Saturday, July 29, 2017

Trip up North (Day 5)

Sundays are not quiet days like they are in America. Sundays are full of long church services and often meetings afterwards and they're meant for visiting friends and family. I still try to guard my quiet Sunday afternoons as I plan for the upcoming week and take some time alone. (#introvert)

We woke up early and piled into the vehicles to drive about thirty minutes outside of Kano to visit the church in Challawa. This particular congregation has had its church building burnt down twice and has been denied a building permit, so for the last eight years they've met outside.

When we pulled up to the police compound where the church meets, I saw tons and tons of people arriving as well. As we drove to the back of the compound where the church meets in the large open area I heard conflicting music, speaker static, and electric pianos playing two different songs. As we stepped out of the vehicles we saw that there were at least four different church services going on! (We were later told that at times there are thirteen churches that meet there!)

I was expected to see maybe fifty or so people under the trees singing along to the accompaniment of a drum or other local instruments. But no...

There were over a thousand people worshiping there! We were given seats near the front as we participated in the singing and offering time. But all too soon it was time to leave and head back to the main church in Kano where one of our team members was speaking as their guest pastor.

One of the half-built buildings where another church holds its service.

Another building where the "junior church" is held

On the way back, we saw parts of the old city wall.

We arrived to the church as the service was starting. This place doesn't look big from the outside, but it holds over 1,500 people! (Well, we pack in much closer in Nigerian churches than people do in the US!)

Here are a few pictures from when we visited the church on our compound tour on Friday.

The choir loft

View from the pulpit
I was encouraged by the service--in part, simply because it was in English (I've been attending a Hausa church for the last three months), and in part because of the super encouraging sermon from 2 Timothy 2:1-2. I'm finding that I should not expect to be spiritually fed from a Sunday morning sermon in a Nigerian church, so I've been listening a lot of podcasts. It was refreshing to hear a spiritually sound and thought provoking sermon!

The choir sung a song that became special to me during the month I spent in cross-cultural acquisition and language school in January.

After church, we stopped at a restaurant to pick up falafel & pita bread wraps and then hit the road for the bumpy six-hour drive back to Jos. Most of the girls in my van finished their lunches and then promptly fell asleep!

All in all, it was a really good trip. I got to know the other short term missionaries a lot better as we shared experiences and made memories together. There's nothing like keeping watch for each other when you're peeing in the bush to bond people together! It was super cool to see the hundreds of years of Nigerian history, but sobering to see a city of 5M people that is 97% Islamic. There were a lot more modern conveniences and glimpses of a more developed society (working street lights, bill boards, nicer cars), but there are also a lot of people out of work since Nigeria became a democracy in the last 1990s and many of the 500+ industries that used to be in Kano have closed down. I could also start to sympathize with the local believers as the roads near their churches and near the ECWA compound are riddled with deep potholes and churches are unable to get needed building permits. We were there in "cool season" and although it only reached the low 90s during the day, the sun was so intense that I had a migraine every day despite drinking 3+ liters a day. Kano is a tough place to live, and especially tough for those who follow Christ.

Please join with me in praying for God's kingdom to advance in this dark place!

Trip up North (Day 4, MEDICAL OUTREACH)

  Ok, so up until now we'd been your typical tourists, shopping and seeing all the cultural sights. But seriously, it was nice to get out of my city and see something else, and it was amazing to be in a place where I could eat really good food, and I could actually go shopping for something besides my daily necessities!

We were partnering with the large ECWA church in Kano to do a medical and evangelistic outreach to a rural village. About 50 people in the congregation went out on Friday afternoon to spread the word, show the Jesus film, and share the gospel. Our team of ten drove out there early Saturday morning to join them. It was a rough 2 hour drive as the last 45 minutes were over dirt paths that were more suited to motorcycles and cattle than our minivan and the pastor's sedan!

When we arrived, the church volunteers had already been going for about an hour. There were people lined up waiting to be seen, teams of medical personnel doing screenings under umbrellas or the shade of the few trees, and others sitting with people to pray and provide counselling.
The men's line
The women & children's line

Medical consultations

The pharmacy

Counselling and medication education

About mid-way through the morning these Muslim girls selling peanuts, baked snack foods, and other edible items came around.
I had already decided that I would work with the children instead of as a physical therapist. My previous medical missions trip to Haiti where we did a similar village outreach had taught me that I would really struggle without a dedicated translator, that the fast-paced setting of a one-day outreach isn't conducive to providing detailed patient education, and there's really not much I can do for the ones who come for "back ache for the last 15 years." The limited medical benefit I could provide was not worth the frustration! But kids... now that's something I can do!

When a few of us walked around the back of the church, we heard the kids singing in English "Read your Bible pray every day if you want to grow..." I joined in the singing, complete with all the hand motions that I learned in Good News Club over twenty years ago!

The children's leader was just finishing up the program that he'd prepared, so we assisted in passing out packaged biscuits (cookies) and sweets (candy).

Then J___ and I started to teach the kids a hand-clapping game. Usually, we'd sing a song and whoever was last clapped when the song runs out is "out" and the circle gets smaller and smaller until there's one winner. But, we didn't know any simple songs in Hausa, the children didn't know their right hands from their left so we had to go around and place each kids' hand correctly to keep the clap going, and we wanted all the kids to be able to participate. We just decided to count aloud to 10 in Hausa and whoever was last clapped had to exchange places with one of the kids outside the circle.

Later, the circle widened to include almost forty kids and we just clapped around and around, not caring who was "in" or "out." I tried to get a couple different waves of claps going around the circle, but that was too confusing!

That game lasted for almost thirty minutes before kids got bored. We then tried to teach the them how to do the "human knot" where you have to untangle yourselves without letting go of your hands. That didn't go over so well, and J__ and I had to personally guide each little group.

After a while, I went around to the front of the church to consult with one lady who was having leg pain after a recent delivery--thankfully that was an easy thing to diagnose and treat--and when I turned around I had eight little people following me!

I kept sensing that we were missing an important opportunity to share God with these young hearts, so I went back to one of the "mamas" who had been helping us with the games and asked if she'd be willing to translate as I told a simple Bible story. She helped me get all the kids seated on the ground under the mango tree and found someone else who was more comfortable listening to and translating my American accent.

I started telling the story of David and Goliath--complete with acting parts of it out and asking the kids to repeat along with me all these strange names. They kids were excited to hear a story about a boy who tended his father's sheep since many of them are also shepherds or tend the family's cattle. When I got to the part about David picking up five stones from the brook, I asked each of them to pick up 5 little pebbles from where they were seated. Then when I acted out Goliath being hit in the forehead and falling over dead, a few of the boys followed along and keeled over too!

I wrapped up the story by telling them that whenever they face a scary problem, or a problem so big even grown-ups are afraid, they can pray and ask God to help them. I also shared with them that they don't have to be an adult to trust God, He listens to all of our prayers, and we can pray anytime and anywhere.

As I finished, "mama" asked if she could teach the kids a song that went along with the story. One of the other missionaries caught it on video:

Isn't that too cute!

When the song finished, we heard that the clinic was still going as the medicine we'd brought hadn't finished yet. I prompted J__ to tell a story and she decided to tell about Noah and the ark. I think this might have been her first time to talk to a group through a translator, but she did well!

Again, Mama saved the day with a song afterwards! This time it was:
Who built the ark?
       Noah! Noah!
Who built the ark?
       Noah! Noah!
Who built the ark?
      Perfect Noah built the ark!
(Animal name) are coming two by two...
     *two kids make animal sounds and walk like that animal over to the other side of the circle*

We were OK as long as Mama called out things like lions, sheep, dogs, cats, birds, goats, lizards, and snakes... but then she called out elephants, penguins, and kangaroos... that didn't go over so well!

Just as the kids were tiring from the song, the pastor came to tell us that the clinic was over and all the volunteers should go into the church building for a lunch and prayer.

A huge bowl of rice and a tiny bit of goat meat. It was yummy and super filling!
Then we took a couple more photos, waved goodbye to everyone, and loaded up in the vehicles to ride back to Kano. The van was absolutely silent on the way back as most of us fell asleep!
Most of our team posing with a few of the church volunteers from Kano

We went back for a rest, then met up again for dinner. The first place we went to was lauded for its yummy Lebanese food, but when we arrived at 6:30pm all the staff were "on break." When they came back at 6:45, the cook informed us that he didn't have enough food for all of us. We drove to another place which was supposed to have really good pizza. We ordered our food about 7:15pm and finally ate about 8:30pm... but it was TOTALLY worth it!
This 14" pizza with pineapple and "salami" cost almost $15 USD (I can usually get a full Nigerian cuisine meal for less than $2), but it was SO yummy! #FirstPizzaIn4Months
I really enjoyed the medical outreach, but not for the reason I thought I would. I thought that it would be wonderful to partner with the local church to provide care for a remote village, and I thought it would bring our team together. The outreach did do that, but more than that, it taught me that I can get the attention of fifty plus kids with nothing other than my limited Hausa and demonstrating a game. And that I can keep those same kids' attention with the help of a willing translator, the shade of a mango tree, and a plethora of Bible stories. I'm so grateful for the training I've had through Child Evangelism Fellowship, Children's Institute, and volunteering as a camp counselor and Sunday School Teacher. These kids were a very forgiving audience, and honestly didn't matter if they were laughing along with the story or at my languge faux pas as I said, "you great!" instead of "you count!" during the clapping game. Oh wells. :)

Trip up North (Day 3)

Our third day in Kano started off with a visit to the cloth market. This is one of the oldest cloth markets in West Africa and put any fabric warehouse in the US to shame! It spreads along one major road for about 4 blocks, but goes back for another 3 or 4 blocks! They were building this new cloth building right along the road, and that will only make the place busier!

In recent years there have been two fires in the cloth market. Most of the sellers keep their wealth in their inventory, so it was particularly devastating to them and resulted in several suicides as their livelihoods went up in flames.

It was a bit of a maze as there were shops spread out along the walking paths, but also large two-storey cement buildings with little shops inside. We split up into groups of three or four so that we could stop and shop (and bargain, which takes a while!), and arranged to meet back at the vehicle at a set time.

I went off with three of the other single short term missionaries, and since I knew the most Hausa and had the most experience with fabric, I did a lot of the bargaining. (Well, maybe the reason why I did a lot of the bargaining was because I did a lot of the purchasing too! But come on, who doesn't need more fabric in their lives!)

While most of us were out shopping, some of the medical missionaries went to observe eye surgeries at the Kano Eye Hospital, a mission hospital that has a name as being one of the best places for eye surgeries in West Africa.

We all met up for lunch together, then went on a tour of the ECWA compound and the eye hospital. (ECWA--Evangelical Church of West Africa, now Evangelical Church Winning All--is the church denomination that SIM started in the 1950s, then put itself under. ECWA is one of the predominant denominations here in Nigeria and throughout West Africa, and they have schools, mission hospitals, seminaries, orphanages, bookstores, and many other ministries!)

The hospital is built in a large square shape with women & children's wards on one side, men's ward on the other side and the operating room and administrative offices on the other two sides.
We went into the children's ward to pray with a few of the patients.

I love that there's a play area for the little ones while they're recovering from surgery, usually cataract removal

A typical room with four patients to a room.

After the tour, a few of us went on adventure to find a swimming pool! Here, swimming pools are usually found only at hotels and you pay about 1000N ($3) to get in. We went to an Indian-run hotel that had a nice 5' deep pool that was clean AND smelled like chlorine (you might get one or the other in Nigeria, but not often both!). After swimming for a bit, I finally cooled off! Then I sat to enjoy a cup of masala chai tea with the others who weren't swimming.

 After we swam for about 2 hours, we joined the others who were shopping at an artisan souvenir market. Yes, I know... more shopping! It was mostly the normal carvings and beaded necklaces, but a few other fun things too. *ahem, Christmas presents*

Then just as it started pouring down rain, we went to a Chinese restaurant at a nearby hotel. I had yummy chicken and green peppers and enjoyed watching Chinese news television.

We all went back to the hotel and guesthouses and crashed because the next day was going to be an early morning!