Weeks 7-8: Endings and Beginnings

IMG_4315

Sannuku, friends!

I apologize for the delay in getting this blog posted. As I mentioned in my last post, my last few weeks in Nigera were just incredibly busy and I’m just now getting the chance to write and upload. I’m just now getting the chance to post after arriving safely in the US yesterday.

The last few weeks of my time in Nigeria were wonderful, but also very sad. I am part of one of the last groups of short-termers to leave Nigeria, and I have watched four wonderful friends depart over the last few weeks. So in my last few weeks, watching my friends leave reminded me that I was leaving too. I have dearly missed you all, but if there was an opportunity to take a plane back to Nigeria and stay for another few months, I would take it. But I am very thankful for all the sweet times of fellowship and community as the Challenge family wished each other goodbye. I am so thankful for all the shared meals, games, laughs, and talks about God and what He’s doing.

In addition to sweet times of community, my last weeks of ministry were absolutely wonderful. I spent much of my time at Faith Alive. I had the opportunity to assist with a Cesarean section and observe several additional areas. But more enriching than the observation opportunity were the opportunities I had to minister to patients spiritually. I had the opportunity to visit the wards on several occasions and pray with patients and their families, which was incredible. Perhaps the most wonderful part of my time at Faith Alive these past few weeks was the opportunity to share the Gospel with patients who were waiting to be seen. The staff at Faith Alive gives a morning devotion prior to doctors beginning to see outpatient cases. It is completely optional, but coming early gives patients an earlier position in the line to see a doctor. The theme of devotions for the summer is being peacemakers, which was chosen in response to the recent violence in Plateau State. I had the opportunity to share about the ultimate source of peace, and it was absolutely incredible. Join me in praying that the words God gave me to say will be just a small part of drawing His precious children to come and know His peace.

I am so incredibly grateful for all the time I had to spend with the staff at Faith Alive, as they are incredible people who genuinely desire to serve God by serving the poor and needy. Spending time with Dr. Chris, Faith Alive’s founder, was absolutely incredible. He is such a godly and wise man, who gave wonderful advice and served as an example of a mature and grace-filled believer. I will dearly miss Dr. Chris and all the wonderful staff I had the opportunity to interact with at my time at Faith Alive.

Outside of Faith Alive, I also had the opportunity to join in several ministry events for the street boys. One Tuesday, we held a zoo outing where the boys just got the chance to run around and look at a variety of animals. Most of them had never been to a zoo, and it was such a joy and privilege to witness their excitement and the fun they were having! The following Tuesday, we were able to host a puppet show and men’s singing group for the boys. The day ended with lots of dancing and laughs. It’s such a privilege to be a part of showing love to these boys, many of whom go through their early lives experiencing much neglect, if not abuse. I will dearly miss spending time and laughing with these boys. Additionally, I will dearly miss working with the staff. Their passion to show Christ’s love to these boys is so evident, and their faith was so encouraging to me.

IMG_4394.jpg

Two of my favorite memories from the past few weeks have been a hike in the Rock Heaven district of Jos and a birthday party with the older orphans living at the Boys’ Transition house. The hike was tricky but incredibly fun, and we had the opportunity to take a group of children from a local ministry group with us on the hike. The view from the top of the mountain looking out at the city of Jos was absolutely breathtaking. In reflecting on the beauty of my surroundings, I was reminded of the wonder of the creation God made for us. Mountains in Nigeria are very different from mountains in the US, but both were created by a God who loves us and who wants us to see His beauty and majesty through the world He has made. Another precious memory is the birthday party last Tuesday. In the Challenge family, we had three birthdays last week and wanted to celebrate. The house uncles at the Boys’ Transition House asked if we would hold the party with them at the transition house so that the boys could participate in the celebration. The ministry doesn’t often have extra funds for celebrations like that, so it was a special treat for them. We were able to celebrate our friends’ birthdays as well as the boys’ birthdays at the Transition House. We enjoyed a night filled with laughter, fun, and hours upon hours of dancing. I’m not much of a dancer, but I certainly tried my best and enjoyed the boys’ attempts teaching a baturi auntie how to dance! It was such a joyful evening, and hearing the house uncles say that it was the happiest that they had seen their boys in a long time was so rewarding. It was a powerful reminder that sometimes the form of ministry that is most needed is one that affirms and celebrates people and their value before God.

QHQY1855.jpg

My last few weeks in Nigeria were such a sweet time of spending time with and investing in people who I will miss dearly. In this time, God was really reminding me of the value of community and relational ministry. By investing in and living life with people, I am so much more able to demonstrate and live out the love of Christ in a relatable and understandable way. Additionally, I was reminded that God is more interested in my obedience and daily submission than He is in my accomplishing some grand ministry task. As a very task-oriented person, it’s so easy for me to focus on getting something accomplished. But as I spent the last few weeks trying to slow down and focus on Him, I saw that my most fulfilling and effective days of ministry were the days where I woke up in the morning and told God that I wanted to do what He had for me that day. So friends, be encouraged that God delights in our obedience, and that He works greatly through it.

As I am ending this season in Nigeria, I know that I am beginning a new season as God has taught me much and has much to do in and through me when I return home. My prayer is that God will continue to work in and through the ministries I participated in, and that I will be able to share well with you all what He has done this summer!

“Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.” 1 John 3:24

Sai anjima!

Julianna

Advertisements

Week 6: Egbe

KWSR3174Sannu, friends!

Sorry for the (very late) blog, my last 3 weeks in Nigeria were absolutely jam packed and I’m just now getting the chance to post blog updates!

I hope this blog post finds you well. I wanted to write to update you all about my experiences as I traveled last week to Egbe to observe in the hospital there. Egbe is about 11 hours’ drive from Jos, and the group I traveled with split the drive down to Egbe into two days, with a night of rest in Abuja. We arrived in Abuja mid-afternoon on our first day of travel, and had the opportunity to enjoy some good food, walk around the Abuja mall, and watch a movie! It was a fun evening, but definitely slightly disorienting. Abuja is a very wealthy (and very Westernized) city, and I remember having a few moments where I was confused as to whether I was still in Nigeria or whether I was back in the US. But nonetheless, it was a fun day! We left early the following morning to drive from Abuja to Egbe. That drive was long and taxing, as the road from Lakoja (a city two hours from Abuja) to Egbe is absolutely horrendous. It’s been told to me that the drive from Lakoja to Egbe used to be only 2-2.5 hours, but it took us a full 5 hours to drive it. The road has not been maintained for years, and the combination of erosion and heavy trucks driving over it has made it difficult to traverse. But nonetheless, we arrived safely in Egbe.

We arrived in Egbe Friday evening, which left Saturday and Sunday as good days for some much-needed rest. On Saturday I had the opportunity to attend a graduation service at a local private school, which had primary through secondary school students (equivalent to elementary through high school). The team leader for our trip, Patrice Miles, helps to run an amazing organization called CARE Africa that helps provide educational opportunities to children from disadvantaged families. The graduation was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the students who had successfully completed secondary school who are part of the CARE Africa program. Sunday was a great opportunity to learn more about the local culture in Egbe during a church service. Egbe is in the southwest of Nigeria, where the Yoruba tribe are the major ethnic group and Yoruba is the common tribal language spoken. Jos has a diverse mix of tribal/ethnic groups, but Hausa is the common tribal language and the city is heavily influenced by Hausa culture. While the church I attended conducted a service in English, I was able to note some differences in musical style and preaching that were specific to the area.

EOUT9098

After a restful weekend, I was able to begin shadowing in ECWA Hospital Egbe, a hospital facility that was revitalized in 2012 as a partnership between SIM, Samaritan’s Purse, and several other organizations. This hospital was truly one of the best-equipped and organized mission hospitals I have seen in my time in Nigeria, and it was such a wonderful experience to shadow there. For the first two days, I was able to shadow family medicine residents who were caring for patients coming to the hospital’s OPD (out-patient department). I shadowed Dr. Stephen, who was in his third year of the program. It was an incredible experience to shadow with him, as he was incredibly friendly and patient to explain his decision-making process in caring for patients. On my second day of shadowing Dr. Stephen, I had the opportunity to utilize some of my EMT training in caring for a patient who came into the ER with extensive trauma following a motorcycle accident. The OPD has limited vitals monitoring equipment, so Dr. Stephens had just brought a patient to the ER to use their monitoring equipment and the timing worked out that I was able to assist. It was incredibly rewarding to be able to use some of my skills to help the medical team that was assessing and managing the trauma patient. The lack of prehospital emergency care in Nigeria means that emergency patients typically are driven to the ER by bystanders or family members without any prior care or stabilization. So it really felt like doing regular EMT work, but in an ER instead of in the back of an ambulance! Dr. Jenn, an American physician who helps run the family medicine residency program, was helping with the management of the trauma patient. In addition to getting to use my skills, I had the opportunity to learn from her by observing her prioritization and decision-making model.

On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to shadow a visiting general surgeon, Dr. Fabruce. I was able to observe two procedures and assist in a third. It was a wonderful learning experience, as Dr. Fabruce was patient to explain the proper way to go about scrubbing up and maintaining a sterile environment. Carmen (known as “Grandma” to almost everyone), a visiting nurse anesthetist, was also wonderful and happy to share her vast knowledge about proper anesthesia and pain management during surgery. It is absolutely incredible to me that I have now had a second opportunity to assist in surgery, as it is something that would not be remotely feasible (or legal) in the United States. While I think I’m still learning more towards emergency medicine than I am towards surgery, I have great respect for talented surgeons like Dr. Fabruce who are willing and patient teachers. On Thursday, I had the opportunity to learn about the hospital’s lab and pharmacy. The lab at ECWA Hospital Egbe has incredible equipment and is able to provide a variety of lab results to physicians at the hospital. It was wonderful to learn about the processes the lab uses to perform blood chemistry, microbiology, and hematology tests. As a huge science nerd, it was so much fun to ask questions and learn how some of the technology I use in my undergraduate study (such as spectrophotometry and microscopy) is adapted for use in a clinical setting. The pharmacy was also a good experience, as I was able to learn about the free health counseling and medication it supplies to HIV patients. On Friday, I was able to observe the vaccination clinic in the hospital’s Under-5 unit. The clinic involved an educational segment where mothers learned about the benefits of vaccination, managing reaction to vaccines, and contraceptive/family planning options. Vaccines are provided free at this clinic, with patients only being responsible for the cost of the syringes used to provide the vaccines. The vaccination clinic was another good opportunity to see the impact of community health programs and health education, as a lack of resource and understanding often contributes to poor hospital-seeking behavior among patients here.

While I spent much of my time in Egbe working in the hospital, I also had several opportunities for non-medical ministry that I really enjoyed. Near the beginning of the week, I had the opportunity to visit and pray with HIV+ patients in the community who are part of the hospital’s Spring of Life counseling center. Pastor ?? explained the importance of visits and encouragement to these patients, as the physical resources (a supply of rice and beans) as well as the company are helpful to a section of the community that is often marginalized and looked down upon for their illness. For much of the rest of the week, I was involved in helping to organize and prepare supplies for a new school being started by the CARE Africa program. CARE Africa is a family preservation organization in Egbe that one of the missionaries I traveled with is heavily involved in. CARE Africa focuses on providing sponsorship so that children whose family/caregivers could not afford the cost of school fees can go to school and also on providing discipleship to both children and their caregivers. In the course of the week, I also got the chance to interact with many of the children who are part of the CARE Africa program. On Monday evening, I got the chance to participate in their AWANA club, which also involves children in the community. It was so beautiful to see these children learning more about who God is in a fun environment. On our last day in Egbe, we also got to participate in an end-of-the-year party for the children, which was filled with excitement, music, dancing, and food! Spending time loving on the children at CARE Africa was one of the best parts of coming to Egbe, and I will dearly miss some of the children I got to know fairly well in the limited span of time I had.

Outside of ministry, I also got the chance to speak with several Nigerians in the Egbe community. Hearing their wisdom about God and His plan was incredibly insightful. Baba Warren, a well-respected older man in Egbe, was absolutely wonderful to listen to. His theological grounding was so incredibly solid as he discussed the present-day issues facing Nigeria (poverty, tribal conflicts, etc.) in light of the promises of God’s Word. A second Nigerian that I remember being struck by was a Muslim convert named Abubakar, who spends much of his time preaching the Gospel to Fulani Muslims living in villages in the bush. Abubakar is incredibly passionate about the spread of God’s Word and the importance of evangelism, and spoke powerfully about how the Church and Christians and general can often be distracted from a focus on evangelism due to a variety of factors, including fear of persecution, indifference to those who don’t know Jesus, and an inward focus on only the church body itself. Another wonderful part of my week in Egbe was reading “Tread Upon the Lion,” a biography of Tommie Titcombe, one of the earliest missionaries to Egbe. The book was filled with example after example of God’s provision in challenging situations, His power over spiritual darkness, and the long-term impact of a life invested into people who need to know God. It was incredible to read about the traditional beliefs of those living in Yoruba-speaking areas and then to see the impact of Tommie Titcombe’s life right in front of me as I interacted with many faithful believers in my time at Egbe.

I really enjoyed my week at Egbe, but wrestled with how quickly the time was going, knowing that when I arrived back in Jos afterwards, I would only have a little less than two weeks left. In thinking about how my internship has gone this summer, I was happy with many things, but still wished that I had been able to do more somehow. Something that the Lord was really laying on my heart while I was in Egbe was that I needed to quit trying to do or accomplish enough ministry tasks, and rather take the time to dwell in Him. I am reminded of the account of Mary and Martha in Luke 10. Often I think that I view ministry much like Martha, as something that must be done and that requires active involvement. Yet in the text, Jesus rebukes Martha when she complains that her sister Mary isn’t helping her accomplish the task at hand (preparing the home for Jesus’ arrival). Jesus says that Mary has chosen “the good portion” in choosing to sit at His feet and listen rather than to busy herself with serving. I think in my own life, I still have much to learn from the example of Mary. It is easy for me to evaluate my effectiveness in ministry based on what tasks I have been able to accomplish, but what Jesus values more is a heart that is passionate about being rooted in Him.

Friends, as always I am so thankful for all of your support. In these next few weeks, please just be praying that I will end my time here well, prioritizing the things that the Lord has for me to prioritize. And as always, please let me know if I can be praying for you. I’m available through WhatsApp, Facebook messenger, and/or email!

Sai anjima!

Julianna

JIQI9340

Week 5: The Least of These and Being vs. Doing

IMG_3596

Sannu, friends!

I hope this blog post finds you well! I wanted to write to update you about my past week back in Jos, following the Kano trip. Since returning to Jos, I have had several incredible opportunities for medical and community/ministry outreach, and I can’t wait to share with you about the lessons I have been learning in this time!

First, I began shadowing at Faith Alive last week, and it has been an incredible experience overall. It is an entirely free hospital, but also incorporates social and educational measures to encourage empowerment and liberation from poverty. Attached to the hospital compound is a variety of vocational training centers, counseling sites, and transition housing for those in need of a place to stay. I highly, highly recommend checking out their website (faithalivenigeria.org)! Shadowing in the hospital in Faith Alive was an absolutely incredible experience. As a facility that is run entirely on donations and without access to many of the “essentials” of care found in the United States, Faith Alive still manages to provide inpatient and outpatient care, specialist consultations (ophthalmology, OBGYN, psychiatry, etc.), and surgery completely free of charge to all patients. While shadowing at Faith Alive, I had the opportunity to meet the founder, Dr. Chris Oogoegbunem Ischei. He is an incredible man filled with a passion for providing medical care for underserved populations in order to show the love of Christ. While shadowing at Faith Alive so far, I had the opportunity to shadow (and even assist) in surgery, as well as learn from a family medicine doctor and a pediatrician as they consulted with patients. I was so incredibly impressed with Dr. Chris’ vision and story of God’s faithfulness to fulfill the dream of Faith Alive, and I absolutely cannot wait to spend more time shadowing there!

Assisting in surgery at Faith Alive and a photo with Faith Alive’s founder, Dr. Chris!

Last week, I also got the opportunity to tour Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH), a government-funded public hospital. It was valuable to compare this hospital to the other mission hospitals and free clinics I have visited so far. JUTH has far more resources, facilities, and patients than the other facilities I have shadowed at so far in Nigeria. Comparatively, they are able to provide a much higher level of care to patients. However, the hospital is not without its problems, as strikes and high costs often make it inaccessible to many patients. While touring JUTH, I was reminded also of the need to continue praying for the ongoing crisis in villages outside of Jos, which recently made international news. Even though the maximal period of violence was several weeks ago, JUTH still saw severely injured patients arriving for care last week. Please, dear friends, be praying for peace and healing in Plateau State.

Also last week was the Fourth of July! Even though I wasn’t home in the US, myself and the other American missionaries made sure to celebrate with food, a homemade slip and slide, and homemade sparklers (which thankfully did not light anything or anyone on fire). It was a slightly surreal experience to play the national anthem and other patriotic songs in Nigeria, and to celebrate with Nigerians, a Brit, and a German as well as with my fellow countrymen! But nonetheless it was a wonderful time of celebration and community.

This week, I have had the wonderful opportunity to explore other ministries that are ongoing in Jos that do not involve medical care. I was able to visit several orphanages associated with City Ministries, an organization in Jos. It was wonderful to see how this organization seeks to protect and invest in the lives of vulnerable children, and to help grow them into skilled, educated adults who love the Lord. Of particular impact to me personally was the Girls’ Transition Home in Bassa, a home for girls in the equivalent of middle and high school. The home at Bassa houses about forty girls, who work together to farm (with a goal of complete self-sustainability), cook, and care for each other. In talking with the missionary whose ministry focus is this home, I was absolutely blown away to hear the ways in which God is answering prayer and providing for these girls. From everything to financial provision to buy the current site of the home to ridding the farmland of an invasive worm to provision to start a secondary school (high school) for the girls, God has proven Himself faithful.

I also had the opportunity to visit Open Doors, a school and vocational training center for children and adults with physical and mental disabilities. The disabled are a highly neglected and marginalized section of society in Nigeria, so it was absolutely wonderful to see this ministry and its emphasis on empowering these individuals. I had the opportunity to observe and participate in the physical therapy provided to those students in need of it, as well as to talk with some of the staff about their work. I was amazed by the workers’ dedication to serve these students, as they quoted Scripture about serving these children as they would Christ.

This week was also my second time participating in the street boys’ outreach. The formal title for the particular children this outreach targets is the almajiri. The almajiri system is an incredibly broken and oppressive system present throughout northern Nigeria and in Jos that makes beggars out of Muslim boys as young as four or five years old. I recommend checking out these articles to learn more about it (https://m.guardian.ng/new/the-almajiri-abused-neglectedhttp://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/africa/01/07/nigeria.children.radicalization/index.html).

This week, the outreach showed an animated film about stealing and forgiveness that incorporated a gospel message in Hausa. It was so rewarding to see that the boys began to engage with the film, and were able to vocalize lessons that they learned such as that stealing is bad and being honest is good. Perhaps most exciting was that one of the boys indicated to a leader that he was interested in following Jesus. My friends, please be lifting this precious boy up! Conversion from Islam to Christianity is so incredibly challenging here, so please just pray that God will continue to draw this child to Himself and that no intimidation or harassment would keep him from seeking Jesus.

This past week and a half has been an incredible time of learning about the ministries present here in Jos as well as learning several lessons the Lord has been revealing to me. Over the course of several conversations and some time spent in thinking, I have been pondering over the question “Where would Jesus work if He was a physician?” My friends, I think that my time spent here in Nigeria has impressed on me that He would not work among the wealthy, or where there is easy access to medical care. Rather, I think Jesus would work among those without access to medical care, be they the poor in a country with poor health infrastructure, or even among the poor and uninsured in developed countries like the United States. My friends, what an opportunity there is to love and to show value for those who are marginalized and in need by providing medical care. While I have read Matthew 25:31-40 many times, the Lord has shown me in a new way how I can show love to the “least of these” by dedicating my time and whatever skills He has blessed me with to pour into those who are marginalized, poor, and needy.

Second, something the Lord has been teaching me (although I am hesitant to learn) is that He is glorified by our obedience, even when our plans for ministry do not work as we would like. While I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience in Nigeria thus far, in retrospect I can see many moments earlier in my time here where I could have done more ministry had I known about it. Looking now to the remaining weeks I have in Nigeria, it is so easy for me to feel disappointed that I have will not be able to do all the ministry I have wanted to do. Yet the Lord is teaching me that ministering and representing Him does not equate to accomplishing all of the ministry tasks I have on my to-do list. Rather, He is glorified by my obedience to follow Him here to Nigeria and by my efforts to show the love of Christ to those I encounter while I am here. While ministry does involve real service (and I don’t intend to discount that ministry should be active and intentional), I think that the Western cultural mindset which is obsessive about task management and accomplishment often hinders us as ministers. It is so easy to judge the value of ministry (or our personal faith journey) by the milestones or tasks we accomplish. But ministry and faith are not about a series of check marks and trying to do “enough” good deeds to feel satisfied at the end of the day. Rather, both ministry and faith are irretrievably tied to dwelling in the Lord and seeking to obey and honor Him. Faith and ministry are as much (perhaps even more) about being as they are about doing. While this is a challenging lesson to learn for a type-A perfectionist, I am hoping that it may be encouraging to you as well.

To summarize, friends: God is faithful. He is working in the hearts of these precious people in Nigeria. I absolutely love it here, and while I cannot wait to see you all back home, I know I will be leaving part of my heart here. I am so thankful for all the opportunities I have had thus far and the lessons I am learning along the way. And I am so very thankful for all of you, for your prayers and your support! As I mentioned earlier, please just be praying for peace in Nigeria and in the Middle Belt region in light of the recent violence as well as for the street boy who is seeking Jesus. Blessings, dear friends!

Sai anjima!

Julianna

“‘Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.’” John 15:4-5

Nigeria Weeks 3-4

IMG_3368.jpg

Sannu, friends!

I apologize for the delay in updating you all about my Nigerian experience, but these past two weeks have been very busy and I’m just now finding the time to write about them! These past few weeks have been a wonderful time of learning new lessons from the Lord and experiencing new things, and I can’t wait to share some of them with you!

Almost two weeks ago, I had my home stay weekend with a Nigerian family. SIM partners with local families who enjoy hosting foreigners in their home to teach them about Nigerian culture. I had the opportunity to stay with a reverend and his family, which was an incredible experience. They were incredibly kind and hospitable, and I enjoyed everything from eating together to watching the World Cup to learning more about their daughter’s school. The family I stayed with was definitely a more “Western” family, as they spent several years living in the United States before returning to Nigeria. I enjoyed learning about their habits as a family, as well as experiencing their hospitality. I truly believe that Nigerians have a unique and wonderful sense of hospitality and welcoming that I had not encountered before this trip that continues to amaze me.

This past week, from June 27thto July 2nd, I was part of a ministry exposure trip to Kano, a city that is about five to six hours’ drive north of Jos. Kano is a city of six million that is approximately ninety-eight percent Muslim. It is an area which SIM wishes to expand into, as there is great need. While in Kano, I had the opportunity to take a day to tour the “Old City,” a portion of the city that is at least six hundred years old. During that day, I visited the Emir’s Palace, which is the home of the traditional ruler of the region (similar in role to the Queen of England). I also visited the Kano dye pits, which were once part of the Sahara trade routes and which are known for their indigo dye. We were able to learn about the dyeing process, which has been handed down through families for generations, as well as see the end product of the process. We also had the opportunity to visit a traditional Hausa home, which had been handed down through the family who lived there for generations. Hausa is both a language and a people group, and the Hausa people are found all throughout the northern part of Nigeria. I also visited the central market, which was a mazelike array of merchants selling a variety of goods from beads and jewelry to prayer mats, food items, and medicines. In the afternoon, we hiked to the top of Dala Hill, which provides a view of the urban sprawl of Kano city. Dala Hill was the first Kano settlement from almost one thousand years ago, although none of the original structures remain.

Throughout the tour day, I found myself encountering in a new and challenging way the realities of urban life in a predominantly Muslim city. Poverty is present in many areas of Nigeria, but it is a visceral and pronounced reality in Kano. It is a heartrending issue to confront, yet nevertheless I find myself drawn to service in an area like Kano. After the tour of the Old City, when we had free time in the afternoon, we went to a mall. I was expecting it to be very Nigerian and perhaps somewhat like the market, but it was virtually identical to an American mall. As I walked into a store that was very similar to a Costco, I remember feeling incredibly disoriented, as if I’d stepped onto another planet. It was challenging and is still challenging to wrap my mind around the extremes of poverty and wealth seen in cities like Kano.

The following day, we had a tour of the ECWA compound, in the small Christian district of Kano. There is a large and well-equipped eye hospital which sees patients from all over Nigeria. It was an impressive facility, and I enjoyed learning about the types of care they provide– there is a small maternity clinic and a general clinic in addition to the main eye hospital. Additionally, we toured Gospel Centre church and talked with the head pastor. It was a fascinating conversation that emphasized the same points as conversations I had with a few of the missionaries presently stationed in Kano– that it is a difficult field of ministry, and that Muslim ministry presents both unique challenges and unique opportunities. Following the church visit, we visited the girls’ hostel, a two-room living facility for eighty-seven Nigerian girls. Originally, ECWA missionaries who went to serve in rural communities would house their daughters at the hostel so they could attend better schools in Kano. Over time, the hostel has opened to the general public, with many girls from rural villages living there in order to receive a better education in Kano. One matron manages the entire hostel, and the girls there are independent in buying food, cooking, and doing laundry.

On Saturday, we had the opportunity to partner with Gospel Centre church in doing a medical outreach in a village about an hour outside of Kano. Due to heavy rains the night before, I and the rest of the team had to hike the last mile or more on foot. We forded a small creek and trekked through the mud, but eventually made it! At the clinic, I had the chance to assist the Nigerian physicians who were seeing patients by taking blood pressures. The medical outreach mainly served women and children, as most men were working in the fields while we were there. There were a number of people from the village we set up in and the surrounding villages, as well as some Fulani people. The Fulani are an itinerant cattle-herding people group. It was interesting to be involved in the medical clinic and to observe the common complaints being treated. I definitely enjoyed the village outreach experience, as it allowed me to see and begin to understand (to a very limited degree) what village life is like in comparison to the more urban lifestyle I have seen among Nigerians living in Jos and Kano.

Sunday was a wonderful opportunity to observe and learn about Nigerian church. We attended a portion of a Hausa-language church that meets outdoors due to having its building burned down nine years ago. It was beautiful to see the worship of such a vibrant and resilient people, who are faithful to serve God when their society pressures them not to. Additionally, we also attended a portion of Gospel Centre’s service, which was wonderful. In reflecting on both churches, I was reminded of the passionate beauty of African worship and of the sense of welcoming present in this culture. It was so encouraging to fellowship with part of the global Body of Christ, and to be reminded of the grandeur of God’s vision for the nations and His glory.

In the past few weeks, I think one of the biggest lessons God has been showing me is the value of community. For the first three weeks of my time here, I was living on a different compound than the majority of the short-termers. As an introvert, I initially wasn’t at all concerned and thought I would appreciate the time to myself. I began to feel quite lonely after a bit, and having these past two weeks (plus a change in living situation) has been an incredible reminder of the value of having community and fellowship with other believers. It was a humbling reminder that I am not an island, nor should I try to be. I am so grateful for these past two weeks as an opportunity to gain a greater understanding of God’s heart for the millions of people in northern Nigeria who are searching, yet need someone to tell them the truth. So excited to share more with you in the weeks to come!

My friends, I am so grateful for all the ways in which you are supporting me. In the next weeks, please be praying that I am faithful and sensitive to God’s leading in the ministries I find myself in. Additionally, please pray for Nigeria in light of the recent violence against Christians in Plateau state. And as always, please reach out via Facebook messenger or email if there is any way at all that I can be praying for you or your family!

Sai anjima!

Julianna

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:19-23

POQF9661

Nigeria Week 2: New Places, New Faces

PSLK0776.jpg

Sannu, friends!

I’ve been meaning to write to update you all about my experience in Nigeria. I have been in-country for about two and a half weeks, and feel I have experienced much in this short time! This past week has been primarily the transition from cultural orientation at the SIM Nigeria office into shadowing/volunteering at Bingham University Teaching Hospital. I have had the opportunity to observe surgery several days in the VVF center, which has been fascinating. VVF is an abbreviation for vesicovaginal fistula, a condition that occurs frequently here. Women who experience prolonged periods of labor (over several days) are at risk of developing the condition, which produces incontinence. The VVF center works with these women to determine the exact cause of their incontinence and provides surgical repair of fistulas and other procedures repairing other gynecological/urological issues caused by prolonged labor.

I have also had the opportunity to shadow several other procedures. One day, I shadowed a pediatric surgeon who was performing umbilical hernia repairs on children between three-five years old. On another day, I shadowed several surgeons who were performing Cesarean sections. That day was incredibly fun because I got to go back to the maternity ward after the surgery and see one of the newborns!

One of the things that has struck me in my time shadowing in the hospital so far is the ingenuity of those working there to provide care. There is significantly less access to many of the commodities and materials that are considered essentials of Western medical care, yet the staff works incredibly hard to provide quality care for their patients. While some things I have observed have been altogether different to the standards of care I have been accustomed to back home, I nonetheless have great respect for the staff of Bingham University Teaching Hospital.

Outside of shadowing at the hospital, I have also had several opportunities to spend time with some of the other short-termers serving in Nigeria and to explore more of the city of Jos and the surrounding areas. I have enjoyed weekly game nights at one of the missionary’s homes with all of the short-termers. I have learned several fun card games, which I can’t wait to bring back home with me to the States! I have also had the opportunity to visit the Jos Zoo as well as the Jos artists’ district. The artists’ district is absolutely incredible, offering everything from paintings to wood carvings to wax-dyed fabrics. Meeting many of the artists was such a wonderful experience, as they were all incredibly friendly and had absolutely stunning work.

I also had the opportunity to take a day trip to Yankari, a nature preserve that is about three hours’ drive from Jos. I went with a group of short-termers, and we had the opportunity to go on a safari and swim in the warm springs. The safari was fun, as we saw a variety of local animals. Perhaps most interesting of the animals we encountered were the baboons. I was warned that they are aggressive, but they were truly something else! The warm springs were the highlight of the trip. They are absolutely gorgeous, and the water temperature is consistently in the seventies. I love swimming, and it was such a nice chance to spend time relaxing with friends. The day ended with a drive home in the pouring rain. I, like many others, had heard the lyrics to Togo’s “Africa,” but I fully began to understand the concept of rains down in Africa during that storm! It absolutely poured, to the extent to which we could see fields flooding as we drove past.

While I am still trying to find my place here for the summer, I am enjoying the things I have had the privilege of experiencing so far. I am looking forward to continuing to learn about medical missions in Nigeria. I am also thankful to report that I am finally feeling better after about a week and a half of gastrointestinal distress. I think my body is finally beginning to adjust fully to living here, which is a welcome change.

I am so very thankful for the support of all my friends and family, it truly means the world to me. There are a few areas in which I would greatly appreciate prayer support. First, I am wrestling with feelings of loneliness as it has been difficult to build relationships due to my living situation. Second, I am working to tweak my ministry schedule so that I can be more directly involved in serving the community. Just be praying that I would be wise in trying to plan my schedule, and that the right service opportunities would present themselves. As always, I don’t want prayer support to be a one-way street! If there is anything I can be praying for you about, or supporting you with, please reach out via Facebook messenger or email (specifically, my Liberty address).

May God bless you abundantly, my friends!

Julianna

 

 

Traveling/Nigeria Week 1: You Are Welcome

Sannu, dear friends and family!

(Sannu is the Hausa word for hello). I’ve been meaning to take some time to write to update you all as to my experience thus far in Nigeria. It’s only been six days since we arrived in Nigeria, but it has almost seemed like more with everything we’ve been busy with!

Traveling to Nigeria went smoothly, although I and my traveling/internship companion Joanne were thoroughly exhausted by the time we arrived. We had a twelve-hour layover in the London Heathrow airport, which felt like forever. But eventually we made it! I am pleased to report that both Joanne and I made it through immigration and customs at the Abuja airport without difficulty, and that we arrived safely in Jos after a four-hour car ride. Thanks to all who were praying; the traveling was exhausting but I am so thankful that we did not run into issues along the way!

Since getting settled in last Wednesday, I have been busy with unpacking, getting to know my neighbors, starting cultural orientation, and receiving additional training as part of preparation for beginning with shadowing this week. I have also had the opportunity to begin to get to know the city of Jos, where I will be living and doing ministry for the majority of my time in Nigeria. I have had the opportunity to take a short hike (called The 100 Steps) to see the city from a higher elevation, which was incredible. Jos is a much larger city than I anticipated, with a skyline that spread out for miles and miles. Additionally, I have been able to spend some time walking around and shopping in the central market district of Jos. That has been a fun and exciting experience, as the market offers everything from produce to live chickens to fabrics and used clothing. It has been interesting to learn about purchasing in a market setting, especially in learning about how to barter well. On Sunday, I had the opportunity to attend an ECWA church. ECWA (Evangelical Church Winning All) is a major denomination in Nigeria that is SIM’s primary ministry partner. I enjoyed the service, as it was encouraging and inspiring to see the passionate worship of the Nigerian church. Along the way, I have also been trying to pick up a few phrases in Hausa, a major language in this region (among several hundred found in Nigeria).

In this week, I have also had the opportunity to get to know my neighbors as well as many of the SIM missionaries. Getting to know and spend time with them has been wonderful. Additionally, I have gotten the opportunity to spend time with some of the other short-termers at SIM, most of whom are living on a different compound than I am. It has been fun to get to know everyone and fellowship! I have been struck by the ways in which SIM missionaries work to support each other. Everyone I have met has been incredibly warm and welcoming, offering a listening ear and support for any struggles I have been experiencing with transitioning into living in Nigeria. It is wonderful to be working with people who are compassionate, supportive, encouraging, and passionate about making Jesus’ name great in Nigeria.

While it is difficult to summarize the differences between Nigerian and American culture, one thing struck me that I thought might be interesting/beneficial to share. Nigerian culture differs from American culture in that greetings and welcoming are given very high importance. In the United States, we may greet one another by saying hello and asking how the other person is. In Nigeria, greetings involve asking how the morning is going, how someone’s family is, how someone’s work is, and many other questions. These greetings are exceptionally important, as they are part of esteeming another person’s worth. The sense of welcome present in Nigerian culture can perhaps best be summed up with the Hausa phrase “Sannu da zuwa,” meaning “You are welcome.” This phrase is different than the American “You’re welcome,” which we say after someone thanks us for doing something. Many Nigerians I have met, from coworkers in the SIM/ECWA office to security officers to gardeners have said “Sannu da zuwa” when I explained that I have come to Nigeria as a missionary. It is a statement of openness and hospitality, that they are glad that I am here and that I have come to live and work among them. Nigerians are truly one of the most welcoming people I have ever met, and I am so incredibly excited to be living and learning here for the next two months.

My friends, I think that there is a lesson to be learned here from my Nigerian friends. I once heard it said that there are elements in every culture which point to God’s character, and elements which represent humanity’s sinfulness. I think that the hospitality and welcoming shown in Nigerian culture is an incredible example of how God is open and warm to us. He is inviting, and draws us into relationship with Himself. I know that in this last week, I have been critically reflecting on my own ability to be welcoming. How often do I ask someone how they are doing, not caring about their answer? Or how often do I avoid talking to someone I see in passing because it would be inconvenient or uncomfortable? I know that I have been guilty many times of not valuing people and welcoming them enough, and I hope that I can capture just a bit of the Nigerian sense of welcome to take home with me at the end of this summer.

Thank you to all who have been supporting and praying for me so far! I have a few more requests to share. First, pray for myself and for the other short-termers who have recently come to the field for physical adjustment to the differences in climate, food, etc. Second, pray that I would be wise in planning my schedule so that I can daily set aside time to spend in the Word and in prayer. Third, pray that I will be able to begin building relationships with Nigerians as I begin shadowing in the hospital this week. But I really don’t want this prayer thing to be a one-way street! If there is anything that you could use prayer support in, please feel free to reach out via Facebook messenger or email (I’ll be checking my Liberty address).

Below is a passage that I felt really summed up the sense of welcoming that God shows to us through Christ:

“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called ‘the uncircumcision’ by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands–remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” Ephesians 2:11-13

May God bless you abundantly, my friends!

Julianna

Orientation: A Lesson in Dependence

Hi friends and family!

I am writing after reflecting on nearly a full week of orientation in preparation for my time in Nigeria. I actually will be leaving on my first flight heading towards Nigeria this evening, which seems so incredibly unreal to say!

My week with SIM at orientation has been wonderful, stretching, and so very encouraging. I have had the opportunity to meet many wonderful new people, brothers and sisters with whom I have shared sweet fellowship and challenging training sessions. Many have already departed to fields of service all over the world. One thing that has struck me in my time spent here is how easily and how quickly deep friendships form between those who share a common passion. In this orientation group, we have all shared the passion of serving God and making Him known. I think now, more so than many times in my life, I have understood what Peter meant when he wrote of the “unity of mind” that is desirable among believers (1 Peter 3:8). It has been so evident to me that despite being in the midst of a diverse group of people from many walks of life from all over this country (and even outside the United States), we all share a unified mind that seeks to glorify the Lord among the nations. It has been incredible to see a group of nearly twenty strangers so quickly become dear friends, and I am so grateful for this time. I will miss their fellowship on the field in Nigeria, and look forward to hearing updates from SIM’s “darn millennials!”

I am also incredibly grateful for the wisdom that was shared with me this week in orientation, as veteran missionaries took time to mentor and patiently teach us lessons about evangelism, servanthood, cultural adaptation, and many other topics pertinent to missions work. Those I worked with this week were encouraging, willing to answer many questions, and persistent in promoting thoughtful reflection on what we were learning. Many of those we worked with told stories of their time spent serving in other countries, and I was fascinated with their stories of the challenges and blessings of learning new cultures and of God’s provision in the midst of seemingly impossible circumstances. It was so encouraging to hear stories of God’s faithfulness played out in these missionaries’ lives, and to have great hope for how He will show His faithfulness in my own life this summer.

In reflecting on my orientation experience, the concept that kept coming back to my mind was dependence. Dependence was the topic of the first devotion we shared during morning chapel, and it was a concept that the Lord continued to impress on me and convict me with during my week here. It is so easy in my comfortable, regular routine to operate on a functional autopilot that almost entirely excludes God from participation. It is so easy to allow my pride to make an idol out of my own self-sufficiency. Yet in the lessons I have worked through this week, I have been awed by the immensity of the task of missions. It is not something that can merely be added to one’s schedule, or done by sheer force of will. It is a colossal task that requires a greater degree of maturity, servanthood, patience, and intelligence than I can possess in my own strength. The solution, then, is not to seek sufficiency, but rather to seek dependency. Only in Christ can I find the ability to work faithfully to complete the task of sharing God’s glory among the nations. It seems paradoxical to find peace in recognizing my own inability, but I have been reminded that this is the way we honor the Lord. Not by seeking to become capable, confident Christians, but rather by recognizing our abject failure and inability before a holy and perfect God. Dependence is a scary word, and often our society makes it into a bad word. Yet there is nothing more beautiful or fitting to our Savior to see us entrusting our lives and depending on Him to fulfill the good work He has begun in us (Philippians 1:6).

I am so very grateful for this opportunity to learn and grow so much within a week, and for the rich community and fellowship I have shared. My friends, I cannot wait to share with you in the future all the ways in which the Lord demonstrates His greatness and faithfulness in Nigeria this summer. But in the meantime, I would ask for prayer as I prepare to travel today. Just ask that God will work to provide safety for myself and my fellow intern (Joanne) as we travel, and that He will grant us favor with customs officials as we enter Nigeria. May God bless you, friends!