31 Jul

Cost of being a missionary – friends

If you read my post about family, this is very much along those lines.  When you are in youth ministry, there  is a wonderful period of time when all the people you were working with across the years are growing up, graduating university, getting married and having kids.  I saw a wonderful exchange between two of my former youth, now both good friends. 1 has multiple kids the other is expecting number 1.  There discussing the best way for person 1 to send a bunch of needed baby stuff to person 2.  It was wonderful to see such relationships have far outlasted the ministry. Another guy being congratulated by a dozen folks from our days together as he graduates from the London school of theology.  There are even a bunch that  have taken it upon themselves to support us in our continuing ministry.  So whats the cost I hear you say? Well as of now I have missed a few weddings and multiple new children and know of 3 weddings and no doubt more in the next few weeks and months to come.  It is hugely disappointing not to be able to celebrate with these folks as they start a new phase of life. Skype, email, and Facebook really are no substitute at all.  True to say that it is all in God’s hands, and he understands our feelings about being unable to go.  There is no higher price paid than Jesus dying on the cross for us.

24 Jul

Cost of being a missionary – electricity

I know I know, we all take it for granted in the UK –  my friends from America are finding it amusing how much social media has had to say about the power cuts in the us in June.  Reality is, when you move to a third world country – even a city the electricity supply is problematic. Any thing we have plugged into a Nepa* outlet must have a voltage stabilizer plugged in first.  The stabilizer must be big enough to cope with the demand placed on it and there is no guarantee that if there is a spike in the supply, that the thing or what ever is plugged into it will survive.  We knew about the power situation, it wasn’t a surprise, but I guess I am minding it is one difference between short term trips where you are pretty much prepared to cope with almost anything and living long term.  Long term you have to put more things in place to cope.   2 weeks after arriving, we stumbled upon a house and moved in and bought the contents.  It save. A lot of running around and figuring out, part of that package was a battery back up system with two 12v deep cell batteries and chargers and inverters.  We never really heard of such systems let alone though about having one.  It was such a blessing, a bunch of lights attached (yes some rooms had 2 lights, 1 Nepa and 1 battery whose switch was in a cupboard down our corridor), and the ability to charge laptops and plug the fridge in was brilliant.  but they are only good if there is charge it he batteries.  We had them hooked up to charge from Nepa, so it was fine if you got a few hours of Nepa each day but 2/3 days without and the batteries aren’t any good to you.      We are lucky not to have lost any food out of our fridge or freezer yet, but a few months in we did decide to invest in a generator that wasn’t something we had previously considered needing.  Both these things have proved invaluable to us, but the up front investment, cost of running, upkeep and maintenance are a whole lot of grief.  It does mean I got wise when we moved house and engineered our battery system. Through our fuse board to power 1 light in each room, through the normal light switch, which means we don’t have to run down a corridor to trilogy’s on, and we don’t always have 1 bulb that is not in use :). We haven’t yet invested in solar charging system, nor a wind turbine like our neighbors (thought it’s brake keeps getting stuck on 🙁  )but there is still time for those additions.  Our projects however often don’t have power unless we buy a generator (small investment huge running costs now) or a solar system (large investment but as long as it works, zero running costs).

I’m not sure if it really counts as a cost, but the hassle involved here does take its toll and so I think that is a cost we pay.  I hope the real cost of losing a piece of equipment or an appliance is one that we will never have to face.


*Nepa is our power supplier it has such a bad reputation that a few years ago it changed it name to PHCN the Power Holding Company Nigeria.  However, everyone still refers to them as Nepa.  Among the numerous explanations of. The acronym is my favourite Never Ever Power Always.

20 Jul

Foody Friday – Mango Sorbet

A more recent adventure in my search for a great sorbet came with mango season.  On the compound of our new house there are numerous mango trees that produce small, sweet, fairly stringy, mangos.  At the height of the season the floor under the tree was coated in mangos, we just couldn’t eat them fast enough!  My Mum and Dad were visiting and Mum (who I have decided is incapable of just sitting, always has to be doing something) suggested that we could make sorbet out of them.  She proceeded to peel and scrape the flesh of 10 or more mangoes off into a bowl, we added some sugar and lemon juice and stuck it in the freezer.  Delicious!

Ali peeling mangoes

Scraping the mangoes was quite a lot of effort, so for the next lot of mangoes Mum decided to try peeling and then simply grasping the stone in her hand and squeezing.  Messy, but surprisingly effective! We served some of the sorbet at our house-warming/meet the parents party and had lots of requests for the recipe.

Mum and Dad headed back to the UK and still the mangoes fell, so I decided to have a mango squishing party.  I invited several friends, told them to bring a cup of sugar and a plastic container each.  We sent the kids out with buckets to collect the mangoes and set up a production line with some people peeling, some squeezing.  An hour or so later we had two big basins of mango sludge and some very orange fingers.  Everyone went home with plenty of sorbet mixture (and still slightly orange fingers) ready to freeze it up.

17 Jul

Cost of being a missionary – Water

Us brits can make almost any conversation out there about the weather.  Even here I am hearing about the floods back home, or the heat of east usa, but to be honest, nothing has dominated our recent conversations like water.  1 sacrifice we made coming here was regular clean safe to drink running water.  Let’s just say that our water situation is still 100 times better that most, but it is complex out here.  Lets start with the water filter.  We filter all our drinking water, teeth brushing water, and in fact we fill our kettle with filtered water.  Different people draw the line in different places when it comes to clean water, but that is our line.  The water that goes into our filter comes from our tap, which is gravity fed by a ridiculously small tank on top of our house.  This tiny tank is shared by both us and our upstairs neighbours.  This tank is filled when we pump water (yes that requires the not always on power) from a tank built in to our ground.  That tank is filled by a purple tank above ground if it has any water in it.  Both the purple tank and the ground tank, should be filled by city water supply.  However, we have had city water twice in the past 8 weeks, and when it is on, more of it runs down the street outside the house than into our tanks, so occasionally we have to buy water delivered by a tanker to fill our tanks up.  We often check the fullness of the tanks, when there is power, run out to pump to the top tank, hopefully remember to run out and turn it off again before it over flows. We often discuss with upstairs if / when we might need to buy water.  We now flush toilets with laundry water (that was originally collect rain water used to wash the clothes) or shower water – buckets lying round everywhere with various shades of water for various purposes.  I’m not sure when it got so complex, but it is our water system and it works-ish, we stay clean, we stay healthy we don’t spend a fortune on water trucks.  When we eat at a hole in the wall local restaurant place you will normally be bought a bag of water to consume with your meal. The mission community is divided about how safe they are to drink. The purity isn’t’ regulated, and so some people do drink them and some don’t but there is always a conversation about it when you are out! Not proper ‘running’ water is a cost we and so many others pay to follow Jesus and see his kingdom come.


UPDATE – since I first drafted this post, we have begun installing guttering to collect rain water.

13 Jul

Foody Friday – Hot and cold Sorbet.

As inspired by our friends over at thosewinklers.wordpress.org we are starting a Foody Friday spot on our blog.   Ali will probably be the main contributor so look out for some treats  — Tim


Since moving to Nigeria I have developed a passion for trying to make foods that I have only ever previously bought pre-made.  Some of this has come from the difficulty of buying some food-types here and some from a desire to do something that is both enjoyable and productive.

In the pursuit of new taste sensations I have made various sorbets from fresh fruit.  An early attempt involved squeezing oranges and adding a bit of sugar and some (what I thought was) powdered ginger.  Now to explain this, I actually have to back up a bit . . .

When we moved into our first house in Jos we inherited cupboards full of food, including various herbs and spices that I did not recognise.  Among them was a unlabelled jam jar full of a powdered substance that looked like ginger, smelled like ginger and which, shockingly, I assumed was ginger!  Turns out it was ginger, but mixed with cayenne pepper (or at least the Nigerian equivalent) to be used in spicy, savory dishes.

So, in blissful ignorance, I merrily added a good dose of it to my orange sorbet mixture.  The next day I served up my creation, anticipating sighs of delight.  The first taste was fresh, a little tangy, then the tang built and developed until the heat in our mouths demanded to be cooled with another mouthful.  So it continued, each mouthful cooling the heat of the previous mouthful, only to build into an inferno of its own. It was a weird, and not altogether unpleasant, sensation.  We christened it “Hot and Cold Sorbet” and decided that we quite liked it, but I must admit that I have not made any more since!

10 Jul

Cost of being a missionary – safety and security

I have bumped this post forward a few weeks because of a conversation I had on Friday.  While we were preparing to come to Nigeria, we received 1 retraction probably more than any other.  I’ll admit that after a while it was an irritation, but for the people asking the question, it was the obvious question and although I had answered it what felt like a hundred times, for them, it was the first chance to ask.

The question: WHY on earth would you go to Nigeria, people get kidnapped there and they blow stuff up all the time.  Let alone the corruption why would you want to go there?

Our answer: 2 reasons, all those thing you think are reasons not to go there, are exactly the reason we need to go there.  The answer to the unrest, the thing people strive for is peace.  The Bible is referred to as the gospel of peace, those violent people need a bible in a langue and a form they can understand. The people who are involved in corruption need some higher moral understanding, they are only going to get that form a Bible they too need it in a language and a form they can use and understand. The second reason is that we believe god has called us to go.  He knows the state of the country and the risks involved, but he also has the freedom to do what he will with us, because we gave our lives to him.

Nigeria is in the news more than I would probably like it to be for all the wrong reasons.  Most recently arsenal have cancelled their trip here siting the inability to agree on conditions for the team.  If I was the coach, I wouldn’t want to bring my team to a major sporting even where there is a risk of being blown up.  No joke, it is a real risk.  While police stations and embassies and media headquarters have been targeted in the Capitol, I would want to bring my team here either. Jos where we live has plenty of tensions. Parts of town we don’t go to, and a security force who check every car and sometimes every person on the way into church on a Sunday morning.  In fact the past couple of morning we haven’t been to a local church because of threats that have been made on the city.  Why do we stay? Because the same reason still exist as when we were deciding to come here 2 years ago, noting has changed except our understanding of how desperate this country is and how needy this country is to see a change.

There are things here that aren’t safe to do.  The conversation that prompted the change of timetable for this port was information that some our of colleagues in the country for a workshop were on the road travelling to said workshop when they were held up at gunpoint and robbed.  I’m not too included to go to that area at the best of times but it is the first such incident that I am aware of since we arrived, that involves missionaries.

We have a gate gaurd on our compound, you can’t get in unless someone inside opens up the gate.  It is normal practice here, and all the bar wire too.  We have a gate on the front of our house that we padlock up every night.  Im not too keen driving around at not, but to be honest the main roads have traffic and planets of police and army out at the moment that popping up the road for dinner isn’t too bad.  But when bombs go off in town on Christmas morning or on other Sunday mornings and gun shots can be heard on the road out side your compound, every back fire and every car tire blowing out (we live near the main road) for a while is questionable.  We have got use to the cars now and it doesn’t take more than a second to realise it is a car, but interesting that we hear probably 50 cars a week, yet for a while our assumption was that it is the worse case scenario of a bomb.

It doesn’t always feel safe.   It isn’t always secure, but we do have plenty of things in place to make sure of both, but it is a cost we pay to be missionaries out here.   Most of the time we do actually feel fine about living here, i guess we ave adjusted to the norm of road blocks and threats.  We don’t’ feel personally under any threat but still, every time things happen, I am more convinced that these people need God and a Bible in a language and form they can understand.

04 Jul

Cost of being a missionary – Family

This is the first in what I hope will be a series but who knows where it will go. I expect some may be more theological and others a bit more about everyday life, not that very day life isn’t about theology or the other way around, but I am not writing a PHD theological thesis, just a few observations about being a missionary.
So onto family. We have been in Nigeria for nearly a year, we have missed birthdays, Christmas, Easter, anniversaries, cousins, siblings and more. We have been blessed by a visit from my in-laws. But
every now and again, you wonder just exactly what Jesus meant when he said “follow me”. No matter what he calls you to do, there is going to be a cost involved. As a missionary leaving and working away from my passport country, we experience all sorts of cost, both financial and personal. Right now, we are feeling the cost of being away from family. The early disciples we called to drop everything, in some cases, abandon their family, their family’s expectations and even some family responsibilities in order to follow him. For us, we miss family especial at times we would normally be hanging out with family. Things I am sure are a lot easier than the old days, with email, Skype and cell phones you can be in touch fairly instantly. It was an SMS txt message from Ali’s mum saying that her mum, Ali’s nana had died on Saturday afternoon. She was 96 and a strong Christian women now in glory loving Jesus. But Ali is feeling the loss, while we are trying to figure out about her going to the UK to be with the much missed family for a time. People didn’t fly home in the old days, often because they didn’t receive news so readily, but if we do have the option should we take it. Much prayer needed as we feel this ‘cost’ right now

02 Jul

Termites and Evangelism

This past weekend, we decided not to attended a church, mostly for security reasons and we ended up meeting  with a few folks in a lounge at a guesthouse.  I wrote this while i was there.

Crc missionary Dr Van Der Stien (sp?) shared in our little family church meeting this morning a fascinating story.  There were 5 Wycliffe families / couples and a ywam family in this little room.  We read about who does God call from genesis covering the story of Jacob.

He was very pro using national language in church and training, he knew of Wycliffe and he was so encouraging about our work here in Nigeria and around the world.  He was talking about the NKST church movement being a huge success of pioneering mission work here in Nigeria and around the world.  He said that when he first came to the church, the pastor (who has since been recognised by the queen). Pastor Sye said ‘you must learn my language tiv so that way you will know my heart’. An interesting challenge but it started to dispel the ‘why don’t we teach them in english question’ in the Dr’s mind.  They had printed out 1,000,000 of the good news tracks used for evangelism in TIV to bring with them, but Pasteur Sye didn’t to want to use them because he said that his people should be out speaking to their people not simple giving them paper.  So eventually the termites ate all the copies of this booklet.  Dr Van Der Stein said that we don’t have all the answers coming to a place like this, in fact , the Nigerian pastor knew better how to work here.   How true is that! It is  encouraging to hear that people were learning that lesson all those years ago – I hope we don’t have to continue to re-learn that lesson when it comes to serving in cross cultural mission.


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