31 March 2008

Election is over....

The last few weeks the talk of the town has been about the election that took place on Saturday. The last official election year was 2007, but because of all the corruption they decided to have another one this year to make it fair. Last year they didn’t bring boxes out for the people to put their ballets in and they had people waiting to shoot anyone that came out to vote. They call them thugs and wonder if we have those in America too.
Sadly this year was not much different from the last. We were told not to leave the house on Friday or Saturday and everyone locked themselves in their homes and the town was quiet other than gunshots and sirens.

On Wednesday we (Amanda and I) decided to go to Internet to post some blogs before everything got too crazy. The trip to the Internet was normal; we got on a machine, crammed into a hot little room and waited 30 minutes for one page to come up on the computer. After the Internet we decided we should buy some cabbage and bread for dinner, so we stopped at the “garage” on the way “home”. It isn’t a very far walk from the garage to the house, so instead of taking a machine we decided to walk.

So, as we’re headed down the road, here comes what we call a “parade-gone-bad”. Instead of handing out candy like a normal parade, they give out bullets instead. Amanda and I are walking down the road and after seeing this guy hanging out of his car window and shoot a gun over our heads, we were having a difficult time deciding what we should do. Do we stay? Do we find cover? Head for “home”? Keep walking? We decided to dart across the street and take a short cut off the main road. Well, Amanda was carrying the head of cabbage and avocados and tripped. The plastic bag broke and so everything was laying all over the ground in the dirt. This brought laughter to everyone around! The antifoos running across the street because of the shooting and then all their groceries laying in the dirt as they’re scrambling to pick them off the ground. A and I were just laughing! I thought for sure A was just going to leave our dinner in the dirt, but we managed to get it picked up and made it home in one piece.

Today is Sunday, so the election is over. This afternoon they announced who the new governor is, so now they have what they call “jubilee” to celebrate. This consists of more gunshots and bad parades. We’re all glad the election is over with and look forward to peaceful days following.

Bad Hair Day (by Amanda)

Danette: This blog was posted against my will. I was left with no choice but to post it after being threatened by A to stay longer than one night at the xrphanage.

Amanda: Saturday seemed to be a good day to have one of the students braid my hair, seeing as how we couldn’t go anywhere due to the election.

Rose came over at about 9 in the morning and started putting braids in my hair. (Danette had warned me never to get braids and that I should not get my hair braided.)

For those of you that do not know me, I usually have to find things out for myself. When I came to Nigeria a friend of mine told me that two weeks would be plenty, but being stubborn, I insisted that you need to be somewhere 2 months to really experience it.
I have definitely changed my mind and feel like one week would have been sufficient. I thought at least I have learned to listen to good advice and won’t make a mistake like that again.
Well, of course I was sure braided hair would be the easiest to manage and a lot cooler. After four and a half hours of sitting in a chair, Danette could not have described better how I felt. It felt like someone just threw a heavy rug on my head. I thought, “well, if I look better, it maybe worth a little suffering”. When I looked in the mirror I saw an alien with what looked like snakes coming out of my head!

I asked D how long she kept her braids in for and she told me, 2 long miserable weeks. I decided after less than an hour I just couldn’t do it. Being the good friend that D is, she helped me start taking them out.

We talked about how when we are in so much discomfort, why do we stay when we are capable of taking it away. Why do we have to prove something to others and ourselves? Why do we stay in misery that is pointless (braided hair) when it doesn’t effect anyone but ourselves?

Well, similar to the hair situation, I have to find out for myself how the xrphanage is. Danette has warned me that it will be nothing like I expected, but after two weeks of “resting” I think I am ready. After leaving the Internet today, we will be talking a car to another village where we will take a motorcycle the rest of the trip to the xrphanage. We will stay only one night and return with the baby Haruna on Tuesday.

I am sure I will know this even more so after leaving the xrphanage, but I can say with certainty Danette is an amazing person. No one will ever be able to understand her time here in Nigeria without being here to experience it. I could not imagine having the strength or endurance to stay four months. I don’t think she can either so it is a true testimony of God’s strength that is carrying her.

As we sat through a four-hour church service in the heat this morning and I wondered how she had survived. This question comes to mind all throughout each day. As we walked through the crowded market over piles of trash and by horrible smelling fish covered in flies, I couldn’t imagine Danette walking around alone. God knew I needed her here when I came to Nigeria because if she wasn’t here I may have never left the airport.

Today after getting home from the market we went into the bathroom to wash our feet. I was lying on the tile on my back with my feet in the tub trying to keep it together. Danette took the shower head and began washing my feet. I have never had anyone wash my feet and after walking on a dusty road through garbage it changes your thoughts about Jesus washing His disciples feet. Today I didn’t see Danette washing my feet, I saw the love and servant heart of Jesus. I know her time here isn’t what she expected it to be, but I know that the Nigerians have seen the love of God in her smile and willingness to serve.

(Danette is trying to convince me that the large hole behind us, where we draw water with buckets is a washing machine, and that by dipping our clothes in water they will actually become like new.)

25 March 2008

Laughter! And Malta! #3

(A random picture for you all of the Niger River.)

I hate to make three new blog posts at a time, but there’s been a bit of complication with the electricity situation and I haven’t been able to write for a while except by pen and paper.
The reason I hate to make multiple posts at a time, is because I know this post will be read first, then the next and then finally the following one. But that’s kind like reading a book, getting to chapter 9, then reading chapter 12, 11 and then 10… It just seems like the first thing you should read right now is, “Oh Yay! Oh Yay! Oh Yay! Amanda has arrived!” But all that excitement comes in the first (yet at the same time last) of these three blogs.

I’m writing because I just never realized how much I laugh when I’m with A. My stomach actually aches. It could be from the 500 (yes that’s two zeros tagging along behind that five) sit-ups Amanda made me do, but I think it’s from laughing so hard.

Anyways, I have two stories I want to share with you all. I’m sharing them because when I think about these two events, I can’t help but laugh. You may or may not find them funny. But keep in mind that I am hanging on to every last ounce of sanity I have left here in Africa.

On Sundays, we (Bill, Christy and I. This is pre-Amanda) travel to nearby villages and Bill will preach. Well, after church they will usually feed us rice and red-sauce.

Side note: And I was all gung-ho about making rice and red-sauce for everyone when I returned to the states. And then I was like, “why?... When you could have pizza or lasagna, why would you want to eat rice and red-sauce?” So, I’ll make you all (and when I say “you all” I mean my family in Arkansas. Sorry to everyone else.) a good ol fashion American dish like mashed potatoes and gravy and maybe some pork chops.

Okay, so back to the original story. So, with that rice and red-sauce comes either Coke or Malta. Now, these people are just so happy we’re here; they like to serve us the best… Now my own opinion would be that coke is the best, but the Nigerians believe that Malta is the best. And it costs more, so it must be better.

Well, have you ever drank like a bottle of molasses? I haven’t, but I could imagine what it would taste like (Debi, and you can call my Cordillia.) And that is what Malta tastes like, only about 20 times worse. It’s enough to make you gag.
Well, as strange as it is, it’s their culture to serve you food and then just not eat with you. It would be like me inviting you over for dinner and having you sit in the living room while I just come and check on you. Yeah, I don’t understand either.

So, we’re given our lunch and our yummy Malta drinks. (Three of them to be exact.) And we’re trying to figure out how were going to drink them. Bill doesn’t mind them so Christy and I are trying to make him drink ours as well. I think any more than one would probably make a person sick, so there wasn’t really any way he was going to finish all three. Christy and I are pretty concerned about a plan to make the drinks just vanish. But it was going to be pretty difficult with all these new people coming in and out to meet us, and the hosts coming to check on our lunch.

So, there was a toilet. (Actually the first one I’d seen outside of our house and Xbuja.) And I would like to say this was Christy’s brilliant idea, but I’m not quite sure that I didn’t come up with it on my own. Anyways, she had a cup in her bag and after much discussion the final decision was made to dump as much as possible into the cup and dispose of it. So who was going to risk getting caught dumping this in the head/toilet? I’m young and spry, so the job was on my head.

I dumped it in the head/toilet only to have it foam nearly over the top. Ahhh. I’ll just flush this puppy down and my worries will be over… Except that they don’t have much running water in Nigeria. Oops, that must have slipped my mind. So after waiting for the host to leave the room, who was now talking to Bill and Christy, I dart back to my seat at the table… “Christy…” I lean over and whisper… “It’s kind of foamed up a bit and there’s no way to get rid of it.” Just as I’m saying this, this sweet little lady comes walking through with a bucket of water to flush the toilet and has no idea what awaits her.

She never said anything to us, but I fear the whole village knows we flushed (or attempted to flush) our Malta down the commode…

So that’s my Malta story… …Maybe I'd better save that second story for a different time... I don’t think it’s quite as funny…

A Post by Amanda. And Prison. #2

This is Amanda and I's room... No, actually not really.

Amanda: So where do I start? I don’t know where the beginning is, but I’m scared I see the end. Where am I? In Africa of course, but not in my bed sleeping peacefully like I pictured a week ago when I was safe and sound in the United States. Other than the extreme heat, I thought everything was normal (whatever that is) when I went to bed tonight. I woke up to what sounds like a train running through my room. When I ask if everything is okay, I’m informed the roof over my head is nothing more than a thin sheet of tin, which is at this point flapping in the wind. I turn on my flashlight and notice Danette is not sleeping in her regular pajamas, but has pants on. I question, “where did those come from and maybe do I need some?” She informs me, “it may be a good idea just in case we lose the roof”. So, here I am, I have just gone from a peaceful sleep to wondering at what moment I will be laying under the open sky. My logical response is to go downstairs so that I wont get blown into the Sahara desert. Quickly I learn that much like the roof, the walls are not strong and the trees could come crashing through.

Perhaps not everyone is aware that I’ve had a fair amount of anxiety and thought surely I can go to Nigeria and rest. You can only imagine at this point my anxiety level is being tested. I think it is when Danette joined me downstairs (I thought I should eat all the chocolate in the house since morning didn’t look too promising) and decided to tell me a bedtime story that is everything but peaceful.

Now, let me back up a few steps. Before coming, a pastor from Guatemala had three dreams about my parents coming to Nigeria and warns them to have great caution. So, here I am downstairs, waiting for the house to blow apart when Danette tells me shortly before arriving she happened to go to a random church. The speaker prayed for her specifically, not knowing a thing about her, and said that she may end up in prison one day, but that God would always be there. She thinks, “well, I better prepare, because I’m headed to Africa”. So here I am stuck in Nigeria, in a house full of people that have recently been told of possible unpleasant events. Only one thing could distract me from the thought that I have come here to die, and it is the bugs (D calls them rock bugs) I feel crawling in my pants. I am wide-awake wondering if I will live or die, and Danette looks at me laughing or crying, I’m not sure which and says, “welcome to life in Africa”.

Someone once told me to wiggle my toes when I am stressed. But for some reason, wiggling your toes just doesn’t seem to cut it here in Africa.

Well, I took a break from writing and attempted to close my eyes and dream I was anywhere else, but I am wide-awake again. It is not because of the storm, but because of the vigilantes that are having some kind of shoot out in our back yard. Danette reassures me it is only gunshots. The first night she was startled, it was by a bomb. That is so reassuring, now I can go to sleep in peace knowing I wont be blown to pieces by a bomb, only shot.

Danette: So, about that prison thing Amanda’s talking about… I didn’t tell anyone about that because I didn’t want anyone to be worried about me… Well, coming to Africa, I actually thought I would be okay in prison. I mean, maybe I wouldn’t have been okay, but if I ended up there I would know that that was where I was supposed to be for the time…

Well, one day at Xtutulu brought me to the reality that prison wasn’t the place for me, and I was pretty stressed about spending the rest on my life in Nigeria…
Well, a couple of weeks ago it hit me that it wasn’t actually lock-and-key prison, but it was more of a prison with the mind.

I feel like my world has been completely turned upside down! My trip to Africa is nothing like I could have imagined it to be. My summer plans fell through. I mean, I don’t even live anywhere for crying out loud. (How does that even work?) I’ve been trying to figure out what I’m going to do with the rest of my life. Do I even want to be a missionary anymore? Do I have a passion in life? Heck, do I even like to do anything at all? What makes me smile? …Hahh, going crazy one could say…

I often ask God if He realizes I’ve even come to Africa. “Did You forget about me? Do You know that I’m here? Are You even here with me at all?” And the answer is, yes… GOD IS HERE WITH ME!

I wish I could tell you all that I’m in Africa helping these Nigerians… But I’m not… I’m actually here “filling up”… I’ve been reading the book “Waking the Dead” by John Eldredge for the second time now. He talks about how you can’t just continue to pour or give into peoples lives. How you have to take care of yourself too… And I never really thought about that. I just figured if I wasn’t giving or doing something for someone, God must not be happy with me… But I’m starting to think that that isn’t necessarily true.

John says at one point in the book: Caring for our own heart isn’t selfishness; it’s how we begin to love. Yes, we care for our heart for the sake of others. What will you bring to others if your heart is empty, dried up, pinned down? Love is the point. And you can’t love without your heart and you can’t love well unless your heart is well.
When it comes to the whole subject of loving other, you must know this: how you handle your own heart is how you will handle theirs.

When I was at the xrphanage in Xtutulu and trying to love, it was like trying to give someone a glass of water with nothing in it. I wanted to show love to all the kids, but I didn’t have any left to give…

So here I am in Nigeria, empty. Not the best place to find that out, but Amanda is here with me now and things are starting to look brighter.

When I ask God what he wants me to do. Several times now it has been “Love My People”. So I came to Africa, to suffer and love His people… But He actually didn’t say to me, “Suffer and Love My People”. So why did I come to Africa exactly? He’s people are in America too… And I’m so happy about that. I was thinking about seeing how I like that American life… Amanda and I say everyday now, “I’m an American girl, I’m it's okay to like the American ways”.

DnA Together Again! #1

(DnA. I told Amanda that I didn't look the best in this picture, and she told me in return that I am in Africa and I look as good as I'm doing here.)

I don’t even think I need to tell you how excited I am! But I believe I will be able to make it two more months. Thank God for Amanda! She’s a lifesaver! (Though one week seems even questionable for her.)

A arrived safely in Nigeria on the 18th of this month. We spent three days in Xbuja waiting on her luggage and it arrived on the 20th.

I took her to the Internet on Friday and then to the “garage” to buy avocados. Now I thought one young white blond chick drew a lot of attention, but the two of us together turns some heads. Yikes!

On our return trip from the Internet, we stopped at the bread lady first and this guy kept bothering Amanda for some bread or anything else she would give him. I told her to just keep walking. We were weaving our way through the market area and I figured the guy was long gone. Amanda looks at me and is like “the bread dude is still following us”. So we stop to get our avocados and the guy would not leave us alone. I didn’t want to give him anything because it was like a little game and I didn’t want to lose. “I’ve been here for two months, and you can follow me around however long you want, it’s not going to change anything!” Well, I have to say, he had more endurance than I, and we were left with no choice but to hand over an avocado. Amanda was grateful that I finally decided an avocado was a small price to pay in exchange for her life.

I felt so bad that the first time I take Amanda around to see the village, she gets stalked by a crazy man. There just must be something about the first day in the market. Next time will be better…

11 March 2008

Rain! Rain! Rain!

Well, yesterday was the first rain! I was so excited you wouldn’t even believe it! I ran out the door to soak it all up, and was in hopes I would run into other people out enjoying it as much as I. But nope, I was the only one out splashing in the puddles and running around like a child. Apparently they don’t play in the rain much here. I don’t quite understand that.

So, as I was outside enjoying this wonderful rain, out of nowhere the wind started blowing like mad. When the tops of the very tall but thin trees started to touch the ground, I made a safe assumption that it was probably a good idea to go inside. As I was headed for the door I wasn’t quite sure if I was going to get blown away or not. But as you can tell, I managed to make it okay.

Well, I have never seen such a storm! Winds blowing harder than I have ever seen in my life. And though I wish I could tell you the windspeed, I will not even attempt a guess at it. Captain Stan will tell you that it is just not something I do well at all.

But as we were inside wondering how bad it was actually going to be, large tree limbs starting coming down all around and tin (including some off our house), was flying off of roofs. It was a bit frightening to say the least.

So after it was all over with, I went out walking around the compound to see just how bad the damage was. I couldn’t take the road due to very large branches in the way; but as I made my way through, people were pointing out parts of the brick fence that had blown down, roofs that were missing and then they pointed to this tree:

I was just shocked! I wish I had pictures of the nearby primary school building, and other buildings around the village. But I can’t bring myself to walk around and take photos of the damage. These are peoples homes and businesses and I don’t want to offend them by taking pictures.

(The little baby on Rachels back is Haruna. He’s from the xrphanage at Xtutulu and has been living with Bill, Christy and I since we arrived. That antifoo to the right is Bill.)

The next morning we were out clearing the trees from around the compound. It was pretty cool just to see everyone working together to get the place cleaned up. But it was definitely the first time I had ever moved wood around in a skirt and flip-flops before.

I feel like after being with Friend Ships and going specifically to the areas that have been hit by a natural disaster, it just seems like there should be more that I can do here. I’m right in the middle of it all, with nothing really to offer. I was wishing for some vinyl today to use to patch some roofs, just so that when the next rains come everything in these homes wouldn’t be completely destroyed. … I don’t really know what I can do, I guess for now, helping to collect the firewood is the best thing.

06 March 2008


My parents have a book titled Bruchko. It’s about a missionary who traveled alone to South America when he was only 19. I remember reading it when I was about eleven or twelve and thinking that this guy, Bruce Olson, was probably the most amazing person (besides my mom) I had ever heard of.

Well, since my arrival here in Africa I’ve been thinking a lot about missionaries and their work. Wondering if they always knew exactly which direction they were to be going and if God was just basically walking by their side talking with them. And also if they too struggled with each day or if everyday was filled with joy because they were doing Gods work.

And for some time now I’ve been in search of that book here in Africa. I’ve checked the books at the house I’m staying in, I’ve checked all the books in the library here at the college and I’ve even asked Mrs. Gross for it. But no one has seen it or even heard of it before. So, I basically said forget it and moved on. I would read it when I returned to the states, I said.

Well, yesterday I was in my room pondering life and it’s trials and Christy walks in and hands me a book… It was Bruchko… I couldn’t believe it! Once again, a little gift directly from God.

So, I opened it right then and didn’t put it down until the sun had set and it was to dark to continue. I hung on every word and was captivated by the trials and struggles he had to face each day. Though I have gone through nothing like him, I could identify with the feelings and thoughts he had. And I actually understood the questions he had swimming around his head, like how did I get myself into this?

Well, in the book, after being near death countless times and his wife-to-be dieing, life still continued on. Then in the last chapter his best friend dies and you think to yourself, “why does life have to be so tough?” This guy has given his whole life to serving God and yet nothing was ever easy. And as I was reading this I was like, “nope, I don’t believe that his friend is dead. They’ll find him downriver and he’ll still be alive. It’s supposed to be a happy ending.”… But this idea comes straight from Hollywood, that life ends up perfectly the way you had imagined it to be. And this is not known to always be true in the real world.

So on the very last page he says, “So life has to be like this. It has to be struggling and crying, and even dying”. And he wasn’t even bitter or resentful. It’s the simple truth that situations you dislike are a part of life… For the most part, they cannot be avoided and life still continues on, no matter how much you dislike the season you are in… A friend once said to me, that the trials won't last forever. That the bad times don’t and the good times won’t either. And maybe the next series of bad times will be even worse than before. But will I be able to be confident of a coming spring when I’m in winter again? Will I be able to hang on and praise God even when the world feels as though it’s caving in?

And I can actually say right now, that though life in Africa isn’t necessarily a “happy party” everyday; it is a very important stage in my life… And I have a choice as to whether I’m going to smile everyday or not. I can dwell on the down side of things, or I can look at the bright side and remember that I have more blessings in my life than I can actually count. No matter where I am at, life will always have another trial around the corner. So my joy has to be found in the Lord and not my day-to-day situations.

I have been inspired by the life of Bruce Olson and would recommend that you too read it. You may find that you enjoy it as much as I… …Sorry I have already told you the ending…