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.