PRAISE & PRAYER BULLETIN : January – April 2020
I am sitting at my desk looking out at bright red oleander flowers bathed in sunshine with a background of wisps of white cloud. Not in Coleraine as planned, but in Parakou, and relieved to be here. So far the Coronavirus hasn’t yet got to us in the north of Benin but we are taking the usual precautions. My missionary colleagues, concerned by my age and the constant coming and going of students in my house, were ready to lock me up (or is it now down, we say) in an empty mission house. I have tried to be good and spend most of my time in my room, emerging to meet people on the veranda or my boys at meal time, respecting social distancing and hand-washing. Masks are kept for my daily outing in the car. It would seem an ideal time to catch up with reading and correspondence, but lethargy which expresses itself in my indulgence in Sudokus and solitaires really got me. My boys too are drifting and unconcerned about studying for their exams (which they would normally have done during the Easter holidays). Until when schools, churches etc. will remained closed we know not, but I must try and make up some exercises in French and English to remind them they are students as exam dates could well take them by surprise.
The schools work this year was losing ground, partly I would have thought, because I was on my own. But suddenly things took off as volunteers got involved and we exploited the Voodoo holiday to put on a training programme in nine centres, we had two mini-camps during the mid-term break and just before the Easter holiday five new groups started up in government secondary schools. I continue to meet with several volunteers we call my ‘staff’ each Tuesday. One of them looks after the six university groups - a great relief to me.
So back to looking out my window. The colourful male lizard is not there. He can lie on the wall motionless for ages, watching for an interested female (small and brown) who may well make very discreet moves in his direction until both withdraw. How different when two doves land together on the wall full of flurry, anything but discreet and unconcerned by spectators!
Oh, that reminds me of Moses’ wedding from my house on 14th March. I have no idea how many people slept in my house or in the student rooms behind. It all began on Wednesday when a group of women made a noisy procession to the bride’s house nearby with the dowry (pots and pans, household goods, and a suitcase with cloth, lady’s shoes and I don’t know what. Lots of singing, and after examination of the goodies, the bride heavily veiled was produced but it wasn’t her! Some more money changed hands and lots of words, and eventually Rose came forth. Next day we were not so many at the civil wedding (I was the bridegroom’s witness) and then a day off to prepare for the church wedding. The bride’s family cooked meal upon meal for Moses’ family with me as well as their own friends and relatives. Moses’ father is a village pastor so I have been responsible for him since his final year in school. He graduated in English, became a teacher with conditions of service which have been challenging. Temporary postings, salary often late, no pay in the holidays… No honeymoon so back to work in the village he was sent to in October. Schools closed a week later, but there they are. Neither I nor the in-laws really have room for them if they wanted to come back to the city. Will schools re-open on 11 May?
PRAYER & PRAISE
1. Thank the Lord for keeping me in Benin where government precautions seem effective.
2. Pray for mental energy to make good use of my voluntary confinement, where there is little pressure! A better internet connection would help!
3. Pleas for financial help are increasing with the effects of confinement. Pray for wisdom.
4. Pray for our students (including the five with me), who are unsettled and wasting time instead of studying. Remember Moses and Rose in their new life together.
5. Pray for our Christian witness among neighbours during Ramadan, as mosques like churches are closed.