Posted by: Christie | March 28, 2014

He’s Here!

Okay, okay… more like he’s been here for 7 weeks.  ;)  It seems that God has us in a season of a lot of changes and transitions (More details coming soon!), but the cuddliest and cutest of all the new things right now is this little guy….


Josiah Benjamin was born on February 4 at 3:33 am.  (Whew!  And I thought childbirth in general was tough.  Childbirth in the middle of the night takes on a whole new dimension!  We were really blessed, though, in that labor, from start to finish, was about 5 hours, and by the time he decided he was ready to come, a minute and a half later, there he was!)  He was 8 pounds 9.7 ounces – the biggest by quite a bit of either Judah or Jovelle – and 21 inches.  He had a bit more hair than they did, too, which has resulted in a particularly soft head that I have decided is remarkably stroke-able.  It’s so soft!

Fresh from God!

Fresh from God!

He is also quite cuddly and loves being held, and quite honestly, I love that about him.  Judah always liked to be facing out and seeing what was going on in the world, even from a really young age, but this guy, oh he loves being held close and tight.  He is such a sweet little guy… though I must confess that I was pretty shocked when Chris announced, “It’s a boy!”  For some reason, I really thought the baby was a girl; in fact, Chris said when he announced the gender, it was the most alert he’d seen me all night when I sat straight up and yelled, “It’s a BOY!?  What?!”

Josiah means “The Lord heals,” “The Lord supports” or “The Lord saves.”  I’ve always like the person of Josiah in the Bible (See 2 Kings 22-23 for more about him.); I love that he became king at 8 years old and that he was a just ruler who followed God.  In fact, the Bible says, “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and followed completely the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left” (2 Kings 22:2).  He was also responsible for renewing the covenant between God’s people and God.  When Josiah found the Words of God and realized that they had not been following His commands, Josiah basically kick started a revival: He “renewed the covenant in the presence of the Lord—to follow the Lord and keep his commands, statutes and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, thus confirming the words of the covenant written in this book. Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant” (2 Kings 23:3).  How cool is that?!  Since we work with Bible translation, we find Josiah’s reformation because of his encounter with the Word of God especially moving – it really is such a strong reminder of what can happen when one encounters the living Word and why we believe everyone should have access to it in a language they understand best.


Of course, Josiah wasn’t perfect, but isn’t that true of all of us?  Still, though, the Bible tells us that “neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses” (2 Kings 23:25).

Our hope and prayer is that our Josiah will follow the ways of the Lord, even from a young age, and turn neither to the right nor the left, even with the pressures of a society trying to redefine right and wrong.   We pray that he will follow the Lord will all his heart, soul and strength, and that he will love the Word of God passionately – and that this love for God and the Bible will give him a passion to want to see others walking with Him.


Josiah 9 redo wm

Yup, we’re in love!


*Thanks to Tiny Bear Photography for the last picture of Josiah. 


Posted by: Christie | January 23, 2014

Not Much Longer!

Just about a week and a half until the due date – but who’s counting?!  The other day Judah randomly said, “Mommy, you’ve had that baby inside you for like 21 years.”  Now, I’m not entirely sure which aspect of his words I should comment on first: the fact that he actually used the word “like” as a filler (which I find, like, so disturbing and am now being forced to look at my own vocabulary), or the fact that, well, yeah, in some ways it has seemed like ages.  With Judah and Jovelle I loved being pregnant and was in no hurry for that part to end… and though I am grateful for overall good health (minus a few episodes and malaria bouts in the beginning), with this one, I’m kinda ready… even though I’ve learned from past experience that caring for a baby inside is way easier than caring for one outside!  ;)

I imagine the waiting is even more magnified for children, though.  I remember the day after we told them that they were going to have a new brother or sister – they were so excited and could hardly wait.  I was sitting on a chair and called Judah over to tell him something.  He bounded over so excited and exclaimed, “What is it, Mommy?  Is the baby coming?!”  Well, no – just 240 or so more sleeps to go!

But now the time is almost here, and we’re so excited to meet him or her….

Isn't that just the cutest little nose you ever did see?

Isn’t that just the cutest little nose you ever did see?

Just over a week to go!

Just over a week to go!

…Though, uh, if it’s a him we are still without any name options.  Not that Judah’s suggestion of “Jude” and Jovelle’s suggestion of “Baby Doll” aren’t valid choices, mind you….

Posted by: christopherbwinkler | December 25, 2013

Washed by the Word

I saw the following on the Wycliffe UK blog and wanted to share it in this space as well.  This is something that I can’t fathom: hearing and truly understanding the Christmas story for the first time as an adult.

In many ways, we have lost the wonder of the birth that changed the world.  We are no longer truly surprised or overwhelmed by this amazing gift.

Think, though, of the surprise of the shepherds, the wise men, those who experienced this magnificent gift firsthand.  Think of the many people around the world even today who have not grown up hearing what has become, for us, the familiar story of Christmas.

As we are reminded on the Wycliffe UK blog, “The story of Christmas, complete with shock factor, is not lost.  Around the world people are experiencing the news of Jesus’ birth with those emotions because they are understanding it for the first time. We heard about one woman in Cabo Verde (formerly Cape Verde) who, hearing the Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth in her own language for the first time, laid down her national-language Bible and said,

‘For the first time in my life, I felt washed by the word. I thought I knew the Christmas story by heart, but I must confess that today I feel like I’ve heard it for the very first time.’ “

As we mentioned in our newsletter, there are approximately 20 language groups in Nigeria who, for the first time this Christmas, will be able to hear the story of the birth of Jesus in their own language.  Now that is reason to praise God and have a merry Christmas!  May we all experience the wonder of the birth of Christ anew this year – whether we are hearing it for the first time or the 100th time!

Posted by: Christie | December 24, 2013

The Lion and the Lamb

As we celebrate Christmas, I can’t help but think of what I believe was the first year we were away from the States – and our family and usual traditions – during the holidays.  We went to a Christmas Eve service in Nigeria with some other missionaries, and there was a time for sharing thoughts.  Many people, some also experiencing the holidays without their network of family and friends for the first time, related to Joseph and Mary traveling on that first Christmas.  And of course there were thoughts about Jesus leaving His home in heaven to live among us – Jesus, the ultimate missionary, leaving behind far more than any of us had.

But the thought that has really stayed with me over these past couple years is something else.  When we talk about Jesus coming to earth – the Creator of heaven and earth, of you and me; the King of kings and Lord of lords – we know, of course, that he took on an incredibly humble and vulnerable form.  He came as a baby, a baby who was dependent upon others for His every need.  The God of the universe needing someone to change His diapers (or swaddling cloths, or whatever was used back then….), to give Him food, to meet His basic needs….  When Jesus came to earth the first time, one woman reminded us, He came as a lamb – mild, meek, needing people to care for Him (and who would eventually become the sacrificial lamb in our stead).

Judah used to always say a disclaimer when he talked about Jesus coming to earth, though – “Jesus came to earth as a baby – but he didn’t stay that way!”

And of course he didn’t.

The other side of that story, of the lamb-like nature of Jesus, is the side we don’t think about as much: Though He initially came as the Lamb of God, when He returns, it will be as the Lion.  The next time He comes, it will not be wrapped in swaddling clothes or in a humble stable while most of the world goes on, unaware that the most significant event in history has just happened.  When He returns, there will be no question as to His majesty, no question that He truly is the King of kings and Lord of lords.  He will not come meekly, but with a roar as the judge, the King coming to claim His rightful throne… and quite honestly, that’s a little scary.  And certainly not the image that we as believers project most of the time.  Sometimes we seem to prefer the lamb aspect of His nature, finding it easier to not dwell on that troubling lion part.

It’s a reminder I need, though, especially during this holiday season when we celebrate the sacrificial gift of God sending His own Son to earth.  It’s a reminder I need when plastic Santas far outnumber the plastic mangers that decorate storefronts and lawns.  It’s a reminder I need when the evils of the world seem to be in abundance, when I become discouraged and sometimes view Jesus in just that moment in the manger, frozen in time: a weak baby who can’t REALLY do much of anything, a helpless child who doesn’t ACTUALLY have control over my circumstances, much less the world itself.

The images of Jesus, meek and mild, laying on a bed of hay on the fronts of Christmas cards are a reminder of the sacrifice He made for us – one I also need – but they’re just one slice of a fuller picture that we will one day see.  Nope, as Judah – and the Bible! – reminds me – He certainly didn’t stay that way.

May your celebration of Jesus, the Lion and the Lamb, be a blessed one this year!

Posted by: Christie | December 18, 2013

Happy Birthday, Judah!

It’s cliché, I know, but I have to say it: Man does time fly!  We celebrated Judah’s birthday this week, and, well, I can’t believe we have a five year old.

It is so fun to watch him grow.  We were celebrating his birthday at my grandma’s house, and she commented, “He has such a fun, unique personality.”  Now, we may be biased, but we couldn’t agree more!  Though he can be a bit, er, stubborn and short-tempered (I’m not sure WHERE he gets that from – must be Chris’s side of the family!  ;)  ), he is also incredibly sweet and gentle (a side he sometimes even shows Jovelle!  ;)  ).  He loves to learn, has quite the imagination and makes us laugh with his silly antics and words.  He loves books and has recently become enthralled with superheroes.  Oh, and he sure loves to get dirty!




When he was younger, we thought he would be quite the outgoing daredevil, as he would reach out to anyone, climb anything and attempt anything.  He’s become more cautious in his old age, though, and it takes him a while to warm up to people – but once he does, he’s smitten.

One of the things I find incredibly fascinating is his tendency to “save the best for last.”  We are not entirely sure where he picked this up (though since it involves will power, it’s probably not from me), but he saves and savors – picks the pepperoni (his fave) off pizza, for example, and eats it last.  He will even pick the crunchy crust from fish and save it to eat last.  It’s quite funny because Jovelle is the opposite – she eats her favorite first… and then asks Judah for his.  One day I gave each of them two M&M’s (yes, that’s right – two.  And not because we were saving the rest for ourselves, either.), and I kid you not, Judah took at least 20 minutes to eat his.  Yes, 20 minutes for TWO M&M’s.  He started by nibbling the shell off 1/2 of one, put it down, came back for more, bit off 1/2 the chocolate, nibbled the rest of the shell, eventually ate the remaining chocolate in small bites and left the second one on the table.  Meanwhile, Jovelle had finished hers in one bite and started eyeing Judah’s, hovering around the table when he left it, and asking if she could finish his.  He wandered around a bit later and repeated the process on his second M&M.

We are so blessed to have him in our lives, and we look forward to another year with him!

Just born!

Just born!

Judah 010

8 weeks

8 weeks

About 6 months

About 6 months

1st birthday

1st birthday



2nd birthday

2nd birthday (Check out that hair!)

Meeting baby sister

Meeting baby sister


3rd birthday



And then he was five….



Posted by: christopherbwinkler | November 14, 2013

In the Midst of Chaos

Following is a story that we heard recently about another country in West Africa.  As with so many of the stories we hear from elsewhere in the world, it just as easily could have been in Nigeria.  We share this with permission; it was written by Freddy Boswell, Executive Director of SIL International, a key Wycliffe partner organization.

Some of the countries we work in are suffering profound upheaval. Yet in the midst of the chaos, God is at work.

A pastor in exile from his home in a West African country reported: “Our church has worked in collaboration with you for about 20 years, including in two translation projects and a project to provide Scripture in these languages on Proclaimers and Sabers. These can be listened to in private, and we’ve heard hundreds of testimonies from people whose lives have been touched. Old women from the majority religion have broken down and cried when they listened, exclaiming, ‘This is the truth!’ ”

The same pastor was catching a flight from the airport and saw a policeman whose wife had attended his church. He greeted the man and asked about his wife. The policeman asked, “How do you know my wife?” The pastor answered, “She attended my church and went to literacy classes there.” The policeman exclaimed, “Since she learned to read and began reading the Bible, she has become a different person!” He hugged the pastor very warmly—something not usually done in public—then enthusiastically introduced him to his fellow policemen as the person who taught his wife to read and changed her life.

Posted by: christopherbwinkler | September 28, 2013

Our Little MKs

Our little MKs

Our little MKs

In our latest newsletter (Let us know if you don’t receive it but would like to—it is being sent out this weekend.), we talked about how Judah and Jovelle might struggle with various facets of being back in the U.S. We’ve continued that train of thought here with a longer list. Kudos to our friends Paul and Kelly who gave permission to adapt this idea that was from their own newsletter.

Some things our kids might have to learn (or re-learn) and adjust to:

  • That it’s probably not appropriate to run around barefoot in underwear and diapers (nor very smart—particularly in a Northern Michigan winter!).
  • That they are—shock!—not a novelty and the center of attention when they’re anywhere in public.
  • How to go to a zoo and not stick their hands in the cages to feed the elephants or monkeys from their hands.

Feeding chimps out of your hand…a typical day at the zoo in Nigeria.

  • That every child they meet in America does not go to their playgroup and may not want to be their friend.
  • How to meet loads of new people in a short amount of time—and speak and react appropriately every time they meet someone new.
  • That receiving mail in the United States is not nearly as exciting as it is in Nigeria (and usually doesn’t contain snacks from their grandparents).
  • That being with family in person is WAY better than just talking on Skype (especially since Grandma can’t change diapers virtually!).
  • That those carrots in the store are NOT a free gift and actually have to be purchased!
  • That home is where Mommy and Daddy are, not necessarily a particular place.
  • How to leave behind almost everything they know and experience new things every day.

We are grateful for the time we will get to spend with our family and friends in the States and so looking forward to it. We know, though, that in some ways for Judah and Jovelle, going back to the U.S. is not exactly going home (though Judah has observed that we are blessed to have two homes), so we appreciate your patience and grace if they don’t always act in ways that seem appropriate.

Posted by: Christie | September 20, 2013

Foodie Friday: Shopping at the Market, Part II

If you missed the first part of our typical shopping timeline, you can read it here. Also, a blogging friend of mine just published an incredible post on a market in her area of the country, and it’s definitely worth the read – and a glance at her beautiful pictures!

But for now, here’s the rest of our shopping day….

10:45 am – To the market. In many villages, there is only one market day. For example, in a nearby village where we occasionally travel to stay at a retreat center, Thursday is market day. I am always amazed at this because most Nigerians don’t have refrigeration, and yet they manage to get their produce to last longer than I can WITH refrigeration. Because Jos is a larger city, however, the market runs every day – though you will often find that Friday afternoons during mosque there will be quite a few empty stalls, and on Sundays the market is virtually – though not completely – empty.


It’s hard to describe the myriad of sights, sounds and smells (Oh, the smells, especially near the meat section!) in the market, as well as the chaos that can sometimes prevail. Perhaps the closest description would be something like a combination of a really large community yard sale (with its different sellers and tables and sections set up), combined with a fair or carnival (with people shouting at you from all directions to come play their games) – minus the yummy elephant ears, fried Twinkies and questionable rides – a farmers’ market (with its colorful assortment of fruits and vegetables) and a Black Friday sale (I’ll let you draw your own conclusions on that one).

The main market in Jos doesn’t just sell fruits and vegetables. You can find meat – both alive and dead, familiar parts and unfamiliar parts – and rows and rows of beautiful fabrics in vibrant African colors. You can buy eggs, linoleum, curtain fabric (and find a tailor to sew them, too), “plastics” (which Nigerians seem to love – entire shops sell just plastic things like buckets, baskets, trays, plates, cups and shelves), brooms and diapers. Bright red palm oil poured into old water bottles is sold alongside piles of dried fish, a common seasoning used in soups. There are heaps of used clothing, usually from foreign countries, and men selling the clothes will yell out the clothing they have as they hold up a selection to entice those passing by. If you’re willing to spend time looking, you’d be surprised at what you can find.

A fabric shop

A fabric shop

There are rows and rows of shops in the market, but many people sell from wooden tables set up in the crowded aisles of the market or tilted wooden stalls with tin roofs. Others sell from barrels – bushels of flour and grains, for example, and even popcorn kernels, as they sit under an umbrella waiting for customers – or trays, carts or even mats on the ground, their merchandise spread out before them. Some wander through the market selling from wheelbarrows, yelling “Hanya, hanya!” (literally “road” but essentially “give way”) as they push through the crowds, while others sell from baskets, buckets or trays balanced on their heads as they wander through the market: men with garlic and meringue powder or plantains; women with buckets of dried crayfish, boiled eggs or masa; young girls with tofu; boys with long stalks of sugar cane. Young boys wander around the market selling bags, shoving them in your face and saying, “Buy ‘leda’” (That’s what it sounds like they are saying, anyway, but it’s actually “leather,” which I’m assuming comes from a time when shopping bags really were made from leather, though that’s just a guess). The bags are stronger than the bags you get when you buy fruits and vegetables – as I learned the hard way when a large bag of potatoes I had purchased split open and went tumbling all over the market. The boy whom I had just told no, I’m fine, I don’t need a bag, knelt down to help pick them up, smiling, “Buy ‘leda.’” I bought “leda.”

…And if you’re feeling homesick, you might even see bags from familiar stores back home, as the time I saw a boy carrying stacks of bags with Super Target emblazoned across them.

gada biyu market, jos

You needn’t fend for yourself with your purchases, either. For a small fee, the same boys who sell bags are also willing to help carry your purchases, escorting you to your car (even if it is parked several blocks away) or to the main road to catch a taxi. Many times I’ve struggled with carrying my bags, only to have a young boy effortlessly throw some of my purchases on his head, leaving me thinking that I have GOT to learn how to do that! And who needs shopping carts when you can hire a young man and his wheelbarrow to cart larger buys?

Occasionally the government will decide that they want to clean up the market, so they will do a sweep through and clear out those who don’t officially have a shop. The women on wooden stools, the mats, the leaning tables – all disappear, making the market seem quite vacant and the aisles wide, suddenly devoid of all the sellers crammed into every space available. Gradually, though, the sellers move back in, and the market continues as usual.

One aspect of the set up in the market that always surprises me is that people who sell the same things tend to group together. The women who sell tomatoes and onions are all right next to each other, as are those who sell other vegetables and those who sell meat. Most of the “plastics” shops are all in a row, as are the fabric shops. A few streets over is the “business district” – the street filled with shops selling paper supplies, computer supplies and school supplies. A few streets from there are the shops selling paint and hardware. I sometimes wonder what would happen if some of the women selling carrots mixed in with the women selling tomatoes so that people wouldn’t have to go to one section to buy one particular kind of thing they’re searching for but rather could have easier access to an assortment of things in one stop (or closer to one stop anyway! There actually is one very small market that seems to have caught on to this idea, but I will share about that another time.).

The varied locations in the market of different goods is one of the things that can make shopping so tiring. Another, though, is definitely the heat. It can sometimes be quite hot walking around in the market, which isn’t covered in most parts, and I often find myself coming home exhausted, thirsty and with a headache.

Additionally, sometimes bartering for items can be a bit draining and, well, tedious…. So sometimes I don’t. Yes, that’s right – this bargain shopper is sometimes just too tired to bargain, so I occasionally pay a price that I’m sure is too high.


…But before the bartering begins, there seems to be a sort of market etiquette. First, you should greet and make what we would call small talk with a vendor – How is your family? How is the market? and perhaps a comment on the weather… and then you can begin bartering. (Now just imagine doing that lots of times throughout your shopping trip, since you go to so many different vendors to buy various goods.) Greeting in general is a huge part of the culture here, and honestly, there are times I just want to walk in a shop or the office and not have to ask how everyone is doing… though truth be told, sometimes when I am in the States, I find myself surprised at the business-like, removed nature of not just transactions in a store but with people you see on a regular basis, even, and missing the chatter one encounters in Nigeria.

I continue walking through the market, stopping every now and then to make a purchase and often seeing a new vegetable or fruit. Sometimes I approach the woman selling and ask what the unknown item is, how it is used, and occasionally I am even adventurous enough to buy it to try. Occasionally. It’s not like in the States, of course: There are no freezers of fruits and vegetables. What’s available is what is in season, and this varies as the seasons change. It’s no use looking for mangos once the season has passed – if you want to enjoy them during non-mango season, you have to buy plenty and can or freeze them yourself. The prices, of course, rise and fall, too: When the first mangoes make an appearance in the market, it can cost quite a bit to buy them. By the middle of the season, though, people practically give them away – and when the end is near, the prices go up again.

The fruits and vegetables are also often sold in ways that are different than at home. In the main market in Jos, I don’t think I have ever seen a scale (though in one of the smaller markets in Jos, they have several – but more on that another time). Many things, especially grains, rice and the like, are sold by the mudu [moo-doo] – which just means “measure.” A bowl or cup, often with “mudu” painted on the side, is dipped into the bushel and portioned out into a plastic bag, which is then tied up. Usually the women will dip into the bushel and toss a little bit more of the item into the bag, smiling, “A dash.” Local berries are often measured out in small tin cups.


Other things are sold by piles or baskets. You can see oranges and tomatoes stacked in a triangular tower, carrots bundled together and tied at the stems with a thin piece of plastic, onions and hot peppers stacked in piles, mangoes in baskets. Of course you can also buy larger quantities of almost anything: plastic buckets of onions, baskets of tomatoes….

And some things are sold just like they are in the States: a watermelon or pineapple or bunch of bananas, for example. A common sight, though, is fruit like watermelon and pineapple being sold by the slice, sometimes by women balancing them on their heads as they walk through the market, sometimes at fruit stands (where vegetables are rarely mixed in. Hardly ever does one see a stand that sells both fruit AND vegetables). Fruit is generally more expensive than vegetables, and selling by the slice makes it more affordable.

One of my favorite ways to buy certain vegetables, though, is already chopped up and sold in little clear plastic bags. Carrots and green beans are the most popular, though you can also find peas that are already shelled. Women who sell carrots and green beans sit, often with a small razor blade, and quickly slice the vegetables into small pieces while waiting for customers to come. Most often these would be used for joloff rice, but we joke that these vegetables are our convenience food. I buy bagfuls at a time: small ones – about 1/2 cup or so – for 20 naira (about 13 cents), medium ones for 50 naira (32 cents) and large ones for 100 naira (65 cents), then throw them in the freezer when I get home. Viola! An easy addition to soups, casseroles and even ramen noodles.

market edge edit

Finally, though, I have bought everything I came for – and usually more – and am ready to leave.

11:50 am – Get in car and drive to Flourish, a relatively new shop owned by a family from India, and buy dry goods that Onigbende’s did not have.

12:15 pm – Stop at Pearl Bakery, a Lebanese owned bakery just down the road from Flourish. Here you can buy bread baked fresh each day – loaves of French bread as tall as Jovelle for 150 naira (a little less than a dollar) and even pita (the only place in town that sells pita bread). Attached to the bakery is a Lebanese restaurant, and especially if the kids are with me, we will often go here to recover from our errands and enjoy the air conditioning, cold water and a light lunch of homemade hummus and sometimes even a cheese croissant, a reward for finishing our shopping. Unfortunately, there is always a television blaring in the background, but the fact that it has a bathroom, one of two places in town that we know of that has toilets available (though technically this is quite a way outside of town), makes the loud tv an acceptable diversion.

12:50 pm – Pile in the car to head home. Washing the fruits and vegetables can wait until tomorrow – but now, it’s rest time!

*Thanks to Mike and Karen for some of the pictures used in this blog post (Now if only I could remember which ones were taken by whom!).

Posted by: Christie | September 14, 2013

Foodie Friday-ish: Shopping at the Market

This post ended up being longer than I intended (“Shocking!  But you’re so succinct!”), so I am breaking it up into a couple parts.  Stay tuned for the rest of the post next week!

One of the things people often ask us when we are back in the States is where we buy our food.  How we shop in Jos is definitely different than how we shopped in the U.S.  Though I sometimes had a tendency – especially before kids! – to stop at several stores to get the best prices, “several stops” has taken on a new meaning here.  There is not really such a thing as “one stop shopping.”

We shop for our fruits and vegetables in an open air market, which used to take me about 3-4 hours and a LOT of energy.   Some of this is because things were so new and unfamiliar – I wasn’t sure how to barter, for example, or what a fair price was (Am I getting way overcharged because I am white?  (Yes, usually.)  Am I offering a fair price or too low?) and so would take much longer to do it, and I would also wander around the market exploring various alleys and aisles just to become more familiar with it.  I also didn’t want to offend anyone, so whenever anyone would call out, “My customer!  My customer!  Come!” or  “Baturiya!” (the feminine word for “bature,” which is the word blanketly used for white people, though I think it actually originated in reference to Europeans), I would stop and chat or come see whatever it is they wanted me to see.  It took me a long time and a lot of trips to the market to realize I wasn’t being culturally offensive if I didn’t stop and chat with every single vendor who called out to me (which was a lot – and I also finally learned that calling out is just one of the ways people work in the market.

The market where we usually shop is much bigger than this one just outside of Jos, but I love all the colors this one showcases!

The market where we usually shop is much bigger than this one just outside of Jos, but I love all the colors this one showcases!

What probably consumed most of the time, though, was that I often went shopping with Judah, who was strapped to my front in a baby carrier, as I had not yet learned to back a baby without him or her falling halfway down after three steps.  This phenomena itself resulted in a lot of pointing, staring and even flat out laughing.  Nigerians, of course, carry their babies on their backs, so I was laughingly told that my baby was backing ME because he was in the front.  (Amusingly, once I had Jovelle, I was more comfortable with backing and would carry her on my back in the market – but would get stopped just as often, only people would say, “You are white but you are carrying a baby like us!”)  I think half of my “shopping” time was spent telling people his name, how old he was, where we were from, well, it would be hard to hold him because he’s strapped in (a trick I quickly learned to avoid him being grabbed by 20 different strangers), and “No, he’s not cold.” (Nigerians in Plateau State, at least, have a tendency to dress their babies very warmly, no matter the outside temperature.  I remember one encounter when it was quite hot outside, and a woman began yelling at me saying my baby was too cold. I finally said, “His father comes from a place where it snows much of the year, so the baby is used to cold weather.”  She was so satisfied with that answer that it became my standard reply when people would scold that my baby was cold – which was often.)

These days I have gotten to where I can finish shopping for fruits and vegetables – which includes navigating the traffic downtown, finding a parking spot, walking to the market and making my purchases – in about an hour or two.  It can still be a tiring endeavor, but I can at least usually cook dinner after shopping!  Before I would be so tired from shopping in the hot sun for hours, and usually not drinking enough, that I would collapse when I got home.  Yup, that was usually a cereal-for-dinner night.   

If I have the kids with me, it still takes longer, as many people still call out, reach for the children, try to hold them, and want to greet them.  (Poor kids.  How shocked they’ll be when we return to the States and they discover that – grandparents excluded – they’re not such a novelty there.)  Shopkeepers yell as we walk past, “My customer, my customer!  Come, I have some things to show you for the children.  Come look at these beautiful shoes I have perfect for your little boy!”  (Never mind that it could just be Jovelle dressed all in pink – she doesn’t have her ears pierced, so the assumption is that she is a boy.) – only now I just walk past and perhaps smile an acknowledgement or say “Not today” (which is basically a polite way of saying, “No.”).

On the plus side, though, when the children come with me, we leave with a lot more dashes than when I am by myself, and they often walk away with a handful of free tomatoes, carrots and oranges that they stroll proudly through the market with while I keep telling them that no, they cannot eat them yet as we have to take them home to wash them.

So what happens when we shop at the main market?  Here’s a little snapshot of a typical shopping day.

9:15 am – Think I should leave the house to get to town before traffic.  Rationalize, though, that most of the shops aren’t open this early so there’s no point in leaving.

9:30 am – Leave the house.  Forget sunglasses, water and hand sanitizer so go back inside several times to retrieve forgotten items.

9:50 am – Finally leave the house.  Greet the guard at the gate.

10:00 am – Get stuck in traffic and kick myself for forgetting – every time! – how bad traffic gets.  Try to avoid eye contact with any police, military or the VIO (Vehicle Inspection Office) while driving past, naively thinking this will deter them from pulling me over to check my car papers, license or in general harass me.   (And of course if that ploy has not worked, I have never slyly taken a snack back from a toddler in the car to elicit tears, since many of the police don’t like to hear babies cry and thus let you go.)

10:20 am – Find a parking space.  When we first pull into a parking space, we will be surrounded by two different parties.  The first to approach will be someone who works for the city collecting money for our parking fee (no parking meters here).  It used to cost 20 naira to park in town (about 12 cents), and that was only sporadically enforced.  Several months ago, though, they suddenly changed the prices – literally I went to town one week and didn’t pay to park, and the next week there were people in yellow vests patrolling the streets and waiting like vultures for a car to pull up.  The cost is now 100 naira – which, though minimal compared to parking in San Francisco or New York is still quite a jump in price!  Often the people collecting the money for parking don’t have change (more on that another day), so they will either run around and try to collect it from others or tell you to pay when you finish your shopping.

The second group of “greeters” when you pull up is a group of 3-8 boys, typically between the ages of 5 and 12, carrying bowls and begging for money or food.  This one is really hard for me, and other missionaries have said they have a hard time with this as well.  In general begging is very much a part of the culture here, especially because of the M*slim component of giving alms.  It’s particularly hard, though, when your car is surrounded by a group of children.  One of the most difficult parts of this for me is that many of the young boys are sent out by a m*sque to collect money.  Often the boys are either orphans or come from families who cannot afford to educate or sometimes even feed their children.  The parents send the boys to a teacher at a m*sque, where the child is provided with teaching and a place to sleep.  The children are then sent out to beg, and any money they collect is expected to be given back to the teacher at the m*sque.  It’s hard to know how to respond to this: Occasionally if I have bananas or something, I will offer those (I actually thought they’d be mad the first time I offered food instead of money, and I was rather unsure about it, but they were quite excited.), but usually I just smile and greet them.

10:25 am – Stop at Onigbende’s, a two story shop that we say is the closest thing to Wal-Mart there is in Jos.  Here you can buy dry foods – pasta, canned food, milk powder and even (usually expensive) imported goods.  They have a couple freezers with butter, chicken hot dogs and occasionally some other cold items as well, and they also sell a hodge podge of household items – everything from lighters to dishes to electronics.  You often pay a bit more than you would at other shops, but you don’t have to go to several different places.  On my way to the market, I often stop here first to get dry goods – mainly so I can get change (Are you noticing a recurring theme?  I’ll comment more on that another time, but vendors in the market often do not have change, which makes shopping a very frustrating experience.) – and also because they sometimes have imported goods on sale.  I have gotten boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios, for example, for 500 naira (about $3) – because I’d never pay the $15 that they usually go for! – and Pringles for $1.25.

So – that’s just a little snapshot of the beginning of our days at the market – I will post the rest another day, lest you drift off.  Stay tuned! 

Posted by: Christie | September 11, 2013

Game Time!

Some of you may know that Chris and I really like board games (though we have less and less energy to actually do anything about that like these days, as we tend to be wiped out after putting the kids to bed). One of our favorites is Settlers of Catan (which is a good thing because it’s a bit of a cult classic on the mission field), and we’ve been awaiting the day we could teach it to Judah.


For those of you unfamiliar with Settlers, it’s a strategy game (well, and luck, since how you fare also depends on the roll of the dice!) in which you get commodities, trade commodities and build things to earn points. You earn commodities based on what is rolled and whether you have a “property” placed on said number rolled. There is more to the game, of course, but that’s the gist of it.

Judah likes to get out the Settlers board (and especially the add-on to it, a game called Seafarers, but mainly because there are little wooden boats that he likes to play with) and pretend to play, so we decided we would try to play with him, knowing it probably wouldn’t go terribly well. We were pleasantly surprised, though! Now, he’s not quite ready to play on his own, nor does he quite get the strategy, but it was really fun seeing his little wheels turn and watching him grasp some of the concepts of the game. He did great at counting the numbers on the dice, recognizing the numbers on the board, figuring out what commodities he had earned based on the dice, figuring out what he could buy with what he had (and what he needed to try to get), paying the bank and even trading.

Without any instruction, Judah got straight to work setting up the board on his own. I loved seeing him so focused and intent!

Without any instruction, Judah got straight to work setting up the board on his own. I loved seeing him so focused and intent!

Some of my favorite moments of playing with him:

*Watching him so intently study the “price list” to determine if he and Chris (they played on a team) had the correct cards to buy what he wanted to buy. I was surprised at how quickly he caught on to this and was able to compare what they had with what they needed.

Studying the "price list"

Studying the “price list”

*Judah played on a team with Chris, and on their first turn, they had enough to buy what they called a “special card” and were one card short of what they needed to build something. Chris asked Judah several times what he wanted to do, and Judah said, “Let’s wait until our next turn to see if we get the other card.” We were really surprised that he passed up the instant gratification! (As a side note, Chris kept asking about the “special card” because he would have bought the card himself. I would’ve held out for the building. :) Guess Judah does have some mommy traits after all!)

*I offered to trade them a card. Judah looked at his cards, studied the price list and said, “No, Mommy, we need our brick, right, Daddy?”


*On another turn, I offered another trade, but both Judah and Chris said no, so I counteroffered with two cards to trade. Judah’s eyes lit up at the thought of getting not one but two cards, and he exclaimed, “Okay!” Wonder if that same strategy would work to distract Judah from wanting a cookie – I’ll see you TWO carrots for one cookie…. Hmmm…..

Studying the cards (propped up by interlocking building blocks)

Studying the cards (propped up by interlocking building blocks)

Anyway, it was a fun time, and we look forward to more game playing with the kids. :)

….Oh, and one of Jovelle, who wanted to get in on the picture taking action, too.

Jovelle, (mostly) happily spectating

Jovelle, (mostly) happily spectating

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