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The yearly trek from Iowa to Nigeria cements a partnership that started in 1989 and continues today between the Iowa and Nigeria Annual Conferences. Two groups were part of the 2013 trip. Led by Linda Rowe and Beverly Nolte, Sarah Swinton and Caitlyn Baagoe, high school graduates, and Emma Payne, a college junior, journeyed across the pond and into Abuja, Nigeria, on June 13. Laden with laptops (for the UMC Computer labs/school/centers), dental equipment, boxes of knives to perform eye surgeries, mosquito nets, graduation supplies, United Methodist Books of Discipline, robes/stoles, and a variety of seeds for the agricultural programs, the team paid $74 in excess baggage.
Our first order of business was to unload the sea container that had been sent in March. Sorting out all of the 1000+ boxes and distributing specifically marked boxes to the designated programs was an all morning event. Trucks from the three conferences, Rural Health Program, Junior Secondary School, and partner villages all lined up to carry the boxes of kits to be distributed to the various districts throughout the church area.
The four-day eye and dental clinic started early on June 17 in Bambur at the former mission hospital. Nearly 500 people were milling around the hospital grounds, some needing their own eyes checked, some leading their blind family member, or waiting to be seen by the dentist. After opening prayers, scripture, and a word about the UMC of Nigeria’s sponsorship, order was made out of chaos as patients formed lines to be seen by the eye staff and processed for surgery, eye medicine, or glasses. In the dental clinic, Dr. Albert, our Nigerian dentist, sterilized our dental clinic, 74 numbers were handed out, names were taken, and the extractions began. During the week the eye people saw over 1,178 patients, gave out 208 glasses, and performed 101 surgeries. In the dental clinic 200 patients were treated, with 146 extractions. All of the team members assisted at these clinics, a thrilling experience helping Nigerians be whole and healthy.
While this was happening Linda went with Habbakuk (one of our drivers who is also the maintenance man at JSS), Titus Bewula from BTS, and sometimes others to try to fix many things up and down the “Bambur strip.” Reuben and the drilling rig arrived and new boreholes were drilled at Worom and in Karim at UMC #1. They tried to get to another remote village but couldn’t get there. Linda enjoyed a nighttime motorcycle ride back to Bambur from Karim.
Five men from Grandview UMC in Dubuque traveled to Nigeria arriving June 19 to travel to Damka, a rural, remote village in a predominately Muslim area. Led by Rev. Tom Shinkle, group members Ron Turner, Jim Poll, Mike Kinsella, and Corey Hartbecke, along with Beverly, Linda, Hannatu and drivers, spent several days camping out in Damka, sleeping on the church floor, with cooking being done on a three stone fire, eating under a large tree, taking a splash bath in a corn stalk “shower” and using an outdoor toilet made from a large paint pail positioned over the dug pit. Benches were made out of left over lumber, the church was painted on the inside and out, the UM symbol of the Cross and Flame was drawn on the front of the church along with “DAMKA UMCN.” A dropped ceiling was put in place, anchored by 2x2s cut from a local tree with a chain saw, windows and doors hung to complete the church construction with funds from Grandview UMC.
During the Damka stay there was a four-day evangelistic revival being held with Bible studies during the day and worship every evening where attendees sang, danced, praised, and prayed until the wee hours of the morning. The group made a courtesy visit to the village chief who is Muslim and was welcomed into his quarters for a short visit. During the Sunday worship service, two of the village elders came to the service, thanked the group for assisting the village and assured the people that there would be no reprisals should a Muslim convert to Christianity.
Taking communion on Sunday morning was interesting. There were not enough communion cups for everyone so after use, the cups were dipped in water, refilled and used again. Crackers were served as bread and Dubuque water, poured from the red “Imagine No Malaria” water bottle handed out at Annual Conference and taken to Nigeria by Tom, served as the wine. Several people came forward to give their life to Christ and others for healing.
The Dubuque five left Nigeria after cementing their relationship with the Damka people with plans to do fund-raising for an elementary school in the village. There is no school in Damka or anywhere nearby so this is an uneducated pocket of people who want to learn but have no opportunity to do so.
While the others were in Damka, the young ladies helped in the computer lab, attended a night service with singing and dancing, went with John Pena to the larger city of Karim, saw the market, and worshipped with the local people on Sunday.
On Monday the ladies went to Salaminkala to visit the partner village of Eldora UMC in Iowa. They visited the new clinic, which was built recently, and distributed 600 school kits sent from Eldora.
The five women continued their program of working in the computer labs at Banyam Theological Seminary and doing some private computer lessons in the evening, providing crafts and playing with the children, and meeting with church leaders.
Then it was off on the infamous “rock road to Pero” to visit people and programs there. We visited the ADP (agricultural development program), the Nursery/Primary school, the Rural Health clinic, the Computer school, and visited with church leaders.
We then headed down the road to Panya, with a stop in Kaltungo to meet Ombaku for money matters and a stop at the mechanic’s to work on the truck. We brought rain to Panya for the first time in weeks as we arrived just ahead of a downpour. Panya is the first village to partner with Iowa churches, as they are partners with Davis County. The next day they had a service and we celebrated with a ribbon cutting for the new clinic. Emma and Linda stayed while the others went back to Jalingo. They handed out school supplies, t-shirts, and more from DC. That night there was a woman in labor but no delivery. The next day they visited a large cooperative garden, three new boreholes, and then headed back to Jalingo. They had truck trouble and the trip took all day. Back in Jalingo, Beverly took care of some business and the girls went to the orphanage.
On Saturday we went to Zing, had a tour of the hospital and eye center, and to Kakulu, where we visited the Seminary.
Sunday we went to Sibre to worship with Yusuf and Mary Jatutu. Worship was great but long. Afterwards we presented two more Personal Energy Transportation (P.E.T.) vehicles to people with physical disabilities. These give them mobility and hope for a more normal life. Where they have been crawling on the ground they can now pedal around and get out in the village and home. The blind pastor who received a Braille Bible from us read the scripture from it during the service.
Monday Beverly did banking while Linda and the girls went to Jalingo N/P school. Then Beverly and the girls went to the market while Linda and Reuben went to see two more boreholes. We had more visitors that last night.
As I hope you can tell it was a jam-packed itinerary with many things accomplished.
Gifted with chickens, Nigerian attire, chicken catchers, short handled hoes, peanuts, beverages, and many a sincere “thank you” from the Nigerians, the group gratefully received these expressions of love from brothers and sisters in the faith in Nigeria. Plans to be in solidarity and prayerful support of Nigerian church leaders, projects, and programs will continue as we reach out to show Christian love in action!
Next year we would like to take a larger medical team and we really need a “handy man” who can work on lots of things from carpentry to electricity and plumbing, etc. Any takers? Please contact me.
Thank you to all of you for your interest and support.