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I have been in Nigeria for four weeks now. My first week and a half were spent in self-isolation per the country’s covid-19 protocols. Grading 140+ book reviews, preparing lectures, and teaching online, kept me busy during my quarantine. I have been able to be on campus the last three weeks. It has been a great joy to be with students in class.
Two weeks ago, I received a vehicle, so I have been driving myself to campus. The commute is about twenty minutes. The tarmac roads are very good. Traffic can be heavy, but it is not nearly as crazy as Nairobi traffic.
I am learning new skills, like how to hand wash clothes, and figuring out the essentials of daily life, like where to get groceries. Some speciality items are bought at the store, but most things, especially fruits and vegetables, are bought in the market or at a roadside stand. I arrived in the middle of mango season, so I’ve been enjoying fresh fruit every day from a tree in our yard.
The neighbourhood behind our compound is quiet. If I get up early enough, I can take a three or four mile walk before it gets too warm. A nearby hotel has a nice pool where I have been able to lap swim for exercise. The compound where I live has a tennis court and I recently introduced several neighbours to the joys of pickleball.
Lectures for the current semester end this week. Exams will be administered over the next two weeks. In addition to grading term papers and exams, I will be preparing for a two-week Doctor of Ministry course I am teaching in the second half of May and for the course(s) in the part-time programme (summer intensives) that I will teach in June. The three student research projects that I am supervising should be completed by the end of June. It has been good to be in able to meet with those students in person to review their work.
Thank you for your love, encouragement, and prayers.
Yesterday – over a year since we had planned to arrive in Nigeria – I finally made it to the campus of TCNN! On Thursday (8 April) I received the results of my covid test – negative! – and was able to teach at the college in person yesterday (Friday 9 April). It was a very full first day, including five hours of lectures in two master-level classes, chapel attendance, lunch with a colleague, and afternoon tea with the provost (principal). It was a great joy to finally be able to meet students in person. Thanks be to God!
Last week, Ryan received the necessary visa to travel to Nigeria. He left on Saturday afternoon and arrived early Monday morning. He is now self-isolating at our house in Jos, and will continue to teach online during his quarantine. He is scheduled to have a COVID-19 test on Monday 5 April, and hopes to be able to teach on campus later that week. We praise God for answering prayers for smooth and safe travel. Ryan will be in Nigeria through the end of the current semester and the submission of the student research projects he is supervising, which will likely be three months. The rest of us are continuing on with life “as usual” (what does that even mean anymore?!) in Pella, Iowa. We appreciate your prayers for God’s provision and care for our family during this season of separation.
Five years ago, our family was knee deep in preparation for our sabbatical in Kenya. I had purchased a new devotional at the beginning of 2016: The Songs of Jesus by Tim Keller. This is a journey through the book of Psalms, and it was both amazing and heartening to see so many passages speak into our day-to-day life with relevance both timely, and timeless, as only Scripture can do. I think there are a couple of posts here on the blog about ways God used the Psalms in our lives then. Lately, I have been sort of re-living some of those experiences as I am re-reading the devotional, this time together with our children in our homeschool. The reminders of how God is faithful to lead, instruct, encourage, comfort, and carry us have been very precious to my sometimes fretful and forgetful heart.
Not many people can say that 2020 turned out the way they would have expected, I am sure. (Anyone? Anyone at all?) For our family, the pandemic was really just one more shade of weird and unpredictable on the wide spectrum of the unexpected, albeit a bold one. It is already over 4 years ago that Ryan was first approached about the possibility of a missionary appointment at the Theological College of Northern Nigeria; not much of this process has moved quickly. There are more things to “blame” than Covid that have contributed to the fact that 14 months after Ryan’s role as pastor at Faith Church came to a close, we are still living in Pella, Iowa, and not in Jos, Nigeria, where we had been planning to move in early 2020. Not only that, but we are still living in the parsonage that we moved into 15 years ago when Ryan was first ordained here. Nobody feels weirder about that than we do, believe me, and at the same time, we are grateful for the stability that staying in this house has given us. (I wanted to mention this, because some have asked us if we have a place to live while we wait, knowing that, since having lived in the parsonage as part of Ryan’s pastoral role, we did not own a home here in Pella. Faith Church has supported Resonate Global Mission in this tangible way, providing housing, as we could not get to the house prepared for us in Nigeria.)
So it is that 2020 brought this already long-drawn-out transition to a head for our family. In the midst of various complications — from small things like medical appointments getting postponed, to medium-sized things like a passport being lost, to big things like a pandemic shutting down airports — we have felt much like Paul must have when he describes being prevented from doing the work and making the trips he thought were before him (see Acts 16, and Romans 1 and 15). We decided to set aside a period of time for intentional, focused prayer and Bible study as a family to seek direction and wisdom concerning our plans to move to Nigeria. We have sought the Lord, and He has answered us. Through passages of Scripture, devotional readings we were already following, “verse of the day” offerings on the Bible app, songs sung and sermons heard in church, a timely word from a friend, and so on, our hearts have felt God’s presence, listened for His voice, and sensed His leading. We are especially thankful for helpful and encouraging conversations with our Resonate leadership team as we have discerned a way forward together.
As you can read in the attached newsletter, the next step in our family’s journey looks different than we had hoped or expected. We are planning for Ryan to make a trip to Jos on his own, and pray that he will be able to have a productive and meaningful time in person at TCNN for the remainder of this semester. Our plans for what happens after that are under construction. There is grief and disappointment that something we (and many others) have poured so much into for so long is still not coming to the fruition we had expected and planned for. There is some frustration that we continue to wait for God’s timing for our family to move. At the same time, we are confident that none of this has been surprising to God, and He will make each step of the way plain in His time as we seek to serve Him with joyful and obedient hearts. We have committed our way to the Lord, and will keep doing so; we trust in Him, and know that He will act. (Psalm 37:5) We pray that we will not see all these delays as wasting time or effort, but as time used to teach us to rely ever-increasingly on the Lord, and to draw us closer as a family as we seek His direction together. As we wait upon the Lord, we claim His promise that our strength will be renewed. (Isaiah 40:31) Sure, we may never fully understand what has sometimes felt to us like wandering in the wilderness, but our God is the one who makes streams in the desert. (Isaiah 43:19) We rest in this:
Oh, the depth of the riches,
both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!
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Happy New Year! It’s still January, so that still applies, right?
Speaking of “still” … We have had many friends and neighbors and relatives contact us one way or another to ask if we had any news or updates concerning our move to Nigeria. I thought maybe one of the simplest ways to answer would be to share this song, which has been my theme and my prayer of late.
Grace and peace to you, and thank you for waiting with us.
The Africa Study Bible (ASB) is an invaluable resource for African pastors and church leaders. Now you have the opportunity to help provide this resource to pastors in Uganda!
In April 2017, Jody and I attended a ASB launch event at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. For two days, we worshipped with and learned from contributors to the ASB. One highlight was meeting Emmanuel Mukeshimana, a Rwandan PhD student in Uganda and contributor to the ASB.
Emmanuel and I continue to correspond. Since 2017, Emmanuel has completed his PhD program, and now teaches at Uganda Christian University and continues to serve as CEO for Square Ministries Africa. Emmanuel was a great encourager for me as I completed my own PhD studies, and, more recently, was a tremendous help as I prepared to teach a course on Theology of Development (Emmanuel’s area of academic specialisation) for the Theological College of Northern Nigeria. Emmanuel is a dear friend and brother in Christ.
So, I was delighted when Oasis International, publisher of the ASB, invited me to participate in a project with Emmanuel to provide ASBs to Anglican pastors in Uganda. Our goal is to raise $5425 to provide 248 ASBs, one for each participant in a recent Theology of Work training program that Emmanuel ran. Please prayerfully consider joining us in this endeavour. You can contribute to the project here.
Some may recall a similar project in Kenya in 2017, which provided over 100 ASB to pastors I taught at Deliverance Church (Kahawa Sukari) and Bridgeworld College. (You can read about that project here, here, here, and here.) That experience confirmed for me what a gift this resource is for pastors in Africa.
“As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11)