Following is John Vogt’s diary on his trip to Nigeria. He is now OK and back to California. Posted at his permission.
Nigeria – Week three
Saturday – We made an afternoon trip into Abak to get to an internet. Unfortunately it was not as fast as a week earlier. I was able to get out my week two diary, but had difficulty accessing my contacts. (If you were omitted, please forgive me.)
We had another visit by the Nigerian S.W.A.T. team — eight men this time, in black uniforms with helmets, bullet-proof vests, and automatic weapons at the ready. The leader walked up to our house and asked: “Is everything calm?” When I replied “Yes,” they got back into their truck and drove off.
I finished the book, Things Fall Apart, which Ken had given me. It is a novel about a Nigerian village before and then after Christian missionaries arrive. I’d recommend it to you to give you an idea of what Nigeria is like even today.
My weekly phone call with Sandy ended the day. It’s amazing how modern communications can reach even into a remote village in Africa which has no electricity.
Sunday – Travelled to Manta for service today. A smaller group (ca. 45), but its three drummers and a cassinet-player helped keep things loud and enthusiastic like the previous two congregations had been. There were lots of what Professor Cherney called “7-11 songs” – seven words repeated eleven times. There was a new twist to fund-raising. First there were two line dances, each with two passes by the offering bowls. Then at the end of the service the elder called each member by name to make their donation for the pastor’s stipend, and he recorded the amount of each person’s offering in a ledger book.
The big event of the day was the consecration of the congregation’s new borehole (i.e. well). Money from WELS had financed an 1800 meter well to supply water free of charge to the people of the village. The well is on the church grounds, so all can see that this is a gift to the community from the Lutheran Church. Professor Cherney was asked to speak the words of consecration. He did an admirable job, especially since this honor was sprung on him without notice. He and then I were given the first two drinks. We figured we were the guinea pigs to see if it was safe. A side-benefit is that a pipe will be run to the parsonage, so the pastor and his family of seven kids will have running water for the first time.
Monday – Soft mattress and soft chairs have resulted in a sore, stiff back. I’m still up and able to take nourishment, but for now the spring is out of my step. Class and the afternoon “stump the professor” hour went well. Students are nearing completion of their revised Apostles’ Creed.
36 laps in the afternoon heat, which was a bit more tolerable because heavy clouds covered the sun most of the time. It looked as if someone got some rain, but not a drop here.
Tuesday – We had a 30-minute rain shower at night. It woke me up, but was pleasant to listen to.
After classes today we were invited to the village chief’s house for dinner. The chief is a member of our congregation. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the U.S. Menu was coconut rice spiked with plenty of pepper, chicken, coleslaw (seemed to be an American recipe), and beer. The chief’s wife scooped the food on our plate in a quantity about double what I would have chosen to eat. To be polite we ate the whole thing. A couple hours of visiting with the chief and his wife followed the meal. Their home was roomy, but not fancy. In fact the floors were unpainted cement, and several panes of glass were missing from the windows. Outside was a memorial for the chief’s father who had been chief before. The memorial said he had lived 108 years (although we found that a bit hard to believe).
A heavy rain came in the afternoon, interrupting our walk after 20 laps. Once it stopped we went out for another 8 before it was time for us to be locked in our cage (6:00 P.M.) so the guards could go home. A student stopped by in the evening to show us a 5-foot poisonous python he had caught. It was still somewhat alive. The student’s efforts to uncoil it drew a lot of excited chatter from the small group of students and village children who are gathered around. (In class on Wednesday the student said he had been bitten by snakes about 10 times in his life. I suggested it might be time for him to leave the snakes along and reminded him that Jesus said: “Don’t tempt the Lord your God.”)
Wednesday – The highlight of the day was a meeting with the seminary Board of Directors. Issue #1 was the great latrine controversy. Right now the seminary students must use an outhouse in the back which is also used by the 150 or so primary school children. Several plans to build an inside toilet area have been proposed – all quite costly. The bid on the latest plan was ca. $2,500. I suggested a way to build what they want at half the cost. My idea did not meet with an immediate enthusiastic response, but, if the present request for funding is declined, they may look again at my suggestion. There was talk about how to get the seminary affiliated with or at least recognized by someone, so the students could be given a degree that had some standing in people’s eyes. Professor Cherney suggested working with our seminary in Zambia, an idea that seemed to offer promise. A request was made to set up a student medical fund, administrated by the seminary director. It was decided that the student who had missed 9 days of our 15-day course would be given an incomplete and a “first and final warning” that this dare not happen again.
Our afternoon walk was cut off at 23 laps because it was time to return to our cage. Toward the end of our walk one of the guards walked along with us for several laps – a first.
Thursday – It’s Mohammad’s birthday – a national holiday. We held classes anyway. It was my last teaching class – tomorrow is the final exam. Perhaps the best class I’ve had. Lots of lively, to-the-point discussion. I came with 15 minutes of completing the materials for the course and will do that first tomorrow before handing out the exam.
We walked 41 laps today – reached our goal of 40, plus one victory lap. A gentle rain fell in the evening.
Friday – Last Day. Nigeria Electric decided to grace our day with electricity, the first time since we’ve been here that we had power for any length of time. But everything crashed again in two hours.
I gave the final exam. All the students passed. All have satisfactorily completed the course work except that I had given the assignment that each student say Luther’s Explanation to the Second Article. They could say it in their own dialect, but that I don’t see how someone can be a Lutheran pastor and not know at least that much of the Catechism. So far only one student has said it. I will turn my report over to the seminary director, saying that all have incomplete until that final task is done.
I gave each student one of my clinging crosses. This caused quite a stir as the students concluded that they would be especially useful in driving away the evil spirits which they feel abound around them. We learned yesterday that some of the students believe that they have seen various spirits prowling around the seminary grounds.
The afternoon was given over to a farewell party. The festivities began with the students slaughtering three handsome, plumb chickens. I have lots of gory pictures if you’re interested. The banquet consisted of chicken (we knew it was fresh), a pastry (a tasty crust with a hard-boiled egg inside), and beer. Afterwards came a speech, a prayer, and some pictures. The whole event lasted about an hour.
We walked one last time – 40 laps plus a victory lap. I figure that 6 or 7 laps equal a mile.
Saturday – Off to the airport at 11:00 to begin the trip home. We leave with the feeling that it was a memorable and worthwhile experience, but that three weeks is a long enough stay.