For our 17th wedding anniversary we left David and Brian with some friends, hired a driver ($35) and went to Abuja for the weekend (a 4 hour drive). Although it was short we had a great time alone. We got a complimentary apartment and had a nice meal out at an Indian restaurant (one of our favorite foods).
On the way home we were talking to our driver (David) about his life and family. This came up because we asked him where he spent the previous night. He said that he slept in our car in the parking lot of the apartment complex. Even though we gave him enough money to get a bed for the night he chose to sleep in the car so that he could use the money to provide more for his family. He said that he will buy extra food and that his family will be very happy.
David is married and has 6 children. His mother, two brothers and an aunt also live with him in the same house. He is the only one bringing home money and earns less than $150 per month as a driver/shopper/gardener (an average wage for that work). David said that his dad died when he was young so he did not have much growing up and learned to live with little. He said that he now only prays for 3 things; to be used in God’s kingdom, a house for his family, and school fees for his children. He does not need anything else. While I am sure he would like more he is for the most part content.
For me, David is another lesson in contentment. I have so much more than David, and yet many times I am not content. I either want more or something different. I think I am growing in this area and I do not chase after things the way I used to, but I still desire more.
Living in Nigeria can be hard, especially when you miss the comforts of your home country, but instead of wishing and praying for more I need to learn to be content with what God has given me, especially with the blessing I have received through Jesus Christ. God has blessed in many ways. I am thankful that God has reminded me of this, through David, and pray that God will continue to bless David with himself.
I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.
I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Phil. 4:10-13 ESV).
This is a picture of the main road near our house. They started widening this road about a year and a half ago beginning about 5 miles from here. Part of that process is to put in a new drain on each side of the road. To do that they hand dig with a pick and shovel a trench about 4 feet wide by 3 feet deep. I suspect that the men who do this are grateful to have a job. I am grateful I do not have their job.
Why don’t they use a back hoe? I don’t know, they could but then that would put several people out of a job.
The other day the plumber – Joseph that I use on a regular basis, came to me looking for work and as we talked he shared some of what was going on in his life. It seems that he met Christian man who had just come from Jos because he had to leave his home in southern Nigerian. This man recently converted to Christianity and is now not welcome in his village so he, his wife and their young daughter came to Jos. Joseph asked me if I knew of any work he could do.
I am not sure how, but somehow he connected with Joseph and he decided to care for him. He took him into his house, gave him food, bought him a mattress, and found him a place to stay. According to Joseph this family shares a single mattress barely big enough for one person. Joseph told me that one day the man came to him and told him he had not eaten for 2 days, so Joseph went and sold his mobile phone in order to buy food for him. He continues to help him.
This kind of thing is common in African culture – taking care of each other, giving a hand up. I was convicted by this story. I rarely allow my self to be inconvenienced like this. People ask me for money and sometimes I give I help them, but I have never allowed them to move in or even find a place for them to live. I have not sold anything of mine in order to help them out.
In the ultimate example of inconvenience and radical love Jesus left the comforts of heaven to become a man and live with us, suffer, and die. God is calling me (and all of his people) to a life radical love not to a life of convenience. A life where we help those in need, and love our enemies.
We need God to show us what this looks like in our individual lives, but this story is a good reminder of what God is calling me to do and I need to walk in obedience. While I do not have any work for this man I am giving him some food to help him through the next few months. A small inconvenience.
In last few weeks there has been a severe of shortage of gasoline (petrol) or “foil” (this is how many Nigerian’s pronounce “fuel,” which is initially quite confusing when some says they are putting “foil” in their car). It is quite common to wait 20 minutes or more at a filling station to get gas, however, now if you can find a station selling it you will have to wait several hours. Last Saturday Richard waited about 2 hours and they would only give out 20 liters (1/4 of a tank) of gas. There is a government run station in town that almost always has fuel. On Wednesday of this week at 7:00 am the line was at least 1 mile long.
There is fuel available on the “black market” if you want to pay the price. The current black market price is 110 Naira a liter or about $2.80 per gallon. The normal price is 65 Naira a liter ($1.65 per gallon). Many of you may welcome the $2.80 per gallon price, but for us and most Nigerians this is a big burden. The “black market” is people who buy the fuel at the government rate and then resell it at a profit.
The cause of the shortage is apparently due to the tanker truck drivers going on strike. It seems that the government impounded numerous trucks for a variety of reasons so their colleagues went on strike in support of them. The drivers claim that they are being harassed by the police. We have no idea of what the truth is, we only know that life is a bit more difficult than before, especially for the average Nigerian.
Praise God that the rains have begun to fall. This will greatly help the water shortage, which is a much more serious problem than the fuel shortage. The rain is also turning the brown dusty ground green, which is a welcome site.
Tomato season in Nigeria is from about January to April. During this time of year you can buy a large basket of tomatoes for as little as $3. We were a little late and and had to pay about $12 for this basket. In July or August they are about twice this price. Therefore, many missionaries can them early in the year.
This was our first venture into the process and we thought we would share some of the experience with you.
The first step of course is to buy the tomatoes, but don’t forget your firewood.
After washing them then you take them to be ground into puree.
Then you build a fire in the back yard and cook the puree.
Once they are cooked down they are transferred to the stove in the house for final cooking and then the jars are filled.
We got 26 jars from that basket of tomatoes. Susan figured that each jar cost about $0.75 each. We are not sure why they turned the jars upside down, all but one of the jars sealed.
What do you do to “get by” in life, not surviving life itself, but rather handling those little jobs when you don’t have the proper part or tool to do it right. I think this is the main purpose for duct tape. In Africa a lot of time and creative energy is spent “getting by.” There are many instances where you don’t have to part to fix something, cannot buy the right part or tool, or simply cannot afford to buy it. The latter is the case for many African’s. The picture above is a classic example of “getting by.” How am I going to plug in my light when the electrical socket is missing and the nearest one is a 30 minute drive on a very rough road? As you can see from the picture the answer is simple, just connect the bare wires to the plug. You can find something like this in many Nigerian homes. The more common example is to put bare wires into the electrical socket.
There are many other creative ways to get by; binding wire is especially useful in holding your car together, string and rope also work well. Old inner tubes are another great tool to fix leaks in pipes and holding things together. In Kenya they used them to hold together leaf springs on a trailer. During tough economic times the creative means of “getting by” grow by leaps and bounds. What are some ways you are “getting by?”
During these hard economic times David and Brian, being the enterprising youth that they are, have opened a new business. They are selling rocks (found on our compound) for 10 Naira (8 cents) and bottle caps for 5 Naira. So far they have made 20 Naira. Not bad given that we live on a walled compound and they have only been open for business for about 30 minutes.
They have not yet set up a website, but if there is a enough demand I sure they could start selling them to you over the internet. Please let us know how many you would like. Shipping, duty and taxes are not included. Remember that these are Nigerian rocks!