Peculiar Humour

I find that people in Nigeria and Cameroon have a great sense of humour for the most part, and happily it sometimes matches my own penchant for sometimes strange comedy.

I remember visiting our partner village with Sonya one day when we lived there in 2009. Just as we were getting ready to leave a woman there walked by and said that she loves me and would like to my second wife!IMG_3339

This was a broad joke for the people there, and they were wondering how I would react to such a request. Well, I laughed along with everyone else, and then told her I was sorry, but I did not think I could afford a second wife. This brought more laughs – and then I went a bit too far and asked her if she thought she could make enough money to support all of us.

I was saved by Sonya poking her head around the truck, even though she had not really caught any of this. This is what happens in a culture where having more than one wife is quite alright.

The Bigger Picture

Our church subscribes to the Church Around the World newsletter, which gives relevant news stories about what is going on in the world with respect to the Church (sort of like the title says . . . ).

In the August, 2016 edition there is an article there about attacks on Christian villages in northern Nigeria by “Fulani tribal fighters.” In their attacks they have “burned Christian residents alive, torched animals and houses, and destroyed farms.”

Apparently Fulani terrorism is on the rise in northern Nigeria but it has been overshadowed by the Boko Haram terrorists – also operating in the north – who are now affiliated with ISIS. The story goes on to note that the president of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, is a Fulani man and the hope was that he would help to quell the violence. Instead it has only increased.

When we speak about the Fulbe we are speaking about the Fulani – the two words mean the same thing. Fulani is the anglicized version of Fulbe (which comes from the Fulfulde language).

I want to stress the fact that where Sonya and I will be ministering, we will not be in any direct danger – though we will still want you to pray along the lines of 2 Thessalonians 3.1-2: “And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith.”

On the other hand, our Fulbe friends are in various degrees connected to some of the Muslim Fulbe in the north, and it is our fervent hope that their witness will serve to draw their fellow Fulbe to Jesus Christ.

Inflation Alert

I was talking to a friend of mine in Nigeria yesterday and he was explaining to me the price situation there. Most people will know that worldwide there has been a rise in oil prices from Nigeria and OPEC recently.

What might not be so well-known is the effect this has had on fuel prices in Nigeria, with the subsequent adjustment in food prices. IMG_2509

The Nigerian President Muhammad Buhari made the decision to take the federal subsidy off the fuel prices earlier this year, and that resulted in a drastic rise in local food prices which has seriously affected the poor people that I know about.

My friend tells me that a bag of maize in Gembu that used to cost N8,500 now cost N16,000 (CAD c.$34 and $65). You can imagine the hardship this has caused among the poorer people in the region. My friend says that there are many now who are going to the hospital, suffering from malnutrition.

IMG_2518I fear mostly for our brothers and sisters in the Needy Church in Gembu. My son Daniel and I used to go there to help distribute rice and other foodstuffs that had been donated by generous donors from Canada. We also loved to be in church and worship with them when we got the chance (which was not too often).

Please pray for our poorer brothers and sisters there, not only among the Fulbe, but all of the tribes on the Plateau Mambilla who are suffering right now.

A Watchnight Education

Though some things are the same, it truly is a different world in Nigeria.

Our house, like most homes there, had a high mudbrick fence and a gate around it, and at night it was protected by a “watchnight” (as all the night watchmen call themselves). The watchnight has his own little hut by the gate, with a bed and a fire to roast corn on, and keep himself warm.

Our watchnight’s name was John. He was a serious fellow who was carrying two spears the first time I met him. He’d had occasion to use them too; one of them still had blood on it from the last fellow he had hit, trying to climb over the wall. Another day he had a bow and arrows, and he warned me about the arrows, as they were tipped with poison.

The church’s watchnight was named Agabus. One day he was telling me how to get to his village, which is a fair distance away (on the way to Warwar). So then I told him how to get to our home in Manitoba by plane, through Abuja and London. Then I had a thought, and I brought out the little plastic globe I had in my office and showed him that. Well, that was a real revelation to him, as he had never seen one before. He was most fascinated by the Pacific Ocean, which he felt was a very great river, and he wondered if canoes could traverse it.IMG_3035

At one point he asked if there were other countries above us, pointing up to the sky. So then I explained (as best I could) how the earth is round, and that from where we are the people in some other countries would actually be under us. We both found the whole exercise very enjoyable and a lot of fun. We talked about the different vegetation in Canada from Nigeria, and how the one is further from the equator and so is much colder. I don’t know how well I explained it all, or really how much Agabus understood, but it was eye-opening for us both.

Education in Nigeria is improving all the time, but it has a long, long (long!) way to go. It is one of the three priorities that we have in our partnership (along with evangelism and community development). It will help Agabus and John only indirectly, but we believe in time it will serve to lift the whole community up.

A Day in the Life

One of the neat people I met on the Plateau was a Mambilla man named Pastor Timothy Shadgem. He was the director in charge of the Gospel Evangelism Team, and we got to be good friends. Timothy has a great heart for spreading the good news about Jesus and he led me on more adventures than just about anyone else. One Saturday in October was fairly typical.013 Timothy and Martina Shadjem

I was not riding my own machine (motorcycle) yet, so I waited for Timothy to show up at my house. He was due at 6 am, but finally arrived at 7:30. Something to do with his wife needing help. After buying some “foil” (i.e. fuel) we headed off down the mountain and wound up in a little village where he had arranged for me to preach.

There were not too many people there, as an old man had passed away and most of the people were off attending his funeral. Seven men sat on a board bench, while Timothy and I were given little stools to sit on. A background of young boys sitting against the wall of the building completed that side of the picture. Out in the road dogs, goats, girls, and women would occasionally walk by. Timothy said to preach the gospel, so off I started and the men listened attentively as I shared about the God who made everything and who loves us, so much so that even when we did bad things he sent his son to pay for our punishment.

When I was done I asked for questions or comments, and they thanked me very much for coming. They said they knew the message must be true because otherwise a white man from Canada would not come to them to tell it.

After the preaching I said I had two more gifts. One was the gift of prayer, so two of the men asked for prayer for healing in their backs. Then we gave them a soccer ball, to the joy of all. Presenting soccer ball in Wah 3After that they sent a young boy to ask if an older man wished for prayer, and he came back and said yes, so Timothy and I went to pray for him. This was a recent convert to Christ, who wished for baptism one day. After that we said goodbye to that village and went on our way.

We drove back towards Gembu, up the hill, and then turned off to the village of Wah. The Jauro of all the surrounding villages of Gembu lived there, I was told. This is a very important man, one of the traditional rulers. We drove to his compound, where a group of men were sitting, important in their own right. We greeted them all and then went into the house, where we waited in a room lighted only by the sun coming in the doorway. The Jauro was next door, getting up from bed. He came into the room, a very tall man, well-built, but quite old – maybe in his 80s – and stooped over now. He sat on his chair, while we were on a mat at his feet. We exchanged greetings and I told him next time I would have a small gift to bring him (I need to get him some footballs), and that I would pray for him if he wished. So I anointed him with oil and prayed. He then told me that he was having trouble with his eyes, so when I came back to bring him some medicine for them.

Then we headed back to Gembu once again, and as we passed my house Timothy asked if I needed to get anything, and was it still time enough to get to Warwar? Neither of us had a watch, but it still seemed early, so I said, nope, let’s keep going.

Warwar is across the Donga river, over some pretty big, steep mountain trails. On the way there it was not too slippery, since it had been dry, but we got stuck in a little stream that flows across the trail. Timothy couldn’t get the bike out of it, so I asked if I should get off and walk. No, he said, he can get us out. So he hits the gas, and lets out the clutch too fast, and the bike jumps up and I fall backwards off the end, and land with my butt end in the stream. It happened pretty fast, but I was not hurt too badly. After I got up I was laughing, but poor Timothy was pretty shook up that he had dumped the Field Director in the stream.

Down in Warwar we attended the ordination council for one of the field pastors. We got there an hour and a half late, which was great for us because it meant we missed most of the preliminaries. The ordination council is a whole story in itself; suffice to say the poor candidate scraped through with a 59% pass-rate after being raked over the coals by his colleagues.

After that the pastors and wives got together for a meal, and it rained while we were in there, so we drove back in the rain. That was interesting, and bit tricky, but we had no mishaps, though this time I was asked to please get off and walk a few times – which I appreciated.