Thursday, December 30, 2010

fellowship of the unashamed

Some pictures are striking to me, no matter where I see them or how I see them. Take this van that I was following on my way to OLA. I realized that it was carrying a casket after a few minutes, and then I realized the size of the casket. It is the size for a small child.

Gosh, then I realized that for some people, New Year's day is a celebration, and for others, it is just another day trying to live a life that honors the Lord. Even if each day holds tragedy and maybe the burial of a child.

I don't know if you see clearly that there is a verse written in hausa on the window of the van.
It is Romans 1:16

"I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile."

This verse tends to become more real to me due to the nature of where we live. This "not ashamed of the gospel" carries more weight here as religious differences are played out daily. I pray for the New Year for all of you. I pray that it holds blessings from the Lord and a fruitful ministry in your heart. You can pray for us as these caskets are so real. You can pray for the ministry to the orphan to be clear and understood by those whom we are trying to minister.

But, more than anything, I pray this new year finds you feeling resolved in the idea that you are a part of the fellowship of the unashamed.

family day s finally here!!!by sarah

FAMILY DAY!!! Family day is finally here!

Family day is always the day before a big group comes and then it's work,
work, work for my parents. Most of the time on family days we only watch
tv and play video games or just games as a family. But on family days my
parents are not allowed to make phone calls or work in the office at all.So
today we have family day.

My family has recently seen a black cat around the neighborhood and under
our car. Anyway my dad used to be allergic to cats, especially black cats. So
my dad decided that we wouldn't let it go hungry and starve to death. So we
are now leaving a little bowl of milk out at night for him. It was only tonight that he actually took some!!This is a stretch for my dad. especially since we've never had a single pet in our lives (except Budmar who we had when I was like 2 years old and doesn't count)!!! It's awesome!!!!!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

vision. knowledge. integrity.

"Where there is no vision, the people perish." - Proverbs 29:18

"Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge
without integrity is dangerous and dreadful."
Samuel Johnson

I know that I have shared with you the above verse, but I wanted to show you the "almost finished" education center that has been built in the Kissayhip Village where we (meaning the B2B staff) spend most of our days ministering. This verse is still true for our team and it is the main heart for these Rukuba people.

We want them to gain a vision of something bigger than themselves. We believe this can begin to happen as they begin to gain knowledge and the basic understanding of using the gift of learning that God has given us all as humans. BUT, as the quote from Samuel Johnson communicates, it is not just knowledge, but a life of integrity alongside of the knowledge that brings about a full person.

A life of integrity is a life filled with the basic principles of living for Christ. A vision of living for Christ. So, as you see the two pictures above and you are aware of the building that stands there, please pray. This building represents a lot more to us and a lot more to this village. We see education as something that is not easily given in a land that is filled with people who need a deeper heart for their place in God's kingdom.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

everything is fine, just not for these cows

I was running the other day at Hillcrest when I ran past the old basketball court and saw all the maintenance workers literally chopping up about 5 cows for them to each take some home as a Christmas gift to their families.

If you can see if the first photo, the intestines and the "gut" are hanging out and in the second picture they are skinning it.... ugh.... I tell you what, it was gruesome to watch. BUT, I do know it was a treat for those families.

Our Christmas was great and we wanted to share with anyone who has emailed us or been praying for us that we are all okay within our ministry and within our ministry areas of focus. Things have quieted down and we are being wise in where we go. Our prayer is that this new year doesn't show itself to be anything but what the Lord wants and our response is nothing short of bringing Him glory.

Please enjoy your freedom, giving thanks to God and praying for believers all over the world who are acting in obedience, trusting God moment by moment. Have a blessed day.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas - A Son is Born!

I don't necessarily have anything Christmasy to say on this beautiful morning, except today I am grateful for my Nigerian family (the Back2Back family) that we can celebrate Christmas with and feel the intimacy we would even if we were "home."

The picture above is one of the gifts my kids opened up this morning. Do you remember the three monkeys "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil?" Well, we bought some african carvings of these and picked a bible verse to go with each child that suited their strengths and weaknesses. Sami was "Hear no evil," Gus was "See no evil," and Sarah was "Speak no evil" They are perfect for their personalities.

Above, are just some of the things we have been doing during this Christmas season. Enjoying friends and fellowship and a little pool time. I don't have a picture of our Christmas eve plans, but we had a euchre tournament and it was so fun to completely lose to our friends (we were the ultimate losers in our sweet game :)).

Again, nothing major to share except Merry Christmas and we pray your day is Blessed and you are reminded of Jesus who was born for man to live. Amen!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

good fellowship

A couple of nights ago, Rev. Batori and his family invited our whole ministry along with the SSE ministry for dinner. That is not necessarily an easy feat to cook for all of us white people.

The picture of our family is with their oldest son, Barnabus. He and John have become quite good friends as their conversations tend to find themselves not only around ministry, but also around relationships (he has a serious girlfriend) and their walks with Christ. We have learned to count him as one of our treasured friends here in Jos.

By the end of the evening we looked back and realized that this family outwardly loves each other in a way that we find familiar and fun. In our experience so far, nigerians don't tend to show affection in front of others. I am not saying that affection isn't found, just not in front of us. So, it was so refreshing to join with them for an evening of joking with one another and good food and just great fellowship all around.

We were grateful for the night and even more thankful for the opportunity to call these nigerians friends.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


gimper: ... a one man army, one who will lay down his life for a cause or for one

This is the new word I learned yesterday while in our staff meeting. Daniel (Pictured above, the one standing) used this term to describe Emmanuel (the one wearing the black t-shirt). He went on to say that Emmanuel is the one who will be the persecuted, to do what needs to be done for those who need to have it done to (in reference to the orphan child in the village).

This word struck me. It is a small word and at first glance can give the impression for a different definition (I first see the word gimp). So, I asked Daniel more about it. The more he shared with us as a staff the more I was drawn to the idea. Emmanuel is one (and I agree) who would put his own life on hold or on the line to help one who is an orphan in the Kissayhip village. He would "die" for one.

I don't know. I am guessing that I am struck by the idea of laying down your life for one. The importance of one. The importance of Emmanuel and each individual on our staff team. The importance of each orphan we serve, but most of all I am struck with the the most important gimper I know who came as a baby to do what the definition tells us he needed to do for each one of us, Jesus.

What an honor to be a gimper! Thanks Emmanuel for the example!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

the larger body

The other day we had our Christmas Party for the larger body of Back 2 Back Ministries here in Jos, Nigeria. The picture below is of all the workers who work with us personally, or with the buildings, or they work with the groups, etc... It is such a joy to see the Lord bring everyone together for His purposes and for His glory.

Who would have thought two years ago when we moved here that they Lord would grow us to this? It also brings me hope and excitement to see what the next two years holds for this ministry here.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

to swim or not to swim

Yesterday a few of us within the ministry and another family provided a Christmas swim day for some of the older children at OLA.

To be honest, our good friends, the Paynes, had supporters of theirs who gave them money to bless someone in Nigeria who they work with. Anyway, what a gift they gave these children.

It was a beautiful day, the only hiccup we had was that the water was freezing cold. I mean, frigid!! So, as they like to say here, "we tried". A few of us (yes, that means I did get in) did play in the pool while the rest of us just "looked" the part. As you see the
second picture, little Hope had the swimmies, goggles, swimsuit and the squirt gun all on and looked as if she played in the water all day; whereas, she got her feet and legs wet and just enjoyed the playground.

We had a nice beef and jollof rice catered lunch and in the end, our friends brought Christmas gifts for all the children. We were blessed to be a part of it, the kids were blessed with an outing that they had been wanting for such a long time and I pray that the family (who lives in Washington somewhere) who donated the funds, I pray the Lord blesses them as well.

The last photo is of the babies who could not join us. Gus, Cypress and Jordan enjoyed a few
moments of connection before we left with the others.I love these kids!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

a christmas day

Yesterday was a great day full of christmas thoughts. I want to start with the end of the day because Sami and Gus had their Christmas pageant for school. Gus, if any of you know him, is more of a quiet boy with humor that you have to catch, but if you do, he is very funny.

Well, he had a solo and some acting parts. However, Sami was very ill before the event so she and I stayed home (I cannot begin to tell you the sadness in her heart and eyes). BUT, I heard it was a great evening and I also heard that people were so surprised to see Gus standing up there singing his shepherd rap. At least John came home with a short video so I could see and hear him a bit in action.

He is the one on the left, just in case you couldn't tell. :)
And the photo below is of the elementary school pageant setting. Overall, a well done performance.

Now, the first event of the day was all the staff women getting together and baking 75 banana bread loaves to hand out to people in the community who have come alongside our ministry in some way, shape or form.

The first picture was all of us who bakes, however Theresa was taking the photo so she is not in it.

The day was fun. Emilee did a great job organizing the event with different stations partaking in different tasks. Everyone knew their role and played it out well. Of course I haven't eaten any of it, so here is hoping....

I think the overall thing I enjoyed most about yesterday was it was full of Christmas. Baking, fellowship, constant reminders of Jesus's birth by the
ideas of gifts and giving. Songs being sung (or rapped) that points to the Saviour.

I think handing out the banana bread was the topping of christmas. Being able to say hello to people that you might not take every moment to grab, and let them know that we are thankful for who they are in our lives and/or the lives of this ministry to the orphan child.

I pray as the season has started that you too can enjoy the people around you and take the moment to let the know what their friendship means.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

two entrances

a few random photos for you this morning.

Yesterday I had to go to this beautiful resort to reserve the swimming pool area for a field trip we are taking the OLA children to on Saturday (I am sure you will see pictures).

And as you are in the entrance area you are greeted by this huge elephant spouting water out of his trunk. It is pretty actually. You can see the resort hotel behind him. It still shocks me to see such extremes living right next door to each other.

The following photo is of the manger scene at OLA. It also greets you once you are in the entrance to their living quarters. Do you notice Jesus is not there yet? Cute, huh? So here you have two pictures of two entrances, symbolizing two different extremes. I guess we have always been faced with the two extremes, since the beginning of time.

Monday, December 13, 2010

little daniel corrie

Do you all remember little Daniel Corrie? And his mamma, Evelyn? They are very dear friends of ours. Yesterday I received a call communicating that Daniel was in the hospital, sick.

This is him and his mamma at Lawrock Hospital. It is a hospital right outside the gate to our neighborhood actually. It is small, but perfect for the "not so serious," but still in need of medical care. My mom, Theresa and I were going to pray and just encourage when I realized I had never been here before (at least the inside). It is the same in most medical facilities here, the idea that you bring in your own food. You share a room with whomever, and there is absolutely no privacy. What I find the most interesting is the idea that no one even wants their privacy. Hmmm.... maybe I have overrated privacy a little....

Either way, Daniel is doing better and I still want him to know that he has been named after me so I have to put in as much "face time" as possible. :)
He is cute, huh?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

eggs, my kitchen to yours

When our family first moved to mexico, I had to get used to the idea of not putting our eggs in the refrigerator. You don't need to and they can last even longer at room temperature. If you refrigerate them then they must stay refrigerated. See, I am learning and growing and maturing as a cook.

BUT, since living in Nigeria, I have had to get used to another step of having your own eggs. Take a look. Do you see anything unusual? or anything maybe more organic? Yes, it appears the eggs I buy here are straight from the chickens butt and into my crate and into my pantry. Let's take a closup of one of these delightful eggs. hmmm.....
John and I laugh because sometimes we bring eggs home still with feathers stuck to them. Interesting, huh? Well, needless to say, we have also become accustomed to these type of eggs as well. We now just rinse them off, right before we use them - not earlier, and then crack and go for it.

That is it today. Just a little bit of egg instruction from my kitchen to yours. :)

Friday, December 10, 2010

heavy life circumstances

I was sitting in chapel yesterday morning and I was hit with a deeper realization of where we live. Below is a picture of a woman who was orphaned by the age of 11. She shared her testimony as it came around that she is now caring for about 25 orphans (some of the boys are shown with her below).

For December, Hillcrest decided to have as many kids who wanted to participate in a shoebox gift giving service project. My kids joined in and gave what they had (which isn't much lately) or had saved up to buy what they could to help other kids who have no other way to "receive" at Christmas. I enjoy this for them, especially as they work alongside our ministry and see that the need is real and all around them.

Then as Mrs. Cikan (the woman above) started sharing her testimony which included suicide attempt and death and abandonment I started thinking about how this is common conversation pieces now for us as a family. Over the past week, Gus has come home with questions about one of the prayer requests at school involving rape. Sarah had come home with questions about what does it mean when one is "massacred"? Sami comes home all of the time with thoughts about death and why people die a lot...

These are not easy questions, nor would I know what the textbooks say about when you should talk to your kids about these types of things. All I do know is that my kids hear about it and then we talk about it and then they bring in all the information into who they are becoming. I am not even meaning to complain, it is just a realization that my family works through heavy life circumstances all of the time. I believe in the USA these same things happen as well, but it just isn't so readily and easily mentioned or brought to the fore front of daily living.

I know that God has us here right now, so as a family we will continue to move forward with these questions and answer them the best way we know how. But, I ask for you to please pray for us because I don't have all of the answers and I don't know what is "healthy" and what is not "healthy" for our kids and these questions. BUT, I do know that God knows all of the answers and He will guide us and He has a plan for our kids and somehow this season in their lives will be used for His glory and His good. AND, in the meanwhile my kids are serving and loving and giving. All of a sudden I feel okay with the tradeoff. Life isn't always easy, is it?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

squeezing in to see the bride and bridegroom

I think I have told you all before about the first wedding that John and I went to, here in Jos. John was the "second best man" and my parents were arriving on the same day... Well we had the privilege of going to the second one last weekend.

It was for a good friend of the ministry, Steven. He translates at our village church, and has helped us out, personally and ministry wise, for the last couple of years. He married a sweet girl from another village and it took place at our church, here in Kissayhip.

There were some similarities to both of the weddings, the one in "town" and the one in the village. Both exuded an amazing amount of energy, joy, laughter, smiles, and a late start which is becoming more and more common to my lifestyle here. BUT, one difference is because this wedding ceremony took place inside our little church building, people were literally right on top of each other. So many people squeezing in, so many in the wedding party, so many people listening outside the walls, all to get a look at the wedding couple. I liked it. Yes, it was hot. Yes, it was overwhelming. Yes, it was long enduring...

BUT, it was the anticipation to see them. The excitement that a new "One" was being formed from "Two". A bond that only God, Himself, can break, was beginning.

By the end of the ceremony, we had been there about three hours and it was time for us as a family to go home. We didn't even stay for the reception. BUT, again, I think is this what it was like during Jesus's time on Earth? Were weddings of this type of energy and excitement? Or were they more "tame" as americans have made them? I imagine people crowding in on whatever Jesus was doing to get a glimpse of the "ministry" being formed. Right before their eyes.

I think somehow I have lost touch of the squeezing in and just being able to see what was happening.... verses needing my own personal space and order. I don't know, but I do know that someday I will get to see a bigger picture of us, who are Jesus's bride. AND, I hope we are all squeezing in to see our bridegroom! Cannot wait!!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

best friends

Do you remember being this age and having a best friend?

I do. Her name was Debbie. Our friendship is still alive today, but I remember those days as some of the best of my life. I look at this picture of these two girls and I am shot back through time when life was just about the moment in front of you. You know what I mean? The moment of play, or pretend, or food, or dress-up, or private eye (with special invisible ink). Those were the days that if you were with your best friend, nothing else mattered, not the day before, the next day, the scary school moment or any other "less than perfect" emotion or circumstance.... all because you had one other person who believed alongside of you. One other person who would pretend with you, who would jump in if someone picked on you or who would play "kick the can" when no one else wanted to.

Gosh, I saw these two girls and that is where my mind went, but only for a moment. Then, my mind quickly matured and I started thinking about the responsibilities of the day, my three kids, what happened yesterday and the things I had not finished. I also started thinking about next day of traveling and what I had to get done before we left. Then, I went to the next week and wondering if anybody was going to go to the things you should be going to but John and I are choosing to take a vacation week while still being in Jos. Would that work? Would someone else do what you think you "should" be doing....? So much clutter, so much wasted space and emotion.

There must be a line somewhere, right? A line that says, "LIVE IN THE MOMENT, but it is okay to HOPE FOR THE TOMORROW." Is it always going to be the before and after and not the MOMENT?

I don't know the answer, obviously, but I do think that I want today to be exactly what the moment calls for. It also made me want to pray for my kids to all have a best friend. To pray for the orphans we work with and alongside, that each one of them today, will have a moment with a best friend that even if life is hard, they can slip away and enjoy a moment with someone that will help them live!

AND maybe I will teach my kids "kick the can" tonight in the dark while writing with my invisible pen..... or maybe not, who knows what the moment will call for.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

wheelchair accessible

In the USA there is talk of "is this wheelchair accesible?". For the most part here in Jos, there is no where that is wheelchair accessible. BUT, these capable bodies find a way around what is not easy to get around.

Here are just a couple of shots of different, creative ways that people have thought of to provide themselves with the means to do what needs to be done.

Pretty amazing, isn't it?

This last photo was of a girl coming out of the wedding we went to as well, in the village.

Friday, December 3, 2010

daily changes

Well, we went to OLA on Thursday afternoon and saw that Little Mary was gone. She had been adopted to a good home. We knew it was in the works, but it always catches me a bit off guard when one day they appear to be a part of your daily landscape and the next, they are removed and you are left with the feeling that you are different because of them.

Just because little Mary is gone, the babies are still very numerous here. Little Joseph has officially moved over to the orphanage side and is strong enough to not have to be in the hospital. Praise God for health, but prayer is needed as the babies are many and the hands are not.

Starting from the Left: Sarah is holding Ogeci, Gus is holding Lucky and Sami is holding Joseph. The other babies are inside still being bathed and clothed.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

a little getaway

A few weeks ago it was Pastor Appreciation day at our church, so we (my parents, my brother and us) paid for the pastor to stay at Miango Rest Home for a couple of days to just get away and rest, relax and be still. My mom and I took some time to take them there and get them settled. This is a picture of them right when we picked them up.

They look good, don't they? They were dressed so nice and were 100% ready to go when we got there. Which I find interesting since we live in a culture that is usually about 45 minutes behind the time.

As we got there, the village school was in session. Which really, was such a good thing to see; however, the teachers let the kids stop school to greet us at the door of our pastor's house. It was quite overwhelming, encouraging and discouraging at the same time. It was precious to see these tender children during their school day. It was also sad to see that they stopped school to say hello.... but our stay was maybe ten minutes, and then we stopped being an interruption and the day went us as usual (I think anyway).

It was nice seeing the pastor and his wife take a small vacation. Those are not common ideas, the idea of vacation, time off or rest, especially for those living in the village. But, they did it and I pray it did what it was supposed to do.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

tree lighting

Yesterday was our first time, as a family, going to a cultural function where there was fireworks. It is called the annual "tree lighting" ceremony. The local radio and tv station puts it on and they have two hours of a program (different bands, the gospel message being shared through Scripture or other artistic avenues, speakers, etc...). It felt to us like the 4th of July because of the warmer weather and the outdoors type of event.

The top photo is of the group of us that went. And the next one is the stage where all the performers did their thing. As I took these photos and the night became darker I had not realized the amount of people that actually came to this event. Before I knew it I stood up and looked behind me (well into the evening) and there were probably about 10,000 people who had joined in, way past the amount of chairs, and were piled on top of each other in the back. So many crowded around that for a moment, I was a a bit panicky.

The next photo is just at the beginning of the night (before it even started) people who had come early enough to claim the chairs. Which we apparently had gotten there at that time as well. I am so glad to. As the night was coming to the close and it was getting time to "light" the star for the tree and end with the firework show, people in the back started lighting their own fireworks and throwing them into the crowd. For a moment (about 45 minutes) there was a constant prayer going on in my head, just in case. I could tell that my kids were becoming a bit anxious as well due to the fact there would not have been a way to work though the crowd behind us to remove ourselves if we so chose.

All in all, that moment escaped us and the Lord provided a great firework show for our whole family to see. It really was beautiful with the band playing in the background. John and I had to chuckle at the culture of it because as much as we LOVED the closeness of the fireworks, we had a deeper understanding of the safety hazards that were taking place at the same time. But, our kids have never been to the USA fireworks (at least not that they remember) so it is not like they would know the difference. It just might be a shocker to see how far away people could be to the "show" and still see them..... but we will tackle that another day.

P.S. Oh I forgot to mention, before the Best act of the night, they introduced Sarah as having her 12th birthday and really made her feel special as she stood up and about 10,000 people waved to her and said happy birthday. She was then given a Santa's hat, some biscuits and a dedicated dance just for her. It really was super fun to experience with such a crowd.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

12 years old

Today is Sarah's birthday. Gosh, I tell you what, this "choose your own meal for your birthday" is killing me. I have finally gotten into a rhythm with coooking and then throwing in three birthdays within two weeks, along with Thanksgiving and I feel wiped out with cooking from scratch!! But, I am building my character, correct?

But, on a celebratory note, I love Sarah, our oldest. She wanted people from our ministry there, so most came and we had a great homemade noodle meal with some random gravy. We did take some time to put her in the "hot seat" as we all went around to share what we enjoy about her. It is so fun to see her traits come out, no matter what the age. She shares and desires for people to be included. Sarah is strong and courageous and independent in nature. She is a great daughter who takes cares of so much around here.

It reminds me again of where we live and how it impacts our children. All three of them take it in stride, but Sarah has a special grace about her that allows her beauty to come out when sometimes, life isn't as easy for other twelve year old girls. However, with living here, we also see that life isn't nearly as hard as it could be either.

Another birthday enjoyed and celebrated! She doesn't know it, but tonight we are going to a special "tree lighting" ceremony where hundreds of people come together and enjoy a band, watch some fireworks and then take in the moment of the official lighting of a huge Christmas tree in town. Our B2B staffer, Daniel, is one of the band members playing, and he is going to wish Sarah a special "Happy Birthday" moment in front of the hundreds. She will LOVE every MINUTE of IT!!

We will show you photos tomorrow (I hope)! Have a blessed day!