It has been almost 4 weeks now since we left Grimsby and arrived here in Jos to a very warm and hospitable welcome into the CRC community and into a warm climate. The Nigerian people are very friendly and appreciate it when you take time to talk with them.
We are living in a 3-bedroom duplex in the SUM-CRC Administrative Compound. Contrary to expectations, the “Becks” are in the Mountainview Compound, 5 minutes by car away, or a 15 minute walk. We have all the conveniences of home, running hot and cold water, a gas cooking stove which is a real blessing since NEPA (Nigerian Electric Power Association) is not always on. It is a real hit and miss situation with the electricity, however, the compound does run the generator from 9-12 am and again from 6-10 pm. This past week almost daily - no NEPA.
Jos is a city on the Plateau about 4000 feet above sea level making for a much cooler atmosphere than in the capital where our plane landed. We are now entering the dry season which means that the brief heavy rain and thunderstorms from the past week are probably the last for several weeks. The benefit is that several trees will start to bloom during this time. The CRC Compound is one of the best kept grounds that we have ever experienced - luscious green trees as well as beautiful shade trees, flowers, and plants that you would only find in a greenhouse or an indoor setting in North America. It is very clear that the gardeners are committed to their work.
We have worshipped several times now in the SUM-CRC in the Jos church. It is wonderful to join this Nigerian CRC in worship. They, at present, do not have a minister, so various pastors are in the pulpit. In the area where the church is located, violence took place in 2008. Driving up to the church is like coming into a war zone. Homes and businesses have been torched, roofs are missing, and walls are half-standing. The road itself is displaced by the recent heavy rain period, however that is not unusual as roads (with the exception of highways) are often rutted and broken down. The parsonage next to the church as well as the caretaker's home were also torched. The walls are still standing but the structure has been compromised. Due to safety issues, it will need to come down and be totally rebuilt. Each Sunday, a collection is held in the church for this cause.
The walls of the church also still show signs of the uprising with various bullet holes. It is a strange phenomena to see guards at the gate of the church compound and again at the church door to check purses and people.
All around the city there is evidence of previous destructions, of church and buildings which have been destroyed. With a population in Jos of 50 percent Christian, one would have thought it would be different, however the figures do not always represent “practising” Christians. History also tells us that not everything done in Christ’s name is good.
We do feel safe here and have at various times been downtown into the market and stores buying food and vegetables. You barter for your purchases, except in the stores where the prices are on the goods. It is expected that you barter - it is a sign of weakness if you do not. It was quite interesting to watch Talitha, the CRWRC Intervenor, barter. It is almost a game, but I hate it. It reminds me of my dad bartering in the material store on Ottawa Street in Hamilton - embarrassing!
Food is expensive here, especially the type of food we eat. Rice and beans are the main diet and Nigerians rarely eat meat - it is too expensive. Minimum wage at present is 7,000 Naira, and the population wants to have it raised to 18,000. However, the government wants to take away the subsidy on the gasoline and that would increase the price from 65 Naira a litre to 165 Naira a litre, and therefore would push the wage increase significantly. There are a lot of cars in Nigeria and many motorbikes.
In terms of our volunteer work for Beautiful Gates Handicapped Peoples Center (BGHPC), during the past 2.5 weeks, we have been working in the CRC Administration Office under the expert guidance of Kathy Vanderkloet. We have transformed non-existent bookkeeping into a balanced system. We will now move to the Beautiful Gates Workshop to guide and train the current bookkeeper in the proper procedures. It has at times been stressful, but taking one small step at a time produces good results. A lot of administrative work and training remains to be done.
We went with Ayuba, Co-ordinator of BGHPC, to a wheelchair presentation at a high school of 800 students. Ayuba has been a polio victim since the age of 5 years old and walks on his hands because of totally useless legs. Ayuba actually attended this school in the past. It is very heartbreaking to see these kids come in walking on their knees, and their happy faces when they see their own hand-operated wheelchair. Others were given canes, crutches, and collapsible white canes for the blind. These are all given free, along with a Bible. In return, they promise to refrain from begging.
This past weekend, we travelled to Mkar, a 5 1/2 hour journey by car, to attend the NKST Church 100th Anniversary Celebrations of the Gospel coming to Nigeria. Several people arrived especially for these celebrations - Dick VanderSteen (originally from St. Catharines in the 1950s) from Grand Rapids, USA; 2 people from the Reformed Church of Holland; 3 people from the United Reformed Church of South Africa, among them the grandson of the first missionary to the Tiv people, Rev. George Botha (1907), himself now a grandfather.
It was good to participate in these celebrations, to see the joy of the people renewing relationships after years of separation and to hear the many speeches. We were also able to see some culture as they portrayed the coming of the missionaries to Nigeria and danced to some hymns.
Saturday we were in Mkar, Sunday in Makurdi. It was in all a long and tiring journey but we were thankful to have been there, also because we were able to see some “down bush Africa”.
- That our work proceeds and hopefully meets the high expectation of Beautiful Gates.
- That the work in Nigeria for God’s kingdom may flourish and increase.
- That the Nigerian youth may receive adequate expertise and training to take over responsibilities.
- That Nigerians may live in peace with each other to combat strife, corruption and conflict.
- That we may remain healthy and receive strength to carry on the work.