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.