Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Intentional Stewardship: A Lenten Journey

My Januarys usually begin with high hopes of this possibly being the year where I can finally get organized and get everything done that I'm supposed to do. Eventually I run out of steam, and I often feel overwhelmed by all the things that are left undone. 

I've started a few new habits this year which I've managed to be consistent with--to my delight. What is different this time? Well, the word 'stewardship' has been on my mind since the beginning of the year, and I feel this word gives me so much more direction than decluttering, getting organized, getting things done, donating things, etc. Stewardship gives me a purpose and a reason for why I do these things. 

I am a caretaker of so many things, and I want to do a good job of using those resources in the best way possible in order to honor the Lord. 

I found this post to be beneficial as I started digging deeper into stewardship.

As we begin this Lenten Journey of 2021, I invite you to join me as I reflect on stewardship now and then throughout the season of Lent. 

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Water Project

I am in the midst of a unique collaboration with a former student who is now an English teacher at Riverbend Middle School in Iowa Falls, Iowa, which is the very place we met as a rookie English teacher and a sixth grade student in 1991. We just became reacquainted a few months ago.

His students have been reading A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park which details the difficulties of finding water in the Sudan.  The students were also reading some informational articles about the drought in Capetown, South Africa. And I believe they were doing a multi-disciplinary unit for both science and English.

He thought it would be interesting to find out what the water situation is like in another part of Africa: Nigeria.

I happen to be back in the classroom this year, so I shared this information with my 9th graders and posed the question: How can we best show what the water situation is like in Nigeria? Well, the answer was obvious: make videos about how we get our water and use our water. Many of my 9th graders had never made a video before, but their brains are nimble, and they figured it out.

If you'd like to check out the results of our Water Project, look up Vimeo and search for my name:  Mary Beth Oyebade.

After watching the videos, the Iowa students have been asking a lot of great questions. I will answer some of them on this blog. (And what a walk down memory lane it has been as I see lots of familiar last names of my former students who now have middle school children. I'd love to tell them a few stories...)

We live near the middle of Nigeria on a plateau about 4,062 feet (1,238 meters) above sea level. Our state is called Plateau State--imagine that! There are 36 states in Nigeria and one Federal Capital Territory (like the District of Columbia in the U.S.) Plateau state is in red on the map below. The top 'horn' of the state is all on the plateau while the elevation of the rest of the state is quite a bit lower like the rest of the country. 

File:Nigeria Plateau State map.png - Wikimedia Commons
Because of our elevation, we enjoy moderate temperatures during the hot periods. When we travel off of the plateau, we really feel the heat and can't wait to return home. Farmers can grow all kinds of crops on the plateau because the elevation is favorable for farming conditions. 

The weather on the Jos plateau can even get pretty cool at certain times of the year--well, not compared to Iowa--don't laugh at us

Just for size reference, Iowa would fit inside Nigeria six times. 

For population reference, Nigeria has more than half the population of the U.S. Let that sink it for a minute. Nigeria: 195 million people. The U.S.: 326 million

And...just to help you understand HOW BIG Africa really is, here is an image that shows how many countries you could fit into Africa! Pretty amazing, huh?

Image result for map of africa with U.S. china and europe
Africa is a continent with 55 countries (not states). Each country has a lot of languages, but Nigeria tops them all with about 510 languages!!! No, not dialects, but completely different languages. However, English is the official language because Nigeria was once a British colony (just like the U.S.).
Map of Africa Showing Nigeria in Red. (Source:

Here's a handy website for checking out our rainy season and our dry season as well as the amount of rainfall we get each month. Please keep in mind that this information is just for the Jos area. The further north you go on the Nigeria map, you will be approaching the Sahara desert, and the water  will probably be scarce. Conversely, if you travel to the southern part of Nigeria, you will find thick rain forest, with three planting seasons in a year. 

It looks like Iowa Falls gets about 36.7 inches of rain in a year while Jos gets 51.8 inches. 

We have had about four hailstorms this rainy season. This is quite unusual. Our rainy season is really starting off with a bang! The storms don't last long--about 20-30 minutes. I haven't seen any damage from the little hail we're getting. It's nothing like the baseball-sized hail I've seen in the Midwest (U.S.). The hail in Nigeria is like little ice cubes. (I believe it would be highly unlikely for other parts of Nigeria to get hail. I think we get hail in Jos because of our elevation. There is one place in Nigeria that is twice the elevation of Jos--the Mambila Plateau on the border between Nigeria and Cameroon. Maybe they also experience hail.)

You might want to read about how Foundations Academy built a small footbridge in order to keep children from falling in the river on their way to school. Here's a little more background about how the bridge came to be. 

We are enjoying the opportunity to share about life in Nigeria.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Motherhood: A Nigerian Perspective

This post is dedicated to women who have never given birth, but are still mothers in the fullest sense of the word.

The focus of Mother's Day in the U.S. is on women who have biological or adopted children. I've read numerous articles regarding how painful this day can be for women who have never had their own children.

It's different in Nigeria.

First of all, Mother's Day is not really celebrated in Nigeria. A few churches might do something for mothers and a few people might send greetings, but basically, it's a U.S. holiday that is on the periphery here. 

But I would say motherhood is honored in Nigeria on a daily basis. 

Giving birth to children in certainly valued in Nigeria, but the concept of motherhood is so much broader than that. 

Upon reaching a certain age, nearly every woman is looked upon as a mother, regardless of whether or not she has given birth to children. She becomes a mother to everyone around her. She will be addressed as "Mum/Mom", "Mummy/Mommy" as a sign of respect. 

The age at which this happens varies depending on the circumstances. It could happen as young as the 30s; it will definitely happen within the 40s and continue for the rest of her life. Younger relatives, younger colleagues and even a total stranger could use "Mommy" when addressing an older woman.

And sometimes age is not really part of the equation--the term of endearment simply comes from the relationship that exists. For example, a woman who is at least 10 years older than me affectionately refers to me as "my mommy" every time she sees me. And I refer to her as "my kaka" (grandmother) every time I see her. She's just expressing our relationship over the years through the sewing program for women with HIV/AIDS. The work has been a lifeline for her in terms of having something to do and being able to earn some money to take care of her family. 

Who is a mother in the Nigerian context?  She is a woman who opens her arms to care for people--her offspring, her relatives, people in her community, people in the city, strangers. She has a mother's heart, caring for people in need, seeing unspoken needs, providing food to fill a belly at just the right time, speaking a word of encouragement or admonishment. 

Years ago, when I was a young bride and still learning to navigate Nigerian culture, I was shopping in the main market when a screaming toddler came running towards me and locked his little arms around my knees. His angry mother was right behind him so I pried him off and handed him back to her. 

Later that night I asked my Nigerian husband how I was supposed to handle that situation. He told me the child was running to me for protection, and culturally it would have been appropriate for me to beg the mother to calm down and not be angry at the child. 

I have never forgotten that. I was coming from a background where we just don't get involved in another family's issues--unless invited. But in this case, I was supposed to act as a mother to that little boy, and I failed. 

Motherhood--it's a high and noble calling. And I'm grateful to be living it out in its broad context in Nigeria. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Continued Improvement

Reposted from the CaringBridge site for Bayo Oyebade

By   7 minutes ago

Bayo continues to improve. I will no longer be writing daily on Caring Bridge. I will probably just do a few more updates here in the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, I hope to continue writing stories about life in Nigeria on my blog:

Thank you for joining us for this journey. We continue to be amazed by what God has done for Bayo and our family. We will always be grateful. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Home Sweet Home

Reposted from the Caring Bridge site for Bayo Oyebade

By   12 minutes ago

I have seen a rapid recovery in Bayo since he has been home for 24+ hours now. I had been a little concerned that I was bringing him home too early, but now I have no doubt that it was the right time to come home. 

When visitors come to the house, they are often shocked to hear his booming voice even while they are still outside. He talked on the phone for a few hours today to various friends and relatives. 

He is fascinated by hearing people tell their own stories of what they witnessed during those harrowing days of which he has no memory.  

Tonight he asked me when he can start going out! I have hidden his car keys, but what can I do? He's a man of the people. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

There's No Place Like Home

Reposted from the Caring Bridge site for Bayo Oyebade

By   28 minutes ago

We decided that it was time to depart from Kenya and allow Bayo to continue to convalesce back home in Nigeria. 
We arrived at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport about 6 a.m. this morning. I had asked for wheelchair assistance for Bayo because he is still not too steady on his feet. The wheelchair escort was a real blessing. However, right near the end of the process, they almost didn't allow us to fly because I didn't have a letter from the doctor stating that Bayo was fit to fly. Oh no! Well, Kenya Airways called their doctor and she spoke with me. When she heard what Bayo's diagnosis was and the anti-coagulant he is on, she was satisfied. That was a close call.
We had an uneventful 4.5 hour flight westward from Nairobi to Abuja.
But here's where the story gets interesting. While we were waiting to deplane, we saw two wheelchairs waiting at the bottom of the stairs on the tarmac: one for Bayo and one for an old man on the flight. As we descended the stairs, Bayo decided that he wasn't going to use that wheelchair. It's like he had renewed strength now that he was back in Nigeria. 
Bayo walked into the airport terminal on his own strength. We were then put in separate lines because of having different passports. He finished long before I did and then stood at the carousel to gather our two bags.  I allowed Bayo to do the leading as we cleared through customs.
While we were on the plane, Bayo had told me that he wanted us to stay at a guest house in Abuja so he could rest before going to Jos on Monday. But then, while we were driving into Abuja from the airport, he said that we should just go to Jos. Ok, fine with me. 
We ate at a restaurant that serves really good Nigerian food. Bayo ordered amala with egusi soup, cow skin (pomo) and cow leg. I could practically see him salivating as he sat down to eat it. He savored every bite--and ate more than he has since he's been sick. The Nigerian food infused life into him. I could see that this is the medicine he's been missing. Meanwhile, I enjoyed my own pounded yam and okra soup.
And then we headed to Jos which took about another 4 hours or so. 
It was so good to see all of our family once again. It's just good to be together under one roof. It was definitely the right time to come home. I had purposely left Bayo's phone in Nigeria, but now that he has it, you better believe he's using it!
As much as I wanted Bayo to rest in Kenya for awhile longer, I can now see that this is exactly what he needs: to be in the country that he loves. 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Jos Hospital Back Story

Reposted from the Caring Bridge site for Bayo Oyebade

By   a minute ago

As we were in the car on the way to the hospital in Jos on Friday, Feb 20, I texted one of our doctor friends: "Bayo very ill. Bringing him now." The doctor made a point to meet us in the emergency room and get the process moving quickly.
Bayo was cared for by a very competent team of doctors who also happen to be our friends--good friends. Our relationship with them extends beyond the hospital; even our children are friends. 

I saw six different doctors working on him throughout the day and into the night--there may have been more. They really did their best for Bayo. I saw them going beyond their normal duty/time. They were working to save their brother. 

After Bayo stabilized overnight, one of the doctors was absolutely giddy with joy! I saw another doctor come into ICU a bit later and touch Bayo's leg to do a quick temperature check for himself. He was thrilled that his temperature was now normal, along with his other vital signs. We all knew that the major storm had already passed. 

They said we should proceed with the evacuation because Bayo was still very sick, but at least he was now stable enough to travel. Bayo was still not able to speak at that point. God did the major miracle right there in the Jos hospital. The rest of the medical journey was to investigate what the real problem was and to get his body healed. 

We'll always be grateful for the initial work the doctors did on Bayo to help save his life right there in Jos. 

One of the doctors texted me the lyrics to "Always" as we made our way to the hospital in Kenya:

My foes are many,
they rise against me.
But I will hold my ground
I will not fear the war,
I will not fear the storm
My help is on the way,
My help is on the way.

Oh, my God, He will not delay
My refuge and strength always
I will not fear, His promise is true
My God will come through always, always.

Troubles surround me,
chaos abounding 
My soul will rest in You.
I will not fear the war, I will not fear the storm.
My help is on the way,
My help is on the way.

Oh, my God, He will not delay.
My refuge and strength always.
I will not fear, His promise is true.
My God will come through always, always.

I lift my eyes up, my help comes from the Lord.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Another Back Story

Reposted from the Caring Bridge site for Bayo Oyebade

By   7 minutes ago

On Friday, February 20, just after Bayo had his seizure at the hospital, I called my parents in Arizona. I knew I would be waking them from their sleep, but this was a life-and-death situation. I was crying and telling them to pray for Bayo. They immediately called their friends, also waking them, and asked them to pray for Bayo.

We continued to communicate throughout the day. At one point, my mom said, "Do you want us to come?" Without missing a beat, I said, "Yes." And then with a little fear, I added, "Do you have visas?"

Mom said, "Yes! Do you remember that the last time we applied for visas, we were given 2-year multiple entry visas?" Oh wow. That's right. We all thought it was a 'mistake' back then. They had applied for single entry visas, but were granted 2-year multiple entry visas instead. 

In case you don't know about Nigeria and visas, let me give you a little tutorial.  A traveler has to apply for a visa at least a month before the planned travel date. It might be possible to get it expedited within 2 weeks, but it's always best to allow more time than that. It is never a rubber stamp process; many visas are denied. If my parents did not already have their visas, they would not have been able to help us in this situation. 

(A side note: when we arrived at the airport in Kenya, we got our visas within 10 minutes. Cost: $50 each. This is normal for a Kenyan visa; the visa is issued at the border or international airport.)

My mom called a travel agent at Menno Travel and asked him to get them a flight on Saturday, Sunday, or Monday. He called them back and said they were booked to fly out of Phoenix on Saturday at 10 a.m.! Amazingly, the fares were the lowest they have paid in years! Normally my mom takes about 9 months to prepare for a trip to Nigeria. This time they did it in a day. Some of their friends and relatives pitched in and helped. My aunt and uncle took my mom's shopping list and went to the store to buy goodies for the grandkids. I don't know the rest of the stories...but I'm sure she'll fill me in when we meet face-to-face.

When some of our friends heard that my parents were coming, they thought my parents were going to join Bayo and me in Kenya. I said, "No, I need them in Nigeria for the kids; I can handle Kenya." Knowing that they were with our kids and being a stabilizing factor for them made all the difference in the world for me. I was really able to focus on Bayo in the hospital without worrying about how our kids were doing. In fact, I knew the kids were probably having a great time enjoying their grandparents and all their goodies. 

Although the Atlantic Ocean separates us most of the time, my kids have actually spent quite a bit of time with their grandparents. We get to spend time with them every other summer in Minnesota, and then during our off-years, they come to see us in Nigeria. Because of this closeness, I knew my parents could walk in the door and pick up right where we left off. 

I will always be grateful for their help and presence during our time of great need. 

At 69 & 70, my parents still have a lot of spunk--as long as Grandpa gets his afternoon nap!