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?
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!
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
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!
We have been back in Nigeria now for three weeks. I find myself reflecting on our three months in the United States and I am amazed at how God works!
In 120 days we had 80 meetings, dentist visits, doctor visits, Dan had surgery on both legs, upper and lower veins, took care of a bunch of logistics for Dan’s mom, Elsie, visited with family and friends, gathered tools to bring back to Nigeria with us from assorted donors and thrift stores. I am constantly amazed at the hospitality, food, and generosity of our church families!
We got to talk to thousands of people about what God is doing here in our area of Nigeria. We talked to businesses, churches, small groups, organizations, even people at the airports. It is pretty awesome how God opens up so many opportunities and in God’s economy it works.
I want to tell you about one of my strategies this year during our home assignment time. I decided that I was going to pray, and pray fervently for any obstructions or potential road blocks. We, of course had some challenges during the 12,000 miles that we drove around the US, but we were kept safe and that if there was a challenge, God had a reason for it. I truly believed that God would answer my prayers, and I always pray for God’s will to be done and He always shows up!
I have to share with you one of the things God did this year that proves it to me. Dan TOTALLY hates going to the airport. We always have a lot of luggage, and we pack very carefully. This year we had 15 – 50 pound bags to check. At the airport, the service we have received up until this visit has been horrible! It takes us bunches of time, energy, and money and then we get treated like we are ruining someone’s day so they must treat us like dirt (a small amount of exaggeration there, but not much).
This year, with as busy as things were, I started praying a month before we left that God would grant us favor with the person who checks us into the airport and just a pleasant attitude, that was all I asked for. After we check in our bags we have at least 24 hours in planes and airports and then two days of driving to get to Gembu after spending a day of shopping to get all the supplies we need for at least 3-4 months. We show up back in Gembu, tired, drained, with a lot to do.
Well, God showed up big time. Each time Dan mentioned his dread of the upcoming airport visit, I would say, “I have been praying about that, so we don’t need to worry”. Dan looked at me skeptically each time and would shake his head.
We showed up at the airport with plenty of time to spare, as usual, and I was looking at the Clerks checking people in and wondered who we would get. Well, we got the most lovely woman. She asked what was in the bags, and we told her mostly baby items, teaching supplies, and leadership books, and a bit of medical equipment. She was cheerful, happy, and the most helpful person EVER! She gave us some items we could bring back for kids, she helped us put our airplane points on our account as we were going with Turkish Air and hadn’t used that airline except for our trip home last spring. In between all of this she was helping other customers who came to check in. She also spent over an hour on the phone to make sure what the cost of the baggage should be. She was able to give us all of our bags at under half of what we had been told before. She was cheerful, helpful, interested in what God was doing in Nigeria, AND right before we boarded she surprised us with two first-class tickets instead of our general boarding tickets for the first leg of the journey to Toronto. Did God show up? He sure did and I still consider her our “Airport Angel” that God used to bless us mightily.
Friends, this Nigerian Journey God has us on is teaching me that I truly do not and probably cannot understand the power of communing with God, praying, and the faith that I have. During our time in the States we heard a message about prayer and we pray and then are surprised when what we prayed for happens. Just a little observation from this year’s Home Assignment.
My point for today is this, are you praying with faith, out of desperation, or for His Will? I challenge you to really study prayer, dig in, and really see what the Bible tells us about it in our lives.
Well, it is that time of year again when we will be headed back to the States. Last year I did a very poor job of communicating where we were or what we were up to. This year I decided I would post our tentative schedule and put pictures, etc. weekly so you could be praying for us and potentially visit with us as we are out and about this big old USA!
We will be leaving this weekend to head to the airport. We have a ten hour lay-over in Istanbul, Turkey. We are hoping everything works out so that we can take a tour that picks you up and delivers you back to the airport after showing you some of Istanbul. After spending time in Frankfurt and Paris (airports, that is) and being afraid to venture out of the airport for fear of missing our flight we are excited to see some new sights. We arrive at JFK in New York on April 25 late. We will drive to Connecticut to meet with a new church to talk about what God is doing here in Gembu and then we will be involved in Missions week May 1-8 at Trinity Baptist Church in Fairfield then off to Wintonbury in Bloomfield on the 14th, and Valley Community in Avon the 17-22. We love our Connecticut church families and are so excited to visit with them and tell them what God is doing in our lives and Gembu since we last visited them four years ago.
We are driving to Orlando, FL for some meetings at Converge Headquarters and spend a brief time with our friends, the Veldhuizens from the 24-25 then off to North Carolina to visit our son and daughter-in-law in North Carolina. On May 28 we will be visiting with another new church to us, Sandy Run Baptist Church in Mooresboro NC.
June 4 finds us at Berean Baptist Church in Mansfield, OH and on the 11th Bethel Baptist in Galesburg, IL. Have I said how blessed we are to have awesome partners in ministry? We love sharing with our partners what God is doing and how their partnership is changing lives in Gembu!
June 15 we have Doctor appointments, will visit our Christian Campers Family on June 17 and go to the dentist on the 20th of June. We get to meet with the mission team that was just here on June 23, attend a very special friends wedding on June 24 and visit our Home Church, Edinbrook June 25 and have supper with our Sunday School Class friends on June 26.
In July we are visiting with some friends in Cokato MN, share with our church family at First Baptist in Cokato and then go to Brookings SD to share what God is doing here with a church. We will have supper with Jim and Lisa Black (our Africa Director for Converge) and hopefully get to visit with my great-uncle and aunt who are in Moorhead, MN. August 1 we leave to head back to Gembu.
Friends, if you think of it, pray for us as we travel and speak to people about God’s work in Gembu. Please also pray for our staff here carrying on the work in our absence.
Signing off from Gembu for the last time for a couple of months now.