Saturday, April 21, 2007

Isaiah 56: Prayer update

".... for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations." Isaiah 56.7

1. Praise God for the victory we enjoy in Jesus Christ when he rose from the dead. Hallelujah! Pray that God may comfort all those who have lost loved ones during these last weeks. Christ is risen, and all who believe in him will also rise with him.

2. At Unijos examinations for undergraduate students are finished and most students have already returned to their homes and villages. But examinations were hardly over when the association for university faculty announced a Nigeria-wide strike. Colleges of Education are also all on strike at the moment. Although there are some legitimate grievances, it may well be in the interest of the federal government to have students off campus during an election period, to prevent violence on, or originating from university campuses. We are grateful that our undergraduate students at least were able to finish exams before the strike. Pray with us that this matter may be resolved quickly, and that universities may resume work in due time with the new academic year. We would like to be able to finish lectures in the graduate courses, so that our students can start writing their theses.

3. As you know, we are in the middle of an election period. Elections here proceed in three stages, on three separate Saturdays of this month, on each of which no movement of vehicles is allowed. Last Saturday elections were held for state governors. Although this exercise was rather peaceful for most of Nigeria (there were some problems in Kano and Port Harcourt), we are now hearing of troubles in places where results are contested as they are announced. Please pray that the elections of this coming Saturday for the presidency may proceed peacefully, and that the result may indeed be one that the country can accept. Pray for Nigeria, that God-fearing leaders may come to power, and that justice will be done for all Nigerians. After that there will be one more Saturday with elections at the local level.

4. At the moment we are at a critical level in receiving both electricity and water. For some time the water board was on strike; but even after the strike was resolved it was days before any water came through the pipes. Many in Jos are in a far more precarious situation than we, since we do have holding tanks. There are reports of people lining up hours just for a few pails of water. We did have some rain about two weeks ago, but it is not yet steady enough to alleviate the situation. For quite some time now electricity has been reduced to a few hours during the night, and we hardly receive enough to recharge the batteries on which we depend to keep our computers active when we have no light. Sporadically we receive some relief, but it is by no means consistent. Please pray with us for a solution to these problems.

5. Please pray also for our children Sharon in Toronto, David in Istanbul, and Greg and Pauline with the little ones, Gracie and Christopher (who hopes to celebrate his second birthday next week, April 27), and especially now during a time of tension and violence in Nigeria. They are concerned for us, as are many of you, no doubt.

6. Praise God with us for safety in traveling over the past weeks. Last week we took a trip to Donga, to lecture at Veenstra Theological Seminary, the theological institution of the Christian Reformed Church in Nigeria. We traveled back and forth without incident, though we realize that at a time of elections one can expect some irregularities. Thank God with us for a warm reception and fruitful interaction with students there.

7. Pray for us as we plan to lecture in various universities in South Africa early in May (North West University, at the Potchefstroom and Vaal Triangle campuses, Bloemfontein and Stellenbosch). Our intention is to build bridges between universities in Nigeria and South Africa, especially in the area of philosophy and theology, and network with faculty and schools which may be able to help our Nigerian students. Please pray for the lectures, seminars and workshops that we have been asked to lead. Pray also for safety as we travel there and within South Africa.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Visit to Veenstra Seminary (April 10 –13)

While Unijos is on strike, we have opportunities to give lectures elsewhere. This past week we took the opportunity to visit the Veenstra Theological Seminary (VTS) in Donga (Taraba State), about 8 hours by car from Jos. VTS is the main institution for training pastors for the Christian Reformed Church of Nigeria. It is affiliated with the University of Jos. So alongside our desire to fulfill a long-standing invitation, there was a double reason for this visit.

Final arrangements for this visit were made only a week before we were to travel. Our trip down coincided with a meeting to be attended by CRWM colleague Mike VanderDyke, who goes for monthly meetings of the missionary board of the CRCN. We were happy that we did not have to take our own car on this journey.

We had arranged with the rector Isaiah Hinkon (seen above with one of the senior teachers of English) and finalized topics for lecturing only a week earlier: three special lectures on the Synoptic Problem (Wendy), on the Interpretation of Revelation (a combined effort: Wendy dealt with the structure and history of interpretation of the book, while Adrian with the three main millennial views). He also lectured on a Reformed Perspective on Politics. We agreed to do this, but it did entail intensive study on our part, to prepare ourselves adequately in such a short time period.

We arrived late Tuesday afternoon, and got settled into the guest house. We were royally welcomed by the children--there are lots of them on the campus!

Wendy presented the first lecture on the Synoptic issue in the chapel at 3pm, Wednesday afternoon.

It was pretty hot, but the students were obviously used to it; they listened attentively and asked lots of good questions afterwards.

The combined programs at the diploma and degree level have about 70 students, with a number of women among them. Alongside these programs the seminary runs a school for the wives of seminary students, teaaching literacy and other basic subjects, as well as a small program for children at the nursery and primary levels.

The original plan was for us to present three lectures on three successive afternoons, from Wednesday through Friday. However, because Saturday, April 14, was to be an election day, on which no vehicle movement would be allowed, we needed to be on our way back to Jos on Friday already. So the last two lectures were given during the schedule for regular classes on Thursday, from 8-10am, and from 11-1pm. The first lecture, on Revelation, was given in the chapel. It was not quite so hot as the evening before.

After the break we moved to a different venue, a ‘hall’ designed and built by Gil Suh. Gil and Joyce Suh, the last of the CRWM missionaries to serve on staff here, left about two years ago, but not without leaving a remarkable legacy, including this wonderful ‘lecture hall’. And indeed it was very comfortable, allowing the breezes to blow through as Adrian lectured on a Reformed Perspective on Politics.

As might be expected this presentation was followed by lively discussion. Politics is a very real topic in this election month. Even some of the children of women attended the lecture.

To finish up this visit the school arranged to entertain us with a football match between students of the seminary playing against youth from the churches in Donga. Because the President of the CRCN (and former principal of VTS), Istifanus Bahago, was conducting seminars in Donga at the time, he joined us for the games that afternoon. We spent the evening with the faculty over a lovely meal with good discussion of current issues faced by the school.

The rector, Isaiah Hinkon, concluded the sessions by thanking us for our contribution.

Unijos March update

At Unijos graduate classes finally resumed mid-December, 2006. This year the new group of students enrolled in the Master’s program in Ethics and Philosophy is not quite as large as the last--that one had no less than 35 students!

Adrian has this group for a course on 'Morality and Human Rights,' while Wendy lectures on ‘Science and Awareness of God’ to the same group.

The group (of 18) is big enough, and it does get a little crowded, but we prefer teaching them in our office, since this is far less noisy compared to regular classrooms.

We started teaching these courses mid-January, but last week all lectures came to halt as a strike was announced. We do not know how long this one could last. The courses are by no means finished. Wendy was able to finish most of her lectures only because she taught extra hours while Adrian was in Canada in connection with the funeral of his father.

At times like these, the representative of the class, Ojo, has a key role in communicating with the rest of the students, passing on instructions and handouts which help the students to keep working, especially on their course presentations.

Unijos Convocation 2007

At the University of Jos Friday March 30 and Saturday March 31 were set aside for Convocation cermonies. Since the main hall of the university can not accommodate all participants, the ceremonies are held at the stadium, in the open field some distance beyond the Library building where we do most of our teaching. Convocation is not an annual celebration here. In fact, it has been three years since the last convocation.

Academic processions are a colourful event! Danny McCain, our colleague (and founder of the IICS) became full professor last year, and joined the procession in full academic garb this time. His gown has two deep blue panels down the front.

Most academics were seated under a canopy close to the main dais. There were many representatives from other Nigerian universities, as well as public figures from various walks of life. Three honorary degrees were to be awarded; notable among these was that for the President of Liberia. It was a pity that she was unable to attend.

Our Religious Studies department was well represented by the Head of the Department Umar Danfulani, with Danny seated as his side.

Among the PhDs awarded, the Religious Studies department was well represented. Two students with whom we have worked closely: on the left, Magdalyn Aboh, whose thesis Wendy supervised; and at the centre of this group, our colleague Dogara Gwamna, supervised by Danny McCain, for whose thesis Wendy served as internal examiner.

We were pleasantly surprised to meet several students with whom we worked some years ago; they had completed their Masters degrees already in 2004, but were officially awarded the degree this year.

Retreat at Miango (March 22-25)

As ‘partners’ with Christian Reformed World Missions, we enjoy a time of fellowship when we join them for their annual Spiritual Retreat. This is usually held at Miango Rest Home, a missionary centre established years ago, a number of kilometers outside Jos. This year the theme for the retreat, “Heroes of Faith” was well presented by our main speaker, Rev. Joseph Ajaver of the Christian Reformed Church of Nigeria, who introduced us to figures like Moses, Paul and Mary Magdalene.

This year Wendy served on the music committee, which meant choosing songs for the hymnsing, organizing the ‘Prayer and Praise’ session, and times of devotions. It also meant asking others to lead various sessions. This is certainly not a difficult task. It is clear that our missionaries love to sing, and are not shy in leading these parts of the program.

Here Dick Seinen, veteran missionary of some 35 years in Nigeria, leads the singing, while accompaniment is given by Jan Dykgraaf on the piano/keyboard, and Kathy VanderKloet with her recorder.

Retreats mean listening to inspirational talks, but there also time for sports, walks, and just sitting around, socializing. It’s a good occasion to catch up with one another.

On Saturday evening the Family Fun night ended with a skit (put together on the spot), a re-enactment of the resurrection when Mary Magdalene met her risen Lord.

The retreat ended with the Sunday morning time of worship; as in the last few years, Adrian served with Gerald Hogeterp on the committee to plan the service. Rev. Ajaver gave his final message on ‘Unnamed Heroes’.

As we concluded the service, as well as our retreat, the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, with Adrian officiating, provided a fitting conclusion to a wonderful time of fellowship.