and twin sister to AIDS.

Here are some books on my shelf that I am currently being challenged by:
Adopted for Life~Russell D. Moore
Castaway Kid~RB Mitchell
Fields of the Fatherless~Tom Davis
Reckless Faith~Beth Guckenberger
Small Town, Big Miracle~Bishop W.C. Martin
Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew~Sherrie Eldridge

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress...James 1:27a.

Dear Lord, Help us to take your Word seriously as we see the needs of orphans around us. Amen.

Monday, October 4, 2010

I'm Still Here

Life is just very full right now.

Every day I'm involved in the nitty-gritty work of coming alongside others. Surely there is a need to pull away at times and reflect and evaluate and get some computer work done, but the more I get involved, the harder it is to pull away. I'm sorry for my absence here and will try to improve.

Here's something I've been mulling over in recent weeks:

In the last few weeks I have come across students who have finished 6th grade, 9th grade and 12th grade, and they all have two things in common: they cannot read and they cannot do the most basic math. Mind you, I did not say they were 12, 15 and 18 and had never been to school; rather, they have been going to school ever since they were 5 or 6 years old. Their parents have sacrificed to scrape together their school fees. They probably have average IQs, but they have simply fallen through the cracks when it comes to their education. In fact, I don't think 'cracks' is the right word, I think it's more like 'gorge' or 'Grand Canyon' simply because there are so many of them. I have not even gone searching for the lowest of the low; these are simply children who have crossed my path. How many more, like them, are out there?

When I heard the 18-year-old try to read to me, I felt like sobbing. What subject can you do without knowing how to read? What kind of survival skills has she learned in order to somehow pass to the next level year after year?  Is her whole life made up of dodging and copying and cheating, and who knows what else? That's her own normal. But now that we have identified the problem, we are going back and teaching her how to read just like a 1st grader. I weep for the wasted years.

If I look at the number of children in a similar situation, I won't be able to cope. For now we will have to be satisfied with reaching the children within our grasp.

The children I have mentioned here are in our Orphans and Vulnerable Children program. Their parents either have HIV or have died of HIV/AIDS complications.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Clumsy Day

Today was a very clumsy day.

I can't say that's a Nigerian expression because I've only heard it once, but it certainly fits the bill for today. As I kept penciling in events for Aug. 21, I could see that it just wasn't going to fit together very well.  But that's not really something to stress about here. I just decided to take it however it happened to come together--or fall apart.

By 9 a.m. I was ready to take David and Lily out to buy eggs and meat, but then a visitor showed up at our door. I prepared tea and visited for a bit and then left the visitor with Bayo.

By the time we came home at 10:30, that visitor had gone and a new visitor was in our home to spend the weekend. But he's been here before, and he's more of family than a visitor.

I took Tobi to a birthday party at 11. I still had a few minutes to spare before attending a going-away party at 12, so I went to a missionary garage sale. Even though I was quite late to the sale, I still found some delightful bargains. As I examined the dresses on the rack, I saw a really cute one that I just knew I had to buy. It was a size 6 so it was obviously not for me! I thought I might re-size it for Lily, but then it struck me: a perfect gift for petite Esther who turned 40 today!

I got home about 12, threw the dress into a cloth gift bag, figuring I'd see Esther later in the day. Turned the key in the ignition and Bayo called: "Can you come to Bezer Home right now? The children have thrown a surprise party for Esther, and we need you to come and take a few pictures." Not in the plan, but important. Have to swallow my pride because I had specifically instructed the five other people attending the going away party that they should not be late!

Zipped over to Bezer Home in 7 minutes. Had a fun 5 minute celebration. Zipped over to the going away party. Had to apologize as I walked in the door--everyone had a good laugh at my expense! Had a delightful time of conversation and fellowship with the other women. Left at 2 p.m--right when my next event was supposed to start. Told my passengers that I couldn't drop them at home because I was already late to my next meeting...but the sky was threatening to open up at any moment so I zipped them all back over to Bezer Home.

Came home, found people in my house, got out the icing sugar and glazed the donuts that were made in my absence. Got to the meeting about 2:35. About half of the people came after me so I didn't have to apologize this time! Had a delightful two hours of reading and discussing and sharing with other Nigerwives (foreign women married to Nigerians).

Got home at 5. Determined to do one more thing today. The daughter of Tobi's Tae Kwon Do coach turned 2 today. She's been sick and the parents have been so concerned. Glazed some more donuts. Gathered some little birthday gifts together with Tobi. The rain was pouring, but we went anyway. Discovered that Tobi really has a heart for encouraging others through gifts. Determine to find a way to foster this characteristic. The family was very happy that we had come. In fact, our 15 minute visit was the entire birthday celebration for the day.

Home again. Time to figure out supper. We have a visitor so I cook spaghetti. If not for him, it would have been a smorgasbord from the fridge!

Crash on the couch for awhile. Read to the kids. Call Grandpa and wish him a happy birthday. Have devotions. Pray.

Yes, it was a clumsy day indeed, but a very good day.

Fresh Food

For about a year, David and Lily have been selling eggs to our compound neighbors. Today I took them to buy eggs from a place that has about 500 chickens. We asked for 7 crates (30 eggs in a crate). The young man wasn't sure if he could fill our order because a buyer had come from Abuja the day before and taken nearly everything they had on hand. In the end, he did manage to get 210 eggs for us. He commented that the eggs were still warm because they had just been laid.

After we went to the chicken place, we headed to the meat market. Since this was my first time in the meat market this year, I greeted my usual seller with "Happy New Year!" That brought a laugh. I complimented him on his re-furbished stall. He shared that the whole place had been burned during the January crisis. Oh yeah, that's why I don't come to this market anymore. Strange that I had forgotten about that when I made my plans this morning.

I often send someone to buy my meat or I contact a man who will deliver it to my door, but today I just felt like buying it myself. I'm trying to buy the meat that I think we'll need for a month. I'm hoping this will help with menu planning and budgeting.

The seller asked which piece of meat I wanted. I said, "Show me the one that was slaughtered today." He pointed to one large piece, and said, "Can't you see it's still quivering?"

While we waited for him to cut the meat into pieces, David and Lily got a biology lesson from studying the dead goat on the next table. I was pleased that they could both look at it objectively without thinking it was gross. They saw a kidney, liver, lungs and stomach. I think the stomach is the most amazing organ with its thousands of surfaces for absorption.

Later in the car David commented, "That table was SO dirty." All of the meat is displayed and cut on wooden tables.

I responded, "Yes, David. That's why we wash it and cook it really well."

Then we went in search of the pork. I kept stopping, searching, and asking. One woman sent me back the direction I had come. After a few minutes I knew that wasn't right. She saw me coming back and asked if I found it and I said, "No, I'm still looking for the pork."

"Oh! I thought you said you wanted a pot!" Then she sent me off in another direction.

We saw some live pigs, but we never did find the fresh pork meat. Now I've decided just to ask someone to go and buy it for me on Monday.

Next week my helpers will mince, slice and chunk the meat the way we like it.

I really enjoyed my outing with the kids this morning. I wouldn't want to do it every Saturday morning, but once in awhile it's nice--and it's nice to find food that's really fresh!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Mango Worms

*Warning* This post may be considered gross by those who have queasy stomachs.

'Tis the season worms. Ugh.

During the rainy season flies lay their eggs in damp, moist places. The eggs/worms burrow into skin and begin living off of the host's body.

Our three little kittens had a rough bout with these invasive creatures when they were just a couple weeks old. This little guy had it the worst. We thought he had a bad eye infection because of this huge pustule-like thing crowding his eyeball. Turns out a mango worm was sharing the eye socket with the eye. This photo was taken one day after we squeezed and tweezed that nasty parasite out.

Perspective: here's a squeezed out mango worm next to Tobi's index finger.

This same little guy had two mango worms in his jaw as well. I popped one out--see the hole, but I couldn't get the other one out at that time.

Small animals can die if they are infested with mango worms. The worms simply consume everything that the animal needs for life. Our kittens were already in a weakened state with their 4 to 5 mango worms a piece.

Of course, humans are not immune to mango worms. I've only had one, and I got it out while it was still quite small.  The worst story I ever heard was of a foreigner who was a runner. Every day he would take off his sweaty shirt, put it on the clothesline, then throw it on again the next day. His back was completely infested with mango worms.

We take extra precautions with laundry during the rainy season: all of it is either ironed or run through the dryer in order to kill any of the worms that have been laid in the seams.

Why are they called mango worms? I don't know. Maybe because they come out during mango season which is also the rainy season.

By the way, our little kitten appears to have completely recovered his eyesight.

The Local Oven

The other day I saw Esther, the matron of Bezer Home, outside picking up sand. I thought she was getting cat litter, but she said she was baking a cake. Would you like to hear the story?

Esther collected sand in order to bake with what is called a "local oven." The large pot is partially filled with sand.
Then the pot or pan that holds the cake batter goes inside the larger pot.

Here's the cake after she had trimmed it a bit to make a uniform shape. I never got to see the finished version with the icing. Esther took it to a graduation party at one of the area schools.  Everyone was so happy with the cake from Mashiah Foundation.


During the last week of July, we opened our new Women of Hope shop on a major thoroughfare in Jos. About 5 minutes after I got to the shop on Friday, we heard a loud crash and looked upon this scene. The Mercedes station wagon was trying to turn and head the opposite direction when this over-loaded lorry full of mattresses slammed into the side of the car. Thankfully no one was injured. Even though the car was making an awkward turn, I'm sure the lorry will be at fault since he was coming from behind.

After it was obvious that no one was injured, the immediate concern was the downed power lines. I heard questions of "Akwai wuta?" meaning "Is there light (electricity)? After the first few people passed through without being electrocuted, then all the traffic started to move again.

These photos were taken from the balcony of our second floor shop. Pictures coming soon!


Wow. Where did July go? I had a goal of blogging 20 times this month...the days were just incredibly jam-packed. I'm trying to be intentional about not being on the computer in the evening hours when the kids are still awake. I don't like it when they always see my back hunched over the computer.

Well, let me at least write one thing about today. When Lily reached about 3 1/2 years, I felt I didn't need to be so hyper-vigilant about where she was every time she went outside. We live in a walled, secure compound. It was a relief that I could finally do something inside the house without having to go check on her every five minutes.

We have tried to make sure our compound is a safe place for young children. Sometimes this means just walking throughout the entire compound and trying to have the eyes and thoughts of a child in order to ascertain what may constitute danger.

Today something very unexpected happened. Lily had a friend over and they were playing under some bushes, perhaps jumping or dancing or stamping--and the ground collapsed below Lily. She nearly fell into an old septic tank. Thankfully some strong roots kept her from going down. This septic tank was completely off our radar screen. It never would have crossed our minds to look for potential danger here. I suppose with all the heavy rains we've been having, the ground above became very spongy.

A few years ago, a 4-year-old child of missionaries drown in his backyard while his parents and siblings were home. There was an old pit that had somehow filled with water. This was a tragic wake-up call for all of us. We checked our compound then--and now we've been reminded to do it again.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Way to a Man's Heart--Guacamole!

Well, at least to my African man's heart. Bayo loves to come home from work to find fresh guacamole in the fridge. He eats it with cheese crackers, wheat crackers or pita bread.

I've never been a fan of avocados, but I've learned to buy them because Bayo and Lily enjoy them so much. I think the season will end pretty soon so I'm trying to buy them often.  I don't know of any way to preserve them. They are quite cheap right now. I paid 50 naira for each of these--about $0.35. Avocados are called pears here.

My mom was amazed at how large the seed was in this variety. I've never bought avocados in the U.S. so I wouldn't really know.

Lily loves to help me make guacamole. The pastry blender works well for mashing up the avocados.

We added some chopped up onions.

We added just half of this jalepeno, along with some salt and coriander. I couldn't find any cilantro in the market at this time of year.

Voila! The nutritious snack is ready.

I'll be making a big batch of guacamole for our staff meeting on Monday. In general, most Nigerians love avocados. I have shared guacamole with a few of my friends, and they are just crazy about it! They ate it with bread and thoroughly enjoyed a new-found snack from local ingredients.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Random Pics

Hey! I just figured out how to import pictures without all the distortion I've been having. Great!

Here are a few random pictures from life here in Nigeria:

The women are putting cord through eyeglasses cases. A missionary ordered 250 cases so they can give them out with the reading glasses they are distributing in some rural areas. The women are laughing, joking and telling stories as they work.

I couldn't resist taking a picture of this little guy at Bezer Home. His mother bundled him up because it was such a cold morning in Jos--about 65 degrees F! I was wearing a sleeveless blouse as usual, but then I have Minnesota blood in me.

Have you ever said, "It's easier if I just do it myself"? Well, yes, that's often true, but then how will other people learn? Lily really wanted to help with transferring the flour from the 50 kg bag to smaller containers, so I let her. She took great delight in her work. (When she woke up this morning, she had this "statue of liberty" hairstyle because of how she slept.)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Oh, Happy Day!

We are invited to many, many weddings, but I only go to a handful. If I weren't selective, I would be spending nearly every Saturday at a wedding/reception from about 11 a.m. til 4 p.m.

Last weekend, there was a wedding that we simply could not miss.

About ten years ago, seven children, ranging in age from 17 to 2 years, trooped into Bayo's office, and the eldest announced, "Our father told us that when he died, we should meet you, and you would tell us what to do." Dumbfounded, Bayo's jaw dropped in amazement. The ministry immediately started taking care of their feeding, school fees, and basic living expenses.

The children live in a town about an hour and a half outside of Jos. They continued living there with the ministry providing for their needs. One church in particular has been supporting many of this family's needs through the ministry for the past five years or so. When the children are on their school holidays, they often come to Jos and stay in Bezer Home.

Well, on Saturday, July 3, the eldest child got married. This was such a happy day for us, as we have seen how the Lord has truly been "the Father of the fatherless."

The wedding was slated to begin at 10 a.m. The first car from Mashiah Foundation arrived about 9:30 a.m. bearing the wedding gown. Amazingly, brides here don't really stress about things like that. We came in the second car and arrived about 10:30 a.m.

We had time to chat with both the bride and the groom. The bride was all dressed and ready, sitting in the back of a car, waiting for the service to start. The groom was ambling around nervously, just waiting.

After 11 a.m., I went into the church with the kids. It was pretty empty except for the band which had been playing ever since we arrived. I loved the toilet tissue streamers that were dotted with markers and strung throughout the church.

And then the different groups of girls/women started dancing into the church. This is always my favorite part of any wedding so I really try to get there "on time." Here, Sister #6 leads the way with her friends, all dressed in their uniform of choice.

Sister #3's group is close behind with their own uniform. Two more sisters with their groups of friends followed.

And finally, the bride danced her way down the aisle.

That's Sister #3 looking on. Bayo actually stood in as the bride's father and gave her away.

The newest couple in town.

Sister #5 dancing away. Notice all the money on the floor. This is a Nigerian custom called 'spraying.' People come and place bills on the bride's face and groom's face as they are dancing. The money falls to the ground and designated 'secretaries' pick it up and give it to the couple later. Generally, small denominations are used. Most of these bills are ten naira notes which are worth about seven U.S. cents.

People coming out of the church after the wedding. Notice the planted field which is probably for the pastor or the congregation.

Lots and lots of dancing at the reception.

Sister #2 looking on.

Sister #4

Sister #5 posing for the camera.

Sister #6

And the only brother, following 6 sisters.

It was such a joyous, wonderful day. We were pleased to participate in all the festivities.

In Nigeria the honeymoon doesn't always start immediately. The newest couple in town went to church on Sunday morning at the same church where they were married. Then on Monday, they came to Jos to greet their Mashiah Foundation family. (When a couple wears matching clothes, it is symbolic of their oneness in marriage.) Now I think they have finally gone for their honeymoon!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Nigeria ~ A Simply Amazing Place!

Recently while chatting with some Bible translators, I heard these interesting facts about Nigeria:

One in every five Africans (20%) is a Nigerian. I've heard this one for years and have often used it when trying to explain how densely populated Nigeria is. Keep in mind that Nigeria only occupies 3% of the land space in Africa. By the way, Nigeria has a population of approximately 140 million, which is about half of the U.S. population.

One-quarter (25%) of the African languages are found in Nigeria. There are 58 countries within Africa. Isn't it amazing that one-quarter of the African languages are found here?! Not only are we densely populated, but we also have very diverse languages and people groups. By the way, these are unique languages, not simply dialects of one language.

Nigeria has at least 500 known languages! Let's put this in perspective: Nigeria is one-tenth the size of the USA. If the United States were comparable to Nigeria in terms of language density, the U.S. could boast of 5000 different languages.
Plateau State, Nigeria has more languages per square mile than anywhere else in the world. This is the state we live in!

You may be wondering, "How on earth do they communicate?!" Quite well actually. Almost all of my experience has been in the city, and many of the people I work with easily speak 3-4 languages--and think nothing of it!!

  1. They speak their tribal/village language.
  2. They speak the trade language which is Hausa in this region.
  3. They speak Pigeon English or Broken English if they have not gone beyond a primary school education.
  4. They speak English if they have had a decent amount of schooling.
I have seen illiterate women switch their tongue from a tribal language, to Hausa, and then to English in a period of one-minute--depending on whom they are speaking to--and they don't even realize this is amazing.

Just as I am amazed by them, they are also amazed that I only speak one language--and I'm educated!

There are three major trade languages in Nigeria: Hausa in the North; Yoruba in the Southwest; and Igbo in the Southeast.

With different languages come different cultures, foods, and traditions. Obviously, conflict can and does occur. However, now that I think of it, I guess it's actually pretty amazing that we don't have more conflict than we do. Overall, I think the cultures interact and get along amazingly well most of the time.

I really wanted to post some maps with this blog, but had a hard time getting some decent ones off the 'net so we'll just have to make do with photos of the maps on my kitchen walls. Here is Nigeria with its 36 states. Plateau State is the green one close to the middle, and yes, part of it is on a plateau.

And here's the map of Africa. Sorry, it looks a bit squished.
Nigeria is the orange country right in the bend of the continent.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

I Remember

I remember where I was around the time Mt. St. Helens erupted: I was a 5th grader in Sidney, Montana. I could see the volcanic ash as I walked home from school: 1980.

I remember where I was when President Reagan was shot: I was in 6th grade band: 1981.

I remember where I was when I heard that Rock Hudson had died of a new-found disease called AIDS: walking down the high school hallway with my classmates who all knew more than I did about Rock Hudson, but I was able to grasp that this AIDS was a new and terrible disease: 1985.

I remember where I was when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded into bits one minute after take-off: Home, sick on the couch during my junior year of high school: 1986.

I remember where I was when the Berlin Wall came down: Victorian Lit. class at Luther. A German student kept exclaiming: "I can't believe I'm in America while this is happening in my country!" 1989.

Why this walk down memory lane? This week we had some visitors who came to Bezer Home, and I asked a few of our women to share a story from their life of living with HIV. Three of them shared from the heart about what it has meant to live with HIV. Then one of our visitors from California stood up and shared her own story with us: "My daughter has been living with HIV since 1988 when she was 17, and she's still alive today." She proceeded to give us a brief sketch of her daughter's life and to report to us that she's quite healthy today because of the ARV drugs she is taking. Her daughter openly tells her story to the people around her, and she also speaks to large gatherings.

I had to take a walk down memory lane because her daughter and I were in high school at the same time. Her daughter contracted this disease near the beginning of its known existence. I find it interesting that I have such a clear picture in my mind of where I was when I learned about this disease. I have it catalogued inside my brain alongside major national and international events. Of course, back in those days, I never knew that I would one day work alongside people living with HIV/AIDS.

Our women are used to being open with our visitors; we have learned that there is freedom in sharing. When visitors are open with us, something clicks between us and instant friendship is forged as stories of intense pain are shared mutually. That day our women sang and danced with great joy, knowing they are not alone in their struggles.  

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Yes, cats in Nigeria catch mice and rats, but occasionally they're even quick enough to catch a lizard. This mama cat is enjoying playing with her food before she eats it.

We started having cats a few years ago because I was tired of always seeing mouse droppings in kitchen drawers and cupboards. I haven't seen signs of a mouse now for years--and I don't hear them above the ceiling anymore either.

I no longer have the cats in the house because one of them had an affinity for urinating on the cloth bean bag chair. But just having them in the garage and the outdoors has still prevented the mice from coming back to my kitchen.