Sunday, April 25, 2010

God's Provision

Living in Nigeria, we often have to do without a lot of things that would be available to us in the U.S.

But it's amazing to me how God does provide for our needs from all around the globe. Here are two examples of his provision last Friday:

1) David has some speech difficulties, particularly with the letter 'r.' Awhile ago I became concerned and wondered what I could do. Well, at a birthday dinner for a friend, I 'happened' to sit next to a missionary from Tasmania (Australia)* who is a speech pathologist. I mentioned David's situation, and she came over to evaluate him (unbeknownst to him) and gave me some exercises to help him with his 'r' sounds. She reassured me that his speech difficulty is not severe and that 'r' is one of the last sounds to be perfected.

2) A teenage neighbor had a panic attack for the first time in her life. She just could not get her breathing under control after the attack. She couldn't walk because oxygen wasn't flowing into her extremeties. She received medical attention, but she still wasn't calming down. Then an American psychiatrist (missionary), living in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso**, who 'happened' to be visiting Jos, gave the girl a breathing exercise to do, and within minutes, she was back to normal.

Thank you, Lord, for how you provide for all of our needs.


*She told the children all about Tasmanian devils, and no they don't look like the Tasmanian devil on Bugs Bunny!

** Pronounced wah-ga-DOO-goo. Burkina Faso used to be called the Upper Volta back when I was in school memorizing all the capitals and countries.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Newest Couple in Town

We attended the wedding of Lucy and Ivan (e-VAHN) today. I enjoyed it from start to finish.

Here the bride is dancing down the aisle. Some of her friends joined her in the aisle and danced with her. Dancing down the aisle can take from five minutes to 30 minutes. (Generally, the bride is not escorted by her father or uncle.) This is my favorite part of any wedding because there is so much joy that is evident and overflowing.

Lucy is from Nigeria and Ivan is from Denmark. They will be making their home in Brazil as missionaries with YWAM.

When the couple came in for the reception, I noticed that they had changed clothes, which is not a common occurrence here.

The more I thought about their attire, I realized the powerful message they were sending. During the wedding ceremony, Ivan had worn a suit and tie while Lucy wore a caftan-like wedding gown with embroidery. I didn’t think anything of their dress at that point. As the reception began, I noticed that Ivan was wearing a maroon caftan and Lucy was wearing a typical wedding gown. At first I thought, “Why is she wearing that wedding gown now,” but then I got it:

For the wedding, they came wearing clothing from their own cultures.

For the reception, they made a powerful statement as they adopted the attire of their spouse’s culture.

Not a word was said, but their clothing made a strong statement. Well done, Lucy and Ivan!

Lily looked forward to this wedding for a long time. I didn’t have to ask her if she wanted to go. In fact, she was out in the car waiting for me to finish getting ready. Lily had a wonderful time hanging out with the other little girls at the wedding. Now the boys on the other hand weren’t the least bit interested. Tobi got to go to a friend’s house, but David had to tag along with me. He wasn’t too happy about that, but at least he found a friend at the reception. His friend really saved the day.

My good friend and colleague, Sarah, sang a song in Hausa to the newlyweds. I love this photo because this is what happens so often in cross-cultural marriages: Lucy is interpreting the Hausa words into English for her new husband. This is just the beginning of a lifetime of translation!

I’ve adopted many Nigerian ways over the years: once we heard about the wedding, I promptly invited three other couples to come to the wedding. This is a very appropriate thing to do in Nigerian culture. I just hope I’ll remember to ‘behave’ myself when I go back to my home culture!

We pray God's blessings upon Lucy and Ivan as they begin their married life together.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Our women in the Self-Sustainability Program have been learning how to make batik cloth.

 Batik basically means that you use wax to make a design and then you dye the fabric. The dye will not permeate where the wax is. The women have experimented a lot as they have been perfecting their technique. I'm very proud of their efforts and their results. We will use the batik cloth in our quilts and various projects. We will also be selling the fabric in our shop.  

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Reflective Day

I think it's safe to say that rainy season has begun. We had a ten-minute rain last week, but that hardly counted. We had a good downpour today which washed the dust away and lowered the temperature by about 30 degrees (90 down to 60). Now that's a guess, but I think it's pretty close.

We had a sad day as one of our Mashiah Foundation colleagues died today as a result of a motorbike accident. (I will write more about this later.) In my somber, reflective mood, I just walked around and took some photos of God's creation, which somehow seemed so evident today after the cleansing rain.

The amazing thing about these photos is that the vibrant colors have burst forth out of months of barrenness.

This is my neighbor's hibiscus bush, and I try to keep Lily from plucking the flowers.

Golden bouganvillea

Fuscia bouganvillea

My all-time favorite: the fragrant frangipani

Purple bouganvillea

The flame trees have been more beautiful than usual this year. A colleague told me that the more stress these trees endure, the more beautifully they bloom. Oh Lord, may the same be said of me! Check out the red carpet.

The growing mangoes are pulling the branches nearly to the ground.

Here's a cashew fruit and nut in the early stages. The fruit is the part connected to the vine while the nut is at the end. The fruit will become a brilliant yellow/orange color and grow to be about 3" long when it's ripe.

And my little friends, the Easter egg bugs, lovingly hand-painted by the Creator, came out today. Where have they been hiding since the last rain we had about a month ago? I have actually looked for them, and they have been nowhere to be found.

The beautiful bouganvillea is always a welcome sight to me.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Reading under the Stars

Generally I read to the family in the livingroom, but last night it was obviously much cooler outside than inside so we took some old mattresses out in the yard and relaxed there while I read. It was actually nice when the electricity went off so we could just enjoy the darkness of the night.

We recently finished the second of the Ralph Moody autobiographies, Man of the Family (see sidebar). The last three chapters held one of the most amazing real-life stories I've ever heard. Before we start the third book, Mary Emma and Company, we're taking a little break from this series in order to read a few other books of interest.

Currently I'm reading a junior version of Little Women out loud to the family. We're going to be seeing the musical in a couple of weeks, and I want them to have some background so they can really understand it.  We'll finish the book in the next few days and then watch the movie on the weekend. I'm sure we'll have lots of good discussions comparing and contrasting the book, the movie, and the musical. How fun to teach my kids these skills when they don't even know I'm doing it!

Last summer in the U.S., I made a point of looking for some dramas/musicals for the kids. We were able to squeeze in two musicals: Anne of Green Gables in Decorah, IA, and Fiddler on the Roof in Redwing, MN. We had never seen the musical of Anne before so that was new to us, although the storyline was familiar. Fiddler was good as always, but the cemetery scene didn't come close to the rendition developed by our high school in Nigeria. In fact, I doubt we'll ever see a cemetery scene that can top that one. (Kudos to Heidi, George, the Crouch twins, your directors, and the whole cast! I almost went a third night just for that scene.)

A few weeks later as we were driving down the road (something we did a lot of!), Tobi made a comparison between a song from each of the musicals. He realized that two of the songs had exactly the same message about how gossip spreads and then becomes something completely different in the end. Way to go, Tobi! I didn't even make that connection.

I love opening up the world to my children through books and stories.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Innovative Ping-Pong

I asked my parents to bring a ping-pong set when they came for a visit, but I didn't do anything with it while they were here. I was contemplating having a carpenter make a ping-pong table. But besides the expense, what would we do with it during the rainy season? (There's no room in our home for an indoor table.) A couple weeks ago Tobi found the unopened package and promptly set it up on our dining table. I was quite pleased as I really didn't know how to proceed with the project. (Tobi got this idea from some neighbors who play ping-pong on their dining table.)

I just wish Tobi had come across the ping-pong set while my parents were still here. I know he and Grandpa would have had a great time playing together. But as it is, Tobi and Bayo are having lots of good father-son time. I can 'sacrifice' my dining table for that!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sacrificial Mothers

Things have really changed with HIV over the years. About 5-15 years ago, many HIV-positive women gave birth to babies who contracted the virus from them and died. In fact, many mothers and fathers learned of their own HIV status through their sick child. But now we know many HIV-positive mothers who are giving birth to HIV-negative babies.

What has changed?

1) The mothers are on ARV (anti-retroviral) drugs which suppress the HIV virus in their systems.
2) Many give birth by scheduled c-sections in order to reduce the transmission of the virus.
3) Immediately upon birth, the babies are given ARV drugs which are continued for the first 6 weeks of life.
4) Women are told not to breastfeed in order to reduce the transmission of the virus.

In the last five years, about 15 of the HIV+ women  I work with have given birth. I can only think of one child who is HIV-positive out of the 15. The odds are definitely in the favor of the child when the above regimen is followed.

And now there is new medical research which says HIV+ women should breastfeed their babies. Women who have a high CD4 count and a low viral load are encouraged to breastfeed. This has been news for the past year or so.

But here is the interesting part of the story: Doctors are now telling HIV+ women to breastfeed, but the women won't do it--at least the ones I know. They are not willing to take even the slightest risk of possibly infecting their child with HIV. In order to fully comprehend this, let me give some background on Nigerian culture:

A pregnant woman in Nigeria does not have to ask herself: will I breastfeed or bottlefeed? The thought never crosses her mind; of course she will breastfeed. When a woman with a small baby is not breastfeeding, it sends an immediate signal to everyone else that something is wrong with this woman. It's really quite devastating for a Nigerian mother to hear what is said about her when she doesn't breastfeed.

And this is why I'm a bit surprised that these HIV+ women won't breastfeed, especially now that they've been given a green light to do so.  In fact, they basically open themselves up to cultural ridicule. And besides that, baby formula is expensive ($7.50 for a 14 oz. can).  Why do they make this decision? They will do anything to give their child a fair chance in life. Many have already lost one child to HIV and simply aren't willing to take the risk on another child.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Hope Restored

Fatima's story began with us back in March 2009. Click here for that story.

We took care of all of her medical and feeding needs at Bezer Home. After a few months, her body was not so sick any more, but just plain weak. Finally, after a year of care and support, she has regained her health, her strength, and her desire to do something with her life.

Just recently I started to see her coming upstairs on her own volition. As I would glance around the sewing room, my eyes would suddenly do a double-take as I realized Fatima was sitting at one of the sewing machines. She can't operate a treadle sewing machine yet, but she sure enjoys the daily camaraderie of the women.

Fatima used to walk at a 90 degree angle, but now her body is only slightly bent as she walks. Here she is with Fanny, our literacy teacher.

And here is her beautiful smile as she enjoyed the music at our gathering today.

I love her story of restored hope. This is what we're all about at Mashiah Foundation.