Friday, January 25, 2008

Prayer notes for January 25, 2008

“Praise awaits you, O God, in Zion.
O you who hear prayer, to you will all men come” (Psalm 65.1-2).

1/ We are grateful for quiet celebrations of Christmas and the New Year here in Jos with our neighbours, Unijos and missionary colleagues.

We had expected that when exams ended in December we might lose electricity, but it did not happen; we continued with about 10 hrs per day, and are grateful for that. At the moment we are having significant problems with water, because the Water Board workers have gone on strike, seeking higher wages. Over the past weeks prices of goods have risen significantly, and at present there is no cooking gas for stoves available at all. Please pray with us for a resolution of these problems.
No gas, no electricity - but a kerosene cooker to the rescue!

2. At the moment undergraduate students are just returning for the second semester. Please pray for safety as they travel. We hope to start courses soon. In about two weeks graduate students hope to write their exams. Please pray for them as they prepare for these exams and then write their theses.

3. We are grateful for the protection and safety of Henk and Vicky Van Andel, who visited us in Nigeria from December 8-20. They managed to visit all IICS and CSI colleagues in the Jos area, and made numerous other visits to get first hand experience of the conditions of our work here at the University and Federal Colleges of Education (see blog entry below).

4. Wendy has been struggling with a sore shoulder for the past weeks. Physiotherapy has helped the situation a little, but the pain did not go away; thus she had x-rays taken. The cause of the problem is still not clear. Please pray that the right solution can be found. Her use of the computer is still limited; this is a real obstacle, since she is trying to finish up work on two textbooks for publication: one for Advanced New Testament Greek, and the other in Early Christianity from an African perspective; we had hoped to have the latter ready for the undergraduate course in the present semester. Please pray for healing and strength for her.
She is happy that she was able to finish the course in Ancient Philosophy with first year seminarians at St. Augustine's Major Seminary. In the photo above are some of her students who wanted their picture taken under the gaze of St. Augustine himself! These students take a three year program in philosophy before going on to the study of theology proper.

The photo was taken in mid-December, just the day after students exchanged their everyday garb for the white seminarian's robe. They were so proud of the transformation, and were only too ready to agree when we suggested we take their picture!

5. Adrian still hopes to get a festschrift that he edited (to honor a retired colleague), published in the spring. He is also editing a syllabus on ecclesiology, which he has used for several years. He hopes to teach this course twice this semester: once at Unijos, and once at another school. Please pray for both of us as we teach our courses this spring.

6. Two highly appreciated colleagues have been very ill, to the point that we were concerned for their survival. Dogara Gwamna, our colleague in New Testament section of our Religious Studies Dept. suffered what seems to be a stroke. And our friend, Tersur Aben, a theologian at TCNN, also suffered a mysterious ailment that severely sapped his energies at Christmas time. At the moment they both appear to be on the way to recovery. Please pray for complete healing, so they can resume the work to which they are committed.
These were happier days for Gwamna (on the far right, beside Danny McCain); this photo was taken a year and a half ago when Gwamna and his colleague James Kiamu (between McCain and Adrian) were defending their doctoral theses. We would pray that this kind of a smile will come back.

7. On February 28-29 the Northern Zone of the Nigerian Association for Biblical Studies (NABIS) hopes to hold its second annual Zonal Conference on the topic "The Role of the Holy Spirit and Spiritual Powers in the Christian Community." Please pray for us as we prepare for this conference; Wendy is on the organizing committee. We need your prayers all the more because our colleague Gwamna, who did so much work to organize this conference last year, cannot be involved. Pray for the invited speakers, and for the members: that many of them will submit papers on this very relevant topic. Pray also that the presentations may truly be constructive for all who attend, and prove helpful in addressing important issues facing the Christian churches of northern Nigeria.

8. The last few weeks we have experienced unseasonably cold weather. To some extent it is caused by harmattan, the fine dust blowing down from the Sahara desert to the north of us.
To show you just a little of the effect, compare this photo taken from our upstairs balcony last October--
With the same view these days -

No wonder Nigerians think this is a good time to burn the dried grasses and foliage left in the fields. It is an old tradition, and we hear that it is justified because by intentionally setting these fires and removing dead grasses they believe they are preventing a far worse fire burning out of control when started unintentionally. Besides, the Nigerians love to hover on the edge of the territory getting burnt to catch rats, hares and other wild animals as they escape the blaze.

No, this is not California! It is Jos, right behind our house!

Sometimes the fires appear to come dangerously close to our house, but to date we have not had trouble with the fires themselves, only with the smoke which can really add to the density of the air already thick from harmattan.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Christmas and New Year in Nigeria

Christmas and New Year's celebrations are behind us. It was great to have a break from the normal round of school activities, to enjoy extra church services, and do extra socializing. The latter is a very important part of festivities, especially in Nigeria. We may not have as many parties as in North America, but the weddings during December certainly bring people together, and that kind of socializing carries on with the rounds of 'greeting' for friends and colleagues. And, whenever we were home, the neighborhood children came to our door, to greet us, looking for candy or some Naira to cheer their day.

The new semester has not really started at Unijos, because students have to raise funds, which is difficult after Christmas, and means that classes are delayed until they return. So this is a good time for us tell you a little about events of the past weeks, especially the excellent visit we enjoyed with Henk Van Andel, the executive director for Christian Studies International, the Canadian arm of IIICS. Henk came with his wife Vicky, and spent almost two weeks with us here in Nigeria in mid-December.

They hoped to get a first-hand experience of the work being done, and living conditions, the reality, the challenges, and the joys of the Nigerian situation. And indeed, during their brief stay they managed to visit all the institutions where our IICS/CSI colleagues work, and were introduced to many of the officials at these schools.

Henk consulting with Umar Danfulani, Head of the Dept. of Religious Studies at Unijos

During their short stay they did their share of visiting, stopping off to meet with our CRC/CRWM colleagues, the Beacon of Hope HIV/AIDS ministry, ACTS bookstore, and Ayuba Gufwan's Beautiful Gate Initiative, an agency providing wheelchairs for the disabled, especially polio victims.

Henk and Vicky did more than just visit. They also gave a number of addresses. In Pankshin, where CSI colleague Rudy Wiebe teaches at the Federal College of Education, Henk spoke to senior staff, faculty and students on academic leadership, and Vicky made two presentations (to 700 students!) on mental health, depression, addiction and associated therapies. But the highlight of their visit came with the IICS/CSI weekend mini-retreat in Miango (Dec. 14-16), where Henk made a presentation on 'Servant Leadership,' and Vicky led two sessions, one entitled 'Thriving While Serving- Reflections on Faith and Mental Health'; and later she spoke on 'The Process of Healing- Trauma, Addiction, Grief, and Pain.'

These presentations were much appreciated, opening up issues well worth our consideration. And appreciation came in the form of some authentic Nigerian clothes to fit the occasion.

On Saturday afternoon the group split up. Some took a hike a few miles from the Miango retreat centre to the edge of the plateau. The hike had as its goal a visit to an old electricity generating plant which provides power for a part of Plateau State; it is generated by water flowing down the plateau through a large pipe.

The hike was a long one, but the view really was marvelous.

Some of our group accompanied Vicky on a visit to Vom, a nearby village where a new clinic for the treatment of addiction had only recently begun its work, with help from IIICS/CRWM colleague Joan Sikkenga, who also put us in touch with one of the founding doctors. Vicky interacted with staff and brought research literature on addiction.

On Sunday we gathered together to hold a church service. Henk van Andel provided the message on 'The Search for Wisdom and Knowledge' (Job 28).

A special treat for all of us at this retreat was the presence of Kember, daughter of Rob and Adrienne Lillo; Kember has been studying ethno-musicology, and was visiting her parents before going on to begin work in Burkina Faso. We were really privileged to have her lead us in music.

Too soon the retreat came to a close. But the Nigeria visit of the Van Andels was not quite finished; from Miango they accompanied the Lotzgesells to their College of Education residence in Akwanga, and from there they traveled to Gidan Waya, to visit Layne Turner at the College of Education of Kaduna, before returning to Jos. They certainly had enough exposure to driving in Nigeria to recognize the need for prayers invariably given before we travel anywhere! Before their visit we prayed for them, especially for safe travel, and we know that the Lord certainly heard these prayers. Their visits really helped them to get a good impression of the various facets of our work here. And as a Nigeria team we are truly grateful for the contributions they made wherever they went during their short stay with us.