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.

Harmattan in Jos

In a previous blog we gave you some indication of the rather unusually cold weather we have experienced the last two months. This cold weather is caused, at least in part, by 'harmattan', fine (or sometimes quite heavy!) dust blowing in from the Sahara, and covering our terrain like a fog or mist that blocks the rays of the sun. Sometimes it is accompanied by strong winds, and then one can expect the atmosphere to clear up soon. At the end of January the cold let up for about a week, and we thought it was time to put away our sweaters. But that was premature, indeed. In mid-February the cold came back with a vengeance; the winds are strong enough to seep right through the louvred window, which we close as tightly as we can. The winds can even make walking difficult.

Coming home from church in the southern part of Jos one Sunday we took a series of photos of the main avenues and streets connecting the south with the northern part of the city where we live. These photos were taken from the car window; we are coming down from a high point in the city, somewhat south and east of the centre. Usually we can see much of the centre of Jos from here.

We are approaching the junction where the road leading north out of Jos meets the ring-road to the east, a major artery that will take us past the 'permanent site' for Unijos. As you may notice, even on this cold and windy Sunday there is lots of traffic and business going on near the junction. The numerous motorcycles and also pedestrians occupying the road alongside vehicles, large and small, mean that this stretch of road is not easy for drivers to negotiate; in fact it is one of our least favorite stretches, though there is no alternative route to our destination.

We are getting closer to Unijos; you will note that the fields here are open. The university was given many acres of land, previously used in tin mining; these fields are pitted where the surface was denuded of minerals. But until the university finds a way of using the land for its 'permanent' campus many farmers still rent or lease the land, to grow vegetables.