Thursday, January 1, 2009

Reflections on 2008

“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90:12).

Our family, minus Greg who could not come to Toronto

The end of a year and the beginning of a new one is a good time to reflect on what has happened in the last twelve months. By looking backwards we realize that we live by grace alone: God has planned things better than we ever could. Thus it is also an appropriate time to thank God for his provision and care. Without his help we would not have been able to accomplish anything. 

Wendy and Adrian in the office of the head of our department at the University of Jos in Nigeria

Christmas Day 2007 and New Year’s Day 2008 we celebrated in Jos, which was the third time we were in Nigeria for these events. Spending Christmas in the tropics is totally different from being in Canada, where the weather is much colder at that time of year.  Nigeria has never experienced a white Christmas. Yet December and January are two months when the weather is very comfortable. The dry season has started, and flowers are in bloom, but it is not yet as hot as it gets in April and May.

Flowers bloom all year round

During the first months of 2008 we were finishing our courses at the university and helping a number of graduate students complete their theses. It got a bit hectic in April when we were trying to sell some of our possessions, in preparation for winding up our work in Nigeria, and returning to Canada in May. We left behind some books and basic necessities, which will still be needed when we plan to be back in Jos in a few weeks. But we also gave away many of our books to friends, colleagues, and especially to some of the local seminaries and schools that can make good use of them. 

We often held classes in our office, which was small but had lots of light -- useful especially when there was no electricity

We returned to Canada in May. Soon after arrival we took off for the Dominican Republic for a vacation. This was a new adventure, especially in staying at a resort on the ocean, with a beautiful beach. Like many tourists, our stay under those conditions meant we were insulated from the poverty, which is one of the drawbacks of this type of tourism. But for us it was a much needed break. 

Enjoying the resort in Dominican Republic

Immediately after we got home again, we got busy with medical checkups and tests. We both felt run down after the last months in Nigeria. Wendy had a sore shoulder, which resulted from a fall more than a year ago and could not be treated adequately there. Thankfully, now we both enjoy good health and are ready to go back to Africa again for a while. 

Toronto skyline

Our 100 year -old house in downtown Toronto

Backyard barbeque

July is always the time of year for the annual Vision conference of IICS/CSI in Kansas City. On the way there we traveled via Florida in order to visit our dentist in Melbourne, who provides free dental care to IICS/CSI professors; thus it is well worth the trip. As always, the conference itself was a wonderful occasion to reflect on the work of the year, to be inspired by a great variety of talks, to meet old friends and to make new ones. We appreciated Paul Marshall's contribution as one of the key speakers. He has a gift for explaining things in an easy and engaging way. Our relationship with Paul goes back many years to our return to Toronto from the Philippines in the late eighties. 

August through November kept us busy with visits to many supporting churches and work on writing projects. Wendy added a number of chapters to her book on Sophia, or the personification of philosophy. Except for the final editing she managed to get the book finished, which is quite a relief, since we are gearing up for more travel soon. Adrian worked on some articles related to research on Christian-Muslim dialogue, and has also given significant time to a proposal for a conference planned for next year in Toronto, focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a crucial factor in relations among Christians, Muslims, and Jews. 

The highlight of November came on the 19th of the month with the birth of our third grandchild, James Thomas, to Pauline and Greg Roy, a brother for Gracie and Chris. Wendy helped out for a week and a half before the birth and stayed more than a week afterwards.  Adrian drove down to see the new baby and to pick up Wendy. On the drive back to Toronto we ran into a snow storm in New York State. Fortunately, it did not last long, and the rest of the trip was uneventful. But this snow proved to be a harbinger of things to come. Like many across North America, we experienced lots of snow during December, and a lovely white Christmas in Toronto

Newly arrived James Thomas (J.T.)

Chris, Gracie and Pauline with J.T.

Oma holding J.T.

Opa holding and feeding J.T.

As 2009 begins, we need to gear up for our return to Africa in mid-January. We will go to Jos first of all to give whatever encouragement and help we can to our doctoral students. Then we will travel on to Tanzania to teach for a semester at St. Augustine University in Mwanza, the second largest city in that country. While we are in East Africa we will have several additional assignments, especially investigating possibilities for IICS/CSI colleagues to teach in the universities there. 

Map of Tanzania: Mwanza lies on Lake Victoria in the north

We are thankful that we are able to return to Africa for this work. During these last months we have been restored and given new energy. In spite of a global recession, and many indications of doom and gloom, we are thankful for many good things that happened in the year 2008. We pray that 2009 may prove to be a year of special blessings not only for us but for you as well. Please pray for us as we travel back to Africa and begin teaching in a new environment.