Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Saying Goodbye . . .

This is a blog I wrote right after I left Nigeria, but was unable to post until now . . . enjoy :)

Kai! I had to say goodbye yesterday . . . well actually this week has been a process of saying goodbye . . .

Thursday night I was able to spend the night in Gyero for the last time and go to worship night with all the kids! God is so good, because I couldn’t have imagined a better night – all of the kids and staff in one room singing, dancing and praising god! It was amazing – i couldn’t help but have tears of joy, thankfulness and sadness run down my face the entire time. I played tag with my girls after worship . . . they love it when I pretend I’m a grizzly bear and chase them around . . . it was good fun! J

Friday I was able to visit our staff at Gidan Bege and TH and say goodbye to them . . . sadly this was the first time I had been at either of these places since the crisis, so it was a hello/goodbye. Much of the fighting that took place during the crisis was very near TH, so it was really my first exposure to see first hand the damage done – it is heartbreaking. I listened to story after story from the uncles about what happened during the crisis and it was incredible. It’s a miracle that TH wasn’t touched. It made me sad to know that I was leaving and won’t be able to help people continue to process through what happened, but it’s another step in trusting the Lord and his plan.

Saturday Lisa and I took the girls on a picnic as my last goodbye. It was a blast! Little Favor had never eaten a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in her life . . . after she figured out how to eat it she ended up enjoying it! We all had a great time eating our PB&J, banana muffins and oranges on the rock behind our mountain . . . a good memory to say the least. We escaped a tearful goodbye, by slipping out the back when some visitors came to meet the girls . . . probably for the best after a tearful Thursday evening . . . I don’t think I could have handled much more . . .

Sunday was filled with packing, and repacking and repacking some more and saying goodbye to my missionary family. Nicky and Lisa made some great pizza for lunch and then it was off . . . it was hard to say goodbye to these friends who have become my family over the past six months . . . I will miss each of them SOO much! But God reminded me that we will all meet again face to face, when we go to see him – how cool is that!

I feel so blessed that in my short life I have been able to be a part of things like what I’ve been a part of in Nigeria . . . It keeps getting better and better – God is Good.

Although it might be time for me to leave Nigeria for now, I know that God has more planned for me and the relationships he has helped build there. So this is not the end . . .

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Thoughts and More Thoughts . . .

So, I have left Nigeria . . . I am now in Bosnia visiting my best friend Jessica who is doing college Ministry here in Sarajevo. I have much to say about actually saying goodbye to my Nigerian friends and family, but that is going to have to wait for another day. I am simply going to post a few passages of scripture that have really stood out to me during the past few months and even the past few days . . . No fear I still have plenty to share about my time in Nigeria and PLENTY more pictures to share with you, so this is in no way the end of my blogging! :)

"And God, in his MIGHTY power, will protect you until you receive this salvation, because you are trusting him." - 1 Peter 1:5

"I will lead blind Israel down a new path, guiding them along an unfamiliar way. I will make the darkness bright before them and smooth out the road ahead of them. Yes, I will indeed do those things; i will not forsake them." -Isaiah 42:16

"When you bow down before the Lord and admit your dependence on him, he will lift you up and give you honor." - James 4:10

"How do you know what will happen tomorrow? For your life is like the morning fog- it is here a little while, then it is gone. What you ought to say is, 'if the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.'" - James 4:14

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

How to say goodbye?

I’m not exactly sure where to start, except with, I don’t know how I even begin so say goodbye to these children, the staff and the missionaries who have become my kids, my friends and my family over the past six months.

In the beginning six months seems like such a long time! Now that it’s almost over, it seems so small. Although there were days that were hard and days that were long, the time has flown by and I can’t believe it’s time to say goodbye already.

As most of you know, things have been a bit crazy in Jos over the past two weeks. Rioting and fighting broke out in the city after unfavorable (well actually before, unfavorable) election results were announced. Much of the northern part of the city was burned; homes, churches and schools. People lost lives and fear and tension has been planted in the city. For a few days us missionaries were relocated to a smaller village an hour or so outside of Jos, just as a precaution in case the fighting broke out again. Although I was torn about leaving Jos, my kids, friends and more than frustrated that this relocation meant five less days I was able to spend with my kids a week before I left, I was thankful for the space we had to go hiking, play frisbee, play WAY too many games of Settlers of Catan (at one point we had 4 or 5 different games of Settlers going on at the same time!). I was also nice to have a break from the tension in the city.

Now that I am back in Jos, it’s time to say goodbye. Saturday will be my last time at Gyero before I leave on Sunday afternoon. The girls are already talking about it, and saying that I can’t leave and they don’t want me to go. I am stressing about packing up my apartment (it’s quite a mess . . .), and trying to fit all of my last minute meetings and lunches and visits in before I go.

Nicky has returned from visiting Erin in the US. A group of us had dinner tonight and we got to hear stories from America! It’s funny what people from other countries notice about your own country that you would never think strange – for example: drive up ATMs . . . . apparently they don’t have those in England and Nicky just thought it was the funniest thing ever . . . and I am learning that people from England don’t eat sweet and savory (a word we don’t use often) things together, so the idea of having sugary popcorn and cheesy popcorn in the same tin together, threw her mind! J I’m glad Nicky is back and that I am able to say goodbye before I leave, but I’m sad that I only have three days, which are already full to see her in . . . and I’m sad that she had to come back to Nigeria in such a state that it’s in.

Let me tell you being here during “The Crisis” as we call it (and I think it needs to be capitalized, the way we use it), has really opened my eyes to understand a glimpse of what it must be like for people who are living in places with constant waring. The tension in this city is absolutely incredible. Today, a crowd of people and a ton of cars came screaming up the street in front of our compound. When some of them stopped and we asked what was happening, no one actually knew why they were running. People were running simple because they saw other people running . . . come to find out this afternoon, ALL of the running that started on the opposite side of town, was caused by a woman who was being chased by a bee . . . yes a bumble bee . . . talk about tension.

I can’t tell you how thankful I have been for the people on my compound. Praise the Lord for Joseph aka. . . . “Batman” and Matt aka . . . “Robin” and for Lisa . . . aka Lisa . . . J The four of us STA’s have really bonded together during The Crisis . . . but I guess that’s what staying up until all hours of the night watching Plant Earth together while you listen to gun shots in the city will do. I have been so thankful for Joseph’s humor and ability to keep things light-hearted and fun and for Matthew’s attention to detail and sense of responsibility for our safety. Lisa and I have hardly been separated since The Crisis started and have become great friends – I am really going to miss her . . .

Needless to say this is a bit of a strange note to leave on. I know this is a bit of a scattered Blog, but I feel a bit scattered . . . I’m not exactly sure how to begin to say goodbye . . .

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

With a thankful heart . . .

Here is a blog entry that I wrote a few days ago, but wasn't able to post. Sorry for the lack of pictures . . . I will post some pictures in the next few days . . . Thank you for your prayers and support over the past few days. Please keep praying for our city . . .

“Do you miss being with your family today?” I asked Joseph, a two year short-termer as we drove to our big Thanksgiving dinner including all the American missionaries in Jos. “Well yes, but the moment I drive into Gyero and all the children coming running out greeting me and hugging me, I remember why I’m here” was his response. As our conversation continued we discussed what a strange thing it is for someone to leave everything, their friends, family, modern living conviences to move to somewhere like Africa for a few months or a few years. It is a bit of an odd and counter-cultural idea from an outsiders perspective, but Joseph and I both agreed that we are abundantly thankful for this opportunity we have had to live in Nigeria. Our lives have forever been changed by the people we have met and we have had the opportunity to see a new face of God. God is so much bigger than we ever give him credit for!

I made a list of things that I’m thankful for this morning. The thing I love most about doing this is that every time I make a list of things I’m thankful for it’s always mostly comprised of names of people . . . my friends and family (and of course coffee and sunshine J). The list of people who God has used in my life keeps getting longer and longer and now includes people from all over the World. If I have this many brothers and sisters in Christ now, while I’m living in this World, I can’t imagine how joyful it will be when we all reach Heaven to be with our Father together! What a party!

Over the past few days, as God has been teaching me to have a more thankful and content heart and has been showing me what it means to be at peace with him by trusting in him, I woke up with one very tangible lesson about thankfulness and peace.

Yesterday was a local election day in Jos. This meant that we weren’t allowed to travel, well at least until 4:00pm . . . so a few of the girls and I decided that we would stay with our kids in Gyero, since we wouldn’t be able to travel around. That was about the extent of how we were affected and about the extent to which I even thought about it until this morning. I woke up this morning at 6:00am and carried out my normal morning routine, reading my Bible, emailing and actually getting to talk to Sean on the phone!

Just as I was about to jump in the shower to get started on the busy day I had planned ahead of me, Chris our compound dad, came by knocking on my door. He proceeded to inform me that there is a lot of political unrest due to yesterday’s election and schools and houses are being burned and all of the firework sounding noise I had been hearing were actually gun shots going off. . . so needless to say we aren’t allowed to go anywhere today. The sky is filled with black smoke and the air smells of fire and although the streets are incredibly quite, not a motorbike or car in sight, the sound of gunfire ringing through the city is a loud enough reminder that this is not a city at peace at the moment.

What a reminder to be thankful for what we have at home. Although our elections at home seem to get heated, with nasty commercials and long political debates, our houses aren’t in danger of being burned and we don’t have to listen to gunfire breaking through the peace of our cities. We all have so much to be thankful for.

Even in the midst of this current chaos, God has reminded me that each step of everyday is a gift from him, and we are called to trust in him for each of those steps we take. As we trust in him our hearts are filled with his peace. We don’t have to, or need to know what’s coming next, we just need to trust that God knows and that he is good. We don’t even have to thank him for the circumstances we presently find ourselves in, we have to trust him and thank him for who he is, in spite of those circumstances, an almighty, powerful and ever present God.

Please keep our city Jos in your prayers today. Pray for the people whose homes have been burned, and please pray for those who have been injured by gunfire. Please pray that God’s peace would reign in Nigeria today.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7

Monday, November 24, 2008

The challenges of living in Nigeria . . .

Two things to begin this blog . . . Number 1- you will only understand and fully appreciate how cool the title of this blog is, if you live in Nigeria . . .

Secondly, I need to tell you just how wonderful our compound parents, Chris and Helen are and how continually thankful I am for all they do for each of us. Chris and Helen are from New Zealand, and have been missionaries in West Africa for over 30 years. They just moved to Nigeria a few months ago to help in the SIM office, and boy let me tell you, they couldn’t have picked a busier time to move somewhere and learn a new job.

From the moment they arrived they have been bombarded with lots and lots of work. Even though they have been so incredibly busy, they have the time, to throw birthday parties for missionaries, have a weekly prayer meeting for our compound, have seminars about how to live in Nigeria, make sure we have enough food and dishes, sort our visa issues, help us develop our goals amongst MANY other things. Just saying that makes me tired!

So on top of all this, Chris is also sort of the fix-it guy for the compound . . . when you run out of gas you tell Chris, when you can’t find your keys, or your door won’t open even though you have your keys, or if you don’t have hot water, or any water, etc. you tell Chris . . .
So over the few months that I have lived here in Nigeria we have had many (and I mean many) funny maintenance issues at our compound . . . several of which are VERY funny, so I thought I would highlight a few and share them with you, especially since a few of them have just occurred in the past 24 hours.

#1: Our septic Tank overflowed a few months ago . . .
At home, not a big problem, you call the sewage company, they bring a truck and pump it out . . . In Nigeria, sewage companies and trucks that pump stuff out don’t exsist . . . so you call the construction guy and get his men to dig a new hole, and empty the old hole with buckets and wheel barrows . . . The men that cleaned that out are amazing, praise the Lord for their servant hearts . . .

#2 Breaking down Ruth’s door (also a few months ago) . . .
When Ruth’s got locked out of her house . . .let me say she did have her key’s she just couldn’t get them to open her door . . . it was time to break down the door. Around 9:oopm on our compound, all the guys were up with their tools trying to open the door . . .they ended up just breaking down the door frame with brute force – it was quite hilarious to watch, but eventually Ruth did get back into her house!

#3 Jamie getting locked out of her house . . holding her keys . . . (yesterday)
So all of the sudden, I can’t lock or unlock my house, yesterday upon returning from the office, I tried to unlock my house and nothing happened. The key turns, and turns and turns, but the door doesn’t unlock. Ruth and I decide to kick the door really hard, cause you never know, it might work, AND praise the Lord it did work! The door opened! So when I left again, I wasn’t so sure that I wanted to lock the door, but we decided it would be okay . . . well when we arrived home from dinner, I couldn’t get my door to unlock again . . . praise the Lord after a lot of fiddling around with it, it finally opened, but the whole deadbolt came out!! I was holding it in my hand!

#4 A chunk of my wall tile fell down in the middle of the night . . .
At some point during the night last night, I heard a HUGE crashing sound. I assumed that my kitchen curtain had knocked over my bottle of dish soap, because that happens all the time. So when I woke up this morning and walked into the kitchen to make my coffee, I noticed that my dish soap was still standing on the shelf . . . while boiling my water . . . I looked and the ground and realized there was a pretty large chunk of something on the ground. Upon further inspection, I realized it was a piece of tile, looking up, I could see that it fell out of my wall from above my door!

Well, these are all pretty minor things (expect for the sewage thing), but I thought I would share a few funny stories about living in Nigeria . . . I didn’t even include the stories about our ever leaking water tank and our over-flowing washing machine, but I’ll save those for another day!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Making Happy, Happy . . .

As my time here in Nigeria begins to come to a close, I feel a mixture of emotions. There are definitely things I miss about being at home, and there are definitely things that I won't miss about living in Nigeria, mainly the unreliable power, water and Internet and the crazy driving. Although I won't miss those things, there are at least 19 little things I will desperately miss about Nigeria - Ruth, Alheri, Elizabeth, Myriam, Gift, Happy, Sandra, Rose, Patience, Faith, Precious, Rebecca, Simi, Mafang, Favor, Patience, Blessing, Godiya and Mary. It's hard to think of not having these little girls be a part of my everyday life. The thought of leaving each of them brings tears to my eyes.

A few days ago, I pulled Happy, one of our new girls out of class so that I could spend some one on one time with her. She has really been struggling adjusting to life in the Ministry- constantly fighting with others, not listening to directions and just been overall very difficult. We have all been praying for her. As it turns out the story we got when Happy and her sister Sandra arrived in the ministry is not entirely true.
Upon further investigation it turns out that the woman who brought the girls to us, made the up the whole story and Happy and Sandra do actually have a mother, well a step mother to be exact, who we happened to meet one day while walking down the Gyero road . . . go figure . . . Isn't it great how God always reveals the truth . . . Part of the reason why Happy has been acting up so much is because she misses her mother . . . Pastor has looked into the situation further and discovered that although the girls do have a mother, the mother is divorced from her husband and is not in a stable situation to be able to take care of the girls, the girls were badly neglected before they came to live with us - which we could tell from some of their physical problems. We are still in the process of contacting the family and trying to figure out the truth of the situation, but it looks like the girls are still in a position to stay with us in the Ministry.
Anyways, I had a good time with Happy, working on our ABC's, drawing pictures of our families and explaining to each other who everyone is and of course playing with my camera. Here are a few pictures . . .

Small things that make a BIG difference . . .

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. – Margaret Mead

This past week I have seen first hand just how much a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the World - and even more than change the World share the love of Christ in everything they do. I have been able to spend the past week working along side a short-term team from Maine. The team has a huge heart for orphans, especially girls - the team includes 3 young girls who have been adopted themselves. How cool is it that God brought orphans from Romania to come and play with our orphan girls in Nigeria. Just a small reminder that God is so much bigger than each one of us, and his plan for our lives is bigger than we can ever hope or imagine.

Along with doing a great job ministering to our children at Gyero through Bible Stories, songs, crafts and time spent getting to know each of the children individually, the team has put in many hours of painting and construction work to bring a whole new look to our girls compound . . . The team has painted the girls bedrooms, the parlor and painted a few murals. The mural on the wall is the seven days of creation! It looks awesome! Check out these pictures to see for yourself! It is amazing what a small group of people can do!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Simple things in life . . .

Today I had a moment . . . I often have moments . . . moments where you realize that taking a picture will not capture the life of what is going on around you, or moments when you realize that you have the best "job" in the whole World, or moments when you realize that you have one of God's most precious creations sitting on your lap . . .

Today's, moment happened while at Gyero with the girls. I received a package last week (thanks Amy and Mona! :) and in the package were those blow up balloons that fly around and make noise when you let go of them . . . simple right . . . well for my little girls, you would have thought that I had given them the World, when they watched with excited eyes as I demonstrated how they worked. For the next 45mins, all we did was blow up the balloons, watch them fly and chase after them.

We all quickly discovered that Rebecca was by far the best at blowing up the balloons, and Godiya could find them no matter how far they flew . . . even the boys came out to watch and soon we had a whole audience! It was SO much fun! We were all laughing and chasing each other around- who knew something simple could be so much fun!

The day got even better, when I remember to bring "The Sara Movie" . . . translated means "The Little Princess" which is now their fav movie since watching it at camp . . . but to be honest it's one of my favs too! :) and THEN, when I brought them banana muffins, they got so excited they almost knocked me over! Yet again, another simple thing in life . . . I love that these little girls teach me so much about what is truly important in life . . . the simple things, and each other . . . I hope that I always have a heart that enjoys the simple things in life!