Friday, November 28, 2014

A Transformational Thanksgiving in Nigeria

It is the wee hours of Thanksgiving in America, but here at 7:30 a.m. Jos, Nigeria, I am chugging a bottle of “F.A.M. Vita” vanilla yoghurt in a dark guest house room without power. The pervasive, acrid smell of campfire smoke – people still cook with fire here and you can drive down the street and see garbage burning – lingers with me, as always. Outside my open window I can hear the noise of the bustling city: cars and three-wheel motorized buggies zipping down the street, horns honking, people talking and someone on an air horn announcing something. I am thankful.

I am here on a mission trip with the Transformational Education Network. I have traveled with our CEO, Joe Gallop, who presented at a symposium yesterday and discussed technology and transformational education. More than 100 educators and students attended and both Joe and I are very pleased with how things went. The Lord truly blessed it and I met a young man with a communications degree who I hope will help me with gathering photos, video and stories from here in Jos at the school we partner with, E.I.C.T. that I can use in my TEN3 communications.
Today we will be attending a workshop where Joe will speak on “Essential Values in Transformational Education.” It’s the first of a two-day workshop and we are looking forward to seeing what the Lord will do today. Yesterday went very well and we were able to connect with a number of educators interested in the Transformational Education Network curriculum and our method of education. One of the things that appears to be coming out of this trip is forming a network of schools – private, government and others – that can act as a forum and exchange of information, ideas and solutions to help achieve transformational education. Our role will be as facilitators and advisors and we will be working on how best to accomplish this exchange of information.

Tomorrow I will be traveling several hours with an American missionary named Eric Black to his post in Billiri in Gombe State. I should say that Lord willing, I will go. I have to check with the SIM security director to discuss whether I should go due to concerns about safety in that area. I think everything will be fine and it will be good to travel with Eric, meet his family and learn about the education center he is operating in Billiri.

After I return, probably on Monday, Joe and I will be traveling to the communities of Zonkwa, Kwoi and Kubacha (I think I got those right) southwest of Jos in the neighboring state of Kaduna to explore the potential for launching TEN3 computer training outreach programs. We also were invited by one of the educators at the symposium to visit her private secondary school here in Jos, so it looks like we will be heading over there as well.

As for my general experience here in Nigeria, I have to say I have met some wonderful people. They are universally friendly to me, greeting me with big grins. Whenever we exchange greetings people often reply with “Welcome sir. Thank you sir. Welcome sir.” It makes me smile. The traffic is crazy, the police are everywhere and they carry AK-47s. It’s the dry season here on the Nigerian Plateau so it’s dusty, hot during the day in the 80s (I’m not complaining!) and cool in the night down to the 50s.

On the 4-hour plus drive Monday morning up to Jos from Abuja, where we landed Sunday evening and spent the night, we traveled through at least a half-dozen and probably closer to 10, military checkpoints. Soldiers with AK-47s manned the checkpoints, I’m assuming because the area has seen its share of Muslim-Christian conflict. Boko Haram, the Muslim terrorist group, operates in the area occasionally and more than 100 people were killed earlier this year when they set off bombs in the bustling outdoor market that’s several blocks from the compound where we are staying here in Jos. Mostly we were just waved through the checkpoints, though a few stopped us simply to chat, it seems. One engaged us in conversation and our driver, Audu, asked the soldier if he was born again. We talked about being born again, Jesus, salvation and he said he was born again. He was quite offended we didn’t have our Bibles with us in the car – they were in our luggage in the back. I’m glad he didn’t shoot us. (Just kidding!) At another checkpoint a soldier asked Joe and me where we were from. When he found out we were Americans he said he wants to go there someday. What he really wanted, though, was for us to bring him a white American wife. I told him I could see what I could do and maybe make that happen. He got a big grin and then reached in the car and we “pounded” fists. It’s the first time I’ve ever pounded fists with an AK-47-toting Nigerian soldier manning a highway checkpoint. I have to admit it was a pretty special moment.
I have many more stories to tell, but we’ll save those for other times. Blessings to you all this Thanksgiving.

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