Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Monday, October 5, 2009
Right. So I had carefully, though not TOO meticulously, planned a little west African travel en route to the States after finishing my term in Nigeria. Andrew and I arranged to meet up in Ghana, where he and a couple other peace corps friends were taking the LSAT. We planned to hang out on the coast of Ghana for a week and then fly back to Guinea where I'd spend a couple weeks in Bouliwell, his village and home for the past 2 years. All goes according to plan EXCEPT for this small tid-bit of news we heard that there was some sort of violent retaliation towards a political opposition demonstration. "Hmm..." we think to ourselves, "that doesn't sound good." Over the course of the next few days we receive increasingly plan-threatening reports which culminated in learning that Peace Corps-Guinea will be evacuating all its volunteers to Bamako, Mali. (note: my wonderful fiance has sent out a mass e-mail with more details about all that jazz so I won't bore you with my less eloquently written rendition)(If you want to read that, I'll try to post it in another blog)
SO, yes, my friends. All those who said goodbye to me in Nigeria and jokingly said, "I can't wait to see what adventures West Africa throws at you this time..." it has come. Currently we are stuck in Accra (though we did have several fantastic days down along the coast. blogs with pictures to come at a later date), waiting to see when and how to get to Mali. Or if I'm even going to go. It is a good thing I've had lots of experience over the past 2 years with the unpredictability of African travel, otherwise my type-A tendencies might be on the fritz. I wish I could write more, but my time is ticking on this Internet cafe computer and there are travel agents to contact. For now, I have my white flag up in surrender for A.W.A (Africa Wins Again...I know some of you were wondering what that stood for :) )
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Much to my surprise, the associate pastor decided that he would add an offering for ECYA to the other ones (making a total of 5, I believe) to be collected that morning. In these churches, offering time is the liveliest part of the service with upbeat music being played and everyone filing out in rows, then dancing down the aisle to drop their money in the baskets, rubber tubs, wooden crates, or other large containers. As I stood clapping and rhythmically swaying side-to-side, I saw something I don't think I'll ever forget. Slowly, deliberately, this one old kaka made her way towards the offering basket. I had seen her come into the building about 45 mins after the service had begun. Completely bent-over with her torso parallel to the floor, hands clasping her walking stick, she had shuffled in. I had watched her take a full minute to maneuver the 1 step near her seat, and wondered how long it had taken her just to get showered and dressed that morning. Now, with steadfast resolve she struggled to cover the 10 yards to the offering basket. As she shuffled, my eyes filled with tears, my heart filled with gratitude, and my apathy got a swift kick to the curb by this humble picture. That 5 Naira note she dropped into our basket was out-valued only by the sacrifice of her journey to give it. Luke 21:1-4 took on flesh, bones, and an african wrapper.
When she finally returned to her seat, I saw relief sweep over her face, and I let out the breath, I didn't realize I had been holding, with my own sigh of relief. Slightly I thanked the Lord for this blessed woman and her sacrifice. When the service finished and the church secretary handed us the bundle of money from the offering I looked at one of the crumpled 5 naira notes and knew I was holding a treasure. It won't pay for a camper scholarship or even a cup of tea, but it payed for this missionary to be humbled.
Just then he looked up and saw the rich people dropping offerings in the collection plate. Then he saw a poor widow put in two pennies. He said, "The plain truth is that this widow has given by far the largest offering today. All these others made offerings that they'll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn't afford—she gave her all!" ~Luke 21:1-4, The Message
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Right, so there I was, driving Claudia's (my boss) truck to a little village called Luwuna. Shammah was with me as we were going to pick up Keturah, his wife, and Reborn Marshall, his son (and my namesake, see blog). We also picked up Keturah's sister, Rose, and were happily cruising through the lush, green Nigerian countryside. At one point I slowed down and turned on my blinker to make a left-turn. In fact, I had come to a complete stop and saw no cars in sight. Just as I began to turn the car, BAAAAMMMM!! SCCCRRRAAAAAAPPPPPEEEE!! A van came flying out of nowhere trying to pass on my left (while I'm making a left-turn) and completely took off the front left corner of the truck!! Shards of metal littered the road, though my truck hadn't budged. Shocked but knowing this was going to require a bit of discussion, I pulled over to the right side of the road. Immediately I replayed the scene in my mind and deduced that I, without a doubt, did nothing wrong...except, of course, for the fact that my skin is pigmently challenged. The driver, an older man, gets out and starting walking towards me yelling about how I didn't look very well and I'm thinking, "Are you kidding me?!?!?!" YOU are the one who didn't see my blinker, didn't slow down, and tried to pass me while I was turning!!! You should be apologizing right now!!" Again, I was thinking these things. All I managed to get out was "I did nothing wrong." As the crowd gathered, I said to Shammah, "I am NOT at fault here and will NOT give him any money. At most, I'll agree to part ways taking responsibility to fix our own vehicles." Ha..silly white girl notions. Ensued 1.5 hours of debate on the side of the road as spectators swarmed in, not saying much, and probably not listening, just staring at me. Of course, there would have been a crowd for any accident, but THIS one had a baturiya driving! What a novelty!
A couple nice guys attempted to mediate, advising me to plead and beg with the baba to just accept a small token for an apology, so as to avoid hassle. I tried that, letting Shammah do the talking because (1) my Hausa wasn't flowing (2) my emotions were flowing and hence my tears threatened to break the dam and flood my face if I opened my mouth. The dude threw out a figure like N50,000 (=$300), COMPLETELY ridiculous, and i just laughed, responding that I have N1,500 (=$10) in my wallet. Naturally, they didn't believe me because white folks excrete money, right? When I got my wallet it and showed him the mangie 3 N500 notes, they smacked their lips and said, "Let's go to the police station." Conveniently this was only a stones throw away. I'm thinking I have nothing to fear, other than a loss of time, so why not? Now, the policeman was very nice but had never driven a vehicle before in his life and said that while baba should have stopped, I was supposed to "wait a full 5 minutes before making the turn."...WHAT??? The baba was pretty vocal, and aggressive and the growing crowd of ---- people no doubt intimidated the policeman. Negotiations migrated outside the station but I remained inside. At one point when everyone was outside except me and the policeman, the tears started streaming down my face. 4 main thoughts swirled inside my head: (1) this likely wouldn't be happening if I was black. (2)here's another example of the infuriating situation where I'm being exploited by Nigeria, the very place I came to give myself to (3) if that van had been a couple seconds later, the van would have nailed me...no more Rene. Ok, enough of those thoughts (4) So THIS is what it feels like to suffer at the hands of injustice.
OK...perhaps a little dramatic, but I have to be give it to you as it came.
Anyways, the policeman had pity on me upon seeing my waterworks and tried to encourage me...but at the end of the day, Rose, Shammah and I still had to empty our pockets, which only came to the sum of N4,500 (=$30). Not that I'm bitter, but essentially this guy broke traffic laws, hit me, damaged Claudia's truck, nearly killed me, and robbed us. I've had better Nigerian moments.
BUT, once I got to the village all the wahala of the previous few hours blew away with gentle breeze coming in over the maize farms. My little "son" is absolutely precious and remembered me! Most Nigerian babies will cry when they see a white person, especially when taken out of their mother's protective arms and placed on the bature's lap. Reborn is too culturally educated for that :) I "backed" him (see picture) and we took a walk all around the village greeting people and exercising my "deep Hausa." Grace upon grace, the day with my heart being filled with gratitude and contentment.
Friday, July 3, 2009
A fellow "missy" out here, Chuck Truxton, passed along this story of a camper from our ministry. Chuck yearly sponsors several youth to come to our camp and its just incredible what comes of that sometimes. I wanted to share this story with you, perhaps giving you a bigger perspective on why I do what I do.
We buried Mamman’s father (at the age of 36) when Mamman was just beginning Secondary School. As the oldest of the four children, and especially being the eldest son, his mother began to rely on him as the man of the house. New purchases were put in his name for his future security. Sometimes mother and son discussed family issues as she used to do with her husband. Mamman was now the man of the house.
Still, just coping with life in secondary school was enough of a challenge. Mamman was not at the top of his class academically. What contribution could he make to seeing that the family’s needs were met and the future secure for his siblings? His mother was able to get a job cleaning rooms and dressing beds at a nearby Bible conference centre. But Mamman wanted to do something to help.
Mamman was given the opportunity of attending the camp for one week due to a gift from friends in
At the craft room, there was a choice of activities. Mamman selected making palm sandals. This turned out to be the best part of the camp for sure. Not only did Mamman have fun learning how to make palm sandals but he also realized: “Hey, I am good at this. My finished product looks almost professional! “
Then it happened. An idea was born.
No one had ever characterized this secondary school student as a “visionary.” But Mamman saw himself sitting in a workshop back home in his village, crafting palm sandals to sell to people in the village. These sandals are something that everyone uses every day of the week. People trek to the market to buy them, but what is available in the market is not nearly as nice as what Mamman saw his own hands producing. This could work!
Just two months after camp, Mamman found himself sitting in small workshop in his village, crafting sandals. Through a gift from a friend of his late father, he was able to purchase the one expensive item needed: a grinding wheel for shaping the base of the sandals. People are buying his product and Mamman can see that his work is helping his mother and taking some of the burden from her shoulders.
And this is just one of many stories we get to hear about in ECWA Camp Youth Alive. Sometimes with all the printing, speaking, traveling, and planning, we lose sight of the far-reaching outcomes of the ministry. Lives are being changed!! We do not just know this from the evaluation form campers and staff fill out at the end of camp, but we hear and see it when we run into former campers in the market, or former staff walk across the seminary graduation stage. ECYA 2009 is just around the corner (Jos: August 4-10, Aug 11-17;
Monday, June 22, 2009
We journeyed to Abuja where the Super Eagle Stadium sits just outside of the city, backdropped by a huge gorgeous rock (see pic below). I had heard that the stadium's capacity was something like 60,000, but for some reason, it rarely gets more than half-full, despite tickets selling for N300 (= $2.00). Well, not so for this match! Yes, the tickets were basically given away for that price, but they evidently sold WAY more tickets than they had seats.I'm not sure if you can see, but every seat was filled and people packed the stairs, aisles, and walkways. It's a good thing there wasn't a need for an emergency exit, because we couldn't budge!
The game was scheduled to start at 4, but even World Cup Qualifier games can't overpower the African clock...so it didn't start till close to 5. Some of our crew got there early to reserve seats, so if you happened to watch the game, you might have spotted a pocket of batures on the 2nd level at center-field. decked out in Nigeria jerseys and homemade facepaint. Glorious.
Monday, June 15, 2009
--Akim and his entourage arrived slightly tardy to Abigail's uncles house, so the Mamma emcee of the day demanded a "late fee" before they could enter. Seriously, everyone in the group had to drop bills into a bowl before they could pass through the gate.
--Contrary to what I thought for the majority of the ceremony, this mamma emcee was not a family relation, but makes her living by orchestrating these "engagement" parties. It is part of the Yoruba tradition
--Multiple times, Akim and his brother and uncles had to prostrate themselves down in front of Abigails side of the family, showing his devotion and desire towards them. At least three times for they did it "in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."
--Symbolizes how his family would support him in the marriage, Akim was hoisted up by his brother & uncles and carried around the area
--Abigail watched most of the formalities from a bedroom window before she was lead out, head completely covered. Finally, she was paraded in with dancing (yours truly included in the train), unveiled and Akim had to confirm (monetarily) that his was indeed "the one" he desired.
--One of my favorite moments, was when both sets (of extremely reserved) parents were asked to face each other, and then dance towards each other "joining" the two families. Awkward turtle anyone??
--With all the loot Akim had to bring (jericans of palm oil, wrappers, a goat, salt, drinks, etc), Abigail was told to pick one item. I personally really wanted her to go for the goat, who looked trepidly around the whole time, anticipating his fate as tomorrow's dinner. BUT, Abigail being the honorable and godly woman that she is, chose the Bible. Still not sure if she really had an option. Anyways, tied onto the ribbon around the Bible was her and Akim's engagement rings.
--Abigail then had a few tasks to complete: putting Akim's hat on him (the first of many times she will dress him once they are married...wierd), giving him a kiss on the cheek (exemplifying the affection she will give him), and flashing her new ring before the crowd, affirming her pride in Akim's gift to her.
--Dancing, praying, money "spraying" (showing appreciation and support for people by putting money on their foreheads)(makes having a sweaty forehead a plus for it will stick and you'll look really cool)('spraying' has actually been outlawed by the government because it damages the bills when they fall to the ground and get danced on), and eating (of course) took up the rest of the ceremony.
Now, while I had a blast sharing in this moment with my friends, I'm ok with Andrew and myself not being embarrased in this way for our engagement. Then again, it would be amusing to watch Andrew prostrate himself before my family with all his groomsmen...perhaps it can be incorporated into our ceremony... :)
In a couple of weeks Abigail and Akim will be getting hitched, so look out for the blog for that one. Until then check out more pictures here of the engagement ceremony
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
This past Monday began about like any Monday: 5:45am wake up, run 5 miles, chomp down some granola and head off to work. Mid-morning when I came back to the house to give car keys to the mechanic, I noticed a foul smell in the house. Hmm...perhaps Max, our cat, has brought in a mouse/bird/lizard and left it half-eaten somewhere. I looked under chairs, bookshelves, and cupboards to no avail. Then, I go to put something away in my closet and am blasted by the odoriferous funk. Letting my eyes adjust to the dark, I peer into the back and discover...
Yes, after a slight yelp, I go outside and yell to the compound guard, “DANLADI!! KA ZO YANZU!! AKWAI BERA A CIKI GIDANA!!!!!!!!!” Danladi, come now! There is a rat in my house!
Danladi tries his best to stifle his laughter as he rids my living quarters of the pestilence.
Maybe you don’t remember, but I had a bit of a traumatic incident last year with rats and have been forever scarred. I would have preferred a dead snake to a rat. And besides, this was no small, cute furry, nearly micky-mouse like critter...it was massive!! And in my CLOSET!! (OK, calm down, René...at least it was dead).Since there has been no sign of rat anywhere in our house (and that thing would leave some serious poo), and we don’t have rat poison anywhere, I determined that Max must have killed it and brought it in as present/punishment for me Sunday when we left her alone all day. See the killer with her typical prey.
OR, God could have been getting His holy kicks with me because I actually had planned to make the dish ratatouille for some friends for dinner, and watch the movie. Funny, YHWH, reeeeaaallly funny. And NO, I did not supplement my dinner with my discovery.
Today, no rodents in the house to my knowledge. However, the afternoon rain came in with vengeance today, deafening me with fierce hail on my tin roof. While the aforementioned ferocious feline hid under my bed, I watched my yard get covered in hail. Except, my brain didn’t register it as hail, but as DIPPIN DOTS!!
Just before I dashed outside with my spoon, an intelligent nuron fired and I realized it was hail. Oh, but what I would do for a bowl of Dippin’ Dots right now. They are the “ice cream of the future” after all. Can anyone send me some???