Thursday, April 22, 2010

Char's favorite fruit and vegetable stand

Sorry to have been so long without a blog entry.

The rains are returning, a welcome relief from the months of dryness and the days and nights of sweltering heat that builds prior to the arrival of the rainy season. The fields are usually full of farmers at this time, out working together to prepare for planting as the rains begin. It is a truly beautiful sight to wonder at as huge expanses take on the texture of orderly rows of freshly mounded earth, all done by hand, weaving around jumbles of boulders and lone trees left for a bit of shelter.

But this year the ongoing tension and violence in the area have many afraid to leave the security of the villages. In January another major crisis hit Jos and surrounding villages, soon followed by another major episode of violence in a nearby village. There have been ongoing flares of violence continuing through to the present, with victims frequently brought to the hospital and the villages near where we work feeling very much at risk.

As members of a peace church it feels like there is something we should be able to say or do to help respond to what is happening. In the face of the anguish being experienced around us, any small encouragements we might make for peace seem at best puny and inadequate in the face of these complex forces at play, and at worst the disrespectful intrusion of an outsider. We can only pray for safety and peace alongside our friends and colleagues, listen to their stories, and always rejoice with them when we hear stories of hope, believing that we are all a part of God’s creation and that most want the same peace for their families to thrive. Although this conflict is playing out along religious lines, it is really a conflict based in poverty and the difficulties involved in uniting a country with over 250 ethnic groups while still recognizing the strength of diversity that exists in Nigeria. It is our fervent prayer that in our global communities, religion will realize its potential as a vehicle for God’s power of peace and reconciliation, rather than as a tool for human’s power over each other.

We enjoy many aspects of our life here, particularly our friendships, work, and work colleagues that nourish us and form the foundation of our being here. The ongoing conflict and safety concerns have made it difficult for us as a family to focus on the reasons that brought us here, even though we strive to not let these factors define our understanding and experience of the rich and varied life we lead here in Nigeria. For the past month we have been trying to discern what is best for our family in these circumstances, wanting to also honour the relationships and work commitments to those we live alongside. Although we had tried to work out a way for our family to continue here longer in some modified way, we were not able to come to a mutually acceptable solution with our mission organization. So we have made the very difficult decision that our family will return to Canada this summer, earlier than our planned return of the following summer.

We are hoping to spend the following weeks working towards as healthy a closure as we can achieve with work responsibilities and relationships, focusing on the positive aspects of our time here as well as preparing for our transition back to life in Winnipeg. We are thankful for the opportunity to have come here to learn and share alongside the many wonderful friends and colleagues we have been privileged to meet. We are also thankful for the health and safety of our family through our time here.

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers during this transition.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Blogspot 2010 January

Jos riots-2010

It has been a while since I have written an entry. I had felt a need to sit down and write some of my thoughts and experiences that have happened these past few days.

Our family had a wonderful Christmas break with a trip to Abuja staying at the Sheraton Hotel and then to Yankari wildlife preserve with our MCC team and families. Both places were quite restful with great fellowship with friends. A blog entry awhile back had a funny experience with me and a baboon-but this time the tables were turned and we laughed at Westen. He was sitting in the chalet reading a book when he noticed the door open and there stood a baboon ready to scavenge some food. Westen quickly threw his book at the baboon and then ran towards the door to lock it. He definitely does not like the baboons now. We did see a few animals on our safari and there was an injured elephant roaming the grounds of the chalets.

We were happy when school resumed after about one month off for Christmas break. The kids were happy to be back and see their friends again. But then this past weekend security concerns started to surface and then we started to hear of events occurring in the north end of Jos. On Sunday morning a church was attacked by some youths. There was also report of a soccer game getting out of control with rioting. As I looked out our window I could see people standing and looking towards the north. I ventured out to the street and could see many plumes of smoke rising into the air. At one point I saw a big tour bus come cruising by with all of its windows smashed out along with the windshield cracked. The bus was full of people. The traffic was definitely slowing down and soon there was a curfew ordered for 6 pm till 6 am. We soon started to see smoke rising in other areas. That night we heard few gun shots with hopes that by next morning the military would have things in control. On Monday the riots had ventured into other areas of Jos which at that time did not seem to threaten us.

We woke up Tuesday morning with traffic as usual but then started to hear reports from others of gunfire. We had thought of going to work that day but were thankful we stayed home. School had been cancelled since the previous day so we waited out the morning. It did not take long and a 24 hr curfew was issued. As the traffic thinned out we could also then hear the gunshots. The fires started to get closer and then that afternoon we could see scores of youth vandalizing homes-setting them on fire. It was eerie listening to the cheers and excitement from the youth as new fires would start. Gunshots began to get closer and we could see the youth fleeing in different directions. As the day progressed we could see many army, police, civil defense and cadets coming and going in all directions to areas of need.

By Thursday the military seemed to have things under more control and the curfew was lifted for 7 hrs to enable the Muslims to bury those who died and for others to get necessary food and supplies. At the time we were unsure of how many had died- heard reports of at least 200 (Muslims and Christians) . On Thursday and Friday we began to see scores of buses, vans and cars leaving with people and their belongings. We had heard that there were thousands of people who have fled their homes.

As the days progressed more stories keep coming of devastating events experienced by many people. A young man came to our gate asking for money because he was shot in the leg and was unable to pay for medical expenses. A pastor we knew from Vom hospital had sent his family to Vom while he stayed at his church to protect it from vandalism. We had heard from one man that in his village in Tudon Wada the Muslims and the Christians joined forces to protect their area from outsiders coming in to instigate violence.

The city now is still under curfew from 6 PM to 6 AM. Randy and some others have ventured out in the last few days to pick up supplies. The stores are slowly opening up and some of the vendors who sell fruits and vegetables have returned. At this point we are unsure when school will resume but Randy and I will not go back to work until school opens.

We are very saddened by these recent events. I will include here an e-mail we received from a friend of ours who is a pastor of a church here that has been very affected by the recent violence and destruction. He has had many connections with MCC over the years.


Our friends,


What do you say to a congregation that has been shattered by conflict? How do you encourage them again? I stood and read Psalm 88 in Church yesterday. The title of my message was Real faith faces real trial. Here in Jos, we have broken homes, broken walls, broken heart and shaken faith. This is similar to what the returning Exile during Zerubabbel/ Ezra/ Nehemiah went through. We can tell God how we feel, but we must trust that he loves and saves us to go and look for our lost neighbor in love not in retaliation... It is dangerous to preach peace in a time of war. But we have no option. Hold us up in prayer. One of my members openly told me, "Pastor we know you are Mennonite. We have not found anything wrong with your theology but we have found it very hard in our context...” I even find my theology very hard in this context. I am integrating my understanding in my life and asking God to help me remain faithful to his revealed will. I love God. I love his word. I love my members. I enjoy preaching it/teaching it to others. I take it seriously for my own life and it has been a wonderful compass. To God be glory. May we talk about peace and work for it daily.

A student of Theology (now) Pastor Bulus Datiri, now an Elder in his Church, Sang a song that has left an impression on me forever. The Song was in Hausa language GAFARTAWA GAFARTAWA x2 UBANGIJI KA KOYA MANI HALIN MAN HALIN GAFARTAWA ..... This translates FORGIVENESS, LORD TEACH US HOW TO FORGIVE OR THE ATTITUDE OF FORGIVENESS..
May we all find the grace to go on in his strength. in the New Year.