Monday, December 8, 2008

Report about 'inaccurate reporting' by media

(Adapted from Christian Solidarity Worldwide) - Although tension has eased in Jos, Plateau State, following days of deadly violence, there is increasing resentment in the Christian community at "biased and inaccurate reporting of events" by the international media.

Several international news agencies have reported that the violence was triggered by the results of a local government election. However, Christians in Jos point out that voting passed off peacefully and the violence broke out in the early hours of Friday, 28 November, before electoral results had even been announced. Moreover, instead of targeting political institutions, rioters armed with guns, spears, machetes and other weapons immediately attacked Christian businesses, churches and the homes of clergymen. As usual, the rioters took Jos by surprise, and are now hiding behind election results to launch and excuse their mayhem.

Of even greater concern are reports that appeared to suggest that Christians had killed 300 Muslims over the weekend, whose bodies were deposited at a central mosque. In reality, the men died while obeying orders from a mosque in the Dilimi area, which was using its loudspeakers to instruct all Muslims to defy the authorities, participate in the "jihad", loot properties for money and then burn them. Local security sources insist the rioters were shot while defying a night-time curfew and launching fresh attacks, including an unsuccessful large-scale assault on police barracks. Commenting on these deaths the General Secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Engineer Salifu said: "It was not Christians who killed them; it was their own unfortunate attitude". He also articulated local concern that such inaccurate reporting could fuel further violence against Christians elsewhere. 

While a final Christian death toll has yet to be determined, so far more than 16 churches are known to have been burnt down and at least four pastors are confirmed to have been killed, including a pastor from the Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN) who was shot dead in the suburb of Congo-Russia, and another from the Evangelical Church of West Africa (ECWA), killed in the Rikkos area. From all indications, the final death toll among Christians will not be less than 100.

There is also growing evidence that the weekend's violence may have been planned in advance. So far 500 Muslim rioters have been arrested, some of whom were dressed in fake police and military uniforms. Two hundred are now known to be citizens of the neighbouring Republic of Niger, while 300 are from the northern Nigerian states of Kano, Katsina and Sokoto. Some of the rioters informed police that they arrived in Jos three days prior to the violence. "They had weapons, many weapons" said another source, "they were ready, very ready". 

Commenting on the recent violence, Rt. Rev Dr. Benjamin Kwashi, Anglican Archbishop of Jos said: "This crisis is a wake up call to state and federal authorities to undertake a serious appraisal of all the previous crises in Jos and elsewhere that have affected the church in northern Nigeria, and to ensure that truth is told, truth is maintained and justice is done. We have become a convenient scapegoat and target for those with grievances about events both at home and abroad. The Church in northern Nigeria needs urgent national and international protection. We have suffered this violence for over 20 years and it is now becoming unbearable."

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Summary of recent events in Jos

(Adapted from Compass Direct News)
 – Communal violence broke out in the central Nigerian city of Jos on Friday (Nov. 28) after Muslims began attacking Christians on claims of vote-tampering, leaving hundreds dead and thousands fleeing their homes. After officials reportedly refused to post local council election results on Thursday (Nov. 27) – prompting speculation that a party backed largely by Christians had won – Muslim gangs in the Ali Kazaure area began attacking Christians, according to local residents. 
Violence along political, ethnic and religious lines followed, with security forces said to be responsible for killing more than 300 Muslims whose bodies were later brought to one mosque. 

On Saturday (Nov. 29) officials reportedly announced that the ruling People’s Democratic Party, backed mainly by Christians, had won 16 of 17 council seats, defeating the All Nigerian Peoples Party, said to be primarily supported by Muslims. Muslim militants burned several churches, including that of the Church of Christ in Nigeria in the Sarkin Mangu area of Jos, and its pastor has been confirmed killed. Several mosques also were reportedly razed. Plateau Gov. Jonah David Jang said in a radio and television broadcast Friday night that the crisis was pre-planned by disgruntled elements who had schemed to manipulate religious sentiments to create instability in the state. Gunfire heard Saturday morning (Nov. 29) died down by the end of the day as the government sent troops to quell the violence. 

But tensions remained high on Sunday as authorities had extended a curfew on residents of several districts of the city, with military guards ordered to shoot on sight.  By the end of the weekend state officials said that 500 people had been arrested. There was fear that the rioting could lead to a repeat of the violence that hit Jos on Sept. 7, 2001, which resulted in more than four years of bloodshed, killings of thousands of people and displacing thousands of others. In 2004 an estimated 700 people died in Plateau state during Christian-Muslim clashes. Located in Nigeria’s central region between the Muslim-majority north and the largely Christian south, the state is home various Christian ethnic groups co-existing uneasily with Muslim Hausa settlers. 

Monday, December 1, 2008

Prayer request for December 1 (Update on Jos riots)

The latest reports from Jos indicate that the city, under a strict 6 pm to 6 am curfew, has been reduced to a tense kind of quiet through the presence of troops and armored personell carriers. For some days the streets, especially in the northern and central parts, were full of people burning, killing, looting, and expressing deep hatred and anger. It will take many months to sort out who all was killed, and much longer for peace and sanity to be restored to these areas.

Loss of life is estimated in the hundreds. Our friend Dr. Ardill, who works at Evangel Hospital, close to the centre of trouble reported on Saturday that "the hospital is full and overflowing and the staff are tired after seeing over 200 injured in the last 24 hours. Although there were only 5 who died at Evangel, we have heard over 300 have been killed in the fighting." In the heat of the trouble last Friday and Saturday thousands fled their homes and took  shelter where they could, in army barracks, police stations and other public buildings. Some 6,000 people took refuge in a secondary school.

The McCains had about 60 taking refuge with them, while another 40 were able to sleep at our former university house not far from the McCains. A big problem was to feed them, since no one could get out, nor were markets open those first days. They report that university officials managed to get them some rice and garri (a starchy food).

Aside from Emmanuel Baptist church, which had already been burnt down twice before in earlier troubles (see the photo below), other churches near the university -- Trinity Anglican Church, where many faculty and students attend, a COCIN Church, a Deeper Life Church, and many others -- were totally destroyed.

Emmanuel Church after it was burned down the second time -- notice the text on the front wall, "Father, Forgive them, for they know not what they do," by which was meant the Muslims who burned down the church the first time. It has now been burned down for the third time and the blocks of the new building, which was not yet finished, were torn down and carted away. The pastor, who was our student, lost all his books and his thesis on which he had worked for many months.

*Pray for those who have lost loved ones, the hundreds who were injured, for the congregations who have lost their buildings, and for the families who have lost their homes. Pray for all who are troubled. Pray that those who are stirring up trouble will be cast into disarray.
*Pray for Danny, Mary, Katrina, Yoila, Roselyn, and others who are caring for these refugees and feeling the effects of weariness. Pray that they may be able to find enough food to feed the hungry.
*Pray for strength for the doctors and nurses, for those being treated and for those who have not been able to get treatment, those who get to clinics only to find no bandages or medicines are left in the cupboards.
*Pray that a lasting solution may be found to solve this problem and that peace may be restored to Jos, which was known at one time as "The City of Peace."

Friday, November 28, 2008

Prayer request for November 28 (Riots in Jos)

Unfortunately Jos is experiencing another major ethnic religious crisis. On Thursday the city had local government elections.  The rumor is that radical Muslims who were unhappy with the election results went on a rampage throughout Jos killing and burning.  They have burned ALL of the churches that are closest to our former house and the houses of our IICS colleagues who are still there (Danny and Mary McCain, Yoila and Roselyn Yilpet, and Katrina Korb).  They report that there was fighting within a half mile of their homes.  

Several Unijos students have been killed.  Danny McCain was invited to go to the university clinic to take pictures of some of the wounded. He reported that the carnage was horrific -- it was literally a war scene with blood everywhere. He went around and prayed for each wounded person.

Danny's house has become a refugee camp again, as it was in 2001 in the riots that preceeded those of 9/11 by four days. Currently, 57 people are sleeping downstairs at his place, similar to what happened in 2001, and another 40 are staying at our former home.  Katrina Korb, who normally resides with the McCains, is staying with this group. No one in the university compound has been hurt and all the IICS people are okay.

Mary McCain is praying that the food will be multiplied so that they will have enough to feed all of these people.  Please pray that the electricity will continue to to remain on, and the violence will be stopped.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Birth of James Thomas Roy

We are proud to announce the birth of our third grandchild, James Thomas Roy, who was born on Wednesday, November 19, at 2:30 am, to  Pauline and Greg Roy. He weighed 8 lbs 7 ozs, and measured 21 in. His sister, Grace, and brother, Christopher, are happy with their new brother. Pauline was going to be induced later that day, but she went into labor on Tuesday evening and the baby was born soon after that. Mother and baby are both doing well. Rejoice with us!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Prayer notes for October 31

1. We ask your prayers for our doctoral students, Dennis, Cosmos, and Chikas, who are working with Adrian; and Dauda, Kate, and Rebecca, with Wendy. They face many challenges in terms of the availability of internet, water and electricity—all things we take for granted in North America. Pray that they will persevere and make significant progress on their theses by January, when we hope to meet with them.

2. Thank God with us for the new course in New Testament Greek for Bible translators that started in Jos in September. The Nigeria Bible Translators Trust which sponsors the course faced some critical internal problems in August, which threatened to derail the course. Pray that whatever obstacles they face, these may be resolved. We are thankful that the first section of the course is nearly finished. The second section (for which Wendy wrote the text) will be taught early in 2009. Please pray for strength for the instructors, Rob Lillo and Rudy Wiebe, and for the students, that they may persevere and finish the course. Pray with us that their newly acquired language tools may be a real blessing to them in their translation efforts.

3. One of the top priorities for us to teach in Nigeria was to promote higher standards, so that students can stay in the country to finish degrees. Pray with us that initiatives we made while at Unijos to raise standards in our Religious Studies department may bear fruit. Unless standards are maintained students will still need to go abroad to finish their studies. 

4. Pray also for the initiatives in fostering dialogue in our department between Christian and Muslim colleagues. Pray in that regard especially for the colleagues with whom we have worked closely.
 5. We would ask your prayers for us as we prepare to make the transition to Tanzania. Pray for safety in all the traveling that lies ahead. Pray that we may be able to adjust quickly, and that we may be given wisdom in assessing the needs, in providing help and advice. Pray also for our family as we will be separated again for some time, and for a safe delivery for our daughter Pauline, who is expecting their third child in November. And pray for our son David, who has just started a program in community development at Sheridan College in Brampton, and our eldest, Sharon, who just started teaching in an after-school tutoring program in downtown Toronto, in addition to her other jobs.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Prayer notes for October 19

"Hear my prayer, O Lord God Almighty; listen to me, O God of Jacob" (Psalm 84.8). 

1. Please pray with us for our IICS/CSI colleagues in Nigeria. Infrastructure remains a real problem for many as they teach in the universities and teachers' colleges. We have heard much about lack of adequate internet provision lately, but provision of water, electricity, and petrol/gasoline is not at all dependable. 

2. We ask your prayers also for our doctoral students, Dennis, Cosmos, and Chikas, working with Adrian; and Dauda, Kate, and Rebecca, with Wendy. They face many challenges for their research in terms of the availability of internet, water and electricity—all things we take for granted in North America. Pray that they will persevere and make significant progress on their theses by January, when we hope to reconnect with them on a more personal basis. 

3. The next few weeks promise to busy for us, as we visit a number of church communities in southern Ontario. Please pray for wisdom for us as we seek to communicate the challenges and opportunities of God's work in Africa tody. Pray also for safety in travel. We are grateful for safe travel this past summer as we flew to Florida for dental care in July, and then attended the CSI/IICS Vision Conference in Kansas City. It was great to celebrate the 20th anniversary of IICS, to be inspired by our speakers, and meet with colleagues working in many varied locations around the world. Thank God with us for the expansion of the ministry of IICS in recent years. 

4. Thank God with us for the new course in New Testament Greek for Bible translators that started in Jos in September. Over the last months colleagues Rob Lillo and Rudy Wiebe have been busy revising the introductory New Testament Greek text used in Nigeria, adapting it for this course; and Wendy has been working on final revisions of her own Advanced New Testament textbook. We are grateful that the course is going ahead. Just a week before it was to start we heard from the director that some unpleasant developments at the school necessitated postponement. We encouraged him in prayer, and he decided to go ahead after all. Please pray for strength Robert Lilllo of the Federal College of Education in Gindiri, who taught the first section of the course, and also for Rudy Wiebe, who joined Rob at the end of September. Pray also for the students, for good health and stamina to absorb such large doses of Greek grammar in a very short time. Pray that they may persevere and finish the course. Pray with us that their newly acquired language tools may be a real blessing to them in their translation efforts. Please pray with us that whatever obstacles there were can be removed, and that the devices of the evil one may be undone; we believe this course will be a very helpful tool for Bible translators.  

5. Please pray for our Nigeria colleague Layne Turner, who recently had surgery in the USA. Pray for complete recovery, and for the granting of his visa to return to Nigeria, so that he may be able to take part in the Nigeria Bible Translators course in NT Greek. Pray also for the Gibsons, IICS colleagues who recently transferred from the Ukraine (they were already our colleagues there when we were working in Moscow) to work at a central university in Uganda. They had hoped to teach at the University in Juba, in the southern Sudan, but there have been some obstacles. Katrina Korb, our University of Jos and IICS colleague, also hoped to transfer to Juba, so we ask your prayers that the obstacles at the Sudanese university may also be removed. 

6. At this time we  ask your prayers for our Africa team leader, Danny McCain and his family as they mourn the recent passing of his elderly father; he and Mary were able to attend the funeral. Pray especially for grace and comfort for his mother at this time. It is a difficult time, also because of the hurricanes which have hit Louisiana where she lives. 

7. We are grateful for your prayers for  wisdom and clarity for us with respect to plans for teaching in the St. Augustine University of Tanzania to help them as they start a Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies. We hope to travel to Tanzania early next year to join them for the second semester. Please pray with us as we prepare for this new academic ministry. 

8. We would also like to ask your prayers for our family, especially our children; all three of them face some challenges at the moment. We would ask for special prayer for our youngest, Pauline, who lives near Boston, and has experienced some difficulties in this, her third pregnancy. Please pray with us for a safe delivery as close as possible to the due date (in a little over a month). Pray also for our son David, who has just started a program in community development at Sheridan College in Brampton. And pray for our eldest, Sharon, who is transitioning to new work with needy students in an after-school tutoring program connected with St. Silouan’s Orthodox Church in downtown Toronto

P.S. Please check out Adrian's new blog called 'ask a theologian' at

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Family celebrations

It is not often that we can get together as a family. We managed it last summer when we went to a cottage for a week. And we were able to this again early in August, when our youngest daughter Pauline drove up from Massachusetts with her two children, Gracie and Chris. Unfortunately, her husband Greg was unable to come this time. Pauline is expecting another baby in November, but she was brave enough to drive all the way from their place  just outside Boston to our Toronto home, and made it in less than ten hours. The children really behaved well, with a little help, of course, from the DVD player in the van.

The occasion was the celebration of number of birthdays: Sharon's (July 22), Adrian's (August 5), and Pauline's (August 6). It was wonderful to have Pauline join us for these birthdays and great to be together for the week of her visit. We had a great time showing Gracie and Chris around the parks and other recreational spots of Toronto. Gracie was duly impressed by the  visit to a real castle (Casa Loma) and the children really loved the day we spent on Toronto Island, which is accessible only by ferry. They were able to visit a farm, go swimming, and even take a ride on a carrousal. And we took time to explore the pool only a few blocks from our place at Christie Pits.  Even though Pauline and the children were with us for a whole week the visit went much too quickly.

We managed to get a photo taken of us all, in front of our house. Our son David, is standing behind us; Sharon behind Wendy, and Pauline on the right, with Gracie and Chris in front. David is still in Toronto after several years working overseas, in Saudi Arabia and Turkey. This fall he hopes to take courses in community development. Sharon, our oldest, lives at our house and manages the place while we are out of the country. It is too bad that Greg was unable to be present, but he had to keep working in Boston.

You may have noticed bars in front of the basement window. We installed them shortly after our return from the IICS vision conference mid-July. While we were gone, our basement apartment was broken into. A number of items were stolen, especially older jewelry, coins we had collected on our travels, tools, and other small things; from time to time we still discover that items we thought were in a certain location are simply gone. None of these stolen items were expensive, but some did have sentimental value. We are thankful that our thief overlooked European passports, British and European currency, and that we had our laptops with us. During the six years of our stay in Nigeria we never experienced a successful break-in, although some money and other items were stolen by some who worked for us.

A few days after Pauline left, we drove to Cambridge, to help celebrate the 65th birthday and retirement of Wendy's brother, Andy Elgersma (August 7). His children put together a lovely surprise party for him. He was certainly surprised when he entered the room where he was invited to have a low-key supper, and discovered instead a large group of family and friends, some of whom can be seen in the photo below. Andy is tall and white-haired, standing directly behind Wendy.

From left to right is Grace (Wendy's youngest sister, who lives in Cambridge), Andy, and Peter and Jane Elgersma. Peter is our cousin. Again it is not often that Wendy's family gets together. Unfortunately, Pat, the oldest sister lives in the Netherlands, and was unable to be present, although she wanted to come. That might have been an even greater surprise!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

IICS vision conference, July 17-19

Once every other year, CSI/IICS professors are required to attend the annual IICS Vision Conference in Kansas City, MO. This year's conference was special, for it was a celebration of the 20th anniversary of IICS. The theme of this conference was 'worldviews'. Both of us attended this conference; it promised to be a time of renewing acquaintance with good friends,  both among IICS and CSI colleagues, and the plenary speakers: Elaine Storkey, whome we have known for many years, and Paul Marshall, whom we have known since the 1980s, when he taught at the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto; in fact, when we returned from missionary service in the Philippines in 1987 we took over Paul's house in Toronto. Unfortunately, Elaine was unable to come to this year's conference, due to illness, but she is now scheduled for next year. Paul, who is now with the Hudson Institute, where he does research on religious freedom, gave two excellent speeches, which we thoroughly enjoyed, and we had lunch with Paul before we left Kansas City. The other main speaker this year was David Naugle, who has written  an excellent history of worldviews.  In addition, about sixty short papers were presented (about seven at a time); a few of these were given by CSI/IICS professors, but for the most part by academics who have heard of IICS and appreciate its vision of academic ministry. We certainly hope that some of them may take up the challenge of serving overseas with CSI/IICS.

We took the opportunity to have a photo taken of those of our "Africa team" present at the conference, from left to right: Rudy and Marlene Wiebe, who teach at the College of Education in Pangshin, near Jos; Henk and Vicky VanAndel, from Edmonton--Henk serves as executive director of CSI; Prof. Joseph Ilori, from Nigeria, who has directed the program of preparing manuals for teachers of Christian education there, and served as president of the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary for many years; Danny and Mary McCain, who founded IICS and have been our neighbors at the University of Jos for many years; and us, Wendy and Adrian Helleman. As you may have gathered from this photo, one of the best aspects of such a conference is the opportunity to network with colleagues from all over the world. This year we met old friends and made new ones from places as far away as Russia, South Africa, and Nigeria. CSI and IICS now have 43 professors teaching in 16 countries.

We began our travels early in the week, since we had  to go to Florida to have our IICS dentist, Dr. Leong do some work on our teeth; from there we flew to Kansas City, but we did have some nasty experiences which have taken away some of the joy of flying. We were stuck in Atlanta for the better part of a day due to storms, and our luggage arrived at a different airport the next day. It would not have been so bad, except that services at the Atlanta airport were stretched to the limit, and people were in line for hours simply trying to get to a help desk or phone. We were still quite fortunate, since many people at that airport were delayed for more than a day, with no alternatives of finding a hotel room anywhere. On the return trip, via Minneapolis, our Sunday flight was also delayed, this time because of mechanical problems; we finally got home in the early hours of Monday morning.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Prayer notes for July 12

"I call on you, O God, for you will answer me; give ear to me and hear my prayer" (Psalm 17.6).

1. We are grateful for safety in our travels, especially during the months of May and June. Thank God with us for the various visits we could make with family and friends. Pray also for safe travel in the coming week, as we flyto Florida for dental work with Dr. Richard Leong, and then attend theCSI/IICS Vision Conference in Kansas City. Please pray for all those who are traveling to this event, and pray for a special blessing for the speakers and organizers.

2. Thank God with us that the strikes and threats of strike which plagued the University of Jos during the early months of 2008 have been resolved. Exams were held on schedule, and the new academic year is progressing. We have heard, however, that the provision of electricity is a real problem at present; our colleagues are receiving just a few hours or power per day. Pray that this situation may be improved.

3. We are grateful that in June two of our Master's students, Peter Atanda and Tom Phinehas, successfully defended their theses; Peter gave an analysis of the ethnic/religious riots which erupted in Kaduna after the aborted Miss World Beauty Contest of 2002. He will be able implement his research in ongoing efforts in Christian-Muslim dialogue. Tom focused on the ecological problems of Kaduna where he has already involved his congregation in cleaning up theenvironment in their part of the city. Pray for these young men, and all the other graduates as well, as they take on new tasks. Pray that they will receive the wisdom to meet the enormous challenges which inevitably face those who seek to serve God faithfully, whether in Nigeria or elsewhere.

4. Pray also for wisdom and clarity for our own situation. We have been invited to teach at North-West University of South Africa in the new academic year (2009). We are also in contact with the St. Augustine University of Tanzania which has an urgent need for lecturers in philosophyand religious studies. We would ask your prayers for God's guidance in the next few months as we prepare for future teaching assignments.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A farewell gift

The university was in the middle of a strike during the weeks shortly before our departure from Nigeria, yet our colleagues wanted to give us a parting gift. A few of them told us that money had been collected for this purpose, but no one knew when the presentation would be made. We were scheduled to leave Jos in only a few days when Prof. Umar Danfulani, the head of our department called us. He said that he wanted to give something to us. So we went to his office, where a few colleagues had assembled. Unfortunately, most of our colleagues were unable to be present. When we saw the package, we expected another Nigerian costume—a his and her set—of which we already have several, but that was not the case. It is a circular leather wall hanging, which will get a prominent place in our Toronto home. We appreciate the thoughtfulness of our colleagues. When we mentioned this to Umar, he responded, “No one deserves it more than the two of you! You have done so much for our department that we cannot thank you enough!”

Our graduate students

Even though we are leaving the University of Jos for a while, our work there is not yet finished. We continue to supervise our doctoral students by means of email. We each have three students that we are supervising, although all of them have co-supervisors who can be present when they have to make one of the three required presentations to the department. Since we helped them start their projects, they want us to continue supervising them, even if at a distance. Several of our doctoral students are colleagues in our department, while one of our students teaches at the Theological College of Northern Nigeria. Wendy is still working with two TCNN faculty members, Rebecca on the issue of women in violent conflict and Dauda on the stigmatization of the poor in the Nigerian churches. She has also begun supervisory work with Kate, one of our Unijos colleagues, on the issue of the ‘secular’ nature of the Nigerian constitution. Adrian is helping Unijos colleagues Cosmos with his dissertation on bishop Desmond Tutu's nonviolent approach as a model for African countries, and Chikas on the impact of sharia on the education of women in Northern Nigeria; he also supervises Dennis of TCNN on the issue of breaking the cycle of curses which affect families through many generations. We realize that it may take them several years to finish their theses, especially since many also work full-time teaching. We pray that through email communication and occasional visits we can help them all through to the defense. It is our intention to return to Nigeria early next year so that we can work with them face-to-face.

Wendy working with Rebeca in our home (which we often do)

When the executive director of Christian Studies International, Dr. Henk Van Andel, together with his wife, Vicky, visited Jos last December, we invited our doctoral students to our home, to socialize and meet our director. It was the first time we had them all at our home at any one time.

The meeting of the Van Andels with our graduate students in our home in Jos

Two of our master’s students in the Ethics and Philosophy division, Peter Atanda and Tom Phinehas, defended the theses on which they have been working with us some years already. Peter did an analysis of the ethnic/religious riots which erupted in Kaduna in 2002 in connection with the aborted Miss World Beauty contest. Peter, who is a pastor, hopes to implement his research for ongoing efforts in dialogue between Christians and Muslims. Tom’s thesis focused on ecological problems of Kaduna, where he too is a pastor. His work has already produced results: his congregation is involved in cleaning up the environment in their part of the city.

Peter Atanda (in the middle) with other students in Wendy's class


The board of Christian Studies International approved a study/medical leave for us for the period from May through December 2008. And Christian Reformed World Missions, with whom we are ‘partners’, has concurred in this decision. This means that for the remainder of this year we will work on major projects that will result in publications that will be beneficial for our African colleagues and students and indeed for others in many parts of the world. Wendy is writing on African traditional concepts of wisdom as these are intertwined with magic and witchcraft wisdom. She has worked on the theme of wisdom for many years. Adrian’s project is focused on inter-faith dialogue, involving Christians, Jews and Muslims, with a view to contributing to a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian question, as the basis for a more lasting solution of Muslim-Christian conflict also in Africa.

For next year, we have been invited by North-West University of South Africa to teach a number of courses. We are also in contact with St. Augustine University of Tanzania where there is an urgent need for lecturers in philosophy and theology, since it will start offering bachelor degrees in these fields starting this fall already. We are still working on the details of these invitations, and nothing has been finalized yet.

Nigerian Bible Translation Trust

A project which has occupied Wendy over the last months is work on a textbook in Advanced Greek for the New Testament. This textbook brings together the materials she has used in teaching New Testament Greek over the years, especially at Unijos. However, an important incentive to get this textbook published for wider use came last fall when one of Wendy's New Testament Greek students, Pastor Sunday, introduced her to Rev. Selbut Longtau, a director and consultant with the Nigeria Bible Translation Trust. He told her that for the last years adequate provision had been made for teaching Hebrew for Bible translators working on the Old Testament, but for some years the courses in New Testament Greek to help those translating the New Testament (with the help of the Greek original) had not been taught for lack of available teaching staff. Would she help in setting up a curriculum for these students? Such a request is difficult to turn down.

Rudy Wiebe and Rob Lillo in front of entrance to the Nigerian Bible Translation Trust

So she checked with our Africa director, Dr. McCain, to be sure that this project would fit in with the goals for the IICS/CSI team in Nigeria, and then consulted with the other CSI/IICS colleagues in Nigeria, who have taught the New Testament Greek: Robert Lillo (of the Gindiri college of education), John Lotzgesell, teaching in Akwanga, Rudy Wiebe in Pankshin and Layne Turner teaching in Gidan Waya. Since they are all competent in NT Greek, we together make up a good team for this project.

Wendy with Rev. Longtau, a NBTT staff member, and our colleagues, Rudy Wiebe and Rob Lillo

We met a number of times over the Christmas break, and then had an important meeting with Rev. Longtau, who told us more about the history of NBTT and its connection with Wycliffe Bible Translators as well as the Summer Institute of Linguistics. The plan was to provide a 12 week program in New Testament Greek for translators, beginning in September of this year. With this in mind, Wendy is preparing her syllabus for Advanced New Testament Greek, and Rudy Wiebe and Rob Lillo are busy adapting the first year textbook, Let's Study New Testament Greek, prepared some years ago by Mary Preus at TCNN.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

NABIS Conference (February 28-29)


The Second Zonal Conference of the National Association of Biblical Studies (NABIS) took place on 28-29th February 2008, at the Theological College of Northern Nigeria (TCNN) Bukuru, Plateau State. Nigeria.

The Conference was attended by seventy-seven participants who came from thirteen institutions. The major discourses of the conference focused on the reality and ongoing challenges of the African spirit world and witchcraft to the Christian community in Africa, particularly Nigeria.

The Conference also presented the Person, work, and ongoing role of the Holy Spirit in both the Old and New Testaments. It highlighted the roles of the spiritual gifts in individual and inter-denominational relationships, and encouraged the energizing of the African-Nigerian Church towards wholistic impact on the Nigerian society.

Hence, NABIS calls its membership to engage Biblically the African spirit world, providing biblical remedies to the problem of witchcraft, and other African problems coming from an African understanding of the spirit world.

NABIS expresses its gratitude to TCNN for hosting this conference, and thanks all the participants and also all participating institutions. It also expresses its special thanks to the organizing committee of NABIS (Northern Zone) for efficient planning and care of logistical aspects of the conference.

During the last weeks we have asked for prayer on behalf of the NABIS (National Association for Biblical Studies) northern zonal conference of Feb. 28-29. We can now report that this conference was a great success, and thank you for praying! NABIS seems to be one of the most active theological societies in Nigeria. As a Nigeria-wide organization NABIS meets annually, usually in July, at a centrally located university (last year it was held in Jos). But locally organized conferences are also held in various regions. This year the northern zone, which covers a very large part of Nigeria, including what is often called the Middle Belt (where the University of Jos is located), held its second annual conference just outside of Jos, hosted by the Theological College of Northern Nigeria in Bukuru. As an interdenominational seminary, with faculty and students coming from many Nigerian churches, TCNN was founded some fifty years ago by Dr. Harry Boer, a Christian Reformed missionary; it remains one of the major seminaries in this country..

Registration for this year’s NABIS conference was about the same as last year, with seventy-seven pastors, students and teachers (at various levels) in attendance, and with thirteen educational institutions represented. Of course many students came from TCNN itself; this year it was quite convenient for them to attend, since their school hosted the two day conference. The facilities were excellent.

Our main sessions were held in the large chapel, which is located centrally on campus. Registration was held outdoors just beside the chapel, and ACTS (Africa Christian Textbooks) had a book table not far from that entrance, providing relevant books and journals at a special conference discount. Photocopy machines were available for presenters, who were required to make sufficient copies of their papers for distribution for all those who had registered.

The four commissioned papers this year were given by faculty of the University of Jos, indeed, from the Dept. of Religious Studies (in which we teach here). The lead paper of the conference, given by the Head of the Department, Prof. Umar Danfulani, “Power Encounter in African Worlds: Witchcraft, Oracles and Healing in Nigeria,” provided an excellent base for further discussion on a topic of considerable relevance for presentday concerns in religion in Nigeria. The second major paper, given Thursday afternoon, was by an Old Testament scholar, Dr. Jotham Kangdim, “The Holy Spirit and Other Spiritual Forces in the Old Testament and Christian Community: A Descriptive Analysis” gave a good general introduction to the important OT presention on the Holy Spirit.

On Friday morning Prof. Danny McCain, the founder of IICS, who also teaches New Testament, led discussion for that day with an interesting paper “Energizing Church Development in Africa through the Gifts of the Spirit,” in which he accented the contribution of the African church for Christianity worldwide. Wendy (who was also the chief organizer for this conference), started the discussions on Friday afternoon with her presentation on “Stephen: ‘Full of the Holy Spirit and Wisdom,’” in which she discussed post-exilic wisdom literature revealing a virtual identification of God’s Spirit with Wisdom, as background for understanding the qualifications of Stephen in Acts 6.

Alongside the commissioned papers, we heard a number of shorter presentations with some very interesting topics. To complement the presentation of Dr. Kangdim our IICS colleague at Unijos, Yoilah Yilpet, presented on “The Anointing Work of the Holy Spirit in Isaiah 11:1-5; 42:1-7; 61:1-3.” Two graduate students from the Jos Evangelical Theological School, located not far from Unijos, presented good papers: Bitrus Sarma, “A Quest for Miraculous Powers in African Popular Religion: A Comparative Study of Miracles and Magic in the Ancient Near East,” and Matthew Michael, “Old Testament Angelology and African Understanding of the Spirit World: Exploring the Forms, Motifs and Descriptions.” To complement Dr. McCain’s presentation, Dr. Pauline Lere of Unijos spoke on “African Independent Churches: A Re-enforcement for African Spirituality for Transforming Development.” Our CSI colleague Rev. Rudy Wiebe examined the conference topic from a Trinitarian undcrstanding,“The Holy Spirit’s Role in Trinitarian Salvation: Exposition of 1Peter 1.1-12.” Two faculty members from the same school where Wiebe teaches (the Pankshin College of Education), Mrs. Victoria N. Pali and Fr. Yohanna T. Wadak presented a joint paper, “The Practice of Healing and Witchcraft in African Society: Implications for the African Independent Churches.” Adrian presented a paper called, “The Power of the Holy Spirit Cannot Be Bought: The Story of Philip and Simon the Sorcerer in Acts 8:4-25.”

And Benue State University was ably represented by the head of the department of Religious Studies, James Shagba Moti, presenting “The Significance of Pentecost (Acts 2.1-13) in Contemporary Christian Mission in Nigeria”
The organization of the conference fell to Wendy by default; she has functioned as chairperson for the Local Organizing Committee of NABIS northern zone. Our Unijos colleague, Dr. D. Gwamna, chief organizer of last year’s conference and chairman of the zonal organizing committee for NABIS, fell ill before Christmas, suffering what appears to be a stroke. He could not be burdened with these affairs, though we were grateful that he was well enough to attend the conference for a few hours on both days. You can see him at the registration table, where he is seated (at the left of the photo). The secretary of the northern zone of NABIS, Rev. Dauda Gava, was also absent. During January he left for South Africa to pursue research for his thesis (Wendy is supervising this work). Although we encountered a number of obstacles during the first day, the participants were very pleased with the conference.

As the communiqué issued after the conference explains, the major discourses of the conference focused on the reality and ongoing challenges of the African spirit world and witchcraft to the Christian community in Africa, particularly Nigeria. It also presented the person, work, and ongoing role of the Holy Spirit in both the Old and New Testaments, and highlighted the roles of the spiritual gifts in individual and inter-denominational relationships, and encouraged the energizing of the African-Nigerian Church towards holistic impact on the Nigerian society. NABIS has rightfuly called on its membership to engage Biblically the African spirit world, providing biblical remedies to the problem of witchcraft, and other African problems coming from an African understanding of the spirit world. NABIS also expressed its gratitude to TCNN for hosting this conference, and thanked all participants and the participating institutions.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Prayer notes for February 22, 2008

1. Some of our Master’s students still have to write their exams. These students of the Masters program in Philosophy and Ethics program are finished with exams, and celebrated the event with refreshments and reflection! However, the Nigerian union of academic staff called a one-week national strike, protesting matters which have a long history and never got settled properly. This affects teaching, and may postpone the remaining exams. Pray with us that this strike will not escalate, and that the semester can progress normally. Please pray too for wisdom for us as we mark stacks of papers and exams.

2. We would ask you to continue praying for our health. Some health concerns have surfaced, and we hope they will not become more serious. For some weeks Wendy has been struggling with a problem in her left shoulder, which limits her ability to write. She receives some relief from physiotherapy. Please pray that the problem will disappear, so she can get on with her work, especially because so much of our work is computer-related.

3. Thank God with us for a relatively stable provision of electricity—about 10 hours per day (but the last few days we have had only a few hours—too little for our refridgerators so that some food has spoiled). And the strike of Water Board workers is over. We have received water at least three days during the past week. Cooking gas is also available once more, although the price is still very high. Thank you for praying with us on these issues!

4. Both of the colleagues for whom we asked your prayer last month—Dogara Gwamna (at Unijos) and Tersur Aben (at TCNN)—are on the mend. We thank God for hearing the many prayers raised on their behalf.

5. Please continue to pray for the conference of the Northern Zone of the Nigerian Association for Biblical Studies (NABIS), to be held February 28-29 in Bukuru at TCNN, a few miles outside Jos. We have four invited speakers to present various aspects of the topic "The Role of the Holy Spirit and Spiritual Powers in the Christian Community." Due to the absence of some colleagues, much of the organization for this conference has fallen on Wendy. Please pray for all the speakers, and for all who attend, that these discussions may prove to be constructive and fruitful.

David Jowitt

Living and working in Nigeria is not an easy venture. With the exception of a few IICS colleagues, our missionary contacts live across town. Because we do not go out at night (it is too difficult, and too dangerous driving) much of our entertainment comes by way of socializing with colleagues and friends at the university. We especially appreciate getting to know David Jowitt in this way. Last Saturday we spent a good part of the afternoon at David's house, a university house on exactly the same plan as ours, but on a different part of the campus, about a 20 minute drive from our placed.

David has already been in Nigeria for at least 40 years, teaching in almost every part of Nigeria, from the Igbo south east areas (he had to leave during the Biafra civil war of the 60s!), in the western Yoruba territory, and then for many years at the federal university of the major northern city of Kano. He told us that the extreme heat was really getting too much for him, and was relieved about two years ago to receive an invitation to join the English department at the University of Jos. He finds the climate of Jos very pleasant by comparison.

Over the years of his work in Nigeria David has made a substantial contribution on the subject of English phonology, and published a text which is widely known and used, Nigerian English Usage. We really appreciate friends and colleagues like David, as opportunities to socialize, to exchange insight and experience of our work here, and encourage one another.

Funeral in Chuwang Family

John and Sarah Chuwang are among our closest friends here. We've known them from the first Sunday we spent in Jos. That day we attended Trinity chapel on campus, and they were among the first to greet us warmly, inviting us to make Trinity chapel our church home, as indeed it was for a number of years.

During our first year at Unijos John taught us the local language, Hausa. About two weeks ago John called us telling us that his father, Da Chuwang Rwang Kanang, had died, and invited us to join them for the funeral. It did not take us long to make room in our schedule for that event. His father was born in 1901, but the family is not certain of the date (which is not uncommon here), so we do not know his exact age. But for a man of such an age, as you can imagine, the funeral marked a celebration of his life; he is missed, but the funeral could not be an altogether sad occasion.

The funeral took place in Bukuru, which is a suburb of Jos. It began under the trees outside the large COCIN church which is still in process of being built, on land donated by the Chuwang family. The first thing we noted on arrival was that all the grandchildren wore clothing made from identical material, so it was easy to spot them; if we had not noticed this yet, it was quite clear when they offered a few songs and remarks during the funeral program. You can see the coffin there at the front. The program continued for about two hours, with remarks from various family members and acquaintances, testimonies to his service to the church, the sermon, and prayers of thanks for his life. We learned that he had become a Christian when attending a mission school, and spent a significant part of his working life as local Director of Forestry. He served as secretary of council for churches of both the SIM (Sudan Interior Mission) and COCIN (Church of Christ in Nigeria, established by SUM, of which CRWM is still a leading partner). It was also pleasant for us to learn that he and his family had donated the land on which TCNN now stands.

After the service the coffin was taken in an ambulance and driven (slowly) back to the family compound, about a 20 minute walk from the church.

Here a number of canopies had been set up, and already many more people were waiting for the arrival of the body. The modest compound was soon crowded with people, many of them singing and dancing their farewell to Da Chuwang.

He was buried in the ground behind the house, in spot well-prepared for the burial.

The graveside service was short. When this was finished we all stayed to socialize, and enjoy some refreshments with the family and friends.