A Morning in the Life

The past month or so, Sonya and I have been living in a little hamlet/village on the Plateau in Nigeria. Life in the village changes every day of the week, and many things tend to pop out of nowhere, but there is a certain rhythm to living there, and I will try to give the barebones structure of a typical morning.

First thing I would listen for my friend Aminu (he and his family were our hosts) to get up and open the gate outside; this would happen around 4:30 a.m. Then he would come back inside to get ready for morning devotions. I would get up a few minutes before 5, get dressed in the dark, and wait outside for him. Then we would walk together up the road to the Suudu Do’aare (House of Prayer). This is done by the moon or starlight, since the sun is not up until about 6.

We are usually among the first ones there; before we arrive, the doors are unlocked and the caretaker wipes down all the chairs inside. There are 40 chairs (donated by one of our NAB churches 10 years ago) around the outside of the round room; if they need more seating they will lay down mats. There is a small “torch” (i.e. light) in one of the windows, but it only allows light to see where you are walking. Everything in Suudu Do’aare in the morning in the done in the semi-darkness.

When we get there they (usually just two or three people ahead of us) are singing already, and as each individual comes in they join in the singing. They have some powerful women song leaders, and when they are in full throat it is marvelous to hear. Singing and corporate prayers go until about 5:40 a.m., when I begin teaching. I usually teach for about 20-30 minutes, after which someone will either emphasize what I had been talking about, or they will talk about upcoming events the people need to be ready for. We are done by about 6:15 or so, and home again by 6:30, after greeting everyone.

Back at the guesthouse where we stay (the nicest building in the village, btw) Aminu’s wife is already busy cleaning, while breakfast is on the fire, so we chat and watch the kids, or I might lie down again, while we wait. Sonya would make breakfast for us (Semolina – like Cream of Wheat) while the family would eat rice or nyeeri (corn fu-fu), which they like better.

After breakfast (c. 7:30) things happen depending on the day, but if we stayed home, and it was sunny, I would get out my books and a chair and take them out by the road, and sit by the bench there. I would read my Bible, study my language stuff, read, and greet whoever might come along. This would serve as my main devotional time, though I would go find somewhere more private to pray. I wrote a journal while I was there, and have about 30 pages of notes from that.

The Primary school children would traipse by for school from 8-8:30 or so (late little ones scurrying down the path on flip-flops), and that was always fun. I am beginning to know names, and of course everyone knows my name (“JEEEFF!!” my little friend Jibrilla, likes to call out). Some mornings Sonya would go to the school to help teach; other days we might head to the library, which has a decent table to use for a desk (one of two in the whole place), if we had lots of writing to do.

Visitation would often take a good portion of our time. Sonya and I would go together to one side of the community and simply go to each compound, calling out “Salaam aleykum” and wait for the response, and then go in to greet people. This much we can do pretty well in Fulfulde; for the rest we struggle, but are making progress. If I think about something I’d like to share, I can get people to understand me in what I am sure is “Pidgin” Fulfulde. I would also take my Fulfulde Bible and read a portion of it before we prayed together to round out the visit.

We also travelled to smaller communities around, and on Wednesdays would have our formal worship time (Sunday being market day). Or we would schedule times to meet with different leaders and talk about specific issues. This happened a lot as the community is planning to launch a Medical Mission Team in the new year, so there were a lot of preparations to be made for that.

Then lunch would roll around, c. 12:30 – 1:30 or so, but that is another blog.

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Springs for Life

This month while in Nigeria, I have had a chance to get a look at some of the water spring catchment projects (Springs For Life) that have been constructed around the Mambilla Plateau with funds raised by Friends of the Fulbe Society.  Over the last few years, our Fulbe partners (officially recognized in Nigeria as the NGO Nyalande Hesre New Dawn Initiative, or NHNDI)  have helped us determine where we should build such a project, as a doorway to opening hearts to the hear the news of the Living Water, Jesus Christ.

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Some of the criterion include the current condition of the community’s drinking water supply, the proximity to a suitable spring, the community’s willingness to contribute sweat equity into the project, and, harder to assess- the likelihood that they will take care of it, (If you would like to see an bit of explanation about how most of these projects are done, follow this link to a brochure we created. Water is Life This list of communities is kept by both Bernie Lemke, our technical advisor, and NHNDI, and if and when we are able to raise funds, the next highest priority project is commissioned, which is constructed and supervised by our Nigerian ‘engineer; Robert Ngalam.

Although every systems has its challenges, these gravity-feed systems are quite reasonably priced, (usually cheaper than wells), can be directed to multiple small communities if the flow allows, can accomodate multiple tap locations within a community, are generally manageable to maintain,  and are providing good quality spring water to thousands of peoples, of all faiths and walks of life, on the Mambilla Plateau.

The first thing I was able to observe is how these waterlines suffer, especially during the rainy season. Pipes are not dug extremely deep, as the ground is rocky and the work is done by hand, and the months of rain often cut channels right down to the pipeline. Where these lines cross a small road (ie motorcycle and foot path) they are at risk of breakage. Or, since the lines often cross streams on their way to the community, the force of the water in times of high water flow sometimes ruptures the joints on one or both sides of the stream/river. The former was the case in Medina a couple of weeks ago, and all the men on the water committee were out of town that day. Fortunately, one of the young men who has been spending time with them was able to trek up the line and find when the pipe had been ruptured by a motorcycle. Some digging, a couple of PVC pieces and joints and PVC glue and the line was repaired within the day.   It took a few hours for the dirt in the pipes to flush out of the line, but before evening, clean water was flowing again.

Such prompt repair is not always the case. This summer while here on the Plateau, Jeff went to visit a number of projects.  Two of them were completely inoperable, and appear to have been that way for quite some time. At the first one, the line from the catchment area to tank was broken, the main (cement) cover for the reservoir was found thrown a few metres away, and the tank had no water at all in it, but a whole lot of sticks.  And nothing had been done to do the fairly simple repairs (which members of each community are trained to do).

The second one apparently has a problem somewhere in the line between the reservoir and the community, and theyhad did not taken the time or effort to fix the problem, which continued to deteriorate.IMG_6288

So while Jeff and the team was visiting there, both communities were (gently) berated for failing to do their part and admonished them to get the work done.  We are happy to report that the first community contacted Aminu and told them we could come anytime we wanted- they had done the work.

So we stopped in this week and are happy to see things in fairly good working order again, although the concrete cover is as little worse for the wear.   IMGP1482  Someone’s cows were on their way to be watered, so we beat a hasty retreat after our observations were completed. IMGP1489
We went this week to visit the second community, to see if we could prod them to action, and they had not yet done anything to fix the problem (three months later). I suspect the rebuke from Wakhili was a little more pointed this time, and some of the men were clearly embarrassed. I heard from the women here how they had suffered thru the last dry season, since they have to go all the way to the river to get water- probably at least an hour return trip, and it is uphill with full loads.  There is a small stream for a spring pooling near their ‘road’, which is used for washing etc, but it will dry up early in the dry season, and is also used by the cattle to drink, so is not healthy for drinking.

After this visit, the leaders have agreed to launch their committee into action to see the work done and have requested some help from Madina. We are hopeful that this problem will be taken care of before the dry season- which is not so far away.  Please pray that the leaders of the community and those responsible for the maintenance take seriously their responsibility to ensure improved health and quality of life in their communites. It is frustrating for me to see, as the mostly male leaders in some of the traditional villages often disregard the quantity of work done by women and children to obtain water every day, never mind the obvious repercussions of not having clean water.  I encouraged the women and older girls in school to get involved in the committee and learn how to do some of the simpler repairs as well, so they are not stuck if a problem occurs when the men are away.  To that end, I have put that on my own list of things to learn when the opportunity presents, so I can model that this is something a woman can do.

I think I’ll save my report on tank maintenance for another blog   I should add, that although there are a variety of problems with these gravity-feed systems, they are quite economically feasible, (usually cheaper than wells), can be directed to multiple small communities if the flow allows,  allow for multiple tap locations along the route, are generally manageable to maintain,  and are providing good quality spring water to thousands of peoples, of all faiths and walks of life, in the Mambilla Plateau.

PS…..Of course I need to make a plug for supporting this:  If you are interested in contributing to one of the water projects waiting for funds, please contact Bernie Lemke at 780-987-2024 or by email- bllemke1938@gmail.com (note that this is a new email address, and may be different from what is on the old brochures) Or you can donate thru their financial partners- FOR WE CARE – online at http://www.forwecare.org/Donations.aspx or by cheque, to For We Care Outreach Network Society, PO Box 44091, RPO Southcentre, Calgary, AB, T2J 7C5
(For We Care is a member of Canada Helps. If you are in the US you can donate by cheque or online, as above, but they cannot issue you a charitable receipt- sorry!!)

You can also donate to other related Fulbe ministries at Special Projects on the NAB website. https://nabconference.org/give/special-projects/    Scroll down to the Cameroon projects and look for Friends of the Fulbe. Charitable receipts are available for donors from both America and Canada here, but you cannot donate to the water projects here.