New Year Thoughts

New Year Thoughts

Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”  This is my daily prayer, and with this new year upon us, I have been thinking as I have had some reflection and planning time.  I also had something happen that you have to hear about!

Christmas Eve I went to take a sip from my Contigo water bottle and felt a very sharp sting on my tongue.  I spit out the water that was in my mouth and the stinging continued.  I grabbed the spider off of my tongue and threw it on the floor.  My brain kind of went through all kinds of scenarios.  Is this a poisonous spider?  In MN I know all the poisonous spiders, in Nigeria I don’t yet!  What do you do when a spider bites your tongue?  The internet had no help for that, apparently it doesn’t happen very often.  I swished Listerine around my mouth for a couple of minutes and put Tea Tree Oil on the bite and took a Benadryl.  My tongue continued to hurt.  I thought what should I do next?  I should probably tell Dan in case I die or something (sometimes I am dramatic).  I did, and he said, “What kind of spider is it, is it poisonous?”  He picked up the spider from the floor where I threw it and I started googling Nigerian spiders.  It turns out it was a yellow sac spider that likes to crawl into dark spaces (the tube of my water bottle) during the day and wander around at night looking for food.  The poison aspect of the spider ranged from very poisonous to annoying, but not poisonous.  I decided to believe the annoying but not poisonous information.  My tongue still has a little sore spot from the bite but no other ill effects, so I am thankful, so thankful for that!

After this incident, Dan and I were laughing because we do not know ANYONE else who has been bit on the tongue by a spider.  We also do not know anyone who is quite as inclined to strange and weird instances of extreme disaster as I am.  No one who has been shot in Nigeria on their first visit, no one who has fallen off of a zip line and lost their sense of smell and taste, no one who falls frequently and slips on nothing, no one (except our son Robert) who can fall up or down stairs every single time, and now no one who has been bit on the tongue by a spider.

If you don’t know me well, now you know a little bit more about me.  I’m kind of like an accident waiting to happen somedays.  BUT guess what?

I have a God who knows this, who made me JUST like this and loves me and wants me to serve Him.  Isn’t it amazing, friend!  All our God wants is us.  I am finally at a place in this life where He gets all of me.  I am not sure why He wants it, but I am here, and here to serve Him.  Don’t get me wrong, I am human and somedays just want to go to bed and never get up, or be selfish and scream, “I want my own way NOW”.  But God is helping me daily as I pray to be more like Jesus and that people will see Jesus not only in me, but through me as well.

My point for today is this:  If you are waiting to be “Perfect” before you give yourself to Jesus, He doesn’t want perfect, He wants YOU!  How much of you does He have?

Is Yours a Wonderful Life?

Is Yours a Wonderful Life?

Today we have internet! We have only had internet about 7 days this month so far (welcome to Nigeria)! I want to take advantage of this opportunity to wish you a Wonderful Christmas season as we think about the tiny baby in the manger and why He came to Earth.

It seems very strange that Christmas is less than a week away. As I sit in my chair, it is sunny and 85 degrees outside. The birds are singing and flowers blooming. Our sheets are drying out on the line (as the dryer has been broken for about a month and is currently being fixed.) Spending most of my life living in Minnesota, this is not the traditional Christmas weather. We have had three Christmas’s here in Gembu, and it is still a very strange feeling, but we do enjoy it! It is so funny how we are such creatures of habit and associate Christmas with snow, Christmas decorations, cookies, and stores!

Speaking of habit, I want to share with you my favorite movie that I must watch every year about this time. It’s a Wonderful Life. This movie was released in 1946, 17 years before I was born, but every year I love the reminder that is all over this movie, the quote that Clarence the angel says to George Bailey swirls around my thoughts, as I plan my next year of life and work. “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”

This thought echoes through my head this time of year. Will the presents you give this year change anyone’s life for the better? Will the tree and decorations be perfect? Will this season be memorable and special for all? When you are not on this Earth anymore will your absence be felt? Will your fingerprints and prayers be felt for generations because of anything you have done, given, or said?

In this stage of my life my goal is for people to see Jesus in all I do, say, and am. Jesus has given me life, a life I would have never dreamed of. Freedom and joy I did not know was possible! A peace and a joy that can only be from Him.

I pray that if I were to see what it would be like if I was never born, I would be surprised at the people who got to see a glimpse of Jesus through me. That I would not be THAT person who treats others poorly as I rush through my life with MY agenda. I pray that all would see Jesus in and through me. This includes first of all our family members who know us best and love us anyway. Sometimes we forget to treat those closest to us as precious. They are! Every moment with loved ones is priceless and should never be taken for granted. EVER!
My point for today is this: Are you spending this Christmas spreading “stuff” or the love that can only come from the Jesus that I serve?

The Scoop from Gembu

The Scoop from Gembu

I know that I have not blogged in FOREVER! While we were in the States this year we told all of the churches we visited that I blog every week while we are in Nigeria and post pictures every week. I think God must have a wacky sense of humor because we have been so busy I have not been able to blog as it takes more than two consecutive minutes for me to put a thought together. Then there is that always loved, always hated entity out there called “the internet”. Ours has had issues and I have also had issues loading pictures on my computer without it using up all of our internet.
So… I want to share with you what has been going on here and I am excited someday to be able to post some pictures as well so you can see what’s going on.
Funmi and I have been having reading and math classes and they are really going well. The curriculum we are using is awesome and the students of all ages that we have really enjoy it and are excited that they can read much more than they ever thought they could! This is truly a gift and a joy to see!
Our first group of TTP Students that we have been doing math with have all passed their math and reading tests now and have received their certificates, and when their trainers that they are apprenticing with approves that each is ready to have their own business, they will each receive their empowerment tools. We are so proud of these students! They have worked hard on learning their craft and the entrepreneurship classes as well. Our second group of TTP Students is doing very well and very soon will be testing to see who is ready to start their apprenticeship with our trainers.
The reading classes at the school have shown huge results and we are working with the school when they resume after the first of the year.
Miss Taraba invited me to talk at an event at Taraba State University and she also purchased 150 Days for Girls kits to distribute to women and girls that attended. It was an awesome time and I believe we made some wonderful connections for further training of women and girls. Miss Taraba will be coming to Gembu during her break for me to work with her and for her to pass her “Ambassador of Health” training so that she can go out and talk to women and girls as she has engagements all over our state.
Because of the additional DFG kits that I believe we will be needing I have hired Odelia to work Monday through Friday and we are making kits like crazy. Quality control is my very first priority during this part and she is doing very well with that, I check every day to keep things on track! The Kits are also quite a huge blessing to women that give birth at our Hospital, as we give them a Post-Partum kit and talk to them about charting their cycle and such before they go home. A big thank you to all the women who made kits that we brought back to Nigeria with us, they are soooo appreciated. Thank you!
We spent a week in Abuja getting supplies and emptying out the apartment. We are not in Abuja enough to justify this, and our plan is to only go once or twice a year now. We got to have American Thanksgiving with our friends, the Holmes, who are missionaries in Abuja, and it was an awesome time to spend with some dear people we don’t get to see that often.
We then were in Jalingo for me to speak at the University and to renew our Driver’s Licenses and get some additional supplies that we needed for World AIDS Day, which was December 1. In case you are wondering, we do not like being in Abuja or Jalingo as our Minnesota bodies melt in the heat!
World Aids Day was on Friday and IT WAS AWESOME! We had many distinguished visitors and marched through town and to our new hall. We talked about how HIV and some of the secondary infections are greatly affecting us here in Nigeria and we also graduated our first group of students from the Entrepreneurship Program. We had Jollof Rice, Malta, and banana bread from our awesome restaurant and celebrated! There was a lot of singing and dancing and love spread around on Friday!
All of this is in addition to the building projects moving forward, patients in the hospital and clinic, and ministry continuing forward.
I do have a point in today’s blog and this is it:
Dan and I have both felt spiritual oppression during these past couple of months. I believe that this is because much is moving forward here and we are impacting the community daily in many ways here. Please pray. Each morning Dan and I pray that God will show us what to say and do for that day and that we are discerning enough to do it. We have many expenses because of buildings. Prices here have at least tripled in this past year. We need wisdom on what is God’s priority first. Not our own. Thank you, friends, God is good and we are thankful!

54!

54!

Today I am 54.  54 years of life on this planet.  I would like to share something that has been in my heart lately and pray that the truth of it can help someone out there in a positive way.  It is life-changing for me.

I was the oldest child in our family, my family position was “the caretaker”.  I strived to make everyone happy, all of the time.  I thought that this was my job.  Being the oldest, a female, and many other factors all contributed to this self-made job description.

I have a very high empathy level and to tell you the truth, when someone is hurting, I hurt too.  Deeply.  Many times it is even physically painful for me.  Last week with the Las Vegas shootings as well as a very dear friend passing away from a massive heart attack unexpectedly at the age of 49, leaving behind my dear friend and her three college-aged children.  Additionally, the day to day pull of the many, ongoing needs here in our very rural part of Nigeria had me feeling overwhelmed and hopeless.

Dan and I were watching an episode of Cold Case last week, and the episode was a case from 2005.  They played the song, “Fix You”, by Cold Play in the show and it reminded me of a cover version that I love and had forgotten about done by WorshipMob.  It reminded me, that I cannot fix ANYTHING.  I can pray, I can pray for discernment, wisdom, God’s will.  BUT, even in the infinite and mighty power of a firstborn caretaker I can’t. FIX. ANYTHING. These words reminded me again of where our power comes from and who the FIXER truly is.  It is not in my power, I don’t need to feel guilty, hopeless, or inadequate. I need to rest in the truth that I wasn’t made to fix, I was made to pray and obey.

My point for today is this: I hope you hear the truth in these words and feel them deep in your soul as I do today.

FIX YOU REVISED BY WorshipMob

When you try your best, but you don’t succeed

When you get what you want, but not what you need

When you feel so tired, but you can’t sleep

Stuck in reverse

And the tears come streaming down your face

When you lose something that you can’t replace

When you love someone, but it goes to waste

Could it be worse?

He will guide you home

And ignite your bones

He gave His life to fix you

High up above or down below

When you’re too in love to let it go

But if you never try you’ll never know

Just what you’re worth

He can guide you home

And ignite your bones

He gave his life to fix you

Tears stream down your face

When you lose something you cannot replace

Tears stream down your face and I

Tears stream down your face

When you can learn from your mistakes

Tears stream down your face and I

He will guide you home

And ignite your bones

He lived and died to fix you

It’s a Partnership!

It’s a Partnership!

Well, it has been a month since we have been back in Gembu now. I have been assessing students (ages 15 to 60) for reading and math and then placing them in groups by their levels and doing math and reading lessons in groups of 5 or 6. I had planned that this activity would start in fuller force when we returned this year and did start the first week we were here. I did not, however, realize how much time, planning, and focus it would take for me (at 53 years of age I could be a little ADD – Squirrel!). A month into it now and I am getting used to the schedule, but it still throws me when people drop by to greet me unexpectedly or show up for their group lesson very late. God is helping me to endeavor. Everything that gets done here in Gembu is because we have true partners that pray, invest, and love GECHAAN and what God is doing here.
We saw last year that our Technical Training Program Students that came to us with certificates that they had completed secondary school really had a huge gap if they would ever have their own business. Many couldn’t read, spell, or add two numbers together. We had to change our plan!
In March when the Edinbrook Church Group came a retired Reading Recovery teacher came and brought a wonderful curriculum that was donated by a variety of sponsors and taught me how to assess and teach lessons. I was a little nervous, but I love teaching so picked up on it OK and after a month of doing a lot of it feel I have a pretty good feel for how to proceed when planning each lesson and in assessing. While we were at Trinity Baptist Church in CT this year I had a wonderful time with Barb DeVries, the Pastor’s wife there. She sponsored some teaching supplies and a curriculum that can help me with higher levels of reading as well. In Thrift Stores from CT to MN I found wonderful magnetic letters, flash cards, and other hands on items to help me teach reading and math. In MN I got to spend time with one of my friends who was also a reading recovery teacher and she had some math games and other math resources that she had gathered, showed me how to use, and sent with me. What I’m trying to point out is that this whole math and reading training going on here is not me. It is US. I am the blessed one that gets to be here and see the lights go on and the smile widen when someone realizes they are reading and can spell those words as well.
Let me tell you one more partner in this training going on in Gembu. When we returned a month ago, our Director of Operations and his family joined us from Abuja back to Gembu. His wife and children have moved here to Gembu from Lagos. From the beginning. In classes and preparation Funmi (picture here working with students) has been there, helping people sound out words, go through the books and steps we use, and work with the group or students that need extra help while I work with the group. She has also learned how to teach reading and use the curriculum and resources we have here. I prayed for a Nigerian to help me with teaching, God answered. I enjoy Funmi so much and am so grateful for her help and friendship.
We even have a student that does not know ANY English yet, and is 15 and has never been to school. He is a sharp boy and his smile can brighten any day. He surprised me yesterday by greeting me with, “Good Afternoon, Ma”. So, with him we are working on English, reading, and writing right now, all of them very foreign concepts, but he has a smile and does his best. Yesterday I had him practice writing his name for about 15 minutes as he didn’t know how to spell or write it.
My point for today is this: When God shows you a need, tells you you need to do something about it, he also supplies a way. It takes communication and vision, but at the end of the day if God is in it, He makes the forward movement happen! We just have to do our part!