Weeks 7-8: Endings and Beginnings

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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.

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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.

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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

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