Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I'm pretty well convinced God has blessed me with the most amazing team ever to work with. I was laughing last year, at the fact that I was traveling with all middle-aged men, that I didn't know whether that made me the spring chicken or the odd duck. "We're all odd ducks," George responded. Which I guess is why I'm so comfortable with this bunch and so happy to work with them. The years that they have had walking with the Lord, years of experience in the thick of difficulties as missionaries, has given them priceless wisdom, knowledge and character.

Mark, Claude, Joe, me, Anthony, Ken, Ray, Jim

I spent a lot of my free time just listening to them, as they would talk about the Bible, their experiences as missionaries, or church history and how that relates to social and intellectual movements. Joe is one of the few people who will positively wear me out intellectually! I love listening to Ray sharing what inspires him, Ken's explanations of how things work, and George's and Joe's amazing bush stories.
I'm really humbled how they respect me as a colleague and look after me like a daughter.
If there is conflict, it is constructive. If there is a problem, they deal with it. I don't think pettiness exists in their universe.
They do not hesitate to apologize.

Probably my favorite thing relates back to my memories of youth group mission trips. It bothered me that of all the time we might spend in a vehicle or otherwise "off duty," we'd talk about the silliest things, sing annoying songs, even gossip, but seldom would worshipful conversation or singing happen spontaneously. With this team, sure, there are jokes and goofing off, but it was common to hear them whistling "Greater than All Our Sin" or humming "Redeemed" while doing dishes, and it was guaranteed that there would be meaningful spontaneous conversation about God and what it means to serve Him throughout the day.

This made it soooo much better through those three weeks as we dealt with the stress of having to re-do our plans time and time again as circumstances surprised us, making decisions about expenses to pay, how to work with people who came in and had missed four days of instruction, etc. I was encouraged each day to be told how God has been faithful in the lives of each of my team, as I saw how He is active in all our hearts today.

And yes, we did have fun fellowship as well...
Claude and Mark playing ping-pong
One of my favorite moments was playing pool with George, and it was so dark we had to lean in 6" from a ball before we could tell whether it was a stripe or solid! I won, but only because he mistook the 8-ball for one of his!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Thanking God for a blessed time; looking forward to the future

"Rainy season had arrived again and Yaaya was happy. Even though it meant long hours working in the fields, he enjoyed the cooler weather and watching green plants spring up everywhere. It seemed like even the animals were happier now that the rains had come. Of course, it was early in the season yet, and Yaaya was already aware that many people seemed to get sick during the rains. In fact, he had been quite sick himself last summer, with awful aches and chills for the better part of a week."
--doesn't sound quite like your typical college textbook, does it? We are trying the approach of building our Biblical Health and Life Management curriculum from a continuing story. This will hopefully accomplish two things – give our writers inspiration for writing their material creatively and with focus, and help our students see that these lessons relate directly to their own everyday lives. We are NOT making those courses that students sit through thinking "Why do I have to take this? I'll never use it." Instead, we want our students to read these stories and think, "Yeah, me too--" and from there they will want to pay careful attention to the lessons that apply to these stories.

So we spent a lot of time collecting stories from the writers -- stories about the issues that are common among African young people, stories about the difficulties they face in education, family life, career pursuits, and more.
As we gathered these stories, we considered what Scripture has to say about the issues and how we will teach it in the material, which is best summarized in this beautiful quote:
I believe that no teacher should strive to make men think as he thinks, but to lead them to the living Truth, to the Master Himself, of whom alone they can learn anything, who will make them in themselves know what is true by the very seeing of it. I believe that the inspiration of the Almighty alone gives understanding. I believe that to be the disciple of Christ is the end of being; that to persuade men to be His disciples is the end of teaching.
George MacDonald, Creation in Christ
There are so many other things to share ... how good it was to be face-to-face with my colleagues, the new friends I made, how crazy our situation was when the conference first started, how wonderful the rain was, how I learned a couple things about cooking in Nigeria ... Ah, well. Blog material for later ;)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A new definition of thanks

I'd like to start off my reporting with a poem I've been working on:
(with thanks to Jordy Williams, whose poem inspired a device in this one, and Christie Dasaro and Ruth Sallah, for helping me understand the language)

From west Africa I learned a phrase,
"Mungode Yesu"; it's Hausa,
so it means far more than
"Thank You Jesus" in my
pampered, perfect American.
For Hausa is the language
of bartering over patterned cloth
and smoked fish, the language hummed
by AIDS widows under thatched roofs,
moaned by malaria patients sharing a hospital bed,
of women who carry their babies from that
hospital, to bury them, and must fight
to live the next day. Mungode Yesu,
in the language that calls its people
five times a day to pronounce fear of Allah,
the language of sweat in the fields,
drought and blood and tears and widowhood,
partaken with wounds associated with that name,
in Hausa "Thank You Jesus"
testifies to the impossible
to hope where it was unknown,
mocks the darkness with the precious sounds,
"Mungode Yesu."
This is Mr. and Mrs. Sale Abdullah, M-background evangelists who welcomed us to their home last year. Sale went to heaven in January.