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.

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