Report on 2013 Trip to Nigeria
These are excerpts from my journal of our trip to Nigeria. Thank you for the opportunity to embark on such an adventure! I attempted to represent you well, though many times I couldn’t speak because of tears.
—Joy Hill Hebert
After a long flight, we arrived safely in Nigeria. The passport checker asked why I didn’t marry a Nigerian since I was born here. I chuckled and asked, “Do you want to marry me?” Laughing, he replied, “Oh NO!!” and let us through. Pastor Friday took us to change money and purchase a phone before delivering us to the Baptist guest house, a piece of heaven. We walked around snapping pictures of lizards and other things. Ray fell asleep on the swing under the mango tree. The next day, unable to get a flight to Ilorin, we stayed one more night with Esther, our hostess. We had a day of rest—the only time that happened!
The next morning we awoke to the sounds of Africa. I wanted to stay in that moment forever. Esther sang praises while making our breakfast. We hadn’t heard a peep from Ray, so Paige knocked on his door. He exclaimed “Please open the door!” He was locked in his room and might be there still,if we hadn’t checked on him. Back to the airport to fly to Ilorin, purchase tickets, and eat African chop—gari, moimoi, boiled plantain, greens with pepe, and meat pie.
We were met in Ilorin by Johnson Deyi and a driver. It was a 45-minute ride on a new super highway until we reached Ogbomoso, then no road at all, but they are making a lot of progress on a new one. Tears surfaced as we passed Antioch church and entered the campus of Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary. Then to Frances Jones, which is a guest house originally built long ago by missionaries and named after a woman who died while serving in Nigeria. (Some of my NFW colleagues were born here). Huge dramatic African clouds and wonderful breezes welcomed us as we arrived.
Dr. Adeniran and his wife Esther took us to the Ogbomoso Women’s League Secondary School, which serves poor children. (NFW funded a security wall around this school). The ladies and children, dressed in beautiful colors, came out singing and dancing—a special, sweet greeting. We were ushered into a room with fresh flowers for prayers and introductions, then a tour of the school, and a long trip out to a proposed new site. Then, late for a meeting, went directly to Bowen University Teaching Hospital (the current version of the 100+ year old Baptist mission hospital, where NFW has helped in several projects). We were hot, sweaty, and looked ridiculous, but were still graciously welcomed. We met with Provost Dr. Adewole and orthopedic surgeon Dr. Uwale Eyesan, among others. We toured the hospital, assessing needs. Then back to Frances Jones. Dr. Adeniran arrived with a tailor to measure us, and goodies from the Women’s League.
We woke to the call to prayer, birds singing, and strange animal noises. We attended chapel at the seminary and met the president, Dr. Deji Ayegboyin, gracious, warm and down to earth. Someone sang “Peace, Perfect Peace” which brought back memories and made me cry. The seminary had just received four brand new pianos as a gift, and they asked me to play a song on one of them. I was my usual tearful self as we introduced ourselves again. After the service we visited a while. D.F. Oroniran presented us with signed copies of his book The Baptist Heritage: A Nigerian Perspective.
Then we were taken to the Blind Center, started by former missionary Frances West.NFW has helped expand their craft training project, and sales are invested back into the program. We toured the school and the craft center. I was touched by that visit. Their need is so great, yet they do much with so little.
Dr. Adeniran and Dr. Ayegboyin were arranging for us to meet the Soun (king of Ogbomoso). Dr, Adeniran brought new clothes so we could be properly dressed, and that got us a fantastic reception from everyone! I showed the Soun a photo of us together in 1981. He seemed surprised and said, “You are not as slender as you were then.” Everyone else thought that was funny. He showed us his 327 year old tortoise. I was amazed at the speed of something so old. Later a tasty African dinner with the most delicious pineapple.
We got to know Dr. Fasipe, a pharmacist and a general MD educated in the US, now back helping his people. He installed solar panels on his home and he now sells them. An interesting and charming man, we learned a lot about solar options.
Abigail, secretary to Bowen’s president, brought us more clothes—one set from Bowen and one from herself. We went to the Adenirans’ home for dinner. They have a beautiful compound with turkeys, chickens, goats, and a parrot. He said the Frances Jones parrot inspired him years ago. They had beautiful double bougainvilleas and moringa trees. For dinner we had jollof rice, pounded yam, turkey and beef in pepe sauce, egusi soup, plain rice, plantain, spinach, cucumbers, tomatoes and Fanta orange. We really enjoyed the evening. Later as Paige and I approached Frances Jones I said “I wonder why we haven’t seen any fireflies.” Suddenly a whole section of the lawn lit up with them. I was glad I had a witness to that moment because no one would have believed it.
On Sunday morning we dressed in our finery and walked to Antioch Baptist Church. We met Dr. Ayegboyin, also walking, so we sat with him. Four hours later the preacher announced us and said he was surprised we were still there. It turned out that day was the special monthly prayer day. I met a man who had known my father at Baptist Boys High School in Igede. A pediatrician who knew Paige’s dad introduced himself, and walked us back to the seminary. We suddenly found out that we had just a few minutes before we had to leave for the “celebration” at the Beulah Worship Center. This was a service for the outgoing Vice Chancellor of Bowen, Dr. Olagbemiro, and the outgoing president of the seminary, Dr. Ayegboyin. It lasted three hours, with lots of fanfare. When we got back, people were waiting to meet with us from the seminary’s women’s training center which is a support group that trains pastors’ wives in home economics and business so they can help support their families.They had missed us three times before, so we sat with them. We finally ate very late and went to bed exhausted.
Our hosts arranged for a driver as well as an escort to Saki, so we all three tucked into the back seat with Ray in the middle. Poor guy. The scenery was incredible—huge rocks rising to meet us as we approached Saki and the Baptist Medical Centre. The hospital was founded by missionaries but I had no memory of it. I realized that memories are very much our own; another MK arriving at one of my special places would not have the same feelings I do.
Dr. Ojebode, the hospital administrator, greeted us in his office with refreshments. We toured the hospital and were impressed. Then we met with the Saki Women’s League, prominent women NFW is working with to provide wells for free water to all who need it. The women gave us each two pieces of beautiful material.On the trip back Paige and I switched sides so we could wear out the opposite hip but poor Ray was beat well-well on both sides.
We were driven to Iwo, where former missionary Alma Rohm lives. We relaxed and visited with Aunt Alma, and enjoyed the sound of our first big rain. Laken took us on a tour of Bowen University. The campus is huge and beautiful, and the buildings are impressive. The chapel sits atop a gentle hill with beautiful views. It is the largest university chapel in the world! Bowen has lots of land for agriculture and are actively researching such things as uses for cassava.We visited the Alma Rohm Baptist Church. What a treat that was! It’s a really large church and school, very modern and impressive. Afterwards, back at the house, we had homemade pizza and delicious lemon meringue pie. The fruit came from a tree Aunt Alma saved from being cut down because the fruit was ugly and sour.
We saw the Baptist Press and Orita Mefa Baptist Church. We were outside taking pictures when someone told us we must ask permission. Ray went in and filled out an application. Eventually we were welcomed and greeted warmly. Ray was thrilled to get a tour of the press his father managed, after almost being arrested for taking pictures without permission. We were sad to find out that his childhood home had been torn down last year; the only recognizable part was the water tank. We took pictures and had a prayer, and then drove by the WMU building. Sadly, we were unable to visit the compounds we remembered so well due to time constraints.
We stopped at Osogbo to see the buildings that housed Newton school where so many MKs attended. Now it is a pre-degree program site for Bowen. We also went to the Osun shrine. I was upset about all the traffic going through, but apparently that’s not upsetting the monkeys at the shrine entrance.
Laken bought us some street food—garden eggs, water chestnuts, wara (fried Fulani cheese), roasted corn, and Doe Doe (fried mashed plantain with red pepper). We stopped by his convenience store, visited with people, and bought a few things. That night we watched African dramas on TV, ate, and then to bed.
We woke at five to go to Ilorin airport to fly to Abuja. When we arrived, Paul Kato and his assistant drove us to the Baptist guest house so we could get Paige’s suitcase which she had been without the entire trip. We also wanted Paul to meet Esther since he often has people who come to Abuja and need a place to stay.
Then we drove to Kwoi, going first to Paul’s mom’s house where we would be staying. Momma K is a wonderful, colorful lady who lives in a fine mud house. We felt very much at home. We rode over to the Kato International Training Academy site, and it was great to finally see it in real life. Set to open next year, KITA will be a boarding school to develop future leaders who are compassionate, ethical, and disciplined. NFW has helped in the building renovations.
The next day an interesting wake-up call: bells ringing and then the dog in the back yard howled loudly, and all the other village dogs chimed in for about a minute; then silence again. We had hot cereal for breakfast, sort of like rice pudding, made from rice and peanuts. Heading for the KITA site, we were stopped by a leader who escorted us to the chief’s palace, a beautiful painted mud building with a very intricate wooden ceiling. After the site visit, we were stopped by a village leader who took us to ECWA church where the women were having a singspiration. More introductions and they prayed over us. When leaving for a village tour, we got stopped again by a leader who wanted us to visit at his house. They all think highly of Paul’s family.
Paul took us to to a beautiful rock and a little stream at the foot of Kwoi. The others climbed the rock without me, because I injured my foot before the trip. Still, I had one of the best times of my trip! I stayed down by the stream with a little crowd of boys who came to check me out. We had such a good time teaching each other words, and I took their pictures. The rest of my group saw lots of beautiful scenery from the top, but I had a special time, too.
Paul took us high up on a hill near Kafanchan, You could see for miles. It began to storm, so we ducked into a little hut, watching the beautiful African rains. Then we ran back to the car, soaked by the rain. The sky was spectacular and we stayed outside taking it all in for quite some time. Then home to Momma K’s dinner and a nice evening visit.
Our last day in Nigeria. I embraced the morning sounds for the last time, so sad to be leaving. I was tempted to hide away and stay. Momma K made us hot cereal of acha (a local grain that is like semolina) and kose (akara). It’s warm and comforting. At the airport we rinsed our feet in the foot showers used by Muslims to prepare for prayer. I’m looking forward to a real shower, and I am exhausted, but I’ve been so happy here and feel so at peace.