We are delighted to say that both David and Anna are now officially adopted! Thanks to all those who prayed or sent their good wishes. The hearing went very smoothly, and indeed made the best birthday present for Rachel. David’s favourite part was celebrating with ice cream afterwards!
Lee was puzzled. Almost every verb in the Hdi language could end with any of the letters i, u or a, but not the verb ‘dv-‘ meaning ‘to love’. So he asked the translation committee, “Could you ‘dvi’ your wife?”
“Yes,” they said. That would mean that the wife had been loved but the love was gone.
“Could you ‘dva’ your wife?” Lee asked.
“Yes,” they said. That kind of love depended on the wife’s actions. She would be loved as long as she remained faithful and cared for her husband well.
“Could you ‘dvu’ your wife?” Lee asked.
Everyone laughed. “Of course not! That would mean to keep loving your wife no matter what she did, even if she never got you water, never made you meals. Even if she committed adultery, you would be compelled to just keep on loving her. No, we would never ‘dvu’ our wives. It just doesn’t exist.”
Lee sat in thought for a while, and then asked, “Could God ‘dvu’ people?”
There was complete silence for three or four minutes; then tears started to trickle down the weathered faces of these elderly men. Finally they responded.
“Do you know what this would mean?” they asked. “This would mean that God kept loving us over and over, millennia after millennia, while all that time we rejected His great love. He is compelled to love us, even though we have sinned more than any people.”
One simple vowel. For centuries, that little word had been there, unused but available, grammatically correct and quite understandable. When the word was finally spoken, it called into question an entire belief system. It not only meant that unconditional love was possible, it meant that this is the type of love God felt towards them.
The New Testament in Hdi is ready to be printed now, and 29,000 people in Cameroon and Nigeria will soon be able to feel the impact of passages like Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, ‘dvu’ your wives, just as Christ ‘dvu’-d the church.…” Pray for them as they absorb and seek to model God’s amazing, unconditional love.
This is a shortened version of a story that first appeared on Wycliffe USA’s website. To read the full version, click here.
Christians usually get married twice in Nigeria. First, there is the cultural wedding ceremony and then, a day or two later, the ‘Christian’ wedding in church. We recently attended the cultural wedding of a friend of ours. He is Berom by tribe and his bride is Idoma. Much of the time was taken up with determining the monetary part of the bride price, with male representatives from both families doing most of the negotiating. Neither bride nor groom played any part in the discussion and we were told they can even be fined if they try to interrupt, as after all, this is not primarily a union between two individuals but between two families. (In fact, in some tribes, the bride and groom would be shocked even at the prospect of attending their own wedding). Anyway, finally a sum was agreed and the bride’s father gave one final condition: according to Idoma tradition, when the wife dies, the body has to be sent back to be buried with her family. Was that okay? Unfortunately not. According to Berom custom, the wife is buried at the husband’s family compound. A rather awkward stalemate ensued which seriously threatened to jeopardise the whole wedding. After a lengthy phone call to a chief in Idoma land to ask his advice, the bride’s father asked, “Would you cancel the wedding if we insist on our custom?” “Ah, that question is too strong!”, they replied. “This is a problem of culture”. However, after a few moments of thoughtful discussion, the groom’s father replied, “No, we would not cancel the wedding”. The bride’s father beamed with delight, “I can see that you are committed to this wedding 100%. You have passed the test. You are free to bury her at your own place.” The bride’s father then proceeded to give back over a third of the bride price, which they had just spent about two hours carefully negotiating, counting out and handing over. To a Western mindset this might have seemed like a rather circuitous and frustrating way to reach an agreement but the end result was that each party felt they had received a better outcome than they might have initially hoped for. The bride’s father received his due respect and reciprocated by showing the groom’s family great generosity, which would have earned him even more respect. I doubt that a better solution could have been reached any other way!
Yesterday, Nigeria celebrated her 53rd year of independence. To celebrate the occasion, we took our gate-guard’s two daughters, Kande and Hadiza, to Jos zoo. We had taken them to the wildlife park some months ago, and ever since they had been telling us “We want to see the ‘zaki’ (lion) again”. Amazingly, in almost 8 years in Jos, I had never been to the zoo either, even though it’s only about a mile or so from our house.
The kids were fascinated by all the animals, and even plucked up the courage to have a brief horse-ride. There were several large birds there, including a few majestic crowned cranes, with their spikey mohicans making them look like Roman centurions. When Kande saw one, she called out to it: “Come, I will plait your hair”. Priceless.
The other highlight was the chimpanzee who after being given some peanuts, was happy to dance upon request, at least for a few seconds, before extending her long leathery hand through the bars to beg for some more nuts. More striking to me however was the sign on the enclosure which read: ‘Wadan nan naman daji suna da fadah’ which means ‘These bush-meats are dangerous’! That’s like having a sign on a wild pig enclosure which says “These pork chops can be dangerous”. (Hausa does have a general word for ‘animal’, which was used on a very similar sign on the lion enclosure for example).
We are very excited to introduce Peter Nwufo as Nigeria Group’s first ethnoarts intern. Peter is a highly skilled musician and has worked as musical director for the Chapel of Faith at the University of Jos for several years. He was one of the participants on the ethnoarts course we ran in May, and was so excited by the material presented that he subsequently ran his own mini workshop for his colleagues at the Chapel of Faith. He started working with us formally on 1st July, on a half time basis, and is currently brushing up his computer skills before hopefully travelling to the U.K. in August for further training. This will be his first trip outside of Africa, and both he and Rachel have been discovering that applying for a U.K. visa is a far from straightforward procedure, and usually takes two or three applications over several months. We should hear whether his application has been successful within the next week or so.
And while Peter is away, Rachel will be going for further training herself, first in Nairobi for a Scripture Use workshop for participants from all over Africa, and then to All Nations (our former Bible College in the U.K.) in September for another course which will be introducing a new ethnoarts training manual. (Rachel was one of 90 participants to be selected for this from around the world). As the course is only a week, she will stay on for another 3 weeks to meet up with friends and family. I, meanwhile, will stay in Jos, as the new semester at TCNN starts again in mid-August, and we have a new Masters programme to run, with two of our key full-time staff currently on furlough for 7 months.
In June we took the chance to have a few days’ holiday with friends down in Obudu, in Cross River State (8 hours’ drive from Jos). As you can see, the scenery in that area is amazing, and what better way to view it all than by cable car (almost certainly the only one in Nigeria – made by an Austrian company, and looking very swish indeed).
Wow! What a fortnight! The ineffably energetic Rob Baker came all the way from Bamako in Mali to help Rachel lead Nigeria’s first ethnoarts course! 17 participants from several language groups learnt about all kinds of creative ways of using the arts in worship, from storytelling to the doing the ‘snake’ dance. By the end they had composed 8 new Scripture songs, all in indigenous styles. More to follow soon…
There was a bit of a stir in church yesterday morning when a laughing dove flew in through the front door and did a few laps of the chapel, looking desperately for a place to perch. It eventually came to rest on the arm of the only stationary ceiling fan, which just happened to be directly above the pulpit. The thought of the pastor preaching an hour‘s sermon with the threat of little ‘gift‘ from above was obviously too much for some anxious church member, who decided to take swift action by switching the fan on. The dove did admirably well clutching on for the first few rotations, but with the fan accelerating to full speed, the poor creature was soon jettisoned into doing more laps of the church. With all 12 or so ceiling fans now in full throttle, it was only a matter of time….
Suffice it to say that the poor laughing dove isn‘t laughing any more.
I know, it’s been a ridiculously long time since our last update, after quite a promising start over the summer. Anyway now that the TCNN semester is over, there is a reasonable chance of improved communication over the Christmas break. So what are we doing for Christmas?
We’ll be celebrating with our lovely new neighbours, Tom & Robyn Crabtree, Wycliffe colleagues from the States. Tom is an army engineer and into everything electrical, and usually has a pair of pliers or a screwdriver in his hand whenever I see him. And Robyn, would you believe, is, like myself, from Liverpool. Okay, not Liverpool, U.K., but Liverpool, the district of Syracuse in New York. They moved into the apartment next door to us at the end of July, but had to return to the US for a month shortly afterwards, so we have really only been getting to know them since the end of October. We have invited several other friends over for our joint Christmas lunch (Rachel has just popped out now to buy the chickens – we got a tip off that Jos turkeys aren’t very tasty), and then will share some Christmas thoughts, songs, or stories with each other before having some fun and games. One of their family Christmas traditions is to watch the film ‘it’s a wonderful life’ on Christmas Eve, so we will join them for that as well.
After Christmas, we will probably have a couple of mini breaks away – one at Miango, and one up north near some wetlands at the edge of the desert near the border with Niger, a place I’ve wanted to go for ages.
Here I am in the cockpit of a Boing 747 flying off for adventures in Singapore! What an amazing mixture of contrasts that country is; Shiny skyscrapers and cavernous shopping malls vs the culturally rich China Town where you can experience a traditional tea ceremony and visit the Buddhist Temple of the Golden Tooth full of smoking jos sticks and people chanting in unison. As you can see, I spent time thoroughly getting into the culture…
The conference itself was an extravaganza of the arts and worship. We were treated to an explosion of creativity from around the world. The Filipino dance troupe ‘Kaloob’ showed us how they had adapted a cultural dance, which used oil lamps, to celebrate the arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. A Thai drama group used their dramatic folk art form ‘Ligay’ to enact the story of the prodigal daughter and a worship band from the US called ‘Izibongo’ meaning ‘worship the chief’ taught us songs from many continents. One of the most memorable songs was a Native American one ‘Do not Fear’ which sounded like an adaptation of a war song and took place around a powwow drum.
‘Do not fear! Do not fear, my child!
Hey ya hey
I am your loving Father. Hey ya, hey ya hey
I hold you in my arms. Hey ya, hey ya hey’
We were encouraged to create our own dances, use drama as a way of helping others to express their feelings and pray for our Nations through painting. In addition to this we heard many stories of how through the use of culturally appropriate art forms, many people around the world were coming to know and love the Lord.
Rachel flies out to Singapore tonight for 3 back-to-back conferences in mission and the creative arts. Most of the arts consultants working with Wycliffe in Africa will be there, so it will be a good chance to make good contacts, share stories and ideas, and see some inspirational presentations. She is away 1-12 July.