There are all kinds of exotic (!) things that can ‘get’ you in West Africa. When our family lived in Nigeria all of us – except for me – experienced the little fiend known as a chigger.
A chigger is a little bug that loves to burrow into your toes, make its den, and lay eggs there. (I hope no one is reading this while they are having breakfast :-0) If it is not taken care of a chigger can cause a great deal of damage, but even though all the kids and Sonya had chiggers, she managed to keep our family out of serious harm during our time there.
It was when the Baptist convention on the Mambilla Plateau was dedicating its new mission hospital in 2010 that I returned to Nigeria for the first time. I was staying in a new hotel called the “Why Worried Hotel.” It had been built by an engineer friend of mine, and it even boasted hot water for its guests (he had a solar panel hooked up to a water container; when you wanted hot water you took your bucket outside where it was, pulled down the hose, and voila – there it was).
The manageress in the hotel had a five year old daughter named Larissa who used to like to visit me in my room. She had never seen a white person before, and for her I was the ‘exotic’ thing! I remember her mother used to call her with the most wonderful sing-song voice: “Lariiisssaa.” It was beautiful.
One morning I woke up with a pain in my foot; upon close inspection I saw that I had encountered the dreaded chigger. Not one to panic, I called Sonya right away. I still remember her laughing at me over 6,000 miles of air waves. She gave me good advice though – find a local woman and ask her to get it out for me.
So when I saw Larissa I asked her if her mother could get a chigger out for me. When she came back I received the bad news that her mother did not know how to remove chiggers. In a little while, though, Larissa’s mother herself showed up to visit and when she actually looked at my toe with the chigger there she said, yes, she could remove it. It turns out she was from Cameroon where chiggers are called by another name.
So she found a sharp stick, told me to hold still, and dug around a little bit. The operation was successful; I put some salve on the spot and was quite better in no time.
A chigger is a small thing, but it can easily lead to a serious big thing. I am so thankful for praying, working, giving, worshiping family and friends who stand behind us and with us to ensure little chiggers remain just that.