Friday, February 8, 2013


Our good friends invited us to go along to the orphanage to pick up their new daughter last week. We felt very privileged to be asked to join them on such a momentous occasion for their family.

Although I've heard of the orphanage for years, I've never been there before. Somehow I knew that my emotions probably couldn't handle it. Places like that just bring out raw emotion. I also knew that it wouldn't take much for me to fall in love. One little girl just captured my heart that day.

Oh, for all the children of the world to have loving homes.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

It Can Be Cold in Africa!

When I first came to Nigeria, I thought it was always going to be hot. I didn't even bring a sweater or socks. Big mistake!

Since Jos is located on a plateau with an elevation of 4000 ft, it does get fairly chilly here at certain times of the year.  We can have a cold period anytime December thru February. About a week ago we experienced a cold snap with temps reaching about 55 F in the night. Here's a picture of our 2nd grade teacher, dressed for work, during the cold period.

We generally have temperatures in the 70s during the heavy rains in July and August. My parents spent last July with us and reveled in the perfect weather while their friends sweltered in the Midwest.

Most of the rest of the year is fairly hot, but not unbearably so--probably about 80 F.

When colleagues complain about how cold it is in Jos, I enjoy telling a few Minnesota stories. I think I'll share this photo with them. Now that's cold!

This is how cold it was in Ely the other morning...Layne Kennedy ( took this photo of hot water tossed into the air and turning into instant ice crystals. He's calling it "Cold Remedy."

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Educational Foundations

I last saw Frank* as a young child of about 10. His mother sent him to the village to complete his primary school. Later when she heard that we had a school, she brought him back to Jos. He is now 15 years old.

Although Frank has finished 6th grade, I tested him in math and reading in order to determine his grade level. I've learned not to simply place children in the next grade level.

Unfortunately, he was low in both reading and math, terribly low. Truly, he didn't even qualify for 5th grade, but I didn't have the heart to put a 15-year-old lower than that.

I gently broke the news to him, "I'm sorry that I won't be able to put you in secondary school. You will need to enter 5th grade." I saw the muscle flinch across his jaw as his eyes looked away. "Go home and tell your mother what I said. I hope to see you back here tomorrow."

To his credit, he came back the next day and humbled himself to enter the 5th grade.

About a week later, he met the principal and me, and said, "I want you to put me in the 3rd grade." We were speechless and asked why. He said, "These other students have passed me." We still encouraged him to press on in the 5th grade.

He tried, but a few days later, he was back with the same request. We compromised and put him in 4th grade.

Frank is making progress through a lot of intensive work in math drilling on basic facts and learning to read through phonics.

Today as I sat with Frank and other older students who are working on their foundations, I asked him: "Do you want to go to the university one day?" With a far-off gleam in his eye, Frank said, "Yes."

*name has been changed for privacy