Our move to Jos has gone very smoothly so far (in part because it is happening in stages and we’ve only done the first stage so far!). Our original plan back in January/February was that we would move onto the seminary campus at JETS (Jos ECWA Theological Seminary). That has been put on indefinite hold for the time being. Since there are no physical classes, the campus is relatively uninhabited. Also there isn’t any suitable accommodation available at the moment (and the seminary is not in a position to do anything about that while the pandemic is still on).
Instead, we have moved into temporary, furnished accommodation on a ‘mission compound’ in another part of Jos. In a few months’ time we plan to move into a different house on the same compound that will become available when some people move out. That’s when we’ll need to move all our furniture up from Jos.
There continues to be trouble (inter-community clashes) in the area around Kagoro. As far as we can tell these have reduced a bit but not gone away. Considerable numbers of people have been displaced and are now in IDP camps. A further problem is that, even if people could return home today, their farming season has been badly disrupted, meaning that they will have no (or little) harvest this year. This has knock-on effects for the whole of next year. Many people are (at least partially) subsistence farmers.
Rick is teaching several online classes for both JETS and ETSK (ECWA Theological Seminary Kagoro). Even normally (ie without coronavirus), the beginning of a semester is often rather ‘scattered’, as students drift into the seminary slowly. (This is partly because people have trouble raising the school fees.) What with COVID-19 and with suddenly having to adapt to online learning, the start of this semester has been even more scattered than normal. We are already mid-semester and things are only just beginning to settle down. Students here have a lot to contend with in trying to do online studies: decrepit devices, dodgy internet signal, insufficient funds to pay for bandwidth, a lack of familiarity with online studies. Still, they are doing their best.
Online studies, during the summer and now this semester, have given Alanna the chance to press on with her theology MA at ETSK, despite now being in Jos. By the time this semester is over, she should be within striking distance of finishing it. The studies are going well and she feels that she is learning a lot on various topics, including Old Testament Prophets, the book of Revelation, Modern African Theologians, Spiritual Disciplines and some of Augustine’s writings.
One of our students from Kagoro, Isyaku, is studying the same course as Alanna and has been living with us. This gives great opportunities for discussion of the topics, in spite of the lack of face-to-face classes. This is really valuable as the insights that we gain from our reading are often different as a result of our different backgrounds. One of the books on the reading list is How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind by Thomas Oden. This has a fascinating account of how much of early church theology and experience was shaped and developed in north Africa, especially in regions that are in modern day Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. Oden’s book encourages African theologians to explore the history of the Church and theology of this period. Lots of the history and documents of the period have not really been studied in depth. This is of particular interest in terms of common criticisms of the Church in Africa that see Christianity as a European or American religion.
One of our reasons for moving to Jos was so that the kids could start going to the international school here (Hillcrest). Because of lockdown, schools are not open yet, so we are continuing with homeschooling. The other kids on the compound are in a similar position as they also attend Hillcrest. Very kindly, one of the missionaries on the compound has agreed to supervise the kids as they do their work (there’s about 10 of them altogether). So we are still setting their work (maths still features prominently), but they are now doing it in a sort of mini-school environment with the other kids, which they are enjoying.
Asha, Conor and Jack have been relishing the move to Jos. We are still under a moderate degree of lockdown but the compound we are now on has a New Zealand family who have kids the same sort of ages as our kids so they’ve been having great fun together. Asha, along with her New Zealand friend, organised a small ‘teens’ (10-15s) weekend the other week. This was great fun for everyone involved.
Jack has ended up with a new ‘pet’ (although there is not a lot of petting involved). A friend of ours was staying in a guest house in Jos. After showering, he was drying himself with a towel and discovered that the towel had a passenger: a small but rather aggressive tarantula. He captured it in a box and decided to show it to the kids. Jack in particular was delighted – and now there is a new pet. (It lives outside the house in a large plastic tank/box.)
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