Jesus Thinks About Me

This is an article I wrote over a year ago, but never ‘published’.  The family information is outdated, but the message remains the same.  I’ve added a family update at the end.

The other night I caught myself thinking about my children….again. And I began to realize that my thoughts turn towards them multiple times a day – without me even realizing it.

Family

Trae, my oldest, is married to Christi – which blesses me with another child to think about. They are teaching English in South Korea and are expecting our first grandson in a matter of weeks. I’ve already spent lots of time ‘thinking’ about him!

Trae and Christi

Tanika is just finishing her junior year of college, studying special education.

Tobi lives with us in Niger and is almost done with 7th grade. He attends an international mission school in the town we live in.

I appreciate that I’ve seen where each of them are living life right now. It helps me when I’m missing them to picture them where they are.

As I lay in bed thinking about my offspring, I realized that I wasn’t really thinking about them, I was praying for them. And I do that often. And then I heard the Lord whisper to me,

“You think your thoughts turn towards your kids a lot? You have NO idea. You – you’re my kid. And you’re always on my mind.”

Then Psalm 139: 17,18 popped into my sleepy head.

How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with You.

And here I am thinking that I think about my kids a lot!

God’s thoughts towards me cannot be numbered. I live in a desert, so I can tell you from first hand experience, grains of sand cannot be counted! NOT possible.

Neal & Tobi in sand

As I see Tanika in her dorm room or standing in line at the salad bar, and I picture Trae and Christi leaving their cute (tiny) apartment to get on the bus that takes them to their job and the classroom they’ll be teaching in, or I see Tobi playing soccer with his friends, Jesus sees me. Me! He knows exactly where I’m living my life. The creator of the universe spends time thinking about me!

And more than that, He’s praying for me. Romans 8:34 tells us that not only did Jesus die for us and return to life, but he is sitting at God’s right hand….interceding for us! As a Scottish friend of mine says, ‘Have a think on that’! Jesus himself, praying for me!

Why do I think about and pray for my kids? Because I love them. Why does Jesus think about and pray for me? Because He loves me. And I love him – because He first loved me! I hope you’re following my logic here.

The Bible says, if you love me, you will keep my commandments. So that got me thinking (guess I’ve been doing lots of that recently) about how I could show Jesus my love. The answer is pretty straightforward.

By keeping His commandments. There are multiple scriptures that talk about this. Here are a few:

  1. Jn 14:15 If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.
  2. Jn 14:21 He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me
  3. 1 Jn 2:3 And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments
  4. 1 Jn 5:2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.
  5. 2 Jn 6 And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it.

But I particularly love I Jn 5:2 –…. His commandments are not burdensome. He wants us to succeed in obeying Him.

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He’s not expecting something impossible from us. One of the main reasons He wants us to keep those commandments is so He can bless us.

Now let me go one last step with my thinking. What are His commandments? Well, as a missionary the first thing I think of is the Great Commission.

Probably the most well known version of the Great Commission is Matthew 28:18-20

The Great Commission

…18And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19″Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

The Bible is full of examples of both God’s heart for the lost and His instruction to us to reach them.

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And His heart cry is clearly shown in the Gospels. In Matthew 23 Jesus is preaching to his disciples and to the crowds. He preached this message just a few days before he was crucified.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.”

Isn’t that how we feel when our children face danger, discouragement or difficulty? Or when we see them walking a destructive path? We want to protect them. To gather them to us and shelter them. It grieves us when we have the answer to their problem and they reject it. It can cause us to shed tears.

Do we shed tears over the lost?

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Jesus was weeping over the tragedy of the missed opportunity of salvation. Their answer was walking right there among them and instead of receiving him, they crucified him. This hurt his heart.

In Luke 19 He starts to weep as he approaches Jerusalem and says almost the same thing He said in Matthew 23.

Why was Jesus weeping? He was weeping because He is not willing that any should perish. The Bible clearly says this.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Pet 3:9

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He was thinking of me. He was thinking of you. And He expects us to think of, no, to reach the lost. He’s given that responsibility to us. He wants us to finish what He began. Honoring and loving Jesus by obeying His call to reach the nations is something He has equipped us to do.

Are you thinking about the unreached? Are you weeping for the lost? Are you reaching them? Are you rejoicing when they find salvation?

Danette & lady

If you love Jesus, you will obey his commandments.

FAMILY UPDATE:

Trae and Christi have our precious 1 year old Judah Neal Childs, and have just announced officially that #2 is on the way (major happy dance here).  They are living in Baton Rouge, LA and are working for Pastor Larry Stockstill and Bethany Church.

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We were hoping to take the little guy with us…

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Tanika has graduated from Oral Roberts University with her degree in Special Ed/Elementary Ed and will be going to Nigeria to teach school in Benin City Nigeria in August.

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Tobi is getting ready to start High School at Sahel Academy in Niamey, Niger – he’s an awesome kid.  Here he is with his nephew.

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Clearly, we are blessed.

India: Getting There.

Well, I did it. I went on my first official missions trip. Laugh if you must, but it’s true. I live on the mission field. I’ve hosted countless mission teams. But I’ve never been part of team myself. Until now.

I enjoy hosting people very much – particularly because I love that they are coming to Niger and leaving with a part of Niger in their hearts, and leaving a part of their hearts in Niger. I like helping to facilitate that process. But I must say, I also very much enjoyed being ‘hosted’. Showing up to a place to stay, wonderful meals prepared and ministry all set up for us to step into. In other words, the only thing I had to plan was what to put in my suitcase. Well of course there’s ministry preparation, but that’s a different category of preparation.

Ministry prep done, house organized and details regarding Tobi and his stay with Grandma and Grandpa were more or less done by Tuesday.  Mostly.  Wednesday was packing day.  Packing takes a good portion of my brain cells, and I’m pretty sure it kills a few in the process.  Packing is one of my least favorite things to do.  Probably because I’m no good at it.  Which is odd, considering how often I do it.  But every time I put that open suitcase on my bed I stare at it like it’s the first time I’ve seen a suitcase before and have no idea where to begin.  What makes it all the more annoying infuriating is that Neal throws his bag up on the bed and within 30 minutes – 45 tops – he’s ready to go.  So sparing all the gory details, I finally got packed.   Just in time to leave for the airport at 5am Thursday morning.  No – just kidding.  We actually had a pretty relaxing evening and a decent night sleep.  Tobi moved to Grandma and Grandpa’s that night before so he didn’t have to get up at 4:30.  Grandpa took us to the airport – yep, at 5am.  What a guy!

Niger is developing, but there aren’t very many airlines that fly into our humble international airport.  So though our flight to India was on Ethiopian Air, one must use one of their ‘partner’ airlines, Asky, to get out of Niger.  We flew on Asky when headed to Ethiopia earlier this year and I was pleasantly surprised overall.  The Asky office told us to be at the airport at 5:30am for our 8:15 flight.  The Childs family is very well known for its’ timeliness and today would be no exception.  We arrived at 5:20.  I guess no one else got the 5:30 memo because we were pretty much alone.  The door to the check-in counter/room was closed and it was dark.  Though not surprised I couldn’t help but think about the additional 30 minutes (or more) of sleep I could have had…

Some time later….

There was movement behind the closed door and lights started turning on.  Other travelers were arriving and had the nerve to walk to the front of the line — in front of where our bags had been sitting for the better part of an hour!  I seriously wanted to express to them that we had been sitting there for some time now and who did they think they were to march right to the front of the line without even passing Go?  Someone should acknowledge that we followed Asky’s rules, even if we were alone.  And I should add that we have known this airline to take off an hour or more before scheduled flight time, without telling the passengers…so better wait than sorry.

We got through check-in with no problems, making sure that even though we had several stops, our bags were checked through to Delhi.  We made our way through immigration, said goodbye to the police and went to the ‘gate’ to wait some more.

I pulled out the homemade breakfast burritos and we enjoyed those while waiting to board the plane.  We took off more or less on time, and here we are somewhere over Niger.  We were obviously not on a large plane – check out the propeller.

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We were fed an overload of carbohydrates for breakfast, on our way to Abuja, Nigeria.  The orange juice, tea and fruit were lovely.

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We landed first in Abuja, but didn’t have to leave the plane – it was kind of like a bus stop.  Here we are descending in Nigeria – though it’s our neighbor, what a contrast!

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A little bit mountainous.

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Landing in Abuja, Nigeria

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I honestly don’t remember the time on the ground so it must not have been very long.  Next stop was Lome, Togo.  There we would change planes to a ‘real’ airplane for the journey from the west of Africa all the way to the east.

Here we are on the plane to Lome.

IMG_2196The airplane food was endless with so many flights, and I was dreaming about my breakfast burritos…I do however always enjoy drinking tomato juice when I fly.  And they even served it with fresh lemon.

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Landing in Lome, Togo.  That’s our shadow!

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By the time we got our boarding passes and seats we didn’t have long to wait before boarding.  And before we knew it – we were landing in Addis.

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We had several hours in the Addis Airport so we cruised around some shops for a bit, but that’s cumbersome with carry-ons and computer bags.  So we found a restaurant to kill time in because once we went through security, there was no food or drink allowed, and no ‘facilities’.  While sitting there, we noticed there was pizza on the menu.  We remembered how we enjoyed the pizza when we spent 3 days in Addis back in March, so we figured we should get some, you know, for old times sake.  It was worth it.  And here’s Neal, looking all bright eyed and bushy tailed, in spite of an already long day.  And I have no idea what time of day this really is.

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What I do remember is that it was cold.  Check out Neal’s winter ware!

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I was seriously cold.  Cold enough that it didn’t matter how dorky I looked.  These are my travel socks.  I always keep them in my purse when I travel be it by road, air or sea.  And they came in handy.  

Everything blurs together, but I do remember the walk to the plane was a long one.  Several ramps. And  the plane – it was huge!  Called a Dreamliner I think.  And we got exit row bulkhead!!  That is also huge.  And no one else was sitting in the 3rd seat in our group of 3.  We were counting our blessings.  This was the longest of the 5 flights.  And yes I actually walked to the plane looking like this.  

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And again, more food.  We usually accepted it, but then didn’t really eat it.  I think this is chicken.  Enjoyed my tomato juice though!

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I think we got some sleep on this flight.  Getting ready to land in Delhi.

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We’re in India!

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We had to collect our bags, which both showed up – even though Neal is wondering…

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Immigration / Customs was a breeze and the officials were very friendly, welcoming us to their country and seemed sincerely happy that we were there.  It was a nice welcome and helped to revive me a bit.  I found myself smiling.  The journey had been pretty long to this point, and we still had an 8 hour wait until our next flight to Chandigarh.  Knowing what we know now, we probably would have just found a taxi and made the 5 hour road trip.

Things at this point were a bit confusing…We were feeling so excited to actually be in this country, but we didn’t know where to go.  We had to figure out how to leave the international section and get to the domestic section.  The airport was pretty secure, with guards/police at all the entrances.  We were hoping to be able to check our bags right away, so we didn’t have to sit with all our stuff for 8 hours.  We inquired and were told we had to go to such and such counter.  That counter was through a door that was being guarded.  The only hard copy evidence of our upcoming flight was a printout of all of our flights, and it didn’t have our names on it.  Without proper documentation, we weren’t getting in.  Babu shigowa – no entry.  We were told to go to such and such counter and get a print out of our ticket.  We explained that we had already tried such and such, but they wouldn’t let us in.  Because we didn’t have the right printout.  We finally found a way in, waited in line and were then told we had to pay 10 rupees for the printout.  We didn’t have 10 rupees.  We had plenty of dollars, but no rupees.  And to go change our dollars required us to go beyond the doors that we weren’t allowed because we didn’t have the printout.  Get the picture?  It was all quite confusing.  And probably even more so since little sleep had been had in the previous 30 or so hours.  The counter lady had mercy on us and gave us the printout for no dollars or rupees.

Printout in hand, we headed to domestic flights to hopefully check in.  When we got to such and such counter, they looked at the printout and smiled at us like we were overly excited about our flight and explained that this flight wasn’t until much later in the day.  I think it was just after 8am.  We smiled back and said we knew that, but we just arrived and were hoping to check our bags.  Counter lady  explained that there was an 11am flight to Chandigarh (ours was at 5pm) and she was concerned that they would be put on that flight so wisely advised us to wait until after that flight left.  She also explained that we were only allowed 15 kilos each.  We had more than that— forgot that international and domestic baggage allowances are not the same.

Waiting until after 11 gave us time to shuffle some things around in our bags, and add some heavier stuff to our carry-ons.  So in the end we only ended up paying about $20 for our excess bags.  They were quite gracious about it.  Could have (should have) been much higher.

Finally freed of our bags we could now wander around the terminal.  We found the food court!  KFC, McDonalds etc.  But none of that for us.  And keep in mind that beef is not eaten – so don’t be expecting two all beef patties. (But I think it’s debatable that McDonalds in beef-eating countries can claim ‘all beef’ patties either) We went straight for the Indian food.  And it was quite tasty.  Chicken biriyani, samosas, daal and some really tasty sauces.  Hit the spot!

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Now to go and find a place to clean up and wait for our last flight.  It was a pretty big terminal, and surprisingly sparse.

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Pretty nice place to wait.  I dozed, Neal read.

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But first, we took turns in the bathroom.  In Niger, the bathrooms in nicer homes or hotels all have boudets (it’s a French word that I have no idea how to spell)…kind of a cross between and sink and a toilet.  I’ve never used them – because to be honest, I don’t really know how.  Well the toilets I’ve seen here so far all have a spray hose/drain.  Again, something I probably wouldn’t use under normal circumstances.  But we haven’t had a shower in awhile, and that sprayer complete with water (it worked, I checked), looked like it had great potential.  Armed with my baby wipes and a hand towel, I took a mini-shower in the bathroom.  Washed my feet in the toilet.  No – not IN the toilet.  I held  my feet over the toilet, soaped them up with my travel shampoo and sprayed them off.  Nothing like clean feet!  I brushed my teeth and washed my face (no, not in the toilet!) and emerged feeling semi-clean and ready to complete our journey.

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Our 8 hour wait was finally up and we boarded the plane for our less than 1 hour flight.  Here we are landing in Chandigarh, India.  I know I’m not supposed to take pictures at airports with security around etc, but I got this one on my phone while I was walking away from he plane.   Managed to actually get a picture of our plane.  Interesting that our journey started and ended with a plane this size.
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It felt so good to be on the ground.  Our bags came last, but they came!

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We were being picked up by our host, Pastor James Chacko, whom we had only met via email/Facebook.  He was standing right outside the airport and graciously welcomed us and made us feel right at home.  Which is how we felt when we made the drive from the airport to his home. Driving in India may have the reputation of being crazy, but it really did make us feel at home. If you’ve been to Niger, you know what I’m talking about.

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It was Friday evening and we arrived at Pastor James and Usha’s beautiful apartment and were shown our room and got settled.  We enjoyed some Chai tea and got to know each other, and then Usha cooked for us.  Yep.  More food.  But this was by the far the best we had eaten, and it was only the beginning!

I’ve been wanting to write about this journey since arriving back in Niger almost 2 weeks ago, but today is literally the first day the internet has been good enough to do so.  Blogging with bad internet is quite tedious, but I’m determined to record the details of this amazing journey we had the privilege of making.

For now, I need to go make some Chai.

Missionary Journey to Nigeria Finale – Our trip home

Well, this is it.  What a journey it’s been.  Even though we do it all the time it always amazes me when we make a plan, then execute the plan, then go on to the next plan.   We are now home and ready to execute the next plan.  Well almost.  But that’s another story.  On a side note, we know that God orders our steps but we have to take those steps once we hear His direction.  Thus, we make and execute plans.

And now on to our 3 day journey back to Niger…

Just as we were getting ready to leave Benin City on Thursday morning we received a phone call from the Bible School asking if we could stop by on our way.  So with our vehicle loaded we headed back to the school.  We were met by some representatives of the student body expressing their love and appreciation for our coming and for Neal’s teaching.  They handed us an envelope explaining that they had taken an offering for us and wanted us to know how much they had received.  Wow!  We stood there grateful, blessed and shocked.  We know what it’s like to be a student.  After more hugs and goodbyes and promises to return, we had to hit the road.  What a sweet send off.

Leaving Benin City

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Not only are there creative business names – check out this bumper sticker.  It had to have been created by a Nigerian!

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Takes a long time to get through the city.

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A LONG time.

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I think this guy was feeling a bit overwhelmed by the thought of 3 days of this…

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Finally some open road.

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Love these plantations.

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Lots of ‘markets’ on the side of the road.  Would have loved to bring some of that stuff home!

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Lots of curves in these jungle roads.

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That’s one way to look at life… but not fun to be behind him!

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On and on we go.

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Entering another town.

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Thought this was funny.  “Progressive Remedial Class”.

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From Palm trees to traffic.

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Lots of traffic!

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Another interesting business – Islamic Store and Honey Depot.  Really?

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Lunch! The food here was good – well, the rice.  We weren’t as impressed with the chicken and the tables were literally covered in dirt.  Fortunately I travel with wet wipes.

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More markets.

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More trucks.

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More cracked up cars.

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MorIMG_1511e Jungle.

More city.

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We weren’t this packed.

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Some of the ba-zillion trucks we had to pass.

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Now this looked familiar to us.  These Fulani people were probably from Northern Nigeria, and maybe even Niger.

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The guys on motorcycles were traveling with their counterparts on donkeys.

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Cattle!

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This truck was at one of the places we stopped for fuel.  And I can testify that those are some of the best pineapple you’ll ever eat.

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Entering Abuja.  Our stopping place for the Night.  Abuja is Nigeria’s capital city.  The part we were in was quite modern.

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When we were here over 3 weeks ago, we had a taxi man direct us to our hotel.  We took his phone number.  We were able to find him again and he helped us get there again. Yes, it was the same place, and no – we couldn’t remember how to get there.  In fact we told our taxi man that we’d meet him where we did before, only to find out we had no idea where that was.  He found us.

We checked into our room.  It was 4:30.  The journey had taken us 7 1/2 hours.  We felt like visiting the city (at least the part we were in) more than we did when we arrived from Niger.  That’s a longer part of the trip.  Of course we only explored the parts we could walk to, and that before dark.  So that gave us about an hour.  As I said, this part of the city is very developed and modern.  If I didn’t know from where I had just come and where I was going, but had been airlifted and dropped right on this street, I might assume I was in some city in America.  Keep in mind that my perspective is Niger….  Anyway, we spotted a little place called “Chloe’s Cupcake Heaven”.  That looked intriguing.  But I also wanted to visit the grocery store I saw.  There we purchased a few packages of Oreo’s to give as gifts (and to eat- we needed food for the trip of course).  We made our way back to Cupcake Heaven and decided to have dessert before dinner.  Scandalous.   Neal and I both had ice cream – go figure, since we were in Cupcake Heaven.  But Tobi had his eye on a peanut butter cupcake.  Then he had his mouth on it.  He gave great reviews, and the ice cream was pretty delectable too.  I didn’t have my camera, but as always when I don’t, I wish I did.  So, no pictures of peanut butter cupcakes.  Oh – on a side note, while we were in the grocery store, I saw a young white lady.  I specify that she was white because it was the first white person we had seen that we didn’t know in almost 4 weeks.  It was remarkable and we quietly commented to each other – “Hey, look!  A white person!”  Then we saw a 2nd one getting cupcakes.  What a novelty that was.

We made our way back to our hotel, had dinner (more rice and spicy red stew), then made our way to our ultimate goal of sleeping.  While we were relaxing, Neal (who has better hearing than I), heard a sound in our air conditioner.  Not a big deal thinks I, who supposes it’s a lizard.  We like lizards.  They eat mosquitoes.  But he’s not convinced it’s a lizard.  Because he can see little ‘hands’ reaching up and grabbing pieces of wood from the frame around the AC.  Lizards don’t have hands.  Rats do.  Sort of.  Lizards we can do.  Rats, not so much.  We made a call to the front desk to explain our situation.  They said they’d be right up.  I think it was close to 11pm.  Right up they were with with I think was mosquito spray.  If it had been a lizard, he would have taken care of the mosquitoes.  They explained that the place had recently been fumigated.  Good to know.  They sprayed and we thanked them.  The scratching stopped.  We knew the critter wasn’t’ dead, but hoped that he had moved on to greener pastures.

My mind was going way too fast and the wave of exhaustion that wafted over me while eating ice cream in Cupcake Heaven was gone.  The internet at this hotel was so fast and I wanted to take advantage of it.  But I knew I needed to sleep.  After almost 2 hours of working really hard at getting to sleep, I finally got up.  I got some stuff done on our website of all things.  Until 3:30 am.  Then it took probably another hour to get to sleep after that.  At least I wasn’t driving…

Six o’clock came right on time, just as I had gotten into an amazingly restful sleep.    That ended quickly as we got up, repacked the car and tried to eat breakfast but discovered it was just too early to eat.  Taxi man was there waiting to lead us out of the maze we were in.

On our way were we with a beautiful sunrise and lovely view of Zuma Rock.

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This is as far as Taxi Man needed to go.  We stopped on the road to pay him.

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The rock is big.

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So we were able to see it for a long time.

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Quite a long time.

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It looks like there’s a face etched into the face of the rock.

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Here’s a closer look.  It’s upside down.  Tobi noticed it first.

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We weren’t done with trucks.

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Or open roads.
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Or tiredness.

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Or trafficIMG_1554.

Or cities.

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OrIMG_1561 markets.

This is the only picture I got but if you look closely on the right you’ll see a small sign that says ‘Yes Fuel’.   This is because there are loads of fuel stations on the road, but only a small percentage of them actually had fuel.  Thus the sign.

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Getting closeIMG_1565 to the Nigeria/Niger border.

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Thought this was a funny truck.  Grabbed a snap even though it was in line at the border.

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When we were traveling down from Maradi to Abuja on our first day it took us 11 1/2 hours.  We made much better time today and arrived in only 9 1/2 hours.  That thanks in part to the iPad that told us where we were going with a little blue dot.  It was extremely helpful.  We knew where we needed to be and that knowledge combined with the little blue dot and we could see which way to go.  We didn’t get lost once.  And though driving through Northern Nigeria can historically be a big hairy deal, we had no problems.  My Nigerian husband (don’t worry, I didn’t get married again in Nigeria, I’m talking about Neal) is a pro at talking with the police.  One of the police even said ‘You’re the white man that speaks Hausa’.  He remembered us.  So we had no issues at police check points, no one demanding puppies or road rule books.  (see previous posts).

We are not fearful by nature, but we do like to be wise.  And that means at the very least not driving into crowds.  We got to one small city and we could see from a distance that there was a crowd.  But there was no where else for us to go.  People were obviously dressed up and heading somewhere.  The further we drove, the bigger the crowd got.  Neal kept saying, “This isn’t good.  We shouldn’t be here.”  I pointed out that this appeared to be an organized demonstration/event as there were guys in uniforms directing traffic.  Sort of.  So in spite of the excitement and Arabic banners we counted on this being something peaceful.  Maybe a party of some sort….

We were traveling behind a transport vehicle that was packed full of people.  We were in a Toyota 4Runner, but this truck was much bigger than us so the people could look down into our vehicle.   I’m guessing we looked pretty conspicuous, being white and all.  They just stared at us as I resisted the urge to whip out my camera and begin snapping pictures of whatever this was.  Because I was smart enough to know that that is the very thing that could turn an intended peaceful event into something not so peaceful (aka: Riot)  The crowd grew larger and more colorful, and finally swelled at the entrance to a big mosque, which was obviously the final destination.  For them, not us.  We were able to quietly move along.  The whole procession I’m guessing was about 2 kilometers.

Other than that little bit of excitement, our trip to the border was uneventful.  And the border was pretty uneventful too.  They remembered us and asked if we liked their country which we of course responded in the positive.  And it was true!

Tobi and I stayed in the car and I snuck this picture while waiting.  They’re writing down all our passport info by hand.

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Entering Maradi.

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We spent the night with Jonathan and Dani, our friends and fellow missionaries in Maradi.  We had a great meal (chicken enchiladas) and a quick night of fellowship.  They got an earful about our trip, as they were really the first we talked to about the amazing adventure we had been on.  Sadly, I didn’t take any pictures there either.

Fortunately I was able to increase the hours of sleep, as did Neal, and we were on our way to Niamey (home) early the next morning.

Leaving Maradi.

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This is looking more like home.

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Such a stark contrast to where we’ve just come from.

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At least they’re working on the roads…

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Now that’s the Niger I know!

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8 1/2 hours later we arrived in Niamey.

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For now, there are more mosques than churches.  But we can see what can be in a West African country.  If God can do it in Nigeria, He can do it here!  And I believe he is calling the Nigerians to help.

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Downtown Niamey.

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The Niger River in the distance.

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Our gate is straight up ahead. Under the big tree.

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Home sweet home

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We’re thankful that God ordered our steps to Nigeria and back, and I know we’ll be processing all that He did for some time to come.  We so appreciate everyone who spent time praying for us.  Prayer works and we know that is why this trip was such a great success and something we’ll always remember with great joy.  And we believe that there were seeds that were planted that will produce fruit – fruit that remains.

Missionary Journey to Nigeria – Part 8 ‘Final Days’

My last post was about our last Sunday in Nigeria.  After that, we had 5 more days before beginning our journey back to Niger.  Here’s what those days looked like.

Neal continued his last week teaching missions at ANFCBII.

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This is the road he took every morning to get there.

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The entrance.  The Bible School is on the same campus as Benson Idahosa University (BIU)  We didn’t have a chance to be involved there as they were in exams, but we hope to next time.

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Bible School classrooms on the right, University at the back.

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into all the world…

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This is also part of the Bible School.  Mostly offices.  There is a large auditorium at the back.

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Neal in the office where he spent time between classes.

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This is one of the foundations of the school.

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The Hausa class.

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French class giving Neal a gift.  During the last class, one of the students was so moved he took off his watch and rushed up while he was teaching and put it on the pulpit as a gift.  Neal was so touched.

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The students were great and so grateful for all they received from Neal’s teaching.

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The French interpreter.  Yes, that’s sweat.

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The Hausa prefect.

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Neal was blessed to preach to all the students at once in one more chapel service the day before we left.

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You may or may not understand Neal, but you can understand the reaction of the students!

He’s talking about being in position.

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He even loosened his belt!

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See and hear for yourself.

This was kind of a cool effect.  I noticed a mirror in the back and could see the front of Neal whenever he walked by it – which he did a lot.  So I decided to see if I could get a picture of it.

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I can see him from the front and back at the same time!

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The students were so responsive and cheered when Neal started and finished.

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At the end of the chapel, the faculty, staff and students prayed a powerful prayer for us!

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Then we went out for lunch to what we’ve been told is the nicest restaurant in Benin City.

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Neal & I with Rev. & Mrs. Andrew Daniels.

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It was good and we were hungry!  Can’t imagine why since we’d been eating 3 squares a day…

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This is where we ate them.  Breakfast.

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We also took some time while here to tour the Church of God Mission (CGM) international offices.  Beautiful!

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Archbishop Benson Idahosa, who now resides in heaven.  God used him to change Nigeria, Africa and the world.

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His wife and partner is the presiding Archbishop and continues the legacy of this incredible ministry.  We are so thankful to be part of this family and so appreciative of how they have hosted us so graciously in their home – even in their absence.  Next time we hope to come when they’re around.

Archbishop Margaret Idahosa (Mama)

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Their son, Bishop Feb Idahosa, is the President of Benson Idahosa University.

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Tobi and I chatting in Mama’s office.  OK, this is posed.  But it could have looked real if one didn’t notice the snicker on Tobi’s face.

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The International Office is 4 stories high and has pretty cool architecture.

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This is Pastor Blessing.  He remembers Neal’s family.  He gave us our tour.

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This is IMG_1324some of the staff from the publication department.   Fun people!

From the top floor of the offices I was able to get some good pictures of the whole complex.   This is Faith Arena – the church.

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Yes He is!

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The Buildings at the back of the photo are just part of Faith Christian Schools.  Another arm of this ministry.

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View from another side.

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One of the busses and the generator house.  The electricity is off more than it’s on so a generator is pretty standard equipment.  We were thankful for that!

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Back on the home front….I mentioned that we changed rooms and would include photos of our new diggs.  Here they are.  Here it is.  It was very comfortable.

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From the other end…
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We had lots of space.  Which was so nice.  One thing that is challenging to me with all the travel we do is not having much space.  I’m not very neat and do better when everything can have a place.  This was wonderful for my organizational addiction.   It doesn’t look particularly neat right now, but that’s only because we were getting ready to pack…

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And of course there was a lovely bathroom!

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We also took a few trips to different markets.  As you know I live in Africa.  Niger to be specific.  So an outdoor market is not an unfamiliar thing to me.  But I discovered that being a foreigner in Nigeria is much different than being a foreigner in Niger.  In Niger there are so many NGO’s (non-profit organizations) that I am only one of probably hundreds of westerners here.  So seeing faces other than African in the market isn’t that remarkable – especially here in the capital city.  That combined with the personality of people here (friendly but passive) you will find the experiences in the two places are as different as hot season and cold season.  Now consider the bold, aggressive, take charge Nigerian.  He or she is confident that you want to buy what they have to sell.  You are a target because you stick out like a white crayon in a box of colored ones.   If you’re me, you probably look like you don’t know where you’re going.  Not a good look in a market.   Our group was 6 in number, 1 of us being officially Nigerian.  I was looking for cloth.  Lace to be exact.  Lots of people sell lace.  And every one of them has a better quality then the person next to them.  To the untrained eye they all look the same…beautiful.   So thankful Augusta was with us.  After looking, finding and purchasing some lace, the other members of our group were interested in looking at soccer jerseys.  After all, Nigeria had just won the African Cup – and we were there to see it!  The jerseys weren’t in that market, but across the street.  So our small band of white crayons started very conspiculously making our way.  However there was some lace that I saw that I didn’t buy and I kept thinking about it.  We continued to walk the other direction.  I knew I would be kicking myself if I didn’t go back and get that cloth so I informed the others of my plan.  Augusta graciously said ‘OK, lets all go back in’.  It was hot and very sweaty and our time was running short. I didn’t want to waste any of it.  I assured her that I’d be fine on my own and that she should continue on with the others to the next destination.  She showed me where it was (across several ‘lanes’ of traffic on the 2nd floor of a large 2-story building) and the plan was if I didn’t see them there that we’d meet at our car.  Off I head back into the market. I’m pretty directionally challenged so thankfully the place we had been was pretty close.  Down one alleyway past seller after seller, turn left, more sellers (all wanting me to buy and telling me so), take a right – yep, more sellers and more offers to ‘just look’, another left, and now to find the lace I remember seeing hanging somewhere on the left.  Or was it on the right?  Keep in mind my directional issues.  You must understand, there are 100’s, no, 1000’s  of pieces of cloth hanging in the stalls.  I spotted my lace!  In spite of being proud of myself I attempted to maintain a calm ‘not caring if I really get it or not’ demeanor so as not to cause the price to go up.  You’d be proud.  I was.  I almost walked away.  But I did get my cloth and I did manage to make my way out of the market without getting lost – even though I came out a different way than going in.  I ‘threw my face’ across the street (that’s Nigerian English for turned my head, or looked) to see if I could see a gaggle of tall white guys + Tobi.  Couldn’t be that hard to spot in the midst of so much bright color.  Not to be seen.  So rather than make my way across the sea of people and their goods, I decided I’d just head to the car – through a different sea of people and goods.  That’s when I started to feel, well, it’s hard to describe.  I wasn’t at all fearful.  But I felt so obvious.  Like everyone was staring at me – wondering what this white lady was doing by herself in their market.  And I’m pretty sure I wasn’t imagining it.  I was the focus of attention for many.  I’m sure there were many thoughts going through many heads as I’m seen making my way through the people and ropes and gutters to get back to our car.  It was so different than in Niger.  I don’t really think twice in the market there.  Sure I get approached by sellers there in hopes that I’ll buy something but it’s different.  In Niger, I’m a dime a dozen so to speak.  But in Nigeria, I think I (we) really were a novelty.   I then began to think about it.  It occurred to me that other than the few foreigners that were there working with Church of God Mission, I realized that I had not seen one single white face since we’d been there.   Not one.  Then I began thinking why that was.  And I came to the conclusion that Nigeria doesn’t need foreigners helping them.  They are more than capable of leading and developing their own nation.  That doesn’t mean that it’s always being done the right way, but it’s not for lack of ability or resources.  That goes hand in hand with my theory that all of Africa and probably the remaining unreached world could be reached if Nigerians made a decision to do it…

But, I was talking about the market.  Anyway, I literally stood out like a sore thumb as I waited by the car for the other foreigners to arrive.  People were pleasant enough, of course greeting – but with an edge of ‘whatever are you doing in our market?’  I tried to call Neal but of course his phone was in the car – where I was standing.  They finally arrived after I’d sweated a couple of buckets, soccer jerseys in hand.  And because of Neal’s expert driving we were able to drive out of the crowded market without incident.  Quite remarkable really.

I took these pictures as inconspicuously as I could with my phone while I was waiting.

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Unloading the bread truck.

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From that market we headed to the silver man – he had some pretty stuff.  One of the benefits of living in Africa – jewelry design.

Danette with silver guy

The day before we left, I made sure to get some pictures of new friends.  Tobi had a blast with these two – Osassu and Osagie.  They are 2 of Archbishop Margaret’s adopted children.  Fun guys!

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Osagie really was quite the ham.  I think they enjoyed hanging with Tobi too.

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This is an incomplete group of guests and staff at the house while we were there.

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These 2 guys are from Tulsa and were there when we arrived.  They were on a short term trip and were involved in various aspects of the ministry – churches, university, hospital.  Michael and David.  Again, Tobi had a great time with them as well.  Kind of like having 2 big brothers!

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This is Stephen.  He was invaluable to us and our ‘go-to’ guy for whatever we needed.  Such a sweet servant.

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We were blessed with a gift from the University – we love souvenir type stuff.

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Even though soccer was usually played on Saturday mornings, I think this impromptu game was for Tobi’s sake – since we would be leaving the next morning.

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The drive (aka running track) is around the permitter of this field / home.  I reached my goal of running 3 miles before we left.   This was my view and my final run.  Well, this and the soccer match.

Sunset while running

Didn’t take pictures of packing up.  It would be nice to be home but we were feeling a bit sad about leaving.  We’d had such an amazing time.  I guess that’s how it should be though.  Leaving on a high note – wishing there was more.  And we certainly didn’t want to wear out our welcome.  God had truly blessed us and we believe there will be fruit that remains from this journey.

The next and last post about our trip will be the journey home…which is where we are now.

Missionary Journey to Nigeria Part 7 – Sunday

So, Sunday.  Our 3rd and last Sunday in Nigeria.  At least for now.  The first 2 Sundays we were in churches here in Benin City – Miracle Center and Faith Arena.  We were able to get in touch with a long time friend Rev. Matthew Okpebholo who insisted that we come to his church in Uromi.  He’s the overseer of all of the churches in the Ishan area.  That would be Sunday #3.  We were more than happy to oblige!  We arrived there on Saturday to visit and if you read my past post, that day is very well documented.

Rev. Matthew is not only a pastor.  He is a Bishop – elect.  He is a business man.  And not just any business man.  A very hard working one.  It was  such a blessing to be around him.  He is an amazing testimony of God’s faithfulness.  This is a man that has proven God’s principles.  He has been faithful, is an extremely generous giver and practices what he preaches.  And God continues to bless him.  He has built a beautiful church, as you will see.  And this is the first church I’ve attended in Africa that has air conditioning.  I wasn’t sweating in church.  That is notable.

In addition to a beautiful church full of beautiful people, Rev. Matthew has built a beautiful home.  This is where we spent Saturday night.

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One of the sitting rooms.  Pictures of their 6 children on the right wall.

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Dining room.

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Another sitting room.

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I forgot to get pictures of our room, but it was equally lovely.  So in case anyone was still thinking we have been ‘suffering for the Gospel’ on our mission trip, think again.  We have been well taken care of wherever we’ve been.

After a great night, we were excited to get to church on Sunday morning.

On our way…(it was just down the road apiece)

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Archbishop Benson Idahosa Cathedral

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The church was dedicated in 2000 and has been growing ever since.  Tobi has developed an eye closing habit for pictures – maybe because he has to pose for so many!  He’s such a good sport about it.

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This is the lobby area.

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ItIMG_1141 enters into the church.

This is the children’s hall – it’s on the 2nd lIMG_1143evel.

Neal & I with Rev. Matthew – Tobi’s there too, and some other pastors.

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The choiIMG_1171r.

Neal is being introduced.  Rev. Matthew is talking about how we live in Niger – in the desert, where no one wants to go.  He is saying that Neal’s parents are still there working – and everyone cheered.

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So Neal got up and of course greeted them all in Pidgin which as always hits the people first with shock, then awe as they see this big white man sounding like a real Nigerian.

Neal is giving testimony of the honor he received in Emu the day before – about the traditional chief’s robe he was given.  He is saying how Daddy will want it, but he will tell him that he has to come back here for  himself and get his own.

The preaching begins…

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Such a fun crowd to speak to.

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Again, IMG_1186constant motion.

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The church is both big and beautiful.

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Beautiful architecture.

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Love the slope.

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Rev. Matthew was so excited about the message he stood up and helped Neal preach some of it!

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Praying for the people.

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I hope no one gets offended by this, but I thought it was a beautiful picture.  When Neal was done, Rev. Matthew came up and also wanted to pray for the people.  Neal’s message was about being mindful of the next generation.  So Rev. Matthew told of how he has noticed that sometimes when he prays for women, they hold their breasts.  They do this because whenever they receive prayer, they are also thinking of and wanting prayer for their children.  So he said, “As I’m praying for you, hold your breasts and pray for your children.”  Now I know how this would sound in an American Church, but it was so normal here.  No pretenses, no one twisting things into something they’re not.  Just a back to the basics way of having a point of contact for your children.   That’s what you see here.

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It was youth Sunday – which happens 1 Sunday a month.  So all the youth were called up to be prayed over.

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Here we are with Rev. & Mrs. Matthew Okpebholo.  They have 6 children and 8 grandchildren.

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After the service — the parking lot.

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There are 3 story buildings to the right and left of the church – being utilized for all different ministries in the church.

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This picture reminds of what Rev. Matthew said to me as we were chatting after the service  — Referring to Neal he said – “You have a great man.”  My reply?  “I know.”

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It was another fruitful day that brought us great joy.

Nigeria Missionary Journey – An Interruption.

I’m going to interrupt my chronological play by play of our journey (I have a big Sunday to write about) and write a bit about Nigeria and it’s people from my perspective.  Before I met Neal (a Nigerian in his own rite), I don’t ever remember meeting a Nigerian.  From that point on I was intrigued and then grew to love the Nigerian personality.  They are friendly, bold, generous, aggressive, fancy dressers, commanding, creative, natural born leaders, hospitable, ingenious and did I say generous?  I know that sounds like a stereotype, and it may be, but I don’t believe I’ve ever met a Nigerian that doesn’t have several if not all of these qualities.  And remember, I’m writing this from my perspective.

For the past 3 weeks I’ve been in Nigeria and have thoroughly enjoyed experiencing Nigerians in many different avenues.  First, the greetings.  I think most people are familiar with Africa and how important greetings are.  And I live in that culture so I understand that.  But when a Nigerian greets me they make eye contact and it feels like they really mean it.  And they don’t just say ‘hey’, or grunt.  They say ‘good morning’, ‘good afternoon’, or ‘good evening’, accordingly.   I’m even hearing Tobi greet like that now.  And they will greet you no matter what you or they are doing.  You may be passing them while they are talking on their cell phone.  But they will make a point to greet you anyway.  And another example — I’m out running in the compound we’re staying in.  Now I understand that when I’m running I don’t look good.  In fact I just look bad.  I get really red in the face and I sweat.  A lot.  I’m sure I look frightening and it might actually be more comfortable  to just ignore me.  But not here.  Everyone from the gardener to the drivers to the cooks to the pastors coming in and out will not only greet me, they’ll shout out things like “Well done!”  and “Congratulations!”   And I just smile and pant and attempt to wave as I slowly jog by.  And they seem seriously impressed.  Now I’ve run in the US and have passed other runners on the same sidewalk who act as if you aren’t even there.   We could learn something here…

Then there are what you might call retail settings.  Shopping.  When we arrived here we went to the local cell phone office to get SIM cards for our phones.  That was quite a process in and of itself.  It felt like we were applying for a job with the FBI.  But I took the opportunity to observe.  There are lots of protocols in place, but depending on how loud and demanding you are determines how much protocol you will be required to follow.  We walked into a large but packed semi-circle room lined all along the perimeter with desks and were greeted by a young lady occupying the first desk whose job it appeared was to direct people where to go.  We explained our purpose and were told to take a seat.  It was so funny to watch people come in, cut in line, but always greeting.  The squeaky wheel…  Lots of people had taken seats.  We made our way to the appropriate desk to register our SIM cards (fingerprinting required) and were told we’d have to be back there 2 hours later after our cards were activated.  OK.  We could do that.  (This was new to us.  In Niger you can buy your SIM card on the street, pop it into your phone and you’re good to go).  We returned later that afternoon to an equally packed room and were told to wait for help from the desk we had previously visited (fingerprint desk).  Neal decided to go to the welcome desk and explained – of course with a Nigerian accent – what we needed.  Welcome lady had more skills than saying good afternoon and between directing other customers to appropriate cues and desks, got him set up.  I then paid her a visit and watched while chuckling as she helped me all the while ‘handling’ the other customers.  Did I mention that Nigerians are demanding?  Umm, no.  I think I said commanding.  But let’s go ahead and add demanding.  What I realized is if you are not confident, you get nothing done.

Then there are the expressions.  We’ve gotten to know some of the people around here, and they us.  Some of them are just realizing that we’ve driven here from Niger.  To most of them, that’s unbelievable.  Why in heaven’s name would we do something like that?  Why don’t we fly?  Well the answer to that question is two – fold.  No, three-fold.  First, flights don’t fly direct from there to here.  You have to fly all over West Africa and it could take as many hours to get here.  Second, you wouldn’t get to see and do all that we’ve seen and done and wouldn’t have transportation when you get there.  Neal does not do well when he can’t get himself around.   And third, it’s not cheap.  And the fact is, our life has been a series of road trips.  Always.  I guess I could put together a book about all of our journeys.  So this is just another one of those.  Not a big deal to us.  But to the Nigerians here – it’s huge!  I’m not kidding when I say that we have been told we are heroes, we are unbelievable, we are amazing, we are extraordinary, and the latest comment – ‘you’re hot!’.  Isn’t that funny?  That’s encouraging to me though, in light of the 3 day journey home we have coming up this weekend.  When I’m tired of sitting, bumping and swerving/passing massive trucks, I’ll just remind myself that I’m a hot hero.

Oh, and one more.  Today we were talking with an educated woman.  She loved that we were loving Nigeria and was telling us about how she heard an advertisement that said that South Africa was the ‘light of Africa’.  But the thing that upset her the most was that the ad was written by Nigerians!  I loved the way she expressed herself.  She said “That just scandalized me!”  Isn’t that great?  And you’ve gotta love that loyalty.

Since my first visit to Nigeria I’ve been entertained by the creativeness of the names that are given to businesses.  But I never remember the names.  So this time I made it a point to write them down as I saw them.  The following is the list I’ve come up with.  I believe ‘creative’ was in my list of characteristics…

Peace Oil & Gas

Fingerlicking Restaurant

Unity Car Wash

God’s End Time Taxi (this one is extra funny to me)

God’s Time Fishing Co. (this one is for you Dad!)

Ever Jolly Restaurant

God is Good Motors

Aroma Fast Food

Victory Hospital

Relief Clinic and Maternity

Madam Good Hope Beer Parlor

Fate Medical Center (I can only assume here that they really mean ‘faith’, which in Nigerian English comes out ‘fate’)

Worldwide Undertakers Inc.

Blessed Frank Barbers

Goat Head Car Wash

Ambition Engineering School

Flash Restaurant and Bar

Blessed Ventures Tire Depot

God is Able Restaurant and Fast Food

Honesty Gas

Mommy is Good Restaurant and Bar

Luscious Hair Shop

Royal Cot Day Care

Tickle and Giggle Children’s Home

Addiction Salon

God’s Right Hand Ventures

Be Fine Barbing

We Speak Barbing

God’s Time Pharmacy

Daily Need Supermarket

Why Worry Food Center

Thy Will Hotel and Suites

God’s Divine Grace Furniture Works

So, though not complete, this is a sampling of things I’ve observed and personally experienced these past 3 weeks.  I’m aware that Nigeria has a reputation for scams and lots of other things that are less than attractive.  And I can’t really deny those things.  But I can say that I’m confident that there is more positive than negative.  Nigerians are a force and are a people that can make things happen.

Our mission here this month has been to teach missions.  I am fully convinced that if Nigeria wanted to do so, they could take the Gospel not only to the unreached in Africa, but to the rest of the world as well.  They just have to decide to do it.

Missionary Journey to Nigeria Part 6 – Today was incredible!!

We have had an incredible weekend.  It was so amazing that I will have to dedicate one post to Saturday and one post to Sunday.  I have included tons of pictures and even video – as pictures alone can’t tell the story.  We made plans to visit the town of Uromi and the village of Emu this weekend.  That’s the area Neal lived in when he first came to Nigeria – the bush.  We left at 9am for the 2 hour journey.  Can’t hate the drive with scenery like this!

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Uromi has 13 Church of God Mission (CGM) branch churches.  Amazing progress!  Here’ the first one we came across.

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Arriving in Uromi.

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Rev. Matthew Okbebholo is a long time family friend and the leader of all the churches in this region.  He visited us when we lived in Michigan and ministered in our church there.  He arranged for a couple of his pastors to take us around to visit Neal’s old stomping grounds.  We were first met by Rev. Godspower, who I remembered from our visit here in 1991.  Love to see that fruit!  He’s a regional pastor, is now married and has 2 children.

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While catching up with him, Rev. Asuelimen and his wife Christiane arrived to ‘escort’ us.  What a great surprise.  He was a teacher in the school Neal’s Dad taught in when they came to Nigeria in 1977.  That’s actually how they got into the country back then – with the government as a teacher.   Neal immediately remembered him.  He immediately reminded us that Neal’s Dad had married them.  He now has 5 children – from 14 – 25 years old.  Right after asking about Neal’s parents, he asked about his sisters, Sarah and Julie by name.

Our first stop was at the CGM church he is pastoring.

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Here’s the inside of the church.

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Next stop was to visit the old ‘temporary’ school.  It still carries that name for identification – since a new school was built.  This is where Neal’s Dad started as a Chemistry teacher.

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This was his classroom.  The door to the right is where Neal would work on his lessons while Dad was teaching.

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The very room Neal sat in as a 12 year old boy doing his school.

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The journey continues – deeper into the bush.

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This the ‘new’ school site.

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Can you imagine going to school with the jungle for a playground?

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Rev. Asuelimen giving us some history of how the school was burned down and is now being rebuilt.

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The journey continues… Neal was shocked at the development.  ‘Paved’ roads and electricity – neither of which were available in 1977.

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We press on to find Neal’s house…. Check out the solar street lights.

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There it is!

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The house Neal lived in 36 years ago.  In the middle of the jungle.

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Here Neal is explaining how the house seemed so much bigger when he was a kid.

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The family living there graciously let us look inside.

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One of Tobi’s ‘wonders’ was “How did Grama live here?”  Then he said, “Well, she was younger then.”

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Neal pointing out where his room was.  Though there was no electricity, they had a generator that ran from 6 – 10 every night.  Tobi’s question for Dad was, “Didn’t you get hot sleeping without even a fan?”  My our kids are spoiled!  =)

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Here Tobi and Neal are talking about the house.

Just before we left there was a rousing chorus of one of the songs Neal learned when he lived here.  I knew it too because he’s been singing it for years.

Now the drive to the river where Neal used to walk or ride  his bike.

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Here the road is being widened.  A lot.

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You can see the bridge/river in the distance.

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Closer

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Neal showing Tobi the road they used to use.  It’s pretty rough – and looks so small in the midst of such dense jungle.

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The small road is off to the left.

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The last picture we have on this bridge is of Neal  holding a 10 week old Trae and  a village of children walking with us.  The picture is poster sized and hanging in our dining room – it’s a classic.  A few years have passed since then…

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River in the background.  I’m just seeing how tall Tobi is – and I’m wearing heels.

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The river is always a source of life – and as I thought about it represents eternal life.  After all these years the same river is still flowing.  No wonder Jesus used rivers as examples.

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Bamboo is everywhere.  And so useful.  We’re sitting on a bamboo bench.

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On the road again — on a search to find the homes of Neal’s childhood friends.

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Here Neal is expressing how amazed he is by the deepness of this ravine.

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It really was deep.  Guessing 100 feet?  Photo can’t do it justice.

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Here’s the ‘bridge’ to cross it.

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Heading further into the village.

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While walking a woman saw us and ran up shouting Neeya!  Neeya!  She was so excited to see Neal and asked about his mom and dad and sisters by name.

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In fact check it out on video!

Here we’re visiting the home of Neal’s friends.  They weren’t there, but their dad was still there and of course remembered Neal.

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Here’s IMG_0992Neal and his friend’s Dad.

When we were leaving, Neal was noticing a type of tree that we have in Niger – but SO much bigger.

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The generosity of Nigerians is seen again when before we left this home they cut down 2 big banana stalks for us to take home.  They are yummy!

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Tobi looks like he’s about to take on these bananas…or maybe use them for a weapon!

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Moving on, bananas in tow.

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The jungle makes me feel so small!  I so enjoyed walking through this village and visiting with such vibrant people.  I really love being around Nigerians, but the people in the villages  – well, they’re just real.  Hard to explain except you experience it for yourself.

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Along the way I ‘found’ this beautiful baby – check out those eyes!

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Another Mom of one of Neal’s friends.

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She was so sweet!

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She was lovin’ her some Tobi!

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See for yourself.

At end you can hear this man say ‘na dis be you piking?’ when he points to Tobi.  He’s asking ‘is this your son?’  Neal replies – ‘Yes, this is my 3rd child’, and you hear everyone say ‘ahhhhhh’.

Rev. Asuelimen told us at the beginning of our adventure that we would end up at the Emu church that Neal attended – the church where Neal’s Dad married he and his wife Christiane – the couple that now has 5 nearly grown children.  Here’s the signboard for the church.

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I vaguely remember him saying something about fellowshipping with some people there but had forgotten that when we finally drove up to the church.  It was about 2:30pm.  I thought we were going to see the church and take some pictures of them in front of the church they were married in.

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So imagine my surprise when we heard singing.

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And then saw all these people emerging from the church, all smiles.  It took me a second or two to realize they were singing to welcome us.  Wow!

Beautiful music.

We walked into the filled church – many  had been waiting since morning for our arrival.  It was quite a humbling experience as they ushered us to the front shaking our hands and hugging us.  Pastor Asueliman then explained that they wanted to have a fellowship as the people wanted to honor us.  Some had been there when Neal was a boy and remembered Neal and his family. Which got me thinking.  At first I began to wonder how they could remember Neal, since he’s obviously changed just a tad since he was 12.  But then I thought – how could they not remember?  I suspect there has been no other white family living in that village before or since they were there.  They made an impact.  The family of Ron & Jerry Childs has made an imprint in that village that will never be forgotten.  Their testimony continues.  And it was so incredible to see especially in light of the word Neal has been preaching in the churches here – being ‘Next Generation Minded’.  What a picture of that they are.  As I’ve said before, everywhere we go Neal’s parents are mentioned.  And people don’t just ask how they are.  They tell us specific things that they did or taught them that they still remember or live by today.  Now that’s fruit that remains!

I just happen to have a few pictures of ‘the old days’ – of the seeds being sown.

Check out this family picture – right here in Emu!

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And a picture of the church.  Some of these people were probably with us today.

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Ron & Jerry Childs (Dad & Mom)

Ron & Jerry

Dad in his office.

Ron in his office

Mom in her office.

Jerry in her office

Mom preaching.

Jerry preaches

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Graduation ANFCBI

Rev. Andrew Daniels (current director of the Bible School), Archbishop Benson Idahosa, Rev. Ron Childs (former director of the Bible School).

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Baby dedication in Faith Arena.

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Dad in front of Faith Arena with Archbishop Idahosa.

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In the bottom picture the man on the right of Dad  is Rev. Omobude, whom we visited last week.  Here he is on Neal’s left.                                                                             IMG_0869

Omobude, Idahosa, Coker

Praise in Lagos conference

Ron & Jerry in BC

What a legacy!

 

 

 

 

To Dad’s left are Archishop Idahosa and Rev. Coker, both who were at our wedding in 1989.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now. Back to today…

First they asked Neal to preach.  Which he happily did.

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When he finished, the three of us sang a song for them in Hausa.

Then they explained that they had a gift, a very small gift that they wanted to give, to help us remember them.  Here they are opening it in front of Neal.

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This was no small gift!  It was the traditional wear of a chief – a beautiful woven blanket.  And I mean beautiful!  They draped it on Neal (it’s traditionally worn without a shirt under it), but we opted to be a bit untraditional and leave his clothes on.  They said he was their honorary chief and that he had to come back.

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What an honor!!!

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Here is Neal’s response.

As if that wasn’t enough, the children had also prepared a traditional dance for us.

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Here’s a quick clip so you can see for yourself.

They asked us to pray for them, which we did with great joy.

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It was such an incredible and unexpected time.  I noticed my cheeks were sore. For a quick second I wondered why, then I realized it was because I hadn’t stopped smiling.

After the prayer time there was a major photo shoot outside.  The pastor even brought a photographer!  He used my camera to take some pictures too.

First was with the Pastors.

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Then the children.

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Then the youth.

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Then the women.

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Then the men.

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These men wanted to be sure we got a picture of them because they knew Mom and Dad would remember them.

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This is Rev. Asueliman and his wife Christiane, the Pastor and school principal who was married in this church by dad.

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This is Pastor Paul and Margaret, the current pastors of this church and organizers of this amazing program.  SO sweet.

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This lady is the same age as Neal’s sister, Sarah, and remembers playing with her.

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This is her adorable baby, Francis.

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Then there was Tobi.  He was somewhat of a celebrity.  And it’s hard to say what he thought about it, but all the girls wanted pictures with him.

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All of them.

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Especially this one…

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It was time to leave and many goodbyes and God Bless You’s were said, with promises to return.  On our way Asueliman took us by the house he grew up in.  It really has a cool colonial feel.

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It was time to return to Uromi to prepare for Sunday morning.

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One thing I haven’t mentioned is how humid it is for us.  Coming from dry season in the desert we were constantly dripping.  But it was a good drip.  However we were thankful that Asueliman stopped for some refreshments on our way back – he insisted we get some drinks. I was just going to share something with Tobi or Neal but he shoved a carton of juice into my hand.  I must say, warm and all, it was incredible!   Nothing like rehydrating after a hike through the jungle.

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It was such a pleasure to spend the afternoon with a new friend.

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We arrived back to Uromi before dinner time.

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Check out our diggs!

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More on that next time…

Missionary Journey to Nigeria Part 5 – More ‘What’.

Our time here continues to be amazing.  On our 2nd Sunday here Neal was invited to preach in Faith Arena.  What an incredible privilege that was.  Yet another dream come true.  And if anyone thinks church isn’t fun – think again.

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The choir was amazing – and also fun for Neal to see as he used to be a member of that very choir.  Even saw some of his choir friends – still singing.  The choir is on the right.

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Neal began by greeting the people in Pidgin English.  The people came unglued – to see this big white guy speaking like that…

For those who would like to hear a white guy speaking Pidgin…here’s a video.  It’s about 1 minute long.  He starts out by saying “I just dey happy for my belly oh.” He’s greeting people in the choir, talking about how he’s grown (I now get body), and at the end says “I got married I get wife now oh.”  That’s me. =)

One thing I noticed while taking pictures of Neal preaching is that he’s always in motion.  Hard to get a clear shot!  Here’s a few.

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Video screens and lots of fans.

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Tobi seriously enjoying the service.

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We were so impressed with the service and how so many people were involved it.  From announcements to worship everything flowed.  And after the service, so many greetings.

This is Brother Henry.  He was the choir leader when Neal was in the choir.

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This is Abies Garuba, a good friend of Neal’s Mom.  She was so happy to see Neal.

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Rev. Okhuoya and Rev. Akioya.  What a joy!

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More friends.  Everyone wanting pictures!

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Everyone was asking about Neal’s parents – Ron & Jerry Childs.  They left a mark that could be seen and heard.  And so many commented on how much Tobi was like his Grandpa.

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This lady we remember from the last time we were here and she came to greet us.

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It was a great, memorable and fruitful Sunday.  We’re continually amazed and God’s favor and blessing on us.

It wasn’t all about being in church and bible school though.  We had some time around the house getting to know some the other guests and the staff here.   Here Neal is chatting with Haruna – one of the staff members at the house.  He’s from the North and speaks Hausa, so that was fun.

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Each Saturday Tobi played soccer with his new bro’s Osasu and Osagie and some of the other guys around the house.

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Tobi and Osasu

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Tobi and Osagie

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We’ve also had opportunity to visit friends.  This man, Rev. Dr. Omobude is a long time family friend and now President of PFN – the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria.

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Such a gracious man and even though he was obviously very busy,  had an office packed with people waiting to see him and was traveling to the U.S. the following day, he made time to visit with us.  Years ago Neal was assigned to his church and did some of his first preaching there.

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Before we left he gave us this incredible gift basket.  Again – blessed!

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Another blessing was rain.  Beautiful rain.  Something we haven’t seen in months.  In case you’ve forgotten, we live in the desert.  So when we heard thunder, then the smell of rain, we of course stopped everything and ran outside to see it.  And feel it.  Gotta say I’m loving the tropics!  This was our Valentines Day.

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We’re feeling pretty blessed!

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Next entry will be about our amazing weekend to the ‘bush’.

Missionary Journey to Nigeria Part 4 — the ‘What’

For quite some time now Neal has had a desire to spend some time in Nigeria – his home – and be a part of what is happening in Church of God Mission International, (CGMI) the ministry founded by the late Archbishop Benson Idahosa.

English: Papa's headshot
English: Papa’s headshot (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Neal and his family moved to Nigeria in 1977 and were part of this  ministry for many years.  He’s always dreamed of preaching in Miracle Center and Faith Arena – the two churches he attended.   He also has had a passion to teach in the Bible School that his Dad was the principal  and director of for many years.  That dream has now become reality.

Tobi has been wanting to visit Nigeria for years.  Hard to believe but he’s never been.  He’s having a blast…

As for me, It’s been good to spend some extended time in my husband’s homeland.  The first time I met him we were at Oral Roberts University more than 24 years ago.  He struck me as a bush boy.  One could easily make that assumption when a tall, skinny white guy is heard speaking a language that has some English words in it, but doesn’t sound like English at all.  And when that same skinny guy is oohing and ahhhing over the sheer size of what was downtown Tulsa in 1989 as if it were New York City. That bush boy intrigued me.  I have been to Nigeria before and I have since learned many things about the people and things that have influenced Neal and made him the amazing person he is today.   But it’s been fun to spend some extended time here and to see him fit right back into this niche – even as an adult.

We have felt the Lord leading us to do more teaching on missions and church planting – and recently he’s been opening some doors for us.  This has been a great place to begin!

We arrived on Thursday, January 31st and got settled in.  Friday morning we did things like get SIM cards for our phones, get internet working, and get Neal’s teaching / preaching schedule nailed down.

Miracle Center is the church that Neal attended the most when he lived here.  He also lived on this compound.  The church is the building on the right.

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Here he’s showing Tobi where he lived.  The 2nd floor apartment.

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Neal was invited to preach at Miracle Center on our first Sunday.  So fun!

Here’s the choir.  They were great!

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And the congregation.  They were great too.

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Neal doing one of the things he loves doing most – preaching!

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Great message.  Great response.

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Lot’s of greeting after the service.  This is Bishop Imafidan.  He was the Principal of the secondary school that Neal’s Dad taught in when they first arrived in Nigeria in 1977.

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Bishop Imafidan is explaining to Tobi that he is the one that took his dad to the bush when they first arrived in Nigeria.  So sweet.

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Here’s Tobi and I after the service.

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Next on the schedule was the Bible School.  Neal is privileged to teach in several classes while here.  He’s teaching in the English class of course using English, the Hausa class using Hausa, the French class using an interpreter, and he’s also teaching  in the evening school and the degree class.  Those are in English.  He’s teaching missions/church planting to them all.  Tobi and I went with Neal on one of the days to meet and greet the students.  Here Tobi is greeting the Hausa class – in Hausa of course!

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My prayer has been that our time here would not be just about bringing inspiration, but that true revelation about God’s heart for the unreached would take root and produce fruit.

Neal in the Hausa class.

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We LOVED the chapel service.  Here the choir is singing.

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This is the song the choir sang.  No, those aren’t typos.  This is Pidgin English.  Love it!

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Wish everyone could experience this worship.

We showed our 5 minute video and the students really seemed to enjoy it – but their favorite parts were definitely those of Tobi dancing.  Here I am introducing the video.

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More of Neal preaching – Passion for His Purpose.    An amazing building to preach in.

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The section in front is the French section.  On the other side is the Hausa section.  They are getting interpretation.
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Neal asked for those who were ready to GO – to be passionate for His purposes- to come forward.

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God was speaking to hearts and we were rejoicing!

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This is Rev. Andrew Daniels who is the current director of All Nations For Christ Bible Institute International (ANFCBII).  Here he is praying for the students.

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With Rev. Andrew and Jenny Daniels.  They’re from the U.K. and came to Nigeria around the same time as Neal and his family.

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After chapel we joined the Daniel’s at their house for lunch.

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They’ve been in this same apartment for 30+ years.  Neal’s family lived above them and the layout is exactly the same.  This was Neal’s room – a floor below.

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That same evening, Tobi and I went to the evening class with Neal and greeted the students there too.  They love it when Neal speaks Pidgin English!

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The evening class takes place in the original building at the Miracle Center Compound.  The building above where chapel is held is in another location on the Benson Idahosa University compound.   That’s also where the English class (the largest class with several hundred students) is taught.

More evening class…

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Students concentrating.

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What a day it’s been.

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I’m going to end for now but before I do, I want to say a few words about the impact this ministry and bible school has had across Africa and literally around the world.  Neal’s parents, Ron & Jerry Childs, were an integral part of the Bible School here.  Anywhere you go in West Africa you will find ANFCBII graduates.  And dare I say you will likely find  All Nations graduates and ministry leaders from all of Africa and many other parts of the world.  And if you find grads of this school and you mention Rev. Ron Childs (said very fast), you will likely hear – ‘he was my principal in Bible school’.  The other day we met a pastor that was here visiting from Lagos, Nigeria.  When he found out who we were, he began telling us some specific things he learned from ‘Rev. Ron Childs’ that he uses in his ministry and marriage today.  Generation to Generation.

These pictures are up in the lobby of Faith Arena, showing the history of the ministry.  You can see Neal’s Dad in the middle of the bottom photo, standing to the left of Archbishop Idahosa.  Tobi was pretty proud.

Tobi with old photo

Here Neal is pointing to himself in this ancient picture – he wasn’t much older than Tobi is now.  His Mom and sister are in the picture too.

Neal with old photo

Next post will be more about our experiences while here.

Missionary Journey to Nigeria Part 3 — The ‘Where’

Ok.  So I haven’t blogged as much as I expected to.  BUT I have gotten lots of other things done.  Namely completing the children and youth ministry curriculum I had been writing.  Done.  Checked off the list.  That’s big.

Our time here in Benin City has been quite amazing.  We’re really having a lot of fun.  And lest anyone think we are ‘suffering for the Gospel’ on this here mission trip, let me set you straight.  First of all, we are receiving royal treatment by our hosts Archbishop Margaret Idahosa and Bishop Feb & Rev. Laurie Idahosa.  And they’re not even here!  They have an incredible staff here running things.  We are blessed!

This is the building we’re staying in.

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Here Neal and Tobi are discussing on our front porch…not sure what about.

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This is our first room – which is lovely.  But our hosts decided it wasn’t big enough for us so they relocated us to an even nicer room.  I don’t have pictures of the new place yet, but I will take some.

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Tobi has his own quarters next to us… He’s busy ‘doing’ school at the moment.

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This is the lobby of our ‘house’.  Our first room is the one on the left.  Tobi next to us.  We are now occupying the 3rd door .  There are 3 more rooms next to us.
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We are eating 3 meals every day.  And the only thing that I do with regard to those meals is nothing.  That’s right.  Nothing.  Not only do I not have to plan them, I have nothing to do with their preparation.  All I do is walk about 100 yards when the proverbial bell is rung.  We have been eating some wonderful African food.  Love it all.  There is nothing that we’ve eaten that we haven’t loved.  Seriously.  And clean up?  We get up from the table and say thank you.  We don’t even clear our own plates!  Tobi is generally a pretty grateful kid, but I’ve taken it upon myself to remind him of what a blessing this all is – and how easy it would be to begin taking it for granted.  He agreed on all counts.  It won’t be until we arrive home that we’ll see if he’s been spoiled.  When we finish a meal will he just walk away from the table?   For that matter – will I remember to prepare the meal?  Jury’s out on that….

Neal and Tobi enjoying ebba.

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Fingers are the preferred utensils for this meal…

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Now lets go for a walk around this beautiful compound, shall we?

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The main house.

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It really is beautiful.

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From a distance.

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Neal hangin’ with Jesus.

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Just thought this was a cute picture of Tobi.

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Nativity

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Tobi with Moses maybe?

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Now that’s a palm tree!

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Really big tree.  Gotta LOVE the tropics.

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Still on the compound.  It has it’s own mini-jungle.

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Did you know that’s how pineapple grows?

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Small…

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Medium…

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Large… Watch out Dole!

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Banana!

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Mango – not ready yet.

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Lemon – I think…

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Small papaya tree.

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Big papaya tree.  I think Neal is shaking it down. Or maybe holding it up.

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Not sure.

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Another not sure.  But it’s pretty amazing.

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As you can see, this is a very beautiful and very large compound.  An added bonus is that I have been able to run here.  Let me ramble a bit about that.  I’m not exactly sure what qualifies one as a runner.  But I pretty sure I’m not one.  However I have developed a kind of love / hate relationship with running.   I should also be clear though that I don’t really ‘run’.  I jog.  Slowly.  In Niger running is a very hot, dry and dirty undertaking.  And finding a place to comfortably run in clothes that are acceptable and comfortable at the same time…lets just say it’s a challenge.  So imagine my surprise when our first morning here I saw one of the staff walking around the driveway.  In runner’s attire.  I brought my workout DVD, assuming there wouldn’t really be a suitable place for running.  I asked around and found that yes, running here would be totally appropriate.  So that evening – off I went.  If I haven’t been clear – I don’t love running.  However – this run was heavenly!  I was still panting and sweaty. The humidity is unbelievable.   But I wasn’t full of red dirt.  The ‘track’ is the paved driveway around the main house.  I’ve been told it’s 1/4 mile in length.  Based on what I know my pace to be, I’m hoping that it is a bit longer than that.  But nevermind.  It’s a lovely pace to run.  As of today I’ve worked up to 10 laps. Then I walk 5.   Tobi runs with me every morning before he starts his school and is up to 6 laps.  Neal has of course asked Tobi why he is letting his mother outrun him…  But really,  what more can I ask for?  A paved and shaded running track, ‘O Happy Day’ pumping into my ears, mini-squirrels running around,  beautiful landscaping and the smell of beautiful flowers at every turn.  No wonder I couldn’t stop at 9 laps today!

Here’s our ‘track’.  This is a staged picture, but you get the idea.

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The sun was setting as we finished our walk around the compound.  You can see it in the distance.

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Here it is up close and personal.

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Next up will be WHAT we are doing.

But if you haven’t figured it out yet, we’re having FUN!

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