Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Tale of Two Weddings

On the first of December, a Saturday, we headed off for Pankshin, about two hours south of Jos for the wedding of Cosmos and Felicia in the small village of Njari Fier. Although we were not acquainted with Felicia, Cosmos is our colleague at the university of Jos, in the Dept. of Religious Studies, where he is teaching New Testament Greek to undergraduates. Moreover, he is presently being guided in writing his PhD thesis on Desmond Tutu and nonviolence in Africa with Adrian. Cosmos lost his first wife some two years ago, and has three children, so his new marriage was a truly happy occasion, a cause for celebration.

The trip itself was largely without mishap until we got close to Njari Fier. We actually drove past the crossing, somehow missing the neon yellow sign the family had put up. So we arrived at the College of Education where our CSI colleagues, the Wiebe's, are stationed, and got some direction from the guards. Back we went. The only problem was that in going back in the direction of Jos we met road safety inspection officers, and they made sure to keep up the inspection until they found a number of problems with our vehicle: a brakelight that did not work quite properly and another light, which used only at night, we did not know was malfunctioning, since we hardly ever drive in the dark. The officers impressed on us that we were negligent in the care of our car. At which point we were thankful that our driver and mechanic, Philip, was with us, and he showed them the mechanics tools he had taken along in the 'boot', to convince them that we really were not negligent at all, but grateful to them for pointing out problems which he would solve as soon as we got back to Jos. That softened the point a bit; when they finally recognized that we would not pay to get out of the situation they let us go.

We found the turnoff, and drove on a dirt road for a couple of miles until we found the village, a long distance from the road and close to where arable land turns into mountainous rocks. The wedding was supposed to start at 10am, but that Saturday was designated 'sanitation day' for Plateau state. Thus no traffic movement was allowed the first hours, before 10am; everybody was supposed to be outside their homes, cleaning the environment, getting rid of garbage. Had we not lost the turn, or met the safety inspection, we might have made it by about 12 noon, but by the time we arrived it was closer to 1pm. We expected to join the party for the last of the reception at that point. But in fact the wedding had not yet started. There was a small band playing in the Catholic church where the wedding was to be held, and for some ten minutes we were able to sit in expectation, getting our ears bombarded - as white people (in fact, we were the only 'baturi' or white people at the event) we are given seats of honour, right up front, to get the full benefit of the music. This was a Catholic church and a rather large one for that village, we thought, but the songs, especially praise songs and choruses, are very much the same that one would hear in most any Protestant church.

Shortly after 1pm the groom and his supporters took their place, and soon the officiating clergy also entered, a fairly large team of nine, including a Rev. Father whom we knew from teaching at St. Augustine's Major Seminary in Jos; among them was also a priest who has been our graduate student at Unijos. And finally the flower girls and the bride herself with her supporters came dancing into the church, and the ceremony proper could begin.

The service itself proceeded smoothly, with entrance rites and prayers, readings from scripture, the exhange of vows, prayers of blessing and intercession, concluding with the celebration of the eucharist. As you can see from the clock in the photo below, it was closer to 3pm when the service finished.

After signing of the registry, it was time for taking photos, with a fairly efficient line-up of the various groups to be photographed with the new couple. Here they are taken with the family of Cosmos; the family is fairly prominent in the village, and Cosmos is clearly a favoured son, well-educated in comparison with many. In Nigeria weddings are the responsibility of the groom and his family, and indeed it was clear that much of the village turned up to help them celebrate.

Photography over, it was time to move to the open field next to the church, where the reception was to be held. A number of canopies and plastic chairs had been set out for the group. Most of the churchgoers and villagers had already moved in that direction awaiting the arrival of the bride and groom. Cosmos and Felicia took their time to do so, dancing the whole way, serenaded by two traditional bands, one mostly of women, and one of men, with traditional instruments, horns and drums.

Finally - they arrive at the red carpet, to take the seats of honour reserved for them, no plastic chairs here; upholstered chairs have been taken from various homes in the village to give a comfortable spot from which to enjoy the event. In fact, we ourselves had been given a special spot, also with upholstered chairs, right behind the bride and groom.

The cutting of the cake is always an important moment. Bride and groom hold the knife together while the lady who has prepared the cake explains the ingredients, most of them having to do with love, patience and good humour. But it is not enough to cut the cake. The bride and groom are also asked to feed each other from that cake, and then to help each other take a drink, as their 'first public duty'.

As an important part of the reception numerous dances are held, whether by the couple, the groom with his family, or various family and social groups. In each case the band strikes up a tune and the participants move about rhythmically, while those who are sponsoring or supporting the couple in various ways come forward and 'paste money' on their foreheads or scatter it about them as a way of blessing the new couple. We have observed this very Nigerian custom on a number of celebrative occasions; most of the time small bills are used, 10 or 20 naira, seldom greater amounts. The bills are picked up and counted at the end of each dance. The intention seems to be one of helping to offset costs of the occasion.

It appears that organizers thought not enough money had been donated, for the MC kept on announcing more dances to honour various people in the audience. Adrian had been asked to give a toast, but the time was getting dangerously near 5.30 pm, the limit for us to leave Pankshin to get back to Jos before dark. No food or drinks had been served yet! Well, we waited for the moment of the toast, left our gift, and then headed off quickly to find our car, and Philip, our driver. We did stop after some 20 minutes at a roadside café to pick up soft drinks - we really were thirsty after that marathon celebration.

During one of her final classes with students in Advanced New Testament Greek Wendy received a wedding invitation from her graduate student Okoriko, a canon in the Anglican church. Not in Jos, however, but in Abuja. At first we thought it would be impossible to attend that occasion, but it finally dawned on us that the date, Dec. 8, was the very date we also planned to be in Abuja by evening to pick up our CSI Canada director, Dr. Henk Van Andel, and his wife Vicky, arriving for a visit to Nigeria. So we decided to mix business with pleasure, so to speak, and come to Abuja early that Saturday to be able to celebrate with Okoriko and his bride, Ayedime. The background for this wedding was actually somewhat similar to that of Cosmos, for Okoriko too had lost his first wife some two years ago, and was trying to raise three little ones on his own. But with that the similarities between the two weddings came to an end! We had anticipated that this Abuja wedding would be different, for Abuja is the capital of Nigeria, and things are done a bit more formally there. But we were not quite prepared for how big would be the difference between these two occasions!

We left Jos early, at 6am, and arrived in Abuja without much interruption of roadblock or safety checks on the roads, in time to check in at the ECWA guest house, before trying to find the church. We had a general idea of the area of Abuja where the church was located, in Maitama, a relatively well-to-do section, but as we got close we discovered that those whom we asked could not tell us more precisely how to find it. Finally our driver had the bright idea of asking at the large Catholic church in the area, and indeed, they pointed us the way. It was not far. We arrived with enough time to spare. We had not taken time for coffee or refreshment after the long trip, and as we were looking for drinking water Okoriko himself walked towards us. He had not expected us. The text message we had sent to confirm our acceptance of the invitation had not been received. So he was pleasantly surprised to see us, and welcomed us warmly with a big African hug.

Our driver (from Jos) predicted that a 10am wedding would probably not start before 11. But he was wrong. Promptly at 10 the assembled clergy (and Okoriko one of them) entered the church, St. Matthews, a large and finished, well-lit structure. The organ was playing! No band or chorus singing here. We sang the processional hymn, "To God be the glory" and the church echoed with the refrain sung from our hearts, "Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!" The tone was set for a very happy, but dignified celebration.

After the charge and declaration, we sang "My faith looks up to Thee." This was followed by the vows, exchange of rings, and prayers.

The service continued with scripture readings, more hymns and the address, or sermon. As at the Catholic service, this one also concluded with celebration of the eucharist. However, we were struck by the difference in participants. Whereas in Pankshin the audience was about 90% women (we later found more men outside, drinking!), here there was a much greater balance of men and women, probably not just coincidental.

Celebration of eucharist, or holy communion concluded with the singing of the very fitting hymn, "O perfect love, all human love transcending." And soon the service concluded with signing of the marriage registry, announcements, benediction and closing hymn. Before this was all finished however, the entire group of officiating clergy posed with the new couple for a lovely photo. We heard that Archbishop Akinola himself would have wished to attend this wedding, but sent his regrets, since he was in North America to consecrate Anglican clergy who have come under his jurisdiction.

The couple left the sanctuary for photo-taking on the front steps of the church. Again, the process went rather quickly and efficiently. And soon it was time to move over to the church hall, right beside the church, for the reception. Not in a field this time! In fact, the bride and groom were to sit at the front of the hall, with two other sponsoring couples, while the rest of us sat on chairs in tiers of rows to the back of the hall. This hall was not very big, so those who could not find a place there were accommodated just outside under a canopy. They could hear, if not see what was happening inside. The two of us actually ended up in the front row, and were honoured to sit beside Mrs. Akinola, the lady whom the entire Nigerian Anglican community addresses as 'Mommy'.

The bridal couple danced to enter the room, but it was not a long procession, just long enough for them to receive a warm welcome before they were seated. After the opening prayer and chairman's address, the important moment came, the cutting of the cake. The chairman remarked at the professional job done by Okoriko in feeding his new wife, recognizing he was clearly experienced from feeding his congregation! Okoriko was beaming through the entire event, a joyous occasion indeed!

It was time for the 'nuptial dance'. Okoriko and Ayedime led the dance, and had lots of money 'pasted' on their foreheads, and rather than the 10 and 20 naira bills one commonly sees, there were notes of 500 and even 1,000 naira here. By this time drinks had been passed around, so we could toast the bride and groom. Not long after this plates of jollof rice (something like rice pilaf) and meat or fish were also being passed around, so we did not leave the hall hungry. The entire celebration was finished by 2pm. We were simply astonished that a wedding could be conducted in such a time-conscious manner here in Nigeria, in Abuja.

What a study in contrast these two events! We really enjoyed the Pankshin wedding, and appreciate being invited to participate in such village events. It gives us a chance to see and experience Nigerian life from an angle that is not available in Jos itself. Our work does not often take us into the rural areas, where we find the real roots of the lives of our students and colleagues. Like Okoriko, Cosmos expressed warm appreciation for our taking the time to be there for him at such an important point in his life.

But we could not help noticing that the Abuja wedding had anything but a village flavour. Here a significant core of Nigeria's Anglican clergy celebrated the joyful union of one of their own. The church structure, nicely finished, decorated and well-lit, lent itself to a far more 'Western' atmosphere. The well-known elements, including the cake ceremony and traditional dances with money, were duly observed, but in a far more restrained way. We ourselves appreciated the familiar and beautiful hymns, sung with enthusiasm, and loud enough to fill that spacious structure, but not overwhelming, as in many contemporary services in Nigeria. However much we enjoyed those hymns and the more restrained music, melodious, and loud without altogether battering our ears, we recognized that the 'real Nigeria', if one might call it that, was represented not in the Abuja, but the Pankshin celebration.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Ayuba has a son!

Sunday, November 5, marked the first anniversary of the wedding of Ayuba and Rachel, a very happy event of which we were to be a part. We told you a little about the significance of the wedding last year, because Ayuba is crippled by polio, and depends on wheelchairs to get around, when he is not walking on his hands (with hand-held blocks). Nigerians hardly would have expected Ayuba to get a degree in law or start a wheelchair ministry (with help of our IICS colleague, Ron Rice) for the many others who are also disabled by polio in this country, and certainly not get married. But by God's grace this did happen! And we too have wonderful memories of that day.

But even more important than all these extraordinary events, this past Sunday was the day on which Ayuba and Rachel brought their little son Joseph, born in September, to the University Chapel of Faith to be dedicated. Ayuba has been a member of the congregation for many years. What a day of joy and thanksgiving! Moreover, it is the special wish and hope of every couple who marries here, that within a year there will be another celebration. Ayuba and Rachel can be rightly proud of the gift that God has given to bring special joy to their lives and to their families. they ask prayer for wisdom in bringing up this little one.

Prayer notes for November 6, 2007

1. Give thanks to God for our safe return and the many improvements we have noted since our departure. Pray that these changes may continue, so that the whole country may eventually be transformed. Pray too for the new president and governors, and others who are in leadership positions, that they may exercise true servant-leadership. Corruption filters down to the lowest rungs of the civil service, and even in the church we note leaders who use their office for self-aggrandizement. Please pray for leaders with integrity to prevail in spite of the challenges.

2. Pray for our safety as we travel both within the city and outside of it. In spite of some changes, there are still many dangers on the roads here, especially drivers who display a fatalistic attitude to life. Pray also for God’s protection for us at home, where most robberies occur. We have heard of numerous recent robberies, some perpetrated by known characters (some are or were Unijos students). Pray with us that they may be caught. God is our only real protection.

3. Pray for us too as we take up our work at the university and other schools. Pray that we may complete the unfinished courses well, and for strength as we begin new ones. Pray for students who have asked us to supervise them, yet are faced with various obstacles to full admission. Pray for removal of whatever is holding the situation back. And pray too that God may use our students, so that his church may grow and his kingdom increase.

4. Thank God with us for Adrian’s mother who turned 87 this month. Although lonely after the death of Adrian's father last February, she has moved into a new home in Ottawa, and we pray that this home will also provide better care than was available in her own condo. Please pray for her too as she thus begins a new way of life. And pray for Adrian's siblings who are much involved in caring for her needs.

5. Please remember also our children in your prayers. This year both Sharon and David are living in Toronto. Please pray with us that aside from a good place to live, David may find the job which will allow him to take some courses while he is awaiting a possible return to the Middle East. Pauline and her husband Greg and their children (Gracie and Chris) remain in the Boston area. Thank God with us that Pauline is well on the way to recovery after the severe intestinal infection from which she suffered earlier this year. (The photo was taken this past summer at a cottage, which marked the first time in five years that all of us were able to get together).

Special lectures

Already during the first week of our return to Jos we were pleased to host Nick Lantinga and Isaac Mutua of the International Association for the Promotion of Christian Higher Education ( IAPCHE). They had come for special meetings, lectures and consultations to promote networking among the supporters of IAPCHE.

Although the lectures were held at TCNN, in Bukuru just outside of Jos, both Nick and Isaac came to visit Unijos the next day, and we were pleased to learn that our dept. of Religious Studies is willing to sponsor a conference to help faculty in general deal with the issue of integral Christian scholarship for Africa.

As a university we are privileged to have guest lectures come from time to time. In the middle October Prof. Henk Vroom who specializes in Philosophy of Religion at the Free University of Amsterdam (Faculty of Theology) was a guest of the university to give a number of lectures on the topic of Religion in the Public Square, and the relationship of Religion and the State, with a special focus on Muslim - Christian relationships.

These lectures were much appreciated by our student group, which comprises both Christian and Muslim students. It is a pity that they were cut short when the buildings in which we regularly have classes were unexpectedly occupied for the purpose of university entrance exams. Although there was a bonus in that we as faculty had more chance to interact with Prof. Vroom.

Inaugural address of Professor Imo

Cyril Imo, one of our colleagues and the head of the section of Ethics and Philosophy where we do most of our teaching, was scheduled to give his inaugural address, "Religion, Ethics and Globalization" on Friday Oct 26. It would be one of the rare celebration events for the entire Department of Religious Studies. But for this occasion too we soon discovered that the main lecture hall of the university was to be occupied for university entrance examinations. At first the lecture was going to be postponed. That would have created great difficulties for Imo's family, especially, since the event had been announced on radio and television and, as is customary, the family had already gone to great lengths to cook food for more than a hundred guests. Several colleagues pleaded with the administration to allow the lecture to proceed, and indeed, we finally learned that the event was to begin at 1pm. We ourselves had gone home to find some lunch in the interval, waiting for the phone call to signal us to come back, but a considerable audience had waited patiently outside the hall for the even to begin.
After the introductory proprieties of this official university occasion, Imo spoke. We had a copy of the lecture - it had been printed in advance so we could follow along. All 67 pages! Would he cut that short? In fact, the opposite happened. He had provided a summary on a power-point presentation, with added illustrations for the benefit of those who did not have the printed copy. And he took a number of occasions to enlighten us on the importance of the illustrations. The ceremony ended at about 4pm, and at that point we were quite ready to join him in refreshments at his house, only a few minutes' walk from our own.

Back to Jos

On Friday, October 5 we left Toronto to return to Nigeria. We arrived in Jos, finally around noon on Sunday, October 7th, our anniversary. But because the following Monday would be Thanksgiving day in Canada, our Canadian colleagues had arranged a Thanksgiving dinner, and we were grateful to join them, and be welcomed back with such hospitality!

It did not take long to get back to the work. Students who had done their writing in our absence soon came around for our input. And Wendy started her class in ancient philosophy at St. Augustine's Major Seminary with a new batch of students, 56 in all! Graduate classses which had been cut short for the strike now had to be completed.

One of the joys of coming back to our house in Jos after numerous weeks of absence is to find that many things just don't seem to work. Our house, however, is beautiful.

Even though our house is never completely unoccupied, it appears that electrical and plumbing fixtures regress quickly when not in use on a regular basis. The water pump refused to work, and numerous lights were out of commission.

None of our security lights around the house were working. At first we thought that voltage fluctuation might have caused the problem. But when we finally got an electrician to check the situation more closely we discovered that bees had taken up residence in one of the fixtures, and wasps had taken over another!

September 2007 in North America

The month of September passed us by in a whirl of visits, talks and other preparations for return to Nigeria.

At the beginning of September we spent 10 days in Florida to have major dental work done by Dr. Leong, also a board member of IICS. Adrian was especially grateful for this visit, since Dr. Leong discovered and took care of an abcess of which he had not even become aware. Wendy had corrective work done to replace the tooth extracted in Nigeria the year before. We are so grateful for the hospitality of the Prentice's while we stayed in Florida.

After the initial round of treatments, while we waited for the 'hardware' to be prepared we took advantage of the presence of the ocean nearby, to relax a bit. These opportunities are a rare treat for us, because we still find the ocean a great help in relaxing from the busy-ness of our travels and numerous visits of our summer in North America.

Immediately on our return to Canada we left again for a 10-day trip to Calgary and Edmonton, . to meet with friends and supporters, to speak at various schools, and participate in a conference at the King's University College in Edmonton.

In Calgary we appreciated the hospitality of Henk and Willemien Verhoeff. Henk certainly went the extra mile to make sure all arrangements were in place to visit the Calgary Christian Highscool, where we addressed classes in Christian Ethics and Vocations. That Sunday we spoke at Woodgreen Presbyterian Church.

By Monday afternoon we were on our way to Edmonton where we were hosted by Henk and Vicky van Andel; Henk is the director of our Canadian organization, Christian Studies International.

The highlight of the week was our participation in the King's University College Interdisciplinary Studies Conference, where we gave a workshop, "Heartbreak and Hope in Interfaith Relations in Nigeria", enjoyed interaction with students and faculty. While we kept up a rather busy schedule with talks for the Christian students at the University of Alberta, visits with friends and supporters, and speaking for Fellowship CRC that Sunday, we also took time out for walks, and were surprised to find a peaceful path along the river which runs through the middle of Edmonton, giving us a lovely view of the university campus just opposite, and the highrise buildings of the centre of Edmonton in the distance to the north.

Back in Toronto, we enjoyed some unusually mild days for that time of year. We were grateful, for the weather was just perfect for a late summer barbecue which helped us say goodbye to Sharon and our friends at our house on 43 Northumberland Street in Toronto.

Prayer Notes for Sept 10, 2007

1. In just a few short weeks we hope to be back on our way to Nigeria. We know that the strike at Unijos is over, but it appears that the process of students actually returning to the classroom is somewhat delayed. We are grateful that we were able to finish most of our graduate courses before leaving. Over the summer we maintained email contact with a number of students who continued to work hard at their projects and dissertations, in spite of the strike and our absence. Please pray that there will be no further obstacles for this new academic year at the university.

2. Thank God with us for the academic conferences we were able to attend this summer, Adrian at the Vision conference of IICS/CSI in Kansas City, and Wendy at a conference on Sophia in modern Russian/East European literature of the modern period, as well as the Patristics conference held every four years in Oxford. These are occasion which uplift spiritually, as we renew acquaintance with colleagues around the world, and are stimulated in our own academic work, and challenged to keep up with developments in our respective academic work.

3. The entire Helleman family was together for the third week of August, and this was the very first occasion in five years that all of us could be together! We had planned this week as a belated celebration of our 35th wedding anniversary (October 2006); it was a special time of celebrating God’s goodness to us in the years gone by.

4. We have heard of some heavy storms in the Jos area. Although such storms are not unusual for the end of the rainy season, we know of friends of ours at the college of education in Gindiri (just outside Jos) who suffered significant damage to property and destruction of a bore hole, which means there is no safe drinking water for students. Please pray for our colleagues as they deal with these emergencies, and particularly for health concerns raised by these storms.

5. Thank God with us for his protection in keeping us safe in all our travels this summer. We ask your prayers for upcoming travel to Calgary and Edmonton, where we hope to connect with friends, visit churches, and participate in the all-college Interdisciplinary Studies Conference at the the King's College (September 19 and 20), presenting aspects of our work at the workshop, "Heartbreak and Hope in Interfaith Relations in Nigeria.” We certainly would appreciate your prayers for effective communication as we share the joys and challenges of our ministry at Unijos.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Summer's end

This summer of 2007 has been unusual, even for our typically erratic schedules of teaching, traveling and varied speaking engagements. Originally we planned to leave Nigeria for a two month break from early August, just in time to attend the conference in patristics or early Christianity held every four years in the UK, at Oxford. But a Nigeria-wide strike at the universities (probably connected to the April elections for all levels of government), changed those plans.

Wendy had already prepared a paper, “Solovyov’s Sophia as a Mediating Principle”, for the conference on ‘Sophia’ at the University of Nymegen (the Netherlands), and rather than send this paper to be read for her, she decided she might as well go in person to present it, particularly because the topic was close to the theme of the book she is now preparing for publication with Slavica (Sophia, Beatrice and Mary. A Study in Personification of Wisdom based on Solovyov and Dante). After the conference she wanted to stay in Europe, to make use of excellent library facilities in preparing the papers to be presented in Oxford.

Key to this decision was not only the approval of the head of our Department of Religious Studies but also the concurrence of her sister, Pat Verbrugge, who lives just outside Amsterdam near Utrecht, that she could stay with them during the intervening weeks.

At the Verbrugge’s, a place of peace and quiet near Utrecht

While Adrian went on ahead to Toronto, and was able to attend the annual Vision Conference of IICS/CSI in Kansas City, as well as spend special time with family, Wendy stayed with her sister, and took the time to renew acquaintance with the family too. By the end of July the necessary papers had been written, and she was ready for the trip to England. The Oxford conference was the main purpose for the trip, but she also managed to visit dear friends and supporters of our work, Mel and Vera Macleod in Manchester.

Mel and Vera
Vera and Wendy

And she took a few days to travel to Durham and visited friends and former colleagues (while we were in Moscow), Robin and Penny Minney. Durham cathedral was especially impressive.

Robin and Penny

Wendy at Durham Cathederal

The Patristics conference at Oxford is the single most important international conference for those who are specialized in the study of early Christianity, and Wendy values the opportunity to attend. This year there were close to 800 registered. It is a wonderful occasion to hear good lectures, meet colleagues in one’s area of specialization, find out about new publications, and particularly to have one’s ideas challenged by others who have similar interests.

Wendy in Oxford

Wendy gave two presentations, first a paper on the fourth century Augustine’s work on the Trinity, examining his argument for attributing ‘Wisdom’ to Christ (as in 1 Cor. 1.24). The second paper was based on our teaching work in Jos, and discussed the special challenges of a course on early Christianity, taught to all incoming students, Christian and Muslim alike. But a very special bonus of attending was her meeting longtime friend of IICS Thomas Oden, and hearing about a special project of IVCF publications which he is spearheading, to publish stories of the earliest years of Christianity in Africa.

She was no sooner back in Toronto, and it was time to prepare for another special highlight of this unusual year, a weeklong gathering of our family at a cottage in the Kawartha’s, about an hour’s drive from Toronto. It had been five years since our family was last together, all of us in one place, and we planned this week as a belated celebration of our 35th wedding anniversary (October 2006).

Celebration couple

It was a special time of gathering, celebration, walks, playground activities, swimming, fishing, and canoeing. Oma and Opa were happy for extra time with the grandchildren, while Pauline appreciated a chance to catch up on all the reading she never gets around to except on vacation.


The first few days were a little cold, and we took some drives and long walks.

At the Fenelon Falls playground, Chris loved that turtle; and Gracie the slide

Sharon, who found this cottage for us, also did the lion’s share of preparation for this week. it really did take some effort!

We also took time for games inside the cottage.

We are truly thankful to God for this opportunity to be together and celebrate His goodness to us in these past years.

The Helleman family

In just a few short weeks we hope to be back on our way to Nigeria. We know that the strike at Unijos is over, but it appears that the process of students returning to the classroom is somewhat delayed. Over the summer we are grateful to have maintained email contact with a number of students who continued to work hard at their projects and dissertations, in spite of the strike and our absence. Please pray that there will be no further obstacles in starting the new academic year at the university.

We have heard of some heavy storms in the Jos area. Although such storms are not unusual for the end of the rainy season, we know of friends of ours at the college in Gindiri (just outside Jos) who suffered significant damage to property and destruction of the bore hole, which means there is no safe drinking water for the students. Please pray for our colleagues as they deal with these emergencies, and particularly for health concerns raised by these storms.

As we look back over the summer, we are thankful to God for His protection through the many stints of travel. We do not take this for granted. But we are not finished yet, and ask your prayers for upcoming travel to Calgary and Edmonton, where we hope to visit friends, a number of churches and participate in an all-college interdisciplinary studies conference at the the King's College (September 19 and 20). We will present aspects of our work in Nigeria in the workshop, "Heartbreak and Hope in Interfaith Relations in Nigeria.” We certainly would appreciate your prayers for effective communication as we share the joys and challenges of our ministry at Unijos.