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