MTI

As so often happens with communications with our friends in Africa, I have been unable to contact my friends by telephone for the past few days, so I do not have any update to give on the situation there. In lieu of that I will share some of the things that have been happening here at MTI (Mission Training Institute) in Palmer Lake, Colorado.

I wrote about our LAPs (Language Acquisition Projects) a little while back. During the first half of our training we were focussing on how to learn the language of the people we will be working with – which for us means Fulfulde, which is the language of the Fulbe people.

We have now transitioned to learning how to be handle the unsettling process of entering a new culture, how to navigate stress and conflict, and – today – how to keep the Sabbath. Yesterday was by far our most stressful day here, so it was wonderful to have a Sabbath rest today.20170518_094450

Yesterday began with a May snowstorm outside and a hostage-taking simulation inside. Yes – you read that right: we simulated a scenario where a group of missionaries were gathered for a convention in a place that was thought to be safe, but was overrun by rebels. I don’t want to give everything away, since some of you may someday come here for this training, but I will say that for an activity that was only make-believe, it was surprisingly intense and lifelike. (Note the picture of me relieving the stress afterwards.)

The simulation is designed to help you see your ‘true colours’ under stress; to figure out what your coping mechanisms are; and to see how you generally handle it. Being overseas can sometimes cause long-term, unrelieved, stress to mount up, and it is good to know up front whether you have the requisite peace and trust in God that will be needed (it is not a bad thing to learn about for normal life here in North America either).

None of this is an exact science, of course. Only time will tell whether a person will be able to handle all the stressors successfully. This, for me, is just another reason why I am celebrating today that we have 150 Prayer Partners on our Prayer Support Team. Wow! I praise God for each and every one of them. We will be leaning on them heavily as time goes by I am sure.

For now, please pray for us with respect to our training here at MTI. We are doing well so far, but it is not easy by a long stretch. Continue to pray also for our Fulbe brothers and sisters who are enduring far more hardships than we will normally face. Thanks and God bless.

Report on the Black Days

My friend Aminu got back from Cameroon yesterday to find some very distressing things “on the ground” in Gembu among the refugees who came from Tamnviya after their village was burned out (I wrote about this at Black Day on the Plateau and Black Day Update).  He sent a report out late last night, so I have been trying to process it a bit from my vantage point here in Palmer Lake.16244741_1159557590764635_159148927_o

Here is what we understand to be the case thus far. There are twelve family units who have taken refuge in Gembu, comprising just over 100 people. Of immediate concern is the fact that they are not able to properly feed themselves. Food prices have sky-rocketed all over Nigeria, so there are others in this situation as well, but our friends are facing buying a bag of rice for 15,500 naira, where it used to be 8,000 naira; and a bag of maize for 14,500 naira when it used to be 5,000 naira. 5,000 naira is about CAD $21, so any way you do the math, we know that is an enormous hike – especially for people who have just lost everything.

They are mostly sleeping on cold floors with no mattresses and inadequate bedding. It is the beginning of rainy season there, and while the people are very glad for the rain because the lengthy dry season has been the source of many problems, it is getting very cold for them now. This is one of those issues where, if a solution does not present itself soon, it will lead to yet more dire consequences.IMG_2509

Other things, like having no school fees or educational materials, are also all problems for these people – many of whom have just recently come to the understanding that educating their children ought to be a high priority in their lives.

There are yet other issues looming in the future. Let me quote my friend Aminu here for a bit.

“What makes it even [more] scary is that, it starts raining since March but up till now many people have not started planting because the raining season is not in full gear. It seems like most people would find it hard to get necessary farm equipment like fertilizer, seeds, pesticides and the like. Not because they are expensive but they do not have money. The money they have is mostly spent on food stuffs .   .   .   . “Furthermore, I am not looking at only the current situation but also next year. Without taking serious action now or this year, next year the situation will be worse.
“There are individuals and families who bought cows with the intention of selling them now in order to use the money in their farms but because of the long dry season we experienced this year they lost most those cows or they sold them less than the price the initial bought them. In a nutshell, this year comes with different challenges.”16196586_1159559594097768_1379496389_o

Our friends have already written to their own government and other humanitarian agencies for help, but have received no response from them to this point. Some of the people among the Fulbe to whom they would normally look for help were also affected by the attack on the village. For instance, Aminu’s own father would normally be someone to whom they could turn to help for food and other things, but he and others like him lost their granaries in the attack.

There are funds that can be drawn from out of our Friends of the Fulbe Society account, and we have already released N150,000 (about CAD $650) for the Fulbe elders to distribute as best as they can. While this will undoubtedly help, more is certainly needed.

I invite you to pray for these poor people and their situation, that our God will provide for them.

As well, knowing that often the way God chooses to provide is through his people, if you wish to help in a more material way, here is where you may direct your funds.

Make cheques out to Wiesenthal Baptist Church, with a memo/note directing the funds to the Fulbe Ministry.  Mail them to:

Wiesenthal Baptist Church

c/o Jan deKlerk

RR 2, Millet, AB

T0C 1Z0

The church will then direct 100% of your money to aid these people (i.e., there will be no overhead deductions or anything of that nature from the church).

Thanks so much for your prayers and help in this urgent need. May God continue to bless through you.

PS – if you choose to help out through giving, you may wish to give me a note and let me know. This may help as we plan into the future. Thanks.

LAPs

Sonya and I are in Palmer Lake, Colorado learning about LAPs.

No – not the lap that suddenly appears when you sit down; the LAPs we are learning about are “Language Acquisition Projects.” That is – projects designed to help a person (all missionaries in this case) learn any given language. So we are not being taught to hear or speak Fulfulde right now (the language of the Fulbe people), but we are being taught how we can learn it when we finally get to Cameroon and Nigeria.

It is a fascinating thing, really. One day with our language helper (learning how to speak Russian!) the “light” suddenly went on for me and I realized – “I am not here to learn Russian [which I was finding pretty hard], but I am ‘catching’ the method of how to learn Fulfulde,” and it was a great moment for me.

Of course, I have been among the Fulbe people before, and I have picked up enough Fulfulde to greet in basic terms, and so on – but learning the language was such a daunting thing for me, I could never figure out how to really ‘get hold’ of it. Now I believe I have been given the tools to do that, and it is very exciting.

I chatted a little bit with my friend Aminu via Facebook yesterday, and told him about what we were doing here. He too got very excited and raced off speaking in Fulfulde, until I had to him remind that, “Wait – I don’t know it yet!” But our Fulbe friends there know how important it is to have the language, and I know they will be great encouragers and helpers in this area.

Of course, we are still a ways away from being there. We invite your partnership with us in this to help us reach our goal – to be prayer-partners with us; to advocate for us (e.g. share our info with other individuals and churches who may also wish to partner with us); and to give towards the ministry. We are so thankful for all of those who have partnered with us thus far. God bless you much!

“Timely” Prayer

Knowing as we do the power of prayer, it is encouraging in the utmost to have so many people willing to be a part of our Prayer Team. In our time in Cameroon and Nigeria we have seen many instances of answered prayer, and many examples of what sustained prayer can do over time.

Speaking of time – when I returned for my first visit in 2010 I was very conscious of the short time I had there (three weeks) and asked my church, Elim Baptist, to pray for the timing of everything. I had discovered that my Nigerian friends were willing to plan for some things, but because of the vagaries of life there they would often wait to see what transpired before making firm commitments (often a wise course to take).

So the church prayed, and on that trip so many (literally) last second things occurred that I knew God was working in answer to their prayers. I have never had such a jam-packed, well-organized, “coincidence”-filled, miraculous three weeks in my life. Some broad strategies were laid out, but nothing definite was set in place until I was actually on the ground – yet I could not have made more efficient minute-by-minute arrangements for my time.

I would give details of it all, but it would be impossible, since that trip is for me a blur of activity; of running into people unexpectedly, of happening upon a place at just the right moment, of making last-minute travel connections. This happened every day with unyielding regularity. The only thing I remember not having much time for was sleep – after a few days I think I was sleep-deprived for the rest of the trip. I remember telling my church, though, that I would rest when I got back; while I was there I really did want to burn the candle at both ends. (In fact, I did make a journal of that trip, but it is safely packed up with all our other belongings.)

Some folks, I know, would say that it was because I was in God’s perfect will/plan that it all turned out so well. That thought is sometimes inviting, but I don’t find it in that form in scripture. Worse yet, it tends to negate the need for prayer, something I would hate to do. I believe, as my old youth pastor used to say, “Things happen when you pray that would not have happened had you not prayed.” That trip I asked for prayer that the timing would be well-worked out, and God answered in far more creative ways than I could have imagined.

A very different blog was planned for this spot today, but I got sidetracked with this story. Lord willing, more on “Prayer Passages” shortly. Meanwhile, thanks for your prayers.