Sunday, April 15, 2007

Our first weekend

I’ll never forget that first weekend in Serti.

Serti lies in eastern Nigeria, on the only road to Cameroon in that area. It’s a narrow, dirt road, treacherously slippery because of sand in the dry season, impossibly muddy in the wet season. It was a hundred miles over that road to our nearest missionary neighbors, and that trip took us 5 hours average.

Serti was very reachable by air – during the daytime and assuming good weather. The airstrip was right next to our house. On Saturday, April 24, we landed at that strip in the twin engine plane that belonged to our mission organisation. It was always a big deal when the airplane came, and that day was no exception. I’d guess there were a hundred people there, including the Nigerian pastor with whom I would be working. (Later someone told me that his words, upon seeing me, were: They have sent us a boy!)

It was hot, dry and dusty. There was no water. The house was furnished with the furniture of the family that had been there before us. After a while everyone left, and we were alone. The midwife who was at that station had an emergency (later we learned through experience that, when it came to meeting and caring for people, she often had an “emergency”.) We were left to fend for ourselves.

Just before supper our other colleague, Ruth Veltkamp, drove up. She was in charge of our orientation and language learning.

I remember so clearly that she parked the car and sat there for just a moment, head bowed. I had no idea what she was doing, but I assumed it was praying – thanking God for a safe trip, as a missionary should. Or something like that. I had no idea. My thought was: would I think to pray and thank God after a trip? Asking the question was answering it, it seemed to me. Later I learned that she was filling in the mileage sheet.

The next morning (Sunday) we went to church with Ruth in a small village. The church was made of tree trunks with a grass roof, and we sat on benches made of clay, through a long service we could not understand. I remember constantly hearing the word “chicken”. In Hausa that means “inside” (spelled “cikin”). The temperature hovered around 100.

After the service we had lunch it someone’s house, a hut with a grass roof. The food was not good to our taste. We struggled with Sarah, the food, the people, the culture, the heat.

Monday morning we started our language lessons. Ruth let no grass grow under her feet. She had hired a young man to help us. We faced the huge task of learning a brand new language in an area where almost no one spoke English.

The image is still etched in my mind of me, in the afternoon, sitting on the couch next to Cyndi, crying my eyes out. I’ll never forget what that felt like.

Our first weekend in Nigeria.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is very cool that you are doing this dad. I am looking forward to learning more about your journey.