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

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