Top Ten Ways Our Life is Different Because of the Nigerian Security Situation
10. Military and police checkpoints, with armed security forces, are a daily part of life. This is mostly a normal experience for us now, though still a bit harrowing when we happen to be looking down the barrel of an AK-47. The normalcy of this was evidenced when we were recently playing Mario Kart Wii with Judah and he yelled out, “Ooh, slow down, Daddy! Watch out for the checkpoint!”
9. In our neighborhood in Orlando, we would often hear police helicopters circling overhead, frequently with the spotlight shining into our backyard on a presumed manhunt for some criminal suspect. That made us feel NOT so safe. In Nigeria, the military helicopter circling overhead is a reassurance that security forces are keeping an eye on things. One report from the violence near Jos over the weekend was that the presence of a helicopter was able to fend off the attackers and probably saved lives.
8. When we first arrived in Nigeria, security took up only about five percent of my time in the office. During the last few weeks, I estimate it takes up closer to 30 percent; on some days it is nearly 100 percent. This means that I’m spending more of my time reading news articles and think tank analyses, and sending text messages to alert staff of security issues, instead of things like improving accounting procedures in the Finance Office or helping install backup power systems for our computer network.
7. With the Nigerian security situation in the news frequently, we are regularly fielding queries from friends and family inquiring how we are doing. We are very happy to reply, and it is an encouragement to us to know that so many are following the news here and thinking of our safety. When major things happen, we try to post an update on Facebook shortly after to let people know we’re okay, but then sometimes the Internet is out which leads to delays which leads to worry on the part of those concerned.
6. The kitchen cupboards are kept full, and not just because we just finished mango season and now have jars and jars of mango puree, mango jam, mango sorbet, mango sauce, mangoes, etc. We keep extra stock of non-perishables to use in case of times of home confinement—think prepping for a hurricane, but instead prepping to be under a 24-7 curfew where we can’t leave the compound. We buy Indomie (ramen noodles) by the case so there is always some of that around. Rice, beans, pasta, milk powder (which we buy by the 25 kg bag), flour (50 kg bag), sugar (50 kg bag). We keep a stock of drinking water in case we lose access to water during a crisis. We try to keep our car gas tank full (above 1/2) and have additional fuel on hand. We always have at least one full cylinder of cooking gas so we can use our oven/stove. Phone credit is also an essential item to have in stock.
5. Planned shopping trips can be cancelled at a moment’s notice due to “trouble in town”–which usually equates to some sort of fighting, rumors of fighting, or shops closing due to rumors of fighting when in actual fact everything was fine.
4. Traffic can get a little crazy. Yes, it is normally pretty off-the-wall (see our Top Ten Rules for Driving in Nigeria)—but tense security situations tend to push it over the top. If roads are clear, people tend to drive even faster. Traffic jams (called “go-slows”) can be abundant, whether it is due to a two lane road (which would normally be used as a five lane road) going down to one lane because of a checkpoint, or everyone trying to get home before the evening curfew goes into effect (currently 7 p.m.). The latter was the issue yesterday on my way home from the office.
3. Communication takes on a different dimension, too. Depending on the situation, the cell phone networks can get jammed up, which makes texting (probably the most common form of communication) and phone calls a challenge. I try to stay on Skype and the radio to monitor the situation so that I can relay information to the rest of our staff. I let staff know of new security developments by sending out texts. Just this past Sunday, I burned through about $10 of phone credit by sending out bulk texts.
2. Friends that you thought would be around forever may go back to their passport country due to the security challenges, sometimes on short notice. Judah recently had to say goodbye to one of his best friends, Elijah. Elijah lived on our compound and he and Judah would play together several days a week. Judah keeps asking when Elijah will come back to his house, and we keep having to explain how he has a new home now, but that we might see him again in a really long time. Elijah’s parents were some of mine and Christie’s best friends here and many tears were shed over their leaving. Missionary life here is transient enough as it is, but when you add in people also going home for security reasons, it makes it even more challenging.
1. (The rest of this list was not in any sort of order—but this is #1 because it truly is the biggest difference.) The increased stress of living in a chronically insecure environment is immeasurable. We talked about this in our most recent newsletter—let us know if you don’t currently receive it and would like to—and it remains something at the forefront of our minds. Cars backfiring or doors slamming might sound just a little too much like Jos is under attack again. A late night text message could be an alert to something happening (though usually it’s MTN trying to sell us ring tones). As part of my job is security for our staff, the heavy weight of that responsibility can be palpable in times like this. We try to break through the stress by playing games, watching shows (we’re currently hooked on Parenthood), playing ultimate on Saturdays (for me), scrapbooking (for Christie), or just having fun together with Judah and Jovelle. It becomes a burden if I think about it too much, so having these outlets can be quite helpful in balancing life and keeping enough margin to be able to respond well in times of crisis.
We very much appreciate your prayers for us as we continue to serve here in Jos and deal with these challenges!