Friday, October 19, 2007

The 78th good thing about Lagos: Activities lowly and lofty bringing different kinds of rewards

Happy birthday to me! I'm 49 today and having a quiet day at home. My planned trip to the Lekki market was scrapped as it's a rainy day and that place becomes mired in mud with rain like we've had this morning. Brent's in London, but I am invited to a neighbors' flat for dinner so I won't be alone all day. Yesterday I was busy all day with social activities: bible study in the morning and cards -- hand and foot canasta -- in the afternoon. Through a friend (who has now moved on and is greatly missed...) I got invited to the ExxonMobil Thursday afternoon card group. Each week there's a fun game and also a welcome chance to visit and share shopping tips (our hostess had found tortilla chips at Goodies grocery store, but the Velveeta for the cheese dip she had brought from the States, you can't find it here, nor the Halloween candy. She found celery at La Pointe and was thrilled until she realized she shouldn't be too excited at paying $7 for a small stalk of celery...) and other survival tips (how to hang pictures on concrete walls, how to best handle the delivery of our shipment to reduce the chance of items walking off with the movers...). Those are the kind of things I've learned along with the card game. Yesterday there were 12 players there and we each put 500N ($4) into the pot when we arrive. We rotate the tables with each round and add up the scores from each game. At the end, the player with the losing score gets their money back and the winner gets the rest of the pot. I've never won before, but yesterday was my lucky day! So I took home 5500Naira ($44) and I had planned to buy myself a present at the market today -- but I'll have to wait till tomorrow when I go to the South African Women Society's Handicraft fair, which I've heard is a not-to-be-missed shopping opportunity. In the States, I would have felt a bit guilty spending an entire afternoon each week in playing cards, but here it's more of a survival mechanism.

Thursday mornings I've started going to an activity that is a little more meaningful -- a bible study where this semester we are studying the book of James. As James is only 5 chapters long and we are spending 12 weeks on the book, it is quite an intensive study. James is a book of practical religion and I'm really enjoying the discussions I'm having with these ladies who all have such a desire to live good, Christlike lives. The prayers and discussion are all so sincere and I'm always able to contribute as well as receive insights in return. (This doesn't at all replace my wonderful scripture study group in Houston -- but it's the closest I can come to it here!) The only part of the morning that leaves me a bit uncomfortable is at the beginning where we start with singing praise music. There is nothing wrong with the music -- some of it is very nice, but it's just different than the Mormon/Protestant straight hymn tradition to which I am accustomed. It's more the kind of pop music that you'll find on Christian radio stations. Because of my church musical tradition, it doesn't feel "reverent" to me and it doesn't really open my spirit to worship. But that's okay -- we can't expect to all respond the same way to music. But I was really touched with the final song the leader chose yesterday. She asked us to sit down and just listen to this song. As I listened to this beautiful ballad, I thought of all the people I pass on the streets of Lagos each day, the people who peer in my windows as they beg for money, the ones with crippled and deformed bodies who make improvised scooters with a scrap of wood on wheels to get around, the blind man being led by the young girl, and the millions here that just live in such poverty that makes meeting basic needs a daily struggle. I don't have pictures of the really desperate because I feel uncomfortable taking photos of them. But I'll post some of the pictures of other people I've come across and type the words to the song:

Every day they pass me by
I can see it in their eyes
Empty people filled with care
Headed who knows where.
On they go through private pain
Living fear to fear.
Laughter hides their silent cries.
Only Jesus hears.

People need the Lord.
At the end of broken dreams
He's the open door.
People need the Lord.
When will we realize
People need the Lord.

We are called to take His light
To a world where wrong seems right.
What could be too great a cost
For sharing life with one who's lost
Through His love our hearts can feel
All the grief they bear.
They must hear the words of life
Only we can share.

People need the Lord.
At the end
of broken dreams
He's the open door.
People need the Lord.

When will we realize
That we must give our lives
For people need the Lord.
People need the Lord.

Nigerian people are for the most part quite religious. I think many here rely on their faith to help them face their daily challenges. The book of James says that our trials and struggles are to teach us patience and faith and we should ask God for the wisdom to understand what we need to learn from them. These people here have plenty of opportunities to learn patience and faith. I was thinking about everybody's hopes for this new government and how we all want changes that will make a difference in
the lives of the people here. But the real and lasting improvement in our lives will not come from any government. For all people everywhere, no matter if we
live in poverty or wealth, the real differences will be felt and the real rewards will come in our lives as we respond with faith to whatever daily challenges we are facing. We all need the Lord. People need the Lord.

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