Wow friends, it has been a wild month for us all, hasn’t it? On our journey the past 10 weeks we have had the opportunity to visit our Connecticut partners in ministry. While we were there on March 22 and 23 I got a chance to share a bit about a life-changing thing that happened to us 8 years ago on March 22, 2012. Let me share with you what happened that day that has shaped our outlook on life since then.
In March of 2012 we visited Gembu, Nigeria for the first time to see if Dan and I were good canidates to continue the ministry of GECHAAN after Art and Dorothy retired. March 22, 2012 we left Gembu, Nigeria to head back to MN. We had just decided that we were going to raise support, sell our house, quit our jobs and return to Gembu to continue the ministry Art and Dorothy Helwig had founded at GECHAAN. 4 hours down the road Dan and I were talking about dreams of what God might do when we moved to Nigeria. We came to a place in the road that we thought was a checkpoint but was in fact, robbers. They started shooting at our vehicle as we tried to escape, I got a bullet from an AK-47 through my upper thigh. About 2 miles down the road the vehicle over-heated because a bullet went through the radiator hose and our vehicle stopped right there on the side of the road. I remember looking out the window praying. I was as close to panic as I have ever been in my life. I was afraid – there was no place to hide, we had 2 people bleeding profusely, my leg was shot, and our vehicle was not operational. I was looking out the window saying to God, “God, they were really trying to stop us, please stop them from trying to come and find us. Please don’t let them find us.” AT THAT MOMENT – I felt God say to me, “Tina, this is where I want you and I will take care of you.”
I am not exaggerating when I say I have never experienced peace like I did at that moment. It was a peace that did not depend on my current circumstances, it depended on who God IS.
This past year has not gone as planned, I know that is the case for ALL of us with recent developments. During Dan’s stroke, recovery, second stroke, visiting supporters and not being able to get back to Nigeria when we planned we have experienced peace. Of course we need to get back to Nigeria, but we know God has it all under control and we will get back when the time is right. We will be working from our MN home for the time being. Asking God the best things to do and focus on and then doing them.
Friends, I want you to remember this one thing as we go through these uncertain times. This is what God designed the church for. During plagues in the dark ages who were the people caring for the sick and diseased while everyone else was leaving? THE CHURCH. Not the building, Jesus-followers. Friends it is time for us to SHINE AGAIN and show the world the reason for our hope. We don’t know what the future days will bring, but we do know who holds our tomorrows, we know who gives us a peace that defies this world. Friends, let’s be the church Jesus called us to be. I love you friends, lets do this.
It was May 1, 1982 – I woke up early after not having slept very well. Today was the day I had dreamed of for most of my 18 years of life. It was MY wedding day! I was going to marry the cutest boy I had ever met who made my heart flutter every time I even thought of him.
My mom and sisters went to the hair salon to get their hair done, I went to the church to put up candle holders as I was going to do my own hair. I giddily placed candle holders where we wanted them and struggled with one that remained BENT the entire wedding- that irked me terribly!
Meanwhile on that chilly Minnesota morning, Dan and the groomsmen were staying in the house we were renting. There was no hot water, so Dan took a cold shower and the groomsmen opted not to. Dan said he was worried that it might snow because of the chill in the air and we did live in Minnesota!
It was a fun, very special day for us to visit with friends and family. To celebrate with people who have long passed on to Heaven now, other friends and family. We went back to our house and opened presents with family. We had a lot of avacado, burnt orange, and yellow Tupperware, and all of those things that we needed to start a new household. Much more than we needed to be exact! This was before the days of Wedding Registries, so we had to take a couple of items back to Gardner’s Hardware Store and we were able to get a wonderful clock radio with an alarm clock with our returned items.
We didn’t go on a honeymoon as I was still in Legal Secretary School and we didn’t have any money! Dan and I took Friday off of Work and school, and then started our life together. As our family sent us off to our new life together we had no idea what life would bring. We did know that we had each other, a bunch of dreams, and love… That’s all we needed, right?
Little did I know exactly what type of man I had married. I knew Dan was smart, practical, determined young man who was ALWAYS right, and would defend that to the death. As we are both firstborn in our families Dr. Dobson described it like two rams butting heads together constantly. We laughed and thought that was funny because we really did get along well and that first year of life together we had quite a few arguments – but were able to come to a place of understanding fairly quickly most of the time.
When I think of the 18 and 21 year olds that we were when we started this journey and the people we are now I am thankful! I am so thankful that I am still not that 18 year old who thought the world revolved around her. I am thankful for the very good times we have shared, but I have to say the times we have grown the most together as a couple have been the bad times. The times when we looked at each other and said, “I have no idea what the right thing to do is, we need to pray because God does”. Those are the times that have cemented us together as a couple.
Last year we were apart on our Anniversary as I was in the States and Dan was in Nigeria. During the time I was in the States by myself it was a very strange feeling no matter what I did or who I was meeting with I felt like part of me was missing. When we reunited I realized what it was. My Helpmeet was missing, the part of me that I can just give a glance to and we both know what we are thinking of. We have a little smile on our lips when someone says something that triggers a memory and we burst out in random 6o’s, 70’s, or 80’s song lyrics at any occasion.
Thank you God for a man who loves you first, me second, and our family next. A man who you gifted and prepared to do the work he does now. Helping community and many people in such a variety of ways. Thank you God for bringing us together, and then keeping us together.
It has been 6 months since I have blogged! Wow, I have to say that went quickly! I want to update you on how our trip back to Gembu went. This trip was different than any other we have experienced before!
The airplane left Minneapolis around 10 on August 7. We were on it and so were our 17 bags. We arrived at JFK on time and our flight was delayed because of “technical difficulties”. After we finally boarded the plane, we sat on the runway in the rain and thunder and lightening for another hour or more. This made our plane about 3 1/2 hours late to Paris. We missed the flight to Abuja because of this. We stood in a line of passengers for 4 hours to re-schedule a flight and found out that we had two choices. #1. Board a plane the next morning, fly to London, then to Frankfurt, then to Abuja and get there around 2:55 on August 10 #2. Take a direct flight from Paris in 2 days. The airline would pay for one day, food for a day and a voucher for airport store and we would have to pay for one day, and we would get to Abuja around 3:45 on August 10. We opted for #2 as we were already so tired! What to do in Paris for a full day? Hmmm, we have thought about staying for a day or two as we frequently have a lay-over when traveling between Minneapolis and Abuja but we have never done it because when we travel we want to get where we are going and are pretty focused about that. We took a Uber to the Double-decker bus tour and toured Paris all day. We stopped and had sandwiches at a fun restaurant and then in the afternoon had a cappucino and Tiramisu. It was the most relaxed we have been for a long time. Just us stuck in another country that has bathrooms and good coffee. Merci God!
The next morning we caught the plane to Abuja, we had Peter waiting at the airport with an extra vehicle because we were supposed to have 17 large bags. We went through and collected our baggage and only 5 made it so Peter left to go back to his new Uber job as he has retired from GECHAAN now. Dan filed a claim and we were told that the rest would be here on Sunday (this was Friday and we were hoping to be back to Gembu by Satuday night). We did our shopping for food items and other supplies as we are hoping not to have to travel to Abuja at all this year. Sunday Dan and Taiwo went to pick up our bags at the airport and we received 9 more. The others “should” arrive Tuesday they said. So, what to do in Abuja for two more days? We got to visit with Anita and Hintiya, our very dear friends and with the Pastor in Nigeria that heads up The Timothy Initiative project in Nigeria, we also checked out an automatic brick making machine that is available to purchase in Nigeria.
Wednesday morning we left at 5:00 am and Taiwo and Dan drove. We arrived home at 7:30 pm. It gets dark here around 6:30 so we only had about an hour in the dark. The roads were mostly good for here and we were never so thankful to finally be at one of our homes!
We were greeted by Lady and Tramp and their 4 – 3 month old puppies! The puppies are VERY large and I cannot wait to show you how adorable they are. They are very big and I think they are going to be even bigger than Lady and Tramp are.
We unpacked our bags, distributed items to their appropriate places over the weekend and are ready to be back in the swing of things now we feel.
We were so surprised and excited to see how much our Staff has taken responsibility for while we were gone and how well things are going. God is really blessing and we feel blessed to be a tiny part in it.
Please pray for us as we make plans for ministry for this coming year and for us to do EXACTLY what God wants us to do this coming year and the connections we made this past summer in regards to Agriculture and medical equipment and technology.
My point for today is this: Even when our agenda doesn’t happen, He is sooo good!
Signing off from Gembu for now ~ Tina
Monday’s child is fair of face
Tuesday’s child is full of grace
Wednesday’s child is full of woe
Thursday’s child has far to go,
Friday’s child is loving and giving,
Saturday’s child works hard for a living,
But the child who is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonnie and blithe and good and gay.
Since I am an early childhood teacher and have read more than a zillion nursery rhyme books over the years this little verse is familiar to me. It is very old and I thought of it last Thursday. I wondered how many children are full of woe like Wednesday’s child.
I was teaching our math class with our TTP students and Funmi and someone came to get me. There was an emergency surgery at the hospital and they needed a blood donor. Just the week before I had told the lab that if they are looking for a donor to give blood, I am available. Since my blood group is O+, I am considered a “universal blood donor”. This is why I used to give blood every 12 weeks or so when we lived in the States. 0+ Blood works for all blood types except 0-.
I rushed down to the clinic and they took out a test tube of blood so that they could test to make sure I didn’t have anything in my blood that would negatively affect the person having surgery. As I was waiting for the tests to finish (this is standard procedure here). We do not have a blood bank because of the safety issue of keeping blood without constant electricity. When a patient needs blood the family looks for people to give blood that will work for the patient, they test it for HIV, Hepatitis, TB, etc. and if the tests are good, our lab technicians collect a pint of blood and that directly goes to the patient.
Anyway, while I was waiting I found out that a little 7 year old girl was the person that was going to get my blood. Here is a picture of her. Her name is Naziatu. I feel very privileged to actually get to meet someone that I have donated blood to. Well, Naziatu was born with her legs turned in. She fell and broke one of her legs and her family took her to the native healer. The native healer decided that they should break her other leg and tie the two legs together so they could heal straight. That is not what happened though. When Naziatu’s family brought her to our hospital, she had gangrene in both of her legs and was very close to death. Our Doctor had to amputate both of her legs above the knee in order to save her life. I took this picture on Monday, so this is how she is doing four days after having her legs amputated. We are watching her very carefully for infection and making sure that she is healing well. She is asking the nurses when her legs are coming back.
Also, while I was waiting the nurses were changing the dressings on our two burned children, Mymoona and Sadam. Their cries and begging the nurses to stop broke my heart as it would anyone. But this is so necessary for their healing, but also so painful for them.
Needless to say, it was a somber day for me as I thought and prayed about what so many people on this Earth deal with and how are we (Dan and I) ever going to make a dent of a difference here with the huge cultural gap that we deal with daily. Dan and I talked Friday morning about our on-going challenge with village healers and the deaths that occur that don’t need to because of this very challenge. We decided we need to educate as many people as much as we can and pray. We covet your prayers in this for us please.
I am still not sure how Naziatu is going to be able to get around after she gets to go home. I don’t know if a wheelchair would be the best and easiest or what is really the best for her at this time. Then there is the question if she will ever be able to have prosthetic legs.
Friends, my point for today is this: Hug your children, be thankful for the healthcare we have accessible in the States, we still need to be our children’s biggest advocates. Pray for us please and continue praying for Mymoona and Sadam as well as Naziatu. That they will heal and be infection-free and be able to return to their homes and live life.
On Monday, January 15 America celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the day America stops to think about this man and his dream. “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
This is just a tiny portion of MLK’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech given in 1963, the very year I was born.
I was thinking this week as we got back into teaching that each of us needs to have a dream, few of us can verbalize it as well as MLK did. Bill Hybels calls it the Moment of Holy Discontent or that Popeye Moment, “That’s all I can stands, I can’t stands no more!”
That feeling that you can’t go on in life ignoring this injustice any longer, you MUST do something about it.
This week I was reminded again of my Holy Discontent. Sitting around the table with young people in our Technical Training Program discussing their dreams for their businesses. They have had to put work into this. We aren’t just handing stuff out, they have to work for it. First, they had to pass an entrance exam. If they have challenges of reading and math, they have to change that by going to our reading and math classes until they can pass the entrance exam. Then they spend at least 9 months with a trainer, it depends on what trade they are learning how long it takes for them to be able to either have their own welding shop, tailoring shop, panel beater business, catering, etc.
These young people have lost at least one parent, most have lost both parents, had limited education, and have no hope for their futures. I know that in our American life, there seems to be HOPE somewhere. We know we can come up with a way to make money, that opportunities are there for a person that wants it. Here, it is different. Education, books, creative thinking are limited. Discouragement, death, and hunger are not.
In our Entrepreneurship classes this week it was such a privilege to discuss with these young people that are currently working with their craftsmen in their assorted trades about what they want their businesses to look like. It was very special to be able to share our lessons on getting started in business and what sort of things you need to do and think about before starting a business. 95% of small businesses in Nigeria close within 5 years due to lack of planning and knowledge of record keeping. One of my dreams is to be able to help as many young people as I can to be strong believers in themselves, their abilities, and that with God, they too can support themselves and their families.
It truly breaks my heart that children are the least supported people in our world. They are taken advantage of, abused, and neglected. I have a dream that I will do all I can to show God’s love and share His hope with the “least of these”. I believe God loves children in a very special way, they are very near and dear to His heart.
My thought for today is this: How can you encourage or show His love to “the least of these” this week? If you look through Jesus’ eyes you see so many different opportunities!
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?