Monday, December 30, 2013

Help a girl out: calling for any inspiration or tips for eating healthy and creatively in a third world country

Since coming home for my surgery in October, I've been so much more appreciative of the variety and options I am able to have in my diet. I have the ability to choose what ethnicity I would like to indulge in (hello Thai, Indian and Korean!) and it's also easy to make healthy choices while maintaining a balanced diet. 
I miss my greek yogurt so much when I'm there!
An awesome hole-in-the-wall Korean restaurant in Wichita
In Nigeria however, it's another story. There's definitely no lack of fresh fruits and vegetables for super cheap and I love that aspect, but getting some necessary protein into my diet and having foods/snacks that will sustain me throughout a crazy day (especially being a hypoglycemic) is another story. Their diet is full of starches (yam, rice, cassava, etc.), thick red oil, and lots of spices. I do enjoy the ethnic food and I try to eat it as much as I can but it often leaves me feeling heavy, unsatisfied, and taking unwanted trips to the bathroom (I know, tmi!).
One of the local foods that we frequently eat called, Okpa.
We (the Americans) will splurge on some items at the market to throw some more options in the mix but there's only so much you can do to Americanize/Mexicanize the food to try and add different flavors and we end up making the same meals over and over with a slightly different spin on it and it gets monotonous!
By the time we're able to make a meal we're usually already tired and hungry and don't often have access to the internet for ideas, so my creative juices have run their course as far as food goes and I'm wanting to go back armed with loads of recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and desserts, and I need your help!
Some boys in our village hauling oranges
I would LOVE to hear your ideas and recipes that could give some variety! Let me give you our main staples that we can get easily and at a decent price (this does not include meat or dairy products. We can get margarine for baking and can do powdered milk. Also, please don't include anything that needs to be blended/pureed.)
-most veggies (I can substitute local greens for spinach and kale)
-a large variety of fruits
-most things necessary for baking

Feel free to ask questions and leave as much advice as you like :) Thank you in advance!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Their story: highlighting people and events from Nigeria- #1

*Please forgive the lack of pictures, my current internet connection won't allow. But please don't let it keep you from reading :)

There are so many things that happen here that I want you guys to know/be a part of through prayer, but it's hard to get it all down on “paper”. But I think it's important to share the stories that I can. Some of the stories are of desperation, some of provision, some of hope, and most challenge my own faith and trust in Christ and remind me just how many people are lost, struggling, and dying in a very hard and dark world.     They remind me that God provides opportunities to reach out and touch someone all of the time, if we have our eyes open and looking to Him. 

Today I want to share the story of 2 boys who coincidentally share the same name, Dewu (pronounced "Day-woo" the spelling was much debated so I went with the English-speaker friendly version). They are boys/young men who's friendship is more likened to the relationship between brothers. These young men are from a part of northern Nigeria where the Islam faith is strong and where school and “Western” ways are not looked favorably upon.

These boys want nothing more than to go to school and get an education. They will do anything they can to put themselves through school. The closest public school to them charges about 3,500 Naira a term (about $22) for school fees which is nearly impossible for a family who make their living off of the land and even more impossible for these 2 young men when their families are not willing to help at all. So on their school breaks these two boys will find any work they can to keep themselves in school. They are much older than the grade they're in because they've had to postpone going back when school starts to either make money or help their family farm the land. When they are able to attend they are mocked and jeered by their relations and people in the village as they walk to and from school
But they don't care. They value getting an education and know that they will have no other option but to farm their father's land if they don't receive one.

So, that leads us to the present. The boys are on their long break from school and only have a couple months to make the money that they will owe for their next term. Knowing there wasn't enough work in their area, 
they sold the only possession of value they had (a cell phone) for transportation to somewhere else where they could make money. So they hopped on the back of a truck that was going South and ended up in the city of Enugu, far from their home, language, food and culture. Somehow (*ahem*-God) they happened upon a man who offered them work in a village about an hour away. That man is the engineer in charge of building a new cafeteria/kitchen/living area for APOH. So the boys agreed and ended up in our little village working on a building completely provided for by God where some boys who spoke their language (Hausa) just happened to live. Most of our older boys (who just moved into their newly completed house on that land) are actually from up north and speak Hausa (in the area we live, Igbo is the language spoken and to find fluent Hausa speakers would be difficult) and they befriended these young men who came with literally just the clothes on their backs and who were desperate to work for the money that would grant them a better life. 

As our boys, especially one (Simdat), got to know the 2 friends, they learned their stories and the reason why they'd come
They found out that they were making such a small amount of money a day, that after using some of it to eat, they would be making hardly anything and would barely have anything left over after paying their way home when the time came. So our boys took it upon themselves to give the guys their own clothes, to ask if we could be providing for their meals so that all the money they made could go towards school, and even came to me asking for malaria medicine and an antibiotic for one of them. Simdat and Destiny (both 15 yrs.old) talked to them about their faith and shared scripture with them and we prayed that God would use the time here to be able to present the Gospel to them, as they were very open to hearing. `
I got to talk to them via my translator, Simdat, and hear their stories and see their hard lives on their faces. But they were so determined and hopeful and not deterred in the least that no one else in their lives were for them and I couldn't even begin to imagine what it would be like to step into their shoes.

A couple days after I talked to them they got word that one of their grandmothers was very ill and that they were needed back home (they had the simcard from the phone they sold so they could put it in someone else's phone and be in contact still). They had anticipated on working at least another month before they had to be back at school and had nowhere near the amount of money they would need for their fees. In fact, after the money they would spend on transportation home, the whole job seemed to be a waste of time to them. I didn't even have to pray to know what I was supposed to do. I gathered up the roughly $44 that it would take for the 2 of them to have a choice in their life that they had sacrificed  everything to make (and that I would've spent on coffee in a week back in the U.S.), and handed it to them with the message that God is the one who was providing it for them and that there is someone who is very much for them and longs to have a relationship with them

So they left, promising us that they would be back when they have a break in December, to continue working on our land and to ask questions about our faith in Christ.

Please don't think I'm sharing this story to boast whatsoever in myself. First of all, that money is God's, not mine and was always intended to be used for ministry. And secondly, compared to Simdat and the ways our boys poured into them, what I did was an easy thing and not significant at all. What is significant and what I hope is revealed to them, is how everything was orchestrated by God to bring them here and what I hope is revealed to you and me, is how many opportunities come into our lives that we can choose to say “yes” to, or turn around and play dumb. I'm so insanely proud of our boys and the love and concern they have for others. Yes, they have a lot to learn and they fight and are selfish all of the time. But they are learning to listen to the One living inside of them. Please pray for these boys. Yes, pray that they are able to get through school and have a better life, but so much more importantly, pray that they will hear and believe in the Gospel, their only hope for a truly different life. And that the determination and hope that they have to get through school at any cost, will flow into a determination and hope in their Savior Jesus Christ, and sharing Him with their families and community.

I'm praying they will be back here in December, but it's possible we will never see them again. A seed was planted, that I know, and I will pray that God sees it through maturity.

So, that's one story anyways.One of so so many. Stay tuned for more.

Friday, August 16, 2013

You know you live in Africa/with children when...

It's hard to put everything that I've experienced in the past almost 2 months into my first blog post, so I will summarize and give you a picture of my life with a fun and informative post entitled:

You know you live in Africa/with children when...

  • every piece of clothing you've worn has spit up, poop, and/or food on it.
  • you are joined at night by bed bugs (called “chinch” here), roaches, and a rat under your bed.
  • you have a bacterial infection on your arm resembling some kind of flesh-eating disease.
  • a pagan family buries their son with a knife, a live kitten, and other objects, so that he can come back and revenge his death using them. (The man was a believer but his family is not. He was killed in a motorcycle accident but since his brother and father were also killed in motorcycle accidents, the family believes that someone cursed him, causing the accident. Therefore the objects to revenge his death.)
  • you can't send out regular updates because of a combination of:
    1. slow/no internet
    2. no electricity
    3. a blown up lap top charger from a power surge (the step-down apparently wasn't working)
  • your feet are NEVER clean.
  • your judgement of what are “dirty clothes” becomes a lot looser because, well, washing clothes by hand is just not enjoyable and I really don't think you can notice the spit up, dirt, and food stains anyways.
  • you're dealing with many extremely hard situations that have you emotionally and mentally wore down and asking God for wisdom like never before.
  • you end up scrubbing a 10 yr.old leg ulcer every 2 days, because for some reason the hospital that the man was in for months, couldn't/wouldn't do anything for it.
  • you have to tell a nurse that the HIV test she just took on one of your kids and read as negative, is in fact positive, and wander how many people have been told they're negative when they're actually positive because of a misread test.
  • you get to hear the kids pray that their friends and families back in their villages will come to know Christ and have a huge burden for them.
  • you witness the kids taking care of some boys who are in a very hard situation and giving them their own clothes, taking them food, and sharing the gospel with them. *proud big sister moment*

Ok, this doesn't get close to telling you everything that's happened and is going on with the kids, but it's something. I'm starting to get more of a feel for my role here, though I'm still waiting for God to show me what to do as far as outside of APOH. But currently I can't imagine doing much else. My time is pretty filled up with the babies, the girls, and just trying to build relationships and learn language and culture.

Me and the girls are going to start doing Tae-bo..they have been begging to start! I could use prayer in conveying things that God has laid on my heart to the kids. It's hard to share things that are so different from their culture and try to get across that I don't want to change their culture, but that God want to change hearts.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

5 reasons why I'll desperately need your prayers

1. so much change. 
Change. That sums most everything up in one word. Although I've spent a total of 8 months in Nigeria, it's different when it's permanent, when there's no expiration date.
A change of pace, continents, weather, dress code, lifestyle, community, worship, shopping, language, entertainment, privacy, diet...basically everything I knowMost of it I consider good change, but it's still an adjustment. The hardest change I think, will be trying to learn the local language, how I experience church, not being able to go out with/vent to/be encouraged by close friends, and not being able to go chill at a coffee shop:) Please pray that  the stress of these changes don't affect my attitude and ability to love and serve others and that I can adjust and accept these changes quickly.

2. satan doesn't want me there.
It's not so much that satan doesn't want me in Nigeria, as it is that satan doesn't want any of us living our lives for, with, and through, Christ.
And when any of us are doing anything, anywhere, that is for eternity, satan wants to shut it downI think his attacks come though depression, insecurity, contention with others, sickness, tragedies, doubt, and so many other ways(things that I think many of us blame on God). Here's the thing. I'm not saying I don't want hardship...I think we grow the most during those times and frankly, 
I want satan to think of me as a threat...but I need prayer that during those things, I RUN to Christ, let Him take the burden, trust Him completely, and let Him be my strength.

3. i'll be the only non-nigerian there.
In August, the Starlings (the couple who started apoh), will head back to the states to raise support, help take care of family, and put their youngest in school (they will probably not be able to be in Nigeria full-time for a couple more years). This will mean I am the only expat until they return sometime in January. Don't take this the wrong way, I love everyone that lives/works at apoh. I love the nationals. I consider so many there my family and I have people who I can confide in, laugh constantly with, be encouraged by, and ask as many questions as possible to. But it's just different, having someone there who understands your fears, concerns, where you come from, what you mean, your accent, the things you miss and the things you don't. 
It's different having someone who gets you and understands why things are hard, why you need to cry or laugh, why you just need a really good cup of coffee, and knows how to encourage youI hope that makes sense? Please pray that I stay encouraged, build close relationships with some (national)women, and that my relationship with Christ is my everything.

4. i'm not perfect
Surprised? Understandable. I kid, I kid. Although I am a new creation, in Christ, forgiven, seated in the heavenly places, a joint heir with Christ, adopted into His family, and am no longer a slave to sin. Somehow, even knowing all of that (and so much more),
I still forget who I am and I willingly choose to act like that slave againI mess up. So much. I am insanely selfish, greedy, jealous, insecure, timid, I worry, and constantly choose to live in sin rather than live the victorious-grace-given-bought-and-paid-for-full-of-joy-hope-and-peace-kind-of-life that I have been given and can live through Him. I know that until I am in heaven I will always struggle between choosing what I know is right and what I know isn't right(Rom...). So I need prayer that I choose Him, freedom, and that I can honestly and clearly explain this struggle and our hope in Christ, to the people of Nigeria.

5. unity.
I'm going to be living with approx. 50 other people, ranging in age from newborn to 50's.
That's a heck-of-a-lot-of personalities, languages (at least six), expectations, and completely different cultures and religious backgrounds to contend with. Hol-ey-smokes. If you think that everything is beautiful and wonderful and joyful and that we're all skipping around and holding hands all of the time because it's a Christian organization helping give a new life to some beautiful kids, you are very mistaken. Don't get me wrong. It's a family. We genuinely love and care for each other. Many are trusting in Christ and having a relationship with Him for the first time and there is SO MUCH laughter and joy. But we're many humans living together and it doesn't help that there is a blend of so many different cultures and social norms. We need MAJOR prayer that each of us go to Christ for His love, patience, mercy, and forgiveness, each and every day and that those who haven't trusted in Christ for salvation, will soon understand their need and the gospel. I know that even among strong believers who are working closely together there will be discord and hardships.
This case is even more complex. My greatest fear is that we wouldn't be able to overcome those hardships and disagreements in a Christ-like, loving way and that we would be a bad testimony to other Nigerians and non-believers. Please please pray that we would all grow in maturity in our walks with Christ and that satan will NOT succeed in bringing in anything that would cause bitterness or the name of God to not be glorified.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

"I can't do this on my own, I am giving You control"

My visa is headed my way and scheduled to arrive by 10:30 in the morning! I can still hardly believe it! It's been over 7 months since I started the process and almost 4 months since I was scheduled to be in Nigeria. I am overjoyed! But, that wasn't the case this morning. 

:Ever have a moment/memory/day that you just need to file away so that you don't forget it? Today was one of those days for me. This is probably completely boring and insignificant to the blog world. I'm completely okay with no one but me ever seeing/reading this post. But I still need to write it for me:

This morning I woke up feeling so stressed and anxious and physically, not doing too great. I woke up not happy with the agency I used to get my visa because they hadn't got back with me in 2 weeks. I was prepared to make as many calls and leave as many voice mails as needed, to ensure that I heard from someone today, about why the scheduled date for it to be shipped, had been pushed back every day, for the past 8 days. 

I felt too ill to even make the calls first thing so I laid down and prayed that God would take the pain away, because I just had too much to do today, and that I would know something regarding my visa today. The pain became tolerable (and eventually ceased) so I called every number I had for the agency (emails haven't been responded to) and left voice mails, feeling discouraged. As I chatted with my sister while waiting to get a call back, the tears started falling uncontrollably. I felt so foolish but it was just a breaking point. The stress of having so much to do before I left but not being 100% certain that my visa was even coming, having no motivation without the visa, not hearing from anyone, being sick, financial burdens, and the dreaded thought that maybe it wouldn't come and I'd have to keep actually felt very relieving to cry.

And it pushed me to the point of just wanting Christ. I knew I didn't have control over much of the situation and I knew that regardless of the outcome, I really want what He wants. So I made myself some coffee and went outside with my Bible to have some time with Jesus. I opened it up to Hebrews and started reading...and didn't get very far. My mind was so full of other things and as hard as I tried to focus on the text, I just wasn't getting anything out of it. I was frustrated at myself for not being "spiritual" enough to read and get something life-changing or at least attitude-changing from it. 

I looked up from my Bible and just looked at the sky and the backyard and was hit with what I guess I was wanting from reading the Bible...a revolutionary thought. Except it wasn't revolutionary at all. It was more of a "Duh!" moment. 

It hit me that whether or not I read my Bible (of course I'm not advocating that anyone does not!) or get much out of it when I do (I know I can't be the only one that doesn't come away feeling challenged or encouraged every time. Sometimes you just have those blah times), that He is still present and He can still speak to me. He dwells inside of me and I have instant access to His throne. He can talk to me (I pray that I listen), teach me, instruct me, convict me, encourage me, and direct me...all from His dwelling place inside of me. Yes He uses His Word to do these things too which is why we have to keep reading, even on those hard days that can feel pretty dry. This isn't a new concept to me. It was just one of those times that something became so real and personal to me, exactly at the right moment. 

I sat there in awe of Him, His presence inside of me, and His presence in nature. I gazed around me and marveled at the hundreds (thousands?) of varieties of grasses, flowers, plants, and trees, just within plain view. I was so thankful that we have a God who, even if we were to be thrown in prison with no access to scripture, we would still hear from!

I laid my head back to cry out and take it all in and just then heard the chorus of a song playing from inside:(Leeland, "I Cry")

  • "I cry,
  • Are You out there tonight?
  • Or am I all alone?
  • This time it’s the fight of my life.
  • So I cry,
  • I can’t do this on my own!
  • I can’t do this on my own!
  • I am giving You control!" 

  • How timely. When I finally went back inside, I won't pretend that I didn't have any anxiousness, but I was so refreshed and encouraged. I noticed that I had a voice mail but my phone had never rang. A minute later my phone actually rang and it was someone from the passport and visa agency telling me that they had just called but to disregard the voice mail. She told me that they hadn't been in touch because of some sort of shifting around of people or programs or something-I wasn't really paying attention-and that the visa was in the mail and being overnight-ed to me...
  • All I could think, was that if they had been in touch with me like they should have been or even if my phone had rang when she had called me earlier, I never would've experienced that place of crying(literally) out to God or had my "Duh!" moment with Him. And again I'm left speechless and in awe because He is God and His ways are so much bigger than me and He can control the way seemingly insignificant things happen, just to give us those Aha! moments and strengthen our faith in Him. 

  • And I'm left saying, "I can't do this on my own, I am giving You control", and I hope that I remember it this time. 
  • Thursday, May 16, 2013

    It's the terrorists' fault that my visa was delayed

    Yesterday morning I got the email I've been waiting on for 2 months (7 months total for everything), containing the last of my missing paperwork!!!

    I sat there in shock and just cried. I'm not sure why..I knew it would come eventually. I had been praying earnestly about it as I got ready for work that morning. I think it was just the realization that this was one of the last hurdles that lay between me and Nigeria and I couldn't believe that my agonizing days of waiting were over. They were tears of joy and thankfulness. I would never have sat and cried at being overwhelmed with the goodness of God had my visa came when it "should have"(my timing).

    I am just in awe at God's perfect timing. Ha, again, I don't know why! Besides being able to get more involved with my church, deepen relationships, and grow in my walk with Christ during all this time, it's perfect because my friends, who's son I've been watching part time, only needed me until next week when school is out (she teaches part time) . I don't believe that was a coincidence at all!

    So, as of yesterday, the Nigerian embassy (in D.C.) has everything they need from me and I'm just waiting for that stamp of approval (I won't mention how my worry about waiting has now transferred to worrying about it possibly getting denied. Will I ever learn?). I probably won't reset my departure date until I've heard it's been approved but it will probably be mid to late June.

    Ok, where the title of this blog comes in is in the email I received with the scanned documents (from Nigeria): One of a few excuses he used for the delay was that the jihadist militant group, Boko Haram, was to blame for some of the delays because they were a "menace". I don't take lightly what the BH are doing in Nigeria (they actually declared a "state of emergency" in 3 Nigerian states today) and it could very well be true, but I just had to laugh.

    But, if God is for me, Satan and the terrorists can't keep me out of Nigeria, right? :)

    Thanks for everyone's prayers and encouragement lately. I'm praying that the visa is approved and sent to me soon! Happy day! Would you please pray along with me?

    Got/get to be here to see Meghan receive her Masters, Ali her HS diploma,
    and my dad his Bachelors. Aren't they precious? I'm so proud of them!

    Thursday, May 9, 2013

    Highlights of my time at CIT

    So much happened during my 2-week stay in North Carolina that I felt too overwhelmed to try to put it in words. But at the same time I can't not say anything. I'm convinced that one of the reasons my visa was delayed was so I could take this class, learn what I learned, and meet the people I met.

    Here were just some of the highlights:

    • On Sunday I was the first person to have arrived for the new course-there were many still there from a previous course that were staying for SLA. I was invited to worship with the other students who decided to have their own church service that day and it was a great start to the course between the awesome worship (led by a couple going to Ireland to train worship leaders) and getting to know some of the students who made me feel so welcome. I got to go out to lunch with the couple headed to Ireland and a family heading to Thailand-I had forgot what it was like to be around other people who are going through the same journey as me and it was so encouraging.

    • Every morning of class began with an in-depth devotion, worship, and prayer. This was unexpected and made such an impact on learning the rest of the day. We were reminded throughout every day that we can only do this by being dependent on Christ and we were poured into and challenged on a level that I hadn't been since Bible school.  

    • Meeting and living with 3 other single women-I had been nervous before going that I might not get close to anyone-2 weeks is a good amount of time but can you really bond with people in that short amount of time? God answered that prayer in the most amazing way. To be around other single ladies on the same journey, struggling with the same things, was such a God thing. By the end of the 1st week we were all cooking and eating every meal together, sharing very personal things and struggles and praying earnestly with and for each other. It was so beautiful and those ladies probably don't know how much they each impacted me. These ladies are not going to easy countries either. They are risking and sacrificing a lot to take the gospel to unreached people and I would love if you would add Alison, Joan, and Christy to your prayer lists. 
    My badge for the official! :)
    • After classes and on weekends we had free time (although homework took up a lot of it) where we had bonfires, potluck dinners, movie nights, a day in the crazy-hip(pie) city of Asheville (where we got to go to a place called The French Broad Chocolate Lounge: it was more amazing than it sounds!) and much more! 

    • All of our teachers were amazing! They had all learned multiple languages and had done some type of ministry/living in another country. So their experience, advice, and stories were invaluable. One of them was even told that she should choose a different country because she had scored so low on her linguistics aptitude tests. She went on to learn Bulgarian and Polish. She learned it because she was motivated and felt called to go to a person without a high aptitude for language learning, this was so encouraging!             

    • I got to have authentic food from: Liberia, Indonesia, Thailand, Italy, and India...just to name a few. Ya. It was awesome.

    • Phonetics class, although challenging, was so beneficial! There are some ka-ra-zy sounds out there that I don't think I could ever reproduce but it made me aware of a lot that I can do and questions to ask when I come across unfamiliar sounds. Like, "where do you place your tongue when you make that sound?". Weird? Maybe, but you better believe I'll be asking! Each of us also received a chart of all the different sounds/consonants/vowels that our desired language has so I could start practicing some now...
    The Blue Ridge Mountains were gorgeous!
    • The teacher that taught us Phonetics was on staff at New Tribes when I attended there! This was only the second time she has taught for awesome is that! It was so good reconnecting, hanging out, sharing meals, and times of prayer with her! 

    •  I mentioned prayer being a big part of this time, but the highlight would be when us single girls, the single guys (we lived in adjoining dorms while the marrieds lived across the road), and two of our teachers got together several night in a row to pray specifically for and lay hands on each person. This is one of (sadly) few times where I felt God's presence in a group of people in a very powerful way. Maybe it was just me, but God really spoke to me during those times and even gave one man some words to say specifically to me that  I know could only have been from Him (this guy barely knew me). 

    • As a way to get hands-on-practice for the methods we were learning (to learn a language), we were split into groups on the first day and assigned a language and Language Helper that we would be with the rest of the course. I was with 3 other people and we were assigned the Tagalog (Filipino) language(others learned Russian and Cebuano). Our LH grew up in the Philippines but had moved to N.C. with her American husband. We learned how to make our own lesson plans and teach our LH how to teach us (in this method, we are the ones in charge of our language learning). It was good, challenging, frustrating, and encouraging. We all absolutely LOVED our LH! She was hysterical, so full of energy, and so sweet. It's very neat that CIT uses these people from the community that benefits them and the students.   
    Outside the classroom and offices
    • Leaving this course full of motivation, a deeper faith in Christ, confident that I can learn another language fluently, and with new friends, soon to be scattered across the globe taking the gospel to the lost, was more than I set out to gain!

    I apologize, I made it as brief as I could! 
    I'm so grateful to my supporters who made it possible
    and so thankful that God orchestrated the perfect timing of this and that He didn't answer my prayers
     (at least in the way I wanted Him to) 
    and allow me to be in Nigeria when I was supposed to have been. 
    Once again proving to this selfish girl: His plans are better than mine!

    *Unfortunately I can't post any pictures of people because of the sensitive areas they are heading to