While I was in Nigeria, I couldn’t get into this blog to update it (something silly about setting a good password and then forgetting it). These are the collected updates that I originally posted to my Facebook account.
This was an email to Tracy that she posted on her Facebook page.
Update from Brian in Nigeria:
(the bracelets that he is referring to a couple times are a bagful of rainbow loom rubber band bracelets that Karen and I made for him to take and give to kids over there that he might meet.)
We had a good arrival yesterday. One of Anthony’s first students picked us up from the airport, and then he took us to supper. I had fried rice with beef and “red stew” (basically a VERY spicy spaghetti sauce). Breakfast this morning was eggs, French fries and toast that was good enough not to need butter.
The graduate, who said to call him Dan, went on to be a doctor and has a masters degree in public health also; he now works for USAID monitoring and reporting statistics on human trafficking and child exploitation so that the government can make better decisions about protecting children. Fascinating guy, about our age, with three girls (1, 6, and 7). You would’ve loved talking to him. His wife, Mary (didn’t meet her), works in banking but wants to do HR for an NGO someday. I’ll give him bracelets for his girls when we leave for the airport.
Did some journaling yesterday and will more today. Anthony and I had a good visit last night before bed. So far, everything seems very stable and safe. Although driving is as fluid as NYC’s not using lanes.
I love and miss you all very much and am looking forward to reuniting, but I am glad to be here for God and Nigeria. I am glad to be able to meet people like Dan and to help others understand more about their neighbors and by extension to learn more about our own human nature and The One Who made us this way and Who wants us to return to His plan for us. We are so blessed, and I am glad that God allows and enables us to use that for His purpose and people.
I’d better get ready to leave. We’re driving today to Jos, which Anthony said was named for Jesus Our Savior. I hope to send this before we hit the road, and I’ll try to update once we get to Jos.
Brian / Daddy
Well, we didn’t get to use any wifi before we left, so I am updating this whole we travel. It’s 6:30 pm here (12:30 pm for you) Sunday and already dark; travel has been uneventful but the road is very bumpy. The military has many checkpoints to discourage smuggling and bandits, so there are many brief stops, but all the soldiers have been very nice and friendly. We aren’t the ones whom they’re looking for. Their presence and relaxed demeanor make me feel safe.
There have also been many friendly children along the way, waving or selling things. One girl about ten or twelve reached out and touched my arm and giggled as we drove by. “Touched a toubab” kinda thing I figured. Another girl about Karen’s age and I made faces, but then she ran when I got my camera. I showed that group a picture of Karen and one of Billy; I wished I’d had her bracelets handy, but that bag was in the truck bed.
A crippled man reached out and asked for prayer, so I touched my palm to his as we passed and then prayed for him and the people here and the soldiers and kids especially. Lunch was very small, darker roasted peanuts, a Coke, lots of water, and an ear of fire-roasted corn (tough and dry, it had a bit of a popcorn texture, almost toward the cracked but unpopped kernels but not that far). I’m hoping to have something more substantial for supper, but will be content with whatever God provides.
We should be arriving soon in Jos. I hope the guest house will have wifi so that I can send this to you.
All my love to you guys and to God,
Brian / Daddy
I now have Internet access, albeit limited, so I’ll keep this brief.
Thank you to everyone praying for us while I’m here in Nigeria. It has been so good to visit these ministries and speak with people being helped by them, as well as hearing their hopes for their country. We are so blessed to live in peace and stability, where, as imperfect as our system is, we don’t need to worry about riots at political rallies or sectarian violence. Things have calmed here over the past year and a half, but the cost is visible everywhere in widows and orphans and checkpoints, and the violence continues in other states. We should work for our values and goals but must always remember to do so peacefully as fellow Americans, regardless of our different views. I am telling you from a country that has faltered in this that the cost is too high. Please reject the angry rhetoric that threatens (with deplorable comfort) to move toward new revolutions.
Nigerians are a very proud people. They are proud of their country and its blessings, and they hope for better things. They hope for better government, a stronger economy, more opportunities, and a fuller peace. They also hope for a better image around the world, and they grieve that the world news presents it only as a place of turmoil and violence. They hope their children will inherit and build a better Nigeria.
As I type this, I’m sitting on a patio looking out at a dusty, brown, dormant garden in a land of great hopes and rich potential, downloading the day’s photos and audio, watching missionaries from around the world relax at basketball after a day of ministry, and Gungor’s song “Beautiful Things” comes up on my random playlist:
“You make beautiful things.
You make beautiful things out of the dust.
You make beautiful things, you make beautiful things out of us ….
You make me new. You are making me new.”
And then the next song comes up: “Because of Your Love,” by Phil Wickham.
Wherever you are today, I hope that you will see beautiful things where you don’t expect them. Wherever you are today, I hope you feel loved, valued, beautiful, and blessed.
Today was the last of three days of anniversary events. Last day of going to the computer school or the ECWA (Evangelical Church Winning All, a west African denomination) headquarters and conference center. Two days of wrapping up, and then we start driving home soon.
Today was bittersweet. I had befriended a Nigerian photographer for ECWA, and I knew today would be the last time I’d see him this visit, which may mean ever on earth. He and I both knew it. He brought me a photograph he’d printed of us together the other day. I was glad that I had already prepared to give him something from my camera gear (that little white plastic diffuser for the on-camera flash) and a connect card (I found three in my bag, although I wish I’d brought more). He was very touched. We stuck close to each other through the day’s events (about 4 hours for the graduation) and often helped each other find better angles for our shots. I joked that my sound recorder had more hair than he did. He checked if I was okay when I was sitting for awhile because I didn’t need any more shots of the same speaker being again at the podium. We said a choked goodbye after everything, praying God’s blessings for each other and our families and his country. He said he hoped to see me again here but knows that we will see each other in Heaven someday. He has five kids and three grandkids; I gave him some of Karen’s bracelets.
I also got to see briefly some of the students whom I had interviewed yesterday. I couldn’t speak long with them but congratulated them on their graduation. One of them wrote me a long narrative of the problems he’s experienced in education here. Not a complaint. Not a veiled hint for money or gifts. He just told me his story, apologized for saying so much, and said he just hoped that telling it to a reporter might somehow help convince people to make it better.
The missionary overseeing the widows ministry will get my shirt tomorrow. I gave her the money for it and a pair of scissors for the woman who made my shirt. I’d noticed the other day that many of their scissors were dull, broken, or disjointed. I can get a new pair so much more easily, and they will be a true blessing to her. One of the other women in the program burned her arms badly the other night in a fire.
It’s so sad to meet good people here and know how much they suffer, how bad things are sometimes.